Saturday, October 22, 2011
Obama: 'Crown Prince Sultan Dedicated Himself to the Welfare and Security of His People and Country'
Photo source: United States Department of Defense
Author: United States Department of Defense
Permission: Public Domain
Friday, October 21, 2011
We applaud the strong action taken today by the United Nations Security Council in unanimously adopting Resolution 2014, which addresses the ongoing crisis in Yemen. The United States co-sponsored the resolution, which calls for President Saleh to sign and implement a political settlement on the basis of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) initiative without delay, demands all parties refrain from violence, and urges authorities to protect the universal rights of Yemen’s citizens.
Over the past nine months, the Yemeni people have braved repression and violence to demand a more just, accountable, and democratic government. Today, the international community sent a united and unambiguous signal to President Saleh that he must respond to the aspirations of the Yemeni people by transferring power immediately. Each day that passes without a political solution plunges Yemen deeper into turmoil. We continue to believe that only a Yemeni-led process will stop the bloodshed and allow the country to confront its serious economic, humanitarian, and security challenges. The United States stands with the Yemeni people, and we will work with international partners to provide much-needed assistance to Yemen upon implementation of a political transition.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia
Permission: Public Domain
Link courtesy of Newsy.com
The following is the full text of an op-ed by National Economic Council Director Gene B. Sperling. The piece was published in today’s Wall Street Journal.
The Case for the President's Jobs Act
Nearly 45% of unemployed Americans have been out of work for six months or longer.
By Gene Sperling
For all the political posturing and handicapping by pundits over President Obama's American Jobs Act, too little attention is being paid to the economic costs if Congress fails to act on bold measures to spark job creation and growth over the next 12 to 18 months.
Put simply, the economic challenges we face create an overwhelming imperative for action now. Setting aside the merits of taking out insurance against the possibility some forecasters see of a renewed downturn in the U.S. or financial instability in Europe, the current outlook suggests that the failure to pass bold measures would lead to serious harm to our economy, our small businesses and tens of millions of working families.
Indeed, the Blue Chip consensus is for only 2% growth in 2012. The International Monetary Fund predicts 1.8%. The Conference Board projects 1.1%. With growth at such anemic levels, all project unemployment to average 9% or higher next year.
In any recovery, that would be an unacceptable outcome. But the depth of the recession that began in 2007, combined with the fact that recessions induced by severe financial crises take a particularly long time to climb out of, has left us with the worst legacy of long-term unemployment in our lifetimes. Nearly 45% of the unemployed have been out of work for six months or longer. The average spell of unemployment is 40.5 weeks, the highest since this figure was first collected in 1948; the peak before this recession was in 1983, at just 21.2 weeks.
Economists have long worried that long-term unemployment produces "hysteresis" when workers lose their skills or become disconnected from the work force, causing lasting damage to the economy. Research by the University of Warwick's Andrew Oswald has shown—as paraphrased by Don Peck in an Atlantic Monthly article last year—that "no other circumstance produces a larger decline in mental health and well-being than being involuntarily out of work for six months or more."
To make matters even worse, the National Employment Legal Program recently found, in a span of four weeks, over 150 Internet job postings that include "do not apply" notices discriminating against those who are currently unemployed.
To see this type of economic hardship and choose not to put forward any immediate measures for job creation means turning a blind eye to the national crisis of long-term unemployment. It means saying that it is acceptable to sit on our hands in the face of projections of 1.5% to 2% growth in an economy where over 14 million people are already out of work and high unemployment is feeding weakness in the housing market. President Obama categorically disagrees. His American Jobs Act attacks this challenge in two ways.
First, it provides a strong and immediate boost to demand that could create up to 1.9 million jobs, increase growth by up to 2%, and lower unemployment, according to independent economists such as Moody's Analytics. It does so by cutting payroll taxes in half for nearly all workers and small businesses, preventing teacher and first-responder layoffs, and creating jobs rebuilding our infrastructure, our schools and our blighted neighborhoods.
Second, it is specifically designed to take on the problem of long-term unemployment. It includes a tax credit for hiring the long-term unemployed and veterans, and a ban on hiring discrimination against the unemployed. It also calls for major reforms to our unemployment-insurance system, including wage insurance to assist workers whose new job pays less than their old, a "Bridge to Work" program to help the unemployed reconnect with the labor force through temporary work, job-search assistance for all long-term unemployed, and support for unemployed workers looking to become entrepreneurs.
