Posts Tagged ‘Weekly Address

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.

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30
Jul
10

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

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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.)

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24
Jul
10

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

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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.

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17
Jul
10

Weekly Address: Filibustering Recovery & Obstructing Progress

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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.

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10
Jul
10

Weekly Address: Help for Vets with PTSD

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Weekly Address: Help for Vets with PTSD
President Obama Announces Changes to Help Veterans with PTSD Receive the Benefits They Need

Saturday, July 10, 2010

In this week’s address, President Barack Obama announced that on Monday the Department of Veterans Affairs, led by Secretary Shinseki, will begin to make it easier for veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to receive the benefits they need. For many years, veterans with PTSD have been stymied in receiving benefits by requirements they produce evidence proving a specific event caused the PTSD. Streamlining this process will help not just the veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, but generations of veterans who have served and sacrificed for the country.

Last weekend, on the Fourth of July, Michelle and I welcomed some of our extraordinary military men and women and their families to the White House.

They were just like the thousands of active duty personnel and veterans I’ve met across this country and around the globe. Proud. Strong. Determined. Men and women with the courage to answer their country’s call, and the character to serve the United States of America.

Because of that service; because of the honor and heroism of our troops around the world; our people are safer, our nation is more secure, and we are poised to end our combat mission in Iraq by the end of August, completing a drawdown of more than 90,000 troops since last January.

Still, we are a nation at war. For the better part of a decade, our men and women in uniform have endured tour after tour in distant and dangerous places. Many have risked their lives. Many have given their lives. And as a grateful nation, humbled by their service, we can never honor these American heroes or their families enough.

Just as we have a solemn responsibility to train and equip our troops before we send them into harm’s way, we have a solemn responsibility to provide our veterans and wounded warriors with the care and benefits they’ve earned when they come home.

That is our sacred trust with all who serve – and it doesn’t end when their tour of duty does.

To keep that trust, we’re building a 21st century VA, increasing its budget, and ensuring the steady stream of funding it needs to support medical care for our veterans.

To help our veterans and their families pursue a college education, we’re funding and implementing the post-9/11 GI Bill.

To deliver better care in more places, we’re expanding and increasing VA health care, building new wounded warrior facilities, and adapting care to better meet the needs of female veterans.

To stand with those who sacrifice, we’ve dedicated new support for wounded warriors and the caregivers who put their lives on hold for a loved one’s long recovery.

And to do right by our vets, we’re working to prevent and end veteran homelessness – because in the United States of America, no one who served in our uniform should sleep on our streets.

We also know that for many of today’s troops and their families, the war doesn’t end when they come home.

Too many suffer from the signature injuries of today’s wars: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. And too few receive the screening and treatment they need.

Now, in past wars, this wasn’t something America always talked about. And as a result, our troops and their families often felt stigmatized or embarrassed when it came to seeking help.

Today, we’ve made it clear up and down the chain of command that folks should seek help if they need it. In fact, we’ve expanded mental health counseling and services for our vets.

But for years, many veterans with PTSD who have tried to seek benefits – veterans of today’s wars and earlier wars – have often found themselves stymied. They’ve been required to produce evidence proving that a specific event caused their PTSD. And that practice has kept the vast majority of those with PTSD who served in non-combat roles, but who still waged war, from getting the care they need.

Well, I don’t think our troops on the battlefield should have to take notes to keep for a claims application. And I’ve met enough veterans to know that you don’t have to engage in a firefight to endure the trauma of war.

So we’re changing the way things are done.

On Monday, the Department of Veterans Affairs, led by Secretary Ric Shinseki, will begin making it easier for a veteran with PTSD to get the benefits he or she needs.

This is a long-overdue step that will help veterans not just of the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, but generations of their brave predecessors who proudly served and sacrificed in all our wars.

It’s a step that proves America will always be here for our veterans, just as they’ve been there for us. We won’t let them down. We take care of our own. And as long as I’m Commander-in-Chief, that’s what we’re going to keep doing. Thank you.

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03
Jul
10

Weekly Address: A Solar Recovery

NEWS
Weekly Address: A Solar Recovery
President Obama Touts Nearly $2 Billion in New Investments to Help Build a Clean Energy Economy

Saturday, July 3, 2010

In this week’s address, President Barack Obama announced that the Department of Energy is awarding nearly $2 billion in conditional commitments from the Recovery Act to two solar companies. Abengoa Solar has agreed to build one of the largest solar plants in the world in Arizona, which will create about 1,600 construction jobs with over 70 percent of the construction components and products manufactured here in the USA. When completed, this plant will provide enough clean energy to power 70,000 homes. And, Abound Solar Manufacturing is building two new plants, one in Colorado and one in Indiana. These projects will create more than 2,000 construction jobs, and over 1,500 permanent jobs as the plants produce millions of state of the art solar panels each year.

This week, I spent some time in Racine, Wisconsin, talking with folks who are doing their best to cope with the aftermath of a brutal recession.

And while I was there, a young woman asked me a question I hear all the time: “What are we doing as a nation to bring jobs back to this country?”

Well, on Friday, we learned that after 22 straight months of job loss, our economy has now created jobs in the private sector for 6 months in a row. That’s a positive sign. But the truth is, the recession from which we’re emerging has left us in a hole that’s about 8 million jobs deep. And as I’ve said from the day I took office, it’s going to take months, even years, to dig our way out – and it’s going to require an all-hands-on-deck effort.

In the short term, we’re fighting to speed up this recovery and keep the economy growing by all means possible. That means extending unemployment insurance for workers who lost their job. That means getting small businesses the loans they need to keep their doors open and hire new workers. And that means sending relief to states so they don’t have to lay off thousands of teachers and firefighters and police officers.

Still, at a time when millions of Americans feel a deep sense of urgency in their own lives, Republican leaders in Washington just don’t get it. While a majority of Senators support taking these steps to help the American people, some are playing the same old Washington games and using their power to hold this relief hostage – a move that only ends up holding back our recovery. It doesn’t make sense.

But I promised those folks in Wisconsin – and I promise all of you – that we won’t back down. We’re going to keep fighting to advance our recovery. And we’re going to keep competing aggressively to make sure the jobs and industries of the future are taking root right here in America.

That’s one of the reasons why we’re accelerating the transition to a clean energy economy and doubling our use of renewable energy sources like wind and solar power – steps that have the potential to create whole new industries and hundreds of thousands of new jobs in America.

In fact, today, I’m announcing that the Department of Energy is awarding nearly $2 billion in conditional commitments to two solar companies.

The first is Abengoa Solar, a company that has agreed to build one of the largest solar plants in the world right here in the United States. After years of watching companies build things and create jobs overseas, it’s good news that we’ve attracted a company to our shores to build a plant and create jobs right here in America. In the short term, construction will create approximately 1,600 jobs in Arizona. What’s more, over 70 percent of the components and products used in construction will be manufactured in the USA, boosting jobs and communities in states up and down the supply chain. Once completed, this plant will be the first large-scale solar plant in the U.S. to actually store the energy it generates for later use – even at night. And it will generate enough clean, renewable energy to power 70,000 homes.

The second company is Abound Solar Manufacturing, which will manufacture advanced solar panels at two new plants, creating more than 2,000 construction jobs and 1,500 permanent jobs. A Colorado plant is already underway, and an Indiana plant will be built in what’s now an empty Chrysler factory. When fully operational, these plants will produce millions of state-of-the-art solar panels each year.

