Political Musings March 28, 2014: Senate unemployment benefits extension bill passes 65-34 ending filibuster





Senate unemployment benefits extension bill passes 65-34 ending filibuster

By Bonnie K. Goodman

With a bipartisan vote of 65 for and 34 against, the Senate voted on Thursday afternoon, March 27, 2014 to pass a cloture vote and end the filibuster moving the unemployment benefits extension bill forward towards a full senate vote…READ MORE

Political Musings March 25, 2014: Speaker Boehner opposes Senate long-term jobless unemployment benefits extension





Speaker Boehner opposes Senate long-term jobless unemployment benefits extension

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner, R-OH opposes the Senate bipartisan deal to extend unemployment for the long-term jobless. Boehner made the announcement at his Tuesday morning press conference on March 25, 2014 in the Capitol…READ MORE

Political Musings March 23, 2014: Obama pushes equal pay for women and raising the minimum wage in weekly address





Political Musings March 22, 2014: Obama promotes economic opportunity for women urges equal pay for equal work





Believing something needs to be done to ensure equal pay for equal work, President Barack Obama promoted on Thursday, March 20, 2014 women’s economic problems and “a women’s economic agenda that grows our economy for…Continue

Political Musings March 13, 2014: Senate finally reaches bipartisan deal to extend unemployment benefits until May





The Senate finally agreed on bipartisan deal on Thursday afternoon, March 13, 2014 that would extend unemployment benefits for two million long-term jobless that lost benefits at the end of last year. The deal will extend the benefits retroactively…READ MORE

Political Musings March 6, 2014: Selling minimum wage raise, Obama pushes Congress with governors in Connecticut





Part of a campaign push towards the midterm elections in November President Barack Obama on Wednesday, March 5, 2014 urged Congress to raise the minimum raise alongside governors from New England states at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency March 5, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech Urging Congress to Raise the Minimum Wage with New England Governors in Connecticut



President Obama: It’s Time to Give America a Raise

Source: WH, 3-5-14
President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the minimum wage, at Central Connecticut State UniversityPresident Barack Obama delivers remarks on the minimum wage, at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, Connecticut, March 5, 2014. The President is joined by Gov. Dannel Malloy of Connecticut; Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, Gov. Peter Shumlin of Vermont, Gov. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, and Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Today, President Obama travelled to Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, Connecticut to speak about the importance of raising the minimum wage….READ MORE

Remarks by the President on Opportunity For All: Making Work Pay and the Minimum Wage

Source: WH, 3-5-14

Central Connecticut State University
New Britain, Connecticut

2:20 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Connecticut!  (Applause.)  Go Blue Devils!  (Applause.)  It is good to be back in Connecticut.  (Applause.)  I want to thank your wonderful Governor, Dan Malloy, for that introduction.  (Applause.)  I want to thank your President, Jack Miller, for inviting me here today.  (Applause.)

We’ve got members of your student government behind me.  (Applause.)  I couldn’t help but notice your Student Government Association logo, which has a gavel –- and a pitchfork, which is pretty intense.  (Laughter.)  And I wish some folks in Congress used the gavel more.  (Laughter.)  Less pitchfork.  (Laughter.)

We also have some members of your non-student government.  One of our finest members of our Cabinet, who just cares so much about working families and is working tirelessly every single day, Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez, is here.  (Applause.)  We’ve got all five of Connecticut’s representatives in Congress — including CCSU alum John Larson, in the house.  (Applause.)  Another proud CCSU alum, Erin Stewart, your mayor, is here.  (Applause.)  Along with Mayor Segarra and the other mayors and legislators from all across Connecticut.

And today, we’re doing something a little different than usual.  Usually, when I hit the road and talk with folks like all of you, I’ve got a governor with me.  But you are special.  (Applause.)  So we decided one governor wasn’t enough.  (Laughter.)  So in addition to Governor Malloy, we’ve got Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, Peter Shumlin of Vermont.  (Applause.)  This is like a governor supergroup.  (Laughter.)  It’s like the Justice League of governors.  (Laughter.)  I’d call them the New England Patriots, but that name is already taken.  (Laughter.)

STUDENT:  We love you, Mr. President!

THE PRESIDENT:  I love you back!  I love you.  (Applause.)  But we can’t just spend the whole day talking about how we love each other.  (Laughter.)  That’s not why I came.  We are here today — we’re here today because each of us cares deeply about creating new jobs and new opportunities for all Americans.  And we’re at this interesting moment in our economy — our economy has been growing, our businesses have created about eight and a half million new jobs over the past four years.  The unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in over five years.  (Applause.)  Those are all things that we should be proud of.

But there are some trends out there that have been battering the middle class for a long, long time — well before this Great Recession hit.  And in some ways, some of those trends have gotten worse, not better.  The nature of today’s economy with technology and globalization means that there are folks at the top who are doing better than ever, but average wages have barely budged.  Average incomes have not gone up.  Too many Americans are working harder than ever just to keep up.

So as I said at my State of the Union address, we’ve got to reverse those trends.  It is a central task for all of us to build an economy that works for everybody, not just for some.  (Applause.)  That’s what every one of these governors and Tom Perez believes in — that’s what we got into public service for.  I hope Dan and Peter don’t mind me sharing this — while we were driving over here, they were talking about the fact that when they were growing up, both of them had dyslexia.  And because of the incredible fierce love of their parents but also because there were some folks there to help them, they achieved — made these extraordinary achievements.  Now, I wasn’t in the car with Deval, but Deval is a close friend of mine.  He’s got a similar story — grew up on the South Side of Chicago.  (Audience member cheers.) South Side! (Laughter and applause.)  And came from a very modest background.  But somebody gave him a chance.  (Applause.)  Me, Tom Perez — so many of us understand that at the heart of America, the central premise of this country is the chance to achieve your dreams if you work hard, if you take responsibility; that it doesn’t matter where you start — it’s where you finish.  (Applause.)

