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Hillary Clinton’s Woman Trouble

Hillary Clinton greets Aleatha Williams, who introduced Clinton at the NYC rally saying, "She kept her promise to me, a young girl from the Bronx. That's the type of person we need in the Oval office." © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Hillary Clinton greets Aleatha Williams, who introduced Clinton at the NYC rally saying, “She kept her promise to me, a young girl from the Bronx. That’s the type of person we need in the Oval office.” © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Barack Obama’s candidacy in 2008 got an extra dose of high-octane fuel by the history-making fact of becoming the first African-American president. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, seems more inclined to downplay her own history-making candidacy as the first woman to serve as President. Indeed, she’s gotten flack from younger women who are so liberated, they will vote against a woman just to show they can, asserting that they refuse to vote for a woman just because she is a woman (despite the fact that Hillary is the most skilled, experienced candidate who ever ran for the office). Running as a woman is a liability Hillary embraces at her peril, because her opponents will attempt to negate it as using the “gender card.”

Yet, at its core, her whole campaign is about the issues that are of concern to women, for as she says, she is running to break down the barriers that prevent every person from fulfilling their potential. The fact is women are part of each and every one of these marginalized groups.

And just as women’s reproductive rights are as much economic as they are about personal freedom, the long list of policies and agenda items Hillary is advocating for are as much women’s issues as they are matters of economic, social and political justice. But it takes a woman to prioritize them.

These issues include reproductive rights to be sure, but also universal health care, minimum wage, overtime pay, pay parity, paid family leave, access to quality, affordable child care and universal pre-K, student debt, protecting Social Security and Medicare, immigration reform and a path to legalization, gun violence prevention, clean air and water, climate change, clean energy. Add to this jobs creation and union rights, trade deals that protect American workers and the environment, investment in infrastructure, investment in Alzheimer’s research, medical research and innovation. Oh yes, and protecting voting rights, especially from Voter ID and other methods that disproportionately keep women from the polls.

As she said, at a Clinton Foundation “No Ceilings” event in 2015, “If we take bold steps to better the lives of women, we will be taking bold steps to better the lives of children and families too. Families rely on mothers and wives for emotional support and care. Families rely on women for labor in the home. And increasingly, everywhere, families rely on women for income needed to raise healthy children and care for other relatives.”

But 30 years of anti-Hillary propaganda have taken their toll, shaped an image and an argument. It is breathtaking that the question always posed to her – but not to the Republicans – has to do with “trust” and “honesty.” I am trying to figure out on what issue she has been less “trustworthy” or “honest”? Whitewater? Benghazi? Foster? A nurse in Florida told me that Hillary was responsible for 25 murders. I suggest that “dishonest” (or “shady”) is just a way around saying, “we can’t stand a woman who is competent and assertive” without admitting sexism.

Is she too cozy with Corporate America? In fact, that is the secret weapon to actually making progress. It is the strategy and the innovation that has been pursued since 2005 by the Clinton Global Initiative, which have forged partnerships among government entities, the private sector and NGOs that have funneled billions of dollars into 3400 constructive commitments that have benefited 430 million people around the globe. It’s a strategy that has been implemented by the Obama Administration in order to actually make social progress when Republicans just want to cancel programs aimed at uplifting people altogether.

But yes, the innovation that the Clintons have fashioned is to recruit as companies as allies, not enemies – getting Walmart, Coca Cola, The Hershey Corporation and others to invest in sustainable development, Goldman Sachs to create a new financing mechanism to save coral reefs, Proctor & Gamble to devise and distribute millions of packets that can purify water that saves millions of children from dying before the age of 5 from waterborne illnesses, and Monsanto Company to invest in revitalizing the honey bee population. CGI has fostered major cultural change within such massive multi-national organizations, and more than lip-service paid to social investing and economic sustainability. That’s not selling out, That’s converting the very entities that have the power to make real change.

Advancing rights and opportunities for women and girls has been a central focus of CGI and Hillary Clinton. There has been a recognition that if you improve education and family planning, create opportunities to be entrepreneurs or own businesses, you don’t just improve the lives of those women, you improve the lives of their children, their families, their villages and communities and their nations, with impacts far exceeding similar programs offered to men. That’s just fact.

When she was Senator, I recall Hillary Clinton sitting down with a woman’s panel that included the head of CARE, discussing how implementing micro-finance enabled a woman to borrow just $12 to buy a goat, so she could earn enough for school fees for her child.

“When more women enter the workforce, it spurs innovation, increases productivity, and grows economies,” Clinton said at CGI 2012. “Families then have more money to spend, businesses can expand their consumer base and increase their profits. In short, everyone benefits.”

She has brought on board the Buffet Foundation, the Gates Foundation, Nike Foundation, and a long, long list of powerhouses to address issues ranging from clean water and solar-powered lighting to training midwifes and creating the logistics to get vaccines to rural communities.

As Secretary of State, I recall Hillary Clinton’s commitment to CGI on behalf of the Obama Administration to sponsor millions of cooking stoves. Why was this so significant? Well it turns out that the method that women were using – burning carbon inside the house – was not only a leading cause of women dying, but also produced toxic, global-warming causing pollution.

In fact, First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let Girls Learn” campaign uses the same CGI techniques of engaging important corporate partners to achieve a significant goal, including Johnson & Johnson, Proctor & Gamble, JetBlue, Starwood Hotels.

It is stunning that Hillary is being held to account for policies from Bill Clinton’s presidency, when she was First Lady – DOMA, welfare reform, NAFTA and the Crime Bill (all of which were designed to fend off the incessant attacks from the right wing which were determined to undermine his presidency from Day One, just as they have to Obama. It didn’t work – they still impeach them.).

Indeed, she was pilloried for overstepping bounds of a wifely First Lady – how dare she! clearly forgetting how Eleanor Roosevelt was responsible for just about every progressive program FDR ever devised- in trying to achieve universal health care. Besides that, times are different than the mid-1990s, and certainly, we have learned from unintended consequences of legislation, even if initiated in good faith. More significantly, Hillary is not Bill Clinton. Hillary is her own person.

Overcoming the “woman’s issue” is also a factor in her more hawkish stance. She can’t afford to be seen as being a weak Commander-in-Chief. No such concern for Bernie Sanders.

Much like Obama had to downplay race, Hillary Clinton seems to have downplayed women’s issues in this campaign, lest she be attacked (as she already is, nonetheless), for playing the “gender card.

But she has been most constant in her sensitivity and advocacy of women’s rights and the plight of the marginalized.

On International Women’s Day, March 8, she issued a statement crystallizing “the unfinished work” toward insuring that women and girls achieve full equality:

“On International Women’s Day, we celebrate women around the world, in all stations of life — mothers, daughters, grandmothers, teachers, doctors, soldiers, artists, workers, employers, leaders of all kinds.  We celebrate their achievements and their humanity.  We celebrate the progress we’ve made to advance the full participation of women in economies and societies.  And most importantly, we recommit to finishing the unfinished work that remains, and ensuring that women and girls are treated as the full and equal human beings they are.

“Advancing the status of women is not just the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do.  When women and girls participate fully, economies grow and nations are more secure.  When their rights are denied, the opposite happens. No country can get ahead if half its people are left behind.

“I’ve spent my career working to break down barriers that hold back women here at home and around the world.  As President, I will keep up the fight.  I’ll fight to close the pay gap; make paid family leave a reality; ensure families have access to quality, affordable child care; increase the minimum wage; protect women’s health and reproductive rights; confront violence against women; and promote women’s rights around the globe.  These issues ought to be core priorities of our government. They are not just “women’s issues”—they are family issues, economic issues, and they’re crucial to America’s competitiveness and security.

“This International Women’s Day, let’s take a page from the generations of women leaders around the world who never stopped working to make our world a better, more equitable place.  And let’s always remember that women’s rights are human rights, and human rights are women’s rights, once and for all.”

Being a woman head of state is no longer an issue in places as diverse as Croatia and Pakistan to Germany and the United Kingdom.

As a woman, Hillary Clinton would prioritize and approach issues differently, even from Bernie Sanders who claims to be the great progressive. She has intimate knowledge of these issues from a grass roots level that even Bernie Sanders doesn’t have (while each one of the Republican candidates would certainly roll back progress to “take America back” to the halcyon days when white men ruled).

And if she does become President, she will become President Hillary Rodham Clinton, and hopefully, bring a woman’s touch to the most powerful position on earth.

See also:

Union workers rally for Hillary Clinton in NYC after Super Tuesday win and slideshow

Hillary Clinton proposes ‘New Bargain’ with American workers

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© 2016 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go towww.news-photos-features.com,  email editor@news-photos-features.com. Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

International Women’s Day: Obamas Point to Progress on ‘Let Girls Learn’ Initiative

First Lady Michelle Obama, discussing her "Let Girls Learn" initiative © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
First Lady Michelle Obama, discussing her “Let Girls Learn” initiative © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Today, on International Women’s Day, we recommit ourselves to achieving a world in which every woman and girl enjoys the full range of rights and freedoms that is her birthright,” President Obama stated.

“Women and girls make extraordinary contributions every day across all fields of human endeavor, including in business, education, sports, art, science, agriculture, parenting, and governance.  Without these contributions, economies would collapse, communities would fail, and families would fall apart.  And yet, in too many places around the world, women still struggle to rise out of their status as second-class citizens.  They are denied opportunities for full economic and political participation.  Some are forced to marry and have children when they are still children themselves, while abusive practices, such female genital mutilation/cutting, still persist in too many places.  Moreover, secondary education-arguably the most powerful tool for helping girls escape cycles of poverty and abuse and take control of their lives–remains beyond the reach of tens of millions of girls around the world.

“That is why I am proud that my Administration launched the Let Girls Learn initiative, which is already helping adolescent girls around the world to surmount the barriers that stand between them and a quality education.   It is also why I am pleased to announce that, in the coming days, Secretary of State John Kerry will be releasing the U.S. Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls, which lays out a whole-of-government approach to provide the next generation of women the tools they need to pursue their aspirations.

“We know that when we invest in women and girls, we are not only helping them, we are helping the entire planet.  A future in which all women and girls around the world are allowed to rise and achieve their full potential will be a brighter, more peaceful, and more prosperous future for us all.”

Meanwhile, the White House issued a fact sheet on the progress made after one year of the “Let Girls Learn” initiative.

FACT SHEET: FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA CELEBRATES ONE YEAR OF LET GIRLS LEARN, AND ANNOUNCES NEW COMMITMENTS TO THE INITIATIVE

 In March 2015, the President and the First Lady launched Let Girls Learn, a U.S. government initiative aimed at helping adolescent girls attain a quality education that empowers them to reach their full potential. The recently released FY 2017 President’s Budget has requested more than $100 million in new funds for the initiative, building on the $250 million in funds requested in the FY 2016 President’s Budget to launch the initiative. Additionally, foreign governments, including JapanSouth Korea and the UK, have collectively pledged nearly $600 million towards global girls’ education programming. Domestically, the First Lady is galvanizing students to become global citizens, from launching the #62MillionGirls social media campaign last September, to releasing the Let Girls Learn toolkit at last summer’s Girl Up Summit, to talking directly to girls at the Apollo Theater at last fall’s The Power of an Educated Girl town hall with Glamour Magazine.  Another key approach to making Let Girls Learn a success is through public private partnerships.  The independent commitments described below build upon commitments announced at last year’s Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit.  For the latest update on Alex and Ani’s commitment, click HERE. 

Private Sector Commitments to Let Girls Learn:

JOHNSON & JOHNSON will support global fundraising efforts in support of the girls’ education through Global Moms Relay and Donate a Photo App, totaling more than $200,000 over two years.  In addition, Johnson & Johnson will contribute $50,000 to the Peace Corps Let Girls Learn Fund.

PROCTER & GAMBLE is making a $100,000 donation to the Peace Corps Let Girls Learn Fund to enable adolescent girls’ education programming with a focus on Africa and Asia.  For International Women’s Day, Always will promote Let Girls Learn by proposing girls’ education-emojis, including a Mrs. Obama Let Girls Learn emoji. In addition, P&G and Peace Corps will explore expanding Always Confidence Teaching Curriculum to help more girls build and maintain confidence through education.

STARWOOD HOTELS & RESORTS WORLDWIDE, INC. will produce original promotional video content to run on SPG TV, an in-hotel TV network reaching upwards of 12 million consumers a month, as well as distribution across its many social media channels. Starwood will also designate Let Girls Learn as an official SPG charity partner, designing a promotion which allows members to donate Starpoints® to benefit Let Girls Learn.

JETBLUE will produce an original seatback video about Let Girls Learn for all flights during a key amplification month, raising awareness and inspiring all around international girls’ education. Additionally, JetBlue will provide a financial donation to the Peace Corps Let Girls Learn Fund.

LYFT will drive donations to the Peace Corps Let Girls Learn Fund through their tip-matching program, which will match funds when passengers tip their drivers. Lyft will identify key moments to activate this collaboration throughout the year.

J.CREW will support Let Girls Learn through their Garments for Good initiative and will design specific items to be released later this year. Garments for Good is a J.Crew initiative to lend support by selling items in their stores and online, with all profits being donated to the selected charity.

CSOFT INTERNATIONAL will translate Let Girls Learn materials, including the Peace Corps training literature, from English into multiple languages.

THE GIRLS’ LOUNGE is helping raise awareness around Let Girls Learn by commissioning a Let Girls Learn mural at Union Market and bringing a Let Girls Learn bus to Washington, DC to celebrate International Women’s Day. The Girls’ Lounge, in collaboration with partner Rubicon Project will also provide digital media campaigns to drive awareness and messaging for Let Girls Learn throughout 2016.

SALESFORCE.ORG will financially support Room to Read’s expansion of girls’ education in Cambodia and Sri Lanka. This commitment will support the work the First Lady has done to shed light on the importance of girls’ education in Cambodia, where she visited Room to Read’s work as part of the Let Girls Learn launch.

Public Sector and NGO Commitments to Let Girls Learn: 

DINING FOR WOMEN is a global giving circle dedicated to transforming lives and eradicating poverty among women and girls in the developing world. They will support the Peace Corps Let Girls Learn Fund with a $100,000 grant to fund community projects that address barriers to girls’ education and promote empowerment. 