These are just two of the many clean energy investments in the Recovery Act. Already, I’ve seen the payoff from these investments. I’ve seen once-shuttered factories humming with new workers who are building solar panels and wind turbines; rolling up their sleeves to help America win the race for the clean energy economy.

So that’s some of what we’re doing. But the truth is, steps like these won’t replace all the jobs we’ve lost overnight. I know folks are struggling. I know this Fourth of July weekend finds many Americans wishing things were a bit easier right now. I do too.

But what this weekend reminds us, more than any other, is that we are a nation that has always risen to the challenges before it. We are a nation that, 234 years ago, declared our independence from one of the greatest empires the world had ever known. We are a nation that mustered a sense of common purpose to overcome Depression and fear itself. We are a nation that embraced a call to greatness and saved the world from tyranny. That is who we are – a nation that turns times of trial into times of triumph – and I know America will write our own destiny once more.

I wish every American a safe and happy Fourth of July. And to all our troops serving in harm’s way, I want you to know you have the support of a grateful nation and a proud Commander-in-Chief. Thank you, God Bless You, and God Bless the United States of America.

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26
Jun
10

Weekly Address: Finishing the Job on Wall Street Reform

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Weekly Address: Finishing the Job on Wall Street Reform
President Obama Urges Congress to Complete Work on Wall Street Reform Bill

Saturday, June 26, 2010

In this week’s address, President Barack Obama asks Congress to pass historic Wall Street reform which will make the toughest financial reforms since the Great Depression the law of the land. The Wall Street reform bill, which reflects 90 percent of what the President originally proposed, includes the strongest consumer financial protections in history with an independent agency to enforce them. It ensures that the trading of derivatives, which helped trigger the crisis, will be brought into the light of day, and enacts the “Volcker Rule,” which will make sure banks protected by safety nets like the FDIC cannot engage in risky trades. And, this bill will create a resolution authority to wind down firms whose collapse would threaten the entire financial system. Wall Street reform will end taxpayer funded bailouts and make sure Main Street is never again held responsible for Wall Street’s mistakes.

This weekend, I’m traveling to Toronto to meet with members of the G20. There, I hope we can build on the progress we made at last year’s G20 summits by coordinating our global financial reform efforts to make sure a crisis like the one from which we are still recovering never happens again. We’ve made great progress toward passing such reform here at home. As I speak, we are on the cusp of enacting the toughest financial reforms since the Great Depression.

I don’t have to tell you why these reforms are so important. We’re still digging ourselves out of an economic crisis that happened largely because there wasn’t strong enough oversight on Wall Street. We can’t build a strong economy in America over the long-run without ending this status quo, and laying a new foundation for growth and prosperity.

That’s what the Wall Street reforms currently making their way through Congress will help us do – reforms that represent 90% of what I proposed when I took up this fight. We’ll put in place the strongest consumer financial protections in American history, and create an independent agency with an independent director and an independent budget to enforce them.

Credit card companies will no longer be able to mislead you with pages and pages of fine print. You will no longer be subject to all kinds of hidden fees and penalties, or the predatory practices of unscrupulous lenders.

Instead, we’ll make sure credit card companies and mortgage companies play by the rules. And you’ll be empowered with easy-to-understand forms, and the clear and concise information you need to make the financial decisions that are best for you and your family.

Wall Street reform will also strengthen our economy in a number of other ways. We’ll make our financial system more transparent by bringing the kinds of complex trades that helped trigger this crisis – trades in a $600 trillion derivatives market – finally into the light of day.

We’ll enact what’s called the Volcker Rule to make sure banks protected by a safety net like the FDIC can’t engage in risky trades for their own profit. We’ll create what’s called a resolution authority to help wind down firms whose collapse would threaten our entire financial system. Put simply, we’ll end the days of taxpayer-funded bailouts, and help make sure Main Street is never again held responsible for Wall Street’s mistakes.

Beyond these reforms, we also need to address another piece of unfinished business. We need to impose a fee on the banks that were the biggest beneficiaries of taxpayer assistance at the height of our financial crisis – so we can recover every dime of taxpayer money.

Getting this far on Wall Street reform hasn’t been easy. There are those who’ve fought tooth and nail to preserve the status quo. In recent months, they’ve spent millions of dollars and hired an army of lobbyists to stop reform dead in its tracks.

But because we refused to back down, and kept fighting, we now stand on the verge of victory. And I urge Congress to take us over the finish line, and send me a reform bill I can sign into law, so we can empower our people with consumer protections, and help prevent a financial crisis like this from ever happening again.

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• Source(s): The White House
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19
Jun
10

Weekly Address: Republicans Blocking Progress

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Weekly Address: Republicans Blocking Progress
President Obama Says Republicans in Congress Blocking Important Progress

Saturday, June 19, 2010

In this week’s address, President Barack Obama called on Congress to put scoring political points aside, and instead to focus on solving the problems facing the nation. The Republican leadership is currently blocking progress on a bill to boost the economy, retain jobs for teachers and cops, and help people buy their first home; another bill which would hold oil companies accountable for any disasters they cause by removing the current $75 million liability cap; and 136 highly qualified men and women who have been nominated to government positions. In these challenging times, elected leaders in Washington need to remember that they have an obligation that goes beyond upcoming elections – an obligation to care for the next generation.

At this moment, our nation is facing a host of big and difficult challenges. And more than anything else, what’s required to meet those challenges right now is a sense of cooperation and common purpose among our leaders. What we need is a willingness in Washington to put the public’s interests first – a willingness to score fewer political points so that we can start solving more problems.

That’s why I was disappointed this week to see a dreary and familiar politics get in the way of our ability to move forward on a series of critical issues that have a direct impact on people’s lives.

In the United States Senate, we have legislation that would boost our economic recovery and help Americans who’ve been affected by the worst recession in generations. We’ve certainly made progress since we were losing 750,000 jobs per month around the time I took office. Our economy is growing again, and we’ve added jobs for five straight months. But there are still millions of Americans out of work, and millions more who are struggling to pay the bills. The legislation in the Senate right now would extend unemployment benefits to those workers who lost their job through no fault of their own. It would provide relief to struggling states that would help save the jobs of thousands of teachers and cops and firefighters. There are also provisions in this legislation that would extend the tax credit for first-time homebuyers, as well as tax cuts to keep research and development jobs here in the United States.

Unfortunately, the Republican leadership in the Senate won’t even allow this legislation to come up for a vote. And if this obstruction continues, unemployed Americans will see their benefits stop. Teachers and firefighters will lose their jobs. Families will pay more for their first home.

All we ask for is a simple up or down vote. That’s what the American people deserve. Just like they deserve an up or down vote on legislation that would hold oil companies accountable for the disasters they cause – a vote that is also being blocked by the Republican leadership in the Senate. Right now, the law places a $75 million cap on the amount oil companies must pay to families and small businesses who suffer economic losses as a result of a spill like the one we’re witnessing in the Gulf Coast. We should remove that cap. But the Republican leadership won’t even allow a debate or a vote.

And as we speak today, 136 men and women who I’ve nominated for key positions in the federal government are awaiting a vote on the floor of the Senate. All are highly qualified. Very few are controversial. The vast majority already have support from both parties. But most of them are seeing their nominations intentionally delayed by Republican leaders, or even blocked altogether. They cannot get a vote. What this means is that, at a moment when our country is facing so many challenges – a time when we need all hands on deck – we cannot get the qualified people we need to start the jobs they were appointed to do.

Look, the nature of our democracy is that we’ll always have disagreements and debates – even heated ones. That’s healthy and it’s important. But let’s argue over genuine differences – over ideas and policies. And let’s go into those debates with an open mind – a willingness to find common ground and a conviction that, in the end, one way or another, we will have a vote to decide them. Next week, I’ll be meeting with a bipartisan group of Senators to discuss how we can transition away from our dependence on fossil fuels and embrace a clean energy future. I don’t expect that we’ll agree on a solution right away. In fact, I know that there will be plenty of disagreement and different ideas. But at least it shows that Republicans and Democrats can still sit down together in an attempt to tackle the big challenges facing our nation.

I know the political season is upon us in Washington. But gridlock as a political strategy is destructive to the country. Whether we are Democrats or Republicans, we’ve got an obligation that goes beyond caring about the next election. We have an obligation to care for the next generation. So I hope that when Congress returns next week, they do so with a greater spirit of compromise and cooperation. America will be watching.

Thanks.

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• Source(s): The White House
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12
Jun
10

Weekly Address: Fair Pay for Doctors

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Weekly Address: Fair Pay for Doctors
President Obama Calls on Senate Republicans to Allow a Vote to Protect Medicare Reimbursements

Saturday, June 12, 2010

In this week’s address, President Barack Obama called on Senate Republicans to stop blocking a vote to prevent a 21 percent pay cut for doctors who see Medicare patients – a pay cut that will hurt America’s seniors and their doctors. Since 2003, Congress, under Republican and Democratic leadership, has deferred these cuts in Medicare reimbursements from going into effect. The President is committed to finding a responsible, long term solution to this problem, but it is not acceptable to punish America’s seniors or the physicians who treat them. If Congress does not act, then doctors will start receiving lower Medicare reimbursements next week, which could lead to seniors losing their doctors.

More than a decade ago, Congress set up a formula that governs how doctors get paid by the Medicare program. The intent was to slow the growth of Medicare costs, but the result was a formula that has proposed cutting payments for America’s doctors year after year after year. These are cuts that would not only jeopardize our physicians’ pay, but our seniors’ health care.

Since 2003, Congress has acted to prevent these pay cuts from going into effect. These votes were largely bipartisan, and they succeeded when Democrats ran Congress and when Republicans ran Congress – which was most of the time.

This year, a majority of Congress is willing to prevent a pay cut of 21% – a pay cut that would undoubtedly force some doctors to stop seeing Medicare patients altogether. But this time, some Senate Republicans may even block a vote on this issue. After years of voting to defer these cuts, the other party is now willing to walk away from the needs of our doctors and our seniors.

Now, I realize that simply kicking these cuts down the road another year is not a long-term solution to this problem. For years, I have said that a system where doctors are left to wonder if they’ll get fairly reimbursed makes absolutely no sense. And I am committed to permanently reforming this Medicare formula in a way that balances fiscal responsibility with the responsibility we have to doctors and seniors. In addition, we’re already taking significant steps to slow the growth of Medicare costs through health insurance reform – not by targeting doctors and seniors, but by eliminating 50% of the waste, fraud, and abuse in the system by 2012. This not only strengthens Medicare, it saves taxpayer dollars.

I’m absolutely willing to take the difficult steps necessary to lower the cost of Medicare and put our budget on a more fiscally sustainable path. But I’m not willing to do that by punishing hard-working physicians or the millions of Americans who count on Medicare. That’s just wrong. And that’s why in the short-term, Congress must act to prevent this pay cut to doctors.

If they don’t act, doctors will see a 21% cut in their Medicare payments this week. This week, doctors will start receiving these lower reimbursements from the Medicare program. That could lead them to stop participating in the Medicare program. And that could lead seniors to lose their doctors.

We cannot allow this to happen. We have to fix this problem so that our doctors can get paid for the life-saving services they provide and keep their doors open. We have to fix this problem to keep the promise of Medicare for our seniors so that they get the health care they deserve. So I urge Republicans in the Senate to at least allow a majority of Senators and Congressmen to stop this pay cut. I urge them to stand with America’s seniors and America’s doctors.

Thanks.

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• Source(s): The White House
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05
Jun
10

Weekly Address: Speaking from Louisiana on the Oil Spill

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Weekly Address: Speaking from Louisiana on the Oil Spill
President Obama Outlines Administration Response Efforts to the BP Oil Spill from Grand Isle, LA

Saturday, June 5, 2010

In his weekly address, President Barack Obama underscored his commitment to helping the people of the Gulf Coast recover and rebuild from the BP oil spill that has threatened their livelihoods. On Friday, the President heard from local residents and small business owners about the hardships that they are facing as a result of this catastrophe. The Administration has mobilized the largest response to an environmental disaster of this kind in the history of our country to clean up the BP oil spill. Additionally, the federal government is working to ensure that BP and other companies are held accountable for damages and that aggressive new standards are put into place to avoid a disaster in the future.

I’m speaking to you from Caminada Bay in Grand Isle, Louisiana, one of the first places to feel the devastation wrought by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. While I was here, at Camerdelle’s Live Bait shop, I met with a group of local residents and small business owners.

Folks like Floyd Lasseigne, a fourth-generation oyster fisherman. This is the time of year when he ordinarily earns a lot of his income. But his oyster bed, along the north side of Grand Isle, has likely been destroyed by the spill. Terry Vegas had a similar story. He quit the 8th grade to become a shrimper with his grandfather. Ever since, he’s earned his living during shrimping season – working long, grueling days so that he could earn enough money to support himself year round. But today, the waters where he’s spent his years are closed. And every day, as the spill worsens, he loses hope that he’ll be able to return to the life he built. “You can put a price on a lost season,” he’s said. “But not a lost heritage.”

The effects of the spill reach beyond the shoreline. I also spoke with Patti Rigaud. For 30 years, she’s owned a small convenience store – a store opened by her father. She depends on the sales generated by tourism each summer. But this year, most of the boats that would line these docks are nowhere to be seen. Dudley Gaspard, who owns the Sand Dollar Marina and Hotel, has been hit hard as well. Normally, this time of year, rooms are filling up and tackle is flying off the shelves. But he too has been devastated by the decline in tourism and the suspension of fishing in the waters off the Louisiana Coast.

Their stories are familiar to many in Grand Isle and throughout the Gulf region. Often families have been here for generations, earning a living, and making a life, that’s tied to the water – that’s tied to the magnificent coasts and natural bounty of this place. Here, this spill has not just damaged livelihoods. It’s upended whole communities. And the fury people feel is not just about the money they’ve lost. They’ve been through tough times before. It’s about the wrenching recognition that this time their lives may never be the same.

These folks work hard. They meet their responsibilities. But now because of a manmade catastrophe – one that’s not their fault and that’s beyond their control – their lives have been thrown into turmoil. It’s brutally unfair. It’s wrong. And what I told these men and women – and what I have said since the beginning of this disaster – is that I’m going to stand with the people of the Gulf Coast until they are made whole.

