Category Archives: economy

President Obama Nominates Timothy Massad as Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chair, 11/12/13

The President:

“Good afternoon, everybody. Have a seat. Five years ago today, we were in some of the darkest days of one of the worst economic crises in our history. A financial catastrophe on Wall Street was rapidly fueling a punishing recession on Main Street. We were looking over the horizon and seeing the potential for a Great Depression, not merely a great recession. And so we prepared steps to rescue our economy and put people back to work. But one of our top priorities was also to make sure that a crisis like this never happened again.

And the result was historic Wall Street reform that put in place smarter, tougher, common-sense rules of the road to protect consumers and to end taxpayer-funded bailouts once and for all. Now, five years later, our economy is growing. Our businesses are creating jobs. Our markets have hit record highs and there’s no doubt our financial system is more stable. And a big reason for that stability is the work of a small but mighty independent agency: the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Was that a little — (laughter.)

The CFTC has many responsibilities. Under Wall Street reform, one of them is to guard against some of the most reckless and irresponsible practices at the heart of the financial crisis. And this includes making sure big banks can’t make risky bets with their customers’ deposits — something we call the “Volcker Rule.” It also includes oversight of risky trading in derivatives — some of the complex products that were part of what precipitated the crisis five years ago and products that Warren Buffett once called “financial weapons of mass destruction” even before they nearly brought down AIG and sparked the financial wildfire on Wall Street.

So these reforms will protect consumers and make financial systems stronger, more competitive, helping to restore confidence in our markets — confidence that markets around the world depend on. And that’s why the CFTC has worked tirelessly to implement these reforms. But they need the resources and the regulators to finish the job, and so that’s why we’re here today.

When I named Gary Gensler to lead the CFTC, I hadn’t even taken office yet. We were about a month and a half into my transition. Our economy was bleeding 800,000 jobs a month. The truth is nobody knew where the bottom would be. Around that time, Gary sat down with Tim Geithner, who would become my Treasury Secretary, as well as Mary Schapiro, who would become Chairperson of the SEC, and began sketching out on a yellow pad the early outlines of what financial reform would look like. And ever since, Gary has worked tirelessly to make it real.

Gary has one of the smallest budgets of any of the agencies charged with protecting consumers, but he has done as much as anybody to implement financial reform. Under his watch, the CFTC has transformed what was a secretive and shadowy derivatives market by bringing large parts of it onto exchanges to transparent trading. And CFTC is working hand in hand with other agencies to protect consumers by implementing the Volcker Rule, which Secretary Lew has called on regulators to complete by the end of the year.

They’ve successfully imposed nearly $1.8 billion in penalties against financial firms that engaged in rate-fixing schemes. They worked to make sure that an irresponsible few can’t hurt consumers by illegally manipulating or rigging energy markets for their own gain. And they’ve done it all while a swarm of special interest lobbyists have done everything possible to thwart their every move. Gary has never once let his team forget what this is all about — the American people, folks we are so privileged to serve. So before I introduce his successor, please join me in thanking Gary for his outstanding service. (Applause.)

Gary, as always a team player, says also a whole bunch of CFTC people are here. We want to congratulate you. My working assumption is a bunch of them will be here even after Tim goes and does whatever he does next, because the next person who is going to be taking over is going to need a whole bunch of outstanding, experienced regulators, some of whom are in this room.

The man I’ve chosen to succeed Gary at the CFTC is Timothy Massad. And for the past few years, Tim has been charged with — let’s face it — the thankless task of winding down a program that no one ever particularly liked, the Troubled Asset Relief Program, also known as TARP. He’s quietly been very successful at it. President Bush rightly began this program to stop the downward spiral in late 2008. And we continued that effort, modifying the program to rescue the American auto industry as well.

Now, under Tim’s watch, not only have the banks that benefited from TARP repaid nearly every single dollar, but he has secured a positive return of nearly $30 billion to the American taxpayer. He has worked tirelessly to improve TARP programs that help more struggling homeowners stay in their homes, more hard-hit communities remove the blight of vacant homes from their neighborhoods. At the Treasury Department, he has launched new online tools that allow American consumers to track where the funds went and what — when they were repaid. And that’s a commitment to transparency and openness that I know that he wants to continue at the CFTC.

