Monday, September 19, 2011

Text of President Obama's Remarks on His Deficit Reduction Plan of Sept 19, 2011

from the White House Press Office

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. Please have a seat.

A week ago today, I sent Congress the American Jobs Act. It’s a plan that will lead to new jobs for teachers, for construction workers, for veterans, and for the unemployed. It will cut taxes for every small business owner and virtually every working man and woman in America. And the proposals in this jobs bill are the kinds that have been supported by Democrats and Republicans in the past. So there shouldn’t be any reason for Congress to drag its feet. They should pass it right away. I'm ready to sign a bill. I've got the pens all ready.

Now, as I said before, Congress should pass this bill knowing that every proposal is fully paid for. The American Jobs Act will not add to our nation’s debt. And today, I’m releasing a plan that details how to pay for the jobs bill while also paying down our debt over time.

And this is important, because the health of our economy depends in part on what we do right now to create the conditions where businesses can hire and middle-class families can feel a basic measure of economic security. But in the long run, our prosperity also depends on our ability to pay down the massive debt we’ve accumulated over the past decade in a way that allows us to meet our responsibilities to each other and to the future.

During this past decade, profligate spending in Washington, tax cuts for multi-millionaires and billionaires, the cost of two wars, and the recession turned a record surplus into a yawning deficit, and that left us with a big pile of IOUs. If we don’t act, that burden will ultimately fall on our children’s shoulders. If we don’t act, the growing debt will eventually crowd out everything else, preventing us from investing in things like education, or sustaining programs like Medicare.

So Washington has to live within its means. The government has to do what families across this country have been doing for years. We have to cut what we can’t afford to pay for what really matters. We need to invest in what will promote hiring and economic growth now while still providing the confidence that will come with a plan that reduces our deficits over the long-term.

These principles were at the heart of the deficit framework that I put forward in April. It was an approach to shrink the deficit as a share of the economy, but not to do so so abruptly with spending cuts that would hamper growth or prevent us from helping small businesses and middle-class families get back on their feet.

It was an approach that said we need to go through the budget line-by-line looking for waste, without shortchanging education and basic scientific research and road construction, because those things are essential to our future. And it was an approach that said we shouldn't balance the budget on the backs of the poor and the middle class; that for us to solve this problem, everybody, including the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations, have to pay their fair share.

Now, during the debt ceiling debate, I had hoped to negotiate a compromise with the Speaker of the House that fulfilled these principles and achieved the $4 trillion in deficit reduction that leaders in both parties have agreed we need -- a grand bargain that would have strengthened our economy, instead of weakened it. Unfortunately, the Speaker walked away from a balanced package. What we agreed to instead wasn’t all that grand. But it was a start -- roughly $1 trillion in cuts to domestic spending and defense spending.

Everyone knows we have to do more, and a special joint committee of Congress is assigned to find more deficit reduction. So, today, I’m laying out a set of specific proposals to finish what we started this summer -- proposals that live up to the principles I’ve talked about from the beginning. It’s a plan that reduces our debt by more than $4 trillion, and achieves these savings in a way that is fair -- by asking everybody to do their part so that no one has to bear too much of the burden on their own.

All told, this plan cuts $2 in spending for every dollar in new revenues. In addition to the $1 trillion in spending that we’ve already cut from the budget, our plan makes additional spending cuts that need to happen if we’re to solve this problem. We reform agricultural subsidies -- subsidies that a lot of times pay large farms for crops that they don't grow. We make modest adjustments to federal retirement programs. We reduce by tens of billions of dollars the tax money that goes to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. We also ask the largest financial firms -- companies saved by tax dollars during the financial crisis -- to repay the American people for every dime that we spent. And we save an additional $1 trillion as we end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

These savings are not only counted as part of our plan, but as part of the budget plan that nearly every Republican on the House voted for.

Finally, this plan includes structural reforms to reduce the cost of health care in programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Keep in mind we've already included a number of reforms in the health care law, which will go a long way towards controlling these costs. But we're going to have to do a little more. This plan reduces wasteful subsidies and erroneous payments while changing some incentives that often lead to excessive health care costs. It makes prescriptions more affordable through faster approval of generic drugs. We’ll work with governors to make Medicaid more efficient and more accountable. And we’ll change the way we pay for health care. Instead of just paying for procedures, providers will be paid more when they improve results -- and such steps will save money and improve care.

