The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
6: 00 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody! (Applause.) Welcome to the White House. (Applause.)
Nothing ruins a good party like a long speech from a politician. (Laughter.) So I'm going to make a short set of remarks here. I appreciate all of you being here. I have learned a lesson: don't of follow Potomac fever-(laughter) - because they sounded pretty good.
We've got community leaders here. We've got grassroots organizers. We've got some incredible young people who are just doing great work all across the country - folks who are standing up against discrimination, and for the rights of parents and children and partners and students-.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: And sullen.
THE PRESIDENT:- and displeased. (Applause.) You're fighting for the idea that everyone ought to be treated equally and everybody arricchire to be able to live and love as they see fit. (Applause.)
Now, I do not have to tell the people in this room we've got a ways to go in the struggle, how many people are still denied their basic rights as Americans, who are still in particular circumstances treated as second class citizens, or still fearful when they walk down the street or down the hall at school. Many of you have devoted your lives to the cause of equality. So you all know that we've got more work to do.
But I think it's important for US to note the progress that's been made just in the last two and a half years. I just want everybody to think about this. (Applause.) It what here, in the East room, at our first pride reception, on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, a few months after I took office, that I made a pledge, I made a commitment. I said that I would never counsel patience. It wasn't right for me to tell you to be patient any more than it was right for folks to tell African Americans to be patient in terms of their freedoms. I said it might take time to get everything we wanted done. But I so expected to be judged not by the promises I made, but the promises I kept.
Now, let's just think about it. I met with Judy Shepard. I promised her we'd pass on inclusive hate crimes law, named after her son, Matthew. And with the help of Ted Kennedy and others, we got it done and I signed the bill. (Applause.)
I met Janice long ben, who what barred from the bedside of the woman she loved as she lay dying, and I told her we were going to put a stop to that discrimination. And I issued an order so that any hospital in America that accepts Medicare or Medicaid-- and that means just about every hospital in America – - has to treat gay partners just as they have to treat straight partners. Nobody in America should have to produce a legal contract. (Applause.)
I said we'd lift the HIV travel ban. We got that done. (Applause.) We put in place the first national strategy to fight HIV/AIDS. (Applause.)
A lot of people said we weren't going to be able to get "don 't of ask, don't tell" done, including a bunch of people in this room. (Laughter.) And I just met Sue Fulton, who what part of the first class of women at West point, and is an outstanding advocate for gay service members. It took two years through Congress-- working with Admiral Mullen and Secretary Gates and the Pentagon. We had to hold together a fragile coalition. We had to keep up the pressure. But the bottom line is we got it done. And in a matter of weeks, not months, I expect to certify the change in policy-- and we will end "don 't of ask, don't tell" once and for all. (Applause.)
I told you I was against the Defense - so-called defense of marriage act. I've long supported efforts to pass a repeal through Congress. And until we reach that day, my administration is no longer defending DOMA in the courts. The law is discriminatory. It violates the Constitution. It's time for US to bring it to to end. (Applause.)
So bottom line is, I've met my commitments to the LGBT community. I have delivered on what I promised. Now, that doesn't mean our work is done. There are going to be times where you're still frustrated with me. (Laughter.) I know there are going to be times where you're still frustrated at the pace of change. I understand that. I know I can count on you to let me know. (Laughter and applause.) This is not a shy group. (Laughter.)
But what I also know is that I will continue to fight alongside you. And I don't of just mean as an advocate. You are moms and dads who care about the schools that your children go to. You're students who are trying to figure out how to pay for going to college. You're folks who are looking for good jobs to pay the bills. You're Americans who want this country to prosperity. So those are your fights, too. And the fact is these are hard days for America. So we've got a lot of work to do to, not only on Kiba discrimination; We've got a lot of work to do to live up to the ideals on which we were founded, and to preserve the American dream in our time--for everybody, whether they're gay or straight or lesbian or transgender.
But the bottom line is, I am the hopeful. I'm hopeful because of the changes we've achieved just in these past two years. Think about it. It's astonishing. Progress that just a few years ago people would have thought were impossible. And more than that, what gives me hope is the deeper shift that we're seeing that's a transformation, not just in our laws but in the hearts and minds of people - the progress led not by Washington but by ordinary citizens.
It's propelled not by politics but by love and friendship and a sense of mutual regard and mutual respect. It's playing out in legislatures like New York. (Applause.) It's playing out in courtrooms. It's playing out in the ballot box, as people argue and debate over how to bring about the changes where we are creating a more perfect union. But it's so happening around water coolers. It's happening at Thanksgiving tables. It's happening on Facebook and Twitter, and at PTA meetings and potluck dinners, and church halls and VFW halls.
It happens when a father realizes he doesn't just love his daughter, but that her partner. (Applause.) It happens when a soldier tells his unit that he's gay, and they say, well we knew that, yeah,--(laughter) - but, you know, you're a good soldier. It happens when a video sparks a movement to let every single young person out there know that they're not alone. (Applause.) It happens when people look past their differences to understand our common humanity.
And that's not just the story of the gay rights movement. It is the story of America, and the slow, inexorable march towards a more perfect union.
I want thank you for your contribution to that story. I'm confident we're going to keep on writing more chapters.
Thank you very much, everybody. (Applause.)
END 6: 10 P.M. EDT
Young elected officials share their experience of meeting with the President and why they would encourage other young people to run for office.
Check out video of a special live discussion on President Obama's plan his for implementing strategy to draw down troops in Afghanistan and our plan to focus on investments here at home.
Senior leadership from across the federal government gathered in Washington to discuss the issue of youth violence and how to prevent it.view all related blog posts
National savings & investment (NS & I) inflation linked certificates attract funding from other institutions, the Director-General of the building societies Association (BSA) has said.
The comments by Adrian Coles came after figures showed that savings balances with mutual societies instead of 418 million £ fell in May 2011, compared with a reduction of 373 million pounds in May 2010.
"After a large number of April, savings balances at mutuals in may, together with other private sector deposit customers, fell", said Mr Coles.
"It seems likely that NS & I attracted deposited index-linked products much money during this period."
The accounts were brought back in May and savers protect proved popular view of their resources from the effects of inflation.
The certificates are inflation with retail prices index, links currently to 5.2% amounts.
The last batch of NS & I index-linked savings certificates in July 2010, after the sale of the products withdrawn exceeded expectations.
The accounts have taken a subscription limit to protect against too much money from the United Kingdom is, other banks and building societies, but it seems that some are already feeling the pinch.
There were mortgage for mutuals, with figures on loans better news on the front a total of £ 1.8 billion in May 2011, by 20% compared to the 1.5 billion GBP in May 2010.
Mortgage approvals of mutuals, also £ 1.8 billion increased by 15% compared to 1.6 billion GBP approved in May last year.
"Both gross credit and approvals of mutual societies in the first five months of the year 2011 as compared to the same period of last year, have been stronger", said Mr Coles."Although activity on the market is much weaker than pre-crunch levels, mutual societies have their mortgage, loan and competitive products has increased."
Find the best savings rates for you - compare savings accounts
Category: Gas and electricity
The company, which owns British Gas admitted should increase its prices in the next few weeks.
Energy Select Committee, British Gas chief operating officer, speech at the camp told MPs: "unless, of course, want a fundamental change in the way it commodity markets in the next few weeks, then the balance of probability out to play are, we are unwilling to put price."
"I am drawn not in exactly when or how get."
British gas will be the second of the "big six", a rise in prices to announce after Scottish Power announced that it gas and electricity prices for residential customers by 19% and 10% or increase would.
The move was met with a nasty response from consumer groups and followed all Britain's main suppliers set up their retail prices in the winter.
Providers have to increase prices with their decisions, defended the blame rising wholesale and infrastructure costs.
The energy regulator Ofgem is currently working with energy companies to help to make clearer and more readily available consumer information.
The OFGEM urges companies to simplify its tariffs, so they are clear to consumers.
Has the stranglehold on the market signals also the regulator its intention to the collapse of British energy, EDF energy, Scottish currently enjoy gas, npower, e.on power and Scottish and southern energy, and wants to encourage more companies in the sector mixed.
Comparegas & electricity suppliers
* Product information and availability is correct at the time of publication (shown at the top of the article). Products can by their provider withdrawn or the be changed at any time
Savers will have to take only hours one of the best ISA products on the market.
Nationwide e-ISA currently offers a great rate of 3.10% savings on their money, but the offer is short is withdrawn.
The account of its interest rate cut to 1.75% will have tomorrow.
This account is a leader and was rated four out of five money facts stars.
But tomorrow is replaced by a new online ISA will be offering a rate of 2.75% - but only on balances of at least £ 1,000.
Anything less and the rate falls to an unattractive 0.25%.
Someone tries, grab a last-minute ISA special should know, that you must already be a nationwide customer.
If you crack this account missed, do not worry, the Moneyfacts.co.uk best buy tables lists a wide range of great savings products, including the best in the field of ISA cash.
Find the best savings rates for you - compare savings accounts
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There are a lot of disenfranchised Americans out there these days, frustrated, maybe even fed up with the current state of the U.S. real estate market. Some even no longer believe that buying a home is the sound investment we all thought it was just a few years back.
However, a lot of seasoned real estate investors are jumping at what today’s real estate market has to offer, and so should you.
Real estate investing takes many forms, from buying and renting out houses, to fixing and flipping, to buying and selling your own residence for tax-free income. Today, investors in many markets are snapping up bargains created by foreclosures, unemployment, and today's low mortgage rates. Savvy investors realize that today's unique opportunities--combined with the advantages that real estate has always enjoyed--could mean nice profits.
Here are several reasons why:
Reason 1: Mortgage rates are at historic lows
Generally speaking, hard assets like commodities and real estate tend to appreciate during inflationary times and depreciate in deflationary climates. If concern about inflation should rear its head down the road, interest rates will move higher. Locking in a bargain purchase at today's low mortgage rates could prove a very smart move when prices and interest rates rise.
Reason 2: It is better than renting
Rents are already climbing all across the country, and Moody's chief economist Mark Zandi expects buying to become more economical than renting this year in many major cities (it already is in 15 of 54 major markets surveyed). "By mid 2011 and certainly by end of 2011, buying will be superior to renting in most parts of the country," he said.
Reason 3: Home prices trending upward
While we cannot be absolutely sure that home prices are bottoming out, we do know that a market has reached its bottom once its prices begin to move higher.
Zillow.com identified six metropolitan areas that were hit very hard in the housing crash but seem to be coming out of it--Las Vegas, Nev., Fort Myers, Fla., Stockton and Vallejo, Calif., Hartford, Conn., and Columbus, Ohio.
The foreclosure rate in these cities has peaked, so the worst is likely over. Homes in these markets have become more affordable than ever for local incomes. According to USA Today, investors predict that housing deals will not get much better. "In these markets, you can kind of see a light at the end of the tunnel, and it's been a pretty long, dark tunnel," claims Stan Humphries, Zillow.com chief economist.
