President Obama

The Takeaway

President Obama Hosts US-EU Summit

Monday, November 28, 2011

President Obama is hosting European Union leaders at the White House for this year's US-EU summit. Dominating discussions will be the issue of the European debt crisis. Eighteen months into its sovereign debt crisis, Europe is running out of time to find a real solution, and fears of contagion are growing.

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The Takeaway

The Week's Agenda: Holiday Shopping, Employment Numbers

Monday, November 28, 2011

Over the weekend, U.S. retail sales climbed 16 percent, hitting a record total of $52.4 billion, according to the National Retail Federation. The average shopper spent $398.62 during the holiday weekend. Despite these promising retail numbers, other economic indicators aren't as positive this week. 

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Transportation Nation

Funding Bill, Without High Speed Rail, Gets Obama Signature

Friday, November 18, 2011

As Todd reported yesterday, Congress sent $18 billion in spending for the Department of Transportation to President Obama for a signature Thursday, boosting funds overall — but zeroing out high speed rail.

In a tersely worded statement, the White House said today:

"On Friday, November 18, 2011, the President signed into law_:

H.R. 2112, the "Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2012," provides FY 2012 full-year appropriations through September 30, 2012, for the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Health and Human Services', Food and Drug Administration, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Transportation; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation, and other small agencies.  In addition, it provides for continuing FY 2012 appropriations through December 16, 2011, for the remaining projects and activities of the Federal Government."

From Todd's post yesterday:

"But the big loser was high-speed rail. Republicans succeeded in their mission to zero out funding for the Obama Administration favorite. Senate Democrats had tried to include a $100 million “placeholder” to keep at least a bit of cash flowing, but it was removed during House-Senate negotiations."

Was it just ten months ago that the President was promising to connect 80 percent of Americans to High Speed Rail by 2036?


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The Takeaway

US to Station Troops in Australia, Reasserting Presence in Pacific

Thursday, November 17, 2011

During a visit to Australian on Wednesday, President Obama announced that 2,500 U.S. troops will be sent to the country to boost security in the Pacific region. The move is seen as a strategy to counter China's increased influence. He spoke strongly on China's rising responsibilities and the U.S. perspective on its growing strength. China responded by saying that it "may not be quite appropriate" to expand U.S. military in the region.

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The Takeaway

Obama to Offer Assistance for Student Loan Debt

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

President Obama is set to announce a new program on Wednesday that the White House says will help lower interest rates on student-loans. He will unveil the proposal during an appearance in Colorado. The plan will allow students who hold both government and private loans to consolidate both into one low-interest government loan. The announcement comes as the president continues to highlight ways his administration can boost the economy through executive actions that don't require approval from Congress. Obama has expressed frustration with lawmakers, who have held up his jobs plan on Capital Hill.

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Transportation Nation

Obama Heads West To Stump for Jobs Programs

Monday, October 24, 2011

Obama stumping for jobs act in Millers Creek, NC

President Obama continues to barnstorm the country for the American Jobs Act.  He'll stop in Nevada today -- Harry Reid's home state -- and Denver on Wednesday to push portions of the American Jobs Act, which includes $60 billion infrastructure proposal -- $50 billion in straight-up spending, and another $10 billion for an infrastructure bank.

Most of the $50 billion in spending is targeted for repair work, which can get money out the door much more quickly than the new "shovel ready" projects in his earlier stimulus.

But handicappers give the bill almost no chance of passing.  So you can read the President's trip to key swing states -- Nevada and Colorado, both of which he won in 2008, and both of which held on to Democratic Senate seats in 2010 while states all around were going red -- for what it is: a chance to shore up support where support will be needed in 2012.