And in America, we believe in opportunity for all.  We believe that our success shouldn’t be determined by the circumstances of our birth.  It’s determined by each of us.  But also by a society that’s committed to everybody succeeding.  So that it doesn’t matter what you look like, where you come from, what your last name is, who you love — what matters is the strength of your work ethic; and the power of your dreams; and your willingness to take responsibility for yourself but also for the larger society.  That’s what makes America the place that it is, why it continues to be a beacon, attracting people from all around the world, the idea that you can make it here if you try.

Now, there’s been a lot of news about foreign affairs around the world over the last several days, but also for the last couple years.  And one of the things that you see, a trend you see — it doesn’t matter whether it’s in Central Europe or in the Middle East or Africa — individuals want a chance to make it if they try.  And what makes us special is we already do that when we’re at our best.  But we’ve got some work to do to match up our ideals with the reality that’s happening on the ground right now.

And the opportunity agenda that I’ve laid out is designed to help us restore that idea of opportunity for everybody for this generation, the generation of young people who are studying here and are about to enter the workforce.  And it’s got four parts.  Part one is something that I know the seniors here are very interested in, which is more good jobs that pay good wages.  (Applause.)

We can’t be satisfied with just recovering the jobs that were lost during the recession.  We’ve got to rebuild our economy so it’s creating a steady supply of good jobs today and well into the future -– jobs in high-tech manufacturing, and in energy, and in exports, and in American innovation.  So that’s job number one.

Job number two is training more Americans with the skills they need to fill those good jobs, so that our workforce is prepared for the jobs of tomorrow.

Part three:  guaranteeing every young person in this country access to a world-class education -– from pre-K all the way to a college education like the one you’re getting here.  (Applause.)

And that’s why over the past five years, working with the outstanding congressional delegation from Connecticut, we’ve been able to make sure that grant dollars are going farther than before.  We took on a student loan system that gave billions of taxpayer dollars to the big banks, and we said let’s use those to give more students directly the help they need to afford to go to college.  (Applause.)

That’s why — that’s why we’re offering millions of young people the chance to cap their monthly student loan payments at 10 percent of their income.  So you need to check that out.  (Laughter.)  Go to the website of the Department of Education and find out how you may be eligible for that.

And today, more young people are earning college degrees than ever before.  (Applause.)  Of course — and I know your president won’t disagree with this — we’ve also got to do more to rein in the soaring cost of college and help more Americans who are trapped by student loan debt.  (Applause.)

The bottom line though is whether it’s technical training, community college, or four-year university, no young person should be priced out of a higher education.  Shouldn’t happen. (Applause.)

Now, there is a fourth part of this agenda.  By the way, I just noticed, if you’ve got chairs, feel free to sit down.  (Laughter.)  I know the folks here don’t have chairs, but I don’t want you — and if you’re standing up, make sure to bend your knees so you don’t faint.  (Laughter.)  All right, I just wanted to check on you.  (Laughter and applause.)

Now, point number four, the fourth component of this opportunity agenda is making sure that if you are working hard — if you’re working hard, then you get ahead.  And that means making sure women receive equal pay for equal work.  (Applause.)  When women succeed, America succeeds.  (Applause.)  I believe that.  You happy with that, Rosa?  Rosa agrees with that.  (Laughter.)

It means making sure that you can save and retire with dignity.  It means health insurance that’s there when you’re sick and you need it most.  (Applause.)  And you guys are doing a great job implementing the Affordable Care Act here in Connecticut.  If any of you know a young person who is uninsured, help them get covered at healthcare.gov.  The website works just fine now.  (Laughter.)  They’ve got until March 31st to sign up, and in some cases it’s going to cost less than your cellphone bill.  So check it out, healthcare.gov.

And making work pay means wages and paychecks that let you support a family.  (Applause.)  A wage, a paycheck that lets you support a family.  (Applause.)

Now, I want to be clear about this because sometimes in our debates with our friends on the other side of the political spectrum, this may not be clear, so let me just repeat it once again, as Americans, we understand that some folks are going to earn more than others.  We don’t resent success; we are thrilled with the opportunities that America affords.  Somebody goes out there, starts a business, invents a new product, provides a new service, that’s what drives our economy.  That’s why this free-market economy is the most dynamic on Earth.  We’re thrilled with that.  Everybody agrees on that.  But what we also believe is that nobody who works full-time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.  (Applause.)  That violates a basic sense of who we are.  And that’s why it’s time to give America a raise.   (Applause.)  It is time to give America a raise.  Now is the time.  Now is the time.  (Applause.)

A year ago I asked Congress to raise the minimum wage, the federal minimum wage.  Since that time six states have passed laws to raise theirs, including right here in Connecticut.  (Applause.)

On January 1st, tens of thousands of folks across this state got a raise –- and Governor Malloy is working to lift their wages even higher.  (Applause.)  Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Washington State, other states, counties, cities across the country are working to raise their minimum wage as we speak.

The governors here today –- Governor Chafee of Rhode Island;, Governor Malloy; Governor Patrick of Massachusetts; Governor Shumlin of Vermont; and a Governor who couldn’t be here today, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire –- all are fighting to give hardworking folks in these great New England states a raise of their own.  And they’ve formed a regional coalition to raise the minimum wage.  If they succeed in their efforts, New England will have some of the highest minimum wages in the country.  (Applause.)