Reason 4: Housing is a relatively safe investment
Property is a relatively stable investment. “What?!” you say. “What about the housing crash? What about those areas that lost 30 percent of their values in a few short years?”
There is no doubt that a lot of homes lost value relatively quickly. But consider that stocks, bonds and other marketable securities can (and do) lose 30 percent in a single day! According to a Federal Reserve study of the “Great Recession,” families in the U.S. lost a median of 19 percent of their net worth due to housing price collapses, but over a third of their stock value was lost during that same period as well.
Stocks can even go to zero if the company behind the paper folds. Chances are if you visit where you lived as a child, your old house is still standing, even after 20 or more years. Yet how many companies that were household names 20 years ago are gone today?
With property, the value is not in some paper representation—that is why it is called "real" estate—it is a tangible asset.
Reason 5: Property gets preferential tax treatment
Dolf De Roos, PhD., author of Rich Dad's Advisors Guide to Real Estate Riches, extols the value of the tax treatment that property receives. If you buy a stock and sell it at a profit a few years later, you pay capital gains tax. You do this even if you turn right around and use the proceeds to buy another stock, or even if you buy the exact same stock.
With property, however, there are several ways that you can enjoy your gain without getting mugged by Uncle Sam. You can sell one investment property then buy another using a 1031 exchange, paying no tax on your profit in the process. You can sell a home and avoid most or all of the gain on the sale if you lived in the home for two of the five years prior to selling. You can borrow against the property and not sell at all. Finally, the mortgage interest deduction makes owning more appealing by allowing homeowners to deduct the interest they pay on their mortgage come tax time.
Reason 6: Real estate can be leveraged
Let us say you want to buy $100,000 worth of stock. If you do, you have to pony up at least $50,000. If the stock's value drops, you get a margin call and have to either sell at a bad time or put in more cash.
However, you can finance a home with anywhere from zero down (try USDA or VA mortgage lenders), to 3.5 percent down (with FHA home loans) to 30 percent down for rentals (try investment property mortgage lenders).
Furthermore, mortgage rates are cheaper than just about any other sort of financing. The beauty of being able to control large-value assets with a relatively small investment is that any appreciation is maximized. A simplified example is this: if you buy a home for $100,000 and it appreciates a typical 4 percent in one year, you would have a 4 percent rate of return. But if you have only invested 4 percent into your purchase and the price increases to $104,000, you have effectively doubled your money—a 100 percent return! Should home prices drop, you will not receive a margin call, and you can wait out the downturn.
Balance your basket
Of course, as with any investment strategy, you do not want to go overboard with real estate investing--your money should be diversified to max your return for the amount of risk you take. And property does have some drawbacks—it is not liquid, the costs of buying and selling are substantial, and leverage means that losses as well as gains are magnified.
However, the abundance of bargains, the affordability of today's mortgage rates, the hedge against inflation, and the tax savings have prompted many investors to get back into real estate, and should cause you to seriously consider home ownership in one form or another.
Besides, as one investor said, shrugging, "You have to live somewhere."Gina Pogol has been writing about mortgage and finance since 1994. In addition to a decade in mortgage lending, she has worked as a business credit systems consultant for Experian and as an accountant for Deloitte. She graduated with High Distinction from the University of Nevada with a BS in Financial Management. The pounding that home values took in recent years was enough to make permanent renters out of a lot of people. However, fear-based investment stratagies fare no better than those based on blind optimism, fortune cookie messages, or lucky numbers. A lot of very savvy folks are buying houses again, and you should at least consider joining them. As we commemorate the holiday that marks the "birth" of this country and celebrates the founding ideals that make this country so great, we wanted to take some time to consider whether the American dream of homeownership, despite all its current struggles, is still alive and well. As foreclosure rates soar, is ineffective housing counseling to blame? It depends on whom you ask. Some experts--and even some studies--say that counseling helps new homeowners clarify a complex process. Others complain that counseling results are not measured and quality varies among agencies. When you choose a new home, you look at its price, its lovely kitchen, its three-car garage and new carpet--but security should be a consideration as well. Here's how to check out a new home (or your current dwelling!) for security soft spots and how to fix them. On-time rent payments can now be reported to your credit history. Here's how renters can get a boost on their credit score to qualify for a mortgage.
Always aware that consumers always not be reluctant money they will have according to the British Retail Consortium.
His annual payments survey for 2010, which proposes measured about 8 billion transactions in UK stores and online, people think harder about the ways the for what figures to buy.
The figures show credit cards are with turn into cash customers is increasingly at home left and instead debit cards to better manage of their finances.
The share of transactions with credit cards fell by 12.9% last year, while the proportion with debit cards of 15.8% increased.
Although cash at a smaller share of transactions than a year ago was involved in, it was used expenditure for part of the entire retail sector.
The average amount spent in each cash transaction increased by 13% to £ 12.93.
More than half (55%) of all transactions in the year 2010, cash only about one-third (34%) involved a total debit cards, and only one in ten (10%) were paid using a credit card.
Also, the fastest way to pay, with an average of 27.2 seconds compared to an average of 39.4 seconds for card payments took cash.
"Difficulties customers are switching to cash and debit cards for the certainty that they can spend, what they did not, come yet" said British Retail Consortium Director General Stephen Robertson.
"At the same time, use of credit cards greatly dropped."
"Cash King - is used for more than half of all retail payments."
Find the best rates credit card - Compare credit cards
Yorkshire Bank has a new long-term fixed rate ISA, investors like to bind their money at a high rate of interest should appeal.
Cash ISA - fixed rate bond Issue11 charged 4.50% per year on a minimum investment of £ 2 K.
Previous closure and transfers from are subject to a penalty (minimum £ 30): 1-91 days to maturity, 45 days loss of interest; 92-181 Days to maturity, 90-days loss of interest; 182-273 Days to maturity, 135 day loss of interest; and more than 273 days to maturity, 180 days loss of interest.
Transfers in are allowed, however no further additions are allowed.
The introduction of these ISA from Yorkshire Bank in the long term fixed interest 4.50% pay is conveniently located in towards the top of its industry. Search for customers, to previous financial years transferred this offers subscriptions also a very reasonable price.
The account is available also with Clydesdale Bank.
Four out of five money facts stars rated were awarded.Find the best savings account for you - Compare fixed rate cash of ISAs
Category: Credit cards
The market has exploded in recent years, and consumers can now up to 20 months in which to pay their balances at a height of 0% preserved.
With providers in the fight for a piece of the credit card business of balance increased credit cards with interest transfer free periods of 13 months or more to 162% in the last two years.
Two years ago there were 13 credit cards on the market, of a period of 0% balance transfer with the highest term, i.e. 16 months offered.
The number jumped to 22 June 2010, although the highest term of 16 months.
How many providers new 0% cards have started in the last 12 months, increased the number of currently available products to 34, with more and more offers brand 16 month available.
There are now three cards five cards in 18 months, three cards in 19 months, and a card 20 months 17 months, in.
The likes of Barclaycard, nationwide, MBNA Europe Bank, Virgin Money and Royal Bank of Scotlandhave all in life launched cards with provisions for 17 months at 0% in the last few months.
"Competition has returned to the credit card business in the last year", commented Michelle Slade, spokesperson for Moneyfacts.co.uk.
"Card providers are going head to head to lure customers from their competition."
"Only the minimum repayment would accumulate over 20 months customers with £ 3,000 on a card, £ 764 in interest expenses."
"By he could on a free interest deal, customers to reduce the money their debt set."
"Customers opt for a balance transfer card should issues, give up on the map as this the benefit of the free deal interest will limit."
"If customers need to be repaid more debt or want to not switch to keep, offer a small number of cards low rates for the life of the balance."
"The best is by MBNA Europe Bank, whose Rate disabled only 5.9% APR to the balance for life visa fees is."
"There is, while a higher number of deals on the market remain provider map risk, the negative and only customers with good credit files are likely to be accepted."
Find the best 0% balance card prices - Compare credit cards
* Product information and availability is correct at the time of publication (shown at the top of the article). Products can be displayed by their provider withdrawn or the be changed at any time.
The battle for savers money dropped the base interest rate to 0.5% in March 2009 has seen a steady increase in the number of available savings accounts.
At the end of may there were more than 2350 savings accounts on the market, with the majority at a rate well above the Bank of England base rate, which means, it should adjust a product at all costs.
While the best prices in the longer term fixed rate bonds, savers can get more competitive rates accounts and ISAs for easy access.
With figures from today result, who have absolutely no savings six million of us, as there is no better time take the leap to cars and build a safety net of the resources.
Here a selection of some of the best deals is currently available.
Best for easy access
If savers are willing their account online manage then offers nationwide building societies MySave online plus the highest rate in the market. The account pays 3.01pc, includes a 1. 51pc bonus for 12 months. The Bill can be between £ 1,000 and £ 3 million will be invested. No notice is required to make a withdrawal, but is more than one payment per year savings on the rate make the account fall to only 0 10pc.
Best cash ISA
This online access ISA AA pays a rate of 3. 35pc, including a bonus of 1. 65pc for the first 12 months. Savers can invest a minimum deposit of £ 500 and new money the institution will have to. No prior notice is required, access to the means, even though all withdrawals from a nominated account need to be made. Transfers in will not be accepted. As the name implies, the ISA is online only operated.
Best in the short term fixed
Search Saver, to bind their money for a year, a rate are offered by 3 50pc of Yorkshire building society. A monthly income option is available for those after a regular income. Between £ 1,000 and £ 2 million have been invested in the bond with more additions allowed, while the connection remains open. Once opened, earlier access is not permitted, so need savers to ensure that they do not need the money invested. The bond is available also through the Barnsley building society brand.
Perfect for longer term fixed
Is offering savers, a rate of 5 00pc that commit funding for five years. Savers can invest between £ 500 and £ 1 million in bonds, which has a monthly interest option for savers after a regular income. Before committing, funds must ensure depositors that they don't need the money, as access is not permitted during the five-year term.
If what you are looking for, then the best buy tables money facts not quite offer the selection is the place to go.
Present the best savings products on the market and have the impartial and lenses for the determination of Moneyfacts.co.uk been rated, so you are sure the quality of the account you choose.
Remarks by John O. Brennan, Assistant to the President for homeland security and counter-terrorism, to al-Qaeda Niedergang--prepared as on delivery
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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
As Prepared for Delivery—
Good afternoon. Thank you, Dean Einhorn, for your very warm welcome and for your decades of service—in government, global institutions and here at SAIS. And it’s a special pleasure to be introduced by John McLaughlin, a friend and colleague of many years and one of our nation’s great intelligence professionals.
It’s a pleasure to be here at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, an institution that has instilled in generations of public servants the pragmatic approach to problem-solving that is essential for the effective conduct of foreign policy. I especially want to thank the Merrill Center for Strategic Studies for its emphasis on national security and for joining with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to introduce students to our Intelligence Community and inspiring the next generation of intelligence professionals.