That’s why from the beginning, we’ve mobilized on every front to contain and clean up this spill. I’ve authorized the deployment of 17,500 National Guard troops to aid in the response. More than 20,000 people are currently working around the clock to protect waters and coastlines. We’ve convened hundreds of top scientists and engineers from around the world. More than 1,900 vessels are in the Gulf assisting in the clean up. More than 4.3 million feet of boom have been deployed with another 2.9 million feet of boom available – enough to stretch over 1,300 miles. And 17 staging areas are in place across Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida to rapidly defend sensitive shorelines. In short, this is the largest response to an environmental disaster of this kind in the history of our country.

We’ve also ordered BP to pay economic injury claims, and we will make sure they pay every single dime owed to the people along the Gulf Coast. The Small Business Administration has stepped in to help businesses by approving loans and allowing deferrals of existing loan payments. And this week, the federal government sent BP a preliminary bill for $69 million to pay back American taxpayers for some of the costs of the response so far. In addition, after an emergency safety review, we’re putting in place aggressive new operating standards for offshore drilling. And I’ve appointed a bipartisan commission to look into the causes of this spill. If laws are inadequate –laws will be changed. If oversight was lacking – it will be strengthened. And if laws were broken – those responsible will be brought to justice.

Now, over the last few days BP has placed a cap over the well, and it appears they’re making progress in trying to pump oil to the surface to keep it from leaking into the water. But as has been the case since the beginning of this crisis, we are prepared for the worst, even as we hope that BP’s efforts bring better news than we’ve received before. We also know that regardless of the outcome of this attempt, there will still to be some spillage until the relief wells are completed. And there will continue to be a massive cleanup ahead of us.

So we will continue to leverage every resource at our disposal to protect coastlines, to clean up the oil, to hold BP and other companies accountable for damages, to begin to restore the bounty and beauty of this region – and to aid the hardworking people of the Gulf as they rebuild their businesses and communities. And I want to urge all Americans to do what you can as well – including visiting this area. The vast majority of beaches are pristine and open for business.

These are hard times in Louisiana and across the Gulf Coast, an area that has already seen more than its fair share of troubles. But what we have also seen these past few weeks is that – even in the face of adversity – the men and women of the Gulf have displayed incredible determination. They have met this terrible catastrophe with seemingly boundless strength and character in defense of their way of life. What we owe the people of this region is a commitment by our nation to match the resilience of all the people I’ve met along the Gulf Coast. That is our mission. And it’s one we will fulfill.

Thank you.

• Source(s): The White House
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29
May
10

Weekly Address: Honoring the Fallen

NEWS
Weekly Address: Honoring the Fallen
President Obama Invites All Americans to Honor America’s Fallen Heroes this Memorial Day

Saturday, May 29, 2010

In this week’s address, President Barack Obama asked all Americans to join him in remembering and honoring our men and women in uniform who have died in service to the country. The commitment these heroes have demonstrated – the willingness to lay down their lives so the rest of us might inherit the blessings of this nation – has helped make America the most prosperous, most powerful nation on earth and it is what we honor on Memorial Day.

This weekend, as we celebrate Memorial Day, families across America will gather in backyards and front porches, fire up the barbeque, kick back with friends, and spend time with people they care about. That is as it should be. But I also hope that as you do so, you’ll take some time to reflect on what Memorial Day is all about; on why we set this day aside as a time of national remembrance.

It’s fitting every day to pay tribute to the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States of America. Still, there are certain days that have been set aside for all of us to do so. Veterans Day is one such day – when we are called to honor Americans who’ve fought under our country’s flag.

Our calling on Memorial Day is different. On this day, we honor not just those who’ve worn this country’s uniform, but the men and women who’ve died in its service; who’ve laid down their lives in defense of their fellow citizens; who’ve given their last full measure of devotion to protect the United States of America. These are the men and women I will be honoring this weekend, and I know many of you are doing the same.

There are any number of reasons America emerged from its humble beginnings as a cluster of colonies to become the most prosperous, most powerful nation on earth. There is the hard work, the resilience, and the character of our people. There is the ingenuity and enterprising spirit of our entrepreneurs and innovators. There are the ideals of opportunity, equality, and freedom that have not only inspired our people to perfect our own union, but inspired others to perfect theirs as well.

But from the very start, there was also something more. A steadfast commitment to serve, to fight, and if necessary, to die, to preserve America and advance the ideals we cherish. It’s a commitment witnessed at each defining moment along the journey of this country. It’s what led a rag-tag militia to face British soldiers at Lexington and Concord. It’s what led young men, in a country divided half slave and half free, to take up arms to save our union. It’s what led patriots in each generation to sacrifice their own lives to secure the life of our nation, from the trenches of World War I to the battles of World War II, from Inchon and Khe Sanh, from Mosul to Marjah.

That commitment – that willingness to lay down their lives so we might inherit the blessings of this nation – is what we honor today. But on this Memorial Day, as on every day, we are called to honor their ultimate sacrifice with more than words. We are called to honor them with deeds.

We are called to honor them by doing our part for the loved ones our fallen heroes have left behind and looking after our military families. By making sure the men and women serving this country around the world have the support they need to achieve their missions and come home safely. By making sure veterans have the care and assistance they need. In short, by serving all those who have ever worn the uniform of this country – and their families – as well as they have served us.

On April 25, 1866, about a year after the Civil War ended, a group of women visited a cemetery in Columbus, Mississippi, to place flowers by the graves of Confederate soldiers who had fallen at Shiloh. As they did, they noticed other graves nearby, belonging to Union dead. But no one had come to visit those graves, or place a flower there. So they decided to lay a few stems for those men too, in recognition not of a fallen Confederate or a fallen Union soldier, but a fallen American.

A few years later, an organization of Civil War veterans established what became Memorial Day, selecting a date that coincided with the time when flowers were in bloom. So this weekend, as we commemorate Memorial Day, I ask you to hold all our fallen heroes in your hearts, and if you can, to lay a flower where they have come to rest.

• Source(s): The White House
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22
May
10

Obama forms commission to probe oil spill

NEWS
Obama forms commission to probe oil spill

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Earth

••• An independent presidential commission has been set up to probe the huge oil spill from a wrecked BP-leased rig in the Gulf of Mexico, U.S. President Barack Obama said on Saturday.

The main task of the bipartisan body, formed by an executive order, is to provide recommendations on how the oil industry can prevent – and mitigate the impact of – any future spills that result from offshore drilling.

‘Now, this catastrophe is unprecedented in its nature, and it presents a host of new challenges we are working to address,’ Obama said in his weekly radio address as he announced the formation of the commission.

‘But the question is what lessons we can learn from this disaster to make sure it never happens again.’
Two-term Florida governor and former senator Bob Graham, a Democrat, and former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency William Reilly, a Republican, will serve as co-chairmen of the seven-member body, Obama said.

‘I can’t think of two people who will bring greater experience or better judgment to the task at hand,’ the president pointed out.

He said he will appoint the remaining five members of the panel in coming days. It will include scientists, engineers, and environmental advocates, but no sitting government employees or elected officials.

Even at the lowest estimates, more than six million gallons of crude have flowed into the water since the April 20 explosion that heavily damaged a Deepwater Horizon oil rig operated by energy giant BP in the Gulf of Mexico and killed 11 people.

Obama said his administration had deployed more than 1100 vessels, about 24,000 personnel and more than two million feet of protective boom to help contain the spill.

‘And we’re doing all we can to assist struggling fishermen, and the small businesses and communities that depend on them,’ he noted.

