Here Are Just A Few Of President Barack Obama's Accomplishments During The Last Eight Years Of His Pesidency
When President Obama took office in 2009, the nation was in an economic meltdown. The banks and American auto makers needed government bailouts, millions were losing their jobs and businesses were going bankrupt. America was on the verge of a great depression.
Since that time, the things have drastically improved. Today, the stock market is at an all time high, corporate profits have shattered records, 90% of Americans have healthcare, the country has the longest job growth streak in history and the deficit has shrunk.
Here are just a few of President Barack Obama's accomplishments during the last eight years of his presidency:
Signed The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the stimulus package.);
Launched recovery.gov, a website that allowed taxpayers to track spending from the Act. Allowed taxpayers to track spending of the stimulus money spent to jump star the economy;
By the end of his first year, the economy created and sustained 2.1 million jobs and the ARRA stimulated the economy by 3.5%;
Established the Making Home Affordable home refinancing plan;
Today the unemployment rate has dropped to a five year low of 4.6 %. in 2009 when President Obama took office it was 10%;
82 consecutive months of private sector job growth. Longest history of job growth with no job losses;
Ordered all federal contractors to pay a minimum wage of $10.10 per hour, leading the way to a national increase. As a result of this decision, a number of large employers, including Disney and Walmart, have increased their minimums;
Assembled most diverse cabinet in history;
Named 3rd and 4th women to the Supreme Court;
Appointed first Latina Supreme Court Justice;
Appointed a record number of women and minority judges;
Passed the Affordable Care Act;
20 million people now have health insurance through the Affordable Care Act;
90 percent of Americans now have health insurance;
Cannot be denied health insurance for preexisting conditions;
No insurance caps. Health care law stops insurance companies from limiting yearly or lifetime coverage expenses for essential health benefits;
Women cannot be charged more money for insurance;
Appointed 1st ever U.S. Chief Technology Office;
Deficient was 10% of GDP now its 3% of GDP;
Banks have to pass stress test. Federal Reserve conducts a annual stress tests on banks with $50 billion or more in assets to determine if the bank has the capital to manage itself during tough times;
Created and implemented rules so banks can no longer use depositors’ money to invest in derivatives and other high-risk financial instruments that work against depositors’ interests;
Saved U.S. auto industry. Reorganized General Motors, bailout money was paid back;
American car companies are the most profitable the world, millions of jobs were saved;
In February 2016, General Motors gave a share of the profit to each worker, with checks up to $11,000;
Number of homeless veterans dropped by 47%;
Signed and implemented Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act, making more money available to enable better medical care for veterans;
Implemented the Green Vet Initiative, which provides special funding to provide veterans with training in green jobs;Initiated and signed a recruitment and employment plan to get more veterans into government jobs;Oversaw a $4.6 billion expansion of the Veterans Administration budget to pay for more mental health professionals;
Signed the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act, which ensures that spouses of military personnel who are forced to move because their spouse is posted for military duty can avoid state taxes in their temporary residence;
Ordered improvements to access to mental health care for veterans, military personnel and their families;
Along with Congressional Democrats, reauthorized families of fallen soldiers to be able to visit when the body arrives at Dover AFB. Also provided funding for it. Ended the media blackout coverage of the return of fallen soldiers;
Stopped military don't ask don't tell;
Combat positions open to women;
Convened first Nuclear Security Summits to convince countries to get rid of uranium;
16 countries disposed of their uranium;
Syria disposed of chemical weapons. It was handed over and destroyed;
Foreign oil dependence dropped;
Found and killed Bin Laden;
Banned torture by U.S. personnel;
Secret overseas prisons shut down;
U.S. embassy opened in Cuba after 50 years of cold war;
Overturned ban on stem cell research;
High school graduation rate at highest in history of 83%;
Landed rover on mars;
Federal prison population declines for first time in decades;
Solitary confinement banned for juveniles in federal prison;
Visitor Access Records - made public list of people who visited the white house;
Credit card reform. Creditors can't raise interest rate without notification to consumers;
Signed and implemented the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which made it a federal crime to assault anyone based on his or her sexual orientation or gender identity;
Legalized same sex marriages;
If you work for a federal contractor, you cannot be fired because you are gay or trans; Implemented the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which restored basic protections against pay discrimination for women and other workers;
Tobacco companies have to list ingredients in cigarettes; Banned Muslim Registry;
Under the Affordable Care Act - Implemented the Hospital Readmission Reduction Program, to reduce costly and potentially life-threatening hospital readmissions. Penalizes hospitals when Medicare patients are readmitted to the hospital within 30 days after they are discharged. This means they get the best possible care the first time they are admitted to the hospital before they are discharged;
College students who qualify for Pell Grants can now receive the grant it they attend school in the summer. This will allow them to graduate sooner and accumulate less debt;
Used the fiscal cliff negotiations to extend for five additional years the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which provides tax credits to families for college-related expenses, thus saving those families up to $10,000;
Signed the Weapons Systems Acquisition Reform Act to limit waste, fraud and abuse in the defense procurement and contracting systems;
Banned gifts from lobbyists to anyone in the Executive Branch;
First president to stream every White House event, live;
Created an airline passenger bill of rights, preventing airlines from stranding passengers on tarmac for hours, requiring them to return to the gate within three hours or face fines
Signed and implemented the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, to improve nutrition in schools and make children healthier;
Opened the white house so that all Americans could enjoy it.
November 17, 2015
PRESIDENT OBAMA SPEAKS ON PARIS ATTACKS AND SYRIAN REFUGEES
Barack Obama is the first US president to visit Kenya, the land where his father was born. On Friday, the president flew to Africa to began his visit, to attend the Global Entrepreneurship Summit.
Sunday as he spoke in Nairobi, he emphasized that his father's homeland had "come so far in just my lifetime." But, the president added that corruption, terrorism and the suppression of women are a few of the things getting in the way of Kenya's progress. He urged that everyone must work together, and not to accept the same old traditions just because "that's the way it's always been." Mr. Obama said that "Kenya is at a crossroads, a moment filled with peril but enormous promise." He also said that the young people of Kenya are hope for the future. And that America is excited to partner with Kenya in investing in it's young people. Barack Obama will also become the first US leader to address the 54-member African Union (AU) on Tuesday.
The United Kingdom, France, China, Russia and Germany along with the European Union, have achieved a long-term comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran that will prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
This deal stands on the foundation of the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA), achieved in November of 2013, and the framework for this Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), announced in Lausanne on April 2, 2015 that set the requirements for the deal.
This deal ensures IAEA access when needed, where needed to verify the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program.
Under this deal:
Building a nuclear bomb requires either uranium or plutonium. But thanks to this deal, Iran’s four possible ways to leverage those fissile materials are blocked.
Iran must reduce its stockpile of uranium by 98%, and will keep its level of uranium enrichment at 3.67% , significantly below the enrichment level needed to create a bomb.
When you think of Donald Trump, you think of grand hotels, luscious resorts, beautiful golf clubs and fabulous properties in the most beautiful cities around the world. You might think of that wildly popular television show, "Celebrity Apprentice." You know the one where Mr. Trump at the end says "You're Fired!" You think of this crazy rich, tall, loud, businessman/celebrity /reality star. But American's next Commander in Chief?
When asked why Mr. Trump believes he is qualified to be the next Republican President Of The United States? It's not because he has governed a state, or been elected mayor of a major metropolitan city, or served as a member of congress. He says, it's because he is really smart and can turn America around and make it great again.
Mr. Trump is quite proud of the fact that he is not a politician. He thinks that our leaders are stupid. According to Mr.Trump, America is on the edge of financial ruin and only he and his business expertise can save the country.
Donald trump says that he will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created. He will bring back jobs from China, Japan and Mexico. "I’ll bring back our money. There is so much wealth out there that can make our country rich again. We’re dying, we’re dying, we have to do it. We need the right people."
Donald Trump says that he will stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons, stop illegal immigration from Mexico by as he puts it, "building a great, great wall on the southern border." He also vows to immediately terminate President Obama’s illegal executive order on immigration and repeal "Obamacare."
So how much is the celebrity businessman really worth?Last week "The Donald" proudly boasted that he has a fortune of about $10 billion dollars. Impressive right? Lucky for us, presidential candidates are required to file personal financial disclosure reports detailing their finances.
On Wednesday, The Federal Election Commission released the 92 page document, which lists Mr. Trump's assets at $1.4 billion dollars. How can this be? $1.4 billion dollars isn't close to $10 billion dollars. Mr. Trump, we gotcha! Not really. Presidential candidates are only required to list their assets, liabilities and income from the previous year in broad ranges. For now, it is impossible to to know exactly how much Mr. Trump's financial net worth is. Read more http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/22/politics/donald-trump-personal-financial-disclosure/
June 23, 2014
President Obama Sending 300 Military Advisers To Iraq
Last week, President Obama said that he will be sending up to 300 U.S. military advisers to Iraq, in an effort to assist with training Iraqi military personnel. The President made it very clear that he is "prepared to take targeted and precise military action if and when we determine the situation on the ground requires it."
The first troops will come from forces presently stationed in the Middle East. Troops will be grouped into teams of a dozen each. The first teams will be sent to Baghdad and the surrounding areas, and then to northern Iraq. Their main objective will be to assess the needs and capabilities of the Iraqi forces, and also assist with gathering intelligence.
Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to travel to the Middle East and Europe to speak about the problems in Iraq. President Obama reiterated that the U.S. will not be putting boots on the ground in Iraq. "We always have to guard against mission creep," the president said. "American combat troops are not going to be fighting in Iraq again." Before the announcement, President Obama met with his national security team and leaders of congress.
President Obama's Plan To Help With Undocumented Children Crossing U.S. Border
Friday, President Obama announced his plans to help with the influx of undocumented children crossing the U.S. Mexico border.
$100 million dollars in aid will be given to the Central American governments of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to help reintegrate the illegal migrants returning from the U.S. Also, $161.5 million dollars of aid will be set aside this year, for the Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) programs. These programs are critical in helping Central American countries respond to the region's escalating security and governance challenges.
Press Secretary Josh Earnest stated that the administration is addressing this humanitarian crisis. "We're going to open up some additional detention facilities that can accommodate adults that show up on the border with their children. And we're going to deploy some additional resources to work through their immigration cases more quickly, so they're not held in that detention facility for a long time, and hopefully be quickly returned to their home country."
Earnest also said the administration together with Central American countries are focusing on the root of the problem. Specifically, countering an intentional misinformation campaign that is being propagated by criminal syndicates. These people target citizens, tell them that their children will not be sent back to Central America if and when they cross the U.S. Mexico border, and then charge thousands of dollars to escort them.
Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Guatemala on Friday for talks with Central American and Mexican leaders. The Vice President emphasized that "children and adults arriving with their children (in the U.S.) are not eligible to benefit from the passage of immigration reform legislation or from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) process." Most of the children crossing the border would not qualify for "amnesty" under the federal DACA program that defers deportation for children brought to the United States previously by their parents or guardians illegally.
Today President Obama visited TechShop, a chain of member-based workshops in Pittsburgh. The President announced plans to partner cities, states and the federal government to help entrepreneurs and inventors market their innovations. The plan involves mayors and local leaders from 90 U.S. cities who have pledged to provide physical locations to encourage and assist local inventions.
While speaking at the tech event, President Obama praised U.S. forces for capturing suspected terrorist in the attack on the U.S. consulate compound in Benghazi, Libya.
Between September 12, 2012 and September 13, 2012, Ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stephens, U.S. Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith and CIA contractors, Tyrone S. Woods and Glen Doherty were killed.
Ahmed Abu Khatallah, is believed to be the mastermind behind the brutal attack, and the first of several suspects to be apprehended. Ahmed Abu Khatallah who was under surveillance for days by U.S. intelligence, was taken into custody this past weekend without resistance.
The President said Abu Khatallah will be brought to U.S. soil to face charges in federal court, "we are all aware of the tragedy that happened in Benghazi where four Americans, including our ambassador there, Chris Stevens, was killed in an attack on a consulate office there."
"I said at the time that my absolute commitment was to make sure that we brought to justice those who have been responsible." The President stated that this sends a "message to the world, that when Americans are attacked, no matter how long it takes, we will find those responsible and we will bring them to justice. Regardless how long it takes, we will find you. I want to make sure everyone around the world hears that message very clearly. My first solemn duty as President and as commander in chief is to keep the American people safe."
"There are a lot of danger, out there and a lot of challenges. Our diplomats serve with incredible courage and valor in some very difficult situations. They need to know that this country has their back and will always go after anybody who goes after us."
Today President Obama will announce his plans to expand the criteria for an alternative repayment program to help student borrowers manage their debt. The program which begins Decembet 2015 caps monthly payments for certain federal student loans at 10% of a borrower's discretionary income.
The alternative payment programs include forgiveness programs for on-time payments and public-sector employees. Teachers have options to have their balance canceled after ten years, and Low-income borrowers can have their balance canceled after 20 or 25 years of on-time payments.
John Kerry Defends The Trade Of Taliban Detainees For U.S. Soldier.
