An anti-spending group has issued an economic assessment of Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney.
The conservative Club for Growth today released its fifth white paper on the GOP candidates.
It is available at the group's website.
WASHINGTON – Mitt Romney tonight began a speech to a ballroom full of Christian conservatives by reaffirming his positions against abortion and gay marriage.
“We’re united tonight in a lot of things,” the former Massachusetts governor said at the start of a 13-minute address in a downtown hotel here. “We’re united in the love we have for this great country. We’re united in our belief in the sanctity of human life. We’re united in our belief in the importance and significance of a marriage between one man and one woman.”
Romney, who wrote a portion of the speech on a legal pad during a flight from Boston to Washington late this afternoon, then turned to the economic themes that are expected to drive his recently launched presidential campaign.FULL ENTRY
The head of Fiat-Chrysler said today that Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney must have been "smoking illegal material" when he argued in 2008 that the US auto industry could be resurrected without federal financial assistance.
During an interview with CNN, Sergio Marchionne, chief executive of Fiat and Chrysler, said government support was pivotal.
The comment contrasted with a 2008 op-ed column in which Romney urged the federal government not to provide an industry bailout but instead force automakers into a "managed bankruptcy."
MANCHESTER, N.H. Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney was headed from New Hampshire to Washington this afternoon so he could speak tonight at the Faith and Freedom Conference.
Just don't expect much talk about social conservative issues, which were the bane of his first campaign for the presidency in 2008.
Instead, advance excerpts show a reprise of the economic focus that permeated Romney's campaign kickoff speech yesterday.
It's part of his campaign's message-management the second time around:
“President Obama said that unemployment wouldn’t go beyond 8 percent. Today it is over 9 percent. We are going backwards, and that is the wrong direction for America. President Obama has failed.
“Unemployment is not just a statistic. Unemployment means kids can’t go to college; that marriages break up under the financial strain; that young people can’t find work and start their lives; and men and women in their 50s, in the prime of their lives, fear they will never find a job again. President Obama has failed these good and decent Americans.
“Sixteen million Americans are out of work or have stopped looking for work. Make no mistake. This is a moral tragedy - a moral tragedy of epic proportion.
"President Obama should have had one central mission when he took office - put Americans back to work! Fight for every job! Because every job is a paycheck and paychecks fuel Americans dreams. Without a paycheck, you can’t take care of your family. Without a paycheck you can’t buy school books for your kids, keep a car on the road or help an aging parent make ends meet.
“The debt we are amassing as a nation and passing on to our children is immoral. It was once said that we should pass a torch to the next generation. Instead, we are passing on an unpaid bill. Throwing more money at our problems is not the answer.”
MANCHESTER, N.H. Prospective Republican presidential contender Sarah Palin will continue her "One Nation" tour beyond Washington, D.C., and the New England states.
She said this morning that she plans to take her tour to Iowa and South Carolina, two early voting states.
She made the announcement after having breakfast in Portsmouth with US Senator Kelly Ayotte.
While Palin insisted her visit to the Granite State wasn't a poke in the eye to Mitt Romney as her potential rival held two days of events in New Hampshire, news of her visit trumped coverage of Romney’s formal announcement speech yesterday.
"Palin hits the Seacoast," blared a four-column headline in today's New Hampshire Union Leader.
A story about Romney's speech was relegated to Page A3.
MANCHESTER, N.H. – In the first town hall of his freshly-announced presidential campaign, Mitt Romney this morning continued to offer a sharp critique of President Obama’s handling of the economy.
“Look he’s a nice guy, he’s well spoken - he could talk a dog off a meat wagon - and yet he hasn’t delivered,” the former Massachusetts governor said in a conference room at the University of New Hampshire’s campus here. “We’ve had three years now - at the beginning it was all George Bush - we’re not hearing a lot about George Bush now, by the way, as we’re seeing unemployment at nine percent plus. It went up again today.”
“He can’t keep blaming George Bush,” he added. “This is now his economy.”
It was the first time this year that Romney has faced a group of voters in the unscripted forums that New Hampshire prides itself on. About 100 people showed up to the event, bringing written questions to ask the candidate about issues he has not brought up himself: education, climate change, and abortion.FULL ENTRY
Glen Johnson/Globe Staff
STRATHAM, N.H. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney today publicly launched his second bid for the presidency with an outdoor speech at a farm in the lead primary state of New Hampshire.
1:16 p.m. - "I refuse to believe that America is just another place on the map with a flag," Mitt Romney told the crowd.
"We know we can bring country back," he said, before reprising a line from the movie, "The American President." "I'm Mitt Romney. I believe in America. And I'm running for president of the United States.
The declaration triggered a chorus of "Go, Mitt, Go."
With that, the speech was over.
1:12 p.m. - "Turning around a crisis takes bold action," Mitt Romney declares.
He says he will cap government spending at 20 percent of the budget and "finally, finally" balance the budget.
Then, channeling a famous Democrat, President John F. Kennedy, he says his generation will pass a torch to the next generation "not a bill."
He pledges his primary focus from Day One as president will be job-creation.
"You know, if you want to create jobs, it helps to have actually had a job and I have," he said.
Of course, Romney has joked that he has been unemployed since leaving the governor's office in January 2007.
1:09 p.m. - Unlike President Obama's European-style solutions, Romney is saying he will bring a CEO's acumen to the White House.
He recalls that he balanced the Massachusetts budget without taxes but fails to mention he also jacked up fees for a variety of services.
And, despite criticism from conservatives and some of his presidential contenders, Romney says his Massachusetts health care plan was "a state solution to a state problem."
1:04 p.m. - The speech is not much of a departure from what Mitt Romney has been saying for the past couple years.
Romney says he believes in a country of freedom and opportunity, propelled by entrepreneurship.
He complained that a newly inaugurated President Obama traveled the world, "apologizing" for America.
And he said the president is treating Israel "the same way so many European countries have, with suspicion."
1:01 p.m. - The audience applauds as Mitt Romney delivers the signature line of his announcement speech: "Barack Obama has failed America."
Three years later, he said, jobs are hard to come by, grocery and gas prices are up.
"It breaks my heart to see what is happening to our country," he said.
12:59 p.m. - Mitt Romney is lauding the country's history as a democracy, and a republic, not a monarchy.
"Who is it that rules this great nation?" he said. "You do."
The voters, in 17 months time, will choose who gives the State of the Union speech.
12:56 p.m. - Ann Romney is testfying to her husband as a partner, father, and problem-solver.
"That's why I have all the confidence in the world that this man standing next to me will be the next nominee for the Republican Party and will be the next president of the United States."
12:54 p.m. - Ann and Mitt Romney are taking the stage. She will introduce him.
"Thank-you; very generous," Mitt Romney said to Doug Scamman.
As he has said elsewhere this second campaign, Mitt Romney told the crowd, "Old friends."
12:53 p.m. - Doug Scamman, a former speaker of the New Hampshire House, is now introducing the Romneys.
The Scammans supported John McCain the last time around, and now they are with the proverbial party "next-in-line."
But Doug Scamman is citing Romney's business and civic background as the basis for his support.
"We need somebody in the White House who can work with everybody," Scamman said.
12:50 p.m. - The program is beginning with Stella Scamman saying hello and a 12-year-old leading the Pledge of Allegiance.
12:31 p.m. - Events are running behind schedule, as Mitt and Ann Romney greet their supporters amid a scrum of TV cameras...
12:22 p.m. - Former New Hampshire governor and Bush 41 White House Chief of Staff John Sununu is among those on hand.
12:11 p.m. - It IS a different kind of campaign the second time around.
Mitt Romney emerged the Doug and Stella Scamman's farmhouse clad in an open collar and lacking a suitcoat, and then he and his wife, Ann, made their way not to the stage for his announcement speech, but to a table of crockpots to serve her recipe of chicken-and-bean chili.
"Who wants some chili?" the candidate said as he served up heaping scoops.
12:04 p.m. - Ace campaign photographer Brooks Kraft reports the chili being served in conjunction with the announcement speech is fantastic.
Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom says volunteers had 36 crockpots in the campaign headquarters yesterday to cook chili according to Ann Romney's family recipe.
11:55 a.m. - They've brought the crowd in front of the stage to provide a populist scene for the announcement speech.
Old Romney hands Eric Fehrnstrom, Peter Flaherty, and Russ Schriefer are working through the crowd of supporters and reporters.
Also here is at least one of Mitt Romney's sons, Josh, a father of five who deals in real estate in Utah.
11:40 a.m. - For Republicans who like to criticize President Obama and his use of TelePrompTers, Romney will be speaking from one.
His campaign has also set-up a tripod just below his podium so it can get close-up shots for use in future videos and campaign commercials.
11:18 a.m. - It has been hard to blog from the site, with the wind whipping and the excessive glare from the sun as it jumps in and out of the clouds.
Nonetheless, the report begins: A crowd is assembling at the Scammans' farm, including New Hampshire politicos such as Tom Rath and former Massachusetts supporters including House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones Jr. He brought his father-in-law.
Groups of Romney aides, dressed in blue T-shirts with the campaign slogan "Believe in America" are racing around, completing last-minute preparations.
Mitt Romney was doing a handful a pull-aside interviews beforehand, including with the Fox New Channel's Sean Hannity and ABC News correspondent John Berman, whose network broadcasts over WMUR-TV, the dominant television station in New Hampshire.
Romey is slated to begin speaking about noon.
10:24 a.m. - The bucolic setting at Doug and Stella Scamman's Bittersweet Farm was leavened with blustery conditions in the aftermath of a tornado-laden weather system that blew through Romney's home state overnight.
Campaign workers had erected tents and sunscreens for a chili cookoff following the speech, but they dismantled them to avoid them going airborne.
In a nod to the setting, hay bales ringed the stage, media riser, and even the speaker stands.
Mitt Romney this morning is planning to announce his presidential bid by delivering a forceful speech that continues to criticize President Obama’s handling of the economy.
The former Massachusetts governor and Bain Capital executive will also seek to portray himself as the candidate with the know-how to get the country’s economy back on track.
“When Barack Obama came to office, we wished him well and hoped for the best,” Romney plans to say, according to excerpts of the speech. “Now, in the third year of his four-year term, we have more than promises and slogans to go by. Barack Obama has failed America.”
Democrats, meanwhile, are poised to continue focusing most of their own attacks on Romney, with plans for conference calls and the release of a new video tagging him as a wishy-washy politician. The video, called "Romney: Same Candidate, Different Positions," is being released this morning by the Democratic National Committee.FULL ENTRY
Be sure to return to "Political Intelligence" before noon tomorrow for coverage as Mitt Romney's publicly declares his second campaign for the presidency.
My Globe colleague Matt Viser and I will be on hand at Doug and Stella Scamman's Bittersweet Farm in Stratham, N.H., for the speech and ensuing chili cookoff.
Ann Romney will be offering her signature campaign; does that stack the odds in her favor?
We plan to live-blog the pre-speech activities and announcement itself, wrap up Romney's remarks, and gather video to complement the coverage.
Mitt Romney is publicly announcing his second presidential campaign tomorrow in Stratham, N.H., and he'll get down to work fast.
His campaign committee has announced that he will hold a town hall meeting in Manchester, N.H., on Friday.
It will take place at the University of New Hampshire Manchester Campus at 8:30 a.m.
For anyone who listened to Mitt Romney during his first campaign for president, it’s no surprise that Olympic speedskater Dan Jansen attended the biggest fund-raiser to date for Romney’s second campaign.
Jansen became an international sports celebrity with his example of picking himself up after defeat and pushing on to victory.
It’s an example the former Massachusetts governor hopes to emulate starting tomorrow, when he publicly kicks off his 2012 White House bid.
MILFORD, N.H. Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty today denounced the federal stimulus program, even though under his leadership his state benefited from billions of dollars of the federal aid.
During his first trip New Hampshire as an official candidate for president, the Republican also said for the first time that he could support Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan’s plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program.
Pawlenty said he would publish his own plan with some differences, but, he said, “If that was the only bill that came to my desk and I wasn’t able to pass my own plan, I would sign it.”
Senator Scott Brown pushed a multi-pronged approach to job creation today in an op-ed column for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
The Massachusetts Republican called for congressional approval of trade agreements, boosting education, and promoting job re-training are all elements of the plan.
"This year, I have worked across the aisle on a targeted approach to boost our economy," Brown wrote. "As your senator, and a member of the Senate’s Manufacturing Task Force, I will continue to look for common sense economic policies that help create jobs. With the passage of these trade agreements, we can start to tear down some of the barriers holding us back."
WASHINGTON Representative Barney Frank helped his then-companion land a job at mortgage giant Fannie Mae in the early 1990s at the same time Congress was writing legislation to improve oversight of the lender, according to New York Times reporter Gretchen Morgenson, who recently wrote a book examining the financial crises.
Frank was a member of the House Financial Services Committee in 1991 when he "actually called up the company and asked them to hire his companion, who had just gotten an MBA from the Amos Tuck School of Business," Morgenson said during a recent appearance on National Public Radio.
"Of course the company was happy to provide a job for his companion and rolled out the red carpet in a series of interviews with a variety of executives, and it ultimately did hire the man," she said. "And he stayed there for I believe seven years."
The Massachusetts Senate has begun debate on its version of the budget proposed for the state's 2012 fiscal year, which begins on July 1.
The Legislature has provided a link to watch live.
Governor Deval Patrick, House leaders and, now, Senate leaders have proposed their respective spending plans.
The House subsequently passed its budget, and now it's the Senate's turn.
Once a plan is approved, House and Senate leaders will appoint members to a conference committee that will be charged with reconciling differences between the plans.
At that phase, Patrick, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, and Senate President Therese Murray will help shape the outcome.
HENNIKER, N.H. Former New York Governor George Pataki today kicked off a New Hampshire advertising campaign aimed at pressuring President Obama and Republican presidential candidates to address the mounting national debt.
“President Obama has the worst fiscal record of any president in the history of our country,” Pataki said, speaking to around 65 people at New England College. “This year, we’ll have the largest deficit than in any year in the history of our country. …It’s not sustainable.”
In a companion interview with the Globe, Pataki said he was reconsidering his decision not to seek the 2012 GOP presidential nomination out of concern over government spending.
WASHINGTON — Americans have been pessimistic about the direction of the country for more than two years, yet a vast majority has been consistently happy and satisfied with their own lives during that time, according to polling results published by the Associated Press.
Pollsters often ask voters if they feel the country is on the right track or the wrong track.
Political experts often cite the right track/wrong track results as a measure of the mood of the nation. For example, in an AP poll conducted earlier this month, 45 percent of voters surveyed said the country is on the right track; 52 percent said America is going in the wrong direction. Those pessimistic results are actually an improvement over a year ago, when just 35 percent thought America was going in the right direction. In October 2008, just 17 percent thought America was on the right path.
But little-noted results from the series of AP polls suggest that the level of personal happiness in America has stayed remarkably stable through the recession and the painfully slow economic recovery.
Asked to “think about how things are going in your life in general,” 81-one percent of respondents this month reported being “very” or “somewhat” happy; just 14 percent said they were personally unhappy. Those numbers are virtually identical to results from a year ago, when 80 percent were happy and 14 percent unhappy. In fact, multiple surveys throughout the past two years show a remarkable consistency in the level of happiness in America, with the numbers rarely straying from the polls’ normal margin of error.
Mark Arsenault can be reached at email@example.com.
LAS VEGAS – Mitt Romney, while clearly buoyed by the $10.25 million his supporters raised today, is nonetheless not ready to rule out what could become another potent financial weapon in his all-but-certain presidential run: tapping into his own personal wealth.
“That’s counsel I’m going to keep with Ann and myself, and that’s all,” he said, referring to his wife. “So I can’t give you any more update than that. We’re just going to keep that to our own counsel.”
The decision could be significant, not only on Romney's pocketbook but also on the contours of the race. During the former Massachusetts governor’s 2008 presidential campaign, he used $42 million of his own funds. One of Romney’s potential rivals -- Jon Huntsman Jr., who comes from a wealthy family – has already ruled out self-financing his campaign.
“If we were to get in the race – no self-financing,” Huntsman told reporters recently in South Carolina. “Unless you can raise it legitimately, you’re not going to win.”
In announcing today that he would not seek the Republican presidential nomination, Donald Trump made clear that for all his sound and fury, he prefers to make money above solving political problems.
"I have spent the past several months unofficially campaigning and recognize that running for public office cannot be done half-heartedly," he said in a statement. "Ultimately, however, business is my greatest passion and I am not ready to leave the private sector."
Weeks earlier, Trump hinted at his priorities in a less-polished fashion, as he visited New Hampshire with all the atmospherics of a traveling carnival.
"Mitt Romney, Belmont, Mass." penned a Letter to the Editor that appeared in today's Wall Street Journal, responding to a scathing editorial on the newpaper's conservative editorial page the day before.
In it, Romney sought to address some criticisms of the universal health care law he signed while governor of Massachusetts, a measure the Journal had argued raised questions about his fitness to be president.
The 2006 Massachusetts law became the template for the federal universal health care law signed last year by President Obama, which the Journal and others deride as "ObamaCare."
"While I have had my disagreements with the Journal's editorial board, where we find common ground is on the need to repeal ObamaCare and replace it with reforms that empower states to craft their own solutions," Romney wrote. "A one-size-fits-all plan that raises taxes and ignores the very real differences between states is the wrong course for our nation."
WASHINGTON -- The US House of Representatives passed legislation today to expand offshore gas and oil exploration to New England coastal waters and other areas where drilling is now banned.
The measure, which passed 243-179, is unlikely to advance beyond the House and would garner a veto from President Obama regardless. But the legislation highlights how energy and fuel prices have become one of the biggest political battlegrounds in the sharply divided Congress.
The bill makes no bones about its intent. Entitled the “Reversing President Obama's Offshore Moratorium Act,” the legislation countered a seven-year moratorium President Obama imposed last year on new offshore drilling. The bill would require the federal government to offer offshore leases in areas believed to have substantial oil and natural gas reserves.
“This legislation ensures that the Obama Administration can no longer withhold valuable energy resources necessary to increase American energy production here at home,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican, said in a statement. Cantor was among nine House members who didn’t vote on the bill.FULL ENTRY
J.D. Pooley/Getty Images
ANN ARBOR, Mich. Mitt Romney this afternoon tried to rebut conservative criticisms of his Massachusetts health care law as he called for abolishing President Obama’s national plan and replacing it with a new, more state-based reform of the US health care system.
In his first and perhaps most significant policy speech of his budding presidential campaign, he gave the strongest defense to date of his signature Massachusetts health care plan.
“A lot of pundits around the nation are saying that I should just stand up and say this whole thing was a mistake, that it was a boneheaded idea and I should just admit it, it was a mistake, and walk away from it,” Romney said. “And I presume that a lot of folks would conclude that if I did that, that would be good for me politically. But there’s only one problem with that: it wouldn’t be honest. I, in fact, did what I believed was right for the people of my state.”
ANN ARBOR, Mich. The topic: health care. The concern: It could undermine Mitt Romney's run for president. A key critic: The Wall Street Journal. The response: A speech and a PowerPoint presentation.
That was the tack the former Massachusetts governor took today as he tried to address a key vulnerability in his expected presidential campaign. But it's also the exact tack Romney took in 2006, while he still was governor, as he geared up for his first White House campaign.
In each instance, he tried to mollify conservative critics who argued universal health care cut against their free-market and libertarian beliefs.
The following article was published in The Boston Globe on April 26, 2006:
Check "Political Intelligence" at 2 p.m. for a live stream of the health care speech being delivered today by expected Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney.
Senator John F. Kerry in joining Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino in seeking answers today about cable rate increases in the city.
Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet, wrote to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski for a report on rate changes in Boston and other Massachusetts towns.
“I hope to ascertain whether rate hikes are specific to Boston or systemic, if the hikes are justified, and what the factors are that can effectively check those rate hikes,” the Massachusetts Democrat wrote.
Menino has petitioned the FCC for the right to regulate cable rates after a city-funded study found that monthly rates had gone up 60 percent in the last three years. The city lost its ability to set cable prices in 2002.
Comcast claims its rates are fair, and that satellite TV services, free broadcast TV, and the city’s second cable provider, RCN Telecom Services LLC, makes for a “highly competitive’’ market in Boston.
“We believe we continue to offer the most affordable options and best values for consumers,” the company has said in a statement.
Theo Emery can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @temery.
Mary Beth Cahill, once Senator Edward M. Kennedy's chief of staff, has been named director of the United Auto Workers' Washington office, as well as director of its UAW Community Action Program.
In both jobs, she will oversee the UAW’s political program nationally. She will also serve as a senior adviser to UAW President Bob King.
Cahill formerly served as assistant to the president and director of the Office of Public Liaison in the Clinton White House, as well as Kennedy's chief of staff and director of Senator John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign.
She also spent five years at EMILY’s List, a PAC that supports female candidates and supports abortion rights.
“We are thrilled to have Mary Beth join the UAW leadership team especially in light of the difficult challenges ahead for our union,” King said in a statement. "As we navigate the tough political environment in this era of attacks on American working families and the middle class, and head into national contract talks for the domestic automakers, I’m confident that she will help us elect officeholders who are allies in the battle to save the American middle class."
Cahill is a Massachusetts native and the daughter of a UAW autoworker. She graduated from Emmanuel College with a degree in English and political science, and held a fellowship at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in 2005.
WASHINGTON -- Likely presidential candidate Mitt Romney this morning said President Obama deserved to be credited with an “enormous success” for overseeing the mission that killed Osama bin Laden.
“We’ll all remember where we were when Osama bin Laden was finally killed,” Romney told reporters this morning, according to an NECN video. “I congratulate the president, the intelligence community, our military. It’s an extraordinary accomplishment.”
“The bad guy took one in the eye,” he added.
Romney, who is considering vying for the role of occupying the Oval Office, was also eager for some more behind-the-scenes details.
“I look forward to hearing more,” Romney said. “How did we find out where he was located? What sources of intelligence were developed over the years? How many blind allies did they have to pursue until they finally found this guy?”
MILWAUKEE At least one Massachusetts labor leader wants Wisconsin Democrats to know Governor Deval Patrick is a union friend despite their own political spat back in the Bay State this week.
Just before the governor addressed a Democratic dinner in Milwaukee, Massachusetts AFL-CIO President Robert Haynes issued a statement defending Patrick against possible criticism after the Massachusetts House voted this week on a budget that sought to change health insurance programs for municipal workers.
Patrick has filed his own cost-saving proposal, and both he and Senate President Therese Murray have withheld commenting on the details of the House budget.
Glen Johnson / Globe Staff
MANCHESTER, N.H. Mitt Romney pulled out his own credit card and spent $38.52 today to fill up the Ford Escape owned by aide Will Ritter, before he blamed high gasoline prices on the country's inability to generate a sufficient supply of energy.
The prospective Republican presidential contender said the Obama administration's reliance on creating green technologies and renewable energy supplies is commendable, but it has also caused price increases because of the expectation that supply of existing fuels will not increase.
He called for more oil drilling and natural gas pipelines, as well as coal production.
MANCHESTER, N.H. – New Hampshire Democrats are preemptively attacking likely presidential candidate Mitt Romney hours before he makes his second public appearance of the year in this crucial first-in-the-nation primary state.
The state Democratic Party this afternoon criticized the former Massachusetts governor for, among other things, planning a campaign appearance this afternoon at a gas station here. The Democrats pointed to a 2-cent-per-gallon increase in a gasoline fee that was implemented in 2003 the Bay State when Romney was governor. The special fee, assessed on gasoline companies and aimed at cleaning up contamination around underground fuel storage tanks, was raised from 0.5 cents per gallon to 2.5 cents per gallon.
To drive home the point, state Democrats released a map showing all New Hampshire gas stations that border Massachusetts. The map is called “Last Stop Before the Romney Gas Tax.”
Governor Deval Patrick said this morning he believes he and leading lawmakers will “find our way to something” on an expanded gambling bill, but “we’re not there yet.”
Patrick said he, House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, and Senate President Therese Murray continue to negotiate on the issue that ended in finger-pointing last year when the sides failed to reach agreement on bringing casinos to the state, which they all said they supported.
DeLeo, nonetheless, held out for slot machines at the state's four racetracks.
Jim Wilson/Globe Staff
Listening to Donald Trump yesterday, speaking caustically and bombastically against the backdrop of a gleaming helicopter emblazoned with the name "Trump," I was struck by the contrast between him and the late Senator Paul Tsongas.
The Massachusetts Democrat announced his candidacy for the presidency 20 years ago Saturday, on April 30, 1991, and the approaching anniversary had prompted me to reminisce in recent weeks about the first White House campaign I covered.
The difference between Tsongas and Trump could not be more pronounced.
WASHINGTON - British Petroleum’s billion-dollar increase in profits during the first three months of this year has added further fuel to partisan debate in Congress over energy policy and tax breaks for oil companies.
A year ago, BP’s Macondo well exploded and toppled into the Gulf of Mexico, triggering one of the worst oil spills in the nation’s history. The company’s announcement today that it had earned $1.1 billion more in profits in the first quarter of this year than the same period in 2010 earned sharp criticism from US Representative Edward J. Markey of Malden. ConocoPhillips also announced about $1 billion more in profits over that period last year.
“When BP makes billions in profits, even after the year they just had, you know it’s time to cap the gusher of tax breaks that have been subsidizing the biggest oil companies for decades,” said Markey, the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee.
Live by the op-ed, die by the op-ed.
Expected Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney learned that today, when he made an apparent gaffe in what has become the favored form of communication in his carefully choreographed pre-campaign run-up: the newspaper op-ed column.
The former Massachusetts governor found that when you virtually limit your media exposure to written columns, as opposed to unrestricted media questions, you can control your message but you also leave no one else to blame when there's trouble.
President Obama didn't exactly blame the American people for missing the point last night as his poll numbers have plunged, but he did state they have been so focused on their daily lives they haven't focused deeply enough on the broader, more thematic underpinnings of the great recent congressional debates.
Addressing a star-studded fundraiser audience at the Tavern restaurant in Los Angeles that included actors Tom Hanks and George Clooney, Obama said he expected the majority of voters to end up siding with him when they focus their attention on the candidates, the policies they propose, and their personal values during next year's campaign.
Massachusetts listeners can't but hear the echoes of the "values" focus that Governor Deval Patrick offered during his successful reelection campaign last fall, and which he has continued amid his recent book tour.
Governor Deval Patrick, pressed about his aspirations for higher
office during an appearance on national television today, said he would
not run against US Senator Scott Brown, even if President Obama urged
him to do so.
"That conversation is not going to happen, and I've been very clear I
do not want to serve in the United States Senate," Patrick said during
a five-minute interview with Matt Lauer on the "Today" show.
Patrick was appearing on the show to promote his memoir, and Lauer,
who introduced the governor as a "rising star," asked several times
whether the book was a precursor to a run for national office. Patrick
insisted it was not.
Expected Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney wants President Obama to personally meet with officials from Standard & Poor's after the financial agency maintained the country's AAA bond rating on Monday but downgraded its long-term outlook from "stable" to "negative."
“If you will, they downgraded the Obama presidency," Romney said today during an interview on the San Diego-based “Mark Larson Show."
"In my own view, this is not something to be laughed off as the president’s people seem to be doing. The president really ought to personally sit down and meet with S&P. I did that when I was governor (of Massachusetts); I met with the ratings agencies and talked about our future and tried to instill confidence in our future because, look, how they rate our debt and how they rate our future as a nation will affect the interest costs that we end up paying and will affect homeowners and borrowers all over the country," said Romney.
Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar is coming to Boston tomorrow to make an undisclosed announcement related to the Cape Wind offshore wind energy project.
He will appear at 10:30 a.m. at Pier 1 of the Charlestown Navy Yard along with Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Richard K. Sullivan Jr. and and Cape Wind Associates Vice President Dennis Duffy.
Cape Wind is proposed for federal waters nearly five miles off Cape Cod. Over 100 generators spread across 25 square miles of Nantucket Sound would produce up to 468 megawatts of power.
U.S. Representative John Tierney wants an end to government tax breaks and loopholes that he says cost the government billions of dollars a year, and is hoping that fiscal conservatives will join him in the effort.
The Salem Democrat plans to file legislation in coming weeks called the Tax Equity and Middle Class Fairness Act of 2011 which would end over two dozen so-called “tax expenditures” which divert revenues out of treasury coffers.
Those expenditures include subsidies, tax credits, exclusions and exemptions for individuals and corporations that are difficult to root out of the tax code.
While Tierney calculates that there are some 250 such expenditures in all, the bill targets only about 30 of them; the General Accounting Office would review the rest and report to Congress.
“We found what we though were some obvious ones that we could address in the short term,” he said.
The legislation, which is still being finalized and does not yet have co-sponsors, would eliminate tax breaks for oil, gas and coal companies; write-offs for corporate meals and entertainment; and agribusiness and timber subsidies.
Tierney said that he hopes deficit hawks among House Republicans will join him in the effort, although he doesn’t have any commitments yet.
“I would hope that we’ve get some support on the fiscally conservative side, because it certainly is as fiscally conservative a measure as anything that’s going to be proposed on that,” he said.
Columbia University economics professor Joseph E. Stiglitz, a former chief economist for the World Bank who joined Tierney on a conference call about the legislation, said that the current debate the proposal is timely amid ongoing debate over spending and the deficit.
“Now that the budget issue has come to the fore, this is precisely a good time to address this long-standing problem in our whole fiscal situation,” he said.
Theo Emery can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @temery.
Senator Scott Brown is taking a tour tomorrow of XL Hybrids, a Somerville-based company that converts standard gasoline engines into hybrids.
The tour will occur from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.
Afterward, Brown will hold a press conference to discuss his proposed legislation for reducing energy costs.
President Obama's deficit-reduction speech wasn't just about numbers but what kind of country America will become, Governor Deval Patrick said this morning during an appearance on ABC's "This Week" news program.
While Republicans have criticized the partisan nature of last week's address, in which Obama proposed cutting $4 trillion over 12 years, Patrick said the critics glossed over its overarching theme.
“It’s a fiscally responsible but also mutually responsible kind of community, and I support that," the governor told host Christiane Amanpour.
Brian Blanco for The Boston Globe
ORLANDO Former Governor Mitt Romney this morning criticized President Obama’s deficit reduction plan as “deceptive and intellectually dishonest,” but largely strayed from outlining what his own proposals would look like.
He also did not fully embrace the House Republican plan to curb spending in the cherished entitlement programs Medicaid and Medicare, saying at one point that “it’s essential for us to protect Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security as safety nets for the American people.”
Republican presidential candidates have struggled to discuss both the desire to cut spending, and whether those cuts should include the politically popular entitlement programs that make up the largest chunk of spending. Romney said he supported Representative Paul Ryan for bringing the ideas forward.
“I applaud the fact that we are now talking about this issue,” Romney said, in his first public appearance since announcing on Monday that he was forming a presidential exploratory committee. “Chairman Ryan’s plan is not identical, I don’t imagine, to what I’ll be putting forward in a campaign that will potentially go forward. But it’s the right step. We’re on the same page, to put this agenda out there and talk about spending restraint.”
WASHINGTON -- U.S. Representative Edward J. Markey accused the Nuclear Regulatory Commission today of concealing inspection results at U.S. nuclear power plants and limiting the scope and length of reactor inspections.
In a letter to commission Chairman Greg Jaczko, the Malden Democrat protested what he said were limits on inspectors checking U.S. nuclear reactors in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that badly damaged the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan.
“We should stand prepared to learn from the catastrophe in Japan and plan ahead to address what was unforeseen but occurred anyway, rather than attempting to hide our vulnerabilities from public view,” he wrote.
Commission spokeswoman Prema Chandrathil said the ongoing review of safety at U.S. plants goes "far beyond" physical inspections at plants, and is looking for problems other than just design flaws. Moreover, she said, a report on safety at U.S. plants will be made public at the end of a lengthy review process.
While some findings at plants are generally not made public because of post-Sept. 11 security measures, she said the commission always takes action when warranted.
“In response to the events in Japan, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will take any regulatory action deemed necessary, she said.
After last month’s disaster, the commission announced increased inspections of all U.S. nuclear plants to ensure their safety. It has also sent inspectors to aid Japanese authorities.
Markey alleged that the commission’s review of domestic plants is inadequate, and conceals vital information from the public. Inspectors are limited to 40 hours for single-reactor plants and 50-60 hours for multi-reactor plants, according to Markey, which is not enough to full inspect plants.
In addition, inspectors were initially not allowed to look for safety vulnerabilities to unanticipated catastrophic events, he claimed. An outcry from inspectors allowed them to do so, but they were not permitted to note them in writing, putting them instead in a secret database and shielding them from public scrutiny, he said.
“The fact that they plan to keep the most serious vulnerabilities secret raises questions about whether the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is more interested in public relations than public safety,” Markey said.
Markey, who has held his seat since 1976, cast his 20,000 vote yesterday on the House floor.
Theo Emery can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @temery.
Glen Johnson/Globe Staff
HOOKSETT, N.H. With a 22-person media contingent outside, and only a handful of prospective voters inside, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour wasn't trying to conceal the message he was sending to New Hampshire voters as he wound down his first visit of the year as a prospective presidential contender.
I'm one of you, he said with deeds as much as words nonetheless spoken with a Southern drawl.
Glen Johnson/Globe Staff
MANCHESTER, N.H. Who knew?
Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour claimed a New England connection this morning as he confessed to being a Boston Red Sox fan on the strength of his longtime friendship with a former team catcher.
Stopping by a frequent political haunt, the Chez Vachon on the west side of Manchester, Barbour told a table that included Mayor Ted Gatsas that he played on a two-time state high school championship team with future Red Sox player Jerry Moses.
Glen Johnson/Globe Staff
BOW, N.H. Southern charm collided with Yankee skepticism last night as Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour made his first visit of the year to New Hampshire as a prospective presidential candidate.
With his trademark drawl and affable demeanor, Barbour worked a crowd of about 30 people at the home of former New Hampshire Republican Party chairwoman Jayne Millerick, introducing himself by saying simply, "Hi, I'm Haley."
(See my earlier post here.)
Then he was peppered with questions about everything from his views on spending cuts and entitlement reform to US intervention in Libya, as voters in the lead presidential primary state upheld their tradition as vetters-in-chief of would-be commanders-in-chief.
Glen Johnson/Globe Staff
BOW, N.H. Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour tonight told an audience in the lead presidential primary state of New Hampshire he would offer "casual, comfortable, plainspoken commonsense" if he decided to seek the Republican nomination.
He argued that the American people "are tired of happy talk," and need straight information about cutting government spending while also resisting the temptation to raise taxes.
He pledged a decision about his candidacy by the end of the month, as he kicked off a two-day trip that was his first to the state this year.
WASHINGTON Expected Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney immediately pounced on President Obama’s deficit-cutting proposal, saying it didn’t go far enough and relied too heavily on tax increases.
“President Obama’s proposals are too little, too late,” Romney said in a statement released minutes after Obama today finished his speech outlining his plan. “Instead of supporting spending cuts that lead to real deficit reduction and true reform of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, the President dug deep into his liberal playbook for ‘solutions’ highlighted by higher taxes.”
Obama proposed a menu of options to reduce the deficit, including cuts in defense spending, an overhaul of the tax system, and an end to Bush-era tax cuts for wealthier Americans. The plan would lower the deficit by about $4 trillion over a dozen years.
Obama’s proposal comes in response to a House Republican plan that would cut $5.8 trillion in spending over the next decade. That plan would allow the Bush tax cuts now set to expire in 2012 to be extended indefinitely, and Republicans have opposed any proposal to end the tax break.
"With over 20 million people who are unemployed or who have stopped looking for work, the last thing we should be doing is raising taxes on job-creators, entrepreneurs, and small business owners across America,” Romney said in his statement.
House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, setting up a fight with unions, today proposed a $30.5 billion annual state budget that cuts more deeply than Governor Deval Patrick’s proposal and goes further than the governor to strip local public employees of their right to bargain over health care.
House leaders said their plan would cut $94 million more than Patrick’s proposal unveiled in January, and would represent the biggest year-to-year cut in state spending in two decades. The Senate still has not released its proposed budget.
State leaders are grappling with the loss of $1.5 billion in federal stimulus funds and a shaky economic recovery.
Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images
During the 2004 presidential campaign, Senator John Kerry thought so highly of Senator John McCain that the Democratic presidential nominee broached the idea of joining forces with the Arizona Republican on a bipartisan White House ticket.
McCain politely declined, swallowed his pride, and made up that year with George W. Bush, who had savaged him during the 2000 GOP South Carolina primary en route to the presidency.
Bush ended up beating Kerry for a second term.
Governor Deval Patrick endured some friendly ribbing about the state’s health care law and his political future from Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show” last night. But Patrick mostly stuck to script and let Stewart make the jokes.
Poking fun at the governor’s declaration that he is guided by conviction and idealism, Stewart said, “This politics of conviction, this idealism, have you ever thought of giving those up to run for national office?”
“I’m not running for anything else,” Patrick said, laughing. “But I haven’t given up those ideals and those values for any job.”
“I look forward to the system corrupting you,” Stewart quipped.
“Not gonna happen,” Patrick shot back in his 8-minute spot on the show, which he flew to New York to tape.
Patrick’s appearance was part of a flurry of national media appearances he is making over the next two weeks to sell his memoir, “A Reason To Believe.”
Mitt Romney tonight pushed back against those in his party who are questioning President Obama's citizenship, suggesting his fellow Republicans should put their energy into more substantive issues.
"The citizenship test has been passed," Romney said tonight on CNBC's Kudlow Report. "I believe the president was born in the United States. There are real reasons to get this guy out of office...but his citizenship isn't the reason why."
Several prominent Republicans including Donald Trump and Sarah Palin have once again tried to stoke controversy by questioning Obama's citizenship even though his birth in Hawaii has been confirmed by officials in the state.
Amid all the fluff and confection of presenting Mitt Romney with cakes celebrating today's fifth anniversary of the Massachusetts universal health care law, state Democrats also produced a video with some meat on its bones.
"Thank You Mitt" contains clips of Romney, then the Bay State's governor, touting the law during appearances on the Fox News Channel and, gasp, MSNBC back in 2006.
The most potentially problematic comment is Romney claiming he "authored" the measure, since many of his fellow conservatives view the law as a precursor to the federal universal health care law enacted last year by President Obama.
Former Massachusetts Governor William F. Weld, the Republican who launched a 16-year period of GOP rule on Beacon Hill, favored an expression apparently shared by Mitt Romney, the former governor who concluded their party's era of State House control.
"Revenge is a dish best served cold," Weld would say, quoting a phrase used in everything from the French novel "Mathilde" to "The Godfather" and "Star Trek II."
In announcing his presidential exploratory committee in a deliberately understated way, Romney declared his intentions on his terms and in his own tone with a variety of messages for an array of audiences.
David L. Ryan, Globe Staff
Northeast Democrats will be at their most creative today and tomorrow, as they aim to tweak Republican Mitt Romney in conjunction with the fifth anniversary of the Massachusetts universal health care law.
New Hampshire Democrats are sending out an email at 9 a.m. today, urging their supporters to flood Romney's official Twitter handle, @MittRomney, with thanks and congratulations for a piece of legislation that is anathema to many of his fellow conservatives across the country.
The 2006 Massachusetts law, signed while Romney was governor of the state, became the model for the 2010 federal universal health care law signed by President Obama, the Democrat he hopes to face in next year's presidential race.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is delivering the inaugural Alan D. Solomont Lecture at Tufts University today.
The California Democrat, who served as the first female speaker of the House, planned to reflect on her career and the importance of public service during a 2 p.m. address in the school's Cohen Auditorium.
This lecture is part of the 10th anniversary celebration of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service.
Senate President Therese Murray vowed today to take swift action on Governor Deval Patrick's proposal to overhaul the state's health care finance system, breaking with House Speaker Robert DeLeo, who wants to delay action until later this year or next year.
During a speech before the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, Murray said "I agree with the governor that something has to be done soon," and added that "we are getting close ... we are going to do this."
Murray did not offer a specific timeline, but said the Senate would act "in the near future," unlike the House, which she said is proceeding more slowly because a key committee leader is new in the job and lacks experience in such complex policy.
She was referring to Representative Steven Walsh, the new co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing.
Former US Representative William Delahunt has joined the Boston office of a Pittsburgh-based law firm as special counsel.
Eckert Seamans Cherin and Mellott LLC announced Monday the Quincy Democrat started Friday and will "provide strategic counsel to firm clients on complex regulatory issues such as healthcare, financial services, and energy and environmental matters."
"After serving in the House for 14 years, Bill Delahunt brings to Eckert Seamans incomparable insight and connections at the busy intersection of business and politics, as well as insight, experience, and seasoned judgment to our clients and their business affairs," Timothy P. Ryan, the firm's chief executive officer, said in a statement.
Last month, the Mashpee Wampanoag Indian tribe announced Delahunt will represent the group and its interests including its ongoing efforts to host casino gambling at the state and federal level.
Delahunt stepped down in January as 10th District congressman. Previously, he served as Norfolk district attorney.
Tax collections in Massachusetts totaled $1.774 billion last month, an increase of $149 million, or 9.2 percent, from the same month a year ago, the Department of Revenue announced today.
Revenues also were $164 million above the revised March monthly benchmark set in January.
March is the largest corporate and business excise tax collection month of the year.
All told, year-to-date tax collections three quarters through the 2011 fiscal year totaled $14.354 billion.
That is an increase of $1.169 billion, or 8.9 percent, from the same period a year ago.
It's also $145 million above the revised FY11 year-to-date benchmark, according to the statement.
State officials agreed in January to a revised FY11 revenue estimate of $19.784 billion.
A link to the full release and attachments is here.
NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Likely presidential candidate Mitt Romney this afternoon toured a depressed neighborhood besieged by foreclosed homes as he continued trying to criticize President Obama’s handling of the economy.
Romney so far has staked his budding presidential bid on economic concerns, but new upticks in the unemployment rates could complicate his case.
“I’m afraid some people are becoming conditioned to unemployment rates above 8 percent,” Romney said today. “Unemployment should be around 4 percent or less. And the idea that we celebrate 8.8 percent, I’m glad for the progress, but my goodness, we’ve got a lot of people out of work.”
Governor Deval Patrick is holding a meeting with his Council of Economic Advisers after Monday's usual meeting of the State House leadership team.
According to a schedule released this afternoon, the governor is participating in Brockton’s 12th Annual Youth Summit at 10 a.m. tomorrow at Massasoit Community College.
At 12:45 p.m., Patrick is attending the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Salvation Army’s Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center on Dudley Street in Dorchester.
On Monday, the governor's public schedule calls for a 3 p.m. meeting in his office with Senate President Therese Murray and House Speaker Robert DeLeo.
At 5 p.m., he meetings with the economic council.
WASHINGTON — US Senator John Kerry misspoke yesterday in saying that the Internet giant Google was on-board with the senator’s efforts to craft an Internet privacy bill, his office said this morning.
The Massachusetts Democrat has discussed the bill with Google officials but those talks are still ongoing, according to Kerry’s office.
Kerry’s Internet privacy bill has been in the works for months. The official language has not been released, but the goal of the bill is to give consumers more say in how their on-line browsing habits are recorded and used by advertising companies.
Companies on-board with the legislation include eBay, Intel, Microsoft, and HP, Kerry’s office said this morning. Talks with Facebook are also ongoing.
A Google spokesperson declined to comment today.
Mark Arsenault can be reached at email@example.com.
Expected Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney today accused President Obama of inattention to job creation.
The Democratic National Committee responded by criticizing Romney's job creation record while governor of Massachusetts, as well as job losses in the aftermath of corporate acquisitions while he ran Bain Capital
In an op-ed piece appearing in USA Today, Romney called for tax polices that reward savings, investment, entrepreneurial risk-taking, and exports; free, open, and fair access to foreign markets; elimination of what he termed "the federal bureaucratic and regulatory stranglehold on business"; and budget restraints and entitlement reform.FULL ENTRY
A Harvard University poll released this morning found President Obama's approval rating rising among the so-called "Millennials" or "Generation Y" that spans from 18 to 29 years old.
The president had an approval rating of 55 percent, up 6 percentage points from a similar survey last fall. Both were conducted by Harvard’s Institute of Politics, which is part of the John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Among students at four-year college campuses, Obama's approval rating rose even more, from 51 percent last fall to 69 percent now.
In a final warning to Congress, the outgoing watchdog for the Troubled Asset Relief Program said today the financial reform legislation that Barney Frank helped shepherd to passage has not ended the threat that banks could require future bailouts.
Neil M. Barofsky, the TARP’s special inspector general, spoke about the Dodd-Frank bill to a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on his last day in the position. He cautioned lawmakers that the nation’s largest banks are “bigger and more concentrated and even more dangerous to the system” than before the 2008 crisis.
“The big ticket question that we’re talking about today, does it solve ‘too big to fail?’” Barofsky said of Dodd-Frank. “The answer is certainly not yet, and by all indications… I’m not entirely optimistic that it will.”
Senator Scott Brown is joining forces with a liberal colleague from Minnesota to form a new U.S. Senate caucus focused on medical technology and device makers, a powerful industry in Massachusetts.
Brown, a Republican, and Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, will co-chair the bipartisan Senate Medical Technology Caucus to focus legislative attention on the medical technology sector, which in Massachusetts includes over 200 medical devices companies and many more biotech and pharmaceutical companies.
“It is critical that we provide a business environment for them to innovate, grow and thrive," Brown said.
Like Massachusetts, Minnesota also has a large medical technology industry -- some 400 medical device companies that support over 50,000 jobs in the state.
David L. Ryan/Globe Staff
Likely Republican presidential contender Tim Pawlenty is headlining an upcoming Tea Party anti-tax rally on Boston Common.
The third annual event, sponsored by the Greater Boston Tea Party, will occur from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on April 15 the tax-filing deadline.
The speech will bring Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, to the home state of a potential rival for the 2012 GOP nomination, Mitt Romney.
It also puts him in a Tea Party spotlight enjoyed last year by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who was the event's 2010 keynote speaker.
"Governor Pawlenty's leadership in Minnesota has put his state on a course towards economic success," said a statement issued by Christin Varley, the group's president. "His is a message voters need to hear."
Also slated to appear is former state Representative Karyn Polito, a Shrewsbury Republican who waged an unsuccessful campaign for state treasurer last fall.
Possible presidential candidate Newt Gingrich will be in Salem tomorrow, addressing a Salem State University audience as part of an annual speaking series.
The Georgia Republican's speech is titled, “Jobs, Economic Growth, and Prosperity: Getting America Moving in the Right Direction.”
Gingrich has been traveling to Iowa, New Hampshire, and other early presidential voting states. He's also announced he's considering forming a presidential exploratory committee, another indication of his potential interest in a campaign.
Massachusetts residents who want to listen to the former House speaker can attend the 8 p.m. event at the O’Keefe Sports Complex on Canal Street for $20, or $10 if they are students at the university.
Noah Bierman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nbierman.
Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff
In 2008, when the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority increased rates at its Boston Common Parking Garage, it noted they remained some of the lowest in town.
Three years later, the authority has decided to increase prices again with the same observation.
But what do the rates at a variety of surrounding, privately held parking garages have to do with the rates at the Common garage, a publicly owned facility? Taxpayers built it, first for the city of Boston, and then floated state bonds to reconstruct it.
Former Republican gubernatorial candidate Charles Baker has made good on his pledge to take a credit union job in addition to his high-flying venture capital position.
Braintree-based Tremont Credit Union announced today that Baker has joined its board of directors.
He formerly spent a decade as president of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, after serving as human services director and budget chief in the Weld and Cellucci administrations.
“Charlie’s consummate blend of business skills, government experience, financial expertise, and regulatory knowledge will provide extraordinary organizational benefits," George Hardiman, chairman of Tremont’s board of directors, said in a statement.
Baker said: "I admire and appreciate the critical role the credit union industry plays in providing accessible and low cost financial services to the people of Massachusetts."
The statement noted Baker is joining Tremont as it strengthens its financial controls after state bank regulators issued critical findings of the bank’s operations last April.
Since then Tremont has changed its board, brought on new executives, and reorganized its loan, sales, and customer service staff.
Board members, including Baker, receive no compensation for their service.
Governor Deval Patrick branded Baker as an out-of-touch business leader during their recent campaign. The Democrat complained his salary had risen at Harvard Pilgrim as consumer premiums increased. Baker pointed to repeated top customer satisfaction ratings the insurer received, as well as his ability to pull it out of state receivership.
While announcing earlier this month he was joining a venture capital firm, Cambridge-based General Catalyst Partners, Baker said he would focus on growing small- to mid-sized companies especially in the health care arena.
At that time, he also said he was considering a credit union board role.
The Tremont Credit Union is open to workers who live or work in Suffolk, Norfolk, and Middlesex Counties, are Massachusetts residents of Latvian heritage, or are affiliated with several community or employer groups including the Boston Public Schools, Boston Children’s Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Amtrak, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, and the Iron Workers Union Local 7.
The Menino administration is disputing US Census figures released today by Secretary of State William F. Galvin that purported to show that Boston lost population during the past decade.
Galvin released the figures this morning at a widely attended State House news conference, where the figures were immediately broadcast by reporters from a number of media outlets.
Moments later, Menino's office reached out to reporters, saying Galvin was mistaken about the Census numbers and that Boston had actually gained population, growing to 617,594 from 589,141, a 4.8 percent increase.
"We are confident that our population continues to grow," said Dot Joyce, a Menino spokeswoman. "Boston is a growing, vibrant city." Joyce said city officials are reviewing the new figures.
The official Census figures are due to be released this afternoon.
The data will be used to determine the shape of legislative districts, as well as to remap the congressional districts in Massachusetts.
Earlier figures already showed that the state would lose one of its 10 congressional districts.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who previously served as the first female speaker of the US House of Representatives, will deliver the inaugural Alan D. Solomont Lecture at Tufts University on April 8.
The California Democrat will reflect on her career and the importance of public service during a 2 p.m. address in the school's Cohen Auditorium, according to a university statement.
This lecture is part of the 10th anniversary celebration of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service.
It is intended to serve as a catalyst for active citizenship at Tufts and is the only university-wide program of its kind. Serving undergraduate, graduate, and professional school students, the goal is to prepare young people to be lifelong active citizens.
Pelosi's speech will be followed by a question-and-answer session with Alan D. Solomont, for whom the lectureship is named.
A prominent Democratic fundraiser and activist from Massachusetts, the former nursing home executive now serves as US ambassador to Spain and Andorra. He also is a member of Tufts' Class of 1970.
Governor Deval Patrick said today he didn't want to "scold" Fidelity Investments for its surprise announcement that it was shutting its Marlborough office and moving 1,100 jobs to Rhode Island and New Hampshire.
Then he did so.
In no uncertain terms, he scolded the famously secretive, family held financial giant as much for its lack of communication preceding the announcement as the content of the announcement itself.
"Let me just also say, there’s a conversation we're going to have to have … that I’ve been trying to have since the first few weeks I’ve been in this job, and it has to do with communication," the governor said. "I can't complete if I don’t know something's at risk.”
It was a risky posture to strike, considering the company has 7,300 workers still in Massachusetts and plenty of clout in the business world. Patrick acknowledged as much.
"Massachusetts has been kind to Fidelity. I know that’s a two-way street, but if we’re going to build on what we have here, then they need to tell me what they need and I need to be able at least to have an opportunity to respond," he said.
The governor added: "I feel disappointed and frustrated."
Fidelity spokeswoman Anne Crowley said the decision was not rooted in a competition that Patrick could have won; rather, it was based on Fidelity's decision to consolidate its real estate holdings during the next two years.
Asked about the company's relationship with the Patrick administration, Crowley said: "We have an ongoing relationship with the state and we are not going to discuss the details of our relationship."
And as to whether she believed Patrick was scolding the company, Crowley said: "It's not my job to comment on his public relations strategy."
The governor addressed the media for the first time since returning to Massachusetts from a 10-day trade mission to Israel and the United Kingdom.
While a British firm announced it would add 50 jobs in Massachusetts, the excursion produced no major business deals and prompted questions about the governor's attention to the homefront in the aftermath of Fidelity's decision to move jobs not to low-cost China or another state with more favorable weather, but primarily to two neighboring states.
“I'm in touch with my Cabinet routinely and was throughout the trip," he said. "This wasn't some disengagement, by the way; I was working for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on this trip, and doing what is on the minds of most folks which is everything we can to try to grow job opportunities here in the commonwealth.”
On the subject of expanded legal gambling, the governor indicated he was willing to discuss the topic after previously saying it was up to the Legislature to advance a proposal. Last year he and House Speaker Robert DeLeo stalemated after he insisted on passing a bill that included slot machines at the state's four racetracks and Patrick declared he would not allow slots but only up to three casinos.
"We’re going to try," Patrick said of him and DeLeo. "I don’t want to spend a lot of my time on this issue and have all the oxygen sucked out of the building when there are so many other things to do, and so I think the speaker and the Senate president and I agree that we should try to have at least some general agreement on the fundamentals before a bill is filed, so we’re not spending all our time on that.”
