Posts Tagged ‘Democrats

07
Aug
10

Weekly Address: Medicare Officially Safer After Health Reform

NEWS
Weekly Address: Medicare Officially Safer After Health Reform
President Obama Highlights Benefits to Seniors Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

Saturday, August 07, 2010

In his weekly address this week, President Obama highlighted a Medicare Trustees report noting the steps we took this year to reform the health care system have put Medicare on a sounder financial footing, which will help to preserve Medicare for generations to come. Additionally, America’s seniors are already seeing more benefits as a result of health reform, including a rebate to cover the cost of their prescriptions if they fall into the Medicare Part D drug coverage gap. In the coming years, as we continue to ramp up reform, we expect seniors to save in premiums and out of pocket costs. And the President will continue to make Medicare stronger to ensure our seniors have access to affordable and quality healthcare.

Forty-five years ago, we made a solemn compact as a nation that senior citizens would not go without the health care they need. This is the promise we made when Medicare was born. And it’s the responsibility of each generation to keep that promise.

That’s why a report issued this week by the Trustees who oversee Medicare was such good news. According to this report, the steps we took this year to reform the health care system have put Medicare on a sounder financial footing. Reform has actually added at least a dozen years to the solvency of Medicare – the single longest extension in history – while helping to preserve Medicare for generations to come.

We’ve made Medicare more solvent by going after waste, fraud, and abuse – not by changing seniors’ guaranteed benefits. In fact, seniors are starting to see that because of health reform, their benefits are getting better all the time.

Seniors who fall into the “doughnut hole” – the gap in Medicare Part D drug coverage – are eligible right now for a $250 rebate to help cover the cost of their prescriptions. Now, I know for people facing drug costs far higher than that, they need more help. That’s why we negotiated a better deal with the pharmaceutical companies for seniors. So starting next year, if you fall in the doughnut hole, you’ll get a 50-percent discount on the brand-name medicine you need. And in the coming years, this law will close the doughnut hole completely once and for all.

Already, we have put insurance companies on notice that we have the authority to review and reject unreasonable rate increases for Medicare Advantage plans. And we’ve made it clear to the insurers that we won’t hesitate to use this authority to protect seniors.

Beginning next year, preventive care – including annual physicals, wellness exams, and tests like mammograms – will be free for seniors as well. That will make it easier for folks to stay healthy. But it will also mean that doctors can catch things earlier, so treatment may be less invasive and less expensive.

And as reform ramps up in the coming years, we expect seniors to save an average of $200 per year in premiums and more than $200 each year in out of pocket costs, too.

This is possible in part through reforms that target waste and abuse and redirect those resources to where they’re supposed to go: our seniors. We’re already on track to cut improper payments in half – including money that goes to criminals who steal taxpayer dollars by setting up insurance scams and other frauds. And we won’t stop there. Because by preventing the loss of these tax dollars, we can both address the runaway costs of Medicare and improve the quality of care seniors receive – and we can crack down on those who prey on seniors and take advantage of people.

So we are no longer accepting business as usual. We’re making tough decisions to meet the challenges of our time. And as a result, Medicare is stronger and more secure. That’s important. Because Medicare isn’t just a program. It’s a commitment to America’s seniors – that after working your whole life, you’ve earned the security of quality health care you can afford. As long as I am President, that’s a commitment this country is going to keep.
Thank you.

• Latest News & Headlines » Home «
• Source(s): The White House
Share

31
Jul
10

Weekly Address: Good News on Autos, Obstruction on Small Business

NEWS
Weekly Address: Good News on Autos, Obstruction on Small Business
President Obama Hails Successes of the Restructuring of the Auto Industry, Calls on GOP Leaders to Stop Blocking Aid for Small Businesses

Saturday, July 31, 2010

In this week’s address, President Obama praised the successes of the auto industry restructuring. When his administration decided to invest in the American car companies, some said such a move was bound to fail. But since GM and Chrysler have emerged from bankruptcy, the auto industry has added 55,000 jobs – the strongest growth in 10 years – and for the first time since 2004, all three companies are operating at a profit. The President also called on Republican leaders in the Senate to stop blocking a vote on a bill helping small businesses. Even though this bill will help the recovery, and has been endorsed by groups like the Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business, the Republican Senate leadership continues to hold it hostage to politics by denying an up-or-down vote on the bill.

Hello everyone. I’m speaking to you from the GM auto plant here in Detroit, Michigan, where a hopeful story is unfolding in a place that’s been one of the hardest hit in America.

In the twelve months before I took office, American auto companies lost hundreds of thousands of jobs. Sales plunged 40 percent. Liquidation was a very real possibility. Years of papering over tough problems and failing to adapt to changing times – combined with a vicious economic crisis – brought an industry that’s been the symbol of our manufacturing might for a century to the brink of collapse.

We didn’t have many good options. On one hand, we could have continued the practice of handing out billions of taxpayer dollars to the auto industry with no real strings attached. On the other hand, we could have walked away and allowed two major auto companies to go out of business – which could have wiped out one million American jobs.

I refused to let that happen. So we came up with a third way. We said to the auto companies – if you’re willing to make the hard decisions necessary to adapt and compete in the 21st century, we’ll make a one-time investment in your future.

Of course, if some folks had their way, none of this would be happening at all. This plant might not exist. There were leaders of the “just say no” crowd in Washington who argued that standing by the auto industry would guarantee failure. One called it “the worst investment you could possibly make.” They said we should just walk away and let these jobs go.

Today, the men and women in this plant are proving these cynics wrong. Since GM and Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy, our auto industry has added 55,000 jobs – the strongest period of job growth in more than ten years. For the first time since 2004, all three American automakers are operating at a profit. Sales have begun to rebound. And plants like this that wouldn’t have existed if all of us didn’t act are now operating maximum capacity.

What’s more, thanks to our investments, a lot of these auto companies are reinventing themselves to meet the demands of a new age. At this plant, they’re hard at work building the high-quality, fuel-efficient cars of tomorrow – cars like the plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt that can run 40 miles before taking a sip of gasoline. Throughout Michigan, an advanced battery industry is taking root that will power clean electric cars – an industry that produced only 2 percent of the world’s advanced batteries last year, but will now be able to produce as much as 40 percent in a little over five years. That’s real progress.

There’s no doubt that we have a long way to go and a lot of work to do before folks here and across the country can feel whole again. But what’s important is that we’re finally beginning to see some of the tough decisions we made pay off. And if we had listened to the cynics and the naysayers – if we had simply done what the politics of the moment required – none of this progress would have happened.

Still, even as these icons of American industry are being reborn, we also need to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with America’s small businessmen and women, as well – particularly since they’re the ones who create most of the new jobs in this country.

As we work to rebuild our economy, I can’t imagine anything more common-sense than giving additional tax breaks and badly-needed lending assistance to America’s small business owners so they can grow and hire. That’s what we’re trying to do with the Small Business Jobs Act – a bill that has been praised as being good for small businesses by groups like the Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business. It’s a bill that includes provision after provision authored by both Democrats and Republicans. But yesterday, the Republican leaders in the Senate once again used parliamentary procedures to block it. Understand, a majority of Senators support the plan. It’s just that the Republican leaders in the Senate won’t even allow it to come up for a vote.

That isn’t right. And I’m calling on the Republican leaders in the Senate to stop holding America’s small businesses hostage to politics, and allow an up-or-down vote on this small business jobs bill.

At a time when America is just starting to move forward again, we can’t afford the do-nothing policies and partisan maneuvering that will only take us backward. I won’t stand here and pretend everything’s wonderful. I know that times are tough. But what I also know is that we’ve made it through tough times before. And we’ll make it through again. The men and women hard at work in this plant make me absolutely confident of that.

So to all the naysayers out there, I say this: Don’t ever bet against the American people. Because we don’t take the easy way out. That’s not how we deal with challenge. That’s not how we build this country into the greatest economic power the world has ever known. We did it by summoning the courage to persevere, and adapt, and push this country forward, inch by inch. That’s the spirit I see in this plant today, and as long as I have the privilege of being your President, I will keep fighting alongside you until we reach a better day.
Thanks.

• Latest News & Headlines » Home «
• Source(s): The White House
Share

30
Jul
10

President Obama in Detroit: The Fight for America’s Workers

NEWS
President Obama in Detroit: The Fight for America’s Workers
President Obama hails auto bailout as good news in Michigan

Friday, July 30, 2010

Today the President was in Detroit visiting workers at a Chrysler plant and a GM plant that have not only survived, but found success after critics looking to score political points claimed there was no hope for them. For those critics the President offered a lesson: “Don’t bet against the American worker.”

During the two years since the economy took its hard downward turn, millions of Americans have had to fight with everything they had to stay afloat, to keep food on the table, to keep their businesses in business – and nowhere has that been more true than in Detroit.

