Holiday Tweetup at the White House: Part 1

Uploaded by whitehouse on 05.12.2011

Kori Schulman: Good morning, everyone!
Audience Members: Good morning!
Kori Schulman: Welcome to the 6th White House Tweetup.
We're so excited to have you.
We have about 150 Tweeps here, some from nearby,
some from D.C., Maryland and Virginia.
Lots of you from across the country as far as Texas,
Florida, Ohio.
In total you all represent about 20 states and we're really
excited to have you here for the White House Holiday Tweetup.
We have educators, teachers, students,
tons of people that are just passionate about the
intersection of technology and government.
Lots of you that are just really excited to see the White House
all decorated for the holidays.
Today you'll hear from a range of White House staff,
from the chief technology officer to the pastry chef,
from the White House economist to the White House florist.
So we have a great lineup.
We hope you enjoy it.
And without further ado I would like to introduce Tina Tchen,
Assistant to the President and the Chief of Staff to
the First Lady.
Tina Tchen: Well, thanks, Kori.
And welcome to the White House!
We are especially delighted at this holiday season to welcome
all of you.
I have a confession to make which is Kori is my guidepost
to things like Tweetups as is my 15-year-old daughter so I am one
of those who is sort of a little past this at this age.
But, you know, we have seen the power of what you do.
The First Lady did her Tweetup around the garden a few months
ago which was terrific.
And we're really, really excited to be able to share with all of
you and then for you all to share with the rest of the
country the terrific decorations that we have and the theme and
really we hope the spirit behind the holiday presentations that
we have today.
So I'll give you a little bit of an overview but you're going to
hear from more people like Brad Cooper who runs our Joining
Forces Initiative for the First Lady.
And other folks who have been involved in it.
But or theme, and you will get a copy of this booklet when you go
over, is "Shine*Give*Share!"
We have to thank students from the Corcoran School of Art and
Design Across the street for the development of this booklet.
And all of the 85,000 visitors who we expect through the house
this month will receive copies of this.
This gives a little bit of the detail of the theme and some of
the information about the different rooms and what's
going on.
Shine*Give*Share really is to convey that idea that this is a
season to sort of shine forth with all the glitter and the
decorations and the spirit of the season but to also to share
it with others that you love and to give back to them and
to our community.
A particular theme of ours and a particular initiative both of
the First Lady and of Dr. Biden and really the entire
Administration has been our military.
Service to our -- our service to our military family members and
service members who serve the rest of us so well.
And you will see that theme throughout the house.
In particular, we're very proud of the Gold Star Tree.
When you first come in the east landing that is a particular
area the last several years where we've had an ability for
people to leave notes and write notes and be interactive with
what's happening with the displays.
This year it is a Gold Star Family Tree.
For those of you who don't know, Gold Star Families are those who
have lost a loved one, a service member,
in service of our country.
And the Gold Star Family Association actually worked with
us in designing the elements of that part of the house.
And so you'll have a tree there.
People who are Gold Star Families have the opportunity to
actually write the name of their loved one on a ceramic star that
is hung on the tree.
And you will also see a video presentation that's on a
continuous loop next to the tree that talks about and shows
pictures of their loved ones that were submitted by the Gold
Star Families.
As you proceed through the rest of the house one of the things
to do as you look for it it is sort of our version of a little
game, it's called like "Where's Bo?"
Instead of where's Waldo.
There responsible several Bo topiaries of varying sizes from
the, about, you know three times the realistic height,
to about this size scattered throughout the house.
I think every room has at least one Bo of some sort made from
different materials including watch out for the Bo made of
trash bags.
So you will find that.
And then the military theme is also carried through our main
tree in the Blue Room.
The Blue Room is traditionally where the largest tree in the
house is at.
And that tree was decorated with the assistance of Blue
Star Families.
Blue Star Families being families that have a service
member on active duty right now.
And you'll see decorations that represent all of the branches of
the military and in particular also cards that were submitted.
We have thousands of cards in response to our request from
children of military service members who wrote cards and
greetings to their loved ones, to their mom or dad or other,
you know, military family member who is in service.
And those cards are decorated throughout the tree.
You will see, I think, the numbers on it,
we had about 136 volunteers from across the country.
People who really just give up the end of their Thanksgiving
Day holiday to come here on Thursday night and spend day
and night for the next five days decorating the house.
So they have basically from Thursday till Wednesday to
get everything that you will see up throughout the house,
up and running.
It's 37 Christmas trees, five Bo topiaries,
400 pounds of gingerbread and chocolate that make up the White
House gingerbread house.
And approximately 85,000 visitors who will come
through the house.
So we hope you will enjoy it and you really share that kind of
spirit of this really being the People's House and the themes
that the First Lady hopes that everyone enjoys.
We had a terrific session with our press preview last week
where children of military family members came in and
participated and here together with the press the unveiling of
the decorations, and then they got to decorate Bo cookies and
got to see Bo himself which was a little bit of an extra
treat as well.
Kori asked me to talk briefly too about really what the First
Lady has been doing and her initiatives over the year.
You'll hear, I think, in more detail from Brad about Joining
Forces which is the initiative she and Dr. Biden launched in
April of this year to support our military family members.
For the last two years she has also worked on something called
"Let's Move!"
which I hope many of you have heard about.
This is her effort to really end childhood
obesity in a generation.
One-third of our children in the United States now are either
obese or overweight and it's something that contributes to
preventable diseases throughout their lifetimes.
Heart disease, diabetes, it is a whole level of just unhealthy
results that come from being overweight or obese.
And if we can teach our children to eat healthy, to exercise,
you know, those are traits that will be lifelong for them;
they'll pass along to their children.
It's remarkable when you see the study and we have a study
from the Childhood Obesity Task Force,
that is the foundation work for what the First Lady and the rest
of the Administration is doing on these issues.
You see there is like a hockey stick chart,
it was startling to me the first time I looked at it.
You know, this was not a problem until about the mid
to late '70s when all of a sudden it shoots up.
You know, we were at about a 5% rate of overweight and obese and
all of a sudden it's really just in the last 30 years,
the last generation, that it has taken such a remarkable trend
upwards and it's something that we can reverse.
And we can do this working together across the board
with schools and parents and food companies and stores.
We have got some great initiatives that have announced
like Wal-Mart, and other, like Safeway and other stores putting
more healthier options in to their grocery stores,
going into food deserts.
Restaurant companies like Darden who has the Olive Garden who
have changed their kid menus to get rid of soft drinks and
French fries as the default for kids menus.
And schools who are putting salad bars into their schools,
who are starting gardens, who are really inputting.
We had a thousand people from school systems and schools
across the country here in September on the lawn to
celebrate their initiatives as being a part of the healthier
U.S. schools initiative through the USDA.
To really individual parents and kids taking responsibility
for themselves.
The First Lady spoke last week at the first ever Partnership
for Healthy America Summit here on childhood obesity and she
told a story of a letter that she received from a 15-year-old
girl named Samantha from Connecticut who just on her
own wrote to the First Lady to talk about how she had been
unhealthy, she had been overweight,
how she reached out to her school health teacher who then
got her started in soccer and how her own self-esteem and
self-confidence built as she got healthier and how she now wanted
to be a spokesperson.
She sort of wrote and said, how can I tell my story more?
And she got to do it in a pretty powerful way because the First
Lady put her in her speech last week and really kind of got that
out and around.
But that was just, you know, one child, one teacher.
One life really changed.
And as we do that one child at a time, I think the First Lady,
you know, thinks that this is something that will really
benefit our entire country as we reverse this trend.
And then we have Joining Forces as well and I hope, you know,
as you go through the house, as you see what we're doing here in
the Administration today that you will be able to share that
with all of your followers and, you know,
are we taking questions?
I'm happy to. Yeah.
If anybody has got a question.
Right there in the back.
Audience Member: Sure, you mentioned I think it was five days right after
Thanksgiving that you actually set up for decorations.
When do you start planning for it?
And thanks so much.
Tina Tchen: Good question.
Well, we started planning the theme of this and really going
through some of the ideas back sort of late spring
into the summer.
It takes that long.
It is a little hard to sit there in April and
think about Christmas.
But you do.
That's a really good -- you do have to in terms of setting up
the theme and then really starting the process of doing
the design work.
Audience Member: A quick follow-up.
The President and Mrs. Obama also approve the
theme (inaudible)?
Tina Tchen: The First Lady in particular takes a pretty good strong
interest in selecting the theme.
Okay, right down here in front.
Audience Member: Yeah, what was the First Lady's -- hi, what was,
considering the First Lady's specialization in childhood
obesity, what was her reaction to the recent lobbying,
successful lobbying efforts to keep pizza as a vegetable in
school lunches?
Tina Tchen: Well, she does not get involved in Congressional issues like
that although it is something obviously here in the White
House generally through the Domestic Policy Council we've
been tracking pretty closely.
And I think the overall issue there is the standards that
we're trying to promote.
And there was an effort to sort of actually undo much of the
good work that our U.S.
Department of Agriculture is doing in raising the level of
school lunches, you know, overall.
And so, you know, we're going to keep working on that and keep
moving forward on that effort.
All right.
There's one over time.
Audience Member: Thanks for taking the time to be with
us here today.
If there is such a thing, what is a typical day like for you?
Tina Tchen: Ha-ha. There's really no such thing!
You know, a typical day for me in the White House is, you know,
is starting off with a speaking, you know, engagement like this,
you know, is not uncommon.
We have regular staff meetings, both in our East Wing staff.
As an assistant to the President I participate in the President's
Senior Staff Meetings as well.
I have a dual hat here because no one in the White House only
does one thing.
I am also the Executive Director of the White House Council On
Women and Girls so there is frequently times when I am doing
work on women and girls policy, you know,
throughout the Administration.
We do a lot of both outreach to groups.
We do, when the First Lady is traveling to a speech,
sometimes I will accompany her in that.
If we are traveling overseas as we did to Africa in June,
a lot of our staff went on that because we had about
25 events, public events for her in the span of five days so it
required a lot of effort to put that together and
a lot of planning.
As to the question in the back, everything that we do, I think,
for the President and the First Lady requires a tremendous
amount of planning even for a half an hour event and so there
is a tremendous amount of work always being done on that front.
Plus as you'll hear from Brad, you know,
our staff is constantly working in the areas that the First Lady
has focused on with groups and outside organizations.
You know, we're a pretty small staff and in order to accomplish
a lot of the things that we want to we really have to work in
partnership with folks like you, really getting the word out,
getting people to be active in their own communities on these
issues and to speak out about them is an important part of
what we do.
All right.
Right down here.
Audience Member: What feedback, if any, did you get from Malia
and Sasha (inaudible) as well as the "let's move" campaign --
Tina Tchen: Well, I can't speak to that.
I can't speak to Sasha and Malia's reaction to that.
But, you know, I think we have had lots of kids come through
and be very excited about it so I'll be interested in your
reactions as you go through the house and Tweet about it.
Audience Member: Hi, you talked a little bit about the "Let's move!" program.
How do you measure the success of the program?
What are your metrics?
Tina Tchen: Well, I think overall, over the long-term,
the metric is going to be to try to see a downturn in this trend
that I talked about, about the number of kids who are
obese and overweight.
And there are sort of annual surveys that come out.
And we've only been at this two years and the surveys actually
don't even go back that far yet, don't even cover that time
period yet, so we will see over time.
It's a good question because I think one of the things as we've
been at it for two years as we head in to sort of expanding the
strategies we're working on we've been starting to talk
about how do we look back and see which ones of these
strategies are really working or not.
And that's something we're going to need to keep working on.
So, great, thank you.
That gentleman over here.
Audience Member: I know the First Lady at one time had met with
Alice Waters in the garden.
I was just wondering, is she still involved at all with the
eatable White House garden?
Tina Tchen: Well, you know, we're involved with a lot of
movements across the board and a lot of grassroots actually.
Alice, we saw Alice most recently this summer.
She did, she participated in a fund-raiser, cooked brunch,
I think, for a fund-raiser the First Lady appeared at
in the summer.
So what I think we've tried to do with the garden is really
empower people across the board in a lot of different ways in
which people are using gardens, using local foods,
using what they're producing, you know, in their own homes,
how they're cooking, you know, to encourage the many ways in
which people can, you know, eat healthier in their lives and
have more access to healthy foods.
And so it's really kind of really looking at lots of
different ways in which people are doing it and
lifting those up.
Kori Schulman: Tina, you could be here all day with questions so if you would
like to take --
Tina Tchen: One more?
There's one more right here.
Audience Member: The White House and the First Lady in particular
have been such powerful advocates of health initiatives
and the White House has done things such as going pink for
breast cancer awareness and with World AIDS's Day.
Are there any plans to continue that going forward such as going
red in February for heart disease since that's such
a big issue?
Tina Tchen: Well, I can speak to that from my former job.
My former job before I was the First Lady's Chief of Staff was
I was the Director of the Office of Public Engagement here which
is the outreach office and I know sort of all of the many
reasons, I think it is red in February, it's blue, you know,
for prostate cancer, it's teal for ovarian cancer,
it's purple for domestic violence.
We've had a whole series of requests for that and we made
a decision last year sort of looking at all of those requests
and just sort of trying to balance, you know,
really what's appropriate for the house,
that we would just stick with just two.
There are two that have become sort of traditional in the sense
that they have been done over a couple of Administrations now.
And that is the pink in October for breast cancer and the World
AIDS's Day ribbon that we hang on December 1st.
And I think for now those are just the two we're going to
stick with given then there is just sort of seasonal decoration
that happens to the house.
If we did it otherwise it probably would never
be a White House.
So I think -- is Brad?
Yep, okay.
Well, thank you, very much.
Please enjoy your day at the White House,
enjoy your decorations and we will look forward to seeing
you again here.
Kori Schulman: Thanks so much, Tina.
Now I'd like to introduce Brad Cooper whose the Executive
Director of the Joining Forces Initiative.
Brad Cooper: I do this fairly often and one of the things
I note immediately is the disappointment in many of
the ladies who thought they were getting another version of Brad
Cooper so I apologize.
But I am appreciative of all that you were doing.
I have a couple things to pass along.
To complement what Tina talked about and you heard her speak of
really the focus of this year's activities and events and the
decor for the White House as she already spoke to you about the
Gold Star Family Tree which is an amazing relaxing ornate tree,
the planning design to be complimentary to the overall
effort as is the tree.
And the other thing that I can think of adding here is
the First Lady just after Thanksgiving, just -- (inaudible)
Uh-oh! I have one of these.
-- just during Thanksgiving started off with kind of a new
tradition and called a military spouse and I'll talk to you
about why she did that.
And that was a great event.
Surprise a military spouse whose husband is deployed right now.
And also kicked off along with the USO this great event called
"Thanks from Everywhere."
Where you have a chance if you Google "Thanks from Everywhere,"
you have a chance to go on to a USO Joining Forces site and
just send a little note from the area code that you're in and you
can go on there and there is a little red dot that depicts
where all of the people in the country have sent a note from.
And it is incredibly powerful.
So with that, let me give you just a quick scene setter on
Joining Forces in general.
For those of you who aren't familiar with it,
back in April the First Lady and Dr. Biden announced Joining
Forces, this concept of really rallying the country around
military families, veterans and service members.
And when we talk about the country it's the effort that's
all outside of the Department of Defense and the VA.
So we're talking about individuals, businesses,
communities themselves, nonprofits, philanthropy,
faith-based institutions.
The whole and mighty capacity of everyone of the communities that
we live in in order to give back to those veterans and service
members and families and give them the support, quite frankly,
that they've earned.
And as we've traveled around the country there is a pretty
unanimous consensus is that they've earned it.
After ten years of war, you have groups of people who have
deployed in unprecedented numbers.
If you know someone in the military who's been around for
the last ten years pretty common to find people who deployed
three or four or five or six or seven -- we met someone just a
couple of weeks ago who deployed 12 times, not always for a year,
but to ask of this 1% of the country over the last ten years,
and that's who they are, it's 1% of the country fighting for the
rest of us, the remainder of us 99%, has been incredible!
So that with that as kind of the underpinning,
the First Lady and Dr. Biden rolled out joining forces.
And we're focused in four areas.
And you see some efforts recently in these four areas.
The first one is public awareness, employment,
education and wellness.
Public awareness, if you've been to a movie lately or if you've
been watching TV, any football this last weekend you may have
seen Tom Hanks or Steven Spielberg or Oprah Winfrey
in a public service announcement.
You've seen the First Lady and Dr. Biden at Game One of
the World Series.
You've seen them down at NASCAR.
And you'll continue to see more and more of that as
time moves on.
The goal here is to increase the public's knowledge of what is
going on with the military and what this group is doing
for our country.
There was a survey just a few weeks ago that pointed to the
fact that 60% of Americans had had no impact in their lives
over the last ten years of the war.
So there's a lot of work to be done in terms or
raising public awareness.
The other three areas we're working very particularly --
we're working particularly hard in starting with employment.
And we've spent most of our time in this area particularly
because it has been really around the country the subject
of most interest and we got the most feedback initially, hey,
hit, hit employment hard.
So we have.
And our effort has been engagement with the private
sector and we have seen people even in the last few months leap
to lend a hand.
At the end of the summer we had about a hundred private sector
companies engaged in this process.
As of last week we had 1500.
And we're on a trajectory to continue to increase this.
In August the President in an announcement here in Washington
challenged the private sector to hire or train
100,000 veterans or military spouses by the end of 2013.
So about a two and a half year period.
And the reason was in particular, veteran,
young veteran unemployment rates for a very strange reason were
higher than the national average despite this being
an unbelievably creative and innovative and
experienced population.
So the President said, private sector,
let's get energized and hire a hundred thousand in two and a
half years.
So now we're four months as of today past that.
The private sector has already leaped out and hired 25,000
among these 1500 companies.
In addition to hiring 25,000 they've also committed to hire
another 135,000 which is obviously a target which would
exceed the President's goal.
Fantastic news.
So we're going to look to take this great momentum throughout
the country on veterans employment and military
spouse employment and keep pushing it on.
It's an issue that has great bipartisan support,
both the House and the Senate approved a measure that attacks
veteran unemployment that the President signed just a couple
of weeks ago, 520 to 0.
So it clearly is an area that people want to help.
And it's consistent with joining forces where we say people ask
what can they do?
And you'll hear the First Lady and Dr. Biden say all the time:
Do what you do best!
And if you are an employer, hire a veteran,
or three or ten or 30 or 500 or some people have stepped up and
said we'll hire 3,000!
So it really is a great new story that we're going to
continue to nurture.
We also have groups that are working on education,
big education issues like getting a hundred universities
throughout the country to adopt curriculum that includes
familiarization with issues that military kids would be going
through so that when they're teachers in the nation's public
schools -- and, oh, by the way, the overwhelming majority of
military kids go to public schools throughout the nation.
They no longer really go to DOD schools in the Continental
United States.
There is a familiarization in perpetuity,
in a training in perpetuity of the nation's teachers to
understand better the issues that military kids face.
Also an organization called Medscape.
A great online organization developed and is continuing to
develop military family and veteran-centric videos and
education pieces.
Some of these actually are valid for continuing
medical education.
They stood up their site just a couple of weeks ago.
It's fantastic.
It's a great depiction of what Joining Forces is.
It's people rallying and stepping up in doing what
they do best.
And in this case what they do best is helping to train and
educate the nation's physicians and nurses.
And as of yesterday, 40,000 doctors and nurses had used
this site.
So I think you can get a sense of those three areas:
Employment, education, and wellness.
That's where we're pushing.
We're always looking for new partners.
And we're looking in particular for aggregators.
Big associations that have lots of people that can move this
issue in the country.
I think that is what I will leave you with and happy to
answer any questions.
Oh, I appreciate that.
That was good.
Yes, sir.
Audience Member: The four areas you talked about: employment,
education -- the third area?
Brad Cooper: Wellness. Wellness really kind of focused on two areas.
It's military family resiliency and as we continue to move
forward we'll also see a little bit more emphasis on the First
Lady and Dr. Biden addressing post traumatic,
the issues of post traumatic stress and traumatic brain
injury, PTS and TBI, which as you know are kind of the
signature wounds of this war.
We have -- here's two stats that most of America has no
idea about: Nearly 50,000 Americans have been wounded
in the last ten years.
Many of these are severe wounds.
And you see these on TV.
These people are all young.
They're in their 20s and 30s, some even younger.
So they're going to live for another 50 years where their
needs are going to have to be cared for.
So this is why we're going to talk about this.
And TBI is to a certain extent a little bit of a mystery.
We're a lot smarter than we were ten years ago.
But we want to help to better educate the nation and that's
where I think you'll see our effort here
in the coming months.
Yes, sir?
Audience Member: (inaudible)
Brad Cooper: This is inherently a DOD and VA effort that
the government is leading.
But we think that when you start to make the education of the
nation, increase education of the nation on PTS and TBI that
we would be able to help in that way as well.
This is where I think the private sector can step up.
And it's also fair to say that the nation in general is unaware
of -- when you talk to PTS around the nation,
most people really don't understand it.
So this is where we're going to go and we think as a by-product
of that we'll have some inroads into the suicide which is our
position is obviously one is too many,
but you've seen some great efforts by DOD
and VA at this point.
Yes, ma'am.
Audience Member: (inaudible) focus on why that is so high besides the usual
that they move a lot and things like that,
is there a specific (inaudible) --
Brad Cooper: Yeah, so there's an organization,
there is a specific partnership that was established over the
summer that Dr. Biden rolled out and we talk about it all
the time called the Military Spouse Employment Partnership.
This, when it was rolled out, it has 72 companies who bought in
to this idea of I'm going to hire talent and the talent that
they're pooling, that they're targeting is military spouses.
They're well educated, they're well traveled, they're loyal.
They have an incredible ability to be innovative and they're
used to working as part of a team and leading teams.
So that partnership which started off at 72 companies
now is at 96.
They have really taken off like a rocket and they are
continually expanding.
They have more than a hundred more companies who are part of
the -- who are in the queue to be part of it and they all buy
into this notion of we want to get these spouses into a
job because, number 1, it's good for their bottom line,
but they're also committed to the portability aspects so that
folks cannot just get a job, but retain it as their military
service member moves around.
So as of this weekend, 8,000 spouses have been hired which is
a huge number relative to four months of effort and I think
you'll continue to see more and more of this and you'll hear the
First Lady and Dr. Biden speak about it a lot.
It's a big deal.
She's had several op-ed's about it saying, hey, employers,
just because you have a military spouse who has moved around a
lot, that is not a red flag; this is the nature of their
life and let's do some things to accommodate it.
Yes, sir?
Audience Member: (inaudible) federal hiring of veterans?
Brad Cooper: Yeah, absolutely.
The federal actually has done a tremendous job.
In the last two years there's been more than -- there's been a
hundred thousand -- more than a hundred thousand hired into the
federal government.
So the government has made this a priority as well.
That effort started a couple of years ago and agencies of
the government have really stepped up.
So it kind of speaks to the broader strategic piece of
you have the federal government leaning into it.
I know that you have states and at the local level leaning in to
it and now you have the private sector pushing hard.
And clearly the capacity of the country lies in the private
sector so this is that key third dimension that is really getting
some good momentum.
Great question.
Yes, sir?
Audience Member: (inaudible) protected the against losing their house
from foreclosure but recently many have lost their houses.
Is the White House doing anything to try to help them?
Are there any future programs for that?
Brad Cooper: There are a whole host of folks who are aware
of this and looking into it.
And in many cases already taken action.
You have Mrs. Holly Petraeus, the wife of General Petraeus,
who works for the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau who
is all over this issue.
Doing a great job.
I think you're going to continue to see her more and more engaged
in this.
She travels around the country speaking about this.
Her organization is looking into it.
And past looking into it, they are -- they are attacking it.
And doing really a great job.
One more. In the back.
Audience Member: Since military issues for family and service members are such --
is so important across the board,
we work at the Red Cross and we were happy for you guys to come
out last month and participate in our program.
Just out of curiosity, about how many requests do you get on a
daily basis for participation programs, either for you,
Mrs. Obama, Dr. Biden.
Brad Cooper: That's a great question.
An enormous number.
More than any of a few of us that can possibly do.
That kind of goes back to we are always looking for aggregators,
and people who can independently operate and step up and are
operating in one of those three lanes, of either employment,
education or wellness, because the one data point I can give
you is the Wednesday before Thanksgiving,
I sat down and said, hey let's take a look in the next few
couple of months of the invitations and there were
about 175 of them through the end of February.
So a lot, which signals people want to help.
In many cases they just don't know how or they are looking
for a little nudge.
And what we always do is say go to the Joining Forces website,
you can -- you can go to the commitment's page.
I can go and take a look at where service opportunities are.
I can guarantee something is there for you to lend a hand,
and do what you do best.
Okay. Great. Well, thanks so much.
I appreciate it.
Kori Schulman: Thanks so much, Brad.
Now I'd like to introduce Macon Phillips,
the director of the Office of Digital Strategy.
Macon Phillips: All right, thanks, do I need that mic or this mic or --
let's go handheld mic.
What's up Washington?
Before I start, because this -- it's awfully easy to forget,
but we should just give a round of applause to Kasey and Kori
who have done an incredible job putting this all together and
get you guys here.
It's really -- so I work on the team with them.
It's called the Office of Digital Strategy,
used to be called the Office of New Media.
Who knows what it will be called next year, but, basically,
we are a little group that hasn't really existed at the
White House before.
It started when the President was sworn in 2009.
And, we think about three things with our job.
I'll give you a quick overview of those things,
how we approach that problem and just dive right into questions,
because I found that usually more productive and interesting
than me sitting up here and talking for a while.
But, the three goals that we think about are amplification,
openness and participation.
Amplification is really about making sure that we are getting
the President's message out, as technology changes,
how and where people get information.
So we are sort of beyond newspapers and evening
newscasts now.
People are getting it from everywhere.
They are getting it from their friends.
They are getting it from blogs.
They are getting it from just a whole host of sources.
And we want to make sure that we have relationships with those
sources and that we are actually getting a content information
out to them.
The second thing is openness.
Which I think kind of gets at the idea of being a transparent
administration, helping achieve the President's commitment to
transparency, good government, but more generally,
it's looking at the responsibility we have in an age
where people can just Google to find information and come to our
website, really expecting that they are going to be able to get
information about issues.
And not just putting out information in sort of wonky
reports, but actually thinking critically about how we can boil
a lot of this content down digestible things that regular
people can understand, in fact that they might actually
appreciate and share.
So that means looking at rich media,
developing videos about issues, developing you know, blog posts,
all sorts of things like that to really try to get information
out, but also make it accessible as people find it from us.
And then the third piece which is the most exciting but it's
been the biggest challenge for us is participation.
So how do we actually use our technology platform to create
meaningful opportunities for people to be able to participate
in their government, because after all that's sort of the
point of this whole enterprise.
So that to us is something we think about every day.
We've had some success with that,
mostly sort of online Q&A's, giving people a chance to sort
of ask questions to policy officials,
but more recently we watched a project called We The People,
which we think is a really exciting step forward into
that area as well.
How many people here now about we the people?
Okay. All right that's good.
That's more than the last time.
So, just very quickly, We The People is a new future of where anyone can create a petition,
and if they get enough people to sign it,
the White House will issue an official response.
And we've already seen over a million people creating an
account on the system and we've answered I think,
30 some odd petitions and we have quite a few left.
To answer.
And it's been a whole new way of working here at the White House
and we certainly address some issues that we probably wouldn't
have otherwise addressed.
And so we really feel like we are able to understand
what matters to people and address the issues directly.
So those are our three goals.
The way our team is organized, to sort of achieve those goals
on a day to basis, into four competencies.
Our first is our content team.
So those are the folks that are looking at writing for
the website, developing videos, graphics and that sort of thing.
The second is our engagement team.
They are the folks that are looking at how we respond to
input, making sure that we are able to process that input and
get it around the White House to the right people.
The third is outreach.
So they are the team that is based on this joke that I tell
at every one of these, that the only person who has as their homepage is my mother.
And understanding that, you know,
people are going to other places online to get information,
we recognize that.
Our websites are a really important asset.
But it's not the starting point for every American citizen,
so we want to actually go to the communities where they are
getting information, the simplest example is during the
fight around the Affordable Care Act and getting that pasted.
We did a lot of work on the WebMD to try to find people
as they were in the context of thinking about health care and
thinking about those choices and those situations.
And making sure that we had a presence there to engage them
on the issue.
And then the final group is our platform group which is really
sort of the technology and graphic design group that
has a whole relationship.
The whole other office here at the White House that does the
straight up software engineering and development.
Governments are really good at having a bunch of different
offices with a bunch of different acronyms to do
the simplest things.
So, that's how we liaised with them.
So that's the structure of our team.
Those are our goals of our team.
I'll give you a little bit of my background just really quickly
because it's really pertinent.
I'm from Alabama.
We just found out that we are going to be playing LSU in the
national championship.
It's a really big deal, right.
So I hope -- I'm still not sure whether I thought the last game
was good or bad.
It was just sort of a thing.
I just couldn't get my head around it,
but -- so that's my background.
So, I -- (laughter)
I'm from Alabama, originally, but I became a AmeriCorps VISTA
in 2004 -- 2003 which really turned me on to politics.
I didn't study politics in college.
But really, got engaged in sort of social justice issues,
right around the same time that we were going to war with Iraq
and really became engaged in this.
And got to know a couple of people that are on the Dean
Campaign and had a bunch of conversations when people are
realizing you can send an email and actually raise money.
How is that going to change things?
And saw a lot of that from the inside,
although I was never on the campaign.
One of my friends came down here to start a consulting firm,
called Blue State Digital, around this idea that political
campaigns would be interested in using the web, you know,
on a day-to-day basis, had a lot of work,
called me up and said I have more work than I can shake a
stick at.
It turns out no one knows what they are doing with this.
It was before YouTube, before Facebook, before Twitter.
We were still -- we were trying to figure out how you actually
post a video to the internet.
That was 2005 and I got the opportunity to come join the
campaign in Chicago, which was a real thrill.
No matter your politics, I highly recommend getting
involved with a political campaign of some sort at some
point if you're interested in this line of work generally,
because it's just amazing how quickly things move,
how quickly good ideas rise to the top and how nimble an
organization can be -- that was a very exciting time.
Then we won.
So we were like, oh, wow, what do we do now and the next day,
you get the speech on a Tuesday night,
Wednesday morning I was back in the office launching
which we ran for a few weeks.
And then we came here.
And when the President was getting the oath of office,
I was across the street managing the relaunch of
which was really kind of fun.
And then my first day of work I ran against the crowds to get in
here and right into this building.
I'm not quite sure what I was going to do,
but three years later, here I am.
And we built a really great team.
So in addition to Kasey and Kori.
We have people who have all sorts of backgrounds.
We have some folks from New York who are doing really interesting
graphic design work.
We have people who have been think tanks here in D.C. for a
while and really understand the issues and understand how to
translate sort of the walk talk to regular people.
And we've got some people that I've worked with in the past who
saw the way that online advocacy worked and didn't work in 2005
and really saw an opportunity to come into the institution an
figure out how we could take a step towards that -- that
activism and really engage in a more meaningful way.
So, it's really great to work here.
We work with just an amazing group of people.
Obviously, the President and Vice President are just really
powerful figures.
But there's also sort of the senior staff in the middle
management here, are just real exceptional people.
So I feel very fortunate to work here.
So with that, I'll just open it up to questions,
because I'm kind of interested in seeing where we want to take
this thing.
Let's start with you.
Audience Member: (low audio) I work here in Washington D.C.
I suppose this conversation actually relates to exactly
what we are encounter here today, as part of a Tweetup
where we can't really Tweet at this -- (laughter) -- but
notoriously there's been a lot of discussions about how
you guys came in.
And had all of these really great awesome ideas,
but maybe had to run to the Starbucks to have a wifi network
that would let you access things like Twitter and Facebook.
I know it's also a big issue with social media emergency
management ideas and concepts and how effective that's been
for folks like the Red Cross and other organizations like
Crisis Commons.
Could you talk or reflect a little bit on just kind of where
you were that first day and where you're hoping to be?
Macon Phillips: It's a great question.
I hope everybody can here.
Basically, it's how difficult is it to work here and how much of
those barriers impact innovation.
And I think it's a very fair point.
You know we're here in South Court and you can't Tweet
at our Twitter.
That has not been lost on the organizers.
Kori mentioned that to me the other day.
But -- it is an interesting example.
Because we don't have wifi here, anywhere.
We have Ethernet.
I don't know how many people still have Ethernet cables.
We do. We don't IM each other.
We don't use Gmail or any of those other things.
And, that's kind of frustrating because you really don't want to
kind of -- you want to be able to, particularly in our work,
I think, the biggest opportunity is to communicate in the medium
that people are already using.
You don't want to create a parallel structure when you're
asking people to come and engage.
And that's just when we want to talk about what is important to
us or what we think they should care about, but,
when you get to levels like the emergency management stuff --
I mean it's critical.
It's been a huge issue.
But, we've in the last three years really improved it.
I remember the first day we weren't able to work from home
and we had Blackberries but I couldn't publish web content.
And it turns out we did the Weekly Address every morning
at -- every Saturday morning at 6 a.m.
So, I was coming in every Saturday morning at 5:30 a.m.
just to post a video.
And that's sort of where we started.
Now we have become much more flexible.
So we are able to work from home.
Able to do work more quickly and more productively.
And I think it gets at a larger issue for the White House.
And this is one that we grapple with every day which is how
incredibly isolating it is to work here.
I mean, you had to go through two security checkpoints.
It's like going on a plane to get here.
I do that every day.
There's giant fences and guards that keep people out.
And we try to get out of here, but it's not really possible.
You know?
And even when you do, you're in D.C.,
which is not you know -- it's a very special place and a lot of
good things about it, a lot of bad things about it,
but it's sort of unique in the country.
And so we are constantly looking for opportunities to really
engage people outside of D.C.
And that comes back to the real value of our online program
which, you know -- how many people are from
outside of D.C. here?
How many people are from outside Eastern time zone?
That's really cool.
So this is a start for us.
I'd like to see it evenly distributed, you know,
but I also recognize people have to fly here and do all of these
other things to get here.
But, to the extent that we can actually tap into our online
program to get perspectives from outside of D.C. I think it's a
huge benefit for the rest of the building,
but it's a constant struggle.
How about over here?
Go ahead.
Audience Member: I used to work (inaudible) government.
And now I do it for a larger corporation.
So I was just wondering, obviously knowing the roadblocks
you run into, but what are your rules on replying to people that
ask you about specific questions that you actually want to
respond to and do you guys have plan around that.
Macon Phillips: So we've taken a different posture than I think many
agencies and are very sympathetic to the challenges
of the agencies.
What's unique about the White House is it pretty much have
100% turn over with each administration.
When you think about it, right?
But there's some administrative staff.
There's security guys and there's all sorts of people
who are still here, but on January 20th, 2009,
a whole new crew came in, and most of us had known each other
from the campaign or new each other from D.C. and so forth.
So there's a level of sort of collaboration and trust,
I think that is different than the agencies which are much
bigger and much more bureaucratic.
So we enabled to really take a posture of at least a web
content, social media content perspective: Go ahead,
go forth and prosper, get the content out there and if you
feel uneasy about it raise it up a flag pole.
So, Kori just post things -- hey Kori,
she just posts things to the White House account as they
come up, as they are relevant.
The President is going to speak about this if there's news about
that, if somebody asks a question and she knows the
answer, you know she's off the races.
She feels kind of queasy about something, you know,
like she's not quite sure or something -- you know she may
you know, reach out to me.
And oftentimes, I don't know.
So I'll reach out to my boss and so forth.
And so that sort of level.
And you know, I think what that really gets at is this idea that
you can very quickly over process things in social media.
The government is really good at that.
And, what's cool about social media is it's conversational and
you can't have a conversation with someone where you know they
are like, oh, hey, how are you doing today?
I'm good.
It doesn't work that way.
And so, 90% of the stuff we put on social media is really either
a derivative of something else we've already publically said or
just conversational and not that controversial.
So having this posture to getting content out makes us,
I think, a lot more interesting to the public.
At the agency level, they have all of these clearance processes
that were born of a pre-internet time when you know you had a
newspaper go to print and it was in the print and you couldn't
get that back, that bullet was fired.
And so they are very careful about the kind of content they
put out.
And to be sure the issues they deal with are super important.
Matters of foreign policy, matters of public safety
and so forth.
And we've seen some progress.
But I think there's a lot more progress we made at how you
actually have that nimble or quick flexible clearance process
in the social media.
But it's a new one.
Audience Member: I'm getting a signal here.
Macon Phillips: So what is your service provider, AT&T or Verizon.
Audience Member: Verizon.
Macon Phillips: Verizon. Okay. There you go.
You guys with AT&T, you're out of luck.
Audience Member: Kind of make a big joke of the AT&T
subscribes here.
Any how, what would be the thing -- your biggest success -- the
thing that you're most pleased about.
Macon Phillips: Biggest success?
Lately, the We The People thing has just been terrific.
And it's a success just getting out the door and seeing people
use it.
It's also one of our biggest challenges.
I wouldn't use the word failure for it,
because we are still learning from it.
But, we are really grappling with a whole host of
non-technology issues; more public engagement issues.
When you give people the opportunity to tell you what
matters to them, what is the reasonable expectation
for response?
And is it good enough just to tell them where you stand on it?
And how do you show them that it's actually being brought
into the process and more to the point,
how do you actually bring it into the process.
And I think the progress we've made on that is
something I think our whole team is super proud of.
But it's incremental and it's less -- because, as I said,
technology based and more culture based and how do you
actually have a building that is really interested in using tools
to get mass public input, not just the groups in D.C. who have
an executive director whoever here to represent them and meet
with them for lunch with people here and have very like,
sort of normal conversations, you know,
we are now opening up the White House to all sorts of
conversations through all sorts of avenues and how we process
that and bring that into the building is something we've made
a heck of a lot of progress at in the last three years.
But we recognize we have a lot of work to do.
And it's really hard to articulate,
but that -- I feel really good about that.
Audience Member: (low audio) --
Macon Phillips: I'll get you next.
Audience Member: (low audio) -- congrats!
Macon Phillips: Okay. Well, wait.
You're not an Auburn fan, are you?
Audience Member: No, no.
Macon Phillips: Okay, good.
Audience Member: South Carolina.
I know that the campaign and the White House photo
team is on Tumblr.
I was wondering if the White House has any interest in
getting on Tumblr?
Macon Phillips: We've looked at it, yeah we've talked to those guys.
And, this is sort of falls into Kori and some of the folks she
works with; that area.
And we haven't yet.
And I think it brings up a really good lesson
that we've learned.
We've learned the hard way at times,
which is that it's very easy to open up a lot of presences.
Right. You can get on Quora, you can get on MySpace.
You can get on Tumblr.
You can get on whatever the next one is, like in two weeks,
you know.
But you have to really understand why you're doing it.
I think that the way I've seen the campaign and other folks use
it for storytelling is really powerful, visual,
that sort of thing.
I think we are thinking about how we would actually
use Tumblr.
And once we get our head around that there's no reasoning we
wouldn't use it, it's just particularly having constrained
resources compared to what we had on the campaign and
what other groups have.
We really want to focus energy on what's working,
develop that and then gradually grow,
rather than sort of set up shop at a bunch of presences.
But you may see that in the next few months; maybe, weeks.
We'll see. But -- go ahead.
Audience Member: (inaudible) huge shift as we noted before in terms of how
the best governments use the technology, infrastructure
(low audio) et cetera.
Did this come after in the campaign or was it any specific
person's idea or was it a number of people that came up with this
modeling, you know, reaching out to the Tweeter,
Facebook and getting feedback from you know citizens like us?
Macon Phillips: I don't think it was any one's single idea to do this.
I think if you'll look at the history of political campaigns
over the last few cycles.
The Obama campaign was one of the first one to use you know,
these things.
They benefitted from the time because these things as,
Twitter and Facebook as they are now didn't exist previously.
But just first to use the internet,
you have McCain using it, you have Kerry, you have Cain,
you have a bunch of these folks trying to figure it out.
I think one of the things that really made it different in 2008
was that President Obama was a community organizer at heart.
That was his first job.
That was his instinct.
And more than anyone, he recognized the power -- or the
possibility when you create tools that empower regular
people to do extraordinary things together.
I think that's the secret to how we won was our ability to create
opportunities for other people, many of whom hadn't been
involved in the process before to get together
and drive us to victory.
We were just in the right place, at the right time,
off of the right tools.
That is really powerful in a political campaign contents.
It is all together more powerful in a governing
democratic context.
But I think we are in an earlier cycle in the governing idea than
say the Obama political one was where it had a few previous
campaigns to really figure out what set the public expectation
of participation, figure out what tools would really work,
and we are still trying to figure that out from
a governing perspective.
But it's less about the specific technologies and more about the
ethic that you want to give control to regular people who
haven't been involved and these tools offer a great
way to do that.
And then where they take it is up to them.
Go ahead.
Kori Schulman: (low audio)
Macon Phillips: Okay, great.
Audience Member: I have a question mostly about the legacy that you
as a digital strategist and your team are thinking
about leaving behind.
I mean it would be very easy of course for a new administration
to come in and not do Tweetups or not do these types of things.
There are steps that you all are taking to ensure that the people
that you're reaching out to across America are able to do
that perpetually in the future.
Macon Phillips: Not intentionally.
It's not like we think how can we lock this stuff in,
I feel like there's a knew projects that are perhaps
forgettable and perhaps should be.
You know.
But there's a few projects that I think are if effectively done
the types of things that set public expectation,
like the We The People thing.
As I said earlier, we are still figuring out where this is going
to go, I though the public expectations,
how to do it right.
But I really believe firmly, if we can get it right and set a
public expectation that they will have a mechanism for
letting the President know what matters to them.
That it will be very difficult to walk that back.
Maybe it will be easy to replace it with something else.
Maybe it's easy to replace it with something that seems the
same but it is actually not.
But, those sorts of things are really cemented once the public
understands how they work and continues to expect it.
The other thing is this stuff is fairly inevitable.
I mean, when you look at the sort of changing news media,
it's not like that's going to unchange.
And so a lot of things we do are in response to that,
the sort of changing news landscape.
So I think any future administration,
regardless of the party, is really going to have to have
a team like ours to understand how they can make sure they are
communicating with the public, because the public is changing
how it gets information, where it gets it from.
Just the generational shifts are amazing.
So we'll be here in some form.
And I think the public engagement piece is really where
we can see expectations getting locked in some sort of legacy.
All right. So we'll take the last question, back here.
Audience Member: You spoke to diversification of platform but not necessarily
to diversity itself.
And one thing I've noticed with federal accounts is that there's
typically a Spanish language account and then there's the
English language account, for instance,
NASA might have well over one million people following their
NASA account, but only ten's of thousands following
the Spanish language.
Has there been any discussion about integration of content.
So is a Spanish Tweet, White House tweet up.
Macon Phillips: That's a really great question.
We could do a lot better of a job at that,
but we do work on it.
We approach it from the standpoint -- we have La Casa
Blanca which is the White House.
That's our Twitter account and we also have a Spanish language
version of our site.
We don't just translate the English content wrote to the
Spanish language.
We do repurpose some of that but we also try Spanish language
content first that we may translate back to English,
that's been something that we've heard from folks that
they really appreciate, sort of writing to -- writing in a
language first and then just sort of having available in
other languages, rather than have a Spanish version of all
of the English language stuff.
But from a resource standpoint, it's very difficult.
And so we try to get the most important things that we feel
are sort of high level of news out through our Spanish language
programs, but right now it's not a parody;
it's not 100% of everything on the English side.
We'll see where that goes.
It's something we've been beefing up,
but as I said we still have a lot of work to do on it.
Audience Member: (low audio) audience can do to facilitate that.
Macon Phillips: That's a good question.
I mean, take a look at what we are currently doing through
those accounts, and tell us what you like and what you don't.
What we should do more of.
From just a translating make content more accessible.
You know, we've looked at some of the models like what Ted
talks does, which is really fascinating stuff with the
crowd source translation.
Not just for the White House program,
but like the State Department.
Imagine if the State department did something and all of a
sudden American contents was accessible in every language,
translated by native speakers, that would be brilliant.
I mean, that's not happening tomorrow,
but seeing it happen at a smaller scale for Ted is really
encouraging to look at it for a larger scale for the government.
And that gets back to that idea of giving citizens a way to
participate in their government that's different than just
asking questions, getting answers, actually pitching in,
helping make government better.
That would be a really great project to do.
But we are not there tomorrow.
But appreciate the instinct and take a look a what we are
already doing in the short-term and you can get in touch with us
to let us know.
I'll take one more question from the lady in the back.
Audience Member: I was wondering,
there are so many initiatives and projects and things that the
White House does and how do you streamline what you put out so
that the messages don't get muddled and all of the things
get confused with one another.
Macon Phillips: It's a huge challenge.
The simple answer is, we have sort of a main message that
we are pushing.
So this week, our focus is really around extending the
payroll tax.
In addition of that, there's some work that's being done
on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to get
that director in so that it's beefed up.
You're going to hear a lot more about that in just a second.
So I'll let others talk about that.
But the opportunity is that in addition to having sort of our
national single message that we are focused on there's a whole
host of communities that are passionate about other
issues -- related issues.
And so kind of have to well, walk and chew gum.
And so there's a number of environmental issues that
people are really keyed up on.
There's a bunch of foreign policy issues that people
are really keyed up on.
And the opportunity for us is to not be limited to one
conversation at a time, but actually be able to do a bunch.
I think what you get at is when they cross over and someone is
coming and they say oh, they are talking about Iraq, no,
they are talking about payroll tax, what is going on here?
Keeping that stuff organized is really important.
That's why we like to think we have a site that does that
fairly well.
But we also are very intentional in our outreach to reach to
communities that are already talking about these issues and
then making sure that we are getting content.
To them that's relevant and not just sort of spamming them with
what we think is important.
And it's something that we the people is all about.
It's a mechanism by which people can self-organize around issues
that they care about and were able to respond very efficiently
to those specific issues.
So, we are working on that problem;
very much agree it's an ongoing challenge.
We feel like we've achieved some things to really get at that.
I'm going to hand it over now to Kori,
but thanks such for coming in.
As I said earlier it's just great to have people from
outside of D.C.
Have a great day!
Kori Schulman: Thanks, Macon.
I'd like to introduce David Kamin who is a special assistant
to the president for economic policy.
David Kamin: Hi, it's great to be here.
So, as I said at this work over at the National Economic Council
which is the body in the White House that helps coordinate
economic policy for the administration.
I'm going to start off with an overview of sort of where we are
in the economic, sort of the major initiatives that we've
got going forward to get the economic going again and to
create more jobs.
And then we'll, of course, be very happy
to take your questions.
So, where we are right now is a very, very,
different place than where we were a -- now coming
on three years ago.
I think it's sometimes important remember where we started at.
When the President took office the economy was losing something
like 800,000 jobs per month.
We had suffered a shock in terms of people's net worth that was
larger than was suffered going into The Great
Depression of 1929.
We faced a very, very real risk of a second Great Depression.
Because of decisive action that was taken by this
administration, we avoided that.
We've now seen 2.9 million jobs created over the last 21 --
private sector jobs created over the last 21 months.
We've seen an economy that is growing.
And that is a far better place than where we were when we took
office when the economy was on the precipice of what
could easily become a second Great Depression.
However, economic growth is knowing you're as strong as
it needs to be.
When you have an 8.6% unemployment rate you can't
declare victory, it is something that no one
here is satisfied with.
And we need more jobs right now.
The President understands the risk the economy faces.
We are growing but we need to grow faster.
We are creating jobs but we need to create more of them.
We also face risks coming from outside this country.
So there's a financial crisis and hopefully one that will be
resolved, but a potential crisis is you're represent that is a
head wind to our economy.
Those were the reasons why the President, a few months ago,
gave to Congress the American Jobs Act.
The American Jobs Act was an initiative to try to create
jobs right now through a variety of mechanisms.
It included, you know, a payroll tax cut for all Americans going
into next year, extending the payroll tax cut that's in place
this year.
That's a two percentage point payroll tax cut for typical
family making $50,000, that's in the $1,000 tax cut.
Going to next year, we propose expanding that to 3.1% which
would provide about $1,500 for a typical family.
That's right now at issue right now in Congress.
We've actually seen votes last week on the payroll tax cut.
Now importantly, you know, the President proposed that we think
this payroll tax cut will create jobs,
goes both to middle class families,
also goes to small businesses.
Because we cut in half the payroll taxes for
small businesses.
The senate democrats it proposed that that tax roll tax cut be
paid for by something millionaires to pay a
little bit more.
That was something we supported.
It got over 50 votes but did not get the supermajority,
60 votes needed.
It was blocked.
And we going into the next few weeks,
we are making an absolute priority where we see that past.
We think that when, you know, the American people support
this, they support the idea that middle class families going into
next year should be getting additional relief.
Independent economists say the payroll tax cut that we propose
would add about -- between 600,000 million jobs next year.
It's something that we need to get done in order to both give
relief to families and create jobs.
Also in the next few weeks, another part of the American
Jobs Act will be up for vote, which is per the extension of
unemployment insurance.
So even as we provide relief to middle class families,
through the payroll tax cut it's absolutely essential that we
continue to provide the support to America's workers when they
lose a job, because we continue to see unemployment that is far
too high and we need to make sure that we are providing
people who are working for work, and these are people who are
looking for work, the benefits they need in order to make ends
meet and give them the support they need while
they try to find work.
It's important to also note that unemployment insurance is one of
the most effective ways to create jobs.
These people who receive those benefits then go out
and spend it.
And so, an extension of unemployment insurance next
year would create hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Now, those are two pieces of the American Jobs Act that I expect
will be debate and should be on the table coming up this month.
There are a number of other pieces that we are committed to
and that we have asked Congress to pass.
Those include, for instance, rebuilding America and creating
jobs now.
So for instance, the American Jobs Act included a $50 billion
fund for infrastructure, an immediate investment in
America's infrastructure.
It would go to roads, railways, America's airports.
We think that those types of measures, they both, you know,
as -- infrastructure is one of the most important things that
we can invest in for long-term economic growth and it also
helps create jobs now.
So it sort of hits that dual bid,
we think it's really very important,
and we hope that Congress acts on that.
There have also been a number of other measures that,
unfortunately, Congress did vote on, they got blocked.
We are going to continue to fight for it.
So for instance, there was a fund,
a $30 billion fund to reconstruct 35,000 schools
across this country.
That's actually something that we hope will be acted on by
Congress soon.
There was a $35 billion fund to prevent teachers from being
fired next year, that's again something that we think is
absolutely essential.
That represents an investment in human capital in this country,
even as it saves jobs.
And we think that that type of measure can be very helpful for
creating -- for both saving jobs right now and getting the
economy going again over the long run.
Now, importantly, the entirety of the American Jobs Act was
fully paid for.
And that was something that was important to the President.
We understand that we have a long-run deficit problem,
something that we do need to act on,
and the jobs measures that we put in place right now,
we thought it was important for them to be paid for.
And so the American Jobs Act, as part of that,
we proposed a number of measures including cutting back tax
expenditures for some of the highest income Americans,
cutting back some of the oil and gas subsidies,
cutting back the carried interest loophole,
that paid for the American Jobs Act.
Also the Senate then put on the table another -- an alternative,
which was to impose a small tax on the highest income Americans,
those making over a million dollars.
That was also a fair way to do it, and we supported that.
The point is that this Bill and all of its iterations has been
fully paid for.
So there is no excuse for not acting on these jobs
measures now.
It does not add to the deficit over time.
Now even as we face a significant deficit when it
comes to the economy, and we do, we need to create more jobs and
get people back to work.
We also face a significant fiscal deficit going forward.
So when we took office, we faced a deficit of $1.3 trillion in
the very first year and trillions of dollars in deficits
going forward over the decade.
That -- the President is committed to putting the budget
on a sustainable course.
That's why this fall he proposed a $4 trillion deficit reduction
plan that begins reducing the deficit -- the debt as a share
of the economy.
Now obviously, in D.C. we haven't agreed on exactly what,
you know, what we should do to balance the budget, because,
you know, we had a negotiation this summer,
we signed into law the Budget Control Act,
which was a trillion dollar down payment on deficit reduction,
but the President wanted to go, do more.
He wanted the big deal which would manage to both create
jobs now, put in place some stimulus now,
and also reduce the deficit going forward.
Now, that didn't happen.
And again, with the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction,
again a deal didn't happen.
I think the basic fact of the matter is we are committed to
a deal that's a balanced deal.
A deal where we see cuts across, you know,
across the budget but at the same time protects those areas
where we need to invest in our future,
and also protects some of the most vulnerable Americans,
and finally, and very importantly,
asks the highest income Americans to contribute to
deficit reduction.
Because we think that is an important principle and we think
it's also probably the only way we're going to put our budget on
a sustainable course, while at the same time maintaining the
core responsibilities of government and investing
in our future.
Now that's something the other side isn't willing to do.
They've put forward, for instance,
in the House Budget Resolution last spring,
they put forward a plan to try to achieve deficit reduction
through only spending cuts.
It involved massive cuts to Medicaid,
it involved cutting infrastructure by a third
over the next ten years.
That was not a vision the President would agree to.
We are willing to compromise, but we think that compromise
means compromise from all sides, and making sure the deficit
reduction is a balanced plan going forward.
So the immediate thing that we're dealing with right now,
in the next few weeks, is making sure that the economy going into
next year has the support it needs and that we continue to,
you know, that growth continues and that we continue to support
job creation, and that it becomes stronger.
That will require passing a payroll tax cut going into next
year, expanding that payroll tax cut,
and also passing an extension of Unemployment Insurance,
which expires at the end of this year.
I think going forward we're going to continue to have a
debate over the budget, and I think you're going to see that
we remain committed to making sure that we put the budget on
a sustainable course, but we do so in a balanced way.
So -- and with that, I'm happy to take questions.
Audience Member: A question about the euro debt crisis.
I know that wasn't under consideration until back in
2009, but how has it impacted what the Administration is doing
now because it's still really not settled?
David Kamin: Yeah, no, I think it's a great question.
So first of all, you know, one of the most important things we
can do is act on the things that we have immediately under our
control, and, you know, one of the reasons the President
proposed the American Jobs Act was both because we saw that
even right now, you know, the economy's growing but it's not
growing as fast as it should be, we're creating jobs,
not creating enough.
We also need an insurance policy,
because if the rest of the world is, you know,
if the rest of the world didn't manage to get its act together
we needed to make sure that we have in place the measures we
need next year so that the American economy is not put --
subjected to, you know, a risk of a downturn because of what's
going on in the rest of the world.
So one of the most important things that we can do is
actually act on the things we have control over,
and that is the American Jobs Act that the President proposed,
the payroll tax cut that they're voting on right now,
Unemployment Insurance that's up at the end of the month.
So those are things that we can control.
Congress can pass them, the President can sign
them into law.
That's the first step.
Now, obviously, when it comes to the crisis in Europe,
we've been very actively involved.
The President, Secretary Geithner have been very actively
involved in talking to their counterparts in Europe.
And one of the things we think that we bring to the table is
our own experience with the financial crisis just a few
years ago.
You know, obviously going in to 2008 and 2009 the American
financial system was suffering a crisis of its own, and,
you know, what it took, what we did then was not necessarily
popular, but it did end the financial crisis,
it managed to put the economy, you know,
give it the stability it needed to begin growing again.
And we think that we bring that to,
that experience to the table, and telling Europe that,
you know, they do have the resources they need to solve the
crisis, it is a question of will and making sure they actually
use the resources they have to do so.
In 2008 and 2009 we found the will to end the financial crisis
here, and it's that experience that when the President and
Secretary Geithner are talking with their counterparts in
Europe that they're bringing to the table.
Audience Member: I'm wondering what you -- what the White House's position is on
Occupy Wall Street and considering that you've
been talking about the 1% giving --
paying higher taxes, and is there any chance that President
Obama might mention the Occupy Wall Street movement in the
State of the Union?
David Kamin: So, I doubt that -- given my own position on the economic team,
I doubt I'm going to make a fundamental pronouncement on
Occupy Wall Street and the Administration's position.
But what I can say is that, you know,
from the get-go the President and this Administration have
been committed to the idea that, you know,
we need an economy that is growing and also growing fairly.
Where, you know, the gains of the economy are shared fairly
across the country.
You know, so, of course, when it came to, you know,
to getting out of the crisis of 2008-2009,
I just spoke about the fact that, you know, that it took,
you know, somewhat unpopular measures in order to resolve
the financial crisis.
Now, something that was important and that is often
not talked about is we are also committed to make sure that any
cost, any cost of TARP that remains on the federal books
gets fully paid for by the types of institutions that receive
financial relief.
And that's why the President has proposed a financial crisis
responsibility fee, which asks the largest institutions to
contribute to deficit reduction, fully pay off the cost of TARP,
and is actually focused on specifically the types of risk
that got us into this financial crisis to begin with.
Now we go beyond that.
You know, the President also enacted Financial Regulatory
Reform, which, you know, is meant to be a bulwark against
the very type of irresponsibility that
got us into this crisis.
And, you know, so if, you know, there's ever any need again to
go in and make sure that, you know,
the types of institutions that imposed risk across the economy,
that they need to get resolved, that,
the Financial Regulatory Reform, make sure that those banks pay
back the full cost.
It has, you know, a specific measure in there where if you
need to put money into the banks the banks then have
to pay it back.
And, you know, beyond just what we're doing when it comes to the
banks, as I said, we are committed to the idea that
the richest Americans in this country do need to contribute
to deficit reduction, that they do need to pay more.
That's why the President has said that, you know,
when it comes to the -- at the end of 2012,
the tax cuts for the highest income Americans should expire.
That will save $800 billion over the next ten years.
The President has on top of that proposed limiting the tax
expenditures that go to the richest Americans by cutting
them back by about a third.
That raises another $400 billion over the next ten years.
We've also proposed a number of other measures,
whether it's getting rid of the carried interest loophole which
goes to, you know, hedge fund managers,
whether it's getting rid of the -- you know,
the loophole that allows private jets to get depreciated faster.
All of those measures we have proposed and put on the table.
The point is that we agree with the idea that we need to have a
fair, you know, that when it comes to getting the deficit
down, we need to make sure that we do it in a fair way where we
ask the richest Americans to pay more.
We're also committed to the idea that economic growth needs to be
fair and widely shared across the country.
Kori Schulman: We've got one more question.
David Kamin: Okay.
Audience Member: More recently we've seen the Administration sort of step up
their aggressiveness in dealing with -- sorry --
Chinese fiscal policy.
I was just curious, should we continue to expect the
Administration to take a stronger line towards China
on those issues?
David Kamin: You know, I think it's a great question.
You know, obviously we've been speaking with our Chinese
counterparts since coming to office, and, you know,
telling them that, you know, it was important to us that the
Chinese currency policy change, and we've actually seen some
movement on it.
We've seen, you know, in terms, in real terms,
which is sort of the important thing to look at,
we've actually seen an appreciation of the Chinese
currency relative to the U.S. dollar.
We think that's an important movement.
It's obviously something that's, you know,
it continues to remain very important to us as we talk to
our Chinese counterparts because we think that going forward it's
actually in the best interests of the United States and the
best interests of China that we come to a, you know,
sustainable course.
Because what we've seen going up till now is not sustainable.
It's not good for the U.S. economy if we continue to
have the type of current account deficit that we're
running against China, and the truth is it's not a sustainable
way for the Chinese economy to grow.
And so I think we have seen important movement there.
I think that it's something that we continue to discuss with them
and remains very important to us to make sure that we get on
a sustainable path, one where we see, you know,
fair trade going on between both countries.
So I think we've seen progress since coming to office because
of the efforts that we've taken, and it's something that we
continue to work on with them.
Thank you very much.