Political Musings September 5, 2014: August jobs report shows unemployment benefits extension still necessary





August jobs report shows unemployment benefits extension still necessary

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The Bureau of Labor Statistic released the jobs report for August on Friday morning, Sept. 4, 2014. The numbers were a disappointment with far less jobs created than expected, and the least created in any month in 2014, showing the….READ MORE

Political Headlines July 5, 2013: Bipartisan praise for June jobs report





Bipartisan praise for June jobs report

Source: CBS News, 7-5-13

Both Democrats and Republicans applauded a stronger-than-expected employment report released on Friday, which showed that the U.S….READ MORE

Full Text Political Headlines September 8, 2012: GOP Weekly Address: Sen. John Barrasso Says ‘It’s Time for Rhetoric to Meet Reality’ on Economy





GOP Address: Sen. John Barrasso Says ‘It’s Time for Rhetoric to Meet Reality’ on Economy

Source: ABC News Radio, 9-8-12

Now that conventions are over for both the Republicans and Democrats, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., says, “It’s time for rhetoric to meet reality,” and the reality, he adds, “is that America is not better off than it was four year ago.”

After a jobs report, released Friday, showed unemployment at 8.1 percent and just 96,000 jobs added last month, Barrasso and other Republicans have been quick to react.

“The undeniable truth is, President Obama is on track to have the worst jobs record of any President since World War II. When the President was hyping his so-called stimulus program, his economic team claimed unemployment would not go above 8 percent, and that it would be below 6 percent by now.  Instead, it’s been higher than 8 percent for 43 straight months,” he says in the Republican address.

“It’s bad enough the stimulus money was wasted.  Even worse, he borrowed the money, much of it from China. Household incomes have dropped by more than $4,000, while the cost of everyday living has gone up. Gasoline prices have gone up another 30 cents a gallon in just over a month. Americans recently paid the highest prices ever on a Labor Day weekend. One out of every seven people in America is now on food stamps,” Barrasso says. “In terms of global competitiveness, the United States has dropped for four straight years.  When President Obama took office, we were number one in the world.  Now we’re number seven.”…READ MORE

Campaign Headlines June 5, 2012: Mitt Romney Woos Hispanic Voters in Texas Speech After Dismal Jobs Report — Rips Obama’s Economic Policy, Vows to Be President of ‘All Americans’’





Romney Pitches to Hispanic Voters, Vows to Be President of ‘All Americans’

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-5-12

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Making a rare stop in the Lone Star State Tuesday, Mitt Romney made a direct appeal to Hispanic voters, vowing that if elected, he would be the president of “all Americans, Hispanic and otherwise.”

“These have been particularly hard times,” said Romney, who spoke at the Hispanic-run Southwest Office Systems, the largest minority-owned, independent office supply dealer in the country.

“This Obama economy has been hard, particularly on Hispanic businesses and Hispanic-Americans, and I don’t know if you’ve seen the numbers recently, but did you know that the rate of unemployment among Hispanic-Americans rose last month to 11 percent?”

Romney, who has not paid an enormous amount of attention to the Hispanic vote during his campaign — last month he dedicated an entire speech at the Latino Coalition’s Annual Economic Luncheon to his education policy — Tuesday honed in on the issues facing Hispanic voters. His campaign released a Web video called “Dismal” to show the impact of Obama’s economic policies on Hispanics.

But it’s an uphill climb for Romney with Hispanic voters, and that was palpable in Texas Tuesday, when a small group of protestors chanting “Education not deportation” disrupted the event. Romney’s immigration plan includes what he called “self-deportation” to get illegal immigrants to return to their home countries, where they can then apply for legal citizenship.

And in an ABC News/Washington Post poll taken earlier this spring, 73 percent of Latinos supported Obama, compared with 26 percent for Romney….READ MORE

  • Romney seizes on job numbers to court hispanics: After Friday’s news that Hispanic Americans suffered a spike in unemployment to 11 percent in May, up from 10.3 percent in April, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Tuesday made a renewed push for their support…. – CBS News, 6-5-12
  • Romney courts Latino voters in Texas: Mitt Romney brought his message directly to Hispanic voters on Tuesday, promising that as president he would “make sure this economy is good for all Americans, Hispanics and otherwise” as he campaigned in heavily Hispanic Texas…. – WaPo, 6-5-12
  • Romney Courts Hispanics by Assailing Obama on Economy: Mitt Romney, working to chip away at President Barack Obama’s advantage among a crucial voting bloc, blamed him for rising joblessness and poverty rates plaguing Hispanic Americans…. – BusinessWeek, 6-5-12
  • Romney woos Hispanics over economy: Mitt Romney is using Hispanics’ double-digit unemployment rate to argue that the key voting bloc should support him instead of President Obama. Romney badly trails Obama with Hispanic voters…. – The Hill, 6-5-12

Political Headlines June 1, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech on May Jobs Report — US economy adds 69,000 Unemployment rate rises to 8.2 percent — Full Text Transcript




U.S. economy adds 69,000 jobs in May; Unemployment rate rises to 8.2 percent

Source: WaPo, 6-1-12
U.S. employers created 69,000 jobs in May, the fewest in a year. The unemployment rate rose to 8.2 percent from 8.1 percent in April, the first increase in 11 months.