These changes are phased in slowly to strengthen Medicare and Medicaid over time. Because while we do need to reduce health care costs, I’m not going to allow that to be an excuse for turning Medicare into a voucher program that leaves seniors at the mercy of the insurance industry. And I'm not going to stand for balancing the budget by denying or reducing health care for poor children or those with disabilities. So we will reform Medicare and Medicaid, but we will not abandon the fundamental commitment that this country has kept for generations.

And by the way, that includes our commitment to Social Security. I've said before, Social Security is not the primary cause of our deficits, but it does face long-term challenges as our country grows older. And both parties are going to need to work together on a separate track to strengthen Social Security for our children and our grandchildren.

So this is how we can reduce spending: by scouring the budget for every dime of waste and inefficiency, by reforming government spending, and by making modest adjustments to Medicare and Medicaid. But all these reductions in spending, by themselves, will not solve our fiscal problems. We can’t just cut our way out of this hole. It’s going to take a balanced approach. If we’re going to make spending cuts -- many of which we wouldn’t make if we weren’t facing such large budget deficits -- then it’s only right that we ask everyone to pay their fair share.

You know, last week, Speaker of the House John Boehner gave a speech about the economy. And to his credit, he made the point that we can’t afford the kind of politics that says it’s “my way or the highway.” I was encouraged by that. Here’s the problem: In that same speech, he also came out against any plan to cut the deficit that includes any additional revenues whatsoever. He said -- I'm quoting him -- there is “only one option.” And that option and only option relies entirely on cuts. That means slashing education, surrendering the research necessary to keep America’s technological edge in the 21st century, and allowing our critical public assets like highways and bridges and airports to get worse. It would cripple our competiveness and our ability to win the jobs of the future. And it would also mean asking sacrifice of seniors and the middle class and the poor, while asking nothing of the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations.

So the Speaker says we can’t have it "my way or the highway," and then basically says, my way -- or the highway. (Laughter.) That’s not smart. It’s not right. If we’re going to meet our responsibilities, we have to do it together.

Now, I’m proposing real, serious cuts in spending. When you include the $1 trillion in cuts I’ve already signed into law, these would be among the biggest cuts in spending in our history. But they’ve got to be part of a larger plan that’s balanced –- a plan that asks the most fortunate among us to pay their fair share, just like everybody else.

And that’s why this plan eliminates tax loopholes that primarily go to the wealthiest taxpayers and biggest corporations –- tax breaks that small businesses and middle-class families don’t get. And if tax reform doesn't get done, this plan asks the wealthiest Americans to go back to paying the same rates that they paid during the 1990s, before the Bush tax cuts.

I promise it’s not because anybody looks forward to the prospects of raising taxes or paying more taxes. I don’t. In fact, I’ve cut taxes for the middle class and for small businesses, and through the American Jobs Act, we’d cut taxes again to promote hiring and put more money into the pockets of people. But we can’t afford these special lower rates for the wealthy -– rates, by the way, that were meant to be temporary. Back when these first -- these tax cuts, back in 2001, 2003, were being talked about, they were talked about temporary measures. We can’t afford them when we’re running these big deficits.

Now, I am also ready to work with Democrats and Republicans to reform our entire tax code, to get rid of the decades of accumulated loopholes, special interest carve-outs, and other tax expenditures that stack the deck against small business owners and ordinary families who can’t afford Washington lobbyists or fancy accountants. Our tax code is more than 10,000 pages long. If you stack up all the volumes, they’re almost five feet tall. That means that how much you pay often depends less on what you make and more on how well you can game the system, and that's especially true of the corporate tax code.

We’ve got one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world, but it’s riddled with exceptions and special interest loopholes. So some companies get out paying a lot of taxes, while the rest of them end up having to foot the bill. And this makes our entire economy less competitive and our country a less desirable place to do business.

That has to change. Our tax code shouldn’t give an advantage to companies with the best-connected lobbyists. It should give an advantage to companies that invest in the United States of America and create jobs in the United States of America. And we can lower the corporate rate if we get rid of all these special deals.

