Help for Homeowners in the Hardest Hit States

The President:
Thank you so much, everybody. Everybody, have a
seat, have a seat. I am thrilled to be here. (applause) Audience Member:
We love you, Mr. President! The President:
I love you back. (applause) We’ve got some
special guests here — everybody is a special guest,
but I just want to acknowledge a few folks here. Secretary of State Ross
Miller in the house. (applause) Two outstanding
members of Congress — Representative
Shelley Berkley — (applause) — and your own Dina Titus. (applause) Senate Majority Leader
Steven Horsford. (applause) We’ve got State Assembly
Majority Leader John Oceguera. (applause) Clark County Commissioner
Chairman Rory Reid. (applause) Henderson Mayor Andy Hafen. (applause) Former Governor Bob Miller. (applause) We’ve got — first, can everybody give a huge round of applause for Tina Long for the great introduction of Harry Reid? (applause) Green Valley High School
principal Jeff Horn. (applause) Obviously not exam time yet. (laughter) Get’s a standing “O.” The Green Valley High School
Marching Band that played at my inauguration — give them
a big round of applause. (applause) They played “Viva Las Vegas.” (laughter) At the reviewing
stand — they did. (laughter) And finally, he may have
already been acknowledged — I want to give a special
acknowledgment to Greg Koehler, North Las Vegas Fire Department,
who just returned from 14 days in Haiti giving medical
assistance to orphans injured in the quake. (applause) Thank you. (applause) We’re proud of you. Thank you. Now, it’s good to
be back in Nevada — (applause) — good to be back in Vegas. (applause) Good to be back in Henderson. (applause) And good to be with my good
friend, your great senator, Harry Reid. (applause) I understand Henderson is where
Harry went to school as a boy and fought in the ring
as an amateur boxer. Now, looking at Harry,
you wouldn’t say that — (laughter) — I mean, let’s face it — (laughter) — but I can personally attest that Harry Reid is one of the toughest people I know. He does not give up. He knows what he cares about. He knows what he believes in and
he’s willing to fight for it. And sometimes he takes his
licks, but he gets back up. Harry Reid has never
stopped fighting — he hasn’t stopped
fighting for Henderson; he hasn’t stopped
fighting for Nevada; he has not stopped fighting for
the United States of America and middle-class families all across
this country that need a fair shake. (applause) I’m looking forward to hearing
what’s on your minds and trying to answer a few questions. But before I do, let me say a
few words about the situation that folks are facing right now. Harry is not one for
sugarcoating things — I don’t know if
you noticed that. He’s kind of a blunt guy. (laughter) Neither am I. These are tough times. When President Kennedy was here,
he called Henderson a “city of destiny” because he saw its
potential as Las Vegas grew. But for too long, I know many of
you have felt like your destiny has been slipping
beyond your control. You don’t need me
to tell you that. All of you in some way
have felt this recession. You felt it in the tourism
and hospitality industry. You felt it in the
construction industry. The unemployment
rate here is 13%, which is the second
highest in the nation. Foreclosures are also
among the highest. Home values have fallen by
more than almost anyplace else. And this is after a decade when,
for most middle-class families, incomes actually shrank
and wages flat-lined, and the only thing rising faster
was medical costs and the cost of education. So I know it’s tough out there. Harry Reid knows
it’s tough out there. That’s why we asked you
to send us to Washington. We didn’t run for the fancy
title or a big desk or a comfy chair. We didn’t run because it was
fun to get your name in the newspapers — most of
the time, it’s not. (laughter) We didn’t run so a bunch of
folks on cable TV could chatter about you. (laughter) And we didn’t run to kick
our problems down the road. We ran to solve problems that
folks like you are facing every single day. (applause) That’s why we ran for office. That’s why Harry wanted
to be Majority Leader, and that’s why I wanted to be
President of the United States — to help you. (applause) When my administration
took office, our immediate mission was clear. We needed to stop the great
recession from turning into a great depression. And economists of every stripe
were warning that was a real possibility. And that meant that we had to
make some decisions swiftly, boldly, and not always popular,
but decisions that were necessary. It wasn’t a time for satisfying
the politics of the moment, it wasn’t time for just
playing to the cameras — it was time for
doing what was right. That’s why we helped stabilize
our financial system — not because we felt any
compassion for big banks, but because not doing so would
have endangered the savings and dreams of millions
more Americans. (applause) And by the way, I was committed
to ensuring that if taxpayers were going to provide temporary
assistance to keep our financial system afloat, then it
actually had to be temporary. And I was determined to
get back every single dime, and we are well on our
way to doing that — getting back every single
dime from those banks. (applause) In fact, one battle we’re
having right now is we think the largest banks should be assessed
a fee so that taxpayers are held harmless for the assistance
that you’ve been giving. (applause) As you might imagine, the banks
are not enthusiastic about that. (laughter) And it won’t surprise you to
learn that they’ve got a few friends in Congress who
are willing to go along, but you know Harry Reid is
not one of those folks who are willing to go along. (applause) We’re going to get your money
back because Harry Reid is going to make sure you
get your money back. (applause) We helped shore up the
American auto industry. That wasn’t popular. I understood why. Folks felt like these companies
should reap the consequences of bad management
decisions in the past, just like any other
company would. But if we had let GM
and Chrysler go under, it would have been hundreds
of thousands of hardworking Americans who paid the price
— not just folks at those companies themselves, but at suppliers and dealers all across the country. So we told them, if you’re
willing to take the tough and painful steps you make — that are needed for you to become more competitive, then we’re willing to invest in your future. And as a result, auto production
in the United States of America is up 69% from the first
three months of 2009. (applause) GM’s CEO recently said that the
company would repay $6.7 billion in loans from taxpayers — with interest — by June of this year. (applause) Now, one of the things you need
to know is that the steps we’ve taken to shore up the
banks and the autos, they have nothing to do
with the Recovery Act. Those were separate. We had to do those as
emergency measures. And I just want to
point this out — Harry Reid, he’s
got his pollsters; I’ve got my pollsters. We knew that this wasn’t
going to be popular. But we did it because it
was the right thing to do. (applause) So it’s also why we
passed the Recovery Act. Now, a lot of people think
that the stimulus package, the Recovery Act — if
you listen on television, you’d think, well, that’s
all about giving banks money. That has nothing to
do with the banks. The other week, I saw a
poll that said Americans, they don’t like
the Recovery Act — they just like all the
individual parts of the Recovery Act. (laughter) And the reason is, they think
the Recovery Act is for banks and auto companies. When you ask folks about what
was actually in the Recovery Act, they think it’s
full of good ideas — like tax cuts, like
infrastructure investment, like unemployment relief. That’s what the
Recovery Act was. It was tax cuts for small
business owners and 95% of you. You may not have noticed —
95% of you got a tax cut — because of Harry Reid and
because of the Recovery Act. (applause) One million people in
the state of Nevada. We expanded unemployment
insurance at a time when it was absolutely vital for people as
they were trying to stay afloat. (applause) More than a quarter-million
of your members — of your neighbors. It was jobs for construction
workers and jobs for cops and firemen, jobs for almost 2,000
education professionals right here in Nevada. I haven’t talked to the
principal, but I guarantee you, we would have seen some very
difficult decisions having to be made about maintaining teachers
right here at Green Valley, if it hadn’t been for the help
that Harry Reid provided last year. (applause) You would have seen
some very tough choices. All of this — from the tax cuts to the unemployment insurance to the jobs — that was only possible because of Harry’s leadership. And as a result, our
economy is growing again. Almost two million Americans
who would otherwise be employed are working right now — because of what Harry Reid did. (applause) We’re no longer staring
into an economic abyss — because of what Harry
Reid helped to do. Now, he and I both know that’s
little comfort to the seven million Americans who lost
their job in this recession. It’s little comfort to
homeowners who are facing foreclosure or steep declines
in their home values, or to students who are having
to delay their college plans because they can’t afford it, or
older folks who are postponing retirement. That’s why I’m
not going to rest. That’s not — why
we’re not done. That’s why Harry Reid isn’t
going to rest until all of America is working again, until
the dream of home ownership is secure once again, and until our
economy is benefiting not just Wall Street but benefiting
hardworking Nevada families, benefiting the middle class,
benefiting Americans all across this great country of ours. That’s what we are aiming to do. (applause) Now, I’ve said before that the
way I measure our economy’s strength — the way
you measure it — is by whether jobs and wages
and incomes are growing. But the other way we measure is
by whether families have a roof over their heads and whether
folks are living out that American Dream of owning a home. That dream has been jeopardized
in this recession for a lot of people, especially
right here in Nevada. Now, part of it was —
I’ve got to be blunt here, I got to be honest — part of
it was because too many lenders were focused on making a
quick buck instead of acting responsibly. (applause) And, if we’re honest, too many
borrowers acted irresponsibly at certain points, taking on
mortgages that they knew they couldn’t afford. (applause) And what happened was the
regulators in Washington and legislators too often turned a
blind eye to the excesses and the failures on Wall Street
that fed a housing bubble. And now that that
bubble has burst, it’s left devastation that we’re
still grappling with today. Now, government has a
responsibility to help deal with this problem. Government can’t solve
this problem alone. We got to be honest about that. Government alone can’t
solve this problem. And it shouldn’t. But government can
make a difference. It can’t stop every foreclosure,
and tax dollars shouldn’t be used to reward the very
irresponsible lenders and borrowers who helped bring
about the housing crisis. But what we can do is help
families who’ve done everything right stay in their
homes whenever possible. (applause) What we can do is stabilize
the housing market so that home values can begin rising again. And that’s why we’re buying up
vacant homes and converting them into affordable housing
— creating jobs, stemming our housing crisis, growing the local economy. (applause) That’s why last year, we put a
tax credit worth thousands of dollars into the pocket of 1.4
million Americans to help them buy their first home —
first-time homebuyers credit. (applause) That’s why we’re offering
over one million struggling homeowners lower monthly
payments through our loan modification initiative. And that’s why today, thanks to
the leadership of Harry Reid, I’m announcing a $1.5 billion
fund for housing finance agencies in the states that
are hardest hit by this housing crisis — and that
means here in Nevada. (applause) Right here in Nevada. (applause) So this fund is going to help
out-of-work homeowners avoid preventable foreclosures, and
it will help homeowners who owe more than their homes are
worth find a way to pay their mortgages that works for both
the borrowers and the lenders alike, and will help folks
who’ve taken out a second mortgage modify their loans. So, yes, we need to
strengthen our housing market. And we need to focus on job
creation and getting our economy moving again. But one last thing I
want to be clear about — we can do all those things,
dealing with sort of the emergency crisis, and still
fall behind in the 21st century, in this global economy, unless
we recommit ourselves to solving some of the long-term problems
that have been with us for years. We’ve got to recognize, just
like earlier generations, that our future is
what we make of it, and unless we give everything
we’ve got to securing America’s success in the 21st century, our
children aren’t going to have the same opportunities. Now, I’ve traveled a
lot over the last year, all over the world, and
I’ve got to tell you, countries like China —
they’re competing to win. And there’s nothing
wrong with that. We want China to succeed. They’ve got a lot of poverty,
much more poverty than we have here, and it’s good for their
stability if they’re doing well. But I don’t know about you —
I don’t intend to cede the 21st century to anybody else. (applause) America is not a nation that follows — America leads. That’s what I intend
for us to do once again. (applause) America leads. So what does it mean to lead? It means countries that
out-educate us today are going to out-compete us tomorrow. And that means America
has to lead in education. (applause) That’s why we’re working with
educators to transform our schools, and make
college more affordable, and prepare our kids for science
and engineering and technical degrees — because those are going to be the jobs of the future. And because the future belongs
to countries that create the jobs of tomorrow, we’ve
got to lead in energy. That’s why we’re investing in
companies right here in Nevada and across this nation that
produce solar power and wind power and the smart,
