Remarks by the President and the Vice President before meeting with the Cabinet

September 25, 2009

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Mr. President, it seems strange to thank you for joining us in your house, but thank you for joining us. In a little more than a hundred days, I think your Cabinet has done a pretty good job, Mr. President, on the Recovery Act. I think we’ve put in place — or they’ve put in place a pretty strong platform upon which we can begin to build this new economy.

And so far, Mr. President, you’ve provided immediate relief for instability through Make Work Pay tax credit — 95 percent of the families in America are now receiving a tax break, and they’re seeing it in their paycheck every month. We’ve increased food assistance to people in need, and the people hurt worst by this recession. We’ve kept thousands of people on the Medicaid rolls, and we’ve added a thousand more. And we also have expanded unemployment insurance and increased it.

You’ve implemented a tax credit program, Mr. President, and other incentives that’s driving new consumer spending and is creating new products. And there is — for example, there’s a transformer factory in Missouri some of us visited that’s making transformers now, paying people a good, decent wage, because of the tax credits for a company in Missouri that’s building a hundred new windmills. This is happening all over.

We went to your hometown, Mr. President — Chicago. There’s an outfit called Serious Windows — came in and bought Republic Windows; it had gone out of business — not only bought their factory there, but several others around the country, hiring laid off workers because of the increased demand for energy-efficient windows.

You’ve provided aid to state governments, which has been of real consequence to them, protecting critical safety net programs and saving thousands of teaching jobs and thousands of law enforcement jobs. Mr. President, the Department of Transportation has provided more than 4,000 — 4,000 infrastructure improvement projects they’ve authorized: highways, airports, mass transit system — many of which have already begun construction in the last hundred days and even more which are going to come online, putting people to work at decent wages in the next hundred days.

You’ve made record investments in new technologies, new energy technologies — wind and solar and biomass — that are going to build a platform upon which this whole new energy economy is going to be built. And, Mr. President, in the process of doing this, you’ve already saved or created more than 150,000 jobs.

And, Mr. President, a couple of weeks ago — and you’ve authorized me, and I thank the Cabinet for doing this, to call a Cabinet meeting once a week. A couple weeks ago, I asked the Cabinet members to give me a list of new projects that they were absolutely certain of they could get up and running in the second hundred days that would build momentum and accelerate the job growth in the next hundred days

And they each came back with new projects. The 10 most significant of those projects, Mr. President, we’ve put in this book that we’re going to give you — it’s called “Roadmap to Recovery” — here. And as we release that today, this document explains our ambitious plans for the next hundred days throughout the summer, lays out in graphs, which you’ll see, Mr. President, exactly where these jobs are geographically; how they’re distributed in each of the projects we’re talking about.

And so, Mr. President, I think nothing we’ve begun in the first hundred days is going to come to an end. Everything from unemployment insurance is going to continue to spend out; the tax cuts; weatherization of tens of thousands of homes; development of a nationwide smart grid — none of it will stop. But what we’re talking about here is putting some pace on the ball here, Mr. President. And we wanted to emphasize the 10 new major initiatives that are going to kick in, in this next hundred days.

And the truth is, Mr. President, that recovery isn’t meant to be neatly divided into 100 days here; it’s about the cumulative impact of what the Congress passed and what you asked for. And, as I said, if I can — if you don’t mind my using a sports metaphor again — it’s about pace on the ball. Every hundred days, if we’re doing this right, Mr. President, should produce more than the last hundred days.

And so in the next hundred days, Mr. President, we think we’re going to grow the jobs by another 600,000. And this summer I think we’re going to achieve a number of things.

I want to quickly go through the 10 major initiatives we’re going to talk about. The Justice Department — you’re going to hear from each of the Cabinet members — they believe they’re going to be able to put 5,500 law enforcement officers on the street during this summer.

Health and Human Services: They’re going to enable us, the states, to create and build on 1,129 health care centers in eight states and eight territories, providing service to approximately 300,000 additional people.

Interior: 107 new park projects that are underway that are going to make a real difference. A lot them have to do with energy savings, Mr. President, using high-tech energy standards.

Veterans: 90 veterans’ medical centers across the country are going to see improvements in their facility. Access and caring for veterans is better and is going to begin this summer.

We’re going to start, in the Department of Agriculture, 200 new waste water and waste (inaudible) projects in rural America. As you know, Mr. President, representing Illinois, in the southern part of the state, these are big-ticket items. Most of these little towns can’t afford this. But it impacts on — it impacts on their quality of life.

Transportation: We’re going to begin work and rehabilitation on 80 — 98 airports, 1,500 highway locations throughout the country. That means we’ve authorized the money, Mr. President, but now the contracts are let, shovels are going to be in the ground, people out there in hard hats are going to be working, making a decent wage.

And at EPA, Mr. President, we’re going to accelerate the clean-up on 21 super-fund sites that exist on the national priority list.

Education: 135,000 education-related jobs, including teachers, principals, administrators and staff support, which Arne will talk about in a minute.

We’re going to create, at Labor, 125,000 summer jobs, and the idea of these summer jobs is it’s not make-work jobs, Mr. President. We’re putting these kids in a position they’re going to learn a