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…


Political Musings February 13, 2014: Obama signs executive order raises federal minimum wage urges Congress to follow





Obama signs executive order raises federal minimum wage urges Congress to follow

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Full Text Obama Presidency February 12, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks on Signing of Executive Order to Raise the Federal Contract Minimum Wage



The Economic Case for Raising the Minimum Wage

Source: WH, 2-12-14
President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the importance of raising the federal minimum wage for all workers

President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the importance of raising the federal minimum wage for all workers, during an event in the in the East Room of the White House, Feb. 12, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

In his 2014 State of the Union address, President Obama announced his intention to move forward using his own authority and raise the minimum wage for workers on new and replacement Federal service contracts to $10.10 an hour. As the President said, “If you cook our troops’ meals or wash their dishes, you shouldn’t have to live in poverty.” Today, the President will sign an Executive Order making this vision a reality….READ MORE


Remarks by the President on Signing of Executive Order

Source: WH, 2-12-14

East Room

2:18 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, welcome to the White House, everybody. I know you had to come here before you go buy some shovels and some salt.  (Laughter.)  It sounds like we may get a little snow. But I very much appreciate everybody being here.  I want to thank, first and foremost, the workers who are with me here this afternoon.  (Applause.)  And I want to thank two champions for all hardworking Americans:  We’ve got Secretary of Labor Tom Perez — (applause) — he’s in the house.  Where is Tom?  Right here.  Tom is right here.  (Applause.)  I didn’t know where he was.  And we’ve got an outstanding Congressman — who’s used to snow because he’s from Minnesota — Congressman Keith Ellison.  (Applause.)
Now, it’s been just over two weeks since I delivered my State of the Union address, and I said this year would be a year of action, and I meant it.  Over the past 14 days I’ve ordered an across-the-board reform of our job training programs to train folks with the skills that employers need, and then match them up with good jobs that are ready to be filled right now. 

I’ve directed the Treasury to create something we’re calling “MyRA” — sort of like an IRA, but it’s MyRA.  And that’s a new way for Americans to start saving for retirement.  And you can start with as little as $25, $50 and start building up a little bit of a nest egg and get tax benefits for doing it so. 

We’ve rallied the leaders of some of America’s biggest high-tech companies to help us make sure that all of our kids have access to high-speed Internet and up-to-date technology in their classroom so that they’re learning the skills that they need for the new economy.

We’ve brought together business leaders who are committed to hiring more unemployed Americans, particularly long-term unemployed who oftentimes are discriminated against.  They’re in a Catch-22 — they haven’t had a job for a while and then the employer is not willing to look at their resume because they haven’t had a job for a while. 

So the point is I’m eager to work with Congress whenever I can find opportunities to expand opportunity for more families.  But wherever I can act on my own, without Congress, by using my pen to take executive actions, or picking up the phone and rallying folks around a common cause, that’s what I’m going to do.  (Applause.)  

And so that brings me to the issue we’re going to talk about today.  After the worst economic crisis in generations, our economy has been growing for the past four years.  (Applause.)   And our businesses have created 8.5 million new jobs.  Unemployment rate has come down.  But while those at the top are doing better than ever, — corporate profits have been high, the stock market has been high — average wages have barely budged.  So you’ve got too many Americans who are working harder than ever before just to get by, but they can’t seem to get ahead, can’t seem to make all the ends meet. 

And that’s been true since long before the recession hit.  We’ve got to reverse those trends.  We’ve got to build an economy that works for everybody, not just the fortunate few.  And we’ve got to restore opportunity for everybody, so that no matter who you are, no matter how you started out, no matter what you look like, no matter what your last name is, you can get ahead in America if you’re willing to work hard and take responsibility for your life.  (Applause.)  Right? 

So the opportunity agenda I’ve laid out is going to help us do just that.  Part one of this agenda is more new jobs that pay a good wage — jobs in manufacturing, and exports, and energy, and innovation.  Part two:  We’ve got to train the folks with the skills to fill those jobs.  Part three:  We’ve got to make sure every child gets a world-class education.  And part four:  We’ve got to make sure that the economy rewards hard work for every American.

Making hard work pay off with economic security and decent wages and benefits is what we’re about here today.  It means making sure women earn equal pay for equal work.  (Applause.)   It means making sure workers have the chance to save for a dignified retirement.  (Applause.)  It means access to affordable health insurance that gives you the freedom to change jobs or be your own boss, and the peace of mind that it will be there for you when you get sick and you need it most.  (Applause.) 

So if you know anybody who doesn’t have health insurance right now — (laughter) — send them to healthcare.gov.  The website is working.  (Laughter.)  Sign them up.  You can get health care for less than your cellphone bill for a lot of folks.

But it also means that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, nobody who works full-time should have to live in poverty.  (Applause.)  Nobody.  Not here in America.  (Applause.)

Now, it was one year ago today — one year ago today — that I first asked Congress to raise the federal minimum wage — a federal minimum wage that in real terms is worth about 20 percent less than it was when Ronald Reagan took office — 20 percent less, a fifth less. 

So this afternoon, I’ve invited some of the folks who would see a raise if we raised that federal minimum wage.  They happened to join me here at the White House.  And like most workers in their situation, they’re not teenagers — they look like teenagers, some of them are very young looking.  (Laughter.) But they’re not teenagers taking on their first job.  They’re adults — average age is 35 years old.  A majority of lower-wage jobs are held by women.  Many of them have children that they’re supporting.  These are Americans who work full-time, often to support a family, and if the minimum wage had kept pace with our economic productivity, they’d already be getting paid well over $10 an hour. 

Instead, the minimum wage is still just $7.25.  And when Congress refuses to raise it, it loses value — because there’s a little bit inflation, everything else starts costing a little bit more — even though inflation has been pretty low, it’s still costing a little bit more each year.  That means each dollar isn’t going as far and they’ve got a little bit less.  So over the past year, the failure of Congress to act was the equivalent of a $200 pay cut for these folks — for a typical minimum wage worker.  That’s a month worth of groceries, maybe two months’ worth of electricity.  It makes a big difference for a lot of families.

Now, the good news is that in the year since I first asked Congress to raise the minimum wage, six states went ahead and passed laws to raise theirs.  (Applause.)  We appreciate that. You got more states and cities and counties that are taking steps to raise their minimum wage as we speak.  And a lot of companies are doing it, too — not out of charity, but because they’ve discovered it’s good business. 

Two weeks ago, I visited a Costco store in Maryland.  Now, Costco is a very profitable company.  Its stock has done great.  It’s expanding all over the place.  But their philosophy is higher wages are a smart way to boost productivity and reduce turnover.  If employees are happy and feel like the company is invested in them, then they’re going to do more for the company. They’re going to go above and beyond. 

And when I was over at the Costco store I was meeting folks who had started off at the cash register and now were in supervisory positions, and had been there for 20 years, and you could see the kind of pride that they had in the company because the company cared about them.  I even received a letter the next day from a woman who saw my visit on TV — she decided to apply for a job at Costco.  (Laughter.)  She said, let me apply for a job at Costco.  They look like they can do a good job. 

So across the country, owners of small and large businesses are recognizing that fair wages and higher profits go hand in hand; it’s good for the bottom line.

And as America’s chief executive, I agree.  So while Congress decides what it’s going to do — and I hope this year, and I’m going to work this year and urge this year that they actually pass a law — today, I’m going to do what I can to help raise working Americans’ wages.  (Applause.) 

So today, I’m issuing an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay their employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour — (applause) — $10.10 an hour.  (Applause.)

This will make a difference for folks.  Right now, there’s a dishwasher at Randolph Air Force Base in Texas making $7.76 an hour — $7.76 an hour.  There’s a fast-food worker at Andrews, right down the street, making $8.91 an hour.  There’s a laundry worker at Camp Dodge in Iowa making $9.03 an hour.  Once I sign this order, starting next year, as their contracts come up, each of them and many of their fellow coworkers are going to get a raise.  And by the way, that includes folks who get paid in tips — they’ll get a raise, too.  (Applause.)  A tip wage has gone up even slower than the regular minimum wage.

So just as it’s good for companies across the country, this will be good for America’s bottom line — for contractors and for taxpayers.  The opponents of the minimum wage have been using the same arguments for years, and time and again they’ve been proven wrong.  Raising the minimum wage is good for business, and it’s good for workers, and it’s good for the economy.  Put more money in these folks’ pockets, that means they got some money to go shopping, which in turn means the business has more customers — (applause) — which means they may hire more workers and make more of a profit.  (Applause.) 

And let’s not forget — not only is it good for the economy, it’s the right thing to do.  (Applause.)  There’s a simple moral principle at stake — if you take responsibility and you work as hard as these folks work, if you work full-time, you shouldn’t be living in poverty.  Not in America.  We believe that.  (Applause.)  

And this executive order will cover Americans with disabilities — (applause) — because this principle doesn’t just apply to some of us; it applies to all of us.  (Applause.) 

So I’m going to keep doing whatever I can to raise working Americans’ wages.  And I would ask any business leader out there, any governor, any mayor, any local leader listening, do what you can to raise your employees’ wages; to work to raise the wages of citizens in your jurisdiction.  They’ll support these efforts.  A majority of Americans — not just Democrats, not just independents, but Republicans, too — support raising the minimum wage.  (Applause.)  It’s the right thing to do.  So that’s something Congress should keep in mind this year. 

There’s a bill right now in front of both the House and the Senate that would boost America’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour — just like I’m doing with this executive action.  It’s easy to remember:  10-10 — 10-10.  Let’s get that done.  Raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 wouldn’t just raise wages for minimum-wage workers, its effect would lift wages for about 28 million Americans.  It would lift millions of Americans out of poverty immediately.  (Applause.)  It would help millions more work their way out of poverty — without requiring a single dollar in new taxes or spending.  (Applause.)  It’s the right thing to do.

Just last month, 600 economists, including seven Nobel Prize winners, wrote the leaders of houses of Congress to remind them that the bill before Congress would have little or no negative effect on hiring, on jobs.  So it’s not going to depress the economy.  It will boost the economy.  (Baby says, “Yes!”)  Yes!  (Laughter and applause.)  It will give more businesses more customers with more money to spend.  It will grow the economy for everybody.  So — yeah!  (Laughter.)  He’s excited about it.  (Laughter.) 

So members of Congress have a pretty clear choice to make right now:  Raise our workers’ wages, grow our economy — or let wages stagnate further, and give workers what amounts to another pay cut this year.  Restore unemployment insurance for Americans still looking for that job — (applause) — or expose them further to hardship.  (Applause.)  Members of Congress, you can help people make progress in their own lives, or you can hinder that progress.

And every American deserves to know where your elected representative stands on this issue.  So ask your senator; ask your representative in the House:  Do you support raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour?  If they say, yes, tell them “good job.”  (Laughter.)  They don’t hear that that often so — (laughter) — give them a pat on the back, give them a hug, let them know “way to go.”  That’s the right thing to do.  If they say, no — be polite, I mean, don’t just yell at them, but say, “Well, why not?”  Ask them to reconsider siding with an overwhelming majority of Americans.  Encourage them to say yes.  Give America a raise.  

So I’m about to sign this executive order.  When you hear me talking about my pen and my phone to make a difference for middle-class Americans and those working to get into the middle class, this is exactly what I mean.  I’m doing to do what I can. Congress should do what it needs to do.  I will not give up on this fight, no matter how long it takes.  America deserves a raise.  (Applause.)  Working families deserve to know some more economic security in their own lives.  (Applause.) 

We’ve got to create new jobs, strengthen the middle class, build new ladders of opportunity for folks working their way into the middle class — just like these folks are doing right here.  There are millions of Americans who could just use a little bit of boost — millions of Americans outside Washington who are tired of the old, stale political arguments, or tired of folks just looking out for people who can afford big lobbyists and big campaign contributions.  There are folks out there who want to see us restore an economy that works for everybody, and get back to our founding vision of opportunity for all.

So I know you guys will work with me.  But go out there and organize some more.  Thank you, everybody.  (Applause.)  Let’s give Americans a raise right now.  I’m going to sign this.  (Applause.)

2:30 P.M. EST

Political Musings February 11, 2014: Showdown averted House passes clean debt ceiling raise bill





Showdown averted House passes clean debt ceiling raise bill

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The House of Representatives voted 221-201 on Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 11, 2014 to raise the debt ceiling limit until March 2015 averting another showdown, without adding any conditions to the bill, which was passed predominantly with Democratic votes. Speaker…READ MORE

Political Musings February 9, 2014: Obama signs and lauds bipartisan farm bill that cuts food stamps program funding





Obama signs and lauds bipartisan farm bill that cuts food stamps program funding

By Bonnie K. Goodman

After Congress was unable to come to an agreement in 2013, President Barack Obama was able to finally sign a new 5-year farm bill, the Agricultural Act of 2014 on Friday, Feb. 7, 2014 in East Lansing, Michigan at…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency February 7, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the Signing of the Farm Bill



This is “Not Your Father’s Farm Bill”

Source: WH, 2-7-14
President Barack Obama signs the Farm Bill at Michigan State University in East Lansing, MichiganPresident Barack Obama signs the Farm Bill at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan, Feb. 7, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Today, in East Lansing Michigan, on the campus of one of our nation’s first land grant colleges, President Obama signed into law the Agricultural Act of 2014, also known as the Farm Bill, or as Secretary Vilsack likes to call it – the Jobs Bill, the Research Bill, the Food Bill, etc….READ MORE


Remarks by the President at Signing of the Farm Bill — MI

Source: WH, 2-7-14 

Watch the Video

President Obama Speaks on the Farm Bill and the Economy
February 07, 2014 6:53 PM

President Obama Speaks on the Farm Bill and the Economy

Michigan State University
East Lansing, Michigan

2:16 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Spartans!  (Applause.)  Go, Green!

AUDIENCE:  Go, White!

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  Everybody have a seat here.

It’s good to be at Michigan State.  Thank you, Ben, for that wonderful introduction.  Give Ben a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  He’s got his beautiful family right here.  How did dad do?  Was he pretty good?  Yes, there he is.  He did good?  I thought he did great.

It is good to be in East Lansing.  It’s good to be with all of you here today.  I’m here because I’ve heard about all the great things that you’re doing.  And I want to thank Mayor Triplett and President Simon for hosting us.

I am also here to do some scouting on my brackets.  (Laughter and applause.)  I just talked to Coach Izzo — Spartans are looking pretty good.  I know things were a little wild for a while, had some injuries.  But the truth is that Coach Izzo, he always paces so that you peak right at the tournament.  (Applause.)  That’s a fact.  Then I got a chance to meet Mark Dantonio.  (Applause.)  So you’ve already got a Rose Bowl victory.  (Applause.)  You guys, you’re greedy.  (Laughter.)  You want to win everything.

But it’s wonderful to be here.  I love coming to Michigan.  Mainly I love coming to Michigan because of the people.  But I also love coming here because there are few places in the country that better symbolize what we’ve been through together over these last four, five years.

The American auto industry has always been the heartbeat of the Michigan economy and the heart of American manufacturing.  So when that heartbeat was flat-lining, we all pulled together, all of us — autoworkers who punched in on the line, management who made tough decisions to restructure, elected officials like Gary Peters and Mark Schauer who believed that — (applause) — folks who believed that rescuing America’s most iconic industry was the right thing to do.

And today, thanks to your grit and your ingenuity and dogged determination, the American auto industry’s engines are roaring again and we are building the best cars in the world again.  And some plants are running three shifts around the clock — something that nobody would have imagined just a few years ago.  (Applause.)

I just had lunch with Detroit’s new Mayor, Mike Duggan.  (Applause.)  He told me if there’s one thing that he wants everybody to know, it’s that Detroit is open for business.  And I have great confidence that he’s going to provide the leadership that we need.  (Applause.)  Really proud of him.  The point is we’ve all had to buckle down.  We’ve all had to work hard.  We’ve had to fight our way back these past five years.  And in a lot of ways, we are now better positioned for the 21st century than any other country on Earth.

This morning, we learned that our businesses in the private sector created more than 140,000 jobs last month, adding up to about 8.5 million new jobs over the past four years.  (Applause.)  Our unemployment rate is now the lowest it’s been since before I was first elected.  Companies across the country are saying they intend to hire even more folks in the months ahead.  And that’s why I believe this can be a breakthrough year for America.

And I’ve come here today to sign a bill that hopefully means folks in Washington feel the same way — that instead of wasting time creating crises that impede the economy, we’re going to have a Congress that’s ready to spend some time creating new jobs and new opportunities, and positioning us for the future and making sure our young people can take advantage of that future.

And that’s important, because even though our economy has been growing for four years now, even though we’ve been adding jobs for four years now, what’s still true — something that was true before the financial crisis, it’s still true today — is that those at the very top of the economic pyramid are doing better than ever, but the average American’s wages, salaries, incomes haven’t risen in a very long time.  A lot of Americans are working harder and harder just to get by — much less get ahead — and that’s been true since long before the financial crisis and the Great Recession.

And so we’ve got to reverse those trends.  We’ve got to build an economy that works for everybody, not just a few.  We’ve got to restore the idea of opportunity for all people — the idea that no matter who you are, what you look like, where you came from, how you started out, what your last name is, you can make it if you’re willing to work hard and take responsibility.  That’s the idea at the heart of this country. That’s what’s at stake right now.  That’s what we’ve got to work on.  (Applause.)

Now, the opportunity agenda I laid out in my State of the Union address is going to help us do that.  It’s an agenda built around four parts.  Number one:  More new jobs in American manufacturing, American energy, American innovation, American technology.  A lot of what you’re doing here at Michigan State helps to spur on that innovation in all sorts of areas that can then be commercialized into new industries and to create new jobs.

Number two:  Training folks with the skills to fill those jobs — something this institution does very well.

Number three:  Guaranteeing access to a world-class education for every child, not just some.  That has to be a priority.  (Applause.)  That means before they even start school, we’re working on pre-K that’s high quality and gets our young people prepared, and then takes them all the way through college so that they can afford it, and beyond.

Number four:  Making sure our economy rewards honest work with wages you can live on, and savings you can retire on, and, yes, health insurance that is there for you when you need it.  (Applause.)

Now, some of this opportunity agenda that I put forward will require congressional action, it’s true.  But as I said at the State of the Union, America does not stand still; neither will I.  And that’s why, over the past two weeks, I’ve taken steps without legislation, without congressional action, to expand opportunity for more families.  We’ve created a new way for workers to start their own retirement savings.  We’ve helped to make sure all of our students have high-speed broadband and high-tech learning tools that they need for this new economy.

But I’ve also said I’m eager to work with Congress wherever I can — because the truth of the matter is, is that America works better when we’re working together.  And Congress controls the purse strings at the federal level and a lot of the things that we need to do require congressional action.

And that is why I could not be prouder of our leaders who are here today.  Debbie in particular, I could not be prouder of your own Debbie Stabenow, who has done just extraordinary work.  (Applause.)  We all love Debbie for a lot of reasons.  She’s been a huge champion of American manufacturing but really shepherded through this farm bill, which was a very challenging piece of business.  She worked with Republican Senator Thad Cochran, who I think was very constructive in this process.  We had Representatives Frank Lucas, a Republican, working with Collin Peterson, a Democrat.  We had a terrific contribution from our own Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, who deserves a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

And so Congress passed a bipartisan farm bill that is going to make a big difference in communities all across this country.  And just so they don’t feel left out, I want to recognize one of your congressmen, who’s doing an outstanding job — Dan Kildee.  (Applause.)  And somebody who was just a wonderful mentor to me when I was in the Senate and has been just a great public servant, not just for your state, but for the entire country — Carl Levin.  (Applause.)  He’s always out there, especially when it comes to our men and women in uniform.  We’re very proud of him.  (Applause.)

And while we’re at it, we got a couple of out-of-towners — Pat Leahy from Vermont — there are a lot of dairy farms up there, so he had something to do with it.  (Applause.)  Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota.  (Applause.)  All that cold air is blowing from Minnesota down into — (laughter).

Now, despite its name, the farm bill is not just about helping farmers.  Secretary Vilsack calls it a jobs bill, an innovation bill, an infrastructure bill, a research bill, a conservation bill.  It’s like a Swiss Army knife.  (Laughter.)  It’s like Mike Trout — for those of you who know baseball.  (Laughter.)  It’s somebody who’s got a lot of tools.  It multitasks.  It’s creating more good jobs, gives more Americans a shot at opportunity.  And there are two big ways in which it does so.

First, the farm bill lifts up our rural communities.  Over the past five years, thanks to the hard work and know-how of America’s farmers, the best in the world, we’ve had the strongest stretch of farm exports in our history.  And when I’m traveling around the world, I’m promoting American agriculture.  And as a consequence, we are selling more stuff to more people than ever before.  Supports about 1 million American jobs; what we grow here and that we sell is a huge boost to the entire economy, but particularly the rural economy.

Here at Michigan State, by the way, you are helping us to do even more.  So I just got a tour of a facility where you’re working with local businesses to produce renewable fuels.  You’re helping farmers grow crops that are healthier and more resistant to disease.  Some students are even raising their own piglets on an organic farm.  When I was in college, I lived in a pig sty — (laughter) — but I didn’t work in one.  So I’m impressed by that.  (Laughter.)  That’s no joke, by the way.  (Laughter and applause.)  Your hygiene improves as you get older.  (Laughter.)

So we’re seeing some big advances in American agriculture.  And today, by the way, I’m directing my administration to launch a new “Made in Rural America” initiative to help more rural businesses expand and hire and sell more products stamped “Made in the USA” to the rest of the world — because we’ve got great products here that need to be sold and we can do even more to sell around the world.  (Applause.)

But even with all this progress, too many rural Americans are still struggling.  Right now, 85 percent of counties experience what’s called “persistent poverty.”  Those are in rural areas.  Before I was elected President, I represented Illinois, home of a couple of your Big Ten rivals, but also a big farming state.  And over the years, I’ve seen how hard it can be to be a farmer.  There are a lot of big producers who are doing really well, but there are even more small farms, family farms, where folks are just scratching out a living and increasingly vulnerable to difficulties in financing and all the inputs involved — farmers sometimes having to work off the farm, they’ve got a couple of jobs outside the farm just to get health care, just to pay the bills, trying to keep it in the family, and it’s very hard for young farmers to get started.

And in these rural communities, a lot of young people talk about how jobs are so scarce, even before the recession hit, that they feel like they’ve got to leave in order to have opportunity.  They can’t stay at home, they’ve got to leave.

So that’s why this farm bill includes things like crop insurance, so that when a disaster like the record drought that we’re seeing across much of the West hits our farmers, they don’t lose everything they’ve worked so hard to build.  This bill helps rural communities by investing in hospitals and schools, affordable housing, broadband infrastructure — all the things that help attract more businesses and make life easier for working families.

This bill supports businesses working to develop cutting-edge biofuels — like some of the work that’s being done here at Michigan State.  That has the potential to create jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.  It boosts conservation efforts so that our children and grandchildren will be able to enjoy places like the Mississippi River Valley and Chesapeake Bay.

It supports local food by investing in things like farmers markets and organic agriculture — which is making my wife very happy.  And when Michelle is happy, I don’t know about everybody being happy, but I know I’m happy.  (Laughter and applause.)  And so it’s giving smaller producers, local producers, folks like Ben, the opportunity to sell more of their products directly, without a bunch of processing and distributors and middlemen that make it harder for them to achieve.  And it means that people are going to have healthier diets, which is, in turn, going to reduce incidents of childhood obesity and keep us healthier, which saves us all money.

It does all this while reforming our agricultural programs, so this bill helps to clamp down on loopholes that allowed people to receive benefits year after year, whether they were planting crops or not.  And it saves taxpayers hard-earned dollars by making sure that we only support farmers when disaster strikes or prices drop.  It’s not just automatic.

So that’s the first thing this farm bill does — it helps rural communities grow; it gives farmers some certainty; it puts in place important reforms.

The second thing this farm bill does — that is huge — is help make sure America’s children don’t go hungry.  (Applause.)   And this is where Debbie’s work was really important.  One study shows that more than half of all Americans will experience poverty at some point during their adult lives.  Now, for most folks that’s when you’re young and you’re eating ramen all the time.  But for a lot of families, a crisis hits, you lose your job, somebody gets sick, strains on your budget — you have a strong work ethic, but it might take you six months, nine months, a year to find a job.  And in the meantime, you’ve got families to feed.

That’s why, for more than half a century, this country has helped Americans put food on the table when they hit a rough patch, or when they’re working hard but aren’t making enough money to feed their kids.  They’re not looking for a handout, these folks, they’re looking for a hand up — (applause) — a bridge to help get them through some tough times.  (Applause.)

And we sure don’t believe that children should be punished when parents are having a tough time.  As a country, we’re stronger when we help hardworking Americans get back on their feet, make sure that children are getting the nutrition that they need so that they can learn what they need in order to be contributing members of our society.

That’s the idea behind what’s known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.  A large majority of SNAP recipients are children, or the elderly, or Americans with disabilities.  A lot of others are hardworking Americans who need just a little help feeding their families while they look for a job or they’re trying to find a better one.  And in 2012, the SNAP program kept nearly 5 million people — including more than 2 million children — out of poverty.  (Applause.)  Think about that — 5 million people.

That’s why my position has always been that any farm bill I sign must include protections for vulnerable Americans, and thanks to the good work of Debbie and others, this bill does that.  (Applause.)  And by giving Americans more bang for their buck at places like farmers markets, we’re making it easier for working families to eat healthy foods and we’re supporting farmers like Ben who make their living growing it.  So it’s creating new markets for produce farmers, and it means that people have a chance to directly buy from their farmers the kind of food that’s going to keep them healthy.

And the truth is a lot of folks go through tough times at some points in their lives.  That doesn’t mean they should go hungry.  Not in a country like America.  So investing in the communities that grow our food, helping hardworking Americans put that food on the table — that’s what this farm bill does, all while reducing our deficits through smart reforms.

It doesn’t include everything that I’d like to see.  And I know leaders on both sides of the aisle feel the same way.  But it’s a good sign that Democrats and Republicans in Congress were able to come through with this bill, break the cycle of short-sighted, crisis-driven partisan decision-making, and actually get this stuff done.  (Applause.)  That’s a good sign.

And that’s the way you should expect Washington to work.  That’s the way Washington should continue to work.  Because we’ve got more work to do.  We’ve got more work to do to potentially make sure that unemployment insurance is put in place for a lot of folks out there who need it.  (Applause.)  We’ve got more work to do to pass a minimum wage.  We’ve got more work to do to do immigration reform, which will help farmers like Ben.  (Applause.)

So let’s keep the momentum going here.  And in the weeks ahead, while Congress is deciding what’s next, I’m going to keep doing everything I can to strengthen the middle class, build ladders of opportunity in the middle class.  And I sure hope Congress will join me because I know that’s what you’re looking for out of your elected officials at every level.  (Applause.)

So thank you, everybody.  God bless you.  I’m now going to sign this farm bill.  (Applause.)

Hold on a second, I forgot to mention Marcia Fudge is here.  I wasn’t sure whether she came to the event.  I knew she flew in with me.  She does great work — (applause) — out of the great state of Ohio.

(The bill is signed.)  (Applause.)

2:39 P.M. EST

Political Musings February 7, 2014: Boehner says immigration reform unlikely in 2014 cites trust issues with Obama





Political Musings February 2, 2014: Obama urges CEOs to hire long-term unemployed after benefits extension fails





Obama urges CEOs to hire long-term unemployed after benefits extension fails

By Bonnie K. Goodman

In effort to compensate for Congress not extending unemployment benefits to the long-term jobless, on Friday, Jan. 31, 2014 President Barack Obama urged CEOs of 20 major companies to not “discriminate” and give them an equal chance…READ MORE
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