Open for Questions with Interactive One

Open for Questions with Interactive One


Valerie Jarrett:
Good afternoon, everyone. Audience:
Good afternoon. Valerie Jarrett:
I’m Valerie Jarrett. On behalf of President Obama, I
am delighted to welcome you to the White House. Those of you who
are with us today, as well as those who are
listening around the country and will be participating online. We are so excited to
have you all with us. We are particularly excited
to be a part of the Open for Questions event. And we have with us some
of your favorite websites, including TheGrio, NewsOne,
BlackPlanet, HelloBeautiful, and TheUrbanDaily. Last week, as I
think everyone knows, the President addressed a joint
address of Congress where he called for the passage
of the American Jobs Act. Earlier today in
the Rose Garden, the President announced that
today he would be sending the actual bill to Congress and
calling on them to pass it and pass it now. The reason why he feels a sense
of urgency is all across our country, people are suffering. They want jobs and
they want them now. They want to go to work,
they want to go back to work, they want to be trained
and ready for work. And they don’t have the luxury
of waiting until the next election 14 months away. They need action and
they need it now. If Congress passes this bill, it
will put people back to work and it will create jobs now and
it will put more money in the pockets of working Americans
across our country. As you know, the unemployment
rate in the African-American community is unacceptably
high, over 8 — over 16%. And the President knows that
in an action — inaction is not an option. That’s why he made sure that
this jobs plan will directly have a positive impact on the
African-American community. And I’m sure that one of the
topics that we’ll be discussing in the next hour will be
the American Jobs Act. As you know, Interactive One has
invited you to post questions to the White House officials that
I’ll introduce to you in a moment on issues that
you care most about. So let me quickly introduce
to you our panelists, most of whom will
need no introduction. And then I’m going to turn it
over to Jenn — to Jeff Johnson from TheGrio who is
going to jump right in, introduce the rest of the
panel and get to the questions. So starting near and dear to
my heart, Ambassador Ron Kirk, who has promised he’s going
to behave this afternoon. Please welcome our U.S. Trade
Representative, Ron Kirk. (applause) We also have Maria Johns, who
is the Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Small
Business Administration, who’s done terrific work
with small businesses all across our country. Welcome, Maria. (applause) Melody Barnes, who is the
Director of the White House Council on Domestic Policy,
with whom I have the pleasure of working each and every day. Melody, welcome. (applause) Jason Furman, who is the
Principal Deputy Director for the National Economic Council
and had as much to do as anyone on our economic team in putting
together this very important American Jobs Act. Jason, welcome to you. (applause) And shortly, I’d like to
announce we’ll be also joined by the Secretary of the U.S.
Department of Housing and Urban Development, Shaun Donovan,
and he will just slip right in and hit the ground
running when he arrives. And so without any further ado,
Jeff, may I turn it over to you? Jeff Johnson:
You absolutely may. Valerie Jarrett:
Thank you. Jeff Johnson:
Thank you so much. Valerie Jarrett:
And I’ll be back at the
end to wrap things up. Jeff Johnson:
Very quickly, it’s an honor
and privilege to be here. The journalists that are also
here with me are Smokey Fontaine from NewsOne, Carlo Vahl
[phonetic] and Jerry Barrow. And I’m going to allow them to
introduce their agencies more directly as they ask
their first question. I want to get right into this
as we talked about the fact that I’m sure the jobs bill
would be brought up. One of our Grio readers
asked very simply, what can I do to
help this bill pass? Anyone. Melody Barnes:
Okay. Well, great. Well, first of all, thank you
all for having us here today. And I think the President said
it extremely well when he spoke to Congress last week. He said that he would be
going around the country, he was in my home
town of Richmond, Virginia just last week,
will be in Ohio tomorrow, talking to Americans and
encouraging them to speak up, to become engaged, to listen to
the elements that are part of this jobs bill, recognizing that
they will affect their friends, their neighbors, their
sons, their daughters, and encourage action, because we
have to have Congress pass this bill immediately. The President has sent the
American Jobs Act to Congress. He has spoken with leaders, both
in the House and the Senate. And what we need is immediate
movement so that we will be in a position to save or create
millions of jobs that are desperately needed, particularly
in the African-American community, because
as Valerie said, we have over 16%
unemployment there. Ambassador Kirk:
Jeff, can I just add,
let me put on my — okay, forget this ambassador part. I used to be the
mayor of Dallas. One — first of all,
let me thank you all, because it was because of many
of you all’s agitation, frankly, in highlighting the ridiculously
unacceptable levels of unemployment in our community
that I think we had the wind to move forward with
this President’s bill. But one, as you reach out
to our elected officials, I would just encourage you
to not put any constraints on yourselves. I think you can assume most
of the members of Congress who represent our communities
get this and embrace it. I would encourage you to just
make sure your advocacy goes to every member of Congress
irrespective of what party they’re in or who
they represent, and demand that they do the
common sense things that the President has given Congress a
chance to do to help put America back to work. Secretary Donovan:
I would just jump in and
say on a particular level, we have to make sure that the
initiatives that the President laid out are seen as not only
being able to help communities that have been hardest hit, take
African-American communities and the way they’ve been devastated
by the foreclosure crisis, but to show the broad benefits
of acting to make sure that we’re making a difference
in those communities. The President proposed a
project rebuild that would target $15 billion to
communities that have been hardest hit
by foreclosures. It would put 200,000
people back to work, particularly construction
workers based in those local communities. But we have to recognize, this
isn’t just about the homes that have been foreclosed on. It isn’t just about
African-American neighborhoods. This is about the national
housing market and everybody has a stake here. If you live next door to a
home that’s been foreclosed on, your home, even if you made
every payment on your mortgage, goes down $10,000 in
value that very day. Everybody has a stake
in these efforts. And we have to show that by
putting the communities back to work that have been hardest hit,
the entire housing economy and the entire broader economy
is going to benefit. Deputy Secretary Johns:
And I’ll just briefly
add that at the SBA, we want to continue the work
that started actually day one with the Obama administration in
supporting small businesses and their ability to create the
jobs that our country needs. The American Jobs Act is a
critical piece of legislation. And I also thank you for
being here and add my voice to Ambassador Kirk said, thank
you for the feedback that got this job — this American
Jobs Act package built and put before Congress. But this is not the first time
the President has turned his attention to small businesses. His attendance on small business
growth and job development was from day one. And at the SBA, as we saw the
results of the Recovery Act that put $30 billion in the
hands of small businesses, that spurred part of the
recovery from the greatest economic down turn since
the great depression. But the fact of the matter
is, recovery has been very, very uneven. And that our community, the
African-American community, has suffered to
a greater degree. And at the SBA, that has led
us to create some very targeted initiatives to focus on bringing
back the economies in the African-American communities
around the country. And the importance of the
American Jobs Act is that it ties to that work and
allows us as an agency to further those efforts. Jerry Barrow:
Good afternoon. Jerry Barrow from
TheUrbanDaily.com. One of our readers,
Nea Lee, writes in, as a college student with
a medical condition and an expected family
contribution of zero, I can see a doctor but can’t
afford to purchase what they prescribe for me. Are there plans to help college
students with an EFC of zero to free or discounted medicine? Melody Barnes:
Well, one thing
that I would say, depending on the circumstances
surrounding this particular young woman, a recent
— just this year, in fact just last month, we
announced additional — an additional component of
the Affordable Care Act. And that’s preventative
care for women. We have also been focused on
trying to bring down the cost of prescription drugs in
many different ways for all Americans, particularly looking
at the effect that is imposed upon seniors. But in the case of this
young woman, I’m assuming, I’m given the fact
that she’s in college, that she’s younger than that,
preventative care that’s available, making sure that
those who are in college have access to — have access
to insurance and medical care there. But also through the community
health centers that are available, that was a
big part of what we did in Affordable Care Act. So there are a number of
different ways in addition to the existing programs that
we have, Medicaid, for example, to make sure that people have
access to health care that they very, very desperately need. But I think, particularly if
she’s looking in the area of preventative care, what we’ve
done for the first time is make sure that women, who have never
had preventative care targeted specifically towards them, have
the kinds of services that they need, services that
are extremely costly, that if they don’t
have access to, can lead to extended
hospital stays, can lead to more expensive
health care procedures, have access to these
kinds of services. And we’re making sure that
that’s available to college students, as well. Again, not knowing
her circumstances. But also making insurance
available to college students and those up to age 26 who can
stay on their parents’ insurance is another way that we’re making
sure that people are getting the kind of — young Americans are
getting the kind of coverage that they need. Smokey Fontaine:
Smokey Fontaine, NewsOne.com. So often so many of the
traditional kind of job initiatives and programs
don’t well serve the African-American community. One of our readers writes
in, what out of the box quote-unquote methods for job
creation is the administration taking, and are there any new
ideas in the American Jobs Act? Jason Furman:
Maybe I’ll take the first
shot at that and I think that’s a very good question. Now, to some degree, you do
want to take things that work. You have, for example, highway
construction and there’s a formula for how that money goes
out and it’s easy and you put more money into it and more
of that money goes out. But then you want to do things
to make sure that people are really getting those jobs that
you are creating through that and we have some innovative
ideas that we’ve worked on with Melody to make sure that a lot
of the communities that don’t often get those types of highway
jobs have access to them, whether it’s training money,
streamlining the process for contracting and really making
sure those jobs are there. In the American Jobs Act, the
President also has the largest reform in unemployment
insurance in four decades. And preserves its core function,
which is protecting you when you don’t have a job, you paid
into it, you bought insurance, if you can’t find a job,
you are looking for work, you should get your
unemployment insurance. But also at the same time for
people who want to use it in that way, helping turn into
something that can connect you with jobs, connect
you with employers, whether it’s training,
on-the-job work, sharing a job with someone
else, if it comes down to that, and getting yourself back into
the work force more quickly, if that’s what you choose to do. There’s also ideas in here that
Melody could speak more to that include areas like summer jobs,
subsidized jobs for folks on TANF, but then also a pot of
money for new innovative ideas to see what ideas flourish, what
comes out of it so that we can use some of the tried and true
things we’ve done in the past and combine them with new and
innovative approaches all at the same time bringing the
best evidence to bare so that we’re learning from this
experience and doing even better in the future. Melody Barnes:
Yeah. I mean, to pick up
on what Jason is saying, it’s a combination of new
ideas and also old ideas that we know worked. I mean, we know that when we
passed the American Recovery Act, that we were able to bring
hundreds of thousands of people back into the work force through
our subsidized job program. We have also built that
into the American Jobs Act. At the same time, we’ve put
together a $5 billion pathways to work fund that includes,
as Jason was saying, $1.5 billion for a youth and
summer jobs program for those 16 to 24 years of age. Also included in that is the $2
billion subsidized jobs program. And then another $1.5 billion
for innovative opportunities, on-the-job training, which we
know has worked extremely well. And often people who go through
those kinds of programs end up in permanent
employment programs. So we’ve done that. And then thought a lot about
the long-term unemployed, and we know that’s a significant
problem in the African-American community and in the ways
that Jason mentioned, using the UI system, using the
unemployment insurance system, as a way to not only make sure
that people can cover their needs, but also that people
are getting and keeping the skills that they have that make
them and keep them relevant in the job market. So thinking about what’s been
innovative and happening around the country and also making sure
that we’re building in the fair labor standards and minimum
wage protections that have to be there, but also thinking
about additional ways, things that we’ve tried and
we’ve seen have worked in the past and giving states
additional flexibility so that we can bring and keep as
many people in the job market as we possibly can. Deputy Secretary Johns:
Just briefly. I’ve been traveling the
country, like Jane the Baptist, talking about this is the
time to start a business. And even though this is
a challenging economy, it truly is a great time
to start a business. As I mentioned before, the Obama
administration has been focused from day one on providing tools
to small business owners and would-be entrepreneurs
to help them. Tricia Kerney-Willis is in the
back of the room, our partner, who we’ve been traveling around
the country on summits focused on urban entrepreneurship. We have a set of summits
coming up focused on young entrepreneurs with the purpose
of making sure people are aware of the tools that the SBA has
and how to put those tools in your hands and get you started
on the path to small business development and job creation. Just one example I’ll give you. We know, I talked earlier
about the uneven nature of the recovery and the fact that the
black community in particular is having in some areas a
really tough time getting access to capital. So what we did, working with
the department of treasury, was to develop a new loan
product from the SBA for the first time where we have our
government backed guarantee loan available through nontraditional
lenders like CDFIs, like microloan intermediaries
in the community. This is a significant change and
enhancement in the SBA’s loan programs, because those types
of lenders are in the community, they understand the
small business community, and are very — very fine
lending partners who also provide technical assistance
and a high touch approach to the companies that they
have in their portfolio. So there are new tools,
never before available, to people who are looking
to start a business. And we’re getting a good
reaction from young people around the country and
looking to see that grow. We’re working with the HBCU
community to make sure that on our college campuses
around the country, that that spirit of
entrepreneurship is there, it’s connected to the academic
portfolio and also helping our young people as they’re studying
their various disciplines, that they have a mind toward how
to use that discipline and come out of college and start a new
job — start a new business. Secretary Donovan:
I want to build on this idea of
taking time-tested methods that we know are reaching
African-American communities and to build on them with
new directions, new ideas. This project rebuild that I
talked about is based on a neighborhood stabilization
effort that has put $7 billion into communities that have seen
high levels of foreclosure. We know that it has reached
African-American communities. The facts are that it’s twice
as targeted to African-American communities as it is to
the average neighborhood in the country. And that it’s begun to help
African-American entrepreneurs, contractors, real estate
professionals, get connected. But we wanted to take
it a step further. In fact, Jeff and I were at
— together at a congressional black caucus jobs fair and town
hall recently in Ohio where this issue came up. How do we continue to put
construction workers to work in African-American communities
that have been hard hit? And so we’ve added
a number of things. One of the things that we heard
was that it’s not just about residential properties. We have lots of
storefronts sitting vacant in these communities. It’s retail. It’s also — it may be
industrial buildings or warehouses. So we’ve expanded this effort to
include up to 30% of the funding that can go to commercial or
industrial properties or retail properties as well. Another thing that we
heard is that, well, it’s great to long term be
able to fix up these homes, put people back to work. But there’s also a
short-term problem here. Our communities can’t afford
to cut the grass today because local budgets have
been hit so hard. We can’t afford to keep up these
properties while we’re waiting for the renovation
to take place. So we’re allowing up to 10% of
this funding and project rebuild to put folks to work immediately
maintaining these properties while we’re getting to
the longer term work of rebuilding those homes. We’re also bringing
in new partners, nonprofit partners like the
Urban League and others, that are able to bring new
skills, new relationships. We’re not just giving
out formula dollars. About 10 billion of the
money would go in formula to local governments. But an additional 5 billion
would be competitive, open to nonprofits, and
community based for-profits, that could bring a
different perspective, different relationships and a
different ability to work on these in African-American communities. So three new ideas that have
come out of town halls and other things that we’ve done around
the country to really take this to the next level in
African-American communities. Karla Ovalle:
This is Karla from
HelloBeautiful.com and BlackPlanet. And Diane Goodman, a
HelloBeautiful reader asks, what would it take to
get manufacturing jobs back in the U.S.? With so many jobs
being moved off shore, what has the manufacturing
sector largely been written off, is there a plan to make America
attractive to manufacturers in the long term? Jason Furman:
Happy to take the first shot,
unless, Ambassador, you want to? That is, that’s
a great question. And manufacturing is
really the backbone of the American economy. It’s critical in
everything we do. And one of the encouraging
things is it’s been enormously hard hit over the last decade. It’s come back a little bit
faster than some of the other sectors of the economy, but
nowhere nearly as quickly as we need. There are several
things that we can do. Number one is the market’s going
to pick what the best areas are. But there’s certain places where
the government can play a really key role in identifying
innovative new areas and making sure we’re supporting
and nurturing them. And green jobs is one
of those important ones. You want to make sure that
you’re not just using renewable electricity, for example, but
that the United States is also doing more to produce the
wind turbines that are used to produce that electricity. Rather than importing them all. So green jobs. Electric batteries has
been a real success story. It’s obviously going to be one
of the critical technologies in the future, as electric
vehicles and hybrid vehicles. A couple of years ago the United
States was making barely any of the batteries. Now we’re on track to making
a quarter of them and that’s because of the types of
investments we made in the Recovery Act. Trade, Ambassador Kirk will
speak to, is critical to this. The President’s goal of doubling
exports over the next five years is very important
to manufacturing. And finally, I would just
cite the tax code as a whole. You want one that makes
America’s businesses as competitive as possible and
that’s why the President is pushing forward with a
reform of the corporate tax code right now. Manufacturers actually
pay higher taxes than financial companies. And that’s what we want. We want manufacturers here
in America on one hand. Then on the other hand we
actually go out and penalize them when it comes to our tax
code, and that’s something, and example of something that we
could rectify through corporate tax reform. Ambassador Kirk:
As counter intuitive as it
might seem for many Americans, having a smart thoughtful
balance trade policy can be a real aid to us
maintaining and expanding our manufacturing base. In the interest of time,
my website is ustr.gov, and all of you may not be
familiar with all of the work of what we do. But I would encourage
you to visit it. One thing President Obama
challenged us to do when I took over this office was more
honestly address what he thought was some of the legitimate
concerns people had had about our trade policy. So I’ve spent the last 18 months
going from Pittsburgh to Detroit to Maine to Los Angeles. And what gave me heart
was even in Detroit, people understood how critical
it is that America goes out and compete for these 95% of
the world’s consumers who live somewhere else. We get it. They were horribly
frustrated, though, that they felt like the United
States had frankly dropped the ball in terms of fighting
and defending the rights of America’s workers and exporters. So that was an easy
thing we could fix. And one of the things we’ve
done is we have been much more aggressive in using the
enforcement tools we have to protect our workers
and manufacturers. One example, we had a tool that
we could use against China for just flooding our market with
products that China agreed to when we admitted them to the
World Trade Organization. Seven different occasions,
American industry had petitioned the U.S. government for help. The case was heard by
an independent agency. Seven different cases, they
recommended we take action. No other President ever used
this tool until President Obama. We did it in a case that
was brought by the United Steelworkers, relative to
cheap Chinese tires flooding the market. I won’t take you
through all of it. We used that authority. Other media beat us to death
and said we were just protecting unions, we were going
to spark a trade war, we didn’t do any
of those things. The short answer, we were able
to sustain an industry that was losing jobs. And the Cooper Tire Company,
who did not support us, just announced they’re going to
build a new tire manufacturing plant in either
Indiana or Cleveland. We can be much smarter about our
trade policy so that it sustains our manufacturing. But our manufacturing
exports are up. We are selling more of
what we make, what we grow, what we innovate in this
country, around the world. But I want to remind you, one
element, this American Jobs Act, is just one element of the
President’s strategy to get us back to work. The longer term strategy,
which he harps on all the time, is that we have to out-educate,
out-innovate and out-build the rest of the world. And so we’re going to win by
continuing to come up with the innovative, creative products,
whether it’s in the green sector or other, and then sell those
to these new consumers in Asia, Africa, India and the
rest of the world. Deputy Secretary Johns:
If I could just add briefly. This administration, the
Obama administration, has created the most seamless
process for small businesses to get involved in exporting
than ever before. We’re working with Ambassador
Kirk and working with the Department of Commerce,
Department of State, all of the federal agencies
who are in the exporting space. We’re working together under the
umbrella of the Trade Promotion Coordinating Council, the SBA
chairs the small working group component of that council,
and we’re working in a true partnership, where the SBA is
involved in preparing companies that are new to exporting and
then handing those companies off to the Department of Commerce
to help those companies enter new markets. So, again, this is another
opportunity where small business creation, it’s a good time
because exporting is a great business development opportunity
for small businesses as well. Melody Barnes:
And I’d just like to add
something to that that may not seem intuitive but is critical. Ambassador Kirk was talking
about out-innovating and out-building the
rest of the world. To do that, we have to
out-educate the rest of the world. And I talk to any
number of CEOs. And what they say to me is, when
I think about my work force, when I think about where
I’m going to site my office, where I’m going to put my plant,
I think about the communities, the states, the neighborhoods
that are going to surround those facilities and how well
educated is the work force. And we can’t afford in this
period of climbing out of a recession to let our
education system continue to slide backward. And not only in our overall
policies that the President has been talking about for the last
couple of years have we been focused on education, but
embedded in this bill, in the American Jobs Act, are
critical elements to do that. We know that about 280,000
education jobs are on the chopping block in we don’t
do something about it. And the President has included
money here, $30 billion, to make sure that we can create
and save those kinds of jobs. Starting with early
educators all the way through K through 12. And similarly, we’ve got to make
sure that we’re modernizing our school facilities. You know, we were in Milwaukee,
I was in Milwaukee with Secretary Duncan on Friday. The average age of an
education facility in Milwaukee is 70 years old. The average age nationally
is 40 years old. You can’t educate children for
the 21st century when they’re in facilities that were
built for the last century. So this bill includes money to
make sure that we’re not doing new building, but that we
are updating, you know, things like asbestos abatement
just to make sure our kids stay healthy, but also we’re adding
those science and technology labs so that as we’re updating
our curriculum and we’re focusing on science and
math and engineering, they can actually go in the lab,
they can go into their science classes and other kinds
of classes and get those hands on experiences. So this bill, that’s kind of
the thematic for this build, it’s building on the things
that we’re talking about, the things that we think are
critical to grow our economy overall, not to mention
creating and saving jobs. Ambassador Kirk:
Can I just add one more note,
because Melody reminded — I think, and Karla, this
goes to your point, what else are we doing. The President also
appointed a jobs council, some of the biggest
CEOs across the board. And one of the things they
found, and I think immediately, I mean, they’ve identified like
200,000 jobs in manufacturing right now that are going
unfilled because we don’t have the skills in math
and sciences to fill that. So they’re working with
community colleges and others and undercutting
a lot of this, again, for our community
particularly, is education. And you know, I joke with people
all the time that the best thing about my job, I’m in India,
Africa, Asia, all the time. And when I was a kid
growing up, you know, and you all aren’t as
old as I am, my parents, when they put something before
us and we didn’t like it, would always say, boy, eat your
so-and-so, children in Africa, China, you fill in the
country, are starving. Well, let me tell you
now, they may be hungry, but they’re reading
while they’re starving. And I don’t go
anywhere in the world, I don’t go anywhere in
Africa, India, Asia, I don’t meet a young person
who’s not polylingual. I mean, these kids speak
their native dialect, they all speak English,
they speak French. I mean, you get my point. We really have to get back
to making sure our kids, first of all, stay in school,
but particularly begin to get the language skills that they’re
going to have to have to compete in a global economy. And that goes to the core of our
— our manufacturing industry in America is not the
old heavy industry. This is a very
advanced, you know, innovative — I would challenge
any of you to go visit today’s steel mill. It looks nothing like
what you may think. It is the most high tech
industry you could imagine. So there are jobs there. But to sustain them, in addition
to making sure they have the level playing field, we need to
make sure we have the skills to take advantage of them. Jeff Johnson:
Ambassador Kirk alluded to some
of the tools available to the President to make
some decisions. And one of the Grio
readers, Jay Petals, says when George Bush was in
office he accomplished some of what he wanted via
executive order. What can President Obama
do via this method? For instance, could he have
avoided some of the challenges the administration is facing
by using his executive powers? And if so, why didn’t he? Melody Barnes:
Well, I’ll start out by saying,
we think, and, you know, Jason and I see each other
in meetings every single day, and we’re in meetings with our
other colleagues and often with the President, and we think
about the range of tools that are available. There are certain things that
we can only do legislatively, and those — in those areas
where we’re able to move aggressively using
administrative authority, using executive order, using
presidential memoranda, we’ve done so. And the President alluded to it
when he spoke on last Thursday before Congress, things that he
has charged this administration with doing to try and advance
the cause of job creation. And, in fact,
making jobs easier. I think one of the things going
to the work that Maria is doing so expertly is thinking
about one stop shopping for our businesses. I mean, many of you out there
are probably business owners. You know, I, you know, live with
and work with and have friends who are business owners. And trying to navigate what can
often be the maze of the federal government can be really
difficult to figure out how do you access the
resources available to you. We’re thinking about
how to make that much, much easier and go
much more aggressively. You know, one of the things
that Secretary Donovan has been actively involved in, and the
President also mentioned in his speech with regard to housing,
and what we can do on our own to try and improve
the housing market, try and lift the burden
that exists on so many, particularly in the
African-American and Latino communities, using our executive
and administrative authorities. So make no mistake about it. We are thinking every day
about what tools we have available to us. Jason Furman:
Let me just — Secretary Donovan:
Oh, sorry, Jason, let me just
jump in and follow up Melody’s point there, because I think
it’s incredibly important. I bet a lot of people,
even in this audience, don’t know that two out of every
three African-Americans who bought a home last year
used FHA financing. Two out of three. That’s not legislative. That’s an authority we have
at HUD that the President has focused on making sure in a time
when it’s almost impossible for many people who are eminently
qualified to be homeowners to get a loan right now. FHA continues to be
very focused on serving African-American communities. What the President announced
last week is that he is pushing us, using executive
authority, to go even further. To make sure, because we have
millions of families that are under water in their
mortgages right now. Even though we’ve got the lowest
interest rates in the last 50 years, you can get a 30-year
fixed rate loan for almost 4%. Many people, because they owe
more on their homes than their homes are worth, and this
is particularly true in African-American communities
where the housing crisis hit so hard, you can’t
take advantage of it. That would be like
a more than $2,000 a year tax cut to those
families just if they could refinance their mortgages. So he announced that we’re going
to be working with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and FHA at HUD
to make sure that we open up refinancing to those families. And guess what? That’s good not only
for the homeowners, it’s not only good
for those communities, it’s also good for Fannie
Mae and Freddie Mac, because they get safer
loans out of it as well, and that helps the taxpayer. So that’s an example of the
kind of thing that we’re doing, that the President has said use
every authority at your means to make sure we’re pushing it. Smokey Fontaine:
Just to that point, I’m sorry. What other tangible signs do you
see or account communities see of the recovery for, say, a
nonbeliever who is living in an urban area who is
surviving, struggling, what can they see if they’re
somewhat cynical to say I don’t feel the recovery, I don’t
see the President’s policies helping me enough. What other tangible
things can they look for? Secretary Donovan:
Well, look, and the President
has said this himself, we’re not there yet. We haven’t gone far enough. We have today, as we sit here,
40% fewer families are going into foreclosures than
they were a year ago. That’s progress. But it’s still
too many families. That’s why we have to do more. This neighborhood stabilization
effort that I talked about, we now have data that shows that
75% of those communities where we’ve invested neighborhood
stabilization funds, have lower vacancy rates
than surrounding communities. Two-thirds of those
neighborhoods have, their house prices
have done better than surrounding communities. So there is real evidence. But we’re not done. We’ve got to go farther. We’ve got to help get to a point
not just where we’ve stabilized the market in those communities,
but where we’re actually seeing a real recovery. Where we start
building wealth again, start building the strength
of those neighborhoods. And that’s — as the
President said last week, he’s going to fight, he’s
not going to stop until we get there. And Congress has to do its job. To get people back to work,
Congress has got to get back to work. And that’s absolutely critical. Deputy Secretary Johns:
If I could add on to that point. Absolutely we
haven’t done enough, and that’s what all
of this work is about. But one other point that I think
is an important indicator that we’re moving in the
right direction, the SBA has responsibility
for reporting on the federal government’s small
business contracting. As many of you probably know,
the federal government has a goal of doing 23% of
their contracting with small businesses. After a 10-year slide, the
last two years have been the strongest two-year growth in the
small business contracting area, and the SBA just put out the
score card for fiscal year ’10, and we hit 22.7% small
business contracts with the federal government. Now, we won’t be satisfied
until we’re at 23% and beyond, but that 22.7 is the strongest
number that we’ve — that we’ve seen in many years. Valerie Jarrett is chairing
a task force tasked by the President to work with the
secretaries and deputy secretaries across the federal
government to hold them accountable for what they’re
doing in terms of their small business contracting goals. Bebe Hidalgo [phonetic]
is in the room as well, and she’s working very closely
with the SBA and the other agencies on that front. So I think that’s another
indicator that, no, we’re not nearly
where we need to be, but we’re making progress. Ambassador Kirk:
Can I just add,
because it drives — sometimes we are so brilliant
we overlook the obvious, but we were talking
about manufacturing. And since we got beat up
for it, last time I checked, General Motors and Chrysler
are alive and well and going. And we sort of take
that for granted. That didn’t have to be the case
were it not singularly for this President taking on Congress,
there’s no more iconic industry representing the American
manufacturing industry, no industry in which we are more
heavily invested as employees, as suppliers who feed into the
Ford/General Motors pipeline. And if you talk to any of the
steel manufacturers again, they will tell you if we had
allowed the American automobile industry to die, you wouldn’t
have a steel industry. So I mean, I think we
assume everybody knows, but not only are General Motors
and Chrysler doing well, they are adding capacity,
they’ve paid back much of what we borrowed, and the same
thing on the tar programs. I just think that bears noting. Melody Barnes:
And I would — (applause) I would add to that, because
there — it goes as a given, everyone up here from the
administration would say we have to do more. But let’s not forget the
things that I think sometimes we’ve pocketed. And to Ambassador Kirk’s
point, we’ve said, oh, yeah, that’s happened, and we’ve moved
on, but they didn’t have to be. Health care reform — historic;
millions and millions and millions of low-income people
and African-Americans are already benefiting from the
health care reform bill that this President fought for and
signed into law over almost insurmountable odds. Education reform — the biggest
higher education reform bill passed since the GI Bill. We’re talking about $68 billion
that was reinvested into our higher education system, a lot
of it going to minority serving institutions, HBCUs and
others, community colleges, $40 billion going
into Pell Grants, so that’s money for low-income
students who wouldn’t have access to college or community
college that now have that kind of access. Billions of dollars literally
going into our Early Head Start and Head Start program to make
sure that low-income toddlers and children who often enter
kindergarten with a 60-point deficit have a better start and
are able to enter kindergarten with some kind of opportunity. Promise neighborhoods,
choice neighborhoods, we’re talking about some of the
most innovative programs to make sure that we have wrap-around,
holistic services focused on housing and education for
low-income people often in urban areas. Strong cities,
strong communities, another innovative program done
in partnership with Secretary Donovan and others to make sure
that we’re looking at our urban centers, those that have a plan
but haven’t been able to get over the finish line —
we’re talking about Detroit, we’re talking about New Orleans,
we’re talking about Fresno, we’re talking about
Chester, Pennsylvania, the list goes on from there —
to make sure that we’re working with local communities based on
their plans to get them over the finish lines. Expanding Earned
Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, in ways
that help low-income families. I can go on and on and on. Not enough, but significant,
significant investments by this President to make sure that
we’re serving low-income Americans in urban America in
the way that it needs to be served and supported, because we
need all hands on deck if this economy is going to succeed. Jerry Barrow:
I have a collective
question from our interns at TheUrbanDaily. The college — the federal work
study program is invaluable to all of them. It was to me when I
was an undergraduate. But the work that they find
themselves doing isn’t always relevant to their
course of study. And what they’re finding now
with their internships is that the schools are requiring them
to register for a course for the internship in order
to get credit, which means essentially they are
paying for their internship. Is it possible to expand federal
work study programs so that students can be paid to work
in corporations that are more relevant to their course of
study and would give them more experience once they graduate? Melody Barnes:
That’s an interesting question. I would have to look
into that specific issue. I don’t know the answer off
the top of my head to that. I can tell you that the work
that we’ve been doing has been very focused on aligning what
the experience students are getting in school with the kinds
of jobs that are going to be available when they finish,
whether it’s a certification program at a two-year
institution or getting that degree from a two-year
community college or a four-year institution. What the President said is — I
remember — he said, you know, Melody, this may seem obvious,
but when a person finishes getting a certificate or
graduating from school, there should be a job on the
other end of that experience. Obvious, but not
always the case. So we’ve been working very
creatively and in innovative ways to try and put money in
the community college system to encourage innovative curriculum. Also thinking about the work
that we’re doing K through 12, college and career ready. A lot of opportunities that
we’ve seen and tried to highlight connecting the K
through 12 experience to college or community college, to a work
experience for our students. So that certainly has been our
theory and our philosophy. I would have to look into
that more specifically. Jeff Johnson:
We have a question from Twitter
coming from the audience. Speaker:
Good afternoon, panelists, good
afternoon, audience members. So we have a question
from Twitter. Is the President willing to take
a scalpel approach on the jobs bill with the GOP or is
it an all-or-nothing deal? Jason Furman:
Why don’t I take the
first shot at that? The President views this
as a comprehensive plan, and that’s why he’s asked
Congress to pass it. We just heard answers to some
of the previous questions, the President has been doing his
job for the last several years, he’s done everything he
can administratively. But if you want to prevent
hundreds of thousands of teachers from being laid off,
there’s nothing he can do by himself. Congress needs to pass
the American Jobs Act. If you want 35,000
schools modernized, nothing the President can do on
his own that would make that happen, Congress needs to
pass the American Jobs Act. You want to prevent 1.4
million African-Americans from exhausting their unemployment
insurance benefits, he can’t do that, Congress needs
to pass the American Jobs Act. And you look at it and it goes
on and on and it fits together. You have businesses getting
more of an incentive to hire. By itself, that’s
not going to work, it’s only going to work if
you’re doing other things to help create more jobs. It’s only going to help if
you’re giving consumers more purchasing power by
giving them tax cuts. If you’re helping stabilize the
housing economy that Secretary Donovan was talking about. If you’re helping the families
most seriously impacted by the recession, which Melody
has been talking about. And it all fits together, and
that’s why the President has really been going out and
emphasizing that Congress should be passing the
American Jobs Act, which is something he
sent to them today. Speaker:
And we’re now going to move
into some audience questions. Anyone have some
audience questions? Audience Member:
I’m Bernadette Tolson, and I
am with the Black Women for Obama for Change. And we have a question. President Obama’s wonderful job
plan will give companies badly needed payroll tax cuts. However, early responses from
businesses reported in The New York Times indicate the
companies might take the payroll tax cut benefits, but
might not hire the people. We, the Black Women
for Obama for Change, respectfully suggest that the
White House launch a national jobs pool to ask companies to
pledge to hire X number of jobs of people — I mean X number of
people for jobs in exchange for the payroll tax benefit. The pledges would be posted on a
public website and everyone can see who is pledging to hire
the unemployed and who is not. Now, let’s take it a
little step further. The companies who pledge to hire
the people in exchange for the President’s payroll tax cut
would be rewarded in the media, and by positive public responses
in their home communities. This would create businesses
good will for the companies that pledge to hire. Jason Furman:
Well, that’s a very interesting
idea, and I thank you for it, and we’ll certainly
take a look at it. Because part of what you want
to do is make sure that you’re putting something into the law,
and then the people are out there taking advantage of it. One thing that that New York
Times story you alluded to missed was the answer to
the previous question. We view this as a package. If all you did was give
companies an incentive to hire, but you weren’t helping create
jobs in the construction industry, if teachers
were still being laid off, if families didn’t have enough
money to make ends meet, business are going to
have a hard time hiring. On the other hand, if you’re
doing all those other steps at the same time that you’re
giving business an incentive, you can actually get a virtuous
cycle going where it’s — the economy is strengthening,
they’re hiring, they’re hiring people, so the
economy is strengthening. And that’s exactly what we’re
trying to kick start and really welcome all ideas and
suggestions about how to do so. So thank you. Audience Member:
Thank you all for taking the
time to talk to us today. I’m Erica Williams from
Citizen Engagement Lab. And when I talk to folks
about the American Jobs Act, the most common two questions
I get are, number one, what took so long,
and number two, is this big enough
and bold enough? So I guess the way I’ll phrase
that to you is what is the political and economic analysis
right now that makes this the right time for the bill that we
think it will actually pass and that this will be effective? Jason Furman:
Well, the President has been
focused on jobs since day one in this administration. The Recovery Act was the largest
jobs package ever passed in American history. And it was only the first
of many efforts on jobs. It’s certainly the case that
over the course of this spring, we were very focused on
our fiscal situation, and that’s in part because we
were dealing with the Congress that was, frankly, playing
a lot of games and a lot of brinksmanship. And had the United States
defaulted on its debt, that would have been
terrible for the economy, and they forced that to take far
more attention than it should have to deal with it. The President throughout, we
were at the same time were working on that, working on all
these jobs ideas and waiting for the best possible time to
have the maximum impact in announcing them. So we might have been able to
do this a month ago in August, but Congress was all gone, they
weren’t going to be back for a month, by the time they got
back, memories would have faded. So at that point
we decided we — the President decided he
wanted to wait, do it the day, day after that the
Congress got back, and go straight into the fall
focusing on this day after day. So we’re not new to this issue,
we’ve been doing it a lot. There were certainly several
months there when we were forced in a situation where we had to
put all of our effort into the — into the deficit. And those are both problems,
but there’s a reason why the President gave an address to the
joint session of Congress on jobs, focusing on jobs, and a
reason why that’s the first piece of legislation he’s
sending up this fall is the American Jobs Act. Deputy Secretary Johns:
If I could add a brief point. Jason mentioned
the Recovery Act, but I also don’t want folks to
forget that the President also signed the most comprehensive
law to support the growth of small businesses in our
country in over a decade, and that’s the Small Business
Jobs Act that he just signed the end of last year. And that — that new law
had over 60 provisions that addressed access to capital,
access to counseling and training for small businesses,
more support for small businesses in
exporting, et cetera. And when — in our economy, over
half of the folks working today work for a small business, and
two out of every three new jobs in the private sector are
created by small business. The President knew coming in the
door that his administration had to do something bold
for small business, and the Small Business Jobs Act
was an extraordinary piece of legislation in that regard. Jeff Johnson:
At this point, we don’t have
enough time for more questions. Valerie Jarrett is going
to be coming to close us, but there is one more question. At least one person from all of
our outlets has talked about very succinctly and, in
fact, quite inspirited way, that they believe that this
administration in many cases has been too conciliatory to
its political opposition. And in many cases given a
level of respect that has not been returned. Do you all in any
way, shape or form, believe that this
sentiment has any validity, and moving forward will we begin
to see any variation in the administration’s approach
to its opposition? Secretary Donovan:
Well, let’s just remember: When
Melody Barnes went through that list of what this
President has done, there isn’t a president in
history that’s had a longer list of accomplishments in
two and a half years. So I will tell you this
