Weekly Address: President Obama – Top 10 Things that Happened in 2015

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 celebrated the end of the year tradition of list-making with a year-in-review list of his own. The President offered his roundup of the top 10 things that happened in 2015, all of which should make us optimistic about the prospects for 2016. This past year has been one where we’ve seen unprecedented progress in areas ranging from the Iran deal to marriage equality to concluding a historic trade agreement. The year 2015 brought economic growth, with our unemployment rate dropping to five percent; the normalization of our relations with Cuba and a newly opened U.S. Embassy in Havana; and a historic agreement in Paris to take real action on climate change. The President acknowledged the significant progress of the past year, and looked forward to 2016 and all we have yet to accomplish.

Transcript: Weekly Address: Top 10 Things that Happened in 2015

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address, The White House, December 19, 2015

Hi, everybody. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Not just for spreading holiday cheer – but also for list makers. You’ve got wish lists; Santa’s list; and of course, a blizzard of year-in-review lists. So I decided to get in on the action.

As a nation, we face big challenges. But in the spirit of 2015 retiree David Letterman, here – in no particular order – are my top 10 things that happened in 2015 that should make every American optimistic about 2016.

Number ten: The economy. Over the past 12 months, our businesses have created 2.5 million new jobs. In all, they’ve added 13.7 million new jobs over a 69-month streak of job growth. And the unemployment rate has fallen to 5 percent – the lowest it’s been in almost eight years.

Number nine: More Americans are getting health coverage. The rate of the uninsured in America dropped below 10 percent for the first time ever. In all, 17.6 million people and climbing have gained coverage as the Affordable Care Act has taken effect. And don’t forget, you can still sign up through January 31st at HealthCare.gov.

Number eight: America’s global leadership on climate change. Last week, in Paris, nearly 200 countries came together to set the course for a low-carbon future. And it was only possible because America led with clean energy here at home and strong diplomacy around the world.

Number seven: Progress in the Americas. We turned the page on an outdated, half-century old policy by re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba and reopening embassies in both our countries, allowing us to build greater ties between Americans and Cubans.

Number six: Preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. We succeeded in forging a strong deal to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. In fact, Iran has already dismantled thousands of centrifuges that enrich uranium.

Number five: Standing strong against terrorism. Even as we continue to grieve over the attack in San Bernardino, we’re leading a global coalition and hitting ISIL harder than ever. In Syria and Iraq, ISIL is losing territory, and we’re not going to stop until we destroy this terrorist organization.

Number four: A 21st century trade deal that makes sure our businesses can sell goods “Made in America” across the Asia-Pacific. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is the strongest, most pro-worker, pro-environment trade agreement in our history. And it means that America – not China, not anyone else – will write the rules of the global economy for the century ahead.

Number three: A pair of Christmas miracles in Washington! This week, Congress passed a bipartisan budget that invests in middle-class priorities, keeps our military the strongest in the world, and takes the threat of shutdowns and manufactured crises off the table for 2016. Plus, I signed a bipartisan education bill into law to help our students graduate prepared for college and their future careers.

Number two: Love won. No matter who you are, here in America, you’re free to marry the person you love, because the freedom to marry is now the law in all fifty states.

And the number one reason I’m optimistic going into 2016: It’s you—the American people. All of this progress is because of you—because of workers rolling up their sleeves and getting the job done, and entrepreneurs starting new businesses. Because of teachers and health workers and parents—all of us taking care of each other. Because of our incredible men and women in uniform, serving to protect us all. Because, when we’re united as Americans, there’s nothing that we cannot do.

That’s why it’s has been a good year. And it’s why I’m confident we’ll keep achieving big things in the New Year. So happy holidays, everybody.

Bolding added.



  1. Vice President Joe Biden on the budget deal:

    Over the last seven years, our economy has gone from crisis to recovery to the cusp of resurgence. The budget and tax agreement that Congress negotiated this week will help make it a permanent resurgence. Neither side got everything it wanted, and there is more we will continue to fight for. But this agreement reverses self-inflicted wounds like sequestration, averts another unnecessary government shutdown, and lays a path forward to the type of governing by consensus that the American people deserve and expect. […]

    This agreement marks the largest investment in the NIH in a decade—$32 billion—that will mean more clinical trials for patients and more research grants for next-generation scientists. It will help put us closer to curing cancer — turning deadly diseases into manageable chronic conditions – and on the verge of countless other life-saving and life-changing discoveries. […]

    The agreement invests a record $480 million in programs under the Violence Against Women Act. It invests $45 million toward eliminating the backlog of rape kits, so tens of thousands of rape and sexual assault victims will no longer have to wait years before their rape kits are tested –allowing them to find closure and bring their perpetrators to justice. The budget also provides an increase of $3.75 million to the National Domestic Violence Hotline so fewer women and men remain prisoners in their own homes. […]

    The agreement is not perfect, but it will help grow our economy, bolster our security, and it reflects governing by consensus, not the governing by crisis we’ve seen too often of late

  2. In the News: UN endorses peace process for Syria, but no mention of Assad

    U.N. Security Council members approved a resolution on Friday outlining a peace process for Syria involving talks by representatives of the Damascus government and the opposition, but the draft says nothing on the critical issue of what role President Bashar al-Assad will play.

    The resolution acknowledges that the peace process will not end the conflict because it bars “terrorist groups” operating in the country, including the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), from participating in a cease-fire.

    Foreign ministers from 17 countries met on and off for more than five hours to overcome divisions on the text.

    The resolution has been described as a rare gesture of unity on the Syria peace process by a council often deeply divided on the crisis.

  3. From NPR: How The Heck Do You Pay Off Your College Loans?

    This month the federal government launched yet another federal repayment plan. It’s a revised income-based or income-driven plan called REPAYE. What is new here?

    One of the most important changes is that you no longer need to have a certain debt-to-income ratio or to have borrowed at a particular time to qualify. All federal direct loan borrowers can enter REPAYE if they want to. It will give them the assurance that their payments will be capped at 10 percent of their discretionary income. […]

    Five income-driven repayment plans. Why doesn’t Congress just consolidate them all into one fun, easy-to-use plan?

    There is growing interest in simplifying repayment options for federal student loans. There are too many plans — not just income-driven plans, but other types of plans. It is too hard for borrowers to navigate.

    But borrowers need to know you don’t have to get a Ph.D. in public policy to benefit from them. All you have to do is go to studentloans.gov and log in, and you can see what your payments will be in all the different plans, and you can ask to be enrolled in the one that you qualify for that has the lowest payment. There is a student loan estimator at the Department of Education, and we have a simple chart that shows you how the different plans work and links on how you can apply.

  4. In the News: The Surprising Winner Of Congress’ Budget Deal

    The solar Investment Tax Credit, which has helped propel the solar industry in the United States to record growth over the past few years, has been extended. Wind, too, will get an extension.

    In a call with reporters Friday, the head of the Solar Energy Industries Association said that extending the credit would provide certainty for the industry and allow it to grow to 5 percent of the nation’s electricity supply by 2020.

    “We expected a significant drop off in 2017 if the ITC was not extended,” the group’s president, Rhone Resch, said. Under the extension, the industry will enjoy a 30 percent tax credit for both residential and commercial solar installation for the next four years, before it steps down to 26 percent for 2020 and 22 percent for 2021. Resch said that costs are expected to drop by 40 percent by then, allowing solar to continue to be a low-cost option for states looking to meet the requirements of the Clean Power Plan and individuals looking to lower electricity costs.

    The group estimates that by the end of 2020, there will be about 100 gigawatts (GW) of solar capacity installed in the United States, about four times as much as there is now.

  5. In the News: Flint Michigan water crisis

    FLINT, Mich. — A bottle of murky tap water — with swirling rust-colored pieces of sediment — still sits on Rhonda Kelso’s kitchen counter in Flint.

    In August of this year, despite information from government officials suggesting the water in Flint was safe to drink, she was still skeptical of its quality. So she collected the sample from her tap.

    When a group of Virginia Tech researchers tested Kelso’s water and discovered evidence of lead, Kelso, a 52-year-old stroke survivor, decided that was the last straw.

    Now she’s part of a class-action lawsuit filed against Flint, the state of Michigan and various officials that claims the government is responsible for exposing tens of thousands of Flint residents to lead-contaminated water.

  6. Does it matter if the Democratic Party debate is not watched in real time?

    The voter-data mess renews tension between national Democrats and the Sanders campaign, which has also complained about the frequency and timing of the Democratic debates.

    [Sanders campaign manager Jeff] Weaver slammed the national party in a statement for trying to “bury” the debates “on weekends during nationally televised football games.”

    A Democratic National Committee spokesman said the debates were scheduled to reach television networks that do not require cable subscriptions, according to the New York Times. […]

    Other observers put less emphasis on the timing of the event.

    “If anything memorable happens, it will be on YouTube the next day, it will be talked about on other TV news shows, on the radio, it’ll be all over social media,” said [Christopher] Galdieri, the St. Anselm College professor. “So I don’t know if that is necessarily that much of a handicap — if something interesting happens.”

    The question is really how many people will sit through 2 or 3 hours of debate between 3 candidates, one of whom is polling in the single digits nationally, regardless of when it is telecast?

  7. In the News: Pocket vetos by the president over the Clean Power Plan

    WASHINGTON — President Obama has vetoed attempts by the Republican-controlled Congress to kill the Clean Power Plan that’s a cornerstone of his climate change initiatives, the White House announced Saturday.

    “The Clean Power Plan is a tremendously important step in the fight against global climate change,” Obama said in a veto message signed late Friday. Reversing those regulations “not only threatens ongoing progress toward cleaner energy, but would also eliminate public health and other benefits” in reducing premature deaths and childhood asthma, he said.

    The new rules aim to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants 32% by 2030 — a key bargaining chip in the recently completed United Nations Climate Conference in Paris. […]

    Obama used a controversial form of veto in which he refused to sign the bill but sent it back to Congress anyway with a veto message. Recent presidents have used the belt-and-suspenders approach to the veto in order to remove any confusion about their intent.

  8. In the News: Alaska Native villages on front lines of climate change

    Where do people go when their homes are threatened by forces beyond their control?

    In “When the Water Took the Land,” “Fault Lines” travels to Alaska to examine the costs of climate change, as rising temperatures fuel the erosion of people’s lands and lives. The film airs on Sunday, Dec. 20, at 9 p.m. Eastern time/6 p.m. Pacific on Al Jazeera America. | Click here to find Al Jazeera in your area.

    Kivalina became a permanent settlement when the government built a school on the island and forced families to move there. Lucy Adams, a city council member, moved to the village in the 1940s to attend school. “When we first came here, it was so wide,” she recalled. “We used to set up camps over there at the beach away from the village. Now they’re all gone by erosion, and we’re so crowded. We need to relocate. My children and my grandchildren have no space to build a house.”

  9. In the News: Hundreds Of New Orleans Residents Will Finally Be Able To Go Home

    Tonya Boyd-Cannon and her family will finally be able to go home after a decade of trying. More than 10 years after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and decimated the Lower Ninth Ward, community groups and local government have secured funding from the federal government they believe will be enough to get many of the residents home who have been trying to rebuild ever since they were displaced. For Boyd-Cannon, a jazz musician, that should mean she will finally be able to rebuild her family’s house on what became a vacant lot after the storm washed away the first one.

    In the wake of the disaster, a program called Road Home was set up to disburse billions in funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to people who had been displaced. But many problems arose. Some people were incorrectly told to use insurance money and Road Home funding to pay off their mortgages before spending it on rebuilding. Others got bilked by unscrupulous contractors. HUD has already started reimbursing people who ran into these problems.

  10. In The News: President Obama wins some battles over executive orders:

    In some areas, Congress found ways to express its displeasure with Obama in ways that didn’t force a presidential veto, often refusing to appropriate money for Obama’s initiatives — but not preventing him from finding the money himself. […]

    Obama had pledged $3 billion to a United Nations fund intended to help developing countries reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Congress didn’t appropriate the money that Obama wanted — but it didn’t prohibit the spending, either. Instead, Congress simply required that the president account for any money the administration spends on climate change initiatives.

    That was good enough for the White House.

    “Based on what we have reviewed so far, there are no restrictions in our ability to make good on the president’s promise to contribute to the Green Climate Fund,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday.

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