President Barack Obama

Transportation Nation

In Second Inaugural Address, President Obama Says Building Infrastructure, Combating Climate Change Part of "Obligation"

Monday, January 21, 2013

In his second inaugural address, President Barack Obama wove in specific policy recommendations for building roads and combating climate change into a speech urging Americans to join in collective action for a better future.

"We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity," President Obama said.  "We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms."

"The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult," the President added.  But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared."

The president also declared road-building a collective responsibility.

"For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias. No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people."

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Analysis: In New York, an Easy Victory on Guns

Thursday, January 17, 2013


Just a week into the 2013 legislative session, New York has a major piece of legislation under its belt. It’s another major win for Governor Andrew Cuomo, giving him the the ability to compare himself favorably to previous governors, and to Washington, where President Barack Obama introduced his own gun control package. And yet, the comparison isn't quite right.



Letter to Obama: Fix Race to the Top, Please

Friday, November 16, 2012

An education consultant urges newly re-elected President Obama to overhaul Race to the Top federal guidelines so they emphasize great teaching and individuals over metrics and test scores.

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The Takeaway

Four More Years and President Obama's Legacy

Thursday, November 08, 2012

As he enters his second term, what has President Obama learned from his first four years? What are his goals for the next four? And how does the President hope to shape his legacy? Jodi Kantor, correspondent for Takeaway partner The New York Times and author of "The Obamas," examines these questions, and discusses the political consequences and cultural ramifications of the president's reelection.



Duncan Emphasizes Teacher Quality Over Class Sizes

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

During the final presidential debate on Monday, President Obama gave a sliver of air time to the idea of class size. And on a visit to Brooklyn on Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan agreed that classes would be smaller "in an ideal world," but reiterated the administration's stance that having a good teacher matters more than how many students are in the classroom.

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Four Questions That The Candidates Should Answer

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The founder of Turnaround for Children says Mitt Romney and Barack Obama need to speak up on the issue of public education, and she's got questions she wants answered.

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The Takeaway

President Obama's Messaging Problem

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Back in 2008, political commentators and voters extolled then-candidate Barack Obama communications skills. But political speeches and campaign rhetoric are worlds apart from selling actual policy to the American people. Editor-in-chief of the Washington Monthly Paul Glastris was once a speechwriter for President Bill Clinton. He explains President Obama's messaging problem, and how the President should prepare for tonight's debate.

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Transportation Nation

How Infrastructure Politics Turned Partisan: Looking Back on Four Years

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Champlain Bridge in Vermont, Demolished in 2009, Over Safety Concerns (Photo: Collin Campbell)

Not too long ago, an ad for Audi cars sought to relate to the average driver with grimly shot footage of rutted roads, rotting bridges, and frayed guardrails. “Across the nation, over 100,000 miles of roads and bridges are in disrepair,” a female announcer intones.

That this rhetoric could turn up in an ad is a metaphor of the current acceptance of America’s rather sorry infrastructure. In its latest report card, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave American infrastructure a "D.”

In 2008, Republicans and Democrats pretty much agreed that investing in infrastructure is a national priority. Here's an excerpt from the 2008 GOP platform:

We support a level of investment in the nation's transportation system that will promote a healthy economy, sustain jobs, and keep America globally competitive. We need to improve the system's performance and capacity to deal with congestion, move a massive amount of freight, reduce traffic fatalities, and ensure mobility across both rural and urban areas.

We urgently need to preserve the highway, transit, and air facilities built over the last century so they can serve generations to come. At the same time, we are committed to minimizing transportation's impact on climate change, our local environments, and the nation's energy use. Careful reforms of environmental reviews and the permitting process should speed projects to completion.

It's hard to remember that that was just four years ago -- when Senator Barack Obama was running against Senator John McCain.

In 2012, supporting infrastructure couldn't be more partisan.

In one of the most-quoted pieces of video />

made this campaign, President Barack Obama argues that success relies on collective action, including big infrastructure projects. Obama: "If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help...  Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen."

But to Republicans, that sounded like an argument against individual ingenuity. "We are the children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the ones who wanted a better life, the driven ones," former Governor Mitt Romney said in his acceptance speech, describing all the reasons our parents and grandparents came to this county, including "freedom to build a life. And yes, freedom to build a business with their own hands."

It was huge applause line. The theme even became a country  song Lane Turner performed at the convention, with the refrain, "I built it, with no help from Uncle Sam."

That Uncle Sam has a big role in building infrastructure has been a pretty consistent theme for President Obama. His $800 stimulus bill had big sums for highways, transit, and high speed rail. He's proposed big transportation budgets every year.

But republicans see it differently. Arguing the country can't afford more debt, Republican Governors sent stimulus money back to the federal government.   In Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida, they stopped high speed rail projects in their tracks.  But they weren't  the first republicans to send big bucks back to D.C.

But before Governors Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Rick Scott of Florida had even won office, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie started a modern trend: sending billions back to the federal government for a local transit project rather than risk incurring extra debt for New Jersey taxpayers. In October, 2010, Christie pulled the plug on an already-started transit tunnel under the Hudson River -- the so-called ARC tunnel. " In the end the taxpayers of New Jersey would be on the hook for every nickel of the cost overruns," Christie said, explaining the decision.

"When you become governor, and you start to become presented with the information I was presented with you're presented with now a choice of a project that I do think is a worthwhile project but that we simply can't afford," Christie added.

Christie's Democratic counterpart in New York, Andrew Cuomo, took a different approach. Without the financing in hand, Cuomo greenlighted his own massive infrastructure project -- a new $5 billion Tappan Zee bridge.

"As a society, as a government, as a state, we have to be able to get to yes," Cuomo told reporters after he'd applied for the funds. "We have to be able to build a bridge that needs to be replaced.  If we want this state to be what we want this state to be you have to be able to tackle a project like this."

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It's A Free Country ®

Cuomo Won't Speak at Convention

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Consistent with his strategy of focusing like a laser on New York - and of avoiding any flubs - Cuomo's team says he'll just fly by the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte this summer.


The Takeaway

Swing States 2012: Hispanic and Suburban Voters in Colorado

Thursday, July 12, 2012

As the Obama and Romney campaigns set their sights on swing states, Anna Sale, reporter for our co-producer WNYC’s It's a Free Country, follows along.

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Should Program to Reward Teachers Include More Hours and Students?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A high school teacher writes: "Before we discuss extending school days and years, I would rather examine how to better use the time we have. I have seen far too many teachers and schools make the mistake of saying, 'we need to do more,' when in reality they need to do less better."

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The Takeaway

President Obama, Dr. King, and Coalition Politics

Monday, June 11, 2012

Since the turn of the century, as black leaders like W.E.B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington took the national stage, African-American politicians have wrestled over the best strategy for black communities to gain political power. Fredrick Harris argues that President Obama's coalition-style politics, similar to those of Martin Luther King, Jr., are doing little to help the black community.


Transportation Nation

Buoyed by Auto Industry, Swing State Employment Relatively Bright

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

President Obama at an Auto Plant Earlier this year (photo: Barack

The layers of irony could scarcely be denser.  Buoyed in part by automobile hiring, employment in swing states looks far better than the nation as a whole, providing a possible path to victory for President Barack Obama, who bailed out the big three auto manufacturers with a clothespin on his nose.

In Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Missouri, the auto industry has been adding jobs at rapid clip,  according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  So that even though things were really bad in those states, they're now less bad.  Which is good news for the President.

"We know that this thing is going to be super tight," said a senior Democratic official.  "But we are absolutely of the belief that the swing states jobs numbers will be determinative in the fall."

By now, the national narrative is well known.  May's employment numbers were meh, signalling a heap of trouble for the President.  "He is the underdog," opined NPR's Mara Liasson, who then ticked off things that could only make the electoral picture worse for the Democrats:  the Euro crisis, the Chinese economy, etcetera. That pretty much sums up the conventional wisdom.


In the swing states, things are markedly better than they were two years ago, and in many of them, the employment picture is a whole lot brighter than the nation as a whole.

Take Michigan and Ohio.   According to April data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, both of those key states have "statistically significant unemployment rate changes" over April of last year. (May data won't be out until the end of next week.)  Ohio's rate is down 1.4 percent from last year, Michigan's is down 2.2 percent.

And even though Michigan's unemployment rate, at 8.3. percent, is a tick over the national average, that doesn't much matter, according to Howard Wial, a Brookings Institution Fellow who focuses on regional economic development. "Look at the direction, not the level," Wial admonishes.  "That's as well established as any fact on jobs and the elections."

Ohio is also helped along by natural gas drilling, as is Pennsylvania.  In Iowa and New Hampshire, the unemployment rate sounds like the 1990's -- 5.1 percent in Iowa, 5.0 in New Hampshire.

Even in states like North Carolina, Nevada and Florida, unemployment is trending downwards, though it's still higher than the national average. Unemployment is also dropping in Arizona and Wisconsin.  In Virginia it's just 5.6 percent.

"There have been three industry sources of growth over the last year or so," Wial says.  "The auto industry, information technology, and energy."

All located disproportionately, in swing states.






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The Takeaway

A Defense of Private Equity, and of Romney's Years at Bain

Thursday, May 24, 2012

As the race for the presidency heats up, President Obama's reelection team continues to attack Mitt Romney's career at Bain Capital, while questioning private equity's role in the American economy. Edward Conard, former managing director at Bain Capital and author of "Unintended Consequences," worked with Mitt Romney throughout the Republican candidate's years in private equity. Conard explains why he believes Romney's experience in private equity will prove essential should the Republican candidate take the White House this fall.

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Transportation Nation

Parties Jostle for Bragging Rights on Oil Drilling

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

(Oil Rigs near Huntington Beach/Aaron Logan)

(New York, NY -- Stephen Reader, It'sAFreeCountry.Org) The Obama administration will auction off more than 38 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico to oil companies next month, touting the sale as a boon for the president’s energy résumé — which, while boasting increased domestic production, remains haunted by high gas prices, offshore drilling bans and one big oil spill.

The lease sale, scheduled to take place in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on June 20th, will allow companies to secure more available acres off the coast of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The sale won’t, however, open up any new waters for drilling that weren’t previously approved by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s current five-year lease plan, which expires at the end of 2012.

Currently, the Department of the Interior only leases acres in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Alaska. Oil companies, Republicans on Capitol Hill, and the man running to beat Obama all wish that list were longer.

Read the rest of the story here.

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Transportation Nation

Another White House Press Release Pushing Oil Drilling

Thursday, May 17, 2012

President Obama at Daimler Trucks in Mt. Holly, North Carolina (photo: John Adkisson/Getty Images News)

More from the White House encouraging domestic oil drilling. Earlier this week the White House sent out a report showing 70% of U.S. oilfields are inactive. Now, a press release touting a lease sale to expand oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Does President Obama see a vulnerability on domestic oil production?

"Today the Obama Administration provided final details for the Central Gulf of Mexico lease sale announced by President Obama in January 2012, as part of his administration’s ongoing focus on expanding safe and responsible production of our domestic energy sources. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Director Tommy P. Beaudreau today announced the Final Notice of Sale for a June 20, 2012 lease sale that will make available all unleased areas in the Central Gulf of Mexico Planning Area, offshore Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, including 7,276 blocks on about 38.6 million acres.

"The sale will take place at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. BOEM estimates the sale could result in the production of over 1 billion barrels of oil and more than 4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

“As part of the Obama administration’s all of the above energy strategy, we continue to make millions of acres of federal waters and public lands available for safe and responsible domestic energy exploration and development,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. “Holding this lease sale is one of the many administrative steps  we are taking, at the President’s direction, to increase U.S. production, reduce dependence on foreign oil, and incentivize early production on leases that industry holds.”

“The Gulf of Mexico is the crown jewel of the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf, and home to a number of world-class producing basins – including many in deepwater areas that are becoming increasingly accessible with new technology,” said Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Tommy P. Beaudreau.  “There have been a number of significant discoveries in the past two years alone, and this sale will continue making significant and promising areas available while encouraging diligent development and providing the taxpayer a fair return.”

The blocks are located from three to about 230 miles offshore, in water depths ranging from nine to more than 11,115 feet (three to 3,400 meters) in the Central Gulf of Mexico, a region that BOEM estimates contains close to 31 billion barrels of oil and 134 trillion cubic feet of natural gas that are currently undiscovered and technically recoverable.  The Final Notice of Sale package describes all terms and conditions for Central Gulf Lease Sale 216-222.  These include a range of incentives that encourage prompt development and ensure a fair return to taxpayers, as described in a recent report by the Department of the Interior on the status of Oil and Gas Lease Utilization. These measures include escalating rental rates and tiered durational terms with relatively short base periods followed by additional time under the same lease if the operator drills a well during the initial period.

BOEM has also increased the minimum bid in deepwater to $100 per acre, up from only $37.50, to ensure that taxpayers receive fair market value for offshore resources and to provide leaseholders with additional impetus to invest in leases that they are more likely to develop. Analysis of the last 15 years of lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico showed that deepwater leases that received high bids of less than $100 per acre, adjusted for energy prices at time of each sale, experienced virtually no exploration and development drilling.

The terms of sale also reflect a series of conditions to ensure an appropriate balance of orderly resource development with protection of the human, marine and coastal environments. These include stipulations to protect biologically sensitive resources, mitigate potential adverse effects on protected species, and avoid potential conflicts associated with oil and gas development in the region. BOEM completed a supplemental environmental impact statement relating to this sale, which considers the latest available information for the Central Gulf of Mexico Planning Area following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  Today, BOEM is also issuing a Record of Decision following that analysis.

For this sale, BOEM has also adopted a stipulation to notify bidders that the terms stated in a February 20, 2012 agreement between Mexico and the United States regarding the exploration and development of oil and natural gas reservoirs along the United States’ and Mexico’s maritime boundary may apply to some of the blocks offered in this sale, should the agreement enter into force.

The Final Notice of Sale information package is available at: Copies can also be requested from the Gulf of Mexico Region’s Public Information Office at 1201 Elmwood Park Boulevard, New Orleans, LA 70123, or at 800-200-GULF (4853).

The Final Notice of Sale and the Notice of Availability of a Record of Decision on a Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for Lease Sale 216/222 are available today in the Federal Register at:


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Transportation Nation

Report: 70 Percent of Offshore Oilfields Unused

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Oil Drill Rig, Montana

Some 26 million acres of offshore areas currently under lease for oil and gas development are inactive, according to a report issued Tuesday by the Department of the Interior. A DOI press release touts the finding, and pushes oil companies to, um...drill, baby, drill.

The report comes as President Barack Obama pushes his so-called "all-of-the-above" energy strategy, which includes development of alternative fuels but also more vigorous oil drilling.

Here's an excerpt from the release.

According to the report, more than 70 percent of the tens of millions of offshore acres currently under lease are inactive, neither producing nor currently subject to approved or pending exploration or development plans. Out of nearly 36 million acres leased offshore, only about 10 million acres are active – leaving nearly 72 percent of the offshore leased area idle.

In the lower 48 states, an additional 20.8 million acres, or 56 percent of onshore leased acres, remain idle. Furthermore, there are approximately 7,000 approved permits for drilling on federal and Indian lands that have not yet been drilled by companies.

“These lands and waters belong to the American people, and they expect those energy supplies to be developed in a timely and responsible manner and with a fair return to taxpayers,” said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. “We will continue to encourage companies to diligently bring production online quickly and safely on public lands already under lease.”




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The Takeaway

Black Politics in 'Post-Racial' America

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

In 2007, during his contentious primary race with Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama spent a week campaigning with Newark Mayor Corey Booker and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. The media continually highlighted the difference between these three young, African-American politicians and the generation of black leaders that came before them. A new book by Professor Andra Gillespie examines the new generation of black politicians exemplified by President Obama through the lens of Cory Booker's mayoral election and his tenure in Newark.

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The Takeaway

'Manhunt' Examines the Decade-Long Search for Bin Laden

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Just over 15 years ago, Peter Arnett and Peter Bergen traveled to an isolated mud hut in the mountains of Eastern Afghanistan to interview the most notorious terrorist of all time, Osama bin Laden. Bergen, who produced the interview for CNN, has marked the anniversary with a new book that examines the ten-year search for the world’s most wanted man. Peter Bergen is the author of "Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden, from Nine-Eleven to Abbottabad."

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The Takeaway

Ian Bremmer on Leadership in a 'G-Zero World'

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Some argue that the United States' global leadership has waned, but Ian Bremmer argues that the our role in the international community isn't over, it’s just different. Today’s international order must be one of strategic partnerships and compromises, Bremmer argues, like President Obama’s so-called "leading from behind" strategy in Libya.

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