Certainly, we are disappointed that Republicans have so far blocked passage of the American Jobs Act. Yet what is most surprising and disturbing is that Republicans have thus far made no serious attempt to put forward a strategy that would ensure that growth is strong enough over the next 12 to 18 months to start bringing the unemployment rate down.
Some of our Republican friends protest this depiction because they've repackaged a variety of long-term measures and stuck a "jobs plan" label on them. Yet while we agree with some of these ideas and have signed them into law, such as patent reform and free trade agreements, they are not designed to create jobs in the immediate term or to address the current crisis of long-term unemployment.
In fact, Gus Faucher, the director of macroeconomics at Moody's Analytics, after reviewing the latest Republican jobs plan (the Jobs Through Growth Act), told the Washington Post that it would do nothing to create jobs in the short-term and could even make matters worse. Likewise, Macroeconomic Advisers wrote just this week that the bill "would not materially change our forecasts for either economic growth or employment through 2013."
This aversion to measures designed to move the needle on jobs and growth is particularly disappointing given that many Republicans supported them only a short time ago.
Earlier this year, the heads of the AFL-CIO and U.S. Chamber of Commerce came together to support increased infrastructure investment and back the same bipartisan Senate proposal for a new infrastructure bank—sponsored by Sens. John Kerry and Kay Bailey Hutchison—that is included in the American Jobs Act.
The president's proposal to cut payroll taxes in half for workers and small businesses closely resembles a provision included last year in the Economic Freedom Act put forward by 50 House Republicans, including Michele Bachmann and Jeb Hensarling.
It simply cannot be the case in a serious economic moment like this that good ideas are transformed into bad ideas solely because President Obama supports them.
Our economy cannot afford Republicans to both say no to the American Jobs Act and to have no meaningful alternative. The moment is too serious. The stakes are too high.
Image courtesy of http://littlesis.org.
On Friday, October 21, 2011, the President signed into law:
H.R. 2832, the “Trade Adjustment Assistance Extension Act of 2011,” which extends the Generalized System of Preferences program through July 31, 2013, and reauthorizes the Trade Adjustment Assistance program through December 31, 2013;
H.R. 3080, the “United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act,” which implements the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement;
H.R. 3078, the “United States-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement Implementation Act,” which implements the United States-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement and extends the Andean Trade Preference Act; and
H.R. 3079, the “United States-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement Implementation Act,” which implements the United States-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement.
Image courtesy of http://www.1clipart.com.
Those Americans deserve an explanation as to why they don’t deserve those jobs – and every American deserves an explanation as to why Republicans refuse to step up to the plate and do what’s necessary to create jobs and grow the economy right now.
We must rebuild the economy the American way and restore security for the middle class, based on the values of balance and fairness. Independent economists have said the American Jobs Act could create up to two million jobs next year. So the choice is clear. Our fight isn’t over. We will keep working with Congress to bring up the American Jobs Act piece by piece, and give Republicans another chance to put country before party and help us put the American people back to work.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY
S. 1723 – Teachers and First Responders Back to Work Act of 2011
(Senator Menendez, D-New Jersey, and 9 cosponsors)
The Administration strongly supports passage of the Teachers and First Responders Back to Work Act, which will keep teachers in the classroom, police on the beat, and firefighters at work. The President sent these proposals to the Congress as part of the American Jobs Act and as a way to save jobs and get the economy growing again.
Although the recession officially ended in June 2009, declining revenues and the tapering of support from the Recovery Act meant budget cuts and hundreds of thousands of layoffs at the State and local levels.
Additionally, in the coming school year, many school districts will have to make another round of difficult decisions that will cost jobs and put the education of the Nation's children at risk.
S. 1723 provides States with $30 billion in relief to support almost 400,000 educator jobs nationwide next year – stopping as many as 280,000 teachers from being laid off and allowing school districts to go beyond that to rehire teachers or add new ones.
S. 1723 also provides $5 billion to support the hiring and retention of public safety and first responder personnel. By supporting such jobs, the plan aims to keep communities safe from crime and able to maintain critical emergency response capabilities.
S. 1723 is fully paid for through a surtax on those Americans making over $1 million per year. What is most important is putting Americans back to work right now and making sure the debt is not increased over time – and doing so in a way that is fair. S. 1723 meets that test.
By enacting S. 1723, the Congress and the President can work together to save jobs, protect children's education, and keep communities safe. The Administration urges prompt and favorable action.
S. 1726 – Withholding Tax Relief Act of 2011
(Sen. McConnell, R-Kentucky)
The Administration supports the intent of S. 1726 to repeal a three percent withholding on certain payments made to private contractors by Federal, State, and local government entities, but strongly objects to the bill’s rescission of appropriated discretionary funds to pay for the repeal.
