From the White House

Weekly Address: President Obama – Building on America’s Economic Recovery

The President’s Weekly Address post is also an Open News Thread. Feel free to share other news stories in the comments.

From the White HouseWeekly Address

In this week’s address, the President discussed his return to Elkhart, Indiana, the first town he visited as President and one that was among the hardest-hit by the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes. Seven years later, unemployment in Elkhart has fallen from a high of nearly 20 percent to around four percent; more families are back on sturdy ground; more are covered by health insurance; and more students are graduating from high school. Elkhart is symbolic of America’s recovery, and that progress is due to the sacrifices of hardworking Americans and a series of smart decisions the President made early in his presidency, such as rescuing the auto industry, helping families refinance their homes, and investing in job training, high-tech manufacturing, clean energy, and the infrastructure that creates good new jobs. The President emphasized that we must continue to come together around common economic goals and push back against policies that protect powerful interests instead of working Americans. That’s the choice America will make this year, and the President believes the future will be brighter if this country works together to build on the progress this country has made in the months and years ahead.

President Obama: “America’s economy is the strongest, most durable economy in the world”

President Obama traveled to Elkhart Indiana to speak about the economy.

President Obama:

[O]ne of the reasons we’re told this has been an unusual election year is because people are anxious and uncertain about the economy. And our politics are a natural place to channel that frustration. So I wanted to come to the heartland, to the Midwest, back to close to my hometown to talk about that anxiety, that economic anxiety, and what I think it means. And what I’ve got to say really boils down to two points — although I’m going to take a long time making these two points. (Laughter.)

Number one: America’s economy is not just better than it was eight years ago — it is the strongest, most durable economy in the world. That’s point number one.

Point number two: We can make it even stronger, and expand opportunity for even more people. But to do that, we have to be honest about what our real challenges are, and we’ve got to make some smart decisions going forward. […]

… if you watch the talking heads on TV, they all say, the reason that folks are angry is because nobody has paid enough attention to the plight of working Americans in communities like these. That’s what they say.

Now, look, I’m the first to admit my presidency hasn’t fixed everything. We’ve had setbacks. We’ve had false starts. We’ve, frankly, been stuck with a Congress recently that’s opposed pretty much everything that we’ve tried to do.

Now, where we haven’t finished the job, where folks have good reason to feel anxious, is addressing some of the longer-term trends in the economy — that started long before I was elected — that make working families feel less secure. These are trends that have been happening for decades now and that we’ve got to do more to reverse. Let me be clear about what those are.

Despite the drop in unemployment, wages are still growing too slowly, and that makes it harder to pay for college or save for retirement. (Applause.) Inequality is still too high. The gap between rich and poor is bigger now than it’s been just about any time since the 1920s. The rise of global competition and automation of more and more jobs; the race of technology — all these trends have left many workers behind, and they’ve let a few at the top collect extraordinary wealth and influence like never before. And that kind of changes our politics. So all these trends make it easy for people to feel that somehow the system is rigged and that the American Dream is increasingly hard to reach for ordinary folks. And there are plenty of politicians that are preying on that frustration for headlines and for votes.

The president goes right at Republican economics and the politics of fear:

So let me be as straight as I can be about the choice of economic policies that you are going to face. And I’m going to start with the story that not every Republican but most Republican candidates up and down the ticket are telling. And it goes something like this — and I think this is pretty fair, and if you don’t, then you can look it up. So their basic story is: America’s working class, America’s middle class — families like yours — have been victimized by a big, bloated federal government run by a bunch of left-wing elitists like me. And the government is taking your hard-earned tax dollars and it’s giving them to freeloaders and welfare cheats. And we’re strangling business with endless regulations. And this federal government is letting immigrants and foreigners steal whatever jobs Obamacare hasn’t killed yet. (Laughter.) […]

… if what they were saying were true, I suppose it would make sense to run on a platform of just rolling back everything we’ve done over these past seven and a half years, and happy days would be here again. If what they were saying was true, then just being against whatever it is that we’ve done might make sense. But what they’re saying isn’t true. And if we’re going to fix what’s really wrong with the economy, we’ve got to understand that.

President Obama: “We must define our nations not by our capacity to destroy, but by what we build.”

On Friday, President Obama visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial in Japan to lay a wreath, mourn the dead, and offer his thoughts on war and nuclear weapons.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

Seventy-one years ago, on a bright, cloudless morning, death fell from the sky and the world was changed. A flash of light and a wall of fire destroyed a city and demonstrated that mankind possessed the means to destroy itself. […]

We must change our mindset about war itself –- to prevent conflict through diplomacy, and strive to end conflicts after they’ve begun; to see our growing interdependence as a cause for peaceful cooperation and not violent competition; to define our nations not by our capacity to destroy, but by what we build.

And perhaps above all, we must reimagine our connection to one another as members of one human race. For this, too, is what makes our species unique. We’re not bound by genetic code to repeat the mistakes of the past. We can learn. We can choose. We can tell our children a different story –- one that describes a common humanity; one that makes war less likely and cruelty less easily accepted. […]

The world was forever changed here. But today, the children of this city will go through their day in peace. What a precious thing that is. It is worth protecting, and then extending to every child. That is the future we can choose -– a future in which Hiroshima and Nagasaki are known not as the dawn of atomic warfare, but as the start of our own moral awakening.

He left this note in the visitors book:

Full text of the president’s and Prime Minister Abe’s remarks below.

Weekly Address: President Obama – Expanding Overtime Pay

The President’s Weekly Address post is also an Open News Thread. Feel free to share other news stories in the comments.

From the White HouseWeekly Address

In this week’s address, President Obama discussed one of the single most important steps to help grow middle-class wages – expanding the number of workers who are eligible for the overtime that they have earned. Every week, millions of Americans work more than 40 hours but do not receive the overtime pay they deserve. This week, the Department of Labor finalized a rule to extend overtime protections to 4.2 million more Americans, which will boost wages for working Americans by $12 billion over the next 10 years. This action will not only mean a better life for more American families, but will also strengthen our economy across the board. The President emphasized that he will continue to build an economy where everyone gets a fair shot to get ahead.

Good Government: New Overtime Pay Rules Going Into Effect in December

Good government brought to you by the Democratic administration of President Barack Obama and his Labor Secretary, Tom Perez.

Today, the administration will announce new overtime pay rules that will insure that millions of middle-income Americans get paid for the hours they work.

It is pretty simple, as explained by this short video:

Every week, millions of Americans work more than 40 hours a week but do not receive the overtime pay they have earned. Today, the Department of Labor will be finalizing a rule to fix that by updating overtime protections for workers.

In total, the new rule is expected to extend overtime protections to 4.2 million more Americans who are not currently eligible under federal law, and it is expected to boost wages for workers by $12 billion over the next 10 years.

FACT SHEET: Growing Middle Class Paychecks and Helping Working Families Get Ahead By Expanding Overtime Pay

“We’re making more workers eligible for the overtime that you’ve earned. And it’s one of the single most important steps we can take to help grow middle-class wages.”
– President Barack Obama, La Crosse, WI, July 2, 2015

From the Moose Archives: Good Government: Updating Fair Labor Standards
(La Crosse WI – July 2, 2015 – Speech and Transcript)

President Obama: “The ‘good old days’ weren’t that great”

On Sunday, President Obama addressed graduates and guests at the Rutgers University commencement.

President Obama Delivers the Rutgers University Commencement Address, May 15, 2016, Piscataway Township, NJ

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

The “good old days” weren’t that great. Yes, there have been some stretches in our history where the economy grew much faster, or when government ran more smoothly. There were moments when, immediately after World War II, for example, or the end of the Cold War, when the world bent more easily to our will. But those are sporadic, those moments, those episodes. In fact, by almost every measure, America is better, and the world is better, than it was 50 years ago, or 30 years ago, or even eight years ago. (Applause.)

… set aside 150 years ago, pre-Civil War — there’s a whole bunch of stuff there we could talk about. Set aside life in the ‘50s, when women and people of color were systematically excluded from big chunks of American life. […]

Since I graduated, crime rates, teenage pregnancy, the share of Americans living in poverty — they’re all down. The share of Americans with college educations have gone way up. Our life expectancy has, as well. Blacks and Latinos have risen up the ranks in business and politics. (Applause.) More women are in the workforce. (Applause.) …

Meanwhile, in the eight years since most of you started high school, we’re also better off. You and your fellow graduates are entering the job market with better prospects than any time since 2007. Twenty million more Americans know the financial security of health insurance. We’re less dependent on foreign oil. We’ve doubled the production of clean energy. We have cut the high school dropout rate. We’ve cut the deficit by two-thirds. Marriage equality is the law of the land. (Applause.)

And just as America is better, the world is better than when I graduated. Since I graduated, an Iron Curtain fell, apartheid ended. There’s more democracy. We virtually eliminated certain diseases like polio. We’ve cut extreme poverty drastically. We’ve cut infant mortality by an enormous amount. (Applause.)

Now, I say all these things not to make you complacent. We’ve got a bunch of big problems to solve. But I say it to point out that change has been a constant in our history. And the reason America is better is because we didn’t look backwards we didn’t fear the future. We seized the future and made it our own. And that’s exactly why it’s always been young people like you that have brought about big change — because you don’t fear the future.

The president also went right at the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party, actually, the entire party – so many of them take pride in their embrace of ignorance:

But if you were listening to today’s political debate, you might wonder where this strain of anti-intellectualism came from. (Applause.) So, Class of 2016, let me be as clear as I can be. In politics and in life, ignorance is not a virtue. (Applause.) It’s not cool to not know what you’re talking about. (Applause.) That’s not keeping it real, or telling it like it is. (Laughter.) That’s not challenging political correctness. That’s just not knowing what you’re talking about. (Applause.) And yet, we’ve become confused about this. […]

… when our leaders express a disdain for facts, when they’re not held accountable for repeating falsehoods and just making stuff up, while actual experts are dismissed as elitists, then we’ve got a problem. (Applause.)

And an important recurring theme from President Obama this year: the need to vote in order to have a say in our democracy:

… We can raise the minimum wage. (Applause.) We can modernize our infrastructure. We can invest in early childhood education. We can make college more affordable. (Applause.) We can close tax loopholes on hedge fund managers and take that money and give tax breaks to help families with child care or retirement. …

Now, the reason some of these things have not happened, even though the majority of people approve of them, is really simple. It’s not because I wasn’t proposing them. It wasn’t because the facts and the evidence showed they wouldn’t work. It was because a huge chunk of Americans, especially young people, do not vote.

In 2014, voter turnout was the lowest since World War II. Fewer than one in five young people showed up to vote — 2014. And the four who stayed home determined the course of this country just as much as the single one who voted. Because apathy has consequences. It determines who our Congress is. It determines what policies they prioritize. It even, for example, determines whether a really highly qualified Supreme Court nominee receives the courtesy of a hearing and a vote in the United States Senate. (Applause.) […]

And, yes, big money in politics is a huge problem. We’ve got to reduce its influence. Yes, special interests and lobbyists have disproportionate access to the corridors of power. But, contrary to what we hear sometimes from both the left as well as the right, the system isn’t as rigged as you think, and it certainly is not as hopeless as you think. Politicians care about being elected, and they especially care about being reelected. And if you vote and you elect a majority that represents your views, you will get what you want. And if you opt out, or stop paying attention, you won’t. It’s that simple. (Applause.) It’s not that complicated.

Full text of transcript is below.

Weekly Address: President Obama – A Conversation About Addiction

The President’s Weekly Address post is also an Open News Thread. Feel free to share other news stories in the comments.

From the White HouseWeekly Address

In this week’s address, Grammy Award-winning artist Macklemore joined President Obama to discuss a disease that affects far too many Americans: addiction. Macklemore opened up about his own experience, his life in recovery, and the loss of a friend who overdosed on prescription drugs at a young age – emphasizing that substance use disorder affects people from all walks of life. To underscore the importance of Macklemore’s story, the President noted that we can help those suffering in private by making the conversation public, and we should do everything we can to make treatment available to everyone who needs it. The President noted that while the House of Representatives passed several bills on opioids this week, without more funding to expand treatment, these bills will not be enough to provide Americans the help they need. President Obama said there is hope, and that when we treat substance use disorder as the public health problem it is, more people will get the help they need. If you are looking for treatment in your area, call 1-800-662-HELP.

President Obama: “Democracy requires compromise”

President Obama spoke to the 2016 graduating class at Howard University on Saturday in what will likely be considered one of his most significant speeches. It was a call to not only the Howard graduates but to all young people in America to embrace these times and work to advance small d democracy.

President Obama on effecting change:

… change requires more than just speaking out — it requires listening, as well. In particular, it requires listening to those with whom you disagree, and being prepared to compromise. […]

The point is, you need allies in a democracy. That’s just the way it is. It can be frustrating and it can be slow. But history teaches us that the alternative to democracy is always worse. That’s not just true in this country. It’s not a black or white thing. Go to any country where the give and take of democracy has been repealed by one-party rule, and I will show you a country that does not work.

And democracy requires compromise, even when you are 100 percent right. This is hard to explain sometimes. You can be completely right, and you still are going to have to engage folks who disagree with you. If you think that the only way forward is to be as uncompromising as possible, you will feel good about yourself, you will enjoy a certain moral purity, but you’re not going to get what you want. And if you don’t get what you want long enough, you will eventually think the whole system is rigged. And that will lead to more cynicism, and less participation, and a downward spiral of more injustice and more anger and more despair. And that’s never been the source of our progress. That’s how we cheat ourselves of progress. […]

Change isn’t something that happens every four years or eight years; change is not placing your faith in any particular politician and then just putting your feet up and saying, okay, go. Change is the effort of committed citizens who hitch their wagons to something bigger than themselves and fight for it every single day.

President Obama on voting:

… your plan better include voting — not just some of the time, but all the time. It is absolutely true that 50 years after the Voting Rights Act, there are still too many barriers in this country to vote. There are too many people trying to erect new barriers to voting. This is the only advanced democracy on Earth that goes out of its way to make it difficult for people to vote. And there’s a reason for that. There’s a legacy to that.

But let me say this: Even if we dismantled every barrier to voting, that alone would not change the fact that America has some of the lowest voting rates in the free world. In 2014, only 36 percent of Americans turned out to vote in the midterms — the second lowest participation rate on record. Youth turnout — that would be you — was less than 20 percent. Less than 20 percent. Four out of five did not vote. In 2012, nearly two in three African Americans turned out. And then, in 2014, only two in five turned out. You don’t think that made a difference in terms of the Congress I’ve got to deal with? And then people are wondering, well, how come Obama hasn’t gotten this done? How come he didn’t get that done? You don’t think that made a difference? What would have happened if you had turned out at 50, 60, 70 percent, all across this country? People try to make this political thing really complicated. Like, what kind of reforms do we need? And how do we need to do that? You know what, just vote. It’s math. If you have more votes than the other guy, you get to do what you want. (Laughter.) It’s not that complicated.

And you don’t have excuses. You don’t have to guess the number of jellybeans in a jar or bubbles on a bar of soap to register to vote. You don’t have to risk your life to cast a ballot. Other people already did that for you. (Applause.) Your grandparents, your great grandparents might be here today if they were working on it. What’s your excuse? When we don’t vote, we give away our power, disenfranchise ourselves — right when we need to use the power that we have; right when we need your power to stop others from taking away the vote and rights of those more vulnerable than you are — the elderly and the poor, the formerly incarcerated trying to earn their second chance.

So you got to vote all the time, not just when it’s cool, not just when it’s time to elect a President, not just when you’re inspired.

Full text of speech below …

President Obama on the presidency: “This is a really serious job … this is not entertainment”

The weekly White House post is also an Open News Thread. Feel free to share other news stories in the comments.

From the White House
President Obama spoke on Friday about the state of the economy and opened the floor to reporters questions.

President Obama on the Economy:

Seven years ago, in April of 2009, our economy lost nearly 700,000 jobs, and the unemployment rate hit 9 percent on its way to 10 percent.

Seven years later, in April 2016, our economy added 160,000 new jobs. That makes April the 74th consecutive month of private sector job growth in America. Over that record streak of job growth, our businesses have created 14.6 million new jobs in all. Wages have been rising at an annual rate of more than 3 percent this year.

President Obama on the new face of the Republican Party:

[With] respect to the Republican process and Mr. Trump, there’s going to be plenty of time to talk about his positions on various issues. He has a long record that needs to be examined, and I think it’s important for us to take seriously the statements he’s made in the past.

But most importantly — and I speak to all of you in this room as reporters, as well as the American public — I just want to emphasize the degree to which we are in serious times and this is a really serious job. This is not entertainment. This is not a reality show. This is a contest for the presidency of the United States.

And what that means is that every candidate, every nominee needs to be subject to exacting standards and genuine scrutiny. It means that you got to make sure that their budgets add up. It means that if they say they got an answer to a problem that it is actually plausible and that they have details for how it would work. And if it’s completely implausible and would not work, that needs to be reported on. The American people need to know that. If they take a position on international issues that could threaten war, or has the potential of upending our critical relationships with other countries, or would potentially break the financial system, that needs to be reported on.

And the one thing that I’m going to really be looking for over the next six months is that the American people are effectively informed about where candidates stand on the issues, what they believe, making sure that their numbers add up, making sure that their policies have been vetted and that candidates are held to what they’ve said in the past.

Full transcript below …