The President has also been fighting alongside America’s workers – from the Recovery Act that’s saved or created about 3 million jobs, to the fight today over small business lending – and of course for the workers in Detroit and across America who contribute to the decades-old craft of American cars. When political opponents said that helping the American auto industry survive was a lost cause, and tried to turn public frustration against the President, he stepped in and made the hard choices anyway. There couldn’t necessarily be a life raft for everybody, but he was not going to let a million American jobs fall by the wayside simply because it opened him up for cheap political attacks.
And as the report released yesterday made clear, that investment is paying off: “In the year before GM and Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy, the auto industry shed 334,000 jobs. In the year since, auto industry employment has increased by 55,000 jobs. This is the fastest year-over-year growth in auto employment since 1999.” Not only that, but with a boost from the Recovery Act’s investments in the clean energy economy, the industry has turned toward the future in ways many thought they never could. A quick look at the interactive map released yesterday gives a glimpse of how America can move back to the front of the pack in the coming generation of fuel efficient and electric vehicles.

In his visit to the Chrysler Jefferson North Assembly Plant, speaking to workers who have had to fight just to keep working, it was clear the President felt in a bit of a fighting mood himself:

The President: Investments like those mean jobs for American workers to do what they’ve always done: build great products and sell them around the world.

So the bottom line is this – we’ve got a long way to go, but we’re beginning to see some of these tough decisions pay off. We are moving forward.

I want you to remember, though, if some folks had their way, none of this would have been happening. I just want to point that out. Right? I mean this – this plant – this plant and your jobs might not exist. There were leaders of the “just say no” crowd in Washington – they were saying – oh, standing by the auto industry would guarantee failure. One of them called it “the worst investment you could possibly make.”

Audience: Boo!

The President: They said – they said we should just walk way and let those jobs go.

Audience: Boo!

The President: I wish they were standing here today. (Applause.) I wish they could see what I’m seeing in this plant and talk to the workers who are here taking pride in building a world-class vehicle. I don’t think they’d be willing to look you in the eye and say that you were a bad investment. They might just come around if they were standing here and admit that by standing by a great American industry and the good people who work for it, that we did the right thing. It’s hard for them to say that. You know, they like admitting when I do the right thing. (Laughter.) But they might have had to admit it. And I want all of you to know, I will bet on the American worker any day of the week! (Applause.)

• Latest News & Headlines » Home «
• Source(s): The White House
Share

24
Jul
10

Weekly Address: Moving Forward on the Economy vs. Moving Backward

NEWS
Weekly Address: Moving Forward on the Economy vs. Moving Backward
President Obama Praises New Wall Street Reform Law; Says GOP Plan Will Take Us Backward

Saturday, July 24, 2010

In this week’s address, President Obama praised the Wall Street reform bill that he signed into law on Wednesday and explained how it fits into the greater strategy to bring the country out of recession and build an economy for the long run. The president’s plan is aimed at strengthening the middle class and gives tax breaks to small businesses that creates jobs here, invests in homegrown, clean energy, and cuts taxes for working families. Unfortunately, when the Republican leader in the House offered his plan to create jobs this week, he presented the same policy ideas that led to this recession – ideas that will kill jobs instead of create them, and will add $1 trillion to the deficit, not reduce it.

This week, I signed into law a Wall Street reform bill that will protect consumers and our entire economy from the recklessness and irresponsibility that led to the worst recession of our lifetime. It’s reform that will help put a stop to the abusive practices of mortgage lenders and credit card companies. It will end taxpayer bailouts of Wall Street firms. And it will finally bring the shadowy deals that caused the financial crisis into the light of day.

Wall Street reform is a key pillar of an overall economic plan we’ve put in place to dig ourselves out of this recession and build an economy for the long run – an economy that makes America more competitive and our middle-class more secure. It’s a plan based on the Main Street values of hard work and responsibility – and one that demands new accountability from Wall Street to Washington.

Instead of giving tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas, we want to give tax breaks to small business owners who are creating jobs right here in America. Already, we’ve given small businesses eight new tax cuts, and have expanded lending to more than 60,000 small business owners.

We’re also investing in a homegrown, clean energy industry – because I don’t want to see new solar panels and wind turbines and electric cars manufactured in some other country. I want to see them made in America, by American workers. So far, we’ve provided new tax credits, loan guarantees, and investments that will lead to more than 800,000 clean energy jobs by 2012. And throughout America, communities are being rebuilt by people working in hundreds of thousands of new private sector jobs repairing our roads, bridges, and railways.

Our economic plan is also aimed at strengthening the middle-class. That’s why we’ve cut taxes for 95% of working families. That’s why we’ve offered tax credits that have made college more affordable for millions of students, and why we’re making a new commitment to our community colleges. And that’s why we passed health insurance reform that will stop insurance companies from dropping or denying coverage based on an illness or pre-existing condition.

This is our economic plan – smart investments in America’s small businesses, America’s clean energy industry, and America’s middle-class. Now, I can’t tell you that this plan will bring back all the jobs we lost and restore our economy to full strength overnight. The truth is, it took nearly a decade of failed economic policies to create this mess, and it will take years to fully repair the damage. But I am confident that we are finally headed in the right direction. We are moving forward. And what we can’t afford right now is to go back to the same ideas that created this mess in the first place.

Unfortunately, those are the ideas we keep hearing from our friends in the other party. This week, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives offered his plan to create jobs. It’s a plan that’s surprisingly short, and sadly familiar.

First, he would repeal health insurance reform, which would take away tax credits from millions of small business owners, and take us back to the days when insurance companies had free rein to drop coverage and jack up premiums. Second, he would say no to new investments in clean energy, after his party already voted against the clean energy tax credits and loans that are creating thousands of new jobs and hundreds of new businesses. And third, even though his party voted against tax cuts for middle-class families, he would permanently keep in place the tax cuts for the very wealthiest Americans – the same tax cuts that have added hundreds of billions to our debt.

These are not new ideas. They are the same policies that led us into this recession. They will not create jobs, they will kill them. They will not reduce our deficit, they will add $1 trillion to our deficit. They will take us backward at a time when we need to keep America moving forward.

I know times are tough. I know that the progress we’ve made isn’t good enough for the millions of Americans who are still out of work or struggling to pay the bills. But I also know the character of this nation. I know that in times of great challenge and difficulty, we don’t fear the future – we shape the future. We harness the skills and ingenuity of the most dynamic country on Earth to reach a better day. We do it with optimism, and we do it with confidence. That’s the spirit we need right now, and that’s the future I know we can build together.
Thank you.

• Latest News & Headlines » Home «
• Source(s): The White House
Share

21
Jul
10

Obama signs historic finance reform bill

NEWS
Obama signs historic finance reform bill
Historic financial overhaul signed to law by Obama

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

President Barack Obama on Wednesday signed into law the most sweeping reform of the U.S. finance industry since the 1930s, promising U.S. taxpayers would no longer get the bill for Wall Street excess.

The legislation, which some Republicans have pledged to repeal, introduces new consumer protections, checks the power of big banks and cracks down on deceptive practices by credit card firms.

“Because of this law, the American people will never again be asked to foot the bill for Wall Street’s mistakes. There will be no more tax-funded bailouts,” Obama promised.

Seeking to restore public confidence in his economic leadership as unemployment flirts with double digits, Obama said the bill would repair the fractures and abuses of which the financial meltdown was born.

“It was a crisis born of a failure of responsibility from certain corners of Wall Street to the halls of power in Washington,” said Obama, before adding the legacy-boosting law to his huge health care reform passed earlier this year.

“These reforms represent the strongest consumer financial protections in history,” Obama said, before signing the new law, passed by Congress last week.

“These protections will be enforced by a new consumer watchdog with just one job: looking out for people – not big banks, not lenders, not investment houses.”

The financial reform bill finally squeezed through Congress with just a handful of Republican votes, as the opposition party continued with its policy of trying to block Obama’s ambitious reform program at all costs.

Republican leaders on Wednesday condemned the new law, saying it would crimp growth, and handcuff the might of America’s financial titans.

Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele accused Obama of trying to convince “sceptical Americans that he is doing everything he can to lower unemployment.”

“President Obama has signed into law a 2300 page behemoth that will saddle the business community with innumerable unintended consequences, tighter credit, and countless job-killing regulations,” Steele said.

Obama, facing record low approval ratings in some polls, hopes the financial reforms will eventually become popular, but much of the bill, like the health care bill, is so complicated that it will not come into force for months.

For instance, it will be up to a year before a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is set up to protect American consumers from hidden fees and deceptive lending practices when they get a new mortgage or credit card.

It could be 18 months before new regulations emerge to stop banks from engaging in impermissible proprietary trading and investment in hedge funds – under the Volcker rule, named after former Federal Reserve chief Paul Volcker.

In a bid to highlight the help the bill will grant to the middle classes, Obama was joined at the signing ceremony by several Americans who suffered unfair treatment at the hands of credit card firms and banks.

The legislation closes loopholes in regulations and requires greater transparency and accountability for hedge funds, mortgage brokers and payday lenders, as well as arcane financial instruments called derivatives.

The measure has drawn praise but also skepticism from economists and analysts.

The bill “addresses a number of key weaknesses in the U.S. financial regulatory structure that led to the financial meltdown in 2008 and early 2009,” said Brian Bethune at IHS Global Insight.

But Diane Swonk at Mesirow Financial warned that much of the impact is not known.