The repeal of the withholding requirement in S. 1726 would reduce a burden on government contractors, who otherwise comply with their tax obligations, particularly small businesses. As most recently evidenced in the President’s proposed American Jobs Act, released September 12, 2011, the Administration has supported alleviating this burden, which was originally enacted into law on May 17, 2006.
The Administration also believes it is important to ensure that Federal contractors are compliant with tax laws and support more targeted efforts that prevent persons with outstanding tax debts from receiving Federal contracts.
The effect of the repeal of the withholding requirement would be to avoid a decrease in cashflow to these contractors, which would allow them to retain these funds and use them to create jobs and pay suppliers. This would complement the Administration’s other efforts to help small businesses. As well, this provision would reduce implementation costs borne by Federal and other governmental agencies.
However, the rescission of $30 billion of appropriated funds runs counter to the spirit of two recent bipartisan agreements, including the recently-enacted Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA). That Act has instituted spending caps that will cut annual Government spending by about $1 trillion over the next ten years and, by the end of the decade, will bring discretionary spending to its lowest level as a share of the economy since the Eisenhower Administration.
Disregarding the BCA agreement and cutting already-tight discretionary program levels even further, as this bill would do, would be a serious mistake. The bill’s unspecified rescission of $30 billion in appropriated funds would cause serious disruption in a range of services supported by the Federal Government. To further address the need to reduce the Federal deficit, the President has offered a detailed blueprint for more than $3 trillion in additional deficit reduction.
The Administration is committed to working with the Congress on a balanced approach to deficit reduction and is willing to work with the Senate to identify acceptable offsets for the budgetary costs associated with the repeal in S. 1726, including but not limited to ones that are in the President’s detailed blueprint.
If S. 1726 is presented to the President with the current offset, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.
Internal Revenue Service image courtesy of U.S. Government
The nomination of Mr. Lhota was the recommendation of the Governor's MTA Search Advisory Committee. Nuria Fernandez will serve as the Chief Operating Officer of the MTA. The Governor will appoint Karen Rae to serve as the Deputy Secretary of Transportation in the Governor's Office.
"I am pleased to accept the recommendation of the extraordinary search committee and nominate Joe Lhota to be the next chairman and CEO of the MTA," Governor Cuomo said.
"Joe Lhota brings one-of-a-kind managerial, government, and private sector experience to the job and a lifelong commitment to public service that will benefit all straphangers. I look forward to working together as we continue to reform the MTA, reduce costs, and improve service for New Yorkers. I thank the members of the MTA Search Advisory Committee for their diligent work and thorough review."
"Millions of New Yorkers depend on the MTA every day and they deserve the most efficient and effective service. Throughout my career in both the public and private sectors, I have initiated reforms that are performance-based and that cut costs, and I look forward to bringing this same approach to the MTA. I thank Governor Cuomo for this exciting opportunity to serve the people of New York," said Lhota.
The Governor's MTA Search Advisory Committee conducted a national search to find and recommend the most talented candidate to serve as the chairman and CEO of the MTA. The advisory committee was comprised of leading public transportation experts and management professionals in the public and private sectors.
An executive search and recruitment firm, Krauthamer & Associates, was also engaged to assist in the process. The Governor's appointment of an MTA chairman and CEO is subject to Senate confirmation. Lhota is expected to come on as interim CEO within one month. The Governor will recommend reducing the compensation for Mr. Lhota by 5 percent from the previous level.
Lhota served as the New York City Deputy Mayor for Operations under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, where he oversaw day-to-day management of the City and supervised City agencies. He also served as Budget Director, where he managed the City's $36 billion operating budget and $45 billion capital budget, cut costs, led agency reorganizations and consolidations, and implemented performance-based strategic planning. Lhota also served as the Commissioner of Finance for New York City and has been a Board Member of the MTA.
Lhota currently serves as the Executive Vice President, Administration for The Madison Square Garden Company. His previous private sector experience includes serving as the Executive Vice President of Corporate Administration for Cablevision, the Director of Public Finance for First Boston, and the Managing Director of the Municipal Securities Group for PaineWebber Incorporated.
"Nuria Fernandez will bring a wealth of private and public sector experience to the MTA. Throughout her impressive career, she has planned and improved transportation systems all across the globe. I am pleased that her expertise and talents will now benefit New Yorkers through her position on the MTA," noted Governor Cuomo.
Nuria Fernandez will serve as Chief Operating Officer of the MTA. She is currently the Senior Vice President of CH2M Hill, a firm that provides engineering, construction, and operations services for businesses and governments throughout the world. In this position,
She previously served as the Commissioner for the Chicago Airport System, where she directed all airport operations, planning, engineering, and management services for O'Hare and Midway International Airports, the second busiest airport system in the world.
Fernandez has also served in executive positions at the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, and the Chicago Transit Authority.
"Karen Rae brings nearly three decades of experience with all transportation-related issues to the Executive Chamber. She has worked at all levels of government and knows how to manage transportation systems safely, efficiently, and on-budget. Together we will continue to improve New York's transportation systems so they can better serve the millions of people that rely on them each day," continued Cuomo.
Rae will serve as Governor Cuomo's Deputy Secretary of Transportation. In March 2009, Ms. Rae was named Deputy Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration by the Obama Administration.
In this position, Rae has managed the federal high speed rail initiative as well as comprehensive safety programs and regulatory initiatives, and developed national freight and passenger rail policy. She previously served as Deputy Commissioner of Policy and Planning at the New York State Department of Transportation, where she was responsible for advocacy and finance activities.
Rae has also served as Deputy Secretary for Local and Area Transportation at the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, where she created a streamlined, performance-based funding program for transit. She has also served as Director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation and as director or general manager of transit systems in Austin, Texas, Glens Falls, New York, and Buffalo, New York.
"Today's nomination of Joe Lhota as Chairman of the MTA comes at a critical time for the MTA, and once again highlights the importance of mass transit in New York City and the entire 12-county service region. The MTA faces significant challenges that need to be resolved, including finding a way to repeal the onerous MTA payroll tax. I, along with Senator Fuschillo, the Senate Transportation Chair, and our other members, look forward to receiving and reviewing the Governor's nomination, and getting to know Joe Lhota better during the upcoming confirmation process," said Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.
Members of the Governor's MTA Search Advisory Committee expressed their support for the new team to lead the state's transportation initiatives:
"I thank Governor Cuomo for the opportunity to serve on the MTA Search Advisory Committee. Though we reviewed many qualified and impressive candidates, Joseph Lhota demonstrated the depth of knowledge and experience needed to serve as the MTA Chairman and CEO, and we were proud to recommend him." - Mortimer Downey, Former Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
"I commend Governor Cuomo for his selection of Joe Lhota as the new chairman and CEO of the MTA. Following an extensive search process, where we reviewed many top public transportation professionals, it was clear that Mr. Lhota was the best candidate for the position. He is a dedicated public servant with unparalleled expertise in business and government who will bring great energy and vision to the MTA. I am also very pleased with the selection of Nuria Fernandez to serve as the COO of the MTA. Ms. Fernandez has vast experience working on complex transportation systems throughout the world. Her background in the public and private sectors will be a valuable asset as the MTA moves forward in serving the needs of the greater New York City area." - Fernando Ferrer, Board Member of the MTA
"With this appointment, Governor Cuomo is selecting a recognized public leader who will work hard to make sure the primary goal of the MTA is to fully serve New Yorkers. In these difficult fiscal times, Joseph Lhota's leadership will be a valued addition as the MTA works to balance budgets and improve service for straphangers." - Denis Hughes, President of the New York State AFL-CIO
"When Governor Cuomo created the MTA Search Advisory Committee, we were charged to search nationally to find the best candidate to take on the monumental task of overseeing the Metropolitan Transit Authority. Joseph Lhota is that candidate and I applaud Governor Cuomo's selection of him as the new Chairman and CEO." - Mitchell Moss, Director of the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management.
"The ideal candidate to lead the MTA is experienced in finance, business, and government, and cares deeply about public service. Joe Lhota meets all of these criteria, and I can think of no one better suited to this critical position." - Richard Ravitch, Former Lieutenant Governor of New York
"I commend Governor Cuomo for appointing Joseph Lhota to lead the MTA. As an experienced manager and public servant, Mr. Lhota will work every day to keep costs down and revitalize vital infrastructure, while keeping straphangers as a priority. The MTA is relied on each day by millions of New Yorkers, and together with Governor Cuomo and Mr. Lhota, we will continue to improve public transportation here in New York." - Bill Rudin, Chairman of the Association for a Better NY
"Joe Lhota will be taking on one of the toughest jobs in government in one of the harshest economic times in America. The Straphangers Campaign believes that he has the necessary financial, political, and management experience to be a good MTA Chairman and CEO. The riders will be counting on him and will judge him on his accomplishments on their behalf." - Gene Russianoff, Senior Attorney at the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign