Saturday, February 28, 2009

Weekly Radio Address: President Obama explains how the budget he sent to Congress will fulfill the promises he made as a candidate, and assures speci

Your Weekly Address

In the Weekly Address this morning, President Obama explains how the budget he sent to Congress will fulfill the promises he made as a candidate. On fiscal responsibility, a fair tax code, a clean energy economy, real health care reform, and education, this budget sets out a new vision for our country.

But having put his priorities on paper and having stood behind them, the President recognizes that there are those who will fight against change every step of the way.

"I realize that passing this budget won’t be easy. Because it represents real and dramatic change, it also represents a threat to the status quo in Washington. I know that the insurance industry won’t like the idea that they’ll have to bid competitively to continue offering Medicare coverage, but that’s how we’ll help preserve and protect Medicare and lower health care costs for American families. I know that banks and big student lenders won’t like the idea that we’re ending their huge taxpayer subsidies, but that’s how we’ll save taxpayers nearly $50 billion and make college more affordable. I know that oil and gas companies won’t like us ending nearly $30 billion in tax breaks, but that’s how we’ll help fund a renewable energy economy that will create new jobs and new industries. I know these steps won’t sit well with the special interests and lobbyists who are invested in the old way of doing business, and I know they’re gearing up for a fight as we speak. My message to them is this:

"So am I."

Watch the full address and read the transcript below.



Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
Saturday, February 28th, 2009
Washington, DC


Two years ago, we set out on a journey to change the way that Washington works.

We sought a government that served not the interests of powerful lobbyists or the wealthiest few, but the middle-class Americans I met every day in every community along the campaign trail – responsible men and women who are working harder than ever, worrying about their jobs, and struggling to raise their families. In so many town halls and backyards, they spoke of their hopes for a government that finally confronts the challenges that their families face every day; a government that treats their tax dollars as responsibly as they treat their own hard-earned paychecks.

That is the change I promised as a candidate for president. It is the change the American people voted for in November. And it is the change represented by the budget I sent to Congress this week.

During the campaign, I promised a fair and balanced tax code that would cut taxes for 95% of working Americans, roll back the tax breaks for those making over $250,000 a year, and end the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas. This budget does that.

I promised an economy run on clean, renewable energy that will create new American jobs, new American industries, and free us from the dangerous grip of foreign oil. This budget puts us on that path, through a market-based cap on carbon pollution that will make renewable energy the profitable kind of energy; through investments in wind power and solar power; advanced biofuels, clean coal, and more fuel-efficient American cars and American trucks.

I promised to bring down the crushing cost of health care – a cost that bankrupts one American every thirty seconds, forces small businesses to close their doors, and saddles our government with more debt. This budget keeps that promise, with a historic commitment to reform that will lead to lower costs and quality, affordable health care for every American.

I promised an education system that will prepare every American to compete, so Americans can win in a global economy. This budget will help us meet that goal, with new incentives for teacher performance and pathways for advancement; new tax credits that will make college more affordable for all who want to go; and new support to ensure that those who do go finish their degree.

This budget also reflects the stark reality of what we’ve inherited – a trillion dollar deficit, a financial crisis, and a costly recession. Given this reality, we’ll have to be more vigilant than ever in eliminating the programs we don’t need in order to make room for the investments we do need. I promised to do this by going through the federal budget page by page, and line by line. That is a process we have already begun, and I am pleased to say that we’ve already identified two trillion dollars worth of deficit-reductions over the next decade. We’ve also restored a sense of honesty and transparency to our budget, which is why this one accounts for spending that was hidden or left out under the old rules.

I realize that passing this budget won’t be easy. Because it represents real and dramatic change, it also represents a threat to the status quo in Washington. I know that the insurance industry won’t like the idea that they’ll have to bid competitively to continue offering Medicare coverage, but that’s how we’ll help preserve and protect Medicare and lower health care costs for American families. I know that banks and big student lenders won’t like the idea that we’re ending their huge taxpayer subsidies, but that’s how we’ll save taxpayers nearly $50 billion and make college more affordable. I know that oil and gas companies won’t like us ending nearly $30 billion in tax breaks, but that’s how we’ll help fund a renewable energy economy that will create new jobs and new industries. In other words, I know these steps won’t sit well with the special interests and lobbyists who are invested in the old way of doing business, and I know they’re gearing up for a fight as we speak. My message to them is this:

So am I.

The system we have now might work for the powerful and well-connected interests that have run Washington for far too long, but I don’t. I work for the American people. I didn’t come here to do the same thing we’ve been doing or to take small steps forward, I came to provide the sweeping change that this country demanded when it went to the polls in November. That is the change this budget starts to make, and that is the change I’ll be fighting for in the weeks ahead – change that will grow our economy, expand our middle-class, and keep the American Dream alive for all those men and women who have believed in this journey from the day it began.

Thanks for listening.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Remarks of President Barack Obama – Responsibly Ending the War in Iraq

Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery
Responsibly Ending the War in Iraq
Camp Lejeune, North Carolina
Friday, February 27, 2009

Good morning Marines. Good morning Camp Lejeune. Good morning Jacksonville. Thank you for that outstanding welcome. I want to thank Lieutenant General Hejlik for hosting me here today.

I also want to acknowledge all of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. That includes the Camp Lejeune Marines now serving with – or soon joining – the Second Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq; those with Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force in Afghanistan; and those among the 8,000 Marines who are preparing to deploy to Afghanistan. We have you in our prayers. We pay tribute to your service. We thank you and your families for all that you do for America. And I want all of you to know that there is no higher honor or greater responsibility than serving as your Commander-in-Chief.

I also want to take this opportunity to acknowledge Ryan Crocker, who recently completed his service as our Ambassador to Iraq. Throughout his career, Ryan always took on the toughest assignments. He is an example of the very best that this nation has to offer, and we owe him a great debt of gratitude. He carried on his work with an extraordinary degree of cooperation with two of our finest Generals – General David Petraeus, and General Ray Odierno – who will be critical in carrying forward the strategy that I will outline today.

Next month will mark the sixth anniversary of the war in Iraq. By any measure, this has already been a long war. For the men and women of America’s armed forces – and for your families – this war has been one of the most extraordinary chapters of service in the history of our nation. You have endured tour after tour after tour of duty. You have known the dangers of combat and the lonely distance of loved ones. You have fought against tyranny and disorder. You have bled for your best friends and for unknown Iraqis. And you have borne an enormous burden for your fellow citizens, while extending a precious opportunity to the people of Iraq. Under tough circumstances, the men and women of the United States military have served with honor, and succeeded beyond any expectation.

Today, I have come to speak to you about how the war in Iraq will end.

To understand where we need to go in Iraq, it is important for the American people to understand where we now stand. Thanks in great measure to your service, the situation in Iraq has improved. Violence has been reduced substantially from the horrific sectarian killing of 2006 and 2007. Al Qaeda in Iraq has been dealt a serious blow by our troops and Iraq’s Security Forces, and through our partnership with Sunni Arabs. The capacity of Iraq’s Security Forces has improved, and Iraq’s leaders have taken steps toward political accommodation. The relative peace and strong participation in January’s provincial elections sent a powerful message to the world about how far Iraqis have come in pursuing their aspirations through a peaceful political process.

But let there be no doubt: Iraq is not yet secure, and there will be difficult days ahead. Violence will continue to be a part of life in Iraq. Too many fundamental political questions about Iraq’s future remain unresolved. Too many Iraqis are still displaced or destitute. Declining oil revenues will put an added strain on a government that has had difficulty delivering basic services. Not all of Iraq’s neighbors are contributing to its security. Some are working at times to undermine it. And even as Iraq’s government is on a surer footing, it is not yet a full partner – politically and economically – in the region, or with the international community

In short, today there is a renewed cause for hope in Iraq, but that hope rests upon an emerging foundation.

On my first full day in office, I directed my national security team to undertake a comprehensive review of our strategy in Iraq to determine the best way to strengthen that foundation, while strengthening American national security. I have listened to my Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and commanders on the ground. We have acted with careful consideration of events on the ground; with respect for the security agreements between the United States and Iraq; and with a critical recognition that the long-term solution in Iraq must be political – not military. Because the most important decisions that have to be made about Iraq’s future must now be made by Iraqis.

We have also taken into account the simple reality that America can no longer afford to see Iraq in isolation from other priorities: we face the challenge of refocusing on Afghanistan and Pakistan; of relieving the burden on our military; and of rebuilding our struggling economy – and these are challenges that we will meet.

Today, I can announce that our review is complete, and that the United States will pursue a new strategy to end the war in Iraq through a transition to full Iraqi responsibility.