The dismal jobs figures could fan fears that the economy is sputtering.

Obama Turns to Congress for Jobs Help

Source: NYT, 6-1-12

President Obama delivered a speech on the monthly job report on Friday at a factory in Golden Valley, Minn.

Luke Sharrett for The New York Times

President Obama delivered a speech on the monthly job report on Friday at a factory in Golden Valley, Minn.

The president, stung by the new unemployment report, called on Congress to enact measures to shake the United States out of its torpor….READ MORE

President Obama: We Have to Deliver for Our Veterans

Source: WH, 6-1-12

President Barack Obama greets people in the crowd at the Honeywell Golden Valley Facility (June 1, 2012)

President Barack Obama greets people in the crowd at the Honeywell Golden Valley Facility in Golden Valley, Minn., June 1, 2012. The President urged Congress to act on the “To Do List,” specifically highlighting the need to honor our commitment to returning veterans by passing legislation that creates a Veterans Jobs Corps. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

In Minnesota today, President Obama was introduced by Ryan Sullivan — a Navy veteran who served in Iraq and Yemen. When he was discharged, Sullivan got an education in electrical maintenance and construction, then went to work for Honeywell.

The President wants to make sure that all those returning from war find good jobs, just like Ryan Sullivan. That’s why he’s proposed the Veterans Jobs Corps, with a goal of putting 20,000 servicemembers to work rebuilding American infrastructure and serving as cops and firefighters.

He told the crowd in Golden Valley:

[Now] that the war in Iraq is over and we’re starting to wind down the war in Afghanistan over a million more of those outstanding heroes, they’re going to be joining this process of transition back into civilian life over the next few years.

Now, just think about the skills these veterans have acquired at an incredibly young age. Think about the leadership they’ve learned — 25-year-olds, 26-year-olds leading platoons into unbelievably dangerous situations, life-or-death situations. Think about the cutting-edge technologies they’ve mastered; their ability to adapt to changing and unpredictable situations — you can’t get that stuff from a classroom.

I mean, these kids, these men, these women, they’ve done incredible work, and that’s exactly the kind of leadership and responsibility that every business in America should be wanting to attract, should be competing to attract.

The President called on lawmakers to pass legislation making the Veterans Jobs Corps a reality — part of his To-Do List for Congress.

Learn more about the actions that President Obama is asking Congress to take here.

Remarks by the President on Veterans Jobs — Golden Valley, Minnesota

Honeywell Golden Valley Facility
Golden Valley, Minnesota

12:18 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Golden Valley!  (Applause.)  It is good to be back in Minnesota.  (Applause.)  It is good to see your Governor, Mark Dayton, here.  (Applause.)  On the way over we were talking about making sure the Vikings were staying.  (Applause.)  Now, that’s a hard thing for a Bears fan to do.  (Laughter.)  But I was rooting for the Vikings sticking around here — and the Governor did a great job.  You were praying, too, huh?  (Laughter.)  Absolutely.  Prayer never hurts.  It helps.

You got two outstanding Senators, Amy Klobuchar — (applause) — and Al Franken.  (Applause.)  Your mayor, Shep Harris is here.  (Applause.)  Outstanding congressional delegation in the house.  Give them a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  And I thought Ryan was really good, so give him a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  He’s a natural.

Now, one of the last times I was here was last August.  We took a bus tour around the state.  I needed a little “Minnesota nice.”  (Laughter.)  I stopped for some pie in Zumbrota.  I held a town hall in Cannon Falls.  Amy and Al were there.  I think Al ate my pie, in fact.  (Laughter.)  And I spent a lot of time talking with folks who’d spent the past couple years making their way through a tough economy.

And today, we’re still fighting our way back from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.  The economy is growing again, but it’s not growing as fast as we want it to grow.  Our businesses have created almost 4.3 million new jobs over the last 27 months, but as we learned in today’s jobs report, we’re still not creating them as fast as we want.  And just like this time last year, our economy is still facing some serious headwinds.  We had high gas prices a month, two months ago, and they’re starting to come down, and they were spiking, but they’re still hitting people’s wallets pretty hard.  That has an impact.  And then, most prominently, most recently, we’ve had a crisis in Europe’s economy that is having an impact worldwide, and it’s starting to cast a shadow on our own as well.  So we’ve got a lot of work to do before we get to where we need to be.  And all these factors have made it even more challenging to not just fully recover, but also lay the foundation for an economy that’s built to last over the long term.

But that’s our job.  From the moment we first took action to prevent another depression, we knew the road to recovery would not be easy.  We knew it would take time.  We knew there would be ups and downs along the way.  But we also knew if we were willing to act wisely, and boldly, and if we were acting together, as Americans; if we were willing to keep at it; if we were willing to roll up our sleeves and never quit –- then we wouldn’t just come back, we’d come back stronger than ever.  That was our belief.  (Applause.)  And that continues to be my belief.

