Covering

Covering Washington politics. From our vantage point. One day a time.



Wednesday, February 29, 2012

In Michigan, A Win's A Win

It is in Arizona Too.

"We didn't win by a lot, but it was enough", said Romney after winning primary votes in both Michigan (his home state where his father once governed) and Arizona (where Jan Brewer, after endorsing Romney last week, has to be proud).



Romney didn't sing this time (as he did after learning President Obama sang during a campaign event) but he did comment saying, "The people of Michigan looked into the hearts of the candidates, and all I have to say is 'I love you back."

Still not over 50%, Romney received 41% of the votes in his Michigan home town, in front of Rick Santorum who received a close 37%.  Ron Paul received 12%, beating out Newt Gingrich with just 7%.

In Arizona a different picture is painted with Romney winning higher with 49% of the votes. Rick Santorum trailed considerably with just 25%.  Voters again voted just 12% for Ron Paul, while Gingrich saw a slight uptick at 9%.

Is America really starting to accept Romney, or any of the other candidates as a viable options to defeat President Obama?

Writes CNN reporter Candy Crowley, "Uh, no."

But the win does give Romney momentum going into Super Tuesday which takes place on March 6.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Celebration of Blues

The White House, in celebration of African American History Month, held a workshop and live performance at the White House with some of America's best Blues artists.

First Lady Michelle Obama addressed students from various schools around the country in a Blues workshop where she told them to never sell themselves short.  "Anything is possible" she said to the blues music lovers and future musicians.



The White House State dining room was filled with the sound of Blues music as Blues artists B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Trombone Shorty, along with Mick Jagger delighted a crowd that included President Obama singing with Sweet Home Chicago.



See the entire evening performance here.

President Obama: Stop Rewarding Businesses That Ship Jobs Overseas

Continuing his administration's efforts to increase jobs and grow the economy, President Obama has set a new precedent designed to do away with tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas.

In a statement today, President Obama called the current tax system outdated and unfair, and vows to eliminate tax loop holes.

His full remarks are below.

"In my State of the Union, I laid out a blueprint for an economy that’s built to last -- where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone pays their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.  That includes a tax code that rewards companies who invest and create jobs in the United States of America. 

Our current corporate tax system is outdated, unfair, and inefficient.   It provides tax breaks for moving jobs and profits overseas and hits companies that choose to stay in America with one of the highest tax rates in the world.  It is unnecessarily complicated and forces America’s small businesses to spend countless hours and dollars filing their taxes. It’s not right, and it needs to change. 

That’s why my administration released a framework for reform that simplifies the tax code, eliminates dozens of tax loopholes and subsidies, and promotes job creation right here at home.  It’s a framework that lowers the corporate tax rate and broadens the tax base in order to increase competitiveness for companies across the nation.  It cuts tax rates even further for manufacturers that are creating new products and manufacturing goods here in America. Finally, because no company should be able to avoid paying its fair share of taxes by moving jobs and profits overseas, this framework includes a basic minimum tax for every multinational company.  This reform is fully paid for, and it won’t add a dime to the deficit.

As I said in the State of the Union, it is time to stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs overseas, and start rewarding companies that create jobs right here in America."

This will certainly not sit well with Republicans, who for so long, have made millions off tax loopholes for decades.

Recently, however, Congress did pass the payroll tax plan, giving middle-class families an added $40 each week in their pay (according to the administration) which will most certainly be used to offset the rising cost of gasoline, reportedly to reach the $5 mark by spring.

Friday, February 17, 2012

A First Lady Surprise!

First Lady Michelle Obama, along with dog Bo, surprised White House tour visitors yesterday, aneven the one wearing a Ron Paul T-shirt.   Still, the first lady had to remain poised, even in the face of a supporter of her husband's competition.



Mrs. Obama also greeted military nurses, 'Ronald McDonald', and scores of school kids who were visiting from around the country - all of whom exchanged hugs, brief stories, and pleasantries.

"We voted for you last time and we're voting again this time", said one visitor.

"I was pulling for you to win" the push-up competition with Ellen, said another.

First Lady Obama surprises White House visitors.
This is where we learn that the talk show host wants a rematch with the first lady.

"She said she went down farther and now she wants another competition", said Mrs. Obama.

It wasn't the first time First Lady Michelle surprised a White House tour group, and just like then, she was clearly the star of the day.  Just her appearance overwhelmed one woman so much that she got up from her wheel chair and walked toward her.  (It was better than watching televangelists who work their 'magic' on unsuspecting parishioners).

Of course no White House tour with First Lady Obama would be complete without hearing her encourage youth to eat their vegetables, listen to their parents, and stay out of trouble. The First Lady employed the students to "make sure you learn something" and advised them to "remember this day" as she spent over an hour hugging and shaking hands.

Don't want to sit through the entire video (78 minutes)? We've highlighted a few memorable photos from the tour here.  Enjoy!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Affordable Care Act extended free preventive services to 54 million Americans with private health insurance in 2011

Free preventive care also provided to 32.5 million in Medicare

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced today that the Affordable Care Act provided approximately 54 million Americans with at least one new free preventive service in 2011 through their private health insurance plans. Secretary Sebelius also announced that an estimated 32.5 million people with Medicare received at least one free preventive benefit in 2011, including the new Annual Wellness Visit, since the health reform law was enacted.

Together, this means an estimated 86 million Americans were helped by health reform’s prevention coverage improvements. The new data were released in two new reports from HHS.

“Americans of all ages can now get the preventive services they need, like mammograms and the new Annual Wellness Visit, free of charge, as a result of the new health care law,” Secretary Sebelius said. “With more people taking advantage of these benefits, more lives can be saved, and costly, and often burdensome, diseases can be prevented or caught earlier.”

The Affordable Care Act requires many insurance plans to provide coverage without cost sharing to enrollees for a variety of preventive health services, such as colonoscopy screening for colon cancer, Pap smears and mammograms for women, well-child visits, and flu shots for all children and adults. The law also makes proven preventive services free for most people on Medicare.

The report on private health insurance coverage also examined the expansion of free preventive services in minority populations.  The results showed that an estimated 6.1 million Latinos, 5.5 million Blacks, 2.7 million Asian Americans and 300,000 Native Americans with private insurance received expanded preventive benefits coverage in 2011 as a result of the new health care law.

The report discussing Medicare preventive services found that more than 25.7 million Americans in traditional Medicare received free preventive services in 2011. The report also looked at Medicare Advantage plans and found that 9.3 million Americans – 97 percent of those in individual Medicare Advantage plans – were enrolled in a plan that offered free preventive services.  Assuming that people in Medicare Advantage plans utilized preventive services at the same rate as those with traditional Medicare, an estimated 32.5 million people benefited from Medicare’s coverage of prevention with no cost sharing.

The full report on expanded preventive benefits in private health insurance is available here.  The report on expanded preventive benefits in Medicare and other ways that the Affordable Care Act strengthens Medicare is available at here.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Let's Move! In Iowa: FLOTUS Celebrates Terrific Two!

Making Healthy Sexy

As we posted earlier, First Lady Michelle Obama is celebrating two years of her Let's Move! campaign!

The celebratory tour started out in Iowa where the first lady is transitioning her message of healthy eating to U.S. military bases, focusing on the military's Food Transformation effort.    Here's a bit of her speech between the first lady and the military's 'top brass'.

MRS. OBAMA: And have you seen changes since implementing the Food Transformation and how service members responded in terms of how they feel?

COLONEL ROBINSON: I think they responded pretty well. We really tackled the physical fitness aspect first. And that I think manifested itself first and foremost because people would go to the AOR and Central Command in a very demanding environment, very hot, a lot of heavy lifting, very active, to get the mission done. And many people were exhausted and, frankly, couldn’t accomplish the mission or just couldn’t physically meet the demands in Iraq or Afghanistan.

So I think from the Air Force perspective that was our first sign. We’ve tackled very hard now the nutritional aspect, because the two definitely go hand in hand. I know for myself when I adopted the run several times a week and eating better, I come to work more upbeat, ready to perform, and I’m able to perform at my peak. And we have seen that result from around the Air Force.  And I think largely we’re over the physical fitness piece and we’re really very well involved in getting our hands around the nutritional aspect of it. But I think people understand that very much now.

GENERAL MURRIE: Yes, ma’am, we’re working hard to make healthy sexy. Sorry, but that’s what it is. 
MRS. OBAMA: Yes, that's right.

For full comments click here.