“We will have more regulators overseeing – but not necessarily averting – risk, and with a bill so large and undefined, we are likely to get more, in terms of unintended than intended consequences, going forward,” she said.

The law is likely to generate heated debate ahead of congressional elections in November as Republicans call for its reversal.

House Republican leader John Boehner said recently the law “ought to be repealed” and replaced with “common-sense things that we should do to plug the holes in the regulatory system.”
• Latest News & Headlines » Home «
• Source(s): The White House
Share

19
Jul
10

Obama to GOP: Restore unemployment benefits now

NEWS
Obama to GOP: Restore unemployment benefits now
President Obama Pushes for Up-or-Down Vote on Help for Our Laid Off Friends & Neighbors

Monday, July 19, 2010

President Barack Obama tore into congressional Republicans on Monday for blocking an extension of unemployment benefits, arguing that a “partisan minority” had allowed short-term political calculations to trump genuine economic need.

The Senate is set to consider a bill Tuesday that would extend the deadline to file for unemployment benefits through the end of November. The bill would cost $33 billion in additional deficit spending, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

“It’s time to stop blocking emergency relief for Americans who are out of work and extend unemployment insurance,” Obama said in a statement issued by the White House.

He accused Senate Republicans for “holding workers laid off in this recession hostage to Washington politics.”

The bill, formally known as Emergency Unemployment Compensation, is a U.S. federal government program which assists states in providing additional weeks of unemployment benefits to workers who have been laid off due to no fault of their own.

The legislation, which has already cleared the House of Representatives on July 1, would retroactively restore benefits to recipients who as early as the end of May may have started losing their benefits. The Senate is scheduled to take up the measure on Tuesday.

Republicans have successfully blocked the bill from clearing the Senate for three times, quoting the additional budgetary burden as their main concern.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell stressed Sunday that Republicans are “all for extending unemployment insurance” but not in favor of deficit spending.

“They’ve taken the deficit as a percentage of GDP from 3.2 percent to almost 10 percent in a year and a half,” McConnell said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “Somewhere in the course of spending a trillion dollars, we ought to be able to find enough to pay for a program for the unemployed.”

Obama also urged the Senate to act this week on a package of tax cuts and expanded lending for small businesses, the two other legislative priorities Obama and Democrats agreed to last week following the passage of the financial regulation bill.

Good morning, everybody. Right now, across this country, many Americans are sitting at the kitchen table, they’re scanning the classifieds, they’re updating their resumes or sending out another job application, hoping that this time they’ll hear back from a potential employer. And they’re filled with a sense of uncertainty about where their next paycheck will come from. And I know the only thing that will entirely free them of those worries – the only thing that will fully lift that sense of uncertainty – is the security of a new job.

To that end, we all have to continue our efforts to do everything in our power to spur growth and hiring. And I hope the Senate acts this week on a package of tax cuts and expanded lending for small businesses, where most of America’s jobs are created.

So we’ve got a lot of work to do to make sure that we are digging ourselves out of this tough economic hole that we’ve been in. But even as we work to jumpstart job growth in the private sector, even as we work to get businesses hiring again, we also have another responsibility: to offer emergency assistance to people who desperately need it – to Americans who’ve been laid off in this recession. We’ve got a responsibility to help them make ends meet and support their families even as they’re looking for another job.

That’s why it’s so essential to pass the unemployment insurance extension that comes up for a vote tomorrow. We need to pass it for men like Jim Chukalas, who’s with me here today. Jim worked as a parts manager at a Honda dealership until about two years ago. He’s posted resumes everywhere. He’s gone door-to-door looking for jobs. But he hasn’t gotten a single interview. He’s trying to be strong for his two young kids, but now that he’s exhausted his unemployment benefits, that’s getting harder to do.

We need to pass it for women like Leslie Macko, who lost her job at a fitness center last year and has been looking for work ever since. Because she’s eligible for only a few more weeks of unemployment, she’s doing what she never thought she’d have to do – not at this point, anyway. She’s turning to her father for financial support.

And we need to pass it for Americans like Denise Gibson, who was laid off from a real estate agency earlier this year. Denise has been interviewing for jobs – but so far nothing has turned up. Meanwhile, she’s fallen further and further behind on her rent. And with her unemployment benefits set to expire, she’s worried about what the future holds.

We need to pass it for all the Americans who haven’t been able to find work in an economy where there are five applicants for every opening; who need emergency relief to help them pay the rent and cover their utilities and put food on the table while they’re looking for another job.

And for a long time, there’s been a tradition – under both Democratic and Republican Presidents – to offer relief to the unemployed. That was certainly the case under my predecessor, when Republican senators voted several times to extend emergency unemployment benefits. But right now, these benefits – benefits that are often the person’s sole source of income while they’re looking for work – are in jeopardy.

And I have to say, after years of championing policies that turned a record surplus into a massive deficit, the same people who didn’t have any problem spending hundreds of billions of dollars on tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans are now saying we shouldn’t offer relief to middle-class Americans like Jim or Leslie or Denise, who really need help.

Over the past few weeks, a majority of senators have tried – not once, not twice, but three times – to extend emergency relief on a temporary basis. Each time, a partisan minority in the Senate has used parliamentary maneuvers to block a vote, denying millions of people who are out of work much-needed relief. These leaders in the Senate who are advancing a misguided notion that emergency relief somehow discourages people from looking for a job should talk to these folks.

That attitude I think reflects a lack of faith in the American people, because the Americans I hear from in letters and meet in town hall meetings – Americans like Leslie and Jim and Denise – they’re not looking for a handout. They desperately want to work. Just right now they can’t find a job. These are honest, decent, hardworking folks who’ve fallen on hard times through no fault of their own, and who have nowhere else to turn except unemployment benefits and who need emergency relief to help them weather this economic storm.

Now, tomorrow we will have another chance to offer them that relief, to do right by not just Jim and Leslie and Denise, but all the Americans who need a helping hand right now – and I hope we seize it. It’s time to stop holding workers laid off in this recession hostage to Washington politics. It’s time to do what’s right – not for the next election but for the middle class. We’ve got to stop blocking emergency relief for Americans who are out of work. We’ve got to extend unemployment insurance. We need to pass those tax cuts for small businesses and the lending for small businesses.

Times are hard right now. We are moving in the right direction. I know it’s getting close to an election, but there are times where you put elections aside. This is one of those times. And that’s what I hope members of Congress on both sides of the aisle will do tomorrow.

Thanks very much.

• Latest News & Headlines » Home «
• Source(s): The White House
Share

17
Jul
10

Weekly Address: Filibustering Recovery & Obstructing Progress

NEWS
Weekly Address: Filibustering Recovery & Obstructing Progress
President Obama Says GOP Senate Leadership Choosing to “Filibuster Our Recovery and Obstruct Our Progress”

Saturday, July 17, 2010

In this week’s address, the President criticized the Republican leadership in the Senate for opposing initiatives which that would create jobs and strengthen the economy like cutting taxes for small businesses and extending unemployment insurance for Americans who have lost their jobs during the recession. Aiding small businesses and renewing unemployment insurance are not just the right things to do for those hit hardest by the recession, they are steps that will help strengthen the recovery. When crises strike Main Street, the President believes it’s important to put aside politics and act in the best interests of American families and small businesses.

This week, many of our largest corporations reported robust earnings – a positive sign of growth.

But too many of our small business owners and those who aspire to start their own small businesses continue to struggle, in part because they can’t get the credit they need to start up, grow, and hire. And too many Americans whose livelihoods have fallen prey to the worst recession in our lifetimes – a recession that cost our economy eight million jobs – still wonder how they’ll make ends meet.

That’s why we need to take new, commonsense steps to help small businesses, grow our economy, and create jobs – and we need to take them now.

For months, that’s what we’ve been trying to do. But too often, the Republican leadership in the United States Senate chooses to filibuster our recovery and obstruct our progress. And that has very real consequences.

Consider what that obstruction means for our small businesses – the growth engines that create two of every three new jobs in this country. A lot of small businesses still have trouble getting the loans and capital they need to keep their doors open and hire new workers. So we proposed steps to get them that help: Eliminating capital gains taxes on investments. Establishing a fund for small lenders to help small businesses. Enhancing successful SBA programs that help them access the capital they need.

But again and again, a partisan minority in the Senate said “no,” and used procedural tactics to block a simple, up-or-down vote.

Think about what these stalling tactics mean for the millions of Americans who’ve lost their jobs since the recession began. Over the past several weeks, more than two million of them have seen their unemployment insurance expire. For many, it was the only way to make ends meet while searching for work – the only way to cover rent, utilities, even food.

Three times, the Senate has tried to temporarily extend that emergency assistance. And three times, a minority of Senators – basically the same crowd who said “no” to small businesses – said “no” to folks looking for work, and blocked a straight up-or-down vote.

Some Republican leaders actually treat this unemployment insurance as if it’s a form of welfare. They say it discourages folks from looking for work. Well, I’ve met a lot of folks looking for work these past few years, and I can tell you, I haven’t met any Americans who would rather have an unemployment check than a meaningful job that lets you provide for your family. And we all have friends, neighbors, or family members who already knows how hard it is to land a job when five workers are competing for every opening.