So I am ready, I am eager, to work with Democrats and Republicans to reform the tax code to make it simpler, make it fairer, and make America more competitive. But any reform plan will have to raise revenue to help close our deficit. That has to be part of the formula. And any reform should follow another simple principle: Middle-class families shouldn’t pay higher taxes than millionaires and billionaires. That’s pretty straightforward. It’s hard to argue against that. Warren Buffett’s secretary shouldn’t pay a higher tax rate than Warren Buffett. There is no justification for it.

It is wrong that in the United States of America, a teacher or a nurse or a construction worker who earns $50,000 should pay higher tax rates than somebody pulling in $50 million. Anybody who says we can’t change the tax code to correct that, anyone who has signed some pledge to protect every single tax loophole so long as they live, they should be called out. They should have to defend that unfairness -- explain why somebody who's making $50 million a year in the financial markets should be paying 15 percent on their taxes, when a teacher making $50,000 a year is paying more than that -- paying a higher rate. They ought to have to answer for it. And if they’re pledged to keep that kind of unfairness in place, they should remember, the last time I checked the only pledge that really matters is the pledge we take to uphold the Constitution.

Now, we’re already hearing the usual defenders of these kinds of loopholes saying this is just “class warfare.” I reject the idea that asking a hedge fund manager to pay the same tax rate as a plumber or a teacher is class warfare. I think it’s just the right the thing to do. I believe the American middle class, who've been pressured relentlessly for decades, believe it’s time that they were fought for as hard as the lobbyists and some lawmakers have fought to protect special treatment for billionaires and big corporations.

Nobody wants to punish success in America. What’s great about this country is our belief that anyone can make it and everybody should be able to try -– the idea that any one of us can open a business or have an idea and make us millionaires or billionaires. This is the land of opportunity. That’s great. All I’m saying is that those who have done well, including me, should pay our fair share in taxes to contribute to the nation that made our success possible. We shouldn’t get a better deal than ordinary families get. And I think most wealthy Americans would agree if they knew this would help us grow the economy and deal with the debt that threatens our future.

It comes down to this: We have to prioritize. Both parties agree that we need to reduce the deficit by the same amount -- by $4 trillion. So what choices are we going to make to reach that goal? Either we ask the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share in taxes, or we’re going to have to ask seniors to pay more for Medicare. We can’t afford to do both.

Either we gut education and medical research, or we’ve got to reform the tax code so that the most profitable corporations have to give up tax loopholes that other companies don’t get. We can’t afford to do both.

This is not class warfare. It’s math. (Laughter.) The money is going to have to come from someplace. And if we’re not willing to ask those who've done extraordinarily well to help America close the deficit and we are trying to reach that same target of $4 trillion, then the logic, the math says everybody else has to do a whole lot more: We’ve got to put the entire burden on the middle class and the poor. We’ve got to scale back on the investments that have always helped our economy grow. We’ve got to settle for second-rate roads and second-rate bridges and second-rate airports, and schools that are crumbling.

That’s unacceptable to me. That’s unacceptable to the American people. And it will not happen on my watch. I will not support -- I will not support -- any plan that puts all the burden for closing our deficit on ordinary Americans. And I will veto any bill that changes benefits for those who rely on Medicare but does not raise serious revenues by asking the wealthiest Americans or biggest corporations to pay their fair share. We are not going to have a one-sided deal that hurts the folks who are most vulnerable.

None of the changes I’m proposing are easy or politically convenient. It’s always more popular to promise the moon and leave the bill for after the next election or the election after that. That’s been true since our founding. George Washington grappled with this problem. He said, “Towards the payment of debts, there must be revenue; that to have revenue there must be taxes; [and] no taxes can be devised which are not more or less inconvenient and unpleasant.” He understood that dealing with the debt is -- these are his words -- “always a choice of difficulties.” But he also knew that public servants weren’t elected to do what was easy; they weren’t elected to do what was politically advantageous. It’s our responsibility to put country before party. It’s our responsibility to do what’s right for the future.

And that’s what this debate is about. It’s not about numbers on a ledger; it’s not about figures on a spreadsheet. It’s about the economic future of this country, and it’s about whether we will do what it takes to create jobs and growth and opportunity while facing up to the legacy of debt that threatens everything we’ve built over generations.

And it’s also about fairness. It’s about whether we are, in fact, in this together, and we’re looking out for one another. We know what’s right. It’s time to do what’s right.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

Gov Quinn Announces Wind, Soybean,Trade Deals While Visiting China

from the Gov's press office

BEIJING, CHINA – September 19, 2011. Governor Pat Quinn visited Beijing today during his business and economic trade mission in China, where he announced two business agreements that further strengthen the relationship between Illinois and China. The agreements involving Illinois-based ADM and Xinjiang Goldwind Science and Technology Co., LTD (Goldwind) move the state another step closer to reaching Governor Quinn’s aggressive goal of doubling Illinois exports by 2014.

“Illinois is a top competitor in the global economy, and our aggressive plans to double exports and develop innovative new partnerships in emerging technology fields are continuing to advance our growth on the international stage,” Governor Quinn said. “Our state has the resources, human capital, and innovative drive to expand our global reach. These agreements represent Illinois’ ongoing commitment to continue to compete and grow in the global marketplace.”

During his visit to Beijing today, Governor Quinn announced that Goldwind, one of the largest wind turbine manufacturers in the world, will build a $200 million wind farm in Lee County, Illinois. The company will break ground on the Shady Oaks project later this fall. Once online, the project will provide 109.5 megawatts (MW) of power, and create more than 100 construction and a dozen permanent maintenance jobs in Illinois. According to the American Wind Energy Association, one megawatt of wind energy can provide enough electricity to meet the needs of 225-300 households. Therefore, 109.5 MW can provide the electricity needs of approximately 25,000 homes.

“As the largest and most competitive market in the world, the United States is a key component of Goldwind’s international growth. Thanks to visionary leaders like Governor Quinn, Goldwind and other renewable energy companies are able to generate an undeniable economic impact in the U.S. wind industry through job creation and supplier agreements,” said Goldwind Chairman and CEO Wu Gang. “Goldwind has generated a competitive global footprint and we are focused on continuing that momentum, continuing to demonstrate our technology advantages and continuing to build-out our global supply chain.”

Goldwind USA Inc. is the U.S. subsidiary of Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology Co, LTD, based in Urumqi, Xinjiang, China. Goldwind USA established its headquarters in Chicago in 2010 to oversee operations in North and South America.

Governor Quinn also announced that Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM), a worldwide food production company based in Decatur, Illinois, has entered into a $100 million sales agreement with Jiusan Oils and Seeds. Under the agreement, ADM will supply Jiusan Oils and Seeds, a manufacturer of soy products based in Harbin, Helongjiang, China, with 180,000 metric tons of soybeans by December 2012.

“This agreement connects Illinois soybean farmers with Chinese consumers and reinforces the growing ties between the State of Illinois and China,” said David Ragan, product line manager, ADM. “In addition to helping to meet soybean demand and keep costs consistent for Chinese consumers, this partnership also underscores ADM’s advancing interests in China and our commitment to serving China’s priorities in food security, food safety and food sustainability.”

China is the world’s largest market for Illinois soybeans, importing more than 104 million bushels of U.S. soybeans in the 2009/2010 marketing year valued at more than $160 million. Illinois is among the top five states in agricultural exports to China. Illinois agriculture exports to China have increased each year since 2007, from $149 million to $424 million in 2010.

China is Illinois’ third largest export destination. Illinois’ overall exports to China reached $3.18 billion in 2010, up from $2.47 billion in 2009. Nearly 30 Chinese companies have invested in Illinois, employing thousands of Illinois residents.

For updates on Governor Quinn’s trip, visit or follow him on Twitter at @GovernorQuinn. More information about Illinois trade and business opportunities can be found on the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s website at


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sen Kirk, Cong Shimkus Among Bipartisan Team Behind New Medicare Card to Prevent Fraud

Bipartisan, House-Senate Coalition Introduces Legislation to Prevent Medicare Waste, Fraud and Abuse

New Medicare card protects identities, takes printed Social Security number off front of the new Medicare card

WASHINGTON – To combat a reported $60 billion lost to waste, fraud and abuse within the Medicare system, U.S. Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and U.S. Representatives Jim Gerlach (R-PA-06), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-03) and John Shimkus (R-IL-19) introduced legislation today to use existing “smart card” technology to protect seniors.