And they’re not stopping there -– these four governors are here in support of raising America’s minimum wage, the federal minimum wage, to $10.10 an hour — $10.10 an hour.  (Applause.)

Now, raising wages is not just a job for elected officials.  In my State of the Union address, I asked more business leaders to do what they can to raise their workers’ wages -– because profitable companies like Costco have long seen higher wages as good business.  It’s a smart way to boost productivity, to reduce turnover, to instill loyalty in your employees.  And, by the way, they do great.  Their stocks do great.  They are highly profitable.  It’s not bad business to do right by your workers, it’s good business.  (Applause.)  It’s good business.  (Applause.)

Two weeks ago, the Gap decided to raise its base wages, and that’s going to boost wages for 65,000 workers in the United States.  (Applause.)  Last week, I read about Jaxson’s, it’s an ice cream parlor in Florida that’s been in business since 1956.  They just announced they would lift workers’ wages to at least $10.10 an hour, without cutting back on hiring.  (Applause.)  Two weeks ago, an Atlanta small business owner named Darien Southerland wrote me to share a lesson his Granny taught him:  If you treat your employees right, they’ll treat you right.  (Applause.)  Vice President Biden paid Darien’s business a visit just yesterday.  You got to listen to your grandmother.  (Laughter.)  That is some wise advice.

And I agree with these business leaders as well.  So what I did as President, I issued an executive order requiring federal contractors — if you’re doing business with the federal government — pay your employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour, which will be good for America’s bottom line.  (Applause.)

And let me tell you who was affected.  When I was signing the bill, or the executive order, we had some of the workers who were going to be affected.  You’ve got folks who are cooking the meals of our troops, or washing their dishes, or cleaning their clothes.  This country should pay those folks a wage you can live on.  (Applause.)

So this is good for business, it is good for America.  Because even though we’re bringing manufacturing jobs back to the United States, creating more good jobs in education and health care and business services, there will always be airport workers, there are always going to be fast-food workers, there are always going to be hospital workers, there are going to be retail salespeople, hospitality workers — people who work their tails off every day.  (Applause.)  People working in nursing homes, looking after your grandparents or your parents.  (Applause.)  Folks who are doing all the hard jobs that make our society work every single day.  They don’t have anything flashy out there.  And you know what, they’re not expecting to get rich, but they do feel like if they’re putting in back-breaking work every day, then at least at the end of the month they can pay their bills.  (Applause.)  They deserve an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work.

Working Americans have struggled through stagnant wages for too long, so my goal is — and the goal of everybody on this stage — is to help lift wages, help lift take-home pay in any way I can.  And that’s why I’ve done everything I can to lift wages for hardworking federal contractors, it’s why I’ve asked business owners to raise their wages, it’s why I’m supporting elected officials at the local level, governors.  What every American wants is a paycheck that lets them support their families, know a little economic security, pass down some hope and optimism to their kids.  And that’s worth fighting for.  (Applause.)

But I want to make one last point.  If we’re going to finish the job, Congress has to get on board.  (Applause.)  Congress has to get on board.  And this is interesting — this should not be that hard, you’d think.  (Laughter.)  Because nearly three in four Americans, about half of all Republicans, support raising the minimum wage.  The problem is, Republicans in Congress oppose raising the minimum wage — now I don’t know if that’s just because I proposed it.  (Laughter.)  Maybe I should say I oppose raising the minimum wage and they’d be for it, that’s possible.  (Laughter.)

But right now, there’s a bill in front of both the House and the Senate that would boost America’s minimum wage to $10.10.  It’s easy to remember — $10.10 — ten dollars, ten cents an hour.  Just passing this bill would help not only minimum wage workers; it would lift wages for about 200,000 people just right here in Connecticut.  (Applause.)  It would lift wages for about one million New Englanders.  (Applause.)  It would lift wages for nearly 28 million Americans across this country.  (Applause.)  It would immediately raise millions of people out of poverty.  It would help millions more work their way out of poverty, and it doesn’t require new taxes, doesn’t require new spending, doesn’t require some new bureaucracy.  And here’s one last point.  It turns out — what happens if workers got a little more money in their pockets?

AUDIENCE:  They spend it!

THE PRESIDENT:  They spend a little more money, which means that suddenly businesses have more customers, which means they make more profits, which means they can hire more workers, which means you get a virtuous cycle –

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  It’s common sense!

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s common sense — that’s what I’m trying to say.  (Laughter and applause.)  Common sense, exactly.  It’s just common sense — that’s all it is.  It’s common sense.  (Applause.)  Common sense.  It’s just common sense.  (Applause.)  That’s all I’m saying.  (Laughter.)

Now, right now, Republicans in Congress don’t want to vote on raising the minimum wage.  Some have actually said they just want to scrap the minimum wage.  One of them said, “I think it’s outlived its usefulness…I’d vote to repeal the minimum wage.”  One of them said it’s never worked.  Some even said it only helps young people, as if that’s a bad thing.  I think we should want to help young people.  (Laughter and applause.)  I’d like to see them try putting themselves through college on a low wage work-study job.  (Applause.)  But actually — or I’d like to see them supporting a family, making less than $15,000 a year.

But here’s the truth about who it would help.  Most people who would get a raise if we raise the minimum wage are not teenagers on their first job — their average age is 35.  A majority of lower-wage jobs are held by women.  These Americans are workiong full-time, often supporting families, and if the minimum wage had kept pace with our economy’s productivity, they’d already be earning well over $10 an hour today.  Instead, it’s stuck at $7.25.  Every time Congress refuses to raise it, it loses value because the cost of living goes higher, minimum wage stays the same.  Right now, it’s worth 20 percent less than it was when Ronald Reagan took office.  And over the last year, since I asked Congress to do something and they didn’t do it, that was an equivalent of a $200 pay cut for the average minimum wage worker, because it didn’t keep pace with inflation.  That’s a month of groceries for the average minimum wage worker.  That’s two months’ worth of electricity.  This is not a small thing, this is a big deal.  It makes a big difference in the lives of a lot of families.  (Applause.)

So members of Congress have a choice to make, it is a clear choice:  Raise workers’ wages, grow our economy — or let wages stagnate further, give workers what amounts to another pay cut.

Fortunately, folks in Connecticut have really good delegations, so your senators and representatives are already on board.  (Applause.)  They’re all on board.  They’re fighting the good fight.  (Applause.)  But anybody who is watching at home, you deserve to know where your elected official stands.  So just ask them, “Do you support raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour?”  If they say yes, say, “thanks.”  (Laughter.)  “Great job.”  We need encouragement too, elected officials.  (Laughter.)  If they say no, you should be polite — (laughter) — but you should say, “why not?”  Ask them to reconsider.  Ask them to side with the majority of Americans.  Instead of saying no, for once, say yes.  It’s time for $10.10.  It’s time to give America a raise.  (Applause.)

I want to close by sharing a story of a guy named Doug Wade, who is here today.  Where’s Doug?  I’m going to embarrass Doug.  Stand up.  This is Doug, right here.  (Applause.)

Doug had a chance to meet Secretary Perez in Hartford last week.  Doug is the president of Wade’s Dairy down in Bridgeport.  (Applause.)  His great-grandfather, Frank — is that right?  Frank? — started the family business in 1893 — 1893.  One of the secrets to their success is that they treat their employees like part of the family.  So Doug pays his own workers fairly.

But he goes a step further than that — he writes editorials, he talks to fellow business leaders, he meets with elected officials to make the case for a higher minimum wage for everybody.  And keep in mind, Doug spent most of his life as a registered Republican.  This is not about politics.  This is about common sense.  (Applause.)  It’s about business sense.  (Applause.)  And Doug, we were talking backstage, Doug showed me a paystub because it describes his own story.  When he was flipping burgers back in 1970, his employer paid him the minimum wage — but it went 25 percent farther than it does today.   So Doug speaks from experience when he says that, “Things like the minimum wage raise the bar for everybody.”  And he’s still got that paycheck.  And it looks like the paycheck I got when I was working at Baskin-Robbins.  (Laughter and applause.)

The point that Doug and his family, and his business represents is we believe in hard work, we believe in responsibility, we believe in individual initiative, but we also come together to raise the bar for everybody; to make sure our fellow citizens can pursue their own dreams as well; that they can look after their kids and lift them up.  We look out for each other.  That’s who we are.  That is our story.  (Applause.)

There are millions of Americans like Doug, and like all of you, who are tired of old political arguments, ready to raise the bar a little higher.  Let’s move this country forward.  Let’s move it up.  Let’s go further.  That’s what I’m going to do as President as long as I have the honor of serving in this office, and I need your help.  Let’s go out there and give America a raise.

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

2:50 P.M. EST

Political Musings March 5, 2014: Obama unveils $4 trillion FY 2015 budget aimed at Democratic support, GOP anger





President Barack Obama is really working hard this week at making sure he holds the title of most unpopular, on Tuesday, March 4, 2014 he announced and released his budget for fiscal year 2015, which is angering Congressional Republicans, but…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency March 1, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address: Investing in Technology and Infrastructure to Create Jobs



Weekly Address: Investing in Technology and Infrastructure to Create Jobs

Source: WH, 3-1-14

WASHINGTON, DC — In his weekly address, President Obama said he took action this week to launch new manufacturing hubs and expand a competition to fund transformative infrastructure projects.  Both are policies aimed at expanding economic opportunity for all by creating jobs and ensuring the long-term strength of the American economy.  Congress can boost this effort by passing a bipartisan proposal to create a nationwide network of high-tech manufacturing hubs and taking steps to invest in our nation’s infrastructure — rebuilding our transportation system, creating new construction jobs, and better connecting Americans to economic opportunities.

Transcript | mp4 | mp3

Video Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
March 1, 2014

Hi everybody.  In my State of the Union Address, I said that the best measure of opportunity is access to a good job.  And after the worst recession of our lifetimes, our businesses have created eight and a half million new jobs in the last four years.

But we need to do more to make America a magnet for good jobs for the future.  And in this year of action, where Congress won’t do that, I will do whatever I can to expand opportunity for more Americans.  This week, I took two actions to attract new jobs to America – jobs in American manufacturing, and jobs rebuilding America’s infrastructure.

Here’s why this is important.  In the 2000s alone, we lost more than one-third of all American manufacturing jobs.  One in three.  And when the housing bubble burst, workers in the construction industry were hit harder than just about anybody.  The good news is, today, our manufacturers have added more than 620,000 jobs over the last four years – the first sustained growth in manufacturing jobs since the 1990s.

Still, the economy has changed.  If we want to attract more good manufacturing jobs to America, we’ve got to make sure we’re on the cutting edge of new manufacturing technologies and techniques.  And in today’s global economy, first-class jobs gravitate to first-class infrastructure.

That’s why, on Tuesday, I launched two new high-tech manufacturing hubs – places where businesses and universities will partner to turn groundbreaking research into real-world goods Made in America.  So far, we’ve launched four of these hubs, where our workers can master 3-D printing, energy-efficient electronics, lightweight metals, and digital manufacturing – all technologies that can help ensure a steady stream of good jobs well into the 21st century.

Then on Wednesday, I launched a new competition to build 21st century infrastructure – roads and bridges, mass transit, more efficient ports, and faster passenger rail.  Rebuilding America won’t just attract new businesses; it will create good construction jobs that can’t be shipped overseas.