energy-efficient electric grids — (applause) — the investments that are giving rise to a clean energy economy. (applause) It’s vital that we do that. Our nation can’t lead,
we can’t prosper, if we’ve got a broken-down
health care system that works better for the insurance
companies than it does for ordinary Americans. (applause) And we can’t squander the
opportunity to reform our health care system to make
it work for everybody. (applause) That’s why this coming week
I’m going to be meeting, and Harry is going
to be meeting, with members of both
parties and both chambers — we’re going to move forward
the Democratic proposal; we hope the Republicans
have one, too. And we’ll sit down and
let’s hammer it out, go — we’ll go section by section. Because America can’t solve
our economic problems unless we tackle some of these
structural problems. And America can’t lead — we can’t succeed unless we’re also getting a handle on our debt. We’ve got to confront this
fiscal crisis that has been brewing for years. That’s why we’re cutting what
we don’t need to pay for what we do. That’s why I signed a law that
says Americans should pay as we go and live within our means. (applause) That’s why yesterday I announced
a bipartisan fiscal commission that will help us meet our
fiscal challenges once and for all. Fiscal responsibility. Clean energy. A world-class education. A health care system that works. An economy that lifts
up all our citizens. That’s how America can lead. That’s how the
future will be won — with all of us coming
together to win it — (applause) — Democrats and
Republicans alike. (applause) And independents. With all the petty partisanship
and game-playing in Washington, I know that sometimes you guys
can feel pretty frustrated. Audience:
Yesss! The President:
I know it can be easy to despair about whether we, as a nation, can come together anymore. But for those who wonder
if America can unite, just come to Henderson. You think about it. This is a town that was founded
during World War II to supply metal for planes, for guns, for
the arsenal of democracy that freed the world from tyranny. This is a town — it
wasn’t built by liberals or conservatives; it was
built by Americans, by patriots who rallied around
a common purpose in an hour of need. (applause) And I’m certain that if we can
reclaim in this country the spirit of unity that
built Henderson, Nevada, all those years ago, then we can
build cities of destiny across this country. And the future will belong to
the United States of America. (applause) Thank you. God bless you. God bless the United
States of America. (applause) Thank you. Thank you. (applause) All right, everybody sit down. This is the — (applause) Here’s where I’m
on the hot seat, so I’ve got to
take off my jacket. (laughter) Answer some questions. Everybody sit down. All right. Some of you have been
to town halls before, so this is pretty
straightforward. We’ve got people in
the audience with mics, and just raise your hand — we’re going to go girl, boy, girl, boy — (laughter) — make sure it’s fair. And I’m going to try to take as
many questions as I can in the time remaining. And when you — before you answer [sic] your question, if you can introduce yourself
so that we know who you are. And try to make your question
relatively brief so that we can get in as many as possible. All right? As I said, we’re going to
go girl, boy, girl, boy. Young lady right there, yes. Audience Member:
Thank you, President Obama. In Nevada — The President:
What’s your name? Audience Member:
Oh, my name is Florence
Jamison [phonetic]. The President:
Okay. How are you, Florence? Audience Member:
I’m terrific. The President:
Great. Audience Member:
In Nevada we have the second highest number of medically uninsured, about
325,000 uninsured. More than five working adults
are colleagues who are dying each week because of no
access to health care. I am the founder of Volunteers
in Medicine, Southern Nevada — a free clinic which has been set
up to help our sick and dying. There are hundreds of caring
Nevadans that have rallied like a corps of angels to come and
provide free health care for their struggling neighbors — housekeepers, operators, receptionists, eligibility workers, social workers, nurses, doctors. In your health reform bill you
have a provision to protect the federally funded subsidized
community clinics. It is not clear if they’re going
to cover the free clinics where volunteers throughout the
community have rallied to give support to their struggling
neighbors in their great time of need. Can you help us with that? The President:
Well, thank you, first of all, for the great work that you guys are doing. So we appreciate that. (applause) But if you’re like a lot of free
clinics across the country, I know you’re
getting overwhelmed, because the need is so great. The bill that Harry and I have
been working on would provide assistance to a whole range
of community-based efforts — preventive care,
wellness care — which is absolutely vital not
only for the people who are receiving services at
clinics like yours, but also for reducing the
costs of health care overall, because the more that people
have access to preventive care, the less likely they are to
go to the emergency room when things are already out of hand. Now, let me just speak more
broadly about health care, because we’re going to have a
meeting with the Republicans, as I said, next week. I’ve got to admit that this has
been an issue that I was warned I shouldn’t take on. (laughter) No, no, I mean, seriously. When I first came in — and Harry was part of some of these conversations — there were a lot of political advisors who said, look, health care is
just too hard, it’s just too complicated. Everybody says in theory that
they want to reform the health care system, but because
it’s complicated, once you start putting a bill
together you get all kinds of criticism; the insurance lobby
will spend millions of dollars on advertising and TV, scaring
the heck out of everybody; your poll numbers will go down,
and you’re not going to get a lot of cooperation
from the other side. I mean, that was the warning. Plus, because the
economy is bad, a lot of people are already
feeling kind of anxious, and so they’re thinking, gosh,
we had to do all that stuff to fix the financial system, we
had to do this stuff to fix the autos, we had this
big recovery package, the deficits are going up — partly because tax revenues is not coming in and we’re having to spend more on unemployment insurance and
things like that — this is probably not the
time to be too ambitious. So I want to explain to
everybody why I decided to take it on. First of all, I decided to take
it on because I get a letter — or two, or five — every day from people who have lost their job and suddenly they
don’t have health insurance, somebody in their family gets sick, and they lose their house. They were solid middle-class
folks until they lost their job, and, lo and behold, they
discovered they couldn’t get coverage because something
had happened to them before. Maybe a woman had
had breast cancer, and it was okay as long as she