Now in the past, Presidents and Congresses of both parties have treated unemployment insurance for what it is – an emergency expenditure. That’s because an economic disaster can devastate families and communities just as surely as a flood or tornado.

Suddenly, Republican leaders want to change that. They say we shouldn’t provide unemployment insurance because it costs money. So after years of championing policies that turned a record surplus into a massive deficit, including a tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, they’ve finally decided to make their stand on the backs of the unemployed. They’ve got no problem spending money on tax breaks for folks at the top who don’t need them and didn’t even ask for them; but they object to helping folks laid off in this recession who really do need help. And every day this goes on, another 50,000 Americans lose that badly needed lifeline.

Well, I think these Senators are wrong. We can’t afford to go back to the same misguided policies that led us into this mess. We need to move forward with the policies that are leading us out of this mess.

The fact is, most economists agree that extending unemployment insurance is one of the single most cost-effective ways to help jumpstart the economy. It puts money into the pockets of folks who not only need it most, but who also are most likely to spend it quickly. That boosts local economies. And that means jobs.

Increasing loans to small business. Renewing unemployment insurance. These steps aren’t just the right thing to do for those hardest hit by the recession – they’re the right thing to do for all of us. And I’m calling on Congress once more to take these steps on behalf of America’s workers, and families, and small business owners – the people we were sent here to serve.

Because when storms strike Main Street, we don’t play politics with emergency aid. We don’t desert our fellow Americans when they fall on hard times. We come together. We do what we can to help. We rebuild stronger, and we move forward. That’s what we’re doing today. And I’m absolutely convinced that’s how we’re going to come through this storm to better days ahead.

Thanks.

• Latest News & Headlines » Home «
• Source(s): The White House
Share

12
Jul
10

Oil spill hopes raise with BP’s latest effort to fix it

NEWS
Oil spill hopes raise with BP’s latest effort to fix it

Monday, July 12, 2010

Earth••• BP reported good progress on its high-stakes effort to fully contain the Gulf of Mexico oil leak by fixing a tighter cap over the giant gusher.

Operations have reached a critical phase as engineers race to take advantage of a stretch of fine weather in the midst of the Atlantic hurricane season to install a new system with the potential to capture all the leaking crude.

Expected to take between four and seven days, the round-the-clock work began at midday on Saturday when the old, less efficient cap was ripped off a fractured pipe 1.6km down on the sea floor by robotic submarines.

‘We are pleased with our progress,’ BP Vice President Kent Wells told journalists almost 24 hours in. ‘We have carefully planned and practised this whole procedure. We’ve tried to work out as many of the bugs as we can.’

Sunday’s operations saw a transition spool being lowered into place which must be bolted onto the leaking pipe before a gigantic funnel – weighing 68 tonnes and dubbed the ‘Top Hat 10’ – can be installed.

The old ‘Top Hat’ system collected roughly 25,000 barrels of crude every day, but estimates suggest that could be less than half the leak.

BP says the new cap and the deployment of a third containment ship called the Helix Producer will raise the system’s capacity to between 60,000 and 80,000 barrels a day, enough to capture all the leaking oil.

The new system has also been designed so it can be disconnected and reconnected more easily in the case of a hurricane and has a built-in device that should give the first precise estimate of the overall flow.
No permanent solution is expected until mid-August at the earliest when the first of two relief wells is due to be completed – allowing drilling fluids to be injected into the well, which would then be sealed with cement.

The decision to remove the old cap and allow most of the oil to pour unchecked into the sea was approved by Admiral Thad Allen, the former Coast Guard chief leading the US government’s response to the disaster.

Although the removal of the cap forced the suspension of the main containment operation, a separate siphoning system is taking a smaller proportion of the oil to be flared off on a surface vessel.

Wells said two more ships would join a fleet of 46 skimming vessels scooping up oil off the sea and said 15 controlled burns of the surface crude had been carried out on Saturday.

Oil has washed up on beaches in all five Gulf states – Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida – forcing fishing grounds to be closed and threatening scores of coastal communities with financial ruin.

The man charged with doling out compensation to victims of the spill said he could not estimate whether the initial $20 billion fund set up by BP would be enough to pay compensation claims.

‘If they are eligible, we will give them up to six months emergency (compensation),’ Kenneth Feinberg told CNN, adding: ‘I can’t help people if they don’t file.’

Many fishermen and others who work in the Gulf get paid in cash and do not have paperwork to back up their claims. Some are also worried that if they ask for compensation, the government will seek taxes for previous income.
While the containment effort and the claims process continued apace, the attorney general said the Justice Department was also still considering whether to bring criminal charges against the culprit or culprits.

‘The investigation is ongoing. We are in the process of accumulating documents, talking to witnesses on both the criminal side and the civil side,’ Eric Holder told CBS’s Face the Nation program.

Holder was quick to stress that when he announced the probe on June 1, he had been careful not to mention BP by name as it was not the only party involved with the Deepwater Horizon rig.

At congressional hearings back in May, BP, rig owner Transocean and oil services provider Halliburton blamed each other for the spill as executives from all three oil titans were grilled by U.S. lawmakers.

The man charged with doling out BP’s compensation to victims of the Gulf oil spill said on Sunday he is prepared to pay up to six months of expenses in advance, but getting people to file claims is a struggle.

Kenneth Feinberg told CNN he wanted to provide ‘some degree of financial certainty’, to people who have found their livelihoods hurt by the massive oil spill. ‘If they are eligible, we will give them up to six months emergency (compensation).’

But, he lamented, ‘I can’t help people if they don’t file.’

Many of the fishermen and others who work in the Gulf region regularly get paid in cash and do not have paperwork to back up their claims of lost income. They are also worried that if they ask for compensation, the government will seek taxes for previous income.

The BP-leased rig exploded on April 20 killing 11 workers. It sank two days later, unleashing the nation’s worst ever environmental disaster.
• Latest News & Headlines » Home «
Share

07
Jul
10

Oil comes ashore in Texas as BP dismisses money fears

NEWS
Oil comes ashore in Texas as BP dismisses money fears

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Earth••• Clean-up efforts in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill extended Tuesday to Texas and Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana, as BP dismissed reports of deeper financial woes.

Officials said crews collected tar balls and waste from Lake Pontchartrain, the vast estuary near New Orleans, as rough weather continued to hamper the containment and skimming effort near the spill site in the Gulf.

U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen said the huge spill was now threatening all the states along the Gulf coast from Florida to Texas and that rough seas since the passage of Hurricane Alex had hurt the effort.

The first Atlantic hurricane of the year passed through the Gulf of Mexico last week without too much alarm for the oil containment efforts, but Allen said two nearby storm systems were being closely watched.

‘We’re watching very, very closely the swells and waves that might be generated by this current storm system,’ he said.

‘Sometime in the seven to 10 days we’ll look for a window of opportunity to put the containment cap on at the same time we will go on and continue with the drilling of the relief well.’
A BP spokeswoman in London denied the firm was planning to sell new stock to a strategic investor to raise money, amid reports the British government is working on a crisis plan if the company is sunk by the disaster.

‘We are not issuing any new equity,’ she said. ‘We welcome new shareholders to come onto the shareholder register and we welcome existing shareholders who want to take a bigger amount of shares.’

The Times newspaper in London reported that officials at the Department of Business and the Treasury were already considering contingencies for BP’s potential collapse.

‘It is not clear how bad this will get, but the government needs to be prepared for any eventuality,’ an anonymous source said to be familiar with the talks was quoted as saying.

BP has forked out some $3.12 billion in spill-related costs and has promised to pay another $20 billion into an escrow fund to compensate Americans affected by the spill.

The BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig sank on April 22, two days after an explosion that killed 11 workers, unleashing the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.
On Sunday, tar balls from the spill arrived on beaches in Texas, more than 310 miles away, though it was unclear how the crude got there.

Tests showed they did come from the BP Deepwater Horizon well but scientists and officials were working to determine if they arrived in Texas by currents or via ships operating in the vicinity of the well head.

The tar balls in Lake Pontchartrain were also being tested.

Some 492 miles of Gulf Coast shoreline has been oiled, and fishing ground closures and tourist cancellations threaten financial ruin for residents who have reacted angrily to BP’s failure to cap the spill.

Up to 60,000 barrels of oil a day is believed to be leaking into the Gulf of Mexico, far outpacing the collection efforts of a system that is capturing around 25,000 barrels a day.

Officials hope to more than double that capacity to some 53,000 barrels a day by hooking up a third containment vessel, the Helix Producer, to the system that captures and siphons away the crude.

‘There is a partial hookup right now and they can sustain that unless they have really severe sea states,’ said Allen, the U.S. official coordinating the spill response.

‘We won’t know for several hours whether they’re able to do it. It currently is a work in progress.’
Officials were also testing a mega-tanker, A Whale, which could boost efforts to skim spilled crude from the sea surface.

The ship is believed to be able to suck up to 500,000 barrels of oily water a day through its ‘jaws’, a series of vents on the side of the ship.