U.S. Representative Edward J. Markey is comparing the federal government’s loan guarantee program for new nuclear power plants to the much-aligned federal bailout program that bought up bad loans after the 2008 financial collapse.
The Malden Democrat, speaking today at a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing, warned that the loans will put taxpayers on the hook much as the Troubled Asset Relief Program took over defaulted loans after the financial collapse of 2008.
“They’re just like a toxic asset,” Markey said
Energy Secretary Steven Chu was present to testify at the hearing on the department’s 2012 budget, as well as that of the Nuclear Regulatory Agency. Much of the discussion centered on the disaster in Japan, and specifically on the damaged reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.
The president has asked for $36 billion for 2012 to provide loan guarantees, which Chu said would fund six to eight new projects. The administration has already made about $8 billion in loan guarantees available, which will help build a new plant in Georgia.
Committee member Joe Barton, a Texas Republican, asked Chu if the administration still supported nuclear power.
Chu hedged, saying: “The present budget is what it is. We’re asking for loan guarantees, and for small modular reactors.”
“So that’s a yes?” Barton said. “That’s a yes,” Chu responded.
Kim Haberlin/Office of the Governor
Representatives of the University of Massachusetts Human Stem Cell Bank and Registry and the United Kingdom Stem Cell Bank signed an agreement today to share best practices for stem cell banking.
The two parties, acting during part of Governor Deval Patrick's trade mission to Israel and the United Kingdom, also agreed to collaborate on standards for stem cell line characterization, production, and distribution in the US and UK.
The agreement was signed after Patrick met with Glyn Stacey, director of the UK Stem Cell Bank, at the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control in Hertfordshire, England.
It also follows a similar memorandum of understanding signed last week between Massachusetts and Israel for further collaboration in research and development programs between Bay State and Israeli companies.
The UMass Human Stem Cell Bank and Registry and the UK Stem Cell Bank support international research in regenerative and stem cell medicine.
They provide the biomedical research community with expertly derived and maintained human embryonic stem cell lines for fundamental biological investigation and therapeutic applications.
The banks provide high-quality, reliable stem cell lines to researchers working on discovering new therapeutic treatments for diseases such as cancer, juvenile diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s, among others.
Under the agreement, the two banks will identify shared priorities and create models that foster collaboration and cooperation.
Later in the day, the governor visited Granta Science Park in Cambridge to discuss plans to cultivate new investment and partnerships between the Massachusetts and UK life sciences sectors.
As he did last week in Israel, Patrick also hosted a roundtable discussion with researchers and industry leaders at Granta Science Park, where many UK-based life sciences companies are located.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo today proposed a series of steps aimed at reducing the influence lawmakers such as him have over the hiring process at the state Probation Department, whose past practices are now the subject of state and federal criminal investigations.
Only those who exceed a required score would advance, the Winthrop Democrat said, and "recommendation" letters from potential sponsors in the Legislature could only be opened in the final stages of evaluation. Afterward, letters written on behalf of all applicants who get hired would become public records, available for public and media inspection.
DeLeo had previously discussed a hiring process akin to the Civil Service procedure used for other state employees. It, too, requires a test that creates a pool of applicants.
"A job recommendation is a serious matter," DeLeo said of the lawmaker-letters that have sparked criticism but which lawmakers such as him defend as one of their fundamental responsibilities as a public representative. "We all know that a job recommendation from a public official carries weight, and I will be the first to say that all recommendations for successful candidates should be transparent."
A Globe Spotlight report found that the Probation Department had employed at least 250 friends, relatives, and financial backers of politicians and top court officials.
DeLeo himself wrote a letter of recommendation for his godson, who was hired in 2004 and became the youngest probation officer in the state.
In the advance text of his remarks, DeLeo also called for transferring business administration responsibilities for the state's court system from the chief administrative judge to a civilian court administrator with "substantial expertise" in finance and management.
The current chief administrative judge, Robert A. Mulligan, has been alternately lauded and criticized for his oversight of hiring within the Probation Department. It is currently overseen by the Judicial Branch and, in his remarks, DeLeo supported keeping it there rather than transferring oversight to the Executive Branch, as sought by Governor Deval Patrick.
Nonetheless, DeLeo said the courts would benefit from transferring overall oversight for facilities management, personnel management, accounting, capital planning, and information technology from the chief justice for administration and management to a manager who is not a lawyer.
"In separating the judicial and business functions of the court, the chief justices of each of the court departments will properly maintain responsibility for all other core judicial functions, such as monitoring caseload, assigning judges, judicial training, and judicial discipline," said DeLeo.
The speaker said keeping Probation under the judiciary made sense since probation officers are trusted advisers to judges.
The proposal was cheered by the Massachusetts Bar Association.
"The model developed by DeLeo will professionalize court management and operations. Management issues have haunted the courts for too long resulting in a poorly run, inefficient system," the lawyer advocacy agency said.
"The employ of a professionally trained, non-judicial court administrator along with other skilled civilian administrators throughout the Trial Court will bring Massachusetts in line with the country’s leading edge, innovative state court systems," the association added. "Massachusetts’ citizens will be assured that its state’s judges will be performing the judicial tasks that they were selected to perform rather than be bogged down with management functions."
The bar association also endorsed keeping Probation within the Judicial Branch.
Elsewhere in his remarks, DeLeo repeated his vow not to support any new taxes or fees in the House budget about to be unveiled.
He said he would continue to work with Patrick and Senate President Therese Murray on legislation to expand legalized gambling in Massachusetts. A bill last year to create up to three casinos died after DeLeo insisted and Patrick refused to add slot machines at the state's four racetracks.
While Patrick has not changed his position, DeLeo cast the matter as one of financial necessity, saying it is "the quickest way" to offset projected local aid cuts.
He added: "As our economy recovers, we still find ourselves in the midst of a 'blue-collar depression." I routinely hear about unemployment rates of 30 percent, 40 percent, 50 percent at building trade union halls across the state. Given this environment, we have to find a way to create thousands of construction jobs and permanent jobs."
He also pledged that by the time his chamber approves the budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, the House will have approved a bill requiring cities and towns to provide health insurance plans that at least mirror the state's Group Insurance Commission.
"If cities and towns can’t meet or beat the GIC, they will be forced to join it," DeLeo said in his text. "I’ve seen my hometown of Winthrop save $800,000 annually by joining the GIC. If all cities and towns did so, this would collectively save $100 million."
Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts and Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas proposed legislation today that would create a new infrastructure bank to help finance roads, bridges and other projects, an idea that has percolated for years but has never gained widespread support.
"Reliable, modern infrastructure isn't a luxury -- it's the lifeblood of our economy, the key to connecting our markets, moving people, products, information and energy, and the key to generating and sustaining millions of jobs for American workers," he said.
The legislation would provide loans and loan guarantees for bridges, rails, roads and other infrastructure projects through an independent entity called the American Infrastructure Financing Authority, which would be similar to the Export-Import Bank.
The concept is hardly new. Almost 20 years ago, a Congressional commission recommended a similar concept; the chairman of that panel sat in the front row, holding a worn copy of the commission's 1993 report. Lawmakers have pushed similar infrastructure funds over the years, and President Obama promoted it during the 2008 presidential campaign.
But the new proposal is different, Kerry said. With only loans and guarantees, and no grants, the bank will not be a drain on the treasury beyond the original investment. It would also be far smaller than other proposals, reflecting the political reality of the day, he said.
"We have been supersensitive to all of the kinds of hurdles that traditionally this kind of an effort would have to get over," he said. "It will not be appropriated money, because we don't have that money today, because of the debt and deficit we have and the other priortities."
The authority would initially be financed with $10 billion from the federal government but would become self-sustaining, leveraging as much as $640 billion in private funds over 10 years. It would not be allowed to finance more than 50 percent of the costs of projects.
Kerry announced his plans to propose the infrastructure bank last fall, telling the Senate Banking, House and Urban Affairs Committee that "well functioning infrastructure is not a luxury." He reiterated that call in January at a speech at the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress, saying that growth was tied to infrastructure.
Illustrating the breadth of political support for such a plan, the noon press conference include two men who are often adversaries, but occasional allies: U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue and Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO labor federation.
Donohue lamented the nation's decaying transportation infrastructure and its effect on the economy.
"We have a system that’s got to be updated, we’ve got a way to do it, and we came up here today to support the idea of the bank," he said.
Senate Republicans are threatening to hold up White House nominations unless the Senate passes trade deals with Columbia and Panama, but GOP moderates from New England aren’t of the same mind on the matter.
Forty-four Republicans signed a letter today telling Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada that they would block the administration’s nominees for commerce secretary and other positions until the Senate takes up the trade pacts.
Scott Brown of Massachusetts was among those signing the letter, but Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, the two Senators from Maine who have increasingly voted with Brown in a moderate GOP bloc in the Senate, did not sign. The third GOP abstainer was Rand Paul of Kentucky.
Spokespeople for Snowe and Collins did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The letter accused the president of “an apparent lack of interest in seeking approval of these free trade agreements.” Approval of the pacts would be beneficial to American workers, they wrote, and further delay is “unnecessary and inexcusable.”
“So important are these deals to our economy and our relations with these key allies in Latin America that, until the President submits both agreements to Congress for approval and commits to signing implementing legislation into law, we will use all the tools at our disposal to force action, including withholding support for any nominee for Commerce Secretary and any trade-related nominees,” the letter read.
Last week, Obama nominated Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to replace Jon Huntsman as ambassador to China, leaving the commerce chief position vacant and creating the opportunity for another high-profile nomination fight in the Senate.
Governor Deval Patrick's trade mission resumed after a day off, with him convening a meeting of Massachusetts and United Kingdom financial services industry leaders in London today that focused on potential collaborations and job creation ideas.
“To maintain our competitive edge and attract the jobs of tomorrow, we must strengthen our ties to our UK counterparts and find new opportunities for mutual growth," Patrick said in a statement.
A discussion hosted by City of London Corporation in the center of London's financial district included executives such as John Hailer, president & CEO of Natixis Global Asset Management, as well as executives from PricewaterhouseCoopers, State Street Corporation, Citizens Bank, Bain Capital, Putnam Investments, Barclays Bank, and Goldman Sachs International.
Natixis Global Asset Management is a global asset management company headquartered in Boston and Paris with $719 billion of assets under management. Natixis employs 2,800 employees worldwide, including over 1,100 residing in Boston.
The roundtable marked the final forum during the first full day of the second phase of the trade mission. Last week, the governor visited Israel.
On Monday, Patrick and his delegation received a briefing from United States Ambassador to Great Britain Louis Susman.
They also traveled to the London Stock Exchange for an information technology sector roundtable.
Patrick then went US Embassy for a private meeting with Susman, a fellow Chicagoan and major financial backer of President Obama, before re-joining the delegation for a tour of Lloyd's of London and Lloyd's Market.
The delegation also met Lloyd's CEO Richard Ward, as well as Sean McGovern, director of North America.
The state of Massachusetts is making sure former Governor Mitt Romney can't run away from the universal health care program he signed into law, and his opponents can't misrepresent it.
The Health Connector and the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, which are charged with implementing the 2006 legislation, sent out an e-mail Friday containing a Top 10 list of facts about the measure.
One specifically describes the law Romney enacted as the model for the federal universal health care program signed into law by President Obama last year.
It has become the subject of national debate, as Republicans have derided what they term "Obamacare," while Democrats have noted it was modeled on "Romneycare."
The connection is particularly sensitive for Romney, a prospective 2012 GOP presidential candidate, since conservatives whose support he will need in his party's primaries have generally opposed both laws.
Romney has tried to rebuff the criticism by arguing that states should be free to enact their own plans, not be subjected to a single measure imposed by the federal government.
Governor Deval Patrick, a Democrat who is planning to be a surrogate campaigner during Obama's re-election campaign next year, has publicly highlighted the similarities in the measures. Now his administration is echoing the message.
"As much is being written about our landmark 2006 Massachusetts health reform legislation and implementation, we want to make sure you have all the pertinent facts at your disposal," Connector spokesman Dick Powers said in the e-mail.
The No. 6 point says flatly: "Massachusetts health reform provided the model for national reform. Like Massachusetts, the new national law calls for the formation of (health insurance) Exchanges. The Health Connector’s tiering system, which offers consumers a choice of gold, silver or bronze coverage, was also adopted in a slightly expanded way. Like Massachusetts,the national law sets minimum coverage standards and will include benefits like elimination of pre-existing condition exclusions. A number of the benefits in the Massachusetts law are enhanced under national reform, most notably extension of subsidy assistance for individuals from 300 percent to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, extension of federally-subsidized coverage to legal immigrants and extension of insurance protections to self-funded private coverage."
Item No. 7 also touches another hot-button topic: the requirement in the law Romney signed that provides tax penalties for residents who are capable of buying insurance but fail to do so.
"The individual mandate has worked fairly and effectively to expand coverage in Massachusetts," says the fact sheet. "Some 97 percent of the taxpayers are complying with new health reform filing requirements. Furthermore, the Health Connector’s appeals process, which rules on hardship exceptions, has been fair to taxpayers, with a 60-percent approval rate for those who follow through with an appeal."
Powers said the poster was produced in-house, at no additional cost to the taxpayers. The two photos used, he said, came from annual progress reports about the state law.
"It wasn't meant to tweak anyone," said Powers. "One of the frustrating things about
sitting here is watching people on both the left and the right twist information to suit their ideological agenda. With bloggers taking a more active role, it's amazing how quickly bad information can and does spread. This is just our attempt to get the facts out there so the media and eventually their readers and listeners will have the correct facts. With federal reform under the microscope and a presidential election on the horizon, it's logical to assume that more eyes will be cast on what we're doing here."
JERUSALEM Business men and women traveling with Governor Deval Patrick
said they came away with serious prospects and strong relationships, but no deals to announce, as the Israeli portion of the state's trade mission ended today.
Many of the leaders are flying back to Boston, some on commercial airlines, others on private jets. A smaller portion of the delegation is continuing with Patrick to London over the weekend.
Patrick had one more meeting in Israel, with Palestinian Prime Minister Salem Fayyad, before holding meetings in the United Kingdom until Thursday.
Judging the ultimate value of the trip, which will cost $300,000 in public money, will be difficult. Even if deals are reached, it will be hard in many cases to determine whether they were sparked specifically because of the meetings initiated on the trip.
Some delegates gained valuable access to the governor, while Patrick himself cautioned that in a modern economy, success is not necessarily defined by signed contracts, but by building relationships that lead to future deals.
This morning, the Massachusetts delegates held a group discussion to assess what they had accomplished.
Most were gushing with enthusiasm about the similarities between Israel and Massachusetts' technology based economies, but they acknowledged the trip's success will depend on follow-up activity. A few had already set up meetings with Israelis in the states.
Members of Patrick’s staff were working with the delegates to set up online communications and other follow-up activities to better organize the follow-up.
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who has been doing business in Israel for
decades, told fellow New Englanders on the trip that they had "planted seeds" that in some cases could take 10 to 15 years to mature.
He said the trip was essential to understanding the local culture and to building trust with potential Israeli business partners.
Doing business in Israel is rewarding, very complicated, and it requires much more work.
"Life is about execution. You always get people who are fancy talkers," Kraft told the group. But "you can't meet you're payroll with chit-chat."
John Fish, president of Suffolk Construction, had a similar message.
"We in the business community have to respond, to execute when we get done," Fish also said at the wrap-up session.
Fish said he planned to donate scholarships to students from Technion University, known to delegates as the "Israeli MIT," in hopes of building a working relationship with some of the nation's top scholars.
Patrick had announced a joint agreement Thursday with the Israeli government to invest in joint start-up projects between US and Israeli companies. Of the 17 US governors who have visited Israel since 2008, seven have signed such agreements.
At least two companies on the trip said they were closing in on potential deals.
Michael Greeley, a venture capitalist with Flybridge, said representatives from two Israeli start-ups, whom he met on the trip, were meeting with him in Boston next month and that he is “very seriously” looking at investing with them.
Praven Tiperneni, vice president for business development of Cubist, said he may have a deal to announce soon.
Cubist general counsel Tamara Joseph said the deal will only work if it makes financial sense for both parties. The sides had been speaking to each other for some time, but a three-hour meeting Thursday was very productive, she said.
The Mashpee Wampanoag Indian tribe today announced that former US Representative William Delahunt will represent the group and its interests including its ongoing efforts to host casino gambling at the state and federal level.
Delahunt stepped down in January as 10th District congressman. Previously, the Quincy Democrat served as Norfolk district attorney.
He has had a long history of working with the Wampanoags and advocating on their behalf.
The tribe had long pushed for authority to build a casino on land in Middleborough. When that plan stalled, it pushed for legislation to build in Fall River. That subsequently stalled, too, and the tribe has been seeking alternate venues.
In a statement, Tribal Chairman Cedric Cromwell said hiring Delahunt was "a natural extension" of his advocacy.
“Our tribe was fortunate to have him as our congressman, and we are excited to have his voice and continued advocacy on our behalf,"Cromwell said.
Delahunt said: “The history of this tribe’s dealings with our government is replete with bureaucracy, impasse, inertia, and sometimes outright hostility. The tribe has rights as a sovereign nation, and more importantly, treating them with respect and helping them achieve self-sufficiency is simply the right thing to do. I am proud to represent them.”
We used this live blog and tweets @globeglen to provide up-to-the-minute updates about President Obama's visit to TechBoston Academy in Dorchester.
4:06 p.m. - The president just wrapped up. No real rising close, no real oomph. But the kids are still thrilled he came.
4:04 p.m. - This has to be the most pastoral presidential event I have ever covered. Very sober atmosphere, very respectful crowd, very solemn president, despite his jokes.
4:02 p.m. - Obama concedes it will "cost money" to make changes he's proposed, but he immediately segues to budget cuts he has offered as means to support the education programs for which he wants to pay.
"We cannot cut back on job-creating investments, like education," he said. "There's nothing responsible about cutting back in our investment in these young people."
3:57 p.m. - Instead of pouring money "into a broken system," president says, Arne Duncan has launched "Race to the Top," which draws applause. Says if states show good programs, "we'll show you the money."
3:55 p.m. - Students answer with slow "y-e-e-s-s-s" when Obama asks if they come from tough neighborhoods. But then he notes their high achievement rates.
3:53 p.m. - Obama notes each student here gets laptop upon enrolling. They then have to take care of it, and use it to take core math and other classes, including forensic science. President jokes he's not even sure what that is.
3:50 p.m. - President laments USA falling to ninth in nations in terms of proportion with college degree. It used to be first.
3:47 p.m. - Cheer as president explains he came to TechBoston because "you are model of how it's done" for rest of country.
3:45 p.m. - Obama recalls time at Harvard Law and how Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard. Then he started a "modest" computer software company. When kids didn't laugh, president reminded them it was a joke. They laughed at that.
3:43 p.m. - Shriek from students as Obama takes stage.
3:39 p.m. - Melinda Gates says she and "Bill," as in Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, are happy they invested in school nearly a decade ago.
She is recalling excitement among students they just meant at knowing where they are going: to college.
3:37 p.m. - Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Melinda Gates are announced to stage. She is speaking first.
3:34 p.m. - They just announced "the event will begin momentarily."
3:28 p.m. - The president is running more than 15 minutes behind schedule, allowing the Boston city councilors in the room to work the crowd for votes.
Newton Mayor Setti Warren, a potential US Senate candidate, is also in the audience.
3:05 p.m. - Rotor noises above from a State Police helicopter signal the motorcade's arrival at TechBoston. The president was touring a classroom and meeting some students before speaking in the gym.
Former Boston newswoman Rehema Ellis is on-hand to live shots for MSNBC.
2:46 p.m. - There's a lull in the activities as the president tours the school and the audience waits in the gynmasium. It's a relatively small crowd in here, very controlled, unlike more rambunctious campaign events. Still, all the guests appear excited.
2:36 p.m. - HE must almost be here... presidential seal attached to "blue goose" armored presidential lectern.
2:34 p.m. - Two students just led Pledge of Allegiance and did heartfelt rendition of national anthem that left their classmates cheering. Then they hugged each other with ear-to-ear smiles. Nice start.
2:30 p.m. - TechBoston Academy JROTC color guard bringing in American flag.
2:23 p.m. - Inside TechBoston Academy, people being asked to take their seats. Behind podium, banner reads, "Winning the Future," the president's forward-looking slogan since State of the Union. Presidential seal, always a last-minute addition, still not affixed to podium.
President Obama today is following the lead of other Democrats who view Massachusetts as a campaign finance ATM, yet he's hoping the focus will instead be drawn to a high-profile visit he's making to a Boston school.
Joined by Education Secretary Arne Duncan and philanthropist Melinda Gates, the president will tour and then speak at TechBoston Academy in Dorchester. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation provided some of the funding to found the school in September 2002.
Obama will echo his State of the Union speech, as well as a visit he made last week to a rebounding Florida school, as he argues government, businesses, philanthropists, educators, and local communities have to jointly promote innovative education strategies that prepare American students to in his vernacular "win the future."
“There is no better economic policy than one that produces more graduates," said an excerpt of Obama's prepared text. “That’s why reforming education is the responsibility of every American every parent, every teacher, every business leader, every public official, and every student.”
Obama's 2012 budget calls for $90 million in funding for the creation of a new grant competition called the "Advanced Research Projects Agency Education" (ARPA-ED).
Groups would compete to create breakthroughs in using technology to empower learning and teaching.
The budget also calls for extending the "Investing in Innovation" (i3) program with a $300 million competition with a priority for projects in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Despite being considered hospitable Democratic territory, the president was being greeted by a protest organized by some of his fellow Democrats.
Former Representative Joseph P. Kennedy II, along with current Representatives Edward J. Markey, Michael Capuano, and James McGovern, called a news conference to protest the administration's proposed cut in the LIHEAP program.
It provides assistance to people who cannot afford their heating bills.
LIHEAP currently receives $5.1 billion under the federal budget; the president has proposed cutting it by $2.5 billion.
After the events at TechBoston Academy, Obama was traveling across town to the newly refurbished Museum of Fine Arts for the fundraiser.
In an e-mail soliciting contributions, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi labeled the gathering as "an unforgettable evening with President Obama and leading Democrats from across America."
She added: "It is critical that we show the world how strongly we support President Obama's bold vision to encourage innovation and invest in America's future."
One of Obama's prime boosters in the area, Governor Deval Patrick, is missing the events because he is in Israel at the outset of a trade mission.
He and Obama share the same political advisers, and Patrick is gearing up to serve as a surrogate speaker for the president's re-election campaign next year.
TEL AVIV - Governor Deval Patrick earned a mention in the Jerusalem Post this morning as part of the “Kraft delegation” to Israel.
The article appeared in the English-language newspaper’s sports section, under
the headline, “Krafts join Mass. Governor on Israel mission.”
The article was about the New England Patriots owner, Robert Kraft, a frequent visitor and large investor in the country, and his wife, Myra, a major philanthropist in Israel.
Patrick has not been a high-profile visitor to the general public so far, though he has appeared in two business publications to which he gave interviews in advance of his trips. He is likely to get at least a mention in the popular press later in the week, after he meets with top Israeli government officials.
The Post article about the Krafts focused on a planned visit by the Massachusetts trade delegation on Thursday to the Kraft Family Stadium, a venue supported by the family that has introduced American-style football to Israel.
Robert Kraft is not the only Patriots-related person with a high profile in Israel. On Monday night, a woman in a café was feverishly searching her laptop for pictures of Tom Brady’s wife, Gisele Bundchen.
The couple is in her native Brazil for Carnival, and she was pictured yesterday atop a parade float.
Robert Kraft is in Israel on two simultaneous missions, one with Patrick and another with Combined Jewish Philanthropies. He said Monday he may have to leave early if he is needed to help resolve a National Football League labor dispute threatening to disrupt the upcoming season. Kraft and his fellow owners are threatening to lock out the players unless they agree to concessions.
“We’re on the phone daily, e-mail daily, and, if necessary, I might have to leave early,” he said. “It’s a high priority. I made a commitment here, so we’re going to finish the important things we’re doing here.”
He added: “It’s unfortunate. It was supposed to be settled by now. That’s how we planned
What would prompt an early departure?
“The commissioner of the NFL telling me he’d appreciate my presence, but I for sure will be here until Thursday," said Kraft.
Kraft said the deal was important not only for fans, but also for people whose jobs depend on a thriving league.
“That’s so important to so many people in America,” he said. “We’re doing everything we can to try get a deal consummated, but I personally believe it’s possible," he said.
Governor Deval Patrick today concluded a busy kickoff to his trade mission to Israel and the United Kingdom by announcing fresh support for a state-based global competition for new start-up companies.
The Democrat pledged to invest $1 million during the next four years in MassChallenge, a program seeking to identify promising entrepreneurs around the world.
He made the announcement during a teleconference between Cisco offices in Boston and Netanya, Israel.
"We have the brainpower. We have the venture capital. We have a concentration of talent, a well-educated workforce and we have a tradition of invention that goes back centuries," Patrick said.
Organizers say MassChallenge has received more than 440 entries and identified 111 start-ups that received three months of free training, mentoring, and office space on the city's Fan Pier.
Earlier in the day, Patrick met with Major General Eliezer Shkedi, chief executive of El Al Airlines, with whom he sought nonstop flights between Boston and Tel Aviv. He argued the state has the fourth-largest Jewish community in the country, allowing it to compete with Chicago and Miami, which also are seeking flights.
The governor also met with Avi Hasson, Israel's chief scientist. The trip is focused on biotechnology and other state-based science companies.
A planned meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres was postponed until Thursday, a gubernatorial spokeswoman said.
The 10-day trade mission, which will also visit England, is being paid for primarily with private and campaign funds.
Material from The Associated Press was used in this post.
President Obama is getting an unruly reception as he heads for an education event and party fundraiser in Boston today from his fellow Democrats.
Former Representative Joseph P. Kennedy II, along with current Representatives Edward J. Markey, Michael Capuano, and James McGovern, have called a news conference to protest the administration's proposed cut in the LIHEAP program.
It provides assistance to people who cannot afford their heating bills.
To add drama to the event, it will be held at the East Boston home Joe and Katherine Oliveri, who saw their federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program benefit drop by 30 percent this year.
Their current allotment would be cut in half under the White House budget proposal. LIHEAP currently receives $5.1 billion under the federal budget; the president has proposed cutting it by $2.5 billion.
"Energy prices have now gone down but the cost of the program has stayed the same," the president said last month. "Let's go back to a more sustainable level."
The event is scheduled for 10:30 a.m., less that four hours before Air Force One touches down at Logan International Airport.
Unions representing public employees are planning to release a proposal today to address concerns about rising health insurance costs.
In today's Globe, colleague James Vaznis has set the scene for their 11 a.m. State House rally.
During a weekend speech to New Hampshire Republicans, Mitt Romney delivered what will likely be his most durable rejoinder to critics of the universal health care program he signed into law while governor of Massachusetts.
Still remaining, though, is a lingering, fundamental question about his authenticity that has only been perpetuated by recent appearances.
You could argue that how well he answers that core concern, not just addresses a single issue, will determine whether he wins the GOP's presidential nomination next year and has a shot at being elected president in 2012.
In a speech to Carroll County Republicans, Romney did not run or shy away from the health insurance law he signed with great fanfare in April 2006.
"Our experiment wasn't perfect. Some things worked; some things didn't. Some things, I'd change,'' Romney said, as AP National Political Writer Liz Sidoti put it, he addressed an "obvious political vulnerability" against critics who complain the state plan paved the way for "Obamacare."
Mea culpa complete, Romney then outlined his rejoinder.
"But one thing I would never do is usurp the constitutional power of states with a one-size-fits-all federal takeover," he said.
Romney argues Massachusetts had a unique health insurance situation, with a unique financial backdrop, and a unique path for addressing it. Adhering to the federalist principle underpinning the Constitution, the Harvard Law School graduate argues, such power should be reserved for the states.
Imposing a federal solution through a nationwide plan, the logic goes, undercuts states' rights.
The argument allows Romney not to run from the Massachusetts plan even as he distances himself from the federal one modeled after it.
"I would repeal Obamacare," he told his audience in the lead-presidential primary state. "My experience has taught me that the states are the place where health care programs for the uninsured should be crafted, just as the Constitution provides. Obamacare is bad law constitutionally, it’s bad policy, it’s bad for American families. And that’s one reason why President Obama will be a one-term president.”
Of course, that argument does not address conservative concerns about the government mandate to obtain health insurance and accompanying penalties for failing to do so that drive the Massachusetts plan (and were replicated in the federal law). Nor does it address cost growth and tangential challenges such as increased waits for primary care doctors that have occurred in Massachusetts.
Nonetheless, there is logic to the rebuttal, unlike some of the more emotional responses he has offered.
During his 2008 presidential campaign, Romney largely tried to ignore what may have been his more far-reaching accomplishment as governor.
In 2009 and 2010, he cast about for different responses as he positioned himself for a second run. He earned condemnation on the right when he said the Massachusetts program was the "ultimate conservative plan" because it required individual responsibility. He was criticized by the left when he blamed state Democrats for altering the plan by overriding eight vetoes he made the day he signed the bill into law.
A year ago, he also sounded resigned as the attacks piled up.
"You do what you think is right, and if people decide that that's not something they're happy with, so be it," he said after an audience member upbraided him over the subject during an appearance in Chicago.
This year, as he stands on the cusp of a second White House bid, Romney has been forced anew to respond. Not only are potential Republican presidential rivals such as Haley Barbour and Tim Pawlenty criticizing him, but so is a rising star like Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, as well as Obama himself, whom the Democrats will offer as their 2012 candidate.
The response came in the form of a meaty paragraph inserted into an otherwise broad attack on the president's handling of domestic policy and foreign affairs.
"The federal government isn’t the answer for running health care any more than it’s the answer for running Amtrak or the Post Office," Romney said as he concluded that section of his speech. "An economy run by the federal government doesn’t work for Europe, and it certainly would never, ever work here."
At the outset of his remarks, though, Romney offered fresh reason to doubt his authenticity as a political candidate.
After organizing a speech in the first presidential primary state, after flying up from a conservative economic cattle call in Florida, after driving up to a New Hampshire hotel on a driveway lined with "Romney for President" signs, Romney acted as if he were still undecided about another race.
Of course, some of that is political posturing, but then he triggered snickers by telling the crowd it wasn't so much him that was the driving force behind a second campaign as it was his wife, Ann.
Ann Romney is a strong and vivacious woman who has not only raised five sons but endured near-total separation from them as they spent two years apiece as Mormon missionaries. She still copes with debilitating multiple sclerosis, and had to fend off a case of breast cancer.
Yet it stretches belief to think that Ann Romney is the reason why:
*Mitt Romney was a loyal soldier to John McCain almost immediately after losing the 2008 GOP primary campaign, raising him money, campaigning ceaselessly, and offering himself as a vice presidential running mate.
*Mitt Romney formed and made himself "honorary chairman" of the Free and Strong America PAC in 2009 and used the so-called leadership PAC to sprinkle campaign cash on candidates across the country.
*Mitt Romney sat in their oceanfront home in La Jolla, Calif., writing a book, "No Apology," and then in a dim studio to personally read aloud each page for an audiobooks version.
*Mitt Romney has retained the core team of political advisers from his 2008 White House race and meets regularly with them at an office park in Lexington.
*Mitt Romney has undertaken a aggressive travel schedule both last year and this, including stops last week alone in Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and New Hampshire. This coming week, he's off to Texas and another visit to Florida.
The comment recalls the moment in 2006 when Romney signed the heath care law in Boston's Faneuil Hall.
Ceremony attendees climbed the building's steps to its historic second-floor meeting hall, where they were handed programs printed on mock parchment inscribed with mock quilled ink. Before them stood the permanent stage, which was festooned with banners and expanded with a platform. It was covered in an oriental rug and bearing a desk on which the bill would be signed into law.
The entire scene was professionally lit and the event was broadcast by professional sound technicians.
All of it also was controlled by Romney's staff, which to this day pays special attention to the theatrics of his appearances including kicking reporters out of the ballroom before Saturday night's speech so they could adjust the TelePrompTer and attend to other aesthetics in private.
The governor arrived that April day with great fanfare, climbed the steps himself, and when he entered the hall, appeared thunderstruck at the scene before him.
Wow, he said to reporters standing next to him. Who arranged all this, he asked.
The response: You did, through the team that surrounds you constantly and briefs you on every appearance.
But it wasn't just Saturday night's comment casting himself as a subservient being propelled to action.
Earlier in the week, as potential rival Newt Gingrich traveled to Georgia to reveal he was laying the groundwork for his own presidential exploratory committee, Romney himself decided to make a little news during his own visit to the state.
Following a path trodden by other politicians such as Gingrich and former President Carter, Romney decided to visit Tommy Thomas's barbershop in Atlanta.
“Just got a Trim at Tommy’s in Atlanta,” Romney wrote on his Twitter account, which also posted a photo of the visit.
It showed Romney with his trademark mane of perfectly coiffed, perfectly gelled hair and barely a speck of hair on the cloth around his neck or the smock across his chest.
When Globe colleague Matt Viser called Thomas to find out more about the visit, the barber told him he hardly touched Romney's hair.
“I gave him a super-light trim,” Thomas said. “He wanted to know what our concerns were, what everyone thought of what’s going on in Washington.”
The Tommy's trip came a couple weeks after Romney popped up in Florida at the Daytona 500.
Romney is a true auto buff, a Mustang owner who is the son of a former American Motors president and was raised in Michigan, home of the American auto industry.
That a potential presidential candidate would show up at the biggest NASCAR event of the year, or glad-hand among potential supporters, is hardly out of the norm.
Yet when photos surfaced of Romney working the crowd, he was wearing a "Bass Pro Shops" shirt as if he were a regular angler or race sponsor.
It recalled the moment during the 2008 campaign when he proclaimed himself "pretty much a lifelong hunter," only to have his spokesman struggle to go beyond two episodes of hunting in his life. Even the guns kept in Romney's Utah vacation home turned out to be owned by one of his sons.
Individually, such incidents will hardly bring down a presidential campaign. But cumulatively, they can erode its foundation. Just ask John Kerry, another Massachusetts politician who ran for president.
His 2004 presidential campaign was undermined by doubts about his own authenticity and political core, encapsulated in his infamous "I-voted-for-it-before-I-voted-against-it" comment about war funding.
Despite public opposition to the Iraq War, despite a faltering economy, despite in the eyes of most political analysts beating President Bush in their three prime-time campaign debates, Kerry lost the election.
Voters just did not connect with him in sufficient numbers to oust an incumbent a lot disliked.
In Romney's case, he has a commendable resume on which to campaign, rooted in a moral base highlighted by a 42-year marriage and a religious faith rooted in clean living.
He did well as a student, earning a law degree and masters in business at Harvard at the same time. He did better than well in business, providing seed money as a venture capitalist and making himself tens of millions for himself in the process. He then walked away from Bain Capital and deals that could have earned him tens of millions more to do a public service by volunteering to resurrect the financially troubled 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City.
Returning to Massachusetts, he helped reverse a budget shortfall and signed into law the nation's first universal health care law, all while eschewing a salary. Today, over 98 percent of state residents have insurance, and the plan has served as model for national legislation.
Over the weekend, Romney provided an answer for those asking how he could have done such a thing. Still to come is an answer for those asking why he does other things, and what they all say about him.
Sean Healey, the husband of former Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, is moving to Florida, but the couple remains married and she will continue to keep her home and voting residency in the Bay State.
The newspaper story said the firm will remain in Massachusetts, but Healey, his wife, and their daughter, Averill, were listed on a form switching his "domicile" to Florida, which has no state income tax. The couple's son, Alex, is heading to college in the fall.
A spokesman for Kerry Healey said that despite the domicile form, she "will remain a resident of Massachusetts, and will continue to remain active in the Massachusetts political scene."
Sean Healey will live in a $17 million oceanfront home in Florida, the state where Kerry Healey was raised. The couple also has a second house in Massachusetts, a second house in Florida, as well as a house in Vermont.
Since losing her campaign as the Republican's 2006 gubernatorial nominee, Healey has taught at Harvard, her alma mater, and worked with on justice issues with women in Afghanistan.
She also worked with her former running mate, Mitt Romney, on his 2008 presidential race, and Healey is involved again as he contemplates a second campaign.
Larry Summers, President Obama's former National Economic Council director, is addressing the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce on Monday.
Summers will speak at noon at the Boston Harbor Hotel. The address is open to members of the Chamber, although the general public can register at the door and attend for a $95 fee.
Summers had served as Treasury secretary under President Clinton. In the Obama administration, he advocated for a stimulus package more focused on tax cuts than infrastructure development.
He was among three top economic policymakers to depart the administration last year, along with Peter Orzag, director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Christina Romer, head of the Council of Economic Advisers.
Summers formerly was president of Harvard University. Following his stint in Washington, he now is director of the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
A federal program to assist homeowners facing foreclosure has been an “abysmal failure,” according to U.S. Representative John Tierney, who is urging U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to do more to help those in danger of losing their homes.
Tierney and other members of Congress met with Geithner and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan yesterday to discuss the program known as the Home Affordable Modification Program, which is meant to help homeowners stave off foreclosures.
Launched in 2009, the HAMP program was supposed to help three to four million homeowners at risk of foreclosure. But just over a half-million households are getting loan modifications, and almost 800,000 have had trial or permanent loan modifications canceled.
“These families deserve a fair shake from their mortgage lenders and servicers, many of whom are the very same large banks and investment houses whose reckless speculation caused the financial crisis in the first place,” the Salem Democrat said.
Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, said in his comments to the House Financial Services Committee yesterday that the program has floundered, and may actually do more harm than good. While supportive in the past, Barofsky said his support is “all but exhausted.”
President Obama, joined by Melinda Gates and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, will visit TechBoston Academy in Dorchester when he comes to Boston on Tuesday.
A White House official said the visit will build on the president's State of the Union call for America to be better educated than the nation's competitors and "win the future."
The official said Obama "will discuss the shared responsibility that government, businesses, philanthropists, and communities have to promote innovative education strategies that will prepare American students to compete in a 21st century economy."
TechBoston Academy was founded in 2002 with the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It offers its students in grades 6-12 a college preparatory curriculum. It has middle and high school campuses. The president will visit the upper campus, which is located in the former Dorchester High School and educates students in grades 10-12.
The White House noted the academy integrates technology into all its classes, and students there benefit from honors/AP classes, dual enrollment opportunities at local colleges, and an extended day program.
The school has numerous private-sector, non-profit, and higher-education partners including Apple, Cisco, Dell, Harvard University, HP, IBM, Microsoft, Tufts University, UMass-Boston and Year Up.
Obama will also be attending a Democratic fundraising dinner afterward at the Museum of Fine Arts.
Governor Deval Patrick is not embracing the popular outrage over the $8.6 million in compensation given to Cleve L. Killingsworth, the former chief executive of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, who resigned abruptly last year.
Patrick, who propelled his re-election campaign by repeatedly excoriating his Republican challenger, Charles D. Baker, for taking a $1.7 million salary as chief executive of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, pointedly declined to criticize Killingsworth over his much more substantial haul.
"My focus is on how we get costs down in the system and, in particular, how we get premiums reduced, and we’ve been doing a lot of work in that area, and I’m not going to be distracted from that,” Patrick said today, in response to questions from the press.
Asked again about the appropriateness of Killingsworth’s severance package in light of Blue Cross Blue Shield’s status as a nonprofit heath insurer, Patrick shot back: “I got your question. That was my answer.”
Killingsworth, a major Democratic donor, has given $5,000 to the Massachusetts Democratic Party and $1,500 to the governor's campaign fund.
Patrick’s comments came a day after Attorney General Martha Coakley, who oversees nonprofit organizations, announced she would investigate the compensation deal that Killingsworth negotiated with Blue Cross’ board.
“I understand why the public is upset,’’ Coakley said told the Globe yesterday.
“This is a CEO of a not-for-profit,” she said. “Our job is to understand the thought process of the board, what was the diligence that they employed in determining the terms and amounts, and were there appropriate deliberations in terms of their duty as a nonprofit.’’
Revenue Commissioner Navjeet K. Bal said today that preliminary revenue collections for February in Massachusetts totaled $933 million, down $70 million or 7.0 percent from a year ago and $46 million below the projected monthly figure.
In a statement, she blamed higher-than-forecast income tax refunds, as well as weaker than expected sales and corporate tax collections.
The statement was extensive in its explanation of the shortfall, even labeling it "expected."
Former Republican gubernatorial contender Charles Baker is returning to the private sector as a venture capitalist aimed at building smaller companies.
Underscoring his wild side, the famous air guitarist also said he's entering a "Dancing with the Stars" competition this weekend.
In an e-mail to friends and supporters this morning, the former Harvard Pilgrim Health Care president said he was joining Cambridge-based General Catalyst as "executive in residence."
Baker said his decision was rooted in the many conversations he had during last year's campaign with business owners.
"These conversations got me thinking that instead of taking a leadership role at a large organization, I would rather work with entrepreneurs, small business owners, and the people who work with them, to help their companies grow," he wrote.
He said General Catalyst "aims to help entrepreneur-owned businesses, and leverages
its resources to help management teams build on their success and accelerate their growth." He will focus on health care, according to a biography immediately posted on the company's website.
Baker told his followers he's also planning to join the boards of a couple of small businesses in Massachusetts.
In addition, the former gubernatorial Cabinet member and corporate CEO harked back to his subsequent tenure as a Swampscott selectman by saying he "may have a chance to join the board of a local credit union, as well."
Finally, Baker said he's entering a "Dancing with the Stars" competition for his native Needham on Saturday night.
"It’s all part of the town’s 300th anniversary celebration, and it should be a lot of fun," he wrote. "I’ll try not to break anything."
Since losing to Democratic Governor Deval Patrick in November, Baker has largely been out of the public spotlight.
Patrick branded Baker a corporate titan, enriching himself while raising health insurance premiums. Baker highlighted Harvard Pilgrim's financial turnaround and its customer satisfaction ratings. Working now with small business owners should provide plenty of American Dream stories for any future political campaign.
While Baker has been pursuing his own next job, he has also worked aggressively with his former staffers to help them get post-campaign jobs. He has continued to work out of his campaign headquarters in South Boston and left the door open for his former staffers, too.
His reemergence included a fundraiser last Friday for a fellow Republican, Senator Scott Brown.
Governor Deval Patrick wrapped up a long weekend in Washington this morning with testimony about the Massachusetts health care plan before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
In a shortened version of prepared remarks, the Democrat noted the history of the Massachusetts legislation, highlighted it was passed in 2006 thanks to cooperation between then-Republican Governor Mitt Romney and the Democratic Legislature, and said it has achieved nearly universal care while only adding 1 percent to the state budget.
Following up, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, a potential Romney rival in the 2012 White House campaign, said bluntly, "We don't want that."
Setting a political dagger, he reiterated the Massachusetts plan was developed by Romney and the leading Democrat that Republicans used to hate, Senator Edward M. Kennedy.
Patrick has unique perspective on the Obama plan as governor of the state with a universal health care law that served as model for the federal program. But aides expected him to be challenged by committee Republicans seeking to repeal the national law.
The debate could be a proxy battle for an expected element of the 2012 presidential race, as Barbour indicated.
Nonetheless, Patrick was generally treated respectfully, as Democrats used their questions to coax answers supporting Obama's program, while Republicans tried to attack it.
On several occasions, the governor tried to build support for the president by noting that Massachusetts is already a way down the road the nation is set to travel.
"This is not so scary to us," he said.
His committee host, Representative Edward Markey, D-Mass., also got the governor to underscore that Massachusetts has a balanced budget, 98 percent insured, and unemployment below the national average even with its universal health law.
The dean of the congressional delegation told the governor he was doing "a great job."
Senator John Kerry hopes that Florida’s decision to put the brakes on a high-speed rail project will be just the ticket for passenger rail in Massachusetts and other northeastern states.
The Massachusetts Democrat and nine other senators from northeastern states asked U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood late last week to steer $2.4 billion that Florida Governor Rick Scott rejected in mid-February to the heavily traveled northeast corridor instead.
“At a time when numerous states have rejected federal funding from the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program to date, we note that high-speed rail’s potential on the Northeast Corridor is proven,” they wrote.
Scott rejected the money on Feb. 16, calling the Tampa-to-Orlando high-speed rail line a “boondoggle” would cost more than expected and would stick Florida with an extra $3 billion bill. In addition, he felt that estimates of its use were inflated, and that the project overall was a waste of money.
The announcement received a mixed reaction. Rail advocates pounced on Scott, accusing him of making a short-sighted decision, state senators wrote to LaHood asking him to send the money anyway, and the White House called the decision “unfortunate.”
But if history proves to be an example, it could be a boon for Massachusetts and its neighbors along the high-use rail corridor, where the nation's only high-speed train, the Acela Express, operates. In December, after Wisconsin and Ohio rejected $1.2 billion, the Obama administration divvied it up between Massachusetts and 11 other states.
Doug Rubin, a former top staffer and political adviser to Governor Deval Patrick who is resuming his own communications and lobbying work, is considering joining his former boss on his 10-day trade mission to Israel and the United Kingdom.
Rubin said some of the corporate leaders who are making the trip with Patrick have invited him to attend, and if he goes, he would pay his own way. He also said he would not be lobbying Patrick on the leaders’ behalf, but exploring how he can help them grow their companies with effective communications and strategic plans.
As things now stand, Rubin does not have to travel overseas to meet with Patrick. The governor’s former chief of staff, who engineered both his 2006 and 2010 gubernatorial campaigns, has free rein to walk into Patrick’s State House office at any time.
“While I have not made a final decision about the trip, it is an important mission and I would be honored to help support the efforts of these local business leaders to grow jobs in Massachusetts,” Rubin said today in a statement to the Globe.
“If I decide to go, my participation would be limited solely to helping Massachusetts companies build ties in Israel and attract new investment for Massachusetts,” he said.
Earlier this week, the Globe reported that Rubin had registered as a lobbyist to help Rhode Island-based GTech Corp. retain its multimillion Massachusetts Lottery contracts as the state renews consideration of expanded legalized gambling.
Rubin recently received $60,000 for work as a campaign consultant to Steve Grossman, who was elected state treasurer in November. In his new capacity, Grossman oversees the Lottery, but Rubin said he would not be lobbying the treasurer on behalf of GTech.
And Patrick said he would not allow Rubin to lobby him about expanded gambling, including legalizing casinos in Massachusetts.
“I can tell you he and I aren’t going to be talking about casinos, no matter how close we are," the governor said of Rubin on Thursday.
Patrick also said he would not interfere as Rubin resurrects his firm, Northwind Strategies. Rubin just hired Kyle Sullivan, Patrick’s former communications director, as a principal in the firm.
“He’s got to make his own judgments in the private sector; I'm going to make my judgments in the public sector. And where there is a conflict, we will stay as far apart as possible," said the governor.
Patrick is departing March 7 for a trip that will take him first to Israel and then onto the United Kingdom. His schedule includes visits with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Among the executives joining him on the trip are Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, and Gary L. Gottlieb, president of Partners HealthCare.
Governor Deval Patrick said today "thinks the world" of former chief of staff Doug Rubin, but the two will not talk about gambling issues now that Rubin has registered to lobby for a gambling firm with multi-million dollar contracts with the Massachusetts State Lottery.
Rubin, who led Patrick's two winning gubernatorial campaigns, and also was paid $60,000 to serve as a campaign consultant for newly elected Treasurer Steve Grossman, is representing GTech Corp. as it tries to protect its Lottery contracts. The treasurer oversees the Lottery.
The Globe's Frank Phillips reported on the new arrangement today.
“I can tell you he and I aren’t going to be talking about casinos, no matter how close we are," Patrick said of Rubin during his monthly appearance on WTKK-FM.
The governor branded his former campaign and staff adviser as someone of "consistently high integrity" who abides by both the spirit and letter of the law. Yet Patrick also conceded he is concerned about appearances.
If House Speaker Robert DeLeo renews efforts to expand gambling in the state including adding casinos that could sap Lottery ticket business "I can tell you that Doug and I aren't going to have any conversations," said Patrick.
Host Jim Braude asked the governor if he and Rubin had discussed the GTech lobbying before Rubin agreed to do it, and Patrick said no.
Asked what he would have said, Patrick refused to engage in hypotheticals.
“He’s got to make his own judgments in the private sector; I'm going to make my judgments in the public sector. And where there is a conflict, we will stay as far apart as possible," said the governor.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is heading north of the Mason-Dixon Line tonight to visit the liberal environs of Harvard University and outline a conservative economic vision.
In a speech at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, which will be webcast live at 6 p.m., the Virginia Republican will speak of a country he sees at an economic crossroads, confronting two alternate visions.
One echoes the image of protests that swept Europe last year and continue in some places today, as members of the public and government workers rebelled against cuts in pension and other entitlement programs.
The other is the image of town hall meetings that played out across America in 2009, propelling the anti-government Tea Party revolution and helping the GOP reclaim the House majority this past November.
Cantor said one view is of a future dependent on government financing; the other is rooted in personal entrepreneurship.
“If you think about it, these were very young people worried about their retirement benefits before they’ve worked their career," Cantor told the Globe in reference to some of the participants in Greece, France, and other European nations.
The town hall participants, by contrast, "choose a future based on individual actions, opportunity not created by the government but by the private sector," he said.
Cantor, the top deputy to House Speaker John Boehner, insists his is not a partisan analysis, only a philosophical one. But his comments echoed a partisan opinion piece he recently wrote for Politico, in which he criticized President Obama's budget proposal and said "kicking the can down the road is no substitute for real leadership. Just ask Greece."
In the same column, he urged action to avoid "a European-style debt crisis."
Cantor said an relying too heavily on government support forces increased spending. That triggers tax increases that, in turn, sap capital from the private marketplace. Reducing business taxes and reducing government regulation, he argues, will help keep capital in the private sector.
As to why he's taking his message to an Ivy League institution oft-derided by conservatives, Cantor said: "Harvard is one of the premier institutions of higher learning in the world. We’ve been successful in America because we’ve been able to educate our population to think critically. It’s allowed America to become the crucible of innovation.’’
His deputy chief of staff, John Murray, said the visit is the leader's ongoing campaign to speak "beyond the base," including reaching out to young people, minorities, and university audiences.
Cantor has already spoken at William & Mary and had a speech at the University of Michigan snowed out. He's headed next for Stanford University.
The goal is to make "more of a vision statement than a political statement.”
Murray added: "We have a very systematic strategy to ensure that the work we are doing here inside the Beltway is being transmitted and translated in good venues," he said.
Robert Caret, the incoming president of the University of Massachusetts, will make about $550,000 a year in salary and benefits, including a housing allowance and deferred compensation -- a similar package given to UMass president Jack Wilson, James Karam, chairman of the UMass board of trustees said today.
Caret, president of Towson University in Maryland, will start at UMass on May 1 and is in the process of purchasing a condo along downtown Boston's waterfront, said Karam, who spoke after trustees approved Caret's contract.
His base salary is $425,000 a year, putting him in the 65th percentile among the nation's presidents leading public and private universities of similar size, Karam said.
US Representative Michael E. Capuano, who decried violent political rhetoric after last month’s fatal shooting rampage in Tucson, said today he regrets urging union workers at a rally in Boston yesterday to “get a little bloody.”
"I strongly believe in standing up for worker rights and my passion for preserving those rights may have gotten the best of me yesterday in an unscripted speech,” the Somerville Democrat said in a statement. “I wish I had used different language to express my passion and I regret my choice of words."
Capuano was referring to remarks he made at a raucous rally of about 1,000 union workers who were outside the State House, protesting Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, and his plan to limit public employees' collective bargaining rights.
"I'm proud to be with people who understand that it's more than just sending an e-mail that gets you going," Capuano had declared. "Every once in a while you need to get out on the streets and get a little bloody when necessary."
The union crowd greeted Capuano's exhortation with cheers, whistles, and applause.
But his remark raised eyebrows elsewhere because Capuano was among the lawmakers who were calling for cooler political rhetoric after his Democratic colleague, Gabrielle Giffords, was shot in the Tucson rampage that killed six other people last month.
At the time, Capuano had said the shooting was probably inevitable because of the nation's increasingly heated political rhetoric.
“Many of us were afraid for a long time that something like this would happen, with the level or the tone of the discourse over the last several years," Capuano told WGBH on Jan. 22. "It's gotten violent and personal.”
Capuano echoed that sentiment in a Jan. 9 interview with the Globe.
“Everybody knows the last couple of years there’s been an intentional increase in the degree of heat in political discourse,” he said. “If nothing else good comes out of this, I’m hoping it causes people to reconsider how they deal with things."
Capuano ran unsuccessfully for the US Senate in 2009, and is considering a run against Republican Scott Brown in 2012.
In their down moments, some of Governor Deval Patrick's own staff members dream of a different life, away from the incessant beeping of their BlackBerry, outside the glare of the unyielding State House spotlight.