had her employer-based health care. But once she tried — once she lost her job and tried to get health care, couldn’t get it. I’ve looked too many
parents in the eye who say, our children have these chronic
diseases and we found out that our insurance only covered us
up to a certain amount and then they hit a cap, and afterwards
we had to hold bake sales and our neighbors had to raise money
just to make sure that our kids would live. Too many stories like that. So that was the main reason that
I said we had to take it on. But the second reason was
because even if you’ve got health insurance, what’s
happened to your premiums lately? Look, if this is a
representative sample, I’m assuming that 85% of you have health care — maybe 90% — let’s say 85% of you
have health care. Some of you are getting
it through your jobs; some of you are still
buying it individually, or you’re a small business
owner and you’re purchasing it. No matter what your situation,
I guarantee you your costs have gone up at least double
digits over the last year. They have doubled
over the last decade. And they’re going to more than
double over the next decade if we don’t do anything. So even if you’re lucky
enough to have health care, it is digging deeper and
deeper into your pocket. They just had — some
of you saw the news — for people who don’t have
insurance through a big employer, the individual market,
in California one of the biggest insurance providers,
Anthem Blue Cross, just announced that they were
going to raise rates on these folks by up to 39% — up to 39%. That’s the future. That’s the future, Henderson. That’s going to be one of the
main things that helps to bankrupt local school districts,
because all these teachers, all these employees, those
health care costs go up. Universities — those young people who are about to go to college, part of the reason your tuition is going up is because every employee at
the university, their health care
costs are going up. And that gets passed on to you. And, finally, the third reason
that we had to take this on is because the deficit and the debt
that you hear everybody getting in a tizzy about
— properly so — the vast majority of our
long-term debt is driven by Medicare and Medicaid. It’s driven by our
rising health care costs. Nothing comes close. You could eliminate
every earmark, you could eliminate foreign aid,
you could eliminate all that stuff — it would amount
to about 5% of the budget. Most of it is health care costs. And as the population
gets older, they use more health care;
that drives it up even faster. And pretty soon, pretty soon the
entire federal budget is going to be gobbled up by these
rising health care costs. And you’re already seeing it at
the state level here in Nevada, right? What’s happening with Medicaid? The governor is starting to talk
about having to cut all kinds of aspects of Medicaid
because of the cost. So here’s my point. We can’t wait to reform
the health care system. It is vital for our economy. (applause) It is vital for our economy to
change how health care works in this country. It’s vital. (applause) Now, having said all that, the
people who were giving me advice at the beginning of
the year were right — health care has been knocking
me around pretty good. (laughter) It’s been knocking Harry
around pretty good. And Harry has shown
extraordinary courage because he said, you know what, Barack,
we are going to get this done. I know it’s costing me
politically but it’s important, it’s the right thing to do. (applause) That’s what he’s been
saying consistently, and I’m proud of him for it. So let me — just very quickly, let me describe what it is that we have proposed — and
I’m waiting to see what the Republicans propose in turn — because there’s been a lot of misinformation here. What we have said is this: If
you have health insurance, we are going to pass a series
of health reforms so that the insurance companies have
to treat you fairly — it’s very straightforward — that they can’t prevent you from getting health insurance because of a preexisting condition; that they can’t put a lifetime cap so in the fine print it turns out that you’re
not fully covered. (applause) So there are a whole series
of insurance reforms — that’s number one. Number two, we’ve got a whole
series of cost controls. So what we’re saying is, for
example, that every insurer, they’ve got to spend the vast
majority of your premiums on actual care, as opposed
to profits and overhead. (applause) We’re saying that we’ve got to
get out some of the waste and abuse, including subsidies to
insurance companies in the Medicare system that run in the
tens of billions of dollars every year. (applause) That’s not a good use of
your taxpayer dollars. And we’re working to improve
wellness and prevention, as I said before, so that people
aren’t going to the emergency room for care. Now, the third thing, and the
thing that’s most controversial, sadly, is what we’re also saying
is we’ve got to make sure that everybody can have
access to coverage. And the way we do that is we set
up something called an exchange, where essentially individuals
and small businesses who aren’t getting a good deal because they
don’t have the same negotiating power as the big companies
when it comes to the insurance market, they can pool just like
members of Congress and federal employees do in their
health care plan — they can pool so that now
they’ve got the purchasing power of a million people behind them
and they can get a better deal. That can lower their costs. And we’ll give subsidies for
working families who can’t afford it even with
lower premium costs. (applause) Now, so I want everybody to pay
attention next Thursday when we have this health care summit. You may not want to watch all
six or eight hours of it, you got things to do. (laughter) But pay attention to what
this debate is about, because there’s been so much
talk about death panels and adding to the deficit, and
this and that and the other. Pay attention,
because this is — what we’re proposing has nothing
to do with a government takeover of a health care. Most of you would have the exact
same health care that you’ve got right now, but you’d be more
protected and more secure. And if you don’t
have health care, you’d have a chance of
getting health care. And, by the way, it would
actually save us money in the long term, because all those
wasteful dollars that we’re spending right now, the experts
estimate we’d actually save a trillion dollars by passing it. (applause) Now, I think it’s the
right thing to do. The Republicans say — the Republicans say that they’ve got a better way of doing it. So I want them to put
it on the table — (applause) — because as I told them — as I told them a while back, look, I mean, I’m not a — I’m
not an unreasonable guy. (laughter) If you show me that you can do
the things we just talked about — protect people from
insurance problems, make sure that the
costs are controlled, and people who don’t have
health insurance are covered — and you can do it cheaper than
me, then why wouldn’t I do that? I’ll just grab your
idea and say, great, and take all the credit. I’d be happy to do it. (applause) So show me what you got. But don’t let the American
people go another year, another 10 years, another 20
years without health insurance reform in this country. (applause) Okay, it’s a gentleman’s turn. It’s a man’s turn. This guy over here. This guy with a beard. Audience Member:
Thank you, Mr. President. Ben Burris [phonetic],
from Jonesboro, Arkansas. The President:
What are you doing all
the way here in Vegas? Audience Member:
Everybody comes to Vegas. (laughter) The President:
That’s what I’m talking about. There you go. Everybody comes to Vegas. (applause) Yes. Now, here’s my
only question, Ben. Have you spent some
money here in Vegas? Audience Member:
Oh, yes, sir. The President:
He says “Yes, sir.” (applause) Audience Member:
Yes, sir. The President:
He’s spending some
money here in Vegas. All right. That’s good. We like to see that. All right, what’s your question? Audience Member:
Well, sir, I’m reasonably familiar with the current and proposed legislature as it
applies to dentistry and oral health. And my question is, what’s your
vision for how dentistry will fit into your larger framework
for health care reform? The President:
Are you a dentist yourself? Audience Member:
Yes, sir. So if somebody has
a heart attack, you better still call 9-1-1. (laughter) Just a dentist. The President:
Now, it is interesting
that you raised this. It turns out —
this is serous — that dental hygiene is actually
very important for keeping your heart healthy. It turns out that heart disease
can be triggered when you’ve got gum disease. So everybody floss. That’s my first — am I right? You got to floss. (applause) It is my hope that we can
include dental care in the various proposals that
we’re putting forward. Dental and vision care
are very important. Now, I’ll tell you that some
folks will say we can’t afford it. Some states in their Medicaid
program cover dental; some states don’t. At minimum — at minimum, I think it’s very important that we’ve got dental
care for our kids. (applause) Because what happens is, is that
if we can keep our children’s teeth healthy, then usually that
means they’ve got healthy teeth as adults. And if not, oftentimes that
actually distracts them and prevents them from learning,
because both dental and eye care — a lot of kids end
up being distracted. They can’t read the blackboard,
they’ve got a cavity that’s been untreated. It’s a huge problem. So I would like to see
dental care covered. I will tell you that some folks
are going to say we can’t afford it. At minimum, I’d like to see that
our children have the care that they need. (applause) Audience Member:
Can I say one more thing, sir? I think most of us in dentistry
think that health care is the primary need here in terms of
that, and children as well. So we think that if you can take
care of health care first and let dentistry — do
that kind of thing — it’s more important to take
care of the health care first. Thank you, sir. The President:
There you go. All right, I appreciate that. Thank you. (applause) Okay, it’s a young lady’s turn. It’s so hard to choose. Okay, I’ll call on this young
lady back here, right over here. Yes, you. (laughter) All right, we got to get the
young man with the mic over to you. Audience Member:
Thank you, Mr. President. Thank God for this opportunity. I realize that insurance and
medical care has been a major issue. This is my problem. I worked for United Airlines
for nearly 30 years. I was severely
injured during flight. I have a workman comp’s case
that have fallen on deaf ear. The conflict in this city with
the lawyers and the doctors and this whole problem has drove my
life really to almost not having a life at all. I don’t know where else to turn. I don’t know who else to
talk to about the problem. I’ve written you letters. I’ve written letters to many of
the senators here in Las Vegas. I’ve talked to the doctors. I’ve done everything
I know how to do. But I am a widow with
a special needs child. I have lived in the house
that I live in for 19 years. My house is in foreclosure. I have disability insurance. I have Social
Security disability. That disability tells me, your
insurance is not accepted here. I can’t get the medical help
that I need to get better. The President:
What’s your — Audience Member:
I’d love to be a flight attendant for you on that U.S. One. I’m trained on that U.S. One. (laughter) The President:
Well, look, in terms
of your specific issue, come see Harry Reid and Harry
Reid will see if he can help you out here. (applause) All right? Workman’s comp is generally a
state issue as opposed to a federal issue. But Harry, he’s got a few
connections here in Nevada, so I suspect that
he can help out. But, look, to the larger point,
there are a lot more people who are actually going on disability
right now partly because job opportunities have shrunk. And that’s why it’s so important
for us to really focus on jobs. Now, if you were listening
to the Republicans, you’d think that last year we
weren’t paying any attention to jobs, that we were
just kind of — I don’t know what we
were doing, Harry. I guess we were just
sort of sitting around. (laughter) The truth is, is that everything
we did last year was designed around how do we break the back
of the recession and move the economic recovery forward in
order to promote job growth. You can’t have job growth if the
economy is contracting by 6%, because businesses look and they
say nobody is spending money, we got no customers,
we can’t hire. So the first thing we had to do
was to make sure that companies were starting to
make a profit again, and the economy was growing. We are now in that position,
because of the work that Harry did and a lot of — and these two outstanding members of Congress did, Congresswoman Berkley and Titus. (applause) The economy is
now growing again. But here is the
challenge that we’ve got. The challenge we have is that
after they’ve laid off 8 million people, now they’re
growing with fewer people. So they’re making profits, but
they haven’t started hiring yet. Our challenge is how do we get
businesses to start hiring again? Now, some of the jobs,
I’ll be honest with you, are probably not
going to come back. And the reason is because people
have installed new technologies, or they’ve set up new system
where they can do more with fewer workers. That’s why it’s so important for
us to invest in new industries and new technologies. I’ll give you an example. We were talking
about autos before. Do you know that before the
Recovery Act was passed, the United States was producing
about 2% of the advanced batteries that are used in these
clean cars, these electric cars? We were producing 2% of the batteries — less than 2%. What we did as part of the
Recovery Act was invest in developing plants for battery
production here in the United States. And do you know
that in 18 months, we will have the capacity to
produce 20% of the advanced batteries around the world? (applause) And by 2015, we’ll have the
capacity to produce 40% of the batteries around the world. We’ve created an
entire new industry — an entire new industry has been
created here in the United States that can produce jobs. So we’ve got to constantly look
for those opportunities in solar and in wind, and in
other hi-tech areas, because that’s going
to be the future. The more people have work
available to them — there is just a virtuous
cycle that happens. When people go to
work, they feel good; their health is better; their
kids do better in school — right? (applause) Business — they’ve got money
to spend, they come to Vegas, right? Tourism industry
starts taking off. (applause) So we’re going to be putting — Harry and I are working now on a jobs package for this year that’s designed not — it’s no longer designed
to grow the economy. Now it’s designed to give
incentives to businesses who are now making a profit
to start hiring again, and to help small
businesses get loans. Because a lot of small
businesses are still having trouble getting
loans from banks, even if they see an opportunity
for business growth, and we want to make sure that
they’ve got access to capital. All right, it’s a guy’s turn. I’m going to call on this guy,
even though he’s got a Cubs jacket on. (laughter) Everybody knows I’m a White Sox
fan, but I’m going to call — just to show that I’m unbiased,
I’m calling on a Cubs guy. (laughter) Audience Member:
You’re not a Cub hater. The President:
I’m not a Cub
hater, that’s right. Audience Member:
Okay, before I ask my question, I want to say something. I’m enrolled in a
Medicare Advantage plan. I understand that my benefits
will be cut with health reform. I’m all for it. The President:
Well, how about that? Let me — let me — before
you ask your actual question, let me just make this point. We’re not actually eliminating
Medicare Advantage. What Medicare Advantage is,
is basically the previous administration had this idea,
instead of traditional Medicare, let’s contract out to insurance
companies to manage the Medicare program. And the insurance companies can
then kind of package and pool providers of dental care or
eye wear or what have you, and it’s a one-stop
shop for seniors. Now, in theory that sounds
like a pretty good idea, except as you might imagine if
the insurance companies are involved that means they’ve
got to make a profit. And what happened was they
didn’t bid out competitively this Medicare Advantage program. So these insurance companies
were just getting a sweet deal. All we’ve been saying is let’s
make sure that there’s a competitive bidding process and
that we are getting the absolute best bargain. (applause) But I appreciate
your larger concern, which is let’s make sure that
everybody has access to health care. And traditional Medicare,
by the way, is a great deal. Everybody who is in it
is pretty happy with it. But go ahead with your question. Audience Member:
I’m going to introduce myself. My name is Norman — I
live in north Las Vegas. I’m retired. (applause) And my question is
about Social Security. The President:
Are you a former Chicagoan? Audience Member:
Yes, sir. The President:
Where are you from in Chicago? Audience Member:
Schaumburg last. The President:
Fantastic. Well, the weather is a little
bit better here, I got to admit. (laughter) Audience Member:
Well, we can visit snow here. The President:
Exactly. All right, go ahead. Audience Member:
Well, my question is
about Social Security. Now, I know there are a
lot of myths out there, and I know you can dispel them. I saw an interview on “Meet The
Press” with Alan Greenspan, who, as you know, was on the Social
Security Commission in the ’80s. And Tim Russert asked
him specifically, what about the crisis
in Social Security? Alan Greenspan’s response was,
there is no crisis in Social Security; it’s a
payroll tax issue. Can you comment on that? The President:
Yes. Here’s the situation
with Social Security. It is actually true that Social
Security is not in crisis the way our health care
system is in crisis. I mean, when you think about
the big entitlement programs, you’ve got Social Security,
Medicare, Medicaid. These are the big programs that
take up a huge portion of the federal budget. Social Security is in the
best shape of any of these, because basically the cost of
Social Security will just go up with ordinary inflation, whereas
health care costs are going up much faster than inflation. It is true that if we continue
on the current path with Social Security, if we did
nothing on Social Security, that at a certain point,
in maybe 20 years or so, what would happen is that you
start seeing less money coming into the payroll tax, because
the population is getting older so you’ve got fewer workers,
and more people are collecting Social Security so more
money is going out, and so the trust
fund starts dropping. And if we did nothing, then
somewhere around 2040 what would happen would be a lot of the
young people who would start collecting Social Security
around then would find that they only got 75 cents on every
dollar that they thought they were going to get. Everybody with me so far? All right. So slowly we’re
running out of money. But the fixes that are required
for Social Security are not huge, the way they
are with Medicare. Medicare, that is
a real problem. If we don’t get a handle
on it, it will bankrupt us. With Social Security, we could
make adjustments to the payroll tax. For example — I’ll just
give you one example — right now, your
Social Security — your payroll tax is
capped at $109,000. So what that means is, is
that — how many people — I don’t mean to pry
into your business, but how many people here make
less than $109,000 every year? (laughter) All right, this is a
pretty rich audience — a lot of people kept
their hands down. (laughter) I’m impressed. (laughter) No, look, what it means is
basically for 95% of Americans, they pay — every dollar you earn, you pay into the payroll tax. But think about that other 5%
that’s making more than $109,000 a year. Warren Buffett, he pays the
payroll tax on the first $109,000 he makes, and then
for the other $10 billion — (laughter) — he doesn’t pay payroll tax. So — yes, somebody
said, “What?” (laughter) Yes, that’s right. That’s the way it works. So what we’ve said
is, well, don’t we — doesn’t it make sense to maybe
have that payroll tax cut off at a higher level,
or have people — maybe you hold people harmless
till they make $250,000 a year, but between $250,000 and
a million or something, they start paying
payroll tax again — just to make sure that the
fund overall is solvent. So that would just
be one example. That’s not the only
way of fixing it, but if you made a slight
adjustment like that, then Social Security would be
there well into the future and it would be fine. All right? (applause) Okay. It’s a woman’s turn. Anybody — I’m going
to go back here. Nobody’s got — these folks haven’t had a chance here. Hold on one second — I’m
going to let you use my mic. You’ll give it back, right? (laughter) Okay. Audience Member:
My name is Peggy — and
I’m a native Nevadan, grew up in Boulder City. (applause) There’s a few of us here — known this great guy, Harry, all my life. And my question, which is
near and dear to my heart, and there’s a few of my
co-workers watching right now on television, and a few here — is we want to know what is going to be done for tourism in
Nevada, particularly airlines. I am a U.S. Airways employee
who has been furloughed for 17 months. They furloughed over 500
more just on the 14th, so there’s many, many of us
now on the unemployment rolls. And we want to see what’s going
to happen to bring our jobs back to Las Vegas. (applause) The President:
Well, first of all, obviously tourism is directly connected to the state of the
economy as a whole. If people have
disposable income, then they’re going to travel. And if they’re going
to travel and have fun, they’re going to
come to Las Vegas. (applause) Right? So — but on the other
hand, if times are tight, they’re having trouble paying
the bills, making the mortgage, et cetera, that means
tourism declines. So everything we’re doing in
terms of improving the economy as a whole will start
improving tourism. But what is also true is that we
can take some particular steps to help to encourage
the tourism industry. And Harry, before we came out,
was talking about a bipartisan tourism promotion/travel
promotion act. Harry — I’m going to give
the mic to Harry for a second. Harry, do you want to talk just
a little bit about what would be in the act? (applause) Senator Reid:
We’re going to try to
take that up next week. You’ll save a half a billion
dollars over 10 years and create tens of thousands of jobs. We’re the only
country in the world, major country in the world,
that doesn’t promote itself. You’ll see on TV Jamaica
does, New Zealand does, Australia does,
South Africa does — but not the United States. We hope within two or three
months we’ll be promoting ourselves. (applause) The President:
Good. Now, that’s the kind of
leadership that Harry is showing. Let me make one last point
about airlines in particular. There are two things that we can
really do to help improve the airline industry. The first is on energy. Part of the reason that airlines
are getting squeezed all the time is because their
fuel costs are huge. That’s the single biggest
problem for most airlines, is fuel costs that skyrocket
or are unpredictable. And so if we’ve got a smart
energy policy that is encouraging the use of electric
cars and improving gas mileage, and making sure that we’re
looking at alternative fuels like biofuels that can
be used for trucks, all those things will help to
reduce our dependence on foreign oil and, as a consequence,
will, over time, stabilize fuel prices in a way
that is very helpful to the airlines. The second thing that we need to
do is we’ve got to upgrade our air traffic control system,
which is a little creaky. And one of — don’t worry,
I mean, it’s safe to travel. I’m not — (laughter) — I don’t want anybody
to think, man, creaky, that doesn’t sound good. (laughter) What it is, is that because
we don’t use the latest technologies, a lot of times the
holding patterns for planes, how many planes can land
safely at the same time, all those things are —
reduce the efficiency of — the overall system is reduced
because we’re not using the best technologies available. If we can upgrade
those technologies, then we could reduce delays,
we could reduce cancellations, we could reduce the amount of
time that it takes when there’s bad weather for planes to land. And all that would also help
improve profitability in the airlines industry, which in turn
would mean that they would be able to hire more workers and
provide outstanding customer service. Okay? (applause) All right. It’s a gentleman’s turn. This guy right here. He’s a big guy,
he stood up and — he stood up, I thought,
man, that’s a big guy, I better call on him. (laughter) Say you’re big, too — I agree. (laughter) Don’t worry, I’m not
saying you’re not big. (laughter) All right, go ahead. Audience Member:
Thank you, Mr. President. My name is Dr. Herve
Misoko [phonetic]. I am originally from France
— actually from Africa, moved to France, and now I’m here in America because I believe — I still believe that America is the country of the American Dream. And I came here —
I’m a scientist, president of a renewable
energy startup, and I came here because I really
believe that America can become the first country
for clean energy. (applause) One of the comments
I wanted to make, coming from Europe where carbon
is regulated, I see firsthand — I have a company
in France also — that regulation works. It creates job. My company has been growing 30%
every year in France for the past two years. And I really want to
see that happen here. And I think that even if you
don’t believe in climate change, there’s like byproducts
that are awesome jobs. The country is going to
advance technology-wise. We’re going to become once again
like we were with the space industry, the most advanced
technologically country in the world. And so I really want to see
these regulations happen because it’s going to help all of us
in the clean energy business. (applause) The President:
Okay. Well, let me just talk
about — this is — when the conservatives have
their conventions and they yell at me and say how
terrible I am — (laughter) — along with health care this is the other thing that they usually point out, which is that
“the President wants to create this cap and trade system and
it’s going to be a job killer and it’s one more step in the
government takeover of the American economy.” So this is a good place for me
to maybe just spend a little time talking about energy
and climate change. First of all, we just got five
feet of snow in Washington and so everybody is like — a lot of the people who are opponents of climate change, they
say, see, look at that, there’s all this snow on the ground, this doesn’t mean anything. I want to just be clear that
the science of climate change doesn’t mean that every
place is getting warmer; it means the planet as a
whole is getting warmer. But what it may mean is,
for example, Vancouver, which is supposed to be getting
snow during the Olympics, suddenly is at 55 degrees, and
Dallas suddenly is getting seven inches of snow. The idea is, is that as the
planet as a whole gets warmer, you start seeing changing
weather patterns, and that creates more
violent storm systems, more unpredictable weather. So any single place might
end up being warmer; another place might end up
being a little bit cooler; there might end up being more
precipitation in the air, more monsoons, more
hurricanes, more tornadoes, more drought in some places,
floods in other places. So I just — that’s one aspect of the science that I think everybody should understand. That’s point number one. Point number two: The best way
for us to unleash the free market — the best way for us to unleash the free market and capitalism and innovation and dynamism in the energy sector is for us to fully take into account all the costs that go into producing energy
and using energy. And what do I mean by that? Look, if you tell a company that
there are no mileage standards on cars, then people
end up making Hummers. Right? And everybody drives Hummers
until finally gas gets so crazy and at a certain point people
start saying maybe I should get a more fuel-efficient car. But if you’ve got a
fuel-efficiency standard in place that says your car needs
to get 20 miles a gallon or 30 miles a gallon, suddenly all
these engineers are thinking, well, how do we do that? And all these companies start
coming up with new technologies that make your cars
more fuel-efficient. Ultimately, you end up seeing
jobs and businesses thriving in response to the regulation
that’s been put there. Now, that’s one way to regulate,
is just to tell people you got to produce more
energy-efficient cars. Another way of doing it is
just to send a price signal. You say, it’s going to be more
expensive for you if you’ve got a less fuel-efficient car. Well, that’s the only idea that
we’re trying to talk about when it comes to these greenhouse
gases that are causing global warming. If we say that, you know what,
the pollution that’s being sent into the atmosphere has
a cost to all of us — in terms of in some cases the
air we breathe that’s causing asthma, in some cases because
it’s causing climate change — we just want you to take into
account those costs and price energy accordingly. And that means that things like
wind energy suddenly become more appealing because they don’t
produce those pollution — those pollutants, and other
sources of energy become less appealing because they do
produce those pollutants. The idea has been that if we
put a price on these carbons, then maybe that would be a way
that companies would all respond and start inventing new things
that would make our planet cleaner. That’s the whole idea. Now, last point I’m
going to make on this. What is true is that a lot of
us depend on dirty sources of energy and a lot of us depend
on really inefficient cars and buildings and et cetera. And so there’s got
to be a transition. We’re not going to suddenly get
all our energy from wind or all our energy from sun because we
just don’t have the technology to do it. But what we should be doing
is planning over the next 20, 30 years to move
in that direction. That’s what countries
like China are doing. That’s what countries
like France are doing. That’s what countries all
across Europe are doing, and all across Asia are doing. We don’t want to be left behind. We’re the only ones who have
kind of missed the boat. So we’re still using 20th
century technologies and everybody else is producing
21st century technologies. Look what happened with the car. We started getting our clock
cleaned when consumers decided they wanted a cleaner car and
suddenly everybody was buying their cars from Japan,
or now South Korea. And we want to make sure that
that doesn’t happen when it comes to wind turbines, it
doesn’t happen when it comes to solar energy, et cetera. So the ideas that are being
talked about is how do we provide more incentive for clean
energy companies like yours to operate profitably, and over
time how do we start shifting away from less efficient
ways of using energy? That’s a pretty
straightforward thing to do. There’s nothing
radical about it. It is true, though, that it’s
not going to happen overnight; it’s going to take some time. And we’re still going to be
getting our electricity from coal; we’re still going to be
getting electricity from nuclear energy; we’re still going to be
getting electricity and power from natural gas and other
traditional sources. We just want to make sure that
we’re also moving into the future even as we do so. And I think that we can. (applause) All right. I think I’ve got time
for one more question. All right, this is
the last question. Last question. It’s a lady’s turn. All right, everybody
is pointing at her. Right up there, right there. I couldn’t call on anybody. You know I love everybody here. Audience Member:
Good morning, Mr. President. My name is Terry
Wright [phonetic] — and I teach math right here
at Green Valley High School. (applause) The President:
Excellent. Audience Member:
And my mom is right
behind you in the top row. The President:
Where is Mom? Mom, raise your hand. Audience Member:
Right there. The President:
Oh, hey, Mom. (laughter) You’re a very young looking mom. Audience Member:
Thank you. My question is this — and I’m speaking on behalf of all of us math teachers up here — when you were a freshman in high school specifically, did you have math homework every night? And if you did, did you do it? (laughter) The President:
Oh, ah. (laughter) The answer is yes,
and sometimes. (laughter) But, first of all, let me thank
you for being a math teacher, because we need
more math teachers. (applause) We need more science teachers. We need more teachers generally
who are enthusiastic about their work and their jobs. So thanks to all
the teachers here. We love teachers. (applause) All right. Now, we are actually
— unfortunately, our students are falling
behind in math and science, internationally. We used to rank at the top, and
now we’re sort of in the middle of the pack when it comes to
math and science performance. This is why one of the things
that I’ve been emphasizing this year — and this actually
hasn’t been subject to a lot of controversy; this is an area where we’ve been able to get good cooperation between Democrats and Republicans — is promoting math and
science education, promoting technology education. The more that we are moving our
young people into these areas, the better off this
economy is going to be, because that means we’re
producing engineers, we’re producing scientists,
we’re producing computer programmers. So we want to make sure that
we are recruiting more math teachers, we’re recruiting
more science teachers. We want all outstanding teachers
to be getting higher pay. (applause) We want to make sure that
there’s constant professional development when it comes
to the teaching profession, so that if you had the best way
of teaching math five years ago, it might not be the best way of
teaching math five years from now, and so you should be able
to go back and constantly sharpen your skills. To the students I
want to say this. We’re doing a lot of
work on education reform. We are doing a lot to
bring in new teachers, to improve classrooms, to make
sure that they’re all connected to the Internet, to make sure
that college is more affordable. (applause) But let me just say that it
won’t make any difference if our students aren’t working
a little bit harder. (applause) Now, I’m not saying all of
you aren’t working hard. I’m sure many of you feel
like you are working very, very hard — because Malia and Sasha always tell me how hard they’re working. (laughter) But I really do think that we’re
going to have to emphasize in the next decade that we’re
competing around the world, and America will continue to be
number one as long as we are just as hungry as
other countries. So if our kids are spending all
their time playing video games, and somebody else’s kids are
getting the math and science skills to invent video games — (laughter) — we’re not going
to be number one. I mean, it’s as simple as that. So the need to turn off the
TV, put the video games away, buckle down on your work, making
sure that parents are checking their kids’ homework and
talking to their teachers — (applause) — being accountable,
being responsible — that’s what’s going to make sure
that we continue to thrive, we continue to excel
into the future. Thank you, Henderson. I had a great time. Bye-bye.

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