The environmental disaster has prompted calls for a halt in offshore drilling.

But Obama all but brushed off this option, saying he had promised to put the country on the path to energy independence and has ‘not wavered from that commitment’ despite the giant spill.
» BP: Live video link from the ROV monitoring the damaged riser
» Related: Weekly Address: BP Spill Independent Commission
» Related: BP oil spill clean-up costs spiral to $33 million a day
• Source(s): The White House
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22
May
10

Weekly Address: BP Spill Independent Commission

NEWS
Weekly Address: BP Spill Independent Commission

Saturday, May 22, 2010

In this week’s address, President Obama announced that he has signed an executive order establishing the bipartisan National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling with former two-term Florida Governor and former Senator Bob Graham and former Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency William K. Reilly serving as co-chairs.

The bipartisan National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling is tasked with providing recommendations on how we can prevent – and mitigate the impact of – any future spills that result from offshore drilling.

• The commission will be focused on the necessary environmental and safety precautions we must build into our regulatory framework in order to ensure an accident like this never happens again, taking into account the other investigations concerning the causes of the spill.
• The commission will have bipartisan co-chairs with a total membership of seven people. Membership will include broad and diverse representation of individuals with relevant expertise. No sitting government employees or elected officials will sit on the commission.
• The Commission’s work will be transparent and subject to the Federal Advisory Committee Act. The Commission will issue a report within six months of having been convened.

President Obama named the following individuals as Co-Chairs of National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling:

Senator Bob Graham is the former two–term governor of Florida and served for 18 years in the United States Senate. Senator Graham is recognized for his leadership on issues ranging from healthcare and environmental preservation to his ten years of service on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence — including eighteen months as chairman in 2001–2002. After retiring from public life in January 2005, Senator Graham served for a year as a senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. From May 2008 to February 2010, he served as Chairman of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism whose mandate was to build on the work of the 9/11 Commission. Senator Graham was also appointed to serve as a Commissioner on the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, established by Congress to examine the global and domestic causes of the recent financial crisis. The Commission will provide its findings and conclusions in a final report due to Congress on December 15, 2010. He also serves as a member of the CIA External Advisory Board and the chair of the Board of Overseers of the Graham Center for Public Service at the University of Florida. Senator Graham has been recognized by national and Florida organizations for his public service including The Woodrow Wilson Institute award for Public Service, The National Park Trust Public Service award and The Everglades Coalition Hall of Fame. Senator Graham earned a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Florida and an LLB from Harvard Law School. He is the recipient of an honorary doctorate of public service from his alma mater, the University of Florida, and honorary doctorates from Pomona College and Nova Southeastern University.

William K. Reilly is a Founding Partner of Aqua International Partners, LP, a private equity fund dedicated to investing in companies engaged in water and renewable energy, and a Senior Advisor to TPG Capital, LP, an international investment partnership. Mr. Reilly served as the first Payne Visiting Professor at Stanford University (1993-1994), Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (1989-1993), president of the World Wildlife Fund (1985-1989), president of The Conservation Foundation (1973-1989), and director of the Rockefeller Task Force on Land Use and Urban Growth from (1972-1973). He also served as the head of the U.S. delegation to the United Nations Earth Summit at Rio in 1992. Mr. Reilly is Chairman Emeritus of the Board of the World Wildlife Fund, Co-Chair of the National Commission on Energy Policy, Chairman of the Board of the Climate Works Foundation, Chairman of the Advisory Board for the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University, and a Director of the Packard Foundation and the National Geographic Society and a member of Gov. Schwarzenegger’s Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force. He also serves on the Board of Directors of DuPont, Conoco Phillips, Royal Caribbean International and Energy Future Holdings, for which he serves as Chairman of the Sustainable Energy Advisory Board. In 2007 Mr. Reilly was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He holds a B.A. degree from Yale, J.D. from Harvard and M.S. in Urban Planning from Columbia University.

One month ago this week, BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded off Louisiana’s coast, killing 11 people and rupturing an underwater pipe. The resulting oil spill has not only dealt an economic blow to Americans across the Gulf Coast, it also represents an environmental disaster.

In response, we are drawing on America’s best minds and using the world’s best technology to stop the leak. We’ve deployed over 1,100 vessels, about 24,000 personnel, and more than 2 million total feet of boom to help contain it. And we’re doing all we can to assist struggling fishermen, and the small businesses and communities that depend on them.

Folks on the Gulf Coast – and across America – are rightly demanding swift action to clean up BP’s mess and end this ordeal. But they’re also demanding to know how this happened in the first place, and how we can make sure it never happens again. That’s what I’d like to spend a few minutes talking with you about.

First and foremost, what led to this disaster was a breakdown of responsibility on the part of BP and perhaps others, including Transocean and Halliburton. And we will continue to hold the relevant companies accountable not only for being forthcoming and transparent about the facts surrounding the leak, but for shutting it down, repairing the damage it does, and repaying Americans who’ve suffered a financial loss.

But even as we continue to hold BP accountable, we also need to hold Washington accountable. Now, this catastrophe is unprecedented in its nature, and it presents a host of new challenges we are working to address. But the question is what lessons we can learn from this disaster to make sure it never happens again.

If the laws on our books are inadequate to prevent such an oil spill, or if we didn’t enforce those laws – I want to know it. I want to know what worked and what didn’t work in our response to the disaster, and where oversight of the oil and gas industry broke down. We know, for example, that a cozy relationship between oil and gas companies and agencies that regulate them has long been a source of concern.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has taken steps to address this problem; steps that build on reforms he has been implementing since he took office. But we need to do a lot more to protect the health and safety of our people; to safeguard the quality of our air and water; and to preserve the natural beauty and bounty of America.

In recent weeks, we’ve taken a number of immediate measures to prevent another spill. We’ve ordered inspections of all deepwater operations in the Gulf of Mexico. We’ve announced that no permits for drilling new wells will go forward until the 30-day safety and environmental review I requested is complete. And I’ve called on Congress to pass a bill that would provide critical funds and tools to respond to this spill and better prepare us to confront any future spills.

But we also need to take a comprehensive look at how the oil and gas industry operates and how we regulate them. That is why, on Friday, I signed an executive order establishing the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. While there are a number of ongoing investigations, including an independent review by the National Academy of Engineering, the purpose of this Commission is to consider both the root causes of the disaster and offer options on what safety and environmental precautions we need to take to prevent a similar disaster from happening again. This Commission, I’d note, is similar to one proposed by Congresswoman Capps and Senator Whitehouse.

I’ve asked Democrat Bob Graham and Republican Bill Reilly to co-chair this Commission. Bob served two terms as Florida’s governor, and represented Florida as a United States Senator for almost two decades. During that time, he earned a reputation as a champion of the environment, leading the most extensive environmental protection effort in the state’s history.

Bill Reilly is chairman emeritus of the board of the World Wildlife Fund, and he is also deeply knowledgeable about the oil and gas industry. During the presidency of George H.W. Bush, Bill was Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and his tenure encompassed the Exxon Valdez disaster.

I can’t think of two people who will bring greater experience or better judgment to the task at hand. In the days to come, I’ll appoint 5 other distinguished Americans – including scientists, engineers, and environmental advocates – to join them on the Commission. And I’m directing them to report back in 6 months with recommendations on how we can prevent – and mitigate the impact of – any future spills that result from offshore drilling.