Many think about jobs in the private sector, but some hope supposedly in jest of something far better: a job at a quasi-public agency, which operate outside the direct control of the governor.The yearning comes with good reason: Some of the so-called "quasis" have names few in the public have ever heard; all have an identity virtually everyone in public service has secretly targeted.
The best known are the MBTA and Massport. The less-familiar include the Massachusetts Health and Educational Facilities Authority, and the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative.
Each now has something in common: they're all on Patrick's hit list.
Slowly but inexorably, the governor has been slaying political fatted calves, eliminating quasis, merging them with others, and installing new leaders with salary and benefit packages far less generous than those enjoyed by their predecessors.
The latest example is Mitchell Adams, executive director of the aforementioned Massachusetts Technology Collaborative.
He announced Monday he would be stepping down from his $264,000-per-year job when a replacement is named this spring. Adams will receive a $264,000 severance package under a contract negotiated with the administration of former Governor Mitt Romney. Adams received the job in 2001, after he served as former Governor William Weld's revenue commissioner.
The two men had a personal bond: They were roommates in Cambridge after graduating from Harvard.
Last week, Massport CEO Thomas J. Kinton Jr., also announced he was leaving government, retiring in July after a 35-year career at the agency. He will walk away from a $295,000-per-year job after Patrick blocked a $22,000-per-year raise.
Nonetheless, Kinton will keep a $495,000 payout for unused sick time, a perk the governor and Legislature have since eliminated for new hires.
In December, the administration also asked Robert Culver, president of the Massachusetts Development Finance Agency, to resign. He lost a $299,000 job.
Culver's agency had recently ingested another quasi, the Massachusetts Health and Educational Facilities Authority. Its executive director, Benson Caswell, lost a $225,000-per-year job under merger legislation pushed by Senate President Therese Murray and signed into law by Patrick.
Caswell and the state are still battling over a nearly $500,000 severance package he negotiated on top of a car allowance, free health club membership, T pass, cell phone, and parking spot. The governor contends it can be denied because Caswell's job was eliminated legislatively; Caswell points to a contract also signed under the Romney administration.
Adams, Kinton, and Culver have yet to be replaced, and Caswell's job no longer exists, but it administration practice holds, the new leaders in the former jobs will be paid a lot less.
Patrick forced out Daniel Grabauskas as the MBTA's general manager in August 2009, awarding him a severance package of nearly $330,000 but cutting the job's $255,000 annual salary. Richard Davey, the administration's annointed replacement, is now paid $145,000 per year.
Patrick previously pushed to eliminate the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, which had paid Chairman Matthew Amorello $233,000 annually. First, Amorello was replaced by Alan LeBovidge at $160,000 per year; later, that job was folded into the new Massachusetts Department of Transportation, now overseen by Transportation Secretary Jeffrey Mullan. He is paid $150,000 per year.
Also, when Jon Kingsdale stepped down as head of the Massachusetts Health Care Connector, a post that paid him $238,000 per year, he was replaced by Glen Shor, who now receives $168,000 annually.
Patrick advisers say the changes are partly driven by the state budget crunch, which has forced an examination of all public spending, as well as the appointment opportunities the governor has gained by virtue of winning a second term and outlasting some prior administration holdovers.
They also point to the findings in the Crosby report, which the governor commissioned to look at pay and benefits at the quasis. It pushed for rationalization in the compensation packages at quasis.
In the end, it's also good politics: A governor once drilled for spending $23,000 in taxpayer money redecorating his office is now saving far more than that on an annual basis by bringing pay and benefits at the quasis back to Earth.
"We have made significant progress streamlining state agencies to improve our implementation of a growth strategy that is helping the commonwealth emerge from the recession faster and stronger than other states," said administration spokeswoman Kimberly Haberlin.
LAS VEGAS — Mitt Romney sought yesterday to distinguish himself from President Obama, his potential 2012 election opponent, by casting himself as a friend to the nation’s business community.
A week after Obama tried to repair relations with the US Chamber of Commerce, a pro-business target of the president and his fellow Democrats during last year’s midterm elections, Romney was the keynote speaker before thousands of attendees at the annual meeting of the International Franchise Association.
The former governor of Massachusetts was not subtle in his outreach to the small business owners who populate the group and fuel much of the nation’s economy, highlighting his past as a venture capitalist and aligning himself with their workplace values.
“I respect American business, and people who start businesses that are small and grow to be large are people that I salute,’’ he said.
“What scares me is that I’m worried that Washington, and politicians who don’t know butt kiss about the free-enterprise system and our economy, are slowly but surely doing things which smother the American spirit of enterprise and innovation and pioneering,” he added. “They don’t understand what it is that makes us work.”
Romney went on to focus on what he saw as differences between the public and private sectors, often referring to “they’’ in government and saying “I’m not really a politician yet. I have to get elected at least twice to be a politician.’’
Romney decided against seeking a second term in 2006 to make what turned out to be an unsuccessful presidential run in 2008. He is expected to launch a second White House campaign in the spring, although he told the franchisees in response to a question, “I’m not going to do something like that here.”
He lauded one coveted 2012 GOP supporter, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, for attacking skyrocketing government pension costs, while also crediting New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, for proposing massive government layoffs to cope with his state’s budget problems.
In response to another question, Romney distinguished the state universal health care law he signed in 2006 from the federal law signed by Obama last year. He said individual states, not the federal government, should decide what is best for themselves. “You learn from experiments,” he said. “Some parts worked well; some didn’t.”
Romney said private sector work is “far less forgiving’’ than government work, because when government makes a mistake, “we simply pass that cost on to the taxpayers, or we borrow more money and pass it on to the next generation.’’
Small business owners know, he said, that if “you make a mistake like that, you go out of business. You lose your job. You lose other people’s jobs. . . . That’s why the best and brightest are in your world, and not in the government world.’’
Business owners, Romney said, also analyze data. In government, however, “the policy makers, the politicians, they have their answers without benefit of the data.’’
And he said government leaders have no concept of the value of incentives.
“In government, they spend little time thinking about what impact what they do has on human behavior, because, frankly, they’ve lived so long in a realm where they can command what you do, they don’t think a lot about how to convince you or encourage you to do what they want you to do,’’ said Romney.
Two attendees said they liked what they heard.
"I think the people who are running our country have such an unrealistic non-grasp of the private sector and how it really works," said Leigh Harting of St. Petersburg, Fla., a business development manager for Modern Business Associates.
Michael Ridd of Salt Lake City, who works for Jiffy Lube, said: "He's got a strong magnetism. He had a leadership quality. He looks right. He sounds right. And he's doing the right things."
Aides refused to make the former governor available to the media after his speech. He did meet with some of his 2008 supporters, as well as a second group of businessmen and women to talk about jobs.
Romney is expected to meet this morning with potential campaign fund-raisers.
Glen Johnson can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.
Governor Deval Patrick surrounded himself with business leaders and spoke with an optimistic tone yesterday at the State House as he announced he would lead a delegation from Massachusetts on a trade mission to Israel and Britain next month.
The 10-day trip, wrapping up in the UK on St. Patrick's Day, is aimed at showcasing the state's innovation-based industries, including those in clean energy and the life sciences.
Yet the announcement coincides with another economic-development mission that illustrates his and the state's choppy history with business development.
And that's not taking into account Evergreen Solar Inc., the solar-panel manufacturer the administration promised $58 million in state aid before it decided to shift manufacturing jobs to China and close a new plant at Devens.
As Patrick spoke in Boston, his secretary of housing and economic development, Greg Bialecki, was in Los Angeles trying to promote Massachusetts as a destination for film production.
Traveling with John Dukakis, an advertising executive who also is son of former Governor Michael S. Dukakis, Bialecki called on NBC-Universal, Walt Disney, Warner Bros., Sony, Fox, Paramount, Creative Artists Agency, and others.
The traveling party included two labor officials: Local 25 Teamsters President Sean O'Brien, and Chris O'Donnell, a local official with the Motion Picture Studio Mechanics union.
"These meetings are designed to build on our progress and expand the film industry here," spokeswoman Kimberly Haberlin said in a statement. "We want to bring more jobs, more business investment, and more tourism dollars home to the commonwealth. As with any growth industry, we need to send a clear signal to studios, producers, and filmmakers that Massachusetts is open for business."
While that may be true, Bialecki's own boss sent the industry a muddied signal last year, when he proposed a $50 million cap on a prominent film tax credit for a two-year span.
Patrick said the credit was "wildly successful but expensive" amid a yawning budget gap. Seeking a cap was responsive to the economic times and not inconsistent with his initial support for the credit, aides said.
Created in 2005, it gives movie producers a 25-percent tax credit on all payroll and production expenses incurred in Massachusetts. In addition, it exempts most of a film company's purchases from the state's 6.25 percent sales tax.
Michael Widmer, president of the business-friendly Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, said during a March 2010 legislative hearing: "This is probably the most costly tax credit with the least economic benefit in my experience $125 million a year is the estimate for the next fiscal year."
The proposed cap, though, met with stiff opposition from the film industry and the Legislature.
The House led the charge against it last March, voting against the $50 million cap. It later opposed an even more restrictive $7 million cap, and the proposal was spiked.
Last month, Patrick unveiled a proposed fiscal 2012 budget retaining the credit in full form, and this week, he sent Bialecki to the West Coast as the emissary of a supposedly industry-friendly state.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo couldn't resist a needle two weeks ago when he issued a statement noting "The Social Network," "The Town," and "The Fighter" with 16 Oscar nominations between them were all filmed in Massachusetts since the credit was instituted.
The Winthrop Democrat added that they "are a good reminder of how important the film tax credit has been to our state’s economy in these challenging times. As we strive to put folks across Massachusetts back to work, the film tax credit continues to stimulate local business and job growth throughout Massachusetts."
Bialecki's visit to California recalls a similar Massachusetts mixed message.
In 2008, Patrick pushed through a $1 billion Life Sciences Initiative aimed at boosting the Massachusetts biotechnology industry. He quickly jetted off for San Diego to attend the annual Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) conference and promote the new law.
But he, then-House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, and Senate President Therese Murray received a rocky reception because of a separate health care cost-control bill pushed by Murray and later signed into law by Patrick.
It included a ban on gifts of any kind from pharmaceutical manufacturers to doctors, their family members, or their employees.
That prompted the strange juxtaposition of Patrick arriving at the conference to participate in an industry panel discussion, and shortly be named BIO's "Governor of the Year," while BIO leaders were still cleaning their ink-stained hands after writing letters complaining to members of his delegation.
BIO itself said to DiMasi "the gift-ban provision threatens research and treatment for patients in the commonwealth.”
And GlaxoSmithKline accused the Massachusetts political establishment of harboring "a strong anti-biopharmaceutical streak."
Last fall, Patrick made two fresh points on the subject during his re-election campaign. He said the ban was never intended to extend to the state's medical device industry, and thus should be narrowed.
He also said the state pharmaceutical ban itself was ripe for repeal or modification, since the Obama administration's federal health care overhaul included superseding language.
"The Department of Public Health, which oversees these regulations, is currently reviewing the ways in which our state regulations are impacted by federal law in order to determine whether there are any additional steps that need to be taken," a spokesman said yesterday.
Today, though, the ban remains, crystal clear for all to see.
Glen Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.
President Obama is planning to request that funding for heating oil aid to the poor be cut in half in his upcoming budget proposal, according to several news reports.
The president would seek to reduce the Low Income Home Energy Heating Assistance Program from the current funding of $5.1 billion to $2.6 billion, the Associated Press said, citing a source familiar with the budget discussions. Obama is expected to release his overall budget proposal on Monday. It would cover the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.
Advocates for the poor consider the program a lifeline to struggling homeowners in the winter. So far this season, Massachusetts has received $173 million; the poorest households in the state would receive $1,050 to help pay their heating bills. About 200,000 Bay State households qualified for the aid last year.
Senator John F. Kerry wrote the president today to express his concern over possible cuts.
"I’ve always supported serious efforts to restore fiscal sanity, but in the middle of a brutal, even historic, New England winter, home heating assistance is more critical than ever to the health and welfare of millions of Americans, especially senior citizens,'' the Massachusetts Democrat wrote.
"Families across Massachusetts, and the country, depend on these monies to heat their homes and survive the season,'' Kerry wrote. "It is estimated that over 3 million families that qualify for heating assistance would not receive it if the funding levels are not maintained."
Struggling homeowners are caught in a vortex of difficulties, with heating oil prices rising, temperatures tumbling, and the economy still stuttering. Before a recent dip in prices, crude oil had been trading near two-year highs. It closed today at about $87 a barrel in New York commodity markets.
President Obama and members of his administration have warned that cuts would be painful and would target programs he supports but are essential to slow the ballooning national debt.
Governor Deval Patrick said today he will travel to Israel and Britain next month on the first trade mission of his second term.
The Democrat, joined by business leaders including New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, will make the trip March 7-17. Patrick made the announcement against a backdrop of British and Israeli flags during a State House news conference attended by Britian's ambassador to the United States, Nigel Sheinwald, as well as the British and Israeli consul generals in Massachusetts.
Sheinwald was in the area after speaking last night at Harvard University.
"Massachusetts is an unparalleled leader in the global economy and a trailblazer for the nation," Patrick said in a statement issued in conjunction with the news conference. "To continue to compete on an international level and create new jobs here at home, we must look outward to new markets and position Massachusetts as the North American destination for business growth."
The statement said there are nearly 100 companies with Israeli founders or Israeli-licensed technologies in Massachusetts. Those companies employed nearly 6,000 people and generated $2.4 billion in direct revenue for the state in 2009.
Meanwhile, there are 478 companies with ties to the United Kingdom in Massachusetts, according to the statement. Some 225 UK-owned companies in the state employ 40,100 Massachusetts residents.
Patrick has taken two trade missions as governor, one to southern California in 2009 to promote the biotech industry and another to China in 2007 in support of an array of state businesses.
But as he neared his re-election campaign last year, the governor curtailed most travel for fear his trips would be labeled "junkets" by political opponents.
In a series of year-end interviews that followed his election victory, Patrick declared he would begin traveling more at the behest of the state and at the urging of a series of civic and business leaders known as the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership.
"We have the tools to compete," the governor said last month in his second inaugural address. "We have the talent, the tradition of invention, the venture capital, the ideas. And so we will compete for every job, in every industry, in every corner of the commonwealth, and the world."
Noah Bierman can be reached at email@example.com.
Senator Scott Brown today e-mailed a newsletter detailing his Senate goals.
The Massachusetts Republican included a video in which he outlines his agenda, a method becoming a favored means of communicating especially within the media blackout preceding the release of his new book in two weeks.
Brown's list includes a job-creation bill called the "Innovate America Act." He also favors legislation repealing a 2.3 percent excise tax on medical devices, as well as a bill repealing a 3 percent withholding tax on government contracts.
Noting he has now been in office a year, Brown writes: "Whether I’m speaking in person with constituents, via posts to my Facebook page or Twitter, or via letters, phone calls, and emails, the voters have asked me to do something about unemployment in Massachusetts (and rightfully so). I listened, and I have come up with several targeted ideas to boost Bay State jobs that I’m introducing at the start of this 112th Congress."
Glen Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.
WASHINGTON – Former Governor Mitt Romney tonight blasted President Obama, going after him using a line of attack that opponents have utilized before: competency for the job.
“He’s trying awfully hard,” Romney said during an appearance on Sean Hannity’s show on Fox News. “The problem is, he just doesn’t know what to do.”
Romney said that not only were President Obama’s policies misguided, but that he had been “cavalier” in dealing with the economic woes facing the nation.
“It’s sad to watch in some respects because obviously we care very deeply with what’s happening with the country, we want people to get back to work,” Romney said. “But he just doesn’t know what the right things are that he’s got to do to make that happen. He’s really put in place over the last two years about the most anti-investment, anti-business, anti-jobs regimen that we’ve seen probably in the past couple decades.”
It marked a sharp tone for Romney, and came the day after President Obama called for bipartisanship in his State of the Union address.
Romney, when asked whether repealing Obama’s signature health care plan should be the top priority, said, “Oh, sure. A new spending entitlement for the federal government is absolutely the wrong idea.”
Health care is thought to be a major hurdle for Romney in seeking the Republican presidential nomination because the national plan closely mirrors the one that Romney helped pass in Massachusetts.
Romney also criticized Obama’s call for a five-year freeze on discretionary spending, saying it wasn’t enough.
“His idea of running spending up to the highest level in American history, and then saying why don’t we freeze it there – it’s almost laughable, given the scale of the challenges we face,” Romney said, pointing to budget cuts he made as governor of the Bay State. “But you have to cry instead when you think of all the people that are suffering because of it.”
Romney is widely expected to announce that he will run for president, but was coy about that decision tonight.
“You know, no decision at this point,” he said. “We’ll give that some thought, obviously, and we’re doing the things we need to to keep in the public eye.”
The longtime businessman then said it was important for the field to have a businessman.
“I don’t know who all is going to get in the race, but I do believe that it would be helpful if at least one of the people who’s running in the Republican field had extensive experience in the private sector – in small business, in big business,” he said.
Matt Viser can be reached at email@example.com.
WASHINGTON -- Representative Barney Frank lashed out today at Republican efforts to cut federal spending to 2008 levels, saying the move would deal a crippling blow to regulators' ability to oversee financial markets and implement the overhaul of financial regulations passed last year.
Frank warned that not only does funding need to be maintained at current levels, it needs to be increased so the Securities and Exchange Commission and Commodity Futures Trading can hire hundreds of employees to issue and enforce a slew of regulations under the new law.
"I had hoped it wouldn’t be this way," Frank said today at a press conference on Capitol Hill.
Republican Representative Scott Garrett of New Jersey, chairman of the Financial Services Subcommittee on Capital Markets and Government-Sponsored Enterprises, responded in a statement that "a dramatic spending increase to fund the SEC and CFTC, as envisioned by the authors of the Dodd-Frank legislation, would further the mindset that our nation’s problems can be solved with more spending, not more efficiency."
“During our country’s current debt crisis, all branches of government – including Congress – have to tighten their belts and find ways to make their money go further," said Garrett who also chairs the budget task force of House conservative caucus Republican Study Committee. "Government agencies must learn to operate effectively within their budgets like American families and businesses do every day as we work to get our fiscal house in order.”
Frank, who co-authored the financial overhaul law that bears his name, said the amount of money needed to fund the overhaul is minuscule compared to the federal budget. And he pointed to a caveat in the rollback of spending levels that exempts security spending.
"We're arguing the security of the average American was far more endangered by the financial crisis than by a lot of other things that our military does," Frank said.
Frank, the ranking minority member on the Financial Services Committee, said this afternoon that Garrett's position "reinforces my fear that Republicans are attempting to cripple regulation by failing to fund it.
"The budgets he wants them to operate within are budgets which pre-date financial regulation, pre-date regulation of derivatives, and pre-date investor protection," he said.
Donovan Slack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It was a bipartisan "thank you" for a job well done, followed by a partisan "your welcome."
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, testifying today before Representative Barney Frank's Financial Services Committee, praised the architects -- mainly Republicans -- of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which is winding down next month. He added that legislators, both Democrats and Republicans, showed courage in 2008 by voting for $700 billion in bailout loans for banks.
"Now, I know a lot of people who voted for TARP decided later that they had to distance themselves from that vote by disparaging the programs, but I think they should be proud of the votes they cast,'' he said, adding that about $640 billion of the loans are expected to be repaid. "They were on the right side of history."
Frank responded with a dig directed at John Boehner, the Ohio Republican who wants to become House speaker if the GOP regains control of the chamber in the 2010 mid-term elections.
"Thank you, Mr. Secretary. I will probably see the Republican leader, Mr. Boehner, later today, and I will pass along to him your thanks. He was, of course, one of the staunchest supporters of the TARP.''
The Newton Democrat continued: "I was just reading Secretary Paulson's book and noted his quote of that comment from Mr. Boehner, "We would be crazy not to rescue AIG." So I appreciate that."
American International Group's bailout reached $181 billion and many economists fear much of that will never be repaid.
A representative for Boehner's office declined to comment.
Senator John Kerry, among the wealthiest lawmakers on Capitol Hill, is falling in line behind the president and saying he believes tax cuts for the middle class should be extended but those for the highest wage-earners should be allowed to expire.
The Bush-era cuts are set to expire at the end of this year without action from Congress, setting the stage for a bitter partisan dispute about exactly what should be done.
Republicans say hiking taxes will hurt the already wobbly economy and that many small business owners fall within the targeted tax brackets -- individuals earning more than $200,000 annually and families with income totaling more than $250,000. They appear poised to block any measure extending the cuts unless it includes higher wage-earners.
Democrats have dismissed such assertions and Obama yesterday accused Republicans of holding middle-class cuts "hostage" in exchange for cuts for the rich.
Kerry, whose income puts him squarely in that category, said "under no circumstances do I believe we should give a blanket extension to the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans."
"It won't fix our economy and it will add billions to the long-term structural deficit," he said.
On the other hand, he said, "It makes perfect sense to protect tax cuts for the middle class Americans who bore the brunt of the Wall Street meltdown and are still digging their way out from under the recession."
His view puts Kerry in direct opposition with the state's other senator, Scott Brown, a Wrentham Republican whose spokeswoman said yesterday that he intends to fight for cuts for the wealthy, too, alongside his GOP colleagues.
"Raising taxes will kill jobs and slow down an economic recovery," the spokeswoman, Gail Gitcho, said.
The Globe reported today that for middle-class families in Massachusetts, keeping the cuts could mean $1,831 in their pockets each year. If Congress doesn't pass an extension, they can expect to pay that much more.
Follow @DonovanSlack on Twitter.
WASHINGTON -- President Obama will make two stops next week to key battleground states to deliver remarks about the nation's economy, the White House has announced.
On Monday, the President will attend the AFL-CIO's Laborfest event in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a state in which Democratic incumbent Senator Russ Feingold is facing a serious challenge from the expected Republican nominee, businessman Ron Johnson.
Obama then travels to Cleveland, Ohio on Wednesday, to speak again on the economy. In Ohio, Republican Rob Portman and Democrat Lee Fisher are battling to replace retiring Senator George Voinovich, a Republican.
Then on Friday, the president will hold a press conference at the White House.
Vice President Biden travels to New Hampshire tomorrow to mark a Recovery Act milestone with Representatives Paul Hodes and Carol Shea-Porter. Biden will speak at a private home in Manchester.
Biden and other Administration officials have been on the road this “summer of recovery,” highlighting various projects throughout the country, from the Grand Canyon to D.C. The Recovery Act has put 3 million Americans to work, according to White House estimates.
One of the nation's leading experts on bankruptcy and author of several best-selling books on personal finance and the struggles of the middle-class, Elizabeth Warren has taken leave from her professorship at Harvard Law School to serve as chairwoman at the Congressional Oversight Panel. Congress created the panel during the economic crisis of 2008 to review the state of financial markets and the regulatory system and to track how the money for the bank bailouts was spent. Warren has been the leading advocate of the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, one of the cornerstones of the financial regulations bill awaiting final Senate approval, which could come this week. The agency seeks to protect consumers against abusive, convoluted, and opaque practices of lenders.
Although Professor Warren declined to comment on whether she would be interested in being the first director of the agency, she has agreed to talk to us about details of the agency and other elements of the financial bill.
Q. When the conference committee met to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the financial regulations bill, pressure from lobbyists for car dealers and banks, among others, threatened to undercut plans to create the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, and you said any further weakening would render the agency a waste of time. Now that the bill is completed, and exemptions were made for some in the industry including car dealers on car loans, what's your verdict? A waste of time? An ironclad protector for borrowers? Something in between?
EW: The new agency has teeth and a lot of independence, with enough rule-writing and enforcement authority to begin to fix a broken consumer credit market. It isn’t perfect, and the auto dealer exception is outrageous. But I kept waiting for an incoming missile that would mean the bank lobbyists had made good on their vow to kill the agency -- and that never happened.
Q. There were certain principles many supporters hoped the bill would provide to the agency, including independence from outside interference, the ability to shield its budget from congressional and corporate interference, and provisions giving it enough muscle to enforce its regulations. On which issues does the resulting bill hold up well? Where does it fall a little short?
EW: The new law guarantees the agency meaningful autonomy. It has a protected funding stream, an independent director appointed by the President, and strong rule-writing authority. The agency also has the power to enforce rules against the big banks and, for the first time, against the non-bank originators of mortgages and other credit products that have done so much harm. I had hoped that Congress would restore the rights of states to provide greater oversight and accountability with their own rules, especially because they can serve such an important early warning role, but that was a bridge too far.
Q. The overall bill provides a framework for regulations, not a detailed blueprint, and many contend that its strength, the connective tissue for the law, will only be determined when regulators actually write the specific rules. When this process begins, to which areas will you be paying particular attention concerning the consumer agency, to make sure the safeguards are as strong as intended?
EW: I want to see the agency push the consumer credit market toward easy-to-read credit agreements with no more tricks and traps. Families are tired of fine print. They should be able to make clear-eyed decisions about their credit and to see the real costs and risks upfront. Note that this isn’t a partisan issue. According to a recent AARP survey, 96 percent of Americans support clear, transparent credit contracts they can understand.
Q. Give us an example or two of how the consumer agency will tangibly change how we get our mortgages, pay our credit cards or get a loan for our cars?
EW: The agency will set its own agenda, but I would like to see a world with two page mortgage disclosures, two page credit card agreements, and two page overdraft contracts. The consumer agency has the power to cut the legalese and make that a reality. It can put an end to a world where consumers discover what’s on page 16 of the fine print only after it bites them with a big fee or hiked interest rate. Families expect to be held to what they bargain for, but they are tired of getting caught by all the tricks and traps.
Q. What other parts of the legislation most encourage you? What parts most concern you?
EW: I understand why the government may need to act in the middle of a financial crisis to save the system, but I think it is wrong to provide government assistance without making the private parties bear the first costs – wiping out equity of the failing company, firing its top managers, and forcing its debt holders to shoulder some losses. Those steps prevent TARP-style bailouts and reduce moral hazard. The new resolution authority will help make sure that the banks steer a little bit further from the cliff in the future. I would like to see stronger provisions elsewhere, but I’m glad to see that virtually every provision moves in the right direction, even if they don’t move far enough yet.
Q. In response to the Depression, Congress and President Roosevelt enacted a series of economic changes, not just a single bill. Is "one and done" sufficient to confront the systemic problems that led to the crisis of 2008? If not, what should be next for legislation or innovation to further safeguard our markets?
EW: The current package represents the strongest set of Wall Street reforms in three generations. It will go a long way toward preventing the kinds of abusive practices that brought our economy to its knees. But there is much more that we can do to modernize our regulatory system, increase transparency, and level the playing fields. Many of the rules put in place in this bill will need to be tightened. In addition, Fannie and Freddie pose huge problems that we can’t avoid much longer. The accounting shenanigans that gave us off-book liabilities and inflated valuations are an affront to good market functioning. Executive compensation structures continue to encourage excessive risk taking. Corporate governance structures are still loaded to favor powerful management cabals. I could go on, but the point should be clear: there is more work to be done. And to increase the degree of difficulty, Wall Street’s army of lobbyists will fiercely resist the implementation of the new law and any efforts to move new legislation. It will be hard, but this is a fight we must be willing to have.
- GLOBE STAFF
About 20 months after the near-collapse of the world’s financial system, Senate and House negotiators began meeting (June 10) to complete their financial regulations bill. Led by Barney Frank, the Newton Democrat and chair of the House Financial Services Committee, the conferees will reconcile differences in the two chamber’s versions, which take on such thorny and complex issues as regulating derivatives, creating an agency to protect consumers, and deciding the tools government can use to dismantle a failing banking behemoth without damaging the financial landscape. Some of the proceedings will be televised, but much of the negotiating will be done behind closed doors; lobbying from financial groups has been intense.
We have asked one of the world’s foremost authorities on how economic crises affect financial markets and systems, Simon Johnson, to help untangle some of the key issues in the bill. Johnson, former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, is a professor at the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.Q. Regarding financial institutions deemed "too big to fail," the House version calls for a $150 billion resolution fund, which would be financed in advance through fees on large institutions and used to seize and dismantle a failing firm whose demise threatens the US economy. In the Senate, there is no prepayment. The government would seize the firm much as it does with smaller banks and pay for its dissolution through its shareholders and debtholders, with other large institutions financing the remainder of the cost. Some critics contend that in an economic crisis both plans could eventually need taxpayer help. How are taxpayer funds protected and how are they exposed in each version? Would one afford more protection during a financial crisis such as the one that battered the economy in fall of 2008?
This issue is a red herring. If a huge global bank gets into trouble (e.g., Citigroup, which failed or nearly failed in 1982, 1989-91, and again several times in 2008-09), the amounts of taxpayer funds involved in potential countermeasures are vastly in excess of $150 billion – and you will not be able to recoup the amounts involved through any kind of ex post levy. The crisis of 2008-09 required government actions to offset the cost of the banking collapse that amount, in total, to around 40 percent of GDP (roughly $6 trillion) – this is the increase in net government debt held by the private sector, relative to what it would have been otherwise. The amounts at stake due to reckless risk-taking by megabanks are enormous and beyond our ability to recoup through taxes or levies. Do not be deceived into thinking otherwise.
Q. Would either process increase or decrease moral hazard, in which corporate leaders take risks they would otherwise not assume because they have come to expect government rescues if investments go awry?
Moral hazard – the idea that you do not need to be careful, because someone else will pay for the downside – is pervasive in today’s financial system. The worst problem is at the top with “too big to fail” banks (particularly Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo.) The people who run these banks are convinced that, if they were to get into serious trouble, they would be rescued by the government – this is what happened as recently as March-April 2009. And the credit markets know this also, so investors are willing to lend money to these banks cheaper (by about 60-80 basis points, i.e., 0.6-0.8 percentage points). This is a huge funding advantage which enables the banks to become even bigger – in effect, this is an unfair, nontransparent, and very dangerous taxpayer subsidy.
Unfortunately, neither the House nor the Senate versions really address this core issue – for example, attempts to break up the biggest banks or limit their borrowings were defeated on the Senate floor (most notably the Brown-Kaufman amendment, which failed 33-61). Both bills have the same problem and the reconciliation process seems unlikely to adequately improve this situation.
Q. The Senate language on derivatives -- complex investments that were blamed for magnifying the financial crisis in 2008 -- is more far-reaching and essentially forces banking institutions to end such trading and spin off their derivatives trading divisions. Is such a provision necessary?
The Lincoln Amendment (named for Senator Blanche Lincoln) would require banks to set up separate subsidiaries for their derivatives trading operations, within which they would need to hold a great deal more capital against their trading books.
This approach would – if properly implemented by regulators – make derivatives trading substantially less risky. It would also make such trading less profitable – requiring more capital to be held against downside losses will also reduce the extent of upside profits. This would be most helpful. Naturally the Wall Street lobbyists are working hard to strip this language from the final bill. All the indications are that they will succeed (again).
Q. What element of the bill would have the most far-reaching effect on the fundamentals of the US economy and why?
The establishment of the Consumer Protection Agency for financial products, long championed by Elizabeth Warren (from Harvard Law School), would be a major achievement – and protect American families from an industry that has become downright nasty.
If the reconciliation process ends up including the Volcker Rule in any meaningful sense, that would be constructive. The administration has – mysteriously – drifted away from its own proposal of breaking out “proprietary trading” from big banks, i.e., forcing them to get out of the business of betting large amounts of their own capital. Senators Jeff Merkley and Carl Levin have taken up the cause – and pursued it doggedly against great opposition from the industry. They still have an amendment on the table that would implement the Volcker principles – and bring back some of the separation between risky/dangerous banking and relatively boring/safe banking that was central to Glass-Steagall (and part of why the financial reform legislation of the 1930s kept us safe for 50 or so years.) If Merkley-Levin prevails – and the odds are massively against them – that would be a major achievement.
The final bill will probably move some derivatives trading onto exchanges. Here the unsung hero is Gary Gensler, head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (and former Goldman Sachs executive), who has pushed relentlessly for tougher rules. Unfortunately, even Gensler could not prevent big exemptions being granted – so “over the counter” derivatives trading will continue and again lead us into great danger.
Q. Are there unintended consequences of the bill that keep you up at night?
If the bill further confirms the existence of “too big to fail” banks and affirms their privileged status, this will only increase the already bad moral hazard problems at the heart of the financial sector. This would not be any kind of market system – instead, it would be a government subsidy scheme that encourages reckless risk-taking.
Q. This bill has been tagged the most dramatic remake of the financial sector since the Depression. Yet, it would not radically alter the sector's structure as did Glass-Steagall (which separated commercial banking and securities operations before it was repealed in 1999) nor would it limit the size of financial institutions. Much of the scope of the bill pivots on how the regulations are eventually written and enforced by a host of agencies. Is this the final word or is substantial legislation still needed?
Substantial legislation is still needed. This is not significant reform – although there are some baby steps in the right direction (and the consumer protection agency for financial products is a good idea.)
There was no meaningful strengthening of financial regulation since the Great Depression – just a wave of deregulation that made the financial system more dangerous. So the label of “best since the 1930s” is meaningless.
The legislation should be judged in terms of whether it substantially reduces the dangers posed by our financial system. And on this there is a growing consensus – from the left (e.g., Joe Stiglitz of Columbia University), center (Paul Volcker), and right (e.g., Gene Fama of the University of Chicago) – that this legislation does not really address all the problems associated with having banks that are “too big to fail.”
More complete reform – to rein in the economic and political power of our biggest banks – is sorely needed.
Simon Johnson is a professor at MIT Sloan, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute, and co-author of the bestseller "13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and The Next Financial Meltdown." He is also co-founder of BaselineScenario.com, a leading website on the global economy. From March 2007 through August 2008, he was chief economist at the International Monetary Fund.
WASHINGTON -- Senate Democrats and Republicans today braced for a showdown vote on legislation to impose sweeping new regulations on the nation's financial industry.
A vote scheduled for 5 p.m. could determine whether Republicans have enough votes to filibuster the bill, which could stop debate and force negotiators from both parties to go back to the bargaining table.
A key role could be played be Senator Scott Brown, the Massachusetts Republican who has said he would back the filibuster in hopes of forcing major changes in the legislation. Several other Republicans have been targets for Democrats, including the two senators from Maine – Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe.
But, at least for now, Republicans seem united in blocking the initial vote.
"I don’t believe we’ll have a deal today," Senator Richard Shelby, the top Republican negotiator, said this morning on ABC’s “Good Morning America." Still, he added, "I believe we’re going to get a good bill."
Shelby has been negotiating with Senator Christopher Dodd, the Connecticut Democrat and chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, for several weeks. The two are planning to meet again this afternoon, hours before the vote.
Democrats feel they will have a victory either way: by winning the vote, or by being able to portray Republicans as protectors of Wall Street greed.
The 5 p.m. vote is mostly a procedural one that would allow debate to begin. But it will also test overall support for the bill, and could set the stage for the next week or two of debate. The 59 Democrats, who are all expected to vote in favor, need at least one Republican to join them if they want to prevent a filibuster.
If the vote fails, Republicans would have more leverage to negotiate changes before Democrats could bring it up for another vote later in the week.
Brown, the newly-elected Massachusetts Republican, has said he would join a Republican filibuster unless changes are made to the bill.
"I haven’t been briefed by the teams," he said in a brief interview on Thursday. "But I’m encouraging everybody to stay at the table and try to come up with a real bill that we can all be proud of."
Brown has largely criticized the bill as one that would hurt some Massachusetts companies because they would be caught up in a “web” of new investing rules that would hamper their ability to do business. Several large insurance firms, including Massachusetts Mutual and Liberty Mutual, have been lobbying against the current bill for those reasons.
The legislation is designed to crack down on practices that lead to the economic collapse in 2008, when the federal government had to intervene and prop up failing financial institutions deemed "too big to fail."
It would establish a system for shutting down failing interconnected firms without disrupting the entire financial system. It would also establish a council that would be charged with monitoring the system for potential problems, and would establish a consumer protection agency to help prevent people from getting into trouble with mortgages and credit cards they can't afford.
The bill also aims to crack-down on a complex financial tool called derivatives. The trading of derivatives would have to be done on an open market, and some firms would be unable to continue their current operations.
At least two Republican senators – Snowe, and Charles Grassley of Iowa – support the current approach on derivatives.
One of the main targets of Republican opposition has been a $50 billion fund that would be used to wind down failing institutions. The fund would be comprised of fees from large financial institutions, but Republican opponents have said that it could still allow for bailouts of large firms.
But not all Republicans are united on that issue. Senator Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican and a key negotiator, last week defended the fund and criticized his own party and said their lines of attack "miss the point and I think take us off on a bunch of rabbit trails."
Republicans also oppose the so-called Volcker rule, named for former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker. The rule would put new investment restrictions on large institutions, including preventing them from owning private equity funds. That provision is opposed by Massachusetts life insurance companies, because it would force them to stop investing in the Massachusetts Capital Resource Company, a consortium formed in 1977 that has invested about $575 million in 300 businesses.
The House has already passed its bill, which was drafted by Representative Barney Frank of Newton, who is chairman of the Financial Services Committee.
Matt Viser can be reached at email@example.com.
WASHINGTON – Senator Scott Brown said this morning that he would join a Republican filibuster to block a package of financial overhauls from coming to a vote in the Senate, providing GOP allies with further ammunition as they seek to stifle the Democrats’ hoped-for crackdown on Wall Street.
Brown, in his first Sunday morning talk show appearance since being sworn in three months ago, also accused President Obama of playing politics with the issue and said that Democrats were not doing enough to work with the other side of the aisle.
“I think the president's political arm is now taking over this debate,” Brown said during a 13-minute interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “And it's unfortunate because I, like many others in my state and throughout the country, want banks to be banks. They don't want them to be casinos. They don't want them to take risky bets on our money.”
Brown also said the bill would harm some Massachusetts companies because the “web” of new investing rules would sweep up insurance firms Liberty Mutual and MassMutual. Without elaborating or explaining where he got the estimate, Brown also claimed the bill would cost 25,000 to 35,000 jobs.
Attacking the legislation as a job-loser in a shaky economy would be a new approach for Republicans, who have been far more focused on portraying the financial overhaul as one that could provide further bailouts to big banks. Brown did not mention that leading attack, which was launched last week by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and has been pilloried by Democrats as “cynical” and “misleading.”
Financial regulatory reform is expected to grip Washington over the next several weeks as Senate Democrats determine whether they should alter their current plan to appease Republicans, or dare them to vote against a plan that is meant to crack down on unpopular Wall Street firms. The House has already passed its bill, which was drafted by Representative Barney Frank of Newton, chairman of the Financial Services Committee.
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
President Obama hoped to put the Christmas Day terror scare behind him -- at least temporarily -- by saying Thursday that the "buck stops with me" and setting in motion a streamlining of intelligence efforts and a ramping up of passenger screening.Today, he returned his focus to jobs after the latest unemployment report showed the jobless rate stuck in double digits.
The Labor Department reported this morning that employers cut 85,000 jobs last month, more than most analysts expected. For all of 2009, employers slashed 4.2 million jobs, and the jobless rate averaged 9.3 percent -- compared to an average of 5.8 percent in 2008 and 4.6 percent in 2007. The economy has lost more than 8 million jobs since the recession began in December 2007.
Obama has warned repeatedly that job growth will lag the economic recovery, in part because many companies have figured out how to get by with fewer employees, often by making workers do more.
UPDATE: "The jobs numbers that were released by the Labor Department this morning are a reminder that the road to recovery is never straight and that we have to continue to work every single day to get our economy moving again," Obama said this afternoon.
"For most Americans, and for me, that means jobs. It means whether we are putting people back to work. Job losses for the last quarter of 2009 were one-tenth of what we were experiencing in the first quarter. In fact, in November we saw the first gain in jobs in nearly two years.
"Last month, however, we slipped back, losing more jobs than we gained, though the overall trend of job loss is still pointing in the right direction. What this underscores, though, is that we have to continue to explore every avenue to accelerate the return to hiring, which brings me to my announcement today." (His full remarks are below.)
He announced that the administration is awarding $2.3 billion in Recovery Act tax credits, for 183 "clean energy manufacturing projects" in 43 states that are supposed to create tens of thousands of jobs in areas including solar, wind, and efficiency and energy management technologies.
“Building a robust clean energy sector is how we will create the jobs of the future,” Obama said in a statement. “The Recovery Act awards I am announcing today will help close the clean energy gap that has grown between America and other nations while creating good jobs, reducing our carbon emissions and increasing our energy security.”
In advance of Obama's remarks, the White House sent out a statement from the chairwoman of his Council of Economic Advisers, Christina Romer, that reinforced his message that the recovery will not "be a straight line" and that cautioned against reading too much into any monthly unemployment report.
"Today’s employment report, though a setback from November, is consistent with the gradual labor market stabilization we have been seeing over the last several months," she said.
"Payroll employment declined 85,000 in December. To put this number in perspective, employment declined 139,000 in September and 127,000 in October. So, in a broad sense the trend toward moderating job loss is continuing. This trend is particularly obvious in the quarterly pattern: average monthly job loss was 691,000 in the first quarter of 2009, 428,000 in the second quarter, 199,000 in the third quarter, and 69,000 in the fourth quarter.
"Revised data now show that employment increased 4,000 in November. This is obviously welcome news and the first employment increase in 23 months. Compared with the unexpectedly good report for November, December’s job loss is a slight setback. Two industries where employment declined significantly were construction (-53,000) and wholesale and retail trade (-28,400). One continuing sign of labor market healing was that temporary help services, which is often a leading indicator of labor demand, added 46,500 jobs in December. Both the work week and aggregate hours remained stable, maintaining the significant improvement that occurred in November.
"The unemployment rate remained at 10.0 percent in December. This level reflected a proportional decline in the number of people unemployed and the number of people in the labor force. The unemployment rate remains unacceptably high, which underscores the need for responsible actions to jumpstart private-sector job creation.
"As the President has said for a year, the road to recovery will not be a straight line. The monthly employment and unemployment numbers are volatile and subject to substantial revision. Therefore, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report, positive or negative. It is essential that we continue our efforts to move in the right direction and replace job losses with robust job gains."
But the Republican National Committee got in the first shot.
“For close to a full year the American people have been forced to watch and in many cases bear the burden of our ever increasing national unemployment rate which unfortunately remained in the double digits throughout the month of December," Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said in a statement.
"More than 85,000 Americans lost their jobs in the month of December, meaning more than 2.8 million Americans have lost their jobs since the stimulus passed, and the national unemployment rate remains at 10 percent. The American economy is a powerful and amazingly resilient system that will always naturally return to balance because of the determination and unique ingenuity of the American worker," Steele added. "But President Obama’s singular focus on enacting his government-run liberal policies are single handily preventing this return. It’s time for President Obama to heed the recent words of Democrat Senator Ben Nelson and finally do what he should have been doing over the past year – put his full and undivided attention on fixing our economy.”
House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio piled on, warning of a "jobless recovery."
"Today’s disappointing report paints a picture of an economy in which employers and workers are stuck in the muck of higher taxes, job-killing policies and wasteful Washington spending. Republicans have repeatedly presented President Obama with better solutions to help small businesses create jobs, only to be rebuffed in favor of more of the same ‘stimulus’ programs that just grow government and pile debt on our kids and grandkids," Boehner said in a statement.
"A jobless recovery is a far cry from what the American people were promised last winter when Washington Democrats jammed through a trillion-dollar ‘stimulus’ that they said would create jobs ‘immediately.’ Instead, roughly three million Americans have lost their jobs since then, and joblessness remains in the double-digits.
“Instead of wildly pivoting from one issue to the next, the Obama Administration needs to listen to American families asking ‘where are the jobs?’ and employers calling on Washington to scrap these policies that are already costing jobs, starting with a government takeover of health care. The hard work and entrepreneurship of the American people will ultimately get us out of this mess, but unless Washington gets out of the way, that day will be longer in coming.”
President Obama's grassroots group is taking the pulse of its members to decide its priorities for the new year.
Organizing for America, Obama's presidential campaign vehicle now housed within the Democratic National Committee, sent out an online survey today.
David Plouffe, Obama's former campaign manager, told supporters part of the agenda is set, including the crucial mid-term congressional elections in November: "2010 will be a year of new, exciting challenges. We'll be working hard with President Obama to finish the fight for health insurance reform, put more Americans back to work, and get our economy running strong. We'll fight to protect consumers and our economy from Wall Street abuses, improve transparency in Washington to elevate the voices of the American people, and create a vibrant, clean energy economy. And we'll stand up for the President's allies at the ballot box."
The survey, itself, asks how interested people are in health care, jobs, clean energy, financial regulation, and education. It also asks about immigration reform -- an issue that Obama put on the back burner during 2009 but has promised Latino and other groups he will tackle in 2010.
On the first workday of the new year, a liberal-labor group notes that by lunchtime, the average CEO has already made what a minimum-wage worker will earn in all of 2010.
The average total compensation for a CEO in the Standard & Poor's 500 index was $10.9 million in 2008, which translates to about $5,240 an hour, compared to the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, says Americans United for Change, which is pushing for labor-friendly policies as well as the health care overhaul.
While President Obama has railed against exorbitant executive pay and those firms receiving federal bailouts were under some limits, many of those companies paid back the government so they could pay top executives what they wanted, arguing that they were at a disadvantage for brainpower against companies that didn't need federal aid.
“At a time when hourly workers -- those who are still lucky enough to be employed -- are barely scraping by and having their hours cut back, CEOs continue to make millions across every industry," Tom McMahon, the group's acting executive director said in a statement.
"These same CEOs are, meanwhile, using their cash and influence to fight real change for working families. The bankers who crashed our economy and put us out of work are fight any attempts to reign in their influence. The health insurance companies who bankrupt millions are trying to block any change. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has dug in its feet to protect their pay and their posh way of life. We wish for many things in 2010 but first and foremost we’re hoping that the average worker will have a better shot of a fair deal this year.”
In a move as much as about the politics of the issue as the policy, President Obama this morning outlined a new plan to pump up hiring and avert a jobless economic recovery.
"There are more than seven million fewer Americans with jobs today than when this recession began. That’s a staggering figure and one that reflects not only the depths of the hole from which we must ascend, but also a continuing human tragedy," he said at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
Obama said the administration would focus on giving tax cuts to small businesses to encourage them to add workers; on promoting labor-intensive transportation projects; and on giving homeowners incentives to make houses more energy efficient.
The president also said he supports congressional efforts to extend unemployment benefits and federal health care subsidies for the jobless, and also proposed another $250 stimulus payment to seniors and veterans.
And he officially backed paying for the new plan by using money left over and repaid from the bank and Wall Street bailout -- known as TARP -- though he did not specify an amount. Republicans vehemently oppose the move, saying it runs counter to the purpose of the program and arguing that any savings should go to bring down the federal deficit.
"Launched hastily under the last administration, the TARP program was flawed, and we have worked hard to correct those flaws and manage it properly. And today, TARP has served its original purpose and at a much lower cost than we expected," Obama said. "This gives us a chance to pay down the deficit faster than we thought possible and to shift funds that would have gone to help the banks on Wall Street to help create jobs on Main Street," he added.
GOP Representative Darrell Issa of California responded in a statement: “The Obama administration apparently thinks TARP stands for the Taxpayer Asset Redirection Program. The use of taxpayer money for this purpose is clearly not what Congress intended. This development confirms the fears for those of us who opposed TARP – that taxpayer money would be used as $700 billion of walking around money. It now looks like that is exactly what the President is planning to do.”
Obama also reminded Americans how precarious the economy was, saying that a year ago his economic team briefed him on what he was about to inherit, an "unforgettable series of presentations" complete with "a chilling set of charts and graphs, predicting where we might end up."
He cited all the actions the administration has already taken to avert a "second Great Depression," including the $787 billion economic stimulus package that he championed, and chided Republicans for not helping fix a problem they helped create. "We can safely say that we are no longer facing the potential collapse of our financial system and we've avoided the depression many feared," he proclaimed.
While there are signs of economic recovery, unemployment -- even with a slight dip last month to 10 percent -- remains stubbornly high despite the economic stimulus package. During the recession, the president notes, many employers learned how to make do with fewer workers and are in no hurry to pad their payrolls again.
To boost hiring by small businesses, Obama called for a one-year moratorium on the tax on capital gains from new investments in small business stock. The earlier stimulus bill included a 75 percent exclusion from capital gains taxes on small business investments. He also called for an unspecified "short-term tax incentive" for small firms to add workers, the details to be worked out with Congress.
He also wants to extend through next year a recovery bill provision that eliminates fees and increases federal guarantees for Small Business Administration loans, and another that allows businesses to immediately expense up to $250,000 of qualified investment.
"Over the past 15 years, small businesses have created roughly 65 percent of all new jobs in America," Obama said. "These are companies formed around kitchen tables in family meetings, formed when an entrepreneur takes a chance on a dream, formed when a worker decides its time she became her own boss. These are also companies that drive innovation, producing 13 times more patents per employee than large companies. And, it’s worth remembering, every once in a while a small business becomes a big business -- and changes the world. That’s why it is so important that we help small businesses struggling to open, or struggling to open in the first place, during these difficult times."
Obama closed his speech with a reprise of his broader critique of business as usual in Washington and of his call for change that captured the imagination of so many voters.
"In the end, the economic crisis of the past year was not just the result of weaknesses in our economy. It was also the result of weaknesses in our political system. For decades, too many in Washington put off hard decisions. For decades, we’ve watched as efforts to solve tough problems have fallen prey to the bitterness of partisanship, to the prosaic concerns of politics, to ever-quickening news cycles, and to endless campaigns focused on scoring points instead of meeting our common challenges," he said.
"We have seen the consequences of this failure of responsibility. The American people have paid a heavy price. And the question we’ll have to answer now is if we are going to learn from our past, or if – even in the aftermath of disaster – we are going to repeat it. As the alarm bells fade, and the din of Washington rises, as the forces of the status quo marshal their resources, we can be sure that answering this question will be a fight to the finish. But I have every hope and expectation that we can rise to this moment, that we can transcend the failures of the past, that we can once again take responsibility for our future."
UPDATE: Representative Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who co-authored the climate change bill passed by the House, praised Obama's focus on home energy efficiency and renewable energy.
“By embracing the vast clean energy jobs potential here in America, the president’s jobs plan will get people out of unemployment lines and back on assembly lines making wind turbines and solar panels,” Markey said in a statement. “By giving American families the opportunity to permanently reduce their energy bills through energy efficiency, we can ensure that new jobs and energy savings will literally start in the home.”
Senator Paul G. Kirk Jr. of Massachusetts also lauded Obama's initiative.
“I commend President Obama for his continuing leadership in lifting our country out of the worst recession since the Great Depression. I look forward to working in Congress to implement his proposals to give tax breaks to small businesses, invest in much-needed and shovel-ready projects to improve infrastructure, and fund rebates for consumers who upgrade their homes to make them more energy efficient," Kirk said in a statement.
“These proposals will have far-reaching effects that will get more people back to work, make our environment cleaner, and strengthen the role of small businesses as an engine driving our modern economy. Although much still needs to be done, I’m confident that President Obama, Congress, and the American people are up to the challenge of accelerating job creation as an essential part of our economic recovery.”
The AFL-CIO blessed Obama's move to use the TARP cash to help create jobs.
"President Obama is right: We must take urgent steps to create jobs. And we must fundamentally rebuild our economy so we never again face the unnerving financial meltdown that confronted Pres. Obama and all of America when he took office in January. While Wall Street is busy cashing their bonus checks, now is the time for immediate action to stabilize the economy for struggling working Americans on Main Street," the labor federation's president, Richard Trumka, said in a statement.
"I am encouraged that President Obama and his team are proposing many of the same steps that we see as the most promising, efficient routes to job creation. The AFL-CIO has proposed a 5-point plan that includes putting TARP funds to work for Main Street by making it available to provide credit to small business; extending the lifeline of unemployment benefits, food assistance and COBRA benefits for jobless workers; rebuilding America’s schools, roads and energy systems; increasing aid to state and local governments to maintain vital services and prevent the layoffs of teachers, firefighters and police and putting people to work doing work that needs to be done."
But House Republicans bashed Obama, particularly for saying that the country needed to continue spending its way out of the recession. "Families cannot spend money that they do not have, and the Administration and the Democrat Congress need to be held to the same standard. The runaway spending and permanent bailout culture are dangerous and irresponsible," said the office of House Republican Whip Eric Cantor.
Obama's full remarks are below, followed by the White House summary of the plan:FULL ENTRY
As President Obama kicked off a "listening tour" today to reassure Americans he feels their economic pain, new numbers demonstrated how much pain still remains.
The Labor Department reported this morning that the national unemployment rate dropped slightly to 10 percent in November from 10.2 in October as employers slashed the smallest number of jobs since the recession began in December 2007.
But that still means 15.4 million Americans are out of work -- and millions more are working only part-time or have given up looking for now -- and many economists expect the jobless rate to rise next year.
Obama is starting his tour in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley, where he won nearly 60 percent of the vote in November 2008 and where the unemployment rate was 9.3 percent in October.