We will come back stronger, we do have better days ahead, and that is because of all of you.  That’s because of all of you.  (Applause.)  I’d place my bets on American workers and American businesses any day of the week.  (Applause.)  You’ve been fighting through this tough economy with resilience and grit and innovation.  Honeywell is a great example of a company that’s doing outstanding work, and I want to acknowledge Dave Cote here who has been –- (applause) -– serving on my Jobs Council and doing a lot of great work.

That’s why our auto industry has come roaring back.  It’s why manufacturing is consistently adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s.  (Applause.)  All that is happening because of you.  Everybody here plays by the rules.  You work hard.  You meet your responsibilities.  And you deserve leaders who do the same — leaders who will stand shoulder to shoulder with you and do everything possible to strengthen the middle class and move this economy forward.  That’s what you deserve.  (Applause.)

Look, we can’t fully control everything that happens in other parts of the world — disturbances in the Middle East, what’s going on in Europe.  But there are plenty of things we can control here at home.  There are plenty of steps we can take right now to help create jobs and grow this economy.

Now, let me give you a couple examples.  I sent Congress a jobs bill last September full of the kinds of bipartisan ideas that would have put our fellow Americans back to work and helped reinforce our economy against some of these outside shocks.  I sent them a plan that would have reduced the deficit by $4 trillion in a way that is balanced — that pays for the job-creating investments we need by cutting unnecessary spending, but also by asking the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more in taxes.  (Applause.)

And I’ll give them a little bit of credit:  Congress has passed a few parts of that jobs bill, like a tax cut that’s allowing working Americans to keep more of your paychecks every week.  That was important.  I appreciated it.  But Congress has not acted on enough of the other ideas in that bill that would make a difference and help create jobs right now.  And there’s no excuse for it.  Not when there are so many people out there still looking for work.  Not when there are still folks out there struggling to pay their bills.  It’s not lost on anybody that it’s an election year –- I understand that; I’ve noticed.  (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Four more years!  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  But we’ve got responsibilities that are bigger than an election.  (Applause.)  We’ve got responsibilities to you.

So my message to Congress is:  Now is not the time to play politics.  Now is not the time to sit on your hands.  The American people expect their leaders to work hard no matter what year it is.  The economy still isn’t where it needs to be.  There are steps that could make a difference right now — steps that can also serve as a buffer in case the situation in Europe gets any worse.

So, right now, Congress should pass a bill to help states prevent more layoffs, so we can put thousands of teachers and firefighters and police officers back on the job.  (Applause.)  Layoffs at the state and local levels have been a chronic problem for our recovery, but it’s a problem we can fix.

Congress should have passed a bill a long time ago to put thousands of construction workers back on the job rebuilding our roads and our bridges and our runways.  (Applause.)  Since the housing bubble burst, no sector has been hit harder than the construction industry, and we’ve got all this stuff that needs fixed.  Remember that bridge here in Minnesota?  So this is a problem we can fix.  Let’s do it right away.

Instead of just talking about job creators, Congress should give small business owners a tax break for hiring more workers and paying them higher wages.  We can get that done.  (Applause.)  We can get it done right now.  Let’s not wait.

Right now, Congress should give every responsible homeowner the opportunity to save an average of $3,000 a year by refinancing their mortgage.  We’ve got historically low rates right now.  (Applause.)  I was with a family in Reno, Nevada, a couple weeks ago.  They got a chance to refinance — even though their home was underwater — put that money back in their pockets because we had taken some steps as an administration to make that available for those who have mortgages held by government agencies like the FHA or a government guarantee.  But not everybody has those kinds of mortgages.  I want everybody to have those same opportunities.

I assume there are some folks here who could use $3,000 a year.  (Applause.)  Let’s get that done right now.  That means there are going to be — if you have $3,000 a year extra, that helps you pay down your credit cards.  That helps you go out and buy some things that your family needs, which is good for business.  Maybe somebody will be replacing some thingamajig for their furnace.  (Laughter.)  They’ve been putting that off.  But if they’ve got that extra money, they might just go out there and buy that thing.  Right?  (Laughter and applause.)

Right now, Congress needs to extend the tax credits for clean energy manufacturers that are set to expire at the end of this year.  I was talking to Dave Cote.  The issue of energy efficiency and everything we need to do to shift away from dependence on foreign oil, we’re making huge progress.  (Applause.)  We’re actually importing less oil than any time in the last eight years.  We’re down under 50 percent, but we can do more.

And these clean energy companies, they’re hiring folks.  They’re helping us break dependence on foreign oil.  It’s part of a package of stuff that Honeywell is doing a lot of work on.  But almost 40,000 jobs are on the line if these tax credits expire.  Why would anyone in Congress walk away from those jobs?  We need to pass those tax credits right now.  (Applause.)  We need to pass them right now.  (Applause.)

It’s long past time we started encouraging what a lot of companies have been doing lately, which is bringing jobs back to this country.  (Applause.)  And some of them are coming to Minnesota.  The Governor and I were talking in the car about some companies coming back — Red Bull, right, coming back.  But let’s give more incentive.  It’s time for Congress to end tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas.  Let’s use that money to cover moving expenses for companies that are bringing jobs back to America.  (Applause.)  That would make a difference right now.