Of course, Congress could make an even bigger difference in both areas.  Thanks to the leadership of a bipartisan group of lawmakers, there’s a bill in Congress right now that would create an entire network of high-tech manufacturing hubs all across the country.  And next week, I’ll send Congress a budget that will rebuild our transportation systems and support millions of jobs nationwide.

There’s a lot we can do if we work together.  And while Congress decides what it’s going to do, I’m going to keep doing everything in my power to rebuild an economy where everyone who works hard has the chance to get ahead – where we’re restoring our founding vision of opportunity for all.

Thanks, everybody, and have a great weekend.

Political Musings February 26, 2014: Obama and Boehner have rare and constructive White House meeting





Obama and Boehner have rare and constructive White House meeting

By Bonnie K. Goodman

There was a “rare” occurrence in Washington on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014 President Barack Obama and Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner, R-OH had an hour-long tête-à-tête in the White House…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency February 26, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech Unveils $300 Billion Plan for Upgrading Transportation Infrastructure



President Obama Lays Out New Plan for Upgrading Our Transportation Infrastructure

Source: WH, 2-26-17

President Barack Obama sits in the cab and talks with a worker during a tour of the Light Rail Maintenance Building in St. Paul, Minn., Feb. 26, 2014.

President Barack Obama sits in the cab and talks with a worker during a tour of the Light Rail Maintenance Building in St. Paul, Minn., Feb. 26, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

This afternoon, the President traveled to St. Paul, Minnesota to unveil a new plan to upgrade America’s transportation infrastructure and put people back to work….READ MORE

Remarks by the President on Jobs in American Infrastructure

Source: WH, 2-26-14

Watch the Video

President Obama Speaks on Investing in Infrastructure
February 26, 2014 6:54 PM

President Obama Speaks on Investing in Infrastructure

Union Depot
St. Paul, Minnesota

2:40 P.M. CST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, St. Paul!  (Applause.)  It is good to be back in Minnesota.  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you!

THE PRESIDENT:  I love you back.  That’s why I came here.  Good to see you.

Although, can I just say that when we got off the plane, Secretary Foxx, who is from North Carolina, turned to me and he said, this is the coldest I’ve ever been in my life.  (Laughter.)  Now, we were only out there for like a minute — (laughter) — which goes to show how soft these folks from North Carolina are when it comes to the weather.  (Laughter and applause).  I, on the other hand, am from Chicago — (applause) — I walked off those stairs and I was like, this is balmy, this is great.  (Laughter.)  February, in Minnesota — can’t beat it.  Cannot beat it.

Now, in addition to Secretary Foxx, who I want to — give him a big round of applause for that introduction.  (Applause.)  You’ve two champions for the people of Minnesota who are here today.  You’ve got Representative Betty McCollum — (applause)  — and Representative Keith Ellison.  (Applause.)  You’ve got your Mayor, Chris Coleman, in the house.  (Applause.)  The new Mayor of Minneapolis, Betsy Hodges, is here.  (Applause.)  And my great friend, who actually told me I was running for President before I knew I was running for President — R.T. Rybak.  Love that name.  (Applause.)  Where’s R.T.?

Now, I want to thank everybody who showed me around Union Depot and gave me a preview of this new light rail line.  It is fantastic.  (Applause.)  And I also just want to say — even though he’s not here today — I want to say to everybody how Michelle and I have been keeping in our thoughts and prayers one of the great Americans that we know, as well as a great Minnesotan — Walter Mondale.  (Applause.)

Now, like millions of Americans, I’ve spent some time with Minnesotans lately — because I was watching the Olympics.  (Laughter.)  Minnesota sent 19 athletes to the games.  (Applause.)   That’s tied for second most of any state, and they did us all proud.  It is not shocking that Minnesotans might be pretty good at the Winter Olympics.  (Laughter.)  What is particularly interesting is that, once again, the tiny town of Warroad proved that it really is Hockeytown, USA, thanks to T.J. Oshie and Gigi Marvin, who we’re just so proud of.  And T.J.’s shootout performance against the Russians I might say I enjoyed a lot.  (Applause.)  I tweeted at him about it.

So we’ve spent some time over the last few weeks on hockey, but I’m not here to talk about hockey.  By the way, I cannot play hockey.  (Laughter.)  I grew up in Hawaii — we do not have hockey in Hawaii.  But I’m here to talk about what you’re doing in the Twin Cities, and how you’re helping to create new jobs and new opportunities for every American.

We are at a moment when our economy is growing.  Our businesses have created about 8.5 million new jobs in the past four years.  Unemployment is at the lowest it’s been in over five years; in Minnesota, it’s lower than it’s been in six and a half years.  (Applause.)  And, by the way, you’ve got a great governor who I served with in the Senate, Mark Dayton, who is helping to make that happen.  (Applause.)

So in a lot of ways things are looking up.  But in some ways, the trends that had been battering middle-class families for a long time have gotten even starker, because those at the top are doing better than ever, while wages and incomes for a lot of families have barely budged.  And too many families are working harder than ever just to keep up.  So as I said at the State of the Union address a few weeks back, our job is to reverse those trends.  (Applause.)  We’ve got to build an economy that works for everybody.  We’ve got to restore opportunity for all people, so that no matter who you are, where you come from, what you look like, you can get ahead if you work hard and you’re responsible.

And so I laid out an opportunity agenda that has four parts.  Number one, good jobs that pay good wages in manufacturing, in energy, in innovation and infrastructure.  Number two, train folks with the skills they need to get those good jobs, something that your senator, Al Franken, is doing great work on every single day.  He cares a lot about that job training issue.  (Applause.)  Number three, guaranteeing every child has access to a world-class education.  (Applause.)  And, number four, making sure that hard work is rewarded with wages you can live on, and savings you can retire on, and health care you can count on.  That’s what we’re fighting for.  (Applause.)

Minnesota is helping to lead the way on these issues.  Your state legislature is poised to raise your minimum wage this year.  (Applause.)  In my State of the Union address, I called for a new women’s economic agenda.  It’s actually a family economic agenda — equal pay for equal work, paid sick leave and more.  And there are leaders in your state legislature that are working hard at this, because they know when women succeed, America succeeds.  (Applause.)

So on all these issues, we’re reaching out to members of Congress, looking to see if they’re willing to work with us on some of these priorities.  But what I also said at the State of the Union is, in this year of action, whenever I can partner directly with states or cities or business leaders or civic leaders to act on this opportunity agenda, I’m going to go ahead and do it.  We can’t wait.  We’ve got to move.  We’ve got to get things going.  Too many families are counting on it.  (Applause.)

So yesterday, I launched new hubs to attract 21st century manufacturing jobs to America.  And today, I’m here to launch a new competition for 21st century infrastructure and the jobs that come with it, because any opportunity agenda begins with creating more good jobs.  And one of the fastest and best ways to create good jobs is by rebuilding America’s infrastructure — our roads, our bridges, our rails, our ports, our airports, our schools, our power grids.  We’ve got a lot of work to do out there, and we’ve got to put folks to work.  (Applause.)

One of the most difficult things about the financial crisis we went through was the housing bubble bursting, and construction workers were hammered harder than just about anybody.  And while we’ve cut the unemployment rate for construction workers almost in half since 2010, too many are still looking for jobs at a time when we’ve got so much that we could put them to work on rebuilding.  We’ve got ports that aren’t ready for the next generation of supertankers.  We’ve got more than 100,000 bridges that are old enough to qualify for Medicare.  (Laughter.)

Everybody knows, and nobody knows better than Minnesotans, when we’ve gone through a winter like this, roads are wrecked, full of potholes all across the country.  (Applause.)

Now, other countries are not waiting to rebuild their infrastructure.  They’re trying to out-build us today so they can out-compete us tomorrow.  As a percentage of GDP, countries like China, Germany, they’re spending about twice what we’re spending in order to build infrastructure — because they know that if they have the fastest trains on the planet or the highest-rated airports or the busiest, most efficient ports that businesses will go there.

But we don’t want businesses to go there.  We want them to come here to Minnesota.  (Applause.)  We want them to come here to the United States of America.  And that means the best airports and the best roads and the best trains should be right here in America.

At a time when companies are saying they intend to hire more people this year, we need to make that decision easier for them.  And we can create jobs at the same time, rebuilding our transportation systems, our power grids, our communications networks — all the things that commerce relies on and that help get workers to those jobs.

So the bottom line is there’s work to be done, workers ready to do it.  Rebuilding our infrastructure is vital to business.  It creates good-paying jobs that, by the way, cannot be outsourced.  (Applause.)  This is one of Congress’s major responsibilities — helping states and cities fund new infrastructure projects.  (Applause.)

And part of the reason I’m focused on this is Congress has an important deadline coming up.  If Congress doesn’t finish a transportation bill by the end of the summer, we could see construction projects stop in their tracks, machines sitting idle, workers off the job.

So next week, I’m going to send Congress a budget that funds rebuilding our transportation infrastructure in a more responsible way — by doing it over four years, which gives cities and states and private investors the certainty they need to plan major projects.  Projects like repairing essential highways and bridges; building new transit systems in fast-growing cities and communities, so folks who live there can get to work and school every day and spend less time sitting in traffic.  (Applause.)  And we’re going to have to construct smarter, more resilient transportation systems that can withstand the worst impacts of climate change, like bigger surges of water that we’ve seen in recent floods.

So, all told, my transportation budget will support millions of jobs nationwide.  And we’ll pay for these investments in part by simplifying the tax code.  We’re going to close wasteful tax loopholes, lower tax rates for businesses that create jobs here at home, stop rewarding companies for sending jobs to other countries, use the money we save in this transition to create good jobs with good wages rebuilding America.  It makes sense.  (Applause.)

Now, I’ll be honest with you, there are leaders in both parties who are willing to reach across the aisle in Congress when it comes to American infrastructure.  They know how important it is.  And infrastructure didn’t use to be a partisan issue — shouldn’t be Democrat or Republican.  Everybody uses roads, everybody uses ports, airports.  Unfortunately, time and again over the past few years, there have been some Republicans in Congress who refused to act on common-sense proposals that will create jobs and grow our economy.  It’s not that they’re — I guess they don’t like roads; they just don’t want to pay for them.  It doesn’t work that way.  You’ve got to come up with a way to get these projects going.

So while Congress is deciding what it’s going to do next, I’m just going to go ahead and do what I can to create more good jobs.  And that’s why I came here to St. Paul.  (Applause.)

Because this project symbolizes what’s possible.  Union Depot was renovated and expanded with the help of what we call TIGER grants.  These are competitive grants that we created as part of the Recovery Act, also known as the stimulus, which actually worked despite what everybody claims.  (Applause.)  So the idea is, if a city or state comes up with a plan to modernize transportation infrastructure that will have a significant impact on economic activity, and if they line up other sources of funding to help pay for it, they can win a TIGER grant and the federal government becomes a partner with these local communities.

