Economy

The First Significant Legislative Reform of Our Job-Training System in a Number of Years:

7/22/14
President Barack Obama signs H.R. 803

President Barack Obama signs H.R. 803, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act after delivering remarks on job training, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building South Court Auditorium, July 22, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

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We need to make sure workers in America can find jobs that meet their skills, or get trained with the skills they need for a better job.

That's why, in this year's State of the Union address, President Obama tasked Vice President Biden with leading a review of our country's job-training programs to make sure that they have one mission: training our workers with the skills employers need, and matching them to good jobs that need to be filled right now.

The effort to make our federal training programs more job-driven was also bolstered by the bipartisan passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which President Obama signed into law this afternoon.

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Krugman: It's starting to look like a recovery

7/19/14

Fareed speaks with New York Times columnist Paul Krugman about the state of the U.S. economy. Watch the full interview on GPS this Sunday at 10 a.m. & 1 p.m. ET on CNN.

So, Paul, the quick take on the U.S. economy.

Things are getting better, finally. It's starting to look, finally, like a real recovery. But it's not a boom. And this is after many, many years of terrible performance. So, relative to the way things have been for the last few years, we're feeling pretty good. Relative to anything anyone could have imagined, the worst down side you could have imagined seven years ago, it's terrible.

So I would say it's half full, half empty. More half empty than half full, because we should be doing much better than this.

And lots of people argue the only reason we're doing as well as we are is that the Federal Reserve has maintained these extraordinarily, very low rates, other kinds of programs that pump cash into the system.

Well, certainly keeping rates low – there's no rational reason not to keep them low. Basically, business doesn't see a lot of investment opportunities, people aren’t ready to buy houses in large numbers yet. So you have to have a cheap money environment.And at least, thankfully, the Fed has been doing its job.


What They're Saying Around the Country: Build America Investment Initiative

7/19/14

This week, President Obama spoke about the importance of long-term investments in our country's infrastructure in front of Delaware's Interstate 495 Bridge. In his remarks, President Obama discussed how much the economy has rebounded over the past few years and how we've got a "huge opportunity to keep this momentum going...but also to make sure that growth is broadly shared." The President also announced the launch of the Build America Investment Initiative, a government-wide initiative to increase infrastructure investment and economic growth.

The Build America Investment Initiative will continue to build on the progress our economy is making by creating jobs and expanding opportunity for all hardworking Americans. This initiative  has been hailed by leading stakeholders. Here's a sample of what they're saying: 

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber

Oregon applauds the President’s new “Build America Infrastructure Initiative” announced today. We look forward to working with the new federal inter-agency work group, both here in Oregon and through our three-state partnership, the West Coast Infrastructure Exchange (WCX)."

BlackRock —  Larry Fink, Chairman and CEO 

The President's announcement represents a major step forward towards addressing America's infrastructure needs. Our current infrastructure deficit is an economic drag on businesses and consumers alike, and further investment is crucial to fostering economic growth, creating jobs, and keeping us competitive in the global economy.

As these initiatives recognize, private investment will be crucial to successful infrastructure development, especially in light of fiscal constraints on the government. Nonetheless, Congress should continue to develop a more permanent and comprehensive plan to build the 21st-century infrastructure the nation so badly needs.

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Weekly Address: Equipping Workers with Skills Employers Need Now and for the Future

7/19/14
President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, July 11, 2014.

President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, July 11, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

In this week’s address, the President discussed the importance of ensuring that the economic progress we’ve made is shared by all hardworking Americans. Through his opportunity agenda, the President is focused on creating more jobs, educating more kids, and working to make sure hard work pays off with higher wages and better benefits.

This week, the President will visit a community college in Los Angeles to highlight the need to equip our workers with the skills employers are looking for now and for the good jobs of the future, and he will continue looking for the best way to grow the economy and expand opportunity for more hardworking Americans.

Transcript | mp4 | mp3

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President Obama: "Let's Build Some Bridges. Let's Build Some Roads."

7/17/14
President Barack Obama delivers remarks near the Interstate 495 Bridge at the Port of Wilmington in Wilmington, Delaware

President Barack Obama delivers remarks before he signs an executive action creating the Build America Investment Initiative during an event near the Interstate 495 Bridge at the Port of Wilmington in Wilmington, Del., July 17, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

This afternoon, President Obama traveled to the Port of Wilmington in Delaware to talk about creating jobs, rebuilding America, and making our middle class stronger.

Before delivering his remarks, however, the President took a moment to discuss the tragic crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17:

Right now, we’re working to determine whether there were American citizens onboard. That is our first priority.  And I’ve directed my national security team to stay in close contact with the Ukrainian government.  The United States will offer any assistance we can to help determine what happened and why.  And as a country, our thoughts and prayers are with all the families of the passengers, wherever they call home.

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The President Speaks on the Importance of Our Nation's Infrastructure

7/15/14
President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the economy at Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center

President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the economy at Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center in McLean, Virginia, July 15, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

This morning, President Obama took a quick trip across the Potomac to visit the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center, a facility in McLean, Virginia that focuses on highway technologies that help make driving safer and smarter.

In the President's remarks, he talked about the importance of investing in new infrastructure technologies and renewing the Highway Trust Fund, as well as Congress's continued inaction on important policies that would positively benefit millions of Americans.

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The danger of America's 'economic drone'

7/15/14

For more What in the World watch Sundays at 10 a.m. & 1 p.m. ET on CNN

By Global Public Square staff

We’re sure you heard about the Paris-based bank, BNP Paribas, which fell afoul of Washington's regulators and agreed to plead guilty to a felony and pay a staggering $8.9 billion fine – larger than its annual profits.

So it must have violated a slew of laws, right? Actually, no. It hadn't violated French law, or EU law, or any of its obligations under the WTO or the United Nations. It hadn't even violated a French-American treaty.

What in the world?

BNP Paribas violated a set of unilateral American sanctions, passed by Congress, that were never affirmed or followed by the European Union or France.And neither the buyers nor the sellers in any of the transactions BNP was involved in were Americans.

So what was Washington's hold on BNP? It all centers on the central role that the dollar plays in today's globalized economy. You see, even if two foreign companies want to do a deal, assuming it’s a large transaction, the deal is likely to be denominated in dollars – the currency that everyone has access to, is available in ample supply, is a symbol of stability and, as a result, remains the world's reserve currency.

But here's the catch: If the deal is denominated in dollars, at some point it has to go through an institution with an American banking license, which gives it access to the Federal Reserve System. Without this access, no bank can really function in the global economy today.

Welcome to America's economic nuclear weapon.

In fact, it's even more lethal because, unlike nukes, only America has this weapon. And in some ways this power has grown as economies have become more globalized and trade and capital flow faster around the world.

It’s this weapon that is the real force behind the Iranian sanctions, the reason that Iran simply cannot conduct much international trade anymore. It’s this weapon that lies behind the threats to ramp up sanctions against Russia that, if acted upon, would ensure that Russian banks, companies, and businessmen named would lose access to the dollar window and thus, make all their transactions more difficult and expensive.

Now this might seem a good thing when you consider what BNP has pled guilty to – aiding and abetting the tyrannical, murderous, even genocidal regime in Sudan.And it has brought Iran to the negotiating table. And Russia should worry about the costs of its actions in Ukraine.

But, but, but…The problem is that this is a unilateral American power that is prone to abuse. Right now, in wielding this weapon, a handful of American officials are prosecutors, judges, juries and hangmen. They accuse a company, determine that it’s guilty, threaten to withdraw access to the dollar, and then levy fines.

The Economist says that the legal process used against BNP Paribas – with no agreed upon rules, no checks and balances, no appeals process was – “closer to an extortion racket than justice.”

And in America's usual chaotic and entrepreneurial system, this means that local regulators can pursue their own agendas for self-serving motives. In the BNP case, New York's regulator got a portion of the fine that is four times the size of his agency's annual budget.

The capriciousness with which the U.S. has sometimes used its authority has led to growing resentment across the world, from France to Moscow to Beijing. For now, the dollar reigns supreme. But if these actions proliferate, it will fuel the search for some alternative system that does not place countries at the mercy of any and every American regulator.

This dollar window is somewhat like another favorite American weapon – the killer drone. When used in a carefully controlled set of circumstances, for vital and justifiable reasons, against truly nefarious people it serves a powerful purpose. But if used too often, or loosely, carelessly and arrogantly, it can produce a backlash that undermines the basic objective.

BNP got what it deserved.

But perhaps it's time for the United States to set up a proper system with checks and balances that determines when this exorbitant privilege of having the world's reserve currency can be used as a deadly weapon of economic war.


In Case You Missed It: The President's Trip to Colorado and Texas

7/14/14

Last week, President Obama took a trip to Colorado and Texas, meeting people who simply wrote him letters about how they're doing.

The President stayed pretty busy on the three-day trip -- not only talking with the people that wrote him, but also delivering a speech on the economy, chatting with people on the street in downtown Denver, and playing pool with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, among other things.

If you missed any of it, don't worry -- the latest edition of our "West Wing Week" video series features some amazing footage from last week's trip.

Check out the highlights below starting at 2:22, and make sure to pass this on. (And if you want to write the President yourself, you can do that right here.)

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The First-Ever White House Summit on American Apprenticeship

7/14/14
President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker tour a classroom at the Community College of Allegheny County West Hills Center in Oakdale, Pa.

President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker tour a classroom at the Community College of Allegheny County West Hills Center in Oakdale, Pa., April 16, 2014. Students Zach Kuzma and Stephanie Womack demonstrate equipment that teaches students how to manipulate gears, pulleys, sprockets, etc. to adjust the speed and/or torque of a motor or system. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

To create new opportunities for more hard-working Americans, the President and his team are committed to advancing job-driven training initiatives that help American workers acquire the skills they need to succeed in good jobs that are available now. Expanding quality apprenticeship is a key strategy to make education and training programs more job-driven.

As part of that effort, today, we hosted the first-ever White House Summit on American Apprenticeship to gather the best ideas and to catalyze action to dramatically increase apprenticeship in America. More than 60 attendees presented their ideas — including leading employers, big and small, like IBM, Bank of America, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and Oberg Industries; labor unions like the IBEW and SEIU; training providers like Ivy Tech and Lone Star Community Colleges; and local workforce leaders from states as diverse as Pennsylvania and South Carolina.

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