With President Obama across the pond trying to unify the worldwide response to the economic crisis, his cabinet is hitting the road today to trumpet the benefits of the economic stimulus package he championed back home.
Vice President Biden and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack traveled to North Carolina to highlight the Recovery Act's help to rural America. In Faison, they visited the Goshen Medical Center, a rural health clinic.
The medical center is getting $635,876 in stimulus money, enough to add seven jobs and treat 4,800 more patients, including 1,500 with no health insurance, the White House said.
“Community health centers are at the heart of many of our rural communities,” Biden said. “Sometimes, these clinics are the only health facilities for miles and miles. The Recovery Act’s investment is crucial meeting the health and medical needs of millions of Americans.”
(Biden's full remarks are below.)
In Pikeville, Biden and Vilsack stopped by the rural fire department’s main station, which is using stimulus cash to build a new firehouse big enough for ladder trucks. They also announced that the Agriculture department has begun disbursing the first installment of $10 billion in guaranteed housing loans.
About $1.76 billion will help 15,000 rural families and create or save approximately 7,500 jobs, the White House said. Once all the Recovery Act funding for rural housing is released ($7 billion directly to states and $3 billion held in reserve for higher need areas), the White House says that 42,500 jobs will be created or saved.
Kennedy and Kerry said that $37.2 million of the housing loan money will come to Massachusetts to help low-income individuals or households build, repair, renovate, or relocate a home, or to purchase and prepare sites.
“At this time of economic crisis, these funds could not come to Massachusetts at a more critical time. These guaranteed loans will allow Massachusetts citizens in hard hit, rural areas the opportunity to get back on their feet,” Kennedy said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Education Secretary Arne Duncan visited Doswell E. Brooks Elementary School in Capitol Heights, Md., to announce the first $44 billion for schools from the $787 billion stimulus bill.
The White House says that Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley and other state and local leaders will join Duncan on a tour of the award-winning school. It is part of the Prince George's County school district, the nation's 18th largest, which plans to use stimulus funds to avoid furloughs, layoffs, increases in class sizes, and other education program cuts.
Also starting this week, most employees will see a little extra in their paychecks as the $400-per-worker, $800-per-couple tax cut kicks in.
UPDATE: Senators John F. Kerry and Edward M. Kennedy said this afternoon that the tax credit means $1.2 billion for 2.4 million working families in Massachusetts.
“Working families struggling to make ends meet will soon have more money in their pockets,” Kerry said in a statement.
“Hard-working families across our Commonwealth are struggling to make ends meet,” Kennedy added. “This tax credit will bring them some relief over the next two years. President Obama was right to make it a big part of his economic recovery plan for the nation.”
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. The Secretary of Agriculture and I have been friends, as you could probably tell, since the '80s. Tom was one of the finest governors in the United States of America. He, literally, has probably forgotten more about rural America than most people know. As the governor of Iowa -- and the commitment he made to economic development to these clinics in his own state -- all that he did before he was willing to come on and be the Secretary of Agriculture.
So I am not being solicitous when I say the President and I are incredibly fortunate to have someone who, quite frankly, knows even more about this than both the President and I know. And that's what you try to do, hire on people who really know what they're talking about.
I come from a state that is a rural state. Most people think Delaware and out west -- they think Delaware is the northeast. Well, it's part of the Delmarva Peninsula -- Delaware, Maryland, Virginia. Our largest industry, by far, is agriculture. It's not banking. It's not chemicals. It's not what people think. It's agriculture.
And what Tom said about the values is absolutely -- absolutely clear. And so when I -- when we -- I asked Tom, I went to the Secretary, and I said: "Give me a place; what's one of the best examples that you can show, we could show, the world, the nation, as to why what we're doing in the stimulus package is worthwhile and that people are getting their bang for the buck, that it really makes a difference?"
And he said -- he turned around and, Doc, he said, we should come and see you. (Laughter.) No, I'm serious, because you are helping create -- all of you are helping create a better reality for people in the eastern Carolinas here. You're creating a better reality for the people in this neighborhood. And I mean that in a broad sense.
And it's great to see, firsthand, how together you all work. The fact that I think -- the press who has followed me may not fully appreciate what Dr. Bound said, that the money that is available from the federal government -- what we're going to talk about today -- he has gone out and leveraged, roughly 4 to 1, to do a whole lot of things that increase the well-being in this community. And everybody here -- as I've gone around to clinics -- seems to be acting with that sense of community.
And speaking of sense of community, you don't have to look much further than down the road at Carthage. First, our deep condolences go out to the families of the victims of that nursing home shooting. But the damage could have been far worse for the entire town if it hadn't been for a young officer, a 25 year old policeman named Justin Garner, who displayed the courage and character that I think is reflective of the kind of courage and character so many people in rural America -- where people don't pay attention to -- actually display every single day for their communities.
He showed how important it is that the men and women who make up the small towns in America are really part of the -- maybe the -- our national identity, they most reflect how we identify ourselves around the world.
And really, first and foremost, we're here today for the purpose of trying to help everyone in this clinic, and everyone in this community, reclaim your vital role in our society. We're here to try to make rural America stronger, and this is just one of many examples across this great nation.
We understand that the health of small towns like yours is essential for our nation's well-being, as well as it is to help big cities like Charlotte and other cities. It's essential -- it's essential -- that small towns, rural towns be healthy, and are growing, and have access to everything that is needed for the well-being of their citizens.
And we understand that as we write a new chapter in our history as a nation, small town America will have to be one of its most prominent authors. Because what was said a little bit earlier -- I'm not sure who said it actually, but that this is a -- this health clinic, we think, and health clinics across America, these are the future. This is the model that I think you're going to see much more replicated than anything else.
So it's not merely that, in my view, we're able to at a federal level help rural America and help rural health clinics, or health clinics generally, but it also, I think, is likely to serve as sort of a laboratory for how things can get done more efficiently, and how health care can be delivered more accurately, rapidly, without mistake, and with quality.
And so we're not here just to see that rural America survives through this difficult recession we're in, but that it thrives as we come out of this recession. And I'm standing in a textbook example of just how to make that happen; how the America Recovery and Reinvestment Act is already serving families and creating more jobs is evidence -- is going to be evidenced right here in this clinic. You don't have to look any further than this clinic to see the recovery in action.
With more than $635,000 in recovery funds -- and you can thank my colleagues behind me for that -- the center will be able to increase its staff, including two more doctors, and two more nurses who will now be able to serve nearly 5,000 additional patients, new patients beyond roughly the 41,000 -- is that right, 41,000 -- 45,000 that was served this past year; 1,500 of whom -- of these new patients will have no health insurance, and some 20 percent of them will be children.
We know that health centers are the heart of these communities. They serve, as was mentioned by my colleague, 16 million patients across the country every year. And more than half of them -- more than half of them are in rural America, towns like Faison. And we know that health centers are, as I said, in the front lines of rebuilding a health care system most of us think is broken and needs some really serious repair. That's something the President and I are absolutely committed to, is reforming the health care system -- make it affordable and available to all Americans.
And we know that these clinics' ability to serve American families will, in many ways, determine the ultimate success of the initiatives we're going to be pushing out the next four years. And we're committed to giving them what they need now to begin to turn communities around.
In North Carolina alone, 27 community health care centers will receive more than $8.6 million in funds -- and they've either already received it, or are receiving it very shortly. In all, we have $2 billion targeted for health centers around the country helping serve some 17 million additional -- 17 million more patients, more than a third of whom are children.
And we don't view that money as just spending to get us out of our troubles, but as a deep investment in strengthening the communities of the future. And these are, have to be, the communities of the future.
The Goshen Medical Center is but one example of where we're investing. And investing in places like this all around the country, that demonstrate the vital role rural towns play in American life, is part of our objective here. All told, we'll deliver $20 billion in loans and grants to improve economic opportunity and quality of life in rural America this year, an additional $20 billion beyond the normal budget process.
The money will go to improving broadband access, upgrading rural water and waste disposal systems, financing homes and rural families -- which Tom and I are going to be talking about a little later today a couple towns from here, and seeding new -- seeding new rural business ventures. And finally, as of today, American workers, some 95 percent of them this April 1st -- I know it's April Fool's Day, and I have nothing to fool you about -- (laughter) -- that will see an increase in their paychecks starting today -- 95 percent of Americans who collect a paycheck where they have withholding tax withheld from. Because the credit that is going to be made available, the typical American family will see $65 per month more in their paycheck. Now that's not the end of the world, but $65 makes a lot of difference in a lot of families. And it makes a difference. And it starts today.
We recognize how important American workers are to our recovery, and we're acting boldly to make towns like Faison as strong as they possibly can be.
Look, this -- folks -- and most of you know of my reputation for being fairly blunt -- but I'm going to level with you, that it's not secret that these times are tough. Throughout North Carolina, throughout my home state of Delaware -- Iowa, North Dakota was referenced earlier -- all across the country, times are really tough right now. And I get that. And every day I see communities like yours enduring the same struggles, asking the same questions of themselves and questions of their country.
But every single day, every day as I travel across the country -- which I've tried to be out at least a couple days a week going around the country; I just got back from South America and Latin America -- but I try to be out as much as I can. Every single day I see something that proves and provides hope, hope that not only we're going to survive this current recession, but that the American people -- I mean real hardworking folks, families like yours -- will come out of this better off than they went into it.
We will recover, folks. There's no question we'll recover. But it's not sufficient the economy just recovers. Barack and I said during our respective campaigns, and our joint campaign, that the measure of whether or not our administration is a success is not merely whether the economy is growing again, but whether the living standard of the middle class rises, and those aspiring to the middle-class have access. That will be the measure. The American people, working-class families, have to share in the increased productivity that's going to take us out of this recession. That's the measure.
And so it seems to me -- as I said, I see all around everywhere I go, I see it here, that you all are in fact ready to join ranks and do everything that's needed to be done to see that that's happened. Because I tell you what, we feed -- when we come out -- we talk about it when we get back in the plane -- we feed off of your hope. We feed off of your optimism. The feedback we get from all of you is the thing that keeps this cycle going. Because ladies and gentlemen, without question, the American Dream needs to be brought back within reach of an awful lot of people whose grasp it has slipped from over the last eight, 10, 12 years.
Every single American, whether in a big-city skyscraper or a small-town farmhouse: everyone is entitled to be able to pursue that dream. And we are committed -- we're committed to making that a reality again.
This country's character, our backbone is defined by people in this community, and in my towns of Delaware -- like Dagsboro and Gumboro, and places like Maquoketa and other places in Iowa. I mean, this is -- this is how we're defined as a nation. And it's also primarily how we define ourselves. Even people in the cities define themselves in terms of rural America. It sounds a strange thing to say when we talk about these basic values.
And so community centers like this, or cucumber fields and farms in the area -- I mean, this is who we are. And I -- many of you have been dealt out of that aspirational dream for too long. So, folks, our plan is to deal you back in. America needs its small towns to flourish as much as it needs its big cities to survive and flourish. So we're here today to begin the process of helping make that happen.
Look, let me conclude by saying to I remember reading a great description of a North Carolinian from a writer who was touring North Carolina towns in the midst of the Great Depression. And he wrote a description of a typical North Carolinian facing uncertain times in the '30s. And here's what he wrote, and I quote: "He is now less proud of the distance he has gone than aware of the distance he must go. He knows that he has the greatest state on Earth and that he is as good as anybody in it. But he is by no means sure this is good enough."
Well, folks, let me say to you we got a long distance to go. But I can assure you, unlike that observer in the 1930s, it is absolutely -- we are good enough. We are good enough, you and us, to make sure that the future is a lot better than the recent past. And in just the brief time I've been here, I can say with confidence that you have all around you, as a community, everyone here thinks we're plenty good enough to get ourselves out of this. And we're going to be able to do this in relatively short order, because you're more than good enough.
So I can say that together with people like you, and with the help of the leadership of President Obama, in my view, and the Congress' support, we're going to turn this around. And I can say together I think we're going to begin to reshape the world.
I apologize for being a little late getting out of the car -- as I was getting out of the car, the President called me from Europe, from the G20 meeting to discuss another matter. He said, "Joe, where are you?" (Laughter.) He wanted to know whether I was working, you know? (Laughter.) He said, "Joe, where are you? Where did I get you?" "Well," I said, "I'm in eastern North Carolina." He said, "We won there, didn't we?" (Laughter.) No, actually, that's not what he said. He said, "Tell everybody I said hello." And then he asked me in detail what I was doing. I said, "Mr. President, is that why you called?" He said, "No, no, no, no, I want to talk to you about something else. I want to talk to you about something else."
So ladies and gentlemen, I think there's only one other subject I could talk to you about that may be of more interest to you, and that's the Tar Heels. (Laughter.) But I'm not going to do that, except to say I wish you all luck. And just if you get to Villanova, my wife's alma mater, just be easy, okay? (Laughter.)
Anyway, thank you all so much. Doc, thank you. And by the way, speaking of Docs, come here Doc. (Laughter.)
DR. BOUNDS: -- to look up to. (Laughter.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: This man has been practicing medicine for at least two or three years. (Laughter.) And I walked into one of the examining rooms, and he was there -- yes, and you've been here 17 years, right? I apologize, your first name?
MS. AIDES: Lauren Aides (phonetic).
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Lauren was in there with him. And there was a patient there. And I started to ask the Doc about what he needed here. And he said, what we need is we need some more personnel. We need a little -- it's kind of strapped now. We need a little more help, more docs, et cetera, more nurses -- which you're going to get with this.
And I turned -- and I turned to the patient and I said, "Well, you know, Doc, she said 17 years." And I said, "He's been treating you right here in this place?" She said, "No, but other places." And she said, "And where he goes, I go." (Laughter.)
Well, let me just say one thing to you all, because I think it's interesting. National studies show that people treated at health clinics, 85 percent of them have a personal relationship with someone they believe to be their family doctor. They know that person by name, and they have a relationship. When you ask that question generally, nationwide, only 35 percent of the American people can identify their doctor, and that they have a relationship with the doctor.
So, Doc, as my mother would say, you're doing God's work, man. Thanks for everything. (Applause.)
DR. BOUNDS: Thank you. for everything.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.