One of the reasons I ran for President was to put America on the path to energy independence, and I have not wavered from that commitment. To achieve that goal, we must pursue clean energy and energy efficiency, and we’ve taken significant steps to do so. And we must also pursue domestic sources of oil and gas. Because it represents 30 percent of our oil production, the Gulf of Mexico can play an important part in securing our energy future. But we can only pursue offshore oil drilling if we have assurances that a disaster like the BP oil spill will not happen again. This Commission will, I hope, help provide those assurances so we can continue to seek a secure energy future for the United States of America.

Thanks so much.

» Related: Obama forms commission to probe oil spill
» Related: BP oil spill clean-up costs spiral to $33 million a day
• Source(s): The White House
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22
May
10

BP oil spill clean-up costs spiral to $33 million a day

NEWS
BP oil spill clean-up costs spiral to $33 million a day

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Earth••• BP is facing increasing financial pressure as clean-up costs following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill spiral to $33 million a day.

Amid rising anger over a huge oil slick hitting U.S. shores, BP officials on Friday denied botching the month-long clean-up and deliberately hiding the true extent of the spill.

As Grand Isle, Louisiana, closed its seven-mile beach to clean up an orange-liquidy slick washing ashore, the British energy giant once again postponed an operation aimed at permanently stopping the leak.

The ‘top-kill’ operation to inject heavy drilling fluids into the ruptured well, a month after the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon rig, and then seal it permanently with cement, will now not take place until Tuesday at the earliest instead of at the weekend.

Just how much oil is gushing daily from the rig’s wreckage has been a contentious issue, with BP initially putting the figure at 5000 barrels.

‘That was not just BP’s estimate. That was the estimate of the in-flight command, including NOAA and the Coast Guard. That’s the best estimate we have,’ BP’s chief operating officer Doug Suttles told ABC television Friday.

But in further confusing comments, BP also radically slashed by more than half its figures for how much of the oil it is siphoning up daily from the ruptured well via a 1 mile insertion tube.
BP spokesman John Curry said it now estimated some 92,400 gallons of oil had been diverted from the well in the 24 hours before midnight on Thursday.

That would mean BP is sucking up only 2,200 barrels daily from the pipe, not the 5,000 barrels it had estimated on Thursday.

Coast Guard commandant Thad Allen later told reporters that the flow was variable, fluctuating from a low rate of 2000 barrels a day to a high of 5,000 barrels.

Live webcam pictures showed more oil continuing to spew into the Gulf from the ruptured well — as visitors flocked to BP’s site to watch the video.

Even at the lowest estimates, more than six million gallons of crude have flowed into the water since the disaster.

And independent experts have warned the flow could be at least 10 times higher than the current estimates.

Suttles sought to quell the growing anger among the US administration, telling ABC television that BP had already spent $700 million on the clean-up.

‘We’ve mounted the largest response ever done in the world. We put 20,000 people at this.
‘I understand the anger. But I can tell you, I don’t know of anything, absolutely anything we could be doing that we’re not doing,’ he said.

But he also revised the timetable for when BP would attempt its latest bid to stop the leak, the ‘top kill’ operation.

‘Our current forecast for when this operation will take place is sometime in the early part of next week. The best estimate is Tuesday,’ Suttles told reporters.

He added the operation was very complex and was being carried out by robotic submarines positioning the equipment on the seabed a mile down.

Meanwhile, the White House also insisted it was doing everything it could.

‘We are facing a disaster the magnitude of which we likely have never seen before… We are doing everything humanly possible and technologically possible to deal with that,’ said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

He said, however, that the government was ill equipped to deal with the disaster.

‘The technical expertise to clean up and deal with the equipment that is 5,000 feet below the surface of the sea, that’s equipment that BP has… that other oil companies have. That is not not based on equipment that the federal government has in storage.’
» Related: Weekly Address: BP Spill Independent Commission
» Related: Obama forms commission to probe oil spill
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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
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08
May
10

Weekly Address: Health Reform Starts to Kick In

NEWS
Weekly Address: Health Reform Starts to Kick In
President Obama Praises the Benefits and Successes of Health Reform Already in Effect

Saturday, May 8, 2010


In his weekly address, President Barack Obama highlighted the ways in which health reform is already holding insurance companies more accountable and giving consumers more control. Implementing everything in the new law will not happen overnight. But already, consumers are getting a break from unfair rate hikes and insurance companies will no longer drop coverage for people when the get sick. Four million small businesses have been notified that they could be eligible for a health care tax cut this year. Retirees will soon receive help if they fall into the prescription drug “donut hole.” And, young adults will be able to stay on their parents’ plan until they are 26 years old.

It has now been a little over a month since I signed health insurance reform into law. And while it will take some time to fully implement this law, reform is already delivering real benefits to millions of Americans. Already, we are seeing a health care system that holds insurance companies more accountable and gives consumers more control.

Two weeks ago, four million small business owners and organizations found a postcard in their mailbox informing them that they could be eligible for a health care tax cut this year – a tax cut potentially worth tens of thousands of dollars; a tax cut that will help millions provide coverage to their employees.

Starting in June, businesses will get even more relief for providing coverage to retirees who are not yet eligible for Medicare. And a little over a month from now, on June 15th, senior citizens who fall into the prescription drug coverage gap known as the “donut hole” will start receiving a $250 rebate to help them afford their medication.

Aside from providing real, tangible benefits to the American people, the new health care law has also begun to end the worst practices of insurance companies. For too long, we have been held hostage to an insurance industry that jacks up premiums and drops coverage as they please. But those days are finally coming to an end.

After our administration demanded that Anthem Blue Cross justify a 39% premium increase on Californians, the company admitted the error and backed off its plan. And this week, our Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, wrote a letter to all states urging them to investigate other rate hikes and stop insurance companies from gaming the system. To help states achieve this goal, we’ve set up a new Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, and will provide grants to states with the best oversight programs.

In the next month, we’ll also be putting in place a new patients’ bill of rights. It will provide simple and clear information to consumers about their choices and their rights. It will set up an appeals process to enforce those rights. And it will prohibit insurance companies from limiting a patients’ access to their preferred primary care provider, ob-gyn, or emergency room care.

We’re holding insurance companies accountable in other ways, as well. As of September, the new health care law prohibits insurance companies from dropping people’s coverage when they get sick and need it most. But when we found out that an insurance company was systematically dropping the coverage of women diagnosed with breast cancer, my administration called on them to end this practice immediately. Two weeks ago, the entire insurance industry announced that it would comply with the new law early and stop the perverse practice of dropping people’s coverage when they get sick.

On Monday, we’ll also be announcing the new rule that allows young adults without insurance to stay on their parents’ plan until they’re 26 years old. Even though insurance companies have until September to comply with this rule, we’ve asked them to do so immediately to avoid coverage gaps for new college graduates and other young adults. This also makes good business sense for insurance companies, and we’re pleased that most have agreed. Now we need employers to do the same, and we’re willing to work with them to make this transition possible. These changes mean that starting this spring, when young adults graduate from college, many who do not have health care coverage will be able to stay on their parents’ insurance for a few more years. And you can check healthreform.gov to find a list of all the insurance carriers who have agreed to participate right away.