Similar to the 20 million "Common Access Cards" issued by the Department of Defense, the new Medicare Common Access Card Act of 2011, S. 1551, would establish a pilot program to develop a secure Medicare card using smart card technology to protect seniors personal information, prevent fraud and speed payment to doctors and hospitals. According to a Government Accountability Office report, fraudulent Medicare claims robbed taxpayers of $48 billion in 2010.

AARP and senior rights advocate, Wilfred Brimley, joined the bipartisan Members of Congress in announcing their support for the legislation.

"Building on the smart cards already issued to all Americans in uniform, we can offer seniors more protection for their identities while reducing fraud and waste in the strained Medicare system," Senator Kirk said. "By removing a senior's Social Security number from the front of the card and including the security upgrades used on the cards of our troops, this Secure Medicare Common Access Card will also help end Medicare's current "Pay then Chase" policy that allows so much fraud and waste. I am thankful to have the support of AARP and Wilfred Brimley who has been so active in promoting the health of seniors."

“If you looked at the card carried by every Medicare beneficiary in America you would find their name and their full social security number there for all to see,” Wyden said. “In an age of identity theft, this is simply asking for trouble. The legislation will not only make the identity of America’s seniors more secure, it does so in a way that will ensure that Medicare is paying for the services that are actually being provided. Giving providers and insurers the tools to reliably weed out fraud will only help to improve the experience of dealing with providers and insurers for those acting in good faith. This is an approach that has proven to reduce fraud and abuse and is a common sense approach to safeguarding taxpayer spending.”

“I am proud to be a cosponsor of this bill which would take a step to eliminate the $60 billion of waste, fraud, and abuse in the Medicare program,” Senator Rubio said. “Medicare is already facing long-term challenges, so we need to protect seniors and prevent people from abusing the system. I am proud to be working with Senator Kirk on this critical issue.”

“Cutting fraud, waste and abuse is critical to strengthening Medicare and making sure seniors continue to have access to the care they need,” said U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach (PA-6th District). “Taxpayers and seniors deserve the protection against identity theft and fraud that this legislation provides, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House and Senate to bring the Medicare card into the 21st Century.”

“Millions of beneficiaries depend on Medicare for their healthcare needs and depend on Congress to ensure the vitality of that program,” said Congressman Blumenauer. “This is a simple and elegant solution to save money and guard against fraud and I look forward to working with Health and Human Services, Medicare beneficiaries, and other stakeholders to ensure Medicare’s continued integrity.”

“Medicare wastes 60 billion dollars each year by making fraudulent payments," said Congressman John Shimkus. "It’s possible that we could save half of that just by updating the Medicare card and verifying the recipient’s identity, who the provider was, and the service that was provided. This legislation will set up five test areas around the country, then we can determine whether it should be implemented nationwide.”

The Medicare Common Access Card Act of 2011 establishes a two-phase system for developing and implementing secure smart card technology for Medicare beneficiaries and providers based on the 20 million cards issued under the DoD program.

Phase one would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to design and implement a smart card pilot program in geographic regions considered to be at high programmatic risk in an effort to increase the quality of care, improve the accuracy in the Medicare billing system, reduce the potential for identity theft and prevent waste, fraud and abuse.

The second phase, expanded implementation, would occur one year after the start of the pilot program following a HHS report to Congress on the results of the pilot program and the viability of the nationwide expansion and implementation of Medicare Common Access Card technology.

The common access card technology would be used by both Medicare patients and health care providers at the point of service to verify identity and make secure billing transactions. By creating an electronic record between the beneficiary and the provider, it ensures that services and equipment were not only provided but also received, signaling that it can then be paid for by CMS. This type of technology is currently used by the Department of Defense (DoD), who have issued over 20 million of the secure ID cards. To date, DoD reports not a single common access card has been counterfeited.