So those are all steps that we could be taking to strengthen the economy, to provide us some insurance if the situation overseas starts getting worse so we can control our own destiny, keep this recovery moving forward.

Which brings me to the last thing Congress should do to help businesses create jobs — that’s why I’m here at Honeywell today.  I believe that no one who fights for this country should ever have to fight for a job when they come home.  (Applause.)  And for Congress, that means creating a Veterans Job Corps so we can put our returning heroes back to work as cops and firefighters, on projects that protect our public lands and resources.  And they should do it right now.  They should do it right now.  But if we’re going to serve our veterans as well as they’ve served us, we’ve got to do even more.

We just observed Memorial Day, which makes us think about the extraordinary sacrifices so many make.  But we’ve got to make sure we translate words into action.  We can’t just be in a parade, can’t just march.  We also have to deliver for our veterans.

Over the past three decades — over the past decades, rather, more than 3 million servicemembers have transitioned back to civilian life.  And now that the war in Iraq is over and we’re starting to wind down the war in Afghanistan — (applause) — over a million more of those outstanding heroes, they’re going to be joining this process of transition back into civilian life over the next few years.

Now, just think about the skills these veterans have acquired at an incredibly young age.  Think about the leadership they’ve learned — 25-year-olds, 26-year-olds leading platoons into unbelievably dangerous situations, life-or-death situations.  Think about the cutting-edge technologies they’ve mastered; their ability to adapt to changing and unpredictable situations — you can’t get that stuff from a classroom.

I mean, these kids, these men, these women, they’ve done incredible work, and that’s exactly the kind of leadership and responsibility that every business in America should be wanting to attract, should be competing to attract.  That’s the kind of talent we need to compete for the jobs and the industries of the future.  These are the kinds of Americans that every company should want to hire.  (Applause.)

And that’s why, here at Honeywell, you’ve made it a mission to hire more veterans.  (Applause.)  And let me say, Dave is incredibly patriotic, loves his veterans, but this — Honeywell is doing this not just because it feels good.  They’re doing it because it’s good for business, because veterans make outstanding workers.  So today, I’m taking executive action that will make it easier for a lot of companies to do the same thing.

I’ve told the story before of a soldier in the 82nd Airborne who served as a combat medic in Afghanistan, saved lives over there, earned a Bronze Star for his actions.  But he came home, here to Minnesota — met him on our way to Cannon Falls.  When he first came home, he couldn’t even get a job as a first responder.  Think about it — this guy is out there taking care of troops who are wounded in action, couldn’t initially get a job.  So then he took classes through the Post-9/11 GI Bill — classes that he could have taught — (laughter) — just so he could qualify for the same duties at home that he had performed every day at war.

Let me tell you something — if you can save a life on the battlefield, you can save a life in an ambulance.  (Applause.)  If you can oversee a convoy or millions of dollars of assets in Iraq, you can help manage a supply chain or balance its books here at home.  If you can maintain the most advanced weapons in the world, if you’re an electrician on a Navy ship, well, you can manufacture the next generation of advanced technology in our factories like this one.  (Applause.)  If you’re working on complex machinery, you should be able to take those skills and find a manufacturing job right here — right here at home.

But, unfortunately, a lot of returning heroes with advanced skills like these, they don’t get hired simply because they don’t have the civilian licenses or certifications that a lot of companies require.  At the same time, I hear from business leaders all the time who say they can’t find enough workers with the skills necessary to fill open positions.  Eighty percent of manufacturers say this, according to one survey.  So think about it — we got all these openings and all these skilled veterans looking for work, and somehow they’re missing each other.  That doesn’t make any sense.  So that’s where executive action comes in.  That’s where we’re going to fix it.

Today, I’m proud to announce new partnerships between the military and manufacturing groups that will make it easier for companies to hire returning servicemembers who prove they’ve earned the skills our country needs.  (Applause.)  Soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen, Coast Guardsmen — if they’ve got skills in machining or welding or weapons maintenance, for example, you’ll have a faster track to good-paying manufacturing jobs.  Servicemembers with experience in logistics or maintenance on the front lines, they’ll have a faster track to jobs in those fields here at home.

I’ve also directed the Department of Defense to establish a new task force charged with finding new opportunities for servicemembers to use the skills they’ve learned in the military to gain the relevant industry credentials — the civilian certifications and licenses — so that it doesn’t cost them and they don’t necessarily have to go back to school for three years and take out a whole bunch of student loans when, potentially, they could do it quicker, more inexpensively, and get on the job faster.  We’re talking about jobs in manufacturing, in health care, in IT, in logistics, for first responders — so that returning combat medic that I spoke about, he doesn’t have to prove himself over and over again.

So this task force’s first action is going to create opportunities for up to 126,000 servicemembers to gain the industry-recognized certifications for high-demand manufacturing jobs like the jobs right here at this plant at Honeywell.  (Applause.)  This builds on the Skills for America’s Future partnership that we launched last year with the National Association of Manufacturers to provide 500,000 community college students with industry-recognized credentials that will help them secure good manufacturing jobs.