This strategy is grounded in a clear and achievable goal shared by the Iraqi people and the American people: an Iraq that is sovereign, stable, and self-reliant. To achieve that goal, we will work to promote an Iraqi government that is just, representative, and accountable, and that provides neither support nor safe-haven to terrorists. We will help Iraq build new ties of trade and commerce with the world. And we will forge a partnership with the people and government of Iraq that contributes to the peace and security of the region.

What we will not do is let the pursuit of the perfect stand in the way of achievable goals. We cannot rid Iraq of all who oppose America or sympathize with our adversaries. We cannot police Iraq’s streets until they are completely safe, nor stay until Iraq’s union is perfected. We cannot sustain indefinitely a commitment that has put a strain on our military, and will cost the American people nearly a trillion dollars. America’s men and women in uniform have fought block by block, province by province, year after year, to give the Iraqis this chance to choose a better future. Now, we must ask the Iraqi people to seize it.

The first part of this strategy is therefore the responsible removal of our combat brigades from Iraq.

As a candidate for President, I made clear my support for a timeline of 16 months to carry out this drawdown, while pledging to consult closely with our military commanders upon taking office to ensure that we preserve the gains we’ve made and protect our troops. Those consultations are now complete, and I have chosen a timeline that will remove our combat brigades over the next 18 months.

Let me say this as plainly as I can: by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end.

As we carry out this drawdown, my highest priority will be the safety and security of our troops and civilians in Iraq. We will proceed carefully, and I will consult closely with my military commanders on the ground and with the Iraqi government. There will surely be difficult periods and tactical adjustments. But our enemies should be left with no doubt: this plan gives our military the forces and the flexibility they need to support our Iraqi partners, and to succeed.

After we remove our combat brigades, our mission will change from combat to supporting the Iraqi government and its Security Forces as they take the absolute lead in securing their country. As I have long said, we will retain a transitional force to carry out three distinct functions: training, equipping, and advising Iraqi Security Forces as long as they remain non-sectarian; conducting targeted counter-terrorism missions; and protecting our ongoing civilian and military efforts within Iraq. Initially, this force will likely be made up of 35-50,000 U.S. troops.

Through this period of transition, we will carry out further redeployments. And under the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. We will complete this transition to Iraqi responsibility, and we will bring our troops home with the honor that they have earned.

As we responsibly remove our combat brigades, we will pursue the second part of our strategy: sustained diplomacy on behalf of a more peaceful and prosperous Iraq.

The drawdown of our military should send a clear signal that Iraq’s future is now its own responsibility. The long-term success of the Iraqi nation will depend upon decisions made by Iraq’s leaders and the fortitude of the Iraqi people. Iraq is a sovereign country with legitimate institutions; America cannot – and should not – take their place. However, a strong political, diplomatic, and civilian effort on our part can advance progress and help lay a foundation for lasting peace and security.

This effort will be led by our new Ambassador to Iraq – Chris Hill. From his time in the Peace Corps, to his work in Kosovo and Korea, Ambassador Hill has been tested, and he has shown the pragmatism and skill that we need right now. He will be supported by the courageous and capable work of so many American diplomats and aid workers who are serving in Iraq.

Going forward, we can make a difference on several fronts. We will work with the United Nations to support national elections, while helping Iraqis improve local government. We can serve as an honest broker in pursuit of fair and durable agreements on issues that have divided Iraq’s leaders. And just as we will support Iraq’s Security Forces, we will help Iraqi institutions strengthen their capacity to protect the rule of law, confront corruption, and deliver basic services.

Diplomacy and assistance is also required to help the millions of displaced Iraqis. These men, women and children are a living consequence of this war and a challenge to stability in the region, and they must become a part of Iraq’s reconciliation and recovery. America has a strategic interest – and a moral responsibility – to act. In the coming months, my administration will provide more assistance and take steps to increase international support for countries already hosting refugees; we’ll cooperate with others to resettle Iraqis facing great personal risk; and we will work with the Iraqi government over time to resettle refugees and displaced Iraqis within Iraq – because there are few more powerful indicators of lasting peace than displaced citizens returning home.

Now, before I go any further, I want to take a moment to speak directly to the people of Iraq.

You are a great nation, rooted in the cradle of civilization. You are joined together by enduring accomplishments, and a history that connects you as surely as the two rivers carved into your land. In years past, you have persevered through tyranny and terror; through personal insecurity and sectarian violence. And instead of giving in to the forces of disunion, you stepped back from a descent into civil war, and showed a proud resilience that deserves respect.

Our nations have known difficult times together. But ours is a bond forged by shared bloodshed, and countless friendships among our people. We Americans have offered our most precious resource – our young men and women – to work with you to rebuild what was destroyed by despotism; to root out our common enemies; and to seek peace and prosperity for our children and grandchildren, and for yours.

There are those who will try to prevent that future for Iraq – who will insist that Iraq’s differences cannot be reconciled without more killing. They represent the forces that destroy nations and lead only to despair, and they will test our will in the months and years to come. America, too, has known these forces. We endured the pain of Civil War, and bitter divisions of region and race. But hostility and hatred are no match for justice; they offer no pathway to peace; and they must not stand between the people of Iraq and a future of reconciliation and hope.

So to the Iraqi people, let me be clear about America’s intentions. The United States pursues no claim on your territory or your resources. We respect your sovereignty and the tremendous sacrifices you have made for your country. We seek a full transition to Iraqi responsibility for the security of your country. And going forward, we can build a lasting relationship founded upon mutual interests and mutual respect as Iraq takes its rightful place in the community of nations.

That leads me to the third part of our strategy –comprehensive American engagement across the region.

The future of Iraq is inseparable from the future of the broader Middle East, so we must work with our friends and partners to establish a new framework that advances Iraq’s security and the region’s. It is time for Iraq to be a full partner in a regional dialogue, and for Iraq’s neighbors to establish productive and normalized relations with Iraq. And going forward, the United States will pursue principled and sustained engagement with all of the nations in the region, and that will include Iran and Syria.

This reflects a fundamental truth: we can no longer deal with regional challenges in isolation – we need a smarter, more sustainable and comprehensive approach. That is why we are renewing our diplomacy, while relieving the burden on our military. That is why we are refocusing on al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan; developing a strategy to use all elements of American power to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon; and actively seeking a lasting peace between Israel and the Arab world. And that is why we have named three of America’s most accomplished diplomats – George Mitchell, Dennis Ross and Richard Holbrooke – to support Secretary Clinton and me as we carry forward this agenda.

Every nation and every group must know – whether you wish America good or ill – that the end of the war in Iraq will enable a new era of American leadership and engagement in the Middle East. And that era has just begun.

Finally, I want to be very clear that my strategy for ending the war in Iraq does not end with military plans or diplomatic agendas – it endures through our commitment to uphold our sacred trust with every man and woman who has served in Iraq.

You make up a fraction of the American population, but in an age when so many people and institutions have acted irresponsibly, you did the opposite – you volunteered to bear the heaviest burden. And for you and for your families, the war does not end when you come home. It lives on in memories of your fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who gave their lives. It endures in the wound that is slow to heal, the disability that isn’t going away, the dream that wakes you at night, or the stiffening in your spine when a car backfires down the street.

You and your families have done your duty – now a grateful nation must do ours. That is why I am increasing the number of soldiers and Marines, so that we lessen the burden on those who are serving. And that is why I have committed to expanding our system of veterans health care to serve more patients, and to provide better care in more places. We will continue building new wounded warrior facilities across America, and invest in new ways of identifying and treating the signature wounds of this war: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury, as well as other combat injuries.

We also know that service does not end with the person wearing the uniform. In her visits with military families across the country, my wife Michelle has learned firsthand about the unique burden that your families endure every day. I want you to know this: military families are a top priority for Michelle and me, and they will be a top priority for my administration. We’ll raise military pay, and continue providing quality child-care, job-training for spouses, and expanded counseling and outreach to families that have known the separation and stress of war. We will also heed the lesson of history – that those who fight in battle can form the backbone of our middle class – by implementing a 21st century GI Bill to help our veterans live their dreams.

As a nation, we have had our share of debates about the war in Iraq. It has, at times, divided us as a people. To this very day, there are some Americans who want to stay in Iraq longer, and some who want to leave faster. But there should be no disagreement on what the men and women of our military have achieved.

And so I want to be very clear: We sent our troops to Iraq to do away with Saddam Hussein’s regime – and you got the job done. We kept our troops in Iraq to help establish a sovereign government – and you got the job done. And we will leave the Iraqi people with a hard-earned opportunity to live a better life – that is your achievement; that is the prospect that you have made possible.

There are many lessons to be learned from what we’ve experienced. We have learned that America must go to war with clearly defined goals, which is why I’ve ordered a review of our policy in Afghanistan. We have learned that we must always weigh the costs of action, and communicate those costs candidly to the American people, which is why I’ve put Iraq and Afghanistan into my budget. We have learned that in the 21st century, we must use all elements of American power to achieve our objectives, which is why I am committed to building our civilian national security capacity so that the burden is not continually pushed on to our military. We have learned that our political leaders must pursue the broad and bipartisan support that our national security policies depend upon, which is why I will consult with Congress and in carrying out my plans. And we have learned the importance of working closely with friends and allies, which is why we are launching a new era of engagement in the world.

The starting point for our policies must always be the safety of the American people. I know that you – the men and women of the finest fighting force in the history of the world – can meet any challenge, and defeat any foe. And as long as I am your Commander-in-Chief, I promise you that I will only send you into harm’s way when it is absolutely necessary, and provide you with the equipment and support you need to get the job done. That is the most important lesson of all – for the consequences of war are dire, the sacrifices immeasurable.

You know because you have seen those sacrifices. You have lived them. And we all honor them.

"Semper Fidelis" – it means always being faithful to Corps, and to country, and to the memory of fallen comrades like Corporal Jonathan Yale and Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter. These young men enlisted in a time of war, knowing they would face great danger. They came here, to Camp Lejeune, as they trained for their mission. And last April, they were standing guard in Anbar. In an age when suicide is a weapon, they were suddenly faced with an oncoming truck filled with explosives. These two Marines stood their ground. These two Marines opened fire. And these two Marines stopped that truck. When the thousands of pounds of explosives detonated, they had saved fifty Marines and Iraqi police who would have been in the truck’s path, but Corporal Yale and Lance Corporal Haerter lost their own lives. Jonathan was 21. Jordan was 19.

In the town where Jordan Haerter was from, a bridge was dedicated in his name. One Marine who traveled to the ceremony said: "We flew here from all over the country to pay tribute to our friend Jordan, who risked his life to save us. We wouldn’t be here without him."

America’s time in Iraq is filled with stories of men and women like this. Their names are written into bridges and town squares. They are etched into stones at Arlington, and in quiet places of rest across our land. They are spoken in schools and on city blocks. They live on in the memories of those who wear your uniform, in the hearts of those they loved, and in the freedom of the nation they served.

Each American who has served in Iraq has their own story. Each of you has your own story. And that story is now a part of the history of the United States of America – a nation that exists only because free men and women have bled for it from the beaches of Normandy to the deserts of Anbar; from the mountains of Korea to the streets of Kandahar. You teach us that the price of freedom is great. Your sacrifice should challenge all of us – every single American – to ask what we can do to be better citizens.

There will be more danger in the months ahead. We will face new tests and unforeseen trials. But thanks to the sacrifices of those who have served, we have forged hard-earned progress, we are leaving Iraq to its people, and we have begun the work of ending this war.

Thank you, God Bless you, and God Bless the United States of America. Semper Fi.

Friday Extras - From White House Blog

OMB Director Peter Orszag is up again on his new blog, this time addressing the questions on how the budget will affect deductions for charitable contributions ("Is our budget proposal uncharitable?") Again, very much worth reading in full.

The EPA has video of the First Lady’s visit from yesterday. Also chime in on their Question of the Week: How has your community used smart growth for environment-friendly development?

The State Department also has their question of the week up: "What Is the Best Path Forward for Gaza?" It's accompanied by the picture below:



DOT gets underway on Expressions of Interest on high-speed rail.

In case you missed it in today’s scrappy live-blog, Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan and Energy Secretary Steven Chu today announced a major partnership between their departments that will use $16 billion in funds from the ARRA to help create green jobs.

Talk to any career web professional in the federal government long enough, and sooner or later the TSA’s blog comes up. Vent your traveling frustrations; they might even fix it – really.

Responsibly Ending the War in Iraq (Update: photos)

President Obama at Camp LeJeune


"Let me say this as plainly as I can: by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end," the President said today at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

"I want to be very clear," the President said. "We sent our troops to Iraq to do away with Saddam Hussein’s regime – and you got the job done. We kept our troops in Iraq to help establish a sovereign government – and you got the job done. And we will leave the Iraqi people with a hard-earned opportunity to live a better life – that is your achievement; that is the prospect that you have made possible."

Though he and the nation's civilian and uniformed leaders have established a clear timeline for withdrawal, the President emphasized that many challenges remain:

But let there be no doubt: Iraq is not yet secure, and there will be difficult days ahead. Violence will continue to be a part of life in Iraq. Too many fundamental political questions about Iraq’s future remain unresolved. Too many Iraqis are still displaced or destitute. Declining oil revenues will put an added strain on a government that has had difficulty delivering basic services. Not all of Iraq’s neighbors are contributing to its security. Some are working at times to undermine it. And even as Iraq’s government is on a surer footing, it is not yet a full partner – politically and economically – in the region, or with the international community.

The President ordered the review that led to this decision on his first day in office, and considered options for moving forward that reflected input from military commanders, the Joint Chiefs, Secretary Gates, and his national security team. Read the entire speech to see the details of the plan.

President Obama at Camp LeJeune

Liveblog: The Task Force's first meeting

The Vice President and his team are in Philadelphia this morning for the first meeting of the Middle Class Task Force, with a focus on a green jobs as a pathway to a strong middle class. Greg Nelson from the White House Office of Public Liaison is attending the meeting and will be filing updates throughout the day.

11:25 a.m.: The event site in Philly is hopping. We just arrived, and students and attendees greeted the motorcade with lots of excitement. The crowd arrived early and is starting to file in, a beautiful mix of community members, labor members, small business and green business owners, and environmental groups.

11:53 a.m.: The line is reaching way out the door, giving folks a chance to meet each other and tell their stories. Just met Jim Bauer, who is the local United Steelworkers (USW) President at the Gamesa Wind Turbine facility in Fairless Hills, PA. Jim worked for US Steel at the same site for 25 years, but the plant closed. When it opened up three years ago making turbines, Jim returned to the facility and joined the machine shop. They've cranked out 509 turbines so far. Jim says optimism has returned because of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

12:08 p.m.: We're just about ready to get started here. Amazing stories at every turn -- people are hurting, but the optimism around green jobs is everywhere. Dave Johnson of the Laborers Union has been working with Newark community groups on a pilot project to help train community members to weatherize local homes. It is a win, win, win -- better, healthier homes for the homeowner, long-term skills and careers for residents, and reduced energy use and carbon for the world.

(12:21 p.m.: Ed. note: The Task Force has just made public its first staff report, "Green Jobs: A Pathway to a Strong Middle Class," which you can read in full.)

12:37 p.m.: And we're underway. Vice President Biden kicked things off with a rundown of why this is so important -- in many states, green companies are some of the few that are hiring. We need to create more of these opportunuities, and -- reflected by the breadth of the audience today, people are hungry for it. Electeds, business leaders, labor members, community members, students, faculty, all wanting to get to work to make this happen.

12:44 p.m.: Just as impressive as the crowd is the panel -- the VP, 6 cabinet secretaries (including newly confirmed Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, the author of the Green Jobs Act), and senior White House staff. Lots of praise for Senator Specter (R-PA) for making so many green job opportunities possible with his vote on the recovery act. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA) is talking about the importance of the energy efficiency components of the recovery act, and how that will help cities like Philadelphia.

12:46 p.m.: VP Biden just plugged the AStrongMiddleClass.gov and invited attendees to make sure they participate and contribute to the conversation even after today.

12:50 p.m.: First presentation is from John Podesta from the Center of American Progress, then it will be Fred Krupp from the Environmental Defense Fund and Van Jones from Green for All. You can check out Krupp's presentation and handout, as well as a video from Jones.

1:01 p.m.: Van's message is about providing opportunity and hope, and the moral responsibility to make sure this green wave is one that lifts all boats -- "a green economy that MLK would be proud of." The way to do that, he says, is to make sure green jobs crop up not just in rural and suburban areas, but in urban areas, too. To great applause: "There is a moral principle to green the ghetto first ... to give young people the chance to put down that handgun and pick up a caulking gun."

1:05 p.m.: Van is describing the impact of opportunity and inspiration. The green dollars in the opportunity act are 'the hardest working dollars the federal government has ever spent....We need a new commitment, we need a new math, and we need a new ethic. And that's how we fight poverty and pollution at the same time." And for his own inspiration and push for opportunity, Van gets a standing ovation.

1:20 p.m.: "when I see less carbon, I also see more jobs." That's from Fred Krupp, President of the Environmental Defense Fund, which has invested a lot of time and energy into the details of how to make green jobs a reality. Fred is taking the remarkable vision of Van, and breaking it down step-by-step back through the supply chain: from end products (like solar panels or efficient windows or LEDs) to the components to the original raw materials. Where and how those supply chains get developed -- and the jobs each step in the supply chain represents -- is what will determine how well we can live this vision.