The Medicare Common Access Card pilot program would be funded by transferring funds from the Medicare Improvement Fund (MIF). The MIF was established by the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act (MIPPA) of 2008 to make funds available to HHS for the purpose of making improvements under the Medicare Parts A & B programs including program integrity improvements.

Following introduction, the Medicare Common Access Card Act of 2011 will be referred to the Senate Finance Committee. The Congressional Super Committee, created in the July debt limit deal, is in a position to include a package to combat waste, fraud and abuse in the Medicare system in their report to Congress, due November 23.

With bipartisan, bicameral backing, the Members introducing the bill urge inclusion of the Medicare Common Access Card Act of 2011 pilot program in that report.

The Medicare Common Access Card Act of 2011 has been endorsed by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and the SecureID Coalition.


Rep Aaron Schock Schock Introduces Jobs Bill Aimed at Helping Veterans

from Rep Schock's office..

Legislation will help Veterans Realize American Dream of Starting a Small Business

Washington, DC – Congressman Aaron Schock (R-IL) has introduced legislation that will help veterans purchase small businesses. The Help Veterans Own Franchises Act, H.R. 2888, helps a veteran reduce the cost of owning a franchise by offering a tax discount to offset the associated franchise fees.

“There are close to 900,000 unemployed veterans in the United States. These individuals are highly skilled, well trained and motivated; qualities that make successful business owners. These veterans can provide the type of leadership we need to help create jobs and lead us toward an economic recovery,” said Schock, a member of the Ways and Means committee, the chief tax writing committee in the House. “By providing this financial incentive to veterans who want to open a franchise, we can grow our nation’s small businesses and stimulate economic growth.”

Schock first introduced his veterans’ jobs legislation last Congress as a member of the small business committee. He has again introduced the legislation with his colleague from Iowa, Democrat Leonard Boswell, a twenty year Army veteran and helicopter pilot in Vietnam. He was encouraged to reintroduce the legislation again this year because of the large number of veterans who have already returned home and who are scheduled to return by the end of the year from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. While the unemployment rate among post-9/11 veterans has improved in recent months, from a high of 13.3 percent in July down to 9.8 percent in August, it’s still above the national average of 9.1 percent, and Schock stresses more can and must be done for returning veterans.

According the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for veterans who served in the military at any time since September 2001 was 11.5 percent in 2010. Nearly 2.5 million men and women have left active duty in the Armed Forces since September 2001, accounting for 11 percent of the total U.S. veterans’ population. In Illinois, the unemployment rate among veterans was 9.8 percent in 2010. Many are concerned that while the economy continues to struggle, returning veterans will be faced with the daunting task of finding a job or seeking the training needed to find employment in the citizen world, and this problem is only expected to worsen.

Every year 200,000 active Armed Forces members are discharged and become veterans. Those numbers are only projected to increase as tens of thousands of service men and women return from deployment in Iraq, Afghanistan and other locations around the world. Every year, 100,000 guard and reserve forces come back and are entering the workforce looking for a job. Veterans aged 18-24 are hit particularly hard with an unemployment rate of over 30 percent and those 25-29 have an unemployment rate of over 12 percent. A new report from the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC) entitled, “Meeting the Needs of Veterans in Today’s Labor Force,” finds that veterans who have served on active duty since September 2001 face the highest unemployment rate among all veterans. Schock uses this report as a prime example for the need for additional congressional action to help veterans transition from military service to the civilian workforce.

The Help Veterans Own Franchises Act encourages veteran small business franchise ownership by providing a tax credit to veterans worth 25% of the franchise fees associated with the opening up of a new franchise, up to $100,000.

A recent report from the Small Business Administration (SBA) found that military service is highly correlated with self employment and business ownership and that veterans are at least 45 percent more likely to be self employed business owners than the general population. Another study found that one out of every seven franchise businesses are owned and operated by a veteran; this translates into more than 66,000 veteran owned businesses providing 815,000 jobs and roughly $41 billion in GDP. Overall there are roughly 2.5 million veteran owned firms employing almost six million people.