It’s wonderful to see so many friends and colleagues who I’ve had the privilege to work with over many years. You have devoted your lives to protecting our nation from many threats, including the one that brings me here today, and one that has claimed the lives of some of our friends and colleagues—that is the continued terrorist threat from al-Qa’ida.
Today, we are releasing President Obama’s National Strategy for Counterterrorism, which formalizes the approach that we’ve been pursuing and adapting for the past two and half years to prevent terrorist attacks and to ensure al-Qa’ida’s demise. I’m pleased that we are joined today by dedicated professionals from across the federal government who helped to shape our strategy and who work tirelessly every day to keep our country safe. Thank you for being here.
An unclassified summary of our strategy is being posted today to the White House website, WhiteHouse.gov. In the time I have with you, I’d like to put our strategy in context, outline its key goals and principals, and describe how we’re putting these principles into practice to protect the American people.
I want to begin with the larger strategic environment that shapes our counterterrorism efforts. This starts with the recognition that this counterterrorism strategy is only one part of President Obama’s larger National Security Strategy. This is very important. Our counterterrorism policies do not define our entire foreign policy; rather, they are a vital part of—and are designed to reinforce—our broader national security interests.
Since taking office, President Obama has worked to restore a positive vision of American leadership in the world—leadership defined, not by the threats and dangers that we will oppose, but by the security, opportunity and dignity that America advances in partnership with people around the world. This has enhanced our national security in many areas against many threats.
At the same time, many of the President’s broader foreign policy and national security initiatives also help to achieve our more focused counterterrorism goals. They do so by addressing the political, economic and social conditions that can sometimes fuel violent extremism and push certain individuals into the arms of al-Qa’ida.
For instance, when our diplomats promote the peaceful resolution of political disputes and grievances, when our trade and economic policies generate growth that lifts people out of poverty, when our development experts support good governance that addresses people’s basic needs, when we stand up for universal human rights—all of this can also help undermine violent extremists and terrorists like al-Qa’ida. Peaceful political, economic, and social progress undermines the claim that the only way to achieve change is through violence. It can be a powerful antidote to the disillusionment and sense of powerlessness that can make some individuals more susceptible to violent ideologies.
Our strategy recognizes that our counterterrorism efforts clearly benefit from—and at times depend on—broader foreign policy efforts, even as our CT strategy focuses more narrowly on preventing terrorist attacks against our interests, at home and abroad.
This, obviously, is also the first counterterrorism strategy to reflect the extraordinary political changes that are sweeping the Middle East and North Africa. It’s true that these changes may bring new challenges and uncertainty in the short-term, as we are seeing in Yemen. It also is true that terrorist organizations, and nations that support them, will seek to capitalize on the instability that change can sometimes bring. That is why we are working closely with allies and partners to make sure that these malevolent actors do not succeed in hijacking this moment of hope for their own violent ends.
But as President Obama has said, these dramatic changes also mark an historic moment of opportunity. So too for our counterterrorism efforts. For decades, terrorist organizations like al-Qa’ida have preached that the only way to affect change is through violence. Now, that claim has been thoroughly repudiated, and it has been repudiated by ordinary citizens, in Tunisia and Egypt and beyond, who are changing and challenging their governments through peaceful protest, even as they are sometimes met with horrific brutality, as in Libya and Syria. Moreover, these citizens have rejected the medieval ideology of al-Qa’ida that divides people by faith and gender, opting instead to work together—Muslims and Christians, men and women, secular and religious.
It is the most profound change in the modern history of the Arab world, and al-Qa’ida and its ilk have been left on the sidelines, watching history pass them by. Meanwhile, President Obama has placed the United States on the right side of history, pledging our support for the political and economic reforms and universal human rights that people in the region are demanding. This, too, has profound implications for our counterterrorism efforts.
Against this backdrop, our strategy is very precise about the threat we face and the goals we seek. Paul Nitze once observed that “one of the most dangerous forms of human error is forgetting what one is trying to achieve.” President Obama is adamant that we never forget who we’re fighting or what we’re trying to achieve.
Let me start by saying that our strategy is not designed to combat directly every single terrorist organization in every corner of the world, many of which have neither the intent nor the capability to ever attack the United States or our citizens.
Our strategy of course recognizes that there are numerous nations and groups that support terrorism in order to oppose U.S. interests. Iran and Syria remain leading state sponsors of terrorism. Hezbollah and HAMAS are terrorist organizations that threaten Israel and our interests in the Middle East. We will therefore continue to use the full range of our foreign policy tools to prevent these regimes and terrorist organizations from endangering our national security.
For example, President Obama has made it clear that the United States is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. And we will continue working closely with allies and partners, including sharing and acting upon intelligence, to prevent the flow of weapons and funds to Hezbollah and HAMAS and to prevent attacks against our allies, citizens or interests.
But the principal focus of this counterterrorism strategy—and the focus of our CT efforts since President Obama took office—is the network that poses the most direct and significant threat to the United States, and that is al-Qa’ida, its affiliates and its adherents. We use these terms deliberately.
It is al-Qa’ida, the core group founded by Usama bin Laden, that has murdered our citizens, from the bombings of our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania to the attack on the U.S.S. Cole to the attacks of September 11th, which also killed citizens of more than 90 other countries.
It is al-Qa’ida’s affiliates—groups that are part of its network or share its goals—that have also attempted to attack our homeland. It was al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), based in Yemen, that attempted to bring down that airliner over Detroit and which put explosives on cargo planes bound for the United States. It was the Pakistani Taliban that sent Faisal Shahzad on his failed attempt to blow up an SUV in Times Square.
And it is al-Qa’ida’s adherents¬—individuals, sometimes with little or no direct physical contact with al-Qa’ida, who have succumbed to its hateful ideology and who have engaged in, or facilitated, terrorist activities here in the United States. These misguided individuals are spurred on by the likes of al-Qaida’s Adam Gadahn and Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen, who speak English and preach violence in slick videos over the Internet. And we have seen the tragic results, with the murder of a military recruiter in Arkansas two years ago and the attack on our servicemen and women at Fort Hood.
This is the first counterterrorism strategy that focuses on the ability of al-Qa’ida and its network to inspire people in the United States to attack us from within. Indeed, this is the first counterterrorism strategy that designates the homeland as a primary area of emphasis in our counterterrorism efforts.
Our strategy is also shaped by a deeper understanding of al-Qa’ida’s goals, strategy, and tactics. I’m not talking about al-Qa’ida’s grandiose vision of global domination through a violent Islamic caliphate. That vision is absurd, and we are not going to organize our counterterrorism policies against a feckless delusion that is never going to happen. We are not going to elevate these thugs and their murderous aspirations into something larger than they are.
Rather, President Obama is determined that our foreign and national security policies not play into al-Qa’ida’s strategy or its warped ideology. Al-Qa’ida seeks to terrorize us into retreating from the world stage. But President Obama has made it a priority to renew American leadership in the world, strengthening our alliances and deepening partnerships. Al-Qa’ida seeks to portray America as an enemy of the world’s Muslims. But President Obama has made it clear that the United States is not, and never will be, at war with Islam.
Al-Qa’ida seeks to bleed us financially by drawing us into long, costly wars that also inflame anti-American sentiment. Under President Obama, we are working to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan responsibly, even as we keep unrelenting pressure on al-Qa’ida. Going forward, we will be mindful that if our nation is threatened, our best offense won’t always be deploying large armies abroad but delivering targeted, surgical pressure to the groups that threaten us.
Al-Qa’ida seeks to portray itself as a religious movement defending the rights of Muslims, but the United States will continue to expose al-Qa’ida as nothing more than murderers. They purport to be Islamic, but they are neither religious leaders nor scholars; indeed, there is nothing Islamic or holy about slaughtering innocent men, women, and children. They claim to protect Muslims, but the vast majority of al-Qa’ida’s victims are, in fact, innocent Muslim men, women, and children. It is no wonder that the overwhelmingly majority of the world’s Muslims have rejected al-Qa’ida and why its ranks of supporters continue to decline.
Just as our strategy is precise about who our enemy is, it is clear about our posture and our goal. This is a war—a broad, sustained, integrated and relentless campaign that harnesses every element of American power. And we seek nothing less than the utter destruction of this evil that calls itself al-Qa’ida.
To achieve this goal, we need to dismantle the core of al-Qa’ida—its leadership in the tribal regions of Pakistan—and prevent its ability to reestablish a safe haven in the Pakistan–Afghanistan region. In other words, we aim to render the heart of al-Qa’ida incapable of launching attacks against our homeland, our citizens, or our allies, as well as preventing the group from inspiring its affiliates and adherents to do so.
At the same time, ultimately defeating al-Qa’ida also means addressing the serious threat posed by its affiliates and adherents operating outside South Asia. This does not require a “global” war, but it does require a focus on specific regions, including what we might call the periphery—places like Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, and the Maghreb. This is another important distinction that characterizes this strategy. As the al-Qa’ida core has weakened under our unyielding pressure, it has looked increasingly to these other groups and individuals to take up its cause, including its goal of striking the United States.
To destroy al-Qa’ida, we are pursuing specific and focused counterterrorism objectives. For example:We are protecting our homeland by constantly reducing our vulnerabilities and adapting and updating our defenses.
We are taking the fight to wherever the cancer of al-Qa’ida manifests itself, degrading its capabilities and disrupting its operations.
We are degrading the ability of al-Qa’ida’s senior leadership to inspire, communicate with, and direct the operations of its adherents around the world.
We are denying al-Qa’ida any safe haven—the physical sanctuary that it needs to train, plot and launch attacks against us.
We are aggressively confronting al-Qa’ida’s ideology, which attempts to exploit local—and often legitimate—grievances in an attempt to justify violence.
We are depriving al-Qa’ida of its enabling means, including the illicit financing, logistical support, and online communications that sustain its network.
And we are working to prevent al-Qa’ida from acquiring or developing weapons of mass destruction, which is why President Obama is leading the global effort to secure the world’s vulnerable materials in four years.
In many respects, these specific counterterrorism goals are not new. In fact, they track closely with the goals of the previous administration. Yet this illustrates another important characteristic of our strategy. It neither represents a wholesale overhaul—nor a wholesale retention—of previous policies.
President Obama’s approach to counterterrorism is pragmatic, not ideological. It’s based on what works. It builds upon policies and practices that have been instituted and refined over the past decade, in partnership with Congress—a partnership we will continue. And it reflects an evolution in our understanding of the threat, in the capabilities of our government, the capacity of our partners, and the tools and technologies at our disposal.
What is new—and what I believe distinguishes this strategy—is the principles that are guiding our efforts to destroy al-Qa’ida.
First, we are using every lawful tool and authority available. No single agency or department has sole responsibility for this fight because no single department or agency possesses all the capabilities needed for this fight. This is—and must be—a whole-of-government effort, and it’s why the Obama Administration has strengthened the tools we need.