President fights when he needs to fight, when his back was up
against the wall and he was the last person believing that the
health care bill was going to get passed, he fought
and he got it passed. When he’s needed to work hand in
hand and put out an olive branch to get things done,
he’s done that. Nobody expected him to get a
bill at the end of the lame duck session that would put millions
of people back to work. He got it. And I will tell you the
President that you saw last week in a fighting spirit, fed up
with Congress not acting, and he’s going to stand
up and fight to put people back to work. So to me, this is a president
who does what he needs to do to get the job done. And every step along the way,
I know Valerie likes to say, nobody had ever made money
betting against Barack Obama. And I will tell you that this is
a president who is going to keep fighting, but his
eyes are on the prize. He is focused on getting things
done, not about the theatrics, not about the politics,
but on getting things done. Ambassador Kirk:
And I think it’s
instructive to remind people, at least for those of us that
have been involved with this President since this whole
notion of him occupying this office was a dream, and I just
enjoyed the fact that every step of the campaign I have always
been asked these questions about Barack Obama; is
he tough enough? But I remind people to some
degree, we’re all of who we are, and the same president you
saw last week was the same president, if you remember
before we took office and we had the first news of
the financial crisis, and one of the other candidates
suspended his campaign and rode back to Washington and was
going to fix everything, and everybody kept saying,
where is Barack Obama, until you found out that he had
convened the best and brightest minds to make sense of what
was going and come up with an intelligent response. And that’s his MO, and he’s
done it every step of the way, he’s going to continue to do it. Believe me, he
feels what you feel, we can all see things
for what they are, but he is President because
he is brilliant, he is calm, he is collection — I mean, he’s
very collective in his thought. And as my mother would say,
you’re never going to be in a bad world when you choose to be
more gracious to someone else than they can be
disrespectful to you. And for those of us who
grew up in the South — I didn’t learn that lesson
as well as President Obama, by the way. (laughter) But at least my mother
used to always tell me, you got a choice every day, do
you want to be meaner to them — your goal ought to be nicer to
them than trying to be as mean as they are to you. And I will tell you
at the end of the day, I think we’re going
to do just fine. Melody Barnes:
Ron, Ambassador Kirk, I just
want to interrupt you for a second. I know all of us have thoroughly
enjoyed interacting with you and you watching this, but I want
to introduce someone now who I think is the best person
to talk about these issues, the President of the United
States, President Barack Obama. The President:
Hello, everybody. (applause) Hello, hello, hello. (applause) Thank you, everybody. Everybody have a seat. Thank you so much. I just said Ron’s
quoting his mama again. (laughter) For those of you who
have met his mama, I will tell you that she is
— she is wiser and funnier than he is. (laughter) I know that we’re spending some
time today talking through a whole bunch of issues, and I
appreciate everybody coming here, I appreciate those who are
participating, as well as my — members of my Cabinet. Everybody in this room and all
of your readers care about getting folks back to work and
to strengthen the economy. And so today I held up the
bill, the American Jobs Act, that is designed
to do just that. And I’m calling on Democrats and
Republicans to come together in Congress and pass it right away. I know you’ve already
heard some details, but I just want to give
you a few highlights. First, this will provide tax
cuts for small businesses, not big corporations, to help
them hire more folks and to grow their businesses. It provides an additional tax
cut for everybody who hires somebody new or provides
somebody a raise. So this is going to help over
100,000 African-American-owned small businesses. Next, it puts people back to
work, including 280,000 teachers laid off by state budget
cuts, first responders, veterans coming back from
Iraq and Afghanistan, construction workers that can
rebuild our crumbling roads and bridges and schools, 35,000
public schools can be rebuilt according to this plan. And these projects will be
chosen based on impact and need, not based on
earmarks or politics. It expands job opportunities
for hundreds of thousands of low-income youth and adults
through a Pathways Back to Work Fund that supports summer and
year-round jobs for youth, innovative new job training
programs to connect low-income workers to jobs more quickly and
successful programs to encourage employers to bring on
disadvantaged workers. Number three, it helps
out of work Americans, including the 1.4
African-American folks and their families who are out of work by
extending unemployment benefits to help support them and their
families while they’re looking for work, and it also reforms
the training programs that are available so that they build
real skills and connect to jobs, and that will particularly
help the long-term unemployed. It bands employers from
discriminating against the unemployed when hiring, and it
provides a new tax credit to employers hiring workers who
have been out of the job for over six months. Number four, it puts money in
your pocket and the pockets of working and middle class
Americans by cutting the payroll tax in half, including 20
million African-American workers who would save, for an average
family, $1,500 a year. We take executive action to
remove the barriers that exist in the current federal
refinancing program to help Americans refinance their
mortgage at historically low rates, all that helps them stay
in their homes and puts more money in their pockets. Finally, this plan will
not add to the deficit, it’s fully paid through a
balanced approach that says we’ve got to raise more revenues
from folks who can afford it. It also makes some modifications
to programs so that we can preserve them over
the long-term. And closing tax loopholes. And it is absolutely essential
for everybody to understand that we can do all the things I talk
about in this bill without adding to our deficit,
without adding to our debt. Now, all of you are experts on
online stuff, so I won’t — I won’t speak to, you know, how
important it is that events like this get information out. One of the things that I always
enjoy because of this online community is that it’s
a two-way conversation. So some of you may have ideas
about how we should get the word out, how we should
frame these issues, how we should mobilize our
communities in order to get it passed, I’m going to
want to hear from you. To our guests from
Interactive One, your ability to facilitate this
sort of conversation between experts and communities in need
is something that we’re very interested in, so I hope that we
can continue to get more people informed and keep them active
in their communities and in their government. So with that, I
understand, Melody, that I have time for
at least one question. Melody Barnes:
Terrific. The President:
Is it going to be
somebody out here? Melody Barnes:
I’ll turn it to Jeff. Jeff Johnson:
Yes, I definitely
think it should be. If we can have someone
— where is our mic? Okay, yeah, if we have a
question from the audience, that would be fantastic. Thank you. Audience Member:
Thank you, Mr. President. I’m Michael Taff [phonetic]
from Atlanta, Georgia. I just had one — The President:
Sorry about your
Falcons yesterday. (laughter) Audience Member:
Let’s keep it on
a positive note. The President:
I’m sorry, who — who
were they playing again? (laughter) Audience Member:
Just keep it on a positive note. The President:
Was that the Chicago
Bears that he was playing? (laughter) Audience Member:
We’ll see you again
in the playoffs. (applause) I have one question. I’ve read through the Act, and
I think it’s an outstanding document that puts forth
a lot of new things, things that have been done in
the past that should get passed. But one thing that I did not see
and I don’t quite know how it would affect entrepreneurs is