“Our veterans of all generations have been asked to make untold sacrifices in service to our country,” said Schock. “As the economy continues to struggle and our unemployment rate is stubbornly stuck above nine percent, we should be doing all we can to help incentivize the development and growth of small businesses. I believe this bill sends a strong message not only to our veterans that we are looking out for them when they return home, but that Washington is serious about job creation. This is the type of signal Congress can send to show that we want to put job creation in the hands of those who know how to do it best, and that’s not the federal government.”

This week, Senator Robert Casey of Pennsylvania introduced similar legislation in the Senate. Schock’s legislation has been referred to the House Ways and Means committee for further consideration, and he is hopeful the committee will take action on his legislation in the near future.

First Lady Michelle Obama Editorial: Support our Military Families

Last weekend, Americans across the country joined together to remember that September morning from 10 years ago, honoring the memory of those we lost with service and reflection. And my husband and I were humbled to stand with the families and survivors on the same hallowed grounds where tragedy struck.

Yet what shines most brightly from last weekend is not memories of horror, but images of heroes; not the echoes of evil that sought to divide, but the compassion that compelled us to unite. What lasts from this anniversary is the true spirit of America that was laid bare that day and remains alive today: the courage of those who lost loved ones; the strength of those who survived; the bravery of those who ran not away from but into danger.

Those are the same qualities that live on every day among a generation of American troops and their families whose service has been defined by 9/11 and its aftermath. This anniversary also gives us the opportunity to reflect on all that these families have endured and our obligations to them now and in the years ahead.

Selfless service

They're the 9/11 Generation — the more than 5 million servicemembers who have worn the uniform this past decade and their families. They've rightfully earned not only the admiration of a grateful nation, but also a place in history alongside our greatest generations. More than 2 million men and women have served in the war zones, including an unprecedented number of deployments by our National Guardsmen and Reservists. We've never asked so much of our all-volunteer force.

And we've never asked this much of our military families, either. Found in nearly every community in this country, these brave family members serve right alongside their loved ones. They just don't wear uniforms. They're spouses who balance a career and a household all alone while their loved ones are deployed. They're young children who have known only life in a nation at war. They're teenagers who are all too familiar with Dad or Mom being gone for months at a time.

Yet even with all that they shoulder, these military family members are some of the most extraordinary individuals I've ever met: the moms who always seem to pick up the extra carpool shift, the kids who take on extra chores around the house, the survivors of our fallen who step up every day to serve our communities, and the veterans and wounded warriors who have served our country heroically on the battlefield and continue to contribute here at home.

It's our turn

No matter what the situation or how many directions they're being pulled in, our military families always stand ready to serve their loved ones, their communities and our country.

After 10 years of war, it's our turn to return their service and sacrifice with honor and appreciation of our own — and not just in word, but in deed.

That's why last spring, Jill Biden and I launched Joining Forces, a national initiative to address the unique needs and expand the opportunities of these remarkable men, women and children. Businesses can work to employ veterans and help military spouses build careers. Schools can make sure they're properly supporting military kids. Citizens can reach out to organizations who serve military families right in their communities. Every single person, group or community can do something, and we've already seen countless individuals, organizations and businesses step up to answer this call. To see what others are up to, and to join forces yourself, please visit us at

I hope you do.

As we reaffirm our commitment to hold dear the heroism, strength and compassion we saw on Sept. 11, let's also pledge to keep our military families in our hearts long after this anniversary has passed. These men, women and children have served valiantly in the decade since that fateful day.

Now it's up to us to serve them as well.


Friday, September 2, 2011

Good News for Illinois Coal -- Obama Cancels Plan to Increase Regulations on Levels of Ozone

From the NY Times

The Obama administration is abandoning its plan to immediately tighten air quality rules nationwide to cut reduce emissions of smog-causing chemicals after an intense lobbying campaign by industry, which said the new rule would cost billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs, officials said Friday.

The Environmental Protection Agency, following the recommendation of its scientific advisers, had proposed lowering the so-called ozone standard from that set by the Bush administration to a new stricter standard that would have thrown hundreds of American counties out of compliance with the Clean Air Act. It would have required a major effort by state and local officials, as well as new emissions controls by industries and agriculture across the country.

The more lenient Bush administration standard from 2006 will remain in place until a scheduled reconsideration of acceptable pollution limits in 2013, officials indicated Friday.