Wednesday, January 25, 2012

State of the Union 2012 (Speech Transcript and Enhanced Video)

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary

Remarks by the President in State of the Union Address

United States Capitol
Washington, D.C.
9:10 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT:  Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow Americans:
Last month, I went to Andrews Air Force Base and welcomed home some of our last troops to serve in Iraq.  Together, we offered a final, proud salute to the colors under which more than a million of our fellow citizens fought -- and several thousand gave their lives.
We gather tonight knowing that this generation of heroes has made the United States safer and more respected around the world.  (Applause.)  For the first time in nine years, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq.  (Applause.)  For the first time in two decades, Osama bin Laden is not a threat to this country.  (Applause.)  Most of al Qaeda’s top lieutenants have been defeated.  The Taliban’s momentum has been broken, and some troops in Afghanistan have begun to come home.
These achievements are a testament to the courage, selflessness and teamwork of America’s Armed Forces.  At a time when too many of our institutions have let us down, they exceed all expectations.  They’re not consumed with personal ambition.  They don’t obsess over their differences.  They focus on the mission at hand.  They work together.
Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example.  (Applause.)  Think about the America within our reach:  A country that leads the world in educating its people.  An America that attracts a new generation of high-tech manufacturing and high-paying jobs.  A future where we’re in control of our own energy, and our security and prosperity aren’t so tied to unstable parts of the world.  An economy built to last, where hard work pays off, and responsibility is rewarded.
We can do this.  I know we can, because we’ve done it before.  At the end of World War II, when another generation of heroes returned home from combat, they built the strongest economy and middle class the world has ever known.  (Applause.)  My grandfather, a veteran of Patton’s Army, got the chance to go to college on the GI Bill.  My grandmother, who worked on a bomber assembly line, was part of a workforce that turned out the best products on Earth.

The two of them shared the optimism of a nation that had triumphed over a depression and fascism.  They understood they were part of something larger; that they were contributing to a story of success that every American had a chance to share -- the basic American promise that if you worked hard, you could do well enough to raise a family, own a home, send your kids to college, and put a little away for retirement.
The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive.  No challenge is more urgent.  No debate is more important.  We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well while a growing number of Americans barely get by, or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.  (Applause.)  What’s at stake aren’t Democratic values or Republican values, but American values.  And we have to reclaim them.
Let’s remember how we got here.  Long before the recession, jobs and manufacturing began leaving our shores.  Technology made businesses more efficient, but also made some jobs obsolete.  Folks at the top saw their incomes rise like never before, but most hardworking Americans struggled with costs that were growing, paychecks that weren’t, and personal debt that kept piling up.
In 2008, the house of cards collapsed.  We learned that mortgages had been sold to people who couldn’t afford or understand them.  Banks had made huge bets and bonuses with other people’s money.  Regulators had looked the other way, or didn’t have the authority to stop the bad behavior.
It was wrong.  It was irresponsible.  And it plunged our economy into a crisis that put millions out of work, saddled us with more debt, and left innocent, hardworking Americans holding the bag.  In the six months before I took office, we lost nearly 4 million jobs.  And we lost another 4 million before our policies were in full effect.
Those are the facts.  But so are these:  In the last 22 months, businesses have created more than 3 million jobs.  (Applause.)
Last year, they created the most jobs since 2005.  American manufacturers are hiring again, creating jobs for the first time since the late 1990s.  Together, we’ve agreed to cut the deficit by more than $2 trillion.  And we’ve put in place new rules to hold Wall Street accountable, so a crisis like this never happens again.  (Applause.)
The state of our Union is getting stronger.  And we’ve come too far to turn back now.  As long as I’m President, I will work with anyone in this chamber to build on this momentum.  But I intend to fight obstruction with action, and I will oppose any effort to return to the very same policies that brought on this economic crisis in the first place.  (Applause.) 
No, we will not go back to an economy weakened by outsourcing, bad debt, and phony financial profits.  Tonight, I want to speak about how we move forward, and lay out a blueprint for an economy that’s built to last -– an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of American values.
Now, this blueprint begins with American manufacturing.
On the day I took office, our auto industry was on the verge of collapse.  Some even said we should let it die.  With a million jobs at stake, I refused to let that happen.  In exchange for help, we demanded responsibility.  We got workers and automakers to settle their differences.  We got the industry to retool and restructure.  Today, General Motors is back on top as the world’s number-one automaker.  (Applause.)  Chrysler has grown faster in the U.S. than any major car company.  Ford is investing billions in U.S. plants and factories.  And together, the entire industry added nearly 160,000 jobs.  
We bet on American workers.  We bet on American ingenuity.  And tonight, the American auto industry is back.  (Applause.) 
What’s happening in Detroit can happen in other industries.  It can happen in Cleveland and Pittsburgh and Raleigh.  We can’t bring every job back that’s left our shore.  But right now, it’s getting more expensive to do business in places like China.  Meanwhile, America is more productive.  A few weeks ago, the CEO of Master Lock told me that it now makes business sense for him to bring jobs back home.  (Applause.)  Today, for the first time in 15 years, Master Lock’s unionized plant in Milwaukee is running at full capacity.  (Applause.) 
So we have a huge opportunity, at this moment, to bring manufacturing back.  But we have to seize it.  Tonight, my message to business leaders is simple:  Ask yourselves what you can do to bring jobs back to your country, and your country will do everything we can to help you succeed.  (Applause.) 
We should start with our tax code.  Right now, companies get tax breaks for moving jobs and profits overseas.  Meanwhile, companies that choose to stay in America get hit with one of the highest tax rates in the world.  It makes no sense, and everyone knows it.  So let’s change it.
First, if you’re a business that wants to outsource jobs, you shouldn’t get a tax deduction for doing it.  (Applause.)  That money should be used to cover moving expenses for companies like Master Lock that decide to bring jobs home.  (Applause.) 
Second, no American company should be able to avoid paying its fair share of taxes by moving jobs and profits overseas.  (Applause.)  From now on, every multinational company should have to pay a basic minimum tax.  And every penny should go towards lowering taxes for companies that choose to stay here and hire here in America.  (Applause.)   
Third, if you’re an American manufacturer, you should get a bigger tax cut.  If you’re a high-tech manufacturer, we should double the tax deduction you get for making your products here.  And if you want to relocate in a community that was hit hard when a factory left town, you should get help financing a new plant, equipment, or training for new workers.  (Applause.) 
So my message is simple.  It is time to stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs overseas, and start rewarding companies that create jobs right here in America.  Send me these tax reforms, and I will sign them right away.  (Applause.)    
We’re also making it easier for American businesses to sell products all over the world.  Two years ago, I set a goal of doubling U.S. exports over five years.  With the bipartisan trade agreements we signed into law, we’re on track to meet that goal ahead of schedule.  (Applause.)  And soon, there will be millions of new customers for American goods in Panama, Colombia, and South Korea.  Soon, there will be new cars on the streets of Seoul imported from Detroit, and Toledo, and Chicago.  (Applause.)    
I will go anywhere in the world to open new markets for American products.  And I will not stand by when our competitors don’t play by the rules.  We’ve brought trade cases against China at nearly twice the rate as the last administration –- and it’s made a difference.  (Applause.)  Over a thousand Americans are working today because we stopped a surge in Chinese tires.  But we need to do more.  It’s not right when another country lets our movies, music, and software be pirated.  It’s not fair when foreign manufacturers have a leg up on ours only because they’re heavily subsidized.
Tonight, I’m announcing the creation of a Trade Enforcement Unit that will be charged with investigating unfair trading practices in countries like China.  (Applause.)  There will be more inspections to prevent counterfeit or unsafe goods from crossing our borders.  And this Congress should make sure that no foreign company has an advantage over American manufacturing when it comes to accessing financing or new markets like Russia.  Our workers are the most productive on Earth, and if the playing field is level, I promise you -– America will always win.  (Applause.)
I also hear from many business leaders who want to hire in the United States but can’t find workers with the right skills.  Growing industries in science and technology have twice as many openings as we have workers who can do the job.  Think about that –- openings at a time when millions of Americans are looking for work.  It’s inexcusable.  And we know how to fix it. 
Jackie Bray is a single mom from North Carolina who was laid off from her job as a mechanic.  Then Siemens opened a gas turbine factory in Charlotte, and formed a partnership with Central Piedmont Community College.  The company helped the college design courses in laser and robotics training.  It paid Jackie’s tuition, then hired her to help operate their plant.
I want every American looking for work to have the same opportunity as Jackie did.  Join me in a national commitment to train 2 million Americans with skills that will lead directly to a job.  (Applause.)  My administration has already lined up more companies that want to help.  Model partnerships between businesses like Siemens and community colleges in places like Charlotte, and Orlando, and Louisville are up and running.  Now you need to give more community colleges the resources they need to become community career centers -– places that teach people skills that businesses are looking for right now, from data management to high-tech manufacturing.
And I want to cut through the maze of confusing training programs, so that from now on, people like Jackie have one program, one website, and one place to go for all the information and help that they need.  It is time to turn our unemployment system into a reemployment system that puts people to work.  (Applause.)
These reforms will help people get jobs that are open today.  But to prepare for the jobs of tomorrow, our commitment to skills and education has to start earlier.
For less than 1 percent of what our nation spends on education each year, we’ve convinced nearly every state in the country to raise their standards for teaching and learning -- the first time that’s happened in a generation.
But challenges remain.  And we know how to solve them.
At a time when other countries are doubling down on education, tight budgets have forced states to lay off thousands of teachers.  We know a good teacher can increase the lifetime income of a classroom by over $250,000.  A great teacher can offer an escape from poverty to the child who dreams beyond his circumstance.  Every person in this chamber can point to a teacher who changed the trajectory of their lives.  Most teachers work tirelessly, with modest pay, sometimes digging into their own pocket for school supplies -- just to make a difference.
Teachers matter.  So instead of bashing them, or defending the status quo, let’s offer schools a deal.  Give them the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones.  (Applause.)  And in return, grant schools flexibility:  to teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren’t helping kids learn.  That’s a bargain worth making.  (Applause.)
We also know that when students don’t walk away from their education, more of them walk the stage to get their diploma.  When students are not allowed to drop out, they do better.  So tonight, I am proposing that every state -- every state -- requires that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn 18.  (Applause.)
When kids do graduate, the most daunting challenge can be the cost of college.  At a time when Americans owe more in tuition debt than credit card debt, this Congress needs to stop the interest rates on student loans from doubling in July.  (Applause.)
Extend the tuition tax credit we started that saves millions of middle-class families thousands of dollars, and give more young people the chance to earn their way through college by doubling the number of work-study jobs in the next five years.  (Applause.)
Of course, it’s not enough for us to increase student aid.  We can’t just keep subsidizing skyrocketing tuition; we’ll run out of money.  States also need to do their part, by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets.  And colleges and universities have to do their part by working to keep costs down.
Recently, I spoke with a group of college presidents who’ve done just that.  Some schools redesign courses to help students finish more quickly.  Some use better technology.  The point is, it’s possible.  So let me put colleges and universities on notice:  If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down.  (Applause.)  Higher education can’t be a luxury -– it is an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.
Let’s also remember that hundreds of thousands of talented, hardworking students in this country face another challenge:  the fact that they aren’t yet American citizens.  Many were brought here as small children, are American through and through, yet they live every day with the threat of deportation.  Others came more recently, to study business and science and engineering, but as soon as they get their degree, we send them home to invent new products and create new jobs somewhere else.
That doesn’t make sense.  
I believe as strongly as ever that we should take on illegal immigration.  That’s why my administration has put more boots on the border than ever before.  That’s why there are fewer illegal crossings than when I took office.  The opponents of action are out of excuses.  We should be working on comprehensive immigration reform right now.  (Applause.)
But if election-year politics keeps Congress from acting on a comprehensive plan, let’s at least agree to stop expelling responsible young people who want to staff our labs, start new businesses, defend this country.  Send me a law that gives them the chance to earn their citizenship.  I will sign it right away.  (Applause.)
You see, an economy built to last is one where we encourage the talent and ingenuity of every person in this country.  That means women should earn equal pay for equal work.  (Applause.)  It means we should support everyone who’s willing to work, and every risk-taker and entrepreneur who aspires to become the next Steve Jobs. 
After all, innovation is what America has always been about.  Most new jobs are created in start-ups and small businesses.  So let’s pass an agenda that helps them succeed.  Tear down regulations that prevent aspiring entrepreneurs from getting the financing to grow.  (Applause.)  Expand tax relief to small businesses that are raising wages and creating good jobs.  Both parties agree on these ideas.  So put them in a bill, and get it on my desk this year.  (Applause.)
Innovation also demands basic research.  Today, the discoveries taking place in our federally financed labs and universities could lead to new treatments that kill cancer cells but leave healthy ones untouched.  New lightweight vests for cops and soldiers that can stop any bullet.  Don’t gut these investments in our budget.  Don’t let other countries win the race for the future.  Support the same kind of research and innovation that led to the computer chip and the Internet; to new American jobs and new American industries.
And nowhere is the promise of innovation greater than in American-made energy.  Over the last three years, we’ve opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration, and tonight, I’m directing my administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources.  (Applause.)  Right now -- right now -- American oil production is the highest that it’s been in eight years.  That’s right -- eight years.  Not only that -- last year, we relied less on foreign oil than in any of the past 16 years.  (Applause.)
But with only 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves, oil isn’t enough.  This country needs an all-out, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy.  (Applause.)  A strategy that’s cleaner, cheaper, and full of new jobs.
We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years.  (Applause.)  And my administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy.  Experts believe this will support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade.  And I’m requiring all companies that drill for gas on public lands to disclose the chemicals they use.  (Applause.)  Because America will develop this resource without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk.
The development of natural gas will create jobs and power trucks and factories that are cleaner and cheaper, proving that we don’t have to choose between our environment and our economy.  (Applause.)  And by the way, it was public research dollars, over the course of 30 years, that helped develop the technologies to extract all this natural gas out of shale rock –- reminding us that government support is critical in helping businesses get new energy ideas off the ground.  (Applause.)         
Now, what’s true for natural gas is just as true for clean energy.  In three years, our partnership with the private sector has already positioned America to be the world’s leading manufacturer of high-tech batteries.  Because of federal investments, renewable energy use has nearly doubled, and thousands of Americans have jobs because of it.
When Bryan Ritterby was laid off from his job making furniture, he said he worried that at 55, no one would give him a second chance.  But he found work at Energetx, a wind turbine manufacturer in Michigan.  Before the recession, the factory only made luxury yachts.  Today, it’s hiring workers like Bryan, who said, “I’m proud to be working in the industry of the future.”
Our experience with shale gas, our experience with natural gas, shows us that the payoffs on these public investments don’t always come right away.  Some technologies don’t pan out; some companies fail.  But I will not walk away from the promise of clean energy.  I will not walk away from workers like Bryan.  (Applause.)  I will not cede the wind or solar or battery industry to China or Germany because we refuse to make the same commitment here.
We’ve subsidized oil companies for a century.  That’s long enough.  (Applause.)  It’s time to end the taxpayer giveaways to an industry that rarely has been more profitable, and double-down on a clean energy industry that never has been more promising.  Pass clean energy tax credits.  Create these jobs.  (Applause.)
We can also spur energy innovation with new incentives.  The differences in this chamber may be too deep right now to pass a comprehensive plan to fight climate change.  But there’s no reason why Congress shouldn’t at least set a clean energy standard that creates a market for innovation.  So far, you haven’t acted.  Well, tonight, I will.  I’m directing my administration to allow the development of clean energy on enough public land to power 3 million homes.  And I’m proud to announce that the Department of Defense, working with us, the world’s largest consumer of energy, will make one of the largest commitments to clean energy in history -– with the Navy purchasing enough capacity to power a quarter of a million homes a year.  (Applause.)
Of course, the easiest way to save money is to waste less energy.  So here’s a proposal:  Help manufacturers eliminate energy waste in their factories and give businesses incentives to upgrade their buildings.  Their energy bills will be $100 billion lower over the next decade, and America will have less pollution, more manufacturing, more jobs for construction workers who need them.  Send me a bill that creates these jobs.  (Applause.) 
Building this new energy future should be just one part of a broader agenda to repair America’s infrastructure.  So much of America needs to be rebuilt.  We’ve got crumbling roads and bridges; a power grid that wastes too much energy; an incomplete high-speed broadband network that prevents a small business owner in rural America from selling her products all over the world.
During the Great Depression, America built the Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge.  After World War II, we connected our states with a system of highways.  Democratic and Republican administrations invested in great projects that benefited everybody, from the workers who built them to the businesses that still use them today.
In the next few weeks, I will sign an executive order clearing away the red tape that slows down too many construction projects.  But you need to fund these projects.  Take the money we’re no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-building right here at home.  (Applause.)
There’s never been a better time to build, especially since the construction industry was one of the hardest hit when the housing bubble burst.  Of course, construction workers weren’t the only ones who were hurt.  So were millions of innocent Americans who’ve seen their home values decline.  And while government can’t fix the problem on its own, responsible homeowners shouldn’t have to sit and wait for the housing market to hit bottom to get some relief. 
And that’s why I’m sending this Congress a plan that gives every responsible homeowner the chance to save about $3,000 a year on their mortgage, by refinancing at historically low rates.  (Applause.)  No more red tape.  No more runaround from the banks.  A small fee on the largest financial institutions will ensure that it won’t add to the deficit and will give those banks that were rescued by taxpayers a chance to repay a deficit of trust.  (Applause.)
Let’s never forget:  Millions of Americans who work hard and play by the rules every day deserve a government and a financial system that do the same.  It’s time to apply the same rules from top to bottom.  No bailouts, no handouts, and no copouts.  An America built to last insists on responsibility from everybody.
We’ve all paid the price for lenders who sold mortgages to people who couldn’t afford them, and buyers who knew they couldn’t afford them.  That’s why we need smart regulations to prevent irresponsible behavior.  (Applause.)  Rules to prevent financial fraud or toxic dumping or faulty medical devices -- these don’t destroy the free market.  They make the free market work better.
There’s no question that some regulations are outdated, unnecessary, or too costly.  In fact, I’ve approved fewer regulations in the first three years of my presidency than my Republican predecessor did in his.  (Applause.)  I’ve ordered every federal agency to eliminate rules that don’t make sense.  We’ve already announced over 500 reforms, and just a fraction of them will save business and citizens more than $10 billion over the next five years.  We got rid of one rule from 40 years ago that could have forced some dairy farmers to spend $10,000 a year proving that they could contain a spill -- because milk was somehow classified as an oil.  With a rule like that, I guess it was worth crying over spilled milk.  (Laughter and applause.)
Now, I’m confident a farmer can contain a milk spill without a federal agency looking over his shoulder.  (Applause.)  Absolutely.  But I will not back down from making sure an oil company can contain the kind of oil spill we saw in the Gulf two years ago.  (Applause.)  I will not back down from protecting our kids from mercury poisoning, or making sure that our food is safe and our water is clean.  I will not go back to the days when health insurance companies had unchecked power to cancel your policy, deny your coverage, or charge women differently than men.  (Applause.)
And I will not go back to the days when Wall Street was allowed to play by its own set of rules.  The new rules we passed restore what should be any financial system’s core purpose:  Getting funding to entrepreneurs with the best ideas, and getting loans to responsible families who want to buy a home, or start a business, or send their kids to college.
So if you are a big bank or financial institution, you’re no longer allowed to make risky bets with your customers’ deposits.  You’re required to write out a “living will” that details exactly how you’ll pay the bills if you fail –- because the rest of us are not bailing you out ever again.  (Applause.)  And if you’re a mortgage lender or a payday lender or a credit card company, the days of signing people up for products they can’t afford with confusing forms and deceptive practices -- those days are over.  Today, American consumers finally have a watchdog in Richard Cordray with one job:  To look out for them.  (Applause.)  
We’ll also establish a Financial Crimes Unit of highly trained investigators to crack down on large-scale fraud and protect people’s investments.  Some financial firms violate major anti-fraud laws because there’s no real penalty for being a repeat offender.  That’s bad for consumers, and it’s bad for the vast majority of bankers and financial service professionals who do the right thing.  So pass legislation that makes the penalties for fraud count.
And tonight, I’m asking my Attorney General to create a special unit of federal prosecutors and leading state attorney general to expand our investigations into the abusive lending and packaging of risky mortgages that led to the housing crisis.  (Applause.)  This new unit will hold accountable those who broke the law, speed assistance to homeowners, and help turn the page on an era of recklessness that hurt so many Americans.
Now, a return to the American values of fair play and shared responsibility will help protect our people and our economy.  But it should also guide us as we look to pay down our debt and invest in our future.
Right now, our most immediate priority is stopping a tax hike on 160 million working Americans while the recovery is still fragile.  (Applause.)  People cannot afford losing $40 out of each paycheck this year.  There are plenty of ways to get this done.  So let’s agree right here, right now:  No side issues.  No drama.  Pass the payroll tax cut without delay.  Let’s get it done.  (Applause.)
When it comes to the deficit, we’ve already agreed to more than $2 trillion in cuts and savings.  But we need to do more, and that means making choices.  Right now, we’re poised to spend nearly $1 trillion more on what was supposed to be a temporary tax break for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans.  Right now, because of loopholes and shelters in the tax code, a quarter of all millionaires pay lower tax rates than millions of middle-class households.  Right now, Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary. 
Do we want to keep these tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans?  Or do we want to keep our investments in everything else –- like education and medical research; a strong military and care for our veterans?  Because if we’re serious about paying down our debt, we can’t do both. 
The American people know what the right choice is.  So do I.  As I told the Speaker this summer, I’m prepared to make more reforms that rein in the long-term costs of Medicare and Medicaid, and strengthen Social Security, so long as those programs remain a guarantee of security for seniors.
But in return, we need to change our tax code so that people like me, and an awful lot of members of Congress, pay our fair share of taxes.  (Applause.)
Tax reform should follow the Buffett Rule.  If you make more than $1 million a year, you should not pay less than 30 percent in taxes.  And my Republican friend Tom Coburn is right:  Washington should stop subsidizing millionaires.  In fact, if you’re earning a million dollars a year, you shouldn’t get special tax subsidies or deductions.  On the other hand, if you make under $250,000 a year, like 98 percent of American families, your taxes shouldn’t go up.  (Applause.)  You’re the ones struggling with rising costs and stagnant wages.  You’re the ones who need relief.  
Now, you can call this class warfare all you want.  But asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes?  Most Americans would call that common sense.
We don’t begrudge financial success in this country.  We admire it.  When Americans talk about folks like me paying my fair share of taxes, it’s not because they envy the rich.  It’s because they understand that when I get a tax break I don’t need and the country can’t afford, it either adds to the deficit, or somebody else has to make up the difference -- like a senior on a fixed income, or a student trying to get through school, or a family trying to make ends meet.  That’s not right.  Americans know that’s not right.  They know that this generation’s success is only possible because past generations felt a responsibility to each other, and to the future of their country, and they know our way of life will only endure if we feel that same sense of shared responsibility.  That’s how we’ll reduce our deficit.  That’s an America built to last.  (Applause.)
Now, I recognize that people watching tonight have differing views about taxes and debt, energy and health care.  But no matter what party they belong to, I bet most Americans are thinking the same thing right about now:  Nothing will get done in Washington this year, or next year, or maybe even the year after that, because Washington is broken.
Can you blame them for feeling a little cynical?
The greatest blow to our confidence in our economy last year didn’t come from events beyond our control.  It came from a debate in Washington over whether the United States would pay its bills or not.  Who benefited from that fiasco?
I’ve talked tonight about the deficit of trust between Main Street and Wall Street.  But the divide between this city and the rest of the country is at least as bad -- and it seems to get worse every year.
Some of this has to do with the corrosive influence of money in politics.  So together, let’s take some steps to fix that.  Send me a bill that bans insider trading by members of Congress; I will sign it tomorrow.  (Applause.)  Let’s limit any elected official from owning stocks in industries they impact.  Let’s make sure people who bundle campaign contributions for Congress can’t lobby Congress, and vice versa -- an idea that has bipartisan support, at least outside of Washington.
Some of what’s broken has to do with the way Congress does its business these days.  A simple majority is no longer enough to get anything -– even routine business –- passed through the Senate.  (Applause.)  Neither party has been blameless in these tactics.  Now both parties should put an end to it.  (Applause.)  For starters, I ask the Senate to pass a simple rule that all judicial and public service nominations receive a simple up or down vote within 90 days.  (Applause.) 
The executive branch also needs to change.  Too often, it’s inefficient, outdated and remote.  (Applause.)  That’s why I’ve asked this Congress to grant me the authority to consolidate the federal bureaucracy, so that our government is leaner, quicker, and more responsive to the needs of the American people.  (Applause.) 
Finally, none of this can happen unless we also lower the temperature in this town.  We need to end the notion that the two parties must be locked in a perpetual campaign of mutual destruction; that politics is about clinging to rigid ideologies instead of building consensus around common-sense ideas.
I’m a Democrat.  But I believe what Republican Abraham Lincoln believed:  That government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more.  (Applause.)  That’s why my education reform offers more competition, and more control for schools and states.  That’s why we’re getting rid of regulations that don’t work.  That’s why our health care law relies on a reformed private market, not a government program.
On the other hand, even my Republican friends who complain the most about government spending have supported federally financed roads, and clean energy projects, and federal offices for the folks back home.
The point is, we should all want a smarter, more effective government.  And while we may not be able to bridge our biggest philosophical differences this year, we can make real progress.  With or without this Congress, I will keep taking actions that help the economy grow.  But I can do a whole lot more with your help.  Because when we act together, there’s nothing the United States of America can’t achieve.  (Applause.)  That’s the lesson we’ve learned from our actions abroad over the last few years.
Ending the Iraq war has allowed us to strike decisive blows against our enemies.  From Pakistan to Yemen, the al Qaeda operatives who remain are scrambling, knowing that they can’t escape the reach of the United States of America.  (Applause.)
From this position of strength, we’ve begun to wind down the war in Afghanistan.  Ten thousand of our troops have come home.  Twenty-three thousand more will leave by the end of this summer.  This transition to Afghan lead will continue, and we will build an enduring partnership with Afghanistan, so that it is never again a source of attacks against America.  (Applause.)
As the tide of war recedes, a wave of change has washed across the Middle East and North Africa, from Tunis to Cairo; from Sana’a to Tripoli.  A year ago, Qaddafi was one of the world’s longest-serving dictators -– a murderer with American blood on his hands.  Today, he is gone.  And in Syria, I have no doubt that the Assad regime will soon discover that the forces of change cannot be reversed, and that human dignity cannot be denied.  (Applause.)
How this incredible transformation will end remains uncertain.  But we have a huge stake in the outcome.  And while it’s ultimately up to the people of the region to decide their fate, we will advocate for those values that have served our own country so well.  We will stand against violence and intimidation.  We will stand for the rights and dignity of all human beings –- men and women; Christians, Muslims and Jews.  We will support policies that lead to strong and stable democracies and open markets, because tyranny is no match for liberty.
And we will safeguard America’s own security against those who threaten our citizens, our friends, and our interests.  Look at Iran.  Through the power of our diplomacy, a world that was once divided about how to deal with Iran’s nuclear program now stands as one.  The regime is more isolated than ever before; its leaders are faced with crippling sanctions, and as long as they shirk their responsibilities, this pressure will not relent.
Let there be no doubt:  America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal.  (Applause.)
But a peaceful resolution of this issue is still possible, and far better, and if Iran changes course and meets its obligations, it can rejoin the community of nations.
The renewal of American leadership can be felt across the globe.  Our oldest alliances in Europe and Asia are stronger than ever.  Our ties to the Americas are deeper.  Our ironclad commitment -- and I mean ironclad -- to Israel’s security has meant the closest military cooperation between our two countries in history.  (Applause.)
We’ve made it clear that America is a Pacific power, and a new beginning in Burma has lit a new hope.  From the coalitions we’ve built to secure nuclear materials, to the missions we’ve led against hunger and disease; from the blows we’ve dealt to our enemies, to the enduring power of our moral example, America is back.
Anyone who tells you otherwise, anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned, doesn’t know what they’re talking about.  (Applause.)
That’s not the message we get from leaders around the world who are eager to work with us.  That’s not how people feel from Tokyo to Berlin, from Cape Town to Rio, where opinions of America are higher than they’ve been in years.  Yes, the world is changing.  No, we can’t control every event.  But America remains the one indispensable nation in world affairs –- and as long as I’m President, I intend to keep it that way.  (Applause.) 
That’s why, working with our military leaders, I’ve proposed a new defense strategy that ensures we maintain the finest military in the world, while saving nearly half a trillion dollars in our budget.  To stay one step ahead of our adversaries, I’ve already sent this Congress legislation that will secure our country from the growing dangers of cyber-threats.  (Applause.)
Above all, our freedom endures because of the men and women in uniform who defend it.  (Applause.)  As they come home, we must serve them as well as they’ve served us.  That includes giving them the care and the benefits they have earned –- which is why we’ve increased annual VA spending every year I’ve been President.  (Applause.)  And it means enlisting our veterans in the work of rebuilding our nation.
With the bipartisan support of this Congress, we’re providing new tax credits to companies that hire vets.  Michelle and Jill Biden have worked with American businesses to secure a pledge of 135,000 jobs for veterans and their families.  And tonight, I’m proposing a Veterans Jobs Corps that will help our communities hire veterans as cops and firefighters, so that America is as strong as those who defend her.  (Applause.)
Which brings me back to where I began.  Those of us who’ve been sent here to serve can learn a thing or two from the service of our troops.  When you put on that uniform, it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white; Asian, Latino, Native American; conservative, liberal; rich, poor; gay, straight.  When you’re marching into battle, you look out for the person next to you, or the mission fails.  When you’re in the thick of the fight, you rise or fall as one unit, serving one nation, leaving no one behind.
One of my proudest possessions is the flag that the SEAL Team took with them on the mission to get bin Laden.  On it are each of their names.  Some may be Democrats.  Some may be Republicans.  But that doesn’t matter.  Just like it didn’t matter that day in the Situation Room, when I sat next to Bob Gates -- a man who was George Bush’s defense secretary -- and Hillary Clinton -- a woman who ran against me for president.
All that mattered that day was the mission.  No one thought about politics.  No one thought about themselves.  One of the young men involved in the raid later told me that he didn’t deserve credit for the mission.  It only succeeded, he said, because every single member of that unit did their job -- the pilot who landed the helicopter that spun out of control; the translator who kept others from entering the compound; the troops who separated the women and children from the fight; the SEALs who charged up the stairs.  More than that, the mission only succeeded because every member of that unit trusted each other -- because you can’t charge up those stairs, into darkness and danger, unless you know that there’s somebody behind you, watching your back.
So it is with America.  Each time I look at that flag, I’m reminded that our destiny is stitched together like those 50 stars and those 13 stripes.  No one built this country on their own.  This nation is great because we built it together.  This nation is great because we worked as a team.  This nation is great because we get each other’s backs.  And if we hold fast to that truth, in this moment of trial, there is no challenge too great; no mission too hard.  As long as we are joined in common purpose, as long as we maintain our common resolve, our journey moves forward, and our future is hopeful, and the state of our Union will always be strong.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)
10:16 P.M. EST

Friday, January 20, 2012

President Barack Obama Tourism Speech Delivered at Disneyworld

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
January 19, 2012
Remarks by President Barack Obama Unveiling a Strategy to Help Boost Travel and Tourism

Walt Disney World Resort
Orlando, Florida

12:40 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody! (Applause.) I am glad to be at Disney World! (Applause.) The Magic Kingdom. This is outstanding.

Well, let me begin by thanking Ruben for that extraordinary introduction. And he was too bashful -- maybe he’s not supposed to do this. I will do it. His restaurant is called Zaza [Yaya’s]. (Applause.) New Cuban diners. So everybody check it out. And I told him, he was -- on the way out, he was wondering, I don’t know, I don’t do this a lot. He’s a natural. (Laughter.) We’re going to have to run him for something. (Laughter.)

But thank you so much for taking the time. It is great to be here. It is rare that I get to do something that Sasha and Malia envy me for. (Laughter.) That doesn’t happen very often. Maybe for once they’ll actually ask me at dinner how my day went. (Laughter.)

And I confess, I am excited to see Mickey. It’s always nice to meet a world leader who has bigger ears than me. (Laughter.)

I want to acknowledge the presence of one of Florida’s outstanding mayors, the mayor of Orlando -- Buddy Dyer is in the house. (Applause.) We’ve got two outstanding members of my Cabinet -- Interior Secretary Ken Salazar -- (applause) -- and Commerce Secretary John Bryson. (Applause.) Because they’re focused on what brings us here today, and that’s creating jobs and boosting tourism.

You just heard what a huge difference tourism makes for small businesses like Ruben’s. Every year, tens of millions of tourists all over the world come to visit America. Makes sense. You got the greatest country on Earth -- people want to come. As folks in Orlando know, that’s good for our economy. It means people are renting cars and they’re staying in hotels and they’re eating at restaurants and they’re checking out the sights. It means people are doing business here in the United States. In 2010, nearly 60 million international visitors helped the tourism industry generate over $134 billion. Tourism is the number-one service that we export. Number one. And that means jobs.

More money spent by more tourists means more businesses can hire more workers. This is a pretty simple formula. And that’s why we’re all here today -- to tell the world that America is open for business. We want to welcome you, and to take concrete steps to boost America’s tourism industry so that we can keep growing our economy and creating more jobs here in Florida and all across the country.

Now, here’s the good news: We’ve got the best product to sell. I mean, look at where we are. We’ve got the most entertaining destinations in the world. This is the land of extraordinary natural wonders -– from the Rocky Mountains to the Grand Canyon; from Yellowstone to Yosemite.

This is the land where we do big things, and so have incredible landmarks, like the Golden Gate Bridge and the Empire State Building; the Hoover Dam; the Gateway Arch. This is the land of iconic cities and all their sights –- from Independence Hall in Philadelphia to Faneuil Hall in Boston; from the Space Needle in Seattle to the skyline of my hometown in Chicago. It’s a nice skyline, for those of you who have never been there. (Laughter.) All right, a couple of Chicagoans back there. (Laughter.)

But I’m here today because I want more tourists here tomorrow. I want America to be the top tourist destination in the world. (Applause.) The top tourist destination in the world. (Applause.) And this is something that we’ve been focused on for some time.

Two years ago, I signed a bill into law called the Travel Promotion Act. It had broad support of both Democrats and Republicans. And as you know, that doesn’t always happen. (Laughter.) And it set up a new nonprofit organization called Brand USA. Its job is to pitch America as a travel destination for the rest of the world to come to visit.

You guys see advertising for other countries, other destinations, here in the United States, right? Well, we’ve got to do the same thing, so that when people are thinking about where they want to travel, where they want to spend their vacation, we want them to come here. And so that’s already in place, but we’ve got to do more.

So today, I directed my administration to send me a new national tourism strategy focused on creating jobs. And some of America’s most successful business leaders –- some who are here today –- have signed up to help. We’re going to see how we can make it easier for foreign tourists to find basic information about visiting America. And we’re going to see how we can attract more tourists to our national parks. We want people visiting not just Epcot Center, but the Everglades, too. The more folks who visit America, the more Americans we get back to work. It’s that simple.

Now, just as we do a better job of marketing our tourist destinations, we’ve also got to make it easier for tourists to make the visit. There’s a good reason why it’s not easy for anybody to get a visa to come to America. Obviously, our national security is a top priority. We will always protect our borders and our shores and our tourist destinations from people who want to do us harm. And unfortunately, such people exist, and that’s not going to change.

But we also want to get more international tourists coming to America. And there’s no reason why we can’t do both. We can make sure that we’re doing a good job keeping America secure while at the same time maintaining the openness that’s always been the hallmark of America and making sure that we’re welcoming travelers from all around the world.

So one step we’re taking is the expansion of something called the Global Entry Program. It’s a program that protects our borders and makes life easier for frequent travelers to and from the United States. Now, getting into the program requires an extensive background check. But once you’re in, once you’ve proven yourself to be a solid individual who is coming here for business or recreation purposes, instead of going through long lines at immigration, we can scan your passport, your fingerprints, and you’re on your way.

So it’s a great example of how we’re using new technology to maintain national security and boost tourism at the same time. And we’re now going to make it available to almost all international travelers coming to the United States. If they’re willing to submit themselves to the background checks necessary, we can make sure that we’re facilitating their easy travel into the United States. (Applause.)

There are some additional steps, though, that we can take. Right now, there are 36 countries around the world whose citizens can visit America without getting a tourist visa. After they go online they get pre-cleared by Homeland Security, and there’s only one thing they have to do and that’s book a flight. And that’s been a great boost for tourism. Over 60 percent of our visitors don’t require a visa, and in most cases that’s because of this program.

Today, I’m directing my administration to see if we can add more countries to it. (Applause.) We want more folks to have an easier time coming to the United States.

And let’s also realize that in the years ahead, more and more tourists are going to come from countries not currently in this program -- countries with rapidly growing economies, huge populations, and emerging middle classes; countries like China and India, and especially important here in Florida, Brazil, a huge population that loves to come to Florida. (Applause.) But we make it too hard for them. More and more of their people can now afford to visit America who couldn’t come before, and in fact, over the next four years, the tourists traveling from those countries we expect to more than double.

But we want them coming right here. We want them spending money here, in Orlando, in Florida, in the United States of America, which will boost our businesses and our economy.

So today, I’m directing the State Department to accelerate our ability to process visas by 40 percent in China and in Brazil this year. We’re not talking about five years from now or 10 years from now -- this year. (Applause.)

We’ve already made incredible progress in this area. We’ve better staffed our embassies and our consulates. We’ve streamlined services with better technology. Waiting times for a visa are down. But applications keep on going up -- they are skyrocketing. People want to come here. And China and Brazil are the two countries which have some of the biggest backlogs. And these are two of the countries with some of the fastest-growing middle classes that want to visit and have disposable income -- money that they want to spend at our parks and our monuments and at businesses like Ruben’s.

So that’s what this is all about: telling the world that America is open for business; making it as safe and as simple as possible to visit; helping our businesses all across the country grow and create jobs; helping those businesses compete and win.

Ultimately, that’s how we’re going to rebuild an economy where hard work pays off, where responsibility is rewarded, and where anybody can make it if they try. That’s what America is all about. That’s part of the reason why people want to come here, because they know our history. They know what the American Dream has been all about. And a place like Disneyland represents that quintessentially American spirit. This image is something that’s recognized all around the world, and this weather -- (laughter) -- is something that people appreciate all around the world, including the northern parts of this country. (Laughter.)

So we want everybody to come. All who are watching, Disney World and Florida are open for business, but we want people all around the world to know the same. And we are going to do everything we can to make sure that we’re continuing to boost tourism for decades to come.

Thank you very much, everybody. God bless you. God bless the United States of America.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Obama asks for Betty White's Birth Certificate

Dear Betty,

You look so fantastic and full of energy, I can’t believe you’re 90 years old. In fact, I don’t believe it.

That’s why I’m writing to ask if you will produce a copy of your long-form birth certificate.

Thanks, and happy birthday, no matter how old you are.

Courtesy NBC, Mediaite - Event Documented Jan 17, 2012

White House Responds To SOPA - Combating Online Piracy while Protecting an Open and Innovative Internet

Official White House Response to Stop the E-PARASITE Act. and 1 other petition

Combating Online Piracy while Protecting an Open and Innovative Internet

By Victoria Espinel, Aneesh Chopra, and Howard Schmidt

Thanks for taking the time to sign this petition. Both your words and actions illustrate the importance of maintaining an open and democratic Internet.

Right now, Congress is debating a few pieces of legislation concerning the very real issue of online piracy, including the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), the PROTECT IP Act and the Online Protection and Digital ENforcement Act (OPEN). We want to take this opportunity to tell you what the Administration will support—and what we will not support. Any effective legislation should reflect a wide range of stakeholders, including everyone from content creators to the engineers that build and maintain the infrastructure of the Internet.

While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.

Any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by our dynamic businesses large and small. Across the globe, the openness of the Internet is increasingly central to innovation in business, government, and society and it must be protected. To minimize this risk, new legislation must be narrowly targeted only at sites beyond the reach of current U.S. law, cover activity clearly prohibited under existing U.S. laws, and be effectively tailored, with strong due process and focused on criminal activity. Any provision covering Internet intermediaries such as online advertising networks, payment processors, or search engines must be transparent and designed to prevent overly broad private rights of action that could encourage unjustified litigation that could discourage startup businesses and innovative firms from growing.

We must avoid creating new cybersecurity risks or disrupting the underlying architecture of the Internet. Proposed laws must not tamper with the technical architecture of the Internet through manipulation of the Domain Name System (DNS), a foundation of Internet security. Our analysis of the DNS filtering provisions in some proposed legislation suggests that they pose a real risk to cybersecurity and yet leave contraband goods and services accessible online. We must avoid legislation that drives users to dangerous, unreliable DNS servers and puts next-generation security policies, such as the deployment of DNSSEC, at risk.

Let us be clear—online piracy is a real problem that harms the American economy, and threatens jobs for significant numbers of middle class workers and hurts some of our nation's most creative and innovative companies and entrepreneurs.  It harms everyone from struggling artists to production crews, and from startup social media companies to large movie studios. While we are strongly committed to the vigorous enforcement of intellectual property rights, existing tools are not strong enough to root out the worst online pirates beyond our borders. That is why the Administration calls on all sides to work together to pass sound legislation this year that provides prosecutors and rights holders new legal tools to combat online piracy originating beyond U.S. borders while staying true to the principles outlined above in this response.  We should never let criminals hide behind a hollow embrace of legitimate American values.

This is not just a matter for legislation. We expect and encourage all private parties, including both content creators and Internet platform providers working together, to adopt voluntary measures and best practices to reduce online piracy.

So, rather than just look at how legislation can be stopped, ask yourself: Where do we go from here? Don’t limit your opinion to what’s the wrong thing to do, ask yourself what’s right.

Already, many of members of Congress are asking for public input around the issue. We are paying close attention to those opportunities, as well as to public input to the Administration. The organizer of this petition and a random sample of the signers will be invited to a conference call to discuss this issue further with Administration officials and soon after that, we will host an online event to get more input and answer your questions. Details on that will follow in the coming days.

Washington needs to hear your best ideas about how to clamp down on rogue websites and other criminals who make money off the creative efforts of American artists and rights holders. We should all be committed to working with all interested constituencies to develop new legal tools to protect global intellectual property rights without jeopardizing the openness of the Internet. Our hope is that you will bring enthusiasm and know-how to this important challenge.

Moving forward, we will continue to work with Congress on a bipartisan basis on legislation that provides new tools needed in the global fight against piracy and counterfeiting, while vigorously defending an open Internet based on the values of free expression, privacy, security and innovation. Again, thank you for taking the time to participate in this important process. We hope you’ll continue to be part of it.

Victoria Espinel is Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator at Office of Management and Budget

Aneesh Chopra is the U.S. Chief Technology Officer and Assistant to the President and Associate Director for Technology at the Office of Science and Technology Policy

Howard Schmidt is Special Assistant to the President and Cybersecurity Coordinator for National Security Staff

White House Press Briefing en route Orlanda, FL

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
January 19, 2012
Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Jay Carney en route Orlando, Florida, 1/19/2012

Aboard Air Force One
En Route Orlando, Florida

11:03 A.M. EST

MR. CARNEY: Okay, everybody ready? We can’t wait. Thank you for coming today on the President’s trip to Orlando, Florida. As you know, he will be visiting Disney World, Main Street USA, where he will be announcing an executive order and other initiatives, new initiatives, aimed at significantly increasing travel and tourism in the United States.

As I’m sure you’re aware, the U.S. tourism and travel industry is a substantial component of U.S. GDP and employment. It represents 2.7 percent of GDP and 7.5 million jobs; that was in 2010. With international travel alone, the United States supporting 1.2 million jobs.

The industry, the travel and tourism industry, estimates that more than 1 million jobs could be created over the next decade if we increased our market share of the international tourism market -- share of the international tourism market.

That’s why the President is making the announcements he is today, because making the United States the number-one destination for international tourists is a job creator. The fact of the matter is that when so-called long-haul tourists, foreign travelers come to the United States, they spent on average $4,000 per person here. So that’s business that we want to capture here in the United States.

So through an executive order and some other initiatives, the President is calling for a national strategy to make the United States the world’s top travel and tourism destination. The number of travelers from emerging economies -- and this is one of the targets of the President’s initiative -- emerging economies with growing middle classes such as China, Brazil and India is projected to grow by 135 percent, 274 percent and 50 percent respectively by 2016 compared to 2010. So there’s an enormous opportunity there.

I won’t go into too many of the details -- I know you have paper -- but the President has signed an executive order tasking the Secretaries of Commerce and Interior to co-lead an interagency task force to develop recommendations for national travel and tourism strategy to promote domestic and international travel opportunities. He has tasked the Departments of State and Homeland Security with increasing non-immigrant visa processing capacity in China and Brazil by 40 percent in 2012, and ensuring that 80 percent of non-immigrant visa applicants are interviewed within three weeks of receipt of application.

There are a variety of other initiatives attached to this and I think you have the paper on them.

With that, I will take your questions.

Q Jay, does the President think that his administration could approve an alternate route for Keystone before 2013, knowing that that might ease some of the anger from unions and Republicans? Or is 2013 still the earliest that you could foresee approval?

MR. CARNEY: Julie, as you know, this is a process conducted by and overseen by the State Department -- the State Department in accordance with many years of precedent, many administrations, because it involves a transnational pipeline. The State Department, in reviewing these kinds of things, determines the duration, the amount of time that is needed to do the proper evaluations of a permit request -- permit application.

I think that it’s important to remember -- because I heard some reporting this morning that just missed some of the facts here -- that the State Department made the announcement because of the decision to change the route and there needed to be a delay, more time allowed for a new route to be developed and then a new route to be reviewed. That was in November.

So two months ago, Republicans, in a purely political move, inserted an extraneous provision in the tax cut -- payroll tax cut extension bill back in December calling for an arbitrary 60-day deadline, insisting that the administration make this decision in that timeframe. So it’s been two months since the original decision by the State Department.

TransCanada, the company involved here, has not even identified an alternate route yet. Not because they’re moving slowly -- in fact, they’re not -- but because this is a process that requires careful consideration and study to ensure that it makes sense for the company, to ensure that it makes sense for the United States and the equities that we have to weigh when considered this kind of project, including economic security, the health and safety of the American people, environmental impacts, job-creation impact.

So it is a fallacy to suggest that anything besides the arbitrary insistence by House Republicans on setting a false deadline is responsible for the decision that the administration made yesterday, and the President conferred with.

Q So, given all that, it would --

MR. CARNEY: I would refer you to the State Department about what -- what kind of timeframe would be required to review a new permit request that would establish an alternate route through Nebraska. I mean, remember -- and again, this is another thing that needs to be corrected because there was some -- I think Ed Henry was talking about how the governor of Nebraska was now in favor of an expedited process. Let’s be clear, the governor of Nebraska wrote the administration asking the State Department to deny the permit -- wrote in August on the proposed route and requesting an alternate route.

He has said that he is in favor of an alternate route, and that being approved once an alternate route is identified. But that route itself has not even been identified, let alone been reviewed, so I think that needs to be clarified.

Q Was any consideration given to a partial permit process perhaps that would let work start at each end, knowing that there would be some alternate route in --

MR. CARNEY: Well, I would refer you again to the State Department, which oversees this process in a nonpolitical, substantive way. It seems to me that you can’t -- if you pre-approve portions of a permit, you’re basically guaranteeing -- you’ve made your decision ahead of time. The issue is that the entire -- a proposal for a pipeline needs to be submitted, reviewed appropriately, with all factors weighed and considered before a decision is made. What the Republicans did in a moment of political pique -- because they were upset about the fact that the President was insisting that they extend the tax cut for 160 million Americans -- inserted a provision within that bill to arbitrarily set a deadline that has resulted in what the State Department made clear what happened, is that they had to deny the permit because they had no -- there was no way to review the request. There’s not even an alternate route proposed yet.

But in terms of how the review process works, I would refer you to the State Department.

Q The Iranians this morning made what you can only describe as rather threatening comments, warning that allies of the United States in the Middle East risk placing themselves in a dangerous situation because of their close collaboration with Washington. What assurances is Washington providing to your friends in the Middle East that it would shield them from any reprisals from Iran for that close collaboration?

MR. CARNEY: I mean, I don’t have any specific assurances, except that obviously we have important relationships with our allies and friends in the region as we do around the world. I think this is another example of provocative rhetoric emerging from Iran that’s designed purely to distract attention from the fact that the Iranian refusal to abide by its international obligations has resulted in the most extensive and effective sanctions regime ever applied to Iran, that has caused great pressure to be put on the Iranian economy, and has created divisions within the Iranian leadership.

So I think this is just another example of that kind of attempt to distract attention from the impact of a policy approach that this President put into place when he came into office that has united the international community and put a spotlight on the fact that it is the Iranian leadership that has refused to negotiate in good faith and has refused to live up to its international obligations.

Q Do you guys have the news on up front?

MR. CARNEY: I did in my cabin, yes.

Q Has the President seen Perry’s dropout?

MR. CARNEY: Well, he was in the cabin speaking with Secretary Bryson with the TV on, so he might have noticed it, but I didn’t discuss it with him.

Q So no reaction from the President on that?

MR. CARNEY: None to report.

Q Is Bryson with him?

MR. CARNEY: Bryson is on board. Yes, Secretary Bryson is on board.

Q Anyone else we didn’t see?

MR. CARNEY: No, I don’t think so, but I could check.

Q Jay, I know you’ve said you don’t want to get ahead of the President’s State of the Union address, but could you talk sort of in a more maybe a broader sense about whether -- the fact that the President proposed a big jobs bill, a $450 billion plan, that has had moderate -- only small parts of it or modest parts of it be adopted by Congress. And now you guys are rolling out continued sort of smaller-scale actions on this, “We Can’t Wait.” Are you going to see like a big visionary kind of speech that sort of sets a big agenda? Or is it going to be something a little more realistic of, here’s what we’re able to do right now over the next several months to get this economy moving on this sort of smaller, more dedicated scale that he’s been rolling out these plans?

MR. CARNEY: I won’t preview any specifics of the President’s State of the Union address. But if your suggestion is that the President is going to give up in his efforts to convince Congress of the absolute necessity to take action to put Americans back to work and grow the economy, the answer is no.

Q But I mean, he’s still going to talk --

MR. CARNEY: And it is incumbent upon the Republicans in Congress who blocked portions of the American Jobs Act; who refused to vote yes to putting 400,000 teachers and first responders back to work; who refused to vote yes to put tens of thousands of construction workers back to work rebuilding our infrastructure to either explain why to their constituents, or, we hope, do the right thing -- reconsider their position, and take up those initiatives and pass them.

Q So he’s going to continue to harp on that theme, even next week and the --

MR. CARNEY: He will continue to focus on his number-one priority, which is doing everything he can, working collaboratively with Congress through the legislative process, and also using his executive authority, as he is today, to promote economic growth and job creation. There is no higher priority for the President, and no more important task for the United States government to undertake.

Because we suffered a tremendous body blow in this country -- the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, terrible unemployment, terrible shrinkage of our economy. And we’ve been steadily recovering, but it’s a long -- it’s a long path, and we need to keep moving.

Q The President’s said month after month, through the fall and even now, proposing new actions. I mean, what more can he offer next week?

MR. CARNEY: Let’s review. Because of the President’s focus on -- because of the President’s focus on and unrelenting focus on that, we’ve forced the Republicans in Congress to agree to a payroll tax cut, which they initially said they didn’t want -- ironically, because in theory anyway, it is supposed to be a priority of Republicans to cut taxes. But for some reason, they were more fiercely devoted to protecting the tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans than they were to extending a tax break to 160 million middle-class Americans.

And I think -- I would just point to the analysis of everyone here and every one of your colleagues on how successful politically the Republicans’ approach was to the payroll tax cut debate. We look forward to the Congress, without drama, extending the payroll tax cut for the full calendar year and to working with the President and his team on other bipartisan measures.

Q You guys have called that the last -- the full extension of the payroll tax cut the last must-do legislation. Is that it, then? Is the President going to make clear that that’s --

MR. CARNEY: It’s not even close to it. We will be pushing Congress to take action on a variety of measures, including the other elements of the American Jobs Act and I’m sure other things for which you should stay tuned.

The point was simply that it is with absolute necessity that the payroll tax cut be extended through the calendar year, because we’re confident that even as perplexing sometimes as the positions are that some members of the Republican caucus take -- in the House in particular -- we do not believe that they want to face reelection in November having to explain to their constituents why they raised taxes on almost all of them.

Q That’s not the full review I thought we were going to get. I mean, there was a big windup there.

Q That was good, that was good.

MR. CARNEY: You want more? Because I got more.

Q Hey, Jay, can I just have you clarify one thing in the tourism report? That jobs number that’s at the top, that’s just sort of a general estimate of jobs that could be created, but that’s not --

MR. CARNEY: That’s the tourism industry --

Q Right, but that’s not specific to what the President is proposing?

MR. CARNEY: No, not -- because obviously there are a lot of moving -- it’s a complex industry with a lot of moving pieces to it. But the tourism industry itself says with an increase of market share over the course of a decade, it could lead to an additional 1 million jobs. And our interest is doing everything we can because it is such a growing and significant industry that contributes already to our gross domestic product and to jobs in America. We want to take advantage of that.

I mean, this is the United States of America. We have just -- including Orlando today, but all over the country just fantastic places for tourists to visit in all 50 of our states, and we want -- I think that the United States has not done what a number of countries have done, which is really promote what we have to offer here to international tourists, and we’re going to take up that cause to bring more visitors here so that they can enjoy all that America has to offer.

Q Is the President more of a Disney World or a Disneyland kind of guy? (Laughter.)

MR. CARNEY: I actually did talk with him about this. He’s visited -- he grew up the western part of the country, he’s visited Disneyland, but I think this might be his first visit to Disney World.

Q So just for the record, the President prefers the theme park in California, where there are fewer electoral votes that he has a chance of actually -- that are contested electoral votes -- than Disney World?

MR. CARNEY: The President is very excited about visiting Disney World today.

Q His second-favorite Disney theme park, in the state of Florida with 29 electoral votes.

MR. CARNEY: That’s not at all what I’m saying. I’m just making the point that I believe -- I’ll have to double-check, we had this conversation this morning that when he was a child he visited Disneyland in California.

Q Tourism is a big industry in both Washington, D.C., and New York, and the President is headed to New York later today for campaign events. Why not do this event in either of those two places?

MR. CARNEY: You make a great point that there are premier tourist destinations in a lot of places across the country. There may be -- there are few as iconic as Disney World. It’s a --

Q The fake Statue of Liberty is more iconic than the real Statue of Liberty?

MR. CARNEY: Not at all. I don’t want to rank them. But I think it’s certainly I think an apt choice given how familiar folks are around the world with Disney World.

Q Could you talk about how the four airports were -- or the four cities were chosen for the airports to have these global entry kiosks to --

MR. CARNEY: You know, I --

Q They just happen to be in battleground states.

MR. CARNEY: I would refer you to the Department of Homeland Security for that.

Q I have an oil question that’s not Keystone. Settlement talks with BP -- have those bubbled up -- if you’ll excuse the pun -- to the White House level yet?

MR. CARNEY: I would have to take that question. I don’t know.

Q Okay, thanks.

MR. CARNEY: Anybody got anything else? Anybody have a favorite ride, experience?

Q I want to go on Magic Mountain.

Q Alister Bull of Reuters was just talking about Magic Mountain since the first thing he arrived at Andrews. (Laughter.)

Q Did the President say --

MR. CARNEY: Space Mountain, right? Isn’t it --

Q There’s Space Mountain and Magic Mountain.

MR. CARNEY: I did Space Mountain a lot.

Q Space Mountain is in the dark. That’s a good one, too.

MR. CARNEY: You know what’s great is the -- is it the Tower of Terror or something -- like the one with the -- what is it called?

Q -- with the drop?

MR. CARNEY: Yes. What’s that called?

Q It’s Tower of Terror.

MR. CARNEY: Yes, I always -- with the Twilight Zone theme? Fantastic.

Q Did the President say anything about what his daughters’ reaction was to his coming for the first time to Disney World without them?

MR. CARNEY: He didn’t. I know I didn’t tell my kids because it would be --

Q Have the girls been to Disney World before, or Disneyland?

MR. CARNEY: I have to check. I don’t know.

Q Is there any chance the President is going to do a ride?

MR. CARNEY: We have no plans for that.

Q OTR to Space Mountain.

Q Thanks, Jay.

MR. CARNEY: All right, good to see you all.

Q Thank you.

11:20 A.M. EST

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

White House Press Briefing January 18, 2012

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
January 18, 2012
Press Briefing by the Press Secretary Jay Carney, 1/18/12
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:44 P.M. EST

MR. CARNEY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the White House for your daily briefing. It is always a pleasure to see you. I have a couple of things I want to say at the top.

First, following the President’s State of the Union address, he will begin a five-state, three-day swing across the country. He will begin his trip with a visit to the Cedar Rapids area, followed by an event in the Phoenix area, before traveling to Las Vegas on January 25th.

On January 26th, the President will hold events in the Las Vegas area and the Denver area before traveling to Detroit that evening. The following day, January 27th, the President will deliver remarks in the Detroit area before returning to Washington, D.C.

More details, including information about the President’s events and media credentialing, will be released as they are available.

Secondly, I want to anticipate a number of questions you may have on a particular subject based on reporting, sourcing and anonymous sources about the Keystone pipeline. And I just want to get it out of the way up front that I’m not going to confirm any reports. I’m not going to get ahead of the administration, of the Secretary of State or the President. We may have more information for you about that later today, but I’m not going to get ahead of the Secretary of State or the President.

I would simply ask that you review the facts here, which is that in a precedent established long ago that has held through many administrations, both Democratic and Republican, pipelines like Keystone that cross transnational borders, as this one would, the permits for those pipelines have been reviewed in a process led by the State Department. That was the case here.

When, in the case of the Keystone pipeline, concerns were raised about the environmental impacts on the air and water quality in Nebraska by, among others, the governor of Nebraska, a Republican, a decision was made that an alternate route be sought, and that, therefore, the process had to be delayed so that an adequate review could be undertaken, following the same standards that have always been in place, that were in place in the beginning of this process for this particular pipeline, and that have been in place for these kinds of projects for many years.

In a purely partisan effort to score a political point, Republicans in Congress insisted on inserting an extraneous provision within a bill that had nothing to do with pipelines, but was a bill to extend a tax cut to 160 million Americans -- a tax cut that this President fought very hard to get and to extend.

Even prior to the signing of that legislation, the State Department, which, again, reviews this process, made clear that setting an arbitrary deadline through this purely political effort would put the State Department in a corner, would severely hamper their ability to review an alternative route and a new pipeline route in the proper way, a way that has long been established by precedent and that would take into consideration all the criteria that are so important in decisions like this: economic impact, national security impact, environmental impact, the effect on the water that our children breathe -- or rather water our children drink and the air that they breathe.

They made clear at the State Department in a statement prior to the signing of this legislation that imposing an arbitrary 60-day deadline on this process would make it virtually impossible for an adequate review to take place of a route, an alternate route, that to this day does not yet exist.

So I am simply reviewing the facts as we know them.

Q Yes, but he signed the law that says he had to do that.

MR. CARNEY: And we made clear -- well, he signed a law that forced a decision to be made in an arbitrary fashion, no question. And I don't have an announcement about any decision that would be forthcoming on that. But I'm just reviewing the facts as they existed yesterday as well as today.

Q The facts are the law says that --

MR. CARNEY: Let me get Erica.

Q But to follow up on that, you're saying that you don't want to get ahead of the President or the State Department, but the law specifies that it is the President's decision. So is there any reason that this announcement would come from the State Department --

MR. CARNEY: Again, I'm not going to get into details about -- I've made clear that we may have more information for you on that later today, and I'll look to that -- I would urge you to look to that for guidance on that question.

Q And just to be clear, are you saying that there has not been a decision made, or you're not --

MR. CARNEY: I'm not saying one way or the other regarding that.

Q And can you speak to some of the Republican criticism that's already coming out, anticipating what the decision will be, that the President hates jobs, et cetera? (Laughter.)

MR. CARNEY: Well, I think I did anticipate some of that in my opening remarks, but I would make clear that there is a proper process that has existed for many years and many administrations by which a project like this is reviewed and a permit is either granted or denied. Because of concerns expressed by numerous stakeholders, including the Republican governor of Nebraska, it was decided that an alternate route through Nebraska was necessary. The choosing of that alternate route has not even been completed yet.

The State Department, which conducts and oversees this multiagency review process, made clear at the time, in December, that inserting this extraneous provision in an attempt to get a political victory -- because for some reason extending a tax cut to 160 million Americans wasn’t victory enough -- the Republicans put in jeopardy a process that should be immune from politics, should be conducted on the basis of pragmatic and considered analysis, and tried to hijack it through that. And the State Department warned that that would create serious problems.

So the President’s commitment to job creation has been amply demonstrated by the policies that he has pursued, that he has signed into law, that have contributed considerably to the creation of 3.2 million private sector jobs. They’ve been demonstrated by his fierce commitment to doing everything he can, both working with Congress and acting independently, to further assist the economy as it recovers from the worst recession since the Great Depression, to further assist the economy as it creates more jobs -- most notably, recently, his proposal, the American Jobs Act, which if the Republicans were committed to job creation they would join with him in making sure that all of the provisions of that law became -- of that proposal became law, including the provision that would put 400,000 teachers and first responders back to work, the provision that would help us rebuild our infrastructure and put idle constructions workers back to work -- hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Americans who would have jobs were the Republicans to finish the work of passing the American Jobs Act.

So that would be my answer to that criticism.


Q You say that the move by Congress to force the President and the State Department to make a decision within 60 days about this pipeline is partisan. How is it any less political for the President, faced with a difficult choice between jobs and environmental concerns -- the two important constituencies for his reelection -- to say, you know what, I’m going to delay a decision on this until after the reelection in November 2012? How is that any less political than what Congress did?

MR. CARNEY: Well, because there is an established process by which these reviews are conducted. When, because of the concerns expressed by many stakeholders, including the Republican governor of Nebraska, a decision was made that an alternate route needed to be considered, that process needed to be delayed and the full review needed to be conducted on the alternate route. I mean, that’s the way this process is supposed to work.

Q What would have happened if the President hadn’t intervened? If the President hadn’t --

MR. CARNEY: The State Department -- first of all, again, the decision to create an alternate route was made based on the requests of stakeholders affected by the original route, including, again, the governor of Nebraska and others in that state. And that necessitated, as deemed by the State Department, which has to conduct this review, the postponement, and the allowance of enough time to thoroughly review the new route.

Again, I think it’s important to note that, as the State Department made clear, 60 days is simply not enough time. We don't even have an alternate route identified yet, so how could anyone possibly review it thoroughly, in the manner that is expected in this process?

So the point is, is that these things are supposed to be decided in a methodical, responsible manner so that all these criteria are properly weighed, because a decision like this has long-term implications for our economy and for our environment, for our national security. And those criteria all have to be considered as the decision is being made.

The effort to score a political point, in a process that was wholly unrelated, because they were unhappy about the fact that the President was pushing for a payroll tax cut extension for 160 million Americans, I don’t think makes a lot of substantive sense in terms of the issue that proponents of that course say they care about, which is a decision that needs to be made on a pipeline and the potential economic -- positive economic impacts that that would have. You got to let the process unfold the way it’s supposed to unfold without this kind of extraneous political interference, and then a decision would be made on the merits.

Q Would you clear this up, though?


Q The President signed this into law. It says that unless he finds that it is not in the national interest of the United States, within 60 days, then the project will go ahead, he takes no action. It leaves the State Department out of the equation and puts it squarely on the President.

MR. CARNEY: Again, I’m not going to preview for you any information we might have about this process or decision prior to that taking place. I’m not quibbling with the legislation the President signed into law. I am making a broader statement about who conducts the review, and the fact that the State Department, which, again, through decades of precedent, conducts this review, made clear back in December what it felt the impact would be of an arbitrary deadline set by -- for political reasons.

So if your issue is like -- if your concern here is who’s going to make the decision, I’ll suggest you wait for the decision to be made.

Q The logical extension of that would be that the President would find that it’s not in the national interest, just go ahead --

MR. CARNEY: Well, I would point you to what the State Department said, that it would be impossible -- or highly unlikely, if not impossible, to conduct a proper review of an alternate route that, again, on January 18, 2011, does not even exist, so how could you possibly review it?

Q Doesn’t he have to do it?

MR. CARNEY: Again, I’d point you to the future, 2012 -- what did I say? I don’t think I’ve made that mistake in any checks I’ve written so far this month.

Q Hasn’t the Nebraska governor said that he doesn’t have these concerns anymore and he’s okay? Because you keep citing him, but he’s since said --

MR. CARNEY: He’s not okay with the original route. That was one of the primary reasons why this --

Q But he said it should go forward while an alternate route is looked at, though.

MR. CARNEY: You don’t grant a permit for a pipeline with a significant portion of it missing.

Q Yes, but you keep citing that he’s opposed, but he’s saying --

MR. CARNEY: He was opposed --

Q Before.

MR. CARNEY: His opposition was important to the decision to seek an alternate route, which then delayed the process. And then the process requires the permitting of the full pipeline. It’s not a partial proposition.

I want to go to Alister.

Q Can we stay on this?

MR. CARNEY: Yes, we can.

Q Just -- I’m going to change the subject very quickly. (Laughter.) Officials in Iran have said that they reached out to Western powers to discuss restarting negotiations over their nuclear program soon. So do you have any response to that? And could you talk about your -- the administration’s attitude towards getting back to the negotiating table with Iran?

MR. CARNEY: Well, our position has been clear and has not changed for a long, long time here. We have made clear from the beginning, when the President took office, that the path is open to Iran to get right with the international community, to fulfill its international obligations, abide by its commitments, and that the international community, including the United States, would be willing to work with Iran if it were willing to do that -- to ensure, for example, that it had access to nuclear technology for non-military purposes. And that stands.

Iran’s behavior and its refusal to engage in serious discussions about this issue, its refusal to live up to its international obligations, its persistence in pursuing a nuclear program in a manner that’s not consistent with those international obligations has led to the consistent ratcheting up of pressure on Iran, led by the United States, but together with many, many international allies and partners, and that process continues.

And it has put enormous pressure on Iran. It has isolated Iran. And that continues. But the fact remains that there is an alternate course here available to Iran should it respond to the letter from the P5-plus-1 and be willing to live up to its obligations. This is a simple choice that has been available to Iran from the beginning.


Q Thank you, Jay. In general, the President doesn't oppose the construction of pipelines. After all, this is just an extension of an existing one. Overall, the President thinks that they're an important part of the oil infrastructure?

MR. CARNEY: Definitely. And I think that's an important point to make, which I think I made yesterday, which is that this President’s commitment to expanding domestic oil and gas production is firm, and has been demonstrated by the fact that, again, in 2011, as was the case in 2010, the United States produced more oil and gas than at any time since 2003.

And he has continued to make more territory available, both in the Gulf and in Alaska and elsewhere, to production and development. And he has done that in a way that at the same time maintains the standards of safety and responsible development that he thinks are key.

So he takes an all-of-the-above approach here. He believes firmly that we need to continue to exploit, if you will, our domestic resources. We need to continue to invest in clean energy technologies. And doing so, taking this approach that includes oil, natural gas, nuclear power and other clean energy technologies, is the best energy policy and the surest way to ensure that we increase -- improve our national security and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

And so this is not an either/or proposition; it’s a both/and. You can do this, you can increase domestic oil and gas production, as has been the case on his watch, and do it in a safe and responsible way. And doing it in a safe and responsible way includes ensuring that the proper reviews are conducted for a proposal like this Keystone pipeline, in accordance with longstanding bipartisan tradition in multiple administrations.

Q This, of course, is an extension to Canadian oilfields. Does he had an opinion on tar sands and whether those are an appropriate place to --

MR. CARNEY: The President is a firm believer in the fact that we need -- that we can and we must develop energy sources in a safe and responsible way. And obviously there are -- you have to take a lot of factors into consideration when you do that. \

The overall issue here is about economic security and national security. And that’s why it is so important to embrace the possibility of further development and ensure that we do it in a way that’s safe and responsible. And that’s true for oil, it’s true for natural gas, it’s true for nuclear and it’s true for clean air technology -- I mean, sorry, clean energy technology. Getting ahead of myself.

Mr. Henry, again.

Q Thank you very much. Can I follow up on Iran real quick and then a question on taxes? You said in your answer to Alister, by talking about the P5-plus-1, and that is a channel the U.S. can use. But there’s a lawmaker in Iran and the foreign minister in Iran are both on the record saying that a letter has come from President Obama directly to the Supreme Leader saying that there should be direct U.S.-Iranian talks. Has such a letter been written, and are you open to direct talks?

MR. CARNEY: Our position has not changed. Any communications we may have had with -- or may have with the Iranians are the same in private as they have been in public, and that is along the lines of what I just restated in terms of our position and our policy. The P5-plus-1 structure is in place. If the Iranians are serious about restarting talks, then they need to respond to that letter. That is the channel by which -- the mode by which the restarting of those talks would take place.

Again, our expression of our position is the same in private as it is in public. The statement that there is a path here towards renewed talks and a path here for Iran to pursue if it so chooses that would allow it to get right with the international community, that would allow it to stop the process that has isolated it further and further, has been apparent from the beginning and it remains available to Iran to this day.

But Iran has shown no inclination thus far to make that choice, to make that decision. And what we have seen over the three years since this President has been in office is he has -- by pursuing the Iranian issue in the way that he has, he has ensured that a world that was in conflict over this issue is now united -- an international community -- and an Iran that was united is now in conflict. And that is the effect that the President’s policies have had on Iran and on this process. He has brought to bear a level of consensus in the international community on the need to pressure Iran and isolate Iran on this issue that did not exist prior to him taking office.

Q But can you address going back to the ’08 campaign, then-Republican-candidate John McCain was complaining that direct talks with Iran that the President had talked about then in the campaign would show weakness because why would you sit down with a country for direct talks --

MR. CARNEY: The President has always made clear --

Q -- wipe Israel off the map?

MR. CARNEY: -- the process by which negotiations or talks would take place is the P5-plus-1. The President has always made clear that -- as he did when he took office, as he stated during the campaign -- that by offering the possibility of resolving this dispute with the Iranians through negotiations and talks would strengthen the United States’ hand, because if Iran agreed to do that and fulfilled its international obligations and abandoned its nuclear -- its pursuit of a nuclear weapon, that would be to the greater good and in the interest of the United States as well as its allies and partners around the world.

And if it did not, it would be clear to the whole world that Iran was the problem here -- not the United States. And that is exactly what has happened. We have a level of international consensus about Iranian behavior that we did not have before. We have a situation where Iran’s economy is clearly suffering from the effects of the international sanctions regime, as well as the unilateral sanctions that various nations have placed on Iran. And that isolation has caused disunity within the Iranian leadership and made clear to the world that they have isolated themselves outside of international norms.

Q The last thing, on taxes. Yesterday, when Norah asked you about Mitt Romney saying that his tax rate is around 15 percent -- this gets back to the old thing that you mentioned, the President has mentioned, about Warren Buffett paying less than his secretary because of the rate that capital gains are taxed. What is the President’s -- from a policy standpoint, what then is his solution? I mean, he’s talked about various things like the Buffett Rule and whatnot, but in terms of law, is it to bring capital gains tax rates up closer to income tax rates so that’s more fair? Is it -- what is his prescription then?

MR. CARNEY: Well, I appreciate the question, Ed, and it’s a legitimate one. The President has made clear what his principles are in terms of tax reform. He is for both corporate tax reform and individual tax reform. And one of the principles that he would bring to the table in the development of individual tax reform is the Buffett Rule, which would ensure that millionaires and billionaires, because of the nature of their income, do not pay at a lower rate than middle-class Americans -- that Warren Buffett does not pay a lower rate in taxes than his secretary, as Mr. Buffett himself has said.

How you get there is a matter that I will leave to the President and others to propose, because tax reform is a -- there are many ways to skin the cat, and it’s a complicated process. But the principle of the Buffett Rule is one that he believes is very important, because it goes right to the situation we were talking about yesterday and that you raise, and that is that it simply, as a matter of fairness, does not make a lot of sense for millionaires and billionaires to be able to pay taxes at a much lower rate than somebody making $100,000 a year or less.

And so that is a principle he would bring to bear here. It is particularly -- there are a variety of ways that -- there are a variety of loopholes within the tax code that -- or elements of the tax code, as well as loopholes within it, that create that situation, not least of which -- and he’s identified this -- is the carried interest loophole, that allows hedge fund managers and private equity managers to take income for their labor and have it taxed at a capital gains rate.

The President believes that’s just -- in the world that we live in right now, when middle-class Americans are struggling, when they’ve seen their wages stagnate or decline, when there’s enormous economic pressure on hardworking American families, that’s just not fair. And we have important things that we need to do to ensure that America is strong and that our economy is powerful in the 21st century. And so we need to make sure that everyone has a fair shot and everyone pays a fair share.


Q Hi, Jay. Back on Keystone, realistically, a timeline
-- now that there’s been a rejection, what’s the timeline as far as an alternative route. What do you think that -- when do you think you’ll --

MR. CARNEY: I refer, April -- first of all, I don’t have any announcements to make regarding any decisions on this, so I would just take issue with your question in that regard. But --

Q You’re giving us answers, so you didn’t take issue --

MR. CARNEY: Well, I’ve been reviewing facts that have been true prior to today.

As for pipeline proposals of the nature that are -- of the nature of Keystone that are transnational, I mean, those would go through the normal channels, through the State Department. And their duration in terms of the review process would be -- again, absent extraneous, political interference, would take place in the normal manner. But that’s just the way the process exists.

Q -- in a 60-day process?

MR. CARNEY: Well, the 60-day thing was the arbitrary element inserted into an unrelated tax cut bill. But that’s not how the process works. The process works in the manner that the State Department has run -- designed and run it for many years.

Q And the reason why I ask that question is because there are already concerns about the fact that "tens of thousands of jobs" will be lost because of this rejection. So would you consider this more so of a deferment of job creation?

MR. CARNEY: Well, let me just make clear here, as the State Department decided and the President concurred, the review process was extended because of a decision to change the route. That process should be allowed to take its course. The review should be allowed to be conducted in the appropriate way with all factors weighed and considered, overseen by the State Department. That is certainly the way this thing should happen.

Unfortunately, because of the decision by Republicans to insert this extraneous provision within a tax cut bill, there is this arbitrary deadline of 60 days, forcing the administration’s hand. But again, the broader process will continue to work the way it has always worked, again, predating this administration.

Q But I’m talking about the issue of job creation that comes from this and while people are screaming that tens of thousands of jobs are lost now because --

MR. CARNEY: April, you have -- these projects -- you have to weigh a variety of considerations: economic impact, environmental impact, health and safety, national security -- and that's the way it should be.

There are hundreds of thousands of teachers and first responders who could go back to work right away if Congress would act on the American Jobs Act, if Republicans would stop blocking the provisions within the American Jobs Act that this President proposed and Democrats support.

There are tens of thousands of construction workers -- infrastructure jobs, not unlike the building of a pipeline -- who could be going back to work rebuilding our infrastructure, making us more competitive for the 21st century, if Republicans would support, as they often have in the past, the kind of infrastructure investments that are included in the American Jobs Act.

And again, as we’ve said earlier -- I’ve said earlier this month in briefings, we remain optimistic that that kind of cooperation could be forthcoming this year, because it really is incumbent upon every elected member of Congress as well as the President to work together towards the goal of improving our economy and creating jobs.


Q Thanks, Jay. Just to follow up a bit on what April was asking, the bottom line is the Keystone pipeline has become a political lighting rod this year. So what’s the administration’s level of concern that the debate itself has really in some ways pitted this administration against some unions who are saying this would put them back to work?

MR. CARNEY: I would simply say that on issues like this there is a non-political, professional process that has been in place, was established long before this administration came to office, and is the proper way to conduct the reviews for applications for permits for these kinds of transnational projects. That review process is run by the State Department. It was being run by the State Department. A change in the route was made because of concerns expressed -- legitimate concerns expressed by stakeholders in Nebraska and elsewhere. And because of that, the process had to be extended.

That’s how it’s supposed to work. There are a lot of factors to weigh in these kinds of decisions, including national security factors, issues of the health and safety of our children and the residence of folks in the area of any proposed pipeline, economic impacts, job impacts, the effect on our energy security. And that’s the kind of process that the State Department oversees. It involves input from many agencies. And that’s the way this should proceed. It should not become, as you say, highly political in the way that it has become because of the decision to insert an extraneous provision within a tax cut bill.

Q I understand there is a non-political process, but given that we’re in a reelection year, isn’t it impossible for this not to take some sort of a political --

MR. CARNEY: It’s up to others to decide how political they want to be about any kind of decision like this. This President, this administration, is tasked with the responsibility of reviewing these matters in a way that’s appropriate, that takes into consideration all the different criteria that need to be brought to bear in a decision like this. And that’s the approach the State Department has taken and the President has taken, and will continue to take.

Q And just to ask one quick one on another topic, Jay. Representative Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, as you know, back in August, raised some concerns over Kathryn Bigelow’s upcoming Osama bin Laden movie, raised some concerns that there were potentially some classified information that was leaked about the kill and capture of Osama bin Laden. Last week, the CIA and the Defense Department officially opened an investigation up into this project. What’s the administration’s reaction?

MR. CARNEY: Well, the CIA and the Defense Department are part of the administration. And I would point you to them and their announcement of their look into this.

What I made clear at the time is that there was some loose reporting in a column about what the White House did. And I made clear that in discussing that mission and those days with folks involved in making this film or writing books or articles or doing TV pieces, we said all the same things and none of it was classified.

Q And you’re confident that this investigation --

MR. CARNEY: Well, again, I would refer you to the Defense Department and the CIA -- with regard to that -- because I was part of that process -- with regard to the White House’s engagement with reporters like everyone in this room, practically, as well as others who were working on magazine articles or books or films, we provided the same information to everybody, and none of it was classified.


Q My question is a process question. Why, knowing as you do the interest in the Keystone issue, and knowing as you do that this decision is going to be announced later today, why would you announce it after the briefing, and therefore put yourself in a position where you won’t answer any questions about it and where we won’t have an opportunity --

MR. CARNEY: Well, I’m not going anywhere. You know you guys can ask me questions. I’m here most days.

Q Okay. All right.

MR. CARNEY: You’re welcome to fill a seat.

Q I'll call you after the decision comes out.

MR. CARNEY: I know it’s hard to believe, but the schedule of decision-making and policy processes and stuff are not all dependent on my schedule, or the briefing schedule, or the communications shop. And that’s how it should be. So, again, you guys probably don't like me to brief in the middle of the evening or something, so I would just point you to the fact that we may have something more to say about this later today.


Q Thanks. On Keystone, without confirming a rejection, can you explain to us what a rejection would mean? In other words -- (laughter.) No, no, I’m not -- I’m totally serious.

Q No, good question.

Q Okay, so if TransCanada has to submit a new route, does that just -- like, does the clock start at zero again? Are we looking at another 10-year process? You can say that House Republicans forced their hand on that, but I’m trying to understand what does -- what would a rejection mean. Would a rejection mean --

MR. CARNEY: Well, let me make two points --

Q -- begin at the complete beginning?

MR. CARNEY: Well, let me make two points. First of all, these reviews are conducted by the State Department, and the details of how they work are best explained by the State Department.

However, I would point out that absent the payroll tax cut and the insertion of an extraneous provision within it that had created this arbitrary 60-day deadline, there was a process in place that wasn’t 10 years, but when the route had been changed was -- I think it was 18 months, if I’m not mistaken. And that's because that's the amount of time that the State Department believes was necessary -- would be necessary to properly review an alternate route.

I would refer you to the State Department for more details about how that process generally works, depending on whatever decision was made because of the necessity created out of this legislation.

Q So this is the White House’s understanding that this would probably begin another 18-month time clock then? I can ask -- I’ll ask my State Department reporters to ask --

MR. CARNEY: I don’t have a White House view to express on that except for what I just said, which is that the process -- I mean, because it depends on a lot of factors, including the outcome of this decision. But as you noted in even your question, there are players in this process, including companies, private companies; there’s another country involved, which is the reason why the State Department is engaged in this. So I would be -- I would not want to speculate.

Q It may have been eight months from now that you guys gave it the green light, and what I’m asking is, is that option now totally obviated? Is that no longer an option?

MR. CARNEY: I would just refer you to the State Department. I just don’t have details for that. And again, it’s based on the premise of a decision that I’m not announcing from here.

Q And any White House reaction, in just working principle, as you’ve gone through your day, have the Internet provider and website protests affected you guys in any way?

MR. CARNEY: Well, I don’t have any effects or impacts that I’ve noted beyond to point out that we made very clear over the weekend our views on this, and we had tremendous response to our “We the People” initiative. And we think it’s an important process here that has been conducted where there’s a lot of external input expressed about the many important issues that are at stake. And our firm belief is that we need to do something about online piracy by foreign websites, but we need to do it in a way that does not impinge upon a free and open Internet. And what that means is that both sides, loosely defined, the two sides in this issue need to come together and find a solution that strikes a balance.

And I think that process has been benefited by the interest and the number of voices that have been heard on this issue. We’ve been really impressed by the volume of response that we’ve gotten online to what we put out over the weekend.

Lesley, and then Jackie.

Q Jay, can you give us a little bit more on the President’s visit to Florida tomorrow and some of the Republican criticism that he’s going to be there just a few days before Republican GOP candidates will arrive, after South Carolina and polls are down in the state for him?

MR. CARNEY: Well, I’ve discussed his travel. I mean, he goes to states all across the country. And every President should travel across the country to meet with Americans from as many states as possible -- and that’s a principle this President pursues.

He will travel tomorrow to Florida, to Orlando, to Walt Disney World, where he will unveil a strategy that will significantly help boost tourism and travel, which is an important and sometimes overlooked sector in the U.S. economy. The action will be taken as the President’s “We Can’t Wait” agenda of executive actions that will aid job growth and do not require congressional approval -- which goes back to the point I made earlier, which is he’s pursuing every avenue possible here to tackle what he thinks is our most important challenge, which is growing the economy, creating jobs, positioning the American economy to compete and dominate in the 21st century. And this is another indication of that effort. I think --

Q -- a few days out of the Florida primary being started, it has nothing to do with --

MR. CARNEY: You can argue that, but, first of all, our schedules are made with a lot of different considerations well in advance. I think I read reports a few weeks ago that this thing would be over after Iowa. You can’t -- that would -- or that it could go on until May as it did in -- or June, as it did in 2008. That would make it impossible for us for -- if we were guessing in the weeks in advance that we make travel arrangements like this, it would make it very hard for us to go to many, many places.

This is -- it’s obvious when you’re making a tourism and travel announcement that one of the premier sites of U.S. tourism industry is Orlando, so it seems pretty self-evident that you would do that.

Q Can I follow up on that?


Q Is the President disappointed that Senator Nelson won’t be with him tomorrow in Orlando?

MR. CARNEY: I’m not aware of any opinion he’s expressed on that.

Q Apart from general State of the Union follow-up, what’s the message next week on this five-state tour?

MR. CARNEY: Well, since he’ll be talking about the subjects that he raised in the State of the Union, if I were to talk about the subjects he’ll raise in the states that he visits I would be getting ahead of the President. (Laughter.) So look, I think one thing you can be sure of -- and this is broadly speaking, you shouldn’t rule out other subjects -- but that he is fiercely focused on economic growth and job creation and pursuing every -- using every tool available to him to assist in that project.

So that will certainly be a topic generally of his address next week, and it will be a topic that he discusses on the road both after the State of the Union and beyond, as he has so frequently prior to the State of the Union.

Q And I appreciate that the Florida plan had nothing to do with the fact that Florida is about to vote, and then he’s going to Nevada, which is the next state up to vote. (Laughter.) It seems awfully coincidental.

MR. CARNEY: Well, look, again, if we -- we would have to rule out -- remember what happened in 2008. We would have had to decide back in December or November -- and we make decisions fairly far in advance about where we’re going to travel -- that we couldn’t go to any state that had a primary -- that's 50 states, basically -- because all of them could be the place where the nomination was decided in the other party. We can't do that.

This President, as every President is, is President of all the United States of America, of all the people in the country, and he’s going to travel around the country to talk about the issues that are important to Americans in every state, including, most importantly, economic growth and job creation.

Brianna. I’m sorry. Did I miss you this whole time?

Q I didn't consider it --


Q On Keystone you talk about these are processes that have been in place in other administrations. I mean, the President has talked about kind of greasing the rails in some ways to create jobs. Isn’t this sort of one of those bureaucratic mountains that he’s talked about moving?

MR. CARNEY: Well, you eliminate red tape and you eliminate bureaucracy; you do the kinds of things that he has done in an unprecedented move with his regulatory look-back process that has eliminated a lot of rules and regulations to make life easier for American businesses. But you do that in a careful review to make sure that you’re not eliminating processes or rules that are vital to either health and safety of the American people, or national security, or energy security.

So, no, you don't ignore potential issues involving the health and safety of residents in numerous states who would be affected by this pipeline. You have to --it’s your responsibility. And that’s why this process is always done in a manner that’s very thorough, very considered, that weighs all the different factors that are at stake here in a decision like this.

Q But wouldn’t it serve him --

MR. CARNEY: I mean, the issue here is to short-circuit a process and approve a pipeline, the route for which hasn’t even been decided -- or proposed.

Q I’m not saying in a haphazard way. But wouldn’t it be better to move forward in some way, in tandem with the state review? Some way to move forward on this instead of being hit, as he’s going to be hit, over and over by Republicans who are saying, according to TransCanada, this is 20,000 jobs -- and they’re going to put it over and over in different pieces of legislation and it will be a fight over and over. Isn’t he better off moving forward in some way?

MR. CARNEY: There are going to be a lot of fights. And I understand the Republicans, for lack of alternative arguments to make on the proper way to balance our budget, or on tax reform, or how we should best pay for the kinds of investments we need, or why they oppose putting 400,000 teachers and first responders back to work, or why they oppose putting construction workers back to work, that they will grab onto some other arguments. But that doesn't mean the President doesn't have the responsibility, and his administration doesn’t have a responsibility, to conduct a review like this properly and by the book. And that’s how they’re going to do it.

Q These are private sector jobs. They don’t require any expenditure by government.

MR. CARNEY: That’s not the issue. The issue is the impact that a development project like this, transnational development project like this would have on the health and safety of the American people in the region, on our economic security, on job creation, on our energy security. These are -- there’s a variety of factors that have to be considered, and they should be considered. They should not be set aside out of -- for political gain.

I mean, let’s go back to how this happened, right? The President was making a very compelling argument about the need to implement the provision within the American Jobs Act to extend the payroll tax cut. His original proposal was to expand the payroll tax cut so that Americans got -- 160 million Americans got a bigger tax cut this year. Republicans went from opposing that to being ambivalent about it to suddenly deciding that they needed some -- because they were going to have to go along with it in the end because it was the right thing to do and their constituents were telling them it was the right thing to do -- to deciding they needed some sort of political victory, and this is what they settled on, an attempt to hijack a process, to short-circuit a review process that needs to be conducted properly in order that all the prerogatives here are considered. And that’s how it should be and that’s how it will be.

George. Oh, Jackie, I said you next.

Q On another issue that pits constituencies against each other, you mentioned that, on Saturday’s blog post about the issue of intellectual property rights and piracy, that you were just trying to urge the sides to come together on a solution. But it was widely interpreted in some as the White House taking sides with Google against Hollywood. Why do you think that's the wrong way to look at it?

MR. CARNEY: Because as I just stated, we believe there is a need absolutely to address the problem of online piracy conducted by foreign websites, which is the real driving issue here. We made clear in the statement that we put out over the weekend that we oppose the so-called DNS filter, and we made clear what our principles are in how we pursue -- or how the government ought to pursue addressing the issue of online privacy, and in doing that, it must not impinge upon the freedom of the Internet because the Internet is such a vital resource for our economy and for the American people.

But these are -- there are absolute issues here that -- and interests that all sides of this debate have, and they're legitimate, and that's why there needs to be the kind of dialogue we believe that could bring us to a resolution -- that could result in a resolution that is balanced and addresses concerns about online privacy, but doesn't impinge upon the freedom of the Internet.

Q But you had bills moving forward in each house towards markup, and typically this administration is, if anything, deferential towards the legislative process in Congress. Why --

MR. CARNEY: Everybody hear that? (Laughter.)

Q Why the timing? And why was it timed on a Saturday? I mean, there are so many aspects of the timing of this that are unusual.

MR. CARNEY: Well, I think there was a great deal of focus and interest and intensity on this issue. We have the "We the People" process and solicited opinions on this issue, and the threshold was met for us to respond and we did. I think it’s entirely appropriate for us to put forward our view on pending bills, as you stated, at least on the provision in particular within one of them or both of them on the DNS filter, and on the overall principles that we think should guide this process.

Q Thank you.

MR. CARNEY: Anybody else? George, I owe you, and then that will be it.

Q Yes, I just wanted to clarify --

MR. CARNEY: And then Cheryl, I know you’re dying in the back there, sorry.

Q I just wanted to clarify your answer to Ed. Are you confirming that the President sent a new letter to the leadership in Iran?

MR. CARNEY: I’m not -- we don’t discuss specific communications, diplomatic communications. I would say that we have a variety of channels through which we can communicate with the Iranians and that any message we communicate to the Iranians about these issues would be entirely consistent with what we’ve said publicly, what I’ve said publicly, the President, the Secretary of State and others. And you can be sure of that.


Q Two personnel issues -- I know you love talking about that. Are you considering --

MR. CARNEY: I have no personnel announcements to make.

Q Is the President considering Larry Summers to head the World Bank?

MR. CARNEY: I don’t have any personnel announcements to make.

Q And is the President actively looking for a new OMB director, or is Jeff Zients going to stick around for a while?

MR. CARNEY: Well, he just became acting director for the second time. So I don’t want to foreshadow anything. The President is very appreciative of Jeff’s excellent service so far, his willingness to be acting director in the past, his willingness to do this again now. This is a very important role. It’s very important specifically as regards our interactions with Congress. So he’s very pleased that Jeff is taking on this responsibility.

Q Has the President talked to Prime Minister Harper?

MR. CARNEY: I don’t have any foreign calls to announce.

Q So he hasn’t talked to him?

MR. CARNEY: I just said I don’t have any foreign calls to announce.


Q Will we have the President on Keystone?

MR. CARNEY: Am I the warm-up act?

Q Yes.

MR. CARNEY: I have no -- nothing more to say on the matter.

END 2:35 P.M. EST