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Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, OMB Acting Director Jeffrey Zients, CEA Chairman Alan Krueger, NEC Director Gene Sperling, and Director of Domestic Policy Council Cecilia MuĂ±oz on the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget, 4/10/13
South Court Auditorium
He also made the very important point that you can grow the economy and strengthen the middle class, and reduce our deficits in a responsible way. You can do both. That’s what he has been doing. As you know, he signed into law .5 trillion in deficit reduction, two-thirds of that coming from spending cuts. And the budget he presents today would further reduce the deficit over 10 years by more than .8 trillion.
I have with me today four members, top members of the President’s team to discuss the budget with you. I will begin with Jeff Zients, who is the Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget. He will then introduce the other participants, and I will remain to field your questions after they make their presentations.
MR. ZIENTS: Thanks, Jay. And good afternoon, everybody. I’m going to do a quick overview of the major components of deficit reduction and the budget, and then I’m going to turn it to Alan to review the economic assumptions, and Gene and Cecilia to walk us through some of the investments and other policy highlights.
As Jay said, the main message of the President’s budget is that we can make critical investments that strengthen the middle class, create jobs, and grow the economy while continuing to reduce the deficit in a balanced way. We can do both balanced deficit reduction and jobs investments.
On the left hand side, in terms of balanced deficit reduction, the budget builds off the deficit reduction achieved to date, and it includes the President’s fiscal cliff compromise offer to Speaker Boehner from last December. Importantly, the budget replaces the indiscriminate cuts of the sequester with balanced deficit reduction. So it turns the sequester off.
At the same time, the President’s budget proposes important job investments to enhance economic growth through skills and competitiveness and in investments in education and R&D. All of these investments are fully paid for, so the investments do not add a dime to the deficit.
On deficit reduction, over the past couple of years, Democrats and Republicans have worked together to cut the deficit by more than .5 trillion. Here’s the breakdown of deficit reduction achieved to date: The Budget Control Act capped discretionary spending, saving over trillion. Another 0 billion in savings through 2011 appropriations. The end of last year’s fiscal cliff agreement reduced the deficit by more than 0 billion. Together, this deficit reduction lowered interest payments, saving an additional 0 billion. In total, more than .5 trillion in deficit reduction has been achieved.
The President is committed to achieving a total of trillion in deficit reduction. Four trillion is the amount or the benchmark, if you will, that Bowles-Simpson and other independent economists call for in order to put us on a sustainable fiscal path.
The good news is that we are more than halfway to this trillion target. The President's budget finishes the job with an additional .8 trillion in deficit reduction. This .8 trillion is from the compromise offer the President made to Speaker Boehner during the fiscal cliff negotiations in December. By including this offer in the budget, the President is showing his willingness to compromise and make tough choices, and his commitment to putting the country on a sustainable fiscal path.
Here are the components of the deficit reduction that take us from the .5 trillion achieved to date to over the trillion target. On the left side, starting with the .5 trillion we've already achieved, the first bar -- 0 billion in health savings that strengthen Medicare by squeezing out waste and incentivizing delivery of high-quality and efficient health care.
Next, 0 billion in savings from other mandatory programs, including reductions to farm subsidies, reforms to federal retirement contributions, and selling of unneeded federal real estate.
Next, 0 billion in savings by indexing annual inflation adjustments to the chained CPI. This is directly responsive to Speaker Boehner and Leader McConnell's request. Another 0 billion in discretionary savings beyond the BCA caps.
Next, 0 billion in revenues from tax reform by closing loopholes and reducing tax benefits for families with more than 0,000 in income. As a result of these savings, 0 billion from reduced interest payments on the debt. At the same time, we invest billion in infrastructure to repair our roads, bridges and create jobs. So an immediate -billion investment in infrastructure.
In total, this achieves .8 trillion in additional deficit reduction over the next 10 years, bringing total deficit reduction to .3 trillion with more than in spending cuts for every in revenue. To be very clear, this offer includes difficult cuts the President would not propose on their own, including CPI, which the President is only willing to do with protections for the vulnerable and as part of this balanced plan.
However, by including this compromise offer in the budget, the President is showing his willingness to make tough choices and his commitment to reducing the deficit and putting the country on a sustainable fiscal path.
Here are the annual deficits from 2012 to 2023, as a result of this deficit reduction. As you can see, in 2012, the deficit was 7 percent as a percent of the economy. The budget phases in deficit reduction to support the ongoing recovery. And by 2016, the deficit is below 3 percent. By 2023, it's below 2 percent at 1.7 percent. So 2023, deficit -- 1.7 percent. As a result of this deficit reduction, debt as a percent of our economy is also on a declining path. So with declining deficits and declining debt, the President's budget achieves an important milestone of fiscal responsibility and sustainability.
The budget reaches this important fiscal milestone while investing in the drivers of economic growth. In doing so, it demonstrates that we do not have to choose between deficit reduction and economic growth. It shows that we can do both. And indeed, we must do both. The country won't prosper if we have unsustainable deficits. But it also won't prosper if our infrastructure is crumbling and our workers lack the skills to compete.
Through paid-for initiatives like pre-K for all, job training, and accelerated infrastructure investment, this budget will enhance our nation's competitiveness. And through balanced deficit reduction, this budget will enhance confidence and lay the foundation for more durable economic growth. It’s the right strategy for our economy, for creating jobs, and for building prosperity.
With that, let me hand it off to Alan.
MR. KRUEGER: Thanks, Jeff. Let me say a little bit about the process that underlies the forecast in the budget, as well as some of the key components of the forecast. The forecast is made jointly by the Council of Economic Advisors, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Treasury Department in what is known as the Troika process.
The purpose of making this forecast is to enable the agencies to calculate spending and revenues. We concluded the forecast in the middle of May, so it’s about five months out of date. Sorry, in the middle -- I apologize, we completed the forecast in the middle of November, so it’s about five months out of date today.
We make the forecast under the presumption that the President’s budget and policies will be put in place. That means that we assumed that the sequester would not take effect. The budget replaces the sequester with a much smarter set of spending reductions, which would be much better for the economy.
So bearing that in mind, the forecast is a little bit out of date. On the other hand, I think if you compare our forecast to private sector forecasters or the Congressional Budget Office, their more current forecasts, we are still in the ballpark.
Over 2013, we’re projecting GDP growth to be 2.6 percent. Now, again, that’s assuming the sequester doesn’t take effect. The Congressional Budget Office has calculated that the sequester will reduce GDP growth by six-tenths of a percentage point. Our own internal estimates are very similar. So that suggests that GDP growth will be around 2 percent this year if the harmful sequester remains in place. That implies that overall economic growth in 2013 will look a lot like economic growth in 2012. In 2012, as you know, we added 2.2 million jobs, but the disappointing thing is that the economy is poised to grow more strongly. That's why we’re projecting stronger GDP growth absent the sequester.
The reason why we think the economy is poised to grow more strongly -- there are a number of reasons -- but most importantly, the housing sector finally appears to have turned a corner. Households are a lot further along in the deleveraging process. Corporate balance sheets are still quite strong. All of those conditions suggest that the economy is in a position to do a lot better going forward, but unfortunately the sequester is a step backwards.
Over the full 11 years that we’ve forecasted -- so that's 2013 through 2023 -- the average GDP growth rate is 2.8 percent. That's above what we think the long-run potential growth rate for the economy -- that's because there are slack resources as a result of the economic crisis. The long-run potential growth rate for the economy we put at 2.3 percent to 2.4 percent. Our projection is actually quite close to the Congressional Budget Office and private forecasters. The 2.8 percent figure that I mentioned for our forecast on average over those 11 years compares to 2.7 percent for the Congressional Budget Office, so very similar.
Let me next turn to the unemployment rate. The unemployment rate averaged 7.8 percent in the last quarter of 2012. It has since come down to 7.6 percent last month in March. We project the unemployment rate to fall to 7.5 percent by the end of this year, to average 7.5 percent in the last quarter of 2013, and then to come down half a percentage point over each of the next three years. So it would be 7 percent in 2014, at the end of 2014; 6.5 percent at the end of 2015; 6 percent in the last quarter of 2016.
If we were to update the forecast today, that's one component that we might change slightly. The unemployment rate has come down a bit faster than we expected when we made the forecast. When we made the forecast, the unemployment rate was 7.9 percent.
Last year, we saw the unemployment rate come down considerably faster than what our forecast had been. And I wouldn’t be surprised if we are off in the same direction this year; in other words, if our forecast is conservative.
On the other hand, I should note that our forecast exactly matches the average of private sector forecasters in the blue chip that was released this morning.
Inflation is projected to be 2.1 percent over this year, and then to average 2.2 percent over the entire 11-year period that we forecasted. And again, that’s also very close to the Congressional Budget Office and to private forecasters.
Let me conclude by saying there are, of course, risks to any forecast. On the downside, the sequester, I believe, is a risk to our forecast. As I mentioned, we did not assume that the sequester would be in place. No one wants the sequester to be in place. I think it’s widely recognized as bad policy. And that’s expected to shave around six-tenths of a percent off of GDP growth this year. The European debt crisis remains a threat to the economy. Geopolitical tensions from around the world also remain a threat.
I like to be balanced, so on the upside, there is potential for our forecast to surprise on the upside as well. And there, I would say -- I hate to call them risks -- the opportunities -- on the upside, are strong corporate balance sheets. If we lift some of the uncertainty that’s been weighing on the economy because of budgetary issues and the manufactured crises that have been causing uncertainty, that could help. There remains pent-up demand for durable goods, in particular for cars. And as I mentioned earlier, the housing market has been stabilizing nationwide. We’re seeing home prices grow nationwide, although some parts of the country are lagging behind.
So I think all of those are reasons why the economy is stronger this year and why there’s potential for the forecast to be a bit conservative this year.
Let me turn it over next to Gene.
MR. SPERLING: At my height, there’s not that much benefit to standing up, so I’ll stay seated. (Laughter.) I just want to go in a little further as to why the President’s budget plan today hits the right balance, not just in terms of revenues and entitlement savings, but the right balance in terms of an economic strategy that strengthens jobs and the recovery in the short term, while strengthening our long-term job creation and competitiveness.
To do that, a budget needs to hit a fiscal sweet spot, which is that it needs to at one time -- an economic plan at one time needs to create confidence that you are dealing with your long-term fiscal challenges, as Jeff described. That gives confidence to people deciding where to make long-term investment and job creation decisions that the United States is a place that is managing its long-term fiscal challenges.
You also need to make sure that you are taking measures that are strengthening the recovery and job growth, particularly when you are still coming back from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
And third, you need to make sure you are making room for the things that will fundamentally make us competitive and will encourage more location of high-wage jobs in the United States in the future. And the key thing is that these work best together. A strong plan to jumpstart job growth will not be as effective if people doubt whether you’re dealing with your long-term fiscal future. A strong fiscal deficit plan that has contraction and austerity at a time when your recovery is still seeking to get its full momentum can be counterproductive not just for jobs and growth, but counterproductive for even your fiscal forecast. And a strategy that forgets that we are competing against tough competitors around the world for where jobs and long-term investment decisions are going to be made, and what those components are that make us a magnet for job creation -- if you forget that, you also fail.
So hitting the fiscal sweet spot means having an economic strategy, as the President has, that deals with all of these together. Jeff has described very well how our plan adds another .8 trillion in deficit reduction; brings us under 2 percent of deficit as percent of GDP; extends the solvency of Medicare by four years. But let me just do the other two components quickly and then turn it over to my companion, Cecilia.
One, this plan is good for jobs right now because, first of all, it would take away the contractionary, anti-jobs nature of the sequester, which independent experts estimate will cost this economy from 500,000 to 750,000 jobs. But it also makes sure that as we are doing this long-term deficit reduction plan, that there is, as the President said, measures to jumpstart job growth right now.
And so this budget does include key aspects from the American Jobs Act that do not have any long-term impacts on our deficit, but can make sure, as part of this comprehensive plan, that we’re giving momentum to the recovery now. So in addition to taking away the contraction and the job-costing nature of the sequester, this still has -- and I’ll just put it in three buckets -- a strong infrastructure component that is accelerated. Even in the offer that the President gave Speaker Boehner, there is billion accelerated of infrastructure, most of it in the President’s “Fix It First” initiative. In addition, the infrastructure bank measures like TIFIA that are designed to leverage private sector capital.
Secondly, there are measures that are designed to help those communities and individuals who have been most hard hit -- things like a one-time billion for Project Rebuild to help deal with the worst blight from the housing crisis in our country today. Or a project that Cecilia and I have worked together, called Pathways to Work, which gives people funds to help the private sector encourage those who have been the longest unemployed or the most disadvantaged to get back in the private sector -- in private sector jobs.
Third, components that are about training, getting people back to work. There is a one-time tax credit for small businesses for increasing their wages and jobs this year, to accelerate hiring. There is the Veterans Job Corps proposal. There’s measures to encourage the rehiring of teachers and first responders. These make most sense as part of a long-term package where this is jumpstarting jobs in a context where a 10-year plan that is bringing down the deficit.
And then, secondly, this plan does include, even within the deficit reduction, even within the tight budgets, things that the President believes are critical for our competitiveness. And that is, for example, a focus on manufacturing. It includes our Manufacturing Innovation Institute, which we’ve already piloted. It includes expanding and making permanent the R&D tax credit. It includes helping small businesses by having a 0,000 expensing provision made permanent for small businesses. It includes a long-term commitment to infrastructure and to a strong reauthorization of our highway bill.
It includes a commitment on skills. Again, our Careers Community College proposal, but also a proposal that would consolidate our two major programs for displaced workers and put them together in one plan with greater accountability, with a focus on results, and a focus on helping everybody, regardless of how they’ve lost the job. And the proposal here would mean that 1.2 million instead of 500,000 people would get intensive reemployment assistance at this critical time in our economy.
So we realize that as we are jumpstarting jobs, as we are putting in long-term deficit reduction, we are also looking at what is going to make us most competitive. These are the measures, together with things like corporate tax reform, that could lower rates, reduce loopholes and expenditures, and still take on abuses in tax havens across this country that can also be good for jobs. So this is another key part.
Some of the critical things -- energy, pre-school, others, I will leave and turn over now to Cecilia Muńoz, our domestic policy advisor.
MS. MUŃOZ: Thanks very much, Gene. And by staying at the table, he was really mostly saving me from the indignity of being a pair of eyebrows above that podium. So thank you for that, too.
So this budget builds on the progress that we’ve made over the last four years in expanding opportunity for every community and every American willing to work hard to lift themselves up. You’ve heard us all describe -- and most importantly the President himself -- that we need to equip every American with the skills that they need to do the job and to get on a clear path to the middle class.
That education has to start in the earliest years so that our kids start school ready to learn. So there is clear evidence that the return on investment for high-quality pre-school is very high. But we also know that a lot of middle-class parents can't afford private pre-schools. So this budget includes a proposal to ensure that every 4-year-old in this country has access to high-quality pre-school, which not only gives our kids the best possible start in life but it delivers a host of other benefits to our society, including saving hardworking families a lot of money -- thousands each year in child care costs.
The budget envisions this as a federal-state partnership, much like the way the K-12 educational system works. It creates incentives for states to also promote access to high-quality, full-day kindergarten, as well as to expand opportunities for high-quality child care for children younger than age four. It's an investment of billion over 10 years, which we propose to finance by raising the federal tax on cigarettes by about 94 cents a pack. Studies make very, very clear that higher cigarette prices deter kids from taking up smoking and yield all kinds of health benefits throughout their lives.
So this is a major investment in the future of our economy and the future of our children. And I would say that anybody who has been around a 4-year-old can likely attest that they are a powerful force for the future and they're more than worth the investment.
The pre-K proposal is part of a suite of early childhood proposals in this budget. I'm just going to briefly touch on two others. There is a .6 billion investment to grow the supply of high-quality early learning opportunities for kids from birth to age three, as well as a billion investment in successful, evidence-based, voluntary home visiting programs to help the most vulnerable first-time parents and their families. And that's another example of a program where the evidence just demonstrates extraordinary benefits over time to those kids and to those families, and to the rest of us overall.
I want to touch also on the Promise Zones proposal. This is consistent with the President's vision of making sure that we are protecting and growing the middle class, and also providing, as he calls them, ladders of opportunity for people who are still struggling to reach the middle class. So the budget provides details on the President's Promise Zones proposal, which is an investment in 20 of the hardest-hit communities across the country with the highest poverty. And it does this by expanding tax credits, but also by making additional investments in existing administration programs.
We think of these as sort of signature programs that have demonstrated real value and real impact that are expanding in this budget. There's a million investment improving public safety, anti-crime, anti-violence programs for these communities; a 0 million investment in the Department of Education's Promise Neighborhoods program; and a 0 million investment in HUD's Choice Neighborhoods program.
And the idea is for the agencies to be coordinating in making investments in these hard-hit communities to make sure that we're helping local leadership get communities on the other side of the tipping point to create opportunity, create jobs, make sure that folks are ready for those jobs, and that we're making opportunity available in these parts of the country again. Part of the Ladders of Opportunity initiative also includes the President's proposal to expand the minimum wage, which you've heard about, to an hour.
The budget also outlines a variety of proposals to continue investing and building a competitive workforce. One of the principles of such proposals is something you heard the President describe in the State of the Union address -- it's a high school redesign proposal. It's a competitive 0 million fund to provide challenging and relevant learning experiences to students in high school, linking them to higher education, linking them to employers; improving instruction; and preparing students both for higher education as well as for the workforces that they will be entering when they finish school.
You heard Gene mention the Community College to Careers program. And there is also in this budget a demonstration of the President's continued commitment to high-quality instruction and expansion of education in STEM fields -- science, technology, engineering and math. In particular, what this budget proposes is a consolidation of a variety of STEM education programs that exist now all across the federal government. There are some 200-such programs now. The budget proposes to consolidate those so that we can maximize the use and the impact of every one of those dollars.
In addition, the budget builds on the President's previous proposals to control the cost of higher education. So there is a 0 million First in the World fund to spur cutting-edge innovations aimed at driving the cost of college down. There are reforms to campus-based aid programs, again, to reward colleges that are driving costs down and moving quality up. And a billion Race to the Top-style fund to support competitive programs in states, again, to drive higher education reform with a particular view towards reducing college costs.
I'm just going to highlight a couple of things as well with respect to energy in the budget. The budget continues the President's all-of-the-above energy strategy that you've heard us talking about. And just two quick highlights: As an energy security trust, a billion investment over 10 years to support research into a range of cost-effective transportation technologies. And a Race to the Top-style investment of 0 million to encourage states to cut energy waste and build efficiency and modernize the grid.
So I know that's a lot of stuff, but let me stop there because I know we want to make sure to have time for questions.
MR. CARNEY: Thank you, Cecilia. So what we’ll do is I’ll call on folks who have questions for Alan, Cecilia, Jeff or Gene. That's three directors and a chairman. Pretty good group to ask questions of.
And I’ll start with Jim Kuhnhenn.
Q Thank you. I don't know who best answers a question, but I have two questions -- one on the corporate tax reform plan and the other one on chained CPI.
In your corporate tax portion of the budget, you have a number of tax increases, including changes to the international tax system, elimination of oil and gas subsidies, and so forth. Does all that additional revenue get used exclusively for lower corporate tax rates? You’ve all in the past talked about a lower corporate tax rate of 28 percent, and a 25-percent tax rate for manufacturing companies. I don't think that's mentioned in the budget, and I wondered why that wasn’t included. And I can ask the CPI question after that if you could answer.
MR. SPERLING: So there’s really -- there’s nothing new in our corporate tax proposal. What the President and our posture has been on corporate revenue is the following: We think there is a significant number of unjustified tax expenditures and loopholes in our current tax code, and we think some of them do have negative impacts in terms of shifting to tax havens. And we have -- the President has put forward detailed proposals.
The President believes that those proposals could be used to lower our deficit, or to help support more economically justifiable tax incentives. However, what he has said for the last couple of years is that if there was a concerted effort -- which requires the business community working together, bipartisan congressional action to have historic comprehensive corporate tax reform that would lower rates, have a minimum tax on foreign earning that would discourage any type of race to the bottom in terms of tax havens -- if we were able to do that, he has said that he would accept a revenue-neutral corporate tax reform proposal.
So, again, if that’s not going to happen, and we’re going to stay with the status quo, the President believes that these measures should be eliminated. If we’re in a status-quo world, then they should help contribute to the deficit. But, again, if this is going to be a -- if there’s a once-in-a-generation moment to have comprehensive corporate tax reform that eliminates -- reduces expenditures, loopholes, unnecessary incentives, tax haven behavior, and lowers rates to make our corporate tax code more competitive, help incent, encourage more jobs on our shores, then he’s willing to do that in a revenue-neutral way. That’s been our position for the last couple of years. That is still our position right now.
MR. ZIENTS: Can I add one thing there?
MR. SPERLING: Yes, go ahead.
MR. ZIENTS: And, again, this comes under the heading of nothing is new -- the billion of annual extenders, those either have to be gotten rid of or paid for through revenue-neutral tax reform.
Q And the goal is still 28 percent for a corporate tax rate?
MR. SPERLING: That is what we have put forward, but I think what’s important to the President is really that it meets these principles. If somebody has something that is not going to hurt the deficit, that’s going to meet his goals, we’re always open to other ideas. But we think 28 percent, and 25 percent for manufacturing is a strong aspiration. But if others have ideas about how you could even go further in a way that is pro-jobs and does not hurt the deficit, of course, we’re always willing to listen to other ideas.
Q On chained CPI, you say the switch -- in the budget, you say the switch will apply to non-means-tested programs. In addition to Social Security, can you give us an example of what some of those -- or a list of what some of those programs would be? And how would you specifically protect the vulnerable populations in those programs?
MR. ZIENTS: The means-tested programs would not switch over to chained CPI. So the federal retirement program is an example of a program that would have chained CPI going forward.
Q Veterans programs as well?
MR. ZIENTS: The means-tested veterans programs are excluded. So we could give you a longer list of where it applies.
MR. SPERLING: SSI, Pell grants would be examples of things where the chained CPI would not apply.
Q And would it apply to minimum wage as minimum wage is adjusted onward according to inflation? Because you raised minimum wage to , but then the President in his State of the Union said it would then be adjusted onward by -- according to information. Would it use the chained CPI formula?
MR. SPERLING: We put the minimum wage proposal out, and we are hoping to have a strong bipartisan process to pass that. And I think at this point we’ll probably wait to have those discussions. The important thing for the President is to -- passing minimum wage is his belief that nobody who works full-time should be raising their children in poverty. And there are -- people have different formulations for that. What we really want is to see that discussion engaged.
MR. CARNEY: Mark.
Q Hi. Bob Weiner, Main Street Radio and national paper columns.
MR. CARNEY: I said Mark, sorry. Mark Rosenthal.
Q Oh, I’m sorry.
MR. CARNEY: Go ahead.
Q Should I go ahead?
MR. CARNEY: Go ahead with Mark from Reuters and then we’ll get to you.
Q Thank you. You’ve said that the total of revenue that you would increase for deficit reduction is 0 billion. Could you say how much total revenue would be increased to pay for other programs that you’re proposing, for example, the early childhood education and so on? How much -- excluding the revenue increases from the 28-percent cap and the Buffett Rule and so on -- would you apply to investments?
MR. SPERLING: So, as Jeff said, the budget offers -- keeps on the table the last offer to the Speaker, compromise offer, which had 0 billion of revenue from high-income individuals. We then, as you know, put additional measures in our plan that could be -- that the Boehner offer, not conditioned on, but what we think would represent the kind of balanced economic strategy that we’ve discussed.
Most of the times that we -- almost all the times that we have additional revenues beyond that are to actually pay for other tax relief. For example, we even have a reserve -- one thing that’s in our plan, mentioned -- is we do talk about extending for the additional five years the Obama increases in the earned-income tax credit, the child tax credit, and the American opportunity tax credit, the college tax relief. In doing that, we believe that should be part of the baseline. So if people in a negotiation accepted that that was part of the baseline, that would not have to be paid for. But if somebody said they took a different view, we put in 0 billion as a reserve that could help pay for them.
So that’s revenue there, to just be fiscally conservative, to say that we believe in extending those important tax incentives. And that if people believe they should be paid for as opposed to being part of the baseline, they are in -- our baseline -- I believe the Maya MacGuineas’s group, others, keep that in the baseline, but if they didn’t -- so those are revenues that are really just in reserve if they were needed to pay for that. Other revenues are for other of our tax cuts that we have going forward.
The one place where we explicitly raise revenues to do a new investment is what Cecilia talked about. It is the tobacco tax to pay for early childhood. That is a place where we are making a decision that we believe that additional revenue is justified for the positive that it serves in terms of early childhood and the deterrent effect that it has on smoking.
Q If I could just also follow up on the chained CPI. Speaker Boehner has criticized the administration for, in his words, “upholding that hostage to raising revenues.” If going to the chained CPI is a good way to rationalize entitlement programs and if it, in fact, also would raise revenues, why not handle that separately as an issue on its own?
MR. ZIENTS: It’s not the President’s preferred policy. He’s willing to do it as part of the comprehensive .8 trillion deal that puts us on a sustainable path, gets us out of this pattern of manufactured crisis after manufactured crisis. So the condition for CPI is that it’s part of a balanced, comprehensive package. And then, again, the second condition is that it has these protections to protect the most vulnerable and older recipients of Social Security.
MR. SPERLING: And let me just add -- several of us have been part of many bipartisan budget agreements. Obviously, when you’re having a bipartisan budget agreement it requires give and take on both sides. You can’t have an agreement where one side says, if you make a compromise, they say, well, we’ll just take that. That doesn’t work. And it can’t work -- it couldn’t work the other way. If they said, well, as part of your agreement, we’re willing to support your infrastructure plan but only if you did all the entitlement savings, we couldn’t say, oh, well, thank you, we’ll just take that. You’d understand that was put on the table as part of a compromise.
Now, December 3rd, Speaker Boehner, Eric Cantor, Hensarling, Ryan wrote this President a letter very explicitly saying that they were willing to do 0 billion in revenues if it followed the offer -- the compromise that Erskine Bowles had put out to the super committee, which you know included CPI. The Majority -- the leader, Minority Leader, Senator McConnell, again said that if you’re going to have a deal with revenues -- this was as recent as January 6th on “Meet the Press” -- that one of the things that they felt was needed for giving revenues was the CPI.
So when they’ve gone to us and said, this is one of the things you need to do for us to be willing to do a comprehensive package, obviously it doesn’t feel right or isn’t in the spirit of a bipartisan compromise to then say, if the President is willing to put that on the table, something that’s not ideal to him for a compromise, that therefore you can decide that’s just an à-la-carte menu that you can pick off.
We’ve made very clear that not everything in our budget has to be part of an agreement. We’ve made very clear that the last offer to Speaker Boehner -- that everything else is not -- I’m sorry, that the last offer to Speaker Boehner is not conditioned on the additional investments that we think are best and are in our budget. But the offer that is there for Speaker Boehner is not an à-la-carte menu, and you can’t decide to only pick out the concessions the President has made and not include the concessions that are from the Republican side, that need to be part of a bipartisan deal that could pass both houses.
MR. CARNEY: John Harwood.
Q If I’m reading this right, you propose billion over 10 from restoring the estate tax to the 2009 parameters. I thought that you guys signed in the fiscal cliff deal a permanent change in the estate tax at different levels in that. So are you proposing to get rid of the deal that was in the fiscal cliff tax bill?
MR. ZIENTS: It kicks in, in 2018, so it’s -- the estate tax reverts back to the 2009 parameters as of 2018.
Q You mean under current legislation it already does that?
MR. ZIENTS: No, under the President’s proposal.
Q You’re proposing to do that?
MR. ZIENTS: Yes, we are proposing that.
Q But why so soon after the President signed that bill, which was permanent, would you propose to change it?
MR. ZIENTS: This impacts very few estates. I think the figure is 3 out of 1,000. There’s still a .5 million individual exemption, million per couple. It takes the rate to 45 percent from 40 percent. And we believe that in these fiscal times, that it’s responsible policy in 2018 for the estate tax to return to the 2009 parameters.
Q Is that the biggest -- aside from tobacco and the deficit reduction tax proposals that you have, is that the biggest new revenue provision that you have, even among those that are used to offset other tax cuts for middle class and for --
MR. KRUEGER: I believe so, but I’ll check for you to make sure.
MR. CARNEY: Dave Shepardson.
Q Two questions. One on the Promise Zones -- is there a price tag for the whole program? And then what’s the criteria for communities to take part?
MS. MUŃOZ: So it’s essentially the sum of the numbers that I gave, the million, which is essentially Department of Justice; 0 million at Ed; 0 million at HUD. Aside from that, other agencies are going to align programs where they have the discretion to align programs but there aren’t necessarily new funds. And then there’s a tax credit proposal as well which is part of that.
And the agencies are working now on the criteria. But the goal is that if you are the leader of such a community -- so it could be a county, it could be a city, it could be a neighborhood -- it should feel like one doorway in to a partnership with the federal government, and it would be both resources as well as technical assistance. We would seek to build also on a program that we have called, Strong Cities, Strong Communities, where federal agencies have actually embedded staff on the teams of six mayors around the country so that we’re really supporting local leadership and identifying clear goals and clear metrics, and breaking down the barriers within the federal government to make sure that we’re the best possible partner.
Q And on the energy trust, security trust, is that billion over 10 years in addition to the increase in the vehicle research budget that you’re talking about?
MR. SPERLING: Yes, that’s my understanding it is.
MR. ZIENTS: Yes, it’s a separate billion trust fund.
MR. CARNEY: April, then Major.
Q Hello. I want to get in the weeds just a little bit about the kindergarten, full-day kindergarten, and the opportunity ladder issue. Could you talk to me about how many teachers you’re expecting to add to this program, especially as you’re trying to make full-day versus half-day kindergarten plans? How much is the cost? And also, what -- I’m trying to marry the issue that this administration is trying to cut the numbers of people smoking with the ads and things of that nature, and then increase the tax on cigarettes at the same time. So what kind of revenue are you expecting from that as you’re looking at cutting the numbers of those smoking?
MS. MUŃOZ: So we’ve done pretty detailed calculations, because we know from previous experience that when you raise cigarette taxes by a certain amount, we know a couple of things. One is that we know that it has the biggest impact on youth smoking, that young people are the most sensitive to changes in the price. So we estimate that about 233,000 young people would not choose to smoke as a result of this particular tobacco tax proposal. So we do know a little bit about how it impacts smoking, and that figures into our calculations about the revenue that it would raise. The revenue that it raises is essentially the price tag for the early-childhood proposals.
With respect to your question about the numbers of teachers, we don’t have that level of granularity, in part because this is not -- this is a federal-state partnership the way the K-12 system is a federal-state partnership. So while the federal government would be providing resources to the states, and the states would have a match, and providing some direction with -- so that we can ensure that what we’re providing here is a quality program, what we would seek to be providing is sort of a framework that the states would then use. But they would also have some flexibility with respect to how to get there.
So because there’s a significant state part as well as a federal part, it’s really hard to estimate exactly the numbers of teachers that we would be talking about. But I should say that among the federal standards that we would seek to make part of this framework, is to make sure that pre-K teachers were paid on the same scale as teachers in the K-12 system.
Q Do you have a ballpark, though?
MS. MUŃOZ: I don’t.
Q So you have the funds, but you don’t necessarily --
MS. MUŃOZ: Right, because each state is going to make its own determinations about how best to achieve the goals of the program.
MR. CARNEY: Major Garrett.
Q I just want to follow up on April’s question about the funding stream for the pre-K, because if you, as a public policy goal, achieve fewer smokers, you might have a lower revenue stream 10 years out than you do now. But I would imagine the pre-K need is going to be consistent and rather predictable over many budget cycles, not just 10 to 20 years. Do you have any fear that this could become a mandate that runs out of funds, or that you may have to future adjust the tobacco tax to keep pace with the need?
MS. MUŃOZ: So we have built that into the calculations. I mean, obviously our ability to predict the future is limited. But we do know that there have been increases in cigarette taxes previously, so we do know something about how they work, how they impact smoking, and what kind of revenue you can expect. And we’ve built that into the calculations. So we believe that we’ve covered the 10-year cost of this program the way we’ve designed it.
MR. SPERLING: Major, when Office of Tax Analysis or Joint Tax Committee do this, I mean, when they do their score, they do project what the impact is on behavior and adjust. So that is adjusted into the score, so it’s not just a static level. So it is built into the score, their predictions of how it would actually affect usage.
MR. CARNEY: Lori Montgomery.
Q Thanks. Maybe I’m just getting old, but I’m having a really hard time figuring out the deficit reduction numbers this year. By your calculations, the effect of your proposals on deficits reduce your 10-year projection by .4 trillion, which is less than the .8 trillion in the package. And I’m a little bit confused about the difference, A. And then, there also seems to be a difference between the .3 trillion in deficits you’re racking up over the decade and the increase in the debt, which is much larger. So could you explain?
MR. ZIENTS: Well, on the first question, in the current law is the sequester, which is 100 percent, across-the-board, indiscriminate spending cuts. We are replacing the sequester, which has always been the President’s intent, with balanced deficit reduction. So in current law you have the across-the-board, pure spending cuts which are hurting the economy, which were never intended to be policy, and they're replaced with balanced deficit reduction.
The other thing that's going on I think, Lori, that's causing some of your confusion is that we are clear about our willingness to do the .8 trillion deficit reduction, as we talked about on that first slide. At the same time, we believe there are important investments to be made -- we just talked about a bunch of them -- each of which is offset. So I think the place to pivot to is that chart that I showed which is deficits as a percent of the economy and how we’re driving them down year over year. We’re below 2 percent at the end of 2023; we’re at 1.7 percent. And debt is on a declining path.
So it can be confusing because we have the .8 trillion offer; it replaces the sequester, which was never intended to be policy, with balanced deficit reduction. And we do also have the investment modules. But to be clear, the President is willing to do the compromise offer with Speaker Boehner separate from the investment modules.
Q Well, looking at total deficit reduction separate from the sequester and OCO and all the others --
MR. ZIENTS: So I think the right way to think about the total deficit reduction is the .5 trillion that we’ve achieved to date --
Q No, no, no, I mean just in this budget, what’s the total --
MR. ZIENTS: .8 trillion is the incremental, which is made up of 0 billion of health care; 0 billion of discretionary; 0 billion of other mandatory; the chained CPI that we talked about; and the 0 billion of revenue, and then the interest savings resulting from the .6 trillion.
You can walk through that on table S-3 and we can work with you offline to do that.
Q What’s the difference then between the .3 trillion in deficit that you’re racking up over a decade, and the .7 trillion increase on the debt?
MR. ZIENTS: Gene, jump in here, but I assume that’s the interest that’s accumulating on the current debt that we have.
MR. SPERLING: I think it’s publicly held versus total debt.
MR. ZIENTS: So that’s another distinction is we always look at publicly held, so you have the interest that’s accumulating on the current debt. So let’s make sure that we walk through any specific numbers with you. It’s hard to do real time without seeing the numbers you’re looking at. But do focus on where are we driving debt -- deficits as a percent of the economy. That’s the metric that everybody uses. They’re on a declining path. They’re below 2 percent at 1.7 percent at the end of the window.
MR. SPERLING: The other reason I think it’s so important to look at that is, you’re right, we’re still in a world where people are often using different baselines, et cetera, but all of that comes out in the wash when you just look at the bottom line. And if you look at the bottom line, whether you count a -billion decrease as in something that was supposed to be in the baseline, or whether you count it as a revenue, or whether you count it as a spending or the categorizations. All those things that you and I and about 18 other people in the world care deeply about, all of them don’t actually matter when it comes to what the ultimate impact is, and that is: Are you as a country seeing your debt declining as a percentage of your income, or increasing? And so just to reemphasize what Jeff said, the bottom line is the bottom line and what matters.
MR. CARNEY: Jessica Yellin.
Q Two questions. One is, would you give a little more information on how you want the million cap on 401Ks to work? Do you see a threshold adjusting every year? Do you want money above million being segregated into another account? What happens to that? And then, my second question is on the social safety net, the other end of the spectrum. How do you propose to protect the oldest Social Security recipients? Do you want, for example, a one-time payment to people who have been in the program for 20, 25 years?
MR. ZIENTS: Why don't I do the second question and then Gene do the cap on the IRA. There is an adjustment for older Social Security beneficiaries that kicks in at age 76 and begins to phase in at that point. This is consistent with what Bowles-Simpson also recommended as part of movement to chained CPI. So there is an adjustment that starts at age 76.
Q Is it a yearly adjustment?
MR. ZIENTS: Yes. It’s based off of 5 percent of average wages.
MR. SPERLING: And fully phases in at around -- it goes from 76 to 85 in the adjustment.
Look, the IRA is obviously our entire rationale as a country for giving tax incentives to retirement was to overcome myopia -- make sure people invest more so they don't under save for their future. That's good for them. It also makes sure the rest of us don't have to pay -- have more government spending that is needed.
There isn't a lot of justification, if any, for why you would be giving those tax incentives for somebody who was able to account for over million in an IRA where most people are putting in a few thousand a year. So what the budget does is it says that once you have an amount sufficient to finance an annuity of 5,000 a year, that anything above that just should not -- you should not get the deferral of taxes on; you should not get tax-exempt treatment on. And right now, at 2013, that amount comes to million.
When you think of things we ought to do at a time when we're asking for some tough choices across the board, this should be in the heavily no-brainer category that anything above million does not require tax deferral or a tax-exempt contribution.
Q The Republicans have been complaining about using war savings in this budget. You're using it to pay for I guess about 6 billion on new spending on jobs and infrastructure programs, as well as accounts in your deficit figures. What's the rationale for using war savings to pay for new programs and putting it in as deficit savings when we never paid for them in the first place?
MR. ZIENTS: So this is directly the result of the President's policy to end the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. It's CBO. It's in their baseline. So this is consistent with CBO. And, importantly, it closes the door for additional discretionary spending, so it's good budget discipline. We are using it, as you said, to offset jobs investments in the .3 trillion that we've talked about several times. None of the OCO savings is part of that .3 trillion of deficit reduction. It's additional deficit reduction beyond that.
Q Right, but the Republicans say that your total deficit reduction -- if you back that out and you back out the sequester -- is closer to a 0 billion in your budget when you take it as a total.
MR. ZIENTS: I'd have to walk through their math. What I can tell you is that it's driven by policy. It's consistent with CBO. It closes the backdoor on discretionary spending. And we're using, as you said, about 0 billion to offset directly investments in infrastructure and jobs. We are not counting any OCO savings in the .3 trillion, which is the result of the .5 trillion that's already been achieved and the .8 trillion that we just went through. So it's not in that .3 --
MR. SPERLING: And it's not, as Jeff said, in the .8 trillion offer, compromise offer. So however you want to debate the accounting for that, it affects neither the bottom line on the deficit as a percentage of GDP or the debt GDP. It has no difference on that calculation of the ultimate bottom line. It has no effect on the .3 trillion, as Jeff said. No effect on the .8 trillion. And, for the record, the total OCO savings is I believe 5 billion. So the amount being used to offset the rebuilding, modernizing infrastructure and the jobs is about perhaps a fourth of the amount of savings.
MR. ZIENTS: But, again, just to repeat what Gene said earlier, there are lots of different ways to look at the numbers. At the end of the day, where are we on deficits, and is debt on a declining path as a percent of GDP -- those are the two key metrics.
MR. SPERLING: And I think people who care about fiscal discipline should take very seriously what Jeff said about locking this in and not allowing this to be a cushion that people can go to. I think it is an important fiscal discipline policy and there's no reason it shouldn't be credited as such.
MR. CARNEY: And I think, if I could just add to this, people who care about fiscal discipline should note that the same Republicans who make those assertions are ones who claim that their budget can give a .7 trillion tax cut mostly to the well-off and well-to-do and yet balance in 10 years, but they will not tell you how.
Last question, Donovan.
Q Thanks, Jay. Quick question, there’s not a lot of new stuff in here. And as you’ve said, it relies -- Alan, you said it’s based on a forecast from November. Could you help explain why this is so late? Why did this take so long to come out?
MR. ZIENTS: The prime budget season for OMB is November, December. And given what was going on with the fiscal cliff negotiation, we needed to put much of it on hold to understand what was going to happen in the fiscal cliff negotiation.
Coming out of that, obviously, there was a deal struck to extend the middle-class tax cuts, to increase taxes for families above 0,000. There were changes in the discretionary caps for 2013 and 2014. So those had major impacts on the budget process. We lost that couple-of-month period of time. We ramped back up. We had complexity around the sequester and the sequester kicking in unfortunately on March 1st. So given those delays primarily driven by fiscal cliff negotiation, made worse by the sequester, the budget was delayed, and we’re happy to be rolling it out today.
MR. CARNEY: I’ll do --
Q Just --
MR. CARNEY: Go ahead, Donovan.
Q One very quick follow-up. On the tobacco tax, it tends to disproportionately affect the poor, who smoke more. Is there -- what does the administration say to critics who say that this is a further infringement on the freedom of the American people -- they don't want to pay more out of taxes, whether it’s on cigarettes or anything else?
MS. MUŃOZ: Well, it is true that people who don't smoke won’t pay this tax. And it is also true that we are doing, as you heard asked earlier, our level best to help folks who are trying to quit smoking, including under the Affordable Care Act smoking-cessation programs are available as a preventive service without copays or co-insurance. So folks will have greater support in being able to stop smoking if that's what they choose to do.
MR. CARNEY: And finally, the gentleman from Main Street Radio, not named Mark.
Q And, again, apologies, but when I was handed a mic I thought it meant talking.
MR. CARNEY: I called on someone else by name, that’s all. But go ahead.
Q So what about the argument that when you cut Social Security, and now 50 percent of -- the bottom 50 percent of Social Security recipients get 90 percent of their income from it, so means testing is going to be very difficult. And even in response to Boehner, and when you cut Medicare, you’re just adding to poverty among the elderly, which is now down to 7 percent from 65 percent before the programs. And, on the other side, if you means test, you’re pulling away the broad support for Medicare and Social Security, and you’re endangering the programs politically. That was Claude Pepper’s argument. So that’s why the programs were designed that way in the first place. Can you address those?
MR. SPERLING: Every single thing that this President does that affects Medicare is designed to protect it, protect its guaranteed-benefits structure, its universality for all seniors. The measures in our plan -- as you know, Medicare was supposed to be insolvent in 2016. The measures in the ACA pushed it to 2024. These measures would push it another four years out on solvency. This President has rejected very strongly anything in the premium support or vouchers that would in any way segment people so that there were incentives designed to segment those depending on how young or healthy you were versus older and having health issues. So this President is completely dedicated to that.
Now, as the President has said, we do have a challenge. It’s not our only fiscal challenge, but the cost of Medicare growth -- I mean, health care growth, while Medicare growth has come down significantly and, most importantly, the Baby Boom generation does create challenges. And the President is trying to do very sensible reforms that protect that core benefit structure.
Now, in terms of the means testing, the only thing -- what’s in this proposal -- and this was one of the three things that some of the Republican leadership has called for -- is to have some means testing on Medicare. Now, the way -- what the President has done is propose that, in part B, the premium that is paid by those who are well-off in their senior years would be higher. So right now, the average Medicare recipient only bears 25 percent of the cost of part B Medicare, the part that goes to -- for your doctor coverage.
Prior to the President coming in, there has already been policies that said at 0,000 a couple and above, people would pay higher than 25 percent. And that ranges up to about 0,000 a couple. So what this proposal does is it says that if you are an older couple that has income of 0,000 or above, you're going to pay a higher percentage of the cost. But in all cases, you still have a benefit of being in Medicare. If you're making 0,000, you're going to pay the large fraction of what the cost of that program is so that the rest of general revenues, the rest of the public is not subsidizing it.
But in all cases, an older American -- anyone -- is still better off being part of the Medicare part B program. So there's nothing that we have done that in any way tears the program apart -- quite the opposite. What the President has fought hardest for is against things like premium support. There's been a lot of talk about the fact that he was willing to accept their condition of CPI. But you should also recognize that the President has not accepted their condition of raising the Medicare retirement age to 67. That's something that he has both privately and publicly rejected.
And in terms of Social Security, nothing in the proposal we have with the adjustments we have would increase the elderly poverty rate. And what the President is trying to do, all of the savings from -- to the effect that the CPI has impact on Social Security, those go back and actually help close about 10 to 15 percent of the solvency gap for Social Security. We put fund savings back to adjust, as Jeff said, for older Social Security recipients.
And just remember, too, that this President has fought so hard to also protect Medicaid in this budget. We have minimal Medicaid savings. Medicaid is where older Americans get their long-term health care from, and he has made that a very, very tough fight.
So I think when you look at what this President has done overall, it is just a hard, fast defense of what he considers some of the crown jewels of our government and key for retirement dignity. And everything he does is designed to make sure that they're as strong for the next generation as they have been for previous generations.
Q A higher percentage goes to what on Medicare?
MR. SPERLING: I think it goes to 35 or 40 percent as you hit the 0,000. Is that what you're talking about? And then, it goes up a little higher as you go up the bracket, with the highest being over 0,000 a couple. But in all cases, you're paying for a higher percentage. Your Medicare premium is paying for a higher percentage of your Medicare part B. But, again, everyone still has an incentive to still be part of the Medicare program.
Q A higher percentage, you mean at the top of 0,000?
MR. SPERLING: Let me check. I want to make sure that we have the exact details on that. So why don't you check back on that.
MR. CARNEY: I want to thank everyone very much. I want to thank you for your questions. I wanted to note, just if I could, to end on Gene's answer, which is that when the President accepted some demands, if you will, from Republicans to include in the offer to the Speaker of the House, one of those demands or proposals from Republicans that he rejected was that we raise the retirement age for Medicare and Social Security. He rejected that because he felt that it was not fair or good policy.
Thanks very much.
1:55 P.M. EDT
Remarks by the First Lady at the Joint Luncheon Meeting: Working Together to Address Youth Violence in Chicago
1:54 P.M. CDT
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you. It’s good to be home. It is. Even though it’s freezing cold in April, it’s good to be home.
It is certainly a pleasure to be here with all of you today. I want to start by thanking Rahm for that very kind introduction and that very powerful statement of what our kids in this city need, and also for his outstanding leadership here in this city.
I also want to acknowledge Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. Thank you all for being here. It’s good to see you. You’re all looking good. It’s very good.
And of course, I want to recognize Jim Reynolds as well as Tom Wilson for taking the lead as co-chairs of the Public Safety Action Committee. Thank you both for your leadership, for your words, for your service. We are so very proud of you.
And most of all, I want to thank all of you for coming here today on behalf of this city’s young people. I want to thank you for your commitment to their safety, their wellbeing, and their God-given potential. And I know that many of you aren’t new to this work. For years, you have been sponsoring sports leagues, afterschool programs, summer jobs and more.
So you in this room know firsthand the impact that we can have when this city truly invests in our children. And that’s something I know from my own experience, which is why it was so important for me to be here today.
I’m here today because Chicago is my home. I was born and raised here. I built my career here. Several of my bosses are here -- former bosses are here. I met and married the love of my life here. I raised my children here, who, by the way, still refer to Chicago as home. They believe it gives them a little more credibility.
So let me tell you, when it comes to ensuring the health and development and success of young people in this city, for me, this is my passion, it is my mission. And for me, this is personal because my story would not be possible without this city.
And that’s where I want to start today -– by talking about our city and the neighborhoods that make us who we are. As you all know, Chicago is truly a city of neighborhoods, separated by parks and boulevards. It’s a city where walking just a few blocks can put you into an entirely different world of experiences. Cut through a park, and you go from English to Spanish, black to white, Puerto Rican to Polish. Cross a few streets, and you go from historic homes and manicured lawns to abandoned buildings and dark street corners.
So the opportunities available to a child growing up in one neighborhood in this city might be vastly different than a child growing up just five blocks away. And that difference can shape their lives and their life prospects from the moment they’re born.
That was certainly the case for me. As Rahm said, I was born and raised in South Shore. Our neighbors were teachers and secretaries, city workers; also a few professionals, doctors, lawyers, business owners. Most folks weren’t wealthy. A lot of people never went to college. And we generally couldn’t afford things like private music lessons or tutoring.
But thanks in part to this city, our lives were still rich with opportunities. We had decent public schools. I am a product of our public schools. We attended the Chicago Park District summer camps. Got a lot of ribbons from those camps I’m quite proud of. Played basketball on city courts. Our churches ran programs to expose us to music and the arts. So we didn’t have to be children of privilege to get the opportunity to enrich ourselves.
And back then, our parents knew that if they loved and encouraged us, if they kept us off the streets and out of trouble, then we’d be okay.; They knew that if they did everything right, we’d have a chance.
But today, for too many families and children in this city, that’s simply no longer the case. Today, too many kids in this city are living just a few El stops, sometimes even just a few blocks, from shiny skyscrapers and leafy parks and world-class museums and universities, yet all of that might as well be in a different state, even in a different continent.
Because many of our children have never been to the Art Institute or Millennium Park. Many of them don’t even know that the University of Chicago exists, let alone dream of attending that university -– or any university for that matter. They haven’t strolled along Navy Pier. Some of them have probably never even seen the lake. Because instead of spending their days enjoying the abundance of riches this city has to offer, they are consumed with watching their backs. They’re afraid to walk alone, because they might get jumped. They’re afraid to walk in groups, because that might identify them as part of a gang and put them at risk.
At Harper High School in Englewood, where I’ll be visiting later on today, a newly-hired teacher noticed that when classes ended in the afternoon, kids would leave the building and walk right down the middle of the street. Now, at first, she thought this was just typical adolescent misbehavior. But one student explained that it’s actually safest that way, even with all the cars whizzing by, because it gives them the best view of any fights or shootings, and they have more time to run.
Thousands of children in this city live in neighborhoods where a funeral for a teenager is considered unfortunate, but not unusual; where wandering onto the wrong block or even just standing on your own front porch can mean putting yourself at risk.
Those are the odds that so many young people are facing in this city –- young people like Hadiya Pendleton, whose funeral I attended back in February. And we all know Hadiya’s story. She was 15 years old, an honor student at King College Prep. And she came from a good family -– two devoted parents, plenty of cousins, solid godparents and grandparents, an adoring little brother. The Pendletons are hardworking people. They’re churchgoing folks. And Hadiya’s mother did everything she could for her daughter. She enrolled her in every activity you could imagine -– cheerleading, majorettes, the praise dance ministry -– anything to keep her off the streets and keep her busy.
And as I visited with the Pendleton family at Hadiya’s funeral, I couldn’t get over how familiar they felt to me. Because what I realized was Hadiya’s family was just like my family. Hadiya Pendleton was me, and I was her. But I got to grow up, and go to Princeton and Harvard Law School, and have a career and a family and the most blessed life I could ever imagine.
And Hadiya? Oh, we know that story. Just a week after she performed at my husband’s inauguration, she went to a park with some friends and got shot in the back because some kid thought she was in a gang. Hadiya’s family did everything right, but she still didn’t have a chance. And that story -– the story of Hadiya’s life and death –- we read that story day after day, month after month, year after year in this city and around this country.
So I’m not talking about something that’s happening in a warzone halfway around the world. I am talking about what’s happening in the city that we call home, the city where we’re raising our kids, the city where your businesses operate.
This kind of violence is what so many young people like Hadiyah Pendleton are dealing with every single day. And those two boys charged with her shooting -– this is the violence they were facing as well. And you have to wonder: What if, instead of roaming around with guns, boys like them had access to a computer lab or a community center or some decent basketball courts? Maybe everything would have turned out differently.
Maybe they would be doing their homework, or taking jump shots, or learning a new program instead of looking for trouble. Maybe if these kids saw some kind of decent future for themselves, instead of shootings, there would just be fistfights, some angry words exchanged.; And then maybe -- just maybe -- today, more of our young people would be in classrooms and at jobs, instead of in custody, facing even worse odds than they started out with.
See, at the end of the day, this is the point I want to make -– that resources matter. They matter. That what it takes to build strong, successful young people isn’t genetics, or pedigree, or good luck. It’s opportunity. And I know from my own experience. I started out with exactly the same aptitude -– exactly the same intellectual, emotional capabilities -– as so many of my peers. And the only thing that separated me from them was that I had a few more advantages than some of them did. I had adults who pushed me. I had activities that engaged me, schools that prepared me to succeed. I had a community that supported me and a neighborhood where I felt safe.
And in the end, that was the difference between growing up and becoming a lawyer, a mother, and First Lady of the United States, and being shot dead at the age of 15. And that is why this new fund that you’ve created here in Chicago is so important. It is so important.
As you’ve heard, this fund will help create those ladders of opportunities for all of our kids. It will give our children mentors who push them and nurture them. It will teach them the life skills they need to succeed. It will give them alternatives to gangs and drugs -- safe places where they can learn something and stay out of trouble.
Because we know that every single child in this city has boundless promise no matter where they live. And whether we give them the chance to fulfill that promise and grow into productive adults who lead meaningful lives -– see, that’s on us. That’s our job. And our kids know when we’re fulfilling that obligation. They know. They know the difference between lip service and reality. They see it and feel it every single day.
So we can host all the luncheons and make all the announcements we want. But at the end of the day, if our kids keep waking up in neighborhoods where they don’t feel safe on their own front porches, if they’re still attending schools with crumbling ceilings and ripped-up textbooks, if there’s nowhere safe for them to go when that afternoon bell rings, then nothing speaks louder than that. Nothing.
So let’s be clear. This is going to take a serious and sustained investment over a very long period of time, people. This is forever. And I am here today to join the call to all of you -– Chicago’s most distinguished business and community leaders -– to take up this challenge with fervor. And I hope that communities across America will follow Chicago’s lead to get our young people off the streets and back on track to successful lives.
Right now, my husband is fighting as hard as he can, and engaging as many people as he can, to pass common-sense reforms to protect our children from gun violence. And these reforms deserve a vote in Congress.
As he has said, we can’t stop all the violence in the world. But if there is even one thing we can do, even one step we can take to save another child, or another parent from the grief that’s visited families like Hadiya’s and so many others here today, then don’t we have an obligation to try?
But we all know that these reforms must be just one part of a comprehensive effort to rebuild our neighborhoods and build a better future for our children. And if anyone can make that happen, it’s all of you. You all are some of the most creative, innovative, influential people not just in this city, but in the entire country. You have brought together folks from all across Chicago to do great things for this city, like build Millennium Park, host the NATO Summit -- quite well, by the way -- make the lakefront the cultural jewel of the Midwest.
And today, we need you to dig deep and apply that same passion, determination and civic pride to this city’s most precious asset –- our children. Now, we all take great pride in this city. And I don’t just mean the center of it; I mean every single one of the 77 neighborhoods that make us who we are. Each of these neighborhoods is a vital part of this city, as is every single child.
And as business leaders, you all know that this city’s young people are your future workers, your future customers. Their success is critical to the success of your businesses, which is critical to the success of this city.
But you all are also here, I know, today because you know that this is about more than just fulfilling a business obligation or a civic obligation. You all know that this is a moral obligation. Because ultimately, this city and this community will be judged not just by the beauty of our parks and lakefront, or the vitality of our businesses, but by our commitment to our next generation.
I think my husband put it best when he spoke to the people of Newtown, Connecticut back in December, and he said this is –- and this is a quote: “This is our first task, caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged. And by that measure, can we truly say, as a nation, that we’re meeting our obligations?”
That is the question my husband asked -– are we truly meeting our obligations to our children? It’s a question we should also be asking in Chicago and in every corner of this country.
And it was the question weighing on my heart when I met with Hadiya Pendleton’s classmates on the day of her funeral. Dozens of them later spoke at the service, each referring to her as “my best friend.” And let me tell you, it is hard to know what to say to a room full of teenagers who are about to bury their best friend.
But I started by telling them that Hadiya was clearly on her way to doing something truly worthy with her life. I told them that there is a reason that we’re here on this Earth -– that each of us has a mission in this world. And I urged them to use their lives to give meaning to Hadiya’s life. I urged them to dream as big as she did, and work as hard as she did, and live a life that honors every last bit of her God-given promise.
So today, I want to say the exact same thing to all of you. I want to urge you to come together and do something worthy of Hadiya Pendleton’s memory and worthy of our children’s future.
Join me and Hadiya’s classmates and young people across this city who, by the way, even in the face of so much hardship and such long odds, are still fighting so hard to succeed.
We need to show them -– not just with words, but with action -– that they are not alone in this struggle. We need to show them that we believe in them, and we need to give them everything they need to believe in themselves.
I would not be here if it weren’t for that kind of belief. And I know that together, we can do this. So let me tell you this: I look forward to the work that you do. I look forward to you hitting this goal and surpassing it. I look forward to this city being the model of what communities can do to wrap their arms around our youth and make them the best they can be, to embrace all of our neighborhoods and every last one of our children.
Thank you so much. Good luck, and God bless.
I applaud Senators Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey for their leadership on forging a bipartisan agreement around commonsense background checks that will make it harder for dangerous people to get their hands on a gun.
This is not my bill, and there are aspects of the agreement that I might prefer to be stronger. But the agreement does represent welcome and significant bipartisan progress. It recognizes that there are good people on both sides of this issue, and we don’t have to agree on everything to know that we’ve got to do something to stem the tide of gun violence.
Of course, a lot of work remains. Congress needs to finish the job. The Senate must overcome obstruction by defeating a threatened filibuster, and allow a vote on this and other commonsense reforms to protect our kids and our communities. Any bill still has to clear the House. So I’m going to keep asking the American people to stand up and raise their voices, because these measures deserve a vote – and so do the families and communities they’re designed to protect.
The American people extend condolences to the people of Iran for the devastation that resulted from the recent earthquake and aftershocks in southern Iran, particularly to those whose loved ones were injured or lost their lives. We are deeply saddened by the loss of life and the destruction that’s been caused by this disaster, and stand ready to help the Iranian people in this time of need.
Washington, D.C.—The Office of the Vice President today announced that Sheila Nix, who most recently served as Chief of Staff for Vice President Biden at Obama for America, will serve as Dr. Jill Biden’s new Chief of Staff.
Dr. Biden said: “I am thrilled to have Sheila take on this new role. She’s a terrific leader and I know that her wide-ranging experience, strategic vision, and passion will continue to move us forward.”
Sheila Nix comes to the White House from a broad range of leadership positions, including serving as ONE’s U.S. Executive Director, where she was responsible for ONE’s advocacy, communications, and campaign activities in the United States. Before joining ONE, she was a senior vice president for the Strategy Group, focusing on direct mail strategy and production for presidential, Congressional, and state races.
Nix brings a wealth of experience having worked in federal and state government and politics for more than 20 years. Her public service career includes serving as the first Chief of Staff to Senator Bill Nelson of Florida and serving as Chief of Staff and Legislative Director to Senator Bob Kerrey. She also served as the Budget Director at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
She earned her BSBA in Accounting from Creighton University and her JD from the University of Chicago Law School.
11:00 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. Please, please have a seat. Well, as President, my top priority is to do everything I can to reignite what I consider to be the true engine of the American economy: a rising, thriving middle class. That’s what I think about every day. That’s the driving force behind every decision that I make.
And over the past three years, our businesses have created nearly 6.5 million new jobs. But we know we can help them create more. Corporate profits are at an all-time high. But we have to get wages and incomes rising, as well. Our deficits are falling at the fastest pace in years. But we can do more to bring them down in a balanced and responsible way.
The point is, our economy is poised for progress -- as long as Washington doesn’t get in the way. Frankly, the American people deserve better than what we’ve been seeing: a shortsighted, crisis-driven decision-making, like the reckless, across-the-board spending cuts that are already hurting a lot of communities out there -- cuts that economists predict will cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs during the course of this year.
If we want to keep rebuilding our economy on a stronger, more stable foundation, then we’ve got to get smarter about our priorities as a nation. And that’s what the budget I’m sending to Congress today represents -- a fiscally responsible blueprint for middle-class jobs and growth.
For years, the debate in this town has raged between reducing our deficits at all costs, and making the investments necessary to grow our economy. And this budget answers that argument, because we can do both. We can grow our economy and shrink our deficits. In fact, as we saw in the 1990s, nothing shrinks deficits faster than a growing economy. That’s been my goal since I took office. And that should be our goal going forward.
At a time when too many Americans are still looking for work, my budget begins by making targeted investments in areas that will create jobs right now, and prime our economy to keep generating good jobs down the road. As I said in my State of the Union address, we should ask ourselves three questions every day: How do we make America a magnet for new jobs? How do we give our workers the skills they need to do those jobs? And how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?
To make America a magnet for good jobs, this budget invests in new manufacturing hubs to help turn regions left behind by globalization into global centers of high-tech jobs. We’ll spark new American innovation and industry with cutting-edge research like the initiative I announced to map the human brain and cure disease. We’ll continue our march towards energy independence and address the threat of climate change. And our Rebuild America Partnership will attract private investment to put construction workers back on the job rebuilding our roads, our bridges and our schools, in turn attracting even more new business to communities across the country.
To help workers earn the skills they need to fill those jobs, we’ll work with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America. And we’re going to pay for it by raising taxes on tobacco products that harm our young people. It’s the right thing to do. (Applause.)
We’ll reform our high schools and job training programs to equip more Americans with the skills they need to compete in the 21st century economy. And we’ll help more middle-class families afford the rising cost of college.
To make sure hard work is rewarded, we’ll build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class for anybody who is willing to work hard to climb them. So we’ll partner with 20 of our communities hit hardest by the recession to help them improve housing, and education, and business investment. And we should make the minimum wage a wage you can live on -- because no one who works full-time should have to raise his or her family in poverty. (Applause.)
My budget also replaces the foolish across-the-board spending cuts that are already hurting our economy. And I have to point out that many of the same members of Congress who supported deep cuts are now the ones complaining about them the loudest as they hit their own communities. Of course, the people I feel for are the people who are directly feeling the pain of these cuts -- the people who can least afford it. They’re hurting military communities that have already sacrificed enough. They’re hurting middle-class families. There are children who have had to enter a lottery to determine which of them get to stay in their Head Start program with their friends. There are seniors who depend on programs like Meals on Wheels so they can live independently, but who are seeing their services cut.
That’s what this so-called sequester means. Some people may not have been impacted, but there are a lot of folks who are being increasingly impacted all across this country. And that's why my budget replaces these cuts with smarter ones, making long-term reforms, eliminating actual waste and programs we don’t need anymore.
So building new roads and bridges, educating our children from the youngest age, helping more families afford college, making sure that hard work pays. These are things that should not be partisan. They should not be controversial. We need to make them happen. My budget makes these investments to grow our economy and create jobs, and it does so without adding a dime to our deficits.
Now, on the topic of deficits, despite all the noise in Washington, here’s a clear and unassailable fact: our deficits are already falling. Over the past two years, I’ve signed legislation that will reduce our deficits by more than .5 trillion -- more than two-thirds of it through spending cuts and the rest through asking the wealthiest Americans to begin paying their fair share.
That doesn’t mean we don't have more work to do. But here’s how we finish the job. My budget will reduce our deficits by nearly another trillion, so that all told we will have surpassed the goal of trillion in deficit reduction that independent economists believe we need to stabilize our finances. But it does so in a balanced and responsible way, a way that most Americans prefer.
Both parties, for example, agree that the rising cost of caring for an aging generation is the single biggest driver of our long-term deficits. And the truth is, for those like me who deeply believe in our social insurance programs, think it's one of the core things that our government needs to do, if we want to keep Medicare working as well as it has, if we want to preserve the ironclad guarantee that Medicare represents, then we’re going to have to make some changes. But they don't have to be drastic ones. And instead of making drastic ones later, what we should be doing is making some manageable ones now.
The reforms I’m proposing will strengthen Medicare for future generations without undermining that ironclad guarantee that Medicare represents. We’ll reduce our government’s Medicare bills by finding new ways to reduce the cost of health care -- not by shifting the costs to seniors or the poor or families with disabilities. They are reforms that keep the promise we’ve made to our seniors: basic security that is rock-solid and dependable, and there for you when you need it. That's what my budget represents.
My budget does also contain the compromise I offered Speaker Boehner at the end of last year, including reforms championed by Republican leaders in Congress. And I don’t believe that all these ideas are optimal, but I’m willing to accept them as part of a compromise -- if, and only if, they contain protections for the most vulnerable Americans.
But if we're serious about deficit reduction, then these reforms have to go hand-in-hand with reforming our tax code to make it more simple and more fair, so that the wealthiest individuals and biggest corporations cannot keep taking advantage of loopholes and deductions that most Americans don’t get. That's the bottom line.
If you're serious about deficit reduction, then there's no excuse to keep these loopholes open. They don't serve an economic purpose. They don't grow our economy. They don't put people back to work. All they do is to allow folks who are already well-off and well-connected game the system. If anyone thinks I’ll finish the job of deficit reduction on the backs of middle-class families or through spending cuts alone that actually hurt our economy short-term, they should think again.
When it comes to deficit reduction, I’ve already met Republicans more than halfway. So in the coming days and weeks, I hope that Republicans will come forward and demonstrate that they’re really as serious about the deficits and debt as they claim to be.
So growing our economy, creating jobs, shrinking our deficits. Keeping our promise to the generation that made us great, but also investing in the next generation -- the next generation that will make us even greater. These are not conflicting goals. We can do them in concert. That’s what my budget does. That’s why I’m so grateful for the great work that Jeff Zients and his team have done in shaping this budget. The numbers work. There’s not a lot of smoke and mirrors in here.
And if we can come together, have a serious, reasoned debate -- not driven by politics -- and come together around common sense and compromise, then I’m confident we will move this country forward and leave behind something better for our children. That’s our task.
Thank you, God bless you. God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
11:11 A.M. EDT
7:40 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Everybody, please have a seat. And give it up for our musical director, Booker T. -- (applause) -- and the Memphis Soul All-Stars. (Applause.) I just want everybody to know that it is now my second term, so rather than “Hail to the Chief,” we're going with that from here on out. (Laughter and applause.) Little change in tradition.
Now, before we get started, I am going to exercise some presidential prerogative to say a few words about two very special people who are here tonight -- this will humiliate them, but I'm going to go ahead and do it anyway. Jess Wright and Kenny Thompson both work on my staff -- crucial members of my team since way back in Iowa in 2007.
Over the weekend, Kenny popped the question and Jess said yes. (Applause.) So I want to congratulate -- publicly -- Kenny Thompson and Jess Wright. A beautiful couple. (Applause.) We love them. They are wonderful. They've been loyal, shown such great friendship to me, and I'm so glad that they have gone ahead and taken the plunge.
By the way, guys, Justin Timberlake just got married to this lovely young lady right here, Jessica Biel. (Applause.) So Justin can probably offer you a few pointers. And, Justin, they are looking for a wedding singer. (Laughter.) I'm just saying.
Tonight, I am speaking not just as a President, but as one of America’s best-known Al Green impersonators. (Laughter.) So I have a new appreciation for what Al once said about the Memphis Soul sound that he helped create -- “We don’t even know ourselves how that music has endured for so long and how that came out of us.”
All I know is I’ve been looking forward to tonight because, let’s face it, who does not love this music? (Applause.) These songs get us on the dance floor. Even the governor of Tennessee said he's going to dance tonight. (Laughter.) They get stuck in our heads. We go back over them again and again. And they’ve played an important part in our history.
In the sixties and seventies, Memphis knew its share of division and discord and injustice. But in that turbulent time, the sound of Hi, and Duke, and Sun, and Stax Records tried to bridge those divides -- to create a little harmony with harmony. The great Memphis musician Don Nix went to an all-white school, and he described what it was like. He said, “If you could imagine, nobody’s ever heard R&B music before. White kids had never heard it. And you can imagine what that did to us.”
So he and others kept playing music that everybody could get into. They created a whole new sound, and as they did, they broke down barriers. On McLemore Avenue, in the heart of a segregated city, Stax Records was integrated from the studio musicians all the way to upper management. Booker T. Jones and Steve Cropper, who are both here tonight, helped form one of the city’s first integrated bands. They weren’t allowed to go to school together. They weren’t always allowed to travel or eat together. But no one could stop them from playing music together.
And that was the spirit of their music -- the sound of Soulsville, U.S.A., a music that, at its core, is about the pain of being alone, the power of human connection, and the importance of treating each other right. After all, this is the music that asked us to try a little tenderness. It’s the music that put Mr. Big Stuff in his place. (Laughter.) And it’s the music that challenged us to accept new ways of thinking with four timeless words: “Can you dig it?” (Laughter.)
So it’s really no surprise that Memphis Soul swept the nation, and it has stood the test of time. And tonight, we bring it to the White House.
We’ve got folks here who were there at the beginning, legends like Mavis Staples, Charlie Musselwhite, William Bell, and Eddie Floyd. We’ve got artists like Cyndi Lauper, and Ben Harper, and Queen Latifah, who still turn to Memphis for inspiration. We’ve got Justin Timberlake, a proud son of Memphis who’s never forgotten his roots, and the Alabama Shakes, who are bringing the Muscle Shoals sound to a new generation.
So to all of you, even more than for the music you’ve created, I want to say a special thank you for the difference that you’ve made in our lives. More than half a century after Soulsville, U.S.A. first opened its doors, you still bring us together. You still remind us how much we have in common. You still help us imagine a better place. And you promise, through your beautiful music, that you can take us there.
So tonight, we’re going to start things off with two extraordinary artists who span the generations -- one is a Memphis legend who’s been around just about forever, the other an American Idol who’s turning 21 today. In the heyday of soul music, no band had more hits than the group known simply as “Sam and Dave.” Here to perform his classic “Soul Man” along with Joshua Ledet, please welcome the great Sam Moore. (Applause.)
7:47 P.M. EDT
Earlier today, the President spoke with President Karzai of Afghanistan as a part of their regular consultations. They discussed a range of issues, including security transition, preparations for Afghanistan’s 2014 elections, and Afghan-led peace and reconciliation efforts. The leaders welcomed Afghan security forces’ increasingly assuming lead security responsibility across the country. They also look forward to the spring 2013 milestone, which will mark a shift in ISAF’s mission from combat to support, as Afghan forces assume the operational lead across the country. President Karzai affirmed his support for an inclusive process of preparing for Afghanistan’s 2014 elections, and the leaders noted that free, fair, and credible elections would be critical to Afghanistan’s future and continued international support. The President welcomed President Karzai’s recent discussions in Doha with Qatari Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani regarding Afghan-led peace and reconciliation. President Karzai welcomed the March 25 handover of the Parwan detention facility to Afghan control. The leaders committed that their teams would continue to keep dangerous detainees off the battlefield and work in partnership at the facility, consistent with Afghan sovereignty.
Harry I. Johnson, III, of Virginia, to be a Member of the National Labor Relations Board for the term of five years expiring August 27, 2015, vice Terence Francis Flynn, resigned.
Philip Andrew Miscimarra, of Illinois, to be a Member of the National Labor Relations Board for the term of five years expiring December 16, 2017, vice Brian Hayes, term expired.
Mark Gaston Pearce, of New York, to be a Member of the National Labor Relations Board for the term of five years expiring August 27, 2018. (Reappointment)
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to appoint the following individuals to key Administration posts:
- Tammie Kahn – Member, National Museum and Library Services Board
- George Kerscher – Member, National Museum and Library Services Board
- Jacquelyn K. Sundstrand – Member, National Museum and Library Services Board
- Rabbi Samuel N. Gordon – Member, United States Holocaust Memorial Council
- Maureen Schulman – Member, United States Holocaust Memorial Council
- Melanie N. Roussell – Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, Department of Housing and Urban Development
President Obama said, “I am grateful that these impressive individuals have chosen to dedicate their talents to serving the American people at this important time for our country. I look forward to working with them in the months and years ahead.”
President Obama announced his intent to appoint the following individuals to key Administration posts:
Tammie Kahn, Appointee for Member, National Museum and Library Services Board
Tammie Kahn is the Executive Director of the Children’s Museum of Houston, a position she has held since 1995. In this role, she has overseen an expansion of the museum and the creation of an Institute for Family Learning. She is a past President of the Houston Museum District Association and served as the Associate Director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. She has served on the boards of the Association of Children’s Museums, the Institute for Learning Innovation, the Greater Houston Collaborative for Children, and the Houston Holocaust Museum. Ms. Kahn received a B.S. from the University of Texas at Austin and an M.B.A. from the University of Houston.
George Kerscher, Appointee for Member, National Museum and Library Services Board
George Kerscher is Secretary General of the DAISY Consortium, an international organization dedicated to facilitating access to information for persons with disabilities. He is President of the International Digital Publishing Forum, Senior Officer of Accessible Technology at Learning Ally, and serves on the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard Board. He was named an Innovator of the Year by U.S. News and World Report in 1998, received the Harry Murphy Catalyst Award in 2004, and recognized as a White House Champion of Change in 2012. Mr. Kerscher received a B.A. from Northeastern Illinois University.
Jacquelyn K. Sundstrand, Appointee for Member, National Museum and Library Services Board
Jacquelyn K. Sundstrand is an associate professor at the University of Nevada, Reno and the Manuscripts and Archives Librarian in the University Libraries’ Special Collections Department. Previously, she was the Library and Archives Coordinator at the Southern Oregon Historical Society from 1993 to 2001, and the Special Collections Librarian and Archivist at California State University, Dominquez Hill from 1985 to 1993. She is a member of the Nevada State Historic Resources Advisory Board, the Society of American Archivists, the Society of California Archivists, the Conference of Intermountain Archivists, and the Association of Centers for the Study of Congress. Ms. Sundstrand received a B.A. from California State University, Fullerton, an M.S.L.S. from the University of Southern California, and an M.A. from the University of California, Riverside.
Rabbi Samuel N. Gordon, Appointee for Member, United States Holocaust Memorial Council
Rabbi Samuel N. Gordon is the founding rabbi of Congregation Sukkat Shalom in Wilmette, Illinois. He is a Vice President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and served as Financial Secretary from 1996 to 2001. Rabbi Gordon is a member of the President’s Advisory Council of the Hebrew Union College and a Senior Rabbinic Fellow of the Hartman Institute of Jerusalem. He is a former member of the Citizen’s Committee of the Cook County Juvenile Court and the Reform Pension Board. Rabbi Gordon received a B.A. from the University of Pittsburgh, an M.A. in Hebrew Letters and Ordination from Hebrew Union College, and an M.B.A. from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University.
Maureen Schulman, Appointee for Member, United States Holocaust Memorial Council
Maureen Schulman is President of Maureen Schulman Public Relations, Inc., and Director of Public Relations for The Eli’s Cheesecake Company. Ms. Schulman is President of the Board of The Happiness Club and a Director of the Magnificent Mile Charitable Foundation. Previously, she served as a director of the Women’s Board of Lincoln Park Zoo, the Chicago Children’s Museum, and as Chairman of the Junior Medical Research Institute Council. Ms. Schulman received a B.F.A. from the University of Miami and an M.S.J. from the Medill School of Northwestern University.
Melanie N. Roussell, Appointee for Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, Department of Housing and Urban Development
Melanie N. Roussell is the National Press Secretary for the Democratic National Committee, a position she has held since August 2011. From February 2009 to July 2011, she was Press Secretary for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Prior to that, Ms. Roussell served as Spokesperson for the Presidential Inaugural Committee and Southern Regional Communications Director for Obama for America. From February 2007 to July 2008, she was Communications Director for the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives under Chairman John Conyers, Jr. She was honored as one of Florida A&M University’s “40 under 40” Young Alumni in 2011. Ms. Roussell received a B.S. in Broadcast Journalism from Florida A&M University and an M.A. in Public Communication from American University.
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
11:52 A.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Welcome, everyone. Thanks for your patience. I have a couple of quick announcements. As you may have seen already, President Obama is announcing his intent to nominate three members of the National Labor Relations Board -- Mark Gaston-Pearce to serve another term as member and to be designated chairman. And then, Harry I. Johnson, III and Philip Miscimarra both to be members of the NLRB.
These nominations -- if all, including the two that we’ve nominated prior, are acted on by the Senate -- would bring the NLRB up to full operating level, ensuring that it continues to function and fulfill its responsibilities to look after workers’ rights. This would be a bipartisan board. The two nominees, Harry Johnson and Philip Miscimarra, are Republican nominees and you would have a balanced, bipartisan board, and we urge the Senate to move on those nominations efficiently.
Separately, I’d also like to say that this afternoon the Senate will vote to confirm Judge Patty Shwartz to the Third Circuit. Judge Shwartz was reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 8, 2012, making her way to 397 days for what should be a bipartisan confirmation vote. After her expected confirmation, there will still be 14 other judicial nominees awaiting floor votes. Of these 14, 13 were approved by the Judiciary Committee unanimously, and five nominees would fill judicial emergencies. They have been waiting on the Senate floor for an average of 67 days for a vote. That’s nearly twice as long as President Bush’s judicial nominees. We urge the Senate to move on these nominees without further delay.
Q Thank you. North Korea is urging all foreigners to evacuate South Korea, saying that the two countries are on the verge of a nuclear war. Does the U.S. take this latest threat seriously in any way? Or do you think that this is just more bluster?
MR. CARNEY: North Korea’s statement advising foreigners to make plans to evacuate Seoul is more unhelpful rhetoric that serves only to escalate tensions. This kind of rhetoric will only further isolate North Korea from the international community and we continue to urge the North Korean leadership to heed President Obama’s call to choose the path of peace and to come into compliance with its international obligations. We have seen this kind of bellicose rhetoric, these kinds of provocative statements consistently -- obviously, in recent days and weeks -- but also as part of a pattern of behavior that we’ve seen over the years from the North Korean leadership.
The end result of this kind of behavior has only been to further isolate North Korea from the rest of the world and to do harm to the North Korean people. The North Korean leadership would be wiser to focus on developing its economy and assisting the North Korean people, who suffer under this kind of leadership that chooses development of missile programs and nuclear weapons rather than the feeding of its own people.
Q Whether related to this latest statement or just more broadly the situation there, are there any discussions happening within the administration about revising any travel warnings for Americans in South Korea?
MR. CARNEY: Well, travel warnings are issued by the State Department, so that’s your best source for information on that. In general, again, we are taking prudent measures in response to the stepped-up rhetoric and actions by the North Koreans. Those have been reported on -- some of the flights that we flew, the repositioning of missile defense, assets, and the like. So those actions continue to be taken and to ensure both the defense of the homeland, as well as our allies.
Q And then on a separate topic, there’s going to be a protest outside the White House shortly with several liberal groups and a couple of lawmakers who are going to be delivering a petition. They’re upset about some of the positions the President has taken in his upcoming budget and on other issues. Is there any concern that the President may be alienating some of his liberal allies, particularly those who were such a crucial part of his reelection?
MR. CARNEY: The President’s budget represents a good-faith attempt to reach a deal with Congress that would achieve this President’s number-one objective, which is economic growth and job creation. That has to be the first priority of everyone in Washington who’s focused on our budget issues.
What his budget proves -- will prove, when you see it tomorrow -- is that you can invest in our economy, protect our seniors, make sure that we’re making crucial investments in areas like infrastructure, education, and innovation that help our economy grow in the future, and responsibly reduce our deficit. We need to grow the economy and create jobs. That’s the number-one objective.
We have come a long way since the depths of the Great Recession, but we have a long way to go. We’ve created 6.5 million private sector jobs -- the United States of America, the American people have -- since we emerged from the recession.
Since the depths of the recession, we have emerged to create 6.5 million private sector jobs. We have seen quarter after quarter of positive economic growth, but we are a long way from where we need to be. We need to move forward through a budget process that ensures that we protect the middle class; provide ladders of opportunity to those who aspire to the middle class; that we invest in education, and infrastructure, and innovation; and that we, as part of a broad budget approach, continue to reduce our deficit.
I know you know, Julie, because you’ve been here, the President signed into law .5 trillion in deficit reduction thus far, and he’s done it in a way that has allowed our economy to continue to grow, despite some of the disruptions we’ve faced because of recalcitrance on Capitol Hill by Republicans, most notably in the summer of 2011. But we have more work to do.
If the President’s budget were to become law, that would include not just the measures that allow for economic growth and job creation, but in concert with that, an additional .8 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years, bringing the total to .3 trillion. That in turn would -- for the wonks out there -- create a deficit to GDP ratio under 3 percent, which is what economists say we need to stabilize our debt. All of this is part of a broad, holistic approach to our budget challenges.
Q So does that mean you’re not concerned about the worries of some allies?
MR. CARNEY: I think Democrats and allies understand that this budget the President will put forward tomorrow is not his ideal budget. It is a document that recognizes that to achieve a bipartisan solution to our budget challenges we need to make tough choices. It demonstrates, in stark contrast to the House Republican budget, that you can invest in our economy and protect our middle class and protect our seniors, and reduce the deficit.
You don’t have to go the route of Chairman Ryan, which is to eviscerate or devastate programs that help the middle class, block grant, and eviscerate or slice down Medicaid, so that families that rely on Medicaid, including families who have children who are disabled, you don’t have to voucherize Medicare and shift thousands of dollars of cost annually onto vulnerable seniors just to reduce the deficit. And you certainly don’t need to give .7 trillion in tax cuts to the wealthiest of Americans and then pay for it by all these cuts to programs that help the middle class.
There is a better way. There is a balanced way, and that's the way the President will put forward tomorrow.
Q Senator Baucus is saying that he wants to produce a tax reform plan by August. Is that something that's included in the President’s vision for a grand bargain on the deficit? Does it include comprehensive tax reform? And is he interested in making reforms to the individual tax code as well as the corporate tax code?
MR. CARNEY: Well, the outlines of the President’s budget have gotten out, but I will urge you to wait until tomorrow, and we’ll have just a day-long budget-palooza filled with details for you to examine.
But the fact is the President’s balanced approach to deficit reduction does include revenues through tax reform, closing of loopholes, and capping of deductions -- very much in the manner that Speaker Boehner proposed late last year. The difference being that, at least now anyway, the President believes we need to take the savings from that, the revenue generated from tax reform, and apply it to deficit reduction rather than turning it into tax cuts for the wealthy and well-connected.
So that is tax reform, and that will be part of our budget. But for the details of that I would urge you to wait until tomorrow.
Q What can you tell us about the dinner planned for tomorrow night?
MR. CARNEY: Well, as was the case the first time the President had dinner with a dozen Republican senators, this will be a private dinner where the President looks forward to discussing a range of subjects, including, of course, budget and fiscal matters, but also immigration reform and the effort to pass common-sense legislation to reduce gun violence and other issues, I’m sure.
He looks forward to this. As I think you know, Senator Isakson took on the task of compiling the invitation list, and I would refer you to his office or to the individual senators’ offices to ask about who is attending. We won’t put that out, but it’s up to them to say whether or not they're attending, or to Senator Isakson to decide whether or not he’ll put out his list.
This will be, hopefully, in the President’s view, the same kind of constructive conversation that he had the first time with a different group of senators. And he believes that there is a common-sense caucus in Washington that embraces the idea that compromise requires moving off of your absolutist positions, accepting that you don't get everything you want; that ideological purity is not achievable legislatively when you have a divided government as we do in Washington.
And that's what the President’s budget embodies. And he knows -- because he’s had conversations with Republican senators who have expressed this -- that there is at least an element of the Republican conference in the Senate that believes that bipartisan compromise is possible on a whole range of issues, including budget issues. So he’s hoping to continue that conversation, and he hopes it will be productive.
Q Is it going to be here or outside?
MR. CARNEY: I think it has been reported that it will be at the White House, and that is correct, it’s going to be here.
Q Jay, is he going to make a direct appeal at that dinner tomorrow for some Republican senator there to allow debate on gun legislation?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I can't predict. There’s no script. But I think as you heard last night when the President was in Hartford, Connecticut, he feels very passionately about the obligation of each individual senator to allow a vote on each of the components of these gun violence measures.
It would be a shame, as he said, that those who applauded the idea that every one of these measures should have a vote in honor of Gabby Giffords, or the children of Newtown, or the victims of Aurora, those senators who applauded in January at the State of the Union address hopefully will, in keeping with their applause then, not take any action to try to hide behind procedural measures to avoid a vote.
If they are opposed to background checks, they should stand up and say so, and vote no. The American people demand at least that. They elected members of the Senate to vote. That is their principal job. That's what they get paid for. They don't get paid to block votes. They get paid to vote and to make decisions about what they believe is right or wrong for the country.
And if they think background checks, for example -- that 90 percent of the American people support -- are wrong, if they're with the 10 percent, they ought to stand by their convictions, but explain why.
Q I mean, there is a difference between saying that in a speech and sitting over a dinner table and personally --
MR. CARNEY: Oh, I don't think the President will be shy about expressing his views on this matter. I’m just not -- I’m telling you there’s not a script, so I can't guarantee the direction of the conversation. But I can assure you that the need to make progress on legislation that is very common-sense, that is supported in each of its components by a majority of the American people, will be a topic of conversation. It will certainly be something the President wants to discuss.
Q But on this issue of this Florida couple who allegedly abducted their children from their grandparents, who had custody of the kids, and are now apparently in Cuba. CNN has now, it appears, seen and spoken to the father of the children --
MR. CARNEY: I’m afraid I’ll have to take the -- I’m not aware of this story. I’ll have to take the question. I didn’t have CNN tuned on.
Q You’re aware of the story, though. You’re aware of the story of the Florida couple?
MR. CARNEY: Just a little bit. I just don’t have anything to say on it.
Q Will the U.S. be demanding that Cuba turn over the family?
MR. CARNEY: I’ll have to take the question, Brianna.
Q Thanks, Jay. On the gun legislation, is the President reaching out at all to Senator Manchin or Senator Toomey? Does he hold out hope that some kind of language on the actual background checks could be reached? And in his talks with the Newtown parents, would background checks have made any difference in Newtown?
MR. CARNEY: I’ll start with the first part. The President and his team here at the White House is actively engaged -- or the President and his team are actively engaged in the effort to work with those members of the Senate who are trying to forge bipartisan compromise on the various components of the gun legislation that’s up there.
I don’t have specific conversations to read out, but we are obviously continuing to work with members of the Senate. We remain hopeful that bipartisan compromise can be achieved. We remain insistent that legislation be voted on and not blocked through filibuster or other procedural measures or manners. But we are engaged in this process from the top down.
What the President has said about and said again last night about the comprehensive set of proposals that he put forward in January is that, even if they all pass, we would not eliminate all violent acts using firearms. There would still be gun violence in America, there’s no question. But it is incumbent upon those lawmakers who were sent here by their constituents and incumbent upon the President and the Vice President who were elected by the entire country to do whatever they can that is sensible and common-sense that will reduce gun violence; that will save the lives of children like the children of Newtown.
It won’t eliminate the problem, but the problem needs to be addressed. We need to reduce the number of these horrific events and the number of the often unreported or little reported events that take the lives of so many Americans every day of the week.
Q I want to take up something that was discussed last week that I think you might want to clarify, because there’s been a lot of reporting on it. When the President’s budget comes out it will replace the sequester. There are Republican contentions that the net deficit reduction will only therefore be 0 billion, and there were those who concluded from your briefing last week that you said as much.
MR. CARNEY: No, the --
Q Would you walk us through the math, as the White House sees it, on net deficit reduction, how the sequester is replaced, and what the budget will say about 10-year deficit reduction numbers?
MR. CARNEY: The budget will say about 10-year deficit reduction numbers that if the President’s budget is enacted, it will reduce the deficit by .8 trillion. Added to the .5 trillion that’s already been signed into law by the President, that brings us -- even for those of us who didn’t go far in math -- to .3 trillion.
The President’s budget will replace the sequester, which was designed to be bad policy for everyone with not just .2 trillion in deficit reduction, but .8 trillion in deficit reduction. In other words, it will go further than the sequester.
Now, if the proposition is that the sequester is policy that we want to embrace, I encourage members of Congress to stand up and say so -- that they believe in the defense cuts; that they believe in the fact that there are no entitlement savings; that they believe in the across-the-board, indiscriminate nature of the sequester, which was designed by Congress to force Congress to do its job.
I mean, it was an admission by Congress, essentially, or at least posited by those who designed it, that we would design the sequester to reduce the deficit in an arbitrary, indiscriminate way because it is our job, members of Congress, to do it in a thoughtful way, to do it in the best possible way in terms of policy. So the whole proposition has been, as you know, Major, since you covered it, since the summer of 2011, to achieve further deficit reduction not through the sequester but through better policy, and that’s what the President’s budget does.
Q And is it your contention that when we look at the numbers tomorrow, what we will see is .8 trillion in deficit reduction --
MR. CARNEY: Yes.
Q -- that is composed of 0 billion in new revenue and .2 trillion in spending cuts? And interest that is --
MR. CARNEY: Roughly, that is the breakdown. It’s more than 2 to 1, as is the case with the President’s overall .3 trillion in deficit reduction. More than of that deficit reduction -- for every dollar in revenue, more than of it comes in spending cuts.
In the President’s budget tomorrow -- again, I urge you to examine the details when it is put out -- there will be revenue achieved through tax reform, closing of loopholes, and capping of deductions that go to the well-off and well-connected, and that will produce revenue. I think as we’ve talked about, the offer the President made to Speaker Boehner is incorporated within the budget. That offer included roughly 0 billion in revenue gleaned from tax reform, capping of deductions, and closing of loopholes. That will be included in the budget.
The rest will come from savings elsewhere in the budget, including through entitlement reforms that we’ve proposed and we’ve talked about, and including those that were in the Boehner offer, the offer to the Speaker of the House.
It will also include entirely paid-for measures that demonstrate our need to invest in our economy so that it grows and it creates jobs. Because if there’s one thing that I think economists of all stripes would agree on, it is that we cannot reduce our deficit effectively if our economy is not growing. We need to make sure that we take a balanced approach that allows us to continue to invest so that our middle class is expanding and our economy is creating jobs.
Q There are many things we don’t know about the budget, but one of the things we don’t know is how the administration intends to protect those it only describes as most vulnerable from the superlative CPI or chained CPI alteration the President is now embracing. Is it your message to those who will soon be protesting here at the White House that they will be pleasantly surprised when they see the contours of these specifics?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I won’t speak for them. I think in some of the reporting on this, already, you’ve seen noted experts in the field who have said that should a proposal to make this technical adjustment to how we calculate cost-of-living increases -- across the board in government programs, not just with social insurance programs -- be made with -- paired with a proposal to protect vulnerable groups of citizens, that that would be a positive thing. And that is, in fact, what the President’s budget will do.
Q And we’ll see specific details of how that would be done, tomorrow?
MR. CARNEY: Correct.
Q I want to ask you about your reaction, if the administration has any, to comments over the weekend from both Xi Jinping and the Chinese Foreign Minister about North Korea, and if in any way, shape, or form, Jay, they reflect conversations which I gather have been rather consistent and persistent between this administration and Chinese officials.
MR. CARNEY: We welcome the comments by the new Chinese President and by the Chinese leadership that reflect, I think, China’s concern about North Korean actions and rhetoric. We have absolutely been consulting with the Chinese about the need to use their influence on the North Koreans to help bring about a reduction in this behavior and rhetoric from the North Koreans. We’ve also been in discussions with Moscow about this, with the Russian leadership about this.
So, yes, we’ve been very open about the fact that we’re having these conversations and our call on the Chinese to use their unique influence with North Korea on this matter. It is in the interest of regional stability, in the interest of every nation in the region as well as the world that the situation there stabilize and that North Korea begin to take seriously its international obligations.
Q Can I follow on that, Jay?
MR. CARNEY: Sure.
Q What’s your take on this warning, if you will, to countries to evacuate their embassies? What’s the purpose of that?
MR. CARNEY: Look, we have seen a series of statements from the North Korean regime that are bellicose in nature and designed to ratchet up tension in the region. This is in keeping with a pattern of behavior that is familiar to those who have worked on the North Korean issue over the past many years. Veterans from the George W. Bush administration and the Clinton administration can certainly fill you in on the history of this kind of behavior that we’re seeing from the North Koreans.
What we have said is that it is unhelpful, it is concerning, it is provocative. We are taking necessary, prudent measures to ensure that we are -- as we are -- able to defend the homeland our allies. We are working with our allies in Seoul and Tokyo on this matter and consulting with the Chinese and Russians to urge them to use their influence to prevail upon the North Koreans.
Q What’s your understanding of the purpose of these threats? Do you see them as intended to convince America’s allies that it should dial -- that this country should dial back the pressure?
MR. CARNEY: I wouldn’t venture into analyzing the motivations of the North Koreans.
Q Let me ask you then, if any of our allies have said, hey, tone it down a little bit?
MR. CARNEY: I think you’ve seen from our international partners and our allies in the region a great consistency in our approach to this both in the actions that we’ve taken and in our response to it from this podium and elsewhere. We are concerned about it, but we also have made clear that this is not an unusual patter of behavior when it comes to the North Koreans.
Q And on gun violence, some fairly mainstream conservative groups are now supporting the idea of filibustering even expanded background checks. Does that concern you?
MR. CARNEY: It would be appalling if common-sense legislation supported by 90 percent of the American people, by something like 80 percent of Republicans, 80 percent of gun owners were to be filibustered. Have the courage of your convictions and allow a vote, and vote no. If you want to vote no, vote no.
How you can tell the families of Newtown victims, some of whom are here today trying to urge members of the Senate to pass -- or at least vote on these common-sense measures -- that the memory of their children doesn't deserve at least that -- I can't even imagine that conversation.
We fully expect and hope that individual senators will be see the rightness in allowing votes on these measures, even if they believe that they need to vote no for whatever reason. The victims of Newtown and of Aurora, of Oak Creek and Tucson, of Virginia Tech and the countless other victims of other shootings deserve that.
Q Jay, politically, has it become a case of where the President is trying to just get a vote? There has been so much focus on vote -- this up-or-down vote on this legislation. Is that now the focus of just getting a vote?
MR. CARNEY: The focus is on turning these common-sense proposals into common-sense laws. The first hurdle is to ensure that they get voted on. All of these legislative initiatives have, based on the data, majority support in the country. Some of them, like universal background checks, have overwhelming support. As the President said last night, how many issues do you know where the breakdown is 90-10? Ninety percent on one side and 10 percent on the other.
Wouldn’t it be shocking -- how would you explain to your constituents and for those in leadership, to the entire country, why you voted -- why you took action to block a vote, a simple majority vote on a piece of legislation that more than 90 percent of the American people support; that Democrats, Republicans and independents support; that Americans from all over the country -- both in cities and in rural areas -- support; that gun owners support in substantial majority? I’m not sure. It’s a task I can't even imagine trying to accomplish.
So I hope, the President hopes, as you heard last night, that that's not the path that they will take. And then we’ll see what happens. The President strongly supports every element of this legislation. He believes that, as the majority of the American people do, that they're all common-sense measures, that they all protect Second Amendment rights, and that they will as a package reduce the scourge of gun violence in America. But we have to get to a vote.
Q Politically, it seems like the assault weapons ban, limiting high-capacity magazines, though, doesn't have a whole lot of political viability. So is the focus -- has it changed to just getting a vote on those? Or is he going to direct his focus on getting a vote on expanding background checks?
MR. CARNEY: We are focused, as you heard the President last night, on every element of this. Every element of this package enjoys majority support. So, generally speaking, something is politically viable if a majority supports it.
Q Do you believe you have majority support in the Senate?
MR. CARNEY: We’ll see. But we won’t find out if we don't get a vote. And that's why the first hurdle here is to make it clear to members of the Senate that it is their obligation, if they -- well, whether or not they stood up at the State of the Union and applauded when the President said that Gabby Giffords and the victims of Newtown and the victims of Tucson and Oak Creek and Virginia Tech deserved a vote -- it is their obligation, because they were sent here to vote, to fulfill their responsibility and to show the courage of their convictions, and to explain why they're voting no if they're voting no, as the President said.
And then we’ll see where the votes -- how the votes come out. But we can't test the principle about whether or not there’s majority support if some senators decide to prevent a vote.
Q And, Jay, on North Korea, the commander of the U.S. Pacific Command said that North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and missile program represents a “clear and direct threat to the United States and its allies in the region.” Does the President share that assessment? And doesn't that suggest that there is concern that these latest provocations are more than just bluster?
MR. CARNEY: Our North Korean policy is based upon the premise, with our allies and partners internationally, on the proposition that North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons is a threat, is a problem. North Korea’s violation of its international obligations when it comes to developing missile capacity is a threat. And that is why we work so closely with our partners to isolate and pressure North Korea and to bring about a change in behavior. So there’s no inconsistency with that.
And I have said that the latest developments in North Korea are a matter of concern and that is why we have taken the steps that we’ve taken. But it is important also to remember the history here and the patterns that we have seen in behavior and rhetoric from the North Koreans. So both are true.
Q But some veterans have said that the patterns are different, that this leader is younger and more unpredictable, and that there has been a consistency to these provocations that haven’t been seen in the past.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think much of what you have seen thus far from the North Koreans has occurred in the past, whether it’s testing missiles or weapons, or shutting down or threatening to shut down Kaesong, the joint facility. These are actions that have been taken in the past. Clearly, there’s a new leader, but the regime is very much what it was.
Scott, and then Jackie.
Q Thanks, Jay. Tomorrow -- could you speak a little bit about the First Lady’s appearance in Chicago on the gun issue? I don’t recall her getting this directly involved on a political issue of the day. And just some of the White House thinking behind putting her out front right now.
MR. CARNEY: I urge you to listen to what the First Lady has to say and assess it once you have. The First Lady obviously is a native of Chicago, born and raised in Chicago, and as has been discussed, there was a very high-profile shooting in Chicago -- Hadiya Pendleton. And Hadiya’s parents were in attendance at the State of the Union address. And I think that is something that the First Lady has spoken to -- has spoken about and will likely speak about.
But the legislative effort, the working with Congress, the political effort, if you will, is being undertaken and led by the President.
Q How unusual is this? I mean, you’ve been in Washington a long time. I don’t recall, other than perhaps Secretary Clinton in her husband’s administration, getting directly involved in a major issue like this.
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, I think before you -- I think it’s important to wait and listen to what the First Lady will say. And then, also understand that, as I just said, the negotiations with Congress, the legislative effort that’s underway, the attempt to convince senators directly that they should not filibuster these bills is being led by and undertaken by the President and his team.
MR. CARNEY: I have a question on guns and also on budget. On the guns subject, could you address the critics who, especially yesterday, were saying that the President is exploiting the Newtown tragedy and that were questioning how he came to -- tell us a little about how the family members came to be on Air Force One and brought back to town with him? And a little of what transpired between him and them on the plane for the roughly hour that they were in the air.
MR. CARNEY: Sure. Well, first of all, the families that you’re talking about are here in Washington expressing their views about the need to pass common-sense legislation to reduce gun violence, and I think nobody can speak better for them than they can for themselves.
When we looked at having an event in Connecticut -- Connecticut being a state that recently passed bipartisan legislation to reduce gun violence at the state level -- it was always our intention to meet with Newtown families. The President has met with them in the past. And some of those families were scheduled to come to Washington for this effort that they’re undertaking today, and that’s where the -- when that confluence of our intention to travel and their intention to visit Washington came about, that we offered to give them a ride on Air Force One.
Q Was it the President’s idea?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not quite sure whose idea it was. The President was very supportive of it.
Q And on the subject of the budget, will the President be meeting either today or in the near future with some of these representatives of liberal, left groups, who are especially concerned about Social Security? Or how exactly are you handling the protest from the base?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we meet with allies all the time, both in Congress and representatives of outside groups, and that will continue. I don’t have a meeting with the President to announce or preview, but that’s a dialogue that of course continues regularly. And we are discussing with Democrats on Capitol Hill what’s in the budget; why it is shaped in the fashion that it is; why it represents the President’s top priority, which is economic growth and job creation; and why it embodies the simple fact that you can grow the economy, create jobs, invest in and protect the middle class, protect our seniors, and still reduce the deficit responsibly. It is not one or the other, an either/or proposition.
If you take a balanced approach to deficit reduction, you can do all the things we have to do to invest in our economy. You do not need to do what the House Republican budget does, which is just institute deep, deep cuts in investments that will help our economy grow in the future, and building our roads and bridges and airports and schools; investing in innovation and job training and other aspects of our economy that help the American people take the jobs that will be available in this 21st century economy.
Instead, they cut these programs dramatically. They block grant Medicaid, leaving families who have kids with disabilities in the lurch. They voucherize Medicare and shift costs. And the President is interested in reducing the cost of health care, because the cost of health care drives our long-term deficit and debt challenges. That is one of the aspects of the Affordable Care Act that is often underreported, that it addresses the costs and lowers the costs long term of health care. And the President is interested in that and has taken action on that, and will continue to take action on that.
He is not interested in the proposition that we should just dump costs onto our seniors who can’t afford it, which is what the House Republican budget does. And this is the irony of this thing -- it’s almost like an alternate universe that House Republicans are living in, as if we hadn’t had this debate; as if the American people hadn’t made clear their views on budget proposals like the one the House passed; as if the American people hadn’t made clear their absolute preference for balance in our deficit reduction, and their absolute focus, primarily, on jobs and the economy -- not on doing great harm to our social welfare programs that protect seniors, and giving huge tax cuts to the most fortunate in America.
We had this debate. It would be a little more interesting, I guess, if it weren’t a case of déjà vu. Because we already know what’s in that proposition. We know how the American people feel about it.
Q I know that he’s including the CPI/cost-of-living formula in his budget, not because he favors it but as a sort of overture toward compromise with Republicans. But now that he’s doing so, can you say why he also didn’t include, say, an increase in -- raising the taxable wage base for Social Security, which is, polls show, a really popular idea that would raise revenues for Social Security as well as reduce benefits --
MR. CARNEY: Well, there are other things besides so-called chained CPI that we’ve talked about, that were in the Boehner offer, first of all. Secondly, there are a host of proposals that are out that the President doesn’t support that unnecessarily burden seniors. On others, he’s obviously open to discussion. He’s made that clear. He’s open to negotiation with Republicans about proposals that deal with cost but do not shift costs and burdens to seniors who can't afford it.
Overall, it’s important to remember that this is a holistic document. This is a budget that demonstrates that if we do all of this together, we can -- if we do all of it together, for those watching on TV, there was a little sideshow, but -- (laughter) -- that if we move forward; if we move all of it together; if we make the necessary investments; if we make sure that the middle class is growing and that there are ladders of opportunity for those who aspire to the middle class; if we reform our tax code in a way that asks the well-off and well-connected to give up special provisions in the tax code that benefit them disproportionately, then we can also make sensible reforms in our entitlements and, taken as a package, reduce our deficit enough so that we exceed the -trillion mark over 10 years that economists say will put our debt situation on a stable path, and that is key to longer-term economic growth, which is the objective.
Economic growth and job creation is the objective. Everything else is a means to achieving that objective.
Alexis, then Cheryl, and then April.
Q Jay, a question on guns and then a quick question on the budget. On guns, you’ve used the term “block” to describe what Senate opponents of the gun legislation are trying to do. But I just want to clarify, are you saying that if 15 senators begin a filibuster, there is not enough support or any technique to break the filibuster and then proceed to move to votes on something that 90 percent, you’re saying, Americans are supportive of, that the families are here to lobby for? You’re saying that if they begin a filibuster, it will be blocked?
MR. CARNEY: I’m saying that senators who decide that it is appropriate to use the filibuster or other procedural methods to prevent a simple vote on these measures are doing a disservice to 90 percent of the American people who support -- in the case of background checks, universal background checks. They are doing a disserve to the memory of the victims of gun violence across the country who deserve at least a vote on these common-sense measures that do not infringe upon our Second Amendment rights.
The President said last night if you support the Second Amendment rights of the American people, as he does, you can also support common-sense measures that do not infringe upon those Second Amendment rights but simply make the job of law enforcement easier, and that close gaping loopholes in our background check system that allow for those who should not by law obtain weapons from obtaining them.
Q But I’m just saying -- there is no other way to get a vote once they begin to filibuster?
MR. CARNEY: Look, I’m saying that this issue has and continues to be challenging enough that if senators don't have the guts to go on the record to vote how they feel on this issue -- background checks or the other issues -- that would be a shame. And that would be a disservice to their constituents and to the 90 percent of the American people who want this passed.
Q Quick question, to follow up on Major’s question about sequestration: I may be confused about this, but sequestration, the billion, is in this fiscal year. The President’s budget is talking about the next fiscal year, which begins in October. So when you talk about replacing the sequester, can you just clarify for me, we’re talking about two separate fiscal years. The sequester has gone into effect --
MR. CARNEY: The sequester -- the .2 trillion of the sequester is over 10 years. This budget would replace the .2 trillion of the overall sequester over --
Q So we sustain the impact of the sequester for this fiscal year, but the President is talking about in the next fiscal year we would hook that money back in?
MR. CARNEY: That’s an excellent question. I believe if the President submitted the budget Wednesday and the Congress were to pass it right away, we’d probably deal with the sequester right away. But that’s an interesting technical question about the imposition of the sequester for this fiscal year when we’re talking about a budget for the next.
Our interest, obviously, is and has been consistently in eliminating the sequester today as well as for the next 10 years.
Q perhaps without negotiating something that would be retroactively --
MR. CARNEY: I think -- it’s a technical question that I think is smart, but I’ll have to get the answer for.
Yes. Yes, sir. Oh, I’m sorry. Cheryl, April, then you. Sorry, short-term memory.
Q Thanks, just real quick about Keystone. A Canadian official, Alison Redford, is in Washington this week to lobby on Keystone. Is she meeting with anyone here at the White House?
MR. CARNEY: Not that I’m aware of. I just don’t know. I think the State Department is probably the fruitful place to have discussions about the process that the State Department is running on that decision.
Q Jay, two questions on the budget. One, you talk a lot about middle-income Americans. What about low-income Americans when it comes to this budget? We’re already seeing cuts to programs, furloughs, and things of that nature. What happens with low-income America with this budget?
MR. CARNEY: There will be investments in our budget that demonstrate the President’s commitment to expanding the middle class by providing what he calls ladders of opportunity to those who are not in the middle class but aspire to be there. And, again, I will ask you to look at the details tomorrow.
But, I mean, this has been a theme that’s been consistent throughout this President’s time in office, which is the necessity of investing in our people, investing in our economy so that it grows and creates jobs, and that the benefits of growth are not enjoyed by only the wealthiest, but that our middle class expands and those who aspire to it, who are struggling, can enter the middle class and go beyond that. So that will be an element of our budget.
I mean, I think that’s a great question because it goes to the point, which is the President’s priority is -- the North Star is how do we help the middle class, how do we expand the middle class. We have to do that through necessary investments. We have to do that through economic growth and job creation. That’s the purpose, he sees, of budgeting; and that, as part of that process, for the strongest economy possible, we can reduce our deficit -- as we have already -- in a way that does not prevent further economic growth or restrict it and that allows for greater job creation.
We can meet that -trillion target over 10 years without doing harm to our economy or our middle-class families or our seniors. That’s the whole enchilada as far as the President is concerned. That’s the purpose of his budget.
Q And then, in this White House, is there a fear that since the GOP is for less government, less spending, that sequestration has fallen into their lap is what they really want?
MR. CARNEY: Well, that’s an interesting theory. I think there are a variety of ways to answer that. I have said in the past that it is ironic, of course, that those who decried the sequester last year have embraced it as a political or tea party victory. But it is also true that the sequester itself does not achieve any of the stated goals of conservatives who want to see long-term reductions in entitlement spending, who don’t generally support across-the-board, damaging cuts to our defense spending.
On the broader proposition, like the idea of shrinking the government, it is interesting to note that -- I was just looking at a table that compared this -- that in the recoveries from the most two recent recessions -- the Great Recession that was in full bloom when this President took office and then the milder recession in 2001, when President Bush was in office -- a huge portion of the job creation in what was otherwise an anemic recovery under President Bush was in government jobs.
As you know, under this President, we’ve had 6.5 million private sector jobs created during the recovery, but we have lost substantial state and local government jobs. That was of course not the case under President Bush, nor was it the case under President Reagan or President Clinton, for that matter.
So this has been a unique recovery that has been made more difficult in the jobs area by the layoffs of teachers and police officers as well as other state and local government workers, a problem that the President has attempted to address in the past through the American Jobs Act and through his budget proposals, but Republicans have rejected -- ironically, because of course they celebrated it back when it happened in the past.
Q I’m going to go back to the original question.
MR. CARNEY: Yes, ma’am.
Q Is there a fear around this White House that you gave -- that this administration, the sequestration gave the Republicans exactly what they wanted?
MR. CARNEY: Again, if the Republicans are saying that exactly what they wanted is the severe, across-the-board reductions in our defense spending, the throwing-off of people on Head Start and the indiscriminate cuts that have resulted in furloughs and layoffs in other parts of the government, I think it would be interesting to hear them say so.
Q Thanks, Jay.
MR. CARNEY: I did promise you a question.
Q Yes, real quick on the furloughs. About 70,000 employees, or at least 70,000 federal employees got letters last month indicating they were -- their agencies intended to furlough them. The letter started this 30-day clock. Have any actually been furloughed?
MR. CARNEY: Are you talking about administration-wide? I would have to direct you to the agencies. You may be able to contact the OMB and they can help direct you to the agencies. It’s an agency by agency -- because they each have their own budgets and they have to both make the notices; the notices go out and then the action is taken.
Q On Thatcher?
MR. CARNEY: Sure.
Q Who’s going to represent the U.S. at the funeral?
MR. CARNEY: I have no updates on that at this time.
Q President Obama, has he been critical of her stand on unions? She was pretty tough of on the unions.
MR. CARNEY: I’m sorry, I didn’t hear that, Connie?
Q President Obama, has he been critical -- had he been critical of her stand on the unions? She was very tough on the unions in the U.K.
MR. CARNEY: Well, obviously we’re talking about a different country and a different leader and a different time. I have noted with some irony the fact that -- well, I won’t even go there. (Laughter.) The President put out a statement about mourning the loss of a great British leader who was much admired by many Americans.
12:44 P.M. EDT
President Obama speaks to the American people about the act of terror at the Boston Marathon that wounded dozens and killed three innocent people on Monday, and says that through it all, Boston’s spirit remains undaunted and Americans have proven they refuse to be terrorized.
President Barack Obama makes a statement at the White House following the capture of the second suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing, April 19 2013. Seated in the background are Jay Carney, Lisa Monaco, Christine Abizaid, and Ben Rhodes. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
After a daylong manhunt that saw police searching door-to-door through Boston, law enforcement officials captured the remaining suspect believed to be responsible for Monday's bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. He was ultimately found in Watertown, Massachusetts.
In a statement from the James Brady Briefing Room after the arrest, President Obama commended the response from the state and local police and federal investigators.
"We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to all our outstanding law enforcement professionals," he said. "These men and women get up every day, they put on that uniform; they risk their lives to keep us safe -- and as this week showed, they don't always know what to expect. So our thoughts are with those who were wounded in pursuit of the suspects and we pray for their full recovery."
While tonight's arrest closes one chapter in this tragedy, we're still left with many questions about these young men. President Obama pledged to put the full weight of the federal government behind finding answers.
"I've instructed the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security and our intelligence community to continue to deploy all the necessary resources to support the investigation, to collect intelligence, and to protect our citizens," he said. "We will determine what happened. We will investigate any associations that these terrorists may have had. And we'll continue to do whatever we have to do to keep our people safe."
It's been a long week, and the events in Boston have in some ways overshadowed another tragedy -- the explosion that took the lives of at least 14 people in West, Texas and wounded more than 200. Before the President closed, he made sure to remind the people of that community that they hadn't been forgotten.
"Our thoughts, our prayers are with the people of West, Texas, where so many good people lost their lives; some lost their homes; many are injured; many are still missing," he said. "I've talked to Governor Perry and Mayor Muska and I've pledged that the people of West will have the resources that they need to recover and rebuild. And I want everybody in Texas to know that we will follow through with those commitments."
This week, the President responded to the terror attack in Boston, met with AmeriCorps volunteers, invited the Wounded Warrior riders to the White House, and for the first time, asked a citizen to deliver the weekly address.
President Barack Obama delivers remarks at an interfaith prayer service at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston, Mass., April 18, 2013. The service was dedicated to those who were gravely wounded or killed in the bombings in Boston. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama today were at Boston's Cathedral of the Holy Cross to attend Healing Our City, an interfaith service dedicated to those who were gravely wounded or killed in Monday’s bombing near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
In his remarks, the President paid tribute to those whose lives were taken by the bomb blasts on Boylston Street -- to Krystle Campbell, 29, who was "always smiling." And to Lingzi Lu, a 23-year-old graduate student from China who had come to "experience all this city has to offer." And finally to Martin Richard, the 8-year-old boy from Dorchester whose mother and sister remain in the hospital, fighting to recover from their own injuries. Martin, said President Obama, leaves us with two enduring images, 'forever smiling for his beloved Bruins, and forever expressing a wish he made on a blue poster board: 'No more hurting people. Peace.'"
President Obama also praised the people of Boston, a city both he and the First Lady once called home. Like thousands every year, the two lived there as students -- just one of the many reasons, the President said, that Boston has a hold on so many hearts. "Every fall, you welcome students from all across America and all across the globe, and every spring you graduate them back into the world -- a Boston diaspora that excels in every field of human endeavor," he said. "Year after year, you welcome the greatest talents in the arts and science, research -- you welcome them to your concert halls and your hospitals and your laboratories to exchange ideas and insights that draw this world together."
On Monday, I attended the launch of EMPOWERED, Alicia Keys’ new campaign with Greater than AIDS to reach and inform women about HIV/AIDS, at an event hosted by the Kaiser Family Foundation. This is the second event that Alicia Keys and I have attended at Kaiser within the last year, both focused on ending AIDS.
The women were thrilled to meet Alicia Keys, and Alicia, who was deeply moved by their stories, committed to add her powerful international voice to helping to end the epidemic here in the U.S. Alicia and I intended to lift up the women. But really, it was their strength, courage, resilience, good spirit, and humor that lifted us up.
The HIV crisis touches every corner of the globe. And it’s personally touched so many of us, including here at home. We all have tragic stories about how HIV/AIDS has affected our family and friends, and these stories propel us all to continue to fight to end this disease.
Monday's event addressed one of the tragic realities of HIV in our country. The HIV epidemic continues in the United States, with about 50,000 new HIV infections each year. And while about one-quarter of new HIV infections are among women, three-quarters of new infections among women occur among black and Latina women.
Surrounded by Americans whose lives and families had been forever changed by gun violence, President Obama spoke from the Rose Garden about today’s Senate vote on expanded background checks for gun sales.
A few months ago, in response to too many tragedies -- including the shootings of a United States Congresswoman, Gabby Giffords, who’s here today, and the murder of 20 innocent schoolchildren and their teachers –- this country took up the cause of protecting more of our people from gun violence.
Families that know unspeakable grief summoned the courage to petition their elected leaders –- not just to honor the memory of their children, but to protect the lives of all our children. And a few minutes ago, a minority in the United States Senate decided it wasn’t worth it. They blocked common-sense gun reforms even while these families looked on from the Senate gallery.
“A majority of senators voted “yes” to protecting more of our citizens with smarter background checks,” President Obama said. “But by this continuing distortion of Senate rules, a minority was able to block it from moving forward."
Thanks to your courage and your resolve, we've been able to end one war, and begin winding down another. But for you, and for all our wounded warriors, coming home doesn't mean that the fight is over. In some ways, it's only just begun -- President Barack Obama, April 17, 2013
Today we are privileged to celebrate the upcoming journey of some of our amazing Wounded Warriors. These inspiring Veterans will accomplish the daunting task of riding over the next three days and inspiring us all. For these combat-wounded veterans, Soldier Ride uses cycling and the bonds of service to overcome physical, mental, or emotional wounds of war. It’s a wonderful connection as they return to an active lifestyle.
President Barack Obama gives a high-five to a rider as he and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki welcome the Wounded Warrior Projectâs Soldier Ride to the South Lawn of the White House, April 17, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
President Obama is committed to caring for our wounded warriors by expanding access to the best health care available and helping them to overcome their injuries, assisting in pursuing employment, and connecting them to the best education available to meet their personal goals. The Administration understands that a successful recovery requires access and connection to quality care and services. That is why in August of last year the President signed a Military Mental Health Executive Order that increases the number of VA mental health professionals and peer-to-peer support counselors.
First Lady Michelle Obama watches Maryland Governor Martin OâMalley sign the Veterans Full Employment Act of 2013 during a ceremony at the State House in Annapolis, Md., April 17, 2013. Seated, from left are, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Gov. Martin O'Malley, and House Speaker Michael Busch. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
President Obama and the First Lady are committed to doing everything in their power to assist the brave men and women who have served our country in re-entering civilian life and finding employment. Over the last year and a half, the President has overseen the first re-design of the military’s transition assistance program in twenty years; created new tax credits to spur veteran hiring; expanded re-employment services, including the Veterans Job Bank and the Veterans Gold Card; and launched a series of initiatives to expand the number of veterans that get jobs in healthcare and first responder fields. Additionally, under the great leadership of the First Lady and Dr. Biden, Joining Forces has expanded hiring and training partnerships with the private sector in an effort to help our veterans and their spouses get back to work.
Yet, our veterans still face major hurdles as they transition out of the military and into the civilian workforce. According to a 2012 survey by Prudential and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, 60 percent of survey respondents said they had trouble translating their military skills into civilian job experience, creating a significant barrier to employment. Many high-demand, good-paying jobs like paramedics, truck drivers, nurses, and welders, require either a national certification or state occupational license to be hired, and currently our national and state systems make it very difficult for service members and veterans to obtain these civilian certifications and licenses that directly translate to their military training. Often times service members and veterans are required to repeat education or training in order to receive these occupational credentials, even though much, and in some cases, all, of their military training and experience overlaps with credential training requirements. And employers, many with significant needs for skilled workers, are left waiting for these military members to complete these, oftentimes lengthy, credentialing training programs – programs that many veterans could have taught themselves.
This afternoon, Dan Pfeiffer sent the message below to the White House email list asking people to pledge to speak out in favor of reducing gun violence. If you didn't get the email, be sure to sign up.
Update: The Hangout with Vice President Biden has concluded. Watch the full video below or on YouTube.
This week, Vice President Biden will host a virtual conversation with mayors around the country to discuss commonsense steps to reduce gun violence. Mayors know first hand the impact of gun violence on communities across the country – and they've come together to demand action.
On Wednesday, April 17th, at 2:45 p.m. EDT, the Vice President and mayors will discuss how we can protect our children and communities by reducing gun violence. We hope you'll tune in.
During the Google+ Hangout, Vice President Biden will be joined by:
- Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, Gary, IN
- Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Baltimore, MD
- Mayor R.T. Rybak, Minneapolis, MN
- Mayor Steve Scaffidi, Oak Creek, WI
President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the explosions that occurred in Boston, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, April 16, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Following a briefing from FBI Director Mueller, Attorney General Holder, Secretary Napolitano, and homeland security advisor Lisa Monaco, President Obama went to the Brady Press Briefing Room to update Americans on developments in Boston, following two explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday afternoon.
"We continue to mobilize and deploy all appropriate law enforcement resources to protect our citizens, and to investigate and to respond to this attack," the President said in a televised address. "Obviously our first thoughts this morning are with the victims, their families, and the city of Boston. We know that two explosions gravely wounded dozens of Americans, and took the lives of others, including a 8-year-old boy.
"This was a heinous and cowardly act. And given what we now know about what took place, the FBI is investigating it as an act of terrorism. Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians it is an act of terror. What we don’t yet know, however, is who carried out this attack, or why; whether it was planned and executed by a terrorist organization, foreign or domestic, or was the act of a malevolent individual."
When the U.N. Human Rights Committee reviews U.S. compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) this October, the review will tackle many of the human rights violations plaguing Florida. Last week the committee released its list of issues, which will form the basis for the U.S. review, and demanded answers to questions regarding U.S. laws and policies in areas such as juvenile solitary confinement, felon disfranchisement, and discriminatory enforcement of criminal law. These human rights violations severely impact the lives of Floridians, but often evade court challenges or other domestic mechanisms of review.
The Human Rights Committee is a body of experts established to monitor implementation of the ICCPR, a treaty outlining the U.S.'s obligation to protect and preserve a wide range of human rights. The ICCPR, which the United States ratified in 1992, broadly protects the right to human dignity; equality before the law; freedom of speech, assembly and association; freedom from torture, ill-treatment and arbitrary detention; and the rights of racial and ethnic minorities. The U.S. submitted a periodic report to the committee in December 2011 outlining its adherence to treaty obligations. It must now respond to the committee's specific questions, generated in part from non-governmental organizations' submissions. The committee will then issue observations and recommendations regarding U.S. non-compliance with treaty obligations.
The committee's review compels the U.S. government to discuss topics it may otherwise seek to avoid. For example, ICCPR review will spark an urgently needed discussion about protecting child prisoners. The committee will review a broad range of issues affecting incarcerated children: their extended isolation in prisons, their prosecution in adult criminal courts, their housing in adult jails, and the life without parole sentences still meted out for crimes they commit before they have fully developed.
It is widely recognized that international law prohibits the use of solitary confinement on children, as by definition it constitutes cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. Florida's extended solitary confinement of prisoners, particularly vulnerable prisoners such as children and those suffering from mental illness, bucks this emerging consensus. Yet Florida persists in its use of isolation. As we explained in a blog post titled The Sad State of Solitary in Florida, prisoners held in solitary confinement in Florida are detained in nearly complete isolation. They are only entitled to leave their cells three times a week to take a shower, and, after 30 days, for an additional three hours per week to exercise. In Florida, where there are more children sent to adult prisons than in any other state, children endure long periods without human contact, exercise, educational instruction, communication with their families or rehabilitative services. The Florida Legislature has thus far declined to pass the Youth in Solitary Reduction Act to improve conditions. And the Prison Reform Litigation Act makes it difficult for inmates to challenge their solitary confinement through U.S. courts.
The committee will also review the infrastructure of Florida's notorious elections â characterized by voter suppression laws and the exclusion over a million citizens with prior felony convictions from the democratic process. As we describe in our ICCPR submission, Florida permanently disfranchises such citizens unless they receive executive clemency, which is only granted through the Board of Executive Clemency's unfettered discretion (and rules governing the rights restoration process seem to change with the governorship). Florida's disfranchisement rate remains highest among the 50 states, and disfranchisement impacts African American voters at more than twice the rate of non-African American voters.
The discretionary clemency process is difficult to challenge in court. Thankfully, the ICCPR requires that deprivation of voting rights based on a criminal conviction should be "objective and reasonable" and that suspension of rights should be "proportionate" to the offense. The committee's review will give us an opportunity to highlight Florida's dissonance with the rest of the country and democratic world. The U.S. will need to provide answers for Florida's backward election policies.
Other U.S. Policies Up for Review
The committee will review a range of other systematic race-based denials of equality. The U.S. must explain its gushing school-to-prison pipeline, a set of misguided policies that use criminal law to address school discipline and disproportionately impact African-American students and students with disabilities. For the first time, an international body will look at gun violence through racial disparities in the application of Stand Your Ground laws. Florida will finally have to explain to an independent arbitrator the broad grant of immunity to those who claim to use deadly force in self-defense.
The ICCPR review process will give us an opportunity to seek answers to injustice on a broad range of issues. Perhaps as significant, unlike the courts, the Human Rights Committee allows for broad public engagement and participation. Last December, through the USHRN ICCPR Task Force which the ACLU is co-chairing, dozens of non-governmental organizations, requested that the committee address issues of local concern. Civil society will now have another opportunity to submit information to the committee in the form of "shadow reports" to supplement information offered by the U.S. government.
Like many social justice organizations, the ACLU of Florida, working in collaboration with the national ACLU Human Rights Program, will continue to engage in this process to raise issues that impact the lives of millions of people in the United States. Respecting our international human rights obligations falls squarely and equally on the federal and state governments, and we hope they will use the U.S. review as an opportunity to make human rights a reality for all. We will hold their feet to the fire and look forward to the U.S. appearance before the committee in October.
This is day two of our blog series on The Fight To Take Back Our Genes featuring voices on Human Genes. Today's guest blogger is a plaintiff in our case challenging the patent on two genes related to breast and ovarian cancers, BRCA1 and BRCA2.
My name is Runi Limary. I am 36 years old, Asian-American and live in Austin, Texas. I was only 28 when I was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. My doctor recommended that I take the BRCA test. Those that test positive for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutation are at higher risk of having breast and ovarian cancer, and also have a higher risk of developing breast cancer in the other breast. Women are usually diagnosed at a younger age if they carry this genetic mutation. I agreed to have the test done because the test results would help me make the decision of whether or not I would need to have a single or a double mastectomy and whether or not to remove my ovaries.
My test results came back inconclusive. I tested positive for the BRCA1 with a "variant of uncertain significance." Basically it meant that the company could not determine whether it was a dangerous mutation or a benign, uncommon one. I was told that the variant in my genes has been seen in only two other Asian women. The sample test population was not large enough for me to feel as if I truly tested positive or negative for the BRCA1 genetic mutation. Regardless, I elected to be aggressive and have a bilateral mastectomy (the removal of both my breasts) to lower my chances of recurrence in the future.
I have completed all my treatment for breast cancer but now I have to make a difficult decision about whether or not to have an oophorectomy (removal of the ovaries.) I am in my 30's and do not have children. I want to be able to make an educated decision before I undergo a life changing surgery.
Gene patents give the patent holder control over whether other scientists can perform research to find out the meaning of different mutations along the patented genes. We need to make sure other researchers are free to test variants of uncertain significance and learn more about the genetic makeup of under-represented populations like the Asian population because we all have the right to know whether or not we truly have the BRCA mutation. The way it is now, I and other patients have to depend on the decisions made by a single company.
In 2009, 20 professional medical associations, geneticists, breast cancer and women's health groups, and patients filed a lawsuit charging that patents on BRCA1 and BRCA2 are invalid and unconstitutional. The ACLU and the Public Patent Foundation, which represents the plaintiffs, will argue this case before the Supreme Court in April 2013.
As I mentioned recently, lobbying by Boeing contributed to the defeat (for now) of drone privacy legislation in Washington state. In fact, we are starting to see a few of the many legislative proposals for regulating drones die in state legislatures (our updated chart on the status of such legislation is here). One of the reasons legislation has been shut down in some of these states is (poorly founded) concern that passing such protections will inhibit a stateâs chances of winning one of the drone âtest sitesâ that the FAA is in the process of awarding. Meanwhile, the drone industry association, the AUVSI, has also been opposing state privacy-protection bills, citing the unconvincing argument that existing laws and the courts are enough to ensure privacy. And drone boosters have always intimated that privacy rules will interfere with economic benefits that a booming drone industry will provide.
This is all quite misguided.
- Itâs in the interests of the drone industry and other drone boosters for good solid privacy protections to be put into law. If we can set everbodyâs privacy concerns to rest, that will allow drones to boom without the dark cloud of Big Brother hanging over them. Good protections will allow us to enjoy the benefits drones could bring without having to worry about their dark side. Theyâll allow innovations to flower without controversy, media coverage, and protests every step of the way.
- There is a long tradition of industries supporting regulation in their own self-interest. The meat-packing industry, for example, welcomed regulation by the FDA in the early 20th century because the image of the entire industry and its products were being tainted by âbottom-feedersâ who would undercut other players on price by pursuing unsanitary and unethical practices. By allowing the government to outlaw such practices and supporting the creation of an enforcement mechanism, reputable companies avoided having to compete in a race to the bottom that would further endanger the image of the entire industry and public faith in its product.
- Privacy regulation will also save those who work in the drone industry from being forced to choose between engaging in anti-social, unethical behavior that many of their fellow citizens view with disgust, or hurting their businessâa choice I think most people would prefer to avoid if they can.
Even if privacy and moneymaking were directly at odds, policymakers should not sell out our dearest values, and allow our country to become a darker place for a short-term economic gain in one industry. Allowing our country to turn into some dark Pottersville will not be good for the happiness of our people, which is the only point of economic development anyway.
But in the end, for the most part, I really think the privacy and the economic benefits of drones are not at odds with each otherâthe one must be satisfied before the other can be fully realized.
This week, Wyoming confirmed that it will now provide driverâs licenses to young immigrants who came to the country as children, popularly known as âDREAMers.â The decision is the latest victory for immigrant youth granted permission to live and work in the country under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (âDACAâ) program.
Wyoming thus joins the chorus of states that have decided to let the DREAMers drive. Generally, states limit driverâs licenses to immigrants who can show they are âauthorized" or âlegally presentâ in the United States. Consistent with guidance from the federal government, the overwhelming majority of states have rightly acknowledged that immigrants granted DACA are legally authorized to be in the country, and thus eligible to drive.
Only two outliers have taken the opposite tack: Nebraska and Arizona, whose driverâs license ban we have challenged in court. It is high time for both of these states to get with the DACA program. There is simply no reason to deny licenses to immigrants whom the federal government has permitted to live and work in the country. At a time when the nation is calling for solutions to our broken immigration system, states should be pursuing polices that help immigrants go about their daily lives and give back to the communityânot policies that target immigrants for exclusion and take us all backwards.
On April 15, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on a deceptively short question: Are human genes patentable? While the question's phrasing may be succinct and simple, the implications of the Court's answer are vast and critical. On behalf of researchers, genetic counselors, women patients, cancer survivors, breast cancer and women's health groups, and scientific associations representing 150,000 geneticists, pathologists, and laboratory professionals (more info on our clients here), we will argue that the patents on BRCA1 and BRCA2 â two humans genes (your genes!) associated with breast cancer and ovarian cancer â create harmful barriers to scientific progress and medical care. The case is the first challenging whether human genes can be patented.
As we prepare to stand in front of the nine justices next Monday and take back our genes, we are surrounded by incredible friends and allies. We are joined by over a dozen "friend of the court" briefs supporting our argument, along with many more individuals and groups who have spoken out at different stages in this fight.
In the next week before the argument, the Blog of Rights will highlight just a few of these important voices. Stay tuned for our client Runi Limary's story of how gene patents have stood in the way of her medical decision making; amicus Dr. James Evans's description of gene patents' harm to the social good; experts Christopher Mason and Jeffrey Rosenfeld's explanation of the breadth of scientific inquiry stifled by gene patents; amicus Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE) Founder and Executive Director Sue Friedman's personal and professional account of the burden gene patents place on patients; and the ACLU's Sandra Park's breakdown of the case before the Court. You can also check out a past blog about the discoverer of DNA, James Watson's belief that gene patents are "lunacy".
We hope these blog posts will serve as a primer on why it is so important that the Supreme Court recognize human genes as classic products of nature, whose study and testing should not be monopolized by a single corporation.
Additionally, be sure to follow the ACLU on Twitter on April 15 for updates from the steps of the Supreme Court!
Today, the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world. With over 2.3 million men and women living behind bars, our imprisonment rate is the highest it's ever been in U.S. history. And yet, our criminal justice system has failed on every count: public safety, fairness and cost-effectiveness. Across the country, the criminal justice reform conversation is heating up. Each week, we feature our some of the most exciting and relevant news in overincarceration discourse that we've spotted from the previous week. Check back weekly for our top picks.
Previous posts have surveyed the many reform bills in play across the states. This week, we'll take a more detailed look at a major reform effort, Oregon's HB 3194. As it is in most states, Oregon's prison population and costs have been rising steadily for decades; last year, Gov. Kitzhaber decided to study of the state's prison system and look for ways to reverse the trend. The study projected the problem would get worse without action. In December, a commission made recommendations for reform, which were turned into HB 3194.
The bill makes a number of significant changes. It eliminates mandatory minimum sentences for some drug offenses and for several serious offenses, including first-degree sexual abuse, second-degree assault, and second-degree robbery. The bill also makes more defendants eligible for alternatives to prison, reduces sentence lengths for some property offenders, and allows prisoners to earn earlier release from prison.
HB 3194 is not the only bill on the table, though. HB 3195 is an alternative proposal drafted by a prominent prosecutor who believes HB 3194 does too much. His bill excludes almost all of the reforms listed above, focusing instead on probation and systemic evaluation. A joint legislative committee is currently deciding which bill will move forward.
HB 3194 will have a much larger impact on the state's prison population, but faces a more challenging path to passage. Because most of the mandatory minimums it repeals were passed by ballot initiative in 1994, it must be approved by two-thirds of the legislature.
For more on HB 3194 and its much more limited counterpart, see:
- The Oregonian: "Measure 11 Fight Descends into Details in Salem"
- Salem Statesman-Journal: "Oregon Lawmakers Consider Mandatory Minimum Change"
- Cascade Policy Institute Report: Protecting Public Safety and Reducing Correctional Costs in Oregon
- Willamette Week: "The Hard Truth about Oregon's Prisons: They Work"
Here are some other interesting items from the past week:
- A new national poll from The Pew Research Center found that a majority of respondents favor legalizing marijuana. Among the reports more interesting findings is this: "There is no significant difference in lifetime or recent use between people in states with some form of legalized marijuana and those in other states."
- Der Spiegel published a useful review what's happened in Portugal since the country decriminalized drug possession in 2000. Basically, if Portuguese police find someone with less than 10 days' worth of a controlled substance, they seize the drugs and tell the person to report to a health commission. There is no arrest, no fine, and no jail. The commission's goal is to encourage participation in rehab, but nothing is required. Even those who fail to report are only sent reminders. Twelve years after the policy change, adult drug use is up mildly, but teen drug use is down. Rehab participation is way up, and HIV infection among drug addicts is falling steeply.
- Over at The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf published a pair of noteworthy drug-law articles this week. In the first, he discusses the case of a 46-year-old Florida man who received a 25-year mandatory sentence after selling four bottles of unused pain pills to a police informant. In the second, he makes the moral case for drug liberalization.
- In a speech this week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder inveighed against long mandatory sentences: "Too many people go to too many prisons for far too long for no good law enforcement reason. It is time to ask ourselves some fundamental questions about our criminal justice system. Statutes passed by legislatures that mandate sentences, irrespective of the unique facts of an individual case, too often bear no relation to the conduct at issue, breed disrespect for the system, and are ultimately counterproductive. It is time to examine our systems and determine what truly works. We need to ensure that incarceration is used to punish, to rehabilitate, and to deter â and not simply to warehouse and forget." You can read his full remarks here.
What slang term written on a standardized test earned a Texas teen the excessive punishment of 4-days suspension?
In which state did correctional center staff restrain and torture a prisoner with pepper spray?
Which cybersecurity bill's privacy holes would allow companies to share Americans' private information unrelated to cyber threats with the government and other companies?
Which ACLU affiliate released a report this week on the prevalence of debtors' prisons in Ohio?
Which religious leader washed the feet of twelve young prisoners and spoke on the importance of serving those whom society has forgotten?
YOLO: So Why Was a Texas Prankster Suspended When There Were Better Options?
Kyron Birdine, a high school junior in Arlington, Texas, didn't see much point to taking an extra standardized test that wouldn't be used to evaluate him in any way. So, instead of writing an essay on the STAAR test, Kyron protested by writing "I have the TAKS test to study for, not this unneeded craziness. Yolo. :)" and tweeting a picture to it to the Arlington Independent School District and the Texas Education Agency (TEA) on Twitter. YOLO, of course, is the acronym for "You Only Live Once."
Apparently unamused, school officials suspended him from school for four days.
Shocking Video from Maine Prison Shows a Restrained Prisoner Being Tortured with Pepper Spray
"You're never going to winâŠ Bottom line is the house wins every time."
That's what Maine Correctional Center Captain Shawn Welch said to a prisoner who was strapped into a restraint chair, his face coated with pepper spray and his legs shaking in pain and fear. The entire ordeal was captured in a disturbing video that recently hit the internet. After Captain Welch pepper sprayed prisoner Paul Schlosser in the face, Captain Welch ignored Schlosser's plea that he could not breathe; at one point, Captain Welch responds to Schlosser's pleas for help with the taunt, "Last I heard, I was as useless as tits on a bull."
CISPA Explainer #1: What Information Can Be Shared?
The short answer: any information that "pertains" to cybersecurity, broadly defined to include vulnerabilities, threat information, efforts to degrade systems, attempts at unauthorized access, and more. You can see the full list on page 20 of the bill. You'll see that it's not tied to the criminal definition of hacking but instead forges new ground.
The Outskirts of Hope: How Ohio's Debtors' Prisons are Ruining Lives and Costing Communities
They are unconstitutional. They are against state law. And yet, debtors' prisons â jailing people because they are too poor to pay their court fines â are common across Ohio, according to a report released by the ACLU of Ohio.
New Pope Washes the Feet of 12 Kids in Prison: An Easter Reminder for the U.S.
Last week, while Christians around the world were preparing to celebrate Easter, the newly elected Pope Francis visited Casal Del Marmo, a youth detention facility in northwest Rome. To celebrate the traditional Holy Thursday Mass, the Pope washed the feet of 12 young prisoners.
Though popes traditionally wash the feet of 12 persons during the Holy Thursday service, Francis' decision to celebrate the mass at a prison marked a significant departure from previous popes who had elected to hold the event at the traditional venue of the St. John Lateran Basilica â a papal property near Vatican City.
An international human rights body is set to question the United States on its obligations under a key human rights treaty. The U.N. Human Rights Committee, an independent body of experts tasked with monitoring compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), this week released its list of issues, which will serve as the basis for its upcoming review of U.S. compliance with the treaty. The U.S. ratified the ICCPR in 1992 and is obligated to submit to periodic reviews of its treaty implementation efforts.
As the list of issues demonstrates, the U.S. has some serious explaining to do about how its laws and policies comport with its treaty obligations in areas ranging from the right to life, to racial discrimination, to cruel and inhumane treatment. The large list includes requests for information on:
- Measures restricting the right to vote, whether through felon disfranchisement or restrictive voter ID laws;
- Human rights violations in immigration detention and enforcement, from racial profiling to shooting deaths on the U.S.-Mexico border;
- Racial disparities in the criminal justice system (consider, for example, the fact that one out of 15 black males over the age of 18 in the U.S. is incarcerated, compared with one in every 106 white males over 18);
- The targeted killing program and lack of accountability for torture;
- The use of the death penalty and solitary confinement, especially on children and persons with mental disabilities;
- Trafficking and domestic violence;
- Rights for detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
The ACLU, along with human rights organizations around the country, has been advocating before the Human Rights Committee to ensure that these and other vital issues are brought into the spotlight during its review of the U.S. record. On Human Rights Day last year, we submitted a "list of issues" report highlighting key issues and providing recommendations to the U.S. government. (Reports from the ACLU and other NGOs are available online.) The ACLU also co-chairs the U.S. Human Rights Network ICCPR Task Force, which facilitates both NGO participation in this important treaty body review process and advocacy before the Human Rights Committee.
The U.S. has 60 days to respond in writing to the committee's questions, and in October will be subject to a formal review in Geneva. We hope the U.S. will use this opportunity to openly and honestly assess its compliance with its international human rights obligations, and work with civil society to formulate concrete actions for full implementation the treaty on the federal, state, and local level, ensuring that its human rights promises become a reality.
In 2009, North Carolina made history by becoming the first state to pass a law that addressed the systemic problems of racial discrimination in jury selection in capital cases. In the three years since the Racial Justice Act (RJA) was enacted, this law has uncovered systemic discrimination. In four cases, North Carolina death row inmates presented sweeping evidence that racial discrimination in jury selection tainted their trials, and had their death sentences converted to life without parole under the law.
For the last year, the North Carolina legislature has been working to overturn this important legislation â the most recent threat to justice coming this week with the vote by State Senate repeal the RJA. North Carolina needs to preserve the RJA, as it should serve as model legislation that all states should adopt to stamp out the racial discrimination that runs rampant in capital cases nationwide.
The struggle for racial justice in North Carolina has deep roots. Remember that on February 1, 1960, four college students in Greensboro, North Carolina took on racial segregation by refusing to leave a Woolworth lunch counter. The four students were joined by others until there were more than 300 people participating on the fourth day. The protests spread to other towns in North Carolina, and eventually through the South, ultimately contributing to the passage of the Civil Rights Act.
The path towards justice was far from smooth, however. The protesters often encountered violent reactions and resistance from local officials. The police dogs and fire hoses unleashed by Police Chief Bull Connor against children may be the most famous examples, but are far from the only ones.
Unfortunately, this pattern of progress and resistance is not relegated to the history books. It is playing out now as the North Carolina General Assembly considers a bill to repeal the RJA. In additional to addressing the system problem of racial discrimination in jury selection in capital cases, the RJA also bars racial discrimination in prosecutor's charging decisions and jury sentencing. When the RJA was enacted, it served as a courageous promise that the citizens of North Carolina would not accept discrimination in the death penalty system. If a defendant showed sweeping discrimination and prevailed under the law, he or she would see his or her death sentence converted to life without parole. No exceptions.
The law lived up to its promise in February 2012, when a Cumberland County judge heard the first case brought under the RJA. After weeks of testimony and a mountain of evidence, the judge concluded that there was powerful and overwhelming evidence that racial bias had played a role in North Carolina's jury selection, and in the defendant's own trial. That defendant was resentenced to life without parole.
The reaction of the North Carolina legislature was swift. It almost immediately attempted to repeal the RJA. This first repeal effort was rejected, after the then-Governor Beverly Perdue vetoed the bill. Legislators did successfully, however, rewrite and narrow the RJA, to require that future cases focus on discrimination within the defendant's home county and district, rather than address the powerful evidence of statewide discrimination.
Justice still prevailed. In the fall of 2012, three more defendants proceeded to hearing, this time under the new law. They again unearthed a mountain of evidence of the cheating and discriminatory practices the prosecutors employed. Again, the court found violations of the RJA and sentenced the defendants to life without parole. The judge issued a pointed statement about the impact of his findings: "The Court takes hope that acknowledgment of the ugly truth of race discrimination revealed by Defendants' evidence is the first step in creating a system of justice that is free from the pernicious influence of race, a system that truly lives up to our ideal of equal justice under the law."
These rulings demanded action by North Carolina prosecutors: they required prosecutors to put aside their discriminatory practices and reform capital case litigation.
North Carolina prosecutors had a different kind of action in mind. Rather than confronting their discriminatory practices, they called their friends in the legislature and asked them to wipe out the law.
Like the prosecutors who lobbied for repeal, the legislators who vote to repeal the RJA will join the shameful ranks of those who have historically resisted racial justice in our state. If they succeed, it will be a large step back forward for the North Carolina. But justice is long, and the truth is a stubborn force.
"A life in Cameron County [Texas] is worth just the same as a life in other parts of the United States."
Why would a judge think she had to make such a self-evident observation? The answer sums up much of what is wrong both with this case and with the death penalty in the United States.
Manuel Velez, a poor Latino laborer, was convicted and sentenced to death because his life was not of the same value in the criminal justice system as a wealthy man who could have afforded high-quality counsel. Some poor people get high-quality public defenders or appointed counsel, but only by the luck of the draw. Had Manuel Velez been afforded quality counsel in the first instance â had his life been valued and protected like a rich person's â it is highly unlikely he would have spent four years on death row for a crime he did not commit.
It is to Judge Lopez's credit that she recommended a new trial, given the clear evidence of Manuel's innocence â evidence that his trial counsel flat out failed to present.
Let's review what has happened so far to Manuel Velez. In 2008, he was convicted of murder of a one-year old child and sentenced to death. The ACLU represented Manuel in his appeal to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which in June of 2012 reversed his death sentence only (but not the underlying conviction) because the sentence was predicated on the false testimony of a State's expert. In December of 2012, Judge Lopez held an evidentiary hearing on whether Manuel received effective assistance of counsel at trial. This week's order was the decision on the December hearing.
By late in the hearing, the writing was on the wall: Manuel Velez was innocent. He had been convicted of killing the child and sentenced to death only because of ineffective defense attorneys who failed to present available medical evidence conclusively showing that the child's serious head injuries (and other injuries) were caused when Manuel was away working in construction in Tennessee. This evidence shattered the State's circumstantial trial theory that Manuel Velez must have been the guilty culprit because the child was a healthy baby before the last two weeks of his life and had become injured only after moving with his mother and siblings into Manuel's home.
At the hearing, one by one the medical experts came to the stand â forensic pathologists, neuropathologists, medical examiners, pediatricians, State's experts, and defense experts. They talked of skull fractures, of microscopically-examined brain hematomas (blood on the brain), of cat scans, and the dramatic increase of the child's head circumference beginning three to four months before his death. All of this evidence converged to show the child had serious head injuries (and other injuries) long before he lived with Manuel Velez, but while he was living with his troubled mother, who had a drinking problem, irresponsible habits, and a bad temper. The experts uniformly stated that had they been called to the stand and/or asked these questions at the 2008 trial, they would have given this same exonerating testimony. But the experts either weren't called or, for those who were called by the State, were not asked the right questions because defense counsel had fallen down on the job.
The writing on the wall also said that Manuel Velez deserves a new trial where a jury could hear not merely the State's theory, but all of the evidence, including evidence in his favor presented by competent defense counsel. "All the evidence" includes this science, and the common sense reality: Manuel could not have hurt this baby from another state.
By the hearing's summations, the writing could not have been clearer. That's when the State threw up a Hail Mary to save Manuel Velez's capital murder conviction. As Judge Lopez noted in her order, the State argued, "in South Texas, the standards for the representation of capital defendants or the kind of expert testimony available to such defendants is lower than in other jurisdictions."
In other words, even if these new experts are right, the State argued, counsel did not err in not presenting them because counsel were not expected to call high-quality experts. Building on this theme, at another point, the State argued that defense counsel "didn't have the availability of a pack of high-priced, suited attorneys," referring to Manuel's pro bono lawyers from Rothgerber, Johnson, and Lyons and Carrington Coleman. According to the state of Texas, Manuel Velez's lawyers could satisfy the Constitution by answering to a "lower" standard of care, a standard merely "good enough for South Texas."
Except the Constitution demands more. If Manual had had the effective lawyers required by the Sixth Amendment during his trial, he likely would have been found innocent four years ago â and not had to endure four years of the exquisite torture of imprisonment on death row as an innocent person.
The problem of inadequate counsel for the poor has tainted the trials in which hundreds of people have been sentenced to death rows across this country. So far, 142 people on death row have been exonerated after being proven innocent. With this week's order (which must be affirmed by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to take legal effect), Manuel Velez moves one step closer to joining that list, and to regaining his long-lost and unjustly-taken freedom.
Losing weight is a process and you should love yourself all the way through it!
Girl.............If I dance to music that is calling me a "B" that means I agree and that ain't happening!
Brothers and Sisters.................. Every time I would think about someone else's sin and look down on them, God would show me my own and I got tired of looking at the ugly part of myself so I stopped looking at he ugly part of others
The Veterans' IT Job Certification Program has been launched. It's a new program just announced by the White House will help US service members gain the training and certifications they need to get good jobs in the super-competitive information technology (IT) industry after separating from the military. You can read more about it in "The Connection" on this web site.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13
Limit your salt intake to help lower your blood pressure. Most of the sodium in our dietsapproximately 77%comes from prepared or processed foods.