So far, these grants have given a boost to 270 infrastructure projects across all 50 states.  (Applause.)  And you heard Secretary Foxx talk about — these grants are helping cities like LA and states like North Carolina, and they helped you rebuild this depot into a hub that will bring different modes of transportation together under one roof instead of scattered across the city.  Amtrak is going to be here.  The new Metro Green Line will be here.  Bus lines will be here.  (Applause.)

And I just had a chance to take a look at some of those spiffy new trains.  (Laughter.)  They are nice.  And they’re energy efficient.  They’re going to be reliable.  You can get from one downtown to the other in a little over 30 minutes instead of when it’s snowing being in traffic for two hours.  (Applause.)   The trains were made in California, which meant folks were put to work here in the United States building them.  (Applause.)

And here’s the best part of it:  Not only have you made a more efficient transportation system, cutting down commutes, saving on gas, reducing carbon pollution, but this depot has helped to boost economic development in Lowertown St. Paul.  (Applause.)  Just across the street the old downtown post office building is becoming apartments and shops.  All told, more than 4,000 jobs were created for this project.  (Applause.)  And we’re seeing businesses crop up and new development crop up all along the line.

So everybody is winning.  And in part because of some flexibility that we showed during the planning process, the line is also going to stop in some poor neighborhoods that oftentimes have difficulty getting to the places where there are jobs.  (Applause.)  So it’s going to help folks who are willing to work hard, trying to get into the middle class, it helps them get access — helps people get access to opportunity that, up until this point, had a tough time.

So we know this works.  Today, we’re kicking off the next round of competition for TIGER grants.  Mayors and governors, city councils, state legislatures, all of you who are watching here today, if you’ve got a great idea for your city or your state, then let us know your plan.  If it will encourage economic activity and support local businesses, and help put people to work, then your country is interested in partnering with you.

And TIGER grants aren’t the only way that we can help cities like St. Paul and Minneapolis rebuild their infrastructure.  You’ve got — federal funding helped to build the Green Line; that’s going to make it easier than ever to travel between the two cities.  You’ve got more than 5,000 construction workers from all over Minnesota helping to build it.  Nearly 200 police officers, train operators and maintenance workers are being hired.  And that’s not counting all the jobs that are being created from the offices and the apartment buildings that are going to be built along the line.  Because the trains stopped at neighborhoods that have access to public transportation, those folks are going to work.  And all of this can be duplicated all across the country.

But unfortunately, funding for these projects are going to be in jeopardy unless Congress passes this new transportation bill.  So I want everybody to understand.  Now, the good news is Keith Ellison, Betty, they’re already onboard.  (Applause.) They know this needs to happen.  Al Franken, all over it.  Some Democrats and Republicans are already working together to make sure transportation doesn’t — funding doesn’t run out.  And we’re seeing some glimmers of hope, because this new round of TIGER grants was the result of bipartisan cooperation.  That’s what needs to happen when we work together.

But we’re going to need your voices telling a story around the country about why this is so important.  Roads and bridges should not be a partisan issue.  More Americans should have access to the kind of efficient, affordable transit you’re going to have with the Green Line.  (Applause.)  There’s no faster way or better way for Congress to create jobs right now and to grow our economy right now, and have a positive impact on our economy for decades than if we start more projects and finish more projects like this one.

Let’s create more good jobs, build smarter schools, better airports, faster railways, better broadband networks.  Let’s educate our kids and our workers better.  Let’s rebuild an economy where everybody who is willing to hard has a chance to get ahead.  (Applause.)

This is the beginning, not the end.  We’ve got a lot more rail we got to lay.  We’ve got a lot more roads we got to travel.  Let’s get going, Minnesota.

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

3:00 P.M. CST

Political Musings February 22, 2014: Obama continues push to raise minimum wage in weekly address, governors meeting





For the second week in a row President Barack Obama dedicated his weekly address released Saturday morning, Feb. 22, 2014 to raising the minimum wage, and urging Congress to pass legislation to that would lift the wage up from $7…Continue

Political Musings February 15, 2014: Obama revisits urging Congress to raise the minimum wage in his weekly address





Obama revisits urging Congress to raise the minimum wage in his weekly address

By Bonnie K. Goodman

For his weekly address released Saturday morning, Feb. 15, 2014 President Barack Obama revisited his executive order raising the minimum wage for federal contractors from $7.25 to $10.10 and urged Congress to complete his effort by universally raising…


Full Text Obama Presidency February 14, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech at House Democratic Issues Conference the Congressional Democrats Retreat on Economic Opportunity Program



Remarks by the President at House Democratic Issues Conference

Source: WH, 2-14-14 

Watch the Video

President Obama Speaks at the House Democratic Issues Conference
February 14, 2014 4:40 PM

President Obama Speaks at the House Democratic Issues Conference

Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay
Cambridge, Maryland

10:43 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Thank you, guys.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Everybody, have a seat.  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)  Well, it is good to see you.  Joe, thank you for the wonderful introduction.  Let me be the first to say, Happy Valentine’s Day to our fearless leader, Nancy Pelosi.  (Applause.)  Paul will hopefully get you more than just a thank-you.

To Steny, to Jim, Xavier, Steve Israel — who’s doing an extraordinary job under very difficult circumstances — (applause) — Debbie Wasserman Shultz, who is putting in more miles than just about anybody I know — (applause) — and all of you.  It’s great to see you.

We just saw each other at the White House fairly recently, so I’m not going to give a long speech here.  I want to spend most of my time answering some more questions.  But let me just make a couple observations since we saw each other.  First of all, I stated in our State of the Union that the single most important thing we have to do — not just as a party, but as a country — is make sure that there’s opportunity for every single person; that we are focused every single day in this town — or in Washington — on making sure that if you’re willing to work hard, if you’re willing to take responsibility, that you can get ahead.  It doesn’t matter where you live, what circumstances you were born into, what you look like, who you love, you should be able to make it here in America.