We’ve strengthened intelligence, expanding human intelligence and linguistic skills, and we’re constantly working to improve our capabilities and learn from our experiences. For example, following the attack at Fort Hood and the failed attack over Detroit, we’ve improved the analytic process, created new groups to track threat information, and enhanced cooperation among our intelligence agencies, including better information sharing so that all threats are acted upon quickly.
We’ve strengthened our military capabilities. We increased the size of our Special Forces, sped up the deployment of unique assets so that al-Qa’ida enjoys no safe haven, and ensured that our military and intelligence professionals are working more closely than ever before.
We’ve strengthened homeland security with a multi-layered defense, bolstering security at our borders, ports and airports; improving partnerships with state and local governments and allies and partners, including sharing more information; increasing the capacity of our first responders; and preparing for bioterrorism. In taking these steps, we are finally fulfilling key recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.
Learning the lessons of recent plots and attempted attacks, we’ve increased aviation security by strengthening watchlist procedures and sharing information in real-time; enhancing screening of cargo; and—for the first time—ensuring 100 percent screening of all passengers traveling in, to, and from the United States, which was another recommendation of the 9/11 Commission. And we are constantly assessing and improving our defenses, as we did in replacing the old color-coded threat system with a more targeted approach that provides detailed information about specific, credible threats and suggested protective measures.
In addition, we are using the full range of law enforcement tools as part of our effort to build an effective and durable legal framework for the war against al-Qa’ida. This includes our single most effective tool for prosecuting, convicting, and sentencing suspected terrorists—and a proven tool for gathering intelligence and preventing attacks—our Article III courts. It includes reformed military commissions, which at times offer unique advantages. And this framework includes the recently renewed PATRIOT Act. In short, we must have a legal framework that provides our extraordinary intelligence, counterterrorism, and law enforcement professionals with all the lawful tools they need to do their job and keep our country safe. We must not tie their hands.
For all these tools to work properly, departments and agencies across the federal government must work cooperatively. Today, our personnel are working more closely together than ever before, as we saw in the operation that killed Usama bin Laden. That success was not due to any one single person or single piece of information. It was the result of many people in many organizations working together over many years. And that is what we will continue to do.
Even as we use every tool in our government, we are guided by a second principle—the need for partnership with institutions and countries around the world, as we recognize that no one nation alone can bring about al-Qa’ida’s demise. Over the past decade, we have made enormous progress in building and strengthening an international architecture to confront the threat from al-Qa’ida. This includes greater cooperation with multilateral institutions such as the United Nations, our NATO allies, and regional organizations such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the African Union.
Over the past two and a half years, we have also increased our efforts to build the capacity of partners so they can take the fight to al-Qa’ida in their own countries. That is why a key element of the President’s strategy in Afghanistan is growing Afghan security forces. It’s why we’ll soon begin a transition so that Afghans can take responsibility for their own security. And it’s why we must continue our cooperation with Pakistan.
In recent weeks we’ve been reminded that our relationship with Pakistan is not without tension or frustration. We are now working with our Pakistani partners to overcome differences and continue our efforts against our common enemies. It is essential that we do so. As frustrating as this relationship can sometimes be, Pakistan has been critical to many of our most significant successes against al-Qa’ida. Tens of thousands of Pakistanis—military and civilian—have given their lives in the fight against militancy. And despite recent tensions, I am confident that Pakistan will remain one of our most important counterterrorism partners.
These kinds of security partnerships are absolutely vital. The critical intelligence that allowed us to discover the explosives that AQAP was shipping to the United States in those cargo planes was provided by our Saudi Arabian partners. Al-Qa’ida in Iraq has suffered major losses at the hands of Iraqi security forces, trained by the United States. Despite the ongoing instability, our counterterrorism cooperation with Yemen continues, and I would argue that the recent territorial gains made by militants linked to AQAP only makes our CT partnership with Yemen more important.
Around the world, we will deepen our security cooperation with partners wherever al-Qa’ida attempts to take root, be it Somalia, the Sahel or Southeast Asia. For while al-Qa’ida seeks to depict this fight as one between the world’s Muslims and the United States, it is actually the opposite—the international community, including Muslim-majority nations and Muslim communities, united against al-Qa’ida.
This leads to the third principle of our strategy—rather than pursuing a one-size fits-all approach, we recognize that different threats in different places demand different tools. So even as we use all the resources at our disposal against al-Qa’ida, we will apply the right tools in the right way and in the right place, with laser focus.
In some places, such as the tribal regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan, we will deliver precise and overwhelming force against al-Qa’ida. Whenever possible, our efforts around the world will be in close coordination with our partners. And, when necessary, as the President has said repeatedly, if we have information about the whereabouts of al-Qa’ida, we will do what is required to protect the United States—as we did with bin Laden.
In some places, as I’ve described, our efforts will focus on training foreign security services. In others, as with our Saudi Arabian and Gulf state partners, our focus will include shutting down al-Qa’ida’s financial pipelines. With longtime allies and partners, as in Europe, we’ll thwart attacks through close intelligence cooperation. Here in the United States—where the rule of law is paramount—it’s our federal, state, and local law enforcement and homeland security professionals who rightly take the lead. Around the world, including here at home, we will continue to show that the United States offers a vision of progress and justice, while al-Qa’ida offers nothing but death and destruction.
Related to our counterterrorism strategy, I would also note that keeping our nation secure also depends on strong partnerships between government and communities here at home, including Muslim and Arab Americans, some of whom join us today. These Americans have worked to protect their communities from al-Qa’ida’s violent ideology and they have helped to prevent terrorist attacks in our country. Later this summer, the Obama Administration will unveil its approach for partnering with communities to prevent violent extremism in the United States. And a key tenet of this approach is that when it comes to protecting our country, Muslim Americans are not part of the problem, they’re part of the solution.
This relates to our fourth principle—building a culture of resilience here at home. We are doing everything in our power to prevent another terrorist attack on our soil. At the same time, a responsible, effective counterterrorism strategy recognizes that no nation, no matter how powerful—including a free and open society of 300 million Americans—can prevent every single threat from every single individual who wishes to do us harm. It’s not enough to simply be prepared for attacks, we have to be resilient and recover quickly should an attack occur.
So, as a resilient nation, we are constantly improving our ability to withstand any attack—especially our critical infrastructure, including cyber—thereby denying al-Qa’ida the economic damage and disruption it seeks. As a resilient government, we’re strengthening the partnerships that help states and localities recover quickly. And as a resilient people, we must remember that every one of us can help deprive al-Qa’ida of the success it seeks. Al-Qa’ida wants to terrorize us, so we must not give in to fear. They want to change us, so we must stay true to who we are.
Which brings me to our final principle, in fact, the one that guides all the others—in all our actions, we will uphold the core values that define us as Americans. I have spent more than thirty years working on behalf of our nation’s security. I understand the truly breathtaking capabilities of our intelligence and counterterrorism communities. But I also know that the most powerful weapons of all—which we must never forsake—are the values and ideals that America represents to the world.
When we fail to abide by our values, we play right into the hands of al-Qa’ida, which falsely tries to portray us as a people of hypocrisy and decadence. Conversely, when we uphold these values it sends a message to the people around the world that it is America—not al-Qa’ida—that represents opportunity, dignity, and justice. In other words, living our values helps keep us safe.
So, as Americans, we stand for human rights. That is why, in his first days in office, President Obama made it clear that the United States of America does not torture, and it’s why he banned the use of enhanced interrogation techniques, which did not work. As Americans, we will uphold the rule of law at home, including the privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties of all Americans. And it’s because of our commitment to the rule of law and to our national security that we will never waver in our conviction that the United States will be more secure the day that the prison at Guantanamo Bay is ultimately closed.
Living our values—and communicating to the world what America represents—also directly undermines al-Qa’ida’s twisted ideology. When we remember that diversity of faith and background is not a weakness in America but a strength, and when we show that Muslim Americans are part of our American family, we expose al-Qa’ida’s lie that cultures must clash. When we remember that Islam is part of America, we show that America could never possibly be at war with Islam.
These are our principles, and this is the strategy that has enabled us to put al-Qa’ida under more pressure than at any time since 9/11. With allies and partners, we have thwarted attacks around the world. We have disrupted plots here at home, including the plan of Najibullah Zazi, trained by al-Qa’ida to bomb the New York subway.
We have affected al-Qa’ida’s ability to attract new recruits. We’ve made it harder for them to hide and transfer money, and pushed al-Qa’ida’s finances to its weakest point in years. Along with our partners, in Pakistan and Yemen, we’ve shown al-Qa’ida that it will enjoy no safe haven, and we have made it harder than ever for them to move, to communicate, to train, and to plot.
Al-Qa’ida’s leadership ranks have been decimated, with more key leaders eliminated in rapid succession than at any time since 9/11. For example, al-Qa’ida’s third-ranking leader, Sheik Saeed al-Masri—killed. Ilyas Kashmiri, one of al-Qa’ida's most dangerous commanders—reportedly killed. Operatives of AQAP in Yemen, including Ammar al-Wa’ili, Abu Ali al-Harithi, and Ali Saleh Farhan—all killed. Baitullah Mahsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban—killed. Harun Fazul, the leader of al-Qa’ida in East Africa and the mastermind of the bombings of our embassies in Africa—killed by Somali security forces.
All told, over the past two and half years, virtually every major al-Qa’ida affiliate has lost its key leader or operational commander, and more than half of al-Qa’ida’s top leadership has been eliminated. Yes, al-Qa’ida is adaptive and resilient and has sought to replace these leaders, but it has been forced to do so with less experienced individuals. That’s another reason why we and our partners have stepped up our efforts. Because if we hit al-Qa’ida hard enough and often enough, there will come a time when they simply can no longer replenish their ranks with the skilled leaders they need to sustain their operations. And that is the direction in which we’re headed today.
Now, with the death of Usama bin Laden, we have struck our biggest blow against al-Qa’ida yet. We have taken out al-Qa’ida’s founder, an operational commander who continued to direct his followers to attack the United States and, perhaps most significantly, al-Qa’ida’s symbolic figure who has inspired so many others to violence. In his place, the organization is left with Ayman al-Zawahiri, an aging doctor who lacks bin Laden’s charisma and perhaps the loyalty and respect of many in al-Qa’ida. Indeed, the fact that it took so many weeks for al-Qa’ida to settle on Zawahiri as its new leader suggests possible divisions and disarray at the highest levels.
Taken together, the progress I’ve described allows us—for the first time—to envision the demise of al-Qa’ida’s core leadership in the coming years. It will take time, but make no mistake, al-Qa’ida is in its decline. This is by no means meant to suggest that the serious threat from al-Qa’ida has passed; not at all. Zawahiri may attempt to demonstrate his leadership, and al-Qa’ida may try to show its relevance, through new attacks. Lone individuals may seek to avenge bin Laden’s death. More innocent people may tragically lose their lives.
Nor would the destruction of its leadership mean the destruction of the al-Qa’ida network. AQAP remains the most operationally active affiliate in the network and poses a direct threat to the United States. From the territory it controls in Somalia, Al-Shabaab continues to call for strikes against the United States. As a result, we cannot and we will not let down our guard. We will continue to pummel al-Qa’ida and its ilk, and we will remain vigilant at home.
Still, as we approach the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, as Americans seek to understand where we stand a decade later, we need look no further than that compound where bin Laden spent his final days. There he was, holed-up for years, behind high prison-like walls, isolated from the world. But even he understood the sorry state of his organization and its ideology.
Information seized from that compound reveals bin Laden’s concerns about al-Qa’ida’s long-term viability. He called for more large-scale attacks against America, but encountered resistance from his followers and he went for years without seeing any spectacular attacks. He saw his senior leaders being taken down, one by one, and worried about the ability to replace them effectively.
Perhaps most importantly, bin Laden clearly sensed that al-Qa’ida is losing the larger battle for hearts and minds. He knew that al-Qa’ida’s murder of so many innocent civilians, most of them Muslims, had deeply and perhaps permanently tarnished al-Qa’ida’s image in the world. He knew that he had failed to portray America as being at war with Islam. In fact, he worried that our recent focus on al-Qa’ida as our enemy had prevented more Muslims from rallying to his cause, so much so that he even considered changing al-Qa’ida’s name. We are left with that final image seen around the world—an old terrorist, alone, hunched over in a blanket, flipping through old videos of a man and a movement that history is leaving behind.
This fight is not over. But guided by the strategy we’re releasing today, we will never waver in our efforts to protect the American people. We will continue to be clear and precise about our enemy. We will continue to use every tool at our disposal, and apply them wisely. We will continue to forge strong partnerships around the world and build a culture of resilience here at home. And as Americans, we will continue to uphold the ideals and core values that inspire the world, define us as people and help keep us safe.
President Obama said it best last week—we have put al-Qa’ida on a path to defeat, and we will not relent until the job is done. Thank you all very much.
President Obama's National Strategy for Counterterrorism, which was presented June 29, 2011 by John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism in a speech at SAIS.
The President's speech on Afghanistan signals a reaffirmation of America's commitment to its veterans and military families.
The President nominates Gen. Dempsey to be the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Winnefeld to be Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Gen. Odierno as Army Chief of Staff.view all related blog posts
People avoid more and more money to their debit cards are, revealed the payments Council.
Money lost the top spot as the consumer's payment method of choice in 2010 for the first time.
By the end of last year spent more on £ 26 billion debit cards as in notes and coins, is equivalent to about £ 10001 for every household in the country.
The latest figures for the first quarter show on the gap, as people decide to expand further for plastic over notes and coins.
People shelled more than double the amount of spent on credit cards (17 billion pounds) in the first three months of the year - from £ 39 billion on the high street with debit cards.
And debit cards at the petrol pumps spending increased, since the cost of fuel for above spiral.
Motorists spent nearly 900 million pounds more fuel in the first three months of the year 2011, as from January to March 2010 - an increase of 18%.
By end of 2011 the expenditure for the year reach debit card £ 320 billion total.
But the use of physical money has levelled payments themselves, with an ATM - which account we spend a considerable amount of the cash learning plateau to £ 44 billion, by 0.3% over the same period last year.
We are also not our credit cards only 1.5% higher than in the same period last year, decline of real use, as he wanted in the January to March 2011 far behind the 10.1% increase in the debit card spending
Meanwhile check use fell dramatically as consumers and businesses trying faster to more convenient ways to pay. In the last three years, using little more than 30% has been check.
There is no let up in this trend partly contributed to the retailer declined, to accept it and partly to alternatives, such as electronic payments, food in the cheque share in areas like payments from person to person and person-to-business.
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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
11:40 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. Have a seat, please. I just want to say a few words about the economy before I take your questions.
There are a lot of folks out there who are still struggling with the effects of the recession. Many people are still looking for work or looking for a job that pays more. Families are wondering how they'd deal with a broken refrigerator or a busted transmission, or how they're going to finance their kids' college education, and they're also worrying about the possibility of layoffs.
The struggles of middle-class families were a big problem long before the recession hit in 2007. They weren’t created overnight, and the truth is our economic challenges are not going to be solved overnight. But there are more steps that we can take right now that would help businesses create jobs here in America.
Today, our administration is trying to take those steps, so we're reviewing government regulations so that we can fix any rules in place that are an unnecessary burden on businesses. We’re working with the private sector to get small businesses and start-ups the financing they need to grow and expand. And because of the partnership that we’ve launched with businesses and community colleges, 500,000 workers will be able to receive the right skills and training for manufacturing jobs in companies all across America -- jobs that companies are looking to fill.
In addition to the steps that my administration can take on our own, there are also things that Congress could do right now that will help create good jobs. Right now, Congress can send me a bill that would make it easier for entrepreneurs to patent a new product or idea –- because we can’t give innovators in other countries a big leg up when it comes to opening new businesses and creating new jobs. That's something Congress could do right now.
Right now, Congress could send me a bill that puts construction workers back on the job rebuilding roads and bridges –- not by having government fund and pick every project, but by providing loans to private companies and states and local governments on the basis of merit and not politics. That's pending in Congress right now.
Right now, Congress can advance a set of trade agreements that would allow American businesses to sell more of their goods and services to countries in Asia and South America -– agreements that would support tens of thousands of American jobs while helping those adversely affected by trade. That's pending before Congress right now.
And right now, we could give middle-class families the security of knowing that the tax cut I signed in December will be there for one more year.
So there are a number of steps that my administration is taking, but there are also a number of steps that Congress could be taking right now on items that historically have had bipartisan support and that would help put more Americans back to work.
Many of these ideas have been tied up in Congress for some time. But, as I said, all of them enjoy bipartisan support, and all of them would help grow the economy. So I urge Congress to act on these ideas now.
Of course, one of the most important and urgent things we can do for the economy is something that both parties are working on right now –- and that’s reducing our nation’s deficit. Over the last few weeks, the Vice President has been leading negotiations with Democrats and Republicans on this issue, and they’ve made some real progress in narrowing down the differences. As of last week, both parties had identified more than $1 trillion worth of spending cuts already.
But everyone also knows that we’ll need to do more to close the deficit. We can’t get to the $4 trillion in savings that we need by just cutting the 12 percent of the budget that pays for things like medical research and education funding and food inspectors and the weather service. And we can’t just do it by making seniors pay more for Medicare. So we’re going to need to look at the whole budget, as I said several months ago. And we’ve got to eliminate waste wherever we find it and make some tough decisions about worthy priorities.
And that means trimming the defense budget, while still meeting our security needs. It means we’ll have to tackle entitlements, as long as we keep faith with seniors and children with disabilities by maintaining the fundamental security that Medicare and Medicaid provide. And, yes, we’re going to have to tackle spending in the tax code.
There’s been a lot of discussion about revenues and raising taxes in recent weeks, so I want to be clear about what we’re proposing here. I spent the last two years cutting taxes for ordinary Americans, and I want to extend those middle-class tax cuts. The tax cuts I’m proposing we get rid of are tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires; tax breaks for oil companies and hedge fund managers and corporate jet owners.
It would be nice if we could keep every tax break there is, but we’ve got to make some tough choices here if we want to reduce our deficit. And if we choose to keep those tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, if we choose to keep a tax break for corporate jet owners, if we choose to keep tax breaks for oil and gas companies that are making hundreds of billions of dollars, then that means we’ve got to cut some kids off from getting a college scholarship. That means we’ve got to stop funding certain grants for medical research. That means that food safety may be compromised. That means that Medicare has to bear a greater part of the burden. Those are the choices we have to make.
So the bottom line is this: Any agreement to reduce our deficit is going to require tough decisions and balanced solutions. And before we ask our seniors to pay more for health care, before we cut our children’s education, before we sacrifice our commitment to the research and innovation that will help create more jobs in the economy, I think it’s only fair to ask an oil company or a corporate jet owner that has done so well to give up a tax break that no other business enjoys. I don’t think that’s real radical. I think the majority of Americans agree with that.
So the good news is, because of the work that’s been done, I this we can actually bridge our differences. I think there is a conceptual framework that would allow us to make huge progress on our debt and deficit, and do so in a way that does not hurt our economy right here and right now.
And it’s not often that Washington sees both parties agree on the scale and the urgency of the challenge at hand. Nobody wants to put the creditworthiness of the United States in jeopardy. Nobody wants to see the United States default. So we’ve got to seize this moment, and we have to seize it soon. The Vice President and I will continue these negotiations with both leaders of both parties in Congress for as long as it takes, and we will reach a deal that will require our government to live within its means and give our businesses confidence and get this economy moving.
So, with that, I will take your questions. I’ve got my list here. Starting off with Ben Feller, Associated Press.
Q Thank you very much, Mr. President. I’d like to follow up on the comments you just made as you try to reach a deal to raise the debt limit and cut the deficit. You keep saying that there needs to be this balanced approach of spending cuts and taxes. But Republicans say flatly, they won’t --
THE PRESIDENT: That they don’t want a balanced approach.
Q They don’t want any tax increases, as they put it. And the House Speaker says not only that he doesn’t support that, but that plan won’t -- will not pass the House. So my question is will you insist, ultimately, that a deal has to include those tax increases that you just laid out? Is that an absolute red line for you? And if it is, can you explain to us how that can possibly get through the Congress?
THE PRESIDENT: Look, I think that what we’ve seen in negotiations here in Washington is a lot of people say a lot of things to satisfy their base or to get on cable news, but that hopefully, leaders at a certain point rise to the occasion and they do the right thing for the American people. And that’s what I expect to happen this time. Call me naïve, but my expectation is that leaders are going to lead.
Now, I just want to be clear about what’s at stake here. The Republicans say they want to reduce the deficit. Every single observer who’s not an elected official, who’s not a politician, says we can’t reduce our deficit in the scale and scope that we need to without having a balanced approach that looks at everything.
Democrats have to accept some painful spending cuts that hurt some of our constituencies and we may not like. And we’ve shown a willingness to do that for the greater good. To say, look, there are some things that are good programs that are nice to have; we can’t afford them right now.
I, as Commander-in-Chief, have to have difficult conversations with the Pentagon saying, you know what, there’s fat here; we’re going to have to trim it out. And Bob Gates has already done a good job identifying $400 billion in cuts, but we’re going to do more. And I promise you the preference of the Pentagon would not to cut any more, because they feel like they’ve already given.
So we’re going to have to look at entitlements -- and that’s always difficult politically. But I’ve been willing to say we need to see where we can reduce the cost of health care spending and Medicare and Medicaid in the out-years, not by shifting costs on to seniors, as some have proposed, but rather by actually reducing those costs. But even if we’re doing it in a smart way, that's still tough politics. But it’s the right thing to do.
So the question is, if everybody else is willing to take on their sacred cows and do tough things in order to achieve the goal of real deficit reduction, then I think it would be hard for the Republicans to stand there and say that the tax break for corporate jets is sufficiently important that we’re not willing to come to the table and get a deal done. Or, we’re so concerned about protecting oil and gas subsidies for oil companies that are making money hand over fist -- that's the reason we’re not going to come to a deal.
I don't think that's a sustainable position. And the truth of the matter is, if you talk to Republicans who are not currently in office, like Alan Simpson who co-chaired my bipartisan commission, he doesn’t think that's a sustainable position. Pete Domenici, Republican, co-chaired something with Alice Rivlin, the Democrat, says that's -- he doesn’t think that's a sustainable position. You can’t reduce the deficit to the levels that it needs to be reduced without having some revenue in the mix.
And the revenue we’re talking about isn’t coming out of the pockets of middle-class families that are struggling. It’s coming out of folks who are doing extraordinarily well and are enjoying the lowest tax rates since before I was born.
If you are a wealthy CEO or a health -- hedge fund manager in America right now, your taxes are lower than they have ever been. They’re lower than they’ve been since the 1950s. And you can afford it. You’ll still be able to ride on your corporate jet; you’re just going to have to pay a little more.
And if we -- I just want to emphasize what I said earlier. If we do not have revenues, that means there are a bunch of kids out there who are not getting college scholarships. If we do not have those revenues, then the kinds of cuts that would be required might compromise the National Weather Service. It means that we would not be funding critical medical research. It means that food inspection might be compromised. And I’ve said to some of the Republican leaders, you go talk to your constituents, the Republican constituents, and ask them are they willing to compromise their kids’ safety so that some corporate jet owner continues to get a tax break. And I’m pretty sure what the answer would be.
So we’re going to keep on having these conversations. And my belief is, is that the Republican leadership in Congress will, hopefully sooner rather than later, come to the conclusion that they need to make the right decisions for the country; that everybody else has been willing to move off their maximalist position -- they need to do the same.
Q You think they'll ultimately give in?
THE PRESIDENT: My expectation is that they’ll do the responsible thing.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. There have been a lot of questions about the constitutionality -- constitutional interpretations of a few decisions you’ve made, so I’ll just simply ask: Do you believe the War Powers Act is constitutional? Do you believe that the debt limit is constitutional, the idea that Congress can do this? And do you believe that marriage is a civil right?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, that was a hodgepodge. (Laughter.) Chuck, we’re going to assign you to the Supreme Court, man. (Laughter.)
I’m not a Supreme Court justice so I’m not going to -- putting my constitutional law professor hat on here. Let me focus on, initially, the issue of Libya. I want to talk about the substance of Libya because there’s been all kinds of noise about process and congressional consultation and so forth. Let’s talk about concretely what’s happened.
Muammar Qaddafi, who, prior to Osama bin Laden, was responsible for more American deaths than just about anybody on the planet, was threatening to massacre his people. And as part of an international coalition, under a U.N. mandate that is almost unprecedented, we went in and took out air defense systems so that an international coalition could provide a no-fly zone, could protect -- provide humanitarian protection to the people on the ground.
I spoke to the American people about what we would do. I said there would be no troops on the ground. I said that we would not be carrying the lion’s share of this operation, but as members of NATO, we would be supportive of it because it’s in our national security interest and also because it’s the right thing to do.
We have done exactly what I said we would do. We have not put any boots on the ground. And our allies -- who, historically, we’ve complained aren’t willing to carry enough of the load when it comes to NATO operations -- have carried a big load when it comes to these NATO operations. And as a consequence, we’ve protected thousands of people in Libya; we have not seen a single U.S. casualty; there’s no risks of additional escalation. This operation is limited in time and in scope.
So I said to the American people, here’s our narrow mission. We have carried out that narrow mission in exemplary fashion. And throughout this process we consulted with Congress. We’ve had 10 hearings on it. We’ve sent reams of information about what the operations are. I’ve had all the members of Congress over to talk about it. So a lot of this fuss is politics.
And if you look substantively at what we’ve done, we have done exactly what we said to do, under a U.N. mandate, and we have protected thousands of lives in the process. And as a consequence, a guy who was a state sponsor of terrorist operations against the United States of America is pinned down and the noose is tightening around him.
Now, when you look at the history of the War Powers resolution, it came up after the Vietnam War in which we had half-a-million soldiers there, tens of thousands of lives lost, hundreds of billions of dollars spent -- and Congress said, you know what, we don’t want something like that happening again. So if you’re going to start getting us into those kinds of commitments you’ve got to consult with Congress beforehand.
And I think that such consultation is entirely appropriate. But do I think that our actions in any way violate the War Powers resolution? The answer is no. So I don’t even have to get to the constitutional question. There may be a time in which there was a serious question as to whether or not the War Powers resolution -- act was constitutional. I don’t have to get to the question.
We have engaged in a limited operation to help a lot of people against one of the worst tyrants in the world -- somebody who nobody should want to defend -- and we should be sending a unified message to this guy that he should step down and give his people a fair chance to live their lives without fear. And this suddenly becomes the cause célèbre for some folks in Congress? Come on.
So you had, what, a three-parter? (Laughter.) What are the other two?
Q There is some question about the constitutionality of the War Powers Act.
THE PRESIDENT: I’m just saying I don’t have to reach it. That’s a good legal answer.
THE PRESIDENT: Let me start by saying that this administration, under my direction, has consistently said we cannot discriminate as a country against people on the basis of sexual orientation. And we have done more in the two and a half years that I’ve been in here than the previous 43 Presidents to uphold that principle, whether it’s ending “don’t ask, don’t tell,” making sure that gay and lesbian partners can visit each other in hospitals, making sure that federal benefits can be provided to same-sex couples. Across the board -- hate crimes -- we have made sure that that is a central principle of this administration, because I think it’s a central principle of America.
Now, what we’ve also done is we’ve said that DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, is unconstitutional. And so we’ve said we cannot defend the federal government poking its nose into what states are doing and putting the thumb on the scale against same-sex couples.
What I’ve seen happen over the last several years, and what happened in New York last week I think was a good thing, because what you saw was the people of New York having a debate, talking through these issues. It was contentious; it was emotional; but, ultimately, they made a decision to recognize civil marriage. And I think that’s exactly how things should work.
And so I think it is -- I think it is important for us to work through these issues -- because each community is going to be different and each state is going to be different -- to work through them. In the meantime, we filed a -- we filed briefs before the Supreme Court that say we think that any discrimination against gays, lesbians, transgenders is subject to heightened scrutiny, and we don't think that DOMA is unconstitutional [sic]. And so I think the combination of what states are doing, what the courts are doing, the actions that we’re taking administratively, all are how the process should work.
Q Are you at all uncomfortable that there could be different rules in different states, you know, and for somebody to make the argument that's what we saw during segregation --
THE PRESIDENT: Chuck, I think what you’re seeing is a profound recognition on the part of the American people that gays and lesbians and transgender persons are our brothers, our sisters, our children, our cousins, our friends, our co-workers, and that they’ve got to be treated like every other American. And I think that principle will win out. It’s not going to be perfectly smooth, and it turns out that the President -- I’ve discovered since I’ve been in this office -- can’t dictate precisely how this process moves. But I think we’re moving in a direction of greater equality and I think that’s a good thing.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. I only have a two-parter. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thanks.
Q Are you concerned that the current debate over debt and deficits is preventing you from taking the kind of decisive and more balanced action needed to create jobs in this country, which is the number one concern for Americans?
And also, one of the impediments to job growth that the business community repeatedly cites is the regulatory environment. So do you think that the NLRB complaint against Boeing, that this has created some of the -- is an example of the kinds of regulations that chill job growth, and also that you yourself have called “just plain dumb”?
THE PRESIDENT: I think it’s important to understand that deficit reduction, debt reduction, should be part of an overall package for job growth over the long term. It’s not the only part of it, but it’s an important part of it.
So as I mentioned at the top, I think it’s important for us to look at rebuilding our transportation infrastructure in this country. That could put people back to work right now -- construction workers back to work right now. And it would get done work that America needs to get done. We used to have the best roads, the best bridges, the best airports. We don’t anymore. And that’s not good for our long-term competitiveness.
So we could put people to work right now and make sure that we’re in a good position to win the future, as well. I think --
Q -- spending and (inaudible.)
THE PRESIDENT: I’m going to get to it. I think that it’s important for us to look at the tax code and figure out, are there ways that we can simplify it and also build on the work that we’ve already done, for example, saying to small businesses or start-up businesses, you don't have to pay capital gains when you’re in start-up mode, because we want you to get out there and start a business. That's important. Making sure that SBA is helping to get financing to small businesses, that's important.
So there are a whole range of things that we can be doing. I think these trade deals will be important -- because right now South Korea, frankly, has a better deal when it comes to our trading relationship than we do. Part of the reason I want to pass this trade deal is you see a whole bunch of Korean cars here in the United States and you don't see any American cars in Korea. So let’s rebalance that trading relationship. That's why we should get this passed.
So there are a range of things that we could be doing right now. Deficit and debt reduction should be seen as part of that overall process, because I think if businesses feel confident that we’ve got our act together here in Washington, that not only is the government not going to default but we’re also preparing for a future in which the population is getting older and we’re going to have more expenses on the Medicare side and Social Security, that businesses will feel more confident about investing here in the United States of America.
So I don't think they’re contradictory. And as I’ve said before, certainly in my job, but I think Congress, as well, they’ve got to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. So we can focus on jobs at the same time as we’re focusing on debt and deficit reduction.
Now, one of the things that my administration has talked about is, is there, in fact, a bunch of -- a tangle of regulations out there that are preventing businesses from growing and expanding as quickly as they should. Keep in mind that the business community is always complaining about regulations. When unemployment is at 3 percent and they're making record profits, they're going to still complain about regulations because, frankly, they want to be able to do whatever they think is going to maximize their profits.
I’ve got an obligation to make sure that we’re upholding smart regulations that protect our air and protect our water and protect our food. If you’re flying on a plane, you want to make sure that there are some regulations in place to assure safety in air travel, right? So there are some core regulations that we’ve got to maintain.
But what I have done -- and this is unprecedented, by the way, no administration has done this before -- is I’ve said to each agency, don't just look at current regulations -- or don't just look at future regulations, regulations that we’re proposing, let’s go backwards and look at regulations that are already on the books, and if they don't make sense, let’s get rid of them. And we are in the process of doing that, and we’ve already identified changes that could potentially save billions of dollars for companies over the next several years.
Now, you asked specifically about one decision that was made by the National Labor Relations Board, the NLRB, and this relates to Boeing. Essentially, the NLRB made a finding that Boeing had not followed the law in making a decision to move a plant. And it’s an independent agency. It’s going before a judge. So I don't want to get into the details of the case. I don't know all the facts. That's going to be up to a judge to decide.
What I do know is this -- that as a general proposition, companies need to have the freedom to relocate. They have to follow the law, but that’s part of our system. And if they’re choosing to relocate here in the United States, that’s a good thing. And what it doesn’t make -- what I think defies common sense would be a notion that we would be shutting down a plant or laying off workers because labor and management can’t come to a sensible agreement.