In an interview with CNN, Secretary of State John Kerry defended the transfer of five Taliban Guantanamo Bay detainees in exchange for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
Begdahl disappeared in Afghanistan five years ago, among claims by his platoon that he is a deserter. The Secretary stated that the former detainees are residing in Qatar, and are being closely monitored.
This transfer has sparked outrage among senior members of the House and Senate intelligence committees. In an interview with CBS News’ “Face the Nation," Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein stated “You can’t help but worry about them in Doha.” Arizona Senator John McCain, a former POW in Vietnam, said that the U.S. has does have an "obligation" to bring captured soldier's home, but at what cost?
President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Meet At D-Day Luncheon.
Friday, President Obama attended the French-American Commemoration D-Day Ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery, Omaha Beach, to mark the 70th anniversary of the Allied Invasion of Normandy. D-Day is the largest historical military invasion by sea. On June 6, 1944, in excess of 160, 000 Allied troops, 5,000 Ships and 13,000 Aircraft joined forces during world War II to fight Nazi, Germany.
President Barack Obama and Russian President, Vladimar Putin were able to take a moment to have a much anticipated conversation while attending the luncheon.
U.S. National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said that the Presidents' informal side meeting lasted no more than 15 minutes. President Obama insisted to Putin that he cease support for pro-Russian separatists, stop the flow of weapons across the Ukranian border and recognize President-Elect Poroshenko as Ukraine's leader.
According to the office of French President Francois Hollande, Poroschenko and Putin were also able to speak regarding plans to discuss a cease-fire.
Yesterday, President Obama signed a much needed order to increase the nation's minimum wage.
Starting in 2015, businesses will have to pay their workers a minimum wage of $10.10 per hour. This wage increase will apply to new or renewed federal contracts and subcontracts that provide the federal government with concessions, services and construction. This includes concession workers, nursing assistants caring for veterans, and people who work for military bases such as food service personnel and ground keepers.
The President's order will also apply to disabled workers employed by federal contractors. Under specific certificate programs, these citizens can be paid less than the federal minimum wage. Employees who work for tips and employed by business with federal contracts will also benefit. Currently, they are paid a minimum wage of $2.14 an hour.
If you care about health care reform, you need to be part of this:
We're at a defining moment for the Affordable Care Act -- the big enrollment deadline is just weeks away. OFA supporters are going to play a huge role in helping Americans get the facts they need to get covered.
This isn't about politics. It's about actually helping real people.
There's a bonus: Anyone who simply says they'll pitch in will be automatically entered for the chance to meet President Obama backstage at an event in D.C. later this month.
The President started fighting for health care reform as soon as he moved into the White House. I watched him defy the pundits -- and a lot of his advisors -- over and over again by refusing to throw in the towel when it looked like we couldn't pass health care reform.
But the President will be the first to tell you that what ultimately got the job done wasn't because of something he did.
The Affordable Care Act is the law of the land today because millions of people like you came together and worked their hearts out for it. You talked to your neighbors, and you got the word out in your communities about why reform would make a world of difference for real people.
Because of that, Obamacare is helping millions of Americans today have the peace of mind that comes with being covered. That's real, and it's something the other side will never get to take away.
Today, millions more are eligible to sign up for coverage before March 31st.
That's why everyone who's ever had a stake in this fight should be part of this final push.
Add your name -- and you'll be automatically entered for the chance to get a thank-you in person from President Obama himself:
On Saturday, March 8th, North Carolina’s Moral Monday movement held a massive "Moral March" in Raleigh.
Thousands of activists from all races and backgrounds marched from Shaw University to the North Carolina State Capitol. There they held a rally protesting the right-wing policies of the North Carolina government.
Since taking over the legislature in 2010 and the governor’s mansion in 2012, controlling state government for the first time in over a century, North Carolina Republicans eliminated the earned-income tax credit for 900,000, refused Medicaid coverage for 500,000, ended federal unemployment benefits for 170,000, cut pre-K for 30,000 kids while shifting $90 million from public education to voucher schools, slashed taxes for the top 5 percent while raising taxes on the bottom 95 percent, axed public financing of judicial races, prohibited death row inmates from challenging racially discriminatory verdicts, passed one of the country’s most draconian anti-choice laws, and cut early voting and eliminated same day registration.
The Obama Administration has partnered with 300 companies including 50 of the nations' largest corporations to lower unemployment. Companies such as Walmart, Apple and Ford have agreed to first hire people who have been out of work the longest.
Yesterday, President Obama sat down with CNN Chief Washington Correspondent Jake Tapper in an exclusive interview. The President stated that "because they've been unemployed ... so long, folks are looking at that gap in the resume and they're weeding them out before these folks even get a chance for an interview.
"In his state of the union address on Tuesday 1/29/2014, the President said that he intends to raise the minimum wage for government contract workers to $10.10 per hour.
President Obama stated that "we will be able to have more of an impact if we can get Congress, for example, to pass a minimum wage law that applies to everybody, as opposed to me just through executive order making sure that, folks who are contractors to the federal government have to pay a minimum wage?"
First White House Student Film Festival is a video contest created for K-12 students. Finalists will have their short films shown at the White House. Their videos may also be featured on the White House website, YouTube channel, and other social media outlets. Your film should include one of the following themes:
How you currently use technology in your classroom or school.
The role technology will play in education in the future.
President Barack Obama State Of The Union Address 1/28/2014-Full Text
FULL TEXT: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, my fellow Americans:
Today in America, a teacher spent extra time with a student who needed it, and did her part to lift America’s graduation rate to its highest level in more than three decades. An entrepreneur flipped on the lights in her tech startup, and did her part to add to the more than eight million new jobs our businesses have created over the past four years. An autoworker fine-tuned some of the best, most fuel-efficient cars in the world, and did his part to help America wean itself off foreign oil.
A farmer prepared for the spring after the strongest five-year stretch of farm exports in our history. A rural doctor gave a young child the first prescription to treat asthma that his mother could afford. A man took the bus home from the graveyard shift, bone-tired but dreaming big dreams for his son. And in tight-knit communities across America, fathers and mothers will tuck in their kids, put an arm around their spouse, remember fallen comrades, and give thanks for being home from a war that, after twelve long years, is finally coming to an end.
Tonight, this chamber speaks with one voice to the people we represent: it is you, our citizens, who make the state of our union strong.
Here are the results of your efforts: The lowest unemployment rate in over five years. A rebounding housing market. A manufacturing sector that’s adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s. More oil produced at home than we buy from the rest of the world – the first time that’s happened in nearly twenty years. Our deficits – cut by more than half. And for the first time in over a decade, business leaders around the world have declared that China is no longer the world’s number one place to invest; America is.
That’s why I believe this can be a breakthrough year for America. After five years of grit and determined effort, the United States is better-positioned for the 21st century than any other nation on Earth.
The question for everyone in this chamber, running through every decision we make this year, is whether we are going to help or hinder this progress. For several years now, this town has been consumed by a rancorous argument over the proper size of the federal government. It’s an important debate – one that dates back to our very founding. But when that debate prevents us from carrying out even the most basic functions of our democracy – when our differences shut down government or threaten the full faith and credit of the United States – then we are not doing right by the American people.
As President, I’m committed to making Washington work better, and rebuilding the trust of the people who sent us here. I believe most of you are, too. Last month, thanks to the work of Democrats and Republicans, this Congress finally produced a budget that undoes some of last year’s severe cuts to priorities like education. Nobody got everything they wanted, and we can still do more to invest in this country’s future while bringing down our deficit in a balanced way. But the budget compromise should leave us freer to focus on creating new jobs, not creating new crises.
In the coming months, let’s see where else we can make progress together. Let’s make this a year of action. That’s what most Americans want – for all of us in this chamber to focus on their lives, their hopes, their aspirations. And what I believe unites the people of this nation, regardless of race or region or party, young or old, rich or poor, is the simple, profound belief in opportunity for all – the notion that if you work hard and take responsibility, you can get ahead.
Let’s face it: that belief has suffered some serious blows. Over more than three decades, even before the Great Recession hit, massive shifts in technology and global competition had eliminated a lot of good, middle-class jobs, and weakened the economic foundations that families depend on.
Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better. But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled. The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by – let alone get ahead. And too many still aren’t working at all.
Our job is to reverse these trends. It won’t happen right away, and we won’t agree on everything. But what I offer tonight is a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class. Some require Congressional action, and I’m eager to work with all of you. But America does not stand still – and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.
As usual, our First Lady sets a good example. Michelle’s Let’s Move partnership with schools, businesses, and local leaders has helped bring down childhood obesity rates for the first time in thirty years – an achievement that will improve lives and reduce health care costs for decades to come. The Joining Forces alliance that Michelle and Jill Biden launched has already encouraged employers to hire or train nearly 400,000 veterans and military spouses. Taking a page from that playbook, the White House just organized a College Opportunity Summit where already, 150 universities, businesses, and nonprofits have made concrete commitments to reduce inequality in access to higher education – and help every hardworking kid go to college and succeed when they get to campus. Across the country, we’re partnering with mayors, governors, and state legislatures on issues from homelessness to marriage equality.
The point is, there are millions of Americans outside Washington who are tired of stale political arguments, and are moving this country forward. They believe, and I believe, that here in America, our success should depend not on accident of birth, but the strength of our work ethic and the scope of our dreams. That’s what drew our forebears here. It’s how the daughter of a factory worker is CEO of America’s largest automaker; how the son of a barkeeper is Speaker of the House; how the son of a single mom can be President of the greatest nation on Earth.
Opportunity is who we are. And the defining project of our generation is to restore that promise.
We know where to start: the best measure of opportunity is access to a good job. With the economy picking up speed, companies say they intend to hire more people this year. And over half of big manufacturers say they’re thinking of insourcing jobs from abroad.
So let’s make that decision easier for more companies. Both Democrats and Republicans have argued that our tax code is riddled with wasteful, complicated loopholes that punish businesses investing here, and reward companies that keep profits abroad. Let’s flip that equation. Let’s work together to close those loopholes, end those incentives to ship jobs overseas, and lower tax rates for businesses that create jobs here at home.
Moreover, we can take the money we save with this transition to tax reform to create jobs rebuilding our roads, upgrading our ports, unclogging our commutes – because in today’s global economy, first-class jobs gravitate to first-class infrastructure. We’ll need Congress to protect more than three million jobs by finishing transportation and waterways bills this summer. But I will act on my own to slash bureaucracy and streamline the permitting process for key projects, so we can get more construction workers on the job as fast as possible.
We also have the chance, right now, to beat other countries in the race for the next wave of high-tech manufacturing jobs. My administration has launched two hubs for high-tech manufacturing in Raleigh and Youngstown, where we’ve connected businesses to research universities that can help America lead the world in advanced technologies. Tonight, I’m announcing we’ll launch six more this year. Bipartisan bills in both houses could double the number of these hubs and the jobs they create. So get those bills to my desk and put more Americans back to work.
Let’s do more to help the entrepreneurs and small business owners who create most new jobs in America. Over the past five years, my administration has made more loans to small business owners than any other. And when ninety-eight percent of our exporters are small businesses, new trade partnerships with Europe and the Asia-Pacific will help them create more jobs. We need to work together on tools like bipartisan trade promotion authority to protect our workers, protect our environment, and open new markets to new goods stamped “Made in the USA.” China and Europe aren’t standing on the sidelines. Neither should we.
We know that the nation that goes all-in on innovation today will own the global economy tomorrow. This is an edge America cannot surrender. Federally-funded research helped lead to the ideas and inventions behind Google and smartphones. That’s why Congress should undo the damage done by last year’s cuts to basic research so we can unleash the next great American discovery – whether it’s vaccines that stay ahead of drug-resistant bacteria, or paper-thin material that’s stronger than steel. And let’s pass a patent reform bill that allows our businesses to stay focused on innovation, not costly, needless litigation.
Now, one of the biggest factors in bringing more jobs back is our commitment to American energy. The all-of-the-above energy strategy I announced a few years ago is working, and today, America is closer to energy independence than we’ve been in decades.
One of the reasons why is natural gas – if extracted safely, it’s the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change. Businesses plan to invest almost $100 billion in new factories that use natural gas. I’ll cut red tape to help states get those factories built, and this Congress can help by putting people to work building fueling stations that shift more cars and trucks from foreign oil to American natural gas. My administration will keep working with the industry to sustain production and job growth while strengthening protection of our air, our water, and our communities. And while we’re at it, I’ll use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations.
It’s not just oil and natural gas production that’s booming; we’re becoming a global leader in solar, too. Every four minutes, another American home or business goes solar; every panel pounded into place by a worker whose job can’t be outsourced. Let’s continue that progress with a smarter tax policy that stops giving $4 billion a year to fossil fuel industries that don’t need it, so that we can invest more in fuels of the future that do.
And even as we’ve increased energy production, we’ve partnered with businesses, builders, and local communities to reduce the energy we consume. When we rescued our automakers, for example, we worked with them to set higher fuel efficiency standards for our cars. In the coming months, I’ll build on that success by setting new standards for our trucks, so we can keep driving down oil imports and what we pay at the pump.
Taken together, our energy policy is creating jobs and leading to a cleaner, safer planet. Over the past eight years, the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth. But we have to act with more urgency – because a changing climate is already harming western communities struggling with drought, and coastal cities dealing with floods. That’s why I directed my administration to work with states, utilities, and others to set new standards on the amount of carbon pollution our power plants are allowed to dump into the air. The shift to a cleaner energy economy won’t happen overnight, and it will require tough choices along the way. But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact. And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.
Finally, if we are serious about economic growth, it is time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, and law enforcement – and fix our broken immigration system. Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have acted. I know that members of both parties in the House want to do the same. Independent economists say immigration reform will grow our economy and shrink our deficits by almost $1 trillion in the next two decades. And for good reason: when people come here to fulfill their dreams – to study, invent, and contribute to our culture – they make our country a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for everyone. So let’s get immigration reform done this year.
The ideas I’ve outlined so far can speed up growth and create more jobs. But in this rapidly-changing economy, we have to make sure that every American has the skills to fill those jobs.
The good news is, we know how to do it. Two years ago, as the auto industry came roaring back, Andra Rush opened up a manufacturing firm in Detroit. She knew that Ford needed parts for the best-selling truck in America, and she knew how to make them. She just needed the workforce. So she dialed up what we call an American Job Center – places where folks can walk in to get the help or training they need to find a new job, or better job. She was flooded with new workers. And today, Detroit Manufacturing Systems has more than 700 employees.
What Andra and her employees experienced is how it should be for every employer – and every job seeker. So tonight, I’ve asked Vice President Biden to lead an across-the-board reform of America’s training programs to make sure they have one mission: train Americans with the skills employers need, and match them to good jobs that need to be filled right now. That means more on-the-job training, and more apprenticeships that set a young worker on an upward trajectory for life. It means connecting companies to community colleges that can help design training to fill their specific needs. And if Congress wants to help, you can concentrate funding on proven programs that connect more ready-to-work Americans with ready-to-be-filled jobs.
I’m also convinced we can help Americans return to the workforce faster by reforming unemployment insurance so that it’s more effective in today’s economy. But first, this Congress needs to restore the unemployment insurance you just let expire for 1.6 million people.
Let me tell you why.
Misty DeMars is a mother of two young boys. She’d been steadily employed since she was a teenager. She put herself through college. She’d never collected unemployment benefits. In May, she and her husband used their life savings to buy their first home. A week later, budget cuts claimed the job she loved. Last month, when their unemployment insurance was cut off, she sat down and wrote me a letter – the kind I get every day. “We are the face of the unemployment crisis,” she wrote. “I am not dependent on the government…Our country depends on people like us who build careers, contribute to society…care about our neighbors…I am confident that in time I will find a job…I will pay my taxes, and we will raise our children in their own home in the community we love. Please give us this chance.”
Congress, give these hardworking, responsible Americans that chance. They need our help, but more important, this country needs them in the game. That’s why I’ve been asking CEOs to give more long-term unemployed workers a fair shot at that new job and new chance to support their families; this week, many will come to the White House to make that commitment real. Tonight, I ask every business leader in America to join us and to do the same – because we are stronger when America fields a full team.
Of course, it’s not enough to train today’s workforce. We also have to prepare tomorrow’s workforce, by guaranteeing every child access to a world-class education.
Estiven Rodriguez couldn’t speak a word of English when he moved to New York City at age nine. But last month, thanks to the support of great teachers and an innovative tutoring program, he led a march of his classmates – through a crowd of cheering parents and neighbors – from their high school to the post office, where they mailed off their college applications. And this son of a factory worker just found out he’s going to college this fall.
Five years ago, we set out to change the odds for all our kids. We worked with lenders to reform student loans, and today, more young people are earning college degrees than ever before. Race to the Top, with the help of governors from both parties, has helped states raise expectations and performance. Teachers and principals in schools from Tennessee to Washington, D.C. are making big strides in preparing students with skills for the new economy – problem solving, critical thinking, science, technology, engineering, and math. Some of this change is hard. It requires everything from more challenging curriculums and more demanding parents to better support for teachers and new ways to measure how well our kids think, not how well they can fill in a bubble on a test. But it’s worth it – and it’s working.
The problem is we’re still not reaching enough kids, and we’re not reaching them in time. That has to change.
Research shows that one of the best investments we can make in a child’s life is high-quality early education. Last year, I asked this Congress to help states make high-quality pre-K available to every four year-old. As a parent as well as a President, I repeat that request tonight. But in the meantime, thirty states have raised pre-k funding on their own. They know we can’t wait. So just as we worked with states to reform our schools, this year, we’ll invest in new partnerships with states and communities across the country in a race to the top for our youngest children. And as Congress decides what it’s going to do, I’m going to pull together a coalition of elected officials, business leaders, and philanthropists willing to help more kids access the high-quality pre-K they need.
Last year, I also pledged to connect 99 percent of our students to high-speed broadband over the next four years. Tonight, I can announce that with the support of the FCC and companies like Apple, Microsoft, Sprint, and Verizon, we’ve got a down payment to start connecting more than 15,000 schools and twenty million students over the next two years, without adding a dime to the deficit.
We’re working to redesign high schools and partner them with colleges and employers that offer the real-world education and hands-on training that can lead directly to a job and career. We’re shaking up our system of higher education to give parents more information, and colleges more incentives to offer better value, so that no middle-class kid is priced out of a college education. We’re offering millions the opportunity to cap their monthly student loan payments to ten percent of their income, and I want to work with Congress to see how we can help even more Americans who feel trapped by student loan debt. And I’m reaching out to some of America’s leading foundations and corporations on a new initiative to help more young men of color facing tough odds stay on track and reach their full potential.
The bottom line is, Michelle and I want every child to have the same chance this country gave us. But we know our opportunity agenda won’t be complete – and too many young people entering the workforce today will see the American Dream as an empty promise – unless we do more to make sure our economy honors the dignity of work, and hard work pays off for every single American.
Today, women make up about half our workforce. But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment. A woman deserves equal pay for equal work. She deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job. A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship – and you know what, a father does, too. It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a “Mad Men” episode. This year, let’s all come together – Congress, the White House, and businesses from Wall Street to Main Street – to give every woman the opportunity she deserves. Because I firmly believe when women succeed, America succeeds.
Now, women hold a majority of lower-wage jobs – but they’re not the only ones stifled by stagnant wages. Americans understand that some people will earn more than others, and we don’t resent those who, by virtue of their efforts, achieve incredible success. But Americans overwhelmingly agree that no one who works full time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.
In the year since I asked this Congress to raise the minimum wage, five states have passed laws to raise theirs. Many businesses have done it on their own. Nick Chute is here tonight with his boss, John Soranno. John’s an owner of Punch Pizza in Minneapolis, and Nick helps make the dough. Only now he makes more of it: John just gave his employees a raise, to ten bucks an hour – a decision that eased their financial stress and boosted their morale.
Tonight, I ask more of America’s business leaders to follow John’s lead and do what you can to raise your employees’ wages. To every mayor, governor, and state legislator in America, I say, you don’t have to wait for Congress to act; Americans will support you if you take this on. And as a chief executive, I intend to lead by example. Profitable corporations like Costco see higher wages as the smart way to boost productivity and reduce turnover. We should too. In the coming weeks, I will issue an Executive Order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally-funded employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour – because if you cook our troops’ meals or wash their dishes, you shouldn’t have to live in poverty.
Of course, to reach millions more, Congress needs to get on board. Today, the federal minimum wage is worth about twenty percent less than it was when Ronald Reagan first stood here. Tom Harkin and George Miller have a bill to fix that by lifting the minimum wage to $10.10. This will help families. It will give businesses customers with more money to spend. It doesn’t involve any new bureaucratic program. So join the rest of the country. Say yes. Give America a raise.
There are other steps we can take to help families make ends meet, and few are more effective at reducing inequality and helping families pull themselves up through hard work than the Earned Income Tax Credit. Right now, it helps about half of all parents at some point. But I agree with Republicans like Senator Rubio that it doesn’t do enough for single workers who don’t have kids. So let’s work together to strengthen the credit, reward work, and help more Americans get ahead.
Let’s do more to help Americans save for retirement. Today, most workers don’t have a pension. A Social Security check often isn’t enough on its own. And while the stock market has doubled over the last five years, that doesn’t help folks who don’t have 401ks. That’s why, tomorrow, I will direct the Treasury to create a new way for working Americans to start their own retirement savings: MyRA. It’s a new savings bond that encourages folks to build a nest egg. MyRA guarantees a decent return with no risk of losing what you put in. And if this Congress wants to help, work with me to fix an upside-down tax code that gives big tax breaks to help the wealthy save, but does little to nothing for middle-class Americans. Offer every American access to an automatic IRA on the job, so they can save at work just like everyone in this chamber can. And since the most important investment many families make is their home, send me legislation that protects taxpayers from footing the bill for a housing crisis ever again, and keeps the dream of homeownership alive for future generations of Americans
One last point on financial security. For decades, few things exposed hard-working families to economic hardship more than a broken health care system. And in case you haven’t heard, we’re in the process of fixing that.
A pre-existing condition used to mean that someone like Amanda Shelley, a physician assistant and single mom from Arizona, couldn’t get health insurance. But on January 1st, she got covered. On January 3rd, she felt a sharp pain. On January 6th, she had emergency surgery. Just one week earlier, Amanda said, that surgery would’ve meant bankruptcy.
That’s what health insurance reform is all about – the peace of mind that if misfortune strikes, you don’t have to lose everything.
Already, because of the Affordable Care Act, more than three million Americans under age 26 have gained coverage under their parents’ plans.
More than nine million Americans have signed up for private health insurance or Medicaid coverage.
And here’s another number: zero. Because of this law, no American can ever again be dropped or denied coverage for a preexisting condition like asthma, back pain, or cancer. No woman can ever be charged more just because she’s a woman. And we did all this while adding years to Medicare’s finances, keeping Medicare premiums flat, and lowering prescription costs for millions of seniors.
Now, I don’t expect to convince my Republican friends on the merits of this law. But I know that the American people aren’t interested in refighting old battles. So again, if you have specific plans to cut costs, cover more people, and increase choice – tell America what you’d do differently. Let’s see if the numbers add up. But let’s not have another forty-something votes to repeal a law that’s already helping millions of Americans like Amanda. The first forty were plenty. We got it. We all owe it to the American people to say what we’re for, not just what we’re against.
And if you want to know the real impact this law is having, just talk to Governor Steve Beshear of Kentucky, who’s here tonight. Kentucky’s not the most liberal part of the country, but he’s like a man possessed when it comes to covering his commonwealth’s families. “They are our friends and neighbors,” he said. “They are people we shop and go to church with…farmers out on the tractors…grocery clerks…they are people who go to work every morning praying they don’t get sick. No one deserves to live that way.”
Steve’s right. That’s why, tonight, I ask every American who knows someone without health insurance to help them get covered by March 31st. Moms, get on your kids to sign up. Kids, call your mom and walk her through the application. It will give her some peace of mind – plus, she’ll appreciate hearing from you.
After all, that’s the spirit that has always moved this nation forward. It’s the spirit of citizenship – the recognition that through hard work and responsibility, we can pursue our individual dreams, but still come together as one American family to make sure the next generation can pursue its dreams as well.
Citizenship means standing up for everyone’s right to vote. Last year, part of the Voting Rights Act was weakened. But conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats are working together to strengthen it; and the bipartisan commission I appointed last year has offered reforms so that no one has to wait more than a half hour to vote. Let’s support these efforts. It should be the power of our vote, not the size of our bank account, that drives our democracy.
Citizenship means standing up for the lives that gun violence steals from us each day. I have seen the courage of parents, students, pastors, and police officers all over this country who say “we are not afraid,” and I intend to keep trying, with or without Congress, to help stop more tragedies from visiting innocent Americans in our movie theaters, shopping malls, or schools like Sandy Hook.
Citizenship demands a sense of common cause; participation in the hard work of self-government; an obligation to serve to our communities. And I know this chamber agrees that few Americans give more to their country than our diplomats and the men and women of the United States Armed Forces.
Tonight, because of the extraordinary troops and civilians who risk and lay down their lives to keep us free, the United States is more secure. When I took office, nearly 180,000 Americans were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, all our troops are out of Iraq. More than 60,000 of our troops have already come home from Afghanistan. With Afghan forces now in the lead for their own security, our troops have moved to a support role. Together with our allies, we will complete our mission there by the end of this year, and America’s longest war will finally be over.
After 2014, we will support a unified Afghanistan as it takes responsibility for its own future. If the Afghan government signs a security agreement that we have negotiated, a small force of Americans could remain in Afghanistan with NATO allies to carry out two narrow missions: training and assisting Afghan forces, and counterterrorism operations to pursue any remnants of al Qaeda. For while our relationship with Afghanistan will change, one thing will not: our resolve that terrorists do not launch attacks against our country.
The fact is, that danger remains. While we have put al Qaeda’s core leadership on a path to defeat, the threat has evolved, as al Qaeda affiliates and other extremists take root in different parts of the world. In Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, and Mali, we have to keep working with partners to disrupt and disable these networks. In Syria, we’ll support the opposition that rejects the agenda of terrorist networks. Here at home, we’ll keep strengthening our defenses, and combat new threats like cyberattacks. And as we reform our defense budget, we have to keep faith with our men and women in uniform, and invest in the capabilities they need to succeed in future missions.
We have to remain vigilant. But I strongly believe our leadership and our security cannot depend on our military alone. As Commander-in-Chief, I have used force when needed to protect the American people, and I will never hesitate to do so as long as I hold this office. But I will not send our troops into harm’s way unless it’s truly necessary; nor will I allow our sons and daughters to be mired in open-ended conflicts. We must fight the battles that need to be fought, not those that terrorists prefer from us – large-scale deployments that drain our strength and may ultimately feed extremism.
So, even as we aggressively pursue terrorist networks – through more targeted efforts and by building the capacity of our foreign partners – America must move off a permanent war footing. That’s why I’ve imposed prudent limits on the use of drones – for we will not be safer if people abroad believe we strike within their countries without regard for the consequence. That’s why, working with this Congress, I will reform our surveillance programs – because the vital work of our intelligence community depends on public confidence, here and abroad, that the privacy of ordinary people is not being violated. And with the Afghan war ending, this needs to be the year Congress lifts the remaining restrictions on detainee transfers and we close the prison at Guantanamo Bay – because we counter terrorism not just through intelligence and military action, but by remaining true to our Constitutional ideals, and setting an example for the rest of the world.
You see, in a world of complex threats, our security and leadership depends on all elements of our power – including strong and principled diplomacy. American diplomacy has rallied more than fifty countries to prevent nuclear materials from falling into the wrong hands, and allowed us to reduce our own reliance on Cold War stockpiles. American diplomacy, backed by the threat of force, is why Syria’s chemical weapons are being eliminated, and we will continue to work with the international community to usher in the future the Syrian people deserve – a future free of dictatorship, terror and fear. As we speak, American diplomacy is supporting Israelis and Palestinians as they engage in difficult but necessary talks to end the conflict there; to achieve dignity and an independent state for Palestinians, and lasting peace and security for the State of Israel – a Jewish state that knows America will always be at their side.
And it is American diplomacy, backed by pressure, that has halted the progress of Iran’s nuclear program – and rolled parts of that program back – for the very first time in a decade. As we gather here tonight, Iran has begun to eliminate its stockpile of higher levels of enriched uranium. It is not installing advanced centrifuges. Unprecedented inspections help the world verify, every day, that Iran is not building a bomb. And with our allies and partners, we’re engaged in negotiations to see if we can peacefully achieve a goal we all share: preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
These negotiations will be difficult. They may not succeed. We are clear-eyed about Iran’s support for terrorist organizations like Hezbollah, which threaten our allies; and the mistrust between our nations cannot be wished away. But these negotiations do not rely on trust; any long-term deal we agree to must be based on verifiable action that convinces us and the international community that Iran is not building a nuclear bomb. If John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan could negotiate with the Soviet Union, then surely a strong and confident America can negotiate with less powerful adversaries today.
The sanctions that we put in place helped make this opportunity possible. But let me be clear: if this Congress sends me a new sanctions bill now that threatens to derail these talks, I will veto it. For the sake of our national security, we must give diplomacy a chance to succeed. If Iran’s leaders do not seize this opportunity, then I will be the first to call for more sanctions, and stand ready to exercise all options to make sure Iran does not build a nuclear weapon. But if Iran’s leaders do seize the chance, then Iran could take an important step to rejoin the community of nations, and we will have resolved one of the leading security challenges of our time without the risks of war.
Finally, let’s remember that our leadership is defined not just by our defense against threats, but by the enormous opportunities to do good and promote understanding around the globe – to forge greater cooperation, to expand new markets, to free people from fear and want. And no one is better positioned to take advantage of those opportunities than America.
Our alliance with Europe remains the strongest the world has ever known. From Tunisia to Burma, we’re supporting those who are willing to do the hard work of building democracy. In Ukraine, we stand for the principle that all people have the right to express themselves freely and peacefully, and have a say in their country’s future. Across Africa, we’re bringing together businesses and governments to double access to electricity and help end extreme poverty. In the Americas, we are building new ties of commerce, but we’re also expanding cultural and educational exchanges among young people. And we will continue to focus on the Asia-Pacific, where we support our allies, shape a future of greater security and prosperity, and extend a hand to those devastated by disaster – as we did in the Philippines, when our Marines and civilians rushed to aid those battered by a typhoon, and were greeted with words like, “We will never forget your kindness” and “God bless America!”
We do these things because they help promote our long-term security. And we do them because we believe in the inherent dignity and equality of every human being, regardless of race or religion, creed or sexual orientation. And next week, the world will see one expression of that commitment – when Team USA marches the red, white, and blue into the Olympic Stadium – and brings home the gold.
My fellow Americans, no other country in the world does what we do. On every issue, the world turns to us, not simply because of the size of our economy or our military might – but because of the ideals we stand for, and the burdens we bear to advance them.
No one knows this better than those who serve in uniform. As this time of war draws to a close, a new generation of heroes returns to civilian life. We’ll keep slashing that backlog so our veterans receive the benefits they’ve earned, and our wounded warriors receive the health care – including the mental health care – that they need. We’ll keep working to help all our veterans translate their skills and leadership into jobs here at home. And we all continue to join forces to honor and support our remarkable military families.
Let me tell you about one of those families I’ve come to know.
I first met Cory Remsburg, a proud Army Ranger, at Omaha Beach on the 65th anniversary of D-Day. Along with some of his fellow Rangers, he walked me through the program – a strong, impressive young man, with an easy manner, sharp as a tack. We joked around, and took pictures, and I told him to stay in touch.
A few months later, on his tenth deployment, Cory was nearly killed by a massive roadside bomb in Afghanistan. His comrades found him in a canal, face down, underwater, shrapnel in his brain.
For months, he lay in a coma. The next time I met him, in the hospital, he couldn’t speak; he could barely move. Over the years, he’s endured dozens of surgeries and procedures, and hours of grueling rehab every day.
Even now, Cory is still blind in one eye. He still struggles on his left side. But slowly, steadily, with the support of caregivers like his dad Craig, and the community around him, Cory has grown stronger. Day by day, he’s learned to speak again and stand again and walk again – and he’s working toward the day when he can serve his country again.
“My recovery has not been easy,” he says. “Nothing in life that’s worth anything is easy.”
Cory is here tonight. And like the Army he loves, like the America he serves, Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg never gives up, and he does not quit.
My fellow Americans, men and women like Cory remind us that America has never come easy. Our freedom, our democracy, has never been easy. Sometimes we stumble; we make mistakes; we get frustrated or discouraged. But for more than two hundred years, we have put those things aside and placed our collective shoulder to the wheel of progress – to create and build and expand the possibilities of individual achievement; to free other nations from tyranny and fear; to promote justice, and fairness, and equality under the law, so that the words set to paper by our founders are made real for every citizen. The America we want for our kids – a rising America where honest work is plentiful and communities are strong; where prosperity is widely shared and opportunity for all lets us go as far as our dreams and toil will take us – none of it is easy. But if we work together; if we summon what is best in us, with our feet planted firmly in today but our eyes cast towards tomorrow – I know it’s within our reach.
The Obama Administration will be hosting "Big Block of Cheese Day." OK, for all of you who have jokes, get it out of your system, then mark and set your calenders.
On Wednesday, January 29, 2014, the White House officials will be hosting its first ever "Virtual Open House." Yes, that's right, finally, any American who wants to chat with white house officials will be able to do so, via Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram and Gogle Hangout.
Although this is not the first open house hosted by a sitting president, this historic event will be the first virtual open house by the Obama Administration.
President Jackson hosted a open house which featured a 1,400 pound block of cheese that sat in the main foyer of the White House. "The original "Big Block of Cheese Day" opened the doors of the White House to thousands of citizens to interact with cabinet members and White House staff, and carve off a slice of the thick slab of cheese.
Tune into President Obama's State of the Union Address which will air live on January 28, 2014 at 9 p.m. ET, then stay tuned for a complete schedule for the "Big Block Of Cheese Day" directly after. For more information www.whitehouse.gov
Yesterday, President Obama apologized for stating that those Americans who want to keep their present health plan would not lose coverage. Millions of policies have been cancelled because insurance companies cannot comply with the new regulations under the Affordable Care Act.
The President also stated that the compliance requirements for insurance companies have been extended for a year, so they can begin to reinstate those polices that were cancelled.
Unfortunately that may pose a problem. The companies would have to contact policy holders, explain to them their options for new coverage, make sure that the new policies are in compliance, and then process the polices. This of course would be quite costly.
The new plans under the Affordable Care Act are a better option for Americans because they offer better coverage. However many of the people who had their polices cancelled were young and healthy and satisfied with the plans that they previously had.
The President apologized for the problems with the healthcare website and promised that most of the kinks would be worked out by the end of the year. Read more at www.swampland.time.com
On Wednesday June 19, President Obama visited Berlin where he gave a speech at Brandenburg Gate. Nearby was the Gail Halvorsen also known as the "Candy Bomber." The Candy Bomber was the first to drop candy to children during 1948-1949 United States airlift, which supplied West Berlin after a Soviet Union blockade. Also present was the 92 year old Halvorsen, who the President paid tribute. "We could not be prouder of him." "I hope I look that good, by the way, when I'm 92."
President Obama said that he will ask Russia to join the U.S. in reducing its arsenal of nuclear weapons. "I intend to seek negotiated cuts with Russia to move beyond Cold War nuclear postures."
"After a comprehensive review, I've determined that we can ensure the security of America and our allies, and maintain a strong and credible strategic deterrent, while reducing our deployed strategic nuclear weapons by up to one-third."
The United States and Russia are already in agreement with the "Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. better known as "START." START calls for each country to limit its nuclear warhead arsenal by the year 2018, to 1,550. President Obama's proposal reduces both countries warheads to about 1,000.
The President stated that the U.S. will only consider using nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances to defend the interests of the U.S. and it's allies. "We may no longer live in fear of global annihilation, but so long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe."
"Today's threats are not as stark as they were half-a-century ago. But the struggle for freedom and security and human dignity, that struggle goes on."
This year the Air Force has said that it plans to put nuclear cruise missiles on board stealthy B-2 bombers. At present, only the 50 year old B-52 bombers carry these weapons. The Air Forces also plans to add Nuclear "Gravity Bombs."
The Defense Department has approved the deployment of a Patriot Missile Battery and a F-16 Fighter Jet Aircraft to Jordan. The deployment was approved by Secretary Of Defense Chuck Hagel as a part of a multinational training exercise. However, the weapons will remain in Jordan as security in the event that the Syrian Civil War escalates.The U.S. air crews will train with the Jordanian air forces.
This is being done amongst reports that Syrian missiles are being sent to Hezbollah. Violence has spread to Lebanon and Israeli forces has increased security along it's northern border. The U.S.will also be sending to Jordan. 200 Military Planners from the headquarters of the 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss. This plan is being put into place in case there is a need for a large scale humanitarian relief effort. Read more at www.security.blogs.cnn.com
The House Judiciary Committee is investigating if Attorney General Eric Holder lied to congress under oath, regarding the Department Of Justice unlawfully surveilling Fox journalist James Rosen. When asked about the probe, Eric Holder said: “Well, I would say this. With regard to the potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material, that is not something that I’ve ever been involved in, heard of or would think would be a wise policy.”
However, the DOJ alluded to the fact that the Attorney General approved the investigation into James Rosen's e-mails and phone records. And also the monitoring of the journalist's visits to and from the State Department through security-badge records. The Justice Department stated that the investigation had been approved "at the highest levels." This in regards to an investigation into leaked information about North Korea.
It get's worse, apparently, the Attorney General sought out three different judges to sign off on the subpoena into the records of the Fox Journalists' personal records. But he neglected to tell Fox News or James Rosen about the probe.
Of course the media is outraged and rightfully so. Attorney General Holder says that he takes seriously their concerns, and has began an extensive reevaluation of the DOJ's current policies and procedures. Read more at www.cnn.com.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) stated that the deficit in 2013 is even smaller than expected.
In 2009 the federal budget deficit reached a high of $1.4 trillion, 10.1% of GDP, however it is rapidly shrinking. The CBO has said that the deficit will be less than half that amount in 2013. $642 billion 4% of GDP. That’s $200 billion less than the CBO predicted just a few months ago.
This morning President Obama and United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron held a joint press conference at the White House. The two leaders addressed the global economy, Iran's nuclear program and the war in Afghanistan.
They also reiterated how strong the relationship is between the U.S. and the United Kingdom. President Obama stated "The alliance between our countries is a foundation, not only for the security and prosperity of our two nations, but for international peace and security as well. David shares my belief that, in a time of rapid change, the leadership of the United States and the United Kingdom is more important than ever. The future we seek is only possible if the rights and responsibilities of nations and people are upheld. And that’s a cause that we advanced today."
Prime Minister Cameron said "There are some countries whose alliance is a matter of convenience, but ours is a matter of conviction. Two states united for freedom and enterprise; working together, day in, day out, to defend those values and advance our shared interests." He also said that "the relationship between Britain and America is the strongest that it has ever been. And I believe that’s because we’re working together as closely as at any point in our history. And together, I’m confident that we can help secure the future of our nations and the world for generations to come."
President Obama stated that job growth is still the main focus, ensuring that the two nations will continue to explore ways to "increase transatlantic trade and investment."
Concerning Afghanistan, the president said that the U.S. and the United Kingdom are the two largest contributors of forces to the mission and that they have made extraordinary sacrifices. "The tragic events of recent days are a reminder that this continues to be a very difficult mission. And obviously we both have lost a number of extraordinary young men and women in theater. What’s also undeniable, though, and what we can never forget, is that our forces are making very real progress: dismantling al Qaeda; breaking the Taliban’s momentum; and training Afghan forces so that they can take the lead and our troops can come home.
The President continued "That transition is already underway, and about half of all Afghans currently live in areas where Afghan security forces are taking responsibility. Today, the Prime Minister and I reaffirmed the transition plan that we agreed to with our coalition partners in Lisbon. Specifically, at the upcoming NATO summit in my hometown of Chicago, we’ll determine the next phase of transition. This includes shifting to a support role next year, in 2013, in advance of Afghans taking full responsibility for security in 2014. We’re going to complete this mission, and we're going to do it responsibly. And NATO will maintain an enduring commitment so that Afghanistan never again becomes a haven for al Qaeda to attack our countries."
On Iran, President Obama stated "As I said in a speech just a couple of weeks ago, I am determined not simply to contain Iran that is in possession of a nuclear weapon, I am determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon." The President said that we have applied tough sanctions, and mobilized the international community with "greater unity than we've ever seen." He also said that those sanctions are going to sting even more this summer, and that we are already seeing significant effects on Iran's economy.
With respect to Syria, the President said that the situation is extremely difficult. He stated that United States military plans for everything, but that does not mean that we are at this time going to war. President Obama said that the international community will continue to stand together to send Syria a strong message, that what they are doing is not acceptable. Read more at www.whitehouse.gov
The Pentagon is facing $52 billion dollars in cuts. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel stated that the cuts under sequestration “will cause pain” and potentially impact readiness ”across our force." The Pentagon is facing possible across the board budget cuts in 2014. Hagel stated to reporters thatAmerica “has the most capable, the most powerful fighting force in the world” and the Pentagon will “not allow this capacity to erode.” He also said that “we’ll do what we need to do to assure the capabilities of our forces.”
Senators Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) wrote that many members of Congress see sequestration as “an effective way to cut government spending. As a result, there is an increasing risk that [the Pentagon and other federal agencies may face sequestration again in 2014.” Read more at www.washingtonpost.com
A win for the National Rifle Association. Yesterday, the Texas House approved a series of gun bills. Included were allowing college students to carry handguns in class, allowing armed marshals in public schools. And exempting the state from any future bans on assault rifles, high capacity magazines or universal background checks.
Dubbed "gun day" by supporters as well as opponents, the votes came as tens of thousands of NRA members attended the annual convention in Houston. Read more at www.usatoday.com
Senate debates begin today on the Manchin–Toomey Bill proposed by West Virginia Democrat Senator Joe Manchin III and Pennsylvania Republican Senator Patrick J. Toomey. Both are gun rights advocates and are supported by the NRA.
The Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms stated that they support the bi-partisan proposed amendment that will expand mandatory background checks and close loopholes for gun buyers online and at gun shows. Dealers on the internet and at gun shows will have to keep seller records on all gun purchases.
In an appearance on “CBS Face the Nation” Senator Manchin said that this bill does not in any way infringe upon the 2nd Amendment, and will not affect sales between family members and friends. But calls for expanding existing laws to include sales on the internet and at gun shows, which millions of people are currently avoiding. The Senator said that this is a criminal and mental background check, and if you are law abiding citizen this bill will not affect you.
The measure needs 60 votes to pass in the chamber. It will need support from Republicans and Democrats up for re-election in states with strong gun rights advocacy groups. Senator Toomey stated that there is some bi-partisan support for the legislation and believes there is enough support to pass. However it will be close. Republican Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois has expressed his support, and Moderate Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine stated that “The plan would strengthen the background check system without in any way infringing on Second Amendment rights. However, it is impossible to predict at this point what will be in a final bill.” Senator Manchin said “We're close but we need more."
CNN reported that Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona who has a B+ rating from the NRA stated that he is "very favorably disposed" to the Manchin-Toomey proposal.” "I appreciate their work, and the American people want to do what we can to prevent these tragedies. And there's a lot more that needs to be done, particularly in the area of mental health." In 2011 Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head when a gunman opened fire. When it was over Senator Giffords was left clinging to live and six people were dead.
The proposal eases some restrictions on transporting guns across state lines. It also protects sellers from potential lawsuits if a buyer passes a background check and then commits a crime using that gun. Sellers can also deal in states outside of their home state. Additions to the legislation to be debated this week include a measure allowing state issued concealed hand gun permits to be accepted nationwide as a background check and increase slightly school security aid. “If you are a law-abiding gun owner, you’re going to like this bill,” Senator Manchin said.
President Obama's Fiscal Year 2014 Budget
The President’s Fiscal Year 2014 Budget demonstrates that we can make critical investments to strengthen the middle class, create jobs, and grow the economy while continuing to cut the deficit in a balanced way.
The President believes we must invest in the true engine of America’s economic growth – a rising and thriving middle class. He is focused on addressing three fundamental questions: How do we attract more jobs to our shores? How do we equip our people with the skills needed to do the jobs of the 21st Century? How do we make sure hard work leads to a decent living? The Budget presents the President’s plan to address each of these questions.
To make America once again a magnet for jobs, the Budget invests in high-tech manufacturing and innovation, clean energy, and infrastructure, while cutting red tape to help businesses grow. To give workers the skills they need to compete in the global economy, it invests in education from pre-school to job training. To ensure hard work is rewarded, it raises the minimum wage to $9 an hour so a hard day’s work pays more.
The Budget does all of these things as part of a comprehensive plan that reduces the deficit and puts the Nation on a sound fiscal course. Every new initiative in the plan is fully paid for, so they do not add a single dime to the deficit. The Budget also incorporates the President’s compromise offer to House Speaker Boehner to achieve another $1.8 trillion in deficit reduction in a balanced way. When combined with the deficit reduction already achieved, this will allow us to exceed the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction, while growing the economy and strengthening the middle class. By including this compromise proposal in the Budget, the President is demonstrating his willingness to make tough choices and his seriousness about finding common ground to further reduce the deficit.
KEY BUDGET FACTS
Creates jobs by responsibly paying for investments in education, manufacturing, clean energy, infrastructure, and small business.
Includes $1.8 trillion of additional deficit reduction over 10 years, bringing total deficit reduction achieved to $4.3 trillion.
Represents more than $2 in spending cuts for every $1 of new revenue from closing tax loopholes and reducing tax benefits for the wealthiest.
Deficit is reduced to 2.8% of GDP by 2016 and 1.7% by 2023 with debt declining as a share of the economy, while protecting the investments we need to create jobs and strengthen the middle class.
Includes $400 billion in health savings that crack down on waste and fraud to strengthen Medicare for years to come.
Making America a Magnet for Jobs
To compete in the 21st Century economy and make America a magnet for jobs, the Budget invests in American innovation, reviving our manufacturing base and keeping our Nation at the forefront of technological advancement. And to ensure our energy security and combat climate change, it continues to focus on energy production, the development of clean energy alternatives, and the promotion of energy efficiency efforts in both the public and private sectors.
Transforms regions across the country into global epicenters of advanced manufacturing with a one-time, $1 billion investment to launch a network of up to 15 manufacturing innovation institutes.
Maintains our world-leading commitment to science and research by increasing nondefense research and development (R&D) investment by 9% above the 2012 levels.
Continues President’s “all-of-the-above” strategy on energy – investing in clean energy R&D, promoting the safe production of natural gas, encouraging States to cut energy waste with a Race-to-the-Top challenge to cut energy waste and modernize the grid, creating an Energy Security Trust to fund research efforts that would help shift cars and trucks off oil, and making permanent the tax credit for renewable energy production.
Enhances preparedness and resilience to climate change, safeguarding communities and Federal investments, while strengthening efforts to reduce carbon pollution domestically and internationally.
Building a 21st Century Infrastructure
The Budget invests in repairing our existing infrastructure and building the infrastructure of tomorrow, including high-speed rail, high-tech schools, and power grids that are resilient to future extreme conditions. These investments will both lay the foundation for long-term economic growth and put workers back on the job now.
Provides $50 billion for upfront infrastructure investments, including $40 billion for “Fix it First” projects, to invest immediately in repairing highways, bridges, transit systems, and airports nationwide; and $10 billion for competitive programs to encourage innovation in completing high-value infrastructure projects.
Boosts private investment in infrastructure by creating a Rebuild America Partnership.
Establishes an independent National Infrastructure Bank to leverage private and public capital to support infrastructure projects of national and regional significance.
Creates America Fast Forward (AFF) Bonds, building on the successful Build America Bonds program to attract new sources of capital for infrastructure investment.
Dedicates funding for the development of high-speed rail to link communities across the country, the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NexGen) to improve air travel and safety, and a robust long term increase in levels for core highways, transit, and highway safety programs.
Expedites infrastructure projects by modernizing the Federal permitting process to cut through red tape while creating incentives and better outcomes for communities and the environment. Establishes a new goal of cutting timelines in half for major infrastructure projects in areas such as highways, bridges, railways, ports, waterways, pipelines, and renewable energy.
Equipping Americans with the Skills They Need
To equip our workers with the skills they need to fill the jobs of the 21st Century economy, the Budget includes investments and reforms in education and training. It makes a major new commitment to early childhood education; sustains investments in K-12 schools, while ramping up innovation; redoubles our focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education to prepare our students for the jobs of tomorrow; and includes new initiatives to make college more affordable.
To build a foundation for success in the formative early years of life, increases access to high-quality early childhood education with a Preschool for All initiative.
In partnership with the States, provides all low- and moderate-income four-year-olds with high-quality preschool, while encouraging States to serve additional four-year-olds from middle class families. The initiative also promotes access to full-day kindergarten and high-quality early education programs for children under age four.
The Preschool for All initiative is financed by raising the Federal tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products, which would also have substantial public health impacts, particularly by reducing youth smoking.
The Budget makes companion investments in voluntary home visiting programs, preserving child care access, and expanding high-quality care for infants and toddlers through new Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships.
Creates a new, competitive fund for redesigning high schools to focus on providing challenging and relevant experiences, while promoting and developing partnerships with colleges and employers that improve instruction and prepare students to continue education or transition into skilled jobs.
Strengthens and reforms career and technical education to better align programs with the needs of employers and higher education to ensure that graduates are poised to succeed.
Prepares students for careers in STEM-related fields by reorganizing and restructuring Federal STEM education programs to make better use of resources and improve outcomes; and invests in recruiting and preparing 100,000 STEM teachers and creating a new STEM Master Teachers Corps to improve STEM instruction.
Improves college affordability and value with a continued commitment to Pell Grants; budget-neutral student loan reforms that will make interest rates more market-based; a $1 billion Race-to-the-Top fund to support competitive grants to States that drive higher education reform, while doing more to contain tuition; a $260 million First in the World fund to spur cutting-edge innovations that decrease college costs and boost graduation rates; and reforms to Federal campus-based aid to reward colleges that set responsible tuition policy, provide a high-quality education and better serve students with financial need.
Improves services for workers and job seekers by revisiting the structure of the Federal job training system, including through the creation of a Universal Displaced Worker program; drives innovation through the Workforce Innovation Fund by testing new State and regional ideas to better deliver training and employment services; and provides $8 billion for a Community College to Career Fund to support State and community college partnerships with businesses and other stakeholders.
Making the Tax Code More Simple and Fair
The President believes that today’s tax code has become overly complex and inequitable and that we should immediately begin the process of reforming the individual and business tax systems. As a down payment on comprehensive tax reform, the Budget offers detailed proposals to broaden the tax base, close tax loopholes, and establish a Buffett Rule that will prevent millionaires from taking advantage of special provisions to pay taxes at lower rates than many middle-class families do.
Raises $580 billion for deficit reduction by limiting high-income tax benefits, without raising tax rates.
Implements the Buffett Rule, requiring that households with incomes over $1 million pay at least 30% of their income (after charitable giving) in taxes.
Limits the value of tax deductions and other tax benefits for the top 2% of families to 28%, reducing these tax benefits to levels closer to what middle-class families get.
Provides new tax cuts to encourage hiring and wage increases and to support middle-class families.
Provides a 10% tax credit for small businesses that hire new employees or increase wages.
Provides a new tax credit to encourage employers to offer retirement savings plans and expands a tax credit that helps middle-class families afford child care.
Makes permanent the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which currently helps about 11 million students and families afford college, as well as improvements to the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit that help millions of working families with children make ends meet.
Pays for middle-class tax relief by eliminating tax loopholes that benefit the wealthy and special interests.
Ends a loophole that lets wealthy individuals circumvent contribution limits and accumulate millions in tax-preferred retirement accounts.
Ends a loophole that lets financial managers pay tax on their carried interest income at the lower capital gains rate.
Eliminates business tax loopholes while providing incentives for research, manufacturing, and clean energy and cutting taxes for small businesses.
Reforms and makes permanent important tax incentives for research and development, renewable energy, and energy efficiency.
Cuts taxes for small businesses by letting them claim tax write-offs for up to $500,000 of new investment.
Eliminates loopholes such as oil and gas tax breaks and special tax rules for corporate jets.
Proposes reforms to prevent companies from shifting profits overseas to avoid U.S. taxes and to encourage “insourcing” and job creation here in the United States.
Ensuring Hard Work Leads to a Decent Living
The Budget builds on the progress made over the last four years to expand opportunity for every American and every community willing to do the work to lift themselves up. It creates new ladders of opportunity to ensure that hard work leads to a decent living. It expands early childhood education to give children a foundation for lifelong learning. It supports a partnership with communities to help them thrive and rebuild from the Great Recession. It creates pathways to jobs for the long-term unemployed and youth who have been hard hit. It rewards hard work by increasing the minimum wage so a hard day’s work pays more. And it strengthens families by removing financial deterrents to marriage and supporting the role of fathers.
Creates Promise Zones to rebuild high-poverty communities across the country by attracting private investment to build new housing, improving educational opportunities, providing tax incentives for hiring workers and investing within the Zones, reducing violence and assisting local leaders in navigating Federal programs and cutting through red tape.
Creates a Pathways Back to Work fund to support summer and year round jobs for low-income youth, subsidized employment opportunities for unemployed and low-income adults, and other promising strategies designed to lead to employment.
Supports the President’s call to reward hard work by raising the minimum wage to $9.00 an hour.
Strengthens families by allowing Federal programs like the child support program to implement models that get more men working and engaging with their children, and by addressing financial deterrents to marriage.
Cutting the Deficit in a Balanced Way
The President is committed to continuing to reduce the deficit in a balanced way. He is determined to do this in a way that replaces the economically damaging across-the-board cuts of sequestration with smart, targeted efforts to cut wasteful spending, strengthen entitlements, and eliminate loopholes for the wealthiest through tax reform.
The President stands by the compromise offer he made to Speaker Boehner during “fiscal cliff” negotiations in December 2012. The Budget includes all of the proposals in that offer, which would achieve $1.8 trillion in additional deficit reduction over the next 10 years, bringing total deficit reduction to $4.3 trillion. This represents more than enough deficit reduction to replace the cuts required by the Joint Committee sequestration. By including this compromise proposal in the Budget, the President is demonstrating his willingness to make tough choices to find common ground to further reduce the deficit. This offer includes some difficult cuts that the President would not propose on their own, such as an adjustment to inflation indexing requested by Republicans. But there can be no sacred cows for either party. The key elements of the offer include:
$580 billion in additional revenue relative to the end-of-year tax deal, from tax reform that closes tax loopholes and reduces tax benefits for those who need them least;
$400 billion in health savings that build on the health reform law and strengthen Medicare;
$200 billion in savings from other mandatory programs, such as reductions to farm subsidies and reforms to federal retirement benefits;
$200 billion in additional discretionary savings, with equal amounts from defense and nondefense programs;
$230 billion in savings from using a chained measure of inflation for cost-of-living adjustments throughout the Budget, with protections for the most vulnerable;
$210 billion in savings from reduced interest payments on the debt; and
$50 billion for immediate infrastructure investments, as noted earlier, to repair our roads and transit systems, create jobs, and build a foundation for economic growth.
In addition, the Budget includes a series of new proposals to root out waste and reform and streamline government for the 21st Century. In total, it includes 215 cuts, consolidations, and savings proposals, which are projected to save more than $25 billion in 2014.
Amidst Threats From North Korea, The U.S. Deploys Warships And B-52 Bombers.
It seems that North Korea’s President Kim Jong Un is on one.
In recent weeks he threatened nuclear
war on South Korea and the United States Military bases in the region. He also publicly
denouncedSouth Korea’s routine military
exercises which began in March.Calling
them rehearsals for an invasion.
Amidst escalating tension between North Korea and South Korea, and accusations that the United States is instigating a war, recent activities point to the fact that the young president is planning some sort of a missile launch. North Korea has moved medium range missiles and launch components to its east coast.
Government officials stated that they are certain that North Korea does not have the capacity to successfully fire a missile that would reach the United States. But the White House Press Secretary stated that the United States is taking all necessary precautions. The U.S. is sending a missile shield to the Pacific Island of Guam within a few weeks. This will add to the warships the U.S. already has in place. Guam, Hawaii and the U.S. mainland could be possible targets of North Korea.
North Korea may not have the capacity to hit the United States with it missile, but the 2500 mile range missiles they possess can target South Korea, Japan and China. Seoul’s defense minister Kim Kwan-jin said the missile could reach a “considerable distance” but not the US mainland. “Two nuclear-capable US B-2 stealth bombers flew over South Korea in what the US military described as “deterrence” missions.
30 year old Kim Jung Un being the new leader that he is, is believed to be attempting to set a precedence. But because he is young and inexperienced, he is also unpredictable. He launched a satellite into orbit in December. Unfortunately it did tumble out of control, further proving that North Korea does not yet have the capacity to successfully build and launch a nuclear missile.
President Un does not want to mess with the United States. The white house has stated that if North Korea engages, the United States will replace the entire regime.
President Obama's Plan to Avert the Sequester and Reduce the Deficit
President Obama has consistently stated that his goal is to grow the economy and strengthen the middle class. He will not accept cuts that forces the middle class to bear the burden of reducing the deficit. The President’s plan is to reduce the deficit by over $4 trillion dollars, by cutting spending and entitlement programs, and closing tax loopholes for the rich. This plan would allow the debt to fall as a share of the economy over the next decade.
Both parties have agreed on cuts that total more than $2.5 trillion, cut spending by over $1.4 trillion. These are historically low numbers.
The President’s Plan would cut the deficit by another $1.5 trillion, if the Republicans would just get on board.
President Obama's Middle East Visit
March 20, 2013, President Obama along with Secretary of State John Kerry visited the Middle East.
First stop Israel a first for Obama as President as the United States. He was greeted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres .
The reason for the visit to further strengthen his relationship with the Prime Minister and reaffirm his commitment to Israel, to address the U.S. commitment to preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, and of course to encourage Israel and Palestinian to work on agreement to co-exist peacefully.
President Obama reasserted that the United States is committed to the security of Israel. He stated that the country has the right to defend itself, but that Palestine also has the right to exist.
President Obama spoke to the Israeli people from the Jerusalem International Convention Center where he reiterated that the bond between Israel and the United States is unbreakable. “Israel is already a center for innovation that helps power the global economy,” he said. “And I believe that all of that potential for prosperity can be enhanced with greater security, enhanced with lasting peace.” The leaders also discussed extending military assistance to Israel for an additional 10 years after the present agreement expires in 2017.
Other matters of business included neighboring Syria and its ongoing Civil war, including un-confirmed reports of the use of Chemical Weapons. The president stated that if true, it is a “game-changer.” Referring the current limited involvement of the Unites States in the conflict.
On the second leg of his trip, President Obama returned to the West Bank for the first time since the beginning of his presidency. He met with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Fayyad and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority. The president commended President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad for the progress they have made working together to build institutions of a Palestinian State and stated that the U.S. is deeply committed to the creation of an independent and sovereign state of Palestine.
President Obama said in a joint press conference with President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority and Prime Minister Fayyad that “Like people everywhere, Palestinians deserve a future of hope -- that their rights will be respected, that tomorrow will be better than today and that they can give their children a life of dignity and opportunity. Put simply, Palestinians deserve a state of their own. In the interests of the Palestinian people, and also in the national security interest of Israel, the United States, and the world."
President Obama stated that “that the United States remains committed to realizing the vision of two states.”
President Obama State Of The Union 2013 Reaffirms Economy Is Priority
On February 12, 2013, at the House Chamber, to a joint session of the 114th Congress, President Obama gave his Annual State of The Union Address.
The president said that America is rebounding from the Recession and that the State of Union is stronger. After a decade of war, our brave troops our returning home. The economy is growing with private corporations adding 6 million new jobs. American car Manufacturer Ford is selling more cars than they have in 5 years, housing is improving with home buyers up 50 percent, the stock market is rebounding, and America is dependent on less foreign oil than it has in over 20 years. Though we are heading in the right direction, President Obama said that we must do more. He laid out his focus for the fiscal year.
Reduce the deficit by an addition 1.5 trillion dollars to total 4 trillion. The deficit has been reduced 2.5 trillion dollars by cutting spending and raising taxes on the top 1 percent wealthiest Americans.
We must reduce the Deficit. But Deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan. “A growing economy that creates good middle class jobs, that must be the north star that guides our efforts. Every day we should ask ourselves three questions as a nation. How do we attract more jobs to our shores, how do we equip our people w the skills they need to get those jobs and how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?”
“It is responsibility of the Government to improve this union. Governments must work on the benefit for the many not the few. The responsibility of this union remains the task for us all.”
Invest in the Middle Class . “It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this county.” You can get ahead if you work hard. There must be opportunity for everyone child. The President called for congress to work together and stop manufacturing crises. Americans want the nations interest put before the interest of individual parties, and that reasonable compromise is a must . He urged Congress to put together a bipartisan market based solution on climate change. Last year wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity In America.
Generate more clean energy
Invest in research and technology for natural gas for cleaner power and energy independence
Invest in Medical Research and Development for such things like Alzheimers
Fix it First Program which will partnership with private companies to rebuild America. This will create jobs to repair bridges across the country , upgrade Americas ports, pipelines and schools.
Invest in housing by helping homeowners who want to refinance their homes
Invest in schools that work with colleges and employers to create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering and math
Increase minimum wage to $9.00 an hour
The President stated that his plan for Medicaid and Medicare savings are the same as Reforms by the Bipartisan Simpson Bowls Committee.
Reduce tax payer subsidies to prescription drug companies but don’t touch social security. “Government should not make promises we cannot keep. But we must keep promises that we have already made.”
Tax and Entitlement Reform. Get rid of tax loopholes and deductions for the wealthy. Penalize businesses who take jobs overseas. Reward businesses that keep jobs in America.
“American Jobs Act. Congress passed half of the President’s Proposal in 2011 but urged them to pass it in it’s entirety. Independent Economist have agreed that this proposal will create 1 million new jobs. The American Jobs Act will not increase deficit. It does not require any additional funding.
Make America a magnet for new jobs in manufacturing. America has added 500,000 new jobs in manufacturing jobs in the last 3 years.
Caterpillar the world's leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, industrial gas turbines and diesel-electric locomotives is bringing jobs back from Japan
Ford is bringing back jobs from Mexico
Apple will start making Mac Products in America again.
America produces more Natural Gas than ever before.
Dangerous Carbon Pollution has fallen in 4 years.
President Obama Inauguration
On Monday, January 21, 2013, the United States 44th and first African American President Barack Obama, took the oath of Office from Chief Justice John Roberts. This historical moment marked President Obama’s second term as America’s Commander and Chief.
The president used two bibles to take the oath. One of which belonged to President Abraham Lincoln and the other which belonged to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. President Obama addressed a number of issues that are priority for him during his second term. Climate Change, Gun Reform, Gay Rights, Immigration Reform and preserving Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. The President stated that, “the commitments we make to each other through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative, they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers, they free us to take the risks that make this country great.”
President Obama himself is much like a rock star so it was no surprise that the inauguration was a star studded event. The Legendary James Taylor sang “American the Beautiful.” The very first American Idol Winner Kelly Clarkson who was accompanied by the United States Marine Band, rocked “My Country Tis of The”. And superstar herself, Beyoncé sang the National Anthem.
Myrlie Evers-Williams, Civil Rights Activist and the wife of Slain Civil Rights Leader Medgar Evers, was the first women to deliver the invocation at an inauguration. Cuban American Poet Richard Blanco was the first immigrant, first Latino and first gay person to deliver a poem at an inauguration.
At the end of the ceremony, and as he entered the Capitol Building, President Obama turned back to look out over the National Mall filled with more than 800,000 people clapping and waving the American flag. As he gazed out over the cheering crowd, the president could be overheard softly saying “I’m going to take a look one more time, I’ll never see this again.”
President Obama Immigration Reform
President Obama’s Proposal For a Pathway To Citizenship For The 11 Million Undocumented Immigrants Living In The U.S.
Obama four part immigration plan:
Continue to strengthen border security, if needed more border patrol agents, more technology to help identify criminals and security threats.
Penalize employers who hire undocumented workers. Enhance employee verifications system. Create path to citizenship. Give undocumented workers a legal way to earn citenzship, so they can pay taxes.
Undocumented immigrants must pass a national criminal and security background check, pay taxes, learn English, pay a fine, and get in line behind those who came before them. Streamline immigration system. Establish a effecient system for immigrants who work hard and obey the laws.
A bipartisan group of eight senators four Democrats and four Republicans also developed a plan to address immigration reform. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.)
Their plan named the “Gang of Eight” plan stated that first and foremost border security would have to be enhanced. Next identify and penalize businesses that hire undocumented workers. The outline does not however take into account the timeframe of the pathway to citizenship. The plan however states that we must create tough but fair pathway to citizenship.
Identify visa overstays, create employment verification system.
Prevent theft of identity and hiring undocumented workers
Improve process for people who want to legally work, beef up border patrol, with new technology, agents, security, surveillance, stop racial profiling , involve community, politicians, agents for input, illegals
Immigrants must register, pass background check, pay a fine and back taxes to earn probation legal status, they then can live and work in the U.S.
Those who don’t pass will have to be sent back, criminals will have to leave right away, borders must be secured before any thing begins, they have to get in line, learn English, civics, show work history , then they will earn a green card.
Minor children and agricultural workers will have a slight different path, those who earn a Ph.d or masters degrees in math, science technology or engineering from an American university with earn a green card.
President Obama Approves $365 Million For Syria Humanitarian Assistance
January 29th President Obama approved an additional $155 million dollars totaling $365 million for humanitarian assistance for Syria. As of today over 2.5 million men, women and children have been forced from their homes. Over 6,000 have fled to neighboring countries to escape the violence of the Assad regime. The assistance will provide food, clean water, medicine, medical treatment, clothing and much needed winter supplies. This support will benefit refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.
The United States and international partners “the Syrian Opposition Coalition,” along with other humanitarian organizations including Syrian-American individuals, will identify and respond with the help needed, including providing any assistance needed to arrive at a peaceful resolution.
President Obama stated that this will be no easy task. But the Assad regime continues to weaken and lose control of territory, and the opposition contimues to grow stronger. “The Syrian people will continue to find a partner in the United States of America.”
President Signs 23 Actions On Gun Violence
January 16th, In front of an audience that included elected officials, victims of gun violence and 4 school children that had written letters to the president requesting him to help prevent more tragedies like the one in Sandy Hook, Elementary, President Obama announced that he will be putting forth a series of reforms to help stop gun violence.
The President stated “like most Americans, I believe the Second Amendment guarantees an individual the right to bear arms. I respect our strong tradition of gun ownership and the rights of hunters and sportsmen. There are millions of responsible, law-abiding gun owners in America who cherish their right to bear arms for hunting, or sport, or protection, or collection. But we all have a responsibility to take reasonable steps to ensure gun safety.”
President Obama signed 23 Executive Actions for legislation on gun reform. Based on recommendations from Vice President Joe Biden and the Task force which included members of the white house cabinet and some 229 groups including law enforcement, gun advocacy groups, mental health officials, sports huntsman and religious leaders.
The Actions include mandatory universal background checks on all potential gun buyers, restoring the ban on military style assault weapons, a 10 round limit for magazines urged by Ronald Regan in a 1994 letter written to Congress, and stiffer penalties for people who break existing laws such as buying guns with the intent to resell to those that break the law.
The President requested that Congress confirm Todd Jones who has been acting as Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, a post that has not been confirmed in six years. He urged that policeman be hired to replace the cuts that have been made to police agencies around the country.
President Obama said that these are “common-sense measures. They have the support of the majority of the American people.” He acknowledged that he cannot do it alone. He needs the help of Congress to pass specific proposals immediately. He urged the Ameripeople to get involved by going to their Congressman.
Soon after President Obama spoke, the NRA released an add calling the President an“elitist hypocrite” in essence because the President’s daughters have secret service protection during school, but that the President has not agreed with the NRA’s proposal to put armed guards in all schools.
This add angered some lawmakers who state the United States Presidents and their families are provided with armed security for obvious reasons, and that bringing their children into the fight should be off limits.
The NRA did release a later statement that partly read “We look forward to working with Congress on a bi-partisan basis to find real solutions to protecting America’s most valuable asset-our children.”
Vice President Joe Biden Gun Task Force
In the aftermath of the tragic shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in which 12 children and 6 administrators were killed, President Obama announced that he is committed to reducing the epidemic of gun violence in this country.
He announced that Vice President Joe Biden will head an initiative to work with the white house cabinet as well outside organizations to come up with proposals to look at existing gun laws and identify opportunities for reform. 6 Months prior to the Newtown shooting, 12 people were killed and over 70 people shot in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.
Amidst a growing consensus to look at existing laws and identify opportunities forimprovement, many Americans support a ban on the sale of military style weapon as well as the sale of high capacity ammunition clips. Many Americans also support laws requiring background checks before being able to purchase a gun.
The president promised to use the powers of the white house to advance efforts at preventing more gun tragedies. However there is much opposition coming from gun rights advocates such as the National Rifle Association (NRA).
The NRA has been critical of any proposals to change any existing gun laws stating that it is a violation of the 2nd Amendment. However agreed to meet with Vice President Biden to be a part of the discussion.
President Obama said that several things will be put on the table including a culture of violence, education and mental health issues.
It was no surprise that the National Rifle Association (NRA)did not feel that anything was accomplished on Thursday, January 10, during their meeting with Joe Biden and the Gun Task Force which included Attorney General Eric Holder, law enforcement officials, people from the entertainment industry, victims violence advocates, and gun rights activists.
The NRA released a statement that partially read that they were “disappointed” that the meeting did not produce any viable solutions or present any polices that would stop gun violence or protect children, but in essence “attacked the Second Amendment.”
They stated that they feel they went into the meeting optimistically expecting to talk about issues such as “keeping our children safe, school safety, mental health issues, the marketing of violence to our kids, and the collapse of federal prosecution of violent criminals.” But stated that “this Task Force spent most of its time on proposed restrictions on lawful firearms owners, honest, taxpaying, hardworking Americans”, whom they feel are being blamed for the actions of “criminals and madman.”
The NRA plans to go forward with their own agenda in which they will meet with both parties of members of congress who want to talk about solutions they feel will work.
Vice President Biden is scheduled to present President Obama with his recommendations on Tuesday, January 15th. He stated that “the President is definitely going to act. There are executive orders, there’s executive action that can be taken,” he added.
John Kerry Next Secretary Of State
Senator was confirmed at the new Secretary of State. President Barack Obama nominated Massachusetts Democratic Senator John Kerry to replace Hillary Clinton as the next Secretary of State. John Kerry who is the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee is a decorated war veteran who served two tours of duty in Vietnam in the Unites States Navy. On his second tour, Kerry served on a Swift boat in the river deltas, one of the most dangerous assignments of the war. He received Silver Star, a Bronze Star with Combat V and three purple hearts.
After returning from Vietnam in 1969, deeply affected by his time in the war, Kerry worked to support other veterans. He cofounded the Vietnam Veterans of America to fight for veterans’ benefits. Including the extension of the G.I. Bill for Higher Education and for treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.
President Obama stated “In a sense, John’s entire life has prepared him for this role. As the son of a Foreign Service officer, he has a deep respect for the men and women of the State Department --the role they play in advancing our interests and values, the risks that they undertake and the sacrifices that they make along with their families.
Having served with valor in Vietnam, he understands that we have a responsibility to use American power wisely, especially our military power. And he knows, from personal experience, that when we send our troops into harm’s way, we must give them the sound strategy, a clear mission, and the resources that they need to get the job done.”
John Kerry has worked on the Iran-Contra scandal, global AIDS, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs, he worked to learn the truth about American soldiers missing in Vietnam and to normalize relations with that country. He is the ranking Democrat on the East Asian and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee, and the leading expert on that region, including North Korea.
He has been a leading voice on American policy in Iraq and Afghanistan, the war on terrorism, the Middle East peace process and Israel's security.
Today, Senator Kerry is the tenth most senior Senator and the second longest serving Senator in his seat. He also holds senior positions on the Finance, Commerce, and Small Business Committees .During his service in the Senate for almost 30 years, John Kerry has earned the respect and confidence from his senate colleagues both Democrat and Republican as well as world leaders.
John has been instrumental in advancing many of the President’s foreign policies. Including the “ratification of the New START Treaty, the challenges of Sudan and South Sudan and Afghanistan.”
Susan Rice Withdraws Her Name From Pool To Replace Hillary Clinton
On December 13, 2012, in a written statement to the president, Susan Rice the Ambassador to the United Nations withdrew her name from consideration for Secretary of State. It partly read “I am now convinced that the confirmation process would be lengthy disruptive and costly to you, and to our most pressing international priorities. It is simply not worth it to our country. The position of Secretary of State should not be politicized.”
President Obama stated “I spoke to Ambassador Susan Rice, and accepted her decision to remove her name from consideration or Secretary of State. While I deeply regret the unfair and misleading attacks on Susan Rice in recent weeks, her decision demonstrates the strength of her character, and an admirable commitment to rise above the politics of the moment to put our national interests first. The American people can be proud to have a public servant of her caliber and character representing our country.”
Ambassador Rice was seen as the top pick to succeed Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, although the president has said that no decisions have been made. Ms Rice will remain U.S. ambassador the United Nations.
Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham led the Republican charge to block the Susan Rice nomination. Both have been the most vocal critics of Rice appearing on the Sunday morning talk shows following the September 11th attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya inwhich U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed.
Five days after the attack, Ambassador Rice appeared on several Sunday talk shows to describe the administrations assessment of the attack. Ambassador Rice stated “Our current best assessment, based on the information that we have at present, is that, in fact, what this began as, it was a spontaneous not premeditated response to what had transpired in Cairo.”
She explained that the assault had resulted from a spontaneous protest about an youtube anti-Islamic video, "Innocense of Muslims"which had set off several other such protests in other Muslim nations in the days before the Benghazi attack.
What is Senators McCain and Lindsey’s criticism of Ms Rice? They say she deliberately mislead the American People by stating the attack was due to Islamic outrage over a video as opposed to it being a terrorist attack. Ms Rice has repeatedly stated that she was reading from non classified talking points given to her by the CIA. At the time she appeared on the talk shows, she stated that at that time it was her “current best assessment.”
The CIA's talking points read as follows: "The currently available informationsuggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the US Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the US diplomatic post in Benghazi and subsequently its annex. There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations. This assessment may change as additional information is collected and analyzed and as currently available information continues to be evaluated. The investigation is on-going, and the US Government is working with Libyan authorities to bring to justice those responsible for the deaths of US citizens."
If the CIA has confirmed that Ambassador Rice was reading from talking points given to her by the CIA then why not good enough for Republicans on Capitol Hill. Why what some are calling an old fashion witch hunt?
Some speculate the reason being the Republican party does not like the fact that President Obama is African American, that he has too many women and people of color in his administration.
It couldn’t be that of course, I mean President Bush had African Americans in his administration including an African American woman. Both Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Why then are Republicans going after Ambassador Rice with such fever? Republicans believed so profoundly that President Obama could not win a second term unless there was some divine intervention. Or unless of course the great conspirator himself somehow tricked the American people into voting for him.
So, President Obama, Susan Rice and the administration came up with a plan. Make Americans believe President Obama has desimated Al Queda terrorists. Make Americans believe that Obama somehow is the great savior, and that the country is only safe with him as our President. When in fact President Obama has failed to protect the American people. And we are all in grave danger. And only the leader of the Republican party, Mitt Romney can save us. I know it sounds crazy. But Republicans believe that if the American people somehow only knew how much danger we are really in, Obama would not have won the Presidency for a second term. That’s it, Obama mislead the American people.
Pundits say Republicans on capitol hill will stop at nothing to take this president and his administration down. After all they did say that they would do whatever it took to make sure that he was not re-elected. Unfortunately for them he was.
All of this sounds crazy. I mean can’t we all just get along? Maybe none of this has anything to do with President Obama being African American or Susan Rice being an African American woman. Could it really be about cutting government spending, and keeping taxes low, democrat vs. Republican, good old American political partisanship?
One thing is universally clear. It is tragic that there was attack on the consulate in Libya on September 11th, that it was poorly secured, and and four americans were killed. Who is really the blame for that? I think that is where the focus should be.
Government Use Of Drones
Unmanned Non Military grade aircrafts (Drones) are presently being used by the United States government overseas in the war on terrorism. Drones operate by recording video and producing heat maps. Theywere used to assist with the capture and killing of Osama Bin Laden
These aircrafts are also being used here in America monitor to our borders and in addition, by police departments around the country. The
Law enforcement officials welcome the use of Drones within their departments stating that Drones are a cost efficient way to help with finding children, locating bombs and assisting in wildlife rescue efforts. The crafts cost less than helicopters.
The Department Of Homeland Services has offered grants to police departments to assist them with purchasing the aircraft.
Of course there is great opposition to their use. Questioning their legality. Some Lawmakers believe that the use of drones could lead to a host of problems such as illegal surveillance, targeted killing of Americans, they firmly believe that they are an invasion of privacy and is Big Brother at its finest. There are anti-drone lobby groups like @N.O.M.B.Y., Not Over My Back Yard, and Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Congress has put together a bill that prohibits “targeted surveillance on people or property.”
Marco Rubio Gives Republican Response To The State Of The Union
41-year-old Cuban-American Florida Senator Marco Rubio said that was he honored to respond to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address on behalf of fellow republicans.
Rubio congratulated the president on his second term and said that he was especially honored to be addressing the brave men and women serving in the armed forces and diplomatic posts around the world. “You may be thousands of miles away, but you are always in our prayers.” The Senator talked about his parents. His mom was a maid and cashier, and his dad a bartender.
He spoke about being a child of immigrant parents who he said achieved their dream of becoming middle-class by hard work and perseverance. His accomplishments are a testament to that. “I didn’t inherit any money from them. But I inherited something far better: the real opportunity to accomplish my dreams. This opportunity -- to make it to the middle class or beyond no matter where you start out in life -- it isn’t bestowed on us from Washington. It comes from a vibrant free economy where people can risk their own money to open a business, and when they succeed, they hire more people, who in turn invest or spend the money they make, helping others start a business and create jobs.”
Rubio accused the president of attacking anyone who doesn’t agree with him. “So, Mr. President, I don’t oppose your plans because I want to protect the rich. I oppose your plans because I want to protect my neighbors, hard-working middle-class Americans who don’t need us to come up with a plan to grow the government. They need a plan to grow the middle class.”
He stated that more government is not the answer to help Americans get ahead. More Government will not inspire new ideas, opportunities, businesses or private sector jobs. But rather create uncertainty which will ultimately hold you back.
He believes that bigger Government hurts the middle class. More Government breeds complicated rules that negatively impacts small businesses. Rubio stated when employer’s taxes are increases they pass that cost onto their employees. They cut hours, lower wages, eliminate benefits, and sometimes even downsizing.
Senator Rubio stated that all government is not bad and does have a place. “It plays a crucial part in keeping us safe, enforcing rules, and providing some security against the risks of modern life.”
Rubio said that the republican plan to help the economy is a far better one than that of the President. Republican plan: Invest in solar and wind energy stating that “God also blessed us with -- America with abundant coal, oil, and natural gas,” and that lowering the corporate tax rate will encourage companies to bring jobs back to America from overseas. Encourage local school districts to offer more vocational and career training, and advanced placement courses, and Give parents the opportunity to send their children to the school of their choice.
Overall Senator Rubio got high marks from fellow republicans regarding his rebuttal to the President’s State of the Union address. And Twitter and the Internet was on fire with jokes about the Senator being so thirsty during his remarks, that he reached for a bottle of spring water. Taking a sip all while keeping eye contact with the camera.
Rubio obviously has a sense of humor, he commented via twitter
"Picked up over 13,000 new followers on #twitter since last night!," his official Twitter account tweeted Wednesday afternoon. "I’m going to start drinking #water in the middle of all of my speeches!"
President Obama and Secretary Clinton Champions for Women's Rights
President Obama Signs Presidential Memorandum to Promote Gender Equality
Jan 30 2013 - President Obama along with Secretary Clinton, established the White House Council on Women and Girls. This multilateral iniative will expand women’s politician and economic participation on developing ways to combat violence against women and identify a process to implement a national action plan to include women women in conflict resolution and peace process, global health and food security iniatives President Obama has appointed Melanne Verveer, the first ever Ambassador at Large for Global Women’s Issues.
Today, President signed a Presidential Memorandum to expand and promote gender equality across all U.S. Government agencies. In the Memorandum, President Obama states that “promoting gender equality and advancing the status of all women and girls around the world remains one of the greatest unmet challenges of our time, and one that is vital to achieving our overall foreign policy objectives.”
Secretary-designate Kerry is on board and committed to these issues stating “In the Senate I've made promoting the rights of women and girls a priority, not just because it's the right thing to do, but because societies that empower the talents of their entire populations are more stable and more prosperous. It's why we created a sub-committee in the Foreign Relations Committee to specialize on these issues and give it the attention it deserves. Last week at my confirmation hearing, I spoke with Sen. Boxer about the importance of maintaining the momentum Secretary Clinton and Ambassador Melanne Verveer have built through their innovative office and laser-like focus.
I applaud the President for institutionalizing these efforts and ensuring these issues continue to receive the high-level attention they deserve at the State Department, at US AID, and across the U.S. government.”
President Obama’s Memo ensures that the Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will continue to assist in advising the USAID Administrator on key priorities for U.S. development assistance. Finally, the Memorandum establishes an interagency working group on international gender issues, chaired by the National Security Advisor.
This will provide strategy, government coordination, and implement new ideas across agencies from the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) to Peace Corps to the Department of Health and Human Services.
Ban Lifted on Women in Combat
January 24, 2013 Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta along with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Martin E. Dempsey announced plans to lift the ban on women in combat. This policy change that was put into motion in February of 2012, with 14,000 assignments made available to women in combat units or side by side with combat units.
Women are fully immersed in combat situations including on the front lines. Women are dying and fighting with men and should have the same benefits. They are at this time standing shoulder to shoulder in the foxholes performing the same duties as their fellow male soldiers on the battlefield. 152 women have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, 84 in combat. Close to a 1000 have been injured. Presently women soldiers are not getting the credit and recognition they need to be promoted into senior positions, though they risk their lives the same, and are experiencing the same hardships, and in some instances exceeding the standards of their male counterparts.
Mr. Panetta stated, that he along with Chair Martin Dempsey and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, together have worked for over a year to remove any barriers possible for talented and qualified people to this country in uniform, thereby expanding opportunity for women in the Armed Services. He stated that “it is clear to all of us that women are contributing in unprecedented ways to the military’s mission of defending the nation.” Fifteen percent of the armed forces are women, over 200,000 strong. They have “demonstrated courage, skill and patriotism, and have become an integral part of our ability to perform our mission.”
Because of their dedication, the 1994 Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule which restricted women from combat on the ground, is now null and void. This will open up 237,000 jobs to women including infantry and battalion. This won’t happen overnight. Women will have to qualify to be a combat soldier. None of the physical standards or requirements will change.
There is some opposition to this. Some men soldiers complain that this will make it harder for them to do their job. One soldier stated, that to have a women in the foxhole might compromise a life or death situation.
He doesn’t think women can handle tough conditions like having to urinate in a bottle or poop in a bag standing a foot away from your fellow soldier.
A female soldier stated that women already are handling these very same conditions.
Mr. Panetta did state that this transition will take time and that not all positions will be open immediately. Once the policy is changed, the Department of Defense will enter into what is being called an "assessment phase," in which each branch of service will examine jobs not currently being offered to women, then make recommendations as to a timeline when necessary changes can be implemented, to ensure that both genders have equal opportunity to apply for those positions.
American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012
On January 1, 2013, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 was passed. During his campaign, President Obama repeatedly said that if elected to a second term, his first order of business would be to return fairness to the middle class by permanently lowering taxes. He believes this will help to grow the economy. He achieved his goal. The Senate passed the bill by a bipartisan majority .
The agreement will benefit 114 million American families. It expands the Child Tax Credit, the Earned Income Tax Credit, the new American Opportunity Tax Credit, and the Marriage Penalty Relief. These credits will remain in effect for five years. If this was not passed a family of four would have seen a $2,000 plus tax increase. It also extends for one year emergency unemployment benefits to 2 million american people. It also ensures that Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will be preserved.
The deal also ensures that America will continue to invest in education, clean energy and manufacturing by giving businesses an immediate write off of 50 percent of capital investments, extending the Production Tax Credit and the Research Experimentation Tax Credit. It postpones the Sequester for two months, which will give Congress more time to work on a plan to prevent automatic spending cuts.
The wealthy have not had a tax increase in 20 years. People making more than $250,000 tax rate will increase. This new agreement cuts the deficit by $737 billion.
President Obama Nominates Jack Lew for the Next Treasury Secretary
President Obama announced his pick for the next Treasury Secretary to replace Timothy Geithner. Jack Lew who currently serves as President Obama’s Chief of Staff, is a Washington insider whom the President said “has helped strengthen our and economy and streamline the government.”
Before joining the State Department, Lew served as managing director and chief operating officer of Citi Global Wealth Management and then Citi Alternative Investments (CAI). He holds an under graduate degree from Harvard and a graduate degree for Georgetown. His first order of business will be to address the 16 trillion plus deficit, and the upcoming spending limits on government.
Their are some concerns that will most certainly arise during his senate confirmation. During his 2010 senate confirmation hearing for white house budget chief, Jeff somewhat downplayed how much deregulation impacted the financial crisis. He then stated that he did not believe that“deregulation was the cause.”
Jeff has worked for two administrations. Past positions include the President Obama’s first Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources.
Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under Bill Clinton.
Aid to Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill under Ronald Reagan.
He was responsible for the 1997 balance budget deal, and the 1983 social security legislation.
New Gingrich endorses Jeff Lew and says that“he is very smart, a tough negotiator who understands government and the financial market.”
President Obama Nominates Chuck Hagel For Secretary Of Defense
On January 7, 2012, President Obama nominated Former Nebraska Republican Senator Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense. Chuck Hagel is a decorated Vietnam war hero who was wounded when hit by shrapnel, earned two purple hearts. When his brother was injured by a mine, Chuck risked his life to save him. President Obama said “Chuck Hagel is an American patriot and a leader our troops deserve.
Chuck Hagel’s leadership of our military would be historic. He’d be the first person of enlisted rank to serve as Secretary of Defense, one of the few secretaries who have been wounded in war, and the first Vietnam veteran to lead the department.” When our troops see Chuck Hagel, they see “one of their own.”
Senator Hagel served two terms on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Intelligence Committee. He has worked tirelessly to support our military families and veterans. He helped lead the Senate to pass the post-9/11 GI Bill, and worked at the VA and as head of the USO.
Although some Republicans see President Obama’s nomination of Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense as a good pick because he is adding a Republican to his administration, others see Chuck as not a person for the job because they question his support of Israel, and because they doubt his commitment to an adequate Defense Budget.
As a Senator he voted for the Iraq surge, and then supported a troop withdrawal. Hagel has had some different views with U.S. policy on Iran Sanctions, Hamas, Syria and Hezbollah.
Some of his colleages also see him as anti-sematic because of remarks he made in Ina 2006 interview in which Hagel said, "The political reality is that…the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people [on Capitol Hill]." He went on, "I'm a United States senator. I support Israel. But my first interest is I take an oath of office to the Constitution of the United States. Not to a president. Not a party. Not to Israel. If I go run for Senate in Israel, I'll do that."
In 2007, Hagel joined two other senators in introducing a resolution in June 2007, pushing for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He insisted that Hamas end terrorism and accept Israel's right to exist. He encouraged Israel to negotiate with Hamas which is the Islamic organization that controls parts of Palestine. He also was one of 12 senators who refused to sign a letter to the European Union trying to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization."
In an interview that year, Hagel said a "Jewish lobby intimidated lawmakers" sparking sharp criticism from some Jewish organizations. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham stated that Hagel would be the most "antagonistic" secretary of defense towards Israel in U.S. history. “Quite frankly, Chuck Hagel is out of the mainstream of thinking, I believe, on most issues regarding foreign policy … This is an in-your-face nomination by the president to all of us who are supportive of Israel.”
On major issues Hagel has largely voted in support of Israel. Some Democrats are not happy about the remarks Chuck Hagel made about then President Clinton’s 1998 choice for U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg which were characterized as anti-gay and inflammatory. Senator Hagel was quoted as saying James Hormel is “openly, aggressively gay“, and that his sexual orientation was an “inhibiting factor that would prevent him from doing “an effective job.”
Hagel has since apologized saying his remarks were insensitive. He has stated that his is firmly committed to the support to the families of gay and lesbian service members and also LGBT civil rights.
President Obama nominates John Brennan As The Next Director Of The CIA
January 7, 2012 President Obama nominated John Brennan as the next director of The Central Intelligence Agency. Brennan is a 25 year veteran of the CIA, and has served since 1999 as the Advisor to the White House Office of Homeland Security and Deputy Director of Counterterrorism. President Obama stated “for the last four years, John developed and has overseen our comprehensive counterterrorism strategy -- a collaborative effort across the government, including intelligence and defense and homeland security, and law enforcement agencies.”
In 2008, reportedly Brennan was President Obama’s first choice for Director of the CIA. However, Brennan withdrew his amidst criticism of his CIA service under President George W. Bush. Brennan made past public statements supporting the Bush Administration Policies on what Brennan referred to as “enhanced interrogation techniques”, including “Rendition.”A strategy used by the Bush administration, in which terrorism suspects were sent to other countries to be detained, interrogated and what some say is tortured.
In 2008, Brennan publicly criticized the Bush Administration anti-terror policy of waterboarding.
Laura W. Murphy, director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Washington Legislative Office, released a statement which partly read that before Brennan is confirmed, the Senate should assess his leadership in past positions in the CIA during the Bush administration, including his role in abuse, torture, rendition and imprisonment.