By comparison, more than 500 smaller vessels in 10 weeks have only managed to collect some 31.3 million gallons of oil-water mix between them and high waves forced most of the boats to halt operations on Tuesday.

It will likely be mid-August at the earliest before the ruptured well is permanently capped by injecting mud and cement with the aid of relief wells.

The high end of the oil leak estimates means it has now surpassed the 1979 Ixtoc blowout, which took nine months to cap and dumped an estimated 3.3 million barrels into the Gulf of Mexico.

It is topped only by the deliberate release of six to eight million barrels of crude by Iraqi troops who destroyed tankers and oil terminals and set wells ablaze in Kuwait during the 1991 Gulf War.
• Latest News & Headlines » Home «
Share

04
Jul
10

Rough seas halt U.S. spill clean-up as crews test mega-skimmer

NEWS
Rough seas halt U.S. spill clean-up as crews test mega-skimmer

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Earth••• Clean-up work resumed in some areas of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, but heavy swells kept many boats docked, halting efforts to fight the ecological disaster.

A Taiwanese mega-skimmer dubbed the ‘A Whale’ was in position near the site of the leak and set to undergo 48 hours of ‘proof of concept’ testing, Coast Guard spokeswoman Ayla Kelley said.
The 903 feet long tanker can vacuum up 21 million gallons of oily water a day, separating oil from water and spitting the seawater back out.

Small skimming boats that have been patrolling the Gulf for the past 10 weeks have only collected 28.2 million gallons of oily water to date, and rough weather made seas off Louisiana too choppy for them to even go out on Saturday.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Kelly Parker at a Houma, Louisiana information centre said crews were resetting protective booms along fragile coastal areas, but skimming and controlled burns of spilled crude had been halted.

However, around the Chandeleur Islands, a chain of uninhabited barrier islands and wildlife refuge at Louisiana’s easternmost point, boom and skimming operations resumed on Friday, said a representative of Admiral Thad Allen, the top official overseeing the spill response.

‘These are the most environmentally sensitive areas. The good news is that we saw only light oil and there were hundreds of boats working in the area resetting boom and skimming,’ rear admiral Paul Zunkunft told reporters after he flew over the islands.

‘The areas are critical to defend because they are home to turtles, shrimp and other wildlife,’ Zukunft said.
Despite containment efforts, he warned: ‘We are not out of the woods yet.’

An estimated 35,000 to 60,000 barrels of oil per day has gushed from the ruptured well since the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon drilling rig sank on April 22, some 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana.

A containment system has captured about 557,000 barrels of oil, but rough seas delayed the deployment of a third vessel that could boost capacity from 25,000 barrels to 53,000 barrels a day.

That means an estimated 1.9 to 3.6 million barrels – or 79.5 to 153 million gallons – of oil has now gushed into the Gulf.

Using the high end of that estimate, the spill has now surpassed the 1979 Ixtoc blowout, which took nine months to cap and dumped an estimated 3.3 million barrels (140,000 million gallons) into the Gulf of Mexico.

It is topped only by the deliberate release of six to eight million barrels of crude by Iraqi troops who destroyed tankers and oil terminals and set wells ablaze in Kuwait during the 1991 Gulf War.
And it will likely be mid-August at the earliest before the Gulf well is permanently capped by injecting mud and cement with the aid of relief wells.
Skimmers had been collecting about 12,000 barrels of oil a day before they were sent back to port after Hurricane Alex whipped up waves earlier this week, while about 8,000 barrels of oil was being burned off the surface.
But the spill has so far oiled at least 450 miles of U.S. shorelines, 74 days into the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.

Admiral Allen said he hoped to have the third containment vessel, the Helix Producer, in place by Wednesday.

Once the Producer is working, officials will also have a better sense of just how much crude is leaking, ‘just by the visual evidence of how much oil is actually coming out around that cap’, Allen said.

They will then have to decide if the existing system should stay in place, or if it would be best to undergo a risky procedure to replace the cap with another system capable of capturing up to 80,000 barrels of oil a day.

‘The decision window associated with that would be sometime in the next, I would say, seven to 10 days,’ Allen said in a conference call on Friday.

In addition to boosting capacity, the new system would also greatly reduce the amount of time oil could gush freely into the sea if crews had to evacuate due to a bad storm.

Meanwhile, Environmental Protection Agency chief Lisa Jackson was headed to Pensacola, Florida to oversee coastal clean-up operations in the state, where tourist draws Miami and the Florida Keys face the likelihood of fouled beaches.
• Latest News & Headlines » Home «
Share

30
Jun
10

Obama slams Republicans over BP ‘apology’ and economy

NEWS
Obama slams Republicans over BP ‘apology’ and economy

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

••• U.S. President Barack Obama lampooned Republicans over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill on Wednesday, seeking to turn a disaster that has been a political liability for him into a political weapon.

Obama cited a gaffe by a leading Republican politician who said the US government’s hardline tactics were a ‘tragedy’ for BP, to lambast the opposition party as the pace heats up ahead of November’s mid-term elections.

He said some Republicans opposed raising the legal cap on liabilities BP must pay to clean-up America’s worst environmental disaster and a $20 billion BP escrow compensation fund for businesses victimised by it.

‘The top Republican on the energy committee even had the nerve to apologise to BP for the fact that we made them set up this fund,’ Obama said in remarks released by the White House prior to a presidential event in Wisconsin.

‘Apologise to BP! He actually called the fund a tragedy. A tragedy? A tragedy is what the people of the Gulf are going through right now.

‘That’s the tragedy. And our government has a responsibility to hold the corporations accountable that caused it. They want to take us backwards. We want to move forward.’

Democrats are mercilessly using comments by Republican Representative Joe Barton, who offered them a golden opening by apologising to BP for the escrow fund, which he called a $20 billion White House ‘shakedown’ of BP.

Barton has retracted the remarks, and his party leaders have condemned them, but the comments are bound to be seized upon often by Democrats in the run-up to November’s congressional polls, in which the party fears heavy losses.
Obama’s switch to full bore politicking mode over the oil spill reflects the way both political parties will try to use the disaster for political advantage. Republicans have accused Obama of being too passive in the crisis.

Recent polling give the president poor to moderate ratings on how he has handled the oil spill, though his management of the crisis is much preferred by Americans to the performance over BP during the disaster.

Forty-four per cent of those asked in a Gallup poll this month approved of Obama’s efforts, while 48 per cent disapproved.

BP and other oil firms are currently bound under U.S. law to pay all related clean-up costs from a spill, but the limit on liability for compensation and other claims is set at $75 million.

Democratic efforts to raise the cap took another step forward on Wednesday as the Senate Environment and Public Works committee approved a bill retroactively removing the cap for BP.

The bill now heads to the full chamber for debate.

‘As we see the images and read the stories from the Gulf Coast night after night, it could not be clearer that coastal families and taxpayers are the ones who need protection, not oil companies,’ the bill’s sponsor Robert Menendez said.
• Latest News & Headlines » Home «
Share

15
May
10

Weekly Address: Wall Street Reform & Main Street

NEWS
Weekly Address: Wall Street Reform & Main Street

President Obama “Wall Street Reform Will Bring Greater Security to Folks on Main Street”

Saturday, May 15, 2010

In his weekly address, President Barack Obama discussed how reforming Wall Street will strengthen Main Street. The reform bill moving through Congress will empower and protect American families with the strongest consumer financial protections in history, level the playing field for community banks by making sure all lenders are subject to tough oversight, and strengthen small businesses by curbing excessive risk taking on Wall Street, which will help protect credit for our small businesses. As the economy recovers in the short term, we need to build a new foundation for growth and prosperity for the long term. This bill helps to do just that.

On Thursday, I paid a visit to a small business in Buffalo, New York, a town that’s been hard hit in recent decades. I heard from folks about the struggles they’ve been facing for longer than they care to remember. And I talked with them about what my administration is doing to help our families, our small businesses, and our economy rebound from this recession.

Jumpstarting job creation in the private sector and fostering a climate that encourages businesses to hire again is vitally important – and I’ll continue working hard to make sure that happens. But my responsibility as President isn’t just to help our economy rebound from this recession – it’s to make sure an economic crisis like the one that helped trigger this recession never happens again.

That’s what Wall Street reform will help us do. In recent weeks, there’s been a lot of back and forth about the reform bill currently making its way through Congress. There’s been a lot of discussion about technical aspects of the bill, and a lot of heated – and frankly, sometimes misleading – rhetoric coming from opponents of reform.

All of this has helped obscure what reform would actually mean for you, the American people. So, I just wanted to take a few minutes to talk about why every American has a stake in Wall Street reform.

First and foremost, you have a stake in it if you’ve ever been treated unfairly by a credit card company, misled by pages and pages of fine print, or ended up paying fees and penalties you’d never heard of before. And you have a stake in it if you’ve ever tried to take out a home loan, a car loan, or a student loan, and been targeted by the predatory practices of unscrupulous lenders.

The Wall Street reform bill in Congress represents the strongest consumer financial protections in history. You’ll be empowered with the clear and concise information you need to make the choices that are best for you. We’ll help stop predatory practices, and curb unscrupulous lenders, helping secure your family’s financial future.

That’s why families have a stake in it. And our community banks also have a stake in reform. These are banks we count on to provide the capital that lets our small businesses hire and grow.

The way the system is currently set up, these banks are at a disadvantage because while they are often playing by the rules, many of their less scrupulous competitors are not. So, what reform will do is help level the playing field by making sure all our lenders – not just community banks – are subject to tough oversight. That’s good news for our community banks, which is why we’ve received letters from some of these banks in support of reform.

What’s true for our community banks is also true for small businessmen and women like the ones I met in Buffalo. These small businesses were some of the worst victims of the excessive risk-taking on Wall Street that led to this crisis. Their credit dried up. They had to let people go. Some even shut their doors altogether. And unless we put in place real safeguards, we could see it happen all over again.

That’s why Wall Street reform is so important. With reform, we’ll make our financial system more transparent by bringing the kinds of complex, backroom deals that helped trigger this crisis into the light of day. We’ll prevent banks from taking on so much risk that they could collapse and threaten our whole economy. And we’ll give shareholders more of a say on pay to help change the perverse incentives that encouraged reckless risk-taking in the first place. Put simply, Wall Street reform will bring greater security to folks on Main Street.

The stories I heard in Buffalo this week were a reminder that, despite the progress we’ve made, we need to keep working hard, so we can build on that progress and rebound from this recession in the short-term. But even as we do, we also need to lay a new foundation for growth and shared prosperity over the long-term.

Next week, we have a chance to help lay a cornerstone in that foundation. The reform bill being debated in the Senate will not solve every problem in our financial system – no bill could. But what this strong bill will do is important, and I urge the Senate to pass it as soon as possible, so we can secure America’s economic future in the 21st century.

• Source(s): The White House
Share

01
May
10

Weekly Address: Giving Government Back to the American People

NEWS
Weekly Address: Giving Government Back to the American People

President Obama Calls on Congress to Enact Reforms to Stop a ‘Potential Corporate Takeover of Our Elections’

Saturday, May 1, 2010

In the wake of a recent Supreme Court ruling, which gives special interests, corporations – and potentially foreign nationals – the power to spend unlimited money to influence the outcome of elections, President Barack Obama called on Congress to enact reforms to limit this power and protect the integrity of our democracy. With these reforms, campaign committees will have to reveal who is funding them, and their leaders or financers will have to claim responsibility for their ads. Also, the reforms will restrict foreign corporations and foreign nationals from spending money in American elections. These reforms will help ensure the government works for the American people, not the special interests.

Over the past few weeks, as we’ve debated reforms to hold Wall Street accountable and protect consumers and small businesses in our financial system, we’ve come face-to-face with the great power of special interests in the workings of our democracy. Of course, this isn’t a surprise. Every time a major issue arises, we’ve come to expect that an army of lobbyists will descend on Capitol Hill in the hopes of tilting the laws in their favor.

That’s one of the reasons I ran for President: because I believe so strongly that the voices of ordinary Americans were being drowned out by the clamor of a privileged few in Washington. And that’s why, since the day I took office, my administration has been taking steps to reform the system. Recently, however, the Supreme Court issued a decision that overturned decades of law and precedent – dealing a huge blow to our efforts to rein in this undue influence. In short, this decision gives corporations and other special interests the power to spend unlimited amounts of money – literally millions of dollars – to affect elections throughout our country. This, in turn, will multiply their influence over decision-making in our government.

In the starkest terms, members will know – when pressured by lobbyists – that if they dare to oppose that lobbyist’s client, they could face an onslaught of negative advertisements in the run up to their next election. And corporations will be allowed to run these ads without ever having to tell voters exactly who is paying for them. At a time when the American people are already being overpowered in Washington by these forces, this will be a new and even more powerful weapon that the special interests will wield.

In fact, it’s exactly this kind of vast power that led a great Republican President – Teddy Roosevelt – to tackle this issue a century ago. He warned of the dangers of limitless corporate spending in our political system. He actually called it “one of the principal sources of corruption in our political affairs.” And he proposed strict limits on corporate influence in elections. “Every special interest is entitled to justice,” he said. “but not one is entitled to a vote in Congress, to a voice on the bench, or to representation in any public office.”

In the wake of the recent Supreme Court ruling, we face a similar challenge. That’s why it’s so important that Congress consider new reforms to prevent corporations and other special interests from gaining even more clout in Washington. And almost all of these reforms are designed to bring new transparency to campaign spending. They are based on the principle espoused by former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis – that sunlight is the best disinfectant.

Shadowy campaign committees would have to reveal who’s funding their activities to the American people. And when corporations and other special interests take to the airwaves, whoever is running and funding the ad would have to appear in the advertisement and claim responsibility for it – like a company’s CEO or an organization’s biggest contributor. This will mean citizens can evaluate the claims in these ads with information about an organization’s real motives.

We know how important this is. We’ve all seen groups with benign-seeming names sponsoring television commercials that make accusations and assertions designed to influence the public debate and sway voters’ minds. Now, of course every organization has every right in this country to make their voices heard. But the American people also have the right to know when some group like “Citizens for a Better Future” is actually funded entirely by “Corporations for Weaker Oversight.”

In addition, these reforms would address another troubling aspect of the Supreme Court’s ruling. Under the bill Congress will consider, we’ll make sure that foreign corporations and foreign nationals are restricted from spending money to influence American elections, just as they were in the past – even through U.S. subsidiaries. And we’d keep large contractors that receive taxpayer funds from interfering in our elections as well, to avoid the appearance of corruption and the possible misuse of tax dollars.

Now, we can expect that these proposed changes will be met with heavy resistance from the special interests and their supporters in Congress. But I’m calling on leaders in both parties to resist these pressures. For what we are facing is no less than a potential corporate takeover of our elections. And what is at stake is no less than the integrity of our democracy. This shouldn’t be a Democratic issue or a Republican issue. This is an issue that goes to whether or not we will have a government that works for ordinary Americans – a government of, by, and for the people. That’s why these reforms are so important. And that’s why I’m going to fight to see them passed into law.

Thanks so much.

Share

28
Apr
10

Goldman’s defense? We’re misunderstood

NEWS
Goldman’s defense? We’re misunderstood

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Goldman Sachs on Tuesday denied reaping vast profits from the collapse of the U.S. housing market as its top executive and a star trader faced hostile questions in Congress over the 2008 financial meltdown.

In angry exchanges before a Senate investigative committee, the storied Wall Street firm was accused of fuelling a crisis that forced thousands of Americans from their homes and continues to ravage the U.S. economy.

Top Goldman Sachs officials have defended their conduct in the financial crisis, flatly disputing the government’s fraud allegations against the giant financial house. I did not mislead investors, insisted a trading executive at the heart of the government’s case.

But they ran into a wall of bipartisan wrath before a Senate panel investigating Goldman’s role in the financial crisis and the Securities and Exchange Commission fraud suit against it and one of its traders. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) accused Goldman on Tuesday of making risky financial bets.

About a half dozen protesters were in the committee room, dressed in prison stripes with names on signs around their necks of Fabrice Tourre, the only company official directly accused in the SEC suit, and Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein, who was also scheduled to testify.

Share

27
Apr
10

Goldman Sachs: Lloyd Blankfein Says Firm Doesn’t Need to Disclose Position

NEWS
Goldman Sachs: Lloyd Blankfein Says Firm Doesn’t Need to Disclose Position

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Goldman Sachs on Tuesday denied reaping vast profits from the collapse of the U.S. housing market as its top executive and a star trader faced hostile questions in Congress over the 2008 financial meltdown.

In angry exchanges before a Senate investigative committee, the storied Wall Street firm was accused of fuelling a crisis that forced thousands of Americans from their homes and continues to ravage the U.S. economy.

Democratic Senator Carl Levin, the panel’s chairman, assailed Goldman as representative of Wall Street’s ‘unbridled greed,’ drawing them into a raging political battle over financial reform.

The Senate was expected to vote later on Tuesday on whether to proceed with debate about the most sweeping financial reforms in a generation, a day after Republicans successfully blocked a similar move.

Against this caustic backdrop executives battled to salvage the firm’s reputation, rejecting charges – recently filed by a U.S. watchdog – that Goldman sold clients a complex financial product devised by some who bet against it.

Levin demanded to know why Goldman had been ‘trying to sell a shitty deal’ to investors, fuming that ‘as we speak, lobbyists fill the halls of Congress hoping to weaken or kill reforms that would end these abuses.’
French trader Fabrice Fabulous Fab Tourre, who is at the centre of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s case against the firm, was among the first to be dragged before the committee.

He denied any wrongdoing: ‘I deny – categorically – the SEC’s allegation. And I will defend myself in court against this false claim,’ said Tourre.

‘I have been the target of unfounded attacks on my character and motives.’

If Goldman executives hoped to get an easier ride from Republicans, they may have been disappointed. Former Republican presidential candidate John McCain was scathing.

‘I don’t know if Goldman Sachs has done anything illegal,’ he said, adding that ‘from the reading of these emails and the information that this committee has uncovered there is no doubt their behaviour was unethical and the American people will render a judgment as well as the courts.’

Goldman chief executive Lloyd Blankfein was due to appear later in the day, but in prepared testimony said there was nothing wrong with Goldman hedging its bets by holding ”short” positions that would benefit the firm if housing prices collapsed.

‘(We) didn’t have a massive short (position) against the housing market and we certainly did not bet against our clients,’ he said.

‘If our clients believe that we don’t deserve their trust, we cannot survive,’ he said. ‘We believe that we managed our risk as our shareholders and our regulators would expect.’

Blankfein also said that, ‘while profitable overall,’ Goldman lost about $1.2 billion from investments tied to the residential housing market.
In the hearing, Levin pointed to Goldman email messages he said refuted the firm’s claims.

In one November 2007 message from Blankfein, he says: ‘Of course we didn’t dodge the mortgage mess. We lost money, then made more than we lost because of shorts,’ which are essentially bets that the market will drop.

Goldman Sachs on Tuesday denied reaping vast profits from the collapse of the U.S. housing market as its top executive and a star trader faced hostile questions in Congress over the 2008 financial meltdown.

In angry exchanges before a Senate investigative committee, the storied Wall Street firm was accused of fuelling a crisis that forced thousands of Americans from their homes and continues to ravage the U.S. economy.

Democratic Senator Carl Levin, the panel’s chairman, assailed Goldman as representative of Wall Street’s ‘unbridled greed,’ drawing them into a raging political battle over financial reform.

The Senate was expected to vote later on Tuesday on whether to proceed with debate about the most sweeping financial reforms in a generation, a day after Republicans successfully blocked a similar move.

Against this caustic backdrop executives battled to salvage the firm’s reputation, rejecting charges – recently filed by a U.S. watchdog – that Goldman sold clients a complex financial product devised by some who bet against it.

Levin demanded to know why Goldman had been ‘trying to sell a shitty deal’ to investors, fuming that ‘as we speak, lobbyists fill the halls of Congress hoping to weaken or kill reforms that would end these abuses.’

French trader Fabrice Fabulous Fab Tourre, who is at the centre of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s case against the firm, was among the first to be dragged before the committee.
He denied any wrongdoing: ‘I deny – categorically – the SEC’s allegation. And I will defend myself in court against this false claim,’ said Tourre.

‘I have been the target of unfounded attacks on my character and motives.’

If Goldman executives hoped to get an easier ride from Republicans, they may have been disappointed. Former Republican presidential candidate John McCain was scathing.

‘I don’t know if Goldman Sachs has done anything illegal,’ he said, adding that ‘from the reading of these emails and the information that this committee has uncovered there is no doubt their behaviour was unethical and the American people will render a judgment as well as the courts.’

Share

26
Apr
10

Republicans block debate of finance rules reform

NEWS
Republicans block debate of finance rules reform

Monday, April 26, 2010

U.S. lawmakers on Monday failed to pass a test vote of the widely watched financial regulatory reform bill in a sharply divided Senate.

The lawmakers voted 57 – 41, falling short of the 60 votes that Democrats needed to proceed on the regulatory overhaul in the Senate. All 41 Republican senators said that they oppose the bill.

Two Democrats voted against the bill and two Republicans did not vote.

The legislation, which has become President Barack Obama’s top domestic priority after the completion of the healthcare reform, aims to reset the rules of the U.S. financial sector.

The bill, proposed by Senate Banking Committee Chair Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), would map a way to dissolve the so-called “too big to fail” firms in a bid to avoid massive taxpayer-funded “bailouts” introduced in late 2008 amid the financial crisis.

It will also tighten regulations on the giant market in derivatives – complex, privately traded instruments tied to the underlying value of a commodity and seen as vehicles for dangerous speculation.

There has been a consensus that the country must tighten regulations on Wall Street after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008, which triggered the fresh round of global financial crisis and a deep recession.

But wide disagreements exist between the two parties.

Republicans say the Dodd bill will add new burden to the U.S. taxpayers and may not prevent future crisis.

President Obama said earlier this month that he urged the bill to pass the Senate in weeks. But analysts say that given the escalating political pressure, it will take longer time for the sweeping financial overhaul to complete.

Obama said on Monday he was “deeply disappointed” that Senate Republicans had blocked the test vote.

Share

26
Apr
10

Goldman Sachs and “War Profiteering”

NEWS
Goldman Sachs and “War Profiteering”

Monday, April 26, 2010

Embattled Wall Street investment giant Goldman Sachs has hit back at claims it used the U.S. sub-prime mortgage crisis to make tens of millions of dollars in profit.

The financial giant, already facing fraud charges, found itself in the middle of a new firestorm on Saturday after emails released by a U.S. Senate panel suggested Goldman executives made huge profits out of the 2007 crisis.

Goldman fired back on Sunday, accusing the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of having ‘cherry-picked just four emails from the 20 million pages of documents and emails provided to it’.

‘It is concerning that the subcommittee seems to have reached its conclusion even before holding a hearing,’ added Goldman Sachs spokesman Lucas van Praag.

The emails come at a bad time for Goldmans Sachs.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced it was charging the company with fraud, accusing it of ‘defrauding investors by misstating and omitting key facts’ about a product based on subprime, or higher-risk mortgage-backed securities.

On Saturday, subcommittee chairman Democratic Senator Carl Levin said Goldman Sachs and other investment banks had acted as ‘self-interested promoters of risky and complicated financial schemes that helped trigger the crisis’.

He said the bank had bundled toxic mortgages into complex financial instruments, got credit rating agencies to label them as AAA securities, and then sold them to investors, magnifying and spreading risk throughout the financial system.

In addition, Levin said, the bank often bet against the instruments it sold and rolled in profits as a result.

Van Praag said on Sunday the company had net losses of over $1.2 billion in residential mortgage-related products in 2007 and 2008.

‘This demonstrates conclusively that we did not make a significant amount of money in the mortgage market,’ he said.

But the four emails released by the subcommittee suggest that the company was able to make massive profits by shorting products including residential mortgage-backed securities and collateralised debt obligations (CDOs).

In one email, Goldman Sachs chairman and chief executive officer Lloyd Blankfein appeared to gloat about the strategy in an exchange with other top Goldman executives.

‘Of course we didn’t dodge the mortgage mess. We lost money, then made more than we lost because of shorts,’ the message said.

In another, a Goldman Sachs manager noted that the firm had bet against 32 billion dollars in mortgage-related securities that had been downgraded by credit rating agencies, causing losses for many investors.

‘Sounds like we will make some serious money,’ the manager wrote.

‘Yes, we are well positioned,’ his colleague responded.

In a third email, Goldman employees discussed securities that were underwritten and sold by the company and tied to mortgages issued by Washington Mutual Bank’s subprime lender, Long Beach Mortgage.

One employee reported the ‘wipeout’ of one Long Beach security and the ‘imminent’ collapse of another as ‘bad news’ that would cost the firm $2.5 million.

The ‘good news,’ the employee wrote, was that Goldman had bet against the very securities it had assembled and sold, meaning the failure would net the company five million dollars.

Blankfein and other current and former company personnel are scheduled to testify before the subcommittee on Tuesday.

Share

24
Apr
10

Goldman Sachs e-mails show bank sought to profit from housing downturn

NEWS
Goldman Sachs e-mails show bank sought to profit from housing downturn

Saturday, April 24, 2010

In late 2007 as the mortgage crisis gained momentum and many banks were suffering losses, Goldman Sachs executives traded e-mail messages saying that they would make “some serious money” betting against the housing markets.

The e-mails, released Saturday morning by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, appear to contradict some of Goldman’s previous statements that left the impression that the firm lost money on mortgage-related investments.

In the e-mails, Lloyd C. Blankfein, the bank’s chief executive, acknowledged in November of 2007 that the firm indeed had lost money initially. But it later recovered from those losses by making negative bets, known as short positions, enabling it to profit as housing prices fell and homeowners defaulted on their mortgages. “Of course we didn’t dodge the mortgage mess,” he wrote. “We lost money, then made more than we lost because of shorts.”

In another message, dated July 25, 2007, David A. Viniar, Goldman’s chief financial officer, remarked on figures that showed the company had made a $51 million profit in a single day from bets that the value of mortgage-related securities would drop. “Tells you what might be happening to people who don’t have the big short,” he wrote to Gary D. Cohn, now Goldman’s president.

The messages were released Saturday ahead of a Congressional hearing on Tuesday in which seven current and former Goldman employees, including Mr. Blankfein, are expected to testify. The hearing follows a recent securities fraud complaint that the Securities and Exchange Commission filed against Goldman and one of its employees, Fabrice Tourre, who will also testify on Tuesday.

Actions taken by Wall Street firms during the housing meltdown have become a major factor in the contentious debate over financial reform. The first test of the administration’s overhaul effort will come Monday when the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, is to call a procedural vote to try to stop a Republican filibuster.

Republicans have contended that the renewed focus on Goldman stems from Democrats’ desire to use anger at Wall Street to push through a financial reform bill.

Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan and head of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, said that the e-mail messages contrast with Goldman’s public statements about its trading results. “The 2009 Goldman Sachs annual report stated that the firm ‘did not generate enormous net revenues by betting against residential related products,’?” Mr. Levin said in a statement Saturday when his office released the documents. “These e-mails show that, in fact, Goldman made a lot of money by betting against the mortgage market.”

A Goldman spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Goldman messages connect some of the dots at a crucial moment of Goldman history. They show that in 2007, as most other banks hemorrhaged losses from plummeting mortgage holdings, Goldman prospered.

At first, Goldman openly discussed its prescience in calling the housing downfall. In the third quarter of 2007, the investment bank reported publicly that it had made big profits on its negative bet on mortgages.

But by the end of that year, the firm curtailed disclosures about its mortgage trading results. Its chief financial officer told analysts at the end of 2007 that they should not expect Goldman to reveal whether it was long or short on the housing market. By late 2008, Goldman was emphasizing its losses, rather than its profits, pointing regularly to write-downs of $1.7 billion on mortgage assets and leaving out the amount it made on its negative bets.

Goldman and other firms often take positions on both sides of an investment. Some are long, which are bets that the investment will do well, and some are shorts, which are bets the investment will do poorly. If an investor’s positions are balanced – or hedged, in industry parlance – then the combination of the longs and shorts comes out to zero.

Goldman has said that it added shorts to balance its mortgage book, not to make a directional bet that the market would collapse. But the messages released Saturday appear to show that in 2007, at least, Goldman’s short bets were eclipsing the losses on its long positions. In May 2007, for instance, Goldman workers e-mailed one another about losses on a bundle of mortgages issued by Long Beach Mortgage Securities. Though the firm lost money on those, a worker wrote, there was “good news”: “we own 10 mm in protection.” That meant Goldman had enough of a bet against the bond that, over all, it profited by $5 million.

Documents released by the Senate committee appear to indicate that in July 2007, Goldman’s daily accounting showed losses of $322 million on positive mortgage positions, but its negative bet – what Mr. Viniar called “the big short” – came in $51 million higher.

As recently as a week ago, a Goldman spokesman emphasized that the firm had tried only to hedge its mortgage holdings in 2007 and said the firm had not been net short in that market.

The firm said in its annual report this month that it did not know back then where housing was headed, a sentiment expressed by Mr. Blankfein the last time he appeared before.

“We did not know at any minute what would happen next, even though there was a lot of writing,” he told the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission in January.

It is not known how much money in total Goldman made on its negative housing bets. Only a handful of e-mail messages were released Saturday, and they do not reflect the complete record.

The Senate subcommittee began its investigation in November 2008, but its work attracted little attention until a series of hearings in the last month. The first focused on lending practices at Washington Mutual, which collapsed in 2008, the largest bank failure in American history; another scrutinized deficiencies at several regulatory agencies, including the Office of Thrift Supervision and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

A third hearing, on Friday, centered on the role that the credit rating agencies – Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch – played in the financial crisis. At the end of the hearing, Mr. Levin offered a preview of the Goldman hearing scheduled for Tuesday.

“Our investigation has found that investment banks such as Goldman Sachs were not market makers helping clients,” Mr. Levin said, referring to testimony given by Mr. Blankfein in January. “They were self-interested promoters of risky and complicated financial schemes that were a major part of the 2008 crisis. They bundled toxic and dubious mortgages into complex financial instruments, got the credit-rating agencies to label them as AAA safe securities, sold them to investors, magnifying and spreading risk throughout the financial system, and all too often betting against the financial instruments that they sold, and profiting at the expense of their clients.”

The transaction at the center of the S.E.C.’s case against Goldman also came up at the hearings on Friday, when Mr. Levin discussed it with Eric Kolchinsky, a former managing director at Moody’s. The mortgage-related security was known as Abacus 2007-AC1, and while it was created by Goldman, the S.E.C. contends that the firm misled investors by not disclosing that it had allowed a hedge fund manager, John A. Paulson, to select mortgage bonds for the portfolio that would be most likely to fail. That charge is at the core of the civil suit it filed against Goldman.

Moody’s was hired by Goldman to rate the Abacus security. Mr. Levin asked Mr. Kolchinsky, who for most of 2007 oversaw the ratings of collateralized debt obligations backed by subprime mortgages, if he had known of Mr. Paulson’s involvement in the Abacus deal.

“I did not know, and I suspect – I’m fairly sure that my staff did not know either,” Mr. Kolchinsky said.

Mr. Levin asked whether details of Mr. Paulson’s involvement were “facts that you or your staff would have wanted to know before rating Abacus.” Mr. Kolchinsky replied: “Yes, that’s something that I would have personally wanted to know.”

Mr. Kolchinsky added: “It just changes the whole dynamic of the structure, where the person who’s putting it together, choosing it, wants it to blow up.”

The Senate announced that it would convene a hearing on Goldman Sachs within a week of the S.E.C.’s fraud suit. Some members of Congress questioned whether the two investigations had been coordinated or linked.

Mr. Levin’s staff said there was no connection between the two investigations. They pointed out that the subcommittee requested the appearance of the Goldman executives and employees well before the S.E.C. filed its case.

Share

23
Apr
10

Harry Reid moves forward with first financial reform vote

NEWS
Harry Reid moves forward with first financial reform vote

Friday, April 23, 2010

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he’ll try to move a financial reform bill to the floor today–and if the Republicans object, as they’ve threatened to do, he’ll force them to take a tough vote on whether to allow debate on legislation to regulate Wall Street.

“If they let us move to it, I’d be happy to do that,” Reid said at a press conference with Democratic leadership this afternoon. “If they don’t … I’m filing cloture [and we’ll] have a cloture vote on Monday, 5:15.”

That won’t please the GOP. Just before the Democrats’ press conference, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), whose vote is still in play on financial reform, implored Reid not to move ahead until a final bipartisan agreement is reached.

“I hope that Senator Reid abandons his plan to force a premature cloture vote on Monday,” Collins told reporters. “I think that would be unfortunate in view of the fact that both sides of the negotiations say that progress is being made.”

Reid is undeterred. “I have been around for quiet a while,” he said. “What we have done on financial reform was just as energetic as what we did on health care. We worked for more than two months with [Sen. Richard] Shelby trying to come up with something … I’m not going to waste any more time of the American people while they come up with some agreement.”

“The games of stalling are over,” Reid said.

Share

22
Apr
10

President Obama seeks reform buy-in from Wall Street

NEWS
President Obama seeks reform buy-in from Wall Street
The President Speaks to Wall Street, Republicans, and All of America

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Barack Obama has railed at unfettered corporate greed as he laced a defining pitch for U.S. financial reform with stark warnings of future economic meltdowns if the bid fails.

Just blocks from Wall Street, the epicentre of high finance in the United States, the president sent a tough message to financial barons, American voters and Republican opponents critical of his plans.

Obama recalled how he had visited the historic college at Cooper Union during his election campaign to warn of the dangers of corporate excess.

‘And I take no satisfaction in noting that my comments then have largely been borne out by the events that followed,’ he told an audience of banking notables, including Lloyd Blankfein, chief executive of fraud-tainted titan Goldman Sachs, on Thursday.

‘But I repeat what I said then, because it is essential that we learn the lessons of this crisis, so we don’t doom ourselves to repeat them. Make no mistake, that is exactly what will happen if we allow this moment to pass.’

Obama assured investors he believed in the ‘power of the free market’ and a ‘strong financial sector that helps people to raise capital and get loans and invest their savings’.

‘But a free market was never meant to be a free licence to take whatever you can get, however you can get it.

‘Some on Wall Street forgot that behind every dollar traded or leveraged, there is a family looking to buy a house, to pay for an education, open a business, save for retirement.

‘What happens on Wall Street has real consequences across the country, across our economy.’

Obama urged Wall Street bosses to call off armies of lobbyists trying to thwart what he has promised will be the most sweeping regulatory reform drive since the 1930s Great Depression.

As Democrats and Republicans spar over the final shape of the financial regulatory legislation, Obama argued that middle-ground could be found on the draft law.

Plans include protections for taxpayers should one financial institution pose a systemic risk to the whole economy if it failed, and limits on the size of corporate entities.

‘A vote for reform is a vote to put a stop to taxpayer-funded bailouts,’ Obama said. ‘The goal is to make certain that taxpayers are never again on the hook because a firm is deemed too big to fail.’

Obama also called for stronger protections for consumers and greater transparency by bringing risky financial instruments such as derivatives out into the open.

His efforts got a boost on Wednesday, when a Senate panel approved new restrictions on derivatives, a complex financial instrument blamed for partly igniting the meltdown from which America is just emerging.

Obama’s Democrats needs to peel away at least one vote from Republicans in a final vote in the full Senate, which could come within weeks.

Polls show Americans, though highly suspicious of government, support efforts to rein in Wall Street.

Obama’s financial reform effort is reaching a climax after regulators slapped civil fraud charges on finance titan Goldman.

Share




Calendar

August 2020
M T W T F S S
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31  

Archives

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2 other followers

© Copyright 2010 Dominic Stoughton. All Rights reserved.

Dominic Stoughton's Blog