RTI INTERNATIONAL, a nonprofit institute that provides research, development and technical services worldwide, will donate to the Peace Corps Let Girls Learn Fund.

CONNECTHER is raising awareness about access to education and schooling in the developing world through Girls Impact the World (GITW) Film Festival. Connecther is launching the GITW Global Chapters to screen short films from the Film Festival about the education of girls, economic independence for girls, redefining beauty and other critical issues.  Each screening will include a session about girls’ education.

AMY POEHLER’S SMART GIRLS, along with the Peace Corps, will share educational resources such as video and classroom correspondence activities to give “Smart Girls” the opportunity to learn about the world and connect with other “Smart Girls” eager to engage and support girls’ education.

See also:

First Lady Michelle Obama suggests will make ‘Let Girls Learn’ her work after WH and slideshow

The Affordable Care Act: Healthy Communities Six Years Later

The Affordable Care Act made it possible for young people, striking out on their own with their own entrepreneurial enterprises, to get affordable health insurance © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
The Affordable Care Act made it possible for young people, striking out on their own with their own entrepreneurial enterprises, to get affordable health insurance © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

I’m so sick of Republicans, especially those who would be President and promise to repeal every word of the Affordable Care Act, lying about how Obamacare has harmed jobs creation, and destroyed American freedom. Such a crock. The White House has just issued a fact sheet appraising the Affordable Care Act six years after. Republicans are a fact-free zone, but here are the facts: 

FACT SHEET: The Affordable Care Act: Healthy Communities Six Years Later

President Obama promised that he would make quality, affordable health care not a privilege, but a right. After nearly 100 years of talk and decades of trying by presidents of both parties, that’s exactly what he did.

On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) into law, putting in place comprehensive reforms that improve access to affordable health coverage for everyone and protect consumers from abusive insurance company practices. Because of the ACA, 17.6 million previously uninsured people had gained coverage prior to this year’s open enrollment period, and the law has driven the uninsured rate below 10 percent for the first time since we started keeping records. The ability to buy portable and affordable plans on a competitive marketplace is giving Americans the freedom to move, leave an unsatisfying job and start businesses which is especially important as more consumers become entrepreneurs. And thanks in part to the law’s focus on reducing costs and inefficiencies, health care prices have risen at the slowest rate in 50 years since the law passed, which will benefit all of us for years to come.

These access gains are due in large part to the efforts of local and state elected officials, community organizations and leaders, and volunteers who have worked tirelessly to help their neighbors find access to quality, affordable coverage. During the most recent open enrollment period from November 1 through January 31, the Administration and its partners on the ground nationwide undertook an unprecedented local and regional effort to sign up the remaining uninsured who are eligible for Marketplace coverage.

As part of this effort, the White House launched its “Healthy Communities Challenge” to engage 20 key communities with large numbers or high percentages of uninsured in states across the country where strong federal, state, and community collaboration can have a meaningful impact on reaching the uninsured. Last month, the White House announced that the winner of the challenge is Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Under the leadership of Mayor Tom Barrett and County Executive Chris Abele, about 38,000 people in the Milwaukee area newly selected a plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace during this open enrollment period. Together with returning Marketplace consumers, about 89,000 people in the Milwaukee area selected a 2016 Marketplace plan. Nationwide, nearly 13 million Americans signed up for 2016 Marketplace coverage, including people who were previously uninsured, as well as Americans finding coverage as they go through changes in life such as being in between jobs or aging off their parents’ plans.

Because of the Affordable Care Act, This is What Health Care in America Looks Like Today:

  • 17.6 million consumers have gained health insurance thanks to the ACA, prior to this year’s open enrollment period.  From 2010 through the first nine months of 2015, the uninsured rate has fallen by more than 40 percent and, for the first time ever, more than 9 in 10 Americans now have health insurance. In Wisconsin, Gallup recently estimated that the adult uninsured rate in 2015 was 5.9 percent, down from 11.7 percent in 2013.
  • As many as 129 million Americans who have some type of pre-existing health condition, including up to 19 million children, are now protected from coverage denials and reduced benefits – practices that were routine before the law’s enactment.
  • 105 million Americans, including 39.5 million women and nearly 28 million children, have benefited from annual limits on out-of-pocket spending on essential health benefits – and the elimination of lifetime and annual limits on insurance coverage. These are protections that did not exist before the ACA.
  • Americans now have access to critical preventive services at no cost, like flu shots, yearly check-ups, and birth control. These are benefits that did not exist before the ACA.
  • Over 14 million more Americans have received coverage through Medicaid since the ACA’s first open enrollment period in 2013. States have an option to expand Medicaid to all non-eligible adults with incomes under 133 percent of the federal poverty level, and to date, 31 states and the District of Columbia have chosen to expand the program.  In these states that have already expanded Medicaid, 4.4 million uninsured people will gain coverage.  If the remaining states expand Medicaid, over 4 million more uninsured people would gain coverage.
  • The ACA has provided new transparency in how health insurance plans disclose reasons for premium increases and requires simple, standardized summaries so over 170 million Americans can better understand their coverage information and compare plans. These consumer protections did not exist six years ago.
  • 2.3 million young Americans gained coverage between 2010 and October 2013 because they could now stay covered on their parents’ health care plans until they turn 26 – a benefit that did not exist before the law.
  • The ACA created tax credits that, as of September 2015, have helped 7.8 million Americans who otherwise often could not afford it purchase health coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplaces.
  • Health insurers are now required to provide consumers with rebates if the amount they spend on health benefits and quality of care, as opposed to advertising and marketing, is too low.  Last year, 5.5 million consumers received nearly $470 million in rebates.  Since this requirement was put in place in 2011 through 2014, more than $2.4 billion in total refunds will have been paid to consumers.
  • Out-of-pocket costs have been eliminated for preventive services like immunizations, certain cancer screenings, contraception, reproductive counseling, obesity screening, and behavioral assessments for children. This coverage is guaranteed for more than 137 million Americans, including 55 million women.
  • Out-of-pocket costs have been eliminated for 39 million Medicare beneficiaries for preventive services like cancer screenings, bone-mass measurements, annual physicals, and smoking cessation.
  • The ACA expands mental health and substance use disorder benefits and parity protections to over 60 million Americans.
  • The ACA phases out the “donut hole” coverage gap for nearly10.7 million Medicare prescription drug beneficiaries, who have saved an average of $1,945 per beneficiary.
  • Accountable Care Organizations now exist, consisting of doctors and other health-care providers who come together to provide coordinated, high-quality care at lower costs to their Medicare patients. Over 477 ACOs are serving nearly 8.9 million Medicare beneficiaries nationwide.
  • Overpayments through the Medicare Advantage system have been phased out, while Medicare Advantage plans are required to spend at least 85 percent of Medicare revenue on patient care.  Medicare Advantage enrollment has grown by 50 percent to over17.1 million while premiums have dropped by 10 percent since 2009.
  • Hospitals in Medicare now receive incentives to reduce hospital-acquired infections and avoidable readmissions.  A collaborative health-safety learning network, the Partnership for Patients, includes more than 3,200 hospitals to promote best quality practices.

In addition, other legislation and executive actions build on this progress and advance the cause of effective, affordable and accountable health care. This includes:

  • Advancing innovative care delivery models and value-based payments in Medicare and Medicaid.  The Administration set ambitious goals of tying 30 percent of traditional Medicare payments to alternative payment models by the end of 2016 and 50 percent by the end of 2018.
  • Proposals to invest in targeted research and technologies to advance the BRAIN InitiativePrecision Medicine Initiative, and cancer research.
  • A funding pool for Community Health Centers to build, expand and operate health-care facilities in underserved communities.  Health Center grantees served 23 million patients in 2014 and received $11 billion under the health care law to offer a broader array of primary care services, extend their hours of operations, hire more providers, and renovate or build new clinical spaces.
  • Health provider training opportunities, with an emphasis on primary care, including a significant expansion of the National Health Service Corps.  As of September 30, 2015, there were 9,600Corps clinicians providing primary care services, compared to 3,600 clinicians in 2008.

To learn more about the Healthy Communities challenges, visit: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/02/12/fact-sheet-announcing-winner-healthy-communities-challenge. For more on the President’s overall record on providing quality, affordable health care for Americans, visit: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-record/health-care.

 

Governor Cuomo Rallies in Long Island for $15 Minimum Wage, Parental Leave

Governor Andrew Cuomo comes to Westbury, Long Island, to rally for raising the minimum wage to $15 and for paid parental leave© 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Governor Andrew Cuomo comes to Westbury, Long Island, to rally for raising the minimum wage to $15 and for paid parental leave© 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

 

by Karen Rubin, news-photos-features.com

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has been crisscrossing the state, rallying support to make New York the first state in the nation to enact a  $15 minimum wage for all workers. He is also pushing a  plan enabling 12 weeks of parental leave – the most of any state. These are  cornerstones of his “Fight for Economic Justice” campaign which he dedicated to his father, the former Governor Mario Cuomo.

On a single day, following rallies in Manhattan and the Bronx, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo traveled by bus to Westbury, Long Island’s “Yes We Can” community center on his “Drive for $15” tour to make his pitch.

The Governor has already secured a phased in hike of the minimum wage to $15 for fast food workers, and in January, announced that the State University of New York will raise the minimum wage for more than 28,000 employees, mirroring the phased-in schedule for fast food workers secured last year, as well as 10,000 State Workers announced in October.

“If you work full time, you shouldn’t have to live in poverty – which is why it’s time for New York to lead the way and pass a $15 minimum wage,” said Governor Cuomo, who secured an increase in the state’s minimum wage for all workers to $9 in 2013. “Raising the minimum wage will provide new opportunity and restore economic justice to millions of New Yorkers. Our proposal will lift families out of poverty and create a stronger economy for all, and I urge lawmakers to help us fight for fair pay for working families this year.”

The “Yes We Can” community center in Westbury was crammed with union workers – particularly health care workers who now average $10 an hour.

The renewed push comes on the heels of Governor Cuomo’s recently released minimum wage report which found that raising the minimum wage to $15 would benefit more than 2.3 million workers and boost direct spending power by more than $15.7 billion in New York State. The Governor is urging the State Legislature to pass his phased-in minimum wage proposal this session.

“This is about fundamental fairness,” Governor Cuomo said. “That’s what this is about – being fair to people, being decent to people, understanding that we are all one community and that we are connected to each other, and as goes one goes all. That’s what this is about: fairness. Fairness. Something happened in this country. Something happened in the economy. It changed on us. It changed about thirty years ago and it’s been getting worse. The economy is running. We’ve worked very hard to create jobs. I’m very proud to be able to say we’ve created more jobs in the state of New York than have ever existed in the history of the state of New York and that’s a beautiful thing.

“That is a beautiful thing, but those jobs are different than the economy used to be. If you have the right skillset, or the right access, and you get one of the jobs up at the top end of the spectrum… millionaires, billionaires are making more than ever before. The top earners are making more money at a faster rate. But that’s a very small slice of the jobs and for the middle class and the working family jobs, the pay is actually going down and the respect and the dignity that goes with those jobs is being devalued by this country in this economy. And that is wrong.”

He said this has been a pattern that has been going on for decades, and not just in New York but around the country: it used to be that workers’ incomes would rise with productivity – which is fair. But that ended in the mid-1970s: since 1973, while productivity has grown by 90 percent, workers’ pay only went up 9%.

“The work – the concept of work – is being disrespected,” he said, invoking the words of a health care worker who depends on government assistance, despite putting in a full week’s work, caring for people who cannot care for themselves.”

The Federal minimum wage is $7. New York raised the minimum wage to $9. but at $9, “the numbers don’t work. $9 is about $18,000 a year. You cannot support a family in the state of New York on $18,000 a year. You cannot do it. You certainly can’t do it and have any decent lifestyle. You can’t do it and pay rent and pay food and pay for clothes. It just doesn’t work.”

People can’t support a family on minimum wage and they certainly cannot get ahead as earlier generations could aspire. That was the American Dream.

“People don’t have that same hope anymore. People don’t believe that anymore. They’re worried about their own retirement. They’re worried about children. They’re worried about their children’s education. If you take that aspiration away from people, then America’s not America and New York’s isn’t New York.”

The solution, he said, is to “restore the dignity, the pride and the aspiration and we pay people a decent wage to provide a decent lifestyle and that is $15 an hour.”

He said that opposition – from big business, big corporations – is already lining up, claiming that $15 is too high.

But, if you take the minimum wage in 1970, and increase it by the rate of inflation, it comes to $15 – so at $15, workers are having the same purchasing power as in 1970.

He said the opposition then claims that setting a minimum wage “is government meddling in the private market place. Government shouldn’t interfere with the private market place”. But, he countered, government is already in the “private market place” because $18,000 – the annual wage at $9 – is still below the poverty line, so government is forced to step in and subsidize McDonalds and Burger King workers with welfare and food stamps. The subsidy winds up averaging $7,000 per employee, totaling $700 million a year for New York taxpayers.

“So you say to our conservative friends when they say, “Well you shouldn’t be in the market place” you say, “Yea we want to get out of the market place, let the corporations pay a decent wage so we don’t have to put the food on the table of people who are getting shafted by the system.”

A report by the State Department of Labor (available here) details the impact of a $15 minimum wage for New York workers and their families. In total, 2.3 million New Yorkers will earn higher wages and as a result, increase spending power by more than $15.7 billion across New York State. The Governor is urging the State Legislature to pass his phased-in minimum wage proposal this session. Key findings:

  • Millions of New Yorkers will earn higher pay. 2.3 million New Yorkers – about a quarter of the total workforce – will experience higher pay, increasing spending power by more than $15.7 billion.1
  • The vast majority of minimum wage earners are adults. Half of minimum wage earners in New York State are 35 or older and outside of New York City, more than 70 percent are over the age of 25. More than 40 percent are married, parents or both and many provide the main source of their family’s income.2
  • The current minimum wage is not a decent living wage.Today, a full time job at New York’s minimum wage pays only $18,720 per year. For a single mother with two children, that’s below the official poverty line.
  • The Governor’s proposal corrects 40 years of economic injustice. A $15 minimum wage by 2021 is about where New York’s minimum wage in 1970 would be, if adjusted for inflation and cost of living differences.3
  • It’s important for New York’s economic growth. New York increased its minimum wage eight times from 1991 through 2015 and six of those times, the data shows an employment uptick following an increase in the state’s minimum wage.4

On Long Island, 382,236 workers would earn higher wages by raising the minimum wage to $15, increasing spending power by $2.5 billion. For a statewide breakdown, view page four of the minimum wage report.

“The economic benefits of increasing the minimum wage outweigh the costs. But to provide businesses with the opportunity to plan, and in order to be sensitive to the relative abilities of different regional economies to absorb the change, the proposal phases-in the increase in New York’s minimum wage in New York City (in four steps by the end of 2018) and more gradually in the rest of the state (over seven steps by July 2021).

Proposes 12 Week Paid Family Leave

The Governor is also proposing that New York enact a 12 week paid family leave policy – which would be the longest benefits period in the nation for such a policy – to help working families care for a new child or seriously ill relative. The program would be funded by employees – employers would pay nothing – who would pay about 70 cents a week into a fund.

“Along with the disrespect that goes to the worker in this current economy – there is a lack of power that the employee has,” he said. “The employee is treated more like a commodity.”

“The worker doesn’t have that same power and relationship with the employer that they used to have. So if something happens and you need to do something in your life – because there is more than work – there’s something called life. You have to balance the two, you shouldn’t have to choose between going broke, losing your job, or doing the right thing at home. That should not be a choice.”

The United States is one of only three nations on the globe that does not have paid family leave and the other two are Suriname and Papua New Guinea.

Cuomo’s proposal though is not for employers to pay – the cost to employers would be zero – but to have employees pay into a fund about 70 cents a week, so they could get up to $700 a week in benefits for up to 12 weeks.

“The opposition is going to say, ‘The cost is very expensive for business.’ You know what it costs business? Zero. Nada, scatta, niente, nulo, whatever language you want. It costs them nothing. It is all paid by the employees. They say they may need to hire someone in the meantime if the person takes off. Fine, but they’re not paying first person, so they wind up neutral. It has no effect economically on businesses and it makes a world of difference in respect and livability for an employee. That we also have to pass this year. If we do $15 minimum wage, and we do paid family leave, we will have done something. We will have changed people’s lives and that is what this is all about.”

“This is fairness for all. This is opportunity for all. This is mobility for all. This is decency for all. This is New York State, we’re not going to treat each other with nothing less than total respect. We don’t care if the big corporations are against us, we have the people with us. We are going to pass it in the state of New York, we’re going to pass it this year, and we’re going to say to the rest of the nation, ‘It doesn’t have to be this way, you can have an economy that works for everyone where everyone is stronger and the greatest feast has the most people at the table.’ That is what we believe in New York and we are going to make it real here and it will be a wave that goes from one end of this country to the other.”

“There are times in life when family comes first – like when a child is born, a loved one is sick, or a parent is dying – and I believe everyone deserves the right to be there in those times,” Governor Cuomo told the Long Island rally. “The lack of paid family leave is a rampant economic injustice that runs against the grain of the American promise. It’s unacceptable that people are still forced to choose between caring for their families and keeping their jobs, and we’re going to change that in New York. We’re going to pass 12 weeks of paid family leave and stand up for what’s really important in life – and I urge all New Yorkers to join us in this fight.”

Governor Cuomo’s proposal would ensure 12 weeks of job-protected, employee-funded leave to be used for caring for a new child or a sick relative. It would also guarantee employees the right to return to their current job upon their return from leave and bring discrimination actions to the extent that their rights are violated.

The Need for Paid Family Leave

Paid family leave is currently offered by every developed nation on the planet – except for the United States. Within the U.S., only California, New Jersey and Rhode Island have such a program, and none offer benefits for longer than six weeks. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Labor has reported that a mere 12 percent of private sector workers are offered paid family leave by their employers.

While the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 offers 12 weeks of unpaid leave, because of various exemptions, 40 percent of American workers are left out. Even for those who are covered by the FMLA, taking time off to care for a new child or sick relative often means workers are forced to forego wages, use up savings or vacation time, or even risk losing their jobs in order to care for new children or sick relatives.

“This injustice is particularly acute for low-income workers. In New York, nearly 50 percent of low-income working mothers have $500 or less in savings, and more than 33 percent have no savings. Without paid family leave, low-income workers are also more likely to utilize public assistance after the birth of a child or serious illness in the family.”

In addition to parents with new children, paid family leave is a crucial benefit to families caring for an ailing loved one – especially elderly relatives. More than 90 percent of elderly people receiving care in the community rely on the support and care of their loved ones, either independently or along with paid help – and two-thirds of older Americans receive care solely from their family members. Seventy-eight percent of people who care for elderly relatives are employed, and 62 percent report working full time. Furthermore, with growing life expectancies nationally and an aging population, the need for elder care is expected to increase in the coming years.

Proven Benefits and Support

Governor Cuomo’s proposal for 12 weeks of paid family leave offers a number of broad and important benefits to working families, businesses, and the state’s economy. This includes economic security and better health outcomes for families, greater workforce longevity and productivity for businesses, and a stronger economy for all.

Paid family leave supports families: Steady income and employment are crucial for families caring for new children or sick loved ones – and especially so for low-income families. Paid family leave offers crucial economic security that enables working families to respond to unique medical needs and costs, keep up with general living expenses and avoid poverty or the need for public assistance. Additionally, paid family leave is proven to help women remain in the workforce after having a child and increase their wages over time. Paid family leave is also a factor in boosting positive health outcomes for young families – with benefits such as increased birth weight, decreased frequencies of premature birth, and a substantial decrease in infant mortality. In cases of ill relatives, paid family leave also helps patients stick to prescribed treatment plans and check-ups, avoid complications, and ultimately return to good health.

Paid family leave supports businesses: Providing paid family leave also has numerous benefits for employers. Research from the U.S. Department of Labor shows that paid family leave helps businesses retain workers and avoid turnover – which ultimately helps reduce recruitment and training costs. Having access to paid family leave can also boost productivity, engagement, and loyalty among a business’ employees.

Paid family leave supports the economy: Increasing access to paid family leave will result in a stronger economy and workforce. When working parents or caregivers are able to remain in the workforce while tending to children or sick loved ones, they are also more likely to continue progressing in their careers and increasing their wages over time. This in turn yields greater support for their families, greater economy activity in their communities, and a more vibrant workforce overall. Additionally, paid family leave helps address the gaps in opportunity faced by low-income, minority and less educated workers.

Paid family leave has widespread public support: In a recent poll conducted by the Roosevelt Institute, the vast majority – 83 percent – of respondents supported paid family leave. That support crossed party lines, with 96 percent of Democrats, 85 percent of Independents and 67 percent of Republicans voicing support. Additionally, in a business survey after California’s paid family leave policy had been in effect for five years, 91 percent of employers reported the effect of the policy was either not noticeable or positive.

The Governor has launched a new website,  www.ny.gov/paidfamilyleave, for New Yorkers to learn more about the need for paid family leave and the benefits of his proposal.

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© 2016 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com,  email editor@news-photos-features.com. Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Obama Warns Senate Republicans’ that Politicization of SCOTUS Confirmation Will Undermine Credibility of Court

President Obama has a right and a duty to nominate a replacement to Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court and the Senate has a duty to hold hearings and take a vote. © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
President Obama has a right and a duty to nominate a replacement to Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court and the Senate has a duty to hold hearings and take a vote.
© 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

With the care and consideration of a Constitutional lawyer, President Obama laid out his argument for his authority and responsibility to nominate a Justice to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court left by the death of Antonin Scalia, and the Senate’s obligation and responsibility to “advise” and hold a vote. 

He chastised – and warned – about the politicization of the process which ultimately undermines “the credibility” and the authority of the Supreme Court, itself, just as the ability of government to function has been undermined by extreme partisanship and polarization: 

“If, in fact, the Republicans in the Senate take a posture that defies the Constitution, defies logic, is not supported by tradition simply because of politics, then invariably what you’re going to see is a further deterioration in the ability of any President to make any judicial appointments,” President Obama said. “And appointments to the Supreme Court as well as the federal bench suddenly become a complete extension of our polarized politics…the credibility of the Court itself begins to diminish because it’s viewed simply as an extension of our politics.” 

Here’s the full transcript of Obama’s comments on the Supreme Court process. He spoke at length – about 10 minutes – in answer to a question at a press conference: 

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, the Constitution says that I nominate candidates for the Supreme Court when there’s a vacancy, and that the Senate exercises its constitutional role in advise and consent.  I’m going to do my job.  We are going to go through a process, as we have done in two previous Supreme Court vacancies, to identify an outstanding candidate that has impeccable legal credentials and would bring the kind of ability and compassion and objectivity and legal reasoning to the Court that the Highest Court in the Land demands.

One side made the nomination, and then Leader McConnell and all the members of the Senate are going to make a decision about how do they fulfill their constitutional responsibilities.  I recognize the politics are hard for them, because the easier thing to do is to give in to the most extreme voices within their party and stand pat and do nothing.  But that’s not our job.  Our job is to fulfill our constitutional duties.

And so my hope and expectation is that once there is an actual nominee and once this is no longer an abstraction, that those on the Judiciary Committee recognize that their job is to give this person a hearing, to show the courtesy of meeting with them.  They are then free to vote whatever their conscience dictates as to whether this person is qualified or not.  In the meantime, the American people are going to have the ability to gauge whether the person I’ve nominated is well within the mainstream, is a good jurist, is somebody who’s worthy to sit on the Supreme Court.

And I think it will be very difficult for Mr. McConnell to explain how, if the public concludes that this person is very well qualified, that the Senate should stand in the way simply for political reasons.  We’ll see what happens.  And I think the situation may evolve over time.  I don’t expect Mitch McConnell to say that is the case today.  I don’t expect any member of the Republican caucus to stick their head out at the moment and say that.  But let’s see how the public responds to the nominee that we put forward.

The one thing I think is important to dispel is any notion that somehow this is some well-established tradition, or some constitutional principle that a President in his last year of office cannot fill the Supreme Court vacancy.  It’s not in the text of the Constitution.  Ironically, these are Republicans who say they believe in reading the text of the Constitution and focusing on the intent of the Constitution.  But none of the Founding Fathers thought that when it comes to the President carrying out his duties, he should do it for three years and then on the last year stop doing it.

There’s an argument that, well, the President shouldn’t do this because he is a lame duck.  Well, the truth of the matter is, is that traditionally the term “lame duck” refers to the two or three months after an election has taken place in which a new President is about to be sworn in.  I’ve got a year to go.  I don’t think they would approve of me abdicating on my duties as Commander-in-Chief and to stop doing all the other work that I got to do.  Well, this is part of my job. 

There’s been arguments that for 80 years this has been the tradition.  Well, that’s not the case.  Justice Kennedy was approved after being nominated by Ronald Reagan in Ronald Reagan’s last year of office.  They say, well, that’s different because he had been nominated in 1987, even if he was confirmed — or ’85 — even if he was confirmed in ’86.  Well, the notion that there is some two-month period in which suddenly it all flips and everything shuts down, that’s not a credible argument.

What other arguments are they making?  They suggest that, well, there had been a couple of times where Democrats said it would be wise for a President not to nominate someone.  First of all, we know senators say stuff all the time.  Second of all, these were comments that were made where there was no actual nomination at stake.  So it has no application to the actual situation that we have right now.

I’m trying to think of any other reeds that they’re grasping here as to why they would not carry out their duties.  And I can’t really think of one.

I recognize that this is an important issue for their constituencies, and it’s particularly sensitive because this was Justice Scalia’s seat that is now vacant and that a whole host of decisions on the Supreme Court could turn on this ninth justice and their vote.

But that’s how our democracy is supposed to work.  And what I do — the last point I’ll make — we have already seen a breakdown of the judicial appointment process that gets worse and worse each and every year, each and every Congress.  It becomes harder and harder to get any candidates for the judiciary confirmed.  We saw Senator Reid have to employ the so-called “nuclear option” because there was such a logjam in terms of getting judicial appointments through.

If, in fact, the Republicans in the Senate take a posture that defies the Constitution, defies logic, is not supported by tradition simply because of politics, then invariably what you’re going to see is a further deterioration in the ability of any President to make any judicial appointments.  And appointments to the Supreme Court as well as the federal bench suddenly become a complete extension of our polarized politics.

And at that point, not only are you going to see more and more vacancies and the court systems break down, but the credibility of the Court itself begins to diminish because it’s viewed simply as an extension of our politics — this is a Republican judge or this is a Democratic judge, as opposed to, this is a Supreme Court justice who is supposed to be standing above the day-to-day politics that take place.

So I understand the posture that they’re taking right now.  I get the politics of it.  I’m sure they’re under enormous pressure from their base and their constituencies around this issue.  I’ve talked to many of them, and I’ve told them I’m sympathetic.  And, by the way, there’s not a lot of vigor when they defend the position that they’re taking, that they wouldn’t even meet, for example, with a Supreme Court nominee.  They’re pretty sheepish about it when they make those comments.

So we’ll see how this plays itself out.  But I’m going to do my job.  I’m going to nominate somebody and let the American people decide as to whether that person is qualified.  And if they are qualified, let the American people decide whether there’s enough time for the U.S. Senate to hold hearings and have a vote.  It’s not as if, from what I see, the Senate calendar is so full that we don’t have time to get this done.

Obama Administration Details New Cybersecurity National Action Plan

Indian Point Nuclear Plant: cyber attacks on utilities, power plants, nuclear facilities can be more lethal and disrupting than an invading army. The White House has just issued a fact sheet detailing its Cybersecurity National Action Plan © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Indian Point Nuclear Plant: cyber attacks on utilities, power plants, nuclear facilities can be more lethal and disrupting than an invading army. The White House has just issued a fact sheet detailing its Cybersecurity National Action Plan © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

FACT SHEET: Cybersecurity National Action Plan

Taking bold actions to protect Americans in today’s digital world

The next War to End All Wars will likely be fought in cyberspace, rather than by invading armies. Cybersecurity is critical line of defense, but also raises issues of privacy – from government as well as criminals. The Obama Administration has just issued a Cybersecurity National Action Plan which, among other things, creates a Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity as well as a permanent Federal Privacy Council.  It includes expanding upon the President’s 2014 BuySecure Initiative to strengthen the security of consumer data. Here is a fact sheet from the White House detailing the Cybersecurity National Action Plan:

From the beginning of his Administration, the President has made it clear that cybersecurity is one of the most important challenges we face as a Nation, and for more than seven years he has acted comprehensively to confront that challenge.  Working together with Congress, we took another step forward in this effort in December with the passage of the Cybersecurity Act of 2015, which provides important tools necessary to strengthen the Nation’s cybersecurity, particularly by making it easier for private companies to share cyber threat information with each other and the Government.

But the President believes that more must be done – so that citizens have the tools they need to protect themselves, companies can defend their operations and information, and the Government does its part to protect the American people and the information they entrust to us.  That is why, today, the President is directing his Administration to implement a Cybersecurity National Action Plan (CNAP) that takes near-term actions and puts in place a long-term strategy to enhance cybersecurity awareness and protections, protect privacy, maintain public safety as well as economic and national security, and empower Americans to take better control of their digital security.

The Challenge

From buying products to running businesses to finding directions to communicating with the people we love, an online world has fundamentally reshaped our daily lives.  But just as the continually evolving digital age presents boundless opportunities for our economy, our businesses, and our people, it also presents a new generation of threats that we must adapt to meet.  Criminals, terrorists, and countries who wish to do us harm have all realized that attacking us online is often easier than attacking us in person.  As more and more sensitive data is stored online, the consequences of those attacks grow more significant each year.  Identity theft is now the fastest growing crime in America.  Our innovators and entrepreneurs have reinforced our global leadership and grown our economy, but with each new story of a high-profile company hacked or a neighbor defrauded, more Americans are left to wonder whether technology’s benefits could risk being outpaced by its costs.

The President believes that meeting these new threats is necessary and within our grasp.  But it requires a bold reassessment of the way we approach security in the digital age.  If we’re going to be connected, we need to be protected.  We need to join together—Government, businesses, and individuals—to sustain the spirit that has always made America great.  

Our Approach

That is why, today, the Administration is announcing a series of near-term actions to enhance cybersecurity capabilities within the Federal Government and across the country.  But given the complexity and seriousness of the issue, the President is also asking some of our Nation’s top strategic, business, and technical thinkers from outside of government to study and report on what more we can do to enhance cybersecurity awareness and protections, protect privacy, maintain public safety as well as economic and national security, and empower Americans to take better control of their digital security.  Bold action is required to secure our digital society and keep America competitive in the global digital economy.

The President’s Cybersecurity National Action Plan (CNAP) is the capstone of more than seven years of determined effort by this Administration, building upon lessons learned from cybersecurity trends, threats, and intrusions.  This plan directs the Federal Government to take new action now and fosters the conditions required for long-term improvements in our approach to cybersecurity across the Federal Government, the private sector, and our personal lives.  Highlights of the CNAP include actions to:

  • Establish the “Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity.” This Commission will be comprised of top strategic, business, and technical thinkers from outside of Government – including members to be designated by the bi-partisan Congressional leadership.  The Commission will make recommendations on actions that can be taken over the next decade to strengthen cybersecurity in both the public and private sectors while protecting privacy; maintaining public safety and economic and national security; fostering discovery and development of new technical solutions; and bolstering partnerships between Federal, State, and local government and the private sector in the development, promotion and use of cybersecurity technologies, policies, and best practices.
  • Modernize Government IT and transform how the Government manages cybersecurity through the proposal of a $3.1 billion Information Technology Modernization Fund, which will enable the retirement, replacement, and modernization of legacy IT that is difficult to secure and expensive to maintain, as well as the formation of a new position – the Federal Chief Information Security Officer – to drive these changes across the Government.
  • Empower Americans to secure their online accounts by moving beyond just passwords and adding an extra layer of security.  By judiciously combining a strong password with additional factors, such as a fingerprint or a single use code delivered in a text message, Americans can make their accounts even more secure.  This focus on multi-factor authentication will be central to a newNational Cybersecurity Awareness Campaign launched by theNational Cyber Security Alliance designed to arm consumers with simple and actionable information to protect themselves in an increasingly digital world.  The National Cyber Security Alliance will partner with leading technology firms like Google, Facebook, DropBox, and Microsoft to make it easier for millions of users to secure their online accounts, and financial services companies such as MasterCard, Visa, PayPal, and Venmo thatare making transactions more secure.  In addition, the Federal Government will take steps to safeguard personal data in online transactions between citizens and the government, including through a new action plan to drive the Federal Government’s adoption and use of effective identity proofing and strong multi-factor authentication methods and a systematic review of where the Federal Government can reduce reliance on Social Security Numbers as an identifier of citizens.
  • Invest over $19 billion for cybersecurity as part of the President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 Budget.  This represents a more than 35 percent increase from FY 2016 in overall Federal resources for cybersecurity, a necessary investment to secure our Nation in the future.

Through these actions, additional new steps outlined below, and other policy efforts spread across the Federal Government, the Administration has charted a course to enhance our long-term security and reinforce American leadership in developing the technologies that power the digital world.  

Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity

For over four decades, computer technology and the Internet have provided a strategic advantage to the United States, its citizens, and its allies.  But if fundamental cybersecurity and identity issues are not addressed, America’s reliance on digital infrastructure risks becoming a source of strategic liability.  To address these issues, we must diagnose and address the causes of cyber-vulnerabilities, and not just treat the symptoms.  Meeting this challenge will require a long-term, national commitment.

To conduct this review, the President is establishing the Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity, comprised of top strategic, business, and technical thinkers from outside of Government – including members to be designated by the bi-partisan Congressional leadership.  The Commission is tasked with making detailed recommendations on actions that can be taken over the next decade to enhance cybersecurity awareness and protections throughout the private sector and at all levels of Government, to protect privacy, to maintain public safety and economic and national security, and to empower Americans to take better control of their digital security.  The National Institute of Standards and Technology will provide the Commission with support to allow it to carry out its mission.  The Commission will report to the President with its specific findings and recommendations before the end of 2016, providing the country a roadmap for future actions that will build on the CNAP and protect our long-term security online. 

Raise the Level of Cybersecurity across the Country

While the Commission conducts this forward looking review, we will continue to raise the level of cybersecurity across the Nation.

Strengthen Federal Cybersecurity

The Federal Government has made significant progress in improving its cybersecurity capabilities, but more work remains.  To expand on that progress and address the longstanding, systemic challenges in Federal cybersecurity, we must re-examine our Government’s legacy approach to cybersecurity and information technology, which requires each agency to build and defend its own networks.  These actions build upon the foundation laid by the Cybersecurity Cross-Agency Priority Goalsand the 2015 Cybersecurity Strategy and Implementation Plan.

Ø  The President’s 2017 Budget proposes a $3.1 billion Information Technology Modernization Fund, as a down payment on the comprehensive overhaul that must be undertaken in the coming years.  This revolving fund will enable agencies to invest money up front and realize the return over time by retiring, replacing, or modernizing antiquated IT infrastructure, networks, and systems that are expensive to maintain, provide poor functionality, and are difficult to secure.

Ø  The Administration has created the position of Federal Chief Information Security Officer to drive cybersecurity policy, planning, and implementation across the Federal Government.  This is the first time that there will be a dedicated senior official who is solely focused on developing, managing, and coordinating cybersecurity strategy, policy, and operations across the entire Federal domain.

Ø  The Administration is requiring agencies to identify and prioritize their highest value and most at-risk IT assets and then take additional concrete steps to improve their security.

Ø  The Department of Homeland Security, the General Services Administration, and other Federal agencies will increase the availability of government-wide shared services for IT and cybersecurity, with the goal of taking each individual agency out of the business of building, owning, and operating their own IT when more efficient, effective, and secure options are available, as well as ensuring that individual agencies are not left on their own to defend themselves against the most sophisticated threats.

Ø  The Department of Homeland Security is enhancing Federal cybersecurity by expanding the EINSTEIN and Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation programs.  The President’s 2017 Budget supports all Federal civilian agencies adopting these capabilities.

Ø  The Department of Homeland Security is dramatically increasing the number of Federal civilian cyber defense teams to a total of 48, by recruiting the best cybersecurity talent from across the Federal Government and private sector.  These standing teams will protect networks, systems, and data across the entire Federal Civilian Government by conducting penetration testing and proactively hunting for intruders, as well as providing incident response and security engineering expertise.

Ø  The Federal Government, through efforts such as the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education, will enhance cybersecurity education and training nationwide and hire more cybersecurity experts to secure Federal agencies.  As part of the CNAP, the President’s Budget invests $62 million in cybersecurity personnel to:

o   Expand the Scholarship for Service program by establishing a CyberCorps Reserve program, which will offer scholarships for Americans who wish to obtain cybersecurity education and serve their country in the civilian Federal government;

o   Develop a Cybersecurity Core Curriculum that will ensure cybersecurity graduates who wish to join the Federal Government have the requisite knowledge and skills; and,

o   Strengthen the National Centers for Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity Program to increase the number of participating academic institutions and students, better support those institutions currently participating, increase the number of students studying cybersecurity at those institutions, and enhance student knowledge through program and curriculum evolution.

Ø  The President’s Budget takes additional steps to expand the cybersecurity workforce by:

o   Enhancing student loan forgiveness programs for cybersecurity experts joining the Federal workforce;

o   Catalyzing investment in cybersecurity education as part of a robust computer science curriculum through the President’s Computer Science for All Initiative.

Empower Individuals

The privacy and security of all Americans online in their daily lives is increasingly integral to our national security and our economy. The following new actions build on the President’s 2014 BuySecure Initiative to strengthen the security of consumer data.

Ø  The President is calling on Americans to move beyond just the password to leverage multiple factors of authentication when logging-in to online accounts.  Private companies, non-profits, and the Federal Government are working together to help more Americans stay safe online through a new public awareness campaign that focuses on broad adoption of multi-factor authentication.  Building off the Stop.Think.Connect. campaign and efforts stemming from the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, the National Cyber Security Alliance will partner with leading technology companies and civil society to promote this effort and make it easier for millions of users to secure their accounts online.  This will support a broader effort to increase public awareness of the individual’s role in cybersecurity.

Ø  The Federal Government is accelerating adoption of strong multi-factor authentication and identity proofing for citizen-facing Federal Government digital services.  The General Services Administration will establish a new program that will better protect and secure the data and personal information of Americans as they interact with Federal Government services, including tax data and benefit information.

Ø  The Administration is conducting a systematic review of where the Federal Government can reduce its use of Social Security Numbers as an identifier of citizens. 

Ø  The Federal Trade Commission recently relaunchedIdentityTheft.Gov, to serve as a one-stop resource for victims to report identity theft, create a personal recovery plan, and print pre-filled letters and forms to send to credit bureaus, businesses, and debt collectors.

Ø  The Small Business Administration (SBA), partnering with the Federal Trade Commission, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the Department of Energy, will offercybersecurity training to reach over 1.4 million small businesses and small business stakeholders through 68 SBA District Offices, 9 NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership Centers, and other regional networks across the country. 

Ø  The Administration is announcing new milestones in the President’s BuySecure Initiative to secure financial transactions.  As of today the Federal Government has supplied over 2.5 million more secure Chip-and-PIN payment cards, and transitioned to this new technology the entire fleet of card readers managed by the Department of the Treasury.  Through government and private-sector leadership, more secure chip cards have been issued in the United States than any other country in the world. 

Enhance Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience

The national and economic security of the United States depends on the reliable functioning of the Nation’s critical infrastructure.  A continued partnership with the owners and operators of critical infrastructure will improve cybersecurity and enhance the Nation’s resiliency.  This work builds off the President’s previous cybersecurity focused Executive Orders on Critical Infrastructure (2013) and Information Sharing (2015).

Ø  The Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of Energy are contributing resources and capabilities to establish a National Center for Cybersecurity Resilience where companies and sector-wide organizations can test the security of systems in a contained environment, such as by subjecting a replica electric grid to cyber-attack.

Ø  The Department of Homeland Security will double the number of cybersecurity advisors available to assist private sector organizations with in-person, customized cybersecurity assessments and implementation of best practices.

Ø  The Department of Homeland Security is collaborating with UL and other industry partners to develop a Cybersecurity Assurance Program to test and certify networked devices within the “Internet of Things,” whether they be refrigerators or medical infusion pumps, so that when you buy a new product, you can be sure that it has been certified to meet security standards.

Ø  The National Institute of Standards and Technology is soliciting feedback in order to inform further development of itsCybersecurity Framework for improving critical infrastructure cybersecurity.  This follows two years of adoption by organizations across the country and around the world.

Ø   Commerce Secretary Pritzker cut the ribbon on the new National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence, a public-private research and development partnership that will allow industry and government to work together to develop and deploy technical solutions for high-priority cybersecurity challenges and share those findings for the benefit of the broader community.

Ø  The Administration is calling on major health insurers and healthcare stakeholders to help them take new and significant steps to enhance their data stewardship practices and ensure that consumers can trust that their sensitive health data will be safe, secure, and available to guide clinical decision-making.

Secure Technology

Even as we work to improve our defenses today, we know the Nation must aggressively invest in the science, technology, tools, and infrastructure of the future to ensure that they are engineered with sustainable security in mind.

Ø  Today the Administration is releasing its 2016 Federal Cybersecurity Research and Development Strategic Plan.  This plan, which was called for in the 2014 Cybersecurity Enhancement Act, lays out strategic research and development goals for the Nation to advance cybersecurity technologies driven by the scientific evidence of efficacy and efficiency.

Ø  In addition, the Government will work with organizations such as the Linux Foundation’s Core Infrastructure Initiative to fund and secure commonly used internet “utilities” such as open-source software, protocols, and standards.  Just as our roads and bridges need regular repair and upkeep, so do the technical linkages that allow the information superhighway to flow.

Deter, Discourage, and Disrupt Malicious Activity in Cyberspace

Better securing our own digital infrastructure is only part of the solution.  We must lead the international effort in adopting principles of responsible state behavior, even while we take steps to deter and disrupt malicious activity.  We cannot pursue these goals alone – we must pursue them in concert with our allies and partners around the world.

Ø  In 2015, members of the G20 joined with the United States in affirming important norms, including the applicability of international law to cyberspace, the idea that states should not conduct the cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property for commercial gain, and in welcoming the report of a United Nations Group of Governmental Experts, which included a number of additional norms to promote international cooperation, prevent attacks on civilian critical infrastructure, and support computer emergency response teams providing reconstitution and mitigation services.  The Administration intends to institutionalize and implement these norms through further bilateral and multilateral commitments and confidence building measures.

Ø  The Department of Justice, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is increasing funding for cybersecurity-related activities by more than 23 percent to improve their capabilities to identify, disrupt, and apprehend malicious cyber actors.

Ø  U.S. Cyber Command is building a Cyber Mission Force of 133 teams assembled from 6,200 military, civilian, and contractor support personnel from across the military departments and defense components.  The Cyber Mission Force, which will be fully operational in 2018, is already employing capabilities in support of U.S. Government objectives across the spectrum of cyber operations.

Improve Cyber Incident Response

Even as we focus on preventing and deterring malicious cyber activity, we must also maintain resilience as events occur.  Over the past year, the country faced a wide array of intrusions, ranging from criminal activity to cyber espionage.  By applying lessons learned from past incidents we can improve management of future cyber incidents and enhance the country’s cyber-resilience.

Ø  By this spring, the Administration will publically release a policy for national cyber incident coordination and an accompanyingseverity methodology for evaluating cyber incidents so that government agencies and the private sector can communicate effectively and provide an appropriate and consistent level of response.

Protect the Privacy of Individuals

In coordination with the information technology and cybersecurity efforts above, the Administration has launched a groundbreaking effort to enhance how agencies across the Federal Government protect the privacy of individuals and their information.  Privacy has been core to our Nation from its inception, and in today’s digital age safeguarding privacy is more critical than ever. 

Ø  Today, the President signed an Executive Order that created a permanent Federal Privacy Council, which will bring together the privacy officials from across the Government to help ensure the implementation of more strategic and comprehensive Federal privacy guidelines.  Like cyber security, privacy must be effectively and continuously addressed as our nation embraces new technologies, promotes innovation, reaps the benefits of big data and defends against evolving threats.

Fund Cybersecurity

In order to implement these sweeping changes, the Federal Government will need to invest additional resources in its cybersecurity.  That is why the 2017 Budget allocates more than $19 billion for cybersecurity – a more than 35 percent increase over the 2016 enacted level.  These resources will enable agencies to raise their level of cybersecurity, help private sector organizations and individuals better protect themselves, disrupt and deter adversary activity, and respond more effectively to incidents.

White House Issues Fact Sheet on Administration’s Efforts to Respond to Zika Virus

The White House has issued a Fact Sheet:  Preparing for and Responding to the Zika Virus at Home and Abroad:

 

Since late last year, the Administration has been aggressively working to combat Zika, a virus primarily spread by mosquitoes that has recently been linked to birth defects and other concerning health outcomes.  The Federal Government has been monitoring the Zika virus and working with our domestic and international public health partners to alert healthcare providers and the public about Zika; provide public health laboratories with diagnostic tests; and detect and report cases both domestically and internationally. 

 

The Administration is taking every appropriate measure to protect the American people, and today announced that it is asking Congress for more than $1.8 billion in emergency funding to enhance our ongoing efforts to prepare for and respond to the Zika virus, both domestically and internationally.  The Administration will submit a formal request to Congress shortly.

 

The Pan American Health Organization reports 26 countries and territories in the Americas with local Zika transmission.  While we have not yet seen transmission of the Zika virus by mosquitoes within the continental United States, Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories in warmer areas with Aedes aegpyti mosquito populations are already seeing active transmission. In addition, some Americans have returned to the continental U.S. from affected countries in South America, Central America, the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands with Zika infections.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 50 laboratory-confirmed cases among U.S. travelers from December 2015- February 5, 2016.   As spring and summer approach, bringing with them larger and more active mosquito populations, we must be fully prepared to mitigate and quickly address local transmission within the continental U.S., particularly in the Southern United States.

 

The requested resources will build on our ongoing preparedness efforts and will support essential strategies to combat this virus, such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs; accelerating vaccine research and diagnostic development; enabling the testing and procurement of vaccines and diagnostics; educating health care providers, pregnant women and their partners; improving epidemiology and expanding laboratory and diagnostic testing capacity; improving health services and supports for low-income pregnant women, and enhancing the ability of Zika-affected countries to better combat mosquitoes and control transmission. 

 

There is much that we do not yet know about Zika and its relationship to the poor health outcomes that are being reported in Zika-affected areas. We must work aggressively to investigate these outbreaks, and mitigate, to the best extent possible, the spread of the virus. Congressional action on the Administration’s request will accelerate our ability to prevent, detect and respond to the Zika virus and bolster our ability to reduce the potential for future infectious disease outbreaks.

 

Department of Health and Human Services – $1.48 billion

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – $828 million.  The request includes funding to support prevention and response strategies through the following activities:

·         Support Zika virus readiness and response capacity in States and territories with mosquito populations that are known to transmit Zika virus, with a priority focus on areas with ongoing Zika transmission;

·         Enhance mosquito control programs through enhanced laboratory, epidemiology and surveillance capacity in at-risk areas to reduce the opportunities for Zika transmission;

·         Establish rapid response teams to limit potential clusters of Zika virus in the United States;

·         Improve laboratory capacity and infrastructure to test for Zika virus and other infectious diseases;

·         Implement surveillance efforts to track Zika virus in communities and in mosquitoes;

·         Deploy targeted prevention and education strategies with key populations, including pregnant women, their partners, and health care professionals;

·         Expand the CDC Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System, improve Guillain Barré syndrome tracking, and ensure the ability of birth defect registries across the country to detect risks related to Zika;

·         Increase research into the link between Zika virus infections and the birth defect microcephaly and measure changes in incidence rates over time;

·         Enhance international capacity for virus surveillance, expand the Field Epidemiology Training program, laboratory testing, health care provider training, and vector surveillance and control in countries at highest risk of Zika virus outbreaks; and

·         Improve diagnostics for Zika virus, including advanced methods to refine tests, and support advanced developments for vector control.

 

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services – $250 million. The request seeks a temporary one-year increase in Puerto Rico’s Medicaid Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) to provide an estimated $250 million in additional Federal assistance to support health services for pregnant women at risk of infection or diagnosed with Zika virus and for children with microcephaly, and other health care costs.  This request does not make any changes to Puerto Rico’s underlying Medicaid program, and the additional funding will not be counted towards Puerto Rico’s current Medicaid allotment. Puerto Rico is experiencing ongoing active transmission of Zika. Unlike States, Puerto Rico’s Medicaid funding is capped, which has limited capacity to respond to these emergent and growing health needs.

 

Vaccine Research and Diagnostic Development & Procurement – $200 million. The request includes $200 million for research, rapid advanced development and commercialization of new vaccines and diagnostic tests for Zika virus. It includes funding for the National Institutes of Health to build upon existing resources and work to develop a vaccine for Zika virus and the chikungunya virus, which is spread by the same type of mosquito.  Funding will accelerate this work and improve scientific understanding of the disease to inform the development of additional tools to combat it. The request also includes resources for the Food and Drug Administration to support Zika virus medical product development including the next generation diagnostic devices.

 

Other HHS Response Activities – $210 million.  The request includes funding to establish a new Urgent and Emerging Threat Fund to address Zika virus and other outbreaks.  This funding would be available to support emerging needs related to Zika, including additional support to States for emerging public health response needs should mosquito populations known to be potential Zika carriers migrate to additional States.

 

In addition, the request includes funding to support Puerto Rico’s community health centers in preventing, screening, and treating the Zika virus, expand home visiting services targeting low-income pregnant women at risk of Zika virus, and provide targeted maternal and child health.

 

U.S. Agency for International Development  $335 million

The request includes investments to support affected countries’ ability to control mosquitoes and the transmission of the virus; support maternal health; expand public education on prevention and response; and create new incentives for the development of vaccines and diagnostics.  The request would also provide flexibility in the use of remaining USAID Ebola funds.  Activities would focus particularly on South America, Central America, the Caribbean, and would:

·         Implement integrated vector management activities in countries at-risk of Zika virus;

·         Stimulate private sector research and development of vaccines, diagnostics, and vector control innovations through public private partnerships and mechanisms to provide incentives such as advance market commitments or volume guarantees;

·         Support training of health care workers in affected countries, including providing information about best practices for supporting children with microcephaly;

·         Support for pregnant women’s health, including helping them access repellant to protect against mosquitos.

·         Establish education campaigns to empower communities in affected countries to take actions to protect themselves from Zika Virus as well as other mosquito-borne diseases; and

·         Issue a Global Health Security Grand Challenge calling for groundbreaking innovations in diagnostics, vector control, personal protection, community engagement and surveillance for Zika and other infectious diseases.

 

U.S. Department of State – $41 million

The funding request includes support for U.S. citizens in affected countries, medical support for State Department employees in affected countries, public diplomacy, communications, and other operations activities.  State would also support the World Health Organization and its regional arm, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), to minimize the Zika threat in affected countries while reducing the risk of further spreading the virus.  These resources will support critical public health actions underway, including preparedness, surveillance, data collection, and risk communication.  Activities would also include support for UNICEF’s Zika response efforts in Brazil; activities to bolster diagnostic capabilities through deployment of equipment and specialized training.

 

For more information on the Zika virus and CDC guidance about how Americans can protect themselves, visit http://www.cdc.gov/zika/.

Clinton Camp Highlights Difference with Sanders on Gun Safety in Lead up to South Carolina Primary

Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton face off on issue of gun safety in debate in Milwaukee © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton face off on issue of gun safety in debate in Milwaukee © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

On the same day when a Connecticut judge held a hearing on whether the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) requires dismissal of a suit brought by Sandy Hook victims families against gun manufacturers; when an Uber driver was being arraigned in a Kalamazoo, Michigan court for massacring six people with a semi-automatic assault weapon he bought legally but was not licensed to carry; while in the Senate, Democrats Kristin Gillibrand and Blumenthal were pushing for a law that would keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, the Hillary Clinton campaign organized a call to highlight rival Bernie Sanders’ weak record on gun safety.

South Carolina State Sen. Marlon Kimpson, the Charleston legislator leading the charge on enacting gun safety measures following last year’s tragic shooting there, joined Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey  to emphasize Sanders’ role in enacting PLCAA, which protects gun manufacturers and dealers from being held liable for gun crimes, as well as his vote to create the Charleston Loophole, which enabled  the Charleston shooter to purchase a gun, which a completed background check would have barred him from buying.

Sanders voted against the Brady Bill five times, voted to create Charleston loophole which allows someone to buy a gun before a background check has been completed, made it harder to close down gun shops, voted to allow guns on trains. And he voted to shield gun dealers and manufacturers for any culpability, a law that is being used to dismiss the suit of nine Sandy Hook families.

“When the NRA called the bill [giving gun dealers and manufacturers immunity] that Sanders voted for the most important gun legislation in last 20 years, what they were saying was that it was the most important legislation that failed to make any of us safer, in fact, made us all in much greater danger,” said Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy.

“You can’t underestimate how much damage was done by the 2005 law – the reason that NRA touted it as greatest legislative victory,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. “It gave sweeping legal immunity to gun dealers and manufacturers, the kind of immunity that nearly no other industry has, but thanks to that law, and NRA work and those who supported, gun dealers, manufacturers are shielded from liability.”

The law granting immunity provides a disincentive for gun manufacturers to build smart guns, so that a child could not pick a gun out of his mother’s purse and shoot her dead, as happened, or a teenager could not accidentally kill a friend, or purposefully go to his middle school and murder other students, or a criminal who burgled a house could not use a stolen gun to shoot kill a homeowner who interrupted a burglary.  Or an alienated teenager could not come upon a parent’s gun and in a fit of depression, commit suicide. The list goes on and on.

“That’s exactly right,” said Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy. “There is no incentive to make sure guns aren’t sold that get onto the street, no incentive for screening…. We have seen in this country retailers who offer smart gun tech boycotted. Historic companies that started talking about manufacturing smart guns, making guns safer, were boycotted. This is activist group – they want no regulation. they know who their friends are in senate and who their enemies.”

And in Connecticut, it is being used to shield gun manufacturers from a lawsuit from families of the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre.

“The NRA that sponsored that legislation, they don’t want guns to be safer,” said Governor Malloy. “They think that’s no one’s obligation. “We have a pharmaceuticals industry that does billions of dollars of research, we don’t grant to them the same protections we grant to the gun industry. Sanders was wrong on this, and he should admit it now. He likes for everyone else to admit their mistake. The death and destruction [immunity] has caused. he should be held accountable for that,” Governor Malloy said.

Sanders also voted to limit the time the federal government has to complete a background check to three days; if for some reason (like budget shortfall and overworked staff) the check cannot be completed in three days’ time, the sale can go through. It’s how the man responsible for murdering nine at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, SC obtained his gun, even though he would otherwise have failed the background check.

“This issue is extremely important – taken to Senate floor every week since January to discuss, particularly important in African-American community – gun violence is leading cause of death for young black men, more than next nine leading causes combined,” said South Carolina State Senator Marlon Kimpson, the Charleston legislator leading the charge on enacting gun safety measures following last year’s tragic shooting there.

“It’s personal to me- I represent Charleston, where there was the shooting of 9 churchgoers and attempted murder of 5 others in the Mother Emanuel massacre. That killer had rage in his heart no law could have healed, but it shouldn’t have been so easy to buy a gun – because of the loophole the NRA lobbied its allies in Congress to get – the FBI only has three days to complete a background check; after that, if the check is delayed or needs more time, too bad, the gun sale proceeds no matter what about background history. It is now known as ‘Charleston loophole.’

“Before South Carolina goes to the polls on Saturday, I hope to ask Sanders why voted for the loophole I don’t expect Sanders to answer. In July he said, ‘Guns in Vermont are not the same as guns in Chicago, Los Angeles. In our state, they are used for hunting, in Chicago, used for kids and gangs killing other kids or police officers shooting innocent people.’ The language is troubling – a gun from Vermont can kill an innocent churchgoer the same as in South Carolina. The loophole passed at the federal level makes all our communities less safe.

“South Carolinians need a president to close the Charleston Loophole. That’s why I found it so troubling that Sanders said Clinton is standing with Obama just to pander to black voters. I will be a very vocal voice in discussing Clinton’s consistent track record on this issue – my voters take her track record seriously.

Democratic Senators  have introduced the  “The Background Check Completion Act, which would require a completed background check for every gun buyer who purchases a gun from a federally-licensed gun dealer, closing the loophole that has allowed thousands of gun sales to prohibited buyers, including the sale of the firearm used by Dylann Roof in his deadly attack at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., in June.”

Sanders has failed to cosponsor Sen. Blumenthal’s Background Check Completion Act to close the Charleston loophole, which has 14 Democratic cosponsors, even though he has sponsored or cosponsored more than 20 pieces of legislation in recent months. And when asked directly in January, Sanders “would not fully commit his support to closing the so-called ‘Charleston loophole.’”

“Compare the Sanders record with Clinton’s record on guns,” Governor Malloy said. “If guns and gun safety is at all important to you and your community you have no choice but to vote for Clinton. Sanders still hasn’t said that vote was wrong. He talks about small shops in Vermont. This is not about small shops in Vermont, not about hunting guns. It’s about protection protecting industry from having to do anything to make these weapons safer.

“The argument about who was on the right of President Obama in the debate eight years ago [is specious]. The question is, ‘Did you support Brady or not, exempting the gun industry in a way no other is, or not? He voted with the NRA and the gun industry. That’s the reality.”

“As a state attorney general, we see this as federal issue, a national issue,” said Healey. “It doesn’t work that guns are treated differently in Vermont. Guns are bought and sold all over and are easily trafficked, transported between and amongst states with too much ease because of inadequate federal law. That’s why it is so important no matter what state you are living in.”

I see another issue implicit in Sanders’ gun legislation record: Sanders has assaulted Clinton charging that she is beholden to Wall Street and special interests because she has accepted money for speeches and donations. I see in his support for the NRA his own interest in keeping the NRA away from spending money to defeat his reelection, having learned in his 1988 defeat for Congress what the NRA could do.

But that changed in 1990, when the NRA decided that Sanders, challenging the same guy he lost to in 1988, Peter Smith, was the lesser of two evils. ” But that year, he was the enemy of the NRA’s enemy,” wrote David A. Fahrenthold (“How the National Rifle Association helped get Bernie Sanders elected” Washington Post, July 19, 2015).

Today, he uses that defeat to show that he stands up to the NRA, but the opposite would seem to be true: he learned to take positions so as not to antagonize the NRA.

“We have a public health crisis when it comes to gun violence – since Sandy Hook, nearly 100,000 lives have been lost to gun violence,” AG Healey said. “It is more important than ever we have president who understands the importance of issue, with a demonstrated track record, who will walk into Oval Office on Day 1 with concrete plans, real plans to address, and has a proven record of standing up to NRA, not standing with them.”

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© 2016 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com,  email editor@news-photos-features.com. Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Obama’s 2017 Budget Aims at ‘Meeting Our Greatest Challenges’; Congressional GOP Says Don’t Bother

President Obama's 2017 budget reflects the initiatives he discussed in the State of the Union: the need to invest in infrastructure, education, research and development, climate action and the transition to clean, renewable energy. House Speaker Paul Ryan says the President's budget is dead on arrival © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
President Obama’s 2017 budget reflects the initiatives he discussed in the State of the Union: the need to invest in infrastructure, education, research and development, climate action and the transition to clean, renewable energy. House Speaker Paul Ryan says the President’s budget is dead on arrival © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Congressional Republicans have snubbed the President, refusing to even invite his representative to discuss his FY 2017 federal budget (See New York Times, Congressional Republicans Balk at Obama’s Budget, Sight Unseen”). It’s unprecedented. Here’s an overview from the White House of what is in it, how it addresses the great challenges this country faces – the imperative for climate action, infrastructure investment, job growth, income inequality, restoring opportunity – and see what you think:

FACT SHEET: The President’s Fiscal Year 2017 Budget: Overview

Meeting Our Greatest Challenges

Under the President’s leadership, we have turned our economy around and created 14 million jobs. Our unemployment rate is below five percent for the first time in almost eight years. Nearly 18 million people have gained health coverage as the Affordable Care Act has taken effect. And we have dramatically cut our deficits by almost three-quarters and set our Nation on a more sustainable fiscal path.

Yet while it is important to take stock of our progress, this Budget is not about looking back at the road we have traveled. It is about looking forward and making sure our economy works for everybody, not just those at the top. It is about choosing investments that not only make us stronger today, but also reflect the kind of country we aspire to be – the kind of country we want to pass on to our children and grandchildren.

The Budget makes critical investments in our domestic and national security priorities while adhering to the bipartisan budget agreement signed into law last fall, and it lifts sequestration in future years so that we continue to invest in our economic future and our national security. It also drives down deficits and maintains our fiscal progress through smart savings from health care, immigration, and tax reforms.

The Budget shows that the President and the Administration remain focused on meeting our greatest challenges – including accelerating the pace of innovation to tackle climate change and find new treatments for devastating diseases; giving everyone a fair shot at opportunity and economic security; and advancing our national security and global leadership – not only for the year ahead, but for decades to come.

BUILDING ON OUR ECONOMIC AND FISCAL PROGRESS

The Budget makes critical investments while adhering to the bipartisan budget agreement signed into law last fall. It lifts sequestration in 2018 and beyond so that we continue to invest in our economic future and our national security. It also drives down deficits and maintains our fiscal progress through smart savings from health care, immigration, and tax reforms. 

A Record of Job Growth and Economic Expansion. Under the President’s leadership, the U.S. economy has become an engine of job growth and economic expansion, outpacing other advanced economies in recovery from the Great Recession. American businesses have added 14 million jobs over the past 71 months – the longest streak of job growth on record. Our unemployment rate is below five percent for the first time in almost eight years. And the economy added 903,000 new manufacturing jobs in the last six years – the first sustained job growth in the sector since the 1990s. Nearly 18 million Americans have gained health insurance under the Affordable Care Act and our high school graduation rate is at an all-time high.

Reflecting on Our Fiscal Progress. We have made remarkable economic and fiscal progress, showing what’s possible when strategic investment to grow our economy is paired with smart reforms, for example to our health care system, that address the true drivers of our long-term fiscal challenges. Since 2009, under the President’s leadership, Federal deficits have fallen by nearly three-quarters – the most rapid sustained defi­cit reduction since just after World War II. The annual deficit in 2015 fell to 2.5 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the lowest level since 2007, and well below the average of the last 40 years.

Building on Our Success for a Stronger Economy. The President’s Budget continues that approach, investing in America’s future and laying out a path to address our greatest challenges. It builds on the bipartisan budget agreement secured last fall, adhering to the discretionary levels provided for 2017, while also putting forward paid-for mandatory investments that are critical to building durable economic growth in the future and maintaining America’s edge as the leader in innovation and cutting-edge science. The Budget proposes a number of reforms – including a detailed international tax reform plan – that would modernize the business tax code to make it fairer and more efficient, and to create jobs. The Budget also finishes the job the past two bipartisan agreements started by preventing the return of harmful sequestration funding levels in 2018 and beyond, replacing the savings by closing tax loopholes and reforming tax expenditures, and with smart spending reforms.

Investing in Economic Growth While Maintaining Fiscal Responsibility. The Budget more than pays for all new investments, achieving $2.9 trillion of deficit reduction over 10 years, from health, tax, and immigration reforms, and other proposals. The Budget includes roughly $375 billion of health savings that grow over time and builds on the ACA with further incentives to improve qual­ity and control health care cost growth. The Budget achieves more than $955 billion in deficit reduction from reducing tax benefits for high-income households, helping to bring in sufficient revenues to make vital investments while also helping to meet our promises to seniors.  The Budget reflects the President’s support for commonsense, comprehensive immigration reform along the lines of the 2013 bipartisan Senate-passed bill, which CBO has estimated would reduce the deficit by about $170 billion over 10 years and by almost $1 trillion over two decades.

The Budget keeps deficits below three percent of GDP while stabilizing debt and putting it on a declining path for most of the next decade – key measures of fiscal progress – showing that investments in growth and opportunity are compatible with putting the Nation’s finances on a strong and sustainable path.

INNOVATION TO FORGE A BETTER FUTURE

The Budget invests in accelerating the pace of American innovation, so we can create jobs and build the economy of the future while tackling our greatest challenges, including addressing climate change and finding new treatments and cures for devastating diseases. The Budget includes investments in: 

Building a 21st Century Transportation System. The Budget invests $320 billion over 10 years in a multi-agency initiative to build a clean transportation system for the 21st Century that speeds goods to market while reducing America’s reliance on oil, cutting carbon pollution, and strengthening our resilience to the effects of the changing climate.  Overall, the 21st Century Clean Transportation Plan will increase American investments in clean transportation infrastructure by roughly 50 percent above current levels while reforming the transportation investments already being made to move America to more sustainable, low-carbon investments. 

Prioritizing Research and Development. The Budget sustains the Administration’s consistent prioritization of R&D with an invest­ment of $152 billion for R&D overall through both discretionary and mandatory funding proposals, a four percent increase from 2016. 

  • Doubling Clean Energy R&D. Since the President took office, the Administration has made the largest investments in clean energy in American history. The Budget provides $7.7 billion government-wide, a 20 percent increase over 2016, for fundamental and transformative clean energy R&D across 12 agencies, a first step in support of Mission Innovation, the landmark agreement currently among 20 countries to double government funding for clean energy R&D over five years.
  • Supporting Basic Research. The Budget provides $14.6 billion in 2017, an increase of over $900 million over the 2016 enacted level, for the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which invest in basic research – the type of R&D that is most likely to have spillover impacts to multiple endeavors and in which the private sector typically underinvests. 
  • Supporting a Cancer Moonshot. During his 2016 State of the Union Address, President Obama called on Vice President Biden to lead a new, national “Moonshot” initiative to eliminate cancer as we know it.  The Budget supports this effort with a $1 billion initiative to provide the funding necessary for researchers to accelerate the development of new cancer detection and treatments.  This includes $195 million in new cancer activities at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Fiscal Year 2016, $755 million in mandatory funds in the 2017 Budget for new cancer-related research activities at both NIH and the Food and Drug Administration, and support from other agencies such as the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs. 
  • Advancing Biomedical Research. The Budget provides $33.1 billion to support biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), providing about 10,000 new and competing NIH grants that will help us better understand the fundamental causes and mechanisms of disease, like the BRAIN Initiative and Precision Medicine.
  • Revitalizing American Manufacturing. The Budget invests in coordinated, cutting-edge manufacturing R&D, while also expanding industry-driven workforce training and providing additional resources through the Manufacturing Extension Partnership to help America’s small manufacturers access the technology and expertise they need to expand. It includes investments to grow the National Network of Manufacturing Innovation, a national network of innovative R&D centers to help keep U.S. manufacturing in the lead on technology. 
  • Creating the Industries and Jobs of the Future.  The Budget invests in R&D that can help create the industries and jobs of the future, such as supercomputing, Big Data, robotics, advanced materials, nanotechnology, and synthetic biology. In addition, the Budget makes new investments to sustain America’s leading edge in the development of autonomous vehicle technologies and self-driving cars.
  • Investing in Civil Space Activities. The Budget provides robust funding to support space exploration, monitor the Earth’s weather and climate from space, develop new space technologies, and partner with the private sector to reinforce the Nation’s leadership and take the next step on the journey to Mars.
  • Addressing Challenges in Agriculture through R&D.Recognizing the importance of science and technology to meet challenges in agriculture, the Budget invests in three major ar­eas of agricultural R&D: the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative competitive research grants; the Agricultural Research Service intramural research; and construction and renovation of key infrastructure investments based on the Department of Agriculture’s facility modernization plan.
  • Simplifying and Expanding the Research and Experimentation Tax Credit. The Research and Experimentation (R&E) Tax Credit is an important Federal incentive for private-sector research investments, and last year, the President signed legislation to make the credit permanent and expand the incentive for R&D investments by small businesses. The Budget simplifies and expands the tax credit for companies investing in innovation. 

Protecting and Expanding the Nation’s Water Supply. The Budget supports the Administration’s two-part water innovation strategy to boost water sustainability and reduce the price and energy costs of new water supply technology to increase the resilience of our Nation’s water supplies to stressors like climate change and population growth, among others.

Supporting Adoption of Clean Energy. In addition to Mission Innovation funding, the Budget provides over $1.3 billion to accelerate the adoption of clean energy sources such as solar, wind, and low-carbon fossil fuels, and energy-efficiency technologies.

Partnering with Communities to Tackle Climate Risk. The Budget invests in programs that advance our scientific understanding of projected climate impacts, including changes in droughts, wildland fires, and coastal and inland flooding; assist communities in planning and preparing for future risks; and support risk-reduction and adaptation projects on the ground.

Protecting and Preserving Public Lands and Oceans. The Budget includes robust funding to support proven programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund that allow Federal agencies and their partners to enhance the resilience of our lands and waters, and continue to preserve and share our cultural and historical identity.

Leading Global Efforts to Cut Carbon Pollution and Enhance Climate Change Resilience. In support of the President’s Climate Action Plan, the Budget provides $1.3 billion to advance the goals of the Global Climate Change Initiative (GCCI) through important multilateral and bilateral engagement with major and emerging economies. This amount includes $750 million in U.S. funding for the Green Climate Fund (GCF), which will help developing countries leverage public and private financing to invest in reducing carbon pollution and strengthening resilience to climate change.

OPPORTUNITY FOR ALL 

As the President stated in the 2016 State of the Union Address, one of the Nation’s key challenges is how to give everyone a fair shot at opportunity and economic security. In today’s global economy, our competitiveness depends on tapping the full potential of all Americans. To address this challenge, the Budget supports education; training and support for workers and their families; access to health care; and other investments to ensure that all Americans contribute to and benefit from our economic growth.

Improving Access to High-Quality Child Care and Early Education.High-quality child care and early education for young children support parents in the workforce and help foster healthy child development and school readiness. The Budget aims to ensure that children have access to high-quality learning starting at birth by:

  • Expanding access to quality child care for working families. The Budget ensures that all low- and moderate-income working families with young children have access to quality, affordable child care, as opposed to the small share of children who receive this help today. Overall, this will expand access to high-quality care for more than 1.1 million additional children under age four by 2026.
  • Cutting taxes for families paying for child care with a credit of up to $3,000 per child. The Budget triples the maximum Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC) for families with children under age five and makes the full CDCTC available to families with incomes of up to $120,000, benefiting families with young children, older children, and dependents who are elderly or have disabilities.
  • Increasing the duration of Head Start programs, while maintaining access to Head Start. The Budget includes $9.6 billion for Head Start, an increase of $434 million over 2016 enacted. Within this total, the Budget provides an additional $292 million in 2017 to increase the number of children attending Head Start in a full school-day and -year program, which research shows is more effective than programs of shorter duration and also helps meet the needs of working parents.
  • Supporting universal preschool. The Preschool for All initiative, in partnership with the States, provides all four-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families with access to high-quality preschool, while encouraging States to expand those programs to reach additional children from middle-class families and establish full-day kindergarten policies.  The Budget increases funding for Preschool Development Grants (PDGs), which lay the groundwork for universal preschool. With the support of Federal funding made available through the PDG program, 18 States are currently developing and expanding high-quality preschool programs in targeted, high-need communities.
  • Investing in voluntary, evidence-based home visiting. The Budget extends and expands evidence-based, voluntary home visiting programs, which enable nurses, social workers, and other professionals to connect families to services to support children’s healthy development and learning.
  • Invests in early learning for children with disabilities. The Budget provides increased funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Preschools Grants and the IDEA Infants and Families program, an increase of $80 million compared to 2016, including funding to help identify, develop and scale-up evidence-based practices for early identification of and intervention for learning and developmental delays. 

Putting All Students on a Path to College and Careers. We have made significant progress in expanding educational opportunities and we are getting results: high school graduation rates are up, drop-out rates are down, and far more students are attending college than in 2008. But there’s more we must do to ensure that all children get a high-quality education that allows them to reach their full potential.  The Budget focuses on providing equity and opportunity for all students in elementary and secondary education and expanding college opportunity and quality by:

  • Helping Students Prepare for College and Careers. The Budget increases funding for Title I Grants to Local Educational Agencies, the cornerstone of Federal efforts to ensure that all students, including poor and minority students, students with disabilities, and English learners, graduate from high school prepared for college and careers.
  • Supporting Computer Science for All. The Budget invests $4 billion in mandatory funding over three years for the new Computer Science for All initiative, which would support State efforts to expand access for all students to computer science instruction and programs of study. The Budget invests discretionary resources in a Computer Science for All Development Grants program for school districts to promote innovative strategies to provide high-quality instruction and other learning opportunities in computer science. 
  • Providing Tuition-Free Community College for Responsible Students. The Budget funds America’s College Promise (ACP), which would create a new partnership with States to make two years of community college free for responsible students, letting students earn the first half of a bachelor’s degree or an associate’s degree and acquire skills needed in the workforce at no cost. America’s College Promise would also provide grants to four-year HBCUs and MSIs to provide first-time low-income students, including community college transfers, with up to two years of college at zero or significantly reduced tuition.
  • Strengthening Pell Grants. Pell Grants are central to our efforts to help low- and moderate- income students afford college. The Budget supports and encourages on-time and accelerated completion through year-round Pell availability to low-income students who have completed a full-time course load and through a $300 increase in the maximum Pell Grant for students who take 15 or more credits. The Budget also continues to index the grant to inflation indefinitely for future generations. The Second Chance Pell proposal expands opportunity to incarcerated individuals eligible for release with the goals of helping them get jobs and strengthen their communities.
  • Simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The Budget eliminates burdensome and unnecessarily complex student aid application questions to make it easier for students and families to access Federal student aid and afford a college education.
  • Simplifying and expanding education tax benefits. The Budget streamlines and expands education tax benefits by consolidating the Lifetime Learning Credit into an expanded American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC), which would be available for five years and refundable up to $1,500; exempting Pell Grants from taxation and the AOTC calculation; and eliminating tax on student loan debt forgiveness, while repealing the complicated student loan interest deduction for new borrowers. 

Helping Workers Get the Skills They Need for the 21st Century Economy. A nation’s ability to ensure a steady and consistent pipeline of highly skilled workers is one key ingredient to helping its economy grow and thrive.  One of the surest paths to ensuring that the economy works for everyone is to expand access to job training and education for in-demand skills.  The Budget supports this agenda by:

  • Expanding Technical Training Programs for Middle Class Jobs. The Budget proposes a new American Technical Training Fund to provide competitive grants to support evidence-based, tuition-free job training programs in high-demand fields. 
  • Expanding the Proven Learn-and-Earn Strategy of Apprenticeship. The Budget establishes a $2 billion mandatory Apprenticeship Training Fund to help meet the President’s goal to double the number of apprentices across the United States, giving more workers the opportunity to develop job-relevant skills while earning a paycheck.
  • Creating a Talent Compact to Keep and Attract Jobs to the United States. The Budget includes $3 billion in competitive funding to create more than 50 “Talent Hotspots” across the United States that would prioritize a sector and make a commitment to recruit and train the workforce to help local businesses grow and thrive, attract more jobs from overseas, and fuel the talent needs of entrepreneurs. This proposal would produce a pipeline of about half a million skilled workers over the next five years.
  • Empowering Workers, Training Providers, and Employers with Better Information on Jobs, Skills and Training.  The Budget proposes a new Workforce Data Science and Innovation Fund that would recruit to the Department of Labor (DOL) a best-in-class team to help States find new ways to use technology and data analytics to improve training programs and consumer choice. And similar to HHS’s Open Health Data Initiative, DOL would partner with the Department of Commerce to develop new open source data on jobs and skills to spur the creation of new products to help match workers to better jobs.
  • Opening Doors to a First Job for More Young Americans. The Budget invests $5.5 billion in mandatory funding to help more than one million young people gain the work experience, skills and networks that come from having a first job.
  • Creating Pathways to High-Growth Jobs. The Budget builds on the progress in the bipartisan Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) by funding the core DOL WIOA formula grants at their full authorized level and by investing $3 billion in mandatory competitive funding for regional partnerships that bring together employers, education and training providers, and workforce boards with the goal of training a half million people and placing them into jobs in high-demand sectors.
  • Investing in Health Professions Education to Improve Access to Health Care Providers and Services. The Budget invests in growing the health care workforce, including expanding and extending funding for the National Health Service Corps through FY 2020 to increase the number of providers serving in the areas across the country that need them most.

Helping Americans Thrive in the 21st Century Economy. The Budget invests in programs that help ensure workers in the 21st century economy can balance work and family obligations, stay healthy, save for retirement, and are protected during temporary periods of unemployment and upon return to work. The Budget also supports evidence-based efforts to reduce poverty and help those who are struggling to get back on their feet. 

  • Tax Reform that Promotes Growth and Opportunity. The Budget’s tax proposals support work by expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit for workers without qualifying children, and creating a Second Earner Tax Credit for married couples in which both spouses work.  
  • Strengthening Efforts to Help Low-Income Families Succeed.The Budget funds proposals designed to reduce poverty, assist families in deep poverty or experiencing a financial crisis, and improve efforts to help parents find and keep jobs. These proposals include establishing an Emergency Aid and Service Connection Grants program, strengthening the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF), creating a permanent Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer for Children program, expanding opportunity for Native American Youth, and building on current efforts to better serve Native youth.
  • Expanding Paid Leave. The Budget encourages States to establish paid leave programs, providing more than $2 billion for the Paid Leave Partnership Initiative to help up to five States launch paid family and medical leave programs, as well as small grants to help States and localities conduct analyses to inform the development of paid family and medical leave programs. These investments complement the President’s executive actions to expand paid sick leave for employees of Federal contractors.
  • Modernizing the Unemployment Insurance Safety Net. The Budget proposes a cost-neutral set of reforms to strengthen and modernize the Unemployment Insurance (UI) program to reflect the modern economy and workforce. These reforms ensure more hardworking Americans have access to UI if they lose a job, provide new protections for workers who take a pay cut in order to get back into work, strengthen the program’s connection to work, make the program more responsive to economic downturns, and ensure State programs have enough resources to protect workers in the midst of a recession. 
  • Helping All Workers Save for Retirement. The Budget includes a package of proposals aimed at increasing access to retirement plans and increasing the portability of retirement savings and benefits.  These proposals aim to ensure near-universal access to workplace retirement savings accounts and test new approaches to making retirement benefits more portable across jobs. 
  • Partnering with Communities to Expand Opportunity.Initiatives such as Promise Zones, Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership, Partnership for Sustainable Communities, and Performance Partnership Pilots for Disconnected Youth have supported holistic, local responses to pressing issues. The Budget continues the Administration’s place-based approach to coordinating programs that help create jobs and opportunity, promote resilience and sustainability, and implement local visions in communities across the Nation.
  • Ending Homelessness. The Budget sustains funding to support programs dedicated to ending veteran homelessness, while also funding housing vouchers and rapid rehousing over the next ten years to reach and maintain the goal of ending homelessness among all of America’s families in 2020. This significant investment is based on recent rigorous research that found that families who utilized vouchers – compared to alternative forms of assistance to the homeless – had fewer incidents of homelessness, child separations, intimate partner violence and school moves, less food insecurity, and generally less economic stress.

Ensuring Access to Quality, Affordable Health Care. The Budget supports the Affordable Care Act, which is already providing coverage for millions of Americans through the Health Insurance Marketplaces, the delivery of financial assistance to make coverage affordable, and the expansion of Medicaid.  It also supports:

  • Expanding Access to Mental Health Care. One in five American adults experience a men­tal health issue at some point in their life, yet millions do not receive the care they need. The Budget includes $500 million in new mandatory funding to help engage individuals with serious mental illness in care, improve access to care by increasing service capacity and the behavioral health workforce, and ensure that behavioral health care systems work for everyone.
  • Addressing the Prescription Drug and Heroin Overdose Epidemic. More Americans now die every year from drug overdoses than they do in motor vehicle crashes. The Budget takes a two-pronged approach to address this epidemic.  First, it includes $1 billion in new mandatory funding over two years to expand access to treatment for prescription drug abuse and heroin use and help ensure that every American who wants treatment can access it and get the help they need.  Second, it includes funding to continue and increase current efforts to expand State-level prescription drug overdose prevention strategies, increase the availability of medication-assisted treatment programs, improve access to the overdose-reversal drug naloxone, and support targeted enforcement activities.

Incentivizing Justice Reform with the 21st Century Justice Initiative.The Administration continues to support criminal justice reform that enhances public safety, avoids excessive punishment and unnecessary incarceration, and builds trust between the justice system and the community. The Budget includes a $5 billion investment for a new 21st Century Justice Initiative that will focus on achieving three objectives: reducing crime, reversing practices that have led to unnecessarily long sentences and unnecessary incarceration, and building community trust.

NATIONAL SECURITY AND GLOBAL LEADERSHIP 

Economic growth and opportunity can only be achieved if America is safe and secure. The Budget provides the resources to address security threats wherever they arise and continue to demonstrate American leadership around the world.

Destroying ISIL. The President’s highest priority is keeping the American people safe. That is why the United States is leading the global coalition that will de­stroy the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The Budget provides over $11 billion for the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of State to support U.S. efforts to continue to hunt down terrorists; provide training and equipment to forces fighting ISIL on the ground; help stabilize communities liberated from ISIL in Syria and Iraq; disrupt ISIL’s financing and recruitment; strengthen our regional partners, provide humanitarian assistance to those impacted by the conflict; and support a political solution to the Syrian civil war. 

Countering Violent Extremism. The President’s Budget includes funding for innovative, community-based approaches that seek to discourage violent extremism and to improve the ability of communities to identify potential extremists and intervene where necessary to thwart radical behavior that may lead to violence.

Securing the Digital Economy for All Americans Through Strengthened Cybersecurity. The Budget invests $19 billion in overall Federal resources for cybersecurity to support a broad-based cybersecurity strategy for securing the Government, enhancing the security of critical infrastructure and important technologies, investing in next-generation tools and workforce, and empowering Americans. In particular, this funding will support the Cybersecurity National Action Plan, which takes near-term actions and puts in place a long-term strategy to enhance cybersecurity awareness and protections, protect privacy, maintain public safety as well as economic and national security, and empower Americans to take better control of their digital security.

Supporting the Transition in Afghanistan. The Budget includes resources to reinforce Afghanistan’s security and development by supporting military training and assistance, as well as health, education, justice, economic growth, governance, and other civilian assistance programs necessary to promote stability and strengthen diplomatic ties with the international community. The Budget also supports the U.S. military mission to train, advise, and assist the Afghan National Security Forces and maintain a counterterrorism capability.

Countering Russian Aggression and Supporting European Allies. The Budget includes $4.3 billion for political, economic, public diplomacy, and military support to build resilience and reduce vulnerabilities to Russian aggression among NATO allies and partner states in Europe, Eurasia, and Central Asia. As part of that effort the Budget includes $3.4 billion for the Department of Defense’s European Reassurance Initiative (ERI).

Providing Further Support for the Central American Regional Strategy. The Budget provides necessary resources to further support the U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Central America by investing in a long-term, comprehensive approach designed to address the root causes of migration of unaccompanied children and families from the region.

Advancing the Rebalance to Asia and the Pacific. The Budget supports the Administration’s commitment to a comprehensive regional strategy in Asia and the Pacific that reinforces a rules-based order and advances security, prosperity, and human dignity across the region. For instance, the Budget provides the necessary resources to implement the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) — a historic, high-standard trade agreement with 11 countries of the region that levels the playing field for American workers and American businesses.

Growing Partnerships in Africa. The Budget provides funding to ensure United States will uphold the commitments it made during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in 2014, including with respect to Power Africa, Trade Africa, the Security Governance Initiative (SGI), the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), the African Peacekeeping Rapid Response Partnership (APRRP), and the Early Warning and Response Partnership (EWARP). It also provides resources for implementing the peace agreement in South Sudan. 

Preparing for the Future. In addition to addressing today’s changing security environment, the Budget makes sig­nificant investments to maintain our military’s superiority and ensure the United States always has an operational advantage over any potential adversary. The Budget does this by driving smart and essential innovation: pursuing new research and technology development; supporting updates and refinements to operational concepts and warfighting strategies; supporting capaci­ty building among local partners; building the Force of the Future; and pursuing additional enterprise reform.

Sustaining the President’s Development and Democracy Agenda. The Budget continues to advance the Administration’s development and democracy initiatives and activities as it seeks to reduce extreme poverty, encourage broad-based economic growth, and support democratic governance and human rights – and to drive progress toward meeting the global development vision and priorities adopted in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  This includes investments in Feed the Future, the President’s food security initiative; development programs that mobilize the private sector to deliver tangible results and advance U.S. interests; food aid and other humanitarian assistance programs; the First Lady’s Let Girls Learn Initiative; and effective global health programs, including for the President’s Malaria Initiative and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

Honoring Our Commitment to Veterans. The Budget ensures continued investment in the five pillars the President has outlined for supporting the Nation’s veterans: providing the resources and funding they deserve; ensuring high-quality and timely health care; getting veterans their earned benefits quickly and efficiently; ending veteran homelessness; and helping veterans and their families get good jobs, an education, and access to affordable housing. It also puts forward a proposal to fundamentally reform the broken appeals process for disability claims so that it can best serve our veterans. 

A GOVERNMENT OF THE FUTURE

The President is committed to driving last­ing change in how Government works – change that makes a significant, tangible, and positive difference in the economy and the lives of the American people. Over the past seven years, the Administration has launched successful efforts to modernize and improve citizen-facing services, eliminate wasteful spending, reduce the Federal real property footprint, improve the use of evidence to improve program performance, and spur innova­tion in the private sector by opening to the public tens of thousands of Federal data sets and inno­vation assets at the national labs.

Supporting the President’s Management Agenda. The Budget includes investments to continue driving the President’s Management Agenda by improving the service we provide to the American public; leveraging the Federal Government’s buying power to bring more value and efficiency to how we use taxpayer dollars; opening Government data and research to the private sector to drive innovation and economic growth; promoting smarter information technology; modernizing permitting and environmental review processes; creating new Idea Labs to support employees with promising ideas; and, attracting and retaining the best talent in the Federal workforce.  

Supporting Digital Service Delivery for Citizens. In 2014 the Administration piloted the U.S. Digital Service, a unit of innovators, entrepreneurs, and engineers. This team of America’s best digital experts has worked in collaboration with Federal agencies to implement streamlined and effective digital technology practices on the Nation’s highest priority programs. This work includes collaborating with the Department of Education to launch the new College Scorecard to give stu­dents, parents, and their advisors most reliable national data to help with college choice and supporting the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) transition to launch the new myUSCIS which makes it easier for users to access information about the immigration process and immigration ser­vices. To institutionalize the dramatic improve­ments that this approach has demonstrated, the Budget supports the Administration’s aggressive goal of hiring and placing 500 top technology and design experts to serve in the Government by January 2017.

Strengthening Federal Cybersecurity. As outlined above, the Budget provides $19 billion in resources for cybersecurity. This includes the creation of a new $3.1 billion revolving fund, the Information Technology Modernization Fund (ITMF), to retire the Government’s antiquated IT systems and transition to more secure and efficient modern IT systems, funding to streamline governance and secure Federal networks, and investments to strengthen the cybersecurity workforce and cybersecurity education across society.  

Building Evidence and Encouraging Innovation. The President has made it clear that policy decisions should be driven by evidence so that the Federal government can do more of what works and less of what does not. The Administration’s evidence-based approaches have resulted in important gains in areas ranging from reducing veteran homelessness, to improving educational outcomes, to enhancing the effectiveness of international development programs. The Budget invests in expanding evidence-based approaches, developing and testing effective practices, and enhancing government’s capacity to build and use evidence, in particular by expanding access to administrative data and further developing Federal, State, local, and tribal data infrastructure.

Reorganizing Government to Succeed in the Global Economy. The Budget also includes proposals to consolidate and reorganize Government agencies to make them leaner and more efficient, and it increases the use of evidence and evaluation to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely on programs that work.

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News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. For editorial feature and photo information,  email editor@news-photos-features.com. ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Obama Proposes New ‘First Job’ Funding to Connect Young Americans with Jobs, Skills Training to Start Their Careers

 

President Obama speaking at a Brooklyn School, is proposing First Job funding to connect young Americans with jobs and skills training to get a leg up on the ladder of career success © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
President Obama speaking at a Brooklyn School, is proposing First Job funding to connect young Americans with jobs and skills training to get a leg up on the ladder of career success © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“We need to do everything we can to make sure America’s young people get the opportunity to earn the skills and a work ethic that come with a job.  It’s important for their future, and for America’s.”

– President Barack Obama

“After the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes, the United States is in the midst of the longest streak of private-sector job growth in our history, with more than 14 million new jobs created during the past 70 months. But for too many young people, getting a first job—a crucial step in starting their career—is challenging. One of the main criteria employers screen for in the hiring process is work experience. Previous experience allows potential employers to call references who can vouch for a candidate and assess what someone can do based on past accomplishments. Additionally, many of the skills employers value most can only be learned on the job. Once a young person gets their first job, it is much easier to get the next one,” the White House stated in a Fact Sheet explaining funding for a new program to connect young people with jobs and career training.

“In his State of the Union Address, the President made clear that our goal is a growing economy that works better for everybody. The President’s FY 2017 Budget includes nearly $6 billion in new funding to help more than 1 million young people gain the work experience, skills, and networks that come from having a first job.  Today, the White House and the Departments of Labor and Education announced the details of that plan, including nearly doubling last year’s budget request for supporting young people who are out of school and work.”

Republicans are fond of decrying the fact that so many young people have had to live in the parents’ house because they can’t afford to set up their own household (though you hear less of that now that the economy has clearly rebounded). They attack the lack of real increase in wage growth. Yet they do nothing about it – nothing to invest in infrastructure to stimulate jobs and wages, nothing to address student debt by keeping interest rates artificially high, nothing to promote college affordability or jobs creation.

The proposal that President Obama has made would address many of these issues. Let’s see if Republicans support it, or return to their mantra of “curing” every problem by calling for reduced taxes and regulation.

Major investments of Obama’s plan include:

  • A New $5.5 Billion Proposal to Open Doors to a First Job.The President’s Budget will propose new investments – nearly double last year’s request – to connect more than 1 million young people to first jobs over the summer and year-round. It would also create a new $2 billion competitive grant program designed to re-connect disconnected youth to educational and workforce pathways.
  • Summer Jobs and BeyondGrant Competition.  Today the Administration is also taking a new step to connect more young Americans to work with the release of the application for a $20 million Department of Labor grant competition – using existing funds – that will award approximately 10 grants to communities to implement innovative approaches that connect young people to jobs and career pathways.
  • New Proposed Investments to Give More Americans Skills for In-Demand Jobs. The President is also proposing in his Budget $3 billion to create an American Talent Compact that would expand talent pipelines in over 50 regions to fill open jobs and attract new jobs from overseas; a $500 million Workforce Data Science and Innovation Fund to create dynamic data sets on jobs, skills, and training to help training providers and workers keep pace with rapidly changing job needs; and a $2 billion Apprenticeship Training Fund to double the number of U.S. apprenticeships.

The President is also calling on businesses to take action to give young Americans with limited resumes a better shot in the hiring process by providing internships, training, mentoring, and job interviews to young people who are not in school or working.  With more than five million jobs open today—near the highest levels on record—developing the workforce of the future will be critical for businesses to grow, compete for new markets, and innovate.

Budget Proposals to Help More Young Americans Start Their Careers

When a young person struggles to get their first job, it can have a lasting negative impact on her lifetime income as well as her motivation, pride, and self-esteem. It is also a missed opportunity for the economy as a whole. A 2012 study found that people who endure a spell of unemployment between the ages of 16 and 24 earn $400,000 less over their careers than those who do not. Moreover, they estimate the lifetime cost to taxpayers of the 6.7 million youth who were neither in school nor in work was around $1.6 trillion.  The President’s Budget proposals help address these challenges, including with:

A New $5.5 Billion Proposal to Open Doors to a First Job

  • A Down Payment on a First Job for Every Young American. The President’s proposal would invest $3.5 billion to create new partnerships with companies and communities to get nearly 1 million young people into first jobs over the summer and 150,000 young Americans who have been out of school and work into up to a year of paid work.

o   Funds would be distributed to states through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act youth formula program and be disbursed to localities to cover up to half of the cost of wages for a young person.

o   They would require a matched investment from either public, private, or philanthropic funding.

o    Additionally, the Department of Labor will work with Treasury to ensure that young people participating in these programs have access to safe and appropriate financial products and accounts, so that they can use their earnings to start building savings and gain money management skills which are critical for their future.

  • Community Partnerships to Connect Young Americans to Opportunity. The President’s proposals would invest $2 billion jointly administered by the Departments of Labor and Education to put youth who have dropped out or are most at risk of dropping out of high school on the path to get a diploma and connect to post-secondary education and jobs. Funding would be competitively awarded to communities, in required partnership with local education, workforce, and community organizations. The Departments would encourage proven approaches, such as work-based learning and internships, and re-engagement centers.

A New $200 Million Proposal to Develop & Expand Youth Apprenticeship Programs

  • Expanding Apprenticeships for More American Workers and Youth. The President is proposing to dedicate $200 million to support the development and expansion of youth apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeship programs that let young people explore their interests in school through work and classroom-based training before starting a formal apprenticeship. This is part of a broader $2 billion proposal to create an Apprenticeships Training Fund to increase resources for state apprenticeship programs. 

New Actions Using Existing Resources

  • Summer Jobs and Beyond Grant Competition. Today, the Administration is releasing the application for $20 million in existing funds available through DOL that will:

o   Fund innovative models to connect young people ages 16 to 24 with limited or no work experience to summer and year-round job opportunities through partnerships between employers, workforce investment boards, local education agencies, and reengagement centers.

o   Go to approximately 10 communities, with priority given to those communities facing high rates of youth unemployment, poverty, crime, and dropouts.

o   Build on a recent $17 million DOL investment in Youth Demonstration grants to support disconnected young adults in seven cities, including Baltimore, Camden, Detroit, Houston, Long Beach, North Charleston, and North St. Louis.

  • 2016 Summer Opportunity Project. On February 26th, the White House will launch a summer opportunity project and host a workshop that brings together state and local leaders, community-based organizations, private sector and philanthropic leaders, and schools. The project will call on all of these leaders to increase their efforts and investments to bridge the summer opportunity gap for this year and beyond in targeted communities across the country. At the event, we will release a Summer Opportunity Federal Resource Guideto make it easier for local governments and non-profits to identify and navigate Federal programs across agencies.

Broader Proposed Investments in Innovative Training that Lead to In-Demand Jobs

The 21st century American worker faces an increasingly complex and dynamic job market. Globalization, automation, and technological innovation are driving rapid changes in available jobs and demanded skills. The President is proposing a plan to ensure that our education and training systems do more to help workers keep pace as the labor market evolves.

  • Creating a Talent Compact to Keep and Attract Jobs to the U.S. One of the main assets a business considers when deciding where to locate and growis the availability of talent. The President is proposing in his Budget $3 billion in competitive funding to create more than 50 “Talent Hotspots” across the U.S.  These Talent Hotspots would consist of employers, training programs, and workforce and economic development leaders that prioritize one sector and make a commitment to recruit and train the workforce to help local businesses grow and thrive, attract more jobs from overseas, and fuel the talent needs of entrepreneurs. This proposal would produce a pipeline of about half a million skilled workers over the next five years.
  • Empowering Workers, Training Providers and Employers with Better Information on Jobs, Skills and Training.  Supporting a more dynamic workforce requires good data. But today, little information exists about what skills employers are hiring for and what training works best.  That is why the President is proposing:

o   The creation of a new Workforce Data Science and Innovation Fund. DOL would recruit and deploy a best-in-class team to help states find new ways to use technology and data analytics to improve training programs and consumer choice. And similar to HHS’s Open Health Data Initiative, DOL would partner with the Department of Commerce to develop new open source data on jobs and skills to spur the creation of new products to help match workers to better jobs.

o   $40 million in Workforce Data Quality Grants to upgrade state data systems to produce information on the outcomes of training programs for consumers.

o   $2.5 million to create a more real-time, dynamic data sets and common language for jobs and skills building upon O*Net (the Occupational Information Network) to fuel the development of new products and services for job seekers.

o   Ensuring high-quality customer service for job seekers getting Federal services. Each year, 2,500 American Job Centers (AJCs) help approximately 17 million Americans get back to work and into better jobs. The President’s Budget proposes $2.5 million to develop an easy-to-use tool for workers to quickly view customer satisfaction rating for the job centers in their area and to establish a technology platform that AJCs can use to report on customer service outcomes.

  • Providing 21st Century Career Navigation. The President’s Budget will propose $1.5 billion in new resources to states for Career Navigators who will proactively reach out to workers most at risk of not being able to reset their careers after spells of joblessness. Each year, Career Navigators will help more than 1 million people find jobs, matching them to appropriate training programs, and connecting them to the support services they need to succeed.

Building on President Obama’s Record of Progress for Young Americans 

  • My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Initiative.President Obama launched MBK in February 2014 to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color to ensure that all young people can reach their full potential. Since its launch, more than 200 communities have accepted the MBK Community Challenge; more than $500 million in grants and in-kind resources and $1 billion in financing has been independently committed to advance the mission of MBK.
  • $100 Million TechHire Grant Competition, Including $50 Million for Young Americans. In November, the Administration released the application for $100 million to expand partnerships that can rapidly train and connect workers with barriers to employment to well-paying, high-growth jobs in information technology and other industries. The Department is accepting applications until March 11th, 2016. Interested applicants can find the application here.
  • Engaging Local Elected Officials to Connect Young People and Adults to In-Demand Jobs.Over the years, the Administration has worked with local elected leaders and national organizations, including the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) and the National League of Cities (NLC), on efforts such as the TechHire and My Brother’s Keeper Initiatives.  Building on this work and new announcement, USCM and NLC will support the growth, adoption, and creation of promising practices for the expansion of summer opportunities and building partnerships to expand and upgrade training for in-demand jobs in communities across the U.S.

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News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. Contact editor@news-photos-features.com.