I’ve said before that implementing health insurance reform won’t happen overnight, and it will require some tweaks and changes along the way. Ultimately, we’ll have a system that provides more control for consumers, more accountability for insurance companies, and more affordable choices for uninsured Americans. But already, we are seeing how reform is improving the lives of millions of Americans. Already, we are watching small businesses learn that they will soon pay less for health care. We are seeing retirees realize they’ll be able to keep their coverage and seniors realize they’ll be able to afford their prescriptions. We’re seeing consumers get a break from unfair rate hikes, patients get the care they need when they need it, and young adults get the security of knowing they can start off life with one less cost to worry about. At long last, this is what health care reform is achieving. This is what change looks like. And this is the promise we will keep as we continue to make this law a reality in the months and years to come.

Thanks so much.

• Source(s): The White House
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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.

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24
Apr
10

Weekly Address: Good News from the Auto Industry

NEWS
Weekly Address: Good News from the Auto Industry

President Obama Says Promising News From the Auto Industry Doesn’t Reduce Need for Wall Street Reform

Saturday, April 24, 2010

In his weekly address, President Obama said that while the government is ending many of emergency programs put in place to stabilize the financial sector and restart lending, Wall Street reform remains urgently needed. General Motors announced that it has repaid its loan to taxpayers with interest five years ahead of schedule, and Chrysler Financial has already fully repaid with interest its loan as well. While this is good news, it is also a reminder that the crisis in the auto industry was caused in part by problems in the financial sector. To help prevent another crisis, Congress needs to enact reforms to hold Wall Street accountable and protect consumers.

It was little more than one year ago that our country faced a potentially devastating crisis in our auto industry. Over the course of 2008, the industry shed 400,000 jobs. In the midst of a financial crisis and deep recession, both General Motors and Chrysler – two companies that for generations were a symbol of America’s manufacturing might – were on the brink of collapse. The rapid dissolution of these companies – followed by the certain failure of many auto parts makers, car dealers, and other smaller businesses – would have dealt a crippling blow to our already suffering economy. The best estimates are that more than one million American workers could have lost their jobs.

The previous administration extended temporary loans to both companies. Even so, when I took office, the situation remained dire. We had to determine whether or not we could justify additional taxpayer assistance. After all, many of the problems in the auto industry were a direct result of poor management decisions over decades. So it wasn’t an easy call. But we decided that while providing additional assistance was a risk, the far greater risk to families and communities across our country was to do nothing. We agreed to additional help, but only if the companies and their stakeholders were willing to break with the past. They had to fundamentally reorganize, with new management that would reexamine the decisions that led to this mess and chart a path toward viability. I knew this wasn’t a popular decision. But it was the right one.

So, GM and Chrysler went through painful restructurings: ones that required enormous sacrifices on the part of all involved. Many believed this was a fool’s errand. Many feared we would be throwing good money after bad: that taxpayers would lose most of their investment and that these companies would soon fail regardless. But one year later, the outlook is very different. In fact, the industry is recovering at a pace few thought possible.

Just this week we received some encouraging news. Since General Motors emerged from bankruptcy, the auto industry has actually added 45,000 jobs – the strongest growth in a decade. And Chrysler announced an operating profit in the first three months of this year. This is the first time Chrysler has reported a profit since the beginning of the economic crisis. What’s more, GM announced that it paid back its loans to taxpayers with interest, fully five years ahead of schedule. It won’t be too long before the stock the Treasury is holding in GM can be sold, helping to reimburse the American people for their investment.

In addition, Chrysler Financial has already fully repaid with interest the loans it received to support auto financing. And we are closing the books on the temporary program that helped parts suppliers weather this storm – returning this investment to the Treasury in full, with interest, as well. Finally, we are bringing to an end many of the emergency programs designed to stabilize the financial sector and restart lending so folks could finance cars and trucks – as well as homes and small businesses.

On Friday, in fact, the Treasury Department informed Congress that this financial rescue – which was absolutely necessary to prevent an even worse economic disaster – will end up costing taxpayers a fraction of what was originally feared. This is a direct result of the careful management of the investments made by the American people so that we could recoup as many tax dollars as possible – and as quickly as possible.

These steps, as well as others we’ve taken, have meant that millions of people are working today who might otherwise have lost their jobs. But these steps were never meant to be permanent. As I’ve said many times, I did not run for president to get into the auto business or the banking business. As essential as it was that we got in, I’m glad to see that we’re getting out.

At the same time, even as we have come a long way, we still have a ways to go. The auto industry is more stable today. And the economy is on a better footing. But people are still hurting. I hear from them just about every day in letters I read and in the towns and cities that I visit. No matter what the economic statistics say, I won’t be satisfied until folks who need work can find good jobs. After a recession that stole 8 million jobs, this is gonna take some time. And this will require that we continue to tackle the underlying problems that caused this turmoil in the first place. In short, it’s essential that we learn the lessons of this crisis – or we risk repeating it.

Now, part of what led to the crisis in our auto industry – and one of the main causes of the economic downturn – were problems in our financial sector. In the absence of common-sense rules, Wall Street firms took enormous, irresponsible risks that imperiled our financial system – and hurt just about every sector of our economy. Some people simply forgot that behind every dollar traded or leveraged, there is a family looking to buy a house, pay for an education, open a business, or save for retirement.

That’s why I went to New York City this week and addressed an audience that included leaders in the financial industry. And once again I called for reforms to hold Wall Street accountable and to protect consumers. These reforms would put an end – once and for all – to taxpayer bailouts. They would bring greater transparency to complex financial dealings. And they will empower ordinary consumers and shareholders in our financial system. Folks will get clearer and more concise information when they make financial decisions – instead of having to worry about deceptive fine print. And shareholders and pension holders will have a stronger voice in the boardrooms of companies in which they invest their savings.

That’s how we’ll restore trust and confidence in our markets. That’s how we’ll help to put an end to the cycle of boom and bust that we’ve seen. And that’s how – after two very difficult years – we will not only revive the economy, but help to rebuild it stronger than ever before.

Thanks.

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17
Apr
10

Weekly Address: Holding Wall Street Accountable

NEWS
Weekly Address: Holding Wall Street Accountable

Saturday, April 17, 2010

In his weekly address, President Barack Obama said that in the wake of the economic crisis Wall Street reform is too important an issue for inaction. The plan moving through Congress will end bailouts, hold Wall Street accountable, and protect consumers, taxpayers and the economy from the kind of abuses that helped bring about the economic crisis. Every day without reform, those abuses, and the system which allowed them, remain in place. It is time to move forward with real reforms for Wall Street.

There were many causes of the turmoil that ripped through our economy over the past two years. But above all, this crisis was caused by failures in the financial industry. What is clear is that this crisis could have been avoided if Wall Street firms were more accountable, if financial dealings were more transparent, and if consumers and shareholders were given more information and authority to make decisions.

But that did not happen. And that’s because special interests have waged a relentless campaign to thwart even basic, common-sense rules – rules to prevent abuse and protect consumers. In fact, the financial industry and its powerful lobby have opposed modest safeguards against the kinds of reckless risks and bad practices that led to this very crisis.

The consequences of this failure of responsibility – from Wall Street to Washington – are all around us: 8 million jobs lost, trillions in savings erased, countless dreams diminished or denied. I believe we have to do everything we can to ensure that no crisis like this ever happens again. That’s why I’m fighting so hard to pass a set of Wall Street reforms and consumer protections. A plan for reform is currently moving through Congress.