Here's an excerpt of the President's Remarks at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada:

And three years later, it's clear that a big chunk of Washington has not gotten the message yet.  Just look at what's been going on since I introduced my jobs bill in September.  Now, this is a bill that is filled with proposals that, traditionally, Democrats and Republicans have supported in the past:  tax cuts for workers and small businesses; funding to rebuild our roads and our bridges and our airports, our infrastructure, our transportation system; putting construction workers back on the job; hiring back teachers and cops, firefighters; giving incentives so that veterans are able to find work when they come home -- because, I promise you, if you've laid down your life or risked your life for this country, you should not have to fight for a job when you come home.  (Applause.)


So those are the proposals contained in this bill.  It's a bill that's fully paid for -- by asking those of us who make more than $1 million to pay a little more in taxes.  Independent economists, people who look at this stuff for a living, say that it's the only plan out there right now that would create jobs in the short term as well as lay a foundation for economic growth in the long term.  One economist said it would create nearly 2 million jobs next year -- 2 million.  And by the way, that economist did not work for me.  And polls show that an overwhelming majority of Americans support the proposals that are in this bill -- Democrats, independents and Republicans.


So we've got huge challenges in places like Nevada.  We've got a jobs bill out there that is paid for and addresses those challenges.  The question is, why, despite all the support -- despite all the experts who say this jobs bill couldn't come at a more important time, when so many people are hurting -- why the Republicans in Washington have said no?  They keep voting against it.  Now, maybe it's just because I am the one sponsoring it.  I don't know.  But last week, we had a separate vote on a part of the jobs bill that would put 400,000 teachers, firefighters and police officers back on the job, paid for by asking people who make more than $1 million to pay one-half of 1 percent in additional taxes.  For somebody making $1.1 million a year, that's an extra $500.  Five hundred bucks.  And with that, we could have saved $400,000 jobs.


Most people making more than $1 million, if you talk to them, they'll say, I'm willing to pay $500 extra to help the country.  They’re patriots.  They believe we’re all in this thing together.  But all the Republicans in the Senate said no.  Their leader, Mitch McConnell, said that -- and I’m going to make sure I quote this properly -- saving the jobs of teachers and cops and firefighters was just -- I quote -- “a bailout.”  A bailout.  These aren’t bad actors who somehow screwed up the economy.  They didn’t act irresponsibly.  These are the men and women who teach our children, who patrol our streets, who run into burning buildings and save people.  They deserve our support.


This is the fight that we’re going to have right now, and I suspect this is the fight that we’re going to have to have over the next year.  The Republicans in Congress and the Republican candidates for President have made their agenda very clear.  They have two basic economic principles:  first, tax cuts for the very wealthiest and the biggest corporations, paid for by gutting investments in education and research and infrastructure and programs like Medicare.  That’s agenda item number one.  Second is just about every regulation that's out there they want to get rid of -- clean air, clean water -- you name it.


Now, I agree that there are some rules and regulations that put an unnecessary burden on business at a time when we can’t afford it.  I mean, we’ve seen this in our travel bureau, where the bureaucracy for getting a visa to come visit Vegas is too long.  We want to get them here quicker; they can stay longer and spend more.  And that’s why, in addition to what we’re doing with the travel bureau, we’ve already identified 500 regulatory reforms that will save billions of dollars over the next few years -- billions of dollars over the next few years.  But unfortunately, so far at least, we have not gotten any willingness on the other side to say that some regulations we can’t give up.


We are not going to win the race in this competitive 21st century economy by having the cheapest labor or the most polluted air.  That’s a race to the bottom that we can’t win.  There’s always going to be a country out there that can exploit its workers more, or pollute its air more, or pollute its water more, have lower worker safety standards.  There’s always going to be somebody out there to win that competition.  The competition we need to win is because we have the best scientists, and we’ve got the best universities, and we’ve got the best workers, and we have the best infrastructure, and we’ve got the best resorts, and we’ve got the best ideas, and we’ve got the best system, and it’s the most transparent and it’s the most accountable.  That’s how we’re going to win the competition for the future.  And that’s what’s at stake right now in this race.




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It's A Free Blog

Opinion: Iraq Troop Withdrawal Can't be Claimed as Obama Win

Monday, October 24, 2011

To be an Obama supporter, you have to cheer him when he finally says that troops will be out of Iraq completely by December 2011 and pretend the president has kept his promises.

-Karol Markowicz, It's A Free Country blogger.

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It's A Free Blog

Opinion: Herman Cain Dismisses Racism, Making Him Easy to Dismiss

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The legacy of racism is visible everywhere to anyone who wishes to see it. Herman Cain does not. This is why I refuse to support him.

-Jami Floyd, It's A Free Country blogger.

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Comments [7]

Transportation Nation

In Michigan, President Touts Jobs Success, Jabs Romney

Friday, October 14, 2011

US President Barack Obama (C) and South Korea's President Lee Myung-Bak listen to plant manager Alicia Boler-Davis(3rd R) during a tour of the General Motors Orion Assembly plant October 14, 2011 in Lake Orion, Michigan. At left is GM Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Daniel F. Akerson. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Without mentioning him by name, President Obama jabbed leading GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney for his position on the auto bailout.

"When I took office, I was determined to rebuild this economy based on what this country has always done best -- not just buying and consuming, but building, making things, selling those goods all around the world, stamped with three proud words:  Made in America. And that’s why one of the first decisions that I made as President was to save the U.S. auto industry from collapse," the President said after touring a Chevy Sonic plant in Orion Township, Michigan.

Then, obliquely referring to Romney, who has taken a high-profile stance against against the auto bailout.

"There were a lot of politicians who said it wasn’t worth the time and wasn’t worth the money. In fact, there are some politicians who still say that. Well, they should come tell that to the workers here at Orion."

As we've reported, the politics of the auto bailout are nevertheless thorny for the President -- even in a state where lots of jobs were saved -- no one feels particularly thrilled when the big guys get a handout.  But Michigan is a must-win for the President next year, Romney has roots in Michigan (his father was governor), and its a classic swing state that can be tugged in either direction.

Here are the full transcripts of the remarks, as well as those of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak who toured the plant with President Obama.


PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Hello, Detroit!  (Applause.)  Hello!  Everybody, please have a seat, have a seat.  It is great to be back in the Motor City.  (Applause.)  I notice the mood is a little brighter on this particular visit.  (Laughter.)  I’d like to think it’s because everybody is excited about the Korea Free Trade Agreement, but I suspect it might just have a little bit to do with your Lions beating up on my Bears.  (Applause.)  All right, all right, all right.  (Laughter.)  Don't get carried away now.  (Laughter.)  Not to mention your Tigers hanging in there last night.  (Applause.)


As you can see, President Lee is a pretty good politician.  (Laughter and applause.)  He knows how to get on your good side.  (Applause.)  Today I brought a good friend and one of our closest allies, President Lee of South Korea.  Some of you may know, President Lee has got a remarkable story.  He grew up a little ways from Detroit, but he embodies that same spirit that Detroit is all about.  Through sheer grit and determination, he worked his way from the humblest beginnings.  The South Korea of his childhood was an extraordinarily poor country.  But he worked his way up, worked his way up, went to school while cleaning streets, and eventually went on to run a Hyundai machinery plant -- so he knows a little bit about cars -- then the whole company, and ultimately was elected the President of the Republic of Korea.  And this is a country that's staged one of the world's greatest economic comebacks that we've ever seen.


So President Lee knows what it's like to go through tough times.  He knows what it's like when folks have counted you out.  And he knows what it's like to make a big comeback.


So with that, I want to welcome President Lee to Detroit and have him say just a few words.  (Applause.)


PRESIDENT LEE:  Thank you.  (As interpreted.)  Folks, I'm a little bit shorter than President Obama, so I'm going to adjust the microphone.  (Laughter.)  I hope you'll understand.


Well, first of all, ladies and gentlemen, it's a great pleasure visiting your factory here in Detroit along with one of my closest friends, President Obama.


Well, folks, as you know, the global economy is going through some tough times, and so there's one thing on the minds of both President Obama and I, and that is jobs.  It is about creating good, decent jobs, and it is about keeping those jobs.  And this is what keeps us awake.  (Applause.)


Ladies and gentlemen, before I came here to see you, I just had a brief tour given to me by the members of this factory and I heard about the history, and I also heard about the danger of how this factory was on the brink of being closed.  But now, as you can see, we have so many people here, like all of you here working here and earning a good living.  And I think more than anyone else here in this factory, I think it's President Obama who's the happiest man to see this factory being so energetic and enthusiastic.  (Applause.)


Ladies and gentlemen, it was three years ago when I first met with President Obama, and back then I still remember how we talked about a lot of things.  And one of the things that was on President Obama's mind was how to revive the U.S. automotive industry.  Because we all know that the U.S. automotive industry was, and is, the leader in the world, and President Obama was concerned what he can do to revive Motor City and the United States automotive industry.  And we talked a lot about that.  And, folks, I know a few things about automobiles because back when I was in the private sector, I used to build cars myself.  So I know a thing or two about automobiles, and I think perhaps this was the reason why President Obama raised the subject.  But we talked a lot about how to revive the U.S. automobile industry.


Ladies and gentlemen, President Obama just briefly talked about my past, how I really worked hard throughout my life.  And I was once just like you -- I did work in factories, and I was also in the boardroom, as well, as a CEO of one of the largest companies in Korea.  But one thing I learned throughout my experience in my life is this:  During times of challenges, when you're faced with difficulties and if you want to create good jobs and maintain these good jobs, there’s only one thing and the surest way to do that is for the workers and for the managers to work together.  It is about cooperating together, and that is the surest way to ensure good jobs and for you to keep your jobs.  (Applause.)


And, ladies and gentlemen, we are here with President Obama because when I was a worker I knew that, more than anything, for all of us to enjoy good life is for all of us to have a good, decent job.  And I know how important it is for anyone to have a good, decent job.  And the factory here -- as I was looking around, I felt once again how important it is for all of us to work together because I know that three years ago GM Korea and GM Orion, you guys worked together to set up this factory.  And today, you are building models here and you're manufacturing cars that three years ago, GM Korea and your company has been working together.  And that is the reason why I came here, so I can see with my own eyes the good work that all of you are doing here.  (Applause.)


Folks, when I was President, as soon as I became President of Korea, I visited a GM Korea factory not once, but twice, which was quite unusual for the President of Korea to do so.  But I came here today -- and as I watch the factory and I took on a tour, I was very, very -- deeply impressed by the way you’re operating this factory.  I was impressed by the fact that this factory is very pro-environment.  You take care of the environment.  Also you’ve adopted the latest IT technology so that efficiency is up.  You have the highest standards, and you're building excellent cars here in this factory.  And I am confident that this factory is going to continue, and it’s going to make good cars, and your lives are going to be good.  And I’m sure -- and I’m confident in the future.  (Applause.)


Lastly, folks, I just want to say one thing before I go.  As you know, the KORUS FTA will soon be implemented.  I know, folks, that some of you here may think that with the implementation of the KORUS FTA, that somehow your jobs may be exported or go somewhere else.  But let me tell you one thing -- that is not true.  (Applause.)  I am here with President Obama today because I want to give this promise to you, and that is that the KORUS FTA will not take away any of your jobs.  Rather it will create more jobs for you and your family, and it is going to protect your jobs.  And this is the pledge that I give you today.  (Applause.)


Soon, folks, Motor City is going to come back again, and it’s going to revive its past glory.  And I have all the confidence in the world that you are going to do that.


Thank you.  (Applause.)


PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Give President Lee a big round of applause.  (Applause.)


All right.  Well, thank you, President Lee.