Tim started at Treasury as the right-hand man to his predecessor Herb Allison, who passed away earlier this year and was an outstanding CEO as well as a public servant and whose work guiding our financial stability reforms we honor today. Tim was the right man to succeed Herb, and with a record that reflects a deep commitment to a reform agenda, which is why he’s the right man to succeed Gary as well. Tim is a guy who doesn’t seek the spotlight, but he consistently delivers. He gets a high return for American taxpayers without a lot of fanfare.

I have every confidence that he is the right man to lead an agency designed to prevent future crises -– because I think it’s safe to say that he never wants to have to manage something like TARP again. (Laughter.)

And I just found out that his lovely mother skydived on her 80th birthday — (laughter) — which to me is just very cool. (Laughter.) She’s very proud of him right now also.

So I urge the Senate to confirm Tim as soon as possible. Let him can get right into the vital work of protecting America’s economy and the American people.

And while I’m at it, I would urge Congress to give Tim and the CFTC the resources it needs to do the job. Ever since we passed Wall Street reform, its opponents have tried to starve funding for the agencies responsible for carrying it out. The men and women of the CFTC are charged with protecting us from financial harm, but they are undermanned. They are outgunned. They are working overtime. The sequester cuts have made it even harder for them to do their job. They’ve lost 5 percent of their team this year.

Recently, Gary announced that some have to drop — that they have to drop some open enforcement cases because Congress won’t allow them the resources required to do their jobs and complete these cases. This is like not having enough cops on the beat, not having enough prosecutors to prosecute crimes. This makes us safer. It makes our financial system work better, and it’s foolish for us not to adequately resource it.

The Republican leader in the Senate said a while back that the less we fund these agencies, the better America will be. That is just not true. We know that’s not true. We’ve got the scars to prove it, given what happened in 2007 and 2008. And that’s why we can’t let an army of lobbyists and their allies in Congress delay, defund, dismantle the rules that were designed to protect consumers and prevent a crisis from happening again. We can’t go back to the days when bad behavior could nearly bring down the entire economy unless taxpayers stepped in to rescue it. And anybody who is working hard to dismantle any of these reforms will have to explain to the American people why they did that when and if a crisis ever does happen again.

It’s important to realize that financial reform is not about punishment; it’s about making sure that everybody plays by the same set of clear and transparent rules that encourage responsible innovation and competition, and discourage fraud and manipulation, and above all, protect the American people. And these regulations can work when people allow it to work.

Let me just give you one example: One of the things we did was pass a credit card bill of rights that imposed a new standard of fairness, transparency and accountability on credit card companies. And that means a simpler bill with no more hidden fees, no more shifting deadlines or sudden changes of terms or “any time, any reason” rate hikes. That wasn’t designed to punish credit card companies; they provide a valuable service, they deserve to turn a profit. A recent study by independent economists show that these new protections are saving consumers more than $20 billion a year.

The men and women who work for agencies like the CFTC, charged with financial reform in consumer protection, this is the work that they do: Save consumers money and prevent systemic risk from happening again. They’ve exposed deceptive mortgage schemes, abusive debt collection practices that prey on Americans who were hit hard by the recession. They’ve partnered with states to secure a $50 billion settlement for 600,000 homeowners who were targeted by some of these mortgage schemes. The new consumer watchdog agency we set up is working to empower students and veterans and families with the straightforward information they need to make sound financial choices like buying a home or paying for college. And so far, it has secured more than $700 million in refunds to more than nearly 8 million hardworking American consumers who were abused by unfair or abusive practices.