And all of this builds on the steps we’ve already taken to make sure our returning heroes come home able to share in the opportunities that they have defended.  Because when our men and women sign up to become a soldier, a sailor, an airman, Marine, Coast Guardsman, they don’t stop being a citizen.  When they take off that uniform, their service to this nation doesn’t stop.  Think about previous generations.  Well, today’s veterans are the same.  When they come home, they’re looking to continue serving America however they can.  And at a time when America needs all hands on deck, they’ve got the skills and the strength to help lead the way.

Our government needs their patriotism and their sense of duty.  That’s why I ordered the hiring of more veterans by the federal government; we’ve hired more than 200,000 so far.  (Applause.)

Our economy needs their outstanding talent.  That’s why I pushed hard last year for tax breaks for businesses that hire unemployed veterans and wounded warriors.  And I’m proud to say that both parties in Congress came together to get that part done.

That’s why we launched free personalized job services — job search services through the Veterans Gold Card program and an online Veterans Job Bank to help veterans find jobs that meet their talents.  And, by the way, if there are any veterans here who need those services, you can find that at WhiteHouse.gov/vets.  And then, later this month, the VA will hold a jobs fair in Detroit where 12,000 more opportunities will be available to veterans.

And that’s also why I challenged business leaders to hire 100,000 post-9/11 veterans and their spouses by the end of next year — because don’t forget our military families.  They’re serving alongside our veterans.  (Applause.)  Michelle and Jill Biden — that’s Michelle Obama and Jill Biden — (laughter) — just in case you were curious.  (Laughter.)  You might not know which Michelle I was talking about.  (Laughter.)  They’re leading this effort with respect to military families, nationally.  It’s called Joining Forces — to mobilize all of us to support today’s military families and their veterans.

And so far, the good news is participating businesses have hired more than 70,000 veterans.  And they’ve pledged to hire 175,000 more in the coming years.  And I want to thank Honeywell not only for being an active partner in this initiative, but, right here, Honeywell has hired 900 veterans over the past year, and for employing 65 veterans here just here at Golden Valley.  So give them a big round of applause.  Proud of you.  (Applause.)

Standing up for our veterans, this is not a Democratic responsibility, it’s not a Republican responsibility — it’s an American responsibility.  It’s an obligation of every citizen who enjoys the freedom that these heroes defended.  So we’ve got to meet our obligations today just like folks here at Honeywell are doing.

And as Commander-in-Chief, I want all of our servicemembers and veterans to know we are forever grateful for your service and your sacrifice.  Just like you fought for us, we’ll keep fighting for you — (applause) — for more jobs, more security, for the opportunity to keep your families strong — because you’ll help us keep America on top in the 21st century.  (Applause.)  We’re going to keep fighting, just as you did, to show just why it is that the United State of America is the greatest nation on Earth.

God bless you.  God bless America.

12:43 P.M. CDT

White House on Jobs Report: Problems ‘Will Not Be Solved Overnight’

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-1-12

Alex Wong/Getty Images

In its first reaction to Friday morning’s disappointing jobs report, the White House said the nation is still fighting back from the recession and that the “problems in the job market were long in the making and will not be solved overnight.”

“There is much more work that remains to be done to repair the damage caused by the financial crisis and deep recession that began at the end of 2007,” Alan Krueger, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, wrote in a White House blog.

“Just like last year at this time, our economy is facing serious headwinds, including the crisis in Europe and a spike in gas prices that hit American families’ finances over the past months.  It is critical that we continue the President’s economic policies that are helping us dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the severe recession,” Krueger added, pointing to the president’s legislative “to-do list” for Congress to boost the economy, which he will be promoting Friday in Minneapolis.

The economy added just 69,000 jobs last month — below expectations of 150,000 — and the unemployment rate ticked up to 8.2 percent, the Labor Department announced Friday morning….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency April 6, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech on the Jobs Creation, Market & Report at the White House Forum on Women and the Economy



On Jobs, Obama and Romney Argue Over Fullness of the Glass

Source: NYT 4-6-12

President Obama speaking on Friday at the White House Forum on Women and the Economy in Washington.

Luke Sharrett for The New York Times

President Obama speaking on Friday at the White House Forum on Women and the Economy in Washington.

President Obama on Friday emphasized the last three months of job creation while Mitt Romney argued that Mr. Obama has been a failed economic steward….READ MORE


President Obama Speaks at the White House Forum on Women and the Economy

President Obama Speaks at the White House Forum on Women and the Economy

Remarks by the President at the White House Forum on Women and the Economy

South Court Auditorium

10:30 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)  Thank you, everybody.  Everybody, please, please have a seat.  (Applause.)  Everybody, sit down, sit down.  I was going to head over here earlier and they said, no, no, this place is full of women and they’re still settling down.  (Laughter.)  I said, what do you mean settling down?  What are they doing over there?  Just creating havoc.

Welcome to the White House, everybody.  It is a pleasure to be surrounded by so many talented, accomplished women.  It makes me feel right at home.  Although usually, I’ve got my wingman Bo with me.  (Laughter.)

I want to thank everybody who’s made this Forum on Women and the Economy possible.  I thank Mika for helping moderate today and proving that, on your show every morning, that women really are the better half.  (Laughter and applause.)  Joe is not denying it.  (Laughter.)  He’s not denying it.

I want to thank the members of my Cabinet and administration who are participating today.  And I want to thank all of you who’ve come today lending your time and your energy to the critical cause of broadening opportunity for America’s women.

Right now, no issue is more important than restoring economic security for all our families in the wake of the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression.  And that begins with making sure everyone who wants a job has one.  So we welcome today’s news — (applause) — we welcome today’s news that our businesses created another 121,000 jobs last month, and the unemployment rate ticked down.  Our economy has now created more than 4 million private sector jobs over the past two years, and more than 600,000 in the past three months alone.  But it’s clear to every American that there will still be ups and downs along the way, and that we’ve got a lot more work to do.

And that includes addressing challenges that are unique to women’s economic security — challenges that have been around since long before the recession hit.  And that’s why one of the first things I did after taking office was to create a White House Council on Women and Girls.  I wanted to make sure that every agency across my administration considers the needs of women and girls in every decision we make.  And today, we’re releasing a report on women and the economy that looks at women’s economic security through all stages of life — from young women furthering their education and beginning their careers, to working women who create jobs and provide for their families, to seniors in retirement or getting ready for retirement.

There’s been a lot of talk about women and women’s issues lately, as there should be.  But I do think that the conversation has been oversimplified.  Women are not some monolithic bloc.  Women are not an interest group.  You shouldn’t be treated that way.  (Applause.)  Women are over half this country and its workforce — not to mention 80 percent of my household, if you count my mother-in-law.  (Laughter.)  And I always count my mother-in-law.  (Laughter.)

Every decision made by those of us in public life impacts women just as much as men.  And this report you all have explains some of what we’ve done to try to lift up the lives of women and girls in this country.  But I’d like to spend some time talking about why we’ve done what we’ve done.

For me, at least, it begins with the women who’ve shaped my life.  I grew up the son of a single mom who struggled to put herself through school and make ends meet; had to rely on food stamps at one point to get us by.  But she earned her education, she made it through with scholarships and hard work, and my sister and I earned our degrees because of her motivation and her support and her impact.  I’ve told this story before — she used to wake me up before dawn when I was living overseas, making sure that I was keeping up with my American education, and when I’d complain, she’d let loose with “this is no picnic for me either, buster.”  (Laughter.)  And that’s part of the reason why my sister chose to become a teacher.

When my mom needed help with us, my grandmother stepped up.  My grandmother had a high school education.  My grandfather got to go to college on the G.I. Bill; my grandmother wasn’t afforded those same opportunities even though she had worked on an assembly line, a bomber assembly line in World War II.  Nevertheless, she got a job at a local bank, and she was smart and tough and disciplined, and she worked hard.  And eventually she rose from being a secretary to being vice president at this bank, and I’m convinced she would have been the best president that bank had ever seen, if she had gotten the chance.  But at some point she hit the glass ceiling, and for a big chunk of her career, she watched other men that she had trained — younger men that she had trained — pass her up that ladder.

And then there is the woman who once advised me at the law firm in Chicago where we met.  (Laughter.)  Once — (laughter) — she gave me very good advice.  That’s why I decided to marry her.  (Laughter.)  And once Michelle and I had our girls, she gave it her all to balance raising a family and pursuing a career — and something that could be very difficult on her, because I was gone a lot.

Once I was in the state legislature, I was teaching, I was practicing law, I’d be traveling — and we didn’t have the luxury for her not to work.  And I know when she was with the girls, she’d feel guilty that she wasn’t giving enough time to her work.  And when she was at work, she was feeling guilty she wasn’t giving enough time to the girls.  And like many of you, we both wished that there were a machine that could let us be in two places at once.  And so she had to constantly juggle it, and carried an extraordinary burden for a long period of time.

And then finally, as a father, one of my highlights of every day is asking my daughters about their day, their hopes and their futures.  That’s what drives me every day when I step into the Oval Office — thinking about them.  Every decision I make is all about making sure they and all our daughters and all our sons grow up in a country that gives them the chance to be anything they set their minds to; a country where more doors are open to them than were open to us.

So when I think about these efforts, when we put together this Council on Women and Girls, this is personal.  That’s what is at the heart of all our efforts.  These are the experiences, the prism through which I view these efforts.  And that’s what we mean when we say that these issues are more than just a matter of policy.  And when we talk about these issues that primarily impact women, we’ve got to realize they are not just women’s issues.  They are family issues, they are economic issues, they are growth issues, they are issues about American competitiveness.  They’re issues that impact all of us.

Now, think about it.  When women make less than men for the same work, that hurts families who have to get by with less and businesses who have fewer customers with less to spend.  When a job doesn’t offer family leave to care for a new baby or sick leave to care for an ailing parent, that burdens men as well.  When an insurance plan denies women coverage because of preexisting conditions, that puts a strain on emergency rooms and drives up costs of care for everybody.  When any of our citizens can’t fulfill the potential that they have because of factors that have nothing to do with talent, or character, or work ethic, that diminishes us all.  It holds all of us back.  And it says something about who we are as Americans.

