President Obama says that because Republicans in Congress allowed a series of harmful, automatic budget cuts—called the sequester—to take effect, important programs like Head Start are now forced to reduce their services. After travelers were stuck for hours in airports and on planes this past week, members of Congress passed a temporary band-aid measure to stop the cuts that impact airlines — but they must do more to stop cuts to vital services for the American people. That’s why it’s time for a balanced approach to deficit reduction that makes smarter cuts and reforms in the tax code while creating jobs and strengthening the middle class
White House Science Fair: On Tuesday, President Obama welcomed our country’s youngest scientists and innovators for the 3rd Annual White House Science Fair. More than 100 students from more than 40 states joined the President for the all-day celebration. The President toured the fair and even hopped on a bicycle-powered, emergency water-sanitation station developed by high-school students Payton Karr and Kiona Elliott of Oakland Park, Florida.
The President launched the White House Science Fair in 2009 as way to help encourage science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. In December of 2012 the Administration announced a goal of one million new STEM graduates in the next decade, and the President’s plan works for educational opportunities and support for women and underrepresented minorities.
Teacher of the Year: On Wednesday, the President invited the state and national teachers of the year to the White House. Jeff Charbonneau from Zillah, Washington received the honor of the 2013 National Teacher of the Year. Over a decade ago, Zillah High School did not have a single engineering class and a struggling science curriculum, but 11 years ago Charbonneau returned to his hometown to teach at Zillah High School determined to change this. Today, science enrollment is up and students are graduating with college-level science credits. The President thanked all of the educators for their hard work and commitment in the classroom.
I want you guys to know that the country appreciates you. The kids appreciate you. The parents appreciate you. What you do matters. It’s critical to our success as a country, but most importantly, it’s critical to those kids themselves. I cannot think of something more important than reaching that child who maybe came in uninspired, and suddenly, you’ve inspired them.
Texas Memorial Service: On Thursday, President Obama delivered remarks at a memorial service for emergency first responders killed during the tragic explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas. The President praised the people of West for their unity and their ability “to stand tall in times of unimaginable adversity.” The President provided comfort to the people of West and amid recent crisis, he assured West the country shares their pain.
Today our prayers are with the families of all who we’ve lost — the proud sons and daughters of West whose memories will live on in our hearts. Parents who loved their kids and leaders who served their communities. They were young and old, from different backgrounds and different walks of life.
George W. Bush Presidential Library: On Thursday, the President and the First Lady traveled to Dallas for the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library. President Bush was joined by former Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton, as well as former First Ladies Roslyn Carter, Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton, and Laura Bush. President Obama thanked President Bush for his service and love of country, while also pointing out his personality.
“He knows who he is,” said President Obama. “He doesn’t put on any pretenses. He takes his job seriously, but he doesn’t take himself too seriously. He is a good man.”
Amir of Qatar: On Tuesday, President Obama welcomed Hamad bin Khalifa al- Thani, the Amir of Qatar, to discuss issues covering commerce, trade and education. The two leaders also talked about the urgency to end the slaughter in Syria and finding a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The President thanked Qatar for their friendship and says he looks forward to working with Qatar for many years to come.
National Park Week: Last Saturday marked the start of National Park Week, an annual tradition celebrating our country’s great natural beauty and cultural landscapes. By being involved, you can help preserve the beauty, history and values of America and protect national parks for future generations.
Bombings in Boston: Last Friday, the President addressed the country after the capture of the second suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing. President Obama vowed to find more answers and ensure the American people are safe.
All in all, this has been a tough week. But we’ve seen the character of our country once more. And as President, I’m confident that we have the courage and the resilience and the spirit to overcome these challenges — and to go forward, as one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Pro-Middle Class Policies That Won’t Cost the Government Anything
In this era of painful spending cuts, it often feels like there’s little political space to get much done to help the middle class — or anyone else. Fortunately, that doesn’t have to be the case. Our Center for American Progress colleagues put together six pro-middle class policies that won’t cost the government anything.
Here’s the short version and a few charts:
- Increase the Minimum Wage
Since 1968 the inflation-adjusted value of the minimum wage has declined by 31 percent.The minimum wage would be more than $10.50 per hour today if it had kept up with inflation. This decrease has occurred even as workers have become more productive. Over the same period of time, productivity—the measure of output per hour of work—increased by 124 percent.
- Make Saving for Retirement Easier, Cheaper and More Secure
An increasing number of households are at risk of seeing their standard of living decline in retirement due to a lack of sufficient retirement savings.
In order to help the middle class retire with dignity, we need to expand retirement coverage and improve the quality of retirement plans available. We can achieve these goals and improve the current retirement system by creating a new hybrid retirement plan type—the Secure, Accessible, Flexible, and Efficient Retirement Plan, or SAFE Retirement Plan, a hybrid between a traditional pension and a 401(k) plan—and opening the federal Thrift Savings Plan, the 401(k) for federal employees, to the public.
- Lower Monthly Housing Costs by Providing Homeowners with Principal Foregiveness
Although housing markets are beginning to recover from the collapse of the housing bubble, more than one in five homeowners are still “underwater” on their loans, meaning that they owe more on their mortgages than their loans are worth. Not only does this threaten individual homeowners, but the more than $600 billion in negative equity also significantly hampers economic recovery.
- Let All Workers Earn Paid Sick Days
Paid sick days should be available to all U.S. workers. Implementing this policy would provide greater job security to millions of Americans, reduce worker turnover, and ultimately strengthen the middle class.
There are currently no federal laws guaranteeing workers the right to earn paid sick days. Nearly 40 percent of workers in middle-income families and more than 55 percent of workers in low-income families do not have access to paid sick days. Twenty-three percent of adults report either being threatened with losing a job or being fired for taking time off when they or a family member have been sick.
- Make Sure That Workers Who Want to Form a Union Can Do So
But as unions became weaker over the past four decades—due in part to an unfair union election process—they became less able to perform these functions. The middle class has withered as a result, with the share of income going to the middle class falling alongside the percentage of workers in unions. (see Figure 5)
- Require Colleges to Provide Consumer Information Via College Scorecards
Two-thirds of students with four-year bachelor’s degrees finish their studies with student-loan debt, and the average amount of debt per student is nearly $25,000. (see Figure 6) Yet average debt loads at schools can range from $950 or less to $55,250, and graduation rates range from0 percent to 91 percent. Many students, however, are unaware of these differences.
The federal government should require colleges and universities to do a better job of providing pertinent information to prospective students concerning their likelihood of graduating, finding employment, and paying off student debt. Schools should be required to direct students to this information on all promotional materials to allow students to easily compare schools.
For all of the wonky details, check out the full report HERE.
BOTTOM LINE: Instead of continuing the painful austerity spending cuts we’re currently living under, we can and should make needed investments in the middle class, such as expanding access to preschool and child care, as part of a package that reduces the deficit over the longer term. And there’s also no reason not to immediately put in place a set of pro-middle class, pro-growth policies that won’t require any additional federal spending.
Every day, President Obama reads ten letters from Americans across the country. In this from-the-archives video, “Letters to the President,” we take you behind the scenes to see the process of how those ten letters make it to the President’s desk — from among the thousands of letters, faxes, and e-mails that get sent to the White House each day.
In Case You Missed It
Here are some of the top stories from the White House blog:
Weekly Address: The President’s Plan to Create Jobs and Cut the Deficit
President Obama tells the American people about the budget he is sending to Congress, which makes the tough choices required to grow our economy and shrink our deficits.
Weekly Wrap Up: “We Have Not Forgotten”
Here’s what happened last week on WhiteHouse.gov.
President Obama Marks the End of Easter Season at Prayer Breakfast
Last week, the President and Vice President marked the end of the Easter season with a prayer breakfast at the White House.
Three months after the tragic shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, President Obama says that the Senate has taken important steps forward to help protect our kids by reducing gun violence. The American people made their voices heard, and the Senate made progress to make it harder for criminals and people with serious mental illnesses to get guns, to crack down on anyone trying to funnel guns to criminals, and to reinstate and strengthen a ban on the sale of military-style assault weapons. Each of these ideas deserves a vote.
The American people are the source of some of the best ideas and most innovative solutions. That’s why the White House Champions of Change series spotlights ordinary citizens who are demonstrating extraordinary commitment to their community, their country, and their fellow citizens.
Across the country, Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander women are doing extraordinary things to create a more equal, safe, and prosperous future. In business, the arts, civil rights, health, and so many other fields, AAPI women are helping to improve the lives of their fellow Americans.
This May, on the occasion of AAPI Heritage Month, the White House Office of Public Engagement, White House Council on Women and Girls, and White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders will honor a small group of AAPI women as Champions of Change. And we want your help! Members of the public are invited to submit nominations online until Friday, March 29, 2013. A small group of AAPI women who represent diverse experiences and backgrounds will be honored as Champions of Change and invited to the White House for an event in early May.
Click here to nominate an AAPI woman as a Champion of Change before Friday, March 29, 2013 (Note: Under “Theme of Service” please choose “AAPI Women Leaders”)