So that’s what financial reform is all about. That’s what a well-functioning CFTC is all about: Protecting hardworking Americans by making sure everyone plays by the same set of rules, preserving trust in the integrity of our markets and our financial system, preventing a crisis like the one we endured from ever happening again. And we’ve come too far and the American people have sacrificed too much to go back to the old days. Our economy is growing, our businesses are creating jobs, and those of us who have been sent here to serve should be doing everything we can to strengthen the middle class, strengthen the financial markets, and rebuild an economy where everybody who works hard has a chance to get ahead.

That has been what Gary has been up to the entire time that he has served at the CFTC. We couldn’t be prouder of the work that he has done. I’m confident that as soon as Congress confirms Tim and allows him to carry on that important work, he is going to be carrying those same values with him, with the outstanding team that we have at this agency.

So to both of you, thanks for being great public servants. Gary, good luck to you. And Tim, congratulations. Let’s get you confirmed.” (Applause.)


President Obama speaks in New Orleans on the economy and exports, 11/8/13

The President:

“We should not be injuring ourselves every few months — we should be investing in ourselves. We should be building, not tearing things down. Rather than refighting the same old battles again and again and again, we should be fighting to make sure everybody who works hard in America and hard right here in New Orleans, that they have a chance to get ahead. That’s what we should be focused on. (Applause.)

Which brings me to one of the reasons I’m here at this port. One of the things we should be focused on is helping more businesses sell more products to the rest of the world…. every $1 billion in exports supports nearly 5,000 jobs, including jobs right here at this port. So we’re working on new trade deals that will mean more jobs for our workers, and more business for ports like this one….

Number one, Congress needs to pass a farm bill that helps rural communities grow and protects vulnerable Americans. For decades, Congress found a way to compromise and pass farm bills without fuss. For some reason, now Congress can’t even get that done. Now, this is not something that just benefits farmers. Ports like this one depend on all the products coming down the Mississippi. So let’s do the right thing, pass a farm bill. We can start selling more products. That’s more business for this port. And that means more jobs right here. (Applause.)

Number two, we should fix our broken immigration system. (Applause.) This would be good for our national security, but it would also be good for our economic security. Over the next two decades, it would grow our economy by $1.4 trillion. It would shrink our deficits by nearly a trillion dollars. This should not be a partisan issue. President Bush proposed the broad outlines of common-sense immigration reform almost a decade ago. When I was in the Senate, I joined 23 of my Republican colleagues to back those reforms. This year, the Senate has already passed a bill with broad bipartisan support.

So all we’re doing now is waiting for the House to act. I don’t know what the holdup is. But if there’s a good reason not to do it, I haven’t heard it. There’s no reason both parties can’t come together and get this done this year. Get it done this year. (Applause.)

Number three, Democrats and Republicans should work together on a responsible budget that sets America on a stronger course for the future….

So what we have to do now is do what America has always done: Make some wise investments in our people and in our country that will help us grow over the long term. We should close wasteful tax loopholes that don’t help our jobs, don’t grow our economy, and then invest that money in things that actually do create jobs and grow our economy. And one of those things is building new roads and bridges and schools and ports….

So the bottom line is, New Orleans, we can work together to do these things, because we’ve done them before. We did not become the greatest nation on Earth just by chance, just by accident. We had some advantages — really nice real estate here in the United States. But what we also had were people who despite their differences — and we come from everywhere and look different and have different traditions — we understand that this country works best when we’re working together. And we decided to do what was necessary for our businesses and our families to succeed. And if we did it in the past, we can do it again.”

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West Wing Week 11/07/13 or, “Casual, With a Raffish Look”

This week, the President worked to help consumers learn about and enroll in quality, affordable health insurance plans through the Marketplaces, welcomed Iraq’s Prime Minister, hosted the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks, and kicked off the newly reinstated White House Tours with a surprise drop-by.

Remarks by President Obama and President Humala of Peru After Bilateral Meeting, 6/11/13

“Peru is one of our strongest and most reliable partners in the hemisphere. We have a strong commercial and trading relationship. We cooperate on a wide range of security issues, including our counter-narcotics efforts. And we spent most of our discussion focused on how we can further deepen this important bilateral relationship.

I want to congratulate President Humala on being able to sustain strong growth rates in Peru, and his focus on broad-based economic growth that includes all people. As a consequence, Peru has been able to see not only increased growth but also reduced poverty and steps to reduce inequality.

For both the United States and Peru, growth is also dependent on our continued expansion in the global marketplace, and that’s why I’m very glad that Peru and the United States are working so closely together in finalizing the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which offers the possibility of opening up markets throughout the Asia Pacific region with high standards and protections for labor and the environment.

We’ve also agreed to a number of bilateral programs that will strengthen our cooperation. For example, as part of my 100,000 Strong in the Americas program, we’re going to deepen education exchange programs between our two countries, and we’re also focusing on how we work together to include small businesses and medium-sized businesses in a hemisphere-wide network that allows those businesses to access markets throughout the region.

And we also talked about how we can deepen at a strategic level our work together to continue to combat the scourge of transnational drug networks that have an adverse impact not only in Peru, but throughout the region.

So overall, the state of our relationship is very strong. I think it will become even stronger as a result of some of the initiatives that we have shaped in this meeting. And I’m very glad that President Humala was able to visit us. I also wish the Peruvian soccer team the best of luck this evening.”

Full text:

Joint Statement between the United States and Peru:

Fact Sheet: U.S. – Peru Economic Relations:

President Obama Speaks on Immigration Reform, 6/11/13

“This week, the Senate will consider a common-sense, bipartisan bill that is the best chance we’ve had in years to fix our broken immigration system. It will build on what we’ve done and continue to strengthen our borders. It will make sure that businesses and workers are all playing by the same set of rules, and it includes tough penalties for those who don’t. It’s fair for middle-class families, by making sure that those who are brought into the system pay their fair share in taxes and for services. And it’s fair for those who try to immigrate legally by stopping those who try to skip the line. It’s the right thing to do.

Now, this bill isn’t perfect. It’s a compromise. And going forward, nobody is going to get everything that they want — not Democrats, not Republicans, not me. But this is a bill that’s largely consistent with the principles that I and the people on this stage have laid out for common-sense reform.

First of all, if passed, this bill would be the biggest commitment to border security in our nation’s history. It would put another $6.5 billion — on top of what we’re already spending — towards stronger, smarter security along our borders. It would increase criminal penalties against smugglers and traffickers. It would finally give every employer a reliable way to check that every person they’re hiring is here legally. And it would hold employers more accountable if they knowingly hire undocumented workers. So it strengthens border security, but also enforcement within our borders.

I know there’s a lot of talk right now about border security, so let me repeat — today, illegal crossings are near their lowest level in decades. And if passed, the Senate bill as currently written and as hitting the floor would put in place the toughest border enforcement plan that America has ever seen. So nobody is taking border enforcement lightly. That’s part of this bill.

Number two, this bill would provide a pathway to earned citizenship for the 11 million individuals who are in this country illegally. So that pathway is arduous. You’ve got to pass background checks. You’ve got to learn English. You’ve got to pay taxes and a penalty. And then you’ve got to go to the back of the line behind everybody who’s done things the right way and have tried to come here legally.

So this won’t be a quick process. It will take at least 13 years before the vast majority of these individuals are able to even apply for citizenship. So this is no cakewalk. But it’s the only way we can make sure that everyone who’s here is playing by the same rules as ordinary families — paying taxes and getting their own health insurance.

That’s why, for immigration reform to work, it must be clear from the outset that there is a pathway to citizenship. If we’re asking everybody to play by the same rules, you got to give people a sense of certainty that they go through all these sacrifices, do all this, that there’s at the end of the horizon, the opportunity — not the guarantee, but the opportunity — to be part of this American family. And by the way, a majority of Americans support this idea.

Number three, this bill would modernize the legal immigration system so that, alongside training American workers for the jobs of tomorrow, we’re also attracting the highly skilled entrepreneurs and engineers from around the world who will ultimately grow our economy. And this bill would help make sure that our people don’t have to wait years before their loved ones are able to join them here in America….

