Full Text Political Transcripts October 22, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Statement at Veto Signing of Defense Spending Bill National Defense Authorization Act Transcript



Remarks by the President at Veto Signing of National Defense Authorization Act

Source: WH, 10-22-15

Oval Office

3:52 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  As President and Commander-in-Chief, my first and most important responsibility is keeping the American people safe.  And that means that we make sure that our military is properly funded, and that our men and women in uniform get the support, the equipment, the support for their families that they need and deserve when they protect our freedom and our safety.

The bill that has been presented to me authorizing our defense — excuse me — the bill that’s before me, authorizing our defense spending for this year, does a number of good things.  It makes sure that our military is funded.  It has some important provisions around reform for our military retirement system, which is necessary to make sure that it is stable and effective.  It’s got some cybersecurity provisions that are necessary for an increasing threat.

Unfortunately, it falls woefully short in three areas.  Number one, it keeps in place the sequester that is inadequate for us to properly fund our military in a stable, sustained way and allows all of our armed forces to plan properly.  I have repeatedly called on Congress to eliminate the sequester and make sure that we’re providing certainty to our military so they can do out-year planning, ensure military readiness, ensure our troops are getting what they need.  This bill instead resorts to gimmicks that does not allow the Pentagon to do what it needs to do.

Number two, unfortunately it prevents a wide range of reforms that are necessary for us to get our military modernized and able to deal with the many threats that are presenting themselves in the 21st century.  We have repeatedly put forward a series of reforms eliminating programs that the Pentagon does not want — Congress keeps on stepping back in, and we end up wasting money.  We end up diverting resources from things that we do need to have the kind of equipment and training and readiness that are necessary for us to meet all potential threats.

And the third thing is that this legislation specifically impeded our ability to close Guantanamo in a way that I have repeatedly argued is counterproductive to our efforts to defeat terrorism around the world.  Guantanamo is one of the premiere mechanisms for jihadists to recruit.  It’s time for us to close it.  It is outdated; it’s expensive; it’s been there for years. And we can do better in terms of keeping our people safe while making sure that we are consistent with our values.

So I’m going to be vetoing this authorization bill.  I’m going to be sending it back to Congress.  And my message to them is very simple:  Let’s do this right.  We’re in the midst of budget discussions — let’s have a budget that properly funds our national security as well as economic security.  Let’s make sure that we’re able, in a constructive way, to reform our military spending to make it sustainable over the long term, and let’s make sure that, in a responsible way, we can draw down the populations in Guantanamo, make sure that the American people are safe, and make sure that we’re not providing the kinds of recruitment tools to terrorists that are so dangerous.

3:57 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency October 2, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Press Conference Transcript



Press Conference by the President

Source: WH, 10-2-15

State Dining Room

3:55 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m going to take a couple of questions from the press.  But first, a few additional pieces of business.

First of all, we learned today that our businesses created another 118,000 new jobs in September, which means that we now have had 67 straight months of job creation; 13.2 million new jobs in all — and an unemployment rate that has fallen from a high of 10 percent down to 5.1 percent.  These long-term trends are obviously good news, particularly for every American waking up each morning and heading off to a new job.

But we would be doing even better if we didn’t have to keep on dealing with unnecessary crises in Congress every few months. And this is especially important right now, because although the American economy has been chugging along at a steady pace, much of the global economy is softening.  We’ve seen an impact on our exports, which was a major driver of growth for us particularly at the beginning of the recovery.  And so our own growth could slow if Congress does not do away with some of the counterproductive austerity measures that they have put in place, and if Congress does not avoid the kind of manufactured crises that shatter consumer confidence and could disrupt an already skittish global economy.

On Wednesday, more than half of Republicans voted to shut down the government for the second time in two years.  The good news is that there were enough votes in both parties to pass a last-minute bill to keep the government open and operating for another 10 weeks before we can get a more long-term solution.  But keep in mind that gimmick only sets up another potential manufactured crisis just two weeks before Christmas.

And I’ve said this before, I want to repeat it — this is not the way the United States should be operating.

Oftentimes I hear from folks up on Capitol Hill, “the need for American leadership,” “the need for America to be number one.”  Well, you know what, around the globe, part of what makes us a leader is when we govern effectively and we keep our own house in order, and we pass budgets, and we can engage in long-term planning, and we can invest in the things that are important for the future.  That’s U.S. leadership.

When we fail to do that, we diminish U.S. leadership.  It’s not how we are supposed to operate.  And we can’t just keep on kicking down the road without solving any problems or doing any long-term planning for the future.  That’s true for our military; that’s true for our domestic programs.  The American people, American families deserve better.  And we can grow faster and the economy can improve if Congress acts with dispatch.  It will get worse if they don’t.

That’s why I want to be very clear:  I will not sign another shortsighted spending bill like the one Congress sent me this week.  We purchased ourselves 10 additional weeks; we need to use them effectively.

Keep in mind that a few years ago, both parties put in place harmful automatic cuts that make no distinction between spending we don’t need and spending we do.  We can revisit the history of how that happened — I have some rather grim memories of it.  But the notion was that even as we were bringing down the deficit, we would come up with a sustainable, smart, long-term approach to investing in the things that we need.  That didn’t happen.  And so now these cuts that have been maintained have been keeping our economy from growing faster.  It’s time to undo them.  If we don’t, then we will have to fund our economic and national security priorities in 2016 at the same levels that we did in 2006.

Now, understand, during that decade, between 2006 and 2016, our economy has grown by 12 percent.  Our population has grown by 8 percent.  New threats have emerged; new opportunities have appeared.  We can’t fund our country the way we did 10 years ago because we have greater demands — with an aging population, with kids who need schools, with roads that need to be fixed, with a military on which we are placing extraordinary demands.

And we can’t cut our way to prosperity.  Other countries have tried it and it has not worked.  We’ve grown faster than they have because we did not pursue these blind, unthinking cuts to necessary investments for our growth.  And by the way, because we’ve grown faster than them, we’ve brought our deficits down faster than they have.

I want to repeat this because the public apparently never believes it.  Since I took office, we’ve cut our deficits by two-thirds.  The deficit has not been going up; it has been coming down — precipitously.  We’ve cut our deficits by two-thirds.  They’re below the average deficits over the past 40 years.

So the bottom line is, Congress has to do its job.  It can’t flirt with another shutdown.  It should pass a serious budget.  And if they do, and get rid of some of these mindless cuts, even as we’re still prudent about maintaining the spending that we need but not spending we don’t need and is not working, their own non-partisan budget office estimates we’re going to add an extra half-million jobs to our economy next year alone.  We can immediately put half a million more people back to work if we just have a more sensible budget.

And in these negotiations, nobody is going to get everything they want.  We have to work together, though, even if we disagree, in order to do the people’s business.  At some point we have to want to govern, and not just play politics or play to various political bases.  At some point, we need to pass bills so that we can rebuild our roads, and keep our kids learning, and our military strong, and help people prepare for and recover from disasters.  That is Congress’s most basic job.  That’s what our government is supposed to do — serve the American people.

So with that, let me take some questions.  And I’ll start with Julie Pace of AP.

Hang in there, kids.  (Laughter.)

Q    It will be over soon.  Thank you, Mr. President.  There have been several developments in Syria that I wanted to ask you about, starting with Russia’s involvement.  You met with President Putin earlier this week, and I wonder if you think he was honest with you about his intentions in Syria.  If Russia is targeting groups beyond the Islamic State, including U.S.-aligned groups, does the U.S. military have an obligation to protect them?  And on the situation in Syria more broadly, there have obviously been failures in the U.S. train-and-equip program.  Do you believe that that program can be fixed or do you have to look at other options?  Would you, in particular, be willing to reconsider a no-fly zone, which several presidential candidates, including your former Secretary of State, are now calling for?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first and foremost, let’s understand what’s happening in Syria and how we got here.  What started off as peaceful protests against Assad, the president, evolved into a civil war because Assad met those protests with unimaginable brutality.  And so this is not a conflict between the United States and any party in Syria; this is a conflict between the Syrian people and a brutal, ruthless dictator.

Point number two is that the reason Assad is still in power is because Russia and Iran have supported him throughout this process.  And in that sense, what Russia is doing now is not particularly different from what they had been doing in the past — they’re just more overt about it.  They’ve been propping up a regime that is rejected by an overwhelming majority of the Syrian population because they’ve seen that he has been willing to drop barrel bombs on children and on villages indiscriminately, and has been more concerned about clinging to power than the state of his country.

So in my discussions with President Putin, I was very clear that the only way to solve the problem in Syria is to have a political transition that is inclusive — that keeps the state intact, that keeps the military intact, that maintains cohesion, but that is inclusive — and the only way to accomplish that is for Mr. Assad to transition, because you cannot rehabilitate him in the eyes of Syrians.  This is not a judgment I’m making; it is a judgment that the overwhelming majority of Syrians make.

And I said to Mr. Putin that I’d be prepared to work with him if he is willing to broker with his partners, Mr. Assad and Iran, a political transition — we can bring the rest of the world community to a brokered solution — but that a military solution alone, an attempt by Russia and Iran to prop up Assad and try to pacify the population is just going to get them stuck in a quagmire.  And it won’t work.  And they will be there for a while if they don’t take a different course.

I also said to him that it is true that the United States and Russia and the entire world have a common interest in destroying ISIL.  But what was very clear — and regardless of what Mr. Putin said — was that he doesn’t distinguish between ISIL and a moderate Sunni opposition that wants to see Mr. Assad go.  From their perspective, they’re all terrorists.  And that’s a recipe for disaster, and it’s one that I reject.

So where we are now is that we are having technical conversations about de-confliction so that we’re not seeing U.S. and American firefights in the air.  But beyond that, we’re very clear in sticking to our belief and our policy that the problem here is Assad and the brutality that he has inflicted on the Syrian people, and that it has to stop.  And in order for it to stop, we’re prepared to work with all the parties concerned.  But we are not going to cooperate with a Russian campaign to simply try to destroy anybody who is disgusted and fed up with Mr. Assad’s behavior.

Keep in mind also, from a practical perspective, the moderate opposition in Syria is one that if we’re ever going to have to have a political transition, we need.  And the Russian policy is driving those folks underground or creating a situation in which they are de-capacitated, and it’s only strengthening ISIL.  And that’s not good for anybody.

In terms of our support of opposition groups inside of Syria, I made very clear early on that the United States couldn’t impose a military solution on Syria either, but that it was in our interest to make sure that we were engaged with moderate opposition inside of Syria because eventually Syria will fall, the Assad regime will fall, and we have to have somebody who we’re working with that we can help pick up the pieces and stitch back together a cohesive, coherent country.  And so we will continue to support them.

The training-and-equip program was a specific initiative by the Defense Department to see if we could get some of that moderate opposition to focus attention on ISIL in the eastern portion of the country.  And I’m the first one to acknowledge it has not worked the way it was supposed to, Julie.  And I think that the Department of Defense would say the same thing.  And part of the reason, frankly, is because when we tried to get them to just focus on ISIL, the response we’d get back is, how can we focus on ISIL when every single day we’re having barrel bombs and attacks from the regime?  And so it’s been hard to get them to reprioritize, looking east, when they’ve got bombs coming at them from the west.

So what we’re doing with the train-and-equip is looking at where we have had success — for example, working with some of the Kurdish community in the east that pushed ISIL out — seeing if we can build on that.  But what we’re also going to continue to do is to have contacts with and work with opposition that, rightly, believes that in the absence of some change of government inside of Syria we’re going to continue to see civil war, and that is going to turbocharge ISIL recruitment and jihadist recruitment, and we’re going to continue to have problems.

Now, last point I just want to make about this — because sometimes the conversation here in the Beltway differs from the conversation internationally.  Mr. Putin had to go into Syria not out of strength but out of weakness, because his client, Mr. Assad, was crumbling.  And it was insufficient for him simply to send them arms and money; now he’s got to put in his own planes and his own pilots.  And the notion that he put forward a plan and that somehow the international community sees that as viable because there is a vacuum there — I didn’t see, after he made that speech in the United Nations, suddenly the 60-nation coalition that we have start lining up behind him.

Iran and Assad make up Mr. Putin’s coalition at the moment. The rest of the world makes up ours.  So I don’t think people are fooled by the current strategy.  It does not mean that we could not see Mr. Putin begin to recognize that it is in their interest to broker a political settlement.  And as I said in New York, we’re prepared to work with the Russians and the Iranians, as well as our partners who are part of the anti-ISIL coalition to come up with that political transition.  And nobody pretends that it’s going to be easy, but I think it is still possible.  And so we will maintain lines of communication.

But we are not going to be able to get those negotiations going if there is not a recognition that there’s got to be a change in government.  We’re not going to go back to the status quo ante.  And the kinds of airstrikes against moderate opposition that Russia is engaging in is going to be counterproductive.  It’s going to move us farther away rather than towards the ultimate solution that we’re all — that we all should be looking for.

Q    (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Julie, throughout this process, I think people have constantly looked for an easy, low-cost answer — whether it’s we should have sent more rifles in early and somehow then everything would have been okay; or if I had taken that shot even after Assad offered to give up his chemical weapons, then immediately things would have folded, or the Assad regime would have folded, and we would have suddenly seen a peaceful Syria.

This is a hugely, difficult, complex problem.  And I would have hoped that we would have learned that from Afghanistan and Iraq, where we have devoted enormous time and effort and resources with the very best people and have given the Afghan people and the Iraqi people an opportunity for democracy.  But it’s still hard, as we saw this week in Afghanistan.  That’s not by virtue of a lack of effort on our part, or a lack of commitment.  We’ve still got 10,000 folks in Afghanistan.  We’re still spending billions of dollar supporting that government, and it’s still tough.

So when I make a decision about the level of military involvement that we’re prepared to engage in, in Syria, I have to make a judgment based on, once we start something we’ve got to finish it, and we’ve got to do it well.  And do we, in fact, have the resources and the capacity to make a serious impact — understanding that we’ve still got to go after ISIL in Iraq; we still have to support the training of an Iraqi military that is weaker than any of us perceived; that we still have business to do in Afghanistan.  And so I push — and have consistently over the last four, five years sought out a wide range of opinions about steps that we can take potentially to move Syria in a better direction.

I am under no illusions about what an incredible humanitarian catastrophe this is, and the hardships that we’re seeing, and the refugees that are traveling in very dangerous circumstances and now creating real political problems among our allies in Europe, and the heartbreaking images of children drowned trying to escape war, and the potential impact of such a destabilized country on our allies in the region.  But what we have learned over the last 10, 12, 13 years is that unless we can get the parties on the ground to agree to live together in some fashion, then no amount of U.S. military engagement will solve the problem.  And we will find ourselves either doing just a little bit and not making a difference, and losing credibility that way, or finding ourselves drawn in deeper and deeper into a situation that we can’t sustain.

And when I hear people offering up half-baked ideas as if they are solutions, or trying to downplay the challenges involved in this situation — what I’d like to see people ask is, specifically, precisely, what exactly would you do, and how would you fund it, and how would you sustain it?  And typically, what you get is a bunch of mumbo jumbo.

So these are hard challenges.  They are ones that we are going to continue to pursue.  The topline message that I want everybody to understand is we are going to continue to go after ISIL.  We are going to continue to reach out to a moderate opposition.  We reject Russia’s theory that everybody opposed to Assad is a terrorist.  We think that is self-defeating.  It will get them into a quagmire.  It will be used as a further recruitment tool for foreign fighters.

We will work with the international community and our coalition to relieve the humanitarian pressure.  On refugees, we are working with the Turks and others to see what we can do along the border to make things safer for people.  But ultimately, we’re going to have to find a way for a political transition if we’re going to solve Syria.

Jon Karl.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.


Q    Back in July you said that the gun issue has been the most frustrating of your presidency, and we certainly heard that frustration from you last night.


Q    So in the last 15 months of your presidency, do you intend to do anything differently to get Congress to act or to do something about this gun violence problem?

And I have to get you to respond to something that Jeb Bush just said, and to be fair to Governor Bush I want to read it directly.  Asked about the drive to take action in light of what happened in Oregon, he said, “Look, stuff happens.  There’s always a crisis.  And the impulse is always to do something, and it’s not always the right thing to do.”  How would you react to Governor Bush?

THE PRESIDENT:  I don’t even think I have to react to that one.  (Laughter.)  I think the American people should hear that and make their own judgments, based on the fact that every couple of months, we have a mass shooting, and in terms of — and they can decide whether they consider that “stuff happening”.

In terms of what I can do, I’ve asked my team — as I have in the past — to scrub what kinds of authorities do we have to enforce the laws that we have in place more effectively to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.  Are there additional actions that we can take that might prevent even a handful of these tragic deaths from taking place?  But as I said last night, this will not change until the politics change and the behavior of elected officials changes.

And so the main thing I’m going to do is I’m going to talk about this on a regular basis, and I will politicize it because our inaction is a political decision that we are making.

The reason that Congress does not support even the modest gun safety laws that we proposed after Sandy Hook is not because the majority of the American people don’t support it.  I mean, normally, politicians are responsive to the views of the electorate.  Here you’ve got the majority of the American people think it’s the right thing to do.  Background checks, other common-sense steps that would maybe save some lives couldn’t even get a full vote.  And why is that?  It’s because of politics.  It’s because interest groups fund campaigns, feed people fear. And in fairness, it’s not just in the Republican Party — although the Republican Party is just uniformly opposed to all gun safety laws.  And unless we change that political dynamic, we’re not going to be able to make a big dent in this problem.

For example, you’ll hear people talk about the problem is not guns, it’s mental illness.  Well, if you talk to people who study this problem, it is true that the majority of these mass shooters are angry young men, but there are hundreds of millions of angry young men around the world — tens of millions of angry young men.  Most of them don’t shoot.  It doesn’t help us just to identify — and the majority of people who have mental illnesses are not shooters.  So we can’t sort through and identify ahead of time who might take actions like this.  The only thing we can do is make sure that they can’t have an entire arsenal when something snaps in them.

And if we’re going to do something about that, the politics has to change.  The politics has to change.  And the people who are troubled by this have to be as intense and as organized and as adamant about this issue as folks on the other side who are absolutists and think that any gun safety measures are somehow an assault on freedom, or communistic — or a plot by me to takeover and stay in power forever or something.  (Laughter.)  I mean, there are all kinds of crackpot conspiracy theories that float around there — some of which, by the way, are ratified by elected officials in the other party on occasion.

So we’ve got to change the politics of this.  And that requires people to feel — not just feel deeply — because I get a lot of letters after this happens — “do something!”  Well, okay, here’s what you need to do.  You have to make sure that anybody who you are voting for is on the right side of this issue.  And if they’re not, even if they’re great on other stuff, for a couple of election cycles you’ve got to vote against them, and let them know precisely why you’re voting against them.  And you just have to, for a while, be a single-issue voter because that’s what is happening on the other side.

And that’s going to take some time.  I mean, the NRA has had a good start.  They’ve been at this a long time, they’ve perfected what they do.  You’ve got to give them credit — they’re very effective, because they don’t represent the majority of the American people but they know how to stir up fear; they know how to stir up their base; they know how to raise money; they know how to scare politicians; they know how to organize campaigns.  And the American people are going to have to match them in their sense of urgency if we’re actually going to stop this.

Which isn’t to say stopping all violence.  We’re not going to stop all violence.  Violence exists around the world, sadly.  Part of original sin.  But our homicide rates are just a lot higher than other places — that, by the way, have the same levels of violence.  It’s just you can’t kill as many people when you don’t have easy access to these kinds of weapons.

And I’m deeply saddened about what happened yesterday.  But Arne is going back to Chicago — let’s not forget, this is happening every single day in forgotten neighborhoods around the country.  Every single day.  Kids are just running for their lives, trying to get to school.  Broderick, when we were down in New Orleans, sitting down with a group of young men, when we were talking about Katrina, and I’ve got two young men next to me, both of them had been shot multiple times.  They were barely 20.

So we got to make a decision.  If we think that’s normal, then we have to own it.  I don’t think it’s normal.  I think it’s abnormal.  I think we should change it.  But I can’t do it by myself.

So the main thing I’m going to do, Jon, is talk about it.  And hope that over time I’m changing enough minds — along with other leaders around the country — that we start finally seeing some action.  I don’t think it’s going to happen overnight.

Cheryl Bolen.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  To go back to your opening remarks, you said that you won’t sign another short-term CR.  But as you know, yesterday Secretary Lew announced that the government’s borrowing authority would run out around November 5th.  Would you recommend negotiating an increase in the debt ceiling as part of these budget negotiations on spending caps?  And also does the Speaker’s race complicate these negotiations?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m sure the Speaker’s race complicates these negotiations.  (Laughter.)  That was a rhetorical question. (Laughter.)  It will complicate the negotiations.  But when it comes to the debt ceiling, we’re not going back there.

Maybe it’s been a while, so let me just refresh everybody’s memory.  Raising the debt ceiling does not authorize us to spend more, it simply authorizes us to pay the bills that we have already incurred.  It is the way for the United States to maintain its good credit rating — the full faith and credit of the United States.

Historically, we do not mess with it.  If it gets messed with, it would have profound implications for the global economy and could put our financial system in the kind of tailspin that we saw back in 2007-2008.  It’s just a bad thing to do.  So we’re not going to negotiate on that.  It has to get done in the next five weeks.  So even though the continuing resolution to keep the government open lasts for 10 weeks, we have to get the debt ceiling raised in five.  You’ve got a shorter timetable to get that done.

But here’s the bottom line:  Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, myself, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid — we’ve all spoken and talked about trying to negotiate a budget agreement.  And, yes, Speaker Boehner’s decision to step down complicates it.  But I do think that there is still a path for us to come up with a reasonable agreement that raises the spending caps above sequester to make sure that we can properly finance both our defense and nondefense needs, that maintains a prudent control of our deficits, and that we can do that in short order.  It’s not that complicated.  The math is the math.

And what I’ve encouraged is that we get started on that work immediately, and we push through over the next several weeks — and try to leave out extraneous issues that may prevent us from getting a budget agreement.

I know, for example, that there are many Republicans who are exercised about Planned Parenthood.  And I deeply disagree with them on that issue, and I think that it’s mischaracterized what Planned Parenthood does.  But I understand that they feel strongly about it, and I respect that.  But you can’t have an issue like that potentially wreck the entire U.S. economy — any more than I should hold the entire budget hostage to my desire to do something about gun violence.  I feel just as strongly about that and I think I’ve got better evidence for it.  But the notion that I would threaten the Republicans that unless they passed gun safety measures that would stop mass shootings I’m going to shut down the government and not sign an increase in the debt ceiling would be irresponsible of me.  And the American people, rightly, would reject that.

Well, same is true for them.  There are some fights that we fight individually.  They want to defund Planned Parenthood, there’s a way to do it.  Pass a law, override my veto.  That’s true across a whole bunch of issues that they disagree with me on, and that’s how democracy works.  I got no problem with that.

But you have to govern.  And I’m hoping that the next Speaker understands that the problem Speaker Boehner had or Mitch McConnell had in not dismantling Obamacare, or not eliminating the Department of Education, or not deporting every immigrant in this country was not because Speaker Boehner or Mitch McConnell didn’t care about conservative principles.  It had to do with the fact that they can’t do it in our system of government, which requires compromise.  Just like I can’t do everything I want in passing an immigration bill, or passing a gun safety bill.  And that doesn’t mean, then, I throw a tantrum and try to wreck the economy, and put hardworking Americans who are just now able to dig themselves out of a massive recession, put them in harm’s way.  Wrong thing to do.

Peter Alexander.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  You addressed — I want to follow up on Jon’s questions about the issue that’s obviously deeply personal and moving to you — that is the gun issue.  Apart from Congress’s inaction, apart from the desire for new laws and, beyond that, apart from the gun lobby, as you noted, the pattern is that these perpetrators are angry, aggrieved, oftentimes mentally ill young men.  Is there something that you can do with the bully pulpit, with your moral authority, with your remaining time in office to help reach these individuals who believe that gun violence is the way out?

THE PRESIDENT:  No.  I think I can continue to speak to the American people as a whole and hopefully model for them basic social norms about rejecting violence, and cooperation and caring for other people.  But there are a lot of young men out there.  And having been one myself once, I can tell you that us being able to identify or pinpoint who might have problems is extraordinarily difficult.

So I think we, as a culture, should continuously think about how we can nurture our kids, protect our kids, talk to them about conflict resolution, discourage violence.  And I think there are poor communities where, rather than mass shootings, you’re seeing just normal interactions that used to be settled by a fistfight settled with guns where maybe intervention programs and mentorship and things like that can work.  That’s the kind of thing that we’re trying to encourage through My Brother’s Keeper.

But when it comes to reaching every disaffected young man, 99 percent of — or 99.9 percent of whom will hopefully grow out of it — I don’t think that there’s a silver bullet there.  The way we are going to solve this problem is that when they act out, when they are disturbed, when that particular individual has a problem, that they can’t easily access weapons that can perpetrate mass violence on a lot of people.

Because that’s what other countries do.  Again, I want to emphasize this.  There’s no showing that somehow we are inherently more violent than any other advanced nation, or that young men are inherently more violent in our nation than they are in other nations.  I will say young men inherently are more violent than the rest of the population, but there’s no sense that somehow this is — it’s something in the American character that is creating this.  Levels of violence are on par between the United States and other advanced countries.  What is different is homicide rates and gun violence rates and mass shooting rates.  So it’s not that the behavior or the impulses are necessarily different as much as it is that they have access to more powerful weapons.

Julia Edwards.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  You just said that you reject President Putin’s approach to Syria and his attacks on moderate opposition forces.  You said it was a recipe for disaster.  But what are you willing to do to stop President Putin and protect moderate opposition fighters?  Would you consider imposing sanctions against Russia?  Would you go so far as to equip moderate rebels with anti-aircraft weapons to protect them from Russian air attacks?  And how do you respond to critics who say Putin is outsmarting you, that he took a measure of you in Ukraine and he felt he could get away with it?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, I’ve heard it all before.  (Laughter.) I’ve got to say I’m always struck by the degree to which not just critics but I think people buy this narrative.

Let’s think about this.  So when I came into office seven and a half years ago, America had precipitated the worst financial crisis in history, dragged the entire world into a massive recession.  We were involved in two wars with almost no coalition support.  U.S. — world opinion about the United States was at a nadir — we were just barely above Russia at that time, and I think potentially slightly below China’s.  And we were shedding 800,000 jobs a month, and so on and so forth.

And today, we’re the strongest large advanced economy in the world — probably one of the few bright spots in the world economy.  Our approval ratings have gone up.  We are more active on more international issues and forge international responses to everything from Ebola to countering ISIL.

Meanwhile, Mr. Putin comes into office at a time when the economy had been growing and they were trying to pivot to a more diversified economy, and as a consequence of these brilliant moves, their economy is contracting 4 percent this year.  They are isolated in the world community, subject to sanctions that are not just applied by us but by what used to be some of their closest trading partners.  Their main allies in the Middle East were Libya and Syria — Mr. Gaddafi and Mr. Assad — and those countries are falling apart.  And he’s now just had to send in troops and aircraft in order to prop up this regime, at the risk of alienating the entire Sunni world.

So what was the question again?  (Laughter.)

No, but I think it’s really interesting to understand.  Russia is not stronger as a consequence of what they’ve been doing.  They get attention.  The sanctions against Ukraine are still in place.  And what I’ve consistently offered — from a position of strength, because the United States is not subject to sanctions and we’re not contracting 4 percent a year — what I’ve offered is a pathway whereby they can get back onto a path of growth and do right by their people.

So Mr. Putin’s actions have been successful only insofar as it’s boosted his poll ratings inside of Russia — which may be why the beltway is so impressed, because that tends to be the measure of success.  Of course, it’s easier to do when you’ve got a state-controlled media.

But this is not a smart, strategic move on Russia’s part.  And what Russia has now done is not only committed its own troops into a situation in which the overwhelming majority of the Syrian population sees it now as an enemy, but the Sunni population throughout the Middle East is going to see it as a supporter, an endorser, of those barrel bombs landing on kids — at a time when Russia has a significant Muslim population inside of its own borders that it needs to worry about.

So I want Russia to be successful.  This is not a contest between the United States and Russia.  It is in our interest for Russia to be a responsible, effective actor on the international stage that can share burdens with us, along with China, along with Europe, along with Japan, along with other countries — because the problems we have are big.  So I’m hopeful that Mr. Putin, having made this doubling-down of the support he has provided to Mr. Assad, recognizes that this is not going to be a good long-term strategy and that he works instead to bring about a political settlement.

Just as I hope that they can resolve the issues with Ukraine in a way that recognizes Russian equities but upholds the basic principle of sovereignty and independence that the Ukrainian people should enjoy like everybody else.  But until that time, we’re going to continue to have tensions and we’re going to continue to have differences.

But we’re not going to make Syria into a proxy war between the United States and Russia.  That would be bad strategy on our part.  This is a battle between Russia, Iran, and Assad against the overwhelming majority of the Syrian people.  Our battle is with ISIL, and our battle is with the entire international community to resolve the conflict in a way that can end the bloodshed and end the refugee crisis, and allow people to be at home, work, grow food, shelter their children, send those kids to school.  That’s the side we’re on.

This is not some superpower chessboard contest.  And anybody who frames it in that way isn’t paying very close attention to what’s been happening on the chessboard.

All right, last question.  Major Garrett.

Q    Mr. President, good to see you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Good to see you.

Q    And for the children there, I promise I won’t take too long.  So you’ve been very patient.

THE PRESIDENT:  I’ve been boring them to death, I guarantee it.  (Laughter.)  But there have been times where I’ve snagged rebounds for Ryan when he is shooting three-pointers so he has got to put up with this.  (Laughter.)

Q    Understood.  Mr. President, I wonder if you could tell the country to what degree you were changed or moved by what you discussed in private with Pope Francis?  What do you think his visit might have meant for the country long term?  And for Democrats who might already be wondering, is it too late for Joe Biden to decide whether or not to run for President?  And lastly, just to clarify, to what degree did Hillary Clinton’s endorsement just yesterday of a no-fly zone put her in a category of embracing a half-baked answer on Syria that borders on mumbo jumbo?

THE PRESIDENT:  On the latter issue, on the last question that you asked, Hillary Clinton is not half-baked in terms of her approach to these problems.  She was obviously my Secretary of State.  But I also think that there’s a difference between running for President and being President, and the decisions that are being made and the discussions that I’m having with the Joint Chiefs become much more specific and require, I think, a different kind of judgment.  And that’s what I’ll continue to apply as long as I’m here.  And if and when she’s President, then she’ll make those judgments.  And she’s been there enough that she knows that these are tough calls but that —

Q    — that she should know better?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, that’s not what I said.  That’s perhaps what you said.  What I’m saying is, is that we all want to try to relieve the suffering in Syria, but my job is to make sure that whatever we do we are doing in a way that serves the national security interests of the American people; that doesn’t lead to us getting into things that we can’t get out of or that we cannot do effectively; and as much as possible, that we’re working with international partners.

And we’re going to continue to explore things that we can do to protect people and to deal with the humanitarian situation there, and to provide a space in which we can bring about the kind of political transition that’s going to be required to solve the problem.  And I think Hillary Clinton would be the first to say that when you’re sitting in the seat that I’m sitting in, in the Situation Room, things look a little bit different — because she’s been right there next to me.

I love Joe Biden, and he’s got his own decisions to make, and I’ll leave it at that.  And in the meantime, he’s doing a great job as Vice President and has been really helpful on a whole bunch of issues.

Pope Francis I love.  He is a good man with a warm heart and a big moral imagination.  And I think he had such an impact in his visit here — as he has had around the world — because he cares so deeply about the least of these, and in that sensea expresses what I consider to be, as a Christian, the essence of Christianity.  And he’s got a good sense of humor.  (Laughter.)  Well, I can’t share all his jokes.  They were all clean.  (Laughter.)

And as I said in the introduction in the South Lawn when he appeared here at the White House, I think it’s really useful that he makes us uncomfortable in his gentle way; that he’s constantly prodding people’s consciences and asking everybody all across the political spectrum what more you can do to be kind, and to be helpful, and to love, and to sacrifice, and to serve.  And in that sense, I don’t think he’s somebody where we should be applying the typical American political measures — liberal and conservative, and left and right — I think he is speaking to all of our consciences, and we all have to then search ourselves to see if there are ways that we can do better.

Q    (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  It did.  I think that when I spend time with somebody like the Pontiff — and there are other individuals, some of whom are famous, some of whom are not, but who are good people and deeply moral — then it makes me want to be better, makes me want to do better.  And those people are great gifts to the world.  And sometimes they’re just a teacher in a classroom. And sometimes they’re your neighbor.  And sometimes they’re your mom, or your wife.  Sometimes they’re your kids.  But they can encourage you to be better.  That’s what we’re all trying to do.

And that’s part of the wonderful thing about Pope Francis, is the humility that he brings to do this.  His rejection of the absolutism that says I’m 100 percent right and you’re 100 percent wrong; but rather, we are all sinners and we are all children of God.  That’s a pretty good starting point for being better.

All right.  Thank you, guys, for your patience.  You can now go home.  (Laughter.)



4:53 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency September 16, 2015: President Barack Obama’s remarks to the business roundtable urging against a government shutdown transcript



Remarks by the President to the Business Roundtable

Source: WH, 9-16-15

Business Roundtable Headquarters
Washington, D.C.

11:24 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Randall, and thank you to everybody here at the Business Roundtable for having me today.  I’m just going to say a few words and then hopefully spend a lot of time taking your questions.

Seven years ago today was one of the worst days in the history of our economy.  If you picked up the Wall Street Journal that morning, you read that the shocks from AIG and Lehman were spreading worldwide.  The day before, stocks had suffered their worst loss since 9/11.  In the months after, businesses would go bankrupt, millions of Americans would lose their jobs and their homes, and our economy would reach the brink of collapse.

That’s where we were when I became chief executive.  Here’s where we are today:  Businesses like yours have created more than 13 million new jobs over the past 66 months -– the longest streak of job growth on record.  The unemployment rate is lower than it’s been in over seven years.  There are more job openings right now than at any time in our history.  Housing has bounced back.  Household wealth is higher than it was before the recession.  We have made enormous strides in both traditional energy sources and clean energy sources while reducing our carbon emissions.  And our education system is actually making significant progress with significant gains in reducing the dropout rate, reading scores increasing, math scores increasing.  And, by the way, more than 16 million people have health insurance that didn’t have it before.

So this progress is a testament to American business and innovation.  It’s a testament to the workers that you employ.  But I’m going to take a little credit, too.  It’s a testament to some good policy decisions.  Soon after we took office, we passed the Recovery Act, rescued our auto industry, worked to rebuild our economy on a stronger foundation for growth.  Other countries in some cases embraced austerity as an ideology without looking at the data and the facts, tried to cut their way out of recession.  The results speak for themselves.  America has come back from crisis faster than almost every other advanced nation on Earth.  And at a time of significant global volatility, we remain the world’s safest, smartest investment.

Of course, I will not be satisfied — and we as a country shouldn’t be satisfied — until more working families are feeling the recovery in their own lives.  But the fact is that what I’ve called middle-class economics has been good for business.  Corporate profits have hit an all-time high.  Slowing health care prices and plummeting energy costs have helped your bottom lines.  Manufacturing is growing at the fastest clip in about two decades.  Our workforce is more educated than ever before.  The stock market has more than doubled since 2009, and 2015 is on pace to be the year with the highest consumer confidence since 2004.  And America’s technological entrepreneurs have continued to make incredible products that are changing our lives rapidly.
Now, you wouldn’t know any of this if you were listening to the folks who are seeking this office that I occupy.  (Laughter.)  In the echo chamber that is presidential politics, everything is dark and everything is terrible.  They don’t seem to offer many solutions for the disasters that they perceive -– but they’re quick to tell you who to blame.

I’m here to say that there’s nothing particularly patriotic or American about talking down America, especially when we stand as one of the few sources of economic strength in the world.

Right now, we’ve got the chance to build on progress that we have made and that is acknowledged worldwide.  We have a chance to grow the economy even faster, create jobs even faster, lift people’s incomes and prospects even faster.  We just have to make some sensible choices.  And I’m going to focus on one particular example.  America’s next fiscal year is almost upon us, which means that Congress has about two weeks to pass a budget.  If they don’t, they will shut down America’s government for the second time in two years.

Democrats are ready to sit down and negotiate with Republicans right now, today, as we speak.  But it should be over legitimate questions of spending and revenue –- not unrelated ideological issues.  You’ll recall that two years ago Republicans shut down the government because they didn’t like Obamacare.  Today, some are suggesting the government should be shut down because they don’t like Planned Parenthood.  That’s not good sense and it’s not good business.  The notion that we’d play chicken with an $18 trillion economy and global markets that are already skittish all because of an issue around a women’s health provider that receives less than 20 cents out of every thousand dollars in the federal budget, that’s not good policymaking.

The last time Republicans shut down the government, it cost our economy billions of dollars; consumer confidence plummeted.  I don’t think anybody here thinks that’s going to be good for your business.

I’ve always believed what our first Republican President, a guy from my home state named Abraham Lincoln, believed –- that through government we should do together those things that we can’t do as well by ourselves.  Funding infrastructure projects.  Educating the best workforce in the world.  Investing in cutting-edge research and development so that businesses can take that research and take some risks to create new products and new services.  Setting basic rules for the marketplace that encourage innovation and fair competition that help a market-based economy thrive.  Creating a safety net that not only helps the most vulnerable in our society but also frees all of us to take risks and protect against life’s uncertainties.  And welcoming, rather than disparaging, the striving immigrants that have always been the source of continued renewal, economic vibrancy and dynamism in our economy.

So my hope is that Congress aims a little higher than just not shutting the government down.  That’s a good start, we’d like them to achieve that, but I think we can do better.  We can actually do some things to help the economy grow.  After the last shutdown, both parties came together and unwound some of the irrational cuts to our economy and military readiness that’s known as sequester.  That agreement expires in two weeks as well.  And for those of you who are not steeped in federal budget terminology, sequester basically are automatic topline cuts that don’t discriminate, don’t think through what are good investments and what is waste.  And if we don’t reverse the cuts that are currently in place, a lot of the drivers of growth that your companies depends on — research, job training, infrastructure, education for our workforce — they are going to be reduced effectively at a time when other countries around the world are racing to get ahead of us.  On the other hand, if Congress does reverse dome of these cuts, then our own budget office estimates it would add about half a million jobs to our economy next year alone, about 0.4 percent to GDP.

And keep in mind that we can afford it right now — all the things I said at the front in terms of the recovery that we’ve made.  We’ve also reduced the deficit by two-thirds.  Right now it’s about 2.8 percent of GDP.  We’ve reduced our deficit faster than some of those countries that pursued strict austerity policies and weren’t thinking about how to grow the economy.

And so we are well positioned without adding to the deficit.  I want to repeat — since I took office, we’ve cut the deficit by more than two-thirds.  And the good news is we might actually be moving beyond some of the stale debates we’ve been having about spending and revenue over the past several years if what economists and people who are knowledgeable about the federal budget are listened to as opposed by this being driven by short-term politics.

People in both parties, including some of the leading Republican candidates for President, have been putting out proposals.  Some I agree with, some I don’t.  I’ll give you one example, though.  You’ve got two leading candidates on the Republican side who have said that we should eliminate the carried interest loophole.  Now, there’s disagreement in this room around that.  But I will tell you that keeping this tax loophole, which leads to folks who are doing very well paying lower rates than their secretaries, is not in any demonstrable way improving our economy.

On the other hand, if we close the tax loophole, we could double the number of workers in America’s job training programs.  We could help another 4 million students afford college.  These are sensible choices that if you were running your business and you took a look at it, you’d make that decision.  Well, America should too.

And this is an example of how we can maintain fiscal responsibility while at the same time making the investments that we need to grow.

So the bottom line is this:  Seven years ago, if we had listened to some politicians who said we could only cut our way to prosperity, the fact is we’d be worse off today.  If we listen to them now, then we’re going to be worse off tomorrow.

I hope that you will talk to your friends in Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike.  As Congress flirts with another shutdown, remind them of what is at stake.  We will have some disagreements sometimes.  I do not expect to get 100 percent of what I want in any conversation, including with my wife.  But I do expect us to stay focused on why we’re here, which is to help the American people and businesses like yours and your workers do better.  That’s our job.  We’re not supposed to be impeding progress.  We’re supposed to be advancing progress, accelerating it.

And if our leaders can put common sense over ideology and the good of the country before the good of the party, then we’ll do just fine.  Despite the perennial doom and gloom that I guess is inevitably part of a presidential campaign, America is winning right now.  America is great right now.  We can do even better.  But the reason that I’m so confident about our future is not because of our government or the size of our GDP or our military, but because everybody in this country that I meet — regardless of their station in life, their race, their religion, the region they live in — they do believe in a common creed that if people work hard in this country, they should be able to get ahead.  And I know that’s what you believe.  That’s the values that you try to instill in our companies, as well.  My hope is, is that that decency, that hard work, that common sense is going to be reflected here in Washington.

So with that, let me take some questions.  And I’m going to start with Randall, because since he volunteered for what I’m sure is a thankless job of being head of the — (laughter).

Q    I’ll get it going here.  I know there are a lot of other questions for you.  But Leader McConnell was just here a little earlier, and he gave us all a cause to exhale, talking about the budget and seemed confident that we would get a place where we would have a budget.  And in the context of that he spoke about how split government can actually provide opportunities for getting big things done that might be hard to get done otherwise.  And he caused a head-snapper with all of us when he gave you a very strong compliment over —

THE PRESIDENT:  My head is snapping.  (Laughter.)  What did I do?

Q    Trade Promotion Authority, and how you worked that and you worked it very aggressively.  And, by the way, all of us in here — Mike Froman, I don’t know if he’s here, and Jeff Zients are very complimentary of the work that was done there.

So now you have the authority to get a trade deal done.  It’s going to have to come back to Congress, and so forth.  Talk to us a little bit about your view of the opportunity to get the Trans-Pacific deal done.

THE PRESIDENT:  I am confident that we can get it done, and I believe we can get it done this year.  The trade ministers should be meeting again sometime in the next several weeks.  They have the opportunity to close the deal.  Most chapters have been completed at this point.  And I’m confident that it will, in fact, accomplish our central goal, which is to make sure that we’ve got a level playing field for American businesses and American workers in the fastest-growing region of the world.

There are going to be unprecedented protections for labor standards and environmental standards, but also for IP protection, also for making sure that when any company here makes an investment, that they’re not being disadvantaged but are instead being treated like domestic companies for commercial purposes.

And so the notion here is, is that we’ve got 11 nations who represent the fastest-growing, most populous part of the world buying into a high-standards trade deal that allows us and your companies on a consistent basis to compete.  And the good news is, is that with a lot of tough negotiating and a lot of pushing and pulling — mainly by Mr. Froman, but occasionally I get called in to lob a call into one of my counterparts — I think that we’re going to get this done.

Now, the key then, once we close the negotiations and we have an agreement, is to get TPP through Congress.  We got it through.  I will return the compliment of Mitch McConnell worked very hard and very creatively to get it done.  We should not assume, though, that because the authority was done, that we automatically are going to be able to get TPP done.

And I’ll be honest with you, the reason is that the politics around trade are tough.  And I said this even in the run-up to getting TPA authority.  A lot of Americans, when they think of trade, think of plants in their hometown or nearby shutting down and moving to Mexico or China, and American manufacturing and good-paying jobs being lost.  That’s the image of trade.

And the argument that I have made consistently to Democrats has been that there may have been some mistakes made in past trade agreements in not, for example, having enforceable labor and environmental provisions that put American companies that are doing the right thing at a disadvantage; that there weren’t enough safeguards for intellectual property and the abuses of state-owned enterprises and subsidies that companies may have been involved with.

But that’s the status quo now.  And if you want to correct those things, we’ve got to raise the bar.  I didn’t fully persuade all my Democratic colleagues, because the politics are tough.  And I was willing to take my case to the Democratic caucus and to talk to my friends in organized labor and say that we can’t look backwards, we’ve got to look forward.  We’re going to have to compete in these areas.

Here’s the concern politically, is that I think within the Republican Party some of the same impulses that are anti-immigration reform, some of the same impulses that see the entire world as a threat and we’ve got to wall ourselves off, some of those same impulses also start creeping into the trade debate.  And a party that traditionally was pro free trade now has a substantial element that may feel differently.

And so the BRT, I think — you know, you got to put Engler to work over there.  To their credit, both Mitch McConnell and John Boehner I think are on the right program here, but they’re going to need some help potentially with their membership, because the closer we get to political season, the tighter some of these votes get.  I will tell you this, though:  I am confident that if I’m presenting an agreement to Congress, that it will meet the commitment that I made that this would be the highest standard, most progressive trade deal in American history.  It will be good for American business and American workers.

Q    Hi, Mr. President.  Thank you for being with us.  I wanted to ask you about cybersecurity.  You put an executive order in place earlier this week because of the issues we have with information-sharing and with liabilities.  And we at the BRT are very supportive of the legislation that has passed the House and is now in progress in the Senate.  And I wanted to just get your thoughts on how you’re thinking about this, and also with the upcoming visit of the President of China about cybersecurity and our relationship with China.

THE PRESIDENT:  This is an issue that is not going away.  It is going to be more and more important, and it is going to be very challenging.  It’s challenging in part because the Internet itself, the architecture of it was not intended to carry trillions of dollars of transactions and everybody’s personal information.  It was designed for a couple of professors to trade academic papers.  And so the kind of security that we were looking for was not embedded into the DNA of the Internet.

And the vulnerabilities are significant and they are being exploited by not just state actors, but also non-state actors and criminal gangs at an accelerating pace.  So this is something that from a national security perspective and from a business perspective we’re going to have to continue to concentrate on.

One of the big issues that you mentioned, Maggie, that we’re focused on, is this encryption issue.  And there is a legitimate tension around this issue.  On the one hand, the stronger the encryption, the better we can potentially protect our data.  And so there’s an argument that says we want to turbocharge our encryption so that nobody can crack it.  On the other hand, if you have encryption that doesn’t have any way to get in there, we are now empowering ISIL, child pornographers, others to essentially be able to operate within a black box in ways that we’ve never experienced before during the telecommunications age.  And I’m not talking, by the way, about some of the controversies around NSA; I’m talking about the traditional FBI going to a judge, getting a warrant, showing probable cause, but still can’t get in.

So we’ve created a process around which to see if we can square the circle here and reconcile the need for greater and greater encryption and the legitimate needs of national security and law enforcement.

And I won’t say that we’ve cracked the code yet, but we’ve got some of the smartest folks not just in government but also in the private sector working together to try to resolve it.  And what’s interesting is even in the private sector, even in the tech community, people are on different sides of this thing.

With respect to China, this will probably be one of the biggest topics that I discuss with President Xi.  We have repeatedly said to the Chinese government that we understand traditional intelligence-gathering functions that all states, including us, engage in.  And we will do everything we can to stop you from getting state secrets or transcripts of a meeting that I’ve had, but we understand you’re going to be trying to do that.  That is fundamentally different from your government or its proxies engaging directly in industrial espionage and stealing trade secrets, stealing proprietary information from companies.  That we consider an act of aggression that has to stop.

And we are preparing a number of measures that will indicate to the Chinese that this is not just a matter of us being mildly upset, but is something that will put significant strains on the bilateral relationship if not resolved, and that we are prepared to some countervailing actions in order to get their attention.

My hope is, is that it gets resolved short of that, and ultimately the goal should be to have some basic international framework that won’t be perfect because there’s still going to be a lot of non-state actors and hackers who are very good, and we’re still going to have to have good defense and still have to be able to find the fingerprints of those and apprehend them, and stop networks that are engaged in cybercrime.

But among states, there has to be a framework that is analogous to what we’ve done with nuclear power because nobody stands to gain.  And, frankly, although the Chinese and Russians are close, we’re still the best at this.  And if we wanted to go on offense, a whole bunch of countries would have some significant problems.  And we don’t want to see the Internet weaponized in that way.  That requires I think some tough negotiations.  That won’t be a one-year process, but we’d like to see if we can — if we and the Chinese are able to coalesce around a process for negotiations, then I think we can bring a lot of other countries along.

Q    And we will work with you on that too.


Q    Thank you.


Q    Thank you for being here.  It’s also good to be reminded occasionally of some of the progress that we’ve made in like a complete sentence.  So I think thank you for that, as well.  And some recent ones — TPA is good; even the Iran deal, really good.  Health care standing up.  All good.  The place that we haven’t made a lot of progress but that’s really important for business and business progress is on tax and tax reform.

And what we’re getting to now is I think almost kind of like being backed in the corner.  So since you can’t get a grand deal, we’re starting to talk about sub-deals.  And the sub-deals in and of themselves are destructive, in the Business Roundtable’s view, to the grand deal, which is total tax reform or comprehensive tax reform.  So can you help us think about how we should negotiate this duality that we’re in right now?  And where do you think we’re going to end up?

THE PRESIDENT:  We put forward a proposal early on that I’m confident I could sell to this group.  Not everybody would be thrilled but I think I could argue that over time would be good for business, because essentially what we proposed was the traditional framework for tax reform:  close loopholes, lower rates.  We’d address international taxation in ways that currently put American businesses at a disadvantage and would allow for a repatriation, but would not simply empty out the Treasury and would generate enough revenue that we could actually also pay for some infrastructure.

And our hope was that we’d get some nibbles on the other side.  To his credit, Paul Ryan expressed real interest in discussions and negotiations.  But your previous speaker, Mitch McConnell, has said that he is not interested in getting tax reform — comprehensive tax reform of that sort done.

So there’s still work being done.  We’re still in conversations with Mr. Ryan.  And I know that Senator Schumer and others have still been working on the possibilities of a fairly robust package.  But ultimately you’re going to have to have the leader of the Senate majority party bought in to try to get this done.

I understand why tax reform is elusive — because those of us who believe in a simpler, fairer, more competitive tax framework in the abstract sometimes look at our bottom lines and say, I don’t know, that deduction is helping us pretty good here.  And even if this organization has been supportive, there are other business organizations in town that have some pretty strong influence over the Republican Party that haven’t been as wild on it, partly because their view is, is that the only kind of tax reform that’s acceptable is one that would also lower all rates, regardless of its effect on the deficit.  That’s just not something that is viable.

So we’re going to keep on working on it.  My suggestion would be that the BRT continue to encourage Speaker Boehner, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell to come up with an ambitious package.  And what I can assure you is, is that the White House will take it seriously.  We don’t expect that everything in our original package would go forward.

But the one thing that we couldn’t do — and I get concerned sometimes that what is labeled as tax reform ends up just being cuts, you’re not closing the loopholes, and as a consequence it’s a huge drain on the Treasury.  We then suddenly are accused of running up the deficit to help your tax rates, and we’re not doing enough to help grow the economy and help ordinary workers.  So that’s the one direction we can’t go in.

Yes, Tom.

Q    Thank you for being here.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on energy policy.  I know we talk a lot about all of the above, but I think what’s really changing kind of in an unprecedented way here recently are technology revolutions that are occurring either in the production of energy, or perhaps, more importantly, in the use of energy, that gives Americans I think a way to play offense in what has been a set of unprecedented challenges.  What’s your thoughts on that?

THE PRESIDENT:  Tom, I think you described it well.  I am much more optimistic about our ability to get a handle around energy that is good for our economy, good for business, good for consumers, good for job creation, and maybe saves the planet in the process.  I’m much more optimistic about that now than I was when I started as President.

And a good example is just when you look at what’s happened with solar.  I mean, we’re not quite at Moore’s law yet, but the pace at which the unit costs for solar energy have gone down is stunning.  We’ve seen not quite the same pace, but similar progress around wind.  Our natural gas production is unprecedented.  And I have been very supportive of our natural gas production as being not only important to our economy but also geopolitically.  It’s a huge recipe for energy independence as long as we get it — the methane discharge issues — right.  And I think there are ways of doing that with sound science.  So that’s on the production side.

And, as you said, on the utilization side, all of you are — there’s not a company here that is not producing significantly more product with less energy than you were just 10 years ago, and certainly than you were 20 years ago.  Everybody here has seen the power of tracking utilization, identifying waste, and timing issues around when is energy expensive, when is energy cheap.  So there’s enormous progress on the commercial side.  And then individual households now with things like Nest or the equivalence, we’re able to fine-tune our energy usage in ways that we just haven’t seen before.

And then you’ve got the whole transportation sector in which we’ve continued to make significant progress in Detroit as well as upstarts like Tesla.  There are still some distribution network issues around the transportation revolution, although companies like UPS are doing a great job I think already experimenting with their fleets.  So that’s all good news.

I would say that the big challenge now, if we’re going to realize all the potential here, is to work with utilities so that they have a business model in which they’re making money while seeing this change in distribution patterns and grid, because I think that there’s still some legitimate economic issues there that have to be sorted through.  And it’s tricky because it’s a patchwork system; we don’t have one national grid, obviously.

The second thing is, investment in basic research needs to continue.  Battery technology is greatly improved, but we still haven’t seen all the breakthroughs that I think that we can make with battery technology that would make a huge difference in storage.  And that’s an exciting area for development.

And then I would urge the BRT and some of you individually, as companies have already done this, view the issue of climate change and the Paris Conference that’s going to be coming up at the end of this year as an opportunity rather than as a problem.  Because this is coming; it’s coming generationally.  If you talk to your kids or my kids, they are much more attuned to this issue.  Consumers are going to be caring about it more and more.  The environmental effects that we’re seeing — I’m going to be calling Jerry Brown later today just to talk about California wildfires.  Some of you may have read the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada — lowest it’s been in 200 years.  The flooding problems that we’re already seeing in places like South Florida; it’s just during high tide.  Suddenly billions of dollars of property is under water.

So this is coming.  And for us to be out ahead of it and to think about how our ingenuity and our science can solve these problems is going to give us a jump on everybody else.  So there is a pledge that some members of the BRT have organized around supporting a strong Paris agreement.  I would encourage you to sign up on that and look for opportunities on this.  And that includes companies that have been in the traditional fossil fuel area.  Because if you know how to do oil and gas well, you can figure out how to do solar well, you can figure out to make money doing it.  You can figure out how to create efficiencies that help your bottom line.

And what we’ve tried to do with the Clean Power Plan is to give states flexibility, understanding everybody has got a different energy mix.  So, down south, we approved the first nuclear plant in a generation, basically, because we think nuclear needs to be part of that package.  I’m a big believer that there are going to be different ways to skin the cat on this thing.  We just have to set a baseline in which all of us understand the direction we need to go.  Instead of us spending a lot of time fighting science, let’s go with science.  We usually do better when we’re on the side of facts and evidence and science.  Just as a general rule, that’s proved to be our strength as Americans.


Q    If I could just turn back to China for a second.  There are a lot of issues we’ve got to sort out, and you mentioned a couple of them — cybersecurity, their feelings about TPP, their own economy.  Their inward turn in the name of creating a consumer economy has had some protectionist elements that we don’t like.  I think, though — I think many in this room would like to see some kind of positive outcome from this summit, as well, that underlines our mutual benefit if we can figure out some of these things and find a way for the world’s two biggest economies to see a path forward as well as all the issues we’ve got.

Do you have a comment on the tone you’re going to try to set with the President, and roles that we could play in supporting both the — managing our relationship as well as finding a future for it?

THE PRESIDENT:  My tone with respect to China has been pretty consistent.  It doesn’t jump up and down depending on where the polls are.  My view is that China should be and will continue to be an economic competitor; that we need to make sure that we are reaching an understanding with them about our presence as a Pacific power, but that it is in our interest for China to continue what has been dubbed a “peaceful, orderly rise.”  I think that’s good for the world.

China is a big place with a lot of people.  And we’re better off if those people are eating and have shelter and are buying consumer goods, rather than starving and writhing on the streets.
And so what I’ve consistently communicated, first to President Hu when I came into office, now President Xi, is our goal is to have them as a partner in helping to maintain a set of international rules and norms that benefit everybody; that in fact, we’re what facilitated China’s rise.  They were essentially riding on our backs for the last 30 years because we were underwriting peace, security, the free flow of commerce, international rules in the financial sector.

And as they have matured, what we’ve said to them is, with power comes responsibility, so now you’ve got to step up.  You can’t act as if you are a third-world country and pursue protectionist policies, or engage in dumping, or not protect intellectual property at a time when we’re now — when you’re now the second and, eventually, probably the first-largest economy in the world.

You can’t simply pursue an export-driven strategy, because you’re too big.  You’re not going to be able to grow your economy at the same pace over the next 20 years that you did in the last 20 years.  Once your economy reaches a certain size, there’s not enough global market to absorb that, which means that you’ve got to start thinking about transparency within your own economy, and how are you setting up a safety net so that workers have some cushion, and in turn, are willing to spend money as opposed to stuffing it in a mattress.

You’ve got to be concerned about environmental issues, because you can’t breathe in Beijing.  And that spills over for all of us.  And as a large country with a powerful military, you can’t go around pushing your little neighbors around just because you’re bigger, but you have to start abiding by a basic code of conduct and a set of rules, because ultimately, you will be advantaged by everybody following the rules.

And I think in some areas, the Chinese understand this; I think in other areas, they don’t.  I think in other areas, they still see themselves as the poor country that shouldn’t have any obligations internationally.  And in some cases, they still feel that when we call them on issues like their behavior in the South China Sea, or on intellectual property theft, that we are trying to contain them as opposed to us just wanting them to abide by the same rules that helped create an environment in which they can rise.

The good news is that our fates are sufficiently intertwined, that — and in many ways, they still need us a lot more than we need them; that I think that there are going to be continuing areas in which they move, as long as we don’t resort to the kind of loose talk and name-calling that I notice some of our presidential candidates engage in — people you know.  (Laughter.)  It tends not to be constructive.

So bottom line, though, is, Jim, I think this summit will be useful.  I think there are going to be a lot of outcomes around things like energy and climate change, around improvements in how they deal with investors that will show constructive progress.  I think our military-to-military conversations have been much better than they were when I began office.

The one thing I would suggest that the BRT can do — two things.  Number one — and I think I’ve said this to some of you in the past — when your companies have a problem in China and you want us to help, you have to let us help.  Don’t tell us on the side, we’ve got this problem, you need to look into it, but then — but leave our names out of it because we want to be punished kind of thing.

Typically, we are not effective with the Chinese unless we are able to present facts and evidence of a problem.  Otherwise, they’ll just stonewall and slow-walk issues.  So if we’re seeing problems in terms of the competitive environment there, in terms of protecting your IP, in terms of unfair competition that runs afoul of understanding the principles that have already been established, you’ve got to let us know and let us be your advocates.  That’s important.

The second thing I think everybody here should do is not fall into the same trap that we fell into around Japan in the 1980s, which is somehow China is taking over just like Japan was taking over, and we’re in inevitable decline.  This whole argument — I’m just going to go on a quick rant here for a second — (laughter) — this whole notion that somehow we’re getting out-competed, out-dealt, out-this, out-that, we’re losing, we’re in — nobody outside the United States understands what we’re talking about.  (Laughter.)

I mean we’ve got problems.  We’ve got issues.  Our biggest problem is gridlock in Washington and that’s just not making some sensible policies.  But overall, our cards are so much better than everybody else’s.  Our pool of quality businesses and talent, and our institutions, and our rule of law, and how we manage and adapt to new and changing circumstances, and our dominance in knowledge-based industries — nobody matches us.  And we attract — the best talent around the world still wants to come here if we’d just let them come.

So I think it’s important for business voices to point out every once in a while America is in the driver’s seat if we make some smart decisions.   And that’s not a partisan comment, that is just the facts.  There is not a country out there, including China, that wouldn’t look at us with envy right now.

And so our problem is not that China is going to out-negotiate us, or that Mr. Putin is sort of out-strategizing us.  Anybody taken a look at the Russian economy lately?  That’s not our problem.  Our problem is us, typically.  We engage in — and I’m being generous when I say “we,” — (laughter) — but we engage in self-inflicted wounds like this potential government shutdown.  It’s unnecessary.

I’ve got time for a couple more questions.  Good to see you.  How you doing?  How you doing, Ed?  How is everybody back home?

Q    Very good.


Q    Along that, in that same vein, looking earlier this summer, the expiration of the Ex-Im Bank authorization.

THE PRESIDENT:  Speaking of self-inflicted wounds.

Q    Understand.  And part of the ongoing discussion, debate here in Washington, the Senate has attached a reauthorization, as you know, to the transportation bill, which is now down at the House.  And on Monday the Roundtable sent a letter to the leadership on both sides in Congress pointing out really the benefits of reauthorization, that some of those get lost in this debate.  Because really, it’s been characterized as only benefitting a few companies, which ignores the thousands of people who are basically employed by our suppliers across the country, and the impact — positive impact that has, as well as it’s a net generator revenue for the governor — for the government.  And we have plans to have further discussions later today and this week with leadership in the House.

Do you have any — we had a good discussion with your team this morning.  Do you have any insights that you could share with us that would help us in getting that reauthorization?

THE PRESIDENT:  It is mind-boggling that this wasn’t reauthorized a year ago.  And it is this weird reversal in which the principle opponents are the tea party caucus in the Republican Party.

Somehow, Ex-Im Bank has become this cause célèbre of what some of the presidential candidates called “crony capitalism.”  And what’s ironic is obvious — I think some of you know the backstory.  There was I think a member of this organization that kind of started this whole thing because they were upset about some planes being sold to a competitor on a route, and suddenly this caught fire in the right wing Internet.  And it’s just hard to explain.

Look, Ed, I had a group of small businesses, ranging from, what, four people to a couple of hundred people, talking about how they use Ex-Im.  This is the only way that they can get into these markets.  And as you said, Ex-Im doesn’t cost the government.  This is not a money loser for us.  And I don’t have to tell Emil (ph) or Jim how important it is.  I keep on telling them I expect a gold watch from them because it seems like every time I take a foreign trip I’ve got to sell some turbine or plane.  (Laughter.)

And I was concerned about Jeff’s announcement that jobs that were here in the United States are now going to be overseas because we don’t get this done.  But that’s true for the supply chain; it’s also true for some smaller companies that use Ex-Im directly.  It’s not just that they’re part of the GE or Boeing supply chain, it’s that they’re selling tea to a country and this is the only mechanism they have to be able to make those sales.

The good news is McConnell and Boehner both say they want to get it done.  As you said, we’ve already shown there are sufficient votes for it in the Senate, and we actually think there are sufficient votes for it in the House.  I would concentrate your attention on House Republican caucus members.  And I think you have to flood the zone and let them know this is important.  And that includes, by the way, talking to individual members who, in their districts, potentially have companies that are being adversely affected as long as Ex-Im is frozen.

But my expectation is it gets done during the course of these budget negotiations.  And we’re going to push as hard as we can to get it, though.

Q    Mr. President, thank you for being here today.  One of the issues that we deal with and we talked about last time you were here was regulations.  And one of the areas that the Business Roundtable is very focused on these days is the ozone rule, which October 1, your administration will be coming out with a recommendation associated with that.

The Business Roundtable position is that we need to maintain the 75 parts-per-billion.  To lower that standard when technology doesn’t exist and when communities are already advancing toward the 75 goal — if you lower it to 70, it’s going to introduce another 200 counties in this country into non-attainment, which basically is a “we’re not open for business.”  And that’s our concern.  Do you have any thoughts on that, or what the administration’s plans are in that regard?

THE PRESIDENT:  There’s a lot of complicated technical issues involved in this, but I’ll try to simplify it as much as possible.

Number one, we’re under a court order to do this.  So I think there may be a misperception that the EPA can do whatever it wants here.  There were lawsuits brought under the previous administration that continued into my administration.  We went before a judge.  We actually, I think properly, got some additional time, because there was the notion that we were going to lower standards a few years ago, and then immediately get new data and force everybody to lower them all over again.  And we said, let’s just do this one time in a sensible way so that people can plan.

But we’ve got some legal constraints.  This is not something that just popped out of my head full blown.  And so I always enjoy seeing the advertising for “Obama’s ozone plan.”  The ozone rules date back to when I was I think still in law school, before I had any gray hair.  And there are some fairly stringent statutory guidelines by which the EPA is supposed to evaluate the standards.  So the EPA is following the science and the statutes as best as it can.

We are mindful that in some cases, because of the nature of where pollutants are generated, where they blow, that this can create a really complicated situation for certain local jurisdictions and local communities, and some states and counties end up being hit worse than others.  And we’re trying to work with those states and those communities as best we can taking in their concerns into account.

So I guess the bottom line is this is — you can legitimately go after me on the clean power plant rule because we — that was hatched by us, and I believe that we need to deal with climate change and — so we can have a lengthy debate about that.

And on ozone, this is an existing statute and an existing mechanism, and we are charged with implementing it based on the science that’s presented to us.  And that’s what we’re trying to do, but we’re taking this input into account.  I recognize some of the concerns.

I will say this — last point I’ll make on this.  Even with the costs associated with implementing the ozone rule, when you do a cost-benefit, the amount of lives saved, asthma averted and so forth is still substantially higher than the costs.  Now, that doesn’t necessarily resolve all the concerns that people may have about local costs being borne, whereas the savings are spread out more broadly.  And those are legitimate economic issues that have to be considered.  And the EPA has been listening to I think every stakeholder there.

But I think what you’ll see in the analysis overall is — we don’t issue a regulation where the costs are not lower than the benefits.  And if you look at the regulations we’ve generally put forward, the costs are substantially lower than the benefits that are generated.


Q    Yes, thank you, Mr. President.  Many of us are interested in Cuba.  And the opening there has been positive.  There is a lot of issues to get to full normal relations.  Just how do you see that path happening?  And what’s the future of that in your opinion?  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  I don’t think it’s going to be an overnight transformation, but I am convinced that by re-engaging Cuba, re-engaging the Cuban people, that we are creating the environment in which a generational change and transition will take place in that country.  And already you’re seeing conversations taking place about how is Cuba going to accommodate an influx of tourists, and how do they think about the Internet and open communications in order to be able to participate in the modern economy?

And that inevitably then leads to questions about can you hire — can a company hire a Cuban directly, a foreign investor, as opposed to going through the government?  And over time, that creates space for personal freedom and I think a long-term political transition.

For now, what we’ve said is that we will step by step look for areas and opportunities within our authorities.  As long as Congress still has the embargo in place, there are certain things we can’t do.  But there are certain things we can do, for example, on telecommunications, and we’re looking for opportunities there.

And we will also continue to press the Cuban government around issues of political freedom.  And when His Holiness the Pope comes, he’s going to be visiting Cuba.  That I think is going to be an opportunity for more interesting conversations inside of Cuba.

My biggest suggestion would be for the BRT just to start having a conversation on a bipartisan basis about lifting the embargo.  It doesn’t necessarily have to happen — or even should happen all in one fell swoop.  But I think if you look at the economic opportunities that are presented, they’re significant.  And it doesn’t make much sense that a country 90 miles off the shore of Florida that is not at this point a significant threat to us, and that has shown itself willing to at least look beyond its borders for the first time — even if it’s still scared of what it might bring — it doesn’t make sense for us to keep sticking to the old ways of doing business.

I’ll actually take one more question, and then I’ll come around and say hi to everybody.  So anybody else?  Yes, go ahead.

Q    Mr. President, again, thank you.  And I know a topic near to your heart has been education for young folks, and you’ve spent a lot of time on this.  And many of us have done things private-public partnerships.  And you recently made a comment about computer science for all high school kids, which I think is an important point, because technology is such a broad topic.  It will infiltrate all jobs in the future.

So maybe a chance to make some comments about how you envision something like that actually taking root over the long term that we could make some progress with it — on scale.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, I want to commend Ginni and IBM because you guys have done some terrific work.  Anybody who wants some inspiration, go to the high school that IBM is participating in in Brooklyn where kids — a collaboration between the public school system, the city colleges of New York, the CUNY system and IBM.

And you’ve got kids from — most of them, parents never went to college.  A lot of them immigrant kids.  And they are marching through STEM education, pre-engineering education.  They’re getting essentially college credits by the time they’re sophomore or juniors in high school.  They’re able to save money because in five years in high school, they come out with an associate’s degree.  They then either are transferring to a four-year university with those credits, or they’re starting to work with IBM because they’ve been apprenticing and the curriculum design has given them confidence that if they do well, they’re going to be able to get a job.

That model is something that we’re actually looking to try to duplicate all across the country.  And the good news, as I mentioned at the top, is because of the strong work that Arne Duncan has done, the strong work that a lot of governors and local communities have done to increase accountability, creativity, have high expectations for kids, bust through some of the old bureaucratic obstacles.

We are seeing highest reading scores, highest math scores, highest graduation rates.  And part of our goal here is to improve STEM education generally.  A critical element of that is understanding this computer age that these kids are immersed.  And I don’t want them just to know how to use their phone to play video games; I want them to know how that phone works, and potentially code it and program it.

And what’s remarkable — I’m about the age where — I think my high school just had, like, the first coding class when I was maybe in seventh or eighth grade.  But this is what — you had, like, those cards, and it was — and the punch cards.  And now, the way these — the tools and resources that are available for kids starting in first, second grade — we have these science fairs and these little Girl Scout troops come in and they’ve coded, they’ve designed their own games, and — or simulations of entire towns with people and all kinds of scenarios that they’ve figured out.

And so it’s actually something that they naturally gravitate to.  We just have to start early.  It’s almost like a foreign language, where rather than try to catch kids when they’re in tenth, eleventh, twelfth grade, they get part of the broader curriculum and incorporate it into how you’re teaching math and how you’re teaching science and how you’re teaching social studies.  That seems to be the way in which kids get most engaged.

So we’re doing a lot of work with many of you individually as companies on this STEM education issue.  We hope that you will continue to participate.  You’ve been great partners on that front.

I’ll just say in closing, it’s always a pleasure to be here.  I want to just reiterate, as we enter into the silly season of politics, that the primary thing that is holding back a lot of potential growth, jobs, improved bottom lines, greater stability is well within our control right now, and are things that traditionally enjoyed bipartisan support — Ex-Im Bank, getting TPP done, financing and executing on an infrastructure policy.  I’ve had conversations with folks like Larry Fink and others about if we’re open to looking at new, creative ways of financing it, but the notion that we’re not doing that right now makes absolutely no sense — investing in research and development.

These are not partisan issues.  There are some areas where there have traditionally been legitimate arguments between Democrats and Republicans.  There are some issues — like on environmental regulations, or financial regulations, where Jamie and I may disagree, or Nick and I may disagree.  And we can have those arguments, and we probably won’t convince each other on some of these things.

But what I’m looking at is the low-hanging fruit that are no-brainers and that nobody here would argue with.  And the notion that we’re not doing them right now because — primarily because a faction within one of our parties has gone off the rails and sees a conspiracy around everything, or simply is opposed to anything I propose even if they used to propose it, that’s a problem.

And I think it’s very important for all of you to just step back and take a look at it, because you still have influence on at least some of those folks.  And challenge them.  Why wouldn’t we do things that everybody knows make sense?

Thank you, everybody.  (Applause.)

12:34 P.M. EDT

Full Text Campaign Buzz 2016 July 13, 2015: Hillary Clinton’s Speech on Economic Policy Transcript





Transcript of Hillary Clinton’s Speech On Economic Policy

Thank you, thank you, thank you so much. Thank you very much President Van Zandt, and thanks to everyone at the New School for welcoming us today. I’m delighted to be back.

You know, over the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to listen to Americans’ concerns about an economy that still isn’t delivering for them. It’s not delivering the way it should – it still seems to most Americans that I have spoken with that it is stacked for those at the top.

But I’ve also heard their hopes for the future: going to college without drowning in debt… starting that small business they’ve always dreamed about… getting a job that pays well enough to support a family and provide for a secure retirement.

Previous generations of Americans built the greatest economy and strongest middle class the world has ever known on the promise of a basic bargain:

If you work hard and do your part, you should be able to get ahead. And when you get ahead, America gets ahead.

But over several decades, that bargain has eroded. Our job is to make it strong again.

For 35 years, Republicans have argued that if we give more wealth to those at the top – by cutting their taxes and letting big corporations write their own rules – it will trickle down, it will trickle down to everyone else.

Yet every time they have a chance to try that approach, it explodes the national debt, concentrates wealth even more, and does practically nothing to help hard-working Americans.

Twice now in the past 20 years, a Democratic president has had to come in and clean up the mess. I think the results speak for themselves.

Under President Clinton – I like the sound of that – America saw the longest peacetime expansion in history … nearly 23 million jobs… a balanced budget and a surplus for the future. And most importantly, incomes rose across the board, not just for those already at the top.

Eight years later, President Obama and the American people’s hard work pulled us back from the brink of Depression. President Obama saved the auto industry, imposed new rules on Wall Street, and provided health care to 16 million Americans.

Now today, today as the shadow of crisis recedes and longer-term challenges come into focus, I believe we have to build a “growth and fairness” economy. You can’t have one without the other.

We can’t create enough jobs and new businesses without more growth, and we can’t build strong families and support our consumer economy without more fairness.

We need both, because while America is standing again, we’re not yet running the way we should.

Corporate profits are at near-record highs and Americans are working as hard as ever – but paychecks have barely budged in real terms.

Families today are stretched in so many directions, and so are their budgets. Out-of-pocket costs of health care, childcare, caring for aging parents are rising a lot faster than wages.

I hear this everywhere I go.

The single mom who talked to me about juggling a job and classes at community college, while raising three kids. She doesn’t expect anything to come easy, but if she got a raise, everything wouldn’t be quite so hard.

The grandmother who works around the clock providing childcare to other people’s kids. She’s proud of her work but the pay is barely enough to live on, especially with the soaring price of her prescription drugs.

The young entrepreneur whose dream of buying the bowling alley where he worked as a teenager was nearly derailed by his student debt. If he can grow his business, he’ll be able to pay off his debt and pay his employees, including himself, more too.

Millions of hard-working Americans tell similar stories.

Wages need to rise to keep up with costs.

Paychecks need to grow.

Families who work hard and do their part deserve to get ahead and stay ahead.

The defining economic challenge of our time is clear:

We must raise incomes for hard-working Americans so they can afford a middle-class life. We must drive strong and steady income growth that lifts up families and lifts up our country.

And that will be my mission from the first day I’m President to the last. I will get up everyday thinking about the families of America, like the family that I came from with a hard working dad who started a small business and scrimped and saved and gave us a good middle class life. I’ll be thinking about all the people that I represented here in New York and the stories that they told me and that I worked with them to improve. And I will as your President take on this challenge against the backdrop of major changes in our economy and the global economy that didn’t start with the recession and won’t end with the recovery.

You know advances in technology and expanding global trade have created whole new areas of commercial activity and opened new markets for our exports, but too often they’re also polarizing our economy – benefiting high-skilled workers but displacing or downgrading blue collar jobs and other midlevel jobs that used to provide solid incomes for millions of Americans.

Today’s marketplace focuses too much on the short term – like second-to-second financial trading and quarterly earnings reports – and too little on long-term investments.

Meanwhile, many Americans are making extra money renting out a spare room, designing websites, selling products they design themselves at home, or even driving their own car. This “on demand” or so-called “gig economy” is creating exciting opportunities and unleashing innovation but it’s also raising hard questions about workplace protections and what a good job will look like in the future.

So all of these trends are real, and none, none is going away. But they don’t determine our destiny. The choices we make as a nation matter. And the choices we make in the years ahead will set the stage for what American life in the middle class in our economy will be like in this century.

As President, I will work with every possible partner to turn the tide. To make these currents of change start working for us more than against us. To strengthen –not hollow out – the American middle class.

Because I think at our best, that’s what Americans do. We’re problem solvers, not deniers. We don’t hide from change – we harness it.

The measure of our success must be how much incomes rise for hard-working families, not just for successful CEOs and money managers. And not just some arbitrary growth target untethered to people’s lives and livelihoods.

I want to see our economy work for the struggling, the striving, and the successful.

We’re not going to find all the answers we need today in the playbooks of the past. We can’t go back to the old policies that failed us before. Nor can we just replay previous successes. Today is not 1993 or 2009. We need solutions for the big challenges we face now.

So today I am proposing an agenda to raise incomes for hard-working Americans. An agenda for strong growth, fair growth, and long-term growth.

Let me begin with strong growth.

More growth means more jobs and more new businesses. More jobs give people choices about where to work. And employers have to offer higher wages and better benefits in order to compete with each other to hire new workers and keep the productive ones. That’s why economists tell us that getting closer to full employment is crucial for raising incomes.

Small businesses create more than 60 percent of new American jobs on net. So they have to be a top priority. I’ve said I want to be the small business President, and I mean it. And throughout this campaign I’m going to be talking about how we empower entrepreneurs with less red tape, easier access to capital, tax relief and simplification.

I’ll also push for broader business tax reform to spur investment in America, closing those loopholes that reward companies for sending jobs and profits overseas.

And I know it’s not always how we think about this, but another engine of strong growth should be comprehensive immigration reform.

I want you to hear this: Bringing millions of hard-working people into the formal economy would increase our gross domestic product by an estimated $700 billion over 10 years.

Then there are the new public investments that will help established businesses and entrepreneurs create the next generation of high-paying jobs.

You know when we get Americans moving, we get our country moving.

So let’s establish an infrastructure bank that can channel more public and private funds, channel those funds to finance world-class airports, railways, roads, bridges and ports.

And let’s build those faster broadband networks – and make sure there’s a greater diversity of providers so consumers have more choice.

And really there’s no excuse not to make greater investments in cleaner, renewable energy right now. Our economy obviously runs on energy. And the time has come to make America the world’s clean energy superpower. I advocate that because these investments will create millions of jobs, save us money in the long run, and help us meet the threats of climate change.

And let’s fund the scientific and medical research that spawns innovative companies and creates entire new industries, just as the project to sequence the human genome did in the 1990s, and President Obama’s initiatives on precision medicine and brain research will do in the coming years.

I will set ambitious goals in all of these areas in the months ahead.

But today let me emphasize another key ingredient of strong growth that often goes overlooked and undervalued: breaking down barriers so more Americans participate more fully in the workforce – especially women.

We are in a global competition, as I’m sure you have noticed, and we can’t afford to leave talent on the sidelines, but that’s exactly what we’re doing today. When we leave people out, or write them off, we not only shortchange them and their dreams — we shortchange our country and our future.

The movement of women into the workforce over the past forty years was responsible for more than three and a half trillion dollars in economic growth.

But that progress has stalled. The United States used to rank 7th out of 24 advanced countries in women’s labor force participation. By 2013, we had dropped to 19th. That represents a lot of unused potential for our economy and for American families.

Studies show that nearly a third of this decline relative to other countries is because they’re expanding family-friendly policies like paid leave and we are not.

We should be making it easier for Americans to be both good workers and good parents and caregivers. Women who want to work should be able to do so without worrying every day about how they’re going to take care of their children or what will happen if a family member gets sick.

You know last year while I was at the hospital here in Manhattan waiting for little Charlotte to make her grand entrance, one of the nurses said, “Thank you for fighting for paid leave.” And we began to talk about it. She sees first-hand what it means for herself and her colleagues as well as for the working parents that she helps take care of.

It’s time to recognize that quality, affordable childcare is not a luxury – it’s a growth strategy. And it’s way past time to end the outrage of so many women still earning less than men on the job — and women of color making even less.

All this lost money adds up and for some women, it’s thousands of dollars every year.

Now I am well aware that for far too long, these challenges have been dismissed by some as “women’s issues.”

Well those days are over.

Fair pay and fair scheduling, paid family leave and earned sick days, child care are essential to our competitiveness and growth.

And we can do this in a way that doesn’t impose unfair burdens on businesses – especially small businesses.

As President, I’ll fight to put families first – just like I have my entire career.

Now, beyond strong growth, we also need fair growth. And that will be the second key driver of rising incomes.

The evidence is in: Inequality is a drag on our entire economy, so this is the problem we need to tackle.

You may have heard Governor Bush say last week that Americans just need to work longer hours. Well, he must not have met very many American workers.

“Let him tell that to the nurse who stands on her feet all day or the trucker who drives all night. Let him tell that to the fast food workers marching in the streets for better pay. They don’t need a lecture – they need a raise.

The truth is, the current rules for our economy reward some work – like financial trading – much more than other work, like actually building and selling things the work that’s always been the backbone of our economy.

To get all incomes rising again, we need to strike a better balance. If you work hard, you ought to be paid fairly. So we have to raise the minimum wage and implement President Obama’s new rules on overtime. And then we have to go further.

I’ll crack down on bosses who exploit employees by misclassifying them as contractors or even steal their wages.

To make paychecks stretch, we need to take on the major strains on family budgets. I’ll protect the Affordable Care Act – and build on it to lower out-of-pocket health care costs and to make prescription drugs more affordable.

We’ll help families look forward to retirement by defending and enhancing Social Security and making it easier to save for the future.

Now many of these proposals are time-tested and more than a little battle-scarred. We need new ideas as well. And one that I believe in and will fight for is profit sharing.

Hard working Americans deserve to benefit from the record corporate earnings they help produce. So I will propose ways to encourage companies to share profits with their employees.

That’s good for workers and good for business.

Studies show profit-sharing that gives everyone a stake in a company’s success can boost productivity and put money directly into employees’ pockets. It’s a win-win.

Later this week in New Hampshire, I’ll have more to say about how we do this.

Another priority must be reforming our tax code.

Now we hear Republican candidates talk a lot about tax reform. But take a good look at their plans. Senator Rubio’s would cut taxes for households making around $3 million a year by almost $240,000 – which is way more than three times the earnings of a typical family. Well that’s a sure budget-busting give-away to the super-wealthy. And that’s the kind of bad economics you’re likely to get from any of the candidates on the other side.

I have a different take, guided by some simple principles.

First, hard-working families need and deserve tax relief and simplification.

Second, those at the top have to pay their fair share. That’s why I support the Buffett Rule, which makes sure that millionaires don’t pay lower rates than their secretaries.

I have also called for closing the carried interest loophole, which lets wealthy financiers pay an artificially low rate.

And let’s agree that hugely successful companies that benefit from everything America has to offer should not be able to game the system and avoid paying their fair share… especially while companies who can’t afford high-price lawyers and lobbyists end up paying more.

Alongside tax reform, it’s time to stand up to efforts across our country to undermine worker bargaining power, which has been proven again and again to drive up wages.

Republicans governors like Scott Walker have made their names stomping on workers’ rights. And practically all the Republican candidates hope to do the same as President.

I will fight back against these mean-spirited, misguided attacks.

Evidence shows that the decline of unions may be responsible for a third of the increase of inequality among men. So if we want to get serious about raising incomes, we have to get serious about supporting workers.

And let me just say a word here about trade. The Greek crisis as well as the Chinese stock market have reminded us that growth here at home and growth an ocean away are linked in a common global economy. Trade has been a major driver of the economy over recent decades but it has also contributed to hollowing out our manufacturing base and many hard-working communities. So we do need to set a high bar for trade agreements.

We should support them if they create jobs, raise wages, and advance our national security. And we should be prepared to walk away if they don’t.

To create fair growth, we need to create opportunity for more Americans.

I love the saying by Abraham Lincoln, who in many ways was not only the President who saved our union, but the president who understood profoundly the importance of the middle class, and the importance of the government playing its role in providing opportunities. He talked about giving Americans a fair chance in the race of life. I believe that with all my heart. But I also believe it has to start really early at birth. High quality early learning, especially in the first five years, can set children on the course for future success and raise lifetime incomes by 25 percent.

I’m committed to seeing every 4-year old in America have access to high-quality preschool in the next ten years. But I want to do more. I want to call for a great outpouring of support from our faith community, our business community, our academic institutions, from philanthropy and civic groups and concerned citizens to really help parents, particularly parents who are facing a lot of obstacles. To really help prepare their own children in that zero to four age group.

80% of your brain is physically formed by age of three. That’s why families like mine read, talk, and sing endlessly to our granddaughter. I’ve said that her first words are going to be enough with the reading, and the talking, and the singing. But we do it not only because we love doing it, even though I’ll admit it’s a little embarrassing to be reading a book to a two-week old, or a six-week old, a ten-week old. But we do it because we understand that it’s building her capacity for learning. And the research shows that by the time she enters kindergarten she will have heard 30 million more words than I child from a less privileged background.

Think of what we are losing because we are not doing everything we can to reach out to those families and we know again from so much research here in the United States and around the world that the early help, that mentoring, that intervention to help those often-stressed out young moms understand more about what they can do and avoid the difficulties that stand in the way of their being able to get their child off to the best start.

We also have to invest in our students and teachers at every level.

And in the coming weeks and months, I’ll lay out specific steps to improve our schools, make college truly affordable, and help Americans refinance their student debt.

Let’s embrace the idea of lifelong learning. In an age of technological change, we need to provide pathways to get skills and credentials for new occupations, and create online platforms to connect workers to jobs. There are exciting efforts underway and I want to support and scale the ones that show results.

As we pursue all these policies, we can’t forget our fellow Americans hit so hard and left behind by this changing economy— from the inner cities to coal country to Indian country. Talent is universal – you find it everywhere – but opportunity is not.

There are nearly 6 million young people aged 16 to 24 in America today who are not in school or at work. The numbers for young people of color are particularly staggering. A quarter of young black men and nearly 15 percent of all Latino youth cannot find a job.

We’ve got to do a better way of coming up to match the growing middle class incomes we want to generate with more pathways into the middle class. I firmly believe that the best anti-poverty program is a job, but that’s hard to say if there are not enough jobs for people that we are trying to help lift themselves out of poverty.

That’s why I’ve called for reviving the New Markets Tax Credit and Empowerment Zones to create greater incentives to invest in poor and remote areas.

When all Americans have the chance to study hard, work hard, and share in our country’s prosperity – that’s fair growth. It’s what I’ve always believed in and it’s what I will fight for as President.

Now, the third key driver of income alongside strong growth and fair growth must be long-term growth.

Too many pressures in our economy today push us toward short-termism. Many business leaders see this. They’ve talked to me about. One has called it the problem of “quarterly capitalism.” They say everything’s focused on the next earnings report or the short-term share price. The result is too little attention on the sources of long-term growth: research and development, physical capital, and talent.

Net business investment – which includes things like factories, machines, and research labs – has declined as a share of the economy. In recent years, some of our biggest companies have spent more than half their earnings to buy back their own stock, and another third or more to pay dividends. That doesn’t leave a lot left to raise pay or invest in the workers who made those profits possible or to make the new investments necessary to insure a company’s future success. These trends need to change. And I believe that many business leaders are eager to embrace their responsibilities, not just to today’s share price but also to workers, communities, and ultimately to our country and indeed our planet.

I’m not talking about charity – I’m talking about clear-eyed capitalism. Many companies have prospered by improving wages and training their workers that then yield higher productivity, better service, and larger profits.

Now it’s easy to try to cut costs by holding down or decreasing pay and other investments to inflate quarterly stock prices, but I would argue that’s bad for business in the long run.

And, it’s really bad for our country.

Workers are assets. Investing in them pays off. Higher wages pay off. And training pays off.

To help more companies do that, I’ve proposed a new $1,500 apprenticeship tax credit for every worker they train and hire.

And I will soon be proposing a new plan to reform capital gains taxes to reward longer-term investments that create jobs more than just quick trades.

I will also propose reforms to help CEOs and shareholders alike focus on the next decade rather than just the next day. Making sure stock buybacks aren’t being used only for an immediate boost in share prices. Empowering outside investors who want to build companies but discouraging “cut and run” shareholders who act more like old-school corporate raiders. And nowhere will the shift from short-term to long-term be more important than on Wall Street.

As a former Senator from New York, I know first-hand the role that Wall Street can and should play in our economy – helping Main Street grow and prosper and boosting new companies that make America more competitive globally.

But, as we all know, in the years before the crash, financial firms piled risk upon risk. And regulators in Washington either couldn’t or wouldn’t keep up.

I was alarmed by this gathering storm, and called for addressing the risks of derivatives, cracking down on subprime mortgages, and improving financial oversight.

Under President Obama’s leadership, we’ve imposed tough new rules that deal with some of the challenges on Wall Street. But those rules have been under assault by Republicans in Congress and those running for President.

I will fight back against these attacks and protect the reforms we’ve made. We can do that and still ease burdens on community banks to encourage responsible loans to local people and businesses they know and trust.

We also have to go beyond Dodd-Frank.

Too many of our major financial institutions are still too complex and too risky. And the problems are not limited to the big banks that get all the headlines. Serious risks are emerging from institutions in the so-called “shadow banking” system – including hedge funds, high frequency traders, non-bank finance companies – so many new kinds of entities which receive little oversight at all.

Stories of misconduct by individuals and institutions in the financial industry are shocking. HSBC allowing drug cartels to launder money. Five major banks pleading guilty to felony charges for conspiring to manipulate currency exchange and interest rates. There can be no justification or tolerance for this kind of criminal behavior.

And while institutions have paid large fines and in some cases admitted guilt, too often it has seemed that the human beings responsible get off with limited consequences – or none at all, even when they’ve already pocketed the gains.

This is wrong and, on my watch, it will change.

Over the course of this campaign, I will offer plans to rein in excessive risks on Wall Street and ensure that stock markets work for everyday investors, not just high frequency traders and those with the best – or fastest – connections.

I will appoint and empower regulators who understand that Too Big To Fail is still too big a problem.

We’ll ensure that no firm is too complex to manage or oversee.

And we will prosecute individuals as well as firms when they commit fraud or other criminal wrongdoing.

And when the government recovers money from corporations or individuals for harming the public, it should go into a separate trust fund to benefit the public. It, could for example, help modernize infrastructure or even be returned directly to taxpayers.

Now reform is never easy. But we have done it before in our country. But we have to get this right. And we need leadership from the financial industry and across the private sector to join with us.

Two years ago, the head of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Terry Duffy, published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that really caught my attention. He wrote, and I quote: “I’m concerned that those of us in financial services have forgotten who we serve—and that the public knows it… Some Wall Streeters can too easily slip into regarding their work as a kind of money-making game divorced from the concerns of Main Street.”

I think we should listen to Terry Duffy.

Of course, long-term growth is only possible if the public sector steps up as well.

So it’s time to end the era of budget brinksmanship and stop careening from one self-inflicted crisis to another. It’s time to stop having debates over the small stuff and focus on how we’re going to tackle the big stuff together:

How do we respond to technological change in a way that creates more good jobs than it displaces or destroys?

Can we sustain a boom in advanced manufacturing?

What are the best ways to nurture start-ups outside the successful corridors like Silicon Valley?

Questions like these demand thoughtful and mature debate from our policy makers in government, from our leaders in the private sector, and our economists, our academics, and others who can come to the table on behalf of America and perform their patriotic duty to ensure that our economy keeps working and our middle class keeps growing.

So government has to be smarter, simpler, more focused itself on long-term investments than short-term politics – and be a better partner to cities, states, and the private sector. Washington has to be a better steward of America’ tax-dollars and Americans’ trust. And please let’s get back to making decisions that rely on evidence more than ideology.

That’s what I’ll do as President. I will seek out and welcome any good idea that is actually based on reality. I want to have principled and pragmatic and progressive policies that really move us forward together and I will propose ways to ensure that our fiscal outlook is sustainable — including by continuing to restrain healthcare costs, which remain one of the key drivers of long-term deficits. I will make sure Washington learns from how well local governments, business, and non-profits are working together in successful cities and towns across America.

You know passing legislation is not the only way to drive progress. As President, I’ll use the power to convene, connect, and collaborate to build partnerships that actually get things done.

Because above all, we have to break out of the poisonous partisan gridlock and focus on the long-term needs of our country.

I confess maybe it’s the grandmother in me, but I believe that part of public service is planting trees under whose shade you’ll never sit.

And the vision I’ve laid our here today – for strong growth, fair growth, and long term growth, all working together — will get incomes rising again, will help working families get ahead and stay ahead.

That is the test of our time. And I’m inviting everyone to please join me, to do your part, that’s what great countries do. That’s what our country always has done. We rise to challenges.

It’s not about left, right, or center – it’s about the future versus the past.

I’m running for President to build an America for tomorrow, not yesterday.

An America built on growth and fairness.

An America where if you do your part, you will reap the rewards.

Where we don’t leave anyone out, or anyone behind.

Thank you all. Thank you. I just want to leave you with one more thought.

I want every child, every child in our country, not just the granddaughter of a former President or a former secretary of state, but every child to have the chance to live up to his or her God-given potential.

Please join me in that mission. Let’s do it all together.

Thank you so much.

Full Text Obama Presidency June 30, 2015: Middle Class Economics Rewarding Hard Work by Restoring Overtime Pay



FACT SHEET: Middle Class Economics Rewarding Hard Work by Restoring Overtime Pay

Source: WH, 6-30-15

“Of course, nothing helps families make ends meet like higher wages…We still need to make sure employees get the overtime they’ve earned.”

– President Barack Obama, State of the Union Address, January 20, 2015

Middle class economics means that a hard day’s work should lead to a fair day’s pay.  For much of the past century, a cornerstone of that promise has been the 40-hour workweek.  But for decades, industry lobbyists have bottled up efforts to keep these rules up to date, leaving millions of Americans working long hours, and taking them away from their families without the overtime pay that they have earned. Business owners who treat their employees fairly are being undercut by competitors who don’t.

Today, President Obama announced that the Department of Labor will propose extending overtime pay to nearly 5 million workers. The proposal would guarantee overtime pay to most salaried workers earning less than an estimated $50,440 next year. The number of workers in each state who would be affected by this proposal can be found here.

The salary threshold guarantees overtime for most salaried workers who fall below it, but it is eroded by inflation every year.  It has only been updated once since the 1970s, when the Bush Administration published a weak rule with the strong support of industry.  Today, the salary threshold remains at $23,660 ($455 per week), which is below the poverty threshold for a family of four, and only 8 percent of full-time salaried workers fall below it.

Full Text Obama Presidency May 8, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Remarks on Trade at Nike



Remarks by the President on Trade

Source: WH, 5-8-15

Nike, Inc.
Beaverton, Oregon

9:44 A.M. PDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Oregon!  (Applause.)  Well, who arranged this day?  (Applause.)  Every time I come to Oregon this is what it looks like.  (Laughter.)  Yeah!  It never rains in Oregon, does it?



AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Don’t come to California.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  All right.  Well, listen, it is wonderful to see all of you.  First of all, please give Mark another round of applause for his hospitality.  (Applause.)  And thanks to everyone at Nike for hosting us today, here in “Federer Platz.”  (Laughter.)  You know, the White House is cool.  (Laughter.)  We’ve got a basketball court — actually, it’s a tennis court that we repainted some lines — (laughter) — when I came into office.  So it’s a combination basketball-tennis court.  There is a putting green that President Eisenhower put in.  Can you imagine, by the way, if I had put in a putting green?  (Laughter.)  Things have changed.  (Laughter.)

But you’ve got all that and the 18th tee box from Pebble Beach.  (Applause.)  Come on.  I’m sure some of my staff is running around right now in the Michael Jordan and Mia Hamm buildings — (laughter) — they want to be lab rats for your new gear.  (Laughter.)

But it is wonderful to be here.  Please give it up for two people who fight every single day for Oregon workers — your Representatives in Congress — they do a great job — Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici.  They are both here.  Give them a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  Yay!  And there are two people who couldn’t make it here today, but they’re doing a great job and you should give them a round of applause as well, and that’s Senator Ron Wyden and Representative Kurt Schrader.  (Applause.)

So it is great to be at the world headquarters of such an iconic company — a company that helps athletes succeed from the individual to the world stage.  And as you’ve heard, I’ve come to Oregon to talk a little bit about trade — which initially may have had some people thinking, what, is Mariota going someplace that we didn’t know about?  (Laughter.)  He’s going to be great. He’s an outstanding young man.  He’s going to be terrific — and from Hawaii, by the way.  (Applause.)  Local boy.

But this is important, and I want to tell you why I think trade deals and our willingness to go out there and compete on the global stage is so important.

Before I came out here, I had a chance to meet with some    small business owners from across Oregon, whose workers make everything from bikes to tea to stationery to wine.  And they know how important this is to them.  Sometimes when we talk about trade, we think of Nike, or we think of Boeing, or we think of G.E. — we think about these big multinational companies.  But those small business leaders came here today because they understood that these markets outside the United States will help them grow, and will help them hire more folks — just as all the suppliers to Nike or Boeing or G.E. or any of these other companies understand this is going to be critical to their growth and their ability to create new jobs.

In fact, that’s why Ron Wyden is not here — because he’s in Washington, D.C. as we speak quarterbacking this effort on behalf of Oregon’s small business owners and workers.

Now, small businesses are the backbone of our economy.  Eventually, like Nike, they grow sometimes into really, really big companies.  They employ millions of people; 98 percent of exporters are small businesses.  They’re the ones who make Made in Oregon and Made in the USA mean something.  And they represent something essential about this country — the notion that if you’ve got a good idea and you’re willing to work at it, you can turn that idea into a business, you can growth that business, and eventually, who knows what might happen.  You can give other people a chance to earn a living even as you do well.  That’s America’s promise.  And it’s up to us to keep that promise alive.

Now, that promise was threatened for almost everybody just about seven years ago, when the economy nearly collapsed, and millions of Americans lost their jobs and their homes and their life savings.  But thanks to the hard work of the American people and entrepreneurs like the ones who are here today — and some pretty good policies from my administration — (laughter) — we’re in a different place today.  (Applause.)  We’re in a different place today.

This morning, we learned that our economy created 223,000 new jobs last month.  (Applause.)  The unemployment rate ticked down again to 5.4 percent — which is the lowest it’s been in almost seven years.  (Applause.)  That’s 3 million new jobs over the past 12 months — nearly the fastest pace in over a decade.  And all told, over the past 62 months in a row, America’s businesses have created 12.3 million new jobs.

I should add, by the way, 62 months ago is when I signed the Affordable Care Act.  So, obviously, it hasn’t done too bad in terms of employment in this country.  (Applause.)  I just thought I’d mention that.  (Applause.)  Since there were a lot of predictions of doom and gloom, I would just suggest those who were making those predictions go back and check the statistics.  (Laughter.)  Just saying.  (Laughter.)

So small businesses deserve a lot of credit for that.  In fact, over the past several years, small businesses have created nearly two out of every three new American jobs.  And the question is, how do we build on that success?  We’ve got to be relentless in our efforts to support small businesses who are creating jobs and helping to grow the economy.

And that’s been the purpose behind many of the policies I’ve fought for as President.  I’ve cut taxes for small businesses more than a dozen times.  I’ve pushed for investments in infrastructure and faster Internet.  It’s why we’ve made health care more accessible, affordable, portable — to give people the freedom to change jobs or launch that startup without worrying about losing their health insurance.

And passing trade agreements is part of that agenda if those trade agreements are the right kinds of trade agreements; if they make sure that they’re growing our businesses, and helping American workers by selling goods Made in America across the rest of the world.

And I’ve been talking a lot about this lately, because I view smart trade agreements as a vital piece of middle-class economics.  Not a contradiction to middle-class economics, it’s a part and parcel of it.

I believe that our country does best when everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, everybody plays by the same set of rules.  And that means making sure everybody has got a good education.  It means making sure that women are getting paid the same as men for doing the same work.  (Applause.)  It means making sure that folks have to have sick leave and family leave and that they can balance work and family in a fair way.  It means, working to increase the minimum wage all across this country — because folks who have some of the toughest jobs oftentimes get the lowest pay.

That’s all part of middle-class economics, but, you know what, so is trade.  We strive to make sure our own economy lives up to high standards, but in a lot of parts of the world, the rules are unfair.  The playing field is uneven.  That puts American businesses and American workers at a disadvantage.  So the question is, what should we do about it?

Some folks think we should just withdraw and not even try to engage in trade with these countries.  I disagree.  We have to make sure America writes the rules of the global economy.  And we should do it today, while our economy is in the position of global strength.  (Applause.)  Because if we don’t write the rules for trade around the world — guess what — China will.  And they’ll write those rules in a way that gives Chinese workers and Chinese businesses the upper hand, and locks American-made goods out.

That’s the choice we face.  We’re not going to be able to isolate ourselves from world markets.  We got to be in there and compete.  And the question is, are we going to make sure that the rules are fair so that our businesses and our workers are on a level playing field.  Because when they are, we win every time.  When the rules are fair, we win every time.  (Applause.)

So this is why I’m such a strong supporter of new trade agreements.  They’re going to help our workers compete and our businesses compete.  This is not a left issue or a right issue, or a business or a labor issue.  It is about fairness and equity and access.  And like other issues that we’ve waged slow, steady fights on over the last seven years, this is also a question of the past versus the future.

So the Trans-Pacific Partnership that we’re working on, it’s the biggest trade deal that we’re working on right now — has to do with the Asia Pacific region.  And it reflects our values in ways that, frankly, some previous trade agreements did not.  It’s the highest-standard, most progressive trade deal in history.  It’s got strong, enforceable provisions for workers, preventing things like child labor.  It’s got strong, enforceable provisions on the environment, helping us to do things that haven’t been done before, to prevent wildlife trafficking, or deforestation, or dealing with our oceans.   And these are enforceable in the agreement.

And Nike operates in the Pacific region, so they understand the competitive pressures they’re under.  Nike has factories all around the world.  And let’s face it, Mark I think doesn’t mind me saying it that some of these countries, they don’t have the standards for wages and labor conditions that we have here.

So when you look at a country like Vietnam, under this agreement, Vietnam would actually, for the first time, have to raise its labor standards.  It would have to set a minimum wage. It would have to pass safe workplace laws to protect its workers. It would even have to protect workers’ freedom to form unions — for the very first time.  That would make a difference.  That helps to level the playing field — (applause) — and it would be good for the workers in Vietnam, even as it helps make sure that they’re not undercutting competition here in the United States.

So that’s progress.  It doesn’t mean that suddenly working conditions in Vietnam will be like they are here at Nike.  (Laughter.)  Or here in Portland right away.  But it moves us in the right direction.

And if Vietnam, or any of the other countries in this trade agreement don’t meet these requirements, they’ll face meaningful consequences.  If you’re a country that wants in to this agreement, you have to meet higher standards.  If you don’t, you’re out.  If you break the rules, there are actual repercussions.  And that’s good for American businesses and American workers, because we already meet higher standards than most of the rest of the world, and that helps level the playing field.

And this deal would strengthen our hand overseas by giving us the tools to open other markets to our goods and services and make sure they play by the fair rules we help write.  The truth is, we have one of the most open markets in the world.  Folks are already selling stuff here.  We got to be able to sell there.  That requires us to enter into trade agreements to open up their markets.

I hear Oregon wine is actually pretty good.  (Applause.)  Somebody told me that the pinot noir in Oregon is top-notch, right?  I’ve got some winemakers right here.  (Applause.)  Well, I want to make sure Japanese wine consumers have the opportunity to partake — (laughter) — in our excellent Oregon wine.

We got some Oregon beef producers and ranchers around here. (Applause.)  Beef is really expensive in Japan.  Let’s make sure they try some Oregon steaks.  (Applause.)  It’s good stuff.

And that’s one of the best things that can happen for our businesses and our workers — opening up markets that have previously been closed, particularly markets where they’re already selling stuff here.  There’s a lack of reciprocity.  It’s not a fair deal right now.  We want to make it fair.

Now, I want to acknowledge — because this looks like a very well-read and informed crowd — (laughter) — that there have been a bunch of critics about trade deals generally and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  And what’s interesting is typically they’re my friends, coming from my party, and they’re my fellow travelers on minimum wage and on job training and on clean energy.  On every progressive issue, they’re right there with me. And then on this one, they’re like whooping on me.  (Laughter.)

But I tell you what.  I’ve run my last election, and the only reason I do something is because I think it’s good for American workers and the American people and the American economy.  (Applause.)  I don’t have any other rationale for doing what I do than I think it’s the best thing for the American people.  And on this issue, on trade, I actually think some of my dearest friends are wrong.  They’re just wrong.  And here’s why.

First of all, they say that this trade agreement will cost American jobs.  And they’re really basing this on some past experience, looking at what happened in the ‘90s, over the last 20 years, as there was a lot of outsourcing going on.  And you know what, past trade agreements, it’s true, didn’t always reflect our values or didn’t always do enough to protect American workers.  But that’s why we’re designing a different kind of trade deal

And the truth is that companies that only care about low wages, they’ve already moved.  They don’t need new trade deals to move.  They’ve already outsourced.  They’ve already located in search of low wages.

What this trade agreement would do is open the doors to the higher-skill, higher-wage jobs of the future — jobs that we excel at.  It would make sure our manufacturers who are operating at the higher end of the value chain are able to access these growing markets.  And the fact is, over the past few years, our manufacturers have been steadily creating jobs for the first time since the 1990s — under my administration.  After more than a decade away from the top spot, business leaders around the world have declared the United States is the world’s number one place to invest for a third year in a row.  (Applause.)  Third year in a row.

So the point is, outsourcing is already giving way to insourcing.  Companies are starting to move back here to do more advanced manufacturing, and this is a trend we expect to continue.  This trade deal would help that.

Just this morning, as Mark may have mentioned, Nike announced that, with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, it will make new investments in advanced manufacturing — not overseas, but right here in the United States.  And far more Nike products would be made in the U.S.A.  (Applause.)  And that means thousands of new jobs in manufacturing and engineering and design at Nike facilities across the country, and potentially tens of thousands of new jobs along Nike’s supply chain here at home.  That’s what trade can do.  (Applause.)

Look, I’ve spent six and a half years trying to rescue this economy — six and a half years of trying to revitalize American manufacturing, including rescuing an American auto industry that was on its back and is now fully recovered.  So I would not risk any of that if I thought the trade deals were going to undermine it.  The reason I’m for this is because I think it will enhance it and advance it.  So that’s point number one.

Point number two — when you ask folks specifically, what do you oppose about this trade deal, they just say “NAFTA.”  NAFTA was passed 20 years ago.  That was a different agreement.  And in fact, this agreement fixes some of what was wrong with NAFTA by making labor and environmental provisions actually enforceable.  (Applause.)  I was just getting out of law school when NAFTA got passed.  (Laughter.)

Number three — you’ve got some critics saying that any deal would be rushed through; it’s a secret deal, people don’t know what’s in it.  This is not true.  Any agreement that we finalize with the other 11 countries will have to be posted online for at least 60 days before I even sign it.  Then it would go to Congress — and you know they’re not going to do anything fast.  (Laughter.)  So there will be months of review.  Every T crossed, every I dotted.  Everybody is going to be able to see exactly what’s in it.

There’s nothing fast-track about this.  This is a very deliberate track — (laughter) — which will be fully subject to scrutiny.  And I’m confident when people read the agreement for themselves, they’ll see that this is the most progressive trade deal in history.

Number four — critics warn that parts of this deal would undermine American regulation — food safety, worker safety, even financial regulations.  They’re making this stuff up.  (Applause.)  This is just not true.  No trade agreement is going to force us to change our laws.  This agreement would make sure our companies aren’t discriminated against in other countries.

We already treat companies from other countries fairly here. But our companies don’t always get treated fairly there.  So sometimes they need to have some way to settle disputes where it’s not subject to the whims of some government bureaucrat in that country.  That’s important.  We want our businesses to succeed in selling over there because that’s how our workers will get more jobs here in the United States.

And then finally, some critics talk about currency manipulation.  Now, this has been a problem in the past.  Some countries, they try to lower their currency so that it makes their goods cheaper, makes our more expensive.  There was a time when China was pretty egregious about this.  When I came into office, I started pounding on them.  Every time I meet with them, I’d be talking about currency.  And we pushed back hard, and China moved.  In real terms, their currency has appreciated about 30 percent since I came into office.  And we’re going to keep on going after it.  But that’s not an argument against this trade agreement.  If we give up the chance to help our businesses sell their stuff in the world’s fastest-growing markets, that doesn’t do anything to stop currency manipulation.

So the fact is, some folks are just opposed to trade deals out of principle, a reflexive principle.  And what I tell them is, you know what, if you’re opposed to these smart, progressive trade deals, then that means you must be satisfied with the status quo.  And the status quo hasn’t been working for our workers.  It hasn’t been working for our businesses.  And there are people here who will tell you why.

I’m going to just give you a couple of examples of small businesses who I had a chance to meet with today.  Egg Press is a Portland-based greeting card company.  (Applause.)  Really nice. They sell their cards in Australia, which is a member of this Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.  Their CEO, Tess Darrow — where’s Tess?  Raise your hand.  I saw her.  There she is.  (Applause.)  So Tess says that if they could more easily reach customers in Japan, as well, they’d sell half the volume that they do here in America.  That’s a lot.

Right now, the logistics of exporting to Japan are too complicated.  Products end up being held up for months at the border.  This agreement would help solve some of those problems so Tess can sell more greeting cards in Japan — presumably in Japanese.  (Laughter.)  Is there going to be — there will be a translation process, I assume.  Yes, absolutely.  I’m teasing.  (Laughter.)

So the trade deal would help eliminate barriers, and simplify customs, and hold countries accountable for getting products delivered swiftly.  The more Tess sells, the more she can grow, the more she can hire here in Oregon, here in the United States.

Oregon Fruit Products — makes canned fruits, berries, other products — depends on exports for 20 percent of its annual sales.  Right now, it exports to four members of this partnership that we’re putting together:  Japan, Australia, Singapore, and Canada.  Unfortunately, selling in these countries right now can mean dealing with unfair rules designed to prevent our products from being offered in their markets.  Under this agreement, that would change.  Exporting becomes simpler, more consistent.  That means more people around the world eating Oregon berries all year long.  Berry tasty.  (Applause.)

Sokol Blosser Winery — (applause) — we got a lot of drinkers here.  (Laughter.)  It’s a winery, family-run in Dayton, Oregon.  One of its top export markets is Japan.  Right now, there are high tariffs on American wine in that country.  Under this trade partnership, those tariffs would be eliminated, and wineries across America could see their sales grow overseas.  The brother–and-sister team that runs this vineyard — wave, guys — (applause) — they say, “If we can make it easier to do business with countries that are already our trading partners, countries that are allies, that’s a good thing.”

They’re right.  This deal would be a good thing.  So let’s “just do it.”  (Laughter and applause.)  It took a while for you to catch that, didn’t it?  (Laughter.)  I thought that was pretty obvious.  (Laughter.)

So, listen, I know a lot of folks who are skeptical about trade.  Past trade deals didn’t always live up to the hype.  Labor and environmental protections weren’t always strong enough. I saw for years, in Chicago and towns across Illinois, manufacturing collapsing, jobs drying up.  Outsourcing is real.  Folks didn’t just make that up.  Some of our manufacturing base shifted over the last 25 years, and it wasn’t good for manufacturing and it wasn’t good for those communities, and it wasn’t good for workers.  That’s the truth.  It had benefits — other jobs were created, we got cheaper goods.  But there was real displacement and real pain.  And so, for many Americans, this is not an abstraction; this is real.

But we’ve got to learn the right lessons from that.  The lesson is not that we pull up the drawbridge and build a moat around ourselves.  The lesson is, is that we’ve got to make sure that the trade deals that we do shape are ones that allow us to compete fairly.

So when I took office, I decided we could rethink the way we do trade in a way that actually works for working Americans.  I didn’t think this was the right thing to do just for companies.  If I didn’t think this was the right thing to do for working families, I would not be fighting for it.  If any agreement undercuts working families, I won’t sign it.  I ran for office to expand opportunity for everybody — the all-American idea that no matter who you are, or where you come from, or how you started out, or who you love, in America you can make it if you try.  (Applause.)

So, yes, we should be mindful of the past, but we can’t ignore the realities of the new economy.  We can’t stand on the beaches and stop the global economy at our shores.  We’ve got to harness it on our terms.  This century is built for us.  It’s about innovation.  It’s about dynamism and flexibility and entrepreneurship, and information and knowledge and science and research.  That’s us.  So we can’t be afraid of it; we’ve got to seize it.  We’ve got to give every single American who wakes up, sends their kids to school, rolls up their sleeves, punches in every day the chance to do what they do best:  dream up, innovate, build, sell the best products and ideas in the world to every corner of the world.  (Applause.)

Because, Nike, we do not just have the best athletes in the world.  We also have the best workers in the world.  (Applause.) We also have the best businesses in the world.  And when the playing field is level, nobody beats the United States of America.  (Applause.)  Nobody beats the United States of America.

Just do it, everybody.  Thank you.  God bless you.  Thank you, Oregon.  Thank you.  God bless America.  (Applause.)

10:14 A.M. PDT

Political Musings February 16, 2015: Boehner willing to let DHS funding expire to force Democrats on immigration




Boehner willing to let DHS funding expire to force Democrats on immigration

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Although the Republican leadership promised not government shut downs, Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner, R-OH let it be known on his Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015 appearance on Fox News Sunday that he is willing to let…READ MORE

Political Musings February 2, 2015: Obama unveils $4 trillion budget with spending tax increases dead on arrival




Obama unveils $4 trillion budget with spending tax increases dead on arrival

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Barack Obama unveiled and sent to Congress his new 2016 fiscal year budget on Monday, Feb. 2, 2015 that be more of political bargaining tool and policy vision and has no chance at all of passing the Republican…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency February 2, 2015: President Barack Obama’s 2016 Budget – PDF



President Barack Obama’s 2016 Budget

Source: WH, 2-2-15

Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2016 contains the Budget Message of the President, information on the President’s priorities, budget overviews organized by agency, and summary tables.

To download “Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2016” as a single PDF click here (150 pages, 2.3 MB)



File Format

Descriptions of The Budget Documents and General Notes 75 K PDF
The Budget Message of the President 44 K PDF
Building on a Record of Economic Growth and Progress 110 K PDF
Investing in America’s Future 396 K PDF
A Government of the Future 130 K PDF
Cuts, Consolidations, and Savings 132 K PDF
Summary Tables 1366 K PDF


Full Text Obama Presidency February 2, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Speech Unveiling the FY2016 Budget



Remarks by the President on the FY2016 Budget

Source: WH, 2-2-15

Department of Homeland Security
Washington, D.C.

11:27 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)  Thank you, everybody.  Please, have a seat.  Well, good morning, everybody.   It is good to be here at the Department of Homeland Security.  And let me thank Jeh Johnson not only for the outstanding job that’s he’s doing as Secretary of DHS, but also for a short introduction.  I like short introductions.  (Laughter.)  Give him a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

This is a great way to start the week, because I get to do something I enjoy doing, which is saying thank you.  Nobody works harder to keep America safe than the people who are gathered here today.  And you don’t get a lot of attention for it — that’s the nature of the job.  But I know how vital you are, and I want to make that sure more Americans know how vital you are.  Because against just about every threat that we face — from terrorist networks to microscopic viruses to cyber-attacks to weather disasters — you guys are there.  You protect us from threats at home and abroad, by air and land and sea.  You safeguard our ports, you patrol our borders.  You inspect our chemical plants, screen travelers for Ebola, shield our computer networks, and help hunt down criminals around the world.  You have a busy agenda, a full plate.  And here at home, you are ready to respond to any emergency at a moment’s notice.

It is simply extraordinary how much the Department of Homeland Security does every single day to keep our nation, our people safe.  It’s a critical job, and you get it done without a lot of fanfare.  And I want to make sure that you have what you need to keep getting the job done.  Every American has an interest in making sure that the Department of Homeland Security has what it needs to achieve its mission — because we are reliant on that mission every single day.

Now, today, I’m sending Congress a budget that will make sure you’ve got what you need to achieve your mission.  It gives you the resources you need to carry out your mission in a way that is smart and strategic, and makes the most of every dollar.  It’s also a broader blueprint for America’s success in this new global economy.  Because after a breakthrough year for America — at a time when our economy is growing and our businesses are creating jobs at the fastest pace since the 1990s, and wages are starting to rise again — we’ve got some fundamental choices to make about the kind of country we want to be.

Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well?  Or are we going to build an economy where everyone who works hard has a chance to get ahead?

And that was the focus of my State of the Union Address a couple weeks ago — what I called middle-class economics.  The idea that this country does best when everybody gets a fair shot, and everybody is doing their fair share, and everybody plays by the same set of rules.

The budget that Congress now has in its hands is built on those values.  It helps working families’ paychecks go farther by treating things like paid sick leave and childcare as the economic priorities that they are.  It gives Americans of every age the chance to upgrade their skills so they can earn higher wages, and it includes my plan to make two years of community college free for responsible students.  It lets us keep building the world’s most attractive economy for high-wage jobs, with new investments in research, and infrastructure and manufacturing, as well as expanded access to faster Internet and new markets for goods made in America.

It’s also a budget that recognizes that our economy flourishes when America is safe and secure.  So it invests in our IT networks, to protect them from malicious actors.  It supports our troops and strengthens our border security.  And it gives us the resources to confront global challenges, from ISIL to Russian aggression.

Now, since I took office, we have cut our deficits by about two-thirds.  I’m going to repeat that, as I always do when I mention this fact, because the public oftentimes, if you ask them, thinks that the deficit has shot up.  Since I took office, we have cut our deficits by about two-thirds.  That’s the fastest period of sustained deficit reduction since after the demobilization at the end of World War II.  So we can afford to make these investments while remaining fiscally responsible.  And, in fact, we cannot afford — we would be making a critical error if we avoided making these investments.  We can’t afford not to.  When the economy is doing well, we’re making investments when we’re growing.  That’s part of what keeps deficits low — because the economy is doing well.  So we’ve just got to be smarter about how we pay for our priorities, and that’s what my budget does.

At the end of 2013, I signed a bipartisan budget agreement that helped us end some of the arbitrary cuts known in Washington-speak as “sequestration.”  And folks here at DHS know a little too much about sequestration — (laughter) — because many of you have to deal with those cuts, and it made it a lot harder for you to do your jobs.

The 2013 agreement to reverse some of those cuts helped to boost our economic growth.  Part of the reason why we grew faster last year was we were no longer being burdened by mindless across-the-board cuts, and we were being more strategic about how we handled our federal budget.  And now we need to take the next step.  So my budget will end sequestration and fully reverse the cuts to domestic priorities in 2016.  And it will match the investments that were made domestically, dollar for dollar, with increases in our defense funding.

And just last week, top military officials told Congress that if Congress does nothing to stop sequestration, there could be serious consequences for our national security, at a time when our military is stretched on a whole range of issues.  And that’s why I want to work with Congress to replace mindless austerity with smart investments that strengthen America.  And we can do so in a way that is fiscally responsible.

I’m not going to accept a budget that locks in sequestration going forward.  It would be bad for our security and bad for our growth.  I will not accept a budget that severs the vital link between our national security and our economic security.  I know there’s some on Capitol Hill who would say, well, we’d be willing to increase defense spending but we’re not going to increase investments in infrastructure, for example, or basic research.  Well, those two things go hand in hand.  If we don’t have a vital infrastructure, if we don’t have broadband lines across the country, if we don’t have a smart grid, all that makes us more vulnerable.  America can’t afford being shortsighted, and I’m not going to allow it.

The budget I’ve sent to Congress today is fully paid for, through a combination of smart spending cuts and tax reforms.  Let me give you an example.  Right now, our tax code is full of loopholes for special interests — like the trust fund loophole that allows the wealthiest Americans to avoid paying taxes on their unearned income.  I think we should fix that and use the savings to cut taxes for middle-class families.  That would be good for our economy.

Now, I know there are Republicans who disagree with my approach.  And I’ve said this before:  If they have other ideas for how we can keep America safe, grow our economy, while helping middle-class families feel some sense of economic security, I welcome their ideas.  But their numbers have to add up.  And what we can’t do is play politics with folks’ economic security, or with our national security.  You, better than anybody, know what the stakes are.  The work you do hangs in the balance.

In just a few weeks from now, funding for Homeland Security will run out.  That’s not because of anything this department did, it’s because the Republicans in Congress who funded everything in government through September, except for this department.  And they’re now threatening to let Homeland Security funding expire because of their disagreeing with my actions to make our immigration system smarter, fairer and safer.

Now let’s be clear, I think we can have a reasonable debate about immigration.  I’m confident that what we’re doing is the right thing and the lawful thing.  I understand they may have some disagreements with me on that, although I should note that a large majority — or a large percentage of Republicans agree that we need comprehensive immigration reform, and we’re prepared to act in the Senate and should have acted in the House.  But if they don’t agree with me, that’s fine, that’s how our democracy works.  You may have noticed they usually don’t agree with me.  But don’t jeopardize our national security over this disagreement.

As one Republican put it, if they let your funding run out, “it’s not the end of the world.”  That’s what they said.  Well, I guess literally that’s true; it may not be the end of the world.  But until they pass a funding bill, it is the end of a paycheck for tens of thousands of frontline workers who will continue to get — to have to work without getting paid.  Over 40,000 Border Patrol and Customs agents.  Over 50,000 airport screeners.  Over 13,000 immigration officers.  Over 40,000 men and women in the Coast Guard.  These Americans aren’t just working to keep us safe, they have to take care of their own families.  The notion that they would get caught up in a disagreement around policy that has nothing to do with them makes no sense.

And if Republicans let Homeland Security funding expire, it’s the end to any new initiatives in the event that a new threat emerges.  It’s the end of grants to states and cities that improve local law enforcement and keep our communities safe.  The men and women of America’s homeland security apparatus do important work to protect us, and Republicans and Democrats in Congress should not be playing politics with that.

We need to fund the department, pure and simple.  We’ve got to put politics aside, pass a budget that funds our national security priorities at home and abroad, and gives middle-class families the security they need to get ahead in the new economy.  This is one of our most basic and most important responsibilities as a government.  So I’m calling on Congress to get this done.

Every day, we count on people like you to keep America secure.  And you are counting on us as well to uphold our end of the bargain.  You’re counting on us to make sure that you’ve got the resources to do your jobs safely and efficiently, and that you’re able to look after your families while you are out there working really hard to keep us safe.

We ask a lot of you.  The least we can do is have your backs.  That’s what I’m going to keep on doing for as long as I have the honor of serving as your President.  I have your back.  And I’m going to keep on fighting to make sure that you get the resources you deserve.  I’m going to keep fighting to make sure that every American has the chance not just to share in America’s success but to contribute to America’s success.  That’s what this budget is about.

It reflects our values in making sure that we are making the investments we need to keep America safe, to keep America growing, and to make sure that everybody is participating no matter what they look like, where they come from, no matter how they started in life, they’ve got a chance to get ahead in this great country of ours.  That’s what I believe.  That’s what you believe.  (Applause.)  Let’s get it done.

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

11:43 A.M. EST

Political Musings January 21, 2015: Obama defiant in least viewed State of the Union Address in recent history




Obama defiant in least viewed State of the Union Address in recent history

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The state of the State of the Union Address is not good; President Obama delivered the address to the smallest audience of viewers in recent history. Only 31.7 million Americans viewed the address on television; the State of…READ MORE

Full Text Political Transcripts January 20, 2015: Iowa Senator Joni Ernst Delivers Official GOP Republican State of the Union Response



GOP Responds to Obama’s State of the Union Address: Full Text

“Good evening.

“I’m Joni Ernst. As a mother, a soldier, and a newly elected senator from the great State of Iowa, I am proud to speak with you tonight.

“A few moments ago, we heard the President lay out his vision for the year to come. Even if we may not always agree, it’s important to hear different points of view in this great country. We appreciate the President sharing his.

“Tonight though, rather than respond to a speech, I’d like to talk about your priorities. I’d like to have a conversation about the new Republican Congress you just elected, and how we plan to make Washington focus on your concerns again.

“We heard the message you sent in November — loud and clear. And now we’re getting to work to change the direction Washington has been taking our country.

“The new Republican Congress also understands how difficult these past six years have been. For many of us, the sting of the economy and the frustration with Washington’s dysfunction weren’t things we had to read about. We felt them every day.

“We felt them in Red Oak — the little town in southwestern Iowa where I grew up, and am still proud to call home today.

“As a young girl, I plowed the fields of our family farm. I worked construction with my dad. To save for college, I worked the morning biscuit line at Hardees.

“We were raised to live simply, not to waste. It was a lesson my mother taught me every rainy morning.
“You see, growing up, I had only one good pair of shoes. So on rainy school days, my mom would slip plastic bread bags over them to keep them dry.

“But I was never embarrassed. Because the school bus would be filled with rows and rows of young Iowans with bread bags slipped over their feet.

“Our parents may not have had much, but they worked hard for what they did have.

“These days though, many families feel like they’re working harder and harder, with less and less to show for it.

“Not just in Red Oak, but across the country.

“We see our neighbors agonize over stagnant wages and lost jobs. We see the hurt caused by canceled healthcare plans and higher monthly insurance bills. We see too many moms and dads put their own dreams on hold while growing more fearful about the kind of future they’ll be able to leave to their children.

“Americans have been hurting, but when we demanded solutions, too often Washington responded with the same stale mindset that led to failed policies like Obamacare. It’s a mindset that gave us political talking points, not serious solutions.

“That’s why the new Republican majority you elected started by reforming Congress to make it function again. And now, we’re working hard to pass the kind of serious job-creation ideas you deserve.

“One you’ve probably heard about is the Keystone jobs bill. President Obama has been delaying this bipartisan infrastructure project for years, even though many members of his party, unions, and a strong majority of Americans support it. The President’s own State Department has said Keystone’s construction could support thousands of jobs and pump billions into our economy, and do it with minimal environmental impact.

“We worked with Democrats to pass this bill through the House. We’re doing the same now in the Senate.

“President Obama will soon have a decision to make: will he sign the bill, or block good American jobs?

“There’s a lot we can achieve if we work together.

“Let’s tear down trade barriers in places like Europe and the Pacific. Let’s sell more of what we make and grow in America over there so we can boost manufacturing, wages, and jobs right here, at home.

“Let’s simplify America’s outdated and loophole-ridden tax code. Republicans think tax filing should be easier for you, not just the well-connected. So let’s iron out loopholes to lower rates — and create jobs, not pay for more government spending.

“The President has already expressed some support for these kinds of ideas. We’re calling on him now to cooperate to pass them.

“You’ll see a lot of serious work in this new Congress.

“Some of it will occur where I stand tonight, in the Armed Services Committee room. This is where I’ll join committee colleagues — Republicans and Democrats — to discuss ways to support our exceptional military and its mission. This is where we’ll debate strategies to confront terrorism and the threats posed by Al Qaeda, ISIL, and those radicalized by them.

“We know threats like these can’t just be wished away. We’ve been reminded of terrorism’s reach both at home and abroad; most recently in France and Nigeria, but also in places like Canada and Australia. Our hearts go out to all the innocent victims of terrorism and their loved ones. We can only imagine the depth of their grief.

“For two decades, I’ve proudly worn our nation’s uniform: today, as a Lt. Colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard. While deployed overseas with some of America’s finest men and women, I’ve seen just how dangerous these kinds of threats can be.

“The forces of violence and oppression don’t care about the innocent. We need a comprehensive plan to defeat them.

“We must also honor America’s veterans. These men and women have sacrificed so much in defense of our freedoms, and our way of life. They deserve nothing less than the benefits they were promised and a quality of care we can be all be proud of.

“These are important issues the new Congress plans to address.

“We’ll also keep fighting to repeal and replace a health care law that’s hurt so many hardworking families.

“We’ll work to correct executive overreach.

“We’ll propose ideas that aim to cut wasteful spending and balance the budget — with meaningful reforms, not higher taxes like the President has proposed.

“We’ll advance solutions to prevent the kind of cyberattacks we’ve seen recently.

“We’ll work to confront Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

“And we’ll defend life, because protecting our most vulnerable is an important measure of any society.

“Congress is back to work on your behalf, ready to make Washington focus on your concerns again.

“We know America faces big challenges. But history has shown there’s nothing our nation, and our people, can’t accomplish.

“Just look at my parents and grandparents.

“They had very little to call their own except the sweat on their brow and the dirt on their hands. But they worked, they sacrificed, and they dreamed big dreams for their children and grandchildren.

“And because they did, an ordinary Iowan like me has had some truly extraordinary opportunities — because they showed me that you don’t need to come from wealth or privilege to make a difference. You just need the freedom to dream big, and a whole lot of hard work.

“The new Republican Congress you elected is working to make Washington understand that too. And with a little cooperation from the President, we can get Washington working again.

“Thank you for allowing me to speak with you tonight.

“May God bless this great country of ours, the brave Americans serving in uniform on our behalf, and you, the hardworking men and women who make the United States of America the greatest nation the world has ever known.”

Read On ABC News Radio: http://abcnewsradioonline.com/politics-news/gop-responds-to-obamas-state-of-the-union-address-full-text-1.html#ixzz3PW3xtGoc

Full Text Obama Presidency January 20, 2015: President Barack Obama’s 2015 State of the Union Address — Transcript



Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery State of the Union Address

Source: WH, 1-20-15

The White House is making the full text of the State of the Union widely available on its Medium page. The text, as prepared for delivery, is now online HERE, along with tools that allow people to follow along with the speech as they watch in real time, to view charts and infographics on key areas, to tweet their favorite lines, and to leave notes to provide feedback.

The full text of the State of the Union Address, as prepared for delivery, is posted now on Medium and can be viewed here: http://go.wh.gov/SOTUMedium

There is a ritual on State of the Union night in Washington. A little before the address, the White House sends out an embargoed copy of the President’s speech to the press (embargoed means that the press can see the speech, but they can’t report on it until a designated time). The reporters then start sending it around town to folks on Capitol Hill to get their reaction, then those people send it to all their friends, and eventually everyone in Washington can read along, but the public remains in the dark.

This year we change that.

For the first time, the White House is making the full text of the speech available to citizens around the country online. On Medium, you can follow along with the speech as you watch in real time, view charts and infographics on key areas, tweet favorite lines, and leave notes. By making the text available to the public in advance, the White House is continuing efforts to reach a wide online audience and give people a range of ways to consume the speech.

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, my fellow Americans:

We are fifteen years into this new century.  Fifteen years that dawned with terror touching our shores; that unfolded with a new generation fighting two long and costly wars; that saw a vicious recession spread across our nation and the world.  It has been, and still is, a hard time for many.

But tonight, we turn the page.

Tonight, after a breakthrough year for America, our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999.  Our unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the financial crisis.  More of our kids are graduating than ever before; more of our people are insured than ever before; we are as free from the grip of foreign oil as we’ve been in almost 30 years.

Tonight, for the first time since 9/11, our combat mission in Afghanistan is over.  Six years ago, nearly 180,000 American troops served in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Today, fewer than 15,000 remain.  And we salute the courage and sacrifice of every man and woman in this 9/11 Generation who has served to keep us safe.  We are humbled and grateful for your service.

America, for all that we’ve endured; for all the grit and hard work required to come back; for all the tasks that lie ahead, know this:

The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong.

At this moment – with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, and booming energy production – we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth.  It’s now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next fifteen years, and for decades to come.

Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well?  Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?

Will we approach the world fearful and reactive, dragged into costly conflicts that strain our military and set back our standing?  Or will we lead wisely, using all elements of our power to defeat new threats and protect our planet?

Will we allow ourselves to be sorted into factions and turned against one another – or will we recapture the sense of common purpose that has always propelled America forward?

In two weeks, I will send this Congress a budget filled with ideas that are practical, not partisan.  And in the months ahead, I’ll crisscross the country making a case for those ideas.

So tonight, I want to focus less on a checklist of proposals, and focus more on the values at stake in the choices before us.

It begins with our economy.

Seven years ago, Rebekah and Ben Erler of Minneapolis were newlyweds.  She waited tables.  He worked construction.  Their first child, Jack, was on the way.

They were young and in love in America, and it doesn’t get much better than that.

“If only we had known,” Rebekah wrote to me last spring, “what was about to happen to the housing and construction market.”

As the crisis worsened, Ben’s business dried up, so he took what jobs he could find, even if they kept him on the road for long stretches of time.  Rebekah took out student loans, enrolled in community college, and retrained for a new career.  They sacrificed for each other.  And slowly, it paid off.  They bought their first home.  They had a second son, Henry.  Rebekah got a better job, and then a raise.  Ben is back in construction – and home for dinner every night.

“It is amazing,” Rebekah wrote, “what you can bounce back from when you have to…we are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.”

We are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.

America, Rebekah and Ben’s story is our story.  They represent the millions who have worked hard, and scrimped, and sacrificed, and retooled.  You are the reason I ran for this office.  You’re the people I was thinking of six years ago today, in the darkest months of the crisis, when I stood on the steps of this Capitol and promised we would rebuild our economy on a new foundation.  And it’s been your effort and resilience that has made it possible for our country to emerge stronger.

We believed we could reverse the tide of outsourcing, and draw new jobs to our shores.  And over the past five years, our businesses have created more than 11 million new jobs.

We believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect our planet.  And today, America is number one in oil and gas.  America is number one in wind power.  Every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008.  And thanks to lower gas prices and higher fuel standards, the typical family this year should save $750 at the pump.

We believed we could prepare our kids for a more competitive world.  And today, our younger students have earned the highest math and reading scores on record.  Our high school graduation rate has hit an all-time high.  And more Americans finish college than ever before.

We believed that sensible regulations could prevent another crisis, shield families from ruin, and encourage fair competition.  Today, we have new tools to stop taxpayer-funded bailouts, and a new consumer watchdog to protect us from predatory lending and abusive credit card practices.  And in the past year alone, about ten million uninsured Americans finally gained the security of health coverage.

At every step, we were told our goals were misguided or too ambitious; that we would crush jobs and explode deficits.  Instead, we’ve seen the fastest economic growth in over a decade, our deficits cut by two-thirds, a stock market that has doubled, and health care inflation at its lowest rate in fifty years.

So the verdict is clear.  Middle-class economics works.  Expanding opportunity works.  And these policies will continue to work, as long as politics don’t get in the way.  We can’t slow down businesses or put our economy at risk with government shutdowns or fiscal showdowns.  We can’t put the security of families at risk by taking away their health insurance, or unraveling the new rules on Wall Street, or refighting past battles on immigration when we’ve got a system to fix.  And if a bill comes to my desk that tries to do any of these things, it will earn my veto.

Today, thanks to a growing economy, the recovery is touching more and more lives.  Wages are finally starting to rise again.  We know that more small business owners plan to raise their employees’ pay than at any time since 2007.  But here’s the thing – those of us here tonight, we need to set our sights higher than just making sure government doesn’t halt the progress we’re making.  We need to do more than just do no harm.  Tonight, together, let’s do more to restore the link between hard work and growing opportunity for every American.

Because families like Rebekah’s still need our help.  She and Ben are working as hard as ever, but have to forego vacations and a new car so they can pay off student loans and save for retirement.  Basic childcare for Jack and Henry costs more than their mortgage, and almost as much as a year at the University of Minnesota.  Like millions of hardworking Americans, Rebekah isn’t asking for a handout, but she is asking that we look for more ways to help families get ahead.

In fact, at every moment of economic change throughout our history, this country has taken bold action to adapt to new circumstances, and to make sure everyone gets a fair shot.  We set up worker protections, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to protect ourselves from the harshest adversity.  We gave our citizens schools and colleges, infrastructure and the internet – tools they needed to go as far as their effort will take them.

That’s what middle-class economics is – the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.  We don’t just want everyone to share in America’s success – we want everyone to contribute to our success.

So what does middle-class economics require in our time?

First – middle-class economics means helping working families feel more secure in a world of constant change.  That means helping folks afford childcare, college, health care, a home, retirement – and my budget will address each of these issues, lowering the taxes of working families and putting thousands of dollars back into their pockets each year.

Here’s one example.  During World War II, when men like my grandfather went off to war, having women like my grandmother in the workforce was a national security priority – so this country provided universal childcare.  In today’s economy, when having both parents in the workforce is an economic necessity for many families, we need affordable, high-quality childcare more than ever.  It’s not a nice-to-have – it’s a must-have.  It’s time we stop treating childcare as a side issue, or a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us.  And that’s why my plan will make quality childcare more available, and more affordable, for every middle-class and low-income family with young children in America – by creating more slots and a new tax cut of up to $3,000 per child, per year.

Here’s another example.  Today, we’re the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers.  Forty-three million workers have no paid sick leave.  Forty-three million.  Think about that.  And that forces too many parents to make the gut-wrenching choice between a paycheck and a sick kid at home.  So I’ll be taking new action to help states adopt paid leave laws of their own.  And since paid sick leave won where it was on the ballot last November, let’s put it to a vote right here in Washington.  Send me a bill that gives every worker in America the opportunity to earn seven days of paid sick leave.  It’s the right thing to do.

Of course, nothing helps families make ends meet like higher wages.  That’s why this Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work.  Really.  It’s 2015.  It’s time.  We still need to make sure employees get the overtime they’ve earned.  And to everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this:  If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it.  If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.

These ideas won’t make everybody rich, or relieve every hardship.  That’s not the job of government.  To give working families a fair shot, we’ll still need more employers to see beyond next quarter’s earnings and recognize that investing in their workforce is in their company’s long-term interest.  We still need laws that strengthen rather than weaken unions, and give American workers a voice.  But things like child care and sick leave and equal pay; things like lower mortgage premiums and a higher minimum wage – these ideas will make a meaningful difference in the lives of millions of families.  That is a fact.  And that’s what all of us – Republicans and Democrats alike – were sent here to do.

Second, to make sure folks keep earning higher wages down the road, we have to do more to help Americans upgrade their skills.

America thrived in the 20th century because we made high school free, sent a generation of GIs to college, and trained the best workforce in the world.  But in a 21st century economy that rewards knowledge like never before, we need to do more.

By the end of this decade, two in three job openings will require some higher education.  Two in three.  And yet, we still live in a country where too many bright, striving Americans are priced out of the education they need.  It’s not fair to them, and it’s not smart for our future.

That’s why I am sending this Congress a bold new plan to lower the cost of community college – to zero.

Forty percent of our college students choose community college.  Some are young and starting out.  Some are older and looking for a better job.  Some are veterans and single parents trying to transition back into the job market.  Whoever you are, this plan is your chance to graduate ready for the new economy, without a load of debt.  Understand, you’ve got to earn it – you’ve got to keep your grades up and graduate on time.  Tennessee, a state with Republican leadership, and Chicago, a city with Democratic leadership, are showing that free community college is possible.  I want to spread that idea all across America, so that two years of college becomes as free and universal in America as high school is today.  And I want to work with this Congress, to make sure Americans already burdened with student loans can reduce their monthly payments, so that student debt doesn’t derail anyone’s dreams.

Thanks to Vice President Biden’s great work to update our job training system, we’re connecting community colleges with local employers to train workers to fill high-paying jobs like coding, and nursing, and robotics.  Tonight, I’m also asking more businesses to follow the lead of companies like CVS and UPS, and offer more educational benefits and paid apprenticeships – opportunities that give workers the chance to earn higher-paying jobs even if they don’t have a higher education.

And as a new generation of veterans comes home, we owe them every opportunity to live the American Dream they helped defend.  Already, we’ve made strides towards ensuring that every veteran has access to the highest quality care.  We’re slashing the backlog that had too many veterans waiting years to get the benefits they need, and we’re making it easier for vets to translate their training and experience into civilian jobs.  Joining Forces, the national campaign launched by Michelle and Jill Biden, has helped nearly 700,000 veterans and military spouses get new jobs.  So to every CEO in America, let me repeat:  If you want somebody who’s going to get the job done, hire a veteran.

Finally, as we better train our workers, we need the new economy to keep churning out high-wage jobs for our workers to fill.

Since 2010, America has put more people back to work than Europe, Japan, and all advanced economies combined.  Our manufacturers have added almost 800,000 new jobs.  Some of our bedrock sectors, like our auto industry, are booming.  But there are also millions of Americans who work in jobs that didn’t even exist ten or twenty years ago – jobs at companies like Google, and eBay, and Tesla.

So no one knows for certain which industries will generate the jobs of the future.  But we do know we want them here in America.  That’s why the third part of middle-class economics is about building the most competitive economy anywhere, the place where businesses want to locate and hire.

21st century businesses need 21st century infrastructure – modern ports, stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest internet.  Democrats and Republicans used to agree on this.  So let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline.  Let’s pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could create more than thirty times as many jobs per year, and make this country stronger for decades to come.

21st century businesses, including small businesses, need to sell more American products overseas.  Today, our businesses export more than ever, and exporters tend to pay their workers higher wages.  But as we speak, China wants to write the rules for the world’s fastest-growing region.  That would put our workers and businesses at a disadvantage.  Why would we let that happen?  We should write those rules.  We should level the playing field.  That’s why I’m asking both parties to give me trade promotion authority to protect American workers, with strong new trade deals from Asia to Europe that aren’t just free, but fair.

Look, I’m the first one to admit that past trade deals haven’t always lived up to the hype, and that’s why we’ve gone after countries that break the rules at our expense.  But ninety-five percent of the world’s customers live outside our borders, and we can’t close ourselves off from those opportunities.  More than half of manufacturing executives have said they’re actively looking at bringing jobs back from China.  Let’s give them one more reason to get it done.

21st century businesses will rely on American science, technology, research and development.  I want the country that eliminated polio and mapped the human genome to lead a new era of medicine – one that delivers the right treatment at the right time.  In some patients with cystic fibrosis, this approach has reversed a disease once thought unstoppable.  Tonight, I’m launching a new Precision Medicine Initiative to bring us closer to curing diseases like cancer and diabetes – and to give all of us access to the personalized information we need to keep ourselves and our families healthier.

I intend to protect a free and open internet, extend its reach to every classroom, and every community, and help folks build the fastest networks, so that the next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs have the platform to keep reshaping our world.

I want Americans to win the race for the kinds of discoveries that unleash new jobs – converting sunlight into liquid fuel; creating revolutionary prosthetics, so that a veteran who gave his arms for his country can play catch with his kid; pushing out into the Solar System not just to visit, but to stay.  Last month, we launched a new spacecraft as part of a re-energized space program that will send American astronauts to Mars.  In two months, to prepare us for those missions, Scott Kelly will begin a year-long stay in space.  Good luck, Captain – and make sure to Instagram it.

Now, the truth is, when it comes to issues like infrastructure and basic research, I know there’s bipartisan support in this chamber.  Members of both parties have told me so.  Where we too often run onto the rocks is how to pay for these investments.  As Americans, we don’t mind paying our fair share of taxes, as long as everybody else does, too.  But for far too long, lobbyists have rigged the tax code with loopholes that let some corporations pay nothing while others pay full freight.  They’ve riddled it with giveaways the superrich don’t need, denying a break to middle class families who do.

This year, we have an opportunity to change that.  Let’s close loopholes so we stop rewarding companies that keep profits abroad, and reward those that invest in America.  Let’s use those savings to rebuild our infrastructure and make it more attractive for companies to bring jobs home.  Let’s simplify the system and let a small business owner file based on her actual bank statement, instead of the number of accountants she can afford.  And let’s close the loopholes that lead to inequality by allowing the top one percent to avoid paying taxes on their accumulated wealth.  We can use that money to help more families pay for childcare and send their kids to college.  We need a tax code that truly helps working Americans trying to get a leg up in the new economy, and we can achieve that together.

Helping hardworking families make ends meet. Giving them the tools they need for good-paying jobs in this new economy.  Maintaining the conditions for growth and competitiveness.  This is where America needs to go.  I believe it’s where the American people want to go.  It will make our economy stronger a year from now, fifteen years from now, and deep into the century ahead.

Of course, if there’s one thing this new century has taught us, it’s that we cannot separate our work at home from challenges beyond our shores.

My first duty as Commander-in-Chief is to defend the United States of America.  In doing so, the question is not whether America leads in the world, but how.  When we make rash decisions, reacting to the headlines instead of using our heads; when the first response to a challenge is to send in our military – then we risk getting drawn into unnecessary conflicts, and neglect the broader strategy we need for a safer, more prosperous world.  That’s what our enemies want us to do.

I believe in a smarter kind of American leadership.  We lead best when we combine military power with strong diplomacy; when we leverage our power with coalition building; when we don’t let our fears blind us to the opportunities that this new century presents.  That’s exactly what we’re doing right now – and around the globe, it is making a difference.

First, we stand united with people around the world who’ve been targeted by terrorists – from a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris.  We will continue to hunt down terrorists and dismantle their networks, and we reserve the right to act unilaterally, as we’ve done relentlessly since I took office to take out terrorists who pose a direct threat to us and our allies.

At the same time, we’ve learned some costly lessons over the last thirteen years.

Instead of Americans patrolling the valleys of Afghanistan, we’ve trained their security forces, who’ve now taken the lead, and we’ve honored our troops’ sacrifice by supporting that country’s first democratic transition.  Instead of sending large ground forces overseas, we’re partnering with nations from South Asia to North Africa to deny safe haven to terrorists who threaten America.  In Iraq and Syria, American leadership – including our military power – is stopping ISIL’s advance.  Instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, we are leading a broad coalition, including Arab nations, to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group.  We’re also supporting a moderate opposition in Syria that can help us in this effort, and assisting people everywhere who stand up to the bankrupt ideology of violent extremism.  This effort will take time.  It will require focus.  But we will succeed.  And tonight, I call on this Congress to show the world that we are united in this mission by passing a resolution to authorize the use of force against ISIL.

Second, we are demonstrating the power of American strength and diplomacy.  We’re upholding the principle that bigger nations can’t bully the small – by opposing Russian aggression, supporting Ukraine’s democracy, and reassuring our NATO allies.  Last year, as we were doing the hard work of imposing sanctions along with our allies, some suggested that Mr. Putin’s aggression was a masterful display of strategy and strength.  Well, today, it is America that stands strong and united with our allies, while Russia is isolated, with its economy in tatters.

That’s how America leads – not with bluster, but with persistent, steady resolve.

In Cuba, we are ending a policy that was long past its expiration date.  When what you’re doing doesn’t work for fifty years, it’s time to try something new.  Our shift in Cuba policy has the potential to end a legacy of mistrust in our hemisphere; removes a phony excuse for restrictions in Cuba; stands up for democratic values; and extends the hand of friendship to the Cuban people.  And this year, Congress should begin the work of ending the embargo.  As His Holiness, Pope Francis, has said, diplomacy is the work of “small steps.”  These small steps have added up to new hope for the future in Cuba.  And after years in prison, we’re overjoyed that Alan Gross is back where he belongs.  Welcome home, Alan.

Our diplomacy is at work with respect to Iran, where, for the first time in a decade, we’ve halted the progress of its nuclear program and reduced its stockpile of nuclear material.  Between now and this spring, we have a chance to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that prevents a nuclear-armed Iran; secures America and our allies – including Israel; while avoiding yet another Middle East conflict.  There are no guarantees that negotiations will succeed, and I keep all options on the table to prevent a nuclear Iran.  But new sanctions passed by this Congress, at this moment in time, will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails – alienating America from its allies; and ensuring that Iran starts up its nuclear program again.  It doesn’t make sense.  That is why I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this progress.  The American people expect us to only go to war as a last resort, and I intend to stay true to that wisdom.

Third, we’re looking beyond the issues that have consumed us in the past to shape the coming century.

No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids.  We are making sure our government integrates intelligence to combat cyber threats, just as we have done to combat terrorism.  And tonight, I urge this Congress to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyber-attacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information.  If we don’t act, we’ll leave our nation and our economy vulnerable.  If we do, we can continue to protect the technologies that have unleashed untold opportunities for people around the globe.

In West Africa, our troops, our scientists, our doctors, our nurses and healthcare workers are rolling back Ebola – saving countless lives and stopping the spread of disease.  I couldn’t be prouder of them, and I thank this Congress for your bipartisan support of their efforts.  But the job is not yet done – and the world needs to use this lesson to build a more effective global effort to prevent the spread of future pandemics, invest in smart development, and eradicate extreme poverty.

In the Asia Pacific, we are modernizing alliances while making sure that other nations play by the rules – in how they trade, how they resolve maritime disputes, and how they participate in meeting common international challenges like nonproliferation and disaster relief.  And no challenge – no challenge – poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.

2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record.  Now, one year doesn’t make a trend, but this does – 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century.

I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act.  Well, I’m not a scientist, either.  But you know what – I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities.  The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe.  The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security.  We should act like it.

That’s why, over the past six years, we’ve done more than ever before to combat climate change, from the way we produce energy, to the way we use it.  That’s why we’ve set aside more public lands and waters than any administration in history.  And that’s why I will not let this Congress endanger the health of our children by turning back the clock on our efforts.  I am determined to make sure American leadership drives international action.  In Beijing, we made an historic announcement – the United States will double the pace at which we cut carbon pollution, and China committed, for the first time, to limiting their emissions.  And because the world’s two largest economies came together, other nations are now stepping up, and offering hope that, this year, the world will finally reach an agreement to protect the one planet we’ve got.

There’s one last pillar to our leadership – and that’s the example of our values.

As Americans, we respect human dignity, even when we’re threatened, which is why I’ve prohibited torture, and worked to make sure our use of new technology like drones is properly constrained.  It’s why we speak out against the deplorable anti-Semitism that has resurfaced in certain parts of the world.  It’s why we continue to reject offensive stereotypes of Muslims – the vast majority of whom share our commitment to peace.  That’s why we defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.  We do these things not only because they’re right, but because they make us safer.

As Americans, we have a profound commitment to justice – so it makes no sense to spend three million dollars per prisoner to keep open a prison that the world condemns and terrorists use to recruit.  Since I’ve been President, we’ve worked responsibly to cut the population of GTMO in half.  Now it’s time to finish the job.  And I will not relent in my determination to shut it down.  It’s not who we are.

As Americans, we cherish our civil liberties – and we need to uphold that commitment if we want maximum cooperation from other countries and industry in our fight against terrorist networks.  So while some have moved on from the debates over our surveillance programs, I haven’t.  As promised, our intelligence agencies have worked hard, with the recommendations of privacy advocates, to increase transparency and build more safeguards against potential abuse.  And next month, we’ll issue a report on how we’re keeping our promise to keep our country safe while strengthening privacy.

Looking to the future instead of the past.  Making sure we match our power with diplomacy, and use force wisely.  Building coalitions to meet new challenges and opportunities.  Leading – always – with the example of our values.  That’s what makes us exceptional.  That’s what keeps us strong.  And that’s why we must keep striving to hold ourselves to the highest of standards – our own.

You know, just over a decade ago, I gave a speech in Boston where I said there wasn’t a liberal America, or a conservative America; a black America or a white America – but a United States of America.  I said this because I had seen it in my own life, in a nation that gave someone like me a chance; because I grew up in Hawaii, a melting pot of races and customs; because I made Illinois my home – a state of small towns, rich farmland, and one of the world’s great cities; a microcosm of the country where Democrats and Republicans and Independents, good people of every ethnicity and every faith, share certain bedrock values.

Over the past six years, the pundits have pointed out more than once that my presidency hasn’t delivered on this vision.  How ironic, they say, that our politics seems more divided than ever.  It’s held up as proof not just of my own flaws – of which there are many – but also as proof that the vision itself is misguided, and naïve, and that there are too many people in this town who actually benefit from partisanship and gridlock for us to ever do anything about it.

I know how tempting such cynicism may be.  But I still think the cynics are wrong.

I still believe that we are one people.  I still believe that together, we can do great things, even when the odds are long.  I believe this because over and over in my six years in office, I have seen America at its best.  I’ve seen the hopeful faces of young graduates from New York to California; and our newest officers at West Point, Annapolis, Colorado Springs, and New London.  I’ve mourned with grieving families in Tucson and Newtown; in Boston, West, Texas, and West Virginia.  I’ve watched Americans beat back adversity from the Gulf Coast to the Great Plains; from Midwest assembly lines to the Mid-Atlantic seaboard.  I’ve seen something like gay marriage go from a wedge issue used to drive us apart to a story of freedom across our country, a civil right now legal in states that seven in ten Americans call home.

So I know the good, and optimistic, and big-hearted generosity of the American people who, every day, live the idea that we are our brother’s keeper, and our sister’s keeper.  And I know they expect those of us who serve here to set a better example.

So the question for those of us here tonight is how we, all of us, can better reflect America’s hopes.  I’ve served in Congress with many of you.  I know many of you well.  There are a lot of good people here, on both sides of the aisle.  And many of you have told me that this isn’t what you signed up for – arguing past each other on cable shows, the constant fundraising, always looking over your shoulder at how the base will react to every decision.

Imagine if we broke out of these tired old patterns.  Imagine if we did something different.

Understand – a better politics isn’t one where Democrats abandon their agenda or Republicans simply embrace mine.

A better politics is one where we appeal to each other’s basic decency instead of our basest fears.

A better politics is one where we debate without demonizing each other; where we talk issues, and values, and principles, and facts, rather than “gotcha” moments, or trivial gaffes, or fake controversies that have nothing to do with people’s daily lives.

A better politics is one where we spend less time drowning in dark money for ads that pull us into the gutter, and spend more time lifting young people up, with a sense of purpose and possibility, and asking them to join in the great mission of building America.

If we’re going to have arguments, let’s have arguments – but let’s make them debates worthy of this body and worthy of this country.

We still may not agree on a woman’s right to choose, but surely we can agree it’s a good thing that teen pregnancies and abortions are nearing all-time lows, and that every woman should have access to the health care she needs.

Yes, passions still fly on immigration, but surely we can all see something of ourselves in the striving young student, and agree that no one benefits when a hardworking mom is taken from her child, and that it’s possible to shape a law that upholds our tradition as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.

We may go at it in campaign season, but surely we can agree that the right to vote is sacred; that it’s being denied to too many; and that, on this 50th anniversary of the great march from Selma to Montgomery and the passage of the Voting Rights Act, we can come together, Democrats and Republicans, to make voting easier for every single American.

We may have different takes on the events of Ferguson and New York.  But surely we can understand a father who fears his son can’t walk home without being harassed.  Surely we can understand the wife who won’t rest until the police officer she married walks through the front door at the end of his shift.  Surely we can agree it’s a good thing that for the first time in 40 years, the crime rate and the incarceration rate have come down together, and use that as a starting point for Democrats and Republicans, community leaders and law enforcement, to reform America’s criminal justice system so that it protects and serves us all.

That’s a better politics.  That’s how we start rebuilding trust.  That’s how we move this country forward.  That’s what the American people want.  That’s what they deserve.

I have no more campaigns to run.  My only agenda for the next two years is the same as the one I’ve had since the day I swore an oath on the steps of this Capitol – to do what I believe is best for America.  If you share the broad vision I outlined tonight, join me in the work at hand.  If you disagree with parts of it, I hope you’ll at least work with me where you do agree.  And I commit to every Republican here tonight that I will not only seek out your ideas, I will seek to work with you to make this country stronger.

Because I want this chamber, this city, to reflect the truth – that for all our blind spots and shortcomings, we are a people with the strength and generosity of spirit to bridge divides, to unite in common effort, and help our neighbors, whether down the street or on the other side of the world.

I want our actions to tell every child, in every neighborhood:  your life matters, and we are as committed to improving your life chances as we are for our own kids.

I want future generations to know that we are a people who see our differences as a great gift, that we are a people who value the dignity and worth of every citizen – man and woman, young and old, black and white, Latino and Asian, immigrant and Native American, gay and straight, Americans with mental illness or physical disability.

I want them to grow up in a country that shows the world what we still know to be true:  that we are still more than a collection of red states and blue states; that we are the United States of America.

I want them to grow up in a country where a young mom like Rebekah can sit down and write a letter to her President with a story to sum up these past six years:

“It is amazing what you can bounce back from when you have to…we are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.”

My fellow Americans, we too are a strong, tight-knit family.  We, too, have made it through some hard times.  Fifteen years into this new century, we have picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, and begun again the work of remaking America.  We’ve laid a new foundation.  A brighter future is ours to write.  Let’s begin this new chapter – together – and let’s start the work right now.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless this country we love.

Political Musings January 13, 2015: Obama meets with Congressional leaders promises to disagree but work together




Obama meets with Congressional leaders promises to disagree but work together

By Bonnie K. Goodman

In President Barack Obama’s first meeting with the 114th Congress’ leadership, there was no bourbon, but there was sports talk. Obama met with the Congressional leadership of the new GOP majority in the House of Representatives and…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency December 20, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address America’s Resurgence Is Real



Weekly Address: America’s Resurgence Is Real

Source: WH, 12-20-14

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
December 20, 2014

Hi, everybody.  As 2014 comes to an end, we can enter the New Year with new confidence that America is making significant strides where it counts.

The steps we took nearly six years ago to rescue our economy and rebuild it on a new foundation helped make 2014 the strongest year for job growth since the 1990s.  Over the past 57 months, our businesses have created nearly 11 million new jobs.  And in a hopeful sign for middle-class families, wages are on the rise again.

Our investments in American manufacturing have helped fuel its best stretch of job growth since the ‘90s.  America is now the number one producer of oil and gas, saving drivers about 70 cents a gallon at the pump over last Christmas.  The auto industry we rescued is on track for its strongest year since 2005.  Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, about 10 million Americans have gained health insurance in the past year alone.  And since I took office, we have cut our deficits by about two-thirds.

Meanwhile, around the world, America is leading.  We’re leading the coalition to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.  We’re leading the global fight to combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.  We’re leading global efforts to address climate change, including last month’s joint announcement with China.  We’re turning a new page in our relationship with the Cuban people.

And in less than two weeks, after more than 13 years, our combat mission in Afghanistan will be over, and our war there will come to a responsible end.  Today, more of our troops are home for the holidays than at any time in over a decade.  Still, many of our men and women in uniform will spend this Christmas in harm’s way.  And as Commander-in-Chief, I want our troops to know:  your country is united in our support and gratitude for you and your families.

The six years since the financial crisis have demanded hard work and sacrifice on everyone’s part.  But as a country, we have every right to be proud of what we’ve got to show for it.  More jobs.  More insured.  A growing economy.  Shrinking deficits.  Bustling industry.  Booming energy.

Pick any metric you want – America’s resurgence is real.  And we now have the chance to reverse the decades-long erosion of middle-class jobs and incomes.  We just have to invest in the things that we know will secure even faster growth in higher-paying jobs for more Americans.  We have to make sure our economy, our justice system, and our government work not only for a few, but for all of us.  And I look forward to working together with the new Congress next year on these priorities.

Sure, we’ll disagree on some things.  We’ll have to compromise on others.  I’ll act on my own when it’s necessary.  But I will never stop trying to make life better for people like you.

Because thanks to your efforts, a new foundation is laid.  A new future is ready to be written.  We have set the stage for a new American moment, and I’m going to spend every minute of my last two years making sure we seize it.

On behalf of the Obama family, I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas.

Thanks, and have a wonderful holiday season.

Political Musings December 20, 2014: Obama invokes Reagan in reflective and optimistic American resurgence declaration




Obama invokes Reagan in reflective and optimistic American resurgence declaration

By Bonnie K. Goodman

In the last press conference of the year on Friday afternoon, Dec. 19, 2014 at the East Room of the White House President Barack Obama kept the topics lighter and optimistic in the 50-minute presser; the theme was definitely…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency December 19, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at his Year-End Press ConferenceFull Text Obama Presidency December 15, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at “Christmas in Washington” — Transcript



Remarks by the President in Year-End Press Conference

Source: WH, 12-19-14

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:53 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody.  We’ve really got a full house today, huh?  Well, all I want for Christmas is to take your questions.  (Laughter.)  But first let me say a little bit about this year.

In last year’s final press conference, I said that 2014 would be a year of action and would be a breakthrough year for America.  And it has been.  Yes, there were crises that we had to tackle around the world, many that were unanticipated.  We have more work to do to make sure our economy, our justice system, and our government work not just for the few, but for the many.  But there is no doubt that we can enter into the New Year with renewed confidence that America is making significant strides where it counts.

The steps that we took early on to rescue our economy and rebuild it on a new foundation helped make 2014 the strongest year for job growth since the 1990s.  All told, over a 57-month streak, our businesses have created nearly 11 million new jobs.  Almost all the job growth that we’ve seen have been in full-time positions.  Much of the recent pickup in job growth has been in higher-paying industries.  And in a hopeful sign for middle-class families, wages are on the rise again.

Our investments in American manufacturing have helped fuel its best stretch of job growth also since the 1990s.  America is now the number-one producer of oil, the number-one producer of natural gas.  We’re saving drivers about 70 cents a gallon at the pump over last Christmas.  And effectively today, our rescue of the auto industry is officially over.  We’ve now repaid taxpayers every dime and more of what my administration committed, and the American auto industry is on track for its strongest year since 2005.  And we’ve created about half a million new jobs in the auto industry alone.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, about 10 million Americans have gained health insurance just this past year.  Enrollment is beginning to pick up again during the open enrollment period.  The uninsured rate is at a near record low.  Since the law passed, the price of health care has risen at its slowest rate in about 50 years.  And we’ve cut our deficits by about two-thirds since I took office, bringing them to below their 40-year average.

Meanwhile, around the world, America is leading.  We’re leading the coalition to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL — a coalition that includes Arab partners.  We’re leading the international community to check Russian aggression in Ukraine. We are leading the global fight to combat Ebola in West Africa, and we are preventing an outbreak from taking place here at home. We’re leading efforts to address climate change, including last month’s joint announcement with China that’s already jumpstarting new progress in other countries.  We’re writing a new chapter in our leadership here in the Americas by turning a new page on our relationship with the Cuban people.

And in less than two weeks, after more than 13 years, our combat mission in Afghanistan will be over.  Today, more of our troops are home for the holidays than any time in over a decade. Still, many of our men and women in uniform will spend Christmas in harm’s way.  And they should know that the country is united in support of you and grateful not only to you but also to your families.

The six years since the crisis have demanded hard work and sacrifice on everybody’s part.  But as a country, we have every right to be proud of what we’ve accomplished — more jobs; more people insured; a growing economy; shrinking deficits; bustling industry; booming energy.  Pick any metric that you want — America’s resurgence is real.  We are better off.

I’ve always said that recovering from the crisis of 2008 was our first order of business, and on that business, America has outperformed all of our other competitors.  Over the past four years, we’ve put more people back to work than all other advanced economies combined.  We’ve now come to a point where we have the chance to reverse an even deeper problem, the decades-long erosion of middle-class jobs and incomes, and to make sure that the middle class is the engine that powers our prosperity for decades to come.

To do that, we’re going to have to make some smart choices; we’ve got to make the right choices.  We’re going to have to invest in the things that secure even faster growth in higher-paying jobs for more Americans.  And I’m being absolutely sincere when I say I want to work with this new Congress to get things done, to make those investments, to make sure the government is working better and smarter.  We’re going to disagree on some things, but there are going to be areas of agreement and we’ve got to be able to make that happen.  And that’s going to involve compromise every once in a while, and we saw during this lame duck period that perhaps that spirit of compromise may be coming to the fore.

In terms of my own job, I’m energized, I’m excited about the prospects for the next couple of years, and I’m certainly not going to be stopping for a minute in the effort to make life better for ordinary Americans.  Because, thanks to their efforts, we really do have a new foundation that’s been laid.  We are better positioned than we have been in a very long time.  A new future is ready to be written.  We’ve set the stage for this American moment.  And I’m going to spend every minute of my last two years making sure that we seize it.

My presidency is entering the fourth quarter; interesting stuff happens in the fourth quarter.  And I’m looking forward to it.  But going into the fourth quarter, you usually get a timeout.  I’m now looking forward to a quiet timeout — Christmas with my family.  So I want to wish everybody a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, a Happy New Year.  I hope that all of you get some time to spend with your families as well, because one thing that we share is that we’re away too much from them.

And now, Josh has given me the “who’s been naughty and who’s been nice” list — (laughter) — and I’m going to use it to take some questions.  And we’re going to start with Carrie Budoff Brown of Politico.  There you go, Carrie.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I’ll start on North Korea — that seems to be the biggest topic today.  What does a proportional response look like to the Sony hack?  And did Sony make the right decision in pulling the movie?  Or does that set a dangerous precedent when faced with this kind of situation?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, let me address the second question first.  Sony is a corporation.  It suffered significant damage.  There were threats against its employees.  I am sympathetic to the concerns that they faced.  Having said all that, yes, I think they made a mistake.

In this interconnected, digital world, there are going to be opportunities for hackers to engage in cyber assaults both in the private sector and the public sector.  Now, our first order of business is making sure that we do everything to harden sites and prevent those kinds of attacks from taking place.  When I came into office, I stood up a cybersecurity interagency team to look at everything that we could at the government level to prevent these kinds of attacks.  We’ve been coordinating with the private sector, but a lot more needs to be done.  We’re not even close to where we need to be.

And one of the things in the New Year that I hope Congress is prepared to work with us on is strong cybersecurity laws that allow for information-sharing across private sector platforms, as well as the public sector, so that we are incorporating best practices and preventing these attacks from happening in the first place.

But even as we get better, the hackers are going to get better, too.  Some of them are going to be state actors; some of them are going to be non-state actors.  All of them are going to be sophisticated and many of them can do some damage.

We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States.  Because if somebody is able to intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they start doing when they see a documentary that they don’t like, or news reports that they don’t like.  Or even worse, imagine if producers and distributors and others start engaging in self-censorship because they don’t want to offend the sensibilities of somebody whose sensibilities probably need to be offended.

So that’s not who we are.  That’s not what America is about.
Again, I’m sympathetic that Sony as a private company was worried about liabilities, and this and that and the other.  I wish they had spoken to me first.  I would have told them, do not get into a pattern in which you’re intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks.  Imagine if, instead of it being a cyber-threat, somebody had broken into their offices and destroyed a bunch of computers and stolen disks.  Is that what it takes for suddenly you to pull the plug on something?

So we’ll engage with not just the film industry, but the news industry and the private sector around these issues.  We already have.  We will continue to do so.  But I think all of us have to anticipate occasionally there are going to be breaches like this.  They’re going to be costly.  They’re going to be serious.  We take them with the utmost seriousness.  But we can’t start changing our patterns of behavior any more than we stop going to a football game because there might be the possibility of a terrorist attack; any more than Boston didn’t run its marathon this year because of the possibility that somebody might try to cause harm.  So let’s not get into that way of doing business.

Q    Can you just say what the response would be to this attack?  Wwould you consider taking some sort of symbolic step like watching the movie yourself or doing some sort of screening here that —

THE PRESIDENT:  I’ve got a long list of movies I’m going to be watching.  (Laughter.)

Q    Will this be one of them?

THE PRESIDENT:  I never release my full movie list.

But let’s talk of the specifics of what we now know.  The FBI announced today and we can confirm that North Korea engaged in this attack.  I think it says something interesting about North Korea that they decided to have the state mount an all-out assault on a movie studio because of a satirical movie starring Seth Rogen and James Flacco [Franco].  (Laughter.)  I love Seth and I love James, but the notion that that was a threat to them I think gives you some sense of the kind of regime we’re talking about here.

They caused a lot of damage, and we will respond.  We will respond proportionally, and we’ll respond in a place and time and manner that we choose.  It’s not something that I will announce here today at a press conference.

More broadly, though, this points to the need for us to work with the international community to start setting up some very clear rules of the road in terms of how the Internet and cyber operates.  Right now, it’s sort of the Wild West.  And part of the problem is, is you’ve got weak states that can engage in these kinds of attacks, you’ve got non-state actors that can do enormous damage.  That’s part of what makes this issue of cybersecurity so urgent.

Again, this is part of the reason why it’s going to be so important for Congress to work with us and get a actual bill passed that allows for the kind of information-sharing we need.  Because if we don’t put in place the kind of architecture that can prevent these attacks from taking place, this is not just going to be affecting movies, this is going to be affecting our entire economy in ways that are extraordinarily significant.

And, by the way, I hear you’re moving to Europe.  Where you going to be?

Q    Brussels.


Q    Yes.  Helping Politico start a new publication.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, congratulations.

Q    I’ve been covering you since the beginning.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think —

Q    It’s been a long road for the both of us.

THE PRESIDENT:  I think there’s no doubt that what Belgium needs is a version of Politico.  (Laughter.)

Q    I’ll take that as an endorsement.

THE PRESIDENT:  The waffles are delicious there, by the way.
Cheryl Bolen.  You’ve been naughty.  (Laughter.)  Cheryl, go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Looking ahead to your work with Congress next year, you’ve mentioned as an area of possible compromise tax reform.  And so I am wondering, do you see a Republican Congress as presenting a better opportunity for actually getting tax reform next year?  Will you be putting out a new proposal?  Are you willing to consider both individual and corporate side of the tax ledger there?  And also, are you still concerned about corporate inversions?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think an all-Democratic Congress would have provided an even better opportunity for tax reform.  But I think, talking to Speaker Boehner and Leader McConnell that they are serious about wanting to get some things done.  The tax area is one area where we can get things done.  And I think in the coming weeks leading up to the State of Union, there will be some conversations at the staff levels about what principles each side are looking at.

I can tell you broadly what I’d like to see.  I’d like to see more simplicity in the system.  I’d like to see more fairness in the system.  With respect to the corporate tax reform issue, we know that there are companies that are paying the full freight — 35 percent — higher than just about any other company on Earth, if you’re paying 35 percent, and then there are other companies that are paying zero because they’ve got better accountants or lawyers.  That’s not fair.

There are companies that are parking money outside the country because of tax avoidance.  We think that it’s important that everybody pays something if, in fact, they are effectively headquartered in the United States.  In terms of corporate inversion, those are situations where companies really are headquartered here but, on paper, switch their headquarters to see if they can avoid paying their fair share of taxes.  I think that needs to be fixed.

So, fairness, everybody paying their fair share, everybody taking responsibility I think is going to be very important.

Some of those principles I’ve heard Republicans say they share.  How we do that — the devil is in the details.  And I’ll be interested in seeing what they want to move forward.  I’m going to make sure that we put forward some pretty specific proposals building on what we’ve already put forward.

One other element of this that I think is important is — and I’ve been on this hobby horse now for six years.  (Audience member sneezes.)  Bless you.  We’ve got a lot of infrastructure we’ve got to rebuild in this country if we’re going to be competitive — roads, bridges, ports, airports, electrical grids, water systems, sewage systems.  We are way behind.

And early on we indicated that there is a way of us potentially doing corporate tax reform, lowering rates, eliminating loopholes so everybody is paying their fair share, and during that transition also providing a mechanism where we can get some infrastructure built.  I’d like to see us work on that issue as well.  Historically, obviously, infrastructure has not been a Democratic or a Republican issue, and I’d like to see if we can return to that tradition.

Julie Pace.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I wanted to ask about Cuba. What would you say to dissidents or democracy advocates inside Cuba who fear that the policy changes you announced this week could give the Castro regime economic benefits without having to address human rights or their political system?  When your administration was lifting sanctions on Myanmar you sought commitments of reform.  Why not do the same with Cuba?

And if I could just follow up on North Korea.  Do you have any indication that North Korea was acting in conjunction with another country, perhaps China?

THE PRESIDENT:  We’ve got no indication that North Korea was acting in conjunction with another country.

With respect to Cuba, we are glad that the Cuban government have released slightly over 50 dissidents; that they are going to be allowing the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations human rights agencies to operate more freely inside of Cuba and monitor what is taking place.

I share the concerns of dissidents there and human rights activists that this is still a regime that represses its people. And as I said when I made the announcement, I don’t anticipate overnight changes, but what I know deep in my bones is that if you’ve done the same thing for 50 years and nothing has changed, you should try something different if you want a different outcome.

And this gives us an opportunity for a different outcome, because suddenly Cuba is open to the world in ways that it has not been before.  It’s open to Americans traveling there in ways that it hasn’t been before.  It’s open to church groups visiting their fellow believers inside of Cuba in ways they haven’t been before.  It offers the prospect of telecommunications and the Internet being more widely available in Cuba in ways that it hasn’t been before.

And over time, that chips away at this hermetically sealed society, and I believe offers the best prospect then of leading to greater freedom, greater self-determination on the part of the Cuban people.

I think it will happen in fits and starts.  But through engagement, we have a better chance of bringing about change then we would have otherwise.

Q    Do you have a goal for where you see Cuba being at the end of your presidency?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think it would be unrealistic for me to map out exactly where Cuba will be.  But change is going to come to Cuba.  It has to.  They’ve got an economy that doesn’t work.  They’ve been reliant for years first on subsidies from the Soviet Union, then on subsidies from Venezuela.  Those can’t be sustained.  And the more the Cuban people see what’s possible, the more interested they are going to be in change.

But how societies change is country-specific, it’s culturally specific.  It could happen fast; it could happen slower than I’d like; but it’s going to happen.  And I think this change in policy is going to advance that.

Lesley Clark.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I had a number of questions on Cuba as well.  Appreciate that.  I wanted to —

THE PRESIDENT:  Do I have to write all these down?  How many are there?  (Laughter.)  “A number” sounded intimidating.

Q    As quick as I can.  As quick as I can.  I wanted to see if you got an assurances from the Cuban government that it would not revert to the same sort of — sabotage the deal, as it has in the past when past Presidents had made similar overtures to the government.

THE PRESIDENT:  Meaning?  Be specific.  What do you mean?

Q    When the Clinton administration made some overtures, they shot down planes.  They sort of had this pattern of doing provocative — provocative events.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay, so just general provocative activity.

Q    Provocative activities any time the U.S. has sort of reached out a hand to them.  I wanted to see what is your knowledge of whether Fidel Castro — did he have any role in the talks?  When you talked to President Raul Castro, did Fidel Castro’s name come up?  Or did you ask about him?  How he’s doing?  People haven’t seen him in a while.  Given the deep opposition from some Republicans in Congress to lifting the embargo, to an embassy, to any of the changes that you’re doing, are you going to personally get involved in terms of talking to them about efforts that they want to do to block money on a new embassy?

THE PRESIDENT:  All right, Lesley, I think I’m going to cut you off here.  (Laughter.)  This is taking up a lot of time.

Q    Okay, all right.

THE PRESIDENT:  All right.  So, with respect to sabotage, I mean, my understanding of the history, for example, of the plane being shot down, it’s not clear that that was the Cuban government purposely trying to undermine overtures by the Clinton administration.  It was a tragic circumstance that ended up collapsing talks that had begun to take place.  I haven’t seen a historical record that suggests that they shot the plane down specifically in order to undermine overtures by the Clinton government.

I think it is not precedented for the President of the United States and the President of Cuba to make an announcement at the same time that they are moving towards normalizing relations.  So there hasn’t been anything like this in the past. That doesn’t meant that over the next two years we can anticipate them taking certain actions that we may end up finding deeply troubling either inside of Cuba or with respect to their foreign policy.  And that could put significant strains on the relationship.  But that’s true of a lot of countries out there where we have an embassy.  And the whole point of normalizing relations is that it gives us a greater opportunity to have influence with that government than not.

So I would be surprised if the Cuban government purposely tries to undermine what is now effectively its own policy.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they take at any given time actions that we think are a problem.  And we will be in a position to respond to whatever actions they take the same way we do with a whole range of countries around the world when they do things we think are wrong.  But the point is, is that we will be in a better position I think to actually have some influence, and there may be carrots as well as sticks that we can then apply.

The only way that Fidel’s name came up — I think I may have mentioned this in the Davie Muir article — interview that I did — was I delivered a fairly lengthy statement at the front end about how we’re looking forward to a new future in the relationship between our two countries, but that we are going to continue to press on issues of democracy and human rights, which we think are important.

My opening remarks probably took about 15 minutes, which on the phone is a pretty long time.  And at the end of that, he said, Mr. President, you’re still a young man.  Perhaps you have the — at the end of my remarks I apologized for taking such a long time, but I wanted to make sure that before we engaged in the conversation he was very clear about where I stood.  He said, oh, don’t worry about it, Mr. President, you’re still a young man and you have still the chance to break Fidel’s record — he once spoke seven hours straight.  (Laughter.)

And then, President Castro proceeded to deliver his own preliminary remarks that last at least twice as long as mine.  (Laughter.)  And then I was able to say, obviously it runs in the family.  But that was the only discussion of Fidel Castro that we had.

I sort of forgot all the other questions.  (Laughter.)

Q    I have a few more if you’re — how personally involved are you going to get in —

THE PRESIDENT:  With respect to Congress?  We cannot unilaterally bring down the embargo.  That’s codified in the Libertad Act.  And what I do think is going to happen, though, is there’s going to be a process where Congress digests it.  There are bipartisan supporters of our new approach, there are bipartisan detractors of this new approach.  People will see how the actions we take unfold.  And I think there’s going to be a healthy debate inside of Congress.

And I will certainly weigh in.  I think that ultimately we need to go ahead and pull down the embargo, which I think has been self-defeating in advancing the aims that we’re interested in.  But I don’t anticipate that that happens right away.  I think people are going to want to see how does this move forward before there’s any serious debate about whether or not we would make major shifts in the embargo.

Roberta Rampton.

Q    I want to follow on that by asking, under what conditions would you meet with President Castro in Havana?  Would you have certain preconditions that you would want to see met before doing that?  And on the hack, I know that you said that you’re not going to announce your response, but can you say whether you’re considering additional economic or financial sanctions on North Korea?  Can you rule out the use of military force or some kind of cyber hit of your own?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think I’m going to leave it where I left it, which is we just confirmed that it was North Korea; we have been working up a range of options.  They will be presented to me.  I will make a decision on those based on what I believe is proportional and appropriate to the nature of this crime.

With respect to Cuba, we’re not at a stage here where me visiting Cuba or President Castro coming to the United States is in the cards.  I don’t know how this relationship will develop over the next several years.  I’m a fairly young man so I imagine that at some point in my life I will have the opportunity to visit Cuba and enjoy interacting with the Cuban people.  But there’s nothing specific where we’re trying to target some sort of visit on my part.

Colleen McCain Nelson.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  There you are.

Q    You spoke earlier about 2014 being a breakthrough year, and you ended the year with executive actions on Cuba and immigration and climate change.  But you didn’t make much progress this year on your legislative agenda.  And some Republican lawmakers have said they’re less inclined to work with you if you pursue executive actions so aggressively.  Are you going to continue to pursue executive actions if that creates more roadblocks for your legislative agenda?  Or have you concluded that it’s not possible to break the fever in Washington and the partisan gridlock here?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think there are real opportunities to get things done in Congress.  As I said before, I take Speaker Boehner and Mitch McConnell at their words that they want to get things done.  I think the American people would like to see us get some things done.  The question is going to be are we able to separate out those areas where we disagree and those areas where we agree.  I think there are going to be some tough fights on areas where we disagree.

If Republicans seek to take health care away from people who just got it, they will meet stiff resistance from me.  If they try to water down consumer protections that we put in place in the aftermath of the financial crisis, I will say no.  And I’m confident that I’ll be able to uphold vetoes of those types of provisions.  But on increasing American exports, on simplifying our tax system, on rebuilding our infrastructure, my hope is that we can get some things done.

I’ve never been persuaded by this argument that if it weren’t for the executive actions they would have been more productive.  There’s no evidence of that.  So I intend to continue to do what I’ve been doing, which is where I see a big problem and the opportunity to help the American people, and it is within my lawful authority to provide that help, I’m going to do it.  And I will then, side-by-side, reach out to members of Congress, reach out to Republicans, and say, let’s work together; I’d rather do it with you.

Immigration is the classic example.  I was really happy when the Senate passed a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration bill.  And I did everything I could for a year and a half to provide Republicans the space to act, and showed not only great patience, but flexibility, saying to them, look, if there are specific changes you’d like to see, we’re willing to compromise, we’re willing to be patient, we’re willing to work with you.  Ultimately it wasn’t forthcoming.

And so the question is going to be I think if executive actions on areas like minimum wage, or equal pay, or having a more sensible immigration system are important to Republicans, if they care about those issues, and the executive actions are bothering them, there is a very simple solution, and that is:  Pass bills.  And work with me to make sure I’m willing to sign those bills.

Because both sides are going to have to compromise.  On most issues, in order for their initiatives to become law, I’m going to have sign off.  And that means they have to take into account the issues that I care about, just as I’m going to have to take into account the issues that they care about.

All right.  I think this is going to be our last question.  Juliet Eilperin.  There you go.

Q    Thanks so much.  So one of the first bills that Mitch McConnell said he will send to you is one that would authorize the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.  When you talked about this in the past, you’ve minimized the benefits and you highlighted some of the risks associated with that project.  I’m wondering if you could tell us both what you would do when faced with that bill, given the Republican majority that we’ll have in both chambers.  And also, what do you see as the benefits?  And given the precipitous drop we’ve seen in oil prices recently, does that change the calculus in terms of how it will contribute to climate change, and whether you think it makes sense to go ahead with that project?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I don’t think I’ve minimized the benefits, I think I’ve described the benefits.  At issue in Keystone is not American oil.  It is Canadian oil that is drawn out of tar sands in Canada.  That oil currently is being shipped out through rail or trucks, and it would save Canadian oil companies and the Canadian oil industry an enormous amount of money if they could simply pipe it all the way through the United States down to the Gulf.  Once that oil gets to the Gulf, it is then entering into the world market, and it would be sold all around the world.

So there’s no — I won’t say “no” — there is very little impact, nominal impact, on U.S. gas prices — what the average American consumer cares about — by having this pipeline come through.  And sometimes the way this gets sold is, let’s get this oil and it’s going to come here.  And the implication is, is that’s going to lower gas prices here in the United States.  It’s not.  There’s a global oil market.  It’s very good for Canadian oil companies and it’s good for the Canadian oil industry, but it’s not going to be a huge benefit to U.S. consumers.  It’s not even going to be a nominal benefit to U.S. consumers.

Now, the construction of the pipeline itself will create probably a couple thousand jobs.  Those are temporary jobs until the construction actually happens.  There’s probably some additional jobs that can be created in the refining process down in the Gulf.  Those aren’t completely insignificant — it’s just like any other project.  But when you consider what we could be doing if we were rebuilding our roads and bridges around the country — something that Congress could authorize — we could probably create hundreds of thousands of jobs, or a million jobs. So if that’s the argument, there are a lot more direct ways to create well-paying Americans construction jobs.

And then, with respect to the cost, all I’ve said is that I want to make sure that if, in fact, this project goes forward, that it’s not adding to the problem of climate change, which I think is very serious and does impose serious costs on the American people — some of them long term, but significant costs nonetheless.  If we’ve got more flooding, more wildfires, more drought, there are direct economic impacts on that.

And as we’re now rebuilding after Sandy, for example, we’re having to consider how do we increase preparedness in how we structure infrastructure and housing, and so forth, along the Jersey Shore.  That’s an example of the kind of costs that are imposed, and you can put a dollar figure on it.

So, in terms of process, you’ve got a Nebraska judge that’s still determining whether or not the new path for this pipeline is appropriate.  Once that is resolved, then the State Department will have all the information it needs to make its decision.

But I’ve just tried to give this perspective, because I think that there’s been this tendency to really hype this thing as some magic formula to what ails the U.S. economy, and it’s hard to see on paper where exactly they’re getting that information from.

In terms of oil prices and how it impacts the decision, I think that it won’t have a significant impact except perhaps in the minds of folks — when gas prices are lower, maybe they’re less susceptible to the argument that this is the answer to lowering gas prices.  But it was never going to be the answer to lowering gas prices, because the oil that would be piped through the Keystone pipeline would go into the world market.  And that’s what determines oil prices, ultimately.

Q    And in terms of Congress forcing your hand on this, is this something where you clearly say you’re not going to let Congress force your hand on whether to approve or disapprove of this?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’ll see what they do.  We’ll take that up in the New Year.

Q    Any New Year’s resolutions?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’ll ask — April, go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Last question, I guess.  (Laughter.)  Six years ago this month, I asked you what was the state of black America in the Oval Office, and you said it was the “the best of times and the worst of times.”  You said it was the best of times in the sense that there was — has never been more opportunity for African Americans to receive a good education, and the worst of times for unemployment and the lack of opportunity.  We’re ending 2014.  What is the state of black America as we talk about those issues as well as racial issues in this country?

THE PRESIDENT:  Like the rest of America, black America in the aggregate is better off now than it was when I came into office.  The jobs that have been created, the people who’ve gotten health insurance, the housing equity that’s been recovered, the 401 pensions that have been recovered — a lot of those folks are African American.  They’re better off than they were.

The gap between income and wealth of white and black America persists.  And we’ve got more work to do on that front.  I’ve been consistent in saying that this is a legacy of a troubled racial past of Jim Crow and slavery.  That’s not an excuse for black folks.  And I think the overwhelming majority of black people understand it’s not an excuse.  They’re working hard. They’re out there hustling and trying to get an education, trying to send their kids to college.  But they’re starting behind, oftentimes, in the race.

And what’s true for all Americans is we should be willing to provide people a hand up — not a handout, but help folks get that good early childhood education, help them graduate from high school, help them afford college.  If they do, they’re going to be able to succeed, and that’s going to be good for all of us.

And we’ve seen some progress.  The education reforms that we’ve initiated are showing measurable results.  We have the highest high school graduation that we’ve seen in a very long time.  We are seeing record numbers of young people attending college.  In many states that have initiated reforms, you’re seeing progress in math scores and reading scores for African American and Latino students as well as the broader population.  But we’ve still got more work to go.

Now, obviously, how we’re thinking about race relations right now has been colored by Ferguson, the Garner case in New York, a growing awareness in the broader population of what I think many communities of color have understood for some time, and that is that there are specific instances at least where law enforcement doesn’t feel as if it’s being applied in a colorblind fashion.

The task force that I formed is supposed to report back to me in 90 days — not with a bunch of abstract musings about race relations, but some really concrete, practical things that police departments and law enforcement agencies can begin implementing right now to rebuild trust between communities of color and the police department.

And my intention is to, as soon as I get those recommendations, to start implementing them.  Some of them we’ll be able to do through executive action.  Some of them will require congressional action.  Some of them will require action on the part of states and local jurisdictions.

But I actually think it’s been a healthy conversation that we’ve had.  These are not new phenomenon.  The fact that they’re now surfacing, in part because people are able to film what have just been, in the past, stories passed on around a kitchen table, allows people to make their own assessments and evaluations.  And you’re not going to solve a problem if it’s not being talked about.

In the meantime, we’ve been moving forward on criminal justice reform issues more broadly.  One of the things I didn’t talk about in my opening statement is the fact that last year was the first time in 40 years where we had the federal prison population go down and the crime rate go down at the same time, which indicates the degree to which it’s possible for us to think smarter about who we’re incarcerating, how long we’re incarcerating, how are we dealing with nonviolent offenders, how are we dealing with drug offenses, diversion programs, drug courts.  We can do a better job of — and save money in the process by initiating some of these reforms.  And I’ve been really pleased to see that we’ve had Republicans and Democrats in Congress who are interested in these issues as well.

The one thing I will say — and this is going to be the last thing I say — is that one of the great things about this job is you get to know the American people.  I mean, you meet folks from every walk of life and every region of the country, and every race and every faith.  And what I don’t think is always captured in our political debates is the vast majority of people are just trying to do the right thing, and people are basically good and have good intentions.  Sometimes our institutions and our systems don’t work as well as they should.  Sometimes you’ve got a police department that has gotten into bad habits over a period of time and hasn’t maybe surfaced some hidden biases that we all carry around.  But if you offer practical solutions, I think people want to fix these problems.  It’s not — this isn’t a situation where people feel good seeing somebody choked and dying.  I think that troubles everybody.  So there’s an opportunity of all of us to come together and to take a practical approach to these problems.

And I guess that’s my general theme for the end of the year — which is we’ve gone through difficult times.  It is your job, press corps, to report on all the mistakes that are made and all the bad things that happen and the crises that look like they’re popping.  And I understand that.  But through persistent effort and faith in the American people, things get better.  The economy has gotten better.  Our ability to generate clean energy has gotten better.  We know more about how to educate our kids.  We solved problems.  Ebola is a real crisis; you get a mistake in the first case because it’s not something that’s been seen before — we fix it.  You have some unaccompanied children who spike at a border, and it may not get fixed in the time frame of the news cycle, but it gets fixed.

And part of what I hope as we reflect on the New Year this should generate is some confidence.  America knows how to solve problems.  And when we work together, we can’t be stopped.

And now I’m going to go on vacation.  Mele Kalikimaka, everybody.  (Laughter.)  Mahalo.  Thank you, everybody.

2:45 P.M. EST

Political Musings December 13, 2014: Senate passes $1.1 trillion spending bill after Ted Cruz forced Saturday session




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