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Entries in President Obama (251)

Thursday
Feb142013

Obama Open to Getting Rid of the Penny

Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama says it may be time to get rid of the one-cent coin.

The copper coins cost more to mint than they are worth and are increasingly used less and less, leading many economists to ask why the U.S. hasn’t gotten rid of them entirely.

“I don’t know,” Obama said when asked about it Thursday.

“It’s one of those things where I think people get attached emotionally to the way things have been,” he said on a Google+ hangout. “We remember our piggy banks and counting out all the pennies and then taking them in and getting a dollar bill or a couple of dollars from it and maybe that’s the reason people haven’t gotten around to it.”

Obama went on to suggest the penny is a “good metaphor” for some of the larger problems facing lawmakers as they seek to reduce the deficit.

“This is not going to be a huge savings for government. But anytime we’re spending more money on something that people don’t actually use, that’s an example of something we should probably change,” he said. “One of the things that you see chronically in government is it’s very hard to get rid of things that don’t work so that we can then invest in the things that do.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan212013

Corporate Cash Helps Fund Obama Inauguration Festivities

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- In reversing President Obama's position on accepting corporate sponsors for this weekend's official inaugural festivities, the official inaugural committee has permitted a number of companies with interests pending before the federal government to donate.

They include such familiar blue chip names as AT&T, Microsoft and Coca Cola, but also such lesser-known companies as United Therapeutics, a biotech firm based in Silver Spring, Maryland.

United Therapeutics has in recent years been lobbying the Food and Drug Administration, so far without great succes, to grant approval of a drug the company developed to treat a lung disorder. 

In October, when an FDA ruling questioned whether the oral version of the drug did anything to slow the progress of pulmonary arterial hypertension, the company's CEO told reporters that company executives would "continue using our best efforts to gain approval [of the version of the drug] … and we will focus on doing so within the next four years."

How political contributions figure into the company's strategy is unclear.  Andrew Fisher, the company's Chief Strategic Officer and Deputy General Counsel told ABC News in an email, "We're not providing any comment on this topic."

But United Therapeutics has been more aggressive than most in its support of Obama, and those contributions came at a time when the president softened his opposition to corporate money in politics.  This summer, after Obama backtracked on a ban against corporate money at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., United Therapeutics stepped up.

The biotech company was the sixth largest corporate donor to the administrative arm of the convention host committee, called New American City, Inc., only finishing behind such financial giants as Bank of America, AT&T and Duke Energy.  The company gave $600,000, according to contribution records.

The company's CEO has also been a major donor to the Democratic Party, and to Obama's campaign, giving more than $125,000 in the past four years.

Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, which advocates for transparency in the way politics is financed, said the decision to allow corporate money is just one of several changes in the way Obama has approached financing inaugural events.  Gone also are self-imposed caps on the amounts that individuals can donate.  And, Krumholz said, the inaugural committee has back-tracked on the level of transparency displayed in 2009, when Obama was first sworn into office.

"This inauguration and, particularly the funding of it, stands in stark contrast to the previous inauguration," she said.

The changes are consistent with a subtle shift in the way Obama has handled touchstone issues surrounding money and politics.  Obama was once a critic, for instance, of the so-called Super PACs that were established to raise unlimited funds to support campaigns.  But in his 2012 reelection bid, Obama advisors set up an organization, Priorities USA, for just that purpose.

Krumholz said she believes corporate donors, in particular, warrant scrutiny.

"I think that with all these corporations, they are giving because they see that contributions to the inauguration, to the convention, to the campaigns, to all these different pots of money might be beneficial to their corporation and to their legislative policy agenda in Washington," Krumholz said.  "It's not natural for a corporation, which has to uphold and protect its bottom line, to be making contributions out of altruistic reasons or to support democracy.  They have reasons which I think bear scrutiny."

Krumholz's group researched the backgrounds of the corporate donors and found that more than 300 registered lobbyists worked on behalf of five large corporate donors to the inauguration -- AT&T Inc., Microsoft Corp., energy giant Southern Co., biotechnology firm Genentech and health plan manager Centene Corp. -- to influence legislation and government policy.

Parties other than the official inaugural balls are not covered by this money.  Dozens of other parties have private sponsorship.

The Presidential Inaugural Committee has published the names of all of its donors on its website, though Krumholz notes that the list does not include basic identifying information, such as the donor's employer or address, and it does not say how much money any donor has given.

The list includes a number of the president's close friends and longtime supporters, as well as familiar Democratic Party patrons, including a number of labor unions.

The American Federation of Government Employees, the American Postal Workers Union, the International Association of Firefighters, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, the Laborer's Union, the Sheet Metal Workers International Association, and the United Food & Commercial Workers, all ponied up with support.

A document identifying the rewards for major donors, first reported by The New York Times, spells out how those who provide the most money will have had greater access this weekend.  Individuals in the top package who gave $250,000 and institutional donors who gave $1 million are identified as "Washington" donors, (as opposed to "Adams" or "Jefferson" donors, who gave less) and are entitled to such perks as tickets to the "Co-Chairs Reception," entry to the "Road Ahead" meeting for the president's top supporters, "VIP tickets to the Candle Light Celebration at the National Building Museum" and two reserved bleacher seats for the Inaugural Parade.

Efforts to reach the inaugural committee this weekend have been unsuccessful.  According to the Sunlight Foundation, which has also been tracking money at the inaugural festivities, officials with the Presidential Inaugural Committee have been tight-lipped about the details of the finance effort.  They quoted Brent Colburn, communications director for the 2013 Presidential Inaugural Committee, as telling reporters that the committee, by listing donors on its website, has attempted "to go above and beyond that and add a level of transparency."

In December 2012, when ABC News first reported Obama's position switch on corporate donations, a spokesperson for the inaugural committee said all donors would be vetted and that donations from lobbyists or political action committees (PACs) will not be accepted.

"Our goal is to make sure that we will meet fundraising requirements for this civic event after the most expensive presidential campaign in history," spokesperson Addie Whisenant said then.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jan182013

Gun Store Owners React to Obama’s Firearms Proposal

David De Lossy/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- After President Obama proposed federal laws to require background checks for all gun purchases, reinstate a ban on some assault-style weapons, and other actions, gun store owners had mixed reactions when asked how the possible changes could affect business.

“It’s not going to have an impact on our sales,” Jerry Aday, a store owner in Topeka, Kan., told Kansas First News.  ”As such, what’s having the impact on it is the fact that people are fearful they might not be able to buy anything, and our government is going to start tracking guns and that type of thing.”

Aday said when it comes to gun safety, the best bet is to focus on education programs.

He said last year gun sales were steady, but spiked in December.

“I want the gun laws, or whatever passes, to pass, to have an impact on the crime, an impact on the killings, an impact on the criminals,” he said.

At a shooting range and gun store in Raleigh, N.C., Lynn Howard, owner of the PDHSC gun shop, was anticipating the effects if national legislation is enacted.

“This is the doors being opened.  If this goes forward, what will fall next?” Howard said in an interview with ABC News affiliate WTVD-TV.

Customers also expressed concerns for their Second Amendment right to bear arms.

“It’s not the ‘Bill of Needs.’  It’s the Bill of Rights.  It’s our right, as a citizen, to own whatever firearm we desire,” said Derek Ward, a customer.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov272012

Small Business Owners Stand with President Obama on Taxes

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- Small business owners emerged from the White House Tuesday confident that President Obama is committed to ending tax cuts for the wealthy and preserving tax breaks for the middle class as he works toward a deal to avert the “fiscal cliff.”
 
“What grows jobs in America are consumers spending money.  And the average person needs that two or three thousand dollars in his pocket to help drive the economy,” Lewis Prince, co-founder of the Vintage Vinyl record store in St. Louis, Mo., told reporters after his meeting with the president. “Saying that tax breaks for the rich drive consumers lower down to spend is like saying… you can start your car by pouring gasoline on the hood. There is nothing – this is no proof, there is no factual data to support it and it’s completely a sham to say that.”
 
The president met Tuesday with over a dozen entrepreneurs, the first in a series of outreach meetings he is holding this week as he makes the case for a “balanced” deal to reduce the deficit before the looming “fiscal cliff” of mandatory spending cuts and tax increases kicks in on Jan 1.  
 
“I was very encouraged by the meeting,” said Chris Yura, founder of SustainU, a sustainable clothing company in Morgantown, W. Va. “[The president] really delivered a message of confidence in moving forward with what I feel is the right direction to extend the [middle-class] tax cuts.”
 
“There was a lot of talk in the room about certainty,” reported Texas crop duster manufacturer David Ickert. “Small business wants certainty so they can plan, strategically look at how we move forward.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Nov252012

Obama Shops Local Bookstore for Small Business Saturday

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON, D.C.) -- President Barack Obama and his daughters Sasha and Malia did some holiday shopping near Washington Saturday. Dropping in on One More Page Books in Arlington, Va., Obama spent the afternoon outside the White House to promote Small Business Saturday.

The family spent roughly 20 minutes inside the store, spending some of the time quietly conversing with locals. Obama reportedly brought a shopping list on his BlackBerry smartphone.

“Preparation, you know,” the president told shop owner Eileen McGervey. “That’s how I shop. Michelle, she can go wandering around.”

The White House says 15 children’s books were purchased at the establishment, which will be given as gifts to family. This is the second year the president has visited a bookstore for the occasion.

Wedged between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday was launched in 2010 to focus on independently owned brick and mortar shops. The occasion was conceived by the American Express corporation, but has since been largely endorsed by business groups and politicians. American Express claims 100 million shoppers hit small businesses last year on the Saturday following Thanksgiving.

On Twitter the president would later add, “My family & I started our holiday shopping at a local bookstore on #SmallBizSat. I hope you’ll join & shop small this holiday season. -bo”

A member of the traveling press asked the president if this was his effort to keep the United States from going over the looming fiscal cliff.

“Come on, we’re doing Christmas shopping,” he responded. “Happy Thanksgiving, folks.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Oct112012

CEO Says He May Lay Off Employees if Obama Re-elected

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Outspoken time-share mogul David Siegel surprised his thousands of employees in an email this week that indirectly stated that layoffs could be likely if President Obama is re-elected, which some analysts say have crossed the line as a CEO.

Siegel founded Westgate Resorts in Orlando in 1982.  In an recent email to employees, he said he did not want to tell them how to vote, but wrote:

"You see, I can no longer support a system that penalizes the productive and gives to the unproductive.  My motivation to work and to provide jobs will be destroyed, and with it, so will your opportunities.  If that happens, you can find me in the Caribbean sitting on the beach, under a palm tree, retired, and with no employees to worry about."

Siegel closed the email with: "Signed, your boss."

The Orlando Sentinel received an anonymous email about Siegel's message by someone who said, "I feel like my boss is threatening me."

Siegel confirmed with the newspaper that that he wrote the email, saying he felt "an obligation to keep them informed."

Siegel did not respond to ABC News' multiple requests for comment.

"Four years ago when Obama got elected we were doing a billion dollars a year in sales with 12,000 employees," he told the Orlando Sentinel.  "As a result of the last four years, we are down to 7,000… We're still a viable company, but if they start taking money out of my pocket with higher taxes and ObamaCare, there's going to be less money to build resorts."

Stephen Bronars, chief economist with Welch Consulting, said it is unlikely the letter violated any labor law, but as a CEO who is responsible to stakeholders and employees, "people would view it as unwise."

"One of the toughest tasks for the owner of a company is to deliver a message that things aren't going well and that there will be cutbacks," Bronars said.  "If you panic your employees you are most likely to lose the ones with the best outside options -- exactly the ones you would hate to lose."

Though it is a private company, firms with 100 or more employees must tell employees at least 60 days in advance of a mass layoff or plant closing.

"But not like this," Bronars said.

Bronars added that his "only caveat" is that Siegel may know his employees "better than critics on the outside looking in."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct102012

Presidential Prize: Town Hall Attendees Could Win Free Pizza for Life

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- With rising fuel prices driving up the cost of food -- and likely people to the polls this November -- Pizza Hut has announced a new contest that somehow encompasses both the economy and politics.

The company says any person attending the Oct. 16 televised town hall debate between President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney who asks either candidate "pepperoni or sausage?" will score free pizza for life.

In a press release, Pizza Hut, which is backing its own electoral entity, The Pizza Party, says the question must be asked, "To assure America that the real issues being debated in households across the country every night aren't sidestepped by the candidates any longer."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct022012

President Obama Preps for Debate Amid Nevada’s Housing Woes and New Criticisms of Housing Program

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images(LAS VEGAS) -- One in 402 homes in Nevada is in foreclosure, according to RealtyTrac, making this the fifth-hardest-hit state in the country.

As the Los Angeles Times' Kathleen Hennessey notes Tuesday the Obama campaign “has set up its ‘debate camp’ in something of a metaphor for the nation’s economic woes -- and the president’s challenges.” Down the road from the resort are “empty storefronts at a ‘village’ of boutiques and restaurants. Surrounding the hotel where the president is huddling with advisors are scores of recently built condos and homes, each a worth a fraction of its value a few years ago.”

In the last few weeks, previous criticisms of the Obama administration’s housing program from Neil Barofsky, the former Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, have been amplified by similarly harsh words in a new book from Sheila Bair, former chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

Barofsky Tuesday told ABC News that the “administration’s housing programs have been an abject failure in all but one aspect, protecting the big banks.”

Bair, a former Senate Republican staffer, recalls in Bull by the Horns: Fighting to Save Main Street from Wall Street and Wall Street from Itself how she stood with President Obama in Arizona at the beginning of his presidency when he promised one of his new programs “will enable as many as 3 to 4 million homeowners to modify the terms of their mortgages to avoid foreclosure.”

Bair writes “the president was masterful in announcing the program, though I cringed as he threw out what I considered to be wildly inflated numbers on the programs’ impact. Even with our own, more aggressive proposal, we had estimated the number of successful modifications at 2.1 million tops.”

That plan, known as HAMP -- the Home Affordable Modification Program -- has failed to reach its goal of 3 to 4 million modified loans.

In fact, notes Barofsky, it “has reached only a little more than one-fifth of its goal with more failed modifications (more than one million) than successful ones (825,000).”

Bair writes that “HAMP was a program designed to look good in a press release, not to fix the housing market.” Referring to former National Economic Council director Larry Summers and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Bair writes that “Larry and Tim didn’t seem to care about the political beating the president took on the hundreds of billions of dollars thrown at the big-bank bailouts and AIG bonuses, but when it came to home owners, it was a very different story. I don’t think helping home owners was ever a priority for them.”

HAMP was, she writes, “doomed to failure. ... What’s more, it cheated borrowers. Because Treasury wanted to demonstrate quickly that huge numbers of borrowers were being modified, it let borrowers enter into ‘trial modifications’ whereby they would start making reduced payments pending completion of all of their paperwork. But many of the borrowers could not provide all of the extensive documentation required by the program, so they would be put into foreclosure even though they had been making timely payments for months!”

Barofsky adds that the Obama administration “also missed a remarkable opportunity to spend more than 250 billion in authorized and obligated TARP dollars (without a single additional vote from Congress) to rescue struggling homeowners and help kick start a housing recovery, and instead chose to let the money sit on the sidelines. If they had only treated the foreclosure and housing crisis with the same ferocity and dedication that they did the banking crisis, we would almost certainly be facing a far better looking economy today.”

You can read more on the Nevada housing crisis HERE and PBS recently profiled Las Vegas casino maintenance man Albert Decall, who paid $395,000 (with $100,000 down payment) for his home, only to see his home value plummet to less than half of what it was worth. Working with lenders through the HAMP program, he saved his house.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Sep102012

Obama Flubs His ‘Three Proud Words’

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.) — After bashing Mitt Romney’s “bad math” tax plan, President Obama also had some trouble adding things up.

It’s a standard part of the president’s stump speech to tout his plan to create jobs by rewarding companies that make goods “stamped with three proud words: Made in America.”

Rallying supporters in Kissimmee, Fla., Saturday, however, the president said, “We can create a million new manufacturing jobs in the next four years, because we’re selling goods around the world stamped with three proud words: Made in the USA.”

For those counting, that’s more than just three words.

The president repeated the flub again Sunday in Melbourne, Fla., once again rallying supporters to back his plan to “change our tax code so we stop giving tax breaks to companies that are shipping jobs overseas.”

“Let’s reward them for investing in new plants and equipment here in the U.S., and training new workers here in the U.S. … creating jobs right here in the U.S., making products that we sell around the world stamped with three proud words: Made in the USA. That’s what we’re fighting for. That’s the future we want,” he said as the crowd chanted three proud letters, “U-S-A!”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Sep072012

Jobs Report 'Not Good Enough,' President Obama Says

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(PORTSBOUTH, N.H.) -- President Obama said Friday’s news that the economy added just 96,000 jobs last month was “not good enough” and that “we need to create more jobs faster” to recover from the recession.
 
“We need to fill the hole left by this recession faster. We need to come out of this crisis stronger than when we went in. And there's a lot more that we can do,” the president told a crowd of 6,000 at his first campaign stop of the day in Portsmouth, N.H.
 
On the heels of the Democratic Convention, Friday’s worse-than-expected jobs report serves as a stark reminder of the economic reality facing voters and brings the state of the economy to the forefront of the debate.
 
“I'm not going to pretend that this path is quick or easy. And by the way, I never have,” Obama said of the recovery.
 
As he did in his speech last night, the president asked voters for four more years to right the economy and attacked his GOP rivals for failing to outline specific proposals to create jobs.
 
“Our friends at the Republican Convention, they talked a lot about what they thought was wrong with America,” he said. “They didn't tell you what they'd do to make it right. They want your vote, but they don't want to show you their plan. And that's because they know their plan won't sell.”
 
Obama called on Republicans to pass his jobs plan to jumpstart the economy and urged supporters to ask lawmakers to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the middle class.
 
Hoping to sustain the momentum of the convention, the president and vice president are campaigning in New Hampshire and Iowa with their wives Friday, marking the first time this year that they have hit the trail together.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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