any type of investment for venture capital,
private equity firms, I think it makes an assumption
that businesses aren’t hiring people because there’s a
financial incentive that they are not getting, and that if
they give them a financial incentive that they’ll hire. And I think lots of businesses
are very pleased not to be hiring, they like the margins,
they like the increased productivity of the
people they have. So what about new business, new
opportunity through private equity venture capital? Some of the things that are
being done by the SBA through the CDFIs and things like that,
are they going to be tied back to this so that there’s
going to be an investment? The President:
Well, look, I think this
is a great question. Not everything that we’re doing
to promote jobs and economic growth are contained
in the bill, because some things we are going
to try to do administratively as opposed to trying to
get it through Congress. But if you listen to
the speech on Thursday, I specifically addressed this
issue and said that we’re working with the jobs council
that I set up as well as all the agencies to figure out how can
we remove some of the barriers to start-up companies
capitalizing themselves, you know, how can we work with
the SBA and others to make sure that somebody whose got a good
idea is able to raise money and implement. And so we’re going to have a
whole series of things that we’re doing to help small
businesses precisely in the ways that you’re talking about. We just don’t think that we need
necessarily new authority from Congress in order
to get that done. So understand this jobs
bill is not exhaustive, there are a whole range of
things that we’re going to be doing. What this describes is what we
need Congress to do in order for us to be effective. But there’s some things we
can do administratively. For example, the federal
government is a major purchaser, you know, we have taken a lot of
steps over the last couple of years and we’re going to
continue to take more steps so that small businesses have the
ability to access contracts with the federal government. Right now it’s very difficult to
do because typically the size of these contracts are so big,
they’re all bundled and packaged and it gives a huge advantage
to somebody who can come in and they’ve got the bonding capacity
and all the ability to fill out every form and meet every
federal requirement. You know, A, we want to give
technical assistance to folks so that they can have access. Number two, can we break up
some of these contracts so that they’re smaller so that
small businesses can apply. And number three, just something
that I may have mentioned in — I think I mentioned in
the speech on Thursday, can we speed up payments
to federal vendors? You know, if you are
Lockheed Martin, you know, you’re getting paid over — only
after 30 days, it’s no big deal. You know, if you’re a small
business who’s, you know, contracting with HUD, you know,
getting paid in 15 days instead of 30 days might make all the
difference in the world in terms of you being able to grow
your business more rapidly. So we’re going to be doing a
whole bunch of stuff that’s not in the bill. But the bill has to pass in
order for us to achieve the kinds of scale that are
necessary to start bringing our unemployment rate down
in a significant way. That was such a good
question, I’ll take one more. (laughter) Speaker:
President Obama, we have
a question from one of our Twitter users. Currently, 10% of U.S. workers
are employed by nonprofits. What in your jobs bill
is going to spur more nonprofit job growth? The President:
Well, first of all, the
biggest loss that we’ve seen in employment over the last two and
a half years has been in state and local government. And so the reason we
emphasize teachers, first responders in particular,
is because that’s where the job losses have been most prominent. We’ve actually created jobs in
the private sector to the tune of about 2 million over
the last 17, 18 months. But they’ve been offset by
folks being laid off, teachers, first responders at state and
local governments that are really feeling pinched. In the non-for-profit sector,
obviously things have been tighter during the
course of this recession, that means their
fund-raising has suffered, and in some cases they’ve had
to lay off workers as well. I think our goal here is to make
sure that this administration continues to support smart,
non-for-profits that are partnering with
the private sector, but also government in order to
achieve the kinds of goals that we’ve set for
ourselves as a country. So, for example, you know, when
we have said that we want to do more on early
childhood education, a lot of that is not government. You know, if we’re
budgeting for that, that is giving non-for-profit
organizations the capacity then to be providers in that space. When we talk about on
the health care front, we were able to preserve a
big investment in community health centers. A lot of those are
non-for-profits. So our budget has
been reflective of — in recognizing that
non-for-profits are a critical component of delivering
important services, building capacity in our
communities all across the country. One thing that is very specific
in this jobs plan, for example, is neighborhood stabilization. I don’t know if Sean
has talked about this. You know, there are a whole
bunch of communities all across the country, and some the
communities where you guys come from, if you’re from Cleveland
or Detroit or other places where you got entire neighborhoods
full of foreclosed homes. What can we do to
turn that around? You know, can we rehab some of
those buildings to make them rental properties? In some cases do you just clear
those buildings out and create open spaces and parks and
recreation facilities for kids? And so in this plan is a
neighborhood stabilization expansion, and a lot of that
work would end up being carried out by non-for-profits
as opposed to directly by the government. All right? Okay, everybody, so I want
you guys to pump this up. (laughter) Now, look, we are in a
critical juncture here. I’ve been fighting for two and a
half years to get through this economic storm, and
we have stabilized, but we’ve stabilized at an
unemployment rate that is too high and too many people
are still hurting. For us to take that next
step requires us to do more. And this job — this
jobs act can deliver. There’s going to be enormous
resistance, and right now, our politics makes it tougher
to get things done here in Washington, unless the voices of
the American people are heard. So I need people to be out there
promoting this and pushing this and making sure that everybody
understands the details of what this would mean so that
one of two things happen: Either Congress gets it done, or
if Congress doesn’t get it done, people know exactly
what’s holding it up, and we’re able to continue to
apply pressure so that we can actually do what’s
right for the country. All right? Thank you, everybody. See ya. (applause) Valerie Jarrett:
Well, that was a nice
surprise, wasn’t it? When the President heard
you were here, he said, another important audience for
me to go and deliver my message to, because as he said, he’s
going to take his message all across the country, and you all
represent such a huge part of our country that needs to hear
this message and hear it today. So we want to thank you
again for coming today. We want to thank Interactive One
for creating and working with us on this forum. As the President said, we
can’t do this without you, we want your help, we
want your engagement, we want your terrific questions,
we want your suggestions. Again, as he said, it’s so
important that we get this act passed, but this is —
this is the beginning, we have to keep going
each and every day, and we’re always looking for new
and fresh and exciting ideas, and we encourage you to not just
interact with us here when we have a big audience, but to
feel welcomed to contact us individually whenever
you have a great idea, whenever you have
a great question. And then we ask you to do one
thing and that is communicate back out to your networks,
because that’s how America should work, it should
be an interaction, it should be an engagement,
and we are here to serve you, and so help us help you. Thank you very much, everybody. (applause)

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