Right now, women are a growing number of breadwinners in the household.  But they’re still earning just 77 cents for every dollar a man does — even less if you’re an African American or Latina woman.  Overall, a woman with a college degree doing the same work as a man will earn hundreds of thousands of dollars less over the course of her career.

So closing this pay gap — ending pay discrimination — is about far more than simple fairness.  When more women are bringing home the bacon, but bringing home less of it than men who are doing the same work, that weakens families, it weakens communities, it’s tough on our kids, it weakens our entire economy.  (Applause.)

Which is why the first bill I signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Act — Fair Pay Act — (applause) — to make it easier for women to demand fairness — equal pay for equal work.  We’re pushing for legislation to give women more tools to pay — to fight pay discrimination.  And we’ve encouraged companies to make workplaces more flexible so women don’t have to choose between being a good employee or a good mom.

More women are also choosing to strike out on their own.  Today, nearly 30 percent of small business owners are women.  Their businesses generate $1.2 trillion last year.  But they’re less likely to get the loans that they need to start up, or expand or to hire — which means they often have to depend on credit cards and the mounting debt that comes with them.  And that’s why, through some outstanding work by Karen Mills and the SBA and other parts of our administration, we’ve extended more than 16,000 new loans worth $4.5 billion to women-owned businesses — (applause) — not to mention cut taxes for small businesses 17 times, so that more women have the power to create more jobs and more opportunity.

We’re also focusing on making sure more women are prepared to fill the good jobs of today and tomorrow.  Over the past decade, women have earned well over half of all the higher education degrees awarded in America.  But once they get out of college we still have a lot of ground to cover.  Just 3 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women.  Fewer than 20 percent of the seats in Congress are occupied by women.  Is it possible that Congress would get more done if there were more women in Congress?  (Laughter and applause.)  Is that fair to say, Joe?  (Applause.)  I think it’s fair to say.  That is almost guaranteed.  (Laughter.)

And while women account for four in five degrees in areas like education — which is terrific, because obviously there’s no profession that is more important than teaching — we also have to recognize that only two in five business degrees go to women; fewer than one in four engineering and computer science degrees go to women.  They make up just 25 percent of the workforce in the science and technical fields.  No unspoken bias or outdated barrier should ever prevent a girl from considering careers in these fields.  When creativity is limited or ingenuity is discouraged, that hurts all of us.  It denies America the game-changing products and world-changing discoveries we need to stay on top.

We’ve got to do more to encourage women to join these fields as well — make it easier to afford the education that’s required to make it.  Send a clear message to our daughters, which I’m doing every night:  Math, science, nothing wrong with it, a lot right with it.  We need you to focus.  That’s why our education reform, Race to the Top, has put a priority on science and technology and engineering and math education.  It has rewarded states that took specific steps to ensure that all students — especially underrepresented groups like girls — have the opportunity to get excited about these fields at an early age.  And we’ve helped more than 2.3 million more young women afford to pursue higher education with our increases in the Pell grants.  That’s good news.  (Applause.)

Another example — health reform.  It’s been in the news lately.  (Laughter.)  Because of the health reform law that we passed, women finally have more power to make their choices about their health care.  (Applause.)  Last year, more than 20 million women received expanded access to preventive services like mammograms and cervical cancer screenings at no additional cost.  (Applause.)  Nearly 2 million women enrolled in Medicare received a 50-percent discount on the medicine that they need.  Over 1 million more young women are insured because they can now stay on their parent’s plan.  And later this year, women will receive new access to recommended preventive care like domestic violence screening and contraception at no additional cost.  (Applause.)  And soon, insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage based on preexisting conditions like breast cancer, or charge women more just because they’re women.  (Applause.)

We don’t know — we haven’t gotten on the dry cleaning thing yet, though.  I mean, I know that that’s still — (laughter) — that’s still frustrating, I’m sure.  (Laughter.)

So when it comes to our efforts on behalf of women and girls, I’m proud of the accomplishments that we can point to.  Yes, we’ve got a lot more to do.  But there’s no doubt we’ve made progress.  The policies we’ve put in place over the past three years have started to take hold.  And what we can’t do now is go back to the policies that got us into so many of the problems that we’ve been dealing with in the first place.  That’s what’s at stake.

When people talk about repealing health care reform, they’re not just saying we should stop protecting women with preexisting conditions; they’re also saying we should kick about a million young women off their parent’s health care plans.

When people say we should get rid of Planned Parenthood, they’re not just talking about restricting a woman’s ability to make her own health decision; they’re talking about denying, as a practical matter, the preventive care, like mammograms, that millions of women rely on.

When folks talk about doing away with things like student aid that disproportionately help young women, they’re not thinking about the costs to our future, when millions of young Americans will have trouble affording to go to college.

And when something like the Violence Against Women Act — a bill Joe Biden authored, a bill that once passed by wide bipartisan margins — is suddenly called to question, that makes no sense.  (Applause.)  I don’t need to — that’s not something we should still be arguing about.  (Applause.)

Now, I don’t need to tell anybody here that progress is hard.  Change can come slow.  Opportunity and equality don’t come without a fight.  And sometimes, you’ve got to keep fighting even after you’ve won some victories.  Things don’t always move forward.  Sometimes they move backward if you’re not fighting for them.