He said the lower unemployment is reason for optimism, though of the guarded variety, since it's rare good news and since "too many members of our American family have felt the gut punch of a pink slip" -- 8 million since the recession began.
"This is good news, just in time for the season of hope.... But I do want to keep this in perspective. We've still got a long way to go. I still consider one job lost one job too many. As I said yesterday at a jobs conference in Washington, good trends don't pay the rent. We've got to actually grow jobs and get America back to work as quickly as we can," Obama said at Lehigh Carbon Community College, after touring Allentown Metal Works.
"But Americans who have been desperately looking for work for months -- maybe even longer -- can't wait. And we won’t wait. We need to do everything we can, right now, to get our businesses hiring again so that our friends and neighbors can go back to work," he added.
He said that on Tuesday in a major speech in Washington, he will give more detail about the jobs ideas he'll send to Congress.
(His full remarks and question-and-answer session are below.)
He then invited questions from the audience, and before returning to Washington, the president plans to make several stops in Allentown to meet real people.
In advance of the president's trip, the White House posted a statement from Christina Romer, chairwoman of his Council of Economic Advisers, that saw hope in the new numbers.
"Today's employment report was the most hopeful sign yet that the stabilization of financial markets and the recovery in economic growth may be leading to improvements in the labor market. Payroll employment declined 11,000 in November. This is a dramatic improvement from the decline of 597,000 in November 2008 and 741,000 in January 2009. It is by far the closest we have been to stable employment since the recession began almost two years ago," Romer said in the statement. "Furthermore, the employment loss in both September and October was revised down substantially, with the result that employment as of October is nearly 160,000 higher than was reported last month. As was true in October, the largest employment gains in November were in temporary help services, which is often a leading indicator of labor demand. 21,000 jobs were also added in state and local public education. Both the work week and aggregate hours increased, another early sign of labor market healing.
"The unemployment rate, which had risen to 10.2% in October, declined to 10.0% in November. This decline primarily reflects an increase in the number employed, as measured by the household survey. Despite the welcome decline, the unemployment rate remains unacceptably high. This underscores the need for the responsible actions to jumpstart private-sector job creation that the President highlighted at yesterday’s Forum on Jobs and Economic Growth at the White House. There are many bumps in the road ahead. The monthly employment and unemployment numbers are volatile and subject to substantial revision. Therefore, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report, positive or negative. But, it is clear we are moving in the right direction."
On Thursday, Obama hosted a brainstorming session at the White House with CEOs, labor leaders, small business owners, academics, and others, looking for any good idea to create jobs.
But he's under sustained assault from Republicans.
“Yesterday, President Obama hosted a ‘jobs summit’ at the White House in an attempt to convince the media and the American public that his administration is concerned with unemployment. Unfortunately this so-called ‘jobs summit’ was not about creating jobs – it was about creating a distraction to hide the fact that President Obama has managed to create more bureaucracy in Washington than jobs for American families," Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said in a statement today. "More than 11,000 Americans lost their jobs in the month of November, meaning more than 2.8 million Americans have lost their jobs since the stimulus passed, and the national unemployment rate remains in double digits. If President Obama is truly interested in job creation, then he should stop campaigning for reelection, stop pushing ‘Stimulus II,’ and start working with Republicans on common-sense conservative solutions.”
House GOP leader John Boehner of Ohio is greeting Obama in Allentown with an opinion piece in the local newspaper, the Morning Call, that slams the president and his Democratic allies in Congress for their economic policies -- and warns that the health care overhaul and sweeping climate change legislation would only do more harm.
"Having been promised much more than a 'jobless recovery,' the American people are right to wonder whether Washington Democrats can be trusted to turn things around, especially when their costly policies are only making matters worse," Boehner writes.
The Morning Call also has an opposing opinion piece from Representative Steny Hoyer, the second-ranking Democrat in the House.
He defends the $787 billion economic stimulus that Obama championed and Democrats pushed through, but concedes that Washington needs to do more, and welcomes ideas from Allentown.
"Though an honest look at the evidence shows that Democrats' recovery efforts are helping to put the country back on track, families in Pennsylvania and across the country continue to struggle. For their sake, we must do more," he writes.
"Democrats have worked to make unemployment benefits last longer for families facing long-term unemployment. That's important, especially because those benefits are quickly spent, boosting local economies. But there's no substitute for creating new jobs. That's why President Obama is in Allentown. And every idea -- from workers, business leaders, economists and from both parties -- is on the table," Hoyer continues. "Congress is working to shape the best ideas into a jobs bill, which might include incentives for small businesses to invest and create jobs, aid to states that will keep teachers and police officers on the job, and new infrastructure projects to make our country stronger. Ideas like those are still up for refinement and debate, and we're eager to hear Pennsylvanians' feedback."
Under fire from both Democrats and Republicans for the sluggish economic recovery, President Obama returns his focus to jobs today with a forum at the White House.
With more than 100 CEOs, labor leaders, academics, community activists, and others, the forum is meant to be an ideas generator. Administration officials have already downplayed the possibility of new policies actually being announced today, but say they are talking to Democratic allies about further extending unemployment benefits and COBRA health coverage subsidies for the jobless. (The run-down of the forum sessions and participants is below.)
In opening the forum this afternoon, Obama said the economy and Wall Street had been saved from ruin. But he didn't try to sugar-coat the remaining pain, noting that one in 10 Americans are unemployed and millions more are underemployed
"This is a struggle that cuts deep," Obama said.
The unemployed have not only lost a paycheck, but their "sense of identity and dignity."
In the Great Recession, cash-strapped businesses understandably have slashed jobs and made remaining workers increase their productivity. But that means that they are not adding employees.
"How do we get businesses hiring again?" he asked.
Obama said "we do not have enough public dollars" and cannot increase public hiring enough to boost a real recovery. Only the private sector can do that, he said. (His full remarks and preceding remarks from Vice President Joe Biden.)
UPDATE: At the close of the forum, Obama said he'd heard many "exciting ideas and proposals" and said he hoped some could be put into action quickly to help put millions of Americans back to work.
The president said there were some ideas that could be put to work almost immediately and other ideas that will become part of legislation for Congress to consider. He listed "energy efficiency and weatherization" as a prime candidate for moving quickly.
The White House also announced that he will give another speech on the economy Tuesday at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
"There is no bottom in sight for working families who are struggling to keep their jobs, health care and homes and they know that our leaders must take immediate action to create and save jobs," AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement. "Our leaders must take immediate action to create and save jobs. Jobs -- good jobs -- are what it's all about. Now it's time for leaders in Washington to understand that too -- and thankfully many do. Today's jobs forum is an important opportunity to gather the best ideas for job creation. But it can't substitute for action. The summit will only mean something if it triggers an urgent round of actions to create American jobs. It's simply wrong that people who worked hard are paying for the sins of Wall Street with their jobs, and we can't sit back and hope it takes care of itself."
The Center for Community Change, an activist group, was in Washington today to demand a large-scale new jobs program.
"Government can no longer sit on its hands during this jobs crisis, nor expect a solution will come by putting all its eggs in the Wall Street basket. Main Street's unemployment levels have reached epic proportions and are far deeper than anyone could have imagined," Deepak Bhargava, the center's executive director, said in a statement.
"Our neighborhoods are economically distressed, and people need hope. Any conversation about fixing our nation's unemployment problem must include unemployed people at the table with business and labor interests. The need for jobs is immediate and urgent. America needs paychecks, not pink slips," he added. "A large-scale community investment jobs program would reduce unemployment faster than any other mechanism available to the government. The White House and Congress can immediately put 2.5 million Americans back to work revitalizing our communities, providing critical services and cleaning the environment. These jobs would be real jobs with living wages and have a long term impact on America's future."
Republicans, meanwhile, are holding a counter-summit and already warning against a second stimulus package, saying that the $787 billion plan that Obama championed has been a failure.
"This White House 'jobs summit' is just another example of President Obama’s PR presidency, where he stages photo-ops and events to distract citizens and the media from his administration’s failures," Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele wrote in an opinion piece in Politico today. "If this 'jobs summit' is anything like the previous 'fiscal responsibility summit' then Americans should expect nothing but vague political overtures and empty promises. The 'fiscal responsibility summit' didn’t decrease our national debt and this 'jobs summit' won’t bring back the jobs Americans desperately need. However, it might create the political cover needed to pass another government-growing and unnecessary stimulus package."
Obama follows up the forum on Friday with a visit to Allentown, Pa., as he kicks off a "White House to Main Street Tour" to hear first hand from struggling Americans.
The choice of location seems rather appropriate as a symbol of economic decline and pain. Billy Joel wrote a song about Allentown, released in 1982 -- the last time unemployment was this high.
The national rate was 10.2 percent in October, and the November number will also be released Friday.
In advance of Obama's visit to the Lehigh Valley, the GOP is running a radio ad in Pennsylvania mocking the first stimulus and warning of a second.
The ad is an imagined conversation between a man and a woman:
"Obama’s gonna have another stimulus plan," the woman says.
"Wait a minute," the man says. "I’m looking it up….The definition of the word stimulus."
"The Obama-Pelosi stimulus plan didn’t stimulate the economy," he adds.
"Nope. Unemployment has actually gone up 25 percent since then," the woman says.
"Nearly a trillion dollars and still we’re going in the wrong direction," the man chimes in.
"A lot of money. But half a million people in Pennsylvania still out of work," the woman says.
"Hey, if you see President Obama around town," the man concludes. "Let’s tell him one stimulus plan was too many," the woman adds.
Just before today's White House jobs summit, Mitt Romney minces no words in blasting President Obama's economic policies.
"Like other presidents before him, Barack Obama inherited a recession. But unlike them, he has made it worse, not better," Romney writes in an opinion piece published this morning in USA Today.
The former Massachusetts governor -- who made his name and fortune at Bain Capital, who ran for the GOP presidential nomination last year, and who could very well run again in 2012 -- derides Obama's economic know-how
"His failure to stem the unemployment tide should not have been a surprise. With no experience whatsoever in the world of employment and business formation, he had no compass to guide his path," Romney writes. "Instead, he turned over much of his economic recovery agenda to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, themselves nearly as inexperienced in the private sector as he. Congress gave him and them everything they asked for, including a history-making three-quarters of a trillion dollar stimulus. But it did little to stimulate the real economy -- where jobs are created."
Romney also joins in the GOP criticism of the White House claims of success for the $787 billion economic stimulus. "In an attempt to disguise the truth, the administration has touted inflated figures of jobs "created."But every month, in good times and bad, jobs are created and jobs are lost. What matters is the net difference between the two numbers. Focusing solely on jobs created while ignoring the far greater numbers of jobs lost is Harry Houdini economics," he writes.
Romney then lays out his own 10-point plan, including freezing stimulus money that hasn't been spent yet and redirecting it to the private sector, granting more business tax breaks, not allowing President George W. Bush's tax cuts to expire at the end of 2010, ditching the "cap-and-trade" climate change legislation, and approving free trade agreements with Colombia and other countries.
UPDATE: Democratic National Committee spokesman Hari Sevugan responded in kind to Romney:
“For months, the American people have been waiting for the 'Party of No' to offer a plan -- any plan -- to help fix the economy and create jobs. And for months, Republicans have done nothing. Now, instead of acknowledging, as leading economists and the independent CBO have, that the president's recovery act rescued this country's economy from the brink of disaster and has already saved or created 1.6 million jobs, Republican leaders like Mitt Romney and Eric Cantor are now offering 'plans' that are nothing more than a laundry list of the failed Bush-era economic policies that nearly destroyed our economy in the first place. Mitt Romney's allegiance to Bush economics is one policy position he'd do well to flip-flop on.”
The White House is getting the business from both sides of the aisle today on the nation's rising unemployment -- and what some fellow Democrats and Republicans alike say is an inadequate response from the Obama administration.
Republicans have been railing against the $787 billion stimulus bill that Obama championed. In what his office is billing as a major speech, Representative Eric Cantor, the second-ranking House Republican, plans to outline before the conservative Heritage Foundation proposals "to remove what he will term government-imposed obstacles to economic growth, including targeting some proposed regulations that could have an economic cost.
“Let’s begin with a simple premise: An overactive government did not make America the land of promise, prosperity and opportunity," Cantor will say, according to advance excerpts released by his office.
He then will call for blocking any federal tax increases until unemployment drops below 5 percent. "Americans of all political stripes can agree that the government should never raise taxes during periods of high unemployment," says Cantor. He and other Republicans argue that the health care overhaul and the climate change legislation are full of tax hikes.
The Virginia Republican also plans to call on Congress to approve "three promising free trade agreements with Colombia, South Korea, and Panama that have stalled under the new administration."
Cantor also plans to repeat other GOP tenets, including stopping the "deluge of detrimental rules and regulations," and reducing regulatory and tax barriers, controlling record federal deficits and debts, reforming the unemployment system to help people out of work find jobs, and giving bank regulators incentives to deal responsibly with banks and their borrowers. (His full prepared remarks are below.)
On the eve of a White House jobs summit on Thursday, the Congressional Black Caucus is continuing to register its disappointment with the administration's efforts so far to help minority communities, where unemployment is significantly higher than the overall rate.
The House Financial Services Committee today approved a financial regulation overhaul bill that puts new limits on Wall Street firms and demands greater openness from the Federal Reserve, the Associated Press reports.
But the 31-27 party-line vote was far closer than it would have otherwise been because 10 black caucus members did not vote.
"The president's top priority is economic recovery and we understand the profound impact that the recession is having on the African-American community," White House spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said in a statement. "We welcome a continuing dialogue with the CBC on how we can collaborate to implement the president's agenda to support economic growth and opportunity for all Americans."
UPDATE: The White House this afternoon released more details about the jobs forum, which it called "an opportunity for the president and the economic team to hear from some of the leading CEOs, small business owners, labor leaders, nonprofit heads and thinkers about ideas for continuing to grow the economy and put Americans back to work."
The schedule is below:
The Obama administration has some new numbers to defend its economic stimulus package, under fire after a barrage of reports of inflated job creation statistics.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reports that the $787 billion stimulus created or saved between 600,000 and 1.6 million jobs through the end of September.
The report, released Monday, said that the total economic output was 1.2 percent to 3.2 percent higher than it would have been without the stimulus and the unemployment was between 0.3 percentage points and 0.9 percentage points lower.
The range is so wide because the numbers are so squishy -- it is difficult to show that a job was "saved" by the stimulus spending.
But Vice President Joe Biden, in charge of the recovery package, made the most of the CBO report.
“This new report from the Congressional Budget Office is further evidence of what private forecasters and government economists have been saying: the Recovery Act is already responsible for more than 1 million jobs nationwide," he said in a statement today.
"From independent economists to Congress’s own nonpartisan research body, the experts have spoken and the debate is no longer whether the Recovery Act is creating and saving jobs, but how we provide even more opportunities to drive growth and support American workers. This early progress less than halfway through the program is encouraging, but we’re just getting started. In the coming months, we’ll break ground on thousands of infrastructure projects, launch multi-billion dollar broadband and high speed rail initiatives and make critical investments in our nation’s schools and businesses through the Recovery Act that will help put America back to work and lay a foundation for long-term economic growth.”
Representative Darrell Issa, the ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, questioned the "multiplier effect" that the CBO report used.
“The CBO report provides very little comfort to the 15.7 million Americans currently unemployed,” Issa said in a statement. “We know that the economy has lost more than four million jobs since passage of the stimulus. The CBO report does not account for how many of those jobs were lost as a result of $787 billion in deficit spending that takes money out of the private sector. What we have is a stimulus that is paying for government jobs with private sector jobs and has failed to lower unemployment.”
Issa also chided Biden, asserting that he was continuing the Obama administration's propaganda on the stimulus.
"Vice President Biden claims ‘more than 1 million jobs’ were created by the stimulus, yet nowhere in the CBO report does it state that ‘more than 1 million jobs were created.’ ” Issa said in his statement. “And where do the dollars spent come from? They come from borrowing against the future, running up record deficits, which Americans and their children and grandchildren will have to pay for in the future through confiscatory taxes and a weakened dollar. It’s time for the Obama Administration to stop using wasteful government spending programs and misleading statistics to substantiate their mythical jobs ‘created or saved’ numbers. Instead, they should work on a bipartisan basis with Congress to implement pro-growth policies that will reduce the tax burden, lower the deficit, improve Americans’ long-term economic well-being and put the economy back on a sustainable footing.”
Also today, the White House released a letter (read it here) from Ed DeSeve, senior adviser to the president for the stimulus plan, replying to House GOP leader John Boehner.
Boehner had blasted the administration's jobs "saved or created" numbers as entirely made up, but DeSeve said there is "nothing mysterious, ephemeral, or uncertain" about the role the recovery package has played in saving the jobs of teachers, firefighters, police officers, and others who would have been laid off by cash-strapped state and local governments.
Boehner was unconvinced.
"The Obama administration is trying to scam the American people by continuing to repeat their phony 'stimulus' claims, including the number of jobs 'saved or created' -- a metric it seems to have made up out of thin air," Boehner said in a statement. "As the CBO states on page one of their report, 'it is impossible to determine how many of the reported jobs would have existed in the absence of the stimulus package.' "
UPDATE: Americans United for Change, a labor-liberal group, capitalized on the CBO report to say that Republicans should now be eating crow.
“After enabling eight years of disastrous economic policies that left our nation on the brink of depression, Congressional Republicans not only shrugged off any responsibility but stood shoulder to shoulder in opposition to the president’s plan to get the economy moving again. And they have cynically rooted for the president’s jobs and economic plan to fail every day since," Tom McMahon, the group's acting executive director, said in a statement. "It’s now clear that if the Party of NO would have had their way, up to 1.6 million American people would be out of work today. When will Congressional Republicans stop rooting for failure and start working with the President and the Democratic Leadership in Congress to continue moving the economy in the right direction?”
Senator John F. Kerry today urged the State Department to consider increasing the US financial commitment to support international climate change priorities as officials prepare for the Copenhagen summit starting next week.
President Obama's 2009-10 budget includes about $1.2 billion, but Kerry wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that $3 billion in 2010-11 is needed.
A Senate bill, like the bill passed by the House in June, sets aside about 7 percent of proceeds from selling pollution credits "to international efforts to promote clean energy technologies, reduce emissions from deforestation, and address adaptation needs," Kerry wrote in a letter released by his office.
"The global community has agreed that $10 billion is required annually in fast-start financing to support immediate international climate change priorities. The United States must be prepared to contribute its fair share of this obligation," he added.
The Massachusetts Democrat is a lead author of the climate change bill he is trying to shepherd through the Senate and as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee has emphasized global warming as a national security issue.
His full letter is below:FULL ENTRY
President Obama, with a jobs refrain on the brain, uses the traditional Thanksgiving Day message to tell Americans that he feels their economic pain and is doing his best to make things better.
"As much as we all have to be thankful for, we also know that this year millions of Americans are facing very difficult economic times," he says in his weekly radio-Internet address, which usually arrives on Saturday. . Many have lost jobs in this recession – the worst in generations. Many more are struggling to afford health care premiums and house payments, let alone to save for an education or retirement.
"Too many are wondering if the dream of a middle class life – that American Dream – is slipping away. It’s the worry I hear from folks across the country; good, hard-working people doing the best they can for their families – but fearing that their best just isn’t good enough. These are not strangers. They are our family, our friends, and our neighbors. Their struggles must be our concern."
They are certainly the public's concern, helping drive down Obama's poll numbers. In a couple released this week, his job approval rating dropped below 50 percent for the first time in his presidency.
He touts the $787 billion economic stimulus, despite growing and gnawing doubts about the "saved or created" jobs figures put out by the White House, along with measures to stem home foreclosures and the proposed health care overhaul.
He also plugs the White House jobs summit next Thursday, when business and labor leaders, academics and economists, community activists and others will all put their heads together to come up with job-creating ideas.
"I will work with the Congress to enact them quickly," Obama vows. "And it is my fervent hope – and my heartfelt expectation – that next Thanksgiving we will be able to celebrate the fact that many of those who have lost their jobs are back at work, and that as a nation we will have come through these difficult storms stronger and wiser and grateful to have reached a brighter day."
The full address is below and can be viewed here.
Republicans say that Americans should be thankful for their blessings today -- but also very worried about the economy and the path that President Obama and Democrats are charting for the country.
"Millions of families have seen jobs and careers vanish in the midst of this recession," House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence of Indiana says in the weekly GOP radio-Internet address, timed this time for Thanksgiving.
“Many are asking, ‘When will things get better?’ Many more are asking, ‘Where are the jobs?’ " he adds. "In the city and on the farm, as millions of American families struggle to balance their checkbooks this holiday season, they watch in astonishment as Washington spends billions of dollars it doesn’t have."
After trashing Obama's $787 billion economic stimulus package, which he said has failed utterly given the national unemployment rate has risen to a "heartbreaking" 10.2 percent, he ridicules the president's plans for a jobs summit next Thursday.
The likely product, Pence says: “Another proposal to grow government, raise taxes and place more debt on the shoulders of our children and grandchildren. The American people know we can’t borrow and spend and bail our way back to a growing economy. The Obama administration and the Democratic majority in Congress have taken our economy from bad to worse with their failed economic agenda and big government plans."
And he says the proposed health care overhaul -- especially a government-run public insurance option -- would make the situation worse.
Pence, however, does not offer any specific solutions from Republicans, beyond the tried-and-true letting "Americans keep more of their hard-earned money."
"With many families hurting during this holiday season, now is the time for us to focus on what makes America great, to join hands and work together on common sense solutions to the problems ailing our nation," he concludes. “Let us resolve to help where we can help, let’s give where we can give, and let’s work together to get this economy moving on the time-honored principles of fiscal responsibility, equality of opportunity and growth."
The full address is below and can be viewed here.
Keeping up their attack on the Obama administration's stimulus plan, top House Republicans today urged the man in charge to stop claiming jobs that haven't been confirmed.
House GOP leader John Boehner and Representative Darrell Issa, the senior Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent a letter to Vice President Joe Biden telling him to stop using jobs "saved or created" figures. The administration claimed nearly 650,000 saved or claimed by last month, and said that figure put the stimulus on track to reach Obama's goal of 3.5 million by the end of next year. Read the letter here.
"Washington Democrats claimed the $787-billion ‘stimulus’ would keep unemployment below eight percent and create jobs ‘immediately.’ Instead, three million more Americans have lost their jobs, and unemployment is over ten percent. The American people are asking, ‘where are the jobs?’ but rather than work with Republicans on common-sense solutions to get our economy moving again, the White House is pressing ahead with a job-killing agenda, including a ‘cap-and-trade’ national energy tax and a trillion-dollar government takeover of health care." Boehner said in a statement.
"Worse, they are attempting to disguise the fact that the ‘stimulus’ isn’t working by releasing a stream of questionable - or outright inaccurate - statistics, including the number of jobs ‘saved or created’ – a metric the Obama Administration seems to have made up out of thin air. It’s time to bring facts back to this debate, and a good first step would be for Vice President Biden to stop citing these fictitious figures."
UPDATE: For their part, Democrats are pointing out that more than a few House Republicans -- 67 and counting, they say -- have tried to reap the political benefits of stimulus projects, though they all voted against the package.
"Given that House Republicans helped create the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and not a single one voted for the Recovery Package, it's hardly surprising that they root for failure while working to distract from the mess they created. We will continue going District by District to set the record straight and expose House Republicans and their Right Wing allies' shameless hypocrisy," Ryan Rudominer, a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman, said in a statement.
The administration's jobs count from the $787 billion stimulus has been widely questioned, with some numbers inflated and others impossible to verify and recipients of grants complaining that the forms are difficult to fill out.
Independent congressional watchdogs testified last week that while the stimulus has helped, they could not confirm any count. Many economists also agree that the stimulus has helped slow job losses, though it is exceedingly difficult to quantify.
After huddling today with his full Cabinet for the first time in weeks, President Obama made clear that of all the issues clamoring for attention on his crowded agenda, his eye is squarely on jobs.
"Our economy is growing for the first time in more than a year, and we know that economic growth is a prerequisite for job growth," he said after the meeting. "But, having said that, what I emphasize today is we cannot sit back and be satisfied, given the extraordinarily high unemployment levels that we've seen. We have only taken the first step in curing our economy and making sure that it is moving on the right track. And I will not rest until businesses are investing again and businesses are hiring again and people have work again."
Obama said he was soliciting ideas in advance of a Dec. 3 jobs summit at the White House, bringing together business and labor leaders, academics and economists, and others. In advance of the summit, fellow Democrats and friendly advocacy groups have been chiding the administration for not more aggressively trying to stem unemployment, especially among African Americans and Hispanics.
"Now, this is going to be a challenging task," Obama added. "It's challenging because of the extraordinary blow that the financial crisis delivered to the economy as a whole. It is particularly difficult because both the financial sector and the housing sector were the biggest drivers of economic growth prior to the financial crisis, and so the severity of their pullback means that things are moving slower than we would like them to move."
His full remarks are below:
President Obama met with one foreign leader after another, ate at banquets in his honor, and even walked on the Great Wall of China.
But according to the president, his eight-day tour of Asia was, in large measure, all about jobs back home.
"As we emerge from the worst recession in generations, there is nothing more important than to do everything we can to get our economy moving again and put Americans back to work, and I will go anywhere to pursue that goal," Obama says in his weekly radio/Internet address, recorded in the South Korean capital of Seoul, his last stop.
"That’s one of the main reasons I took this trip. Asia is a region where we now buy more goods and do more trade with than any other place in the world -- commerce that supports millions of jobs back home."
While many independent analysts have questioned what substantive accomplishments he brought back, Obama also says he made progress on nuclear security, terrorism, and climate change.
"But above all, I spoke with leaders in every nation I visited about what we can do to sustain this economic recovery and bring back jobs and prosperity for our people -- a task I will continue to focus on relentlessly in the weeks and months ahead," says Obama, who is under criticism even from Democratic allies for the slow pace of the economic recovery and the continued rise in unemployment.
"If we can increase our exports to Asia Pacific nations by just 5 percent, we can increase the number of American jobs supported by these exports by hundreds of thousands," he argues.
And he cites a Massachusetts firm to make the point: "American Superconductor Corporation, an energy technology startup ... that’s been providing wind power and smart grid systems to countries like China, Korea, and India. By doing so, it’s added more than 100 jobs over the last few years."
"Increasing our exports is one way to create new jobs and new prosperity. But as we emerge from a recession that has left millions without work, we have an obligation to consider every additional, responsible step we can take to encourage and accelerate job creation in this country," Obama adds, touting a Dec. 3 White House jobs forum designed to breed new ideas for turning around unemployment.
"Still, there is no forum or policy that can bring all the jobs we’ve lost overnight," he concludes. "I wish there were, because so many Americans – friends, neighbors, family members – are desperately looking for work. But even though it will take time, I can promise you this: we are moving in the right direction; that the steps we are taking are helping; and I will not let up until businesses start hiring again, unemployed Americans start working again, and we rebuild this economy stronger and more prosperous than it was before."
Obama's full address is below and can be viewed here.FULL ENTRY
A new poll out this morning suggests that Americans are starting to shift blame on the jobless economic recovery to Democrats from Republicans.
The CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey found that 27 percent of respondents say Democrats are mostly responsible for the economic woes, while 38 percent say Republicans are mostly to blame. In May, by contrast, the same survey found only 21 percent blaming Democrats and 53 percent faulting Republicans.
The poll also found that the gap between those who believe that President Obama's policies have improved economic conditions and those who think his policies have worsened the economy has shrunk -- from 14 percentage points in May to only 8 percentage points this month.
Despite the rebounding stock market and other positive signs, the survey found unrelenting pessimism about the economy: 82 percent rated conditions as somewhat or very poor, while only 18 percent said they were somewhat or very good.
The new survey was conducted Nov. 13-15 and has an overall margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Some of the president's own Democratic allies have begun to turn against him on the economy, saying that the administration hasn't done enough, despite the $787 billion stimulus, to reverse rising unemployment.
UPDATE: Republicans are pouncing on the dissension in Democrats' ranks, the unemployment numbers, and growing doubts about the jobs supposedly saved or created by the stimulus spending.
“Continued double-digit unemployment is not what Ohioans were promised. The White House, with the support of Governor Strickland, pledged that the ‘stimulus’ would create jobs immediately and keep the national unemployment rate from going above 8 percent. Not only has the 'stimulus' not produced jobs the Administration promised, but now we continue to discover numerous cases of waste, fraud, and incompetence in Ohio and across the country,” the House GOP leader, Representative John Boehner of Ohio, said in a statement today after word that Ohio's unemployment rate had risen to 10.5 percent last month.
“Struggling families and small businesses in our great state deserve better. In all, over the past nine months since the ‘stimulus’ was enacted, nearly 150,000 Ohioans have lost their jobs. Immediate action is needed to create jobs and provide relief. House Republicans will continue to offer fiscally responsible solutions to create jobs by putting money back in the hands of the true drivers of economic growth: American families, small businesses and entrepreneurs.”
The White House and its Democratic allies in Congress are refocusing on jobs. To which Republicans say: It's about time.
"I say you gotta be kidding me. They have for months now been about more spending, leaving a wake of deficits in their trail, and now they want to focus on what’s important," Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the No. 2 Republican in the House, told reporters today.
"Sometimes it is difficult for us to take the other side seriously, but if they are serious we welcome this news. Republicans have been working for months now trying to forge solutions as to how to get Americans back to work. We urge Speaker Pelosi to take into consideration some of the Republican solutions for job creation and look forward to working together so that we can get this economy back on track,” he added.
UPDATE: WASHINGTON -- Continuing his focus on swine flu, Senator Paul G. Kirk Jr. today questioned why it's taking so long to get the vaccine to states.
At a hearing of the Senate homeland security committee, the Massachusetts Democrat noted that there have been about 22 million cases of H1N1 nationwide and 3,900 deaths, including more than 1,500 confirmed cases in the Bay State since April.
State officials said last month that vaccine deliveries were running three weeks behind and that shortages were being reported.
"Many of us are seriously concerned that far more individuals will come down with the virus, and far more lives will be lost, before sufficient quantities of the vaccine arrive," Kirk said in his opening remarks. (His full prepared opening statement is below.)
UPDATE: Representative John Boehner added his criticism, noting that the national debt has passed a mindboggling $12 trillion.
"A $12 trillion national debt is just the latest fallout from Washington Democrats’ unprecedented spending binge. The American people are asking ‘where are the jobs?’ but all they are getting from out-of-touch Washington Democrats is more unsustainable spending and debt to be paid by our kids and grandkids. Instead of taking immediate, bipartisan action to cut spending, Washington Democrats are preparing to double down on their trillion-dollar ‘stimulus’ with a $1.3 trillion government takeover of health care and a promise to address fiscal responsibility sometime next year," he said in a statement.
“The American people deserve better than a government that kicks the can down the road. It is past time for Congress to adopt strict budget caps that limit federal spending on an annual basis, which was a critical plank in the budget alternative Republicans proposed earlier this year.”
Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland, Cantor's Democratic counterpart, said Democrats will try to pass a job-creation plan this year that could include money for highway construction and tax credits for small businesses.
Hoyer told reporters today that it wouldn't be as sweeping as the $787 billion economic stimulus enacted in February, saying, “We need to act in a way that does get to the creation of job opportunities of people in the short term.”
Just before President Obama departed on his Asia trip, he announced a jobs forum to come up with any and all ideas to stem rising unemployment, at 10.2 percent nationally last month.
The White House announced Monday night that the forum will be Dec. 3. “During these difficult economic times, we have a responsibility to consider all good ideas to encourage and accelerate job creation in this country. At the forum next month, I am looking forward to hearing from the private sector, from CEOs and small business owners and from Americans struggling to make ends meet on how we can work together to create jobs and get this economy moving again,” Obama said in a statement.
The White House also announced that the following day, Obama will kick off a "Main Street Tour" in Allentown, Pa., "that will take him to cities and towns across the country over the course of the next few months" to "take the temperature on what Americans are experiencing during these challenging economic times."
Responding to public outrage, President Obama today announced a financial fraud task force to go after Wall Street crooks and others making illegal gains.
The aim is “to prevent another meltdown from happening,” Attorney General Eric Holder said at a news conference. “We will be relentless in our investigation of corporate and financial wrongdoing.”
The task force will be led by the Justice Department and also include agencies including the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Treasury Department, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Obama's executive order can be viewed here.
President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao didn't agree today on much substantial on climate change.
But these days, even goodwill among the two biggest energy producers is apparently cause for hope.
“This agreement shows that economic competition and cooperation are not mutually exclusive, especially when solving the grave threat of climate change is at stake," Representative Edward Markey of Massachusetts said in a statement.
“This significant agreement offers a blueprint for international clean energy cooperation between the U.S. and China, and for the rest of the world. With crucial international climate negotiations in Copenhagen just weeks away, the U.S. and China have proven today that the international community can find common ground on key energy issues," added Markey, co-author of the climate change bill passed by the House in June.
“In just a month, the conventional wisdom on US-Chinese climate politics has been turned on its head, and not a moment too soon. With just days to go before nearly 200 countries meet in Copenhagen to forge a new way forward on climate and clean energy, this agreement shows that the last remaining roadblocks are being pushed aside.”
President Obama reacted with concern about a new report today that suggests hunger in America is at record levels -- and a vow to do something about it.
The US Department of Agriculture reported that in 2008 -- during the start of the worst recession in decades -- nearly 15 percent of US households, about 49 million people, struggled to put enough food on the table, the highest number since the agency began tracking food "insecurity" in 1995.
The number jumped significantly from 11 percent in 2007, and was likely higher this year as the jobless rate rose.
"It is particularly troubling that there were more than 500,000 families in which a child experienced hunger multiple times over the course of the year," Obama said in a statement. "Our children’s ability to grow, learn, and meet their full potential – and therefore our future competitiveness as a nation – depends on regular access to healthy meals.
"My administration is committed to reversing the trend of rising hunger. The first task is to restore job growth, which will help relieve the economic pressures that make it difficult for parents to put a square meal on the table each day. But we are also taking targeted steps to prevent Americans from experiencing hunger.
Among the steps, he said, is increasing benefits and expanding summer feeding programs for children.
His full statement is below:
Before embarking on a week-long tour of Asia, President Obama tried this morning to reassure Americans at home that the economy is recovering -- and that more jobs will soon come with it.
He said that his administration has taken "bold steps to break the back of this recession" and that the economy is "now growing again for the first time in a year," but that there is "not yet the job growth that we desperately need."
"This is one of the great challenges that remains in our economy," he said in a brief statement at the White House.
While there are limits to what government can do or should do, he said, his team will look at "every responsible step."
In the only new wrinkle, Obama announced a December "forum on jobs" to gather those ideas.
(His full remarks are below.)
While unemployment is at 10.2 percent nationally, a quarter-century high, there was a glimmer of hope today. The Labor Department reported that first-time jobless claims dropped to 502,000 last week, the fewest since the first week of 2009.
While foreign policy challenges such as North Korea will be on his agenda, Obama will also be talking about the global economic recovery on his stops in Japan, Singapore, China, and South Korea.
He said he will be pushing for a balanced world economy that is not as dependent on US consumption and borrowing.
The Republican National Committee put it in another light: "Mr. President, meet your creditors," it said in a missive, noting that Asian countries, especially China, are buying US government bonds that enable the federal government to borrow. Obama, the RNC said, is traveling to nations "he plans to borrow billions from in order to finance his reckless big-government experiments, historic deficits."
In this morning's appearance, Obama did not address the other major item on his agenda -- sending more troops to Afghanistan.
He held another war council on Wednesday, but presented with four options, he rejected all of them until he gets more assurances of when US troops would be able to leave Afghanistan. Obama's stance came as word leaked of cables from the US ambassador in Kabul who argued that a US troop surge would only prop up a weak, corrupt central government.
Senator John F. Kerry is cosponsoring a bill he announced today he will introduce to give more aid to small businesses that have military reservists on their payrolls.
Authored with Representative Ron Klein of Florida, the legislation would provide tax incentives for small businesses that make up the difference in salary between military and civilian pay while reservists are serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Many large businesses offer the supplements, but many small business owners, who employ 20 percent of reservists, can't afford to do the same.
“Our legislation supports the small businesses that stand by our men and women in uniform when reservists are deployed. It keeps our service members employed and small businesses open for business. In the face of a tough economy, we can do more to support the employers and reservists who make such profound contributions to our economy and national defense,” Kerry said in a statement.
Vice President Joe Biden heads to Michigan today to talk up the Obama administration's efforts to boost the economy.
He will meet with Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm to discuss jobs, which are in short supply in a state where the recession started earlier than much of the country and where the unemployment rate is still the nation's highest.
UPDATE: According to the press pool report, Biden told a Democratic fund-raiser that the stimulus package and other economic programs are "working," but "we've got a long way to go."
But Biden said at least Democrats "get it" and want to make investments in energy and infrastructure that will grow the economy in the long term, while Republicans are "betting on us to fail."
Echoing the president, Biden also said it's easy to forget "just how horrible things were back in January," according to the pool report.
"This was an economy built on a bubble. The rules were being made by the cowboys on Wall Street."
Biden is being greeted by a radio ad from the Republican National Committee. (Listen to it here.)
“Back in February the Obama administration promised the so-called stimulus would bring much-needed jobs to Michigan. Nine months later, 178,000 more Michiganders have lost their jobs bringing unemployment to 15.3 percent – the highest in the entire country, and our nation’s employment rate now exceeds 10 percent," RNC Chairman Michael Steele said in a statement. "More than anything the people of Michigan need jobs, yet Vice President Biden and Michigan Democrats Mark Schauer and Gary Peters are spending their time fundraising. It’s time for the Democrats to make their constituents a priority and start working to bring jobs back to Michigan.”
Republicans are using the new unemployment numbers out today to pummel President Obama and the Democrats on their record on the economy -- the top issue for voters in Tuesday's election that gave the GOP the governor's offices in New Jersey and Virginia.
The Labor Department reported that the national jobless rate has exceeded 10 percent for the first time since 1983. The rate rose to 10.2 percent last month from 9.8 percent in September. Nearly 16 million people can't find jobs, and counting those who have settled for part-time jobs or stopped looking for work, the rate would be 17.5 percent, the highest on records dating from 1994.
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele again attacked the $787 billion economic stimulus package, whose benefits cited in Obama administration reports have come under scrutiny.
"Since President Obama’s inauguration, the nation has watched the unemployment rate continue to climb, and unfortunately the month of October was no different," Steele said in a statement. "With so many families looking for work, it is time the Obama administration stop spreading their phony ‘saved or created’ talking points and start creating the dependable jobs America needs. President Obama promised jobs during his campaign for president, and the elections in Virginia and New Jersey on Tuesday were a clear referendum on his failure to deliver on this promise.”
And Representative Eric Cantor, the second-ranking Republican in the House, cited the new numbers to argue against the health care overhaul that House Democrats plan to push through as soon as Saturday.
"As unemployment tops 10 percent this holiday season, Republicans have put jobs and the economy first, and are focused on developing real solutions that will put Americans back to work. Increasing taxes on small business, as Democrats will do to pay for government run health care, is the wrong approach. Instead, we should work to empower small businesses to hire more workers, not penalize them further, costing even Americans their jobs," Cantor said in his statement.
“Americans, particularly those with friends, neighbors, and family out of work, are pleading with leaders in Washington to focus on jobs and the economy. From coast to coast, people are concerned with the direction that Washington is heading, and are tired of the spending, tired of the waste, and are pleading for their leaders to focus on jobs and the economy. With millions of Americans desperately seeking work, I ask the President put the economy first, and sit down with Republicans to develop bipartisan solutions that will change the direction of this economy and get people working again.”
Obama this week has touted his administration's efforts to rebuild the economy, while at the same time warning that unemployment would continue to rise until the recovery takes hold.
Today, Obama did sign an extension of jobless benefits -- 14 more weeks for those who have used up their benefits or will do so by the end of the year about 2 million nationwide, including as many as 40,000 in Massachusetts. Those in states such as Massachusetts where the jobless rate is 8.5 percent or above get an additional six weeks. It is the fourth such extension in the past 18 months. (The White House release on the bill is below.)
In a Rose Garden appearance this morning after signing the bill, Obama said the "sobering" jobless numbers underline the "economic challenges ahead."
He noted that the economy grew in the third quarter, but that "job growth always lags behind economic growth."
Obama vowed not to let up on creating jobs and said his administration is looking at additional incentives, tax cuts for businesses, and more measures to free up credit.
He said while it "will take time and patience," he's confident the economy will recover and the country is headed in the right direction. (His full remarks are below.)
Responding to the new numbers, the White House issued a statement this morning from Christina Romer, chairwoman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers, putting the best spin on them.
“Today’s employment report contained both signs of hope for recovery and painful evidence of continued labor market weakness," she said.
"Payroll employment declined 190,000 in October, continuing the steady trend of moderating job loss that began last spring. Furthermore, the employment loss in both August and September was revised down substantially. Importantly, employment in temporary help services, typically one of the first industries to see job gains, increased by 33,700. The motor vehicle industry also posted employment gains. These are hopeful signs that the unprecedented policy actions are working to stabilize the economy and put us on a path toward recovery.
"The unemployment rate, however, rose four-tenths of a percentage point, to 10.2 percent. That this occurred despite the rise in real GDP last quarter reflects both the typical lag between GDP growth and unemployment decline, and the recent exceptional increases in productivity. Having the unemployment rate reach double-digits is a stark reminder of how much work remains to be done before American families see the job gains and reduced unemployment that they need and deserve.”
By Lisa Wangsness, Globe Staff
WASHINGTON -- Governor Deval Patrick and House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo met with the state's congressional delegation at the Capitol this morning to discuss a variety of issues, including the national health care overhaul the House may begin voting on this weekend.
Patrick said the economic woes confronting Massachusetts were also a primary focus of the talks, which those who participated in them said also covered education, transportation and global warming.
"We are trying to project a reality to the public that is so in our working relationship -- we are working closely together, trying as best we can, with the tools we have, to bring some relief to people who are suffering and some hope to everybody," he said.
Patrick, who met with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Wednesday, said he was trying to make sure that the federal health care bills taking shape would not harm the state's health care system, which depends heavily on support from the federal government and provides far more generous subsidies for low-income people than the federal proposals on the table, and would provide the state the flexibility it needs to work on cost containment.
Representative Edward Markey, a Democrat from Malden and the dean of the delegation, said he is certain the House version of the legislation, which is scheduled to be voted on Saturday evening, would benefit Massachusetts.
"Our delegation is supporting the legislation because we know it does help Massachusetts," he said.
On his whirlwind two-day visit to Washington, Patrick is also meeting with other top administration officials, top Senate Democrat Harry Reid, and Massachusetts wounded at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The governor is scheduled to have a brief audience this afternoon with his friend and ally, President Obama.
By Michael Kranish, Globe Staff
WASHINGTON -- House Financial Services Committee chairman Barney Frank, under fire from some fellow Democrats and consumer groups for carving out what they call loopholes in legislation designed to prevent another economic meltdown, said in a letter released tonight that "there may be a problem here'' and that he wants to reconsider.
The Globe reported on Saturday that an array of Democrats, consumer groups, and the chairman of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission were concerned that legislation pushed through the committee by Frank was not strict enough on the trading of derivatives.
Senator Maria Cantwell, a Washington Democrat, said in the article that loopholes played a major role in last year's meltdown and would continue under the bill backed by Frank. Gary Gensler, the CFTC chairman, called for tightening the oversight of derivatives trading would lower the risk of financial problems. A consumer group representative charged that Frank had "walked away" from concerns of unions and other organizations.
On Tuesday, Frank met with representatives of one of the consumer groups that had complained it was not allowed to present its concerns. Following the meeting, Frank sent a letter to Gensler and Mary Schapiro, the chairman of Securities and Exchange Commission, telling them he heard concerns about the bill and wanted "to further clarify the exception" allowing certain types of derivatives trading. The letter was released tonight.
Heather Booth, director of Americans for Financial Reform, said in an interview that she raised concerns about loopholes in the legislation and she said Frank responded that he would try to tighten such exemptions. Booth said she left the meeting encouraged. Booth stressed, however, that her group still has concerns about whether all of the loopholes will be closed.
"It's not over," she said.
The derivatives measure has already passed through Frank's committee. Frank said in his letter that he would try to amend the legislation when it reaches the House floor.
The trading of derivatives is one of the most controversial elements of financial reform. Derivatives are financial instruments whose value is based on underlying assets, such as real estate. They are used to bet or hedge on how those assets will change in value. The collapse of one type of derivative, an insurance product for subprime mortgages called credit-default swaps, played a major role in last year's financial crisis.
Frank has long said that he wanted to crack down on financial institutions that engage in derivatives trading, but he was concerned that he didn't want to hurt "end users" such as corporations that use the financial product to hedge against day-to-day business risks, such as currency fluctuations. As a result, certain end users were exempted from some of the oversight.
But critics of the legislation said they were concerned that the exemptions were so large that they could lead to risky trading that could put the economy at risk. Concerns were also raised that financial institutions could take advantage of the loopholes to avoid scrutiny.
Senators John F. Kerry and Paul G. Kirk Jr. praised the passage this afternoon of extended unemployment benefits expected to help as many as 40,000 Massachusetts residents.
The two Bay State senators had written top Senate Democrat last month urging him to bring the bill to the floor as quickly as possible, before the benefits ended. More information on the benefits is available here.
“Families across Massachusetts are hurting,” Kirk said in a statement. “With the unemployment rate unacceptably high and the winter months approaching, impossible decisions about whether to turn on the heat or put food on the table loom in many households in the Commonwealth. Passage of the Unemployment Insurance benefits extension will provide greater hope to those who continue to search for work during these harsh economic times.”
“This extension of a critical safety net will make it easier for families across Massachusetts to hang on in the toughest economy since the Great Depression,” Kerry added. “I am pleased that my Senate colleagues have joined Senator Kirk and I in recognizing the urgent need to protect our families.”
Speaking one year to the day he was elected, President Obama this afternoon used the anniversary to call for "a national mission" to improve public education and build it into a pillar -- along with an overhauled health care system and clean energy jobs -- of the new economy.
"One year ago, Americans all across this country went to the polls and cast ballots for the future they wanted to see. Election Day was a day of hope, it was a day of possibility, but it was also a sobering one because we knew even then that we faced an array of challenges that would test us as a country. We had a financial crisis that threatened to plunge our economy into a Great Depression, the worst we had seen in generations. We had record deficits, two wars, frayed alliances around the world," Obama said at Wright Middle School in Madison, Wisc.
He said his administration has saved the economy from "imminent collapse" and is now moving ahead on its second core obligation -- to rebuild the economy stronger than before.
"It was an obligation to tackle the festering problems that had been kicked down the road year after year, decade after decade; problems that have to be overcome America to move forward," Obama said. "....That’s why we’ve been pushing so hard on health care reform. That’s why we’re taking up the cause of a clean energy economy that will free America from the grip of foreign oil and generate millions of good-paying jobs in the process.... And that’s why we’re taking up the cause that I’m here to talk about today – that is offering the best possible education to America’s sons and daughters."
He listed some of public schools' woes: falling behind the rest of the world in math and science education, lowering standards for students, and the achievement gap continuing for African-American and Latino students.
"Of course, these problems aren’t new. We’ve heard about them for years. But instead of coming together to solve them, we’ve let partisanship and petty bickering stand in the way of progress. It’s been Democrat versus Republican, vouchers versus better public schools, more resources versus more reform. This status quo has held back our children, it has held back our economy, and it has held back our country long enough. It’s time to stop just talking about education reform and start actually doing it," Obama said.
To that end, he formally announced $4 billion in "Race to the Top" grants available to competing states that commit to real reforms that focus on teaching kids, raising standards, developing good teachers, and, when necessary, taking over or closing struggling schools.
Straying off his prepared speech, Obama said it's up to parents to instill in their children the desire to learn -- and told about his own daughters to make the point.
He said his elder daughter, 11-year-old Malia, came home recently from the swanky Sidwell Friends private school with a 73 on a science test -- far less than the 90 percent goal. She then got a 95 on the next one, but more importantly had learned a lesson, Obama said: "I just like having knowledge,' that's what she said."
Obama's full remarks are below:
As the White House declares that the economy is moving from crisis into recovery, President Obama meets this morning for the second time with his big-name advisory group "to discuss long-term, innovation based ideas to sustain growth and continue to create jobs of the future."
The Economic Recovery Advisory Board, named in November, includes CEOs of major corporations and union leaders.
UPDATE: "We have come a long way since January, when at that time we were losing 700,000 jobs per month and across the political spectrum I think there was fear of the possibility of another Great Depression," Obama said during the meeting.
"We have pulled the economy back from the brink. We got good news last week showing that for the first time in over a year the economy was actually growing once again. And we have seen some other indicators that manufacturing is beginning to pick up. That's all good news and we are pleased that the actions that we took swiftly through the Recovery Act helped to stem what could have been a disastrous situation for the economy and we are starting to see stabilization and, indeed, some improvement," he added.
"But the reason we're here today is because we just are not where we need to be yet," he said. "We've got a long way to go. We are still seeing production levels that are significantly below peak levels and most distressing is the fact that job growth continues to lag. Now, we all know that in every economic recovery there is going to be a lag between the economy growing again, businesses investing again and businesses hiring again. But given the severity of the job losses that took place at the beginning of the year and the need for us to make up a whole lot of job loss, is going to require I think some bold, innovative action on our part and on Congress's part and on the private sector's part." (His full remarks are below.)
But as the administration touts the third quarter GDP growth and the nearly 650,000 jobs it says have been saved or created by the $787 billion stimulus package, Republicans are continuing to criticize. They question the job numbers, point out that many of them are government positions rather than private-sector ones, and note that the unemployment rate continues to rise.
This morning, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, a potential Obama rival in 2012, said that "the stimulus that the president and the Congress passed is not what's helped the economy."
Instead, Romney said on "The Early Show" on CBS, the economy is rebounding because the private sector has regained its footing on its own.FULL ENTRY
President Obama wishes Americans a Happy Halloween -- and says that the latest numbers show the economy is getting far less scary.
In his weekly radio-Internet address today, Obama highlights the gross domestic product report earlier in the week that showed the economy growing at 3.5 percent.
"It is easy to forget that it was only several months ago that the economy was shrinking rapidly and many economists feared another Great Depression," the president says.
But he is quick to acknowledge "economic growth is no substitute for job growth." "And we will likely see further job losses in the coming days, a fact that is both troubling for our economy and heartbreaking for the men and women who suddenly find themselves out of work," he warns.
To stem those losses, Obama says the administration has taken steps to free up credit, prevent foreclosures, and cut taxes. He also touted the $787 billion economic stimulus package, asserting that "it is clear that the Recovery Act has now created and saved more than one million jobs. That’s more than a million people who might otherwise be out of work today – folks who can wake up each day knowing that they’ll be able to provide for themselves and their families."
Republicans would dispute that number, but Obama says it shows the country is back on the right track and building a more solid economy.
"I want to emphasize that there’s still plenty of progress to be made," he adds. "And positive news today does not mean there won’t be difficult days ahead. As I’ve said many times, it took years to dig our way into the crisis we’ve faced. It will take more than a few months to dig our way out. But make no mistake: that’s exactly what we will do."
UPDATE: House Republican leader John Boehner's response: “The ingenuity of hard-working Americans will be the engine of economic growth and a prosperous future. But the Administration’s claims about its trillion-dollar ‘stimulus’ just don’t pass the straight-face test. Americans were promised that it would keep unemployment from going above 8 percent, and would start working immediately. Neither have turned out to be true. No one is buying the latest claim that it created or saved 1 million jobs – a claim the Vice President acknowledged is not accurate. It’s time to get to work on policies that get our economy moving again and that don’t saddle our children and grandchildren with mountains of debt, taxes and unsustainable spending.”
Obama's full address is below and can be viewed here.
The Obama administration said this afternoon that more than 640,000 jobs have been saved or created under President Obama's economic stimulus plan at state and local governments, nonprofit groups, and universities.
The 640,329 are in reports covering approximately $160 billion, which represents a little less than half of the funds spent through Sept. 30. Counting jobs linked to $288 billion in tax cuts, White House officials say the $787 billion stimulus plan has already created or saved more than 1 million jobs.
“These reports are strong confirmation that the Recovery Act is responsible for over one million jobs so far and we are on-track to create and save 3.5 million jobs through the Recovery Act by the end of next year. This is another encouraging sign of progress following yesterday’s news that the economy has begun to grow again for the first time in more than a year, but the President and I will not be satisfied until monthly reports show net job growth. We are working every day to create more jobs and we will continue to report on our progress doing so with the Recovery Act in the same transparent way we did today,” Vice President Joe Biden, who is overseeing the stimulus, said in an event with Governors Arnold Schwarzenegger, the California Republican, and Martin O’Malley, the Maryland Democrat.
A separate report released today by Jared Bernstein, Biden's chief economist, asserted that the new data confirms the administration is on-track to meet its goal of creating and saving at least 3.5 million jobs by next year. The report also found that the states with the highest unemployment rates nationwide reported 25 percent more jobs created and saved per capita than the nation as a whole.
The government numbers include 23,533 jobs that officials say were retained as a result of spending $1.9 billion in federal stimulus money over the past eight months in Massachusetts. Governor Deval Patrick announced that estimate on Wednesday, but then on Thursday announced he would eliminate nearly 1,000 state jobs to help close a $600 million budget gap.
But the Republican National Committee is aggressively disputing the numbers, citing an Associated Press report this week that an earlier stimulus status report had overstated the jobs numbers.
"Today's release from the White House will be the fourth job report in the last two months," it said today. "With a pattern of these White House 'jobs created or saved' reports being published in close proximity to releases of real data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (showing continuing job loss and rising unemployment), it is clear the Obama administration is trying to cover up economic reality by manufacturing job numbers out of thin air."
The politics of jobs numbers will be on full display the rest of the week.
The White House is crowing about the Commerce Department report this morning that the US economy grew by 3.5 percent in the third quarter, the highest growth rate in two years and the strongest sign yet that the worst recession since the 1930s is done.
The growth was fueled by consumers spending money on cars and homes provided in large measure by Obama administration programs. But many economists believe that the growth rate will slow as the impact wanes from the $787 billion economic stimulus package.
“Data released today by the Commerce Department show that real GDP grew at an annual rate of 3.5 percent in the third quarter of the year. This is in stark contrast to the decline of 6.4 percent annual rate just two quarters ago. Indeed, the two-quarter swing in the rate of growth of 9.9 percentage points was the largest since 1980. Analysis by both the Council of Economic Advisers and a wide range of private and public-sector forecasters indicates that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 contributed between 3 and 4 percentage points to real GDP growth in the third quarter. This suggests that in the absence of the Recovery Act, real GDP would have risen little, if at all, this past quarter,” the White House said in a statement.
“After four consecutive quarters of decline, positive GDP growth is an encouraging sign that the U.S. economy is moving in the right direction. However, this welcome milestone is just another step, and we still have a long road to travel until the economy is fully recovered. The turnaround in crucial labor market indicators, such as employment and the unemployment rate, typically occurs after the turnaround in GDP. And it will take sustained, robust GDP growth to bring the unemployment rate down substantially. Such a decline in unemployment is, of course, what we are all working to achieve.”
Republicans, meanwhile, are highlighting an Associated Press report that the initial job numbers from the stimulus package have been overstated by thousands. The AP said some jobs credited to the stimulus program were counted two, three, four or even more times.
While the administration claimed that federal contracts awarded to businesses under the recovery plan already had helped pay for more than 30,000 jobs, the AP said its limited review found the number was overstated at the very least by nearly 5,000, or one in six.
The story gave more ammunition to Republicans who argue that the stimulus has been a flop.
But the White House quickly issued a lengthy response.
"“This story draws misleading conclusions from a handful of examples. It looks at only a small portion of the data – an initial upload of data representing just two percent of Recovery Act spending – that was made publicly available before a full review of its accuracy could be done. Virtually all of the errors found by the AP had already been found by our review, and were already corrected in an update to be loaded onto Recovery.gov this week," said Ed DeSeve, a senior adviser to the president in charge of the stimulus package.
"Tomorrow, more than 100,000 recipient reports will be posted on Recovery.gov. Unlike the small number of reports reviewed by AP, these reports have been reviewed for weeks, errors have been spotted and corrected, and additional layers of review by state and local governments have further improved the data quality. As a result, whatever problems the early and partial data had, the full data to be posted on Friday will provide the American people with an accurate, detailed look at the early success of the Recovery Act,” he added in a statement.
The full White House statement is below:
A populist economic message -- and perhaps a little class warfare -- is alive and well today among Democrats and their allies.
In Washington, Senators John F. Kerry of Massachusetts and Max Baucus of Montana and Representatives Richard Neal of Massachusetts and Charles Rangel of New York introduced bills today that would crack down on wealthy Americans and businesses that hide assets in offshore tax havens.
"A small number of individuals and businesses hide their assets overseas solely in order to shirk their responsibilities, even as the vast majority of hard-working Americans honor the obligations of citizenship and fulfill their responsibilities," President Obama said in a statement cheering them on.
“Shortly after taking office, I laid out a set of proposals to crack down on illegal overseas tax evasion. The legislation introduced today would fulfill that promise, putting a stop to billions of dollars worth of abuses. I look forward to working with Congress to turn these proposals into law so that honest Americans no longer shoulder the burden of the few individuals and businesses that put profit before responsibility,” the president added.
Meanwhile in Chicago, the AFL-CIO is protesting outside the convention of the American Bankers Association.
"We're gathered here today to send a message to the bankers meeting inside, and the message is this: Business as usual is over. We are shutting it down. You work for us-not the other way around," AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka said. "Your job is to be stewards of our savings-to put and keep working families in homes, to lend the money companies need to create jobs. And you have failed. You've turned the American economy into your own private casino, gambling away our financial future with our money, driving us to the brink of a second Great Depression, then sticking out your hand for taxpayers to bail you out."
His full prepared remarks are below:
A senior White House economic adviser is trying today to make the economic case for a health care overhaul.
Republicans and other critics are warning that the president's proposals to remake such a significant portion of the US economy could hurt growth, balloon the federal deficit, and pinch recession-weary families.
But Christina Romer, chairwoman of White House Council of Economic Advisers, plans to tell the liberal Center for American Progress this afternoon that the only way to get the deficit under control is to trim health care costs, particularly in the government Medicare and Medicaid programs.
"Given the central role of rising health care expenditures, any solution to our long-run budget problem will simply have to include slowing the growth rate of health care costs,” Romer will say, according to advance excerpts released by the White House.
"Some have argued that it is irresponsible to reform our health care system at a time when the budget deficit is so large and our long-run fiscal problems are so severe. I firmly believe the opposite: it is fiscally irresponsible not to do health care reform.
State and local governments and private businesses alike would benefit from the health overhaul, she asserts. "Slowing the growth rate of health care costs will enable firms to once again give raises in the form of take-home pay rather than more expensive health insurance,” Romer plans to say.
“[F]iscally prudent health care reform that expands coverage to tens of millions of Americans and transforms our health care system to one that is higher quality and lower cost is possible.”
It's not quite as powerful as he wanted, but President Obama this afternoon praised the approval of a new consumer protection agency designed to prevent abuses by banks, lenders, and others.
The House Financial Services Committee, on a 39-29 vote, endorsed the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, one of the most contentious parts of a financial regulation overhaul that lawmakers hope will avert another meltdown like last year.
Republicans and the industry opposed the new agency and won many exemptions to the agency's oversight, including retailers, auto dealers, real estate brokers, and accountants. The committee's chairman, Barney Frank of Massachusetts, said the exceptions would make clear that the agency will monitor financial products and not every financial transaction of Americans. But he drew the line at Republican proposals, including one that would have exempted student loan providers.
The agency proposal will now be part of the bill that goes to the full House.
"I congratulate the House Financial Services Committee and Chairman Barney Frank on passing a bill out of Committee to establish the Consumer Financial Protection Agency," Obama said in his statement. "The Consumer Financial Protection Agency will prevent predatory lending practices and other abuses and will ensure that consumers get clear information they can understand about financial products like credit cards and mortgages.
"This bill has now passed a major hurdle and this step sends an important signal to the American people that we will not stand by and allow big financial firms and their lobbyists to mobilize against change," the president added. "They are doing what they always do -- descending on Congress, using every bit of influence they have to maintain the status quo that has maximized their profits at the expense of American consumers, despite the fact that recently those same American consumers bailed them out as a consequence of the bad decisions that they made."
The federal government's watchdog says that most local and state governments have yet to take steps to deal with global warming and its effects.
The report released today by the Government Accountability Office, requested by Representative Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, says that officials are facing competing priorities, don't have localized information on the impact of climate change, and unsure of local, state, and federal roles. (Click here to read the report.)
“A robust answer to the threat of climate change includes preventing the worst impacts and preparing for the reality that global warming impacts are already occurring,” Markey said in a statement. “If we are going to avoid the worst effects of global warming, we must pass comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation. However, we also must prepare for the effects of global warming that will realistically occur.”
Markey, as chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, is holding a hearing on the issue today.
The sweeping climate change bill -- sponsored by Markey and Representative Henry Waxman of California and that was approved by the House in June -- would create programs and services to encourage adaptation efforts and provide nearly $25 billion.
President Obama is unveiling more help for the nation's small businesses today, hoping that they can hire more people and drive down the unemployment rate.
The package, already dismissed by Republicans as a repackaging of existing programs, is designed to make it easier for small firms to borrow money so they can expand.
"Over the past decade and a half, America’s small businesses have created 65% of all new jobs in this country. And more than half of all working Americans working in the private sector are either employed by a small business or own one – more than half. These companies are the engine of job growth in America. They fuel our prosperity. And that is why they must be at the forefront of our recovery," Obama said at Metropolitan Archives, a family-owned small business in Landover, Md., that recently expanded with an SBA loan.
"The problem is, our small businesses have been some of the hardest hit by this recession," Obama added. "From the middle of 2007 through the end of 2008, small businesses lost 2.4 million jobs. And because banks shrunk from lending in the midst of the financial crisis, it has been difficult for entrepreneurs to take out the loans they need to start a business. For those who do own a small business, it’s been difficult to finance inventories, make payrolls, or expand if things are going well."
(His full remarks are below.)
UPDATE: The No. 2 Republican in the House, Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, responded to Obama by asserting that the real help small businesses need is freedom from new taxes.
“Small business job creators must be protected. While the President’s announcement that he will repackage some of the same SBA and TARP programs for small businesses is fine, it remains clear that neither this Administration nor the Speaker of the House understand the struggles that small business job creators face," Cantor said in a statement.
“As the President spoke today, Democrats in Congress continued their push for new taxes and mandates on small businesses to pay for their government health care overhaul – policies that will force many small businesses to close and cost even more workers their jobs. Today, I call on the President to pledge to small business job creators across this nation that he will veto any legislation that will raise their taxes."
The White House summary can be viewed here, and a rundown is below:
New Senator Paul G. Kirk Jr. of Massachusetts plans to join several colleagues Tuesday in pushing for passage of a bill to extend unemployment benefits.
"Unemployment insurance benefits began exhausting for jobless workers at the end of September, and nearly 2 million Americans will lose these benefits by the end of this year. Legislation to extend unemployment insurance for these workers has been held up in the Senate for nearly 2 weeks, despite repeated attempts by the Democratic leadership to pass this critical legislation," Kirk's office said.
Last month, the Massachusetts jobless rate rose to 9.3 percent, exceeding the peak during the early 1990s recession.
"In Massachusetts alone, more than 15,000 of our constituents have exhausted their UI benefits since the end of August. Another 4,000 are expected to run out of benefits before Thanksgiving, and as many as 40,000 individuals will have exhausted their benefits by the end of the year," Kirk and Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts wrote earlier this month to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
"Americans have already suffered severe repercussions from the current deep recession, and they deserve better than to be stranded without any assistance. It is essential that an extension be passed without delay."
Kirk will be joined by Senators Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, as well as Charles Schumer, Debbie Stabenow, Sherrod Brown, Bob Casey, Amy Klobuchar, and Al Franken.
But in this case, it's not Republican opposition that is gumming up the works. Instead, a bill that the House passed last month to give another 13 weeks of unemployment benefits to people from states where the jobless rate is at least 8.5 percent has bogged down because of resistance from lawmakers representing 23 states that have lower unemployment rates and would be left out.
Shaheen has been pushing for a bill that would extend unemployment benefits nationwide.
After a decidedly underwhelming count last week of jobs created by federal contractors hired under the $787 billion economic stimulus plan, the White House today asserted that the stimulus accounted for at least 250,000 education jobs across the country.
It said that "preliminary indications" are that state governments later this month will credit the recovery package with that total of jobs saved or created. The Domestic Policy Council, in cooperation with the US Department of Education, cited preliminary data on states using stimulus grants to restore nearly all of their projected education budget shortfalls for fiscal 2009 and 2010, thereby averting layoffs of educators in school districts and universities across the nation. Click here to see the report.
"This is one more indication of how the Recovery Act is helping soften the blow of tough times, by keeping educators on the job and teachers in the classroom," Vice President Joe Biden, who is overseeing the stimulus plan, said in a statement.
UPDATE: Par for the course, Republicans expressed deep skepticism about the administration's findings.
"From coast to coast, families and small business job creators believe that to date, the President’s policies have not created jobs, and no amount of campaign-style events or spin will change that reality unless there is significant change in the Administration’s policy," Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for No. 2 House Republican Eric Cantor, said in a statement. "Rather than even more deficit spending, Republicans continue to offer solutions that empower small business job creators to put Americans back to work and safeguard our children from the Democrats’ endless spending binge. The House Republican economic working group, led by Republican Whip Eric Cantor, continues to focus on policy solutions that get people working again and ensure that America’s economy once again provides opportunity for all. "
In its latest effort to prove that its $787 billion economic stimulus package is working, the Obama administration today released new data showing that federal contractors using stimulus cash created or saved about 30,400 jobs, including nearly 600 in Massachusetts.
The figure represents the payoff from only the first $16 billion in spending, but is the first hard data on the recovery package, which has been assailed by critics who point to rising unemployment, at 9.8 percent last month. The White House has previously relied on economic models for its estimates of success.
"It is too soon to draw any global conclusions from this partial and preliminary data, as it reports on just $16 billion of the $339 billion in Recovery Act efforts before September 30th, but the early indications are quite positive," Vice President Joe Biden's chief economist Jared Bernstein said in a statement. "The direct count by Recovery Act recipients of jobs created or saved from this small percentage of the Recovery Act exceeds our projections. All signs -- from private estimates to this fragmentary data -- point to the conclusion that the Recovery Act did indeed create or save about 1 million jobs in its first seven months, a much needed lift in a very difficult period for our economy. We look forward to the much larger, comprehensive report due on October 30th.”
Republicans, however, quickly asserted that the new figure -- which counts only those directly hired by contractors that received stimulus money -- is far smaller than the 600,000 to 1.1 million estimate of jobs saved or created that the White House Council of Economic Advisers put out last month.
Biden, put in charge of overseeing the stimulus, will be in St. Louis today to tout how the package is creating jobs and aiding law enforcement.
President Obama, who vows to support science in contrast to his predecessor, is touring one of the nation's epicenters for research today to announce that $5 billion in grants have been awarded for cutting-edge work.
Obama is at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., and is announcing that the institute has already handed out more than 12,000 grants from the $10 billion it received from the economic stimulus package he championed.
He said the grants are expected to create tens of thousands of jobs over the next two years and are part of a total of $100 billion in the stimulus package that is broadly going to science and technology.
“We know that this kind of investment will also lead to new jobs: tens of thousands of jobs conducting research, manufacturing and supplying medical equipment, and building and modernizing laboratories and research facilities,” Obama said in a statement. “I’ve long said, the goal of the Recovery Act was not to create make-work jobs, but jobs making a difference for our future. There is no better example than the jobs we will produce or preserve through the grants we are announcing this morning.”
The grants include $1 billion for research, using the technology produced by the Human Genome Project, to study genetic changes linked to cancer, heart, lung, and blood disease and autism -- in hopes of finding new treatments and cures. Of the money, $175 million will go to collect more than 20,000 tissue samples from more than 20 cancers, and determine in detail all of the genetic changes in thousands of these tumor samples.
“This historic investment demonstrates this administration’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of science and turning those discoveries into benefits for the American people. NIH researchers and grantees are already conducting some of the world’s most groundbreaking biomedical research," added Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who is accompanying Obama on the tour. “These awards will accelerate our progress towards the new medicines, treatments, and cures that will help Americans live longer, healthier lives."
UPDATE: Senators John Kerry and Paul Kirk today announced that Massachusetts will receive a total of $434,036,356 in Recovery Act funding for cutting edge medical research. The funding comes in the form of 1,148 separate grants for 84 schools and organizations across the state.
The funding will be used to support the full spectrum of medical research – from clinical studies to basic research.
“These significant investments in medical research across Massachusetts will save lives, create jobs and ensure that our state remains a world leader in medical technology,” said Senator John Kerry. “12,000 grants were awarded nationwide and more than 1,000 right here in our state. I'm grateful that President Obama has once again recognized the cutting edge work being done by our medical institutions.”
Senator Paul G. Kirk said, “These grants are well-deserved and will enable our world class universities, hospitals and research centers across the Commonwealth to continue their groundbreaking work in medical research. Massachusetts is and will continue to be a leader in this field, and I commend the Obama Administration for committing these essential funds.”
Obama's full remarks are below:FULL ENTRY
Vice President Joe Biden, overseeing the $787 billion economic stimulus plan, today announced a new series of goals -- by year's end.
Biden last set benchmarks in early June for 200 days since the bill was signed into law -- and they were all met, though Republicans and other critics questioned how ambitious they really were.
“We’ve made great progress in the first seven months of Recovery Act implementation in 2009 – now we want to finish the year even stronger,” Biden said in a statement. “We want to continue to be ahead of schedule on key metrics, doing all we can to create and save jobs, and building a lasting economic platform for our country.”
(His remarks at a recovery package meeting with Cabinet officials today are below.)
The new goals, according to Biden's office:
· Batteries for Vehicle Electrification: By the end of the year, the Department of Energy will have put in place funding for battery manufacturing plants that can power 400,000 plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, each year.
· Military Hospitals: The Department of Defense will begin 34 construction and modernization projects at hospitals and medical centers throughout the country over the next 90 days, for a total of 65 hospitals and medical centers with projects under construction since passage of the Act.
· National Parks: The Department of Interior will begin on-site construction improvement work in 105 more national parks throughout the country over the next 90 days.
· Small Business Assistance: The Small Business Administration will provide and leverage $5 billion in capital to over 12,000 small businesses through two key lending programs (7a and 504) in the next 90 days.
· Fuel Efficient Bus Purchases: By the end of the year, the Federal Transit Agency will have awarded enough grants to enable the purchase of approximately 10,000 new transit vehicles across the country.
· Housing Loans and Rehabilitation: By the end of the year, the Department of Agriculture and the Housing and Urban Development Department will have provided housing loans and capital funding to finance, build, or renovate over 100,000 households across America.
· Renewable Energy: By the end of the year, the Departments of Energy and Treasury will help fund renewable energy projects that will generate enough alternative energy to power 900,000 homes in the United States once completed.
· Road Projects: By the end of the year, the Department of Transportation will have obligated enough funds to support 10,000 highway projects.
UPDATE: Republicans quickly pointed out that the goals don't include a specific number of jobs -- the bottom-line reason for the stimulus spending.
Last month, White House economists estimated that the recovery package had saved or created 1 million jobs, toward a goal of 3.5 million by the end of 2010. But Republicans and many economists cast doubt on those figures, and point out that the Labor Department says that 2.4 million jobs have been lost during the recession since Obama signed the stimulus bill in February.FULL ENTRY
The office in charge of overseeing the $787 billion economic stimulus package opened its new and improved website for business today.
The portal (click here) features several different ways to track how the money is being spent, including by state (Massachusetts has received nearly $5.6 billion so far) and by agency.
“Today’s launch of the latest version of Recovery.gov marks a significant step forward in our efforts to provide unprecedented transparency and accountability of Recovery Act dollars at work," Vice President Joe Biden, put in charge by the president, said in a statement.
"Visitors to the site now have at their fingertips agency-level information about every area of Recovery Act spending through new interactive maps, graphs and other user-friendly features – and this is just the beginning. Starting next month, this pioneering project will go even farther with the posting of data directly from recipients showing how they have put Recovery dollars to work on projects nationwide. I applaud the work of Earl Devaney and his team at the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board leveraging the latest technology to provide the public with more information about their taxpayer dollars at work than with any previous program in the history of our government. And I look forward to watching Recovery.gov continue to grow along with the Recovery Act.”
Vice President Joe Biden jumped all over the congressional watchdog's report on the Obama administration's economic stimulus plan, saying the report shows that the stimulus is working.
“Today’s report from the Government Accountability Office confirms what I have been hearing from people across the country: the Recovery Act is working to jump-start critical infrastructure projects, cushion the impact of record state budget deficits and provide new job opportunities for hard-hit communities," Biden, who has been put in charge of making sure the stimulus money is not wasted, said in a statement.
"As the GAO notes, Recovery Act funds are being put to work ahead of schedule, and project bids are frequently coming in under-budget -- with the millions of dollars of cost-savings often redirected to communities that need the economic boost the most. The fact that a survey of nine major Recovery Act programs across sixteen states by the government’s top watchdog, showed such significant progress is a testament to the care with which we have put taxpayer dollars to work.”
“We look ahead to receiving the first reports directly from recipients of Recovery Act funds next month on what it has meant for their business or organization. We appreciate the GAO’s recommendations for carrying out that process. I am also stressing to agencies the importance of responding to the GAO’s other recommendations for improvements in execution and oversight of this highly complex effort.”
Biden didn't mention, however, that the GAO also warned that a government's plans to measure the success of a $1.2 billion jobs program for teenagers are so lax that they "may reveal little about what the program achieved.
The Associated Press reports that many teens didn't get jobs, partly because unemployed adults sought the same low-wage, entry-level positions. Youth unemployment rates hit 18.5 percent in July, the highest rate measured among 16- to 24-year-olds in that month since 1948, the AP notes.
Republicans have also kept up a barrage of criticism of the stimulus, saying it hasn't created the promised jobs.
Before taking the world stage the rest of the week, President Obama held one last economy event today, focusing on his hope that innovation will reverse painful job losses.
He toured and spoke at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, N.Y., the beneficiary of $2 million in federal grants to retrain workers in clean energy work. He is being accompanied by Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden and a long-time community college instructor.
Obama declared that manufacturing cities like Troy have been hit hard during the economic downturn, but innovation jobs hold the promise of rebirth.
"There are those who suggest that nothing government can do will make a difference; that what we’ve seen in places like Troy is inevitable; that somehow, the parts of our country that helped us lead in the last century don’t have what it takes to help us lead in this one," the president said. "I am here today to tell you that this is just flat out wrong. What we have here is a community filled with talented people, entrepreneurial small businesses, and world-class learning institutions. The ingredients are right here for growth and success and a better future."
Citing local projects in nanotechnology and a semiconductor plant, he said that his innovation strategy will lead to "sustained growth and widely shared prosperity."
"Our strategy begins where innovation so often does: in the classroom and in the laboratory – and in the networks that connect them to the broader economy. These are the building blocks of innovation: education, infrastructure, and research," he said.
(His full remarks are below.)
The White House says that Obama's "innovation strategy" builds on more than $100 billion from the stimulus package. "It seeks to harness the inherent ingenuity of the American people and a dynamic private sector to ensure that the next expansion is more solid, broad-based, and beneficial than previous ones. It focuses on critical areas where sensible, balanced government policies can lay the foundation for innovation that leads to quality jobs and shared prosperity," the White House said in its release.
The full release is below:
Following up on his speech on Wall Street earlier this week warning that financial firms can't return to business as usual, President Obama uses his weekly address to put on the hard sell for his proposal to create a new agency to oversee consumer loans.
The Consumer Financial Protection Agency is a centerpiece of the financial regulation overhaul sought by Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress. But it is strongly opposed by much of the financial industry.
"Part of what led to this crisis were not just decisions made on Wall Street, but also unsustainable mortgage loans made across the country. While many folks took on more than they knew they could afford, too often folks signed contracts they didn’t fully understand offered by lenders who didn’t always tell the truth. That’s why we need clear rules, clearly enforced. And that’s what this agency will do," Obama says in his weekly radio and Internet address.
"Consumers shouldn’t have to worry about loan contracts written to confuse, hidden fees attached to their mortgages, and financial penalties – whether through a credit card or debit card -- that appear without a clear warning on their statements. And responsible lenders, including community banks, trying to do the right thing shouldn’t have to worry about ruinous competition from unregulated and unscrupulous competitors."
Obama notes the opposition, but argues, "We cannot let the narrow interests of a few come before the interests of all of us. We cannot forget how close we came to the brink, and perpetuate the broken system and breakdown of responsibility that made it possible."
In the address, the president also pledges to continue to work on the economic recovery with other world leaders, whom he will meet at the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh next week.
The full remarks are below, and can be viewed here.
President Obama is in union country today to talk up his economic agenda, and get in a plug for his health plan as well.
In a campaign-style speech this morning at the GM plant in Lordstown, Ohio, Obama vowed to stand up for working people who helped put him in office.
He acknowledged the long-running economic crisis in the industrial Midwest, but said he's not willing to accept it.
"There are some who see this pain and suggest that it's all somehow inevitable -- that the only way for America to get ahead is for communities like yours to be left behind. But I know better. We know better," Obama said. "We know that our success on a nation depends on the success of communities just like this one. We know that the battle for America's future is not just going to be won in the big cities, not just on the coasts, but in towns like Elkhart, Indiana, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Warren, Ohio, and Youngstown.
"You deserve better than the attitude that's prevailed from Washington to Wall Street to Detroit for too long; an attitude that valued wealth over work, selfishness over sacrifice, and greed over responsibility. And that's why I want you to know that every day I step into the Oval Office, I am thinking about you, I am working for you, and I am fighting on your behalf," he added.
Obama said his administration has already been doing so, with the government support for GM and other automakers, the cash-for-clunkers program, and the push for more fuel-efficient vehicles.
"There's little debate that the decisions we've made and the steps we've taken have helped stop our economic freefall. In some places, they've helped us turn the corner. Home sales are up, business investment is starting to stabilize, for the first time in 18 months, we are actually seeing growth in American manufacturing instead of decline. I know that's small consolation when so many people you know are still out of work. It's going to take some time to achieve a complete recovery. But I want you to know: I will not rest until anyone looking for a job can find one - and I'm not talking about just any job; but good jobs that give every family decent wages, decent benefits, and a fair shot at the American Dream. That's what I'm fighting for every day," Obama said.
"And yes, just in case you were wondering, we are fighting for an America where no American should have to worry about going without health insurance or fear that one illness could cost them everything. We're going to reform the system to provide more security and stability to those of you who have health insurance; we're going to offer quality, affordable choices to those who currently don't have health insurance; and bring health care costs for our families, our businesses, and our government under control."
(His full remarks are below.)
UPDATE: This afternoon, Obama was greeted with rapturous applause and cheers at the AFL-CIO national convention in Pittsburgh.
"You guys are making me blush," the president said. "The White House is pretty nice, but there's nothing like being back in the house of labor."
Obama paid tribute to outgoing AFL-CIO president John Sweeney and incoming chief Richard Trumka and said that being with union members reminds him of what's important in Washington and why he ran for president.
He wants to help working families reach the American dream, he said, telling of a union member choking up when talking about not being able to afford health coverage for his wife.
"When our middle class succeeds, that's when the United States of America succeeds," he declared.
He won some of his biggest applause when he expressed support for labor's biggest legislative priority -- a bill that would make it easier for workers to organize.
The bill is vehemently opposed by business groups and Republicans, and has languished in Congress. Labor leaders have hinted that they would accept a compromise that would force quicker elections, rather than the original bill that would remove the requirement for secret union elections.
He also gave an impassioned pitch for his health care overhaul, saying that union members know well that many families are one medical emergency away from financial ruin and need coverage that they can count on.
"How much longer do we have to wait?" Obama asked. "We can't wait."
"We can't wait!" the crowd chanted in reply.
(His full remarks to the AFL-CIO are below.)
Big labor was a big reason why Obama won the presidency, and the Republican National Committee sent out a research paper suggesting that he's still beholden to unions with policies that will damage the US economy.
Speaking one year to the day from when the collapse of Lehman Brothers threatened the entire US financial system, President Obama declared today that it's time for the federal government to extract itself from rescue efforts.
But he also asserted that to prevent a similar meltdown, the government needs to impose stricter and more sweeping regulations.
He started what the White House billed as a "major" speech by reminding Americans how close the economy came to the brink.
"This was no longer just a financial crisis; it had become a full-blown economic crisis, with home prices sinking, businesses struggling to access affordable credit, and the economy shedding an average of 700,000 jobs each month," Obama said.
Thanks to the government support to Wall Street, the loosening of credit, and the $787 billion economic stimulus package, the economy is on the road to recovery, the president said.
"Eight months later, the work of recovery continues. And though I will never be satisfied while people are out of work and our financial system is weakened, we can be confident that the storms of the past two years are beginning to break," Obama said.
"In fact, while there continues to be a need for government involvement to stabilize the financial system, that necessity is waning," he added. "After months in which public dollars were flowing into our financial system, we are finally beginning to see money flowing back to taxpayers. This doesn’t mean taxpayers will escape the worst financial crisis in decades entirely unscathed....While full recovery of the financial system will take a great deal more time and work, the growing stability resulting from these interventions means we are beginning to return to normalcy."
"But here's what I want to emphasize is this: normalcy cannot lead to complacency," Obama argued.
And that means new and improved regulation -- what he called "the most ambitious overhaul of the financial system since the Great Depression" -- that includes a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency to enforce new rules safeguarding the public and an oversight council to bring together regulators from across markets so problems don't slip through the cracks.
His audience at Federal Hall in the heart of New York's financial district included Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, the president's Economic Recovery Advisory Board, leaders of consumer advocacy groups, Wall Street CEOs, and members of Congress, including Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, who with Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut is shepherding financial regulatory reform.
"We will not go back to the days of reckless behavior and unchecked excess that was at the heart of this crisis, where too many were motivated only by the appetite for quick kills and bloated bonuses," Obama vowed. "Those on Wall Street cannot resume taking risks without regard for consequences, and expect that next time, American taxpayers will be there to break their fall."
The president said he believes in free markets and wanted to work with the financial industry to come up with the regulations. But he also said the firms receiving help owe a debt to American taxpayers and that those who oppose government intervention do so at their own peril.
"I certainly did not run for president to bail out banks or intervene in the capital markets," he said. "But it is important to note that the very absence of common-sense regulations able to keep up with a fast-paced financial sector is what created the need for that extraordinary intervention. The lack of sensible rules of the road, so often opposed by those who claim to speak for the free market, led to a rescue far more intrusive than anything any of us, Democrat or Republican, progressive or conservative, would have proposed or predicted," he said.
"What took place one year ago was not merely a failure of regulation or legislation; it wasn't just a failure of oversight or foresight. It was also a failure of responsibility -- it was fundamentally a failure of responsibility -- that allowed Washington to become a place where problems – including structural problems in our financial system – were ignored rather than solved," he chided. "It was a failure of responsibility that led homebuyers and derivative traders alike to take reckless risks they couldn’t afford. It was a collective failure of responsibility in Washington, on Wall Street, and across America that led to the near-collapse of our financial system one year ago....
"One year ago, we saw in stark relief how markets can spin out of control; how a lack of common-sense rules can lead to excess and abuse; how close we can come to the brink. One year later, it is incumbent upon us to put in place those reforms that will prevent this kind of crisis from ever happening again; reflecting the painful but important lessons that we’ve learned; and that will help us move from a period of recklessness and one of crisis to one of responsibility and prosperity. That is what we must do. And I’m confident that is what we will do."
(His full remarks are below.)
Republicans immediately warned against a bigger government role in the markets, saying that taxpayers will ultimately pay.
“For the average American, the best measure of the economy is whether or not they have a job so they can pay the mortgage, make the car payment and put food on the table. For more than 3 million Americans who have lost their jobs this year, the president’s policies have been a failure," Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele said in a statement.
"His $787 billion stimulus bill has led to wasteful spending but hasn’t created the jobs he promised. And every time he has wanted to expand the government’s influence over the economy and our daily lives, from his takeover of GM and banks to his proposed government-run takeover of our health care, it has meant spending more money we don’t have and digging America deeper into debt. Those are the real results of the president’s experiments on our economy, and no amount of speeches will convince the American people otherwise.”
The top House Republican, Representative John Boehner of Ohio, faulted Obama for not saying more clearly how taxpayers will be taken off the hook for the financial bailouts.
"Missing from the President’s remarks today was a clear exit strategy for the federal government’s involvement in the private sector. American taxpayers have had enough of open-ended bailouts that have left them stuck with an eye-popping tab in the form of trillions in new debt. This generational theft must end. If the President wants to restore consumer and investor confidence, he should work with Republicans in Congress to craft policies that help hard-working families and small businesses weather this storm and get back to creating good-paying jobs," Boehner said in a statement.
“With consumer spending just about frozen and unemployment near double-digit levels, the last thing we need are new layers of bureaucracy and burdensome regulations that restrict access to financial products and discourage economic growth. House Republicans have delivered a to reform our financial system smartly by bolstering anti-fraud protection efforts, streamlining the hodgepodge of confusing federal agencies, and strengthening transparency and accountability so that consumers can make informed choices. We hope Democrats will work with us on responsible solutions as Congress moves forward on this issue.”
Displaying once again the close coordination between policy and politics, the Democratic National Committee released a web video this morning to buttress President Obama's "major" speech marking the one-year anniversary of the Lehman Brothers collapse that precipitated the Wall Street crisis.
The web ad starts with the words "One year ago" on screen, then shows a series of news reports on the financial meltdown, with commentators talking about crisis, crash, perhaps another Great Depression. "Lest we forget," it ends.
In his speech at Federal Hall in New York, scheduled for shortly after noon EDT, Obama is expected to talk about the steps he has already taken to rescue the economy from the brink and to call for sweeping new financial regulations to avert another crisis.
But Republicans question the value of the $787 billion stimulus bill and warn about more government intervention in the markets.
And a new Associated Press-GfK poll found that the public remains deeply concerned about the economy. About 80 percent said the economy is in poor condition and about 70 percent said they are not confident that the federal government has taken safeguards to prevent another financial meltdown. Only 17 percent of those surveyed said the stimulus has improved the economy, though that's up 10 percentage points from July.
The poll, conducted Sept. 3-8, has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
President Obama's economists asserted today that the economic stimulus package he championed had created or saved "slightly more" than 1 million jobs so far.
The White House Council on Economic Advisers said that the $787 billion stimulus bill has had "particularly strong effects in manufacturing, construction, retail trade, and temporary employment services." While the benefits have been spread across the country, states most hurt by the recession have been helped most, it said.
The council also said that about $151 billion has been spent so far, and that the stimulus added 2.3 percentages to the real growth of the economy during the second quarter. (Click here to read the report.)
The council's first quarterly report to Congress on the stimulus represents the latest salvo in the war of statistics on the $787 billion stimulus bill.
Obama promised it would create or save 3.5 million jobs by the end of next year. But critics have questioned the figures as far too rosy and said that it is extremely difficult to determine whether a job has been "saved."
The administration has acknowledged that the recession was deeper than it believed when it pushed Congress to pass the plan in January. Unemployment is still hovering near 10 percent nationally, and the Labor Department reported last week that since the recession began in December 2007, the jobless rolls grew by 7.4 million Americans.
Republicans kept up their stimulus skepticism in response to the council's report.
“Today’s White House jobs report is one more example of this administration’s use of smoke and mirrors to mask the failure of the Democrats’ costly $787 billion stimulus bill," Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said in a statement.
"The reality for countless Americans whose jobs have not been ‘saved’ is they get to join the ranks of the three million neighbors, friends and family members who have become unemployed since President Obama took office," he added. "We have watched the unemployment rate increase to 9.7 percent and seen more than 216,000 workers lose their jobs in the past 30 days. The president’s economic stimulus experiment clearly isn’t working as promised. Another report to claim phantom jobs have been ‘saved or created’ won’t convince people otherwise.”
In the game of musical chairs occasioned by the death of Edward M. Kennedy, Senator Christopher Dodd announced this afternoon that he will stay as chairman of the Banking Committee and not take over the health panel, where he had filled in for Kennedy during his illness.
Instead, Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa will move from Agriculture to the health committee. Harkin, as was Kennedy, is firmly in the liberal wing of the Democratic party.
Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas will rise to the chairmanship of Agriculture.
"We all had hoped that Teddy would be able to come back to see this through," Dodd said in a statement. "Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible. But I intend to keep the promise I made. And so, I am pleased that I will able to continue the role he asked me to take on as the HELP Committee’s leader on health care reform."
"But we have important work to do on the Banking Committee, and I intend to see it through as chairman. The Banking Committee is of vital importance to Connecticut, responsible for issues central to the economic security and prosperity of the people of my state."
Dodd's perch on Banking, where he will work on financial regulation overhaul with House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank of Massachusetts, will give him continued access to campaign cash in his tough reelection fight next year.
But it also got him in political hot water when critics accused him of getting too cozy to Wall Street during the meltdown.
Meanwhile, Service Employees International Union quickly applauded Harkin's move, saying that it is counting on his help to pass a health care bill, as well as a bill to make it easier for unions to organize, and an immigration overhaul.
"America’s working families have learned to count on Senator Harkin to stand up and fight for the issues that will help to ensure the American Dream is alive and well for their children and grandchildren. As the son of a coal miner, Senator Harkin understands how Congress and organized labor can work together to pass legislation that ensures quality and affordable healthcare, a fair economy, a safe workplace and a secure retirement," SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger said in a statement.
John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, the nation's largest labor federation, also praised the leadership changes.
"It is great news for America's workers that a longtime friend of working families is taking the helm at the Senate Labor Committee. Although no one can replace Senator Kennedy, Tom Harkin brings just the right balance of passion and skill to the job of protecting working men and women, educating our children and looking out for our health," Sweeney said in a statement.
"We are also pleased that Senator Dodd will stay on as Chair of the Banking Committee to continue the important work of cleaning up Wall Street and putting in place sensible regulations to make sure we do not have a repeat of the recent financial meltdown. Both Senators Harkin and Dodd face great challenges as they work to make meaningful progress on the issues that affect the lives of working people, and we look forward to working closely with both of them in the months and years ahead."
Republicans immediately sought today to capitalize on the new unemployment numbers to press their argument that President Obama's economic stimulus package is failing.
The Labor Department reported today that the jobless rate rose to 9.7 percent last month from 9.4 percent in July after 216,000 more Americans lost their jobs. It is the highest rate since 1983, and analysts say it shows that while the economy is improving, a sustained recovery will be difficult at best.
UPDATE: Vice President Joe Biden, who on Thursday led the cheerleading for the $787 billion stimulus package, said this afternoon that the administration will not be satisfied until "we're adding, not losing, thousands of jobs a month."
He cited an analysis that the stimulus package saved or created at least 500,000 jobs in its first 200 days, a milestone that hits Saturday -- or in other words, that another 500,000 jobs would have been lost without the recovery package.
Biden spoke as he announced a $535 million loan guarantee for a Fremont, Calif., company that makes solar panels. “This announcement today is part of the unprecedented investment this Administration is making in renewable energy and exactly what the Recovery Act is all about,” Biden said in a statement. “By investing in the infrastructure and technology of the future, we are not only creating jobs today, but laying the foundation for long-term growth in the 21stcentury economy.”
But Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele beat him to the punch.
“Yesterday, Vice President Biden gave yet another speech to try to convince the American people that President Obama’s stimulus bill is creating the jobs he promised. In fact, Vice President Biden said that he believes the Administration has ‘met or exceeded’ their goal to create or save 600,000 jobs in the past 100 days. Today’s unemployment report proves that this Administration is ignoring reality," Steele said in a statement.
"The unemployment rate jumped to 9.7 percent. More than 216,000 Americans lost their jobs in the month of August alone. That means more than 3 million Americans have lost their jobs since the president took office. The president’s economic experiment simply isn’t working, and Americans shouldn’t expect his government-run health care experiment to work, either.”
Not a single House Republican voted for the stimulus bill, and Representative John Boehner, the GOP leader in the House, chimed in with his own statement that also tried to use the jobless numbers to continue his assault on Obama's health care overhaul plans.
"Where are the jobs? Approximately 2.4 million private-sector jobs have been destroyed since February 2009. In light of these numbers, it is more clear than ever that the President and the leaders of his party in Congress need to abandon their plans for a job-killing government takeover of health care and work with Republicans for a more responsible approach to health care reform. The Democrats' bloated 'stimulus' isn't working, and we can't afford another trillion-dollar mistake on the backs of our children and small businesses," Boehner said.
"It is increasingly clear that as a consequence of this administration's misguided policies, any economic recovery that lies ahead will be a jobless one hampered by massive new debt. This is not what the American people were promised; nor is it what they deserve. Better solutions were offered in good faith by Republicans but rejected by the Administration in favor of what has proven to be a trillion-dollar mistake. The Administration said its bloated 'stimulus' would create millions of jobs and keep the unemployment rate from going above 8 percent. Instead, unemployment has now soared to nearly 10 percent, millions of jobs have disappeared, and massive new debt has been needlessly piled on future generations," Boehner continued.
"Washington Democrats must listen to the American people and abandon their plans to impose a job-killing government takeover of health care and a new job-killing national energy tax. Both will inflict further harm on small businesses and wipe out millions of additional American jobs, compounding the costly mistake of the flawed 'stimulus.’ It’s time for the President to hit the reset button and work with Republicans for better solutions, before more debt is piled on our children and more American jobs are destroyed."
President Obama, taking a quick break from week two of his vacation, jumped on the latest economic numbers to declare that his recovery program is working.
A key indicator of manufacturing activity grew last month for the for first time in 18 months.
That shows that companies are making more cars, computers, appliances, and other goods, Obama said.
"It means these companies are starting to invest more and produce more, and it is a sign that we're on the path to economic recovery," the president said, diverting from planned remarks on the H1N1 flu to brag.
But he added, as usual, that there is a "long way to go" and that he and his administration will not let up until Americans -- nearly 10 percent of whom are still unemployed -- can find jobs.
Still, Obama said, "this is another important sign that we're heading in the right direction, and that the steps we've taken to bring our economy back from the brink are working."
Taking a quick break from his Martha's Vineyard vacation, President Obama this morning announced he is nominating Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke for a second four-year term.
Bernanke, who has economics degrees from Harvard and MIT, has played a key role in dealing with the financial meltdown last year and now in lifting the nation out of recession. His current term expires Jan. 31, and Bernanke, a Republican originally picked by George W. Bush, would need reconfirmation by the Democratic Senate to keep his job.
"As an expert on the causes of the Great Depression, I’m sure Ben never imagined that he would be part of a team responsible for preventing another. But because of his background, his temperament, his courage, and his creativity, that’s exactly what he has helped to achieve," Obama said.
"Ben approached a financial system on the verge of collapse with calm and wisdom; with bold action and outside-the-box thinking that has helped put the brakes on our economic freefall."
UPDATE: Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut, chairman of the Banking Committee that will hold Bernanke's confirmation hearing, offered qualified support.
"While I have had serious differences with the Federal Reserve over the past few years, I think reappointing Chairman Bernanke is probably the right choice," Dodd said in a statement. "Chairman Bernanke was too slow to act during the early stages of the foreclosure crisis, but he ultimately demonstrated effective leadership and his reappointment sends the right signal to the markets."
"There will be a thorough and comprehensive confirmation hearing. I still have serious concerns about the Federal Reserve’s failure to protect consumers and I strongly believe these responsibilities should go to an independent consumer financial protection agency. I expect many serious questions will be raised about the role of the Federal Reserve moving forward and what authorities it should and should not have."
While Wall Street appears to be responding well to Obama re-upping Bernanke's tenure, he is not without his critics.
Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent, issued a scathing statement:
"As a result of the greed, irresponsibility and illegal behavior of Wall Street our country has experienced the worst economic decline since the Great Depression. Mr. Bernanke was head of the Fed and the nation's chief economist as this crisis, driven by reckless speculation, developed. Tragically, like the rest of the Bush administration, he was asleep at the wheel during this period and did nothing to move our financial system onto safer grounds," Sanders said.
“As the middle class of this country continues to shrink, we need a chairman of the Federal Reserve who is more concerned about expanding the productive economy – increasing decent-paying jobs for all Americans – than continuing to fan the flames of Wall Street greed and outrageous compensation packages.”
AFL-CIO president John Sweeney offered his backing for Bernanke, but said there needs to be more accountability at the Fed and more focus on jobs.
"Ben Bernanke has served ably as Chairman of the Federal Reserve at a time of great challenges. He has been forced to account for the serious failings of his predecessor," Sweeney said in a statement.
"The Federal Reserve must be made into a more publicly accountable body that makes job growth a central focus in the years ahead, particularly given signs that the economic recovery will be weak. We believe it's important that Chairman Bernanke's views on the governance and role of the Federal Reserve system also be a focus of his confirmation hearings. Finally, we must determine whether the Federal Reserve will oppose the creation of a Consumer Financial Protection Agency that will rein in Wall Street's excesses and look out for America's working families.
"We are eager to engage the Administration, Chairman Bernanke and the Congress in the weeks ahead about reform of unregulated financial markets that destroyed millions of jobs and trillions of dollars in investment capital."
The president's full remarks, and those of Bernanke, are below:FULL ENTRY
The White House, issuing its new budget deficit projection this morning, said the numbers look better in the short term but worse in the long run.
Budget Director Peter Orszag said that the deficit for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30 is now projected to be $1.58 trillion -- or 11.2 percent of gross domestic product -- down $262 billion from a previously projected $1.84 trillion or 12.9 percent of GDP. That's still an all-time record by far.
And the red ink looks worse in the next decade because of updated economic data that show that "we inherited a deeper recession than projected in February," Orszag wrote in his message. (Read it here.)
The White House is projecting that the deficit for 2010-2019 will be $2 trillion higher than it forecast in February, now an eye-popping $9.05 trillion.
"During an economic downturn, one wants to allow the deficit to increase, so deficit reduction should be focused on the out-years -- after the economy has recovered," Orszag writes. "That said, the out-year deficits hover in the range of 4 percent of GDP, which is higher than desirable. Getting the out-year deficit under control is a top priority of the Administration."
Republicans are accusing the administration of fudging the numbers to make the deficit appear smaller for the current year, largely by changing assumptions about the costs of the financial bailout.
"Let’s be clear, this is spin and nothing more," economic adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin wrote in a memo to House GOP Leader John Boehner. "The lower estimate is strictly the result of the Administration massaging their budget assumptions, not reality. The reality is, putting these gimmicks aside, that the FY 2009 deficit is larger. And, even the Obama Administration will have to admit that the deficit for every year after 2009 is even worse than they admitted earlier this year. (Read his memo here.)
But the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office put out is own figures this morning, and they closely track the White House's in the short term and are actually lower in the long term.
The CBO estimated that the deficit will be $1.59 trillion in fiscal 2009 and $1.38 trillion in fiscal 2010 as the economy recovers. It also lowered its projection of the 10-year budget deficit to $7.14 trillion.
One reason for the CBO's lower 10-year number: It assumes that the tax cuts put into place by the Bush administration will expire as scheduled by 2011, but Obama's projection keeps the tax cuts for families earning less than $250,000 a year.
Republicans are also warning that Obama's agenda will mean even higher deficits, threatening to bankrupt the country.
"The mushrooming federal debt poses a grave danger to America’s prosperity, threatening to plunge our economy and future generations into the abyss of stagnant growth and national decline. But given the reckless way the administration is spending your money, you’d never know that the debt is a cause for concern. Staggering sums of money have been tossed around so casually that the very notion of dishing out 'trillions' of dollars is no longer a shock to many in Washington," Representative Eric Cantor, the No. 2 House Republican, writes in an op-ed for Politico.
American can't afford Obama's health care plan, estimated to cost $1 trillion over the next 10 years, Cantor argues.
"In this economy, as families review their own budgets and adjust accordingly, they expect their government to act in a manner that reflects the challenging times we are in. Much of the public frustration with Washington has been evident in town halls across the country, and many Americans believe the administration’s top priority should be cutting the federal deficit in half by the end of his first term," Cantor writes.
"Instead, the administration seeks to force a massive new government health care program that most people don’t want and certainly cannot afford. And they will do so even if it means imposing new taxes on the middle class and small business job creators. Now is not the time to double down on a deficit that is $2 trillion more than the administration projected, but instead to moderate spending, and move forward responsibly."
Boehner added his criticism in a statement:
“Today’s reports confirm what the White House has been trying to hide: the Democrats’ out-of-control spending binge is burying our children and grandchildren under a mountain of unsustainable debt. Instead of putting the brakes on Washington’s spending habits as they promised they’d do, Democrats have stepped on the accelerator and spent taxpayer dollars with reckless abandon all year, refusing to make tough choices and putting all the sacrifice on future generations. That’s not leadership; it’s negligence.
“The costly government-run health care plan put forth by President Obama and Speaker Pelosi is just the latest in a long line of expensive Democratic experiments that will add to the deficit, raise taxes on families and small businesses, and cost more American jobs. It’s time for the Administration and congressional Democrats to face the consequences of this dangerous fiscal agenda and change course."
UPDATE: Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, however, blamed the Bush administration for running up the deficits and following policies that led to the need for costly rescue measures, including the $787 billion economic stimulus package that passed without a single Republican vote in the House.
"Today's deficit projections are a legacy of Bush Administration fiscal policies that turned our surpluses into deficits and led the way toward an economic and financial crisis that has required historic short-term intervention. If pay-as-you-go principles had been in place for the last 8 years, this deficit would be $5 trillion smaller over the next decade," she said in a statement.
"We are working with President Obama to restore fiscal responsibility and to ensure that statutory pay-go, already passed by the House, is signed into law. Under President Obama's leadership, we have ended the Bush-era practice of hiding the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- gimmicks and accounting tricks that have no place in our budget process. And working with the President, Congress has laid out a budget blueprint that reduces our deficit, lays a new foundation for job creation and economic growth, and invests in more broadly shared prosperity for all Americans. "But we cannot reduce the deficit in the long-term without getting health care costs under control. Nor can health care reform add to the challenge. That is why our health insurance reform is fully paid for and will not increase the deficit.
"These deficit projections send a clear message: fiscal discipline must be the order of the day as we come out of this recession. Our economic recovery efforts are starting to pay dividends for America's families. Today's announcement that consumer confidence and home prices are on the rise represent new signs that our economy is moving in the right direction. And now, we must remain on-track to tackle our fiscal challenges, advance policies to promote job growth, reinforce the foundation of our prosperity, and return the United States to the days of financial stability."
The economy appears to be finally on the road to recovery, and on the hustings President Obama has been celebrating that turnaround and crediting the $787 billion economic stimulus plan he championed.
But a new poll out today suggests that most Americans disagree.
Six months after Obama signed the package of tax cuts and spending, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll found that 57 percent of respondents say the stimulus package is having no impact on the economy or making it worse --33 percent said no effect and 24 percent worse. Just 41 percent said the stimulus is making the economy better.
Over the long term, 38 percent of respondents said the stimulus will make things better and 38 percent said it would make it worse.
For respondents personally, only 18 percent said the stimulus has improved their situation while 13 percent said worse and 68 percent said no impact. And more respondents -- 34 percent -- said they expect the stimulus will make things worse for them personally over the long term than better -- 29 percent.
House Republicans -- not a single one of whom voted for the stimulus package -- jumped on the poll results to continue their attack.
“By any objective standard, the Democrats’ trillion-dollar ‘stimulus’ isn’t working," House GOP leader John Boehner said in a statement today. "The administration promised the ‘stimulus’ would provide a ‘jolt’ to our economy and create jobs immediately, but 2.8 million more Americans have lost their jobs since the ‘stimulus’ became law. The American people are asking, ‘where are the jobs?’
"The administration’s insistence on spending, taxing, and borrowing more than ever is not the answer they’re seeking. Instead, it is burying our children and grandchildren under an unmanageable mountain of debt. Families and small businesses expect and deserve far better. Rather than pursuing more job-killing policies like a government takeover of health care and a national energy tax, Democrats should work with Republicans on better solutions that create jobs, curb spending, and control the debt.”
President Obama, armed with welcome -- and somewhat surprising -- evidence of an economic recovery to brandish against his critics, declared this afternoon that "the worst may be behind us."
"Today we're pointed in the right direction," he said in the White House's Rose Garden, asserting that job losses are at half the rate when he took office in the worst recession since the Great Depression.
He also noted that a week ago, the gross domestic product dropped just 1 percent in the second quarter.
The president repeated his defense/explanation of the $787 billion economic stimulus package, saying that it has helped rescue our economy from "catastrophe" and started to lay the groundwork for sustained growth.
But Obama said he won't be satisfied until many more Americans can find good jobs.
"It won't be easy," he said, since change comes with difficulty in Washington. "We have a steep mountain to climb and we started in a very deep valley," he added. (His full remarks are below.)
Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Cabinet secretaries had been talking up the economic stimulus package this week -- in part to inoculate the White House from unemployment numbers out this morning that many economists predicted would top 10 percent nationally.
Instead, the jobless rate declined slightly to 9.4 percent in July from the 26-year high of 9.5 percent in June -- the first decrease since April 2008. The Labor Department reported that employers cut 247,000 jobs, the fewest in a year.
Still, there were 14.5 million Americans out of work in July, and if those who have given up looking for a job or who have been forced to take part-time work are counted, the rate was 16.3 percent in July.
As the unemployment rate steadily and stubbornly rose month after month, Obama's job approval ratings and Americans' confidence in his handling of the economy dropped. The opposite can be expected to happen if the jobless numbers keep dropping.
Representative George Miller of California and Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, the Democrats who lead the House and Senate Labor Committees, respectively, issued a joint statement:
“When President Obama inherited this economic crisis seven months ago, our nation was shedding 700,000 jobs a month. Today's decline in unemployment – the lowest number of jobs we’ve lost in the last year – is very good news for working families. It shows that President Obama's economic recovery program is working – saving jobs in classrooms, police stations, and firehouses and creating new jobs for Americans in construction and renewable energy fields. While our nation’s road to recovery will take time and patience, there is no doubt that we are moving in the right direction.
“Even in the midst of this promising news, it’s clear we still have a long way to go. More than 5 million Americans have been looking for work for more than six months, without success. We must do more to help these working families keep food on their tables and hope in their hearts. An extension of unemployment benefits should be at the top of Congress’s agenda when we return in the fall.”
AFL-CIO president John Sweeney also attributed some of the unemploymen turnaround to the stimulus package.
"The dip in the unemployment rate in July is a welcome sign that President Obama’s economic recovery package is starting to blunt the impact of the most severe recession in a generation. By refusing to listen to the naysayers, the President and Congress have helped to avert a total financial meltdown -- despite much continuing pain. We still have a long way to go until our economy is growing and creating good jobs at a healthy rate -- and we will need decisive and timely action from our government in the meantime," Sweeney said in a statement.
"It is not good news that we lost 247,000 jobs in July, bringing total job loss since the recession began to 6.7 million. The growth of long-term unemployment by another 584,000 is especially disturbing and cries out for immediate, additional attention. There are now more than 5.7 job seekers for every available job -- up from 1.7 at the start of the recession. The July job figures would have been much worse without the stimulus, which has helped to slow the pace of job loss to less than half of what it was just six months ago. From May to July, job losses averaged 331,000 per month, compared with losses averaging 645,000 per month from November to April."
UPDATE: But Republicans didn't see much encouragement in the jobs report, and continued their criticism of Obama and Democrats for their economic policies.
"While President Obama was taking a victory lap to celebrate the economy's performance, more Americans lost their jobs and the budget deficit soared to a record $1.3 trillion in July," Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele said in a statement. "In the month of July alone 247,000 Americans lost their jobs, which means more than 2.8 million Americans have lost their jobs since the president took office. The president said his stimulus bill would keep unemployment from rising higher than 8 percent. It hasn't. Now he expects Americans to believe his trillion-dollar health care experiment will improve their health care? It won't. America simply can't afford more of the president's costly experiments."
Representative John Boehner, the top-ranking House Republican, chimed in: "Today's unemployment report is yet another reminder that more spending, taxing, and borrowing does not mean more jobs for the American people. Instead of rewriting history on their 'stimulus' promises, Washington Democrats should abandon their job-killing agenda," said Boehner in a release. "Rather than pushing an increasingly unpopular government takeover of health care that will increase costs, drive up the deficit, raise taxes, and destroy jobs, Democratic leaders would be well-served to work with Republicans on real reforms that expand Americans' access to affordable health care and help small businesses create more jobs."FULL ENTRY
President Obama this morning signed into law a bill replenishing the "cash for clunkers" program with another $2 billion.
The Senate passed the bill Thursday night to keep the program going, after an unexpected flood of car buyers used up the first $1 billion in rebates, as much as $4,500 for trading in gas guzzlers for more fuel-efficient vehicles.
"Now, more American consumers will have the chance to purchase newer, more fuel efficient cars and the American economy will continue to get a much-needed boost," Obama said in a statement after the Senate vote. " ‘Cash for Clunkers’ has been a proven success: the initial transactions are generating a more than 50% increase in fuel economy; they are generating $700 to $1000 in annual savings for consumers in reduced gas costs alone; and they are getting the oldest, dirtiest and most air polluting trucks and SUVs off the road for good. Businesses across the country – from small auto dealerships and suppliers to large auto manufacturers – are putting people back to work as a result of this program. I want to thank Leader Reid and the members of the Senate who moved quickly to extend a program that benefits our recovery and our auto industry while reducing our economy’s dependence on oil.”
As President Obama hits the 200-day mark, new polls show a further slide in his ratings.
The CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey results released this morning gives him an overall job approval rating of 56 percent, with 40 percent disapproving. That's down from 61 percent approval in late June, and 76 percent in early February.
Still, a majority, 51 percent, said that Obama's first six months have been a success, and only 37 percent said a failure, with 11 percent saying it's too soon to tell.
But two-thirds of respondents say Obama has tried to handle too many issues, though he repeatedly says it wasn't his choice, but forced upon him by inheriting two wars and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
On the economy, while 44 percent said they believed Obama's policies had made things better, 51 percent said they had not, and 79 percent said economic conditions were somewhat poor or very poor.
Asked how they personally felt about Obama as president, 15 percent of respondents replied "thrilled" -- down from 28 percent just before his inauguration; 41 percent said "happy," about the same.
But 31 percent said "unhappy" or "depressed" -- nearly double the 16 percent giving those descriptions before he took office.
The poll, conducted last Friday through Monday, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
A Quinnipiac University poll of registered voters released today gives Obama even lower marks.
In that survey, Obama has a 50 percent to 42 percent job approval rating from voters, down from 57 percent to 33 percent a month ago, and the lowest since Inauguration Day.
The poll also found that voters disapprove 49 percent to 45 percent of the way the president is handling the economy, and disapprove 52 percent to 39 percent of how he is handling healthcare, but approve 52 percent to 38 percent of the way he is handling foreign policy.
The Quinnipiac poll, conducted July 27-Aug. 3 among registered voters, has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.
The Obama team is fanning out across the country today with a shared message -- the economic stimulus plan is working.
President Obama returned to Elkhart County, Ind., where he spoke at a former recreational vehicle plant. The RV industry has been crushed during the recession, so Obama will be bringing some money with him.
He announced that 48 projects in 20 states for advanced battery technology for hybrid and electric-drive vehicles will receive $2.4 billion in grants from the recovery bill, creating tens of thousands of jobs. The money includes a $39 million grant for Navistar International Corp. in Elkhart to manufacture electric trucks. The White House release on the grants, which it bills as the single largest investment in advanced battery technology, is below.
Obama said the area has been hit with a "perfect storm" of economic troubles -- the decline of manufacturing, the problems of the domestic auto industry, and the recession -- that caused a 10-percentage-point increase in the unemployment rate, the second highest rise in the nation.
Such woes test a community and families -- and the future of the nation depends on reviving places such as Elkhart County, the president said.
But before rebuilding the economy and moving forward, the nation has to recover from the recession -- and the stimulus package is playing a key role in doing that, he said.
He cited specific projects in the area that have been financed by the stimulus bill, then he promoted the spending for innovations to create new jobs. Indiana will be the second-biggest recipient of the clean-energy vehicle grants, he said.
"Made in America," Obama repeated, to applause. (His full remarks are below.)
The recipients include A123Systems Inc., a Watertown-based lithium-ion battery maker getting $249 million for two plants in Michigan. Also, H&T Waterbury Inc. in Waterbury, Conn.; SBE Inc. in Barre, Vt.; and the National Fire Protection Association in Quincy, Mass. To read the full list, click here.
At the same time, Vice President Joe Biden is in Detroit, speaking at an alternative energy company. Four Cabinet secretaries are also talking up the grants coming from the $787 billion stimulus package.
Biden previewed the message after meeting with the administration's economic team Tuesday. "I can tell you today, without reservation, the Recovery Act is working," he told reporters.
He ticked off a series of statistics: the economy shrank by a smaller-than-expected 1 percent in the second quarter, spending by state and local governments increased 2.4 percent from April to June, household income grew at a annual rate of almost 5 percent in the same period, and home and car sales are up.
But the big number that the administration has to get over is the jobless rate, which typically lags a recovery.
The national unemployment rate has risen every month since Obama signed the stimulus bill in February. It hit a 26-year high of 9.5 percent in June, and the July number, which will be announced Friday, is expected to breach the 10 percent barrier.FULL ENTRY
Vice President Joe Biden, put in charge of keeping waste and fraud out of the $787 billion economic stimulus package, declared today "without reservation" that the recovery plan is working.
He said in its first six months, the controversial plan has rescued "tens of thousands of people who have fallen into a black hole" of unemployment.
Pointing to a series of better-than-expected measures, Biden told reporters, "Six months ago we gathered here in the White House, worrying about the U.S. economy and whether or not it was falling off a cliff. And today, analysts are trying to determine if -- if an official recovery is already underway."
"Now, don't get me wrong -- we still have a long way to go," Biden said after he and President Obama huddled with the economic team. " 'Less bad' is not the same as 'good.' We know that growth in GDP is necessary but not sufficient. It's not a sufficient marker of recovery. For one thing, it's not going to occur until there are jobs. My grandpop used to have the expression, he said, when the guy up the line is out of work, it's an economic slowdown; when you're brother-in-law is out of work, it's a recession; when you're out of work, it's a depression. Well, it's still a serious problem for millions of unemployed Americans. Too many people are out of work. Too many families are in pain." His full remarks are below.
UPDATE: House Republicans, who unanimously opposed the stimulus package, were not impressed by Biden's declaration.
In an email, Antonia Ferrier, a spokeswoman for House GOP leader John Boehner, pointed out that Biden admitted a month ago that the administration had "misread" the depth of the recession.
She also noted that many economists aren't as optimistic about the latest numbers and that national unemployment is expected to top 10 percent when the July figures come out later this week.
"Now, if you think this is an astonishing statement, well, so do we – after all, we have nationwide unemployment rate of 9.5 percent - and rising - with numerous states already well over 10 percent," Ferrier said.
"But the fact remains that the Administration promised the stimulus would provide IMMEDIATE relief, that it would provide the economy with a JOLT, and that unemployment would NOT climb above 8 PERCENT. None have proven to be true, prompting the Vice President to say just over a month ago that they “misread the economy,” which then morphed into the stimulus was supposed to take a while to work, and NOW it’s working. But the standard to measure its success is the initial benchmarks the Administration used to sell their plan."
With House members back in their districts, President Obama's grassroots group is airing radio ads pushing key representatives on healthcare and thanking others on the economic recovery package.
Organizing for America announced that the health ad, entitled "Standing Up," will run in 19 districts. Listen to it here.
The economic ad, entitled "To the Rescue," will run in four districts, the group said. Hear it here.
"These members have been part of one of the most ambitious, historic and successful opening months of a Congressional session in our nation's history," said OFA Director Mitch Stewart. "From expanding health insurance to millions of vulnerable children, to passing a recovery act that rescued our economy from certain disaster, to passing a budget that halves our deficit over the next decade while making critical investments in health care, energy and education, these members have all helped bring about the change President Obama promised to bring to Washington. They are now standing up to the special interests, the lobbyists and the naysayers and working for big solutions to our nation's toughest problems - including fixing a broken health insurance system that costs too much, leaves too many people lacking coverage and puts insurance industry profits ahead of patient care. Thanks to the support of these members and others like them - we will reform the health insurance system in this country and make other critical policy changes to get our economy back on track."
The group is up against conservative organizations that have been finding activists to attend town halls on healthcare that members of Congress have been having with their constituents.
Following up on a retreat with Cabinet officials and others over the weekend at the six-month mark of his new administration, President Obama plans to huddle Tuesday with all 60 Senate Democrats.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the unusual gathering is meant to take stock of where legislative priorities stand -- and two are likely to be at the forefront: healthcare overhaul, since a full Senate vote has been put off until after the August recess, and the "cash for clunkers" bill.
"I don't doubt that healthcare will be discussed," Gibbs said at his daily briefing. "I believe the economy will also be heavily discussed; the numbers that we've been talking about, numbers that we'll see throughout the week, unemployment, manufacturing reports -- just in general where the economy is. I think we'll probably -- they'll go through and discuss energy legislation.
Gibbs also said that a topic will be the House-passed bill to pump $2 billion more into the unexpectedly popular program giving car buyers stipends for trading in gas guzzlers for fuel-efficient vehicles. "Without some help from the Senate, in terms of moving the $2 billion from the Recovery and Reinvestment plan's energy efficiency programs into this account, [it] will likely mean that the program will have to be stopped by the end of the week.
Asked why Republicans weren't invited, Gibbs replied, "I would look at this as the president speaking to the Democratic caucus. They have a regularly scheduled caucus lunch that happens every Tuesday. It's just we're having that lunch here at the White House rather than up on Capitol Hill. So I think that explains talking to the -- to Senate Democrats."
If two top advisers opened the door to raising taxes on the middle class, the White House is seeking today to slam it shut again.
Pressed repeatedly on the issue, presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs said repeatedly that Obama stands behind his iron-clad campaign pledge that any tax hikes would only hit individuals making more than $200,000 a year and families earning more than $250,000.
"The president has been clear on his commitment on this," Gibbs told reporters.
"I want to just state again clearly here that the President has made a very clear commitment to not raise taxes on middle-class families, period," Gibbs tried again.
"Let me be precise: The president's clear commitment is not to raise taxes on those making less than $250,000 a year."
"The door's not open even a millimeter on raising taxes?" a reporter asked.
"I hope you'll take seriously what I said," Gibbs replied.
He also noted the economic stimulus package included tax cuts for 95 percent of earners.
The questions arose because on TV talk shows Sunday, both Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and National Economic Council Director Lawrence Summers refused to rule out possible tax increases.
Geithner said that tax hikes might be needed to reduce the record federal deficit, while Summers said there needed to be funding for healthcare overhaul.
"I don't think we're going to get the deficit under under better control until we get the economy moving again. In order to lay that new foundation, the president strongly believes that health care reform is important," Gibbs said.
"And the president was clear during the campaign about his commitment on not raising taxes on middle-class families. And I don't think any economist would believe that in the environment that we're in raising taxes on middle-class families would make any sense. And the president agrees."
Gibbs noted that the recession is driving down tax revenues, so "the most important thing we can do is get the economy growing again."
UPDATE: Before, or despite, the comments from Gibbs, Americans for Tax Reform said the appearances by Geithner and Summers are the "latest of a string of statements by Obama’s spokesmen and appointees gradually stepping back from the 'firm pledge' made during the campaign."
“Obama should fire Geithner and Summers,” Grover Norquist, the group's president, said in a statement. “Two appointees of President Obama went on national television and implied the president lied his way into office and that he is open to raising taxes.”
“To have the president’s own appointees accuse him of lying his way into office is a betrayal beyond words,” Norquist added. “If, however, Obama has been silent in reaction to these two statements, he does intend to raise taxes, and he should resign because he lied his way into office by making a promise he had no intention of keeping.”
President Obama said new, better-than-expected gross domestic product numbers show that the country is headed in the right direction, and that "the recession we faced when I took office was even deeper than anyone thought at the time."
The president also said the massive, $700 billion economic stimulus package "helped pull the nation back from the brink."
The economy "has done measurably better that we had thought -- better than expected. And as many economists will tell you, that part of the progress is directly attributable to the Recovery Act," Obama said this afternoon. "This and other difficult but important steps that we've taken over the last six months have helped us put the brakes on the recession."
But the president added that the good economic news is cold comfort for those withouth jobs and families struggling to make ends meet.
"When we receive our monthly jobs report next week, it's likely to show that we're still continuing to lose far too many jobs. As far as I'm concerned, we won't have a recovery as long as we keep losing jobs," Obama said. "And I will not rest until every American who wants a job can find one."
Nevertheless, "history does show that you need to have economic growth before you have job growth," Obama said. "And today's GDP is an important sign that the economy is headed in the right direction and that business investment, which had been plummeting in the last several months, is showing signs of stabilizing. This means that eventually, businesses will start growing and they'll start hiring again. And that's when it will truly feel like a recovery to the American people."
The Commerce Department reported that the economy shrank by 1 percent in the second quarter of the year, giving hope that the longest recession since World War II is easing.
"Obviously that's the right direction," Christina Romer, one of the president's top economic advisers, said on MSNBC. "We've got a long way to go."
The revised number in the first quarter was down 6.4 percent, the biggest decline in nearly three decades -- showing that the recession was even worse than believed at the time and proving that the $787 billion stimulus plan and other government spending was necessary, said Romer, chairwoman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.
"We absolutely had to rescue this economy," she said.
For the economy to truly rebound, she said, there needs to be 2 percent to 3 percent real growth.
Obama and Romer also tried to reassure Americans that one initiative won't be a victim of its own success.
The "cash for clunkers" program has been so popular that consumers have already emptied the $1 billion fund.
"Not more than a few weeks ago, there were skeptics who weren't sure that this "Cash for Clunkers" program would work," Obama said. "But I'm happy to report that it has succeeded well beyond our expectations and all expectations, and we're already seeing a dramatic increase in showroom traffic at local car dealers."
"And I'm encouraged that Republicans and Democrats in the House are working to pass legislation today that would use some Recovery Act funding to keep this program going -- funding that we would work to replace down the road," the president said. "Thanks to quick bipartisan responses, we're doing everything possible to continue this program and to continue helping consumers and the auto industry contribute to our recovery."
"If you wanted to buy a car this weekend, go do it," Romer told Reuters Television. "The program is still there. It has not been suspended, and I can tell you there is a real flurry of activity working with the agencies, the Congress, to ensure we can continue this and get the funds there."
The Associated Press is reporting that Democrats in both the House and Senate are exploring votes as early as today to add $2 billion into the rebate program.
Representative Sander Levin of Michigan revealed the bill after he and other lawmakers were assured by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood that the program would continue at least through today while the Obama administration looked for more money, the AP says.
With Republicans citing the continuing economic distress to bash the economic stimulus plan pushed through by President Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress, the Democratic National Committee is hitting back with a media campaign blaming Republicans for creating the mess to begin with.
In a new TV ad announced today, the DNC goes after the top four congressional Republicans -- Senators Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Jon Kyl of Arizona, and Representatives John Boehner of Ohio and Eric Cantor of Virginia -- by saying they "supported the Bush policies that sank our economy into recession. They broke it - now they refuse to fix it."
"Tell Republicans to stop playing politics with our economy," the announcer urges viewers.
Besides the media campaign, the DNC is organizing news conferences or conference calls with reporters in their home states this week with local elected officials and others to testify to the impact of the $787 billion stimulus plan. Not a single House Republican voted for it, and only a handful of Senate Republicans did.
"Republicans supported the policies that sank our economy into the worst recession in nearly a century and have refused to work with President Obama to turn things around," DNC Communications Director Brad Woodhouse said in a statement. "They followed Rush Limbaugh and played politics with the Recovery Act - and now that it is showing signs of progress - they are distorting the truth about its success so no one will notice that they were the ones who got it wrong before and who are getting it wrong now. In each of these states there are real projects, providing and saving real jobs and laying a foundation for long-term economic growth. The Republican leadership may not want to admit the truth because it will expose their own mistakes and hypocrisy, but we're not going to hesitate setting the record straight."
UPDATE: Obama, himself, addressed what he called "a lot of misinformation out there" about the stimulus bill, which he said has helped stem job losses though "the tough times aren't over."
"Let me just lay out the facts," he said in a town hall in Raleigh, N.C., today, saying he had passed protestors on the way to the event: "Roughly a quarter of the Recovery Act’s funding has been committed, over 30,000 projects have been approved, and thousands have been posted online."
One-third of the money is going to tax cuts for families and small businesses, another third is for emergency relief including unemployment benefits, and the final third is for investments such as infrastructure projects, he said.
"Now, I know that some critics in Washington ... they are saying we’ve been slow to get these projects started. They are saying we should have broken ground on all our highway projects on the first day. That’s impossible, especially because I wanted to be sure we did our homework and invested tax dollars only in those projects that actually created jobs and jump-started our economy. We knew it would take a few months for these projects to get online," he said.
"So it will take time to achieve a complete recovery, we're not going to rest until anyone who’s looking for work can find a job. But there should be little debate that the steps we took, taken together, have helped stop our economic freefall."
Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder announced today that the Justice Department will award $1 billion in grants to help local law enforcement agencies hire about 4,700 officers.
Boston is the biggest beneficiary in Massachusetts, with $11.8 million, enough for 50 officers. Other recipients include New Bedford, 13 officers; Lowell, 12; and Fall River, 10 officers.
UPDATE: Boston officials welcomed the money, which they said made the city one of only 24 in the nation to receive its full request and said would allow the police department to expand community-oriented policing.
“Today is a great day for public safety in Boston,” Mayor Thomas M. Menino said in a statement. “I am grateful for all of the work done by President Nee of the Boston Police Patrolman's Association and our partners in Washington for helping us secure this competitive grant money. This award is a terrific example of Boston's strong commitment to public safety. This funding will keep officers on the streets of our neighborhoods and continue our progress in community policing. I am proud of the work done by the Boston Police Department in reducing crime across our city, and this funding will allow us to continue these effective strategies.”
“We are thrilled to receive this important funding from the Department of Justice,” Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis added in a statement. “It is precisely what we need during this difficult fiscal time to stave off workplace reduction. This initiative will assist us in maintaining the level of public safety service that Boston residents and visitors have become accustomed to."
In all, 13 Massachusetts agencies will get $29 million for 131 officers, while 212 agencies asked for $203 million for 931 officers, according to the Justice Department. To see the Massachusetts summary, click here.
But New York, Houston, Seattle, and Pittsburgh are among those not receiving any money because the Justice Department decided other cities were more needy. To see the full list of grants by state, click here.
The Justice Department received more than 7,200 applications for more than 39,000 officer positions, representing a total of $8.3 billion in funding, the White House said.
The money will come from the $787 billion economic stimulus package and will go to 1,046 law enforcement agencies from all 50 states, providing the salaries and benefits for three years.
Agencies will be required to foot the bill for the officers for a fourth year -- a mandate that could cause problems for cash-strapped cities and towns. It was also the biggest criticism of a similar program during the 1990s under the Clinton administration.
“A big part of the Recovery Act is about building communities – making them as strong as they can be, allowing every American family to live a better life than the one they are leading now,” Biden said in Philadelphia. “And we can’t achieve the goal of stronger communities without supporting those who keep our streets safe.”
“These Recovery Act funds will pump much needed resources into communities through a program with a proven track record,” said Holder. “The tremendous demand for these grants is indicative of both the tough times our states, cities and tribes are facing, and the unyielding commitment by law enforcement to making our communities safer.”
The release from Massachusetts Senators John F. Kerry and Edward M. Kennedy is below:FULL ENTRY
President Obama's chief economic adviser, Lawrence Summers, is the latest top administration official to defend its efforts to revive the economy, even as unemployment inches toward double digits.
"Though only a half a year ago, the distance we have traveled these past six months is remarkable," Summers said at the Peterson Institute, according to advance excerpts released by the White House. "The economy was in free-fall at the start of the year with no apparent limit on how much worse things could get. Fear was widespread and confidence was scarce.
"We were at the brink of catastrophe at the beginning of the year but we have walked some substantial distance back from the abyss… Substantial progress has been made in rescuing the economy from the risk of economic collapse that looked all too real 6 months ago."
According to federal data released this morning, the jobless rate has already topped 10 percent in 15 states and the District of Columbia, and surpassed 15 percent in Michigan, the first time any state reached that mark since 1984.
Summers argued that rising unemployment does not mean that the $787 billion stimulus package championed by Obama is not working, since the jobless rate lags other indicators of recovery.
Summers, the former Harvard president and treasury secretary, also reiterated Obama's assertions that his policies are not only lifting the country out of recession, but building the foundation for long-term growth.
"To address the deep and severe crisis he inherited, President Obama started from two main premises," he plans to say. "First, the most immediate priority was to rescue the economy by restoring confidence and breaking the vicious cycle of economic contraction and financial failure. Second, the recovery from this crisis would be built not on the flimsy foundation of asset bubbles but on the firm foundation of productive investment and long-term growth.
"The President was clear from the beginning that these two tasks needed to be dovetailed—that confidence in our ability to rescue the economy depended on a sense of our commitment to reform and a vision for rebuilding."
"The rebuilt American economy must be more export-oriented and less consumption-oriented, more environmentally oriented and less fossil-energy-oriented, more bio- and software-engineering-oriented and less financial-engineering-oriented, more middle-class-oriented and less oriented to income growth that disproportionately favors a very small share of the population."
His full remarks are below:
The war of words over the economic stimulus is getting louder today in Virginia.
Vice President Joe Biden is in Richmond, the home district of Representative Eric Cantor, the No. 2 Republican in the House and one of President Obama's harshest, most persistent critics.
Biden plans to blast Cantor, according to the Washington Post. "To those who say that our economic decisions 'have not produced jobs, have not produced prosperity, and simply have not worked, I say, 'Take a look around,' " Biden will say, according to prepared remarks obtained by Post. "I ask those critics, 'Would they not help the states prevent lay off thousands of teachers, firefighters, cops? Would they not give a tax cut to 95 percent of the American people? Would they sit back and do nothing as our economy collapsed?' "
Cantor's office, for its part, is on the case of Tim Kaine, Virginia's governor and Obama's hand-picked chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
Kaine sent out a statement today saying that Obama's $787 billion stimulus package -- which not a single House Republican supported -- is sparking a recovery and creating jobs.
"For Governor Kaine's DNC to flatly state that there is an economic recovery misses the current and increasing double-digit unemployment in Richmond and the 8.1% unemployment in Central Virginia. To declare an 'economic recovery' when so many Virginian families are being negatively impacted by this Administrations economic policy is a truly shocking statement that should be retracted," Cantor spokesman Brad Dayspring said in a statement.
"A stimulus bill should have an immediate economic impact and create real, long term jobs, and this stimulus has not created jobs or fixed our economy."
President Obama landed this afternoon in Michigan -- the state with the nation's highest unemployment rate at 14 percent -- to reassure Americans that better days are ahead, and to talk about the importance of education to grow the economy.
He spoke at Macomb Community College -- a common stop for politicians ever since Ronald Reagan embraced white, blue-collar Democrats to create "Reagan Democrats" -- and declared that "the hard truth is that some of the jobs that have been lost in the auto industry and elsewhere won’t be coming back. They are casualties of a changing economy.
"And that only underscores the importance of generating new businesses and industries to replace the ones we’ve lost, and of preparing our workers to fill the jobs they create. For even before this recession hit, we were faced with an economy that was simply not creating or sustaining enough new, well-paying jobs," he said, according to prepared remarks released by the White House.
Obama announced a new initiative to strengthen community colleges in their role of training workers for new jobs.
"Time and again, when we have placed our bet for the future on education, we have prospered as a result – by tapping the incredible innovative and generative potential of a skilled American workforce.
"That is why, at the start of my administration I set a goal for America: by 2020, this nation will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world…Today, I am announcing the most significant down payment yet on reaching this goal in the next ten years. It’s called the American Graduation Initiative. It will reform and strengthen community colleges from coast to coast so that they get the resources students and schools need – and the results workers and businesses demand. Through this plan, we seek to help an additional five million Americans earn degrees and certificates in the next decade."
(The full prepared remarks and White House release are below.)
UPDATE: Senator Edward M. Kennedy, chairman of the Senate education committee, praised Obama's community college push.
“I commend President Obama for this major initiative to enable many more Americans to obtain the education and training they need to succeed in our modern economy," Kennedy said in a statement. "Community colleges in Massachusetts and across the country are putting millions of students on the path to a college degree. They are also offering millions of other Americans the opportunity to develop the skills and knowledge they need for family-sustaining jobs. Congress should include this important initiative in the higher education legislation we pass this year.”
Earlier today, Obama told reporters that he doesn't have a "crystal ball" on the jobs picture, but does expect the unemployment rate to rise before topping out. Many economists expect the national rate, now 9.5 percent, will reach double digits.
"Even after you start moving into a recovery, positive growth, hiring typically lags for some time after that. That's been the historic norm," he added. "Now, this has been a more severe recession than we've seen since the Great Depression, so how employment numbers are going to respond is not yet clear. My expectation is, is that we will probably continue to see unemployment tick up for several months. And the challenge for this administration is to make sure that even as we are stabilizing the financial system, we understand that the most important thing in the economy is, are people able to find good jobs that pay good wages."
(His full comments on the economy are below.)
President Obama, seeking to regain the upper hand on the economy, issued a new report this morning on the "jobs of tomorrow" -- even as the jobs of today keep disappearing.
His Council of Economic Advisers released the report, titled "Preparing the Workers of Today for the Jobs of Tomorrow," that is an overview of how the US labor market is expected to develop over the next few years. The report (read it here) discusses the skills and training that will likely be needed for the growing occupation categories, and the education and training system needed to prepare people for those jobs.
As the unemployment rate heads north of 10 percent nationally, Obama is defending the $787 billion economic stimulus plan he championed, asking Americans for patience. He made that case in his weekly radio and Internet address on Saturday and in an op-ed piece in the Washington Post on Sunday, and is expected to make it again during a public event in Warren, Mich., on Tuesday.
In an unusual move, the White House today sent out an official release citing news reports challenging the facts used by Republican critics of the stimulus.
Such counterattacks are typically left to Democratic Party groups or friendly advocacy organizations. (The full release is below.)
UPDATE: Obama also huddled this afternoon with labor leaders, some of his most loyal and important allies.
"Today's meeting with President Obama and leaders in the union movement was a critical opportunity to share and discuss issues impacting working people, including jobs, health care, and the Employee Free Choice Act," AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said in a statement afterwards. "President Obama has always been a friend to the union movement, and the meeting emphasized his continued support on issues important to working people. We look forward to continuing to work with the president to build an economy that works for everyone.
Facing growing public unease about his handling of the economy, President Obama takes his weekly Internet and radio address to defend the $787 billion stimulus package he championed.
It is doing exactly what it was designed to -- stop the bleeding by slowing job losses, start reviving the economy, deliver tax relief to the middle class, and lay the groundwork for badly needed reform, he asserts.
"The Recovery Act wasn’t designed to restore the economy to full health on its own, but to provide the boost necessary to stop the free fall," he says. "It was designed to spur demand and get people spending again and cushion those who had borne the brunt of the crisis. And it was designed to save jobs and create new ones."
He counsels patience, cautioning against those already calling for a second stimulus package.
"I realize that when we passed this Recovery Act, there were those who felt that doing nothing was somehow an answer," he says. "Today, some of those same critics are already judging the effort a failure although they have yet to offer a plausible alternative. Others believed that the recovery plan should have been even larger, and are already calling for a second recovery plan.
"But, as I made clear at the time it was passed, the Recovery Act was not designed to work in four months – it was designed to work over two years. We also knew that it would take some time for the money to get out the door, because we are committed to spending it in a way that is effective and transparent. Crucially, this is a plan that will also accelerate greatly throughout the summer and the fall. We must let it work the way it’s supposed to, with the understanding that in any recession, unemployment tends to recover more slowly than other measures of economic activity," he adds.
During his weeklong trip to Europe and Africa that wraps up today, attacks grew louder on the stimulus, polls showed declining confidence in his job performance on the economy, and numbers showed continuing steep job losses.
In his address, Obama claims accomplishments abroad, but seeks to reassure Americans that he's focused on the homefront, that he will get federal budget deficits under control even as he tries to pass landmark legislation on healthcare and clean energy, and to remind the public of the depth of the economic crisis he inherited in January.
"We came into office facing the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression," he says. "At the time, we were losing, on average 700,000 jobs a month. And many feared that our financial system was on the verge of collapse. As a result of the swift and aggressive action we took in the first few months of this year, we’ve been able to pull our financial system and our economy back from the brink."
"I said when I took office that it would take many months to move our economy from recession to recovery and ultimately to prosperity," he adds. "We are not there yet, and I continue to believe that even one American out of work is one too many. But we are moving in the right direction. We are cleaning up the wreckage of this storm. And we are laying a firmer, stronger foundation so that we may better weather whatever future storms may come. This year has been and will continue to be a year of rescuing our economy from disaster."
The full text is below, and the video of the address can be viewed here.
Massachusetts Senators John F. Kerry and Edward M. Kennedy announced today that the Bay State's Department of Housing and Community Development will get nearly $51 million in stimulus cash to help revive the moribund housing market.
Nationally, housing starts have fallen almost 80 percent since the beginning of 2006, and Massachusetts is no exception. The drop in housing construction has led to severe job losses in building and related jobs, more than 1 million nationwide.
“We’ve got more than 750 Massachusetts families and 1,000 children hanging on by their fingernails living in motels at a cost to state taxpayers of nearly $2 million each month. This affordable housing investment will help these families and thousands more who are out of work or struggling with reduced incomes from fewer hours at work by creating good jobs and delivering affordable housing now. It will help keep these working families off the streets and out of shelters for good,” Kerry said in a statement.
“These funds are vital to Massachusetts families who are out of work and reeling from the soaring cost of housing,” added Kennedy. “I commend the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development for its extraordinary commitment to our citizens struggling with housing costs, and I commend President Obama for emphasizing the need to make these important investments that protect families and also create jobs in our Commonwealth.”
While President Obama discusses the global economy in Italy with other world leaders, the volume is getting dialed up on job losses at home.
The unemployment rate is at 9.5 percent -- the highest in 26 years -- and headed into double digits. Employers laid off another 467,000 workers last month, bringing to 6.5 million the net job losses since the recession began in December 2007. And criticism is growing of the $787 billion economic stimulus plan that Obama championed -- and why it isn't creating jobs quicker.
The epicenter of the debate this week is Ohio, the traditional presidential bellwether state where Obama spent quite a bit of time campaigning and where a new poll this week had worrisome numbers for Obama.
Respondents in the Quinnipiac University survey were evenly divided over Obama's handling of the economy -- 48 percent approved, 46 percent disapproved -- and his approval rating had dropped to 49 percent from 62 percent in May while his disapproval number rose to 44 percent from 31 percent.
Quinnipiac called Obama's numbers "lackluster," and said they were the lowest in any national or state poll it had conducted since his inauguration.
Representative John Boehner of Ohio, the top Republican in the House, caused a ruckus over the weekend by claiming that none of the contracts had been let for infrastructure projects funded by the stimulus.
The Democratic National Committee released a web video and is holding a news conference today in Ohio to rebut Boehner, who it says is being hypocritical since the House GOP stimulus plan had no infrastructure projects.
“Given that he championed and continues to advocate the very same economic policies that got us into this mess to begin with, perhaps John Boehner just doesn't know what creating new jobs looks like. Or perhaps he was willfully misleading the public about the effect of the President's economic recovery package to score political points,” DNC spokesman Hari Sevugan said in a statement. “Either way, considering that the Republican 'alternative' included ZERO funding for construction projects, it's the height of hypocrisy for Boehner to criticize the status of these projects at all.”
Michael Steel, a Boehner spokesman, responded: "Ohio was very nearly the last state to get the first 50 percent of its stimulus construction money obligated for construction projects, which is ridiculous. As of late May, approximately, no
contracts had been signed.
"Since that time, some contracts have been belatedly set in motion, but the entire process has been absurdly slow-moving -- just as Republicans warned it would be last winter when we called for an economic recovery bill based on fast-acting tax relief for small businesses and working families rather than spending on slow-moving government programs. It's embarrassing that the DNC can't defend its own indefensible trillion-dollar stimulus that isn't working
and resorts to desperate tactics like this."
The Obama administration concedes that the continuing job losses are unacceptable, but says that the stimulus package was always going to take some time to have measurable impact.
Vice President Joe Biden said over the weekend that the White House might have "misread" the depth of the recession; he plans to visit the state on Thursday to trumpet the stimulus.
But Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said on Fox Business Network that all the stimulus needs to be spent before serious consideration of a second stimulus package.
Solis said she can't predict when the unemployment rate will begin declining.
"We're not looking at just a quick fix here, we're looking at something that is going to take us out of this bad economy for the next decade," she said. "And we have to make these investments that were neglected in the last eight years."
President Obama plans today to highlight the importance of innovation in creating jobs, but at this rate the White House would be happy with any kind of jobs at all.
The Labor Department reported this morning that employers slashed 467,000 jobs last month, bringing the net loss since the recession began in December 2007 to about 6.5 million.
While the job cuts were less than many economists expected, the unemployment rate still rose to 9.5 percent, the highest in 26 years, and most expect the jobless rate will reach 10 percent this year. About 14.7 million people were unemployed in June.
Besides the devastating impact on families and their towns, the growing unemployment rolls are a political problem for Obama, who championed the $787 billion economic stimulus plan, but wants to be able to show more impact to reassure Americans.
In a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll released today, 40 percent of respondents said they believe the economy is still getting worse, while 48 percent said it has stabilized, and only 12 percent believe a recovery has begun.
In his last scheduled public event before decamping for Camp David for the Fourth of July holiday, the president plans to meet with the CEOs of large and small companies that are using innovation to add jobs.
His full remarks are below, followed by the White House release, including the list of attendees:
A pro-Obama, Democratic grassroots group unveiled a new TV ad today, lauding the House for passing a landmark climate change bill and urging supporters to call their senators to do the same.
The spot, from Americans United for Change, is to air in Washington this week and asserts that the legislation will create millions of clean energy jobs. "It’s a foundation for America’s long-term economic success, making us world leader in clean energy," the announcer says. "The challenge is global. And the solution uniquely American."
After lots of arm-twisting by President Obama and his aides, and quite a bit of horse-trading, the House on Friday narrowly passed the bill on a 219-212 vote. It is designed to lower how much carbon is pumped into the atmosphere through a "cap-and-trade" system in which carbon emissions are capped and permits to pollute are given away or sold by the government.
But the bill faces tough sledding in the Senate, and some observers don't believe it will pass this year, though Obama wants final passage before he attends an international global warming conference in Copenhagen.
Obama and his allies are ramping up their grassroots efforts to put pressure on senators.
“Thanks to the extraordinary leadership in Congress, America has taken a giant leap towards becoming the global standard for clean energy while creating millions of new jobs in the process," Tom McMahon, acting executive director of Americans United for Change, said in a statement. "This historic legislation will help build a solid foundation for long-term economic prosperity by meeting President Obama’s challenge to reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign oil and curbing pollution that causes global warming. This ad is designed to encourage Congress to continue standing up to the forces of ‘status quo’ and move this historic clean energy jobs bill to the President’s desk as quickly as possible.”
UPDATE: Organizing for America, the current iteration of Obama's grassroots campaign organization, is sending an email today to thousands of members in Representative Ed Markey's district, urging them to call the Massachusetts congressman with thanks for his leadership on the energy bill.
"We know that historic change is always tough, and enacting clean energy legislation is no exception," wrote Addisu Demissie, the group's political director. "But, with your help, on Friday the House passed a historic energy bill -- a critical first step toward rebuilding our economy with good green jobs, reducing harmful pollution, and breaking our dependence on foreign oil."
The White House announced late this afternoon that top officials will go on the road this summer -- not to big cities, but to often-neglected rural areas to discuss how communities, states, and the federal government can work together to strengthen rural America.
Vice President Joe Biden, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will kick off the Rural Tour on Wednesday to visit Wattsburg, Pa., to discuss the issue of rural broadband.
“A healthy American economy depends on a prosperous rural America,” President Obama said in a statement. “Rural America is vast and diverse, and different communities face different challenges and opportunities. That’s why we’re going out to hear directly from the people of rural America about their needs and concerns and what my Administration can do to support them.”
The other stops scheduled so far:
July 16, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Vilsack will travel to La Crosse, Wisc., to discuss rural economic development.
July 18, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Vilsack will travel to Ringgold, Va., to discuss green jobs and a new energy economy, with a focus on weatherization and carbon sequestration.
July 20, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, and Vilsack will travel to St. John’s Parish, La., to discuss rural healthcare.
Aug. 12, Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Chu, and Vilsack will travel to Bethel, Alaska, to discuss rural infrastructure, green jobs and a new energy economy, as well as climate change.
Aug. 16, Salazar and Vilsack will travel to Zanesville, Ohio, to discuss green jobs and a new energy economy, with a focus on renewable energies.
Aug. 17, Duncan and Vilsack will travel to Hamlet, N.C., to discuss rural education.
Sept. 28, Salazar and Vilsack will travel to Scottsbluff, Neb., to discuss production agriculture.
Sept. 30, Donovan and Vilsack will travel to Las Cruces, N.M., to discuss rural infrastructure.
President Obama held an event this afternoon to trumpet one of his biggest legislative victories so far -- the narrow House passage late Friday of the first-ever bill to tackle global warming.
The sweeping legislation, passed on a 219-212 vote, would rewrite US environmental policy in the most significant way since the 1970s Clean Air Act and would create a controversial cap-and-trade system that would limit carbon emissions and under which the government would sell or give away permits to emit limited amounts.
Obama said it is time for bold action to build on what he called more action on clean energy in the last few months than in the past few decades, including new fuel efficiency standards for all vehicles and green jobs in the economic stimulus plan. He also announced new efficiency standards, including compact fluorescent light bulbs. (His full remarks are below, followed by the White House release.)
He called the climate change bill "extraordinary," saying it will open the door to a clean energy economy, end US dependence on foreign oil, and create thousands of jobs. but he also has quibbles with the House version.
During his campaign, Obama called for all the pollution permits to be sold to help raise money for other priorities, but went along with House Democrats' plan to give many of them away to help lower the cost to industry.
On Sunday, Obama also acknowledged reservations about a provision that would punish trading partners that don't work to curb pollution. "At a time when the economy worldwide is still deep in recession and we've seen a significant drop in global trade, I think we have to be very careful about sending any protectionist signals out there," he told reporters.
House Republicans railed against the bill, saying it amounted to an energy tax on Americans -- and Senate Republicans quickly indicated they will use the same line of attack to try to stop the bill.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said on "Fox News Sunday" that the measure would lead to "significant increases" in electricity costs across the country.
But in his weekly Internet and radio address on Saturday, Obama urged the Senate not to listen to the naysayers. "We cannot be afraid of the future," he said. "And we must not be prisoners of the past. Don’t believe the misinformation out there that suggests there is somehow a contradiction between investing in clean energy and economic growth. It’s just not true."
While Obama and supporters say the bill is a historic advance, some liberal allies say it doesn't go far enough.
MoveOn.org, the major advocacy group, sent a fund-raising missive to members today asking for a vote whether to fight the bill in the Senate.
"The US House passed a huge energy bill Friday. Lots of good people are applauding the passage of this legislation. But here's the ugly truth: Big Oil and Coal lobbyists, working in cahoots with some conservative Blue Dog Democrats, weakened the bill terribly—it now falls far short of President Obama's campaign vision to transition America's economy to clean energy and create millions of new jobs," the email said.
"In fact, the bill repeals a key part of the Clean Air Act and doesn't do nearly enough to shift America to renewable energy -- so instead of a boom in solar and wind, the bill locks us into dirty coal power for another generation.... o win in the Senate, we need to make sure everyone understands that the Clean Air Act is under attack and highlight the other big problems with the bill. If we decide to proceed with this campaign together, we'll boost progressive champions like those who fought in the House, and expose conservatives who do the bidding of the oil and coal industry."
President Obama bragged this afternoon about 10 of the nation's largest banks repaying $68 billion in government bailout money.
"Taxpayer dollars were used to stabilize the financial system at a time of extraordinary stress. And these funds were also meant to be an investment -- and they were meant to be temporary. And that's why this morning's announcement is important," the president said at the White House.
"Several financial institutions are set to pay back $68 billion to taxpayers. And while we know that we will not escape the worst financial crisis in decades without some losses to taxpayers, it's worth noting that in the first round of repayments from these companies the government has actually turned a profit," he added.
"This is not a sign that our troubles are over -- far from it. The financial crisis this administration inherited is still creating painful challenges for businesses and families alike. And I think everybody sees it in their own individual districts. But it is a positive sign. We're seeing an initial return on a few of these investments. We're restoring funds to the Treasury where they'll be available to safeguard against continuing risks to financial stability. And as this money is returned, we'll see our national debt lessened by $68 billion -- billions of dollars that this generation will not have to borrow and future generations will not have to repay.
"I've said repeatedly that I have no interest in managing the banking system -- or, for that matter, running auto companies or other private institutions. So today's announcement is welcome news to me. But I also want to say the return of these funds does not provide forgiveness for past excesses or permission for future misdeeds. It's critical that as our country emerges from this period of crisis, that we learn its lessons; that those who seek reward do not take reckless risk; that short-term gains are not pursued without regard for long-term consequences."
The Treasury Department announced today that it has approved the repayments from the banks, which withdrew cash from the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program created by Congress last October at the height of the financial crisis.
Barack Obama is president, but he's also still a politician.
So after trying to shore up his support on how he's handling the economy with a high-profile pledge on Monday to ramp up the impact of the $787 billion stimulus package, today he's focusing on his weakest area -- federal spending.
With the deficit this year headed to a record $1.8 trillion -- four times the previous high -- Obama outlined new rules that would require Congress to pay for any new tax cuts or spending, including an overhaul of the healthcare system.
He spoke at the White House on what is known as "PAYGO" -- as in pay as you go.
"The 'pay as you go' rule is very simple," he said. "Congress can only spend a dollar if it saves a dollar elsewhere. This principle guides responsible families managing a budget. And it is no coincidence that this rule was in place when we moved from record deficits to record surpluses in the 1990s -- and that when this rule was abandoned, we returned to record deficits that doubled the national debt. Entitlement increases and tax cuts need to be paid for. They are not free, and borrowing to finance them is not a sustainable long-term policy.
"Paying for what you spend is basic common sense. Perhaps that's why, here in Washington, it has been so elusive."
Obama said he is sending Congress a bill to turn the proposals into law.
(His full remarks are below, followed by a White House release on the proposals.)
Obama announced rules -- similar to those used by President Bill Clinton to produce budget surpluses -- that would ban lawmakers from expanding entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security, creating new entitlement programs, or cutting taxes unless they are paid for with spending cuts or tax increases. If lawmakers fail to do so, entitlement programs would be automatically cut.
Obama invited members of Congress, including fiscally conservative Democrats in the "Blue Dog Coalition," whose support he needs on healthcare and other parts of his ambitious agenda.
A new Gallup Poll reinforces that while Obama's job overall approval rating remains high at 61 percent, and he gets high marks on his handling of foreign affairs, his disapproval number is at the highest of his presidency, at 34 percent, eroded by increasing doubts on some of his policies. Disapproval of how he is handling the economy has risen from 30 percent in February to 42 percent in late May.
And more Americans now disapprove than approve how he is handling the federal budget deficit (46 percent approval, 48 percent disapproval) and how he is controlling federal spending (45 percent approval, 51 percent disapproval).
"This latest Gallup Poll shows that the US public has significantly differentiated views on various dimensions relating to Obama. Americans are most positive when asked about their basic opinions of Obama as a person. They also are positive when asked to assess his overall job performance, and on aspects of his performance relating to foreign and international issues. Americans have become increasingly less positive about Obama's handling of the economy in recent months, and are most negative when asked to say whether they approve of his handling of the federal deficit and federal spending," Gallup says.
"The good news for Obama is that the public continues to be quite positive when asked to rate him as a person and to rate his overall job performance -- both of which are presumably summaries of Americans' views of their president across all of the ways in which he could be evaluated."
The new poll, conducted May 29-31, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
By Alan Wirzbicki, Globe correspondent
WASHINGTON -- The White House pulled out all the stops today, seeking to reassure Americans that the $787 billion economic stimulus package is working and outlining plans to save or create 600,000 jobs in the next three months by speeding up the program.
It launched a new website, it offered specific figures on the projects nationwide where spending will be accelerated, and top economic adviser had a PowerPoint presentation, including maps filled with dots pinpointing the projects.
But getting an actual list of projects turned out be heavy lifting. The White House didn't provide one, but referred reporters to various departments.
Some agencies had state-by-state rundowns, but others didn't. Curiously, for instance, the White House said that work would begin or be sped up on 20 Superfund sites, but the Environmental Protection Agency could not identify them. (Three sites in Massachusetts -- New Bedford Harbor, Hatheway & Patterson in Mansfield, and Silresin Chemical in Lowell -- are eventually scheduled to receive between $45 million and $85 million in stimulus funding.)
Here's what the Globe was able to compile about Massachusetts:
Agriculture: Start 200 new rural wastewater and water systems nationwide.
Massachusetts: Manchaug water district in Sutton, $1.4 million in grants and loans.
Defense: Initiate 2,300 projects at 359 military facilities nationwide.
Education: Fund 135,000 jobs, including teachers, principals and support staff nationwide.
Environment: Begin or accelerate cleanup at 20 Superfund sites nationwide.
Health and Human Services: Enable 1,129 health centers to serve 300,000 patients nationwide.
Massachusetts: 36 community clinics, $9.9 million total.
Interior: Begin repairs and other work at 107 national parks and historic sites nationwide.
Massachusetts: Charlestown Navy Yard, Bunker Hill Monument, Historic Longfellow House, Lowell historic mills, Saugus Iron Works, $9.2 million total.
Justice: Speed grants to hire or keep on the job 5,000 law enforcement officers nationwide.
Massachusetts: 210 agencies have applied for money for 922 jobs so far.
Labor: Create 125,000 summer youth jobs nationwide.
Massachusetts: $25 million for slots, including about 800 in Boston.
Transportation: Begin work on projects at 98 airports and more than 1,500 highway locations nationwide.
Massachusetts: Taxiway repairs at Hanscom Field in Bedford, Beverly Municipal Airport, and Orange Municipal Airport.
Also, Interstate 95 between Lexington and Reading, Route 6 in Swansea, Routes 18 and 28 in Bridgewater and Middlesborough, Route 116 in Adams, Route 6 in Bourne, $15.3 million total.
Veterans: Begin improvements at 90 veterans medical centers in 38 states.
Note: Dollar figures represent total funding, not necessarily how much will be spent in next three months.
After reaching out to Muslims and reassuring allies on his second world trip, President Obama returned today to job one on the domestic front -- reviving the economy, still bleeding hundreds of thousands of jobs a month.
He and Vice President Joe Biden convened his cabinet this morning to ramp up the impact of the $787 billion stimulus package in its second 100 days, announcing 10 major new projects designed to create or save more than 600,000 jobs in the second 100 days – compared to 150,000 in the first 100 days.
UPDATE: Before the cabinet session, Obama said the slowing pace of job losses is "a sign we're moving in the right direction."
But there are still far too many people losing their jobs and in danger of losing their homes, he said. It's a reminder that the US is still in a "very deep" recession and it will take a "considerable amount of time" to pull out of the tailspin.
The Labor Department reported on Friday that employers cut 345,000 jobs in May -- the lowest monthly total since September. But 787,000 more people joined the unemployment rolls, increasing the national rate to 9.4 percent, the highest in more than a quarter century.
Obama highlighted the impact of the stimulus package, but acknowledged that continuing job losses will further the negative economic cycle by reducing spending and hurting businesses. Now, he said, the stimulus package must reverse that cycle.
"I'm not satisfied. We've got more work to do," he said. "Now we're in a position to really accelerate."
Obama pledged anew to spend the money transparently and avoiding "boondoggles." And he hit back at his critics, saying that they should talk to people who have been helped by the stimulus package.
(The full remarks of Obama and Biden are below.)
The White House statement asserted that the work during the first 100 days "focused on providing immediate relief to hard-hit families and communities, jump-starting shovel-ready projects, and laying the foundation for large-scale infrastructure improvement programs."
The White House also released a "roadmap to recovery" -- a graphic representation of where the new projects will happen. It said that Obama will urge the cabinet to meet these targets during the second 100 days:
Enable 1,129 health centers to serve 300,000 patients – Department of Health and Human Services
Begin work on 107 national parks – Department of the Interior
Begin work on projects at 98 airports and more than 1,500 highway locations – Department of Transportation
Fund 135,000 education jobs, including teachers, principals and support staff – Department of Education
Begin improvements at 90 veterans medical centers in 38 States – Department of Veterans Affairs
Hire or keep on the job 5,000 law enforcement officers – Department of Justice
Start 200 new waste and water systems in rural America – United States Department of Agriculture
Begin or accelerate cleanup work at 20 Superfund sites -- Environmental Protection Agency
Create 125,000 summer youth jobs – Department of Labor
Initiate 2,300 construction and rehabilitation projects at 359 military facilities - Department of Defense
Obama has been under fire from Republicans and others for what they call the slow pace of job creation. Not a single House Republican voted for the package before it passed in February, and its leadership sent out a list of questions this morning in advance of Obama's announcement:
Does anyone really know how many jobs the stimulus has “saved or created”?
Why is stimulus spending bypassing the states hit hardest by the recession?
Does anyone know how much stimulus money has actually been spent?
Does $59,000 equal $27 million in stimulus money spent?
Who is being scammed by the stimulus?
Republicans also immediately jumped on a remark this morning by Vice President Joe Biden's chief economist, Jared Bernstein.
"The 600,000 jobs are full-time equivalence, meaning that if there are two part-time jobs they count as one full-time job. So that's some real employment in the job market,” Bernstein said on CNBC.
"Apparently, the 600,000 jobs the stimulus will 'save or create' over the next 100 days are not long-term, full-time jobs but temporary, part-time jobs. It’s statements like these that lead to real questions about the administration’s stimulus math," said Joe Pounder, a spokesman for Representative Eric Cantor, the No. 2 Republican in the House.
One group critical of Obama, Americans for Tax Reform, put out statistics of its own today, questioning the White House jobs saved number.
Figuring in the 1.5 million jobs lost since Obama signed the stimulus bill in February, and the $47.3 billion spent as of May 29, the group said "each lost job has cost taxpayers $2,900."
But Obama's labor allies praised his push. The Laborers International Union of North America's general president Terry O’Sullivan, issued a statement: "We commend President Obama and Vice President Biden for working to accelerate the speed of jobs created from the economic recovery plan. While the pace of construction job loss was cut by half in the last month, we agree with the Obama administration that 'not as bad is not good enough.' The best thing to bring relief to struggling Americans is good jobs with good paychecks."
"The economic recovery plan has already started to put people back to work and accelerating the funding for projects to build America will create more jobs that workers desperately need," O'Sullivan continued. "But even after the recovery plan creates or support an anticipated 700,000 construction jobs, there will still be more than 1 million unemployed construction workers. To create good jobs and demonstrate a sustained commitment to fixing our economy and taking care of our country we need a much greater investment to build America starting with the upcoming surface transportation reauthorization and the water bill currently waiting for action in the Senate. We know what’s working to get people back to work – for the sake of our country and economy, we must not only do it faster, but also do more of it."FULL ENTRY
Responding to the latest unemployment numbers, Vice President Joe Biden said today that he and President Obama will announce Monday plans to "ramp up" the pace of projects from the $787 billion economic stimulus plan.
The Labor Department reported that while employers cut 345,000 jobs in May -- the lowest monthly total since September -- the national unemployment rate still rose to 9.4 percent, the highest in more than a quarter century.
Biden called the numbers "tough" but said there are also "some signs of hope today," according to the press pool report before his meeting with his chief economist, Jared Bernstein, and Christina Romer, chairwoman of the White House Council of Economic Advisors.
Still, he told reporters, "It doesn't satisfy me, it doesn't satisfy the president. Less bad is not how we're going to measure success. We will not be satisfied until we are adding jobs on a monthly basis."
He did not offer more specifics about the Monday announcement.
Biden, who was put in charge of overseeing the recovery package by Obama, said that 3,600 projects are underway from the stimulus package, and that today's jobs report shows "some signs" of this.
"We still have a very long way to go," Biden said, adding "We're working to build that foundation every day we're here." (His full remarks are below.)
Critics, however, have complained that money for roads and other infrastructure projects, and have questioned the administration's jobs figures -- more than 150,000 saved or created as of late last month, 100 days after the stimulus was passed.
But the top House Republican, John Boehner of Ohio, used the jobs report to lay into the Obama administration's policies and the effectiveness of the stimulus package, which not a single GOP representative supported.
"Today's unemployment rate is the highest in more than a quarter century, and it's another reminder of how Washington is hanging middle-class Americans out to dry. More than 2.5 million Americans have lost their jobs this year, and what have the Democrats in charge of Washington given them? A trillion-dollar 'stimulus' that isn't producing jobs immediately, as the Administration promised, and that Vice President Biden admits is ripping off the American people. Another $400 billion spending bill loaded with 9,000 unscrutinized earmarks. And bailouts that reward irresponsible behavior and bad business decisions. These policies are harming middle class families when they can least afford it and adding to the massive debt inherited by future generations," he said in a statement.
"There is a better way. Doubling down on the Democrats' plans to tax more, spend more, and borrow more from our children and grandchildren is not the right answer to this economic crisis. Republicans have offered better solutions to create more jobs, curb spending, cut taxes, rebuild savings, and control the debt, and we have reached out to our Democratic counterparts to work on these policies in a constructive way. I urge Democrats in Congress and the Administration to finally follow through on their promises of bipartisan cooperation."
Answering a challenge from President Obama, House Republicans today outlined what they called "common-sense" savings totaling $375 billion over five years.
In a letter and proposals to Obama, the Republicans listed a host proposals -- many of them familiar -- including consolidating federal arts funding, ending "ineffective" and "duplicative" education programs, and terminating other small-bore federal agencies. (Click here to read them.)
"The President challenged us to come up with budget savings, and today House Republicans encourage him to not only look over our proposed list of $375 billion common-sense taxpayer savings, but to join our effort," Representative Eric Cantor, the No. 2 Republican in the House, said in a statement. "For the sake of our young people and America’s long-term fiscal viability, Congress simply cannot keep spending money that the President himself admits we don’t have. We have an opportunity to work together to finally start to bring some accountability to the way Washington spends taxpayer dollars, and I hope it’s taken seriously by the Administration and the Democrat majorities in Congress."
That would be far more than the $100 million in budget savings that Obama outlined at his first cabinet meeting in April. The president said those trims would set a new tone, but acknowledged they amount to a "drop in the bucket" when the federal deficit is projected to reach a record $1.84 trillion this year -- four times the previous high.
Obama's $3.6 trillion budget for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1 has been criticized, by some Democrats as well as Republicans, because it would mean a projected $9.3 trillion in deficits over the next decade.
For a president who complained at first about all the hoopla over the 100-day milestone, which he termed an artifice, he seems to be embracing it now.
President Obama held a town hall and a primetime news conference to mark his first 100 days in office last month. And today, he held an event to mark the first 100 days under the $787 billion economic stimulus plan.
He toured the solar power array at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, then delivered a speech "highlighting the progress the country has made in the first 100 days of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the work that has been done to build a new foundation for America’s economic recovery," the White House says.
Obama also released a report from Vice President Joe Biden, whom he has put in charge of making sure the money is well spent, on stimulus projects already underway across the country.
“One hundred days ago, in the midst of the worst economic crisis in half a century, we passed the most sweeping economic recovery act in history – a plan designed to save jobs, create new ones, and put money in people’s pockets,” Obama said. “....One hundred days later, we're already seeing results.”
(His full remarks are below.)
The White House said that more than $112 billion has been spent or pledged and more than 150,000 jobs have been created or saved. The president highlighted $467 million to expand and accelerate the development and use of geothermal and solar energy throughout the country.
The White House released a "100 Days, 100 Projects" report, with highlights that are below. (Click here to read it.)
As Republican leaders gather to find the way forward, a new poll shows the tough sledding ahead.
While 63 percent of Americans say President Obama's policies would move the country in the right direction -- and 57 percent say that of Democratic leaders in Congress -- only 39 percent say so of GOP congressional leaders, according to the CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey.
The poll found that 53 percent of respondents believe the policies being proposed by Republicans would put the country on the wrong path. And 53 percent also blame Republicans and only 21 percent Democrats for the economic swoon.
Meanwhile, 37 percent say Obama's prescriptions have improved the economy, while 23 percent say his policies have made the economy worse, and 40 percent say they have had no impact.
UPDATE: This afternoon, the party leaders trashed a proposal to start calling their opponents the "Democrat Socialist" party.
The Associated Press reports that instead, they plan to vote on a resolution urging Americans to oppose the Democrats' "socialist" agenda. GOP Chairman Michael Steele and others had opposed the resolution urging the Democrats to change their name, calling it absurd.
President Obama this afternoon signed two significant bills that he hopes will help fix the struggling housing market.
“These landmark pieces of legislation will protect hardworking Americans, crack down on those who seek to take advantage of them, and ensure that the problems that led us into this crisis never happen again,” Obama said.
One is designed to clamp down on mortgage fraud and would set up a $5 million independent commission to investigate the cause of the worldwide financial meltdown.
The $265 million a year from the bill, which supporters say will pay for itself through additional fines and penalties, would go to hire about 160 more FBI agents and 200 more Justice Department prosecutors to work on mortgage fraud cases.
The other encourages banks to help homeowners avoid foreclosure by expanding a $300 billion program that pushes lenders to write down an individual's mortgage if the homeowner agrees to pay an insurance premium.
His full remarks are below, followed by a White House.
Because of the current strict eligibility requirements, only about 50 homeowners are refinancing through the program, compared to the 400,000 it was supposed to help. The bill does not include the so-called cram-down provision that would have allowed bankruptcy judges to reduce mortgage payments. Obama wanted the proposal, but banks and other lenders vehemently opposed it.
Earlier today, Obama huddled with more of his economic brain trust, attending the first quarterly meeting of the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board.
Afterwards, Obama thanked its chairman, former Federal Reserve chief Paul Volcker, for the panel's "extraordinary work."
The committee has an "impressive" though not unanimous consensus on the potential of clean energy jobs, Obama told reporters. It is also helping advise him on an overhauled financial regulation plan the administration plans to put before Congress this year, Obama said.
President Obama declares today that, yes, we can all get along.
In his weekly Internet and radio address, he says that advocates for opposing interests are coming to the table and negotiating in good faith on healthcare and energy -- to name two major issues being debated in Washington.
On climate change and clean energy legislation, "utility companies and corporate leaders are joining, not opposing, environmental advocates and labor leaders to create a new system of clean energy initiatives that will help unleash a new era of growth and prosperity."
On a healthcare overhaul, "representatives of insurance and drug companies, doctors and hospitals, and labor unions who are pledging to do their part to reduce health care costs. These are some of the groups who have been among the fiercest critics of past comprehensive health care reform plans."
"I have always believed that it is better to talk than not to talk; that it is far more productive to reach over a divide than to shake your fist across it. This has been an alien notion in Washington for far too long, but we are seeing that the ways of Washington are beginning to change," Obama added.
"This is how progress has always been made. This is how a new foundation will be built. We cannot assume that interests will always align, or that fragile partnerships will not fray. There will be setbacks. There will be difficult days. But we are off to a good start."
His full remarks are below, and the address can be viewed here:FULL ENTRY
Vice President Joe Biden, put in charge of the $787 billion economic stimulus package, submitted his first status report today.
The highlights of the first 77 days under the recovery act (through May 5), according to the White House:
· 150,000 jobs have been created or saved
· More than $88 billion has been made available for programs and projects
· More than 3,000 transportation construction projects have been funded in 52 states and territories
· Ninety-five percent of working families have begun getting tax credits in their paychecks
· COBRA health insurance premiums have been reduced by 65 percent
· Unemployment benefits have increased by $25 a week
· States have drawn down $15.7 billion in medical assistance funds, allowing them to avoid budget cuts
· Thirteen states have qualified for funds to improve education programs and save education-related jobs
"Looking ahead, an additional 600,000 jobs are expected to be created or saved under the Recovery Act in the next 100 days and billions of dollars in contracts and grants are expected to be awarded in the coming months," the White House said. "The report finds that the anticipated funds are already having an effect on economic and job growth as private sector companies staff up to meet expected demand for their products under Recovery Act programs and state and local governments adjust their spending plans ahead of receiving additional Recovery Act funds."
UPDATE: Republicans noted, however, that more independent analyses by the New York Times, the Associated Press, and others have suggested that the stimulus cash is trickling out or going to places not in as dire need as others.
Ask most Americans about former President Jimmy Carter and energy, and they'll probably recall the long gas lines during the 1970s Arab oil embargo and the 1979 "malaise" speech in which he outlined his plan for energy efficiency and reducing oil imports.
Today, he is being called upon to offer a "historical review"of US efforts to address energy security before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Carter testified that there has been "a long period of energy complacency" and that the US is now lagging behind "many other nations in the production and use of windmills, solar power, nuclear energy, and the efficiency of energy
"Our inseparable energy and environmental decisions will determine how well we can maintain a vibrant society, protect our strategic interests, regain worldwide political and economic leadership, meet relatively new competitive challenges, and deal with less fortunate nations. Collectively, nothing could be more important," he said, according to prepared remarks.
“President Carter has an unparalleled understanding of the depth and scope of the energy security challenges facing our nation, and we are honored to welcome him to the committee,” committee Chairman John F. Kerry said in a statement announcing Carter's appearance.
“This hearing will launch a series of targeted investigations into the manifestations and implications of our dependence on foreign oil, as well as the geopolitical challenges associated with current patterns of global energy flows.”
Kerry's opening statement at the hearing is below:FULL ENTRY
Critics -- including many Republicans and some economists -- have questioned President Obama's assertion that the economic stimulus package will create or save 3.5 million jobs.
It is exceedingly difficult, they note, to prove that a job was "saved." "If we lose over a million jobs since the stimulus passed, the administration can still claim to save 150,000. 'Save' is a communications department's greatest 'saving grace," the office of House GOP whip Eric Cantor said in an email today.
The skeptics are sure to have a field day with the new report from the president's Council of Economic Advisers that revises the estimate of job creation from the $787 billion stimulus package.
Besides repeating the 3.5 million jobs figure as of the fourth quarter of 2010, the report introduces a new number -- 6.8 million "job-years" saved or created hrough the end of 2012.
"For some purposes, looking at the effects at a single point in time is not the most useful approach," the report says. "Since the economy is likely to be operating below capacity for several years, job creation at any time over the next several years is valuable.
"Thus, a second way to look at the employment effects of the program is to estimate the number of job-years the program will create over the President's first term. A job-year means simply one job for one year."
The job-years include "direct jobs" created by government-sponsored projects, "indirect jobs" created at suppliers who make materials used in projects, and "induced jobs" created elsewhere in the economy from increased spending by workers and companies.
To read the report, click here.
Americans for Tax Reform, a group critical of Obama, noted that federal statistics show 1.9 million jobs lost since Obama took office.
"Obama and his economic advisors have resorted to the invention of highly questionable new metrics such as the number of ''saved' jobs and – making its debut today -- the number of 'job-years' created," the group said today.
It cited Senator Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, responding to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner during a hearing: "You created a situation where you cannot be wrong. If the economy loses 2 million jobs over the next few years, you can say yes, but it would've lost 5.5 million jobs. If we create a million jobs, you can say, well, it would have lost 2.5 million jobs. You've given yourself complete leverage where you cannot be wrong, because you can take any scenario and make yourself look correct."
That $1.3 trillion deficit that President Obama likes to say he inherited whenever questioned on his spending?
Well, it has ballooned to a projected $1.8 trillion. And Obama has no one to blame but himself -- and the economic crisis, which has helped force the federal government to borrow about 50 cents of every $1 it forks out.
The deficit figure for the current budget -- which ends Sept. 30 -- is about quadruple last year's number. And that figure was an all-time record.
Since George W. Bush left office, the economy has gone further in the tank, and Obama and Democratic allies in Congress have pushed through a $787 billion stimulus package and a $410 billion supplemental budget bill.
The White House is now predicting the deficit will be $87 billion higher than expected for the 2010 budget year that begins Oct. 1, rising to $1.3 trillion.
President Obama uses his weekly Internet and radio address today to pressure Congress to pass a credit card reform bill by Memorial Day.
"Americans know that they have a responsibility to live within their means and pay what they owe," the president says. "But they also have a right to not get ripped off by the sudden rate hikes, unfair penalties, and hidden fees that have become all-too common in our credit card industry. You shouldn’t have to fear that any new credit card is going to come with strings attached, nor should you need a magnifying glass and a reference book to read a credit card application. And the abuses in our credit card industry have only multiplied in the midst of this recession, when Americans can least afford to bear an extra burden."
Obama called in the heads of major credit companies to the White House last month. Afterwards, industry representatives said those in the meeting discussed the need for a balance between protecting consumers and keeping credit available during the recession.
The House last week passed legislation to restrict abusive credit card practices and eliminate sudden increases in interest rates and late fees. The Senate is expected to vote next week.
"It is past time for rules that are fair and transparent," Obama says in his address. "That is why I have called for a set of new principles to reform our credit card industry. Instead of an 'anything goes' approach, we need strong and reliable protections for consumers. Instead of fine print that hides the truth, we need credit card forms and statements that have plain language in plain sight, and we need to give people the tools they need to find a credit card that meets their needs. And instead of abuse that goes unpunished, we need to strengthen monitoring, enforcement, and penalties for credit card companies that take advantage of ordinary Americans."
His full address is below. To see the web video, click here.
With the new jobless numbers offering that "glimmer of hope" he has been pitching, President Obama today to offered more help to the unemployed.
The lower figures, he said, are no "solace" to the laid-off who can't find jobs and struggle to support their families. And to emerge stronger from the recession, the nation's workforce must come out stronger out of the downturn.
So he laid out proposals to allow people without work to enroll in community college and other education and training programs without sacrificing their unemployment checks. He also wants to make it easier for the jobless to qualify for financial aid for colleges by not basing their eligibility on their prior year's income when they had a job.
The current rules are "senseless" when workers need to prepare themselves for jobs that often require more training. He cited the case of a Maine woman who did get help because the state already has such regulations.
"That's what our unemployment system should be, not just a safety net, but a stepping stone to a new future," Obama said.
Obama also announced a new website (click here) where laid-off workers can find out more about educational opportunities. He also announced that Jill Biden, the vice president's wife who has taught at community colleges, will lead an effort to raise awareness of what they offer.
Obama spoke hours after the Labor Department reported that the pace of layoffs slowed in April, when employers slashed 539,000 jobs, the fewest in six months. But after revised, higher numbers of layoffs in February and March, the unemployment rate rose to 8.9 percent, the highest in more than a quarter century. And since the recession began in December 2007, the economy has lost 5.7 million jobs
The layoffs are "still a sobering toll" and it could take years to recover from the recession, the president said. (His full remarks are below.)
The National Employment Law Project praised Obama's initiatives, saying in a report that despite federal law barring states from denying unemployment benefits to workers in “state-approved training,” many states only allow limited access to benefits.
“In a time when unemployment is at near-unprecedented levels, with long durations of joblessness and substantial job loss -- and with the federal government picking up the tab for 20 to 53 weeks of extended jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed, it is critical that states adopt this change to give workers the chance to develop skills that will help them find sustained work and stay afloat while they do so," the group's policy co-director, Maurice Emsellem, said in a statement.
Representative John Boehner, the House Republican leader, also jumped on the numbers, using them to criticize Obama's game plan. "About two and a half million jobs have been lost since the beginning of the year, yet some here in Washington continue to believe that we can borrow and spend our way back to prosperity," Boehner said in a statement. "Rather than working across the aisle on plans to create more jobs, rebuild Americans' savings, and reinvigorate the housing market, the spending, taxing, and borrowing binge that the Administration and Congress have set out on in the first four months of this year isn't helping our economy."
Predictably, Republicans bashed President Obama's budget, the details of which were submitted on Thursday.
But Democrats, too, are questioning some of the $17 billion or so in cuts. And so are Democratic-leaning advocacy groups.
Add to that list today the National Council of La Raza, the largest national civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States, which joined Republicans in noting that some of the proposed trims were unsuccessfully pushed by former President Bush, but from a different political perspective.
“What we have seen so far with the budget is discouraging and suggests that some of the key priorities of the Latino community are not those of the administration. I am very surprised that the Obama administration in its first budget would mirror similar cuts made by the Bush administration,” Janet Murguía, the council's president and CEO, said in a statement.
She cited the funding for health programs serving Latinos, and unemployment programs, even though the jobless rate among Hispanics has reached 11.4 percent. The council also expressed concern in "the lack of investment" in programs for parents, family literacy, and English learners.
“We realize this is just a proposal and Congress has the opportunity to deliver a budget that works for all Americans and we will continue to work with the Administration and Congress to achieve that,” Murguía added.
A liberal-labor coalition takes a whimsical approach in a new Mother's Day-themed web video urging Americans to support President Obama's economic agenda.
The video from Americans United for Change -- a major ally for the president in organizing grassroots support -- features old-timey organ music and a series of scenes of children offering their mothers what they really want.
"Equal pay (and flowers)," it says on screen as a young girl holds out a bouquet.
Then, "more college aid for our kids (and less laundry)" as kid throws clothes out of a basket.
And finally, "health care we can count on (and breakfast in bed)" as two kids hold out a tray.
The spot ends with a call to call Congress: "Tell them to support President Obama's agenda for families."
The relatively paltry size and breadth of his budget cuts are getting widely panned so far, but an undaunted President Obama declared this morning that he is streamlining government to get rid of wasteful or ineffective spending.
He formally unveiled a list of 121 proposed budget cuts totaling nearly $17 billion -- barely a dent in the $3.4 trillion federal spending plan that Congress has approved for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.
Obama acknowledged some of the cuts he wants are less than $1 million. That might be considered a pittance in Washington, he said, but most Americans still see the dollar amounts as significant -- and the savings "add up."
"Even by Washington standards, that should be considered real money," he said.
"We have to admit that there is a lot of money that's being spent inefficiently, ineffectively, and, in some cases, in ways that are actually pretty stunning," he said.
"Some programs may have made sense in the past -- but are no longer needed in the present. Other programs never made any sense; the end result of a special interest's successful lobbying campaign. Still other programs perform functions that can be conducted more efficiently, or are already carried out more effectively elsewhere in the government.
As an example of obsolete programs, he cited a long-range radio navigation system that costs $35 million a year. "Now there's GPS," he said.
About half the trims would come from defense programs and the other half from domestic programs, but at the same time Obama is proposing significant increases in some domestic priorities. About 80 of the targeted programs are new to the cut list, and some of the cuts, Obama conceded, will be painful.
That list is only a start, he and his top budget aides argue, but they also acknowledge that much bigger savings are more likely through the healthcare overhaul that the president wants.
"We recognize that there remain looming challenges to our fiscal health beyond that -- challenges that will require us to make healthcare more affordable and to work on a bipartisan basis to address programs like Social Security," Obama said. "So what we're proposing today does not replace the need for large changes in non-discretionary spending."
But Republicans are deriding the cuts as insignificant.
On the Senate floor, Senator Judd Gregg said the savings would have no impact on the federal deficit, projected at $1.5 trillion this year, especially when Obama is adding back "massive spending."
He likened what Obama proposes to taking a "few pieces of sand off the desert."
Obama's full prepared remarks are below, followed by a White House fact sheet on the cuts:
President Obama plans on Thursday to unveil a list of 121 budget cuts totaling nearly $17 billion, the latest installment of his pledge to scrub the federal budget "line by line" for wasteful spending.
A senior White House official told reporters that the cuts would total nearly $17 billion in the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1 and more in subsequent years, with about half the cuts from defense programs and the other half from domestic programs.
"This is an important step in the process, but it's only a step in the process," said the senior administration official, who spoke only on condition of anonymity to discuss the proposals before they are made public. "In many cases we have multiple programs that are doing the same thing, and that drives up administrative costs unnecessarily....We are searching for things that work and trying to cut back on things that do not work."
One example the official cited is a long-range radio navigation system that costs $35 million a year but has been made obsolete by the prevalence of global positioning systems. "It's not used, it's unnecessary, it costs us $35 million a year, and we perpetuate it just through inertia," the official said.
Another is saving $142 million by no longer making payments to states to clean up abandoned mines that have already been cleaned up, and a third is to have the Department of Education use email and videoconferencing instead of stationing an attaché in Paris. That would save $632,000 a year, the official said.
The official said that about 80 of the targeted programs are new and that much bigger savings are possible through the healthcare overhaul that the president wants.
The $17 billion, however, is only a drop in the proverbial bucket when the federal deficit that's likely to exceed $1.5 trillion this year.
And Republicans quickly pooh-poohed the list, asserting that former President Bush proposed even larger cuts last year -- $1 billion and 30 cuts more, by one accounting.
Trying to shore up support for his climate change proposals, President Obama called three dozen House Democrats into the White House today.
More than a month ago, Representatives Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Henry Waxman of California introduced a sweeping bill that would set strict new limits on greenhouse gases, cutting emissions by 20 percent by 2020 and by 85 percent by 2050.
The bill -- which calls for pollution credits to be given or auctioned off to utilities and businesses -- has stalled because of industry opposition, criticism from Republicans, and concerns from some Democrats over the so-called cap-and-trade system.
While Obama's spending blueprint calls for generating $650 billion by auctioning off the credits and using most of the windfall to help with higher energy prices, some are pushing to give away many of those permits to ease the cost on business.
Republican critics, meanwhile, call cap-and-trade an energy tax that will hurt families and small businesses. House Republicans held their own session on global warming and released a list of at least 31 congressional Democrats either concerned or opposed outright to the proposal.
In all the 100-day polls that gave him generally high marks, President Obama found himself faulted in one area -- not being tough enough on Big Business and Wall Street.
So both for political and budgetary reasons, it makes sense that this morning he unveiled a crackdown on corporate tax loopholes and offshore tax havens -- plus 800 more tax agents to enforce the changes.
Introduced by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Obama said that while nobody likes paying taxes, most do their duty, but some shirk their responsibility -- "aided and abetted by a broken tax system."
The current tax system rewards US companies for moving jobs to other countries and for moving profits offshore, the president said.
(His full remarks are below.)
His proposal would eliminate some tax deductions for companies that earn profits in countries with low tax rates. It would also make it illegal for US citizens to use tax havens in the Bahamas or Cayman Islands.
The changes, which require congressional approval and would not take effect until 2011, would increase the Treasury's take by about $210 billion over the next decade. They represent only a first step toward an overhaul of international financial regulations Obama has promised.
Though Obama offers to offset the corporate tax change by making permanent a research tax credit, the proposal is likely to face stiff opposition from business groups and their allies in Congress.
Americans for Tax Reform called it a "job killing" tax increase, asserting that US corporate taxes are already the highest among industrial countries and that US companies face double taxation on their profits.
Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, citing his own legislative efforts to close offshore tax shelters, praised Obama's proposals.
“For five years we’ve been pushing to reform the tax code to end deferral and reward companies that create jobs at home not those that hide money offshore,” Kerry, a senior member of the Finance Committee, said in a statement. “I’m glad President Obama is taking action on an issue that has long needed attention and I will work closely with the administration to simplify and reform our international tax system.”
A White House summary of the proposal is below:
President Obama this afternoon praise the House's passage of a bill designed to protect consumers from sudden increases in interest rates and late fees.
The legislation, which House Financial Services Committee chairman Barney Frank of Massachusetts helped shepherd, passed by a bipartisan vote of 357-70.
"Today, under the leadership of Representatives Barney Frank, Carolyn Maloney, and Luis Gutierrez, members of both parties in the House of Representatives came together to protect American consumers, paving the way toward real, meaningful credit card reform," Obama said in a statement.
"While Americans have a responsibility to live within their means and pay what they owe, credit card companies have a responsibility to set rules that are fair and transparent. The principles I have long supported would help ensure that these responsibilities are met: strong and reliable consumer protections; credit card forms and statements that have plain language in plain sight; tools that can help people make an informed choice about what credit card to use; and beefed up monitoring, enforcement, and penalties. And building on what we have achieved today, I will work with Congress in the weeks to come so that I can sign a credit card reform bill into law that upholds these principles and upholds the interests of the American people."
Over in the Democratic-controlled Senate, however, a bill -- which Obama backed but didn't spend a ton of political capital pushing -- to spare hundreds of thousands of homeowners from foreclosure through bankruptcy was defeated.
A dozen Democrats joined Republicans in the 51-45 vote to shelve the legislation.
A Senate panel today begins the hard slog toward an overhaul of immigration policy -- the goal that Congress punted during the Bush administration and the issue that animated the rank-and-file during last year's Republican presidential primaries.
The Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Citizenship will hold a hearing titled, "Comprehensive Immigration Reform in 2009: Can We Do It and How?"
Advocates hope it is the first step to a change that includes a path to citizenship for some of those already in the country illegally.
"For far too long, our state and local governments have been plagued by an out-of-date and broken federal immigration system. Now more than ever, Congress must take the necessary steps to reform our immigration system in a way that honors our laws, rewards honesty and hard work, and fosters economic prosperity," Benjamin Johnson, executive director of the American Immigration Law Foundation, said in a statement.
"The upcoming hearing marks a new day in the conversation on immigration. Rather than dwell on the problems of our broken system, we will hear a discussion that focuses on solutions....This is a discussion that must take place throughout the country because resolution of our immigration crisis will require all sectors of American society to work together to create an immigration system that works for our nation."
The National Council of La Raza, the nation's largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization, also praised the hearing. “For far too long, we have allowed a bullying minority to block the road to solutions and seed intolerance, yet recent elections have demonstrated that Americans want leaders who will solve tough problems, including immigration,” Janet Murguía, NCLR president and CEO, said in a statement.
The group wants the overhaul to include: Getting the 12 million undocumented people in our country to come forward, obtain legal status, learn English, and assume the rights and responsibilities of citizenship; creating smart enforcement policies that uphold national security; cracking down on unscrupulous employers and take away their incentives for hiring undocumented workers; widening legal channels that reunite families and allow future needed workers to come to the U.S. with the rights and protections that safeguard our workforce and prevent the dramatic increase in deaths along the border; and enacting proactive measures to advance the successful integration of new immigrants into our communities.
Pressed on the issue during his news conference Wednesday night, President Obama confirmed his support for comprehensive reform, but said that his administration must lay the groundwork first -- most notably improving border security so Americans are confident that illegal immigrants won't flood the country.
"We can't continue with a broken immigration system. It's not good for anybody," Obama said. "It's not good for American workers. It's dangerous for Mexican would-be workers who are trying to cross a dangerous border. It is putting a strain on border communities who oftentimes have to deal with a host of undocumented workers, and it keeps those undocumented workers in the shadows, which means they can be exploited at the same time as they're depressing US wages."
He said he expects to convene a working group "to start looking at a framework of how this legislation might be shaped. In the meantime, what we're trying to do is take some core -- some key administrative steps to move the process along to lay the groundwork for legislation, because the American people need some confidence that if we actually put a package together we can execute."
"If the American people don't feel like you can secure the borders, then it's hard to strike a deal that would get people out of the shadows and on a pathway to citizenship who are already here, because the attitude of the average American is going to be, 'Well, you're just going to have hundreds of thousands of more coming in each year.' On the other hand, showing that there's a more thoughtful approach than just raids of a handful of workers -- as opposed to, for example, taking seriously the violations of companies that sometimes are actively recruiting these workers to come in -- that's again, something that we can start doing administratively," Obama continued.
"So what we want to do is to show that we are competent in getting results around immigration, even on the structures that we already have in place, the laws that we already have in place, so that we're building confidence among the American people that we can actually follow through on whatever legislative approach emerges. I see the process moving this first year, and I'm going to be moving it as quickly as I can."
UPDATE: As part of the administrative changes, the Department of Homeland Security issued policies today that put more emphasis on going after employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants, though it will still continue to arrest illegal workers.
The Bush administration was criticized by advocacy groups after a series of large raids that resulted in the arrests of about 6,000 workers last year.
"This is a good first step in realigning enforcement priorities," the Immigration Policy Center said. "However, DHS's ability to truly focus on abusive employers is limited by the fact that our current immigration system doesn't provide immigrants or legitimate employers the protections and tools they need to comply with the law. Rather than trimming around the edges, real reform must involve an overhaul of the entire system to ensure that enforcement of our immigration laws is effective, fair, and humane."
Congress this afternoon handed President Obama another big victory to mark his 100th day in office by passing a spending blueprint that incorporates many of his major policy goals ahead on healthcare, energy, and other issues.
But the votes on the budget outline belied Obama's plea for bipartisanship.
The Senate voted 53-43 for the spending plan, with no Republican support, after the House voted 233-193 earlier today, again without a single Republican vote.
In his prepared opening statement for tonight's press conference, Obama says the budget "builds on the steps we’ve taken over the last one hundred days to move this economy from recession to recovery and ultimately to prosperity."
Newly-turned Democrat Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania voted "no," as he did earlier this month when it initially passed the Senate. Three other Democrats also voted no: Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, and Evan Bayh of Indiana.
And, still, Obama's allies declared victory.
"America’s workers applaud Congress for passing President Obama’s budget resolution that is a transformational blueprint for growing the middle class and making the economy work for everyone again," John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, said in a statement.
"Now, more than ever, it is crucial that we build an economy that works for working Americans. President Obama’s budget includes a huge down payment on national healthcare reform, investment in growing green jobs and addressing climate change and more funding for education. The budget also moves away from the failed economic policies of the past and includes tax cuts for middle-class working families, rather than for the wealthy and Big Business. "
“Facing the worst economic crisis in decades, President Obama took the oath of office 100 days ago with a bold agenda to turn our economy around, get Americans back to work and lay a solid foundation for future economic growth and prosperity. And he has done just that. The budget passed today by Congress affirms and supports that vision and addresses the President’s fundamental priorities: halving the deficit over the next four years, providing quality, affordable health care to Americans, improving education investing in the clean energy revolution while reducing our dependence on foreign oil,” added Democratic National Committee chairman Tim Kaine.
Tom McMahon, acting executive director, of the labor-liberal coalition Americans United for Change, said in a statement: “While President Obama inherited a crushing recession and the largest deficit in history, 100 days later the nation is on a clear path to economic recovery paved through the transformational budget Congress passed today. In addition to returning fairness to our tax code and beginning to take control of the federal deficit, the President’s budget recognizes that without fixing our broken health care system, without reducing our dependence on foreign oil, and without investing in tomorrow’s educated workforce, America’s struggling middle-class families will never get ahead. The investments called for in this budget for health care reform, education, and clean energy are essential for long-term economic prosperity. It also remains disappointing that many of the same conservatives members of Congress that enabled the very failed economic policies that got us into this mess once again turned their backs on middle-class families and just said ‘no’ today.”
The bill includes a parliamentary maneuver, which if a healthcare plan isn't passed by Oct. 15, would allow Democrats to push through a plan with a simple majority in the Senate, instead of the 60 votes normally required for such major legislation.
Vice President Biden hit the road today to tout the economic stimulus package's help for weatherization and energy efficiency programs.
He toured Serious Materials Chicago, a window factory that is reopening, responding to increased demand for energy-saving building products. The factory previously housed Republic Windows and Doors, which closed in December, prompting a highly publicized protest by workers against the company and against Bank of America, which had withdrawn its financing despite receiving a taxpayer bailout.
“What I have seen here today at Serious Materials Chicago inspires me and brings to life the real impact the Recovery Act is already having, just in the short time since our work began,” Biden, who was joined by Senators Dick Durbin and Roland Burris, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, and company CEO Kevin Surace, said in a statement. “Everywhere I go, I am hearing stories just like this one – stories of hard workers filling good jobs, our $8 billion investment in weatherization and energy programs re-opening doors and our tax credits creating new demand for energy-saving materials. This is the story of our new economy - and this is the story of the Recovery Act.”
Under the $787 billion stimulus package, $8 billion is available for state and local weatherization and energy efficiency efforts through the Department of Energy -- $5 billion through the Weatherization Assistance Program and another $3 billion for the State Energy Program.
President Obama uses his weekly Internet and radio address today to try to burnish his spendthrift credentials, promising to rein in federal spending to build a firm foundation for economic recovery.
"All across America, families are tightening their belts and making hard choices," he says. "Now, Washington must show that same sense of responsibility.
Saying it's "time to fundamentally change the way that we do business in Washington," he announced that he supports "pay-as-you go" legislation that would require any new spending or tax cuts to be simultaneously paid for -- a bill that fiscal hawks have been clamoring for since Democrats took control of Congress after the 2006 election.
He also announced a new incentive for departments to cut costs: "Agencies that identify savings will get to keep a portion of those savings to invest in programs that work."
The president also said he will establish a way for every government worker to submit cost-saving ideas, and convene a forum later this year for private businesses to share their innovative reforms.
"We must also recognize that we cannot meet the challenges of today with old habits and stale thinking," he says. "So much of our government was built to deal with different challenges from a different era. Too often, the result is wasteful spending, bloated programs, and inefficient results."
His speech comes as Congress is primed to give final approval next week to a spending blueprint, largely based on Obama's, that would mean annual deficits of $500 billion or more for years to come.
Obama has been criticized for unleashing a flood of budgetary red ink with his $787 billion economic stimulus package, and a subsequent $410 billion spending plan for the rest of this fiscal year.
But he notes, again, that he inherited a record $1.3 trillion deficit this year, and that the stimulus spending was needed to lift the nation out of the worst recession in decades.
"We cannot sustain deficits that mortgage our children’s future, nor tolerate wasteful inefficiency," Obama concludes. "Government has a responsibility to spend the peoples’ money wisely, and to serve the people effectively. I will work every single day that I am President to live up to that responsibility, and to transform our government so that is held to a higher standard of performance on behalf of the American people."
Saying he feels their pain, President Obama today reached out to families struggling to pay college bills, highlighting his plan to revamp student loan programs to cut out private middlemen.
Obama wants to end the private Federal Family Education Loans program that the White House says costs taxpayers an unnecessary $5 billion a year by using private firms as brokers.
"That is a premium we can no longer afford," he said, saying the system is "rigged" to give profits to "special interests" without any risk.
He told reporters that "wasteful subsidies" are worsening the paradox facing the country: a college education is more important than ever, but the cost of attending is also higher than ever.
"The stakes could not be higher," he said.
Obama said he wants to boost the percentage of Americans attending college to the world's highest again, and a key part of that is reforming the student loan system.
He acknowledged that private loan companies vehemently oppose the change. "They are gearing up for battle," he said. "So am I."
(His full remarks are below, along with a White House summary of his proposal.)
The private student loan industry has also been beset by allegations of kickbacks to college officials to steer students to the loans. Investigations by Congress and New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo found that some lenders had secret deals to give colleges or their staffs consulting fees, company shares, and other perks.
A working federal budget deal would end President Obama's $400 middle-class tax cut after next year, but would make it easier to pass a healthcare overhaul, according to press reports.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and congressional aides are telling the Associated Press and Bloomberg News today that the tentative agreement to use a parliamentary procedure, known as reconciliation, that would allow the healthcare plan to pass with a simple majority vote, rather than the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster.
The decision is sure to anger Republicans, who oppose many of Obama's health proposals, but it makes it much more likely that a sweeping plan will pass.
Democrats do not plan to use the tactic on another controversial proposal -- so-called cap-and-trade legislation to cut carbon emissions.
Negotiators for the House and Senate, both controlled by Democrats, are pulling together a compromise from the slightly different versions of the $3.6 trillion spending blueprint that each chamber passed and that both preserved most of Obama's agenda.
Former Vice President Al Gore, who won a Nobel prize for his crusade on climate change, gave his stamp of approval today to House Democrats' bill to tackle global warming.
He is testifying before a House committee holding hearings this week on a bill introduced by Representatives Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Henry Waxman of California.
Gore urged lawmakers to overcome partisan differences and take action to reduce greenhouse gases, calling the climate issue the most important ever before Congress.
"We are, along with the rest of humanity, facing the dire and growing threat of the climate crisis," he testified, according to the Associated Press. Gore argued that Congress must act to "restore America's leadership of the world and begin, at long last, to solve the climate crisis."
The legislation would seek to cut carbon emissions by 20 percent by 2020 and by 85 percent by 2050 and also create a renewable energy standard that requires wind, solar, and other renewable sources to meet 25 percent of US energy needs by 2025. One of its most controversial components is to establish a cap-and-trade system to push utilities and industry polluters to meet those goals.
The Obama administration supports many aspects of the bill, but told the committee this week that it wants to work with Congress to fine tune it. Republicans and some Democrats say the legislation would cause dramatically higher energy prices.
Industry leaders warned in testimony yesterday that consumers would be hit with higher prices if the measure does not give electric utilities allowances to emit greenhouse gases.
Larry Summers, President Obama's top economic adviser, is catching some flak for appearing snoozy at a White House meeting today.
As Obama spoke after a private meeting with credit card industry executives, Summers appeared to doze off, closing his eyes, supporting his face with his fist at one point, and wiping his face at another. There are items with photos here and here.
The former Harvard president has been putting in long hours, of course, trying to help Obama find ways to resuscitate the economy.
President Obama waded back in today into the issue of credit cards, which would seem to be a political winner but which the industry warns could backfire in the tattered economy.
He met privately with leaders of the credit card industry, pushing to cut costs for consumers and rein in practices that squeeze people into paying much higher fees or interest rates than anticipated.
After the private session, Obama told reporters that as the administration tries to free up credit and prevent a similar economic crisis, the credit card industry needs to become "more stable, more effective, more consumer-friendly."
"We want to preserve the credit card industry,but we also want to do away with abuses," he said, pausing, then declining to even characterize the "discussion" with the executives.
Those include interest rates being jacked up, undisclosed fees being imposed, and consumers not getting enough information, he said.
He said he delivered a message to the industry leaders: "There's going to be action in Congress. Our administration is going to be pushing for reform."
Any reform, he said, should include measures to stop the abuses and more accountability. (Read the White House rundown on the principles below.)
Both the House and Senate are considering a credit card "bill of rights" to limit the ability of credit-card companies to raise interest rates and fees and to require greater disclosure. The House Financial Services Committee, led by Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, approved its version on Wednesday.
But the banking industry is warning that the push for legislation could make even less credit available during the economic crisis.
"President Obama has been a strong proponent of cleaning up the practices of the credit card industry since he was a Senator and he called for measures to strengthen consumer protection in the credit card market during the campaign," the White House said.
It also released a list of attendees: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, economic advisers Larry Summers and Christina Romer, policy adviser Valerie Jarrett; David Bohne, President, USAA Savings Bank, USAA; Patrick Burke, Senior Vice President and Chief Operations Officer, HSBC Card and Retail Services; Paul Galant, CEO, N.A. Cards, Citi; Pamela Joseph, Vice Chairman, Payments, US Bancorp; Christopher McWilton, President, US Markets, MasterCard Worldwide; David Nelms, CEO, Discover Financial Services; Kevin Rhein, Division President, Wells Fargo Card Services and Consumer Lending, Wells Fargo and Company; Ryan Schneider, President of Cards, Capital One Financial Corporation; Lawrence Sharnak, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Consumer Cards, American Express; William Sheedy, Global Head of Strategy, VISA U.S.A., Inc.; Gordon Smith, CEO, Chase Card Services, JPMorgan Chase & Co.; Richard Struthers, President, Global Card Services, Bank of America; Lloyd Wirshba, Chief Executive Officer, Barclaycard US; and Edward L. Yingling, American Bankers Association.
With President Obama primed to hit 100 days in office on Wednesday, Democrats and their allies are already seeking to crow about accomplishments -- and assail the Republican opposition as obstructionists.
The Democratic National Committee released a web video that says Republicans have delivered "100 days of no."
As each date appears on screen, one Republican leader after another is shown speaking against Obama and Democrats on various economic and other bills. At one point, Republican members of Congress are shown on the steps of Capitol Hill in unified opposition.
“Unfortunately, instead of joining President Obama in forging a new foundation for change, the Republicans have openly employed the same obstructionist, just-say-no approach that helped create the problems we currently face,” DNC spokesman Brad Woodhouse said in a statement. “As long as Republicans continue to rely on Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, and Rush Limbaugh for their inspiration, Americans can only expect more of the same recycled Republican talking points and baseless criticisms from the party of no new ideas and no new leadership.”
A TV ad being unveiled this afternoon by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees and Americans United for Change takes a somewhat more positive tack.
The spot, which is to appear starting Friday on national cable outlets, lists Obama's priorities passed by Congress and signed into law -- an expansion of health insurance for children, an equal pay law for women, the $787 billion economic stimulus package -- while noting that most Republicans opposed them.
"There have always been those who said no to progress," the narrator concludes. "But in times of crisis, Americans have never taken no for an answer."
UPDATE: House GOP leaders, meanwhile, sent a letter today to Obama complaining about their Democratic counterparts. Obama and Vice President Biden are scheduled to meet this afternoon with congressional leaders of both parties.
"Democratic leaders in Congress have so far ignored your call for a new era of bipartisanship in Washington -- however, the next 100 days can be different," the Republicans wrote. "We know that by working together, we can face our challenges and renew our nation, and we respectfully request that our meeting tomorrow serve as the beginning of a meaningful bipartisan conversation about the challenges we face."
Marking Earth Day, President Obama declared today that moving toward renewable energy is essential to America's prosperity and announced that his administration will for the first time lease federal waters for projects to generate electricity from wind as well as from ocean currents and other renewable sources.
"On this Earth Day, it is time for us to lay a new foundation for economic growth by beginning a new era of energy exploration in America," he said.
"The choice we face is not between saving our environment and saving our economy -- the choice we face is between prosperity and decline," he added. "We can remain the world’s leading importer of oil, or we can become the world’s leading exporter of clean energy. We can allow climate change to wreak unnatural havoc across the landscape, or we can create jobs working to prevent its worst effects....The nation that leads the world in creating new energy sources will be the nation that leads the 21st century global economy.
"America can be that nation. America must be that nation. And while we seek new forms of fuel to power our homes and cars and businesses, we will rely on the same ingenuity -- the same American spirit -- that has always been a part of our American story," he said after touring a $21 million wind turbine tower plant in Newton, Iowa, which last year took over the site of a Maytag appliance plant closed in 2007, costing the small city hundreds of jobs.
Obama said that opening federal waters "will open the door to major investments in offshore clean energy," including projects off the coasts of New Jersey and Delaware.
He said wind energy could generate as much as 20 percent of our electricity by 2030, creating as many as 250,000 jobs. (Read Obama's full remarks below.)
Now, wind-generated power totals less than 2 percent of all electricity generated, and other renewable sources another 1 percent.
UPDATE: Later today, the Interior Department issued long-awaited regulations governing such offshore renewable energy projects and how leases will be issued. The rules put in place revenue sharing with nearby coastal states that will receive 27.5 percent of the royalties that will be generated from the electricity production, the Associated Press reports.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told the AP that applications are expected for dozens of proposed offshore wind projects, many off the north and central Atlantic in the coming months, and that he expects the first electricity production from some of the offshore projects in two or three years, probably off the Atlantic Coast.
“These rules will unleash a wave of American clean energy development,” Representative Edward Markey of Massachusetts, who is co-author of energy legislation that includes ambitious targets for renewable energy, said in a statement. “Looking beyond our shores, to the winds, tides and waves for discoveries should not be the solitary providence of explorers, but for clean energy entrepreneurs who will chart the course to America’s energy independence.”
Obama's $3.6 trillion budget for next fiscal year that Congress is hashing out calls for $15 billion each year for ten years to develop clean energy including wind power, solar power, geothermal energy, and clean coal technology.
In his official Earth Day proclamation, Obama also stressed the need for action on global warming, as well as preserving America's natural resources. (To read the proclamation, click here.)
Vice President Joe Biden, meanwhile, announced $300 million in funding today from the stimulus package for state and local governments, and transit authorities to expand their fleets of clean, sustainable vehicles.
“For city and state governments across this country, every day is Earth Day thanks to the ambitious commitments they are making to green their vehicles and transit systems. Now it’s time for Washington to help them deliver on those promises,” Biden said in a statement. “From advanced battery cars to hybrid-electric city buses, we’re going put Recovery Act dollars to work deploying cleaner, greener vehicles in cities and towns across the nation that will cut costs, reduce pollution and create the jobs that will drive our economic recovery.”
Setting the stage for Obama's trip, his Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis sought to spread the word in an op-ed piece published in a half-dozen regional newspapers.
"This focus on jump-starting the creation of an American clean energy sector will be the foundation of the president’s energy policy," they wrote. "With the depletion of the world’s oil reserves and the growing disruption of our climate, the development of clean, renewable sources of energy is the growth industry of the 21st century.
"As part of this comprehensive policy, we must crack down on the corporations that pollute the water we drink and the air we breathe," they added. "Cracking down on these polluters in a real way will mean that we can finally tackle global warming and its potentially catastrophic effects – because ultimately, our approach to energy policy and combating the effects of global warming are two sides of the same coin."
The full op-ed -- which appeared in the Austin American-Statesman, Buffalo News, Denver Post, Montgomery Advertiser, Omaha World Herald, and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette -- is below:
Senator John F. Kerry, opening a hearing on global warming on Earth Day, says this is a "make-or-break" year on the issue and calls on the United States to spearhead the effort.
Covening the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Massachusetts Democrat notes that a key international conference on climate change is later this year in Copenhagen, Denmark.
"The clock is ticking on the best chance the countries of the world will have to marshal an effective global response," he said in his prepared opening remarks.
"All policymakers involved in this process need to realize that if we aim too low, America and the global community will fail to do what is necessary to meet this challenge. It’s that simple."
He added, "We here in Washington must realize that the world is taking its cues from us. In my meetings over the past several months with environment ministers from Germany to China to Bangladesh, I have been struck by the extent to which the eyes of the world are focused on the U.S. Congress and our domestic policy process. Without a clear signal from Congress on the scope, format and ambition of our domestic program, our negotiators will lack the leverage to secure the participation of all the major contributors to climate change. Ultimately, the strength of our domestic policy will be a critical factor in galvanizing the world to enter into a global agreement."
Kerry also asserts that the crucial debate will revolve on what steps the United States takes -- and what is required of China, which passed the US inb 2007 as the largest carbon emitter.
"While China is implementing policies to address its energy use – in some cases more ambitious than our own– their emissions trajectory continues to pose a grave risk to the global climate," he said. "We have to find a way to reconcile two imperatives: on one hand, China requires a treaty that gives it room to develop; on the other hand, unless we can convince the world’s most populous nation to pursue a sustainable, low-carbon development path, we cannot hope to solve climate change. These two constraints define the scope and structure of any viable agreement."
Kerry's full prepared statement is below:
Leading Democrats are touting an Environmental Protection Agency preliminary analysis of their sweeping climate change bill, saying that the study shows that the legislation would succeed in “moving the U.S. to a clean energy economy.”
The analysis also found that the bill's proposed cap on carbon emissions would accelerate the use of alternative energy by 150 percent over the next two decades, and that energy efficiency measures will significantly decrease energy demand. The draft bill calls for a reduction of greenhouse gases by 20 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, and 83 percent by mid-century.
The EPA analysis was requested by the bill's co-authors, Representatives Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Henry Waxman of California.
"This analysis confirms that the Waxman-Markey legislation will create a clean energy economy that will continue economic growth and cut harmful pollution," Markey said in a statement today. "When you combine this analysis with cost-saving measures from updated energy efficiency measures and weatherization, the savings will pile up for consumers."
But Republicans argue that the carbon cap would dramatically increase energy costs for consumers.
Members of the Energy and Commerce Committee said the panel's Democratic leaders are moving too quickly to try to push the legislation through and that the draft bill, which calls for broad limits on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, was not ready for serious discussion because it doesn't say how emission permits would be distributed, the Associated Press reports.
"The manner in which you will address this issue is the cornerstone of the legislation," the 23 GOP committee members wrote in a letter to Waxman. "Without it, the bill is simply not finished and not ripe to be marked up or accurately discussed in the context of hearings."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, however, said she's determined to pass legislation addressing climate change this year.
Noting that Wednesday is Earth Day, she told reporters taht when the next Earth Day comes around "we want to celebrate what we've done this year" to address climate change and shift the nation toward greater use of clean energy.
Rejoining the battle over President Obama's $3.6 trillion budget, Democrats are stressing another line of attack -- that Republican foes, besides not offering a real alternative, are being hypocrites.
In a new web video, the Democratic National Committee says that while the two top House Republicans -- John Boehner of Ohio and Eric Cantor of Virginia -- are accusing Obama and the Democrats of so much deficit spending that it threatens to bankrupt the country, they both voted for President Bush's budgets that vastly increased the national debt.
“Over eight years, Republicans nearly doubled the national debt,” it says on screen. “John Boehner and Eric Cantor were with Bush every step of the way. Now, Washington Republicans want you to forget what they did.”
"From the Party of No to the Party of Hypocrites?" the video ends.
Responded Antonia Ferrier, a spokesperson for Boehner: "We missed the part of the video where they defend their massive, fiscally-irresponsible budget that will double the debt in five years and triple it in 10. When the President's Budget Director concedes they are raising the deficit to unsustainable levels, I guess they have to do everything they can to blame everyone else."
"As we close in on President Obama's first 100 days, I would ask Virginia's Governor Tim Kaine if his partisan attack ads and disinformation campaigns are a calculated rejection of the President's attempts to change Washington,” added Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for Cantor.
Before leaving on their Easter recess early this month, the House and Senate each passed different versions of the spending blueprint that largely preserved Obama's priorities on healthcare, education, and energy. The leaders of the Democratic-controlled chambers are expected today to name members of a conference committee that will iron out a compromise version.
He didn't exactly come bearing gifts as he convened the first full Cabinet meeting of his administration.
Instead, President Obama told his cabinet secretaries (all but Kathleen Sebelius, not yet confirmed at health and human services) that they must join in the penny-pinching that many American families are trying to make ends meet with a goal of slicing $100 million from the federal budget in the next three months.
Obama said because of the economic crisis, his administration has had to spend gargantuan sums of money, including the $787 billion stimulus plan.
"However, moving forward we have an obligation to make sure this government is as efficient as possible" and to make sure no taxpayers money is being wasted to close any "confidence gap" the public has, he said.
He cited the sweeping cuts that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates proposed earlier this month, along with other trims. But he said more savings are needed and pledged that 100 unnecessary programs will be ended.
Obama also told reporters after the meeting that he is "extraordinary proud of the talent, diversity, and work ethic" of his team, which he said faced historic challenges in the first three months.
But the total savings is largely symbolic and a proverbial drop in the bucket -- far less than 1 percent of the $192 billion federal deficit just for March.
Obama's $3.6 trillion budget for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1 has been savaged, by some Democrats as well as Republicans, because it would mean a projected $9.3 trillion in deficits over the next decade.
The White House released a list of cost-cutting measures that agencies have already made, but many of them would be over several years. They include eliminating the job of education policy attaché at the US mission to UNESCO in Paris and closing the office to save $713,000 a year; no longer creating new seals and logos for Homeland Security programs, for which consultants were paid $3 million since 2003; and converting publication of judicial forfeiture notices from newspapers to the Internet, a change expected to save $6.7 million over the first five years.
Obama critics are ridiculing the savings.
"First the President wanted nobody watching him spend trillions of dollars - now he wants everyone watching him cut a tiny fraction," said the conservative-leaning Americans for Tax Reform.
"The British have an old saying: Penny-Wise, Pound-Foolish. This is taking this saying to new levels - not Pound-Foolish, but trillion dollar foolish."
The Heritage Foundation put out a graphic showing the $100 million goal as a tiny dot in comparison to the stimulus package and the additional $410 billion budget approved for the remainder of this fiscal year.
Asked whether the savings were a mere "drop in the bucket," Obama replied, "It is, and that's what I just said."
"None of these things alone are going to make a difference," he said, according to the press pool report. "But cumulatively that make an extraordinary difference because they start to set a new tone. And so what we're gonna do line by line and page by page, $100 million here, $100 million there, pretty soon even in Washington, it adds up to real money."
His full remarks are below, as is the full White House list is below:FULL ENTRY
Democrats, having succeeded in pushing through President Obama's sweeping budget blueprint Thursday night, are seizing on the new job loss numbers to suggest that more needs to be done to turn the economy around.
But after setting the stage for bruising battles on healthcare and alternative energy by passing the $3.5 trillion outlines, and after already passing the $787 billion stimulus plan, there's no consensus on what to do next. And Congress is about to start a two-week recess, leaving a leadership vacuum in Washington unless the leadership calls the rank-and-file back into session.
The US economy lost another 663,000 jobs last month -- raising the total this year to 2 million -- and the unemployment rate jumped to 8.5 percent, the highest since late 1983, the Labor Department said.
“Month after month, America’s working families have been bearing a heavier and heavier brunt of this recession, and now, even more families need our help," Senator Edward M. Kennedy, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, said in a statement. "Our first priority in Congress is to do what’s required to create jobs and lend a real helping hand to as many struggling citizens and their families as possible. We’re firm in our resolve to meet these challenges and restore prosperity for all Americans.”
UPDATE: In a joint news conference with German leader Angela Merkel, Obama noted the jobs numbers and asserted that the G-20 agreement will aid the recovery, though there is no guarantee that more steps won't be needed.
"None of us can isolate ourselves from the global market," Obama said. "If we don't have concerted action, we will have collective failure."
The budget resolutions passed on party-line votes in the Democratic-controlled chambers. When they return from recess, House and Senate negotiators will have to reconcile the different versions, which both incorporate much of Obama's agenda.
“The sobering news today that 663,000 more Americans received pink slips last month signals that the economy is in even worse shape than we thought," Tom McMahon, acting executive director of Americans United for Change, a pro-Obama liberal-labor coalition, said in a statement. "President Obama inherited the nation’s worst economic crisis in generations and the thousands of Americans continuing to lose their jobs each day underscores the urgent to need for Congress preserve his transformational budget plan - a blueprint for rebuilding and renewing America’s economy and creating jobs - as it moves toward final passage.”
“The unemployment line is grower longer and longer every day. There could not be a worse time for the same old partisan games in Washington when so many people are losing their healthcare, their livelihood and dignity. We don’t need politics as usual; we need bold solutions from our leaders.”
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney raised the possibility of a second stimulus package.
"We need to get our economy back on track, create good paying jobs, and restore balance to the fundamental building blocks of our economy," he said in a statement. "President Obama’s budget is an important first step that includes a serious down payment on national healthcare reform, investments in growing green jobs and addressing climate change, essential funding for education and other programs that are crucial for working families.
"But we also must make broad-based economic changes to have sustained economic growth and an economy that works for everyone," he added. "At the G20 meeting President Obama attempted to get world leaders to be more aggressive in addressing their economic problems to make the United States’ stimulus package more effective. It was a successful meeting in many ways but in order to counter what is a global recession world leaders will need to do more and the United States may well need to pass a second stimulus package."
This evening, the US House approved its $3.6 trillion budget outline, largely in line with President Obama's ambitious blueprint on healthcare, alternative energy, education and more -- after defeating a Republican alternative that slashed spending and taxes.
The vote in the Democratic-controlled House was 233-196, along party lines.
Obama called the passage "another step toward rebuilding our struggling economy.
"This budget resolution embraces our most fundamental priorities: an energy plan that will end our dependence on foreign oil and spur a new clean energy economy; an education system that will ensure our children will be able to compete in the economy of the 21st century; and health care reform that finally confronts the back-breaking costs plaguing families, businesses and government alike. And by making hard choices and challenging the old ways of doing business, we will cut in half the budget deficit we inherited within four years. With this vote comes an obligation to pursue our efforts to go through the budget line-by-line, searching for additional savings. Like the families we serve, we must cut the things we don't need to invest in those we do,” he said in a statement.
Democratic National Committee chairman Tim Kaine congratulated House Democrats for passing a very close cousin to the president's budget -- "a plan to help turn our economy around by slashing the deficit in half, making health care more affordable, reducing our dependence on foreign oil and investing in education. This vote today is a victory not only for this generation of Americans, but generations to come."
"Unfortunately, the unanimous vote by the House Republicans against the budget does not represent the principle of loyal opposition upon which this country was founded, but opposition purely for political gain," Kaine said in a statement. "While Republicans continue to cling to the failed policies of the past that created the current economic crisis, President Obama and Democrats have taken bold steps to restore stability and prosperity for all Americans. Today's vote affirms that the Party of No is more interested in playing politics than working with the Democrats and the President to solve our nation's problems on a bipartisan basis."
Later tonight, the Senate is expected to pass its modified version of Obama's $3.6 trillion blueprint.
The two Maine moderates, Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, provided key votes to pass Obama's stimulus package in February. And today, they reprised their role in rejecting an alternative to Obama's budget proposed by his Republican presidential rival, John McCain.
The Senate voted 60-38 to kill McCain's plan, which would have capped domestic spending and eliminated the income tax increases on people earning more than $200,000 and couples making more than $250,000 by letting Bush tax cuts expire. One other Republican and every Democrat present voted against McCain's plan.
The McCain amendment was one of the last major hurdles to passage tonight.
President Obama had reason to smile at his news conference today at the close of the G-20 economic summit.
After all the hype over dissension between Europe and America, the meeting of the world's leading economies produced a wide-ranging deal that includes some more stimulus -- though not nearly as much as the United States sought -- and more regulations wanted by Europe.
Obama said the agreement will mark a "turning point in the pursuit of global economic recovery," calling it an unprecedented package of coordinated actions and contrasting it to the delayed response to the Great Depression and the 1980s recession.
"Today, we've learned the lessons of history," the president said. "I know that in the days leading up to this summit, some confused honest and open debate with irreconcilable differences. But after weeks of preparation, and two days of careful negotiation, we have agreed upon a series of unprecedented steps to restore growth and prevent a crisis like this from happening again."
He added, "In an age when our economies are linked more closely than ever before, the whole world has been touched by this devastating downturn. And today, the world’s leaders have responded today with an unprecedented set of comprehensive and coordinated actions.".
Still, he said the crisis is causing real pain around the world for people losing homes, jobs, and the chance to go to college. He noted that new jobless numbers out today in the United States are the highest in a quarter-century.
Asked what out of the summit would directly help struggling Americans, Obama said that the US economy is inextricably linked with the rest of the world, particularly when it comes to exports. "We've got to make sure the global economy as a whole is successful," he said.
Obama said the leaders made significant progress in stimulating the world economy, reforming financial regulations, increasing transparency, and protecting the poor and voiceless He announced he would work with Congress on $448 million in aid. To see details on the aid, click here and here.
But Obama also said that the agreement is only a first step, and more steps might be needed. The G-20 will meet again in the fall and monitor progress, he said. (Read Obama's remarks and the subsequent transcript.)
The leaders pledged an additional $1 trillion to restore credit, growth, and jobs; agreed to renounce protectionism and pledged $250 billion in trade finance over the next two years; and outlined new measures, including a crackdown on tax havens and hedge funds and new rules on linking executive pay to performance.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who said he would not sign the final communique if it did not include enough progress on stricter financial regulation -- the diplomatic equivalent of walking out on the summit -- told reporters that the agreement represents "great progress."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who had expressed similar concerns that lack of regulation had led to the financial crisis, said the agreement was "a very, very good, almost historic compromise" that will create a "clearer financial market architecture."
In his press conference, the summit's host, Prime Minister Gordon Brown, bragged about unprecedented progress, according to the Associated Press.
"Today the largest countries of the world have agreed on a global plan for economic recovery and reform," Brown said. "For the first time we have a common approach to cleaning up banks around the world to restructuring of the world financial system. We have maintained our commitment to help the world's poorest. This is a collective action of people around the world working at their best."
The political war over global warming legislation is getting louder on Capitol Hill.
Just two days after leading House Democrats, including Representative Edward Markey of Massachusetts, unveiled a climate change bill that will be the starting point for debate, the staff of Markey's committee issued a response today to what it called the "inevitable attacks from entrenched special interests and obstructionist Republicans."
"And just as they did in last year’s fight over energy policy--when they made countless false statements, like no oil was spilled during Hurricane Katrina--they are now spreading misinformation about clean energy legislation," said the staff of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.
"The Republican campaign to kill clean energy legislation uses the names of respected organizations like the Congressional Budget Office and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and then distorts their trusted analyses. It takes the gloom and doom predictions from Big Oil and their hired consultants like Charles River Associates to prey on fears of hard-working Americans over the future of our economy."
(The full staff report is below.)
One particular issue is Republicans' assertion that a cap-and-trade system on greenhouse gases would mean a "light switch tax" on consumers because utilities would pass on the cost of buying emissions credits to households.
That is disputed by John Reilly, an energy, environmental and agricultural economist at MIT and one of the authors of the report cited by the House Republicans, according to Politifact, an independent fact-checking group.
"It's just wrong," Reilly said. "It's wrong in so many ways it's hard to begin."
He goes on to explain that while cap-and-trade might increase the price of carbon-based fuels, it would also lower consumer costs through increased energy conservation and more availability of alternative fuels.FULL ENTRY
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 battle over President Obama's budget is intensifying today with his grassroots army descending on Washington and congressional Republicans holding an event of their own.
In an unusual move, House and Senate Republicans joined together to unveil an alternative to Obama's $3.6 trillion blueprint, which they say will drive the economy further into the ditch and possibly bankrupt the country.
This time, Representative Paul Ryan, the top Republican on the House Budget Committee, took the wraps off an alternative that includes details and numbers. Democrats and the White House mocked the GOP when last week it produced a 19-page outline that was rather vague and had few numbers.
UPDATE: The GOP alternative calls for freezing non-defense discretionary spending for five years, for more tax cuts, and for starting to make changes to entitlement programs such as Social Security.
The plan would rescind the $787 billion stimulus plan next year, except for unemployment spending, and also rescind the additional money in the $410 billion spending plan Congress passed. It also rejects a cap-and-trade policy to cut greenhouse gases and move the country toward alternative energy, instead calling for more domestic oil and gas drilling.
With Democrats in control of both the House and Senate, the Republicans' plan will likely go nowhere. Democrats are already dismissing it. White House economic adviser Austan Goolsbee said on MSNBC that it's appropriate that the plan was unveiled on April 1 because "this is the biggest April Fool's joke in history."
Senator Judd Gregg -- the New Hampshire Republican who was once Obama's nominee for commerce secretary but is now one of his most vocal critics -- said the GOP alternative is no joke, but a serious attempt to trim back the federal deficits.
He said on MSNBC that under the deficits projected under Obama's budget, the United States would not qualify for European Union membership.
Gregg also said that Republicans are offering a series of amendments in the Senate.
But the alternative is a political document, a way for Republicans to assault the economic policies of Obama and the Democrats.
"America is in the midst of a fiscal and an economic crisis. And, yes, the president did inherit this fiscal crisis. But the question is, is he fixing it or is he making it worse?" Ryan said at a news conference this morning.
"We believe that the president's budget, which comes to the floor of the House of Representatives today, makes our fiscal crisis much, much worse," Ryan said.
"Rather than getting spending under control, it sends spending out of control. Rather than keeping taxes low to create jobs, it chases ever higher spending with ever higher taxes and results in ever higher debt; not just a modest increase in our national debt, but an unprecedented, unsustainable increase in red ink," he said. "The president's budget is little more than a thinly veiled attempt by Washington to spend its way into prosperity, tax its way into tax relief, and borrow its way into debt reduction. This simply cannot work."
Democrats held a news conference in response, telling reporters that they remain united behind their tweaked version of Obama's budget, which they say will help rebuild the economy.
They also said the Republican alternative is not realistic.
"Going down the list, it gets to the point where even the Republicans, for the most part, will find it hard to live with something like this," said Representative John Spratt, chairman of the House Budget Committee. "I find it -- I find it very improbable that this can be put together in anything that would really have enough appeal to carry ever in the House or elsewhere on the Hill in either party, but that's what they will be leading with today."
Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine added his disdain.
“The House GOP budget would be just an April Fool’s day joke if it didn’t actually reflect the true priorities of House Republicans and what they would do if they had the votes in Congress to pass their own plan. Their budget relies on the failed economic policies that drove the U.S. economy into its deepest spiral in decades," he said in a statement.
“If House Republicans had their way and the budget they outlined today were adopted, President Obama’s economic recovery program, which is already saving and creating jobs throughout the country, would be gutted, Medicare as we know it would all but be all but eliminated, Social Security checks would be slashed and a proposed spending freeze on discretionary programs would cut essential services – from health care and support for veterans to education to job training - that Americans most depend on when the economy is in crisis."
Americans United for Change, one of the major labor-liberal groups backing Obama, lambasted the GOP budget.
“The Republican ‘alternative’ to the President’s budget aims to rewind and redo the same failed economic policies from the Bush-era that got us into this economic mess to begin with," the group's acting executive director, Tom McMahon, said in a statement. "House Republicans have come forward on April Fool’s Day with a budget that in all seriousness cuts new money from programs benefiting cops, teachers, and veterans so they can pay for more tax cuts for multi-millionaires and corporations that outsource American jobs. They could not have offered a more counterproductive, unstimulative “alternative” to the investments in healthcare, education, and clean energy the President is proposing – investments that will do far more to lay a solid foundation for growing the economy and creating jobs than tax breaks for millionaires ever have.”
Meanwhile, Organizing for America, the post-election Obama grassroots group, is dispatching dozens of volunteers today to the Democratic National Committee to deliver 642,000 pledges of support for the president's budget. The group is also urging supporters to call Congress.
And a new pro-Obama advocacy group has ads today in the Politico and Hill newspapers urging support for his budget, which sets ambitious goals on alternative energy, healthcare, and education.
"For the first time in years, we have an honest, fair and transparent blueprint to extend opportunity and security for families in all walks of life by expanding healthcare coverage, making college more affordable, developing clean sources of energy that reduce global warming and create good paying jobs to rebuild our middle class," says the ad placed by the Rebuild and Renew America Now coalition. "We believe these steps will set our nation on a responsible path -- making long-term investments in our nation's future while gradually reducing the deficit."
Some TV occupants of the White House are getting in the middle of the high-stakes fight over a bill that would make it easier for unions to organize.
Today, actors from "The West Wing" will join workers and members of Congress to unveil a new ad and grassroots campaign called “Faces of the Employee Free Choice Act."
Then, the actors -- Martin Sheen, Bradley Whitford, and Richard Schiff -- will join in lobbying on Capitol Hill for the legislation, according to the labor coalitions pushing it.
UPDATE: "It's a human rights issue," Sheen, who played president Josiah Bartlet, said, according to the Associated Press. "It's just bottom line fair that workers should be paid for their labor fairly."
Whitford, a union member and board member of the pro-labor group American Rights at Work, said he was behind the event. "I call this process celebrity lubrication," Whitford joked to reporters.
The pro-business Workforce Fairness Institute responded with this missive: “Today’s event on Capitol Hill with actors who played fictional political powerbrokers addressing a fictional problem is like a work of fiction that would be better suited for a comedy if their proposed ‘solution’ wasn’t so devastating to our nation’s economy,” said Katie Packer, executive director of the Workforce Fairness Institute. “Job creators don’t need policy prescriptions from out-of-touch, Hollywood elite who want to drive up costs and encourage a hostile takeover of American small businesses.”
By Lisa Wangsness, Globe Staff
WASHINGTON -- House Democrats today are unveiling their climate change legislation, a bill that would seek to cut carbon emissions by 20 percent by 2020 and by 85 percent by 2050.
The bill would also establish a cap-and-trade system to push utilities and industry polluters to meet those goals, according to a document obtained by the Globe.
The bill, which is being introduced by Representatives Henry Waxman of California, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Ed Markey of Massachusetts, chairman of the Energy and Environment subcommittee, would also create a renewable energy standard that requires wind, solar, and other renewable sources to meet 25 percent of US energy needs by 2025. And it would create an energy efficiency resource standard that requires utilities to achieve a savings of 15 percent of electricity and 10 percent of natural gas by 2020.
The legislation, which is on track for a committee vote in May, leaves open one of the most controversial aspects of the cap-and-trade system, which is how many pollution credits will be auctioned off and how many will be doled out for free. That would be settled in the coming weeks, as lawmakers weigh in on what they would be willing to accept.
Environmentalists are urging Congress to adopt a global warming policy in advance of international climate talks in Copenhagen scheduled for December, where leaders have agreed to update the Kyoto Protocol, which the Bush administration refused to sign.
In his first week in office, President Obama overturned Bush policy on climate change, ordering environmental regulators to reconsider allowing California, Massachusetts, and other states to set stricter auto emissions standards.
“This legislation will create millions of clean energy jobs, put America on the path to energy independence, and cut global warming pollution.” Waxman said in a statement. “Our goal is to strengthen our economy by making America the world leader in new clean energy and energy efficiency technologies.”
Markey added in a statement, “This legislation will create clean energy jobs that can’t be shipped overseas, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and make America the global leader in energy technology. We will create jobs by the millions, save money by the billions, and unleash energy investment by the trillions. Chairman Waxman and I will work with our colleagues to ensure that we are protecting American consumers and that our clean energy future helps all parts of the country.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi offered measured support, calling the Waxman-Markey bill "a strong starting point."
"The President has called for landmark legislation to launch a clean energy economy that will build prosperity and balance the needs of the American people and industry," she said in a statement. "As was the case with the Energy Independence and Security Act in 2007, House leaders will work closely with the committees of jurisdiction to advance this critical legislation.
"The final legislation will: create millions of new, green jobs; increase our national security by reducing our dependence on foreign oil; increase American competitiveness by making us a technology leader; meet the climate crisis with sound science; and reduce overall energy costs for consumers and businesses. We will continue to hear the best ideas about how to tackle the challenge from a broad range of stakeholders, with the intention of having legislation on the House floor this year. The scope of this effort is historic and overdue."
The US Climate Action Partnership -- a coalition of businesses and environmental groups -- also called the bill a good starting point.
"The discussion draft provides a solid foundation to create a climate strategy that both protects our economy and achieves the nation's environmental goals. It recognizes that many of these issues are tightly linked and must be dealt with simultaneously. We appreciate the thoughtful approach reflected in the draft and the priority the Chairmen are placing on this important issue," the partnership said in a statement.
"The draft addresses most of the core issues identified by USCAP in our Blueprint for Legislative Action and reflects many of our policy recommendations. Any climate program must promote private sector investment in vital low-carbon technologies that will create new jobs and provide a foundation for economic recovery. Legislation must also protect consumers, vulnerable communities and businesses while ensuring economic sustainability and environmental effectiveness."
The partnership includes some big corporate names, including Boston Scientific, that favor action on global warming.
Scott Paul, executive director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, had some praise for the bill.
"We are pleased that the Waxman-Markey draft bill recognizes the need to stop carbon leakage and ensure the competitiveness of our domestic industries," he said in a statement. "The right combination of rebates and border adjustments can help fulfill the mission of the bill: lowering carbon output while strengthening the domestic economy. As the legislative process moves forward, we are eager to work with Congress to make sure the rebate and border adjustment features are strong enough to hold other countries accountable for their contributions to greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse gases are a global problem and a global solution is an imperative. The last thing Congress should want to do is offshore jobs and production to foreign manufacturers that have significantly larger carbon footprints, undermining the aim of climate change policy."
The summary of the bill and schdule is below. For more detail, click here.FULL ENTRY
The last time Barack Obama traipsed off to Europe, he was greeted by adoring throngs, excited beyond measure by the idea that he might be the next American president.
More than 200,000 came to see him speak last July in Berlin. The worship was such that Republican rival John McCain tried to boomerang it on Obama, comparing him in an Internet ad to bubble-headed celebrities like Britney Spears.
Now, Obama is the president, facing the reality of an economic crisis, and likely to hear some tough talk as he arrives at the G-20 economic summit in London.
This week, the crowds greeting Obama won't be as large. And some of them won't be cheering, but rather jeering him and other world leaders because of the global recession. An estimated 35,000 union members, environmentalists, and others marched in the first major protest over the weekend, and more are planned.
Before he leaves for Europe, President Obama urged congressional Democrats late today to have his back on his ambitious budget.
According to the White House account, he praised Democrats for passing the $787 billion stimulus package, then reinforced the high stakes of the votes this week on his $3.6 trillion budget.
"Calling his budget 'a distillation of core Democratic values,' he urged members of Congress to pass his blueprint for sustained economic growth," the White House said. After answering questions for about 30 minutes about his budget priorities, Obama again asked for support on his budget.
While Republicans have railed against Obama's plan, saying it risks bankrupting the country, some Democrats have also raised doubts about some of the spending and the deficits.
President Obama this morning outlined his latest version of tough love for Detroit automakers, extending a federal lifeline, but giving the companies a deadline to put up or risk bankruptcy.
"We cannot and must not, and will not let our auto industry simply vanish," he declared at the White House. "This industry is like no other. It's an emblem of the American spirit; a once and future symbol of America’s success. It is what helped build the middle class and sustained it throughout the 20th century. It is a source of deep pride for the generations of American workers whose hard work and imagination led to some of the finest cars the world has ever known. It is a pillar of our economy that has held up the dreams of millions of our people.
"But we cannot continue to excuse poor decisions," Obama added. "We cannot make the survival of our auto industry dependent on an unending flow of taxpayer dollars. These companies – and this industry – must ultimately stand on their own, not as wards of the state. "
After rejecting restructuring plans the carmakers submitted, the president announced that the federal government is giving Chrysler 30 days to complete a proposed partnership with Italian automaker Fiat, with the promise of up to $6 billion in aid if they can make a deal. Chrysler has received $4 billion in federal help so far and had asked for $5 billion more.
Obama gave General Motors 60 additional days of operating money to restructure, but with a price -- GM chairman Rick Wagoner was forced out. Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, who has been advising the White House on the auto rescue, said on NBC's "Today" show that Wagoner "clearly is a sacrificial lamb." GM, after $13.4 billion in government loans, had sought as much as $16.6 billion more.
Obama said it is time for tough decisions, for no longer putting off facing fundamental problems.
"What we are asking for is difficult," he said. "It will require hard choices by companies. It will require unions and workers who've already made painful concessions to make even more. It will require creditors to recognize that they can't hold out for the prospect of endless government bailouts....Only then can we ask American taxpayers who have already put up so much of their hard-earned money to once more invest in a revitalized auto industry.
"But I am confident that if each are willing to do their part... then this restructuring, as painful as it will be in the short-term, will mark not an end, but a new beginning for a great American industry; an auto industry that is once more out-competing the world; a 21st century auto industry that is creating new jobs, unleashing new prosperity, and manufacturing the fuel-efficient cars and trucks that will carry us towards an energy independent future. I am absolutely committed to working with Congress and the auto companies to meet one goal: the United States of America will lead the world in building the next generation of clean cars."
He reached out to auto workers, who he said are among those suffering the most during the recession.
"The pain being felt in places that rely on our auto industry is not the fault of our workers. They labor tirelessly and desperately want to see their companies succeed. And it is not the fault of all the families and communities that supported manufacturing plants throughout the generations. Rather, it is a failure of leadership – from Washington to Detroit – that led our auto companies to this point," he said.
To reassure consumers during the uncertain period, Obama said the US government will stand behind warranties. (Click here for more detail.)
"It is my hope that the steps I am announcing today will go a long way toward answering many of the questions people may have about the future of GM and Chrysler," he said. "But just in case there are still nagging doubts, let me say it as plainly as I can – if you buy a car from Chrysler or General Motors, you will be able to get your car serviced and repaired, just like always. Your warranty will be safe. In fact, it will be safer than it’s ever been. Because starting today, the United States government will stand behind your warranty."
Obama's full remarks are below. For more detail on the plan, click here.
Fritz Henderson, GM's new CEO, issued a statement taking on Obama's challenge:
"Over the next 60 days, we will work around the clock, with all parties, to meet the aggressive requirements that have been set by the task force, and to make the fundamental and lasting changes necessary to reinvent GM for the long-term.
"We have significant challenges ahead of us, and a very tight timeline. I am confident that the GM team will succeed, and that a stronger, healthier GM will play an important role in revitalizing America's economy and re-establishing its technology leadership and energy independence."
"The administration has made it clear that it expects GM to expand and accelerate its restructuring efforts. I want the American people to know that we understand and accept this guidance. The road is tough, but the ultimate goal -- a leaner, stronger, viable GM -- is one we share."
Soon after Obama's speech, Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli said that his company and Fiat have reached a framework of a deal. "We appreciate the willingness of the task force, along with industry and financial experts, to consult closely with us in order to achieve this significant step," Nardelli said in a statement.
But so far, Obama's plan is not reassuring the markets. The bellwether Dow Jones industrial average has already plummeted more than 200 points.
The auto plan represents Obama's latest set of sweeping proposals as he juggles what he has acknowledged is a very full plate. Last week, Obama's team laid out a new bank rescue plan and a new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. On Tuesday, Obama heads overseas for the G-20 economic summit.
Ronald Logue, chairman and CEO of State Street Corp. in Boston, is among the banking chiefs meeting today with President Obama as he tries to build support for his administration's latest rescue plan to help banks divest "toxic assets," bad investments that are tying up capital and making it difficult for them to lend money.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who also unveiled proposals Thursday for tighter regulations of the financial sector, is also at the meeting, which comes days before Obama attends his first international summit, the G-20 Thursday in London.
According to the White House, Obama wants to "reiterate his belief that getting the economy back on track will require an understanding that each of us must look beyond our own short-term interests to the wider set of obligations we have to each other in order for America to succeed."
The others in attendance at the closed meeting, according to the White House: Jamie Dimon, JP Morgan Chase; Ken Chenault, American Express; John Koskinen, Freddie Mac; Robert Kelly, BONY-Mellon; Rick Waddell, Northern Trust; James Rohr, PNC; Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs; John Mack, Morgan Stanley; Vikram Pandit, Citi; John Stumpf, Wells Fargo; Cam Fine, Independent Community Bankers; Edward Yingling, American Bankers Association; Richard Davis, US Bank; and Ken Lewis, Bank of America.
UPDATE: Besides the toxic assets and tighter regulation, Obama and the bank executives also discussed the administration's plan to stem the rise in home foreclosures, executive pay, and the financial bailout program, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said afterwards.
"The president emphasized that Wall Street needs Main Street and Main Street needs Wall Street," and "that he had no agenda beyond working to get a solution, the right solution for our financial system and to get it stabilized and working again for the American people," Gibbs said during his daily briefing.
Senators Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry todayunveiled a fuller list of 36 community health centers in Massachusetts that will receive a total of $8.6 million in economic stimulus money.
"At a time when families across the Commonwealth are losing their jobs and struggling with health care costs, this funding for our community health centers is desperately needed and will greatly benefit the vital work they do so well,” Kennedy said in a statement. “The first community health center was created here in Massachusetts, and I’ve long been an advocate for the outstanding services they provide in our neighborhoods. I commend President Obama for his commitment to ensuring health centers are a centerpiece of our nation’s health care system so they can continue to serve those who would not otherwise have access to such quality care.”
“This investment is a lifeline for people struggling to pay their bills and those desperate for a job,” added Kerry. “It will create jobs modernizing and renovating the health centers that our seniors, pregnant women and families depend on and will relieve some of the strain on an already overburdened public health system.”
James W. Hunt Jr., president of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers, said in a statement, “This is an extraordinary step led by our Members of Congress and Senators to work with the Administration to reinforce the role community health centers play in providing access to health care and creating and maintaining jobs. A special thanks to Senator Kennedy for his consistent leadership in making health centers a key element in protecting our most vulnerable residents of the Commonwealth and nation. As the nation struggles, we’re seeing an increased demand for services, and community health centers will continue to be a key priority. We’re ready to serve.”
The list of grants is below:FULL ENTRY
Democrats have been giddily calling Republicans the "party of no," accusing the GOP of opposing President Obama's budget and economic plans without offering proposals of their own.
Now, they're chortling over the alternative budget outline that House Republicans unveiled on Thursday. The GOP is warning that Obama's $3.6 trillion plan will bankrupt the country and worsen the recession with tax hikes.
But Democrats are mocking the plan for its lack of detail.
"This DNC ad is brought to you by the number 0," a new web ad by the Democratic National Committee t says on screen.
"That’s how many numbers are in the GOP’s budget: 0," painting the number in bright red.
With whimsical music, the video then shows a series of cable talking heads remarking on the absence of detail. But Republicans will see more evidence of media bias.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs joined in the mocking on Thursday. Asked whether he had perused it, he replied, "I did. It took me several minutes to read it." The White House press corps laughed.
"I will note that ... there's one more picture of a windmill than there is of a chart of numbers. There's -- just for your knowledge, there's exactly one picture of a windmill."
The Obama administration today announced plans to invest $3.2 billion in energy efficiency and conservation projects across the country as part of the economic stimulus package.
“These investments will save taxpayer dollars and create jobs in communities around the country,” Vice President Biden, who is overseeing the spending, said in a statement. “Local leaders will have the flexibility in how they put these resources to work – but we will hold them accountable for making the investments quickly and wisely to spur the local economy and cut energy use.”
The grants -- nearly $1.9 billion for cities and counties and nearly $770 million for states and territories -- will pay for energy audits and energy efficiency retrofits in residential and commercial buildings, the development of advanced building codes and inspections, and financial incentive programs for energy efficiency improvements.
Other programs that are eligible for funding include projects to reduce and capture methane and other greenhouse gas emissions from landfills, renewable energy installations on government buildings, and energy efficient traffic signals and street lights.
UPDATE: Senators Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry announced today that $42.2 million of that money will flow to Massachusetts.
“Now and in the years ahead, environmental protection and energy efficiency are more important than ever to our families, the strength of our economy, and the future of our planet,” Kennedy said in a statement. “I’m proud to work with President Obama and Senator Kerry to strengthen our economy and our national commitment to energy reform. The President is right to make it a central part of his economic stimulus plan.”
“These recovery dollars will create green jobs, reduce our energy use, and cut polluting emissions. From every angle, this means more money in the pockets of working people in Massachusetts. Anytime you can create jobs and save taxpayers money, it’s a smart investment,” Kerry added.
President Obama is hosting an online town hall meeting this morning focusing on the economy, his latest bid to make the White House more accessible.
UPDATE: "I promised to open up the White House," and the virtual town hall is a key step, Obama said in opening the event, which is being streamed live online.
The things that Washington focuses on are often different than what real Americans care about, the president said before launching into his current stump speech on economic recovery.
The first question, selected from among the most asked, was about education.
Obama said the only reason he's in the White House is because of the education he received through sacrifices by his family and scholarships from generous schools.
"Too many of our children aren't getting that kind of education," he said.
While schools need more money, it's also time to lengthen school days and school years, to improve curricula and teacher training, and to expand proven reforms, he said.
Another question, submitted by video by a Georgia woman, was whether any of the jobs that have been outsourced in recent years will come back to America and be made available to the fast-growing ranks of the unemployed.
"Not all of these jobs are going to come back," Obama replied. "It's very hard to hang on to those jobs."
The solution, he said, is to move away from low-skill work that can be sent abroad. -- and toward high-skill jobs, particularly in clean energy, that could also revive the manufacturing sector and "put our economy on a more solid footing."
Asked why American can't have a European-style universal healthcare system, Obama said he wants affordable coverage for everyone, but a single-payer plan like those in Canada isn't the only path there.
The best approach, he said, is not to entirely scrap the US system that is based on most people getting their healthcare through their employers. "It works for a lot of people," he said.
Instead, the solution is to build on the current set-up, he said, and it's up to the legislators, insurers, advocacy groups, and others who were represented at last month's White House forum to devise the specific.
He declared again that now is the time for healthcare reform, and he wants to pass a plan this year.
The rising costs of care are a drag on the economy, on individual businesses and families, and governments at all levels, he said.
Healthcare is the real budget-buster, he said, not the additional spending that critics are carping about. "Better to pay now," he said.
Obama brought up a question himself, saying a popular choice was whether he believed that legalizing marijuana would boost the economy.
"I don't know what this says about the online audience," he joked. "The answer is no, I don't think that's a good strategy for growing the economy."
(Obama's full answers are below.)
The forum was interactive: The questions were categorized and searchable, and there was a way to rate others' questions.
As of 10 a.m. EST, about 92,600 people had submitted nearly 104,000 questions and cast 3.6 million "votes" on the queries. To take part, click here. (The voting ends at 9:30 a.m. EST)
Adding more detail about the event, the White House says that Obama will answer questions online and also reply to follow-up questions submitted in person from an audience of about 100 people in the East Room, including teachers, nurses, small business owners, and community leaders. Jared Bernstein, chief economist for Vice President Biden, is the moderator, reading some of the most popular questions from the website and cueing video questions.
Obama is the most web-savvy president ever. During his campaign, Obama used the Internet to connect with voters, mobilize supporters, and raise record-shattering sums.
Organizing for America, the post-election vehicle for his grassroots army, is urging supporters to take part. "Americans deserve to know what their government is doing to get our economy back on track," the group's director, Mitch Stewart, wrote in an email. "But it's up to you to participate and make this experiment a success."FULL ENTRY
The White House announced today that Social Security recipients will get their extra $250 payments from the stimulus plan in May.
Those who receive Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits don't need to take any action to get the cash, which will be sent separately from the person’s regular monthly payment. In all, more than $13 billion will be going to more than 50 million Americans
"The Social Security Administration and Commissioner Astrue have been working closely with other federal agencies to get these payments out the door in record time and into the hands of folks who need it most," Vice President Biden said in a statement. "These are checks that will make a big difference in the lives of older Americans and people with disabilities - many of whom have been hit especially hard by the economic crisis that has swept across the country."
The middle-class tax cut of $400 for most workers and $800 for couples is to appear in paychecks starting next week.
In preaching patience to American worried sick about the economic swoon, President Obama is trying to create his own scorecard for success in the economic recovery.
It's not the stock market's daily gyrations, or what the cable talking heads are saying, he told two sold-out Democratic Party fund-raisers Wednesday night.
"There will be days where we may be declared winners, and there will be days where the umpires say, oh, they lost that one. There will be days when the markets go up; there will be days when the markets go down," he said at the National Women in Arts Museum.
"But you and I, we measure our economic recovery in a different way. We're already starting to see signs of progress that we're making a difference in the lives of the American people."
In remarks he echoed at the second event at the Warner Theater, Obama declared that success should be measured by what happens in the lives of real Americans.
"We measure our recovery by how many Americans can bring home a paycheck that lets them make ends meet," he said. "That’s why the first part of our strategy was to pass a recovery plan to jumpstart job creation and put money in people’s pockets. And because we did, all across the country there are teachers that are still in the classroom, and police officers that are still on the beat, and construction crews that are breaking ground rebuilding America’s infrastructure for the future. Because of this plan, as early as next week, 95 percent of all Americans are going to receive a tax cut -- a tax cut that we promised during the campaign -- it's going to be in their paychecks.
"That's how we measure success," Obama added. "We measure our recovery by how many families own their own piece of the American Dream. That’s why the second step of our strategy was to launch a plan to stabilizing the housing market and help responsible homeowners stay in their homes. That's why the recovery plan included an $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers. Already, mortgage rates have fallen to near-historic lows, encouraging Americans to re-finance their mortgages, and we've begun to see signs of increased sales and stabilizing home prices for the very first time in a long time.
"We measure our recovery by how many small businesses can keep their doors open, and how many families can afford the promise of a college education. And that’s why the third step that we took was to restart the flow of credit to families and businesses by generating car loans and student loans and small business loans. It's a program that Secretary Geithner worked with the Federal Reserve to design and it has already generated more lending in the last week than we saw in the previous four months combined.
"And ultimately, we're going to measure our success based on whether we can create an economy that builds a lasting foundation for our shared economic growth so that we don't face another crisis like this 10 years from now, or 20 years from now."
President Obama's grassroots group announced today it is launching its first TV ad, a call to backers to contact Congress in support of his budget.
"America is facing tough times," the announcer says. "Fortunately, President Obama has a plan to get our economy moving again, to cut the deficit in half, and create jobs by investing in healthcare, energy independence, and schools."
"Thousands are going door to door as part of Organizing for America -- gathering support for President Obama’s plan to invest in America’s future," the announcer continues, referring to last weekend's nationwide canvassing. "You can help too. Call Congress and tell them to support President Obama’s budget plan to get our economy moving again."
The ad by Organizing for America, now housed within the Democratic National Committee, is to air on national cable and local cable in Washington, D.C.
How do you separate policies from the person?
It's more than an academic riddle these days, as President Obama's Republican critics gingerly walk the tightrope of opposing his economic and other plans without being accused of being unpatriotic.
Conservative radio personality Rush Limbaugh started it even before Obama's inauguration in January by saying that he hoped Obama failed because he objected to many of his policies.
At a GOP fund-raiser Tuesday night while Obama was defending his proposals in a prime-time news conference, Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, poured some fuel on the rhetorical fire.
He described the premise of the question -- "Do you want the president to fail?" -- as the "latest gotcha game" that Democrats were using to bludgeon Republicans.
"Make no mistake: Anything other than an immediate and compliant, 'Why no sir, I don't want the president to fail,' is treated as some sort of act of treason, civil disobedience, or political obstructionism," said Jindal, a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2012. "This is political correctness run amok."
This morning on CNN, former Senator Fred Thompson, who ran for the GOP nomination last year, said that he agreed with Republicans hoping for an Obama flame-out.
"I want his policies that I believe take us in the wrong direction to fail," Thompson said. "If he takes us down the road of tripling our national debt in ten years and making us vulnerable to higher interest rates and higher inflation, and things of that nature, I want all those policies not to succeed."
UPDATE: Asked on MSNBC today whether he wants Obama to fail on his budget, Republican Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire replied, "Clearly, this budget needs to be rewritten and it needs to be redone, and we're willing to do it in a bipartisan way. We're willing to sit down on issues like entitlement reform and get something done that's going to be constructive."
But Gregg, once Obama's choice for commerce secretary, added, "I really don't want the president to fail. If the president fails, the country fails."
Senator John F. Kerry is weighing in today on the global economic crisis, with a focus on the security threats that it could pose.
Opening a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Kerry quoted national Intelligence Director Dennis Blair's recent warning to Congress that the financial crisis and its geopolitical implications present the “primary near-term security concern of the United States" and that the longer the crisis lasts, the greater the likelihood for damage to US security interests.
"That is an amazing statement given the ongoing risks we face from terrorism, two wars, and rogue nuclear programs in Iran and elsewhere," Kerry said, according to prepared remarks.
"We will have to confront the potential for increased political instability; large-scale failures of other countries’ financial systems; escalating financial protection or trade wars that could help to deepen the crisis; increased poverty and hunger in the developing world; and competitors exploiting financial instability in ways that diminish our influence," Kerry added. "And these problems are not confined to traditionally unstable corners of the globe: Europe too is in deep financial trouble, and Turkey, Indonesia, and Pakistan, three of our most important partners in the Muslim world, today face acute balance of payments crises.
"We must also confront the fact that there is a great deal of anger out there among people who blame the model we exported. Even as we restore confidence in our markets, we will also need to find a strategy to project leadership, share burdens, and spread stability as this crisis continues to reverberate worldwide."
Kerry's full opening statement is below:FULL ENTRY
President Obama's grassroots army that he built during his historic campaign continues to pay dividends.
Now in the form of Organizing for America and housed within the Democratic National Committee, it announced today that Saturday's door-to-door effort trying to build support for Obama's budget collected more than 100,000 pledges.
More than 10,000 volunteers participated in about 1,200 events in all 50 states, said the group, which is based on 14 million e-mail addresses compiled during the campaign.
"We're very encouraged by the strong showing we saw from canvassers and volunteers in neighborhoods across the country on Saturday," Mitch Stewart, the group's director, said in a statement. "The message they delivered came through loud and clear - Americans are just as committed to helping enact the change President Obama campaigned for as they were to sending him to the White House. They understand that to get our economy moving again, make healthcare more affordable, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and improve education, the President needs our help - and with 100,000 pledges and counting, Americans are doing just that."
UPDATE: Today, Organizing for America sent supporters an email with phone numbers of their members of Congress, urging them to call with their backing for the budget. It also asks supporters to log online what kind of response they received -- another way for the White House to count potential votes.
"Last week, thousands canvassed their communities to talk with neighbors about the need for a new direction. Now, it's time to take that message to Washington," Stewart wrote in the email. "We can't afford to ignore the long-term threats to our prosperity. Now is the time to build the foundation for a recovery that lasts."
A major liberal-labor advocacy group announced today it is launching its biggest TV ad blitz yet, trying to shore up support for President Obama's budget as it comes under assault from members of both parties.
While Obama gave a steadfast defense last night in his press conference, arguing his $3.6 trillion plan is the best prescription to real prosperity, congressional budget writers are busily paring it back, largely to cut projected deficits.
Obama, himself, is going to meet this afternoon with Senate Democrats on Capitol Hill to build support for the budget. In advance, the president also is having his budget director, Peter Orszag, to hold a conference call with reporters to talk about the congressional proposals.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, a fellow Democrat, wants to let Obama's core tax credit of $400 for most workers and $800 for couples expire at the end of next year. Those tax breaks, part of the $787 billion stimulus package, are to show up in paychecks the week of April 1.
UPDATE: Despite the changes, Orszag told reporters that the working versions of the budgets mirror the president's priorities.
"We are very pleased that the House and Senate budget committees are taking up resolutions that are fully in line with the president's key priorities for the budget,'' he said.
"They are 98 percent the same as the budget proposal the president sent up in February. The resolutions may not be identical twins to what the president submitted, but they are certainly brothers that look alike."
(Orszag's full remarks are below.)
The ad by Americans United for Change puts the blame on former President Bush, and promotes Obama's blueprint to fix the economy.
"For eight years, the Bush Administration turned our economy into a house of cards," the announcer says. "Last fall that house came tumbling down.
"Now President Obama has drawn up a budget blue print that will rebuild our economy on a solid foundation. Jobs, health care, education, clean energy – reform. On this foundation we can build real, long term economic prosperity – for all Americans," the announcer continues. "Call Congress. Tell them you support President Obama’s budget. Let’s all get to work rebuilding America."
The group says it will spend more than $700,000 starting today to air the spot on national cable, in Washington, and in markets home to key members of Congress, including Maine and Manchester, N.H.
“The work that begins this week on President Obama’s budget is by far the most significant in shaping the President’s transformational commitments to healthcare reform, education and clean energy – investments that will rebuild and renew America’s economy and lay a solid foundation for long-term prosperity," Tom McMahon, the group's acting executive director, said in a statement. "This ad is designed to engage the American people in the process of bringing about the transformational change they voted for in November by contacting their elected representatives and asking for their help in putting our country on the road to prosperity. It is our hope that Congress gets the boost it needs to stand up to the special interests that will do anything to maintain the failed policies of the last eight years that were entirely stacked in their favor and that turned our economy into a house of cards.”
In his opening statement before his second prime-time news conference, President Obama sought tonight to reassure Americans that he's taking aggressive action on the recession, while still asking for patience.
"There are no quick fixes," Obama said. "We’ve put in place a comprehensive strategy designed to attack this crisis on all fronts. It’s a strategy to create jobs, to help responsible homeowners, to re-start lending, and to grow our economy over the long-term. And we are beginning to see signs of progress."
He highlighted the $787 billion economic stimulus plan he championed, steps to shore up housing, and moves to unfreeze the credit markets.
The president added, "We will recover from this recession. But it will take time, it will take patience, and it will take an understanding that when we all work together; when each of us looks beyond our own short-term interests to the wider set of obligations we have towards each other – that’s when we succeed. That’s when we prosper. And that’s what is needed right now. So let us look toward the future with a renewed sense of common purpose, a renewed determination, and most importantly, a renewed confidence that a better day will come."
Obama also pitched his ambitious $3.6 trillion budget, which is facing skepticism from both Democrats and Republicans who say it means too much red ink and tries to do too much.
But Obama said it's the best approach to avoid another recession.
"The budget I submitted to Congress will build our economic recovery on a stronger foundation, so that we do not face another crisis like this ten or twenty years from now," he said. "We invest in the renewable sources of energy that will lead to new jobs, new businesses, and less dependence on foreign oil. We invest in our schools and our teachers so that our children have the skills they need to compete with any workers in the world. We invest in reform that will bring down the cost of healthcare for families, businesses, and our government. And in this budget, we have to make the tough choices necessary to cut our deficit in half by the end of my first term – even under the most pessimistic estimates.
"At the end of the day, the best way to bring our deficit down in the long run is not with a budget that continues the very same policies that have led us to a narrow prosperity and massive debt. It’s with a budget that leads to broad economic growth by moving from an era of borrow and spend to one where we save and invest."
That includes clean energy jobs, an efficient healthcare system, and controlling entitlements like Medicare and Medicaid.
"That’s why this budget is inseparable from this recovery – because it is what lays the foundation for a secure and lasting prosperity."
Obama's full opening statement is below:
The third time was the charm for President Obama and his choice for commerce secretary.
The Senate today confirmed former Washington state Governor Gary Locke for the post after Obama's first two selections withdrew before they even came up for a vote -- Democratic New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson because of a state investigation and Republican New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg because of policy differences.
Locke, who was approved by voice vote, "will ensure American workers can prosper, our businesses can thrive and the economy can grow," said Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, the Associated Press reports.
Public housing programs across Massachusetts will get nearly $82 million from the federal economic stimulus package, Senators John F. Kerry and Edward Kennedy announced this afternoon.
Local housing agencies can use the money improve public housing units, create jobs, and increase energy efficiency by replacing plumbing and electrical systems.
"The housing crisis has walloped Massachusetts, and mayors everywhere are looking for relief," Kerry said in a statement. "This investment will create jobs today, build affordable housing so struggling families can get back on their feet, and put plumbers and electricians to work improving energy efficiency and updating plumbing and electrical systems."
“Countless families across our Commonwealth have been devastated by the housing crisis and have no place to turn,” added Kennedy. “It’s essential to provide this necessary assistance so that housing authorities across Massachusetts can keep up with the increased need, and reduce costs for families who would otherwise have no place to call home.”
Big business won a key ally today in its high-stakes fight against the "check-card" bill that would make it easier for unions to organize workplaces.
Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who was the only Republican to support the bill two years ago, told business groups that he will oppose the measure.
Unions were counting on him as the 60th vote to overcome an expected GOP filibuster. Democrats and two independents who usually vote with them control 58 seats.
“We applaud the Senator for taking a principled stand to support Main Street employers and workers in Pennsylvania," Thomas J. Donohue, president and CEO of the US Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement.
“There will likely be many attempts to push other forms of labor law reform with similar goals, and we urge the senator to continue to oppose these misguided efforts. We also urge all senators to oppose any efforts that would take away the protection of the private ballot, impose binding interest arbitration on America’s small businesses and other employers, or create one-sided remedies."
The bill would allow workplace organizers to form a union by signing up a majority of employees -- without allowing companies to demand a secret ballot.
Earlier today, the AFL-CIO released a poll it commissioned that showed 72 percent of Americans favoring the bill, including majorities of both Democrats and Republicans.
UPDATE: AFL-CIO president John Sweeney called Specter's decision "frankly a disappointment and a rebuke to working people, to his own constituents in Pennsylvania and working families around the country."
"We do not plan to let a hardball campaign from Big Business derail the Employee Free Choice Act or the dreams of workers," Sweeney added in a statement.
"There are deep flaws in our labor laws, as Sen. Specter acknowledged today. The freedom to join together and bargain with employers for fair wages and better benefits is critical to rebuilding our middle class – and now is exactly the time to do it, as we begin to revive our economy in a way that works for everyone. In the coming weeks, we will be escalating our campaign and finding the best ways forward to a balanced, strong economy."
Anna Burger, chairwoman of the Change to Win labor coalition, said in a statement, “The Employee Free Choice Act is a vital component to restoring our economy, rebuilding the middle class and renewing the American Dream for America’s workers. Allowing workers the choice to join together, free from intimidation and harassment, to bargain for job security, better wages and health care will stimulate our economy and put working families back on the path of prosperity. We will continue to work with Democrats and Republicans, including Sen. Specter, to pass this critical legislation and make our economy work for everyone.”
In a speech on the Senate floor, Specter called it a "very emotional issue with labor looking to this legislation to reverse the steep decline in union membership and business expressing great concern about added costs, which would drive many companies out of business or overseas," according to the Associated Press
Specter called the secret ballot "the cornerstone of how contests are decided in a Democratic society."
President Obama will address an international audience today just after 8 p.m. EDT in his second prime-time press conference of his young administration.
In advance of that, and of the G-20 economic summit next month in London, he called for global cooperation to stem the recession in an op-ed piece that ran today in 31 newspapers around the world, including the Baltimore Sun, Chicago Tribune, and Los Angeles Times.
"We are living through a time of global economic challenges that cannot be met by half measures or the isolated efforts of any nation. Now, the leaders of the Group of 20 have a responsibility to take bold, comprehensive and coordinated action that not only jump-starts recovery, but also launches a new era of economic engagement to prevent a crisis like this from ever happening again," Obama wrote.
"My message is clear: The United States is ready to lead, and we call upon our partners to join us with a sense of urgency and common purpose. Much good work has been done, but much more remains," he added. "Our leadership is grounded in a simple premise: We will act boldly to lift the American economy out of crisis and reform our regulatory structure, and these actions will be strengthened by complementary action abroad."
Obama also acknowledges the central role of the financial crisis in the United States in causing the cascading economic crisis around the world.
"I know that America bears our share of responsibility for the mess that we all face. But I also know that we need not choose between a chaotic and unforgiving capitalism and an oppressive government-run economy. That is a false choice that will not serve our people or any people," he wrote. "This G-20 meeting provides a forum for a new kind of global economic cooperation. Now is the time to work together to restore the sustained growth that can only come from open and stable markets that harness innovation, support entrepreneurship and advance opportunity."
The full list of newspapers and the full op-ed, both provided by the White House, are below.
UPDATE: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, meanwhile, announced this afternoon that it will hold a hearing Wednesday afternoon to focus on the economic impact of the financial crisis and its political and national security implications, also leading up to the G-20 meeting in London on April 2.
The scheduled witnesses are Lawrence Lindsey, president and CEO of the Lindsey Group; George Soros, chairman of Soros Fund Management and Open Society; and Martin Wolf, associate editor and chief economics commentator at Financial Times.
“The economic crisis we’re experiencing in the United States is being felt around the world,” Senator John F. Kerry, the panel's chairman, said in a statement. “The national security and geopolitical issues emanating from a crisis of this magnitude are of concern to this committee. We look forward to exploring not only the problems but perhaps some of the solutions on the table to prevent bigger security threats from emerging out of this crisis down the road.”
Senators Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry announced this afternoon that federal economic stimulus money will provide nearly $25 million for veterans facilities in Massachusetts, along with a $250 one-time payment to qualifying vets.
The tax-free grant will go to residents of the United States and its territories who received veterans payments at any time between November and January. The money is part of $1.4 billion that the Veterans Administration is receiving from the stimulus package to assist veterans, hospitals, and care centers nationwide.
"We owe an enormous debt to the courageous men and women who have sacrificed so much to keep our nation free and strong, and we must care for their needs when they come home from war. Now more than ever, veterans and the facilities that serve them, urgently need this support, and I commend President Obama for making it a priority to help those who have served America so well,” Kennedy said in a statement.
“This investment creates jobs and helps keep faith with our veterans at the same time,” added Kerry. “The renovation and remodeling of these veterans centers and medical facilities will help thousands of veterans, including many just returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Honoring our veterans and putting people back is a win-win proposition every American should celebrate.”