Gerlach Needs to Read the News

Congressman Jim Gerlach needs to keep up with the news.  He came out today demanding that Gov. Rendell create a website to track the stimulus spending in Pennsylvania.  Anyone with a clue knows that Recovery.gov has been set up by the White House to do just that.

Is Jim Gerlach stupid, out of touch or trying to grandstand?  Why would he come out and demand something which already exists?  He’d be better off spending his time trying to explain to his constituents in Berks County why he voted against all these projects being funded by the stimulus package for which he voted NO.  That’s right, Jim Gerlach voted against all these projects for his district.

U.S. Senator Sam Rohrer???

( – promoted by John Morgan)

Rumors are floating around the conservative blogosphere,that State Representative Sam Rohrer is considering running for the U.S. Senate in the 2010 primary against Arlen Specter.  One thing is for sure, Representative Sam Rohrer has the right-wing credentials for the members of the PA GOP that are complaining about Arlen Specter.

It will be interesting to see if the right-wing cry babies are willing to put the money up to back one of their own, or just fade away into oblivion.  I personally believe they don’t have the balls or the money to back one of their own against Arlen Specter.

Straight Talk

John McCain made famous his moniker of The Straight Talk Express until his bus ran off the road last year in a web of lies.  For eight years we had a president whose every word was carefully scripted for its political portent.  Every utterance was calculated and every possible phrasing parsed.  Barack Obama is a breath of fresh air.  He’s telling us like it is, no more seeing the economy through rose colored glasses and giving us happy talk while doing nothing.

The American people had that for eight years while the economy was run off the cliff.  We don’t need a president who tells us “the state of the nation is strong” when it isn’t.  We need straight talk.  We know things are bad and having George W. Bush standing there telling it isn’t wasn’t any good for any of us.  Confidence is important to any economic recovery but having a leader standing there with his head in the sand didn’t help us one iota.

Barack Obama is giving it to us straight because we have to understand the severity of the situation so we can understand why what he is doing will help.  We finally have a President who is doing something.  Right now happy talk won’t help.  Bush’s happy talk did nothing to shore up a careening economy.  Once things begin to turn around President Obama can turn to restoring confidence but you lose all credibility when you engage in happy talk while things are still sinking.  Once the ship of state is stabilized confidence will begin building.

I was surprised to hear Obama clearly state that his administration will be judged on how it responds to this crisis and rightly so.  He put it on the line:  his legacy and effectiveness in four years will be judged, by the people, based on this one issue.  Do you ever remember a president being so clear and giving his opponents such a clear line of attack before?  George H.W. Bush’s “no new taxes” pledge doomed him to a one term president.  Barack Obama clearly has said if he fails at this he doesn’t deserve a second term.  Now folks, THAT is the straight talk express.  How refreshing to have someone in charge who is dedicated to doing the job rather than parsing every utterance to preserve his political future.  Such is the basis for greatness.  I learned a long while back that the way to true effectiveness is not to care who gets the credit.  Once you take your own ego out of the equation and work on what needs to be done, regardless of who gets the credit, you begin to be really effective.  I think Barack Obama gets this.

Jindal Repeats Healthcare Lie

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal repeated the Republican lie that government run healthcare means putting a bureaucrat between you and your doctor.  This fear smear was included in his remarks last evening as the official Republican response to President Obama.

Single payer universal healthcare does the opposite of what Jindal accuses.  It actually removes all corporate bureaucrats from your healthcare.  There are no more “gatekeepers,” no HMO bureaucrats determining if you get medical care, no health insurance bureaucrats denying you medical care, no referral permissions, no one determining your medical care except you and your doctor.

It is our current system which is run by non medical bureaucrats.  A government run, single payer system removes all such barriers.  There are NO bureaucrats determining any aspect of your medical care.  Gov. Jindal knows this but he also knows that spreading fear smears will scare people into opposing the best system available.  A single payer system as proposed leaves all doctors, nurses, medical staffers and executives in the private sector.  No provider would work for the government as their statement implies.  It is simply a simplified, drastically cheaper system for administering payments.

It is so much simpler your doctor won’t need five employees just to battle the insurance companies for payment.  It is so much simpler you won’t have to worry about getting sick or injured because we use all those healthcare dollars wasted on bill collection and corporate bureaucracy to COVER EVERYONE COMPLETELY.  These health insurance bureaucrats absorb 30% of our health care dollars.  That means 30 cents of every dollar is sucked up by the health insurance companies before a penny of care is delivered.  Add up what is spent on CEO salaries, marketing and profits and this is why 47 million Americans have NO coverage.

Bobby Jindal should be ashamed for spreading such a lie but we know Republicans have no shame when it comes to protecting their corporate benefactors.  If they are serious about fixing the economy they’d be behind this idea.  Single payer means making American companies competitive in the global economy once again.  A single payer system means lowering your taxes because they are paying as much as 20-22% of payroll for healthcare benefits.  The system proposed for Pennsylvania reduces this to 10%.  Cutting this expense in half for cities, the Commonwealth and school districts will cut their expenses for this major budget item in half.  Sometimes more.  Meanwhile Gov. Rendell is doing everything in his considerable power to block the bill.  He has Majority Leader Todd Eachus blocking it in the State House so vigorously we must get the word out that these two are destroying healthcare in Pennsylvania.

It isn’t only Republicans who are beholden to the insurance industry.

The Jindal Lesson: Keeping Those Republicans Out of Power

A guest column by Stephen Crockett:

The Jindal Lesson: Keeping Those Republicans Out of Power

After listening today to the Louisiana Governor respond to Obama’s speech to Congress and the American nation on the economic crisis and healthcare, I suddenly realized that the Jindal-type of Republican should never, ever be placed in a position of governmental responsibility. Unfortunately, the Jindal-type dominates the national Republican power structure.

Governor Jindal simply does not believe in government. His references to the awful Bush Republican response to Katrina show that he just does not get it. Jindal seems to think that since Bush blew the federal government response to that disaster, therefore, government is inherently incompetent.

It is true that under Bush the personnel responsible for disaster relief were incompetent. Those individuals were selected for entirely political and ideological reasons. They did not believe in government. Essentially, they were Jindal-type Republicans! They were Bush Republicans!

If you believe government will always fail, you are very likely going to fail in the management of government. If politics, ideology and achieving power take precedence over implementing sound policy in your value system, you are a poor candidate for being good at managing government agencies or programs.

Jindal is certainly not alone in his contempt for using government to better the condition of our economically suffering citizens. Along with Jindal, the Republican Governors of Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Alaska have indicated that they would not accept federal money to extend and expand unemployment benefits for the citizens of their states. The reasons they gave are illogical and seem to be motivated by politics instead of real policy concerns.

The citizens of these states losing their jobs are going to suffer simply because these Governors do not really believe in helping citizens facing economic adversity not of their own making. Texas Governor Perry has never been concerned with helping the unemployed, in my opinion; because they do not write big campaign checks and Perry does not really believe in government. Governor Palin of Alaska along with Governor Jindal of Louisiana both seem to be more concerned with running for the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination than in serving the citizens of their states.

South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford should be more concerned that in December his state was losing 830 jobs a day than scoring points with the Republican Right and Michael Steele’s Republican National Committee. Michael Steele is another Jindal-type Republican. In Jindal’s Louisiana, they were losing 430 jobs a day during the same time period. Instead of dealing with the crisis in a constructive manner, both Governors (along with Steele) went into full political spin mode.

Nothing stimulates the economy more than expanding and extending unemployment benefits. Basically, all that money gets spent as soon as it arrives unlike tax cuts for the wealthy.

The Jindal-type thinking is not limited to Republican Governors and the Republican National Committee. Senator Ensign of Nevada gave an amazing interview today on cable with Chris Matthews where he frankly stated that he did not believe in the key principles of Keynesian economics where governments run surpluses during good economic times.

According to Keynes, they should pay off government debts and build rainy day funds to use during bad times. The economic policies of the Clinton-Gore era were Keynesian. They were working until Bush changed our government tax and spending policies and began giving huge tax cuts to the wealthiest of the wealthy during good times while running huge deficits.

Under Keynesian economics, governments should run deficits during bad times to even out the boom-bust cycles in the economy. Ensign falsely stated that government spending did not help end the Great Depression. This historical misinformation has become a regular talking point among the Jindal-type Republicans, Right Wing talk radio and the Fox News crowd. The real lesson of the New Deal was that government spending was not large enough (largely because of Republican opposition) until just before World War II to end the economic crisis.

Ensign and Jindal both want more of the same policies that got us into the current economic crisis. They want to play the same obstructionist role under Obama that the Republicans played under FDR during the 1930’s. The Jindal-type Republicans are really Bush Republicans following in the tradition of Herbert Hoover.

If tax cuts for the wealthy actually created jobs, the last 8 years under Bush would have created the biggest, baddest economic boom in the history of mankind! Everyone would be working at huge salaries. It did not happen and will never happen on the basis of just more tax cuts. We need spending. We need higher incomes for the majority instead of just the wealthiest of the wealthy! We need controls on predatory lending. We need a re-industrialization program for the American economy, higher taxes for the wealthiest of the wealthy, the end of poorly regulated international trade, limits on corporate executive compensation, stronger consumer protections against price-gouging, new anti-usury laws and enforcement of anti-monopoly laws.

We have an income crisis in America. In 1929, the top one percent of Americans in terms of income had 29% of the total national income for that year. In 1979, just before Reagan was elected, that number had declined to just over 10%. Currently, that number has risen to around the 1929 level.  

The Republican assault on progressive taxation along with wealth destroying “free trade” deals were combined with halting anti-monopoly law enforcement and repealing anti-usury laws to concentrate wealth. These policies have weakened our economy. Excessive corporate compensation and excessive industry deregulation (especially in energy and finance) played important roles in destroying the buying power of the American middle class.

The Republican and corporate assault on labor unions severely weakened the economic position of all members of the middle class including those not in unions. The unionization process was rigged by law and government regulation against workers attempting to bargain collectively with employers. Enacting the Employee Free Choice Act is a key to real economic recovery along with healthcare reform for the vast majority of Americans. The Jindal-type Republicans stand strongly in opposition to both.

When income gets concentrated at the top, it destroys the market for goods and services. It additionally fuels unsound speculation and investment bubbles. There is excess investment money chasing opportunities that do not really exist because there is not sufficient customer liquidity available for the output of those investments. We get asset inflation followed by severe deflationary pressures.

Facing problems like these, we cannot afford public officeholders like Jindal, Palin, Perry, Sanford and Ensign. Their approach to government could turn this recession into a depression even worse than the Great Depression.

Written by Stephen Crockett (Host of Democratic Talk Radio http://www.DemocraticTalkRadio… and Editor of Mid-Atlantic Labor.com http://www.midatlanticlabor.com). Mail: 698 Old Baltimore Pike, Newark, Delaware 19702. Email: demlabor@aol.com. Phone: 443-907-2367.

President Obama’s National Address

One year ago President George W. Bush addressed the State of the Union and proclaimed it to be strong.  As with most everything else which spewed from his mouth it was a lie.  This year we face two continuing wars begun and mismanaged by Bush, a collapsing economy mismanaged by Bush and a nation which is anything but strong.

President Barack Obama inherits these and many more problems and issues created by 29 years of Republican and centrist Democratic leadership.  The list of issues to be faced and solved seems endless.  Obama is addressing these by priority but it will take time.  Thus the President is making this speech to the nation:

Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery

Address to Joint Session of Congress

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Madame Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, and the First Lady of the United States:

I’ve come here tonight not only to address the distinguished men and women in this great chamber, but to speak frankly and directly to the men and women who sent us here.

I know that for many Americans watching right now, the state of our economy is a concern that rises above all others.  And rightly so.  If you haven’t been personally affected by this recession, you probably know someone who has – a friend; a neighbor; a member of your family.  You don’t need to hear another list of statistics to know that our economy is in crisis, because you live it every day.  It’s the worry you wake up with and the source of sleepless nights.  It’s the job you thought you’d retire from but now have lost; the business you built your dreams upon that’s now hanging by a thread; the college acceptance letter your child had to put back in the envelope.  The impact of this recession is real, and it is everywhere.    

But while our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken; though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this:

We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.

The weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation.  The answers to our problems don’t lie beyond our reach.  They exist in our laboratories and universities; in our fields and our factories; in the imaginations of our entrepreneurs and the pride of the hardest-working people on Earth.  Those qualities that have made America the greatest force of progress and prosperity in human history we still possess in ample measure.  What is required now is for this country to pull together, confront boldly the challenges we face, and take responsibility for our future once more.

 

Now, if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that for too long, we have not always met these responsibilities – as a government or as a people.  I say this not to lay blame or look backwards, but because it is only by understanding how we arrived at this moment that we’ll be able to lift ourselves out of this predicament.

The fact is, our economy did not fall into decline overnight.  Nor did all of our problems begin when the housing market collapsed or the stock market sank.  We have known for decades that our survival depends on finding new sources of energy.  Yet we import more oil today than ever before.  The cost of health care eats up more and more of our savings each year, yet we keep delaying reform.  Our children will compete for jobs in a global economy that too many of our schools do not prepare them for.  And though all these challenges went unsolved, we still managed to spend more money and pile up more debt, both as individuals and through our government, than ever before.

In other words, we have lived through an era where too often, short-term gains were prized over long-term prosperity; where we failed to look beyond the next payment, the next quarter, or the next election.  A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to invest in our future.  Regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market.  People bought homes they knew they couldn’t afford from banks and lenders who pushed those bad loans anyway.  And all the while, critical debates and difficult decisions were put off for some other time on some other day.

Well that day of reckoning has arrived, and the time to take charge of our future is here.

Now is the time to act boldly and wisely – to not only revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity.  Now is the time to jumpstart job creation, re-start lending, and invest in areas like energy, health care, and education that will grow our economy, even as we make hard choices to bring our deficit down.  That is what my economic agenda is designed to do, and that’s what I’d like to talk to you about tonight.

It’s an agenda that begins with jobs.

As soon as I took office, I asked this Congress to send me a recovery plan by President’s Day that would put people back to work and put money in their pockets.  Not because I believe in bigger government – I don’t.  Not because I’m not mindful of the massive debt we’ve inherited – I am.  I called for action because the failure to do so would have cost more jobs and caused more hardships.  In fact, a failure to act would have worsened our long-term deficit by assuring weak economic growth for years.  That’s why I pushed for quick action.  And tonight, I am grateful that this Congress delivered, and pleased to say that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is now law.  

Over the next two years, this plan will save or create 3.5 million jobs.  More than 90% of these jobs will be in the private sector – jobs rebuilding our roads and bridges; constructing wind turbines and solar panels; laying broadband and expanding mass transit.

Because of this plan, there are teachers who can now keep their jobs and educate our kids.  Health care professionals can continue caring for our sick.  There are 57 police officers who are still on the streets of Minneapolis tonight because this plan prevented the layoffs their department was about to make.

Because of this plan, 95% of the working households in America will receive a tax cut – a tax cut that you will see in your paychecks beginning on April 1st.

Because of this plan, families who are struggling to pay tuition costs will receive a $2,500 tax credit for all four years of college.  And Americans who have lost their jobs in this recession will be able to receive extended unemployment benefits and continued health care coverage to help them weather this storm.

I know there are some in this chamber and watching at home who are skeptical of whether this plan will work.  I understand that skepticism.  Here in Washington, we’ve all seen how quickly good intentions can turn into broken promises and wasteful spending.  And with a plan of this scale comes enormous responsibility to get it right.

That is why I have asked Vice President Biden to lead a tough, unprecedented oversight effort – because nobody messes with Joe.  I have told each member of my Cabinet as well as mayors and governors across the country that they will be held accountable by me and the American people for every dollar they spend.  I have appointed a proven and aggressive Inspector General to ferret out any and all cases of waste and fraud.  And we have created a new website called recovery.gov so that every American can find out how and where their money is being spent.

So the recovery plan we passed is the first step in getting our economy back on track.  But it is just the first step.  Because even if we manage this plan flawlessly, there will be no real recovery unless we clean up the credit crisis that has severely weakened our financial system.

I want to speak plainly and candidly about this issue tonight, because every American should know that it directly affects you and your family’s well-being.  You should also know that the money you’ve deposited in banks across the country is safe; your insurance is secure; and you can rely on the continued operation of our financial system.  That is not the source of concern.

The concern is that if we do not re-start lending in this country, our recovery will be choked off before it even begins.

You see, the flow of credit is the lifeblood of our economy.  The ability to get a loan is how you finance the purchase of everything from a home to a car to a college education; how stores stock their shelves, farms buy equipment, and businesses make payroll.

But credit has stopped flowing the way it should.  Too many bad loans from the housing crisis have made their way onto the books of too many banks.  With so much debt and so little confidence, these banks are now fearful of lending out any more money to households, to businesses, or to each other.  When there is no lending, families can’t afford to buy homes or cars.  So businesses are forced to make layoffs.  Our economy suffers even more, and credit dries up even further.

That is why this administration is moving swiftly and aggressively to break this destructive cycle, restore confidence, and re-start lending.

We will do so in several ways.  First, we are creating a new lending fund that represents the largest effort ever to help provide auto loans, college loans, and small business loans to the consumers and entrepreneurs who keep this economy running.  

Second, we have launched a housing plan that will help responsible families facing the threat of foreclosure lower their monthly payments and re-finance their mortgages.  It’s a plan that won’t help speculators or that neighbor down the street who bought a house he could never hope to afford, but it will help millions of Americans who are struggling with declining home values – Americans who will now be able to take advantage of the lower interest rates that this plan has already helped bring about.  In fact, the average family who re-finances today can save nearly $2000 per year on their mortgage.  

Third, we will act with the full force of the federal government to ensure that the major banks that Americans depend on have enough confidence and enough money to lend even in more difficult times.  And when we learn that a major bank has serious problems, we will hold accountable those responsible, force the necessary adjustments, provide the support to clean up their balance sheets, and assure the continuity of a strong, viable institution that can serve our people and our economy.

I understand that on any given day, Wall Street may be more comforted by an approach that gives banks bailouts with no strings attached, and that holds nobody accountable for their reckless decisions.  But such an approach won’t solve the problem.  And our goal is to quicken the day when we re-start lending to the American people and American business and end this crisis once and for all.

I intend to hold these banks fully accountable for the assistance they receive, and this time, they will have to clearly demonstrate how taxpayer dollars result in more lending for the American taxpayer.  This time, CEOs won’t be able to use taxpayer money to pad their paychecks or buy fancy drapes or disappear on a private jet.  Those days are over.

Still, this plan will require significant resources from the federal government – and yes, probably more than we’ve already set aside.  But while the cost of action will be great, I can assure you that the cost of inaction will be far greater, for it could result in an economy that sputters along for not months or years, but perhaps a decade.  That would be worse for our deficit, worse for business, worse for you, and worse for the next generation.  And I refuse to let that happen.    

I understand that when the last administration asked this Congress to provide assistance for struggling banks, Democrats and Republicans alike were infuriated by the mismanagement and results that followed.  So were the American taxpayers.  So was I.

So I know how unpopular it is to be seen as helping banks right now, especially when everyone is suffering in part from their bad decisions.  I promise you – I get it.

But I also know that in a time of crisis, we cannot afford to govern out of anger, or yield to the politics of the moment.  My job – our job – is to solve the problem.  Our job is to govern with a sense of responsibility.  I will not spend a single penny for the purpose of rewarding a single Wall Street executive, but I will do whatever it takes to help the small business that can’t pay its workers or the family that has saved and still can’t get a mortgage.

That’s what this is about.  It’s not about helping banks – it’s about helping people.  Because when credit is available again, that young family can finally buy a new home.  And then some company will hire workers to build it.  And then those workers will have money to spend, and if they can get a loan too, maybe they’ll finally buy that car, or open their own business.  Investors will return to the market, and American families will see their retirement secured once more.  Slowly, but surely, confidence will return, and our economy will recover.    

So I ask this Congress to join me in doing whatever proves necessary.  Because we cannot consign our nation to an open-ended recession.  And to ensure that a crisis of this magnitude never happens again, I ask Congress to move quickly on legislation that will finally reform our outdated regulatory system.  It is time to put in place tough, new common-sense rules of the road so that our financial market rewards drive and innovation, and punishes short-cuts and abuse.

The recovery plan and the financial stability plan are the immediate steps we’re taking to revive our economy in the short-term.  But the only way to fully restore America’s economic strength is to make the long-term investments that will lead to new jobs, new industries, and a renewed ability to compete with the rest of the world. The only way this century will be another American century is if we confront at last the price of our dependence on oil and the high cost of health care; the schools that aren’t preparing our children and the mountain of debt they stand to inherit.  That is our responsibility.

In the next few days, I will submit a budget to Congress.  So often, we have come to view these documents as simply numbers on a page or laundry lists of programs.  I see this document differently.  I see it as a vision for America – as a blueprint for our future.

My budget does not attempt to solve every problem or address every issue.  It reflects the stark reality of what we’ve inherited – a trillion dollar deficit, a financial crisis, and a costly recession.

Given these realities, everyone in this chamber – Democrats and Republicans – will have to sacrifice some worthy priorities for which there are no dollars.  And that includes me.  

But that does not mean we can afford to ignore our long-term challenges.  I reject the view that says our problems will simply take care of themselves; that says government has no role in laying the foundation for our common prosperity.

For history tells a different story.  History reminds us that at every moment of economic upheaval and transformation, this nation has responded with bold action and big ideas.  In the midst of civil war, we laid railroad tracks from one coast to another that spurred commerce and industry.  From the turmoil of the Industrial Revolution came a system of public high schools that prepared our citizens for a new age.  In the wake of war and depression, the GI Bill sent a generation to college and created the largest middle-class in history.  And a twilight struggle for freedom led to a nation of highways, an American on the moon, and an explosion of technology that still shapes our world.

In each case, government didn’t supplant private enterprise; it catalyzed private enterprise.  It created the conditions for thousands of entrepreneurs and new businesses to adapt and to thrive.

We are a nation that has seen promise amid peril, and claimed opportunity from ordeal.  Now we must be that nation again.  That is why, even as it cuts back on the programs we don’t need, the budget I submit will invest in the three areas that are absolutely critical to our economic future:  energy, health care, and education.

It begins with energy.

We know the country that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will lead the 21st century.  And yet, it is China that has launched the largest effort in history to make their economy energy efficient.  We invented solar technology, but we’ve fallen behind countries like Germany and Japan in producing it.  New plug-in hybrids roll off our assembly lines, but they will run on batteries made in Korea.

Well I do not accept a future where the jobs and industries of tomorrow take root beyond our borders – and I know you don’t either.  It is time for America to lead again.

Thanks to our recovery plan, we will double this nation’s supply of renewable energy in the next three years.  We have also made the largest investment in basic research funding in American history – an investment that will spur not only new discoveries in energy, but breakthroughs in medicine, science, and technology.

We will soon lay down thousands of miles of power lines that can carry new energy to cities and towns across this country.  And we will put Americans to work making our homes and buildings more efficient so that we can save billions of dollars on our energy bills.

But to truly transform our economy, protect our security, and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy.  So I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America.  And to support that innovation, we will invest fifteen billion dollars a year to develop technologies like wind power and solar power; advanced biofuels, clean coal, and more fuel-efficient cars and trucks built right here in America.

As for our auto industry, everyone recognizes that years of bad decision-making and a global recession have pushed our automakers to the brink.  We should not, and will not, protect them from their own bad practices.  But we are committed to the goal of a re-tooled, re-imagined auto industry that can compete and win.  Millions of jobs depend on it.  Scores of communities depend on it.  And I believe the nation that invented the automobile cannot walk away from it.

None of this will come without cost, nor will it be easy.  But this is America.  We don’t do what’s easy.  We do what is necessary to move this country forward.

For that same reason, we must also address the crushing cost of health care.  

This is a cost that now causes a bankruptcy in America every thirty seconds.  By the end of the year, it could cause 1.5 million Americans to lose their homes.  In the last eight years, premiums have grown four times faster than wages.  And in each of these years, one million more Americans have lost their health insurance.  It is one of the major reasons why small businesses close their doors and corporations ship jobs overseas.  And it’s one of the largest and fastest-growing parts of our budget.

Given these facts, we can no longer afford to put health care reform on hold.

Already, we have done more to advance the cause of health care reform in the last thirty days than we have in the last decade.  When it was days old, this Congress passed a law to provide and protect health insurance for eleven million American children whose parents work full-time.  Our recovery plan will invest in electronic health records and new technology that will reduce errors, bring down costs, ensure privacy, and save lives.  It will launch a new effort to conquer a disease that has touched the life of nearly every American by seeking a cure for cancer in our time.  And it makes the largest investment ever in preventive care, because that is one of the best ways to keep our people healthy and our costs under control.

This budget builds on these reforms.  It includes an historic commitment to comprehensive health care reform – a down-payment on the principle that we must have quality, affordable health care for every American.  It’s a commitment that’s paid for in part by efficiencies in our system that are long overdue.  And it’s a step we must take if we hope to bring down our deficit in the years to come.

Now, there will be many different opinions and ideas about how to achieve reform, and that is why I’m bringing together businesses and workers, doctors and health care providers, Democrats and Republicans to begin work on this issue next week.

I suffer no illusions that this will be an easy process.  It will be hard.  But I also know that nearly a century after Teddy Roosevelt first called for reform, the cost of our health care has weighed down our economy and the conscience of our nation long enough.  So let there be no doubt: health care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year.    

The third challenge we must address is the urgent need to expand the promise of education in America.  

In a global economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity – it is a pre-requisite.    

Right now, three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require more than a high school diploma.  And yet, just over half of our citizens have that level of education.  We have one of the highest high school dropout rates of any industrialized nation.  And half of the students who begin college never finish.

This is a prescription for economic decline, because we know the countries that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow.  That is why it will be the goal of this administration to ensure that every child has access to a complete and competitive education – from the day they are born to the day they begin a career.

Already, we have made an historic investment in education through the economic recovery plan.  We have dramatically expanded early childhood education and will continue to improve its quality, because we know that the most formative learning comes in those first years of life.  We have made college affordable for nearly seven million more students.  And we have provided the resources necessary to prevent painful cuts and teacher layoffs that would set back our children’s progress.

But we know that our schools don’t just need more resources.  They need more reform.  That is why this budget creates new incentives for teacher performance; pathways for advancement, and rewards for success.  We’ll invest in innovative programs that are already helping schools meet high standards and close achievement gaps.  And we will expand our commitment to charter schools.  

It is our responsibility as lawmakers and educators to make this system work.  But it is the responsibility of every citizen to participate in it.  And so tonight, I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training.  This can be community college or a four-year school; vocational training or an apprenticeship.  But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma.  And dropping out of high school is no longer an option.  It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country – and this country needs and values the talents of every American.  That is why we will provide the support necessary for you to complete college and meet a new goal:  by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.  

I know that the price of tuition is higher than ever, which is why if you are willing to volunteer in your neighborhood or give back to your community or serve your country, we will make sure that you can afford a higher education.  And to encourage a renewed spirit of national service for this and future generations, I ask this Congress to send me the bipartisan legislation that bears the name of Senator Orrin Hatch as well as an American who has never stopped asking what he can do for his country – Senator Edward Kennedy.

These education policies will open the doors of opportunity for our children.  But it is up to us to ensure they walk through them.  In the end, there is no program or policy that can substitute for a mother or father who will attend those parent/teacher conferences, or help with homework after dinner, or turn off the TV, put away the video games, and read to their child.  I speak to you not just as a President, but as a father when I say that responsibility for our children’s education must begin at home.

There is, of course, another responsibility we have to our children.  And that is the responsibility to ensure that we do not pass on to them a debt they cannot pay.  With the deficit we inherited, the cost of the crisis we face, and the long-term challenges we must meet, it has never been more important to ensure that as our economy recovers, we do what it takes to bring this deficit down.

I’m proud that we passed the recovery plan free of earmarks, and I want to pass a budget next year that ensures that each dollar we spend reflects only our most important national priorities.

Yesterday, I held a fiscal summit where I pledged to cut the deficit in half by the end of my first term in office.  My administration has also begun to go line by line through the federal budget in order to eliminate wasteful and ineffective programs.  As you can imagine, this is a process that will take some time.  But we’re starting with the biggest lines.  We have already identified two trillion dollars in savings over the next decade.

In this budget, we will end education programs that don’t work and end direct payments to large agribusinesses that don’t need them.  We’ll eliminate the no-bid contracts that have wasted billions in Iraq, and reform our defense budget so that we’re not paying for Cold War-era weapons systems we don’t use.  We will root out the waste, fraud, and abuse in our Medicare program that doesn’t make our seniors any healthier, and we will restore a sense of fairness and balance to our tax code by finally ending the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas.

In order to save our children from a future of debt, we will also end the tax breaks for the wealthiest 2% of Americans.  But let me perfectly clear, because I know you’ll hear the same old claims that rolling back these tax breaks means a massive tax increase on the American people:  if your family earns less than $250,000 a year, you will not see your taxes increased a single dime.  I repeat: not one single dime.  In fact, the recovery plan provides a tax cut – that’s right, a tax cut – for 95% of working families.  And these checks are on the way.    

To preserve our long-term fiscal health, we must also address the growing costs in Medicare and Social Security.  Comprehensive health care reform is the best way to strengthen Medicare for years to come.  And we must also begin a conversation on how to do the same for Social Security, while creating tax-free universal savings accounts for all Americans.

Finally, because we’re also suffering from a deficit of trust, I am committed to restoring a sense of honesty and accountability to our budget.  That is why this budget looks ahead ten years and accounts for spending that was left out under the old rules – and for the first time, that includes the full cost of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.  For seven years, we have been a nation at war.  No longer will we hide its price.

We are now carefully reviewing our policies in both wars, and I will soon announce a way forward in Iraq that leaves Iraq to its people and responsibly ends this war.

And with our friends and allies, we will forge a new and comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan to defeat al Qaeda and combat extremism.  Because I will not allow terrorists to plot against the American people from safe havens half a world away.

As we meet here tonight, our men and women in uniform stand watch abroad and more are readying to deploy. To each and every one of them, and to the families who bear the quiet burden of their absence, Americans are united in sending one message: we honor your service, we are inspired by your sacrifice, and you have our unyielding support.  To relieve the strain on our forces, my budget increases the number of our soldiers and Marines. And to keep our sacred trust with those who serve, we will raise their pay, and give our veterans the expanded health care and benefits that they have earned.

To overcome extremism, we must also be vigilant in upholding the values our troops defend – because there is no force in the world more powerful than the example of America. That is why I have ordered the closing of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, and will seek swift and certain justice for captured terrorists – because living our values doesn’t make us weaker, it makes us safer and it makes us stronger.  And that is why I can stand here tonight and say without exception or equivocation that the United States of America does not torture.

In words and deeds, we are showing the world that a new era of engagement has begun.  For we know that America cannot meet the threats of this century alone, but the world cannot meet them without America.  We cannot shun the negotiating table, nor ignore the foes or forces that could do us harm.  We are instead called to move forward with the sense of confidence and candor that serious times demand.

To seek progress toward a secure and lasting peace between Israel and her neighbors, we have appointed an envoy to sustain our effort.  To meet the challenges of the 21st century – from terrorism to nuclear proliferation; from pandemic disease to cyber threats to crushing poverty – we will strengthen old alliances, forge new ones, and use all elements of our national power.

And to respond to an economic crisis that is global in scope, we are working with the nations of the G-20 to restore confidence in our financial system, avoid the possibility of escalating protectionism, and spur demand for American goods in markets across the globe.  For the world depends on us to have a strong economy, just as our economy depends on the strength of the world’s.

As we stand at this crossroads of history, the eyes of all people in all nations are once again upon us – watching to see what we do with this moment; waiting for us to lead.    

Those of us gathered here tonight have been called to govern in extraordinary times.  It is a tremendous burden, but also a great privilege – one that has been entrusted to few generations of Americans.  For in our hands lies the ability to shape our world for good or for ill.

I know that it is easy to lose sight of this truth – to become cynical and doubtful; consumed with the petty and the trivial.

But in my life, I have also learned that hope is found in unlikely places; that inspiration often comes not from those with the most power or celebrity, but from the dreams and aspirations of Americans who are anything but ordinary.

I think about Leonard Abess, the bank president from Miami who reportedly cashed out of his company, took a $60 million bonus, and gave it out to all 399 people who worked for him, plus another 72 who used to work for him.  He didn’t tell anyone, but when the local newspaper found out, he simply said, ”I knew some of these people since I was 7 years old.  I didn’t feel right getting the money myself.”

I think about Greensburg, Kansas, a town that was completely destroyed by a tornado, but is being rebuilt by its residents as a global example of how clean energy can power an entire community – how it can bring jobs and businesses to a place where piles of bricks and rubble once lay.  “The tragedy was terrible,” said one of the men who helped them rebuild.  “But the folks here know that it also provided an incredible opportunity.”    

And I think about Ty’Sheoma Bethea, the young girl from that school I visited in Dillon, South Carolina – a place where the ceilings leak, the paint peels off the walls, and they have to stop teaching six times a day because the train barrels by their classroom.  She has been told that her school is hopeless, but the other day after class she went to the public library and typed up a letter to the people sitting in this room.  She even asked her principal for the money to buy a stamp.  The letter asks us for help, and says, “We are just students trying to become lawyers, doctors, congressmen like yourself and one day president, so we can make a change to not just the state of South Carolina but also the world.  We are not quitters.”

We are not quitters.

These words and these stories tell us something about the spirit of the people who sent us here.  They tell us that even in the most trying times, amid the most difficult circumstances, there is a generosity, a resilience, a decency, and a determination that perseveres; a willingness to take responsibility for our future and for posterity.

Their resolve must be our inspiration.  Their concerns must be our cause.  And we must show them and all our people that we are equal to the task before us.

I know that we haven’t agreed on every issue thus far, and there are surely times in the future when we will part ways.  But I also know that every American who is sitting here tonight loves this country and wants it to succeed.  That must be the starting point for every debate we have in the coming months, and where we return after those debates are done.  That is the foundation on which the American people expect us to build common ground.

And if we do – if we come together and lift this nation from the depths of this crisis; if we put our people back to work and restart the engine of our prosperity; if we confront without fear the challenges of our time and summon that enduring spirit of an America that does not quit, then someday years from now our children can tell their children that this was the time when we performed, in the words that are carved into this very chamber, “something worthy to be remembered.”  Thank you, God Bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.

Preview of Obama’s National Address

The following is a release from the White House on tonight’s address from President Barack Obama:

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

February 24, 2009

The White House today released a preliminary excerpt of the President’s address to the joint session of Congress tonight.  Also, listed below are the names of the Americans who will be seated in the First Lady’s box during the President’s remarks.

Excerpt

But while our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken; though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this:  We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.

The weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation.  The answers to our problems don’t lie beyond our reach.  They exist in our laboratories and universities; in our fields and our factories; in the imaginations of our entrepreneurs and the pride of the hardest-working people on Earth.  Those qualities that have made America the greatest force of progress and prosperity in human history we still possess in ample measure.  What is required now is for this country to pull together, confront boldly the challenges we face, and take responsibility for our future once more.

Update:  More of the address:

We have lived through an era where too often, short-term gains were prized over long-term prosperity; where we failed to look beyond the next payment, the next quarter, or the next election.  A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to invest in our future.  Regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market.  People bought homes they knew they couldn’t afford from banks and lenders who pushed those bad loans anyway.  And all the while, critical debates and difficult decisions were put off for some other time on some other day.

Well that day of reckoning has arrived, and the time to take charge of our future is here.

Now is the time to act boldly and wisely – to not only revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity.  Now is the time to jumpstart job creation, re-start lending, and invest in areas like energy, health care, and education that will grow our economy, even as we make hard choices to bring our deficit down.  That is what my economic agenda is designed to do, and that’s what I’d like to talk to you about tonight.

The recovery plan and the financial stability plan are the immediate steps we’re taking to revive our economy in the short-term.  But the only way to fully restore America’s economic strength is to make the long-term investments that will lead to new jobs, new industries, and a renewed ability to compete with the rest of the world. The only way this century will be another American century is if we confront at last the price of our dependence on oil and the high cost of health care; the schools that aren’t preparing our children and the mountain of debt they stand to inherit.  That is our responsibility.

In the next few days, I will submit a budget to Congress.  So often, we have come to view these documents as simply numbers on a page or laundry lists of programs.  I see this document differently.  I see it as a vision for America – as a blueprint for our future.

My budget does not attempt to solve every problem or address every issue.  It reflects the stark reality of what we’ve inherited – a trillion dollar deficit, a financial crisis, and a costly recession.

Given these realities, everyone in this chamber – Democrats and Republicans – will have to sacrifice some worthy priorities for which there are no dollars.  And that includes me.  

But that does not mean we can afford to ignore our long-term challenges.  I reject the view that says our problems will simply take care of themselves; that says government has no role in laying the foundation for our common prosperity.

Yesterday, I held a fiscal summit where I pledged to cut the deficit in half by the end of my first term in office.  My administration has also begun to go line by line through the federal budget in order to eliminate wasteful and ineffective programs.  As you can imagine, this is a process that will take some time.  But we’re starting with the biggest lines.  We have already identified two trillion dollars in savings over the next decade.

In this budget, we will end education programs that don’t work and end direct payments to large agribusinesses that don’t need them.  We’ll eliminate the no-bid contracts that have wasted billions in Iraq, and reform our defense budget so that we’re not paying for Cold War-era weapons systems we don’t use.  We will root out the waste, fraud, and abuse in our Medicare program that doesn’t make our seniors any healthier, and we will restore a sense of fairness and balance to our tax code by finally ending the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas.

I know that we haven’t agreed on every issue thus far, and there are surely times in the future when we will part ways.  But I also know that every American who is sitting here tonight loves this country and wants it to succeed.  That must be the starting point for every debate we have in the coming months, and where we return after those debates are done.  That is the foundation on which the American people expect us to build common ground.

But in my life, I have also learned that hope is found in unlikely places; that inspiration often comes not from those with the most power or celebrity, but from the dreams and aspirations of Americans who are anything but ordinary.

I think about Leonard Abess, the bank president from Miami who reportedly cashed out of his company, took a $60 million bonus, and gave it out to all 399 people who worked for him, plus another 72 who used to work for him.  He didn’t tell anyone, but when the local newspaper found out, he simply said, ”I knew some of these people since I was 7 years old.  I didn’t feel right getting the money myself.”

I think about Greensburg, Kansas, a town that was completely destroyed by a tornado, but is being rebuilt by its residents as a global example of how clean energy can power an entire community – how it can bring jobs and businesses to a place where piles of bricks and rubble once lay.  “The tragedy was terrible,” said one of the men who helped them rebuild.  “But the folks here know that it also provided an incredible opportunity.”    

And I think about Ty’Sheoma Bethea, the young girl from that school I visited in Dillon, South Carolina – a place where the ceilings leak, the paint peels off the walls, and they have to stop teaching six times a day because the train barrels by their classroom.  She has been told that her school is hopeless, but the other day after class she went to the public library and typed up a letter to the people sitting in this room.  She even asked her principal for the money to buy a stamp.  The letter asks us for help, and says, “We are just students trying to become lawyers, doctors, congressmen like yourself and one day president, so we can make a change to not just the state of South Carolina but also the world.  We are not quitters.”

Guest List for the First Lady’s Box

2009 Joint Session of Congress

Mrs. Michelle Obama

Dr. Jill Biden

Leonard Abess Jr., CEO, City National Bank of Florida (Miami, FL)

Abess Jr. is Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of City National Bank of Florida, now a subsidiary of Caja Madrid. Abess Jr. started his career in the bank’s print shop, which made forms and documents. Working his way up the ladder gave him an appreciation for the role that employees play in the success of an enterprise.  He is currently serving a three-year term as Miami Branch Director of the Federal Reserve.  On February 4, 2009 the President announced new restrictions on executive compensation.  In the midst of our current financial crisis, limitations on executive pay are designed to ensure fiscal responsibility as we work to strengthen our economy by stabilizing our financial system.  Abess Jr. demonstrated this sort of responsibility last November when he decided to quietly share some $60 million of the proceeds he received from the sale of City National shares to Caja Madrid with current and former front-line bank employees.

   

Ty’Sheoma Bethea, Student (Dillon, SC)

Bethea is an eighth grader at JV Martin Junior High School in Dillon, SC.  Upon hearing the President mention her school’s crumbling facility built in the 1800’s during the first presidential news conference on February 9, 2009, she wanted to do something to help her school.  After school hours, she walked to the public library to gain access to a computer and composed a poignant letter to Congress asking for help.  Her principal, Amanda Burnette, promised to pass along the letter to Congress and the President in hopes that the students of JV Martin Junior High School can realize their dreams of becoming doctors, lawyers, and lawmakers. Bethea will be accompanied by her mother, Dina Leach.

Elizabeth Carballo, Student (Washington, DC)

Carballo is a junior at Roosevelt Senior High School in Washington, D.C. She plans to go to college and is currently interested in studying business.  

Richard G. DeCoatsworth, Police Officer (Philadelphia, PA)

Officer DeCoatsworth of the Philadelphia Police Department has demonstrated courage above and beyond the call of duty. On September 27, 2007, DeCoatsworth was following three suspicious-looking men who had parked and exited their vehicle. He began to pursue them, when a fourth male exited and fired a shotgun blast directly into the officer’s face. DeCoatsworth was temporarily blinded after being struck at almost point blank range, but when his vision returned, he was still standing. Bleeding from the face, DeCoatsworth chased the perpetrator on foot for nearly two blocks. The officer returned fire and put out flash information on the subject during the pursuit, before he finally collapsed. Due to DeCoatsworth’s relentless efforts and the information he dispatched, police were able to apprehend the dangerous suspect a short time later. Following his recovery, he returned to the police force on June 26, 2008 and was promoted to the elite highway patrol for his heroic actions. For his courage and determination, DeCoatsworth was honored by the National Association of Police Organizations with its 2008 TOP COPS Award.

Earl Devaney, Chair, Recovery Act Transparency and Accountability Board

As head of the Department of Interior’s Office of Inspector General, Devaney is currently responsible for overseeing the administration of a nationwide, independent program of audits, evaluations, and investigations involving the Department of the Interior’s programs and operations. Devaney began his law enforcement career in 1968 as a police officer in his native state of Massachusetts. After graduating from Franklin and Marshall College in 1970 with a degree in Government, he became a Special Agent with the United States Secret Service.  At the time of his retirement from the Secret Service in 1991, Devaney was serving as the Special Agent-in-Charge of the Fraud Division and had become an internationally recognized white collar crime expert regularly sought by major media outlets. Upon leaving the Secret Service, Devaney became the Director of the Office of Criminal Enforcement, Forensics and Training for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In this position, Mr. Devaney oversaw all of EPA’s criminal investigators, EPA’s Forensics Service Center, and the National Enforcement Training Institute. Mr. Devaney’s years of managerial excellence were recognized in 1998 by the prestigious Meritorious Presidential Rank Award for outstanding government service.

Mayor Bob Dixson (Greensburg, KS)

Mayor Dixson is a native Kansan. He has been a resident of Greensburg since 1985. Dixson took office as Mayor of Greensburg in May 2008, just one year after Greensburg was devastated by an F5 tornado that resulted in the loss of 11 lives and 95% of its buildings.  After the tragedy, the town came together and decided to rebuild itself as a prototype green town, and has reconstructed many of its buildings as LEED-certified green buildings.  The remarkable spirit of the citizens of Greensburg has turned this tragedy into an opportunity for renewal and new direction.  Mayor Dixson will be aided in his effort with funds from the recently signed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Governor Jim Douglas (Montpelier, VT)

Governor Douglas has been serving the people of Vermont for more than thirty years. Over the course of his career, Governor Douglas, a Republican, has received more votes than any other person in Vermont’s history, a testament to his appeal to voters of all political persuasions.  In his current role as the vice chairman of the National Governors Association, Governor Douglas played a pivotal role in garnering early support for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Mary Henley (Richmond, VA)

Henley is a 78-year-old working woman. She had been married to her husband for 46 years when he died last April. Although her husband worked primarily as a truck driver, he also worked with Henley part-time cleaning office buildings in Richmond. While Henley is currently receiving Social Security benefits, she has continued to work part-time cleaning office buildings in order to help pay her basic living expenses.

SPC Jonathon N. James, US Army (Mountain View, AR)

SPC James is a native of Batesville, AR and enlisted in the Army in May 2006 as a Field Support Specialist.  He deployed to Afghanistan in May 2007 and was assigned to Company A, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Camp Ederle, Italy as a Forward Observer.  He was injured on September 28, 2007 when his platoon was conducting a dismounted patrol and they received enemy small arms fire. He sustained two penetrating shrapnel wounds on his left hand, but still continued fighting on OBJ Reno in the Watapor Valley, Afghanistan. He assumed the role of Team Leader, directing fires while under intense fire. After being wounded, he stayed in the fight delivering lethal effects, moving other wounded under fire, and inspiring others.  He is currently recovering at Walter Reed and considers Mountain View, AR home.

Valerie B. Jarrett, Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Liaison

Blake Jones, Co-Founder and President, Namaste Solar (Boulder, CO)

Jones has over ten years of engineering and project management experience in the energy and telecom industries and has worked extensively throughout the USA, Asia and the Middle East.  In early 2005, Jones co-founded Namaste Solar, a Boulder, CO based, and employee owned solar electric company.  Namaste Solar has installed over 500 solar PV systems in Colorado since 2006, more than any other company.  Since its inception the company has grown from four to 55 employees in three years.  On February 17, 2009 the President and Vice President toured the Namaste solar installation atop the Science Museum and the Convention Center in Denver, CO prior to the signing of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  Without the stimulus provisions, Namaste expected to lay off as many as half their staff in 2009, however, with the signing of the Act Namaste expects to expand and hire some 20 new employees in 2009.

Shannon Kendall (Georgetown, TX)

Shannon is originally from Albuquerque, NM, and graduated in 1999 from New Mexico State University with a degree in Business Marketing.  Since then, she has served in several different marketing executive positions in Massachusetts, California, Colorado, and Texas based upon the moves associated with her husband’s different military assignments.  She is currently serving as the Family Readiness Group leader for her husband’s Troop.  MAJ Ryan Kendall is originally from Nashua, NH, and graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1999 with a Mechanical Engineering Degree.  For the past ten years, Ryan has served with units in Korea, Colorado, Texas, and Alabama as an Apache Helicopter Pilot.  He has served twice in Iraq, once as a Platoon Leader, and most recently for 15 months as a Troop Commander. Ryan is currently serving in the Army on Active Duty at Fort Hood, TX, with the 4th Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment as a Troop Commander.  Shannon and Ryan were married in Albuquerque, NM, in September 2004 and have been together since November 2000 when Ryan was assigned to Korea. Shannon and Ryan welcomed their son Aidan Scott to the family in July 2007. Shannon and Aidan spent the past 15 months in Albuquerque, NM, to be close to family while Ryan was deployed.

Victoria Kirby, Student (Washington, DC)

Kirby is a senior at Howard University’s John H. Johnson School of Communications who will be graduating this year with a B.A. in communications and culture.  Kirby is an undergraduate student member of the Howard University Board of Trustees, works as a program assistant for the Walter H. Annenberg Honors Program, and is a recipient of one of the Educational Testing Service’s Presidential Scholars awards.

Geneva Lawson, Safe-Deposit Custodian, City National Bank of Florida (Miami, FL)

Lawson has worked at City National for 51 years.  She is currently the safe-deposit custodian at the Miami Beach branch.  She has previously held the following positions at City National: collection teller, payroll teller, savings teller, print shop clerk, and proof/bookkeeping clerk.  Lawson is a recipient of the personal funds National Bank CEO Leonard Abess Jr. distributed last November – she plans to save and buy a new car with the bonus.

Lilly Ledbetter (Jacksonville, AL)

Ledbetter was the plaintiff in the American employment discrimination case Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.  Ledbetter worked at the Goodyear plant in Gadsden, AL for nearly 20 years before she learned her male co-workers were paid more for the same work. She filed suit, and a federal court jury awarded her nearly $4 million. However, in 2007, the US Supreme Court said the 180-day window to file her case had closed years before, after the first unfair paycheck, even though she had no knowledge of the pay disparity between her and her male co-workers.   On January 29, 2009 the President signed his first bill in office; the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, which makes each unfair paycheck an act of discrimination, and thus reopens the 180-day window for filing a court case.  In signing this bill the President upheld one of this nation’s founding principles: that we are all created equal, and each deserve a chance to pursue our own version of happiness.

General Alfonso E. Lenhardt, US Army (Washington, DC)

The Honorable Al Lenhardt has been the CEO of the non-profit National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) since May 2004. On September 4, 2001, he was appointed the 36th Sergeant at Arms of the United States Senate and became the first African American to serve as an officer of the Congress. He also served as the executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Council on Foundations. Lenhardt retired from the U.S. Army in August 1997 as a Major General with more than 30 years of service in leadership and management positions. His last position with the Army was Commanding General, U.S. Army Recruiting Command, at Fort Knox, KY, where he managed and directed an organization of more than 13,000 people in over 1,800 locations. He also served as the senior military police officer for all police operations and security matters throughout the Army’s worldwide sphere of influence. Lenhardt was born in New York City and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Nebraska, a Master of Arts in Public Administration from Central Michigan University, and a Master of Science in the Administration of Justice from Wichita State University.

Roxanna Garcia Marcus, Development Manager, Year Up (Washington, DC)

Marcus joined the Year Up team in July 2008 as the Development Manager.  A Florida native, she first came to the DC area when she served as an AmeriCorps member with City Year.  A first-generation American, Roxanna said she was drawn to the opportunity to give back to her community and country in a meaningful and lasting way.  After graduating with a BA in Public Relations from the University of Florida, Roxanna served as the Development Director for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Florida.  There she worked on all aspects of the agency’s fundraising and strengthened the organization’s brand.  At Year Up, she works with other members of the development team to support the site through grant writing, individual solicitations and other fundraising opportunities.

Abbey Meacham, Firefighter (Forest, VA)

Meacham has been a firefighter and paramedic in the Lynchburg Fire Department since 2004. Her Department boasts over 170 uniformed personnel and provides fire, rescue, and emergency medical services to the citizens of Lynchburg.  Her Station 6 is the busiest in Lynchburg.  Meacham is also a certified instructor, teaching both fire and EMS courses.

Akrem Muzemil, Student (Washington, DC)

Muzemil is a sophomore at Benjamin Banneker High School in Washington, D.C. He plans to attend college and is currently interested in studying engineering.

Sergeant John E. Rice, USMC (Bethesda, MD)

Sgt Rice was born in Bethesda, MD and graduated from East Chapel Hill High School in Chapel Hill, NC.  He attended the University of Maryland from 2003 to 2005.  Sgt Rice arrived at recruit training on the February 14, 2006 at MCRD Parris Island.  Upon completion of recruit training, he reported to Jacksonville, NC for infantry training. Upon completion of infantry training, Rice reported to Recon Training Platoon, 2nd Recon Bn, Camp Lejeune, NC.  On January 9, 2006 Rice reported to Amphibious Reconnaissance School (ARS) in Virginia Beach, VA.  Following ARS, he attended Army Airborne School in Ft Benning, GA and Navy SERE School in San Diego, CA and reported to 3rd Recon Bn, 3 MARDIV in Okinawa, Japan on July 1, 2007.  Rice’s Company deployed to Iraq in April 2008.  He was injured when a landmine exploded while on a foot patrol on July 10, 2008.  While receiving treatment at NNMC, Bethesda Cpl Rice was promoted to Sgt. His personal decorations consist of Letter of Appreciation, National Defense, Global War on Terror, Sea Service Deployment, Iraq Campaign, Navy Achievement and Purple Heart.

Juan Francisco Rodriguez, Student, Bell Multicultural High School (Washington, DC)

Rodriguez is a sophomore at Bell Multicultural High School in Washington, D.C.  He plans to attend college and is currently interested in studying mechanics and engineering.

Phil Schiliro, Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs

Alvaro Simmons, Chief Operating Officer, Mary’s Center (Washington, DC)

Simmons began serving as the Chief Operating Officer of Mary’s Center for Maternal and Child Care in early 2006. Alvaro has 18 years experience in the health care field, in addition to nearly 20 years as an educator in New York public schools and colleges. In his professional roles at various medical centers and hospitals, Alvaro has led multiple units working toward the best health care of patients in obstetrics, drug use treatment, mental health, and adolescent health units.  On February 10, 2009 the Center hosted First Lady Michelle Obama for her first official visit to a nonprofit organization in the District.

Governor Ted Strickland (Columbus, OH)

Governor Strickland believes that Ohio government must live within its means while investing in what matters. Brought together by a sense of common purpose, legislators from both parties have worked closely with the Governor to strengthen Ohio.  During his service in Congress, Governor Strickland built an impressive record on behalf of the people of Ohio. He was instrumental in expanding access to health insurance for children, ensuring that America kept its promises to our veterans, and in bringing home millions in investments for roads, technology, and economic development and health initiatives.  He didn’t come to public service as a lawyer or an investor, but as the son of a steelworker in Lucasville, OH as one of nine children. He received a B.A. in History in 1963 from Asbury College in Kentucky. He then went on to attend the Asbury Theological Seminary and received a Master of Divinity. He continued his studies at the University of Kentucky, receiving a doctoral degree in Counseling Psychology in 1980.  Professionally, he has served as a minister, a psychologist, and a college professor. He was elected governor of Ohio on November 7, 2006, and was sworn into office on January 8, 2007.

 

What the Recovery Package Means To You

People everywhere are questioning what the economic stimulus bill means for them.  There’s quite a bit in there and lots of tax credits and programs for the unemployed.  How to find out what it means for you?  Congressman Paul Kanjorski has released a guidebook which addresses these questions and concerns.

KANJORSKI PRESENTS HIS GUIDEBOOK FOR NAVIGATING THE RECOVERY PACKAGE

Guidebook Details How Municipalities Can Apply for Funding and Provides Valuable Information for Individuals and Families

WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Paul E. Kanjorski (D-PA) released his extensive guidebook detailing how individuals, families, businesses, community organizations, and local governments can more easily navigate the extensive recovery package.  Among other things, the guidebook explains how municipalities can try to secure funding from the recovery package.  For municipalities to receive funding through the bill, they must apply to the appropriate federal or state agencies.  The guidebook also provides constituents with valuable information as to how the legislation could directly affect them, their families, and their communities.

“While the final recovery bill is not perfect, I strongly believe that we needed to take quick action to help Americans who are struggling and help spur job creation,” said Congressman Kanjorski.  “Today, I released my guidebook detailing what resources are available to individuals, families, businesses, community organizations, and local governments in order to ensure that everyone fully takes advantage of the many pieces of the bill and understands how it could impact them and their communities.”

Congressman Kanjorski added, “In order for our communities to reap the benefits of the bill, municipalities must apply to the appropriate federal or state agencies for these competitive grants.  Therefore, my guidebook will help to make sure that local officials in Northeastern Pennsylvania fully understand how they can apply for such funding.  As a result, I hope that Northeastern Pennsylvania can secure funding from the recovery package to help boost our local economy and create jobs here at home.”

In addition to assisting municipalities, the guidebook also explains to constituents the many pieces of the recovery package that could directly affect them.  These include the following:

·       $250 one-time payments to recipients of Social Security benefits, Railroad Retirement benefits, veteran’s compensation or pension benefits, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI);

·       $400 tax credit for working individuals and $800 tax credit for working families in 2009 and 2010;

·       At least $90 million for job training, employment services, and job assistance programs for unemployed individuals in Pennsylvania;

·       Up to $2,500 tax credit for higher education of the cost of tuition and related expenses;

·       10 percent tax credit, without repayment, or up to $8,000, for first-time homebuyers on the purchase of a home in 2009;

·       Deduction for state and local sales taxes and excise taxes paid on the purchase of standard-sized automobile; and

·       Up to 30 percent tax credit on qualified energy efficient home and building improvements through 2010, for purchases such as new furnaces, energy-efficient windows and doors, or insulation, which will save families money and protect the environment.

Congressman Kanjorski’s guidebook to navigating the recovery package is available on his website, http://kanjorski.house.gov.   Click the “Learn about the Recovery Package” button to view it.

Stupidity Virus Hits Senate Republicans

We’re beginning to see exactly how stupid the remaining Senate Republicans are.  The last time Jim Bunning was perfect was Father’s Day 1964 and his very undistinguished Senate career took a serious hit this week.  Sen. Bunning started a Justice Ginsberg death watch while speaking to a local group in Kentucky:

During a wide-ranging 30-minute speech on Saturday at the Hardin County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner, Bunning said he supports conservative judges “and that’s going to be in place very shortly because Ruth Bader Ginsburg … has cancer.”

“Bad cancer. The kind that you don’t get better from,” he told a crowd of about 100 at the old State Theater.

“Even though she was operated on, usually, nine months is the longest that anybody would live after (being diagnosed) with pancreatic cancer,” he said.

Sen. Bunning is rooting for Justice Ginsberg to die the way Phillies fans rooted for his perfect game against the Mets on June 21, 1964.  Unfortunately now Bunning will be best known for his callousness and galling cheering for an icon of social justice to die.  Apologies don’t negate such extraodinarily bad behavior Senator.  

As if that weren’t stupid enough Sen. Richard Shelby then repeated the false claim that President Obama wasn’t born in Hawaii.  This has been debunked by the State of Hawaii which even went to the extent of releasing his official birth certificate to placate the fringe conspiracy theorists.  It seems Sen. Shelby is one of these fringe conspiracy theorists like the new President of the Kutztown University College Republicans.

Here’s what Shelby said:  “Well his father was Kenyan and they said he was born in Hawaii, but I haven’t seen any birth certificate. You have to be born in America to be president.”

Has a stupid virus hit the Senate Republican offices?  Perhaps this explains their recent votes.

Obama Releases $680 Million For Pennsylvania Medicaid

From the White House Press Office:

President Obama Announces More Than $680 Million in Medicaid Relief from ARRA for Pennsylvania

Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) funding available for states on Wednesday in special Treasury accounts

President Barack Obama announced this morning in a meeting with the Nation’s Governors that states will be able to access the first two quarters of Federal Medical Assistance Percentage funding (FMAP) – the federal match for Medicaid – starting this Wednesday, February 25. FMAP funding helps pay for health care for the families hit hard by the economic crisis and some of the nation’s most vulnerable citizens. More than 49 million Americans rely on Medicaid for health care coverage and this funding could help 20 million more Americans get covered.

Pennsylvania will be eligible for $680,278,921 under the bill. A chart detailing funding by state can be found HERE.

“This plan will also help ensure that you don’t need to make cuts to essential services Americans rely on now more than ever,” the President told the Nation’s Governors in a meeting at the White House this morning.  “To show you we’re serious about putting this recovery plan into action swiftly, I am announcing today that this Wednesday, our administration will begin distributing more than $15 billion in federal assistance under the Recovery Act to help you cover the costs of your Medicaid programs.”

“That means that by the time most of you get home, money will be waiting to help 20 million vulnerable Americans in your states get health coverage. Children with asthma will be able to breathe easier, seniors won’t need to fear losing their doctors, and pregnant women with limited means won’t need to worry about the health of their babies.”

Beginning Wednesday, February 25, the first installment of more than $15 billion included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will be available to States.

The first two quarters of FY 2009 funding for states has been set up in special Treasury accounts so that states, the District of Columbia, and the territories can start drawing down on those funds. This special, temporary increase in funding will be administered by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

States will need to meet Medicaid eligibility requirements outlined in the law to receive the new funding. CMS will be working with the States to ensure they meet the requirements as long as they wish to access the increased in Medicaid funding.