But we do know these things are possible.  And all of you are proof to that.  This incredible collection of accomplished women — you’re proof of change.  So is the fact that for the first time in history, young girls across the country can see three women sitting on the bench of the highest court in the land.  (Applause.)  Or they can read about the extraordinary leadership of a woman who went by the title “Madam Speaker.”  (Applause.)  Or they can turn on the news and see that one of the most formidable presidential candidates and senators we ever had is now doing as much as anybody to improve America’s standing abroad as one of the best Secretaries of State that we’ve ever known.  (Applause.)  And they can see that every single day, another 500 women, just like yourselves, take the helm of their own company right here in America, and do their part to grab those doors of opportunity that they walked through and open them just a little bit wider for the next generation.

As long as I’ve got the privilege of being your President, we’re going to keep working every single day to make sure those doors forever stay open, and widen the circle of opportunity for all our kids.

Thank you for what you do.  Keep it up.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

10:51 A.M. EDT

White House Releases Report on Women and the Economy

Today, at the White House Forum on Women and the Economy, the President will discuss the importance of restoring the economic security for the middle class and creating an economy that’s built to last for America’s women. The President believes we must build an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone pays their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules. As part of today’s Forum the White House released a new report entitled Keeping America’s Women Moving Forward, The Key to an Economy Built to Last, which examines the ways in which the Administration has worked to ensure women’s economic security through all stages of life – from young women furthering their education and beginning their careers, to working women who create jobs and provide for their families, to seniors in retirement or getting ready for retirement. View the report HERE.

“As a father, one of the highlights of my day is asking my daughters about theirs.  Their hopes and their futures are what drive me every day I step into the Oval Office,” said President Obama.  “Every decision I make is all about making sure they and all our daughters and all our sons grow up in a country that gives them the chance to be anything they set their minds to; a country where more doors are open to them than were ever open to us.”

Today, more than ever, women are essential breadwinners in most American families. Yet women in our economy and our work force still aren’t getting a fair shake, earning just 77 cents on every dollar paid to men.  Women now make up nearly 50% of our workforce, are a growing number of breadwinners in their families, and are the majority of students in our colleges and graduate schools. The President believes that expanding economic opportunities for women and ending discriminatory practices is critical to building an economy that restores security for middle class families, where hard work and responsibility are rewarded, and everyone who wants one can find a good job.

Highlights from the Keeping America’s Women Moving Forward report include an overview of how Administration policies impact women at every stage of their lives:

Yong Women Obtaining Higher Education and Beginning their Careers

 Of the additional 3.4 million students who have received Pell grants since the President took office, approximately 2.3 million are women.

 9.4 million students and families have benefitted from the American Opportunity Tax Credit to help pay for college.

 1.1 million women between the ages of 19 and 25 who would have been uninsured currently receive health coverage under a parent’s health insurance plan or through an individually purchased health insurance plan.

 Women and girls across America are benefiting from efforts to promote Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, (STEM) degrees and careers because women who hold STEM degrees and jobs earn 30% more, on average, than women in non-STEM jobs.

Working Women Providing for their Families and Contributing to Economic Growth

 More than 16,000 Small Business Administration Loans totaling more than $4.5 billion were granted to women-owned small businesses.

 $62.5 million in monetary relief has been obtained for victims of sex-based wage discrimination by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission since January 2010.

 The Payroll tax cut provided an average of $1,000 of tax relief for nearly 75 million women.

 An estimated 4.9 million women were kept out of poverty in 2010 because of expansions in refundable tax credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit.

 An estimated 20.4 million women are benefiting from expanded access to preventive services such as mammograms, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and prenatal care at no additional cost.

Senior Women in Retirement and Preparing for Retirement

 24.7 million women enrolled in Medicare received preventive services at no additional cost in 2011, including an annual wellness visit, a personalized prevention plan, mammograms, and bone mass measurement for women at risk of osteoporosis.

 More than 2 million women enrolled in Medicare who hit the donut hole saved $1.2 billion in 2011 due to improvements in prescription drug coverage.

 More than $13.6 billion in payments of $250 each were provided to seniors and veterans as part of the Recovery Act, a substantial percentage of which went to women.

 President Obama has committed to protecting Social Security for an estimated 30 million women beneficiaries.

The White House Women and the Economy Forum will address a wide range of Administration accomplishments while focusing on how critical women are to the nation’s economic success. Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls Valerie Jarrett will deliver opening remarks and introduce a panel, moderated by Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC’s Morning Joe with Senior Administration Officials, private sector and academic leaders participating. Following the opening panel, the President will deliver remarks to an audience of entrepreneurs, academics, stakeholders, business leaders.  Following the President’s remarks, Senior Administration Officials including Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, Attorney General Eric Holder, as well as the Director of the Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Munoz, Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls Tina Tchen and Katharine Abraham, Member of the Council of Economic Advisors,  will lead a series of breakout sessions on a range of topics including: Women at Work, Education, Health, Women’s Entrepreneurship, and Violence Against Women and Girls.

View more about the White House Council on Women and Girls HERE.

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