Today she visited Dallas where she hosted a cookoff with a few Dallas Cowboys (DeMarcus Ware, Felix Jones, DeMarco Murray) and a few top chefs where the mission was to prepare a healthy meal in thirty minutes or less.

Menus included a salad with arugula, carrots, and avacado puree, homemade applesauce and a whole wheat turkey taco.

Apparently all items met the approval of the first lady, who after judging the meals called a tie.

"The point in our decison," she said, was that when you pair great chefs with schools, "everybody wins."

Since the start of Mrs. Obama's healthy eating initiative, schools across the country have upgraded their menus and 1,589 new schools have met new, higher healthier eating standards this year.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Science at the White House

President launches marshmallows.

President Obama hosted his second Science Fair at the White House today, recognizing students from across the country for their innovation and contributions in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).

President Obama reviews a robot that plays soccer.  White House photo.

Joking that their were robots running around the house, the president said, "I still don't know how they managed to get through the medal detectors".

Among the science fair creations was a robot dubbed "Skype on Wheels" created by fourteen-year old  student Benjamin Hylak of West Grove, Pennsylvania. His bot is made out of a trash can with a computer monitor on top.  The robot was invented to help nursing home patients connect with family their family members.

"This is what we should be talking about", said President Obama.

The president, natually, tried out one of the science projects - a marshmallow compressor, launching a marshmallow across the room that eventually landed against the wall near the entrance to the Red Room.

"Secret Service is going to be mad at me about this" he said.



Other students participating at todays Science Fair included:
The Paul Robeson/Malcolm X Academy student team from Detroit, Michigan, competed in the Michigan Regional Contest of the National Engineers Week Future City Competition for the second year in a row.  Lucas Cain Beal, Jayla Mae Dogan, and Ashley Cassie Thomas, all aged 13, were part of a team that won the Excellence in Engineering Award at the 2012 Michigan Regional Competition focused on designing a city around the theme of "Fuel Your Future: Imagine New Ways to Meet Our Energy Needs and Maintain a Healthy Planet."   After being named Best Rookie Team in 2011, the students had to overcome losing their school to a fire.  Despite the adversity and having to merge with another school, the students were energized to take on the Future City challenge again, saying “(Future City) helps me make a better city to live in.”

Building an Award-Winning Robot and Learning Entrepreneurial Lessons.   Morgan Ard, Titus Walker, and Robert Knight, III, 8th grade students at Monroeville Jr. High School in Monroeville, Alabama won high honors at the South BEST robotics competition.  BEST teams mimic industry by designing and developing a product and delivering it to market, including a marketing presentation, engineering notebook, trade-show style exhibit booth and robot competition.   Through the experience, these middle school students not only learned the innovation and engineering  necessary to develop an award-winning robot, but the marketing and business  skills that spark true entrepreneurial spirit.
Student “Making” and Starting Small Business to Sell his Invention.   Fourteen year old Joey Hudy fromPhoenix, Arizona is already a Maker Faire veteran.  He invented an Extreme Marshmallow Cannon and an LED Cube Microcontroller Shield, which he has exhibited at Maker Faires in New York, San Francisco, and Detroit.  He received 2 Editors Choice Awards from Maker Faire, and has started a small business selling the microcontroller (Arduino) shield kits on several websites.  As the World's Largest Do-It-Yourself Festival, Maker Faire is the premier event for grassroots American innovation.

Developing a Portable Disaster Relief Shelter. Jessica D’Esposito, Colton Newton and Anna Woolery from Petersburg, Indiana are representing the Pike Central High School InvenTeam, one of fifteen schools selected nationwide.  They won a grant from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to develop a lightweight, portable disaster relief shelter, designed to be complete with a water purification system and a renewable energy source to power an LED light, which could be used after disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, or tornadoes to house people who have been displaced.

Young Women Rocketing to Nationals.  Janet Nieto and Ana Karen of Presidio, Texas were members of the Presidio High School Rocketry Team that competed as a National Finalist in the Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) in 2009, 2010, and 2011.  Gwynelle Condino, a 7th grade student at Lucy Franco Middle School, also of Presidio, Texas, is the leader of her TARC team this year.  All three girls have successfully competed in a number of rocketry challenges and have attended the NASA Student Launch Initiative Advanced Rocketry program.

Team of Girl Scouts Seeking Patent on Prosthetic Hand Device Which Enables a Young Girl to Write.  A group of middle school-aged Girl Scouts from Ames, Iowa, including Gaby Dempsey, Mackenzie Gewell, and Kate Murray developed a patent-pending prosthetic hand device, winning them the inaugural Global Innovation Award at the FIRST LEGO League competition, beating out nearly 200 other submissions.  Their invention was in response to the need of a little old girl in Duluth, Georgia, enabling her to write for the first time although she was born without fingers on her right hand.  Their patent pending BOB-1 has earned the girls the Heartland Red Cross Young Heroes Award, scholarships at Iowa State University College of Engineering, recognition on the Floor of the Iowa and the US House of Representatives, and the title of finalists for the 2011 Pioneer Hi-Bred Iowa Women of Innovation Awards.

Teenage CEO Inventing Dissolvable Sugar Packets to Reduce Waste.  Hayley Hoverter, a 16 years old student from Downtown Business Magnet High School in Los Angeles, California, won first place at the 2011 Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship's National Challenge for her idea for patent-pending ecologically conscious dissolvable sugar packets.  Hayley, now CEO of Sweet (dis)SOLVE, started her business as a part of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship’s (NFTE's) business plan competition.

The Obama administration plans to invest $80 million to help prepare effective STEM teachers. The President’s upcoming budget will request $80 million for a new competition by the Department of Education to support effective STEM teacher preparation programs, such as those that allow students to simultaneously earn both a STEM degree and a teaching certificate, and provide undergraduates with early and intensive experiences in the classroom honing their skills.

A new $22 million investment from the philanthropic and private sector to complement the Administration’s efforts: After the President issued his call to action to recruit and prepare 100,000 effective STEM teachers, over 115 organizations, led by Carnegie Corporation of New York and Opportunity Equation, came together to form a coalition called “100Kin10” to help reach the President’s goal.

Fourteen of those organizations include Carnegie, Google, the S.D. Bechtel, Jr., Bill & Melinda Gates, Freeport McMoran, and Michael and Susan Dell Foundations who are announcing a $22 million fund to invest in STEM teacher preparation and support. In addition, other 100Kin10 partners are making over 100 individual commitments.

The National Math and Science Initiative will prepare 4,000 new STEM teachers from 31 UT each sites by 2015.  Teach for America will recruit 11,000 STEM Corps members by 2015 and connect other qualified applicants to additional STEM teaching opportunities while Donors Choose will inspire 50,000 citizens to sponsor projects in math and science classrooms over the next two years, delivering $15M in critical classroom resources and helping 600,000 students nationwide.  The very popular interactive Google will share its talent management practices to help find, grow, and retain outstanding STEM teachers by partnering with districts and organizations for comprehensive reform and hosting talent academies with administrators and decision-makers.  In addition, California State University will prepare 1,500 new math and science teachers annually through 2015, half of whom will teach in high-need schools for at least three years and 10% of whom will earn dual certification, addressing the needs of hard-to-staff schools.  The University of Chicago will create a framework for organizing the learning that results from “100Kin10” investments and coordinate research among the partners.

A complete list of partners, and their commitments, is available at www.100Kin10.org.

Also participating in today's Science Fair were Bill Nye, the Science Guy, and the administration's EPA director Lisa Jackson.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

White House Chili Recipe

Need a new twist on an old chili recipe?    Try this White House chili recipe at your Super Bowl party this year.  Bon Appetit!



While there aren't plans for an official White House Super Bowl party this year, (the First Fam opting instead to watch it together) this chili recipe sure sounds like a great way to warm up a chilly Super Bowl Sunday afternoon.

Romney Takes Nevada

Obama campaign makes remarks.

Mitt Romney won his second caucus since wowing in Florida.   With 48% of the vote, and an endorsement from Donald Trump, Romney has gained Republican momentum in his bid for the White House.

"This isn't the first time you gave me your vote of confidence, but this time I'm going to take it to the White House", Romney said.



Romney also won Nevada in 2008.  (How many times have you won twice in Vegas?)

Romney's running mates, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Super Tuesday bound, came in with 23% of the Nevada votes, while Rep. Ron Paul gained a jump at 18% over Pennsylvania's Sen. Rick Santorum who managed 11% of the Nevada's votes.

The White House won't speak (at least publicly) about the Republican debates and caucuses, but sure make mention of them in campaign emails.

Here's what one Obama campaign email read last week about Romney's Trump endorsement suggesting they are not impressed, nor amused, by the event at hand:
"Yesterday, Mitt Romney said he was "humbled" to accept Donald Trump's endorsement. Seriously.

Yes, Donald Trump -- birth certificate conspiracy leader -- has decided that Mitt Romney's his guy, and Romney has embraced him without reservation. He made a speech and even sent out a press release welcoming him.

Meanwhile, here's what we're humbled by: 38,830 supporters have donated to the Two-Term Fund."
We can only image what they must the saying (and thinking) about actor/comedienne Rosanne Barr's bid for the Green Party nomination.  Yes, the woman who demolished the National Anthem at the 1990 Super Bowl and wants hemp legalized, is running for president.

Ron Paul, it's time you stepped up your game.


Actually, she does make a little sense in this video. But who, and how many, will actually agree with and take heed of her message?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Let's Move! Turns Two-Years Old!

We can hardly believe it's been two years already since First Lady Michelle Obama launched her Let's Move! campaign to inspire and teach America's children (and hopefully some grown-ups too!) the value of exercise and good nutrition!



From jumping jacks at the White House, to doing the dougie at a local DC school, the First Lady talks the talk, and walks the walk.  She is on a roll!  And she (and a few friends) plan to take her message cross- country on a tour (starting February 9th through February 11th) to celebrate Let's Move!, Y2  (Year Two).  (The Y2, part is our creation).

Here's the schedule we obtained from the First Lady's press office.

Thursday, February 9th Kickoff Celebration 
Let’s Move! Day in Iowa
First Lady Michelle Obama will kick off her three day national tour in Des Moines, Iowa, to highlight Iowa’s Healthiest State Initiative, a private-public partnership launched in August by Governor Terry Branstad and other government and business leaders to make Iowa the healthiest state in the nation by 2016. More than 10,000 children grades 6 - 9 from Iowa schools will fill Wells Fargo Arena in downtown Des Moines to participate in a high-energy, interactive celebration of the Let’s Move! anniversary, hosted by Iowa’s Healthiest State Initiative.

Mrs. Obama will be joined by former Iowa Governor and current Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Iowa Governor Branstad, as well as NASCAR racing champion and member of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition Carl Edwards, Olympic figure skating champion and member of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition Michelle Kwan (who was recently inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame), Olympic champion gymnast Shawn Johnson, 2011 WNBA MVP Tamika Catchings, Health and Fitness Expert Bob Harper, Iowa State University Basketball coach and former NBA player Fred Hoiberg – who are all committed to helping kids embrace good health, nutrition and physical fitness.  Governor Branstad will sign a proclamation establishing February 9 as “Let’s Move! Day in Iowa”.

Little Rock, Arkansas - Military Improving Nutrition for Servicemembers
First Lady Michelle Obama will visit the Little Rock Air Force Base to make an announcement about the military’s efforts to improve the nutrition of food served throughout military bases. Little Rock Air Force Base is part of a special pilot program that has enhanced food service quality, variety and availability through new acquisition processes and redesign efforts.  Mrs. Obama will receive a briefing on the Air Force’s healthy eating efforts from leadership and then visit the dining facility with cooks and airmen to discuss the changes. Childhood obesity has become a national security issue - more than one-quarter of our nation’s 17-24 year- olds are too overweight to serve in the U.S. military. Additionally, the Department of Defense spends an estimated $1.1 billion per year on medical care associated with excess weight and obesity.

Fort Worth, Texas - Parents and Businesses Making a Difference
First Lady Michelle Obama will hold a roundtable dinner discussion at a local Olive Garden with parents who are changing habits in their homes and communities. Mrs. Obama will have a conversation with the parents about their efforts and get their ideas on howLet’s Move! can continue to support families across the country. In September 2011, Darden, the world’s largest full service restaurant company which owns Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Longhorn Steakhouse and others, made a commitment to improve their kids menus by offering a fruit or vegetable and low-fat milk with every meal, as well as reduce total calories and sodium across their menus.This event will have a camera spray at the top, and the traveling print pool will cover the roundtable. 

The First Lady participates in a Let's Move! event at the White House.

Friday, February 10th 
Dallas, Texas - Schools and Chefs Working Together
First Lady Michelle Obama will join chef'testants from past seasons of Bravo’s hit series “Top Chef” and members of the Dallas Cowboys to highlight the work being done in schools across America to provide healthier food to students. The chefs will compete in a healthy cooking competition with students from Nancy Moseley Elementary School, a Gold school in the HealthierUS School Challenge program. The Dallas Independent School District is a leader in making healthy changes for its students – it has the most Gold schools of any district in the country. Chefs have played an important role in theLet’s Move! initiative, teaming up with schools all across the country to work with school chefs on healthy school meals and teach kids about the importance of a nutritious diet. Approximately 3,400 chefs and 3,350 schools have signed up for Chefs Move to Schools, and the First Lady will announce a coalition that is working together to expand the program.

Homestead, Florida - WebMD Town Hall: Simple Tips For Healthy Families
First Lady Michelle Obama will join experts from WebMD, a leading source of health information for consumers and professionals and a free source of trusted information on children’s health and wellness, to answer questions from a live local audience and a national online audience about how families can implement healthy changes in their daily lives.  The WebMD town hall style discussion will be held at a Miami-area YMCA. In November 2011, the YMCA, a leading nonprofit dedicated to youth development and healthy living and one of the nation’s largest child-care providers, announced that it is adopting a set of standards to ensure its programs offer children fruits, vegetables and water as snacks and adequate physical activity while children are in their care. The panel will include a WebMD pediatrician and nutritionist and a health and well-being expert from the YMCA. Parents can submit questions for the First Lady and the panel at www.webmd.com/townhall.

Orlando, Florida - Change Begins at Home
First Lady Michelle Obama will visit the home of an Orlando-area family who have made changes to become healthier. Mrs. Obama will have dinner with the family in their home and discuss the everyday changes families can make.

Saturday, February 11, 2012
Longwood, Florida - Faith and Community Groups Leading the Way
First Lady Michelle Obama will speak to a gathering of 3,000 people from diverse faiths at Northland, A Church Distributed, about the work of faith and community organizations across America to support healthy lifestyles. Mrs. Obama launched Let’s Move! Faith and Communities in November 2010 and since then, these organizations have initiated a broad range of activities including logging over 1,500,000 miles walked and working to provide healthy food to their congregations.  Saturday’s program will include choirs, performers and speakers from local and national congregations. Tickets are being distributed by local faith and community organizations.

Orlando, Florida - Getting Active Is Fun!
Following the event at Northland, First Lady Michelle Obama will travel to ESPN Wide World of Sports at the Walt Disney World Resort to participate in a physical activity event for hundreds of local kids and their families, including participants in the morning’s faith event. Disney Channel and Disney XD stars and professional athletes will be on hand as families participate in fun, physical activity stations.  Tickets are being distributed by local faith and community organizations.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Enhanced Retirement Security

U.S. Departments of the Treasury and Labor today announced two executive actions designed to help enhance security for millions of Americans saving for retirement. The measures will (1) expand transparency in the 401(k) plan marketplace and (2) broaden the availability of retirement plan options so Americans can maximize their ability to save responsibly and securely.


The Treasury Department’s proposal will also reduce regulatory burdens and make it easier for retirees to choose to receive their benefits as a stream of income in regular payments for as long as they live. These flexible “lifetime income” options can provide greater certainty in retirement and minimize the risk of retirees outliving or underutilizing their retirement savings.

“When American workers take the responsible step of saving for retirement, we should do all we can to provide them with sensible, accessible choices for managing their hard-earned savings. Having the ability to choose from expanded options will help retirees and their families achieve both greater value and security,” said Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Employee Benefits Security Administration today issued a final rule that will provide employers sponsoring pension and 401(k) plans with information about the administrative and investment costs associated with providing such plans to their workers. The department also announced a three-month extension in the effective date of this rule, meaning service providers must be in compliance by July 1, 2012, for new and existing contracts or arrangements between ERISA-covered plans and service providers.

“As President Obama has said, we’re at a make or break moment for the middle class and those trying to reach it. What’s at stake is the American value that hard work pays off. The common-sense rule that we are finalizing today will shed light on the true costs of 401(k) accounts and ultimately reward those working hard and saving for retirement,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “This rule, and its companion participant-level fee disclosure rule, will greatly increase the level of transparency in retirement plans. When businesses that sponsor retirement plans, and the workers who participate in those plans, get better information on associated fees and expenses, they’ll be able to shop around and make informed decisions that will lead to cost savings and a larger nest egg at retirement.”

Together, the actions by both the Treasury and Labor Departments will expand available options and provide greater transparency to help working families successfully plan for retirement and manage their retirement savings. The Council of Economic Advisers has prepared a detailed report describing the significance of today’s actions, which can be accessed here.

Urban Economic Forum To Be Held At Barnard College

On Friday, February 3, the White House Business Council, the White House Council on Women and Girls, the U.S. Small Business Administration, and Barnard College’s Athena Center for Leadership Studies will host an Urban Economic Forum on Barnard’s New York City campus to discuss the Administration’s commitment to supporting policies that create private-sector jobs and support the next generation of entrepreneurs who will not only strengthen our economy but compete globally.

The Urban Economic Forum at Barnard College is the first of a multi-city series designed to connect urban entrepreneurs and business owners to the local and national resources and networks they need to grow and hire, and to discuss ways to enhance their success. In addition to New York City, the Urban Economic Forums will be held in Birmingham, Columbus, Detroit, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Phoenix.


The mission of the White House Business Council is to provide a coordinated federal response to the challenges confronted by women and girls and to ensure that all Cabinet and Cabinet-level agencies consider how their policies and programs impact women and families. The Council is currently chaired by Valerie Jarrett, Assistant to the President and Senior Advisor.

Barnard, founded in 1889, is a Liberal Arts college in heart of New York City.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

President Obama Outlines New Homebuying Strategy

"No more red tape."  "Fairness and responsibility."

In a Town Hall Twitter session at the White House last July President Obama, when asked what he would have done differently since he became president answered, "I wish I could have done more to help homeowners stay in their homes."


President Obama holds up a proposed one-page mortgage application at
James Lee Recreation Center in Falls Church, Va.
Speaking today, speaking at the James Lee Recreation Center in Falls Church, Virginia, the president outlined his plan to help responsible homeowners, those he described as those who "paid their mortgages on time", and played by the rules, recover from a housing bubble that saw many Americans lose their homes due to unfair practices by credit lenders and mortgage companies.

"It was wrong.  It triggered the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes.  And it has been the single biggest drag on our recovery from a terrible recession", President Obama said.



Homeowners currently owe more on their mortgages than the current value of their homes.

The president announced his strategy to help homeowners save nearly $3,000 a year on their mortgage by refinancing at historically low rates, and vowed to make the home buying application process simpler.

"No more red tape.  No more runaround from the banks."
  
The president recounted the time he and the First Lady (both attorneys at the time) had trouble understanding all the details of their mortgage application.  "We looked at it and said, what is this?
 
The president held up a proposed one-page mortgage application saying "This is what a mortgage form should look like", upon as he announced his new "Homeowner Bill of Rights".
 
"Now that our new consumer watchdog agency is finally running at full steam, they can move forward on important protections like this new, shorter mortgage form", said the president.

"Simple, not complicated.  Informative, not confusing.  Terms are clear.  Fees are transparent."
 
The president said his proposal would not add to the existing deficit, suggesting that a small fee on the largest financial institutions will help fund his proposal.

The president has suggested that already foreclosed properties be turned into rental homes.

"Because as we know and a lot of families know, that empty house or 'for sale' sign down the block can bring down the price of homes across the neighborhood."

During today's Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Shaun Donovan speaking at today's White House briefing said homeowners currently underwater who chose to refinance would could get a new loan without being told 'no' by the banks.  Under the administration's proposal a homeowner could refinance into a new FHA loan, allowing the homeowner to pay off the old loan.

"This is smart economic housing policy", said Donovan.

Still, the bill has to go through Congress, who have suggested the bill is 'dead on arrival'.

The president, in response to Congress' planned blockage of the bill, said his administration would "keep building a firewall to prevent the same kinds of abuses" that led to the initial homeowner crisis.

"The places where we invest our nest eggs, raise our kids, plant roots in our communities, build memories.  We need to do everything in our power to repair the damage and make responsible families whole."

"It's personal", the president said.

--
Related
White House press briefing: Secretary of Housing Donovan, explains help for homebuyers initiative.
Watch:  President Obama On Housing
Fannie Mae to homeowners: Know Your Options