So my hope is, is that even as this thing is working its way through, everybody steps back for a second and says, look, if jobs are being created here in the United States, let’s make sure that we’re encouraging that. And we can’t afford to have labor and management fighting all the time, at a time when we’re competing against Germany and China and other countries that want to sell goods all around the world. And obviously, the airplane industry is an area where we still have a huge advantage, and I want to make sure that we keep it.
Q Thank you very much, Mr. President. Yesterday, Admiral McRaven testified before Congress that he was concerned that there wasn’t a clear procedure to be followed if a terrorist were captured alive abroad. The administration has also been clear that it doesn’t want to continue to send suspected terrorists to Guantanamo.
What message do you have for American men and women in uniform who are undertaking missions, like the very risky one to capture and kill bin Laden, about what they should do in the event that they capture someone alive? And does the lack of these clear procedures raise the risk that forces might be more inclined to kill suspected terrorists in the field, rather than capture them alive, thus depriving the U.S. of the intelligence that they could provide?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, my top priority in each and every one of these situations is to make sure that we’re apprehending those who would attack the United States; that we are getting all the intelligence that we can out of these individuals, in a way that’s consistent with due process of law; and that we try them, we prosecute them, in a way that’s consistent with rule of law.
And, frankly, there are going to be different dispositions of the case depending on the situation. And there are going to be sometimes where a military commission may be appropriate. There are going to be some times where Article III courts are appropriate in terms of prosecution. And we do have a process to work through all the agencies -- Department of Defense, Department of Justice, FBI, anybody else who might be involved in these kinds of operations -- to think through on a case-by-case basis how a particular individual should be dealt with.
And I think that when it comes to our men and women in uniform who might be carrying out these missions, the instructions are not going to be based on whether or not the lawyers can sort out how we detain them or how we prosecute them. Their mission is to make sure that they apprehend the individual; they do so safely with minimum risk to American lives. And that’s always going to be the priority, is just carrying out the mission. And that message is sent consistently to our men and women in uniform anytime they start carrying out one of these missions.
But I think it’s important to understand, and the American people need to be assured that anytime we initiate a mission like this, our top priorities are making sure this person is not able to carry out attacks against the United States and that we’re able to obtain actionable intelligence from those individuals. And so that mitigates against this danger that you’re suggesting that our main goal is going to be to kill these individuals as opposed to potentially capturing them. Okay?
Mike Emanuel, FOX.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Last week when you gave your Afghanistan drawdown speech, the word “victory,” in terms of the overall war in Afghanistan, was not in your speech. So I’m wondering, sir, if you can define for the 100,000 troops you have in harm’s way in Afghanistan “victory” in the war, and for their families, as well, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I didn't use “victory” in my West Point speech, either. What I said was we can be successful in our mission, which is narrowly drawn, and that is to make sure that al Qaeda cannot attack the United States of America or our allies or our interests overseas, and to make sure that we have an Afghan government that -- and an Afghan people that can provide for their own security.
We are being successful in those missions. And the reason that we’re in a position to draw down 10,000 troops this year and a total of 33,000 troops by the end of next summer is precisely because of the extraordinary work of our men and women in uniform. What they’ve been able to do is to severely cripple al Qaeda’s capacities.
Obviously bin Laden got the most attention, but even before the bin Laden operation we had decimated the middle ranks and some of the upper ranks of al Qaeda. They’re having a great deal of difficulty operating, a great deal of difficulty communicating and financing themselves, and we are going to keep the pressure on. And in part that's because of the extraordinary sacrifices that have been made by our men and women in uniform in Afghanistan.
What we’ve also been able to do is to ramp up the training of Afghan forces. So we’ve got an additional 100,000 Afghan troops, both Army and police, that have been trained as a consequence of this surge. And that is going to give the Afghans more capacity to defend themselves because it is in our national interest to make sure that you did not have a collapse of Afghanistan in which extremist elements could flood the zone once again, and over time al Qaeda might be in a position to rebuild itself.
So what I laid out was a plan in which we are going to be drawing down our troops from Afghanistan after 10 very long years and an enormous sacrifice by our troops. But we will draw them in a -- draw them down in a responsible way that will allow Afghanistan to defend itself and will give us the operational capacity to continue to put pressure on al Qaeda until that network is entirely defeated.
Q -- the attack on the Intercontinental Hotel yesterday, sir? And does that concern you that Afghan forces may not be able to step up if these guys are able to attack a high-profile target in the nation’s capital?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, keep in mind the drawdown hasn’t begun. So we understood that Afghanistan is a dangerous place, that the Taliban is still active, and that there are still going to be events like this on occasion. The question is, in terms of overall trend, is Afghanistan capacity increasing.
Kabul, for example, which contains a huge proportion of the Afghan population as a whole, has been largely policed by Afghan forces for quite some time. And they’ve done a reasonably good job. Kabul is much safer than it was, and Afghan forces in Kabul are much more capable than they were.
That doesn’t mean that there are not going to be events like this potentially taking place, and that will probably go on for some time. Our work is not done. But as I said in my speech, the tide of war is receding. We have shifted to a transition phase. And much like we’ve seen in Iraq, where we've drawn down our troops, the remainder of our troops will be coming out by the end of this year, but Iraq has been able to maintain a democratic government and to tamp down violence there -- we think a similar approach makes sense in Afghanistan.
But even in Iraq, you still see the occasional attack. These are still countries that are digging themselves out of a lot of war, a lot of conflict. They’re dangerous places. And so they’re not going to be perfectly safe, even if we were there. But we can improve the chances for the Afghan people to defend themselves.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. You’re aware that Senators Kerry and McCain have a proposal on the Senate floor to give you the leeway to continue operations in Libya for a further year. You’ve just said that this, from the beginning, has been an operation limited in time and scope. Initially you said days, not weeks. Are you prepared, are the American people prepared for this operation, with American support, to continue for a further year? And is there any other definition of success than Qaddafi being removed from power?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, Jim, just a slight correction. What I told the American people was that the initial phase where Americans were in the lead would take days, perhaps weeks. And that’s exactly what happened, right? I mean, after -- around two weeks, a little less than two weeks, we had transitioned where NATO had taken full control of the operation. So promise made, promise kept.
Second, I think when you have the former Republican nominee for President, John McCain, and the former nominee for President on the Democratic side, John Kerry, coming together to support what we’re doing in Libya, that should tell the American people that this is important. And I very much appreciate their efforts in that regard.
Third, when it comes to our definitions of success, the U.N. mandate has said that we are there to make sure that you do not see a massacre directed against Libyan civilians by the Libyan regime. The Libyan regime’s capacity has been greatly reduced as a consequence of our operation. That’s already been successful. What we’ve seen both in the East and in the West is that opposition forces have been able to mobilize themselves and start getting organized, and people are starting to see the possibility of a more peaceful future on the horizon.
What is also true is, as long as Qaddafi is still presenting himself as the head of the Libyan government, and as long as he still controls large numbers of troops, the Libyan people are going to be in danger of counter-offensives and of retribution. So there is no doubt that Qaddafi stepping down from power is -- from the international community’s perspective -- going to be the primary way that we can assure that the overall mission of Libya’s people being protected is accomplished.
And I just want to point out -- I know it's something you know -- the International Criminal Court identified Qaddafi as having violated international law, having committed war crimes. What we’ve seen is reports of troops engaging in horrible acts, including potentially using rape as a weapon of war. And so when you have somebody like that in charge of large numbers of troops, I think it would be hard for us to feel confident that the Libyan people are going to be protected unless he steps down.
Now, what that means, whether there’s the possibility of Libyans arriving at some sort of political settlement, that I think is something that ultimately the Libyan people are going to have to make a decision about -- because the international community is there in service of that broader goal, of a peaceful Libya.
Q Would you accept a political settlement with him involved as success from the American perspective?
THE PRESIDENT: I would accept him stepping down so that he is not directing armed forces against the Libyan people. He needs to step down. He needs to go.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. In these debt talks, would you accept -- would you like to see some sort of tax breaks aimed at stimulating the economy, even though that would of course add to the deficit itself?
And I’d also like to follow up on one of your earlier answers about same-sex marriage. You said that it’s a positive step that so many states, including New York, are moving towards that. Does that mean that you personally now do support same-sex marriage, putting aside what individual states decide? Is that your personal view?
THE PRESIDENT: I’m not going to make news on that today. (Laughter.) Good try, though.
And with respect to the deficit and debt talks and where we need to go, I do think it’s important, since we’re looking at how do we reduce the debt and deficit both in a 10-year window as well as beyond a 10-year window, to understand that one of the most important things we can do for debt and deficit reduction is to grow the economy.
And so if there are steps that in the short term may reduce the amount of cash in the treasury but in the long term mean that we’re growing at 3.5 percent instead of 2.5 percent, then those ideas are worth exploring.
Obviously that was what we did in December during the lame duck session, when Democrats and Republicans came together and we said, you know what, a payroll tax cut makes sense in order to boost the economy; unemployment insurance makes sense in order to boost the economy. All that stuff puts money in people’s pockets at a time when they’re still struggling to dig themselves out of this recession. And so the American people have an extra thousand dollars, on average, in their pockets because of the tax cuts that we initiated. And that has helped cushion some of the tough stuff that happened in the first six months of this year, including the effects on oil prices as a consequence of what happened in the Middle East as well as what happened in Japan.
I think that it makes perfect sense for us to take a look at can we extend the payroll tax, for example, an additional year, and other tax breaks for business investment that could make a big difference in terms of creating more jobs right now.
What we need to do is to restore business confidence and the confidence of the American people that we’re on track -- that we’re not going to get there right away, that this is a tough slog, but that we still are moving forward. And I think that it makes sense, as we’re looking at an overall package, to see, are there some things that we can do to sustain the recovery, so long as the overall package achieves our goals -- the goals that I set out, which is $4 trillion within a 10-to 12-year window, and making sure that we’re bending the costs of things like health care over the long term.
Q I'm sorry, I know you don’t want to say anything further on the same-sex marriage issue, but what you said before really led me to believe that that’s what is in your personal mind. And I’m wondering what's the distinction you’re drawing.
THE PRESIDENT: Laura, I think this has been asked and answered. I'll keep on giving you the same answer until I give you a different one, all right? And that won’t be today. (Laughter.)
Q That's going to be -- (inaudible.)
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, exactly. I thought you’d like that one. (Laughter.)
Antonieta Cádiz? There you are.
Q Thank you very much, Mr. President. First, if you receive a mandatory E-verify bill only without legalization, are you planning to veto that deal?
And second, on Fast and Furious, members of Congress and the government of Mexico are still waiting for answers. Are you planning to replace ATF leadership? And when can we expect the results of the current investigation?
THE PRESIDENT: On the second question, as you know, my attorney general has made clear that he certainly would not have ordered gun running to be able to pass through into Mexico. The investigation is still pending. I’m not going to comment on a current investigation. I’ve made very clear my views that that would not be an appropriate step by the ATF, and we got to find out how that happened. As soon as the investigation is completed, I think appropriate actions will be taken.
With respect to E-verify, we need comprehensive immigration reform. I’ve said it before. I will say it again. I will say it next week. And I’ll say it six months from now. We’ve got to have a system that makes sure that we uphold our tradition as a nation of laws and that we also uphold our tradition as a nation of immigrants. And that means tough border security, going after employers that are illegally hiring and exploiting workers, making sure that we also have a pathway for legal status for those who are living in the shadows right now.
We may not be able to get everything that I would like to see in a package, but we have to have a balanced package. E-verify can be an important enforcement tool if it’s not riddled with errors, if U.S. citizens are protected -- because what I don't want is a situation in which employers are forced to set up a system that they can’t be certain works. And we don't want to expose employers to the risk where they end up rejecting a qualified candidate for a job because the list says that that person is an illegal immigrant, and it turns out that the person isn’t an illegal immigrant. That wouldn’t be fair for the employee and would probably get the employer in trouble as well.
So I think the goal right now is to let’s continue to see if we can perfect the E-verify system. Let’s make sure that we have safeguards in place to prevent the kind of scenarios that I talked about. But let’s also not lose sight of some of the other components to immigration reform. For example, making sure that DREAM Act kids -- kids who have grown up here in the United States, think of themselves as Americans, who are not legal through no fault of their own, and who are ready to invest and give back to our country and go to school and fight in our military and start businesses here -- let’s make sure that those kids can stay.
We need to have a more balanced approach than just a verification system.
THE PRESIDENT: I don’t have an answer as to whether the investigation is completed yet, and it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to comment on the investigation if I don’t -- if it’s not yet completed.
Jessica Yellin. Congratulations, your first question here.
Q Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: No pressure. You’re going to do great. (Laughter.)
Q Thank you. Your administration has laid out four different dates by which you’ve said that the debt ceiling must be raised or the U.S. would face potential dire consequences. Three of those dates have come and gone and we haven’t faced financial calamity. Some of your critics have argued that these are then scare tactics to force a deal. So why should the American people believe that the August 2nd deadline is the final deadline by which a deal must be raised? And would you also spell out for us what you believe will happen if the debt ceiling is not raised by that date?
THE PRESIDENT: Jessica, let’s be clear. We haven’t given out four different dates. We have given out dates that are markers for us getting into trouble. It’s the equivalent of you’re driving down the street and the yellow light starts flashing. The yellow light is flashing. Now, it hasn’t been a red light yet. So what Tim Geithner has said is, technically speaking, we’re in a position now where we’re having to do a whole bunch of things to make sure that our bills are paid.
By August 2nd, we run out of tools to make sure that all our bills are paid. So that is a hard deadline. And I want everybody to understand that this is a jobs issue. This is not an abstraction. If the United States government, for the first time, cannot pay its bills, if it defaults, then the consequences for the U.S. economy will be significant and unpredictable. And that is not a good thing.
We don’t know how capital markets will react. But if capital markets suddenly decide, you know what, the U.S. government doesn’t pay its bills, so we’re going to start pulling our money out, and the U.S. Treasury has to start to raise interest rates in order to attract more money to pay off our bills, that means higher interest rates for businesses; that means higher interest rates for consumers. So all the headwinds that we’re already experiencing in terms of the recovery will get worse.
That’s not my opinion. I think that’s a consensus opinion. And that means that job growth will be further stymied, it will be further hampered, as a consequence of that decision. So that’s point number one.
Point number two, I want to address what I’ve been hearing from some quarters, which is, well, maybe this debt limit thing is not really that serious; we can just pay interest on the debt. This idea has been floating around in some Republican circles.
This is the equivalent of me saying, you know what, I will choose to pay my mortgage, but I’m not going to pay my car note. Or I’m going to pay my car note but I’m not going to pay my student loan. Now, a lot of people in really tough situations are having to make those tough decisions. But for the U.S. government to start picking and choosing like that is not going to inspire a lot of confidence.
Moreover, which bills are we going to decide to pay? These guys have said, well, maybe we just pay the interest on -- for bondholders. So are we really going to start paying interest to Chinese who hold treasuries and we’re not going to pay folks their Social Security checks? Or we’re not going to pay to veterans for their disability checks? I mean, which bills, which obligations, are we going to say we don’t have to pay?
And last point I want to make about this. These are bills that Congress ran up. The money has been spent. The obligations have been made. So this isn’t a situation -- I think the American people have to understand this -- this is not a situation where Congress is going to say, okay, we won’t -- we won’t buy this car or we won’t take this vacation. They took the vacation. They bought the car. And now they’re saying maybe we don’t have to pay, or we don’t have to pay as fast as we said we were going to, or -- that’s not how responsible families act. And we’re the greatest nation on Earth, and we can’t act that way.
So this is urgent and it needs to get settled.
Q So is August 2nd a yellow light or a red light?
THE PRESIDENT: I think people should think of -- look, I’m the President of the United States and I want to make sure that I am not engaging in scare tactics. And I’ve tried to be responsible and somewhat restrained so that folks don’t get spooked.
August 2nd is a very important date. And there’s no reason why we can’t get this done now. We know what the options are out there. This is not a technical problem any longer. This is a matter of Congress going ahead and biting the bullet and making some tough decisions. Because we know what the decisions are. We've identified what spending cuts are possible. We've identified what defense cuts are possible. We've identified what health care cuts are possible. We've identified what loopholes in the tax code can be closed that would also raise revenue. We’ve identified what the options are. And the question now is are we going to step up and get this done.
And, you know, Malia and Sasha generally finish their homework a day ahead of time. Malia is 13, Sasha is 10.
THE PRESIDENT: It is impressive. They don’t wait until the night before. They’re not pulling all-nighters. (Laughter.) They’re 13 and 10. Congress can do the same thing. If you know you’ve got to do something, just do it.
And I’ve got to say, I’m very amused when I start hearing comments about, well, the President needs to show more leadership on this. Let me tell you something. Right after we finished dealing with the government shutdown, averting a government shutdown, I called the leaders here together. I said we’ve got to get done -- get this done. I put Vice President Biden in charge of a process -- that, by the way, has made real progress -- but these guys have met, worked through all of these issues. I met with every single caucus for an hour to an hour and a half each -- Republican senators, Democratic senators; Republican House, Democratic House. I’ve met with the leaders multiple times. At a certain point, they need to do their job.
And so, this thing, which is just not on the level, where we have meetings and discussions, and we’re working through process, and when they decide they’re not happy with the fact that at some point you’ve got to make a choice, they just all step back and say, well, you know, the President needs to get this done -- they need to do their job.
Now is the time to go ahead and make the tough choices. That’s why they’re called leaders. And I’ve already shown that I’m willing to make some decisions that are very tough and will give my base of voters further reason to give me a hard time. But it’s got to be done.
And so there’s no point in procrastinating. There’s no point in putting it off. We’ve got to get this done. And if by the end of this week, we have not seen substantial progress, then I think members of Congress need to understand we are going to start having to cancel things and stay here until we get it done.
They're in one week, they're out one week. And then they're saying, Obama has got to step in. You need to be here. I’ve been here. I’ve been doing Afghanistan and bin Laden and the Greek crisis. You stay here. Let’s get it done.
All right. I think you know my feelings about that. (Laughter.)
Q Thank you, Mr. President. You talked about the payroll tax holiday and possibly extending that. Are you worried, though, that by adding a discussion of short-term measures on the economy into these discussions about long-term deficit reductions that that may complicate the conversation and make it harder to pass a debt limit?
THE PRESIDENT: I will -- let me put it this way. If we’ve got a good deal on debt and deficit reduction that focuses not just on the 10-year window but also the long term, we will get it done. And then we can argue about some other things -- because I think that's very important.
I will say that precisely because tough votes in Congress are often avoided, that it may make sense to also deal with something like a payroll tax cut at the same time -- because it does have budget implications and the American people need to know that we’re focused on jobs and not just on deficit reduction, even though, as I said, deficit reduction helps to serve the job agenda. I think they want to have some confidence that we’ve got a plan that’s helping right now.
But I don’t think it should be a complicating factor -- because if Mitch McConnell and John Boehner came to me and said, all right, we’re ready to make a deal, here’s a balanced approach to debt and deficit reduction, but we want to argue about payroll tax cuts later, they’re not set to expire until the end of this year -- if that was a situation that they presented, then I think we would have a serious conversation about that. I would not discount that completely.
I do think that the steps that I talked about to deal with job growth and economic growth right now are vitally important to deficit reduction. Just as deficit reduction is important to grow the economy and to create jobs -- well, creating jobs and growing the economy also helps reduce the deficit. If we just increased the growth rate by one percentage point, that would drastically bring down the long-term projections of the deficit, because people are paying more into the coffers and fewer people are drawing unemployment insurance. It makes a huge difference.
And this may be sort of a good place to wrap up. You know, every day I get letters from folks all around the country who show incredible resilience, incredible determination, but they are having a very, very tough time. They’re losing their homes. Some have lost their businesses. Some have lost work and have not been able to find jobs for months, maybe a year, maybe a year and a half. And they feel some desperation. And some folks who are working just are having a tough time paying the bills because they haven’t seen their wages or incomes go up in 10 years, and the costs of everything else have gone up.
And every day that weighs on me. Every minute of every day that weighs on me. Because I ran for President precisely to make sure that we righted this ship and we start once again creating a situation where middle-class families and people who aspire to be in the middle class, if they’re working hard, then they’re living a better life.
Now, these structural changes in our economy that have been going on for a decade -- in some cases, longer -- they’re not going to be solved overnight. But we know what to do. We know that if we are educating our kids well, then they’re going to be more competitive. We know that if we are investing in things like infrastructure, it pays off.
I was in Alcoa, in Iowa, one of our most successful companies. They took a big hit during the recession, but they still invested $90 million in new equipment in a plant that makes airplane wings and parts for automobiles. And they’ve bounced back. They’ve hired back all their people and are increasing market share because they made those investments.
Well, just like a company like Alcoa, America has got to make some investments. We know that we’ve got to get control of our deficit. There are some things that aren’t going to solve all our problems but can make progress right now. And the question is whether or not Democrats and Republicans are willing to put aside the expedience of short-term politics in order to get it done.
And these folks are counting on us. They desperately want to believe that their leadership is thinking about them and not playing games. And I think that if all the leadership here in Washington has the faces and the stories of those families in mind, then we will solve this debt limit issue; we will put in place steps like a payroll tax cut and infrastructure development; we’ll continue to fund education; we’ll hold true to our commitment to our seniors.
These are solvable problems, but it does require us just getting out of the short-term and, frankly, selfish approach that sometimes politics breeds. We’ve got to think a bit long term.
Thank you very much, everybody.
END 12:47 P.M. EDT
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