The White House and The Root: Open for Questions

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on the Brian Lehrer Show, Valerie Jarrett, a senior advisor and assistant to President Obama for Public Engagement and Intergovernment Affairs, talks about the American Jobs Act and a new report from the White House on Creating Pathways to Opportunity. Cynthia Gordy, Washington reporter for The Root, is moderating a Q&A with the White House tonight and talks about the kinds of questions readers of The Root want the White House to answer about the Jobs Act.

→ Event: Tonight at 5:30 p.m., White House officials Valerie Jarrett and Melody Barnes take questions at The Root!

While on Wall Street and in cities nationwide and even worldwide, protesters continue to push for better income equality, the President continues on his job tour, taking his new job-creation bill to the American people to try to garner support. Jarrett said the administration understands that people are unhappy about inequality.

There’s a great deal of frustration around the country… some people who are doing well are doing very, very well, but a lot of people are suffering, and they’ve been struggling.  This isn’t just the result f the most recent economic downturn that the president inherited, there are people who have been suffering for a very long time, and I think their frustration is really bubbling to the surface.

Jeffrey Sachs writes in his new book that the top one percent now own 40 percent of the nation’s wealth and CEOs make one thousand times the pay of the average worker. Jarrett said the government has paid a role in creating these conditions, and that has been one of the reasons that the president has aggressively pursued Dodd-Frank reform.

We needed rules of the road to make sure that people are not taking excessive risks that have a devastating impact on everyone else.

People protesting right now may have welcomed the idea of Dodd-Frank, but the protests seem to be about much more, like fundamentally restructuring inequality in America. Jarrett said Dodd-Frank was still an important first step.

Gordy said the White House had released a report last week “Creating Pathways to Opportunity”, which detailed steps the administration has taken to help low-income Americans.

We thought that would be a really meaty conversation subject for officials to dig into with everyday people.

Readers of the Root were invited to submit questions, through email and twitter, for the event this afternoon. Gordy said many of the questions they have been receiving are from people who want to know what opportunities are available to them now, and what actions the administration is taking now, especially around jobs, health care and education. A prevalent theme centers on what the president has done for African-Americans. Jarrett said the president has done much, most notably in the passage of the health care reform bill. In addition she pointed to the president’s initiatives to get the long-term unemployed back to work and extending unemployment benefits.

The jobs bill was defeated as a package deal in the Senate, and the plan now seems to be to try to pass components of the plan separately instead. The first component might be $35 million in aid to state and local governments. Jarrett said that the Jobs Act has the potential to be just as effective in pieces as it would have been as a package.

The president is going to take each piece of the jobs act, and he’s going to ask Congress to vote on each piece… The president is going to say, piece by piece, stand up and explain why you say we should preserve tax breaks for the very wealthy but we shouldn’t fund our nations schools. Each piece we’re going to bring up week after week after week, and we’re not going to give up until we’ve voted on every single element of this bill.

Gordy said there is a lot of recognition among poverty experts that the administration has done a lot to combat poverty.

There’s also some concern that the efforts may not be robust enough or on scale to alleviate a problem that’s so entrenched.

She said a lot of the efforts to combat poverty are somewhat obscured by the abundance of language about helping the middle-class, leaving an impression that the low-income are not being heard. 

Jarrett said criticism that economic advisers Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers are too close to Wall Street and have led the president astray on economic policy is unfounded.

They were extremely exacting in promoting the federal regulatory reform that went through Congress, those two individuals worked aggressively – fighting against, I might add, huge amounts of money that lobbyists on Wall Street spent to try to kept hat bill from being passed. Those two were quite vigilant in making sure that it did pass.


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Comments [31]

Empty rhetoric does no one any good. A strong political spine is necessary to implement an agenda. It's the difference between an LBJ and a Jimmy Carter. I love Jimmy Carter... LOVE! But he too, was a lousy president.

Think of the possibilities not what is foisted upon you.

Oct. 20 2011 12:09 PM

When a senior advisor to the President of the United States says that there are "Rules of the Road" in place referring to current banking regulations that statement is patently FALSE.

The few that are currently in place are woefully impotent. And, the reason they are is because big banking has made sure that they are impotent with their unfettered influence.

Goldman Sachs was BO's second highest donor, btw.

Oct. 20 2011 12:01 PM
The Truth from Becky

right. *smh* hope you feel better now.

Oct. 20 2011 11:59 AM

... a little critical thinking would be helpful, too.

Oct. 20 2011 11:43 AM

... you'd be better served to focus on political cliche and status quo.

Oct. 20 2011 11:40 AM

Goldman Sachs runs this Kountry!

Oct. 20 2011 11:35 AM
The Truth from Becly

I hate cliches ie "the kool aid" - we are all entitled to our opionion, hopefully you will get on board because President Obama will win in 2012!!

Oct. 20 2011 11:34 AM

Our problems are SO much bigger than partisan politics!!

Either side of the aisle - they're both part of the problem!!

Oct. 20 2011 11:29 AM

The Truth from Becky

Don't drink any more of that KoolAid!

BO has blown it from day one. Starting with the appointment of Timothy Franz Geithner as the 75th United States Secretary of the Treasury.

Indistinguishable from the 74th, the illustrative Henry Merritt "Hank" Paulson, Jr.

Oct. 20 2011 11:26 AM
The Truth from Becky

Jay, we also had a balanced budget under President matter what you say, bush ran this off in the ditch! and weak is a relative term.

Oct. 20 2011 11:19 AM

Jay F.

... he's got a point!!

Oct. 20 2011 11:16 AM
Jay F.

Becky... Bank Deregulations under Clinton has put us where we're at now. So what?
And what "progress"?
President Obama has been a weak president. He's done f--- all. He was the same under a Democratic led House and Senate.

Oct. 20 2011 10:59 AM



Oct. 20 2011 10:56 AM
dboy from nyc

"Rules of the road"???


Summers AND Geithner are part of THE PROBLEM!!!

Give me a break with this CRAP!!

Oct. 20 2011 10:52 AM
The Truth from Becky

Yes these are all remnants of the 8 bush years JAY...does not matter one bit that the President has been in office 3 has been 3 years of resistance from the republican party...that any progress at all has been made is impressive. Yes, blame bush and continue to blame bush until he should have taken care of the job issue before he left office as well as the bin laden problem!

Oct. 20 2011 10:51 AM
Billy Gray from Greenpoint

> "Why we are not able to see the record of Solyndra contacts with White House personnel?"

Seriously, where are the questions about UFOs?

Oct. 20 2011 10:50 AM
tom from astoria

Ms. Jarrett,

I like the President's "new foundation" for America -- but until we use some muscle to get corporations to build and hire here it ain't gonna happen. Can the President get tougher on business?

Oct. 20 2011 10:50 AM
Andrea from Bklyn

I am an old female worker who cannot find a job. Everytime I apply for a job, and get a job interview, the company tells me I dont qualify because I an unemployed and they are only hiring employed workers, even though I have over 25 years experience. Help us long term unemployed workers get past this discrimination.

Oct. 20 2011 10:49 AM

This stumping is insulting. Ask some direct questions about Obama's actions -- not softballs that lead to stumping. Transparency for example (a key campaign issue). Why we are not able to see the record of Solyndra contacts with White House personnel?

Oct. 20 2011 10:48 AM
Billy Gray from Greenpoint

Robust initiatives, Valerie? Here's a robust initiative from OWS:

"Jobs for ALL – A Massive Public Works and Public Service Program"

The American Jobs Act is more neo-liberal crap, and even if you could pass it in the political environment you helped create, it's not going to be nearly enough.

But you keep those tax cuts for "job makers" coming. Totally.

Oct. 20 2011 10:48 AM
Jay F.

Where is all this money coming from?

Oct. 20 2011 10:45 AM
The Truth from Becky

Wow, the Root! I'm impressed...very good points Ms. Jarrett.

Oct. 20 2011 10:45 AM
Matt from NYC

Why is this administration so timid? Can it please propose some bold plans???

Oct. 20 2011 10:45 AM

What good is stimulus that represents only false demand? This isn't deficit spending in the face of lost capital like during the depression. The corporations are currently sitting on billions of dollars of capital but aren't investing it in the economy, aren't creating jobs with it, because there's no demand for the goods and services those jobs would provide. Where stimulus seeks to generate that demand they know it's short-lived, and where it creates work to generate jobs, unless those jobs pay well enough to lift workers above subsistence living and allow them to be consumers on something other than credit, there will still not be demand enough to sustain an economy that will be able to provide jobs for those workers when the stimulus projects are over.

Talk of jobs puts the cart before the horse. The issue is the decline of working class wages since the 80s. The economy has grown in that time, but the top 1% has monopolized America's prosperity and turned us into a debtor class as our wages have fallen increasingly behind inflation, our savings increasingly diminished to nothing and turned into increasing debt instead. That's why so many people are so impoverished they can't even afford to pay income tax--and there, probably, is the government's revenue issue.

Want to support the 98%? Start talking about income redistribution: both the redistribution that must lie ahead if there's going to be an actual recovery, but the redistribution that was carried out by the policies, all in the service of the corporate class, over the last 35 years. Everyone pays lip service to small business owners, but there is neither demand for new business nor the wherewithal to start one up. Capitalism depends on dynamism and competition. We don't want monopolies because they frustrate both. The monopolization of growth has done the same, and unless that money is made somehow to circulate, how can there by a recovery?

Oct. 20 2011 10:44 AM
Nancy from Harlem

Yes, income inequality is a huge issue. But the ultimate problem is corporate control of our government. What ya gonna do about that? Can there be real campaign finance reform that will wrest our democracy back from the big-monied corporations?

Oct. 20 2011 10:43 AM
Jay F.

Still blaming Bush? Move on. It's been your White House for 3 years now.

Oct. 20 2011 10:40 AM
Caroline from Harlem

I recently graduated college and am unemployed.

I saw you at Senator Gillibrand's Women's Economic summit on Monday--and I wanted to ask you---how will the American Jobs impact young people, and specifically, women, who graduating at higher rates than men.

How will this impact the economy in the future? Can we rely on Congress to advocate for women's economic issues?

Oct. 20 2011 10:39 AM
Jenna from Hamilton Heights

Why do you think there is so much resistance to the jobs bill? it seems like a no brainer!

also, would the jobs be as effective if it gets cut up and only implemented in pieces?
i would worry that it would not be as effective

Oct. 20 2011 10:38 AM
Sheldon from Crown Heights

The Obama Administration takes its base for granted by appeasing the Republicans with things like extending the Bush tax-cuts and getting nothing in return. They are taking their base for granted. Do they think - by just cranking up the old campaign machine next year - we will all fall in line?

Oct. 20 2011 10:36 AM
Omar Rafi from NY

Why is this administration opposing the legalization of marijuana?

-Support has never been higher.

Oct. 20 2011 10:04 AM
Jeff Pappas from Ct

How do the freelancers get in on it all ?
Being super stressed with bills , mortgage and credit cards, I was temporarily uplifted by getting a Pre Qualified refi loan app in mail. Currently my mortgage and credit cards are about 1500.00 per month and the Mortgage is 15 year 850.00 @ 5.75 and credit cards from 14 - 19 %. I have been paying All on time for the life of All of them, my credit score is Low because I am a Freelancer, micro business small job creator and have used / maxxed out the only $ I can get ( credit cards ). Oh and I owe about 89 K on my house that is worth 230K, so I have good equity . So the letter offered 127K 30 year fixed 4.47 apr : ) My payment would be $ 600 / month How Cool !

And I have paid all my bills on time , oh I said that, Oh but that don't matter Banker Man said, without the steady job thing.....!!!!! And BTW who really has a steady job today? Why not judge someone by other standards .

So here was a chance for a Bank to make more $ from me by switching me from 15 year loan to 30 at lower rate ( gleaning thousands more $$ in interest ) and helping to save me etc and put some $ in my pocket ( stimulate economy ) and pay off the high rate credit cards !! But they turned their back on me ,
Well so do they really want me to lose my home or not pay my credit cards, first so I can qualify for some Gov program ? Maybe I will give them nothing , because if you treat me like a deadbeat when I am not then I guess I will become one, because thats seems to be the way Banks are, And I/ we the taxpayers of the USA helped you ! We saved you from going down in flames !

Oct. 20 2011 10:00 AM

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