1:27 p.m.: Members of the Task Force are now asking questions. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis asked about gender in green jobs.Van answered by talking about where green jobs are headed: not just solar panel installations, but also managerial jobs, IT jobs, marketing jobs, and education jobs. Agriculture Secretary Vilsack mentioned the USDA programs supporting green jobs, and how popular and effective it is. He then asked about mayors, and what we can ask of mayors to help get this done. John Podesta answered: it's about scale. We need to create markets that can build and support this massive task and opportunity ahead of us.

1:38 p.m.: Energy Secretary Chu asked: with all the energy efficiency money in the ARRA, how do we help spend it in a way that greats good jobs? Van: The moment is now. The money is here. Now it is about doing it right. Because we could do this poorly and wrong. But let's do it well and right, by:

1. Using our existing workforce development mechanisms, community colleges, and labor apprenticeship programs.
2. Sticking to High standards. The best trained workers in this area are our labor members. Help them bring it to fruition.

Podesta added that we also need to leverage private financing, especially to reach neighborhoods and homes.

1:44 p.m.: HUD Secretary Donovan: Part of the new math is about how we can leverage energy savings to help finance energy efficiency for individual homeowners. Where can we get the best data and thinking? Van: Great work at MIT. They've been working with unions, labor, and other partners on a program called Emerald Cities.

1:48 p.m.: Education Secretary Duncan: How do we systemically give opportunities to students who need them? Too often, it seems like it relies on a remarkable social entrepreneur or non-profit to open those eyes and those doors. Van: starts early, in the curriculum. The greener, the more successful.

1:54 p.m.: Moving on to panel 2. Coming to the mics are: Governor Rendell (D-PA), Mayor Nutter (D-PA), Leo Gerard (United Steelworkers), Mark Edlin (President, Gerding-Edlin), Cecilia Estolano (CEO of the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Authority)

2:02 p.m.: After a quick break, the Task Force jumps right back into some heavy content. Gov. Rendell leads off. As a Governor, he makes the important note that much of the innovation in this area has been in the States. Rendell has 3 points he suggests the panel address:

1. create markets through renewable portfolio standards
2. direct incentives and support
3. use the power of the government as a consumer to make change


2:16 p.m.: And we finally get to hear from the host -- a city that Nutter himself called "stimulus-ready." Nutter is making green jobs a major focus in his economic development work in Philly. As he said in his testimony, whether you have a GED or a PHD, we've got a green job for you in Philly.

A bit of news: the Knight Foundation is granting $1.1 million to the city's Energy Coordinating Agency (ECA) to train workers for green jobs, in collaboration with the mayor's office.

2:20 p.m.: Nutter: "'Philadelphia was the first capital of the United States, and we plan to be the first capital of green jobs."

2:30 p.m.: One of the key partners in making green jobs a reality has been Labor, in particular the United Steelworkers of America. USW President Leo Gerard has been a visionary on this issue, and has been building coalitions with enviro groups for years -- he's a founder of the Apollo Alliance and the Blue Green Alliance. President Gerard's members are truly the engine behind green jobs -- 2700 people showed up at the Good Jobs Green Jobs conference this month. They are the machinists at Gamesa's wind turbine facilities, the glassmakers in window factories, and the line workers in battery manufacturing. And right now, some of those jobs are in danger because the markets have dried up. But the Recovery Act has a chance to change that. Let's make it count.

He's also make a big commitment; that the Blue Green Alliance is going to develop a Green Jobs scorecard to help evaluate the impact of projects paid for by the Recovery Bill. A great addition. (Check out President Gerard's presentation.)

2:42 p.m.: Cecilia Estolano is talking about the work that she and Mayor Villaraigosa have been doing in Los Angeles -- alongside now CEQ Chair Nancy Sutley (and LA's Vice Mayor for Energy and Environment). LA has been at the forefront of many of these conversations, with real results. Estolano ended by saying: 'Thank you, Mr. Vice President, it is so nice to -- finally -- have a partner in the White House."

2:50 p.m.: One of the healthiest (and at times very funny) undercurrents of today's event has been each speaker claiming that his home town or state is the greenest. It came to a head with Mark Edlen (of Gerding Edlen's), who claimed Portland and Oregon are the greenest -- highest rate of renewables, highest hybrid car ratio, etc. That prompted Estalano to stand up for LA, Nutter for Philly, and Rendell for PA. VP Biden finally brokered a truce by calling the competition "healthy" but maybe best left for after the meeting.

2:54 p.m.: Mark Edlen talking now. He and his company -- Portland, OR-based architecture firm Gerding-Edlen -- in a lot of ways created an industry and market for green city living. He believes they can go further -- zero impact buildings. Gerding-Edlin just completed a 400-thousand square foot building that is off the sewer grid, and in fact puts water back into the system.

Mark also talked about a new initiative by Governor Ted Kulongoski (D-OR) called The Oregon Way. Gov K has brought together a public-private board to evaluate potential projects to be paid for by recovery funding -- and to rate them based on their impact in jobs and sustainability.

3:14 p.m. -- Biden wrapping up now. In addition to running the Middle Class Task Force, he's also the lead for Recovery Act Implementation, and he drew an important connection between green jobs, the middle class, and the Recovery Act. The act has tons of opportunity, he says, but a lot of hard work lies ahead in execution: openness, transparency, and impact -- it can be either a "platform or a tombstone." So let's get it right.

Paraphrasing: Green jobs are not autonmatically good jobs without fair pay and strong standards...So let's be level-headed about this, and make sure we do it right, while making sure we acheive our first goal of directly impacting the economy. And do it with openness, transparency, and with accountability.

4:21 p.m. -- (Ed. Note: Other big news today: Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan and Energy Secretary Steven Chu today announced a major partnership between their departments that will use $16 billion in funds from the ARRA to help create green jobs. The high-level interagency task force will "make it much easier for families to weatherize their homes and spur a new home energy efficiency industry that could create tens of thousands of jobs.")

4:50 p.m. -- (Ed.Note: The Vice President's full remarks from the opening of the meeting are now available.)

The case for green jobs

Vice President Biden makes the case for Green Jobs as a pathway to a strong middle class in the following op-ed, which appears in the Philadelphia Inquirer this morning.

Green jobs are a way to aid the middle class

Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Today, in Philadelphia, the White House Task Force on Middle Class Families is holding its inaugural meeting. Our charge is to assess current polices and develop new ones aimed at helping the middle class, the economic engine of this country.

The economic-recovery package that President Obama signed into law last week contains more than $20 billion for investment in a cleaner, greener economy, including $500 million for green job training. The task force's first order of business is to evaluate how investing in green jobs will help build a strong middle class.

So what exactly are "green jobs"? They provide products and services that use renewable energy resources, reduce pollution, and conserve energy and natural resources.

Investing in green jobs also means keeping up with the modern economy. At a time when good jobs at good wages are harder and harder to come by, we must find new, innovative opportunities.

According to the Council of Economic Advisers, green jobs pay 10 to 20 percent more than other jobs. They also are more likely to be union jobs. Building a new power grid, manufacturing solar panels, weatherizing homes and office buildings, and renovating schools are just a few of the ways to create high-quality green jobs that strengthen the foundation of this country.

More green jobs can also mean more money in consumers' pocketbooks at the end of the month. They can reduce your electric and heating bills, leaving you more disposable income for other things.

Right here in Philadelphia, for example, there are 400,000 rowhouses that could be weatherized and made more energy-efficient. Just doing that would lower household energy consumption by 20 to 40 percent, saving families hundreds of dollars a year.

Fortunately, as we will stress in our meeting here today, Mayor Nutter, Gov. Rendell, and other state and city officials across the nation are ready to help us build a greener economy. Philadelphia, for example, is working with its unions, universities, and community colleges to impart green skills to workers from all walks of life. The city is also proposing a new public authority to support large-scale green investment, especially in weatherization, building retrofits, and infrastructure.

We're excited to be in Philadelphia promoting an idea that has so many benefits. We're starting to make the investments needed to leave a cleaner world to our children while also creating good jobs right now. When you're creating green jobs, you're doing well by doing good.

Joseph R. Biden Jr. is the Vice President of the United States.

Liveblogging at AStrongMiddleClass.gov - WhiteHouse.gov

The Vice President and his team are in Philadelphia this morning for the first meeting of the Middle Class Task Force, and it's all about how green jobs -- jobs that help us move towards a growing, greener, cleaner economy -- can be an aid to the middle class.

He makes the case in an op-ed appearing this morning in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Today's event should be really interesting. The Task Force is going to be meeting with the people who know this field the best -- the policy makers and entrepeneurs and advocates who are working together to figure out how to grow our economy and do what’s right for the environment at the same time, while making sure the middle class benefits.

We're going to be liveblogging the event over at AStrongMiddleClass.gov -- thanks to Greg Nelson from the Office of Public Liaison, who's attending the meeting -- so check back throughout the day.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A new era of fiscal responsibility… and blogging



To a lot of people, the budget can seem dry or wonky, and a lot of time it doesn’t get the attention that other major legislation does. But the truth is that as heavy on numbers and figures as it is, it’s a profoundly moral document, it’s a blueprint for the nation’s priorities.

The overview for the proposed budget released by the President today is as good an example of that as you could find. For just a few examples: It sets aside more than $630 billion over ten years as a down payment towards fundamental health care reform. It makes permanent the $800 "Making Work Pay" tax cut for working families. It begins a comprehensive transformation of our energy supply by committing to a cap-and-trade system to be worked out in conjunction with Congress. The President has made clear he believes all of these issues are intertwined, so addressing these issues together represents a new comprehensive vision for the country’s future.

All of that said, the budget is no free lunch. It makes hard decisions, eliminating hundreds of billions of dollars over the years in waste and inefficiencies in the health care system, asking those making more than $250,000 per year to chip in a little more. And as OMB Director Peter Orszag explained in a press conference with CEA Chair Christina Romer this morning, this budget proposal abandons reams of budget gimmickry practiced in previous years to hide true costs:

"All told we are showing $2.7 trillion in costs in this budget that were excluded from previous budgets and I think that is a mark of the honesty and responsibility contained in this document."

One of the things Orszag was known for at his last position in the Congressional Budget Office was his ability and commitment to explaining the details of budget evaluations in a straightforward way, whether that was in a Congressional hearing or on his CBO blog. He’s showing his continued commitment on that front today by launching his own blog and the newly redesigned OMB site. He has his first post up walking through the context and the outlook on the budget -- it’s worth reading in full, here’s his take on the health care provisions in the budget:

Reforming health care. At the President’s direction, we have begun the process of doing a line-by-line review of the Budget. One of the lines we’ve started with is among the most important to the budget and to many other aspects of our economy: health care.

As I have long said, health care is the key to our nation’s fiscal future – and there are substantial efficiency improvements that are possible to deliver better results at lower costs in the health system. In the Recovery Act and in this Budget, we begin to make the investments necessary to bring about these efficiencies over the long-term—such electronic health records and comparative effectiveness research—and also identify more immediate saving measures to slow the growth of Medicare and Medicaid spending. These savings are devoted to a health reserve fund, which will be available as we work through the legislative process on health care reform this year. This proposal is a starting point, not an ending point, for health reform as additional resources will be needed to improve and expand health care for all Americans.

Orszag also talked on video to us about why he thinks blogging is so worthwhile:

The budget (Update: photos)

UDPATE: The President and his top economic advisers have spent weeks devising the outlines of this budget. White House photographer Pete Souza tells the story of that process in a slideshow of behind-the-scenes images.
View captions and images

The President just spoke on the budget for FY 2010. Some highlights below. OMB Director Orszag and CEA Chair Christina Romer are due to speak any minute now, providing some more details.

Good news:

"We have already identified $2 trillion in deficit reductions that will help us cut our deficit in half by the end of my first term."

"We've targeted almost $50 billion in savings by cracking down on overpayments of benefits and tax loopholes."

Bad news:

"[We've] inherited a trillion-dollar deficit that will take a long time for us to close"

Short term v. long term:

"While we must add to our deficits in the short term to provide immediate relief to families and get our economy moving, it is only by restoring fiscal discipline over the long run that we can produce sustained growth and shared prosperity."

Big picture:

"In the end, a budget is more than simply numbers on a page. It is a measure of how well we are living up to our obligations to ourselves and one another. It is a test for our commitment to making America what it was always meant to be -- a place where all things are possible for all people."

Remarks by the President on the Fiscal Year 2010 Budget

REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON THE FISCAL YEAR 2010 BUDGET
Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building, Room 350
February 26, 2009

9:55 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Before I begin, I have some good news to report. Starting today, the recently unemployed will benefit from a COBRA subsidy that will make health care affordable. At a time when health care is too often too expensive for the unemployed, this critical step will help 7 million Americans who've lost their jobs keep their health care. That's 7 million Americans who will have one less thing to worry about when they go to sleep at night. Equally important, it prevents a further downward spiral in our economy by ensuring that these families don't fall further behind because of mounting health care bills. And it is a direct result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that I signed into law the other week -- a recovery plan that has only just begun to yield benefits for the American people.

But while we must add to our deficits in the short term to provide immediate relief to families and get our economy moving, it is only by restoring fiscal discipline over the long run that we can produce sustained growth and shared prosperity. And that is precisely the purpose of the budget I'm submitting to Congress today.

In keeping with my commitment to make our government more open and transparent, this budget is an honest accounting of where we are and where we intend to go. For too long, our budget has not told the whole truth about how precious tax dollars are spent. Large sums have been left off the books, including the true cost of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. And that kind of dishonest accounting is not how you run your family budgets at home; it's not how your government should run its budgets, either. We need to be honest with ourselves about what costs are being racked up -- because that's how we'll come to grips with the hard choices that lie ahead. And there are some hard choices that lie ahead.

Just as a family has to make hard choices about where to spend and where to save, so do we, as a government. You know, there are times where you can afford to redecorate your house and there are times where you need to focus on rebuilding its foundation. Today, we have to focus on foundations. Having inherited a trillion-dollar deficit that will take a long time for us to close, we need to focus on what we need to move the economy forward, not on what's nice to have. That's why, on Monday, I held a fiscal summit to come up with a plan to put us on a more sustainable path. And that is why, as we develop a full budget that will come out this spring, we're going to go through our books page by page, line by line, to eliminate waste and inefficiency. This is a process that will take some time, but in the last 30 days alone, we have already identified $2 trillion in deficit reductions that will help us cut our deficit in half by the end of my first term.

For example, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack is saving nearly $20 million with reforms to modernize programs and streamline bureaucracy. Interior Secretary Salazar will save nearly $200 million by stopping wasteful payments to clean up abandoned coal mines that just happen to have already been cleaned up. Education Secretary Duncan is set to save tens of millions dollars more by cutting an ineffective mentoring program for students, a program whose mission is being carried out by 100 other programs in 13 other agencies.

We've targeted almost $50 billion in savings by cracking down on overpayments of benefits and tax loopholes -- that is money going to businesses and people to which they are simply not entitled.

This is just the beginning of the cuts we're going to make. No part of my budget will be free from scrutiny or untouched by reform. We will end no-bid contracts that have wasted billions in Iraq and end tax breaks for corporations that ship jobs overseas. And we'll save billions of dollars by rolling back tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans while giving a middle-class tax cut to 95 percent of hardworking families. But we'll also have to do something more -- we will, each and every one of us, have to compromise on certain things we care about, but which we simply cannot afford right now. That's a sacrifice we're going to have to make.

Now, I know that this will not always sit well with the special interests and their lobbyists here in Washington, who think our budget and tax system is just fine as it is. No wonder -- it works for them. I don't think that we can continue on our current course. I work for the American people, and I'm determined to bring the change that the people voted for last November. And that means cutting what we don't need to pay for what we do.

Now, what I won't do -- as I mentioned at the Joint Session speech a couple of days ago -- what I won't do is sacrifice investments that will make America stronger, more competitive, and more prosperous in the 21st century; investments that have been neglected for too long. These investments must be America's priorities and that's what they will be when I sign this budget into law.

Because our future depends on our ability to break free from oil that's controlled by foreign dictators, we need to make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy. That's why we'll be working with Congress on legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy.

And to support this effort, we'll invest $15 billion a year for 10 years to develop technologies like wind power and solar power, and to build more efficient cars and trucks right here in America. It's an investment that will put people back to work, make our nation more secure, and help us meet our obligation as good stewards of the Earth we all inhabit.

Because of crushing health care costs and the fact that they drag down our economy, bankrupt our families, and represent the fastest-growing part of our budget, we must make it a priority to give every single American quality, affordable health care. That's why this budget builds on what we have already done over the last month to expand coverage for millions more children, to computerize health records to cut waste and reduce medical errors, which save, by the way, not only tax dollars, but lives.

With this budget, we are making a historic commitment to comprehensive health care reform. It's a step that will not only make families healthier and companies more competitive, but over the long term it will also help us bring down our deficit.

And because countries that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow, we must make excellence the hallmark of an American education. That's why this budget supports the historic investment in education we made as part of the recovery plan by matching new resources with new reform. We want to create incentives for better teacher performance and pathways for advancement. We want to reward success in the classroom. And we'll invest in innovative initiatives that will help schools meet high standards and close achievement gaps, preparing students for the high-paying jobs of tomorrow -- but also helping them fulfill their God-given potential.

These must be the priorities reflected in our budget. For in the end, a budget is more than simply numbers on a page. It is a measure of how well we are living up to our obligations to ourselves and one another. It is a test for our commitment to making America what it was always meant to be -- a place where all things are possible for all people. That is a commitment we are making in this, my first budget, and it is a commitment I will work every day to uphold in the months and years ahead.

I want to thank all of you for being here, but I also want to give a special thanks to Peter Orszag, Rob Nabors. They have been working tirelessly in getting this budget prepared, getting it out in a timely fashion. They're going to be doing more work in the weeks to come. And I am absolutely confident that as messy as this process can sometimes be, that we are going to be able to produce a budget that delivers for the American people.

All right. Thank you.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Remarks of President Barack Obama -- Address to Joint Session of Congress

Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery
Address to Joint Session of Congress
Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Madame Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, and the First Lady of the United States:

I’ve come here tonight not only to address the distinguished men and women in this great chamber, but to speak frankly and directly to the men and women who sent us here.

I know that for many Americans watching right now, the state of our economy is a concern that rises above all others. And rightly so. If you haven’t been personally affected by this recession, you probably know someone who has – a friend; a neighbor; a member of your family. You don’t need to hear another list of statistics to know that our economy is in crisis, because you live it every day. It’s the worry you wake up with and the source of sleepless nights. It’s the job you thought you’d retire from but now have lost; the business you built your dreams upon that’s now hanging by a thread; the college acceptance letter your child had to put back in the envelope. The impact of this recession is real, and it is everywhere.

But while our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken; though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this:

We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.

The weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation. The answers to our problems don’t lie beyond our reach. They exist in our laboratories and universities; in our fields and our factories; in the imaginations of our entrepreneurs and the pride of the hardest-working people on Earth. Those qualities that have made America the greatest force of progress and prosperity in human history we still possess in ample measure. What is required now is for this country to pull together, confront boldly the challenges we face, and take responsibility for our future once more.

Now, if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that for too long, we have not always met these responsibilities – as a government or as a people. I say this not to lay blame or look backwards, but because it is only by understanding how we arrived at this moment that we’ll be able to lift ourselves out of this predicament.

The fact is, our economy did not fall into decline overnight. Nor did all of our problems begin when the housing market collapsed or the stock market sank. We have known for decades that our survival depends on finding new sources of energy. Yet we import more oil today than ever before. The cost of health care eats up more and more of our savings each year, yet we keep delaying reform. Our children will compete for jobs in a global economy that too many of our schools do not prepare them for. And though all these challenges went unsolved, we still managed to spend more money and pile up more debt, both as individuals and through our government, than ever before.

In other words, we have lived through an era where too often, short-term gains were prized over long-term prosperity; where we failed to look beyond the next payment, the next quarter, or the next election. A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to invest in our future. Regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market. People bought homes they knew they couldn’t afford from banks and lenders who pushed those bad loans anyway. And all the while, critical debates and difficult decisions were put off for some other time on some other day.

Well that day of reckoning has arrived, and the time to take charge of our future is here.

Now is the time to act boldly and wisely – to not only revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity. Now is the time to jumpstart job creation, re-start lending, and invest in areas like energy, health care, and education that will grow our economy, even as we make hard choices to bring our deficit down. That is what my economic agenda is designed to do, and that’s what I’d like to talk to you about tonight.

It’s an agenda that begins with jobs.

As soon as I took office, I asked this Congress to send me a recovery plan by President’s Day that would put people back to work and put money in their pockets. Not because I believe in bigger government – I don’t. Not because I’m not mindful of the massive debt we’ve inherited – I am. I called for action because the failure to do so would have cost more jobs and caused more hardships. In fact, a failure to act would have worsened our long-term deficit by assuring weak economic growth for years. That’s why I pushed for quick action. And tonight, I am grateful that this Congress delivered, and pleased to say that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is now law.

Over the next two years, this plan will save or create 3.5 million jobs. More than 90% of these jobs will be in the private sector – jobs rebuilding our roads and bridges; constructing wind turbines and solar panels; laying broadband and expanding mass transit.

Because of this plan, there are teachers who can now keep their jobs and educate our kids. Health care professionals can continue caring for our sick. There are 57 police officers who are still on the streets of Minneapolis tonight because this plan prevented the layoffs their department was about to make.

Because of this plan, 95% of the working households in America will receive a tax cut – a tax cut that you will see in your paychecks beginning on April 1st.

Because of this plan, families who are struggling to pay tuition costs will receive a $2,500 tax credit for all four years of college. And Americans who have lost their jobs in this recession will be able to receive extended unemployment benefits and continued health care coverage to help them weather this storm.

I know there are some in this chamber and watching at home who are skeptical of whether this plan will work. I understand that skepticism. Here in Washington, we’ve all seen how quickly good intentions can turn into broken promises and wasteful spending. And with a plan of this scale comes enormous responsibility to get it right.

That is why I have asked Vice President Biden to lead a tough, unprecedented oversight effort – because nobody messes with Joe. I have told each member of my Cabinet as well as mayors and governors across the country that they will be held accountable by me and the American people for every dollar they spend. I have appointed a proven and aggressive Inspector General to ferret out any and all cases of waste and fraud. And we have created a new website called recovery.gov so that every American can find out how and where their money is being spent.

So the recovery plan we passed is the first step in getting our economy back on track. But it is just the first step. Because even if we manage this plan flawlessly, there will be no real recovery unless we clean up the credit crisis that has severely weakened our financial system.

I want to speak plainly and candidly about this issue tonight, because every American should know that it directly affects you and your family’s well-being. You should also know that the money you’ve deposited in banks across the country is safe; your insurance is secure; and you can rely on the continued operation of our financial system. That is not the source of concern.

The concern is that if we do not re-start lending in this country, our recovery will be choked off before it even begins.

You see, the flow of credit is the lifeblood of our economy. The ability to get a loan is how you finance the purchase of everything from a home to a car to a college education; how stores stock their shelves, farms buy equipment, and businesses make payroll.

But credit has stopped flowing the way it should. Too many bad loans from the housing crisis have made their way onto the books of too many banks. With so much debt and so little confidence, these banks are now fearful of lending out any more money to households, to businesses, or to each other. When there is no lending, families can’t afford to buy homes or cars. So businesses are forced to make layoffs. Our economy suffers even more, and credit dries up even further.

That is why this administration is moving swiftly and aggressively to break this destructive cycle, restore confidence, and re-start lending.

We will do so in several ways. First, we are creating a new lending fund that represents the largest effort ever to help provide auto loans, college loans, and small business loans to the consumers and entrepreneurs who keep this economy running.

Second, we have launched a housing plan that will help responsible families facing the threat of foreclosure lower their monthly payments and re-finance their mortgages. It’s a plan that won’t help speculators or that neighbor down the street who bought a house he could never hope to afford, but it will help millions of Americans who are struggling with declining home values – Americans who will now be able to take advantage of the lower interest rates that this plan has already helped bring about. In fact, the average family who re-finances today can save nearly $2000 per year on their mortgage.

Third, we will act with the full force of the federal government to ensure that the major banks that Americans depend on have enough confidence and enough money to lend even in more difficult times. And when we learn that a major bank has serious problems, we will hold accountable those responsible, force the necessary adjustments, provide the support to clean up their balance sheets, and assure the continuity of a strong, viable institution that can serve our people and our economy.

I understand that on any given day, Wall Street may be more comforted by an approach that gives banks bailouts with no strings attached, and that holds nobody accountable for their reckless decisions. But such an approach won’t solve the problem. And our goal is to quicken the day when we re-start lending to the American people and American business and end this crisis once and for all.

I intend to hold these banks fully accountable for the assistance they receive, and this time, they will have to clearly demonstrate how taxpayer dollars result in more lending for the American taxpayer. This time, CEOs won’t be able to use taxpayer money to pad their paychecks or buy fancy drapes or disappear on a private jet. Those days are over.

Still, this plan will require significant resources from the federal government – and yes, probably more than we’ve already set aside. But while the cost of action will be great, I can assure you that the cost of inaction will be far greater, for it could result in an economy that sputters along for not months or years, but perhaps a decade. That would be worse for our deficit, worse for business, worse for you, and worse for the next generation. And I refuse to let that happen.

I understand that when the last administration asked this Congress to provide assistance for struggling banks, Democrats and Republicans alike were infuriated by the mismanagement and results that followed. So were the American taxpayers. So was I.

So I know how unpopular it is to be seen as helping banks right now, especially when everyone is suffering in part from their bad decisions. I promise you – I get it.

But I also know that in a time of crisis, we cannot afford to govern out of anger, or yield to the politics of the moment. My job – our job – is to solve the problem. Our job is to govern with a sense of responsibility. I will not spend a single penny for the purpose of rewarding a single Wall Street executive, but I will do whatever it takes to help the small business that can’t pay its workers or the family that has saved and still can’t get a mortgage.

That’s what this is about. It’s not about helping banks – it’s about helping people. Because when credit is available again, that young family can finally buy a new home. And then some company will hire workers to build it. And then those workers will have money to spend, and if they can get a loan too, maybe they’ll finally buy that car, or open their own business. Investors will return to the market, and American families will see their retirement secured once more. Slowly, but surely, confidence will return, and our economy will recover.

So I ask this Congress to join me in doing whatever proves necessary. Because we cannot consign our nation to an open-ended recession. And to ensure that a crisis of this magnitude never happens again, I ask Congress to move quickly on legislation that will finally reform our outdated regulatory system. It is time to put in place tough, new common-sense rules of the road so that our financial market rewards drive and innovation, and punishes short-cuts and abuse.

The recovery plan and the financial stability plan are the immediate steps we’re taking to revive our economy in the short-term. But the only way to fully restore America’s economic strength is to make the long-term investments that will lead to new jobs, new industries, and a renewed ability to compete with the rest of the world. The only way this century will be another American century is if we confront at last the price of our dependence on oil and the high cost of health care; the schools that aren’t preparing our children and the mountain of debt they stand to inherit. That is our responsibility.

In the next few days, I will submit a budget to Congress. So often, we have come to view these documents as simply numbers on a page or laundry lists of programs. I see this document differently. I see it as a vision for America – as a blueprint for our future.

My budget does not attempt to solve every problem or address every issue. It reflects the stark reality of what we’ve inherited – a trillion dollar deficit, a financial crisis, and a costly recession.

Given these realities, everyone in this chamber – Democrats and Republicans – will have to sacrifice some worthy priorities for which there are no dollars. And that includes me.

But that does not mean we can afford to ignore our long-term challenges. I reject the view that says our problems will simply take care of themselves; that says government has no role in laying the foundation for our common prosperity.

For history tells a different story. History reminds us that at every moment of economic upheaval and transformation, this nation has responded with bold action and big ideas. In the midst of civil war, we laid railroad tracks from one coast to another that spurred commerce and industry. From the turmoil of the Industrial Revolution came a system of public high schools that prepared our citizens for a new age. In the wake of war and depression, the GI Bill sent a generation to college and created the largest middle-class in history. And a twilight struggle for freedom led to a nation of highways, an American on the moon, and an explosion of technology that still shapes our world.

In each case, government didn’t supplant private enterprise; it catalyzed private enterprise. It created the conditions for thousands of entrepreneurs and new businesses to adapt and to thrive.

We are a nation that has seen promise amid peril, and claimed opportunity from ordeal. Now we must be that nation again. That is why, even as it cuts back on the programs we don’t need, the budget I submit will invest in the three areas that are absolutely critical to our economic future: energy, health care, and education.

It begins with energy.

We know the country that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will lead the 21st century. And yet, it is China that has launched the largest effort in history to make their economy energy efficient. We invented solar technology, but we’ve fallen behind countries like Germany and Japan in producing it. New plug-in hybrids roll off our assembly lines, but they will run on batteries made in Korea.

Well I do not accept a future where the jobs and industries of tomorrow take root beyond our borders – and I know you don’t either. It is time for America to lead again.

Thanks to our recovery plan, we will double this nation’s supply of renewable energy in the next three years. We have also made the largest investment in basic research funding in American history – an investment that will spur not only new discoveries in energy, but breakthroughs in medicine, science, and technology.

We will soon lay down thousands of miles of power lines that can carry new energy to cities and towns across this country. And we will put Americans to work making our homes and buildings more efficient so that we can save billions of dollars on our energy bills.

But to truly transform our economy, protect our security, and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy. So I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America. And to support that innovation, we will invest fifteen billion dollars a year to develop technologies like wind power and solar power; advanced biofuels, clean coal, and more fuel-efficient cars and trucks built right here in America.

As for our auto industry, everyone recognizes that years of bad decision-making and a global recession have pushed our automakers to the brink. We should not, and will not, protect them from their own bad practices. But we are committed to the goal of a re-tooled, re-imagined auto industry that can compete and win. Millions of jobs depend on it. Scores of communities depend on it. And I believe the nation that invented the automobile cannot walk away from it.

None of this will come without cost, nor will it be easy. But this is America. We don’t do what’s easy. We do what is necessary to move this country forward.

For that same reason, we must also address the crushing cost of health care.

This is a cost that now causes a bankruptcy in America every thirty seconds. By the end of the year, it could cause 1.5 million Americans to lose their homes. In the last eight years, premiums have grown four times faster than wages. And in each of these years, one million more Americans have lost their health insurance. It is one of the major reasons why small businesses close their doors and corporations ship jobs overseas. And it’s one of the largest and fastest-growing parts of our budget.

Given these facts, we can no longer afford to put health care reform on hold.

Already, we have done more to advance the cause of health care reform in the last thirty days than we have in the last decade. When it was days old, this Congress passed a law to provide and protect health insurance for eleven million American children whose parents work full-time. Our recovery plan will invest in electronic health records and new technology that will reduce errors, bring down costs, ensure privacy, and save lives. It will launch a new effort to conquer a disease that has touched the life of nearly every American by seeking a cure for cancer in our time. And it makes the largest investment ever in preventive care, because that is one of the best ways to keep our people healthy and our costs under control.

This budget builds on these reforms. It includes an historic commitment to comprehensive health care reform – a down-payment on the principle that we must have quality, affordable health care for every American. It’s a commitment that’s paid for in part by efficiencies in our system that are long overdue. And it’s a step we must take if we hope to bring down our deficit in the years to come.

Now, there will be many different opinions and ideas about how to achieve reform, and that is why I’m bringing together businesses and workers, doctors and health care providers, Democrats and Republicans to begin work on this issue next week.

I suffer no illusions that this will be an easy process. It will be hard. But I also know that nearly a century after Teddy Roosevelt first called for reform, the cost of our health care has weighed down our economy and the conscience of our nation long enough. So let there be no doubt: health care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year.

The third challenge we must address is the urgent need to expand the promise of education in America.

In a global economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity – it is a pre-requisite.

Right now, three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require more than a high school diploma. And yet, just over half of our citizens have that level of education. We have one of the highest high school dropout rates of any industrialized nation. And half of the students who begin college never finish.

This is a prescription for economic decline, because we know the countries that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow. That is why it will be the goal of this administration to ensure that every child has access to a complete and competitive education – from the day they are born to the day they begin a career.

Already, we have made an historic investment in education through the economic recovery plan. We have dramatically expanded early childhood education and will continue to improve its quality, because we know that the most formative learning comes in those first years of life. We have made college affordable for nearly seven million more students. And we have provided the resources necessary to prevent painful cuts and teacher layoffs that would set back our children’s progress.

But we know that our schools don’t just need more resources. They need more reform. That is why this budget creates new incentives for teacher performance; pathways for advancement, and rewards for success. We’ll invest in innovative programs that are already helping schools meet high standards and close achievement gaps. And we will expand our commitment to charter schools.

It is our responsibility as lawmakers and educators to make this system work. But it is the responsibility of every citizen to participate in it. And so tonight, I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. This can be community college or a four-year school; vocational training or an apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma. And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country – and this country needs and values the talents of every American. That is why we will provide the support necessary for you to complete college and meet a new goal: by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

I know that the price of tuition is higher than ever, which is why if you are willing to volunteer in your neighborhood or give back to your community or serve your country, we will make sure that you can afford a higher education. And to encourage a renewed spirit of national service for this and future generations, I ask this Congress to send me the bipartisan legislation that bears the name of Senator Orrin Hatch as well as an American who has never stopped asking what he can do for his country – Senator Edward Kennedy.

These education policies will open the doors of opportunity for our children. But it is up to us to ensure they walk through them. In the end, there is no program or policy that can substitute for a mother or father who will attend those parent/teacher conferences, or help with homework after dinner, or turn off the TV, put away the video games, and read to their child. I speak to you not just as a President, but as a father when I say that responsibility for our children's education must begin at home.

There is, of course, another responsibility we have to our children. And that is the responsibility to ensure that we do not pass on to them a debt they cannot pay. With the deficit we inherited, the cost of the crisis we face, and the long-term challenges we must meet, it has never been more important to ensure that as our economy recovers, we do what it takes to bring this deficit down.

I’m proud that we passed the recovery plan free of earmarks, and I want to pass a budget next year that ensures that each dollar we spend reflects only our most important national priorities.

Yesterday, I held a fiscal summit where I pledged to cut the deficit in half by the end of my first term in office. My administration has also begun to go line by line through the federal budget in order to eliminate wasteful and ineffective programs. As you can imagine, this is a process that will take some time. But we’re starting with the biggest lines. We have already identified two trillion dollars in savings over the next decade.

In this budget, we will end education programs that don’t work and end direct payments to large agribusinesses that don’t need them. We’ll eliminate the no-bid contracts that have wasted billions in Iraq, and reform our defense budget so that we’re not paying for Cold War-era weapons systems we don’t use. We will root out the waste, fraud, and abuse in our Medicare program that doesn’t make our seniors any healthier, and we will restore a sense of fairness and balance to our tax code by finally ending the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas.

In order to save our children from a future of debt, we will also end the tax breaks for the wealthiest 2% of Americans. But let me perfectly clear, because I know you’ll hear the same old claims that rolling back these tax breaks means a massive tax increase on the American people: if your family earns less than $250,000 a year, you will not see your taxes increased a single dime. I repeat: not one single dime. In fact, the recovery plan provides a tax cut – that’s right, a tax cut – for 95% of working families. And these checks are on the way.

To preserve our long-term fiscal health, we must also address the growing costs in Medicare and Social Security. Comprehensive health care reform is the best way to strengthen Medicare for years to come. And we must also begin a conversation on how to do the same for Social Security, while creating tax-free universal savings accounts for all Americans.

Finally, because we’re also suffering from a deficit of trust, I am committed to restoring a sense of honesty and accountability to our budget. That is why this budget looks ahead ten years and accounts for spending that was left out under the old rules – and for the first time, that includes the full cost of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. For seven years, we have been a nation at war. No longer will we hide its price.

We are now carefully reviewing our policies in both wars, and I will soon announce a way forward in Iraq that leaves Iraq to its people and responsibly ends this war.

And with our friends and allies, we will forge a new and comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan to defeat al Qaeda and combat extremism. Because I will not allow terrorists to plot against the American people from safe havens half a world away.

As we meet here tonight, our men and women in uniform stand watch abroad and more are readying to deploy. To each and every one of them, and to the families who bear the quiet burden of their absence, Americans are united in sending one message: we honor your service, we are inspired by your sacrifice, and you have our unyielding support. To relieve the strain on our forces, my budget increases the number of our soldiers and Marines. And to keep our sacred trust with those who serve, we will raise their pay, and give our veterans the expanded health care and benefits that they have earned.

To overcome extremism, we must also be vigilant in upholding the values our troops defend – because there is no force in the world more powerful than the example of America. That is why I have ordered the closing of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, and will seek swift and certain justice for captured terrorists – because living our values doesn’t make us weaker, it makes us safer and it makes us stronger. And that is why I can stand here tonight and say without exception or equivocation that the United States of America does not torture.

In words and deeds, we are showing the world that a new era of engagement has begun. For we know that America cannot meet the threats of this century alone, but the world cannot meet them without America. We cannot shun the negotiating table, nor ignore the foes or forces that could do us harm. We are instead called to move forward with the sense of confidence and candor that serious times demand.

To seek progress toward a secure and lasting peace between Israel and her neighbors, we have appointed an envoy to sustain our effort. To meet the challenges of the 21st century – from terrorism to nuclear proliferation; from pandemic disease to cyber threats to crushing poverty – we will strengthen old alliances, forge new ones, and use all elements of our national power.

And to respond to an economic crisis that is global in scope, we are working with the nations of the G-20 to restore confidence in our financial system, avoid the possibility of escalating protectionism, and spur demand for American goods in markets across the globe. For the world depends on us to have a strong economy, just as our economy depends on the strength of the world’s.

As we stand at this crossroads of history, the eyes of all people in all nations are once again upon us – watching to see what we do with this moment; waiting for us to lead.

Those of us gathered here tonight have been called to govern in extraordinary times. It is a tremendous burden, but also a great privilege – one that has been entrusted to few generations of Americans. For in our hands lies the ability to shape our world for good or for ill.

I know that it is easy to lose sight of this truth – to become cynical and doubtful; consumed with the petty and the trivial.

But in my life, I have also learned that hope is found in unlikely places; that inspiration often comes not from those with the most power or celebrity, but from the dreams and aspirations of Americans who are anything but ordinary.

I think about Leonard Abess, the bank president from Miami who reportedly cashed out of his company, took a $60 million bonus, and gave it out to all 399 people who worked for him, plus another 72 who used to work for him. He didn’t tell anyone, but when the local newspaper found out, he simply said, ''I knew some of these people since I was 7 years old. I didn't feel right getting the money myself."

I think about Greensburg, Kansas, a town that was completely destroyed by a tornado, but is being rebuilt by its residents as a global example of how clean energy can power an entire community – how it can bring jobs and businesses to a place where piles of bricks and rubble once lay. "The tragedy was terrible," said one of the men who helped them rebuild. "But the folks here know that it also provided an incredible opportunity."

And I think about Ty’Sheoma Bethea, the young girl from that school I visited in Dillon, South Carolina – a place where the ceilings leak, the paint peels off the walls, and they have to stop teaching six times a day because the train barrels by their classroom. She has been told that her school is hopeless, but the other day after class she went to the public library and typed up a letter to the people sitting in this room. She even asked her principal for the money to buy a stamp. The letter asks us for help, and says, "We are just students trying to become lawyers, doctors, congressmen like yourself and one day president, so we can make a change to not just the state of South Carolina but also the world. We are not quitters."

We are not quitters.

These words and these stories tell us something about the spirit of the people who sent us here. They tell us that even in the most trying times, amid the most difficult circumstances, there is a generosity, a resilience, a decency, and a determination that perseveres; a willingness to take responsibility for our future and for posterity.

Their resolve must be our inspiration. Their concerns must be our cause. And we must show them and all our people that we are equal to the task before us.

I know that we haven’t agreed on every issue thus far, and there are surely times in the future when we will part ways. But I also know that every American who is sitting here tonight loves this country and wants it to succeed. That must be the starting point for every debate we have in the coming months, and where we return after those debates are done. That is the foundation on which the American people expect us to build common ground.

And if we do – if we come together and lift this nation from the depths of this crisis; if we put our people back to work and restart the engine of our prosperity; if we confront without fear the challenges of our time and summon that enduring spirit of an America that does not quit, then someday years from now our children can tell their children that this was the time when we performed, in the words that are carved into this very chamber, "something worthy to be remembered." Thank you, God Bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.

A good week for green jobs

One thing you will continue to hear a lot about out of the Obama Administration is green jobs, fulfilling a vision that has been developed around the country for years – we asked Greg Nelson of the Office of Public Liaison to give us an overview of what’s going on right now.
One of the centerpieces of President Obama's agenda has been fulfilling the promise of green jobs -- creating opportunities for the broadest range of Americans to participate in creating a new energy economy, while building a career that will support healthy families and communities. As the member of the Public Liaison team charged with reaching out to the environmental community, I’ve seen the level of excitement over this as something that used to seem like a fantasy becomes a top national priority. And as green jobs visionary Van Jones said at a conference this weekend, the green jobs element of the recovery package is also one of the most fiscally responsible in terms of bang for the buck: "Every dollar spent on green jobs is going to be out there working double-time, triple-time."
It is shaping up to be a great week for making that promise a reality for even more Americans. Representative Hilda Solis, one of the earliest champions for the power of green jobs -- and the architect and sponsor of the Green Jobs Act -- was confirmed by the Senate yesterday with a strong 80-17 to be our next Secretary of the Department of Labor. She's been a remarkable advocate for developing green jobs by building an economy we can all be proud of, and her voice and vision will be a powerful addition -- the Sierra Club said they were "overjoyed" by the confirmation.
At the President's address last night, he discussed how important it is to change the way we create, transport, and use energy. Watching and cheering as a guest of the First Lady was Blake Jones, the CEO of Namaste Solar in Boulder, CO. Blake isn't a green jobs advocate as such, but he and Namaste are at the front lines, creating jobs and opportunity. Because of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Blake and Namaste will be hiring in 2009 instead of laying people off.
On Friday, Vice President Biden and a half dozen members of the Cabinet head to Philadelphia for the first meeting of the Middle Class Task Force. The topic? Green jobs, and looking at some of the innovative programs in Philly and PA that are bringing together universities, labor, the community, and sustainable businesses. The task force will produce a report that we'll share broadly and hope will contribute to this momentum.
And finally, don't forget to check out the Powershift conference this weekend in DC. 10,000 youth organizers talking about climate and green jobs.
It is a good week for green jobs.
Search Obama'12 Articles ▼

OBAMA and Economy