If you’re not serious about it, if you think that a broken system is the best America can do, then I guess it might make sense to try to block it. But if you’re actually serious and sincere about fixing a broken system, this is the vehicle to do it. And now is the time to get it done.”

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Remarks by the President Nominating Jason Furman as Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, 6/10/13

“It’s now been nearly five years since an economic crisis and a punishing recession came together to cost far too many Americans their jobs, and their homes, and the sense of security that they had built up over time. And by the time I took office, my team and I were facing bubbles that had burst; markets that had cratered; bank after bank on the verge of collapse. And the heartbeat of American manufacturing, our auto industry, was flatlining. And all this meant that hundreds of thousands of Americans were losing their jobs each month. So this was a scary time. And nobody had any idea where the bottom would be.

Four and a half years later, our businesses have created nearly 7 million new jobs over the past 36 months. The American auto industry has come roaring back. We’re producing more of our own energy, we’re consuming less that we import from other countries. Our deficits are shrinking rapidly. The cost of health care is slowing. The housing market is rebounding. People’s retirement savings are growing. The wealth that was lost from that recession has now been recovered.

All of this progress is a testament to the grit and resolve of the American people, most of all. But it’s also due in some measurable way to the incredible dedication of the men and women who helped to engineer America’s response. And two of those people are standing next to me, two very smart economists: Alan Krueger and Jason Furman….

And Alan is driven by the basic bargain at the heart of our economy — the idea that hard work should be rewarded. He’s motivated by the principle that no one who works full-time in the greatest nation on Earth should have to raise their families in poverty or below poverty levels….

I’m also proud to nominate another outstanding economist to take his place. Jason Furman is one of the most brilliant economic minds of his generation, don’t take my word for it — you can talk to other economists who know a lot more than I do about it. He’s won the respect and admiration from his peers across the political spectrum. His Ph.D. thesis advisor, Greg Mankiw, chaired the Council of Economic Advisers under George W. Bush. Nobel Prize Winner Joe Stiglitz, on the other side of the economic spectrum, hired Jason to work for the CEA under President Clinton.

After leaving President Clinton’s White House, Jason finished his Ph.D. in economics, quickly acquired a reputation as a world-class scholar and researcher. But public service kept calling, and Jason kept answering that call because he believes deeply in it. So from working at the World Bank on issues of inequality and international finance to developing new proposals to strengthen our health and retirement programs, he helped to shape some of our most important economic policy debates.

…. And over the last five years I’ve come to trust not only his head, but also his heart, because Jason never forgets who it is that we’re fighting for: middle-class families, folks who are working hard to climb their way into the middle class, the next generation.

And when the stakes are highest, there’s no one I’d rather turn to for straightforward, unvarnished advice that helps me to do my job. He understands all sides of an argument, not just one side of it. He’s worked tirelessly on just about every major economic challenge of the past four and a half years, from averting a second depression, to fighting for tax cuts that help millions of working families make ends meet, to creating new incentives for businesses to hire, to reducing our deficits in a balanced way that benefits the middle class….

So a growing economy that creates good middle-class jobs, that rewards hard work and responsibility, that’s our North Star. Jason shares that focus. I know Alan shares that passion. And Jason’s new role as the Chairman of the Economic — Council of Economic Advisors, he’ll be working with some of our country’s leading economists, including Jim Stock, who has joined us. And I’m relying on them to provide analysis and recommendations with just one thing in mind: What’s going to do the most good for the most people in this country — not what’s best for a political party, not what’s best for a special interest. I don’t have another election. It’s not what’s best for me — what’s best for our middle class, and everybody who is working hard to get there. That’s what the American people deserve.”

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The Right to Equal Pay for Equal Work

Did You Know That Women Are Still Paid Less Than Men?

In 1963, President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act but till this day full-time working women are still paid, on average, less than men. This significant gap is more than a statistic — it has real life consequences. When women, who make up nearly half the workforce, bring home less money each day, it means they have less for the everyday needs of their families, and over a lifetime of work, far less savings for retirement.

Learn more about how President Obama is tackling this issue: