Saturday, May 30, 2009

Weekly Address: The Experience of Judge Sotomayor

Friday, May 29th, 2009 at 11:59 pm
Weekly Address: The Experience of Judge Sotomayor
The President discusses the breadth and depth of experience held by his nominee for the Supreme Court. In the course of a life that began in a housing project in the South Bronx and brought her to the pinnacle of her profession, Judge Sonia Sotomayor accumulated more experience on the federal bench than any incoming Supreme Court Justice in the past 100 years, touching nearly every aspect of our legal system.

“Most of the Work Takes Place Before a Hurricane Hits”

Friday, May 29th, 2009 at 6:32 pm
“Most of the Work Takes Place Before a Hurricane Hits”
As we mentioned earlier today, the administration has been working hard on a coordinated effort to prepare for hurricane season. This afternoon, the President met with FEMA at the National Response Coordination Center to discuss hurricane preparedness. The President stated that he had no greater responsibility than the safety of the American people, and emphasized the importance of planning in ensuring that safety:
Our top priority is ensuring the public safety. That means appropriate sheltering in place, or, if necessary, getting as many people as possible out of harm’s way prior to landfall. But most of the work, as you would hear from these individual agencies, most of the work takes place before a hurricane hits. True preparedness means having federal and state and local governments all coordinating effectively, and as you just heard, one of the most important things we can do is make sure the families have prepared appropriately.

(President Barack Obama and Homeland Security adviser John Brennan listen to Homeland Security Secretary
Janet Napolitano (back to camera) at the hurricane preparedness meeting at FEMA headquarters in
Washington Friday, May 29, 2009. At far left is Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate briefed the President on preparedness efforts and the seasonal forecast for the 2009 hurricane season. Fugate echoed the President’s statements about the importance of preparation before a hurricane strikes:
Preparing before a hurricane strikes lays the groundwork for a successful response and recovery, and we urge every American living in a hurricane-prone area to take the steps necessary to keep their families safe. Today’s briefing allowed President Obama to hear firsthand our plans and preparations to support state and local governments during hurricane season.

Update on Recovery Act Lobbying Rules: New Limits on Special Interest Influence

Friday, May 29th, 2009 at 5:35 pm
Update on Recovery Act Lobbying Rules: New Limits on Special Interest Influence
Another update from Norm Eisen, special counsel to the president for ethics and government reform, in the spirit of transparency as always:

I am writing with an update on the President’s March 20, 2009 Memorandum on Ensuring Responsible Spending of Recovery Act Funds. Section 3 of the Memorandum required all oral communications between federally registered lobbyists and government officials concerning Recovery Act policy to be disclosed on the Internet; barred registered lobbyists from having oral communications with government officials about specific Recovery Act projects or applications and instead required those communications to be in writing; and also required those written communications to be posted on the Internet. That Memorandum instructed the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to review the initial 60 days of implementation of the stimulus lobbying restrictions, to evaluate the data, and to recommend modifications.

Following OMB’s review, the Administration has decided to make a number of changes to the rules that we think make them even tougher on special interests and more focused on merits-based decision making.

First, we will expand the restriction on oral communications to cover all persons, not just federally registered lobbyists. For the first time, we will reach contacts not only by registered lobbyists but also by unregistered ones, as well as anyone else exerting influence on the process. We concluded this was necessary under the unique circumstances of the stimulus program.

Second, we will focus the restriction on oral communications to target the scenario where concerns about merit-based decision-making are greatest –after competitive grant applications are submitted and before awards are made. Once such applications are on file, the competition should be strictly on the merits. To that end, comments (unless initiated by an agency official) must be in writing and will be posted on the Internet for every American to see.

Third, we will continue to require immediate internet disclosure of all other communications with registered lobbyists. If registered lobbyists have conversations or meetings before an application is filed, a form must be completed and posted to each agency’s website documenting the contact.

OMB will be consulting with agencies, outside experts and others about these principles and will publish detailed guidance, but we wanted to update interested parties on the outcome of the initial review. We consulted very broadly both within and outside of government (including as reflected in previous posts on the White House blog) and we are grateful to all those who participated in the process.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Open Government Initiative: Phase II

Thursday, May 28th, 2009 at 3:21 pm
Open Government Initiative: Phase II
Beth Noveck, Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Open Government, brings us an update on the Open Government Initiative:

Last week, the White House launched an unprecedented online process for public engagement in policymaking. That process began with a week of Brainstorming, hosted by the National Academy of Public Administration.

You have shared almost 900 submissions and 33,000 votes on ideas ranging from strategies for making government data more accessible to legal and policy impediments to transparency. Thank you!

The Brainstorming phase is drawing to an official close tonight at midnight. We are reviewing all material on the site in preparation for the Discussion Phase, which begins on Wednesday June 3rd. We’ll be distilling both the ideas from the Brainstorming and the comments from an online dialogue with government employees that took place earlier this spring on the MAX federal wiki. All comments from MAX will be publicly posted tomorrow on the Open Government website.

Our goal is to use the ideas from this first phase of the process as well as other input to inform deeper discussion on the Open Government blog in the Discussion phase. While the voting on the brainstorming submissions will be instructive, it will not determine which topics are discussed in the second phase. Rather, the Discussion is designed to dig in on harder topics that require greater exploration or refinement.

While we are doing our analysis of the first phase of brainstorming and moving on to the Discussion Phase next week, the Brainstorming has been lively and productive. So we will keep the Brainstorming site turned on for addition submissions through June 19th. While new postings may not feed into the Discussion or Drafting Phases, we’ll be on the lookout for interesting new posts.
At the end of the public engagement process, all posted submissions will go up on the Open Government website. (For you records management fans, the Open Government website is run by the Office of Science and Technology Policy and subject to the Federal Records Act.)

The tight schedule of this process is designed to ensure that your ideas inform the development of open government recommendations and the writing of subsequent policy and the development of open government projects as soon as possible. So while we are keeping the Brainstorming open, we will also move on to the next phase of the process beginning on June 3rd.

Longer reports and papers can always be submitted through

The process of crafting open government policy will not end this week, this month, or this year. This is an ongoing effort, and your participation has been and will continue to be essential to its success.

A New Generation for the Air Force

Thursday, May 28th, 2009 at 11:27 am
A New Generation for the Air Force
Yesterday, Vice President Joe Biden thanked the 1,046 newest graduates of the U.S. Air Force Academy not only for their dedication and achievement, but for their future service in guaranteeing America’s security. He called on graduates to set their own course for the future in an uncertain and ever-changing world, saying that although these modern challenges are daunting, they present many new opportunities:
This is a moment that requires us to act or face the consequences of our inaction. Other generations have had the luxury of not acting, knowing that the status quo would not in any fundamental way be altered. You don’t have that choice. This is your moment to bend history towards a service of a better day. It’s a moment that will be defined by you and your civilian counterparts – by a generation that I’m convinced has the intellect, the character and the judgment to ensure that America will lead the 21st century as it has the 20th century.

The President in Nevada: "We Come for the Sun"

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009 at 5:23 pm
The President in Nevada: "We Come for the Sun"
This afternoon, on the 100th Day since the President signed the Recovery Act, he joined Senate Leader Harry Reid, one of those most responsible for its passage, in his home state of Nevada at the Thunderbird Hangar at Nellis Air Force Base. The President noted in his remarks the Recovery Act has already saved or created more than 150,000 jobs, but just as the report issued this morning and even round-ups like the one here today show, taking a closer look at how individual projects and initiatives affect real communities is the only way to really appreciate the impact the Recovery Act will have:
You know, it's always a pleasure to get out of Washington a little bit. Washington is okay, but it's nice taking some time to talk to Americans of every walk of life outside of the nation's capital. And there's nothing like a quick trip to Vegas in the middle of the week. (Applause.) Like millions of other Americans, we come to this beautiful city for the sights and for the sounds -- and today we come for the sun.
Because right now, we're standing near the largest solar electric plant of its kind in the entire Western Hemisphere -- the entire Western Hemisphere. More than 72,000 solar panels built on part of an old landfill provide 25 percent of the electricity for the 12,000 people who live and work here at Nellis. That's the equivalent of powering about 13,200 homes during the day.
It's a project that took about half a year to complete, created 200 jobs, and will save the United States Air Force, which is the largest consumer of energy in the federal government, nearly $1 million -- $1 million a year. It will also reduce harmful carbon pollution by 24,000 tons per year, which is the equivalent of removing 4,000 cars from our roads. Most importantly, this base serves as a shining example of what's possible when we harness the power of clean, renewable energy to build a new, firmer foundation for economic growth.
Now, that's the kind of foundation we're trying to build all across America. 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. It's a plan designed not only to revive the economy in the short term, but to rebuild the economy over the long term. It's a plan that we passed thanks to the tireless efforts of Harry Reid and Congresswoman Berkley and Congresswoman Titus and all the other outstanding public servants in Washington.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The President’s Nominee: Judge Sonia Sotomayor

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009 at 12:15 pm
The President’s Nominee: Judge Sonia Sotomayor
There is no question that nominating a Supreme Court Justice is amongst a president’s most important responsibilities. In replacing Justice Souter, the President has vowed to seek someone with a sharp and independent mind, and a record of excellence and integrity. As a former constitutional law professor, he believes it paramount to select someone who rejects ideology and shares his deep respect for the Constitutional values on which this nation was founded.
And as the President has made clear, upholding those constitutional values requires more than just the intellectual ability to apply a legal rule to a set of facts. It requires a common sense understanding of how laws affect the daily realities of people’s lives. As the President noted in his remarks this morning, Judge Sonia Sotomayor fits that bill – he began recounting her spectacular credentials, before describing the life story that made her who she is:
But as impressive and meaningful as Judge Sotomayor's sterling credentials in the law is her own extraordinary journey. Born in the South Bronx, she was raised in a housing project not far from Yankee Stadium, making her a lifelong Yankee's fan. I hope this will not disqualify her -- (laughter) -- in the eyes of the New Englanders in the Senate. (Laughter.)
Sonia's parents came to New York from Puerto Rico during the second world war, her mother as part of the Women's Army Corps. And, in fact, her mother is here today and I'd like us all to acknowledge Sonia's mom. (Applause.) Sonia's mom has been a little choked up. (Laughter.) But she, Sonia's mother, began a family tradition of giving back to this country. Sonia's father was a factory worker with a 3rd-grade education who didn't speak English. But like Sonia's mother, he had a willingness to work hard, a strong sense of family, and a belief in the American Dream.
When Sonia was nine, her father passed away. And her mother worked six days a week as a nurse to provide for Sonia and her brother -- who is also here today, is a doctor and a terrific success in his own right. But Sonia's mom bought the only set of encyclopedias in the neighborhood, sent her children to a Catholic school called Cardinal Spellman out of the belief that with a good education here in America all things are possible.
With the support of family, friends, and teachers, Sonia earned scholarships to Princeton, where she graduated at the top of her class, and Yale Law School, where she was an editor of the Yale Law Journal, stepping onto the path that led her here today.
Along the way she's faced down barriers, overcome the odds, lived out the American Dream that brought her parents here so long ago. And even as she has accomplished so much in her life, she has never forgotten where she began, never lost touch with the community that supported her.
What Sonia will bring to the Court, then, is not only the knowledge and experience acquired over a course of a brilliant legal career, but the wisdom accumulated from an inspiring life's journey.
It's my understanding that Judge Sotomayor's interest in the law was sparked as a young girl by reading the Nancy Drew series -- (laughter) -- and that when she was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of eight, she was informed that people with diabetes can't grow up to be police officers or private investigators like Nancy Drew. And that's when she was told she'd have to scale back her dreams.
The Law School Admission Council has a video discussing her story as part of their "Believe and Achieve: Latinos and the Law" program that is also well worth watching. Finally, the White House also sent out the following background, giving a thorough look at Judge Sotomayor’s life and career:

Judge Sonia Sotomayor
Sonia Sotomayor has served as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit since October 1998. She has been hailed as "one of the ablest federal judges currently sitting" for her thoughtful opinions,i and as "a role model of aspiration, discipline, commitment, intellectual prowess and integrity"ii for her ascent to the federal bench from an upbringing in a South Bronx housing project.
Her American story and three decade career in nearly every aspect of the law provide Judge Sotomayor with unique qualifications to be the next Supreme Court Justice. She is a distinguished graduate of two of America's leading universities. She has been a big-city prosecutor and a corporate litigator. Before she was promoted to the Second Circuit by President Clinton, she was appointed to the District Court for the Southern District of New York by President George H.W. Bush. She replaces Justice Souter as the only Justice with experience as a trial judge.
Judge Sotomayor served 11 years on the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, one of the most demanding circuits in the country, and has handed down decisions on a range of complex legal and constitutional issues. If confirmed, Sotomayor would bring more federal judicial experience to the Supreme Court than any justice in 100 years, and more overall judicial experience than anyone confirmed for the Court in the past 70 years. Judge Richard C. Wesley, a George W. Bush appointee to the Second Circuit, said "Sonia is an outstanding colleague with a keen legal mind. She brings a wealth of knowledge and hard work to all her endeavors on our court. It is both a pleasure and an honor to serve with her."
In addition to her distinguished judicial service, Judge Sotomayor is a Lecturer at Columbia University Law School and was also an adjunct professor at New York University Law School until 2007.
An American Story
Judge Sonia Sotomayor has lived the American dream. Born to a Puerto Rican family, she grew up in a public housing project in the South Bronx. Her parents moved to New York during World War II – her mother served in the Women’s Auxiliary Corps during the war. Her father, a factory worker with a third-grade education, died when Sotomayor was nine years old. Her mother, a nurse, then raised Sotomayor and her younger brother, Juan, now a physician in Syracuse. After her father’s death, Sotomayor turned to books for solace, and it was her new found love of Nancy Drew that inspired a love of reading and learning, a path that ultimately led her to the law.
Most importantly, at an early age, her mother instilled in Sotomayor and her brother a belief in the power of education. Driven by an indefatigable work ethic, and rising to the challenge of managing a diagnosis of juvenile diabetes, Sotomayor excelled in school. Sotomayor graduated as valedictorian of her class at Blessed Sacrament and at Cardinal Spellman High School in New York. She first heard about the Ivy League from her high school debate coach, Ken Moy, who attended Princeton University, and she soon followed in his footsteps after winning a scholarship.
At Princeton, she continued to excel, graduating summa cum laude, and Phi Beta Kappa. She was a co-recipient of the M. Taylor Pyne Prize, the highest honor Princeton awards to an undergraduate. At Yale Law School, Judge Sotomayor served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal and as managing editor of the Yale Studies in World Public Order. One of Sotomayor’s former Yale Law School classmates, Robert Klonoff (now Dean of Lewis & Clark Law School), remembers her intellectual toughness from law school: "She would stand up for herself and not be intimidated by anyone." [Washington Post, 5/7/09]
A Champion of the Law
Over a distinguished career that spans three decades, Judge Sotomayor has worked at almost every level of our judicial system – yielding a depth of experience and a breadth of perspectives that will be invaluable – and is currently not represented -- on our highest court. New York City District Attorney Morgenthau recently praised Sotomayor as an "able champion of the law" who would be "highly qualified for any position in which wisdom, intelligence, collegiality and good character could be assets." [Wall Street Journal, 5/9/09]
A Fearless and Effective Prosecutor
Fresh out of Yale Law School, Judge Sotomayor became an Assistant District Attorney in Manhattan in 1979, where she tried dozens of criminal cases over five years. Spending nearly every day in the court room, her prosecutorial work typically involved "street crimes," such as murders and robberies, as well as child abuse, police misconduct, and fraud cases. Robert Morgenthau, the person who hired Judge Sotomayor, has described her as a "fearless and effective prosecutor." [Wall Street Journal, 5/9/09] She was cocounsel in the "Tarzan Murderer" case, which convicted a murderer to 67 and ½ years to life in prison, and was sole counsel in a multiple-defendant case involving a Manhattan housing project shooting between rival family groups.
A Corporate Litigator
She entered private practice in 1984, becoming a partner in 1988 at the firm Pavia and Harcourt. She was a general civil litigator involved in all facets of commercial work including, real estate, employment, banking, contracts, and agency law. In addition, her practice had a significant concentration in intellectual property law, including trademark, copyright and unfair competition issues. Her typical clients were significant corporations doing international business. The managing partner who hired her, George Pavia, remembers being instantly impressed with the young Sonia Sotomayor when he hired her in 1984, noting that "she was just ideal for us in terms of her background and training." [Washington Post, May 7, 2009]
A Sharp and Fearless Trial Judge
Her judicial service began in October 1992 with her appointment to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York by President George H.W. Bush. Still in her 30s, she was the youngest member of the court. From 1992 to 1998, she presided over roughly 450 cases. As a trial judge, she earned a reputation as a sharp and fearless jurist who does not let powerful interests bully her into departing from the rule of law. In 1995, for example, she issued an injunction against Major League Baseball owners, effectively ending a baseball strike that had become the longest work stoppage in professional sports history and had caused the cancellation of the World Series the previous fall. She was widely lauded for saving baseball. Claude Lewis of the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote that by saving the season, Judge Sotomayor joined "the ranks of Joe DiMaggio, Willie Mays, Jackie Robinson and Ted Williams."
A Tough, Fair and Thoughtful Jurist
President Clinton appointed Judge Sotomayor to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 1998. She is the first Latina to serve on that court, and has participated in over 3000 panel decisions, authoring roughly 400 published opinions. Sitting on the Second Circuit, Judge Sotomayor has tackled a range of questions: from difficult issues of constitutional law, to complex procedural matters, to lawsuits involving complicated business organizations. In this context, Sotomayor is widely admired as a judge with a sophisticated grasp of legal doctrine. "’She appreciates the complexity of issues,’ said Stephen L. Carter, a Yale professor who teaches some of her opinions in his classes. Confronted with a tough case, Carter said, ‘she doesn’t leap at its throat but reasons to get to the bottom of issues.’" For example, in United States v. Quattrone, Judge Sotomayor concluded that the trial judge had erred by forbidding the release of jurors’ names to the press, concluding after carefully weighing the competing concerns that the trial judge’s concerns for a speedy and orderly trial must give way to the constitutional freedoms of speech and the press.
Sotomayor also has keen awareness of the law’s impact on everyday life. Active in oral arguments, she works tirelessly to probe both the factual details and the legal doctrines in the cases before her and to arrive at decisions that are faithful to both. She understands that upholding the rule of law means going beyond legal theory to ensure consistent, fair, common-sense application of the law to real-world facts. For example, In United States v. Reimer, Judge Sotomayor wrote an opinion revoking the US citizenship for a man charged with working for the Nazis in World War II Poland, guarding concentration camps and helping empty the Jewish ghettos. And in Lin v. Gonzales and a series of similar cases, she ordered renewed consideration of the asylum claims of Chinese women who experienced or were threatened with forced birth control, evincing in her opinions a keen awareness of those women’s plights.
Judge Sotomayor’s appreciation of the real-world implications of judicial rulings is paralleled by her sensible practicality in evaluating the actions of law enforcement officers. For example, in United States v. Falso, the defendant was convicted of possessing child pornography after FBI agents searched his home with a warrant. The warrant should not have been issued, but the agents did not know that, and Judge Sotomayor wrote for the court that the officers’ good faith justified using the evidence they found. Similarly in United States v. Santa, Judge Sotomayor ruled that when police search a suspect based on a mistaken belief that there is a valid arrest warrant out on him, evidence found during the search should not be suppressed. Ten years later, in Herring v. United States, the Supreme Court reached the same conclusion. In her 1997 confirmation hearing, Sotomayor spoke of her judicial philosophy, saying" I don’t believe we should bend the Constitution under any circumstance. It says what it says. We should do honor to it." Her record on the Second Circuit holds true to that statement. For example, in Hankins v. Lyght, she argued in dissent that the federal government risks "an unconstitutional trespass" if it attempts to dictate to religious organizations who they can or cannot hire or dismiss as spiritual leaders. Since joining the Second Circuit, Sotomayor has honored the Constitution, the rule of law, and justice, often forging consensus and winning conservative colleagues to her point of view.
A Commitment to Community
Judge Sotomayor is deeply committed to her family, to her co-workers, and to her community. Judge Sotomayor is a doting aunt to her brother Juan’s three children and an attentive godmother to five more. She still speaks to her mother, who now lives in Florida, every day. At the courthouse, Judge Sotomayor helped found the collegiality committee to foster stronger personal relationships among members of the court. Seizing an opportunity to lead others on the path to success, she recruited judges to join her in inviting young women to the courthouse on Take Your Daughter to Work Day, and mentors young students from troubled neighborhoods Her favorite project, however, is the Development School for Youth program, which sponsors workshops for inner city high school students. Every semester, approximately 70 students attend 16 weekly workshops that are designed to teach them how to function in a work setting. The workshop leaders include investment bankers, corporate executives and Judge Sotomayor, who conducts a workshop on the law for 25 to 35 students. She uses as her vehicle the trial of Goldilocks and recruits six lawyers to help her. The students play various roles, including the parts of the prosecutor, the defense attorney, Goldilocks and the jurors, and in the process they get to experience openings, closings, direct and cross-examinations. In addition to the workshop experience, each student is offered a summer job by one of the corporate sponsors. The experience is rewarding for the lawyers and exciting for the students, commented Judge Sotomayor, as "it opens up possibilities that the students never dreamed of before." [Federal Bar Council News, Sept./Oct./Nov. 2005, p.20] This is one of many ways that Judge Sotomayor gives back to her community and inspires young people to achieve their dreams.
She has served as a member of the Second Circuit Task Force on Gender, Racial and Ethnic Fairness in the Courts and was formerly on the Boards of Directors of the New York Mortgage Agency, the New York City Campaign Finance Board, and the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund.
i American Philosophical Society, Biographical Essays of Moderators, Speakers, Inductees and Award Recipients, Annual General Meeting, April 2003, at 36.
ii Honorary Degree Citation, Pace University School of Law, 2003 Commencement.

Monday, May 25, 2009

On Memorial Day

Monday, May 25th, 2009 at 12:36 pm
On Memorial Day

(President Barack Obama participates in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns at
Arlington National Cemetery Monday, May 25, 2009. White House Photo, Lawrence Jackson)

The President returned from Camp David last night so that this morning he could have breakfast with Gold Star Families in the State Dining Room, participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, and speak at the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery:

Here lie Presidents and privates; Supreme Court justices and slaves; generals familiar to history, and unknown soldiers known only to God.

A few moments ago, I laid a wreath at their tomb to pay tribute to all who have given their lives for this country. As a nation, we have gathered here to repeat this ritual in moments of peace, when we pay our respects to the fallen and give thanks for their sacrifice. And we've gathered here in moments of war, when the somber notes of Taps echo through the trees, and fresh grief lingers in the air.

Today is one of those moments, where we pay tribute to those who forged our history, but hold closely the memory of those so recently lost. And even as we gather here this morning, all across America, people are pausing to remember, to mourn, and to pray.

Old soldiers are pulling themselves a little straighter to salute brothers lost a long time ago. Children are running their fingers over colorful ribbons that they know signify something of great consequence, even if they don't know exactly why. Mothers are re-reading final letters home and clutching photos of smiling sons or daughters, as youthful and vibrant as they always will be.

They, and we, are the legacies of an unbroken chain of proud men and women who served their country with honor; who waged war so that we might know peace; who braved hardship so that we might know opportunity; who paid the ultimate price so we might know freedom.

Those who rest in these fields fought in every American war. They overthrew an empire and gave birth to revolution. They strained to hold a young union together. They rolled back the creeping tide of tyranny, and stood post through a long twilight struggle. And they took on the terror and extremism that threatens our world's stability.

Their stories are the American story. More than seven generations of them are chronicled here at Arlington. They're etched into stone, recounted by family and friends, and silently observed by the mighty oaks that have stood over burial after burial.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Weekly Address: Sacrifice

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009 at 12:00 am
Weekly Address: Sacrifice
On this Memorial Day weekend, President Obama calls on the American people to join him in paying tribute to America’s veterans, servicemen and women – particularly those who have made the ultimate sacrifice - and their families.

A New Era for Credit Cards

Friday, May 22nd, 2009 at 5:40 pm
A New Era for Credit Cards

It can be difficult to think of an issue that touches more people, or can get a rise out of more people, than credit card fine print, fees, and staggering interest rate hikes. For some it is an irritation, for others who may have already hit a rough patch, it can become a brutal weight.
But as the legislation the President signed today goes into effect, those problems will phase out as normal parts of life for our friends, our neighbors, our families or ourselves. It is a sweeping bill -- as you read through the White House fact sheet on the details, you are sure to be reminded of a dozen angry or frustrated stories you have heard over the years. Just for starters, it bans unfair rate increases, prevents unfair fee traps, requires plain language in plain sight for disclosures, increases accountability all around, and institutes protections for students and young people.
Having recounted a few stories of hard-working people who took real hits, and a litany of ways credit card companies can find to take advantage, the President described the new rules:
So we're here to put a change to all that. With this bill, we're putting in place some common-sense reforms designed to protect consumers like Janet. I want to be clear about this: Credit card companies provide a valuable service; we don't begrudge them turning a profit. We just want to make sure that they do so while upholding basic standards of fairness, transparency, and accountability. Just as we demand credit card users to act responsibly, we demand that credit card companies act responsibly, too. And that's not too much to ask.
And that's why, because of this new law, statements will be required to tell credit card holders how long it will take to pay off a balance and what it will cost in interest if they only make the minimum monthly payments. We also put a stop to retroactive rate hikes that appear on a bill suddenly with no rhyme or reason.
Every card company will have to post its credit card agreements online, and we'll monitor those agreements to see if new protections are needed. Consumers will have more time to understand their statements as well: Companies will have to mail them 21 days before payment is due, not 14. And this law ends the practice of shifting payment dates. This always used to bug me -- when you'd get like -- suddenly it was due on the 19th when it had been the 31st.
Lastly, among many other provisions, there will be no more sudden charges -- changes to terms and conditions. We require at least 45 days notice if the credit card company is going to change terms and conditions.
So we're not going to give people a free pass; we expect consumers to live within their means and pay what they owe. But we also expect financial institutions to act with the same sense of responsibility that the American people aspire to in their own lives.
And this is a difficult time for our country, born in many ways of our collective failure to live up to our obligations -- to ourselves and to one another. And the fact is, it took a long time to dig ourselves into this economic hole; it's going to take some time to dig ourselves out.
But I'm heartened by what I'm seeing: by the willingness of old adversaries to seek out new partnerships; by the progress we've made these past months to address many of our toughest challenges. And I'm confident that as a nation we will learn the lessons of our recent past and that we will elevate again those values at the heart of our success as a people: hard work over the easy buck, responsibility over recklessness, and, yes, moderation over extravagance.


Friday, May 22nd, 2009 at 4:07 pm

This morning the President spoke at the US Naval Academy Commencement in Annapolis, Maryland, and reminded us that our military is made up of hundreds of thousands of individual stories, each guided by a common set of values:

(President Barack Obama fistbumps a graduating Midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy graduation ceremony
in Annapolis, Md., Friday, May 22, 2009. Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
After an era when so many institutions and individuals acted with such greed and recklessness, it's no wonder that our military remains the most trusted institution in our nation. (Applause.) And in a world when so many forces and voices seek to divide us, it inspires us that this class came together and succeeded together, from every state and every corner of the world. By building an institution that's more diverse than ever -- more women, more Hispanics, more African Americans -- the Naval Academy has reaffirmed a fundamental American truth: that out of many, we are one. (Applause.)
We see these values in every one of these sailors and Marines, including those who have already served their country -- the dozens among you with prior enlisted service.
It's the perseverance of Elvin Vasquez, a Marine supply chief in Iraq -- (applause) -- who finally got into the Naval Academy on his third try -- (applause) -- who never gave up trying because he says, "there's just something about being a Marine."
It's the example of Carlos Carbello -- (applause) -- who left the tough streets of L.A. to serve on a destroyer in the Pacific and who has used his time here to mentor others, because he's the oldest midshipman -- the old man -- at the age of 26. (Applause.)
It's the patriotism of Sade Holder -- (applause) -- who came to America as a child from Trinidad, enlisted in the Navy and then earned the titles she values most: "U.S. citizen" and "Navy Midshipman" and today, "Ensign." (Applause.)
And it's the reverence for tradition shown by James P. Heg -- (applause) -- a communications -- a communications maintenance Marine in Iraq who today is joined by the man who first urged him to sign up, his grandfather, returning six decades after he was a midshipman, a submariner from World War II, 89-year-old Captain James E. Heg. (Applause.)
Honor. Courage. Commitment. These are the values that have defined your years in the Yard and that you'll need in the years ahead as you join the fleet, and as you join and lead the Marines, as you confront the ever-changing threats of an ever-changing world.

(President Barack Obama shakes hands with a graduating Midshipman as another graduate reacts to
receiving her diploma at the U.S. Naval Academy graduation in Annapolis, Maryland, May 22, 2009.
Official White House photo by Pete Souza)
Towards the end of his speech, he connected his admiration for their service to the values he espoused yesterday at the National Archives:
Yesterday I visited the National Archives and the halls that holds our Constitution, our Declaration of Independence, and our Bill of Rights. I went there because, as our national debate on how to deal with the security challenge that we face proceeds, we must remember this enduring truth: The values and ideals in those documents are not simply words written into aging parchment, they are the bedrock of our liberty and our security. We uphold our fundamental principles and values not just because we choose to, but because we swear to; not because they feel good, but because they help keep us safe and keep us true to who we are.
Because when America strays from our values, it not only undermines the rule of law, it alienates us from our allies, it energizes our adversaries, and it endangers our national security and the lives of our troops. So as Americans, we reject the false choice between our security and our ideals. We can and we must and we will protect both. (Applause.) And that is just what you will pledge to do in a few moments when you raise your right hand and take your oath.
But that simple act -- by that simple act, you will accept a life of great sacrifice: long deployments, separation from loved ones, tests and trials that most Americans can't imagine. But that is the oath you take, the life you choose, the promise you make to America.
And today, this is the promise I make to you. It's a promise that as long as I am your Commander-in-Chief, I will only send you into harm's way when it is absolutely necessary, and with the strategy and the well-defined goals, the equipment and the support that you need to get the job done. (Applause.) This includes the job of bringing the Iraq war to a responsible end and pursuing a new comprehensive strategy to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda and its allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan. (Applause.)

Friday, May 22, 2009

MCTF Meeting 4: Building a Strong Middle Class through a Green Economy

Friday, May 22nd, 2009 at 2:44 pm
MCTF Meeting 4: Building a Strong Middle Class through a Green Economy
Next week on May 26th the Middle Class Task Force will hold its fourth official meeting entitled "Building a Strong Middle Class through a Green Economy." The town hall style meeting will be held at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science where the President signed the Recovery Act and kicked off a new wave of green jobs across the country.
The first meeting of the Task Force was also on this topic -- held in Philadelphia it explored the vision and possibilities of green jobs. This meeting will start looking at how those possibilities are becoming reality, and how the full potential of that vision be reached. The impressive roster of attendees will include Vice President Biden (Chair of Task Force), Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman, US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, and Van Jones, Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation at the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Reform for Our Troops

Friday, May 22nd, 2009 at 10:25 am
Reform for Our Troops
This morning the President signed legislation that seems an obvious step, and yet it is one that has not been taken despite all of the incidents that have cried out for it: reform of the defense procurement and contracting system. This accomplishment for American taxpayers ,and for our military who can now stretch every dollar that much further for those who serve our country, was made all the more gratifying by the bipartisan consensus that it finally found.
The President recognized Senator McCain in particular in his remarks:
Last year, the Government Accountability Office, or the GAO, looked into 95 major defense projects and found cost overruns that totaled $295 billion. Wasteful spending comes from exotic requirements, lack of oversight, and indefensible no-bid contracts that don't make our troops or our country any safer. To put this in perspective, these cost overruns would have paid our troops' salaries and provided benefits for their families for more than a year.
At a time when we're fighting two wars and facing a serious deficit, this is unexcusable and unconscionable. As Secretary Gates has said, one dollar of waste in our defense budget is a dollar we can't spend to support our troops, or prepare for future threats, or protect the American people. Well, it's finally time to end this waste and inefficiency.
Already, I've announced reform that will greatly reduce no-bid defense contracts and save the government billions of dollars. And Secretary Gates, working with our military leadership, has also proposed a courageous set of reforms in our defense budget that will target waste and strengthen our military for the future. In taking on this enormously difficult task, he's done a tremendous job, and I want to publicly commend Secretary Gates for that.
The bill I'm signing today, known as the Weapons System Acquisition Reforms Act, represents an important next step in this procurement reform process. It reforms a system where taxpayers are charged too much for weapons systems that too often arrive late -- a system that suffers from spending on unproven technologies, outdated weapons, and a general lack of oversight.
The purpose of this law will be to limit cost overruns before they spiral out of control. It will strengthen oversight and accountability by appointing officials who will be charged with closely monitoring the weapons systems we're purchasing to ensure that costs are controlled. If the cost of certain defense projects continue to grow year after year, those projects will be closely reviewed, and if they don't provide the value we need, they will be terminated. This law will also enhance competition and end conflicts of interest in the weapons acquisitions process so that American taxpayers and the American military can get the best weapons at the lowest cost.
And this legislation is long overdue, and it's been a long time coming. But we're finally signing it into law because of the dedication and commitment of a few key members of Congress who've been fighting for years for this reform: Senators Carl Levin and John McCain; Representatives Ike Skelton, John McHugh, Rob Andrews, and Mike Conaway. I'm very proud of the extraordinary work that all these gentlemen have done who are standing behind me today. Senator McCain couldn't be here today because he's making sure he has a good seat to watch his son graduate from the Naval Academy in a few hours, and that's where I'm headed as soon as I catch my ride over here.
But I will tell you that defense procurement reform was one of the issues that John McCain and I discussed in our first meeting after the election. We pledged to work together to get it done, and today I'm extraordinarily proud to stand here and sign a bill that passed with unanimous support from both parties at every step of the way.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Welcoming the Steelers

Thursday, May 21st, 2009 at 5:21 pm
Welcoming the Steelers

After a pivotal speech this morning, the President took a moment this afternoon to welcome the Superbowl Champions to the White House, along with approximately 50 Wounded Warriors from Walter Reed Army Medical Center and National Naval Medical Center and their families. Afterwards they all joined up to work with USO to assemble 3,000 care packages for our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Democratizing Data

Thursday, May 21st, 2009 at 1:53 pm
Democratizing Data
OMB Director Peter Orszag drops by to introduce us to what will be a key milestone in government transparency:

Today, I'm pleased to announce that the Federal CIO Council is launching Created as part of the President's commitment to open government and democratizing information, will open up the workings of government by making economic, healthcare, environmental, and other government information available on a single website, allowing the public to access raw data and transform it in innovative ways.

Such data are currently fragmented across multiple sites and formats—making them hard to use and even harder to access in the first place. will change this, by creating a one-stop shop for free access to data generated across all federal agencies. The catalog will allow the American people to find, use, and repackage data held and generated by the government, which we hope will result in citizen feedback and new ideas. will also help government agencies—so that taxpayer dollars get spent more wisely and efficiently. Through live data feeds, agencies will have the ability to easily access data both internally and externally from other agencies, which will allow them to maintain higher levels of performance. In the months and years ahead, our goal is to continuously improve and update with a wide variety of available datasets and easy-to-use tools based on public feedback and as we modernize legacy systems over time.

Democratizing government data will help change how government operates—and give citizens the ability to participate in making government services more effective, accessible, and transparent.

Ed. Note: Watch Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra describe the site, and learn more on this from the Open Government Initiative Innovation Gallery:

Transparency and Open Government

Thursday, May 21st, 2009 at 1:00 pm
Transparency and Open Government
Vivek Kundra, our Chief Information Officer, and Beth Noveck, Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Open Government, explain the Open Government Initiative

On January 21, 2009, his first full day in office, the President issued a Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government and called for recommendations for making the Federal government more transparent, participatory, and collaborative.

As Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President says in the video below, we are proud "to announce an important next step in this historic call to action – one that will help us achieve a new foundation for our government – a foundation built on the values of transparency, accountability and responsibility."

The Administration is committed to developing those recommendations in an open fashion. Consistent with the President’s mandate, we want to be fully transparent in our work, participatory in soliciting your ideas and expertise, and collaborative in how we experiment together to use new tools and techniques for developing open government policy.

Today we are kicking off an unprecedented process for public engagement in policymaking on the White House website. In a sea change from conventional practice, we are not asking for comments on an already-finished set of draft recommendations, but are seeking fresh ideas from you early in the process of creating recommendations. We will carefully consider your comments, suggestions, and proposals.

Here’s how the public engagement process will work. It will take place in 3 phases: Brainstorming, Discussion, and Drafting.

Beginning today, we will have a brainstorming session for suggesting ideas for the open government recommendations. You can vote on suggested ideas or add your own.

Then on June 3rd, the most compelling ideas from the brainstorming will be fleshed out on a weblog in a discussion phase. On June 15th, we will invite you to use a wiki to draft recommendations in collaborative fashion.

These three phases will build upon one another and inform the crafting of recommendations on open government.

Also check out the Innovations Gallery and see some of the innovations and innovators across the Government who are already translating the values of open government into practice. For example, just today the CIO Council launched is a one-stop repository of government information and tools to make that information useful. In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Office of Management and Budget today launched Exchange, a website for taking public input on the best ways to achieve public participation in Federal agency rulemaking. These are just two of the many outstanding innovations featured in the Open Government Innovations Gallery.

The President has welcomed the open government innovations being developed across the Government and has encouraged each of his Cabinet departments to adopt more open government innovations in the coming year.

Thank you for participating. Open and effective government can only be achieved with everyone’s active engagement. We hope you will lend your insights, experience, and expertise to improve your government and strengthen democracy. Join the Brainstorming that has already begun!

Security & Values

Thursday, May 21st, 2009 at 12:37 pm
Security & Values
This morning the President spoke at length on the values that guide his foreign policy decisions, including the closing of Guantanamo. He began by speaking of the importance of robust national security efforts and upholding American’s core identity and Constitutional principles, explaining how each can enforce the other:
For the first time since 2002, we're providing the necessary resources and strategic direction to take the fight to the extremists who attacked us on 9/11 in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We're investing in the 21st century military and intelligence capabilities that will allow us to stay one step ahead of a nimble enemy. We have re-energized a global non-proliferation regime to deny the world's most dangerous people access to the world's deadliest weapons. And we've launched an effort to secure all loose nuclear materials within four years. We're better protecting our border, and increasing our preparedness for any future attack or natural disaster. We're building new partnerships around the world to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda and its affiliates. And we have renewed American diplomacy so that we once again have the strength and standing to truly lead the world.
These steps are all critical to keeping America secure. But I believe with every fiber of my being that in the long run we also cannot keep this country safe unless we enlist the power of our most fundamental values. The documents that we hold in this very hall -- the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights -- these are not simply words written into aging parchment. They are the foundation of liberty and justice in this country, and a light that shines for all who seek freedom, fairness, equality, and dignity around the world.
I stand here today as someone whose own life was made possible by these documents. My father came to these shores in search of the promise that they offered. My mother made me rise before dawn to learn their truths when I lived as a child in a foreign land. My own American journey was paved by generations of citizens who gave meaning to those simple words -- "to form a more perfect union." I've studied the Constitution as a student, I've taught it as a teacher, I've been bound by it as a lawyer and a legislator. I took an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution as Commander-in-Chief, and as a citizen, I know that we must never, ever, turn our back on its enduring principles for expedience sake.
I make this claim not simply as a matter of idealism. We uphold our most cherished values not only because doing so is right, but because it strengthens our country and it keeps us safe. Time and again, our values have been our best national security asset -- in war and peace; in times of ease and in eras of upheaval.
Fidelity to our values is the reason why the United States of America grew from a small string of colonies under the writ of an empire to the strongest nation in the world.
It's the reason why enemy soldiers have surrendered to us in battle, knowing they'd receive better treatment from America's Armed Forces than from their own government.
It's the reason why America has benefitted from strong alliances that amplified our power, and drawn a sharp, moral contrast with our adversaries.
It's the reason why we've been able to overpower the iron fist of fascism and outlast the iron curtain of communism, and enlist free nations and free peoples everywhere in the common cause and common effort of liberty.

(President Barack Obama, standing before the U.S. Constitution, delivers an address on national security,
Thursday, May 21, 2009 at the National Archives. Official White House photo by Pete Souza.)
The President summarized what he believes happened in recent years:
And during this season of fear, too many of us -- Democrats and Republicans, politicians, journalists, and citizens -- fell silent.
In other words, we went off course. And this is not my assessment alone. It was an assessment that was shared by the American people who nominated candidates for President from both major parties who, despite our many differences, called for a new approach -- one that rejected torture and one that recognized the imperative of closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay.
He recounted and explained the decisions he has made as President to date in that context, discussing his banning of torture, his closing of Guantanamo, and the ordering of a comprehensive review of all cases there. He detailed the rationale of closing the detention facility, noting how deeply it has tarnished America in the war for hearts and minds, and noting that as a result "the existence of Guantanamo likely created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained." He went into detail about the five categories these cases were likely to fall into, closing on what he described as by far the most difficult: "detainees at Guantanamo who cannot be prosecuted yet who pose a clear danger to the American people," including those for whom evidence may have been tainted. He explained that every avenue to prosecute them would be exhausted, and only then would questions of further detainment would have to be addressed with the most thorough Congressional and Judicial oversight. The President went on to directly address the politics that are so often played on these matters:
Now, as our efforts to close Guantanamo move forward, I know that the politics in Congress will be difficult. These are issues that are fodder for 30-second commercials. You can almost picture the direct mail pieces that emerge from any vote on this issue -- designed to frighten the population. I get it. But if we continue to make decisions within a climate of fear, we will make more mistakes. And if we refuse to deal with these issues today, then I guarantee you that they will be an albatross around our efforts to combat terrorism in the future.
I have confidence that the American people are more interested in doing what is right to protect this country than in political posturing. I am not the only person in this city who swore an oath to uphold the Constitution -- so did each and every member of Congress. And together we have a responsibility to enlist our values in the effort to secure our people, and to leave behind the legacy that makes it easier for future Presidents to keep this country safe.
The President spent the latter half of his speech discussing matters of government secrecy, recalling that "whether it was the run-up to the Iraq War or the revelation of secret programs, Americans often felt like part of the story had been unnecessarily withheld from them. That caused suspicion to build up. That leads to a thirst for accountability." Acknowledging that often in such decisions there is not a singular clear cut principle to guide decisions, and almost always there are competing concerns, he made clear that this need not prevent an honest relationship between the American people and their government:
I will never hide the truth because it's uncomfortable. I will deal with Congress and the courts as co-equal branches of government. I will tell the American people what I know and don't know, and when I release something publicly or keep something secret, I will tell you why. (Applause.)
Read the full transcript for the rest.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

PERAB: First Quarterly Meeting

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009 at 9:22 am
PERAB: First Quarterly Meeting
Austan Goolsbee, Staff Director and Chief Economist of the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board, gives us the agenda for the Board’s first official quarterly meeting:

• Watch the meeting streamed live at
[UPDATE: This event has now concluded.]

The first official quarterly meeting of the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board will be today at 9:30am in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. The focus of the meeting will be on energy and green jobs and the board will provide recommendations on how to enhance the strength and competitiveness of the nation’s economy through the creation of a comprehensive energy plan that will generate millions of clean energy jobs.

The purpose of the board is not to work inside the White House, but to be bring a diverse set of perspectives and voices from different parts of the country and different sectors of the economy to bear in the formulation and evaluation of economic policy.

Members have been gathering information, conducting research, and analyzing relevant issues in preparation for the first full board meeting. Individual members are also in regular contact with officials at Treasury, the Federal Reserve, and the White House.

The full meeting will be live streamed on and the board will issue a report that will be posted online following the meeting.


• Paul Volcker, Chairman
• Austan Goolsbee, Staff Director and Chief Economist
• William H. Donaldson, Former Chairman, SEC
• Roger W. Ferguson, Jr., President & CEO, TIAA-CREF
• Robert Wolf, Chairman & CEO, UBS Group Americas
• David F. Swensen, Chief Investment Officer, Yale University
• Mark T. Gallogly, Founder & Managing Partner, Centerbridge Partners L.P.
• Penny Pritzker, Chairman & Founder, Pritzker Realty Group
• John Doerr, Partner, Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers
• Jeff Immelt, Chairman and CEO, GE
• James W. Owens, Chairman and CEO, Caterpillar Inc.
• Monica C. Lozano, Publisher & Chief Executive Officer, La Opinion
• Charles E. Phillips, Jr., President, Oracle Corporation
• Anna Burger, Secretary-Treasurer, SEIU
• Richard L. Trumka, Secretary-Treasurer, AFL-CIO
• Laura D'Andrea Tyson, Dean, Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley

Below is the agenda:

9:30-9:35 Austan Goolsbee welcome and opening statement, Administrative business: bylaws, forming of subgroups, etc.

9:35-9:55 John Doerr presents overview of letter on energy policy: discussion and vote on whether to forward to the President

9:55-10:00 Break

10:00-10:05 President Obama gives overview

10:05-10:35 Discussion of Energy Policy and the Green Economy
A. Potential for green jobs
B. How to make US more competitive in clean technologies
C. What energy policy is needed to help innovation thrive

10:35-10:55 Wider issues of job growth in the economy
A. How to stimulate job growth
B. How to help small business
C. How to unleash credit
D. How to make America more competitive in key sectors

10:55-11:00 President Obama gives closing remarks

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Culture Change on Climate Change

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009 at 2:17 pm
A Culture Change on Climate Change
"For what everyone here believes, even as views differ on many important issues, is that the
status quo is no longer acceptable."
This week the makings of a change in the culture of Washington will be on display, and as the President’s words above indicate there could be no better example than today’s announcement of a breakthrough on fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards. Whereas these issues seemed destined to be the subject of eternal political clashing just last year, today the President was joined on stage by the Presidents, CEOs, or other top executives from Ford, Toyota, General Motors, Honda, Chrysler, BMW AG, Nissan, Mercedez-Benz, Mazda, Volkswagon, and the United Auto Workers to announce a new consensus.
In the course of his remarks, the President made clear that ending America’s dependence on fossil fuels will be one of the greatest challenges the country has faced, and that this is only one of steps already being taken to address it. However, he also made clear that this was a historic day:
Think about this. Consider how much has changed all around us. Think of how much faster our computers have become. Think about how much more productive our workers are. Think about how everything has been transformed by our capacity to see the world as it is, but also to imagine a world as it could be.
That's what's been missing in this debate for too long, and that's why this announcement is so important, for it represents not only a change in policy in Washington but the harbinger of a change in the way business is done in Washington. No longer will we accept the notion that our politics are too small, our nation too divided, our people too weary of broken promises and lost opportunities to take up a historic calling. No longer will we accept anything less than a common effort, made in good faith, to solve our toughest problems.
And that is what this agreement seeks to achieve.
Addressing those concerned about whether these changes would mean a higher cost for their cars, the President explained that any costs would be offset in just three years, and that "over the life of a vehicle, the typical driver would save about $2,800 by getting better gas mileage."
A top auto industry spokesman summed it up in a statement before the event began: "What's significant about the announcement is it launches a new beginning, an era of cooperation. The President has succeeded in bringing three regulatory bodies, 15 states, a dozen automakers and many environmental groups to the table… We're all agreeing to work together on a National Program."
Indeed, leaders from environmental groups were in the audience applauding. One environmental group put it the same way this morning that the President did this afternoon: "Everybody wins." The program covers model year 2012 to model year 2016 and ultimately requires an average fuel economy standard of 35.5 mpg in 2016 with a projected reduction in oil consumption of approximately 1.8 billion barrels over the life of the program. Or, in the President’s words, "more oil than we imported last year from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Libya, and Nigeria combined."
The President was also joined on stage by Carol M. Browner, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, who helped spearhead what she called "an incredible step forward for our country"; EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, who noted that "A supposedly 'unsolvable' problem was solved by unprecedented partnerships"; and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who called the program "the biggest leap in history to make automobiles more fuel efficient."

Secretary Clinton: Text Your Disaster Relief Donation for Pakistan

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009 at 1:11 pm
Secretary Clinton: Text Your Disaster Relief Donation for Pakistan
At her press briefing this morning, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed a worsening humanitarian crisis in Pakistan, announcing a pledge of more than $100 million in humanitarian support. She explained that "Providing this assistance is not only the right thing to do, but we believe it is essential to global security and the security of the United States, and we are prepared to do more as the situation demands."

She also invited the American people to join in the world-wide effort to bring stability to Pakistan:

Now, Americans can use technology to help, as well. Using your cell phones, Americans can text the word "swat" -- to the number 20222 and make a $5 contribution that will help the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees provide tents, clothing, food, and medicine to hundreds of thousands of affected people. And before I came over here, we did that in the State Department. So we are making some of the first donations to this fund.

Streaming at 11:15: Secretary Clinton on Humanitarian aid to Pakistan

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009 at 10:47 am
Streaming at 11:15: Secretary Clinton on Humanitarian aid to Pakistan
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will make an announcement about humanitarian aid to Pakistan today at 11:15AM EDT in the Brady briefing room here at the White House.

· Watch it streamed at
UPDATE: This event has concluded, read details provided by the Press Office:

Background on Secretary Clinton’s announcement of Humanitarian Aid to Pakistan

Today, Secretary Clinton will announce that the United States will supply $110 million in humanitarian aid from the State Department and Defense Department to help Internally Displaced Persons in Pakistan.

Prime Minister Gillani recently appointed Brigadier General Nadeem Ahmad to lead the Pakistani relief effort. General Nadeem’s appointment has been universally praised given how successfully he led relief efforts following the 2005 earthquake in Kashmir.

Here is how the $100 million from State breaks down:

$20 million from the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance to provide family relief kits, tents, FM radios, and generators that will provide light and water.
$26 million for the immediate purchase of wheat, other food, and related items from local sources.
$17 million from Food for Progress for 50,000 tons of wheat arriving in May and June.
$10 million to respond to forthcoming emergency appeals by the United Nations.
$15 million for shipments of food items such as lentils, dried peas, and other basic foodstuffs.
$12 million for an emergency response center for direct humanitarian needs.
In addition, there is $10 million from DOD:

$10 million to be used water trucks, halal food, and large tents with environmental units, such as air conditioning, for hot weather.

Monday, May 18, 2009

“The Common Goal is Peace.”

Monday, May 18th, 2009 at 5:10 pm
“The Common Goal is Peace.”
The President dedicated his day today to a one-on-one meeting, an expanded meeting, and a working lunch with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel. Speaking to the press afterwards, they gave the opening remarks below before taking questions:

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, listen, I first of all want to thank Prime Minister Netanyahu for making this visit. I think we had a extraordinarily productive series of conversations, not only between the two of us but also at the staff and agency levels.

Obviously this reflects the extraordinary relationship, the special relationship between the United States and Israel. It is a stalwart ally of the United States. We have historical ties, emotional ties. As the only true democracy of the Middle East it is a source of admiration and inspiration for the American people.

I have said from the outset that when it comes to my policies towards Israel and the Middle East that Israel’s security is paramount, and I repeated that to Prime Minister Netanyahu. It is in U.S. national security interests to assure that Israel’s security as an independent Jewish state is maintained.

One of the areas that we discussed is the deepening concern
around the potential pursuit of a nuclear weapon by Iran. It’s something the Prime Minister has been very vocal in his concerns about, but is a concern that is shared by his countrymen and women across the political spectrum.

I indicated to him the view of our administration, that Iran is a country of extraordinary history and extraordinary potential, that we want them to be a full-fledged member of the international community and be in a position to provide opportunities and prosperity for their people, but that the way to achieve those goals is not through the pursuit of a nuclear weapon. And I indicated to Prime Minister Netanyahu in private what I have said publicly, which is that Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon would not only be a threat to Israel and a threat to the United States, but would be profoundly destabilizing in the international community as a whole and could set off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that would be extraordinarily dangerous for all concerned, including for Iran.

We are engaged in a process to reach out to Iran and persuade them that it is not in their interest to pursue a nuclear weapon and that they should change course. But I assured the Prime Minister that we are not foreclosing a range of steps, including much stronger international sanctions, in assuring that Iran understands that we are serious. And obviously the Prime Minister emphasized his seriousness around this issue as well -- I’ll allow him to speak for himself on that subject.

We also had an extensive discussion about the possibilities of restarting serious negotiations on the issue of Israel and the Palestinians. I have said before and I will repeat again that it is I believe in the interest not only of the Palestinians, but also the Israelis and the United States and the international community to achieve a two-state solution in which Israelis and Palestinians are living side by side in peace and security.

We have seen progress stalled on this front, and I suggested to the Prime Minister that he has an historic opportunity to get a serious movement on this issue during his tenure. That means that all the parties involved have to take seriously obligations that they’ve previously agreed to. Those obligations were outlined in the road map; they were discussed extensively in Annapolis. And I think that we can -- there is no reason why we should not seize this opportunity and this moment for all the parties concerned to take seriously those obligations and to move forward in a way that assures Israel’s security, that stops the terrorist attacks that have been such a source of pain and hardship, that we can stop rocket attacks on Israel; but that also allow Palestinians to govern themselves as an independent state, that allows economic development to take place, that allows them to make serious progress in meeting the aspirations of their people.

And I am confident that in the days, weeks and months to come we are going to be able to make progress on that issue.

So let me just summarize by saying that I think Prime Minister Netanyahu has the benefit of having served as Prime Minister previously. He has both youth and wisdom --

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: I’ll dispute youth, but -- (laughter.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: -- and I think is in a position to achieve the security objectives of Israel, but also bring about historic peace. And I’m confident that he’s going to seize this moment. And the United States is going to do everything we can to be constructive, effective partners in this process.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: President Obama, thank you. Thank you for your friendship to Israel and your friendship to me. You’re a great leader -- a great leader of the United States, a great leader of the world, a great friend of Israel, and someone who is acutely cognizant of our security concerns. And the entire people of Israel appreciate it, and I speak on their behalf.

We met before, but this is the first time that we’re meeting as President and Prime Minister. So I was particularly pleased at your reaffirmation of the special relationship between Israel and the United States. We share the same goals and we face the same threats. The common goal is peace. Everybody in Israel, as in the United States, wants peace. The common threat we face are terrorist regimes and organizations that seek to undermine the peace and endanger both our peoples.

In this context, the worst danger we face is that Iran would develop nuclear military capabilities. Iran openly calls for our destruction, which is unacceptable by any standard. It threatens the moderate Arab regimes in the Middle East. It threatens U.S. interests worldwide. But if Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons, it could give a nuclear umbrella to terrorists, or worse, it could actually give terrorists nuclear weapons. And that would put us all in great peril.

So in that context, I very much appreciate, Mr. President, your firm commitment to ensure that Iran does not develop nuclear military capability, and also your statement that you’re leaving all options on the table.

I share with you very much the desire to move the peace process forward. And I want to start peace negotiations with the Palestinians immediately. I would like to broaden the circle of peace to include others in the Arab world, if we could, Mr. President, so -- this (inaudible) that one shouldn’t let go, maybe peace with the entire Arab world.

I want to make it clear that we don’t want to govern the Palestinians. We want to live in peace with them. We want them to govern themselves, absent a handful of powers that could endanger the state of Israel. And for this there has to be a clear goal. The goal has to be an end to conflict. There will have to be compromises by Israelis and Palestinians alike. We’re ready to do our share. We hope the Palestinians will do their share, as well. If we resume negotiations, as we plan to do, then I think that the Palestinians will have to recognize Israel as a Jewish state; will have to also enable Israel to have the means to defend itself. And if those conditions are met, Israel’s security conditions are met, and there’s recognition of Israel’s legitimacy, its permanent legitimacy, then I think we can envision an arrangement where Palestinians and Israelis live side by side in dignity, in security, and in peace.

And I look forward, Mr. President, to working with you, a true friend of Israel, to the achievement of our common goals, which are security, prosperity, and above all, peace.

“Inflection Point”

Monday, May 18th, 2009 at 4:11 pm
“Inflection Point”
This morning, Vice President Biden gave the commencement address at Wake Forest University, a slot originally scheduled for Tim Russert. The Vice President spoke at length about Russert, saying "Tim Russert enlivened and enriched our debate. He gave it meaning. He gave it substance. Along the way he made all of our lives richer." The Vice President was still wistful as he turned towards the world the graduates were inheriting:
William Butler Yeats was right. Tim used to always kid me about quoting Irish poets. He thought I quoted them because I was Irish. That's not the reason. I quote Irish poets because they're the best poets. (Laughter.)
There's a great line in one of Yeats' poems about the first rising in Ireland. It's called Easter Sunday, 1916. And the line is more applicable to your generation than it was to his Ireland in 1960. And he said: All changed, changed utterly. A terrible beauty has been born.
When I graduated, all had not changed utterly yet. Today, it has. And in the last 12 to 15 years, a terrible beauty has been born. It's a different world out there than it has been any time in the last millennia. But we have an opportunity to make it beautiful, because it is in motion. We have an opportunity to change it. But absent our leadership, it will continue to careen down the path we're going now. And that could be terrible. That, folks, is an inflection point.

Engagement, Women, Health Care, and Yarn

Monday, May 18th, 2009 at 1:12 pm
Engagement, Women, Health Care, and Yarn
Posted by Christina M. Tchen, Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement

Welcome to the Office of Public Engagement! Those of you who know Washington may have known about the Office of Public Liaison, which has been the office in the White House since the Nixon Administration that has connected the White House with public interest groups and constituencies based here in DC. Since the Inauguration, I have been the Director of the Office of Public Liaison, and our staff has had a busy hundred days reaching out to local and national groups across over four dozen different areas. But President Obama, as a community organizer himself, has always recognized the importance of engaging grass roots and grass tops, and wants this White House to be engaged in a two-way conversation with people across the country. As the President explained in the video announcing our "relaunch," we are renaming and repurposing ourselves as the Office of Public Engagement to reflect that mission – let me give you an example from an event just last week.

As America celebrated National Women’s Health Week, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and I hosted a round table discussion at Stitch DC, a local yarn store here in Washington. We were joined by 7 women small business owners who explained firsthand how skyrocketing costs are making it nearly impossible for small businesses to provide health care benefits for employees and their families.

(Photo credit: Chris Smith, Department of Health and Human Services)

Marie Connolly, who owns Stitch, discussed how difficult it was to lose employees because she was not able to offer them health care coverage. As is the case with many small business owners, Ms. Connolly was forced to choose between not providing health care insurance for her employees in order to remain competitive, or providing such benefits and risk going out of business altogether. Marie has health insurance for baby Oona (who joined us at the meeting) and her other children through her husband’s plan. Nora Connolly, Marie’s sister and business partner, recently had a harrowing health scare where she was tested for a possibly serious condition, without any health insurance. Luckily, she was fine.

Unfortunately, her situation is not unique for small business owners around the country. Angela Bradley, a small business owner from Maryland, related a similar story about being unable to provide health care to employees due to the high expense of doing so. Bradley also has lost workers to large businesses, such as Safeway, better positioned to provide health care insurance for its employees. We also heard from Leah Daniels, owner of a Washington DC cookware store, who shared that she has never worked in a job that offers health care, and currently cannot pay for health care for herself or any of her 4 employees.

(Photo credit: Chris Smith, Department of Health and Human Services)

These are just three among numerous similar stories we heard around the table which demonstrate that small businesses are struggling from high health care costs. These stories show that the health care system in America needs to be reformed to ease the burden on small businesses, and to ensure that the workers in this country, and their families, receive the health care coverage they need.

As Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls, I was also interested in hearing about the effects skyrocketing health care costs have on these women and their families. It is well-documented that women are disproportionately adversely impacted by our broken health care system -– HHS just released a new report on this topic, and as always visit for more information. President Obama and the White House Council on Women and Girls are committed to improving the health of all women and we know that health care reform is essential to achieving that goal.

As President Obama has said, this office serves as the front door to the White House, and we will be engaging all of you in the work it will take to change this country. The meeting I had with women small business owners this week is one of many important conversations we’ll be holding. Please stay tuned for additional blogs from me and the rest of the Office of Public Engagement staff, as we will be listening to and sharing with you the stories that we are hearing around the country.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Health Care Reform: “Urgency and Determination”

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009 at 1:12 pm
Health Care Reform: “Urgency and Determination”

This morning the President, Speaker Pelosi, and Leadership from the House of Representatives emerged from a meeting together with a new target on moving forward with health reform: pass legislation through the House by July 31st. The President spoke to the press after the Speaker in the South Drive at the Oval Office, telling them that "this is a gorgeous day and an encouraging day":
On health care, as Speaker Pelosi just mentioned, the House is working to pass a comprehensive health care reform bill by July 31st, before they head out for the August recess. And that's the kind of urgency and determination that we need to achieve what I believe will be historic legislation.
As I've said before, and as all Americans know, our health care system is broken. It's unsustainable for families, for businesses. It is unsustainable for the federal government and state governments.
We've had a lot of discussions in this town about deficits and people across the political spectrum like to throw barbs back and forth about debt and deficits. The fact of the matter is the most significant driver by far of our long-term debt and our long-term deficits is ever-escalating health care costs. And if we don't reform how health care is delivered in this country, then we are not going to be able to get a handle on that.
Now, in addition to the implications for the federal budget, obviously we're also thinking about the millions of American families out there who are struggling to pay premiums that have doubled over the last decade -- rising four times the rate of their wages -- and 46 million Americans who don't have any health insurance at all.

(President Barack Obama meets with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and House
Education and Labor Committee Chair Rep. George Miller, in the Oval Office Wednesday, May 13, 2009.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Rep. Henry Waxman, and House Ways and Means Committee
Chair Rep. Charlie Rangel also attended the meeting but are not in the photo.
Official White house Photo by Pete Souza.)
The President also re-emphasized the necessity of getting final legislation passed by both the House and the Senate and signed this year. In closing, the President laid out his basic principles:
In the coming weeks and months, I believe that the House and Senate will be engaged in a difficult issue, and I'm committed to building a transparent process to get this moving. But whatever plans emerge, both from the House and the Senate, I do believe that they've got to uphold three basic principles: first, that the rising cost of health care has to be brought down; second, that Americans have to be able to choose their own doctor and their own plan; and third, all Americans have to have quality, affordable health care.
UPDATE: The President also just sent out his first email to those who have signed up for updates here at If you have not signed up yet, do so here to get alerts on health care and other important issues. Read today’s email below:
Good afternoon,
You are receiving this email because you signed up at My staff and I plan to use these messages as a way to directly communicate about important issues and opportunities, and today I have some encouraging updates about health care reform.
The Vice President and I just met with leaders from the House of Representatives and received their commitment to pass a comprehensive health care reform bill by July 31.
We also have an unprecedented commitment from health care industry leaders, many of whom opposed health reform in the past. Monday, I met with some of these health care stakeholders, and they pledged to do their part to reduce the health care spending growth rate, saving more than two trillion dollars over the next ten years -- around $2,500 for each American family. Then on Tuesday, leaders from some of America's top companies came to the White House to showcase innovative ways to reduce health care costs by improving the health of their workers.
Now the House and Senate are beginning a critical debate that will determine the health of our nation's economy and its families. This process should be transparent and inclusive and its product must drive down costs, assure quality and affordable health care for everyone, and guarantee all of us a choice of doctors and plans.
Reforming health care should also involve you. Think of other people who may want to stay up to date on health care reform and other national issues and tell them to join us here:
Health care reform can't come soon enough. We spend more on health care than any country, but families continue to struggle with skyrocketing premiums and nearly 46 million are without insurance entirely. It is a priority for the American people and a pillar of the new foundation we are seeking to build for our economy.
We'll continue to keep you posted about this and other important issues.
Thank you,
Barack Obama
P.S. If you'd like to get more in-depth information about health reform and how you can participate, be sure to visit

Streaming Now: Food Safety Working Group Listening Session

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009 at 8:34 am
Streaming Now: Food Safety Working Group Listening Session – Give Your Suggestions
[UPDATE: The live-stream has concluded, we will keep you updated on the reports back from the rest of the day. In the meantime, see the Food Safety Working Group's new website.]

Starting at 9:00 AM Eastern:
Watch the opening of the Food Safety Working Group Listening Session at, kicked off by Secretary Sebelius and Secretary Vilsack, the co-chairs of the Working Group.
Have a suggestion for reforming food safety policy? Drop it in our comment form, or let the Working Group know on twitter (hashtag #WHsafefood) or at our Facebook page.
In his March 14th Weekly Address, the President announced the creation of the Food Safety Working Group, chaired by the Secretaries of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture. As the President said, the working group "will bring together cabinet secretaries and senior officials to advise me on how we can upgrade our food safety laws for the 21st century; foster coordination throughout government; and ensure that we are not just designing laws that will keep the American people safe, but enforcing them."
The White House Listening Session today is intended as an opportunity to engage stakeholders in a conversation to help shape the principles guiding reform. The opening remarks will be followed by smaller group breakout sessions with Administration and Congressional staff and stakeholders to discuss how to address major challenges and opportunities in this area. Along with the ideas and exchanges from the breakouts, Working Group staff will be sifting through your comments from all of the channels above to find valuable ideas and get a hint of what people interested in this topic are thinking.

Poetry, Music and Spoken Word

Poetry, Music and Spoken Word
Tonight, the President and the First Lady will host an evening celebrating poetry, music and the spoken word. This event is designed around the theme of dialogue, showing how dialogue is important in every aspect of who we are as Americans and as human beings, and demonstrating how communication is a constant throughout the ages. The hope is also that this evening's gathering helps ensure that all voices are heard, particularly voices that are often not heard. We are fortunate to have a wide variety of upcoming and legendary performers such as Joshua Bennett, James Earl Jones, Eric Lewis, Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio, Mayda Del Valle and Esperanza Spalding.

We have invited students from American, Gallaudet, Georgetown, and Howard Universities to participate in the event. And of course we also invite you to join us, as we're streaming the event live at 7pm on

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

OMB Director Orszag Corrects the Record on the OMB & EPA

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009 at 4:31 pm
OMB Director Orszag Corrects the Record on the OMB & EPA
In a post entitled "Clearing the Air":
Media reports today are suggesting that OMB has found fault with EPA’s proposed finding that emissions of greenhouse gases from motor vehicles contribute to air pollution that endangers public health and welfare. Any reports suggesting that OMB was opposed to the finding are unfounded.

The quotations circulating in the press are from a document in which OMB simply collated and collected disparate comments from various agencies during the inter-agency review process of the proposed finding. These collected comments were not necessarily internally consistent, since they came from multiple sources, and they do not necessarily represent the views of either OMB or the Administration. In other words, we simply receive comments from various agencies and pass them along to EPA for consideration, regardless of the substantive merit of those comments. In general, passing along these types of comments to an agency proposing a finding often helps to improve the quality of the notice.

Perhaps more importantly, OMB concluded review of the preliminary finding several weeks ago, which then allowed EPA to move forward with the proposed finding. As I wrote on this blog on April 17, the "proposed finding is carefully rooted in both law and science." I also noted: "By itself, the EPA’s proposed finding imposes no regulation. (Indeed, by itself, it requires nothing at all.) If and when the endangerment finding is made final, the EPA will turn to the question whether and how to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from new automobiles."

The bottom line is that OMB would have not concluded review, which allows the finding to move forward, if we had concerns about whether EPA’s finding was consistent with either the law or the underlying science. The press reports to the contrary are simply false.
Yet another reason to check Director Orszag’s blog regularly.

Addressing Health Care Costs From All Angles

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009 at 3:41 pm
Addressing Health Care Costs From All Angles
Yesterday, the President held a landmark meeting with a wide array of leaders in the health care field – insurance companies, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, medical device manufacturers, and providers –who pledged to work together to control costs in health care to the tune of $2 trillion in savings over the next ten years. Today, the President held another meeting with five employers, a state health department, and a union to discuss innovative ideas that are being implemented in the workplace to improve the health of workers and reduce the rising rate of health care spending.

(President Barack Obama listens to Safeway President and Chief Executive Officer Steve Burd during a meeting
with business leaders in the Roosevelt Room of the White House to discuss employer health care costs,
May 12, 2009. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.)
The President directed the Office of Personnel Management to work with the Office of Health Reform, the National Economic Council, the Department of Labor, and the Office of Management and Budget to examine successful employer wellness and prevention practices that lower health care costs and improve employees’ health, and to explore possibilities of developing a plan for federal employees and their workplaces.

More generally, the discussion was designed to expand on the theme that the health care system in America needs comprehensive reform, including a much greater focus on wellness and prevention. As the President stated in his remarks afterwards, "what we've done here today is to gather together some of these stories and best practices to make sure that they are going to be informing the health care reform discussions that take place here in Washington." If these companies have been able to implement proven measures in the private sector, "there’s no reason why we can’t do that for the country as a whole." The White House fact sheet details the attendees and the kinds of practices they have been implementing:
H.E.R.E.I.U. Welfare Fund (Dr. Jerry Reeves, Chief Medical Officer): The Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union (H.E.R.E.I.U.) Welfare Fund offers multi-employer health insurance coverage for 90,000 eligible employees and their family members. It redesigned its health benefits and health plan administration and implemented wellness and chronic disease management programs to generate millions of dollars in overall savings. The H.E.R.E.I.U. Welfare Fund has also aligned incentives with desired behaviors by informing patients which physicians were high-performing, providing performance bonuses to high-performing doctors, and giving pregnant patients incentives to receive prenatal care. These initiatives have effectively engaged workers to improve their health through widespread use of employee risk assessments, risk-based interventions, and behavior change programs. The H.E.RE.I.U. Welfare Fund also has worksite pharmacies that give out free generic drugs for chronic conditions and provide special care centers for workers and family members who have high cost and complex chronic conditions.
Johnson & Johnson (Bill Weldon, Chairman of the Board and CEO): Johnson & Johnson has one of the longest-running workplace health programs in the United States. The company has a sophisticated set of disease management and prevention interventions, risk-based incentives, pedometers/exercise goals, treadmills available for offices, and other health related programs. According to its recent employee health scorecard for United States employees, at the end of 2007, Johnson & Johnson continued to make health improvement progress and its health initiatives avoided an estimated $15.9 million in health care costs in 2007. As well, from the late 1990s to 2006 in the United States, smoking declined from 12 percent of its workforce to four percent, high blood pressure dropped from 14 percent to six percent, and high cholesterol went from 19 percent to six percent. A 2002 Rand study found that Johnson & Johnson’s initiatives had improved employee health and employees had saved an average of $225 per year because of a reduced need for doctor visits.
Microsoft (Cecily Hall, Director of US Benefits): Microsoft creates personalized health goals and has a staff of doctors that makes house calls to avoid emergency room visits. Its obesity program assigns employees to a primary care doctor, behavior health specialist, and nutritionist, and Microsoft provides free meals consistent with diet recommendations to eat on site or to take home. The result of its initiatives has been very low premium growth and a healthier workforce than other companies with workers of similar age. Microsoft has been continually recognized as one of Fortune’s 100 Best Places to Work.
Ohio Department of Health (Dr. Alvin Jackson, Director of Ohio Department of Health): The State of Ohio created a "Take Charge! Live Well!" program to reduce health risk factors for state workers, with more than 50 percent of eligible workers participating. Until 2005, health care programs for state employees in Ohio focused on disease management and improving the health of high-risk groups. After reviewing data, the state discovered that while 27 percent of total health care costs were related to high-risk employees, 44 percent of costs were associated with preventable conditions. Ohio’s "Take Charge! Live Well!" comprehensive health management program includes online and telephone health assessments, health coaching, online health improvement program, on-site employee health screenings (offered at about 40 locations), preventive care, chronic condition management, and monetary incentives of up to $100 in incentive payments, or $200 when spouses are enrolled, if employees complete a health assessment and participate in a health improvement program.
Pitney Bowes (Murray Martin, Chairman of the Board, President, and CEO): Pitney Bowes offers onsite comprehensive health clinics and fitness centers, redesigned food merchandizing and prices in their cafeterias, incentives management for the health of their employees, and low cost drugs for chronic diseases. The company has also adopted infection control practices and offers low-cost or no-cost preventive screenings and immunizations on-site and off-site. The company’s initiatives and its commitment to increase employee participation in managing their own health have resulted in $40 million in savings over the last nine years.
REI (Sally Jewell, President and CEO): REI offers health benefits to all of its full and part-time workers and has been continually recognized as one of Fortune’s 100 Best Places to Work. The company offers employees support for outdoor activities ranging from outdoor gear and apparel discounts, free rentals, and outdoor challenge grants. REI employees can earn extra healthy lifestyle dollars to put toward the cost of coverage by engaging in specific "good behaviors," such as getting regular aerobic exercise. REI also supports personal health goals and provides equipment support, discounts, and time off so employees can achieve their goals.
Safeway (Steve Burd, President and CEO): Safeway has innovated in benefit design to reward employees’ healthy behaviors and improve adherence to recommended treatments for chronic diseases. Over 74 percent of Safeway’s 30,000 nonunion workers have signed up for its "Healthy Measures" program. Under this program, participants undergo screening tests (including cholesterol, blood pressure, and weight control), and employees who score well pay lower health premiums. Safeway has saved millions by making employees accountable for their weight, smoking, cholesterol, and blood pressure. The company also has a free fitness center at its headquarters, offers gym membership discounts, and provides a 24-hour nurse health hotline. In 2006, Safeway’s efforts reduced their total health care spending by 13 percent, and employees who signed up have saved more than 20 percent on their premiums.