Thank you, to everybody who has joined us here today.  A couple of people I just want to mention.  First of all, the CEO of General Motors, Dan Ackerson, is here.  Where is Dan?  (Applause.)  There he is.  The UAW President, one of the key people who helped make this agreement possible -- that is my dear friend, Bob King.  (Applause.)  And my U.S. Trade Representative, who spent a lot of long nights with his Korean counterpart -- Ron Kirk is in the house.  (Applause.)


I just want to follow up President Lee’s remarks with a few words about what the Korea Free Trade Agreement will mean for American jobs and for the American economy.  In the last decade, we became a country that was known for what we bought and what we consumed.  And a whole bunch of goods poured in here from all around the world, and we spent a lot of money and took on a lot of debt, in a lot of cases, to buy those goods.  But it didn't necessarily produce a lot of jobs here in the United States.


So when I took office, I was determined to rebuild this economy based on what this country has always done best -- not just buying and consuming, but building; making things, selling those goods all around the world, stamped with three proud words:  Made in America.  (Applause.)  And that’s why one of the first decisions that I made as President was to save the U.S. auto industry from collapse.  (Applause.)


There were a lot of politicians who said it wasn’t worth the time and wasn’t worth the money.  In fact, there are some politicians who still say that.  Well, they should come tell that to the workers here at Orion.




PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Because two years ago it looked like this plant was going to have to shut its doors.  All these jobs would have been lost.  The entire community would have been devastated.  And the same was true for communities all across the Midwest.  And I refused to let that happen.  (Applause.)


So we made a deal with the auto companies.  We said if you’re willing to retool and restructure, get more efficient, get better, get smarter, then we’re going to invest in your future -- because we believe in American ingenuity.  Most importantly, we believe in American workers.  (Applause.)  And today, I can stand here and say that the investment paid off.  (Applause.)  The hundreds of thousands of jobs that have been saved made it worth it.




PRESIDENT OBAMA:  An American auto industry that’s more profitable and competitive than it’s been in years made it worth it.  (Applause.)  The taxpayers are being repaid.  (Applause.)  Plants like this are churning out groundbreaking fuel-efficient cars like the Chevy Sonic -- the only one of its kind that’s made and sold in the United States of America.  (Applause.)


And for folks who haven't tried it, you've got to sit in that car.  There's a lot of room in there.  (Laughter.)  Felt -- even for a pretty tall guy like me, I felt pretty good.  They took away the keys, though.  Secret Service wouldn't let me -- (laughter) -- I checked in the dash.  It wasn't there.


Now, here's the thing.  We live in a global economy, and that means most of the potential customers for American companies like GM won't just be here in the United States; they'll be all around the world.  And the more goods and services we sell abroad, the more jobs we create here at home.  (Applause.)


In fact, every $1 billion in exports supports thousands of American jobs.  And that’s why I’ve set a goal of doubling our exports -– and that's a goal that we’re on track to meet.  That’s why we worked with Panama and Colombia, as well as South Korea, to resolve outstanding issues with these trade agreements, and that's why I pushed Congress to pass them as soon as possible.  (Applause.)


Now, Korea is one that is critically important, because understand Korea has 50 million people; it's one of the fastest-growing countries in the world.  It's one of our closest allies and our closest friends.  And -- President Lee and I talked about this when we had dinner the other night -- our trade is basically balanced between the United States and Korea.  They buy as much stuff from us as they sell to us -- and that's how fair and free trade is supposed to be.  It's not a one-sided proposition.  (Applause.)  That's how trade is supposed to be.  And I know President Lee doesn't mind me saying this, even though he's a Hyundai guy.  (Laughter.)  If Americans can buy Kias and Hyundais from Korea, then I know Koreans should be able to buy some Fords and Chryslers and Chevys that are made right here in the United States of America.  (Applause.)


The other thing that happened was -- this took a little longer than some people expected because I wasn't going to sign just any trade deal.  President Lee wasn't either.  We had to work hard to reach an understanding.  It was like a scene from a GM dealership, where folks are negotiating about the heated seats and the extended warranty, and you’re going back and forth and trying to figure how does it fit together so that it works for everybody.  But when all was said and done, President Lee and I walked away with a trade agreement that is a win-win for both of our countries.  (Applause.)


Here in the United States, this trade agreement will support at least 70,000 American jobs.  It will increase exports.  It will boost our economy by more than our last nine trade agreements combined.  And as I said, the good thing is we’ve got a balanced situation.  It’s not just a matter of folks sending a bunch of stuff here.  Koreans are also buying American products.  That's what makes it a win-win.  (Applause.)


And by the way, I also held out on sending this agreement to Congress until they promised to renew a law called the TAA -- Trade Adjustment Assistance -- that helps American workers who’ve been affected by global competition so that they are able to help transition.  (Applause.)


Now, it’s because of all these benefits -- it’s because of all these benefits that this trade agreement won the support of business and labor, from automakers and auto workers, from Democrats and Republicans.  That doesn't happen very often.  And it was good to finally see both parties in Congress come together and pass legislation that is good for the American people -– an agreement that will not only build on our strong economic relationship that’s been existing for years to come, but also promises, as we’ve seen at this plant, the capacity for us to exchange ideas and technologies and systems, which will improve productivity on both sides.


Nearly a decade ago, when a Korean business named Daewoo Motors went bankrupt, it was General Motors that stepped in and saved that company, which is now known as GM Korea.  And years later, it was the engineers from GM Korea who helped make the Chevy Sonic possible, and the collaboration with that company that’s helped save this plant and these 17,050 -- 1,750 jobs.


So on a larger scale, the closer economic ties between the United States and Korea are going to lead to more jobs, more opportunity for both nations.  (Applause.)  Already, Korean investment -- and by the way, it’s not just in the auto industry.  Already, Korean investment is creating jobs here in Michigan, with LG Chem planning to make lithium ion batteries in Holland, Michigan; and Hyundai manufacturing suspension modules in Detroit; and Mando opening a new research and development center for brakes and steering in Novi.  In Korea, American businesses are going to be pursuing those same investments and opportunities.  So it’s truly a win-win for everybody involved.


So I just want to say thank you to President Lee for his cooperation and for his leadership.  I want to thank the members of Congress who fought so hard to get this done -- especially the delegation from this state.  I want to especially thank the people of Detroit for proving that, despite all the work that lies ahead, this is a city where a great American industry is coming back to life -- (applause) -- and the industries of tomorrow are taking root, and a city where people are dreaming up ways to prove all the skeptics wrong and write the next proud chapter in the Motor City’s history.  (Applause.)


And that’s why I came here today.  Because for every cynic that's out there running around saying it can't be done, there are a whole bunch of folks that are saying, "Yes, we can."  (Applause.)


Yes, times are tough.  Times are tough and they've been tougher in Detroit than just about anyplace else.  But we’ve made it through tough times before.  We do not quit.  We've rolled up our sleeves.  We remembered our history.  And we said to ourselves there's nothing that we cannot do when we're willing to do it together.  You are all a testimony to the American spirit.  (Applause.)  These cars are a testimony to the American spirit.  And if we can take that same spirit and apply it across the board to all the challenges we face, there is nothing that we cannot do.


God bless you.  And God bless the United States of America.  Thank you.  (Applause.)






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It's A Free Blog

Super Delegates: Who Would our Comic Brethren Endorse?

Friday, October 14, 2011

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It's A Free Blog

Opinion: Bush and Boehner Rightly Praise Obama on Afghanistan

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Foreign policy is one of those areas of political thought that doesn't neatly fall along the one dimensional red/blue map of the political spectrum in our country.

-Solomon Kleinsmith, It's A Free Country blogger.

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It's A Free Blog

Opinion: America Wanted a Job, but Got an Occupation

Friday, October 07, 2011

The Democrats ignored rising frustrations and let the Tea Party steal part of the story. When debt and deficit overtook jobs and economic security, the media had a completely different fable to run with.

-Justin Krebs, It's A Free Country blogger.

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Comments [1]

The Takeaway

Obama Loses Black Voters as Approval Rating Slips

Monday, September 26, 2011

President Obama's approval ratings are at an all-time low. August's Gallup poll numbers showed that 41 percent of American adults approve of the way Obama is currently handling his job. Some of the largest declines in approval come from African-American voters — a group that formerly voted for Obama.

Comments [4]

The Takeaway

Did the President's Address Do Enough to Impress Voters?

Friday, September 09, 2011

President Obama's address last night was seen by many as a crucial political moment — a chance for him to reinvigorate support for his strategy on the economy and job creation. Obama's approval rating has been at an all-time low, so the stakes were high. He needed to reach the electorate and instill confidence in voters. How well did he do? This is the question we’re discussing with constituents from around the country.

Comments [5]

Transportation Nation

President Proposes $10 Billion Infrastructure Bank

Thursday, September 08, 2011

With one foot on the terra firma of national pride and another in his old familiar haunt of progressivism, President Barack Obama Thursday proposed a $10 billion infrastructure bank with $50 billion in expedited infrastructure spending to help stimulate the economy.

"Everyone here knows that we have badly decaying roads and bridges all over this country.  Our highways are clogged with traffic.  Our skies are the most congested in the world," said the President while a sour-faced Speaker John Boehner sat to his right.

"This is inexcusable.  Building a world-class transportation system is part of what made us an economic superpower.  And now we’re going to sit back and watch China build newer airports and faster railroads?  At a time when millions of unemployed construction workers could build them right here in America?"

In a speech that sounded at times feisty and at times impatient, the President repeatedly urged congress to pass a bill the administration put at $450 billion, which he said would be paid for by other cuts.

But still the speech sounded more like old-style Obama than the man who last month, back to the wall, agreed to $2.4 trillion in spending cuts, with no tax increases.   Thursday the President once again called on the rich to pay "their fair share," an idea that the public has embraced but that Congress has rejected.

"There are private construction companies all across America just waiting to get to work.  There’s a bridge that needs repair between Ohio and Kentucky that’s on one of the busiest trucking routes in North America.  A public transit project in Houston that will help clear up one of the worst areas of traffic in the country," the President said, pointedly picking a Texas city to highlight.  Texas is home to the Republican Presidential front-runner, Governor Rick Perry.

The President made his strongest pitch yet in favor of an infrastructure bank, a federally-backed bank that would leverage government funds to draw private capital for large projects like roads, transit, bridges, and dams.

The President said it would  issue loans "based on two criteria:  how badly a construction project is needed and how much good it would do for the economy."

"This idea came from a bill written by a Texas Republican and a Massachusetts Democrat. The idea for a big boost in construction is supported by America’s largest business organization and America’s largest labor organization.  It’s the kind of proposal that’s been supported in the past by Democrats and Republicans alike.  You should pass it right away."

In a fact sheet released by the White House, the administration said the National Infrastructure Bank would be capitalized with $10 billion "in order to leverage private and public capital and to invest in a broad range of infrastructure projects of national and regional significance, without earmarks or traditional political influence. The bank would be based on the model Senators Kerry and Hutchison have championed while building on legislation by Senators Rockefeller and Lautenberg and the work of long-time infrastructure bank champions like Rosa DeLauro and the input of the President’s Jobs Council."




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Transportation Nation

Obama's Big Speech May Simply Ask for Things to Remain the Same

Thursday, September 08, 2011

The White House is holding the details of its infrastructure spending plan close to the vest, but as clear as anyone can make out it amounts to this:  don't spend less than we're spending now.

By all accounts, tonight President Obama will urge Congress to get $50 billion to $100 billion out the door on road and bridge construction spending as quickly as possibly, in the belief that getting money into the economy through construction jobs will help stop the economic hemorrhage.

(Note: I'll be live-chatting the speech over at our sister site, It's a Free Country, here. )

There's also widespread belief he'll push for an infrastructure bank -- a federally-backed bank that would funnel private capital to big projects like roads, bridges, and transit.

But as far as anyone can tell, much of what he'll be proposing won't be new money, it will just be a plan to front-load spending that, in a parallel universe, would have already been authorized by now.

Now, let's recap. In September, 2009, the Surface Transportation Reauthorization bill -- the massive, multi-year legislation that funds roads, bridges, and transit -- was set to expire.

At the time, everyone -- including Rep. John Mica (R-FL), then the ranking Republican member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (and the current chair) -- wanted the bill to double in size from $244 billion over four years to about half-a-trillion dollars over six years.

But no one knew how to pay for it.

There were ideas, to be sure.  Raise the gas tax, which hasn't gone up since 1993. Toll highways.  Charge people for the number of miles they drive.

But at that point in the Obama administration the focus was on reforming health care. Until that got done, there wasn't going to be any talk of raising taxes. The administration pushed for, and got, an 18-month extension to March, 2011.  The bill was extended again.  And now, at the end of this month, it expires again -- in an atmosphere where the GOP-controlled Congress has made clear its willingness to shut down a federal agency rather than cave on spending priorities.

Which brings us to our present circumstance.  Congress wants to drastically reduce the size of the transportation bill from current levels, to $230 billion over six years.  The Democratic Senate wants $109 billion over two years, essentially matching the current level of spending.

And the president wants spending to happen as quickly as possible.

But no one in Washington is suggesting a level of spending that, just two Septembers ago, had bi-partisan support.

On Thursday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed a "clean extension" of the transportation bill, setting the stage for further discussions.

But what it amounts to is this:  in September 2011, the President's rare address to a joint session of Congress will be used, in part, to argue that to stimulate the economy, it shouldn't heave its budget axe.

Instead, it should do about half as much as it might have done anyway, two Septembers ago.


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It's A Free Blog

Stucknation: Dear Mr. President, Don't Just Talk Bold on Jobs, Be Bold. Here's How:

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Hoover, like Bush was desperate for bipartisan support for his attempt to save a tanking economy. But Roosevelt opted for change rather than continuity. You went with continuity and the Republicans have been trying to steal your lunch money ever since.

-Bob Hennelly, It's A Free Country columnist.

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The Takeaway

Jobs Speech: Your Questions for New York Times Reporter Michael Shear

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Last night many watched GOP candidates feint and parry in the latest Republican presidential debate at The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. Tonight, President Barack Obama presents his own arguments for moving forward, laying out what is reportedly $300 billion in proposals for job growth. Tomorrow we'll be talking to Michael D. Shear, political reporter and chief correspondent for New York Times blog The Caucus. He will be answering your questions about President Obama's speech, the state of the race among Republicans and how the GOP field shapes up against the incumbent.

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The Takeaway

America's Unemployed Advise on President's Jobs Plan

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Later this evening, President Obama will deliver a speech detailing a jobs program that could cost as much as $300 billion. Obama will give the speech before a joint sessions of Congress, and it will also be broadcast to millions of Americans who are facing record unemployment rates. For their insight, we're speaking with three Takeaway listeners who are uniquely affected by the president’s plan.


The Takeaway

'Top Secret America': The Hidden Side of Government After 9/11

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

We're talking about the tenth anniversary of 9/11 all this week. And while we’re remembering those we’ve lost, we’re also analyzing the tragedy's aftermath. A new Frontline documentary and investigative book chronicle the proliferation of covert operations and government organizations that began cropping up in the wake of 9/11. Funding for counter-terrorism programs grew exponentially after 9/11. In the documentary, then-White House counter terrorism czar Richard Clarke remembers: "President Bush said to us, in the basement of the White House on the night of 9/11, you have everything you need. And that was true, because as soon as we went to the Congress, they said 'just tell us what you need.' Blank check."

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