And as I said at the State of the Union, I want to work with Congress to make that happen, but I’m not going to wait, because there’s too much to do.  (Applause.)  And America does not believe in standing still.  America insists on moving forward.

We laid out some very specific ways that we can move the country forward, breaking them down into a few categories:  Number one, creating more good jobs that pay good wages.  Number two, making sure that folks are trained to fill those good jobs. Number three, making sure that our kids have the best education  in the world.  And number four, making sure that hard work pays off, that people aren’t poor if they’re working full-time, that they have some semblance of retirement security, that they can count on health care if, heaven forbid, something happens to them.

And already, just in the last couple of weeks, we’ve put forward a range of executive actions that are going to make a difference.  So, yesterday, for example, I had a chance to be with a group of minimum wage workers for federal contractors — these are folks who are washing dishes, or cleaning clothes on military bases or facilities — and sometimes the debates on Capitol Hill get so abstract, and to be next to folks — the average age, by the way, 35.  These aren’t teenagers, these are folks who are looking after families and trying to raise kids.  And to see what it would mean to them for us to have a federal minimum wage of $10.10 an hour, and how much relief that would give them, and how committed they were to the American Dream and getting ahead and just hoping that somebody was standing up for them — it reminded me of why I’m a Democrat.  (Applause.)  and it reminded me of why I’m so proud of this caucus, because you’re standing up on behalf of them.

And so we signed the executive order — these folks are going to get a raise.  And what I said yesterday is that now it’s time for Congress to act because America deserves a raise.  (Applause.)

I pointed out yesterday, as I pointed out at the State of the Union, that the majority of low-wage workers are women, which is why we’re going to keep on pushing to make sure that we have equal pay for equal work — (applause) — and we have sensible family policies.  Because as I said at the State of the Union, when women succeed America succeeds.  I still believe that.  (Applause.)

We’ve traveled to manufacturing plants up in Wisconsin to talk about how we can continue to accelerate advanced manufacturing and technology in this country.  And we’ve got some great possibilities to create hubs that keep us on the cutting-edge.  We’ve signed executive orders to advance the kind of job training that is going to help people train for the jobs that actually exist and link up businesses with our community colleges.

We’ve already through executive action set up a new retirement account, MyRA, that allows folks to get a starter retirement, because a whole lot of people don’t have 401(k)s to save.

Across the board, we’re moving.  But as I said at the State of the Union, and I want to repeat today, we can get a whole lot more done if we’ve got Congress working with us.  And this caucus has shown time and time again under the most difficult circumstances the kind of courage and unity and discipline that has made me very, very proud.

And I was just talking to Nancy before I came out here.  The fact that we are no longer going to see, I believe, anybody try to hold our government hostage and threaten the full faith and credit of the United States of America in order to contract policy concessions, the fact that we were able to pass a clean debt limit is just one example of why when you guys are unified, you guys stick together, this country is better off.  And I could not be more thankful and more appreciative and prouder of what you’re doing.  (Applause.)

Just a couple of more points.  Number one, you’ve seen reports over the last couple of days that we actually slightly exceeded our targets for ACA signups and enrollments this past month, in the month of January.  (Applause.)  We now have well over 3.5 million people who have signed up and are getting insurance through the marketplaces for the first time.  That does not count the close to 7 million folks who have signed up for Medicaid because of the law that you passed, or the 3 million young people who are staying on their parents’ plans.  We’re starting to see data already that the uninsured rate is coming down.  We are going to keep on pushing on this to make sure that here in America, everybody can enjoy the kind of financial security and peace of mind that good quality health insurance provides.  (Applause.)

And I just want to say thank you for all of you hanging in there tough on an issue that I think 10 years from now, five years from now, we’re going to look back and say this was a monumental achievement that could not have happened had it not been for this caucus.

And, finally, there are some big things that we have to do that I cannot do through executive action where we have to get Congress and where the American people are on our side.  A federal minimum wage law is one of them.  Another, though, is making sure that we’ve got a smart immigration policy in this country that grows our economy — (applause) — gets people out of the shadows, makes sure that our businesses are thriving.  That’s got to be a top priority.  We’re going to have to keep on working on that.

And I believe, frankly, that there are folks on the other side of the aisle who genuinely want to see this done, but they’re worried and they’re scared about the political blowback. And, look, everybody here is an elected official and we can all appreciate the maneuverings that take place, particularly in an election year.  But when it comes to immigration reform, we have to remind ourselves that there are people behind the statistics, that there are lives that are being impacted — that punting and putting things off for another year, another two years, another three years, it hurts people.  It hurts our economy.  It hurts families.

And part of what I’d like to think makes us Democrats is not simply some abstract ideological set of beliefs, but the fact that we’re reminded every single day that we’re here to help a whole bunch of folks out there — our neighbors, our friends, our communities — who are struggling still and need our help.  And they’re counting on us.  The good thing is they’ve got some outstanding members of Congress who are willing to fight for them regardless of the political cost, starting with your leader Nancy Pelosi.

I’m grateful for you.  And I’m looking forward to making sure that this year we keep on making progress even if we continue to get a little resistance from the other side.  The American people know that we could be breaking out if Washington gets its act together, and it’s important for us to lead that process.

Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

11:02 A.M. EST

Political Musings February 14, 2014: Obama and Congress have a Washington snow day





Obama and Congress have a Washington snow day

By Bonnie K. Goodman

As snow blanketed the Washington DC area on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014 Congress and the White House came almost to a standstill, cancelling most events, work, a traditional snow day. Over 10 inches of snow fell in the capitol region…


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