Here’s what this plan would do. First, it would enact the strongest consumer financial protections ever. It would put consumers back in the driver’s seat by forcing big banks and credit card companies to provide clear, understandable information so that Americans can make financial decisions that work best for them.

Next, these reforms would bring new transparency to financial dealings. Part of what led to this crisis was firms like AIG and others making huge and risky bets – using things like derivatives – without accountability. Warren Buffett himself once described derivatives bought and sold with little oversight as “financial weapons of mass destruction.” That’s why through reform we’d help ensure that these kinds of complicated financial transactions take place on an open market. Because, ultimately, it is a marketplace that is open, free, and fair that will allow our economy to flourish.

We would also close loopholes to stop the kind of recklessness and irresponsibility we’ve seen. It’s these loopholes that allowed executives to take risks that not only endangered their companies, but also our entire economy. And we’re going to put in place new rules so that big banks and financial institutions will pay for the bad decisions they make – not taxpayers. Simply put, this means no more taxpayer bailouts. Never again will taxpayers be on the hook because a financial company is deemed “too big to fail.”

Finally, these reforms hold Wall Street accountable by giving shareholders new power in the financial system. They’ll get a say on pay: a vote on the salaries and bonuses awarded to top executives. And the SEC will ensure that shareholders have more power in corporate elections, so that investors and pension holders have a stronger voice in determining what happens with their life savings.

Now, unsurprisingly, these reforms have not exactly been welcomed by the people who profit from the status quo – as well their allies in Washington. This is probably why the special interests have spent a lot of time and money lobbying to kill or weaken the bill. Just the other day, in fact, the Leader of the Senate Republicans and the Chair of the Republican Senate campaign committee met with two dozen top Wall Street executives to talk about how to block progress on this issue.

Lo and behold, when he returned to Washington, the Senate Republican Leader came out against the common-sense reforms we’ve proposed. In doing so, he made the cynical and deceptive assertion that reform would somehow enable future bailouts – when he knows that it would do just the opposite. Every day we don’t act, the same system that led to bailouts remains in place – with the exact same loopholes and the exact same liabilities. And if we don’t change what led to the crisis, we’ll doom ourselves to repeat it. That’s the truth. Opposing reform will leave taxpayers on the hook if a crisis like this ever happens again.

So my hope is that we can put this kind of politics aside. My hope is that Democrats and Republicans can find common ground and move forward together. But this is certain: one way or another, we will move forward. This issue is too important. The costs of inaction are too great. We will hold Wall Street accountable. We will protect and empower consumers in our financial system. That’s what reform is all about. That’s what we’re fighting for. And that’s exactly what we’re going to achieve.

Thank you.

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10
Apr
10

Weekly Address: Relief for the Middle Class at Tax Time

NEWS
Weekly Address: Relief for the Middle Class at Tax Time

Saturday, April 10, 2010

As April 15th approaches, the President discusses several of the tax breaks for middle class families he has signed into law. Find out more about the Making Work Pay tax credit, breaks for first-time homebuyers, rewards for making your home more energy efficient and more through our Tax Savings Tool.

All across America are good, decent folks who meet their obligations each and every day. They work hard. They support their families. They try to make an honest living the best they can. And this weekend, many are sitting down to pay the taxes they owe – not because it’s fun, but because it’s a fundamental responsibility of our citizenship.

But in tough times, when many families are having trouble just making it all work, Tax Day can seem even more daunting. This year, however, many Americans are seeing some welcome relief.

So far, Americans who have filed their taxes have discovered that the average refund is up nearly ten percent this year – to an all-time high of about $3,000. This is due in large part to the Recovery Act. In fact, one-third of the Recovery Act was made up of tax cuts – tax cuts that have already provided more than $160 billion in relief for families and businesses, and nearly $100 billion of that directly into the pockets of working Americans.

No one I’ve met is looking for a handout. And that’s not what these tax cuts are. Instead, they’re targeted relief to help middle class families weather the storm, to jumpstart our economy, and to bring the fundamentals of the American Dream – making an honest living, earning an education, owning a home, and raising a family – back within reach for millions of Americans.

First, because folks who work hard should be able to make a decent living, I kept a promise I made when I campaigned for this office and cut taxes for 95 percent of working Americans. For most Americans, this Making Work Pay tax credit began showing up in your paychecks last April. And it continues this year, for a total of $400 per individual and $800 per couple, per year.

Second, because a college education is critical to the success of our workers and our economy, we’re helping to make it more affordable for millions of Americans. Millions of students and parents paying for college tuition are now eligible for up to $2,500 under the American Opportunity Credit. Along with a host of other steps we’ve taken, this will help us reach our goal of once again having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.

Third, we’re restoring the home as a source of stability and an anchor of the American Dream. If you’ve bought a home for the first time, you’re eligible for a credit of up to $8,000. And if you bought a new car last year, you can deduct the state and local sales taxes you paid on that car.

Fourth, whether you bought a home for the first time or you’ve owned one for a long time, if you invested in making your home more energy-efficient with certain improvements like new insulation or windows, or plan to this year, you’re eligible for up to $1,500 in new tax credits. This does more than just put money back in your pocket; it’s helping create new clean energy, manufacturing, and construction jobs at small businesses across the country.

Fifth, to help working families with children through difficult times, we increased the Earned Income Tax Credit and allowed more families to qualify for the Child Tax Credit.

Finally, for those who lost their jobs in the recession and need some help getting back on their feet, we provided a 65 percent tax credit to help cover the cost of health care and made sure the first $2,400 in unemployment benefits is tax-free.

These are among the tax breaks and savings that are available to over one hundred million Americans right now. It’s also important to note that the new health reform law includes the largest middle class tax cut for health care in history, and once it’s implemented; millions of Americans will finally be able to purchase quality, affordable care and the security and peace of mind that comes with it. And one thing we have not done is raise income taxes on families making less than $250,000. That’s another promise we’ve kept.

We’ve also made it easy to find out what’s owed to you and your family. After all, the big guys know how to find their tax breaks; it’s time you did, too. Just visit WhiteHouse.gov and click on the Tax Savings Tool. It’s already been accessed more than 100,000 times by folks who want to see what savings they’re owed and how to collect them. If you’ve already filed your taxes and missed some of the savings available to you, don’t worry – you can still amend your returns after April 15th to save hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

And just as each of us meets our responsibilities as citizens, we expect our businesses and our government to meet theirs in return. That’s why I’ve asked Congress to close some of the biggest tax loopholes exploited by some of our most profitable corporations to avoid paying their fair share – or, in some cases, paying taxes at all. That’s why we’re tightening Washington’s belt by cutting programs that don’t work, contracts that aren’t fair, and spending we don’t need. And that’s why I’ve proposed a freeze on discretionary spending, signed a law that restores the pay-as-you-go principle that helped produce the surpluses of the 1990s, and created a bipartisan, independent commission to help solve our fiscal crisis and close the deficits that have been growing for a decade. Because I refuse to leave our problems to the next generation.

It’s been a tough couple years for America. But the economy is growing again. Companies are beginning to hire again. We are rewarding work and helping more of our people reach for the American Dream again. And while there’s no doubt we still face a long journey together, with more steps to take, more obstacles to overcome, and more challenges to face along the way; if there is one thing of which the people of this great country have convinced me, it’s that the United States of America will recover, stronger than before.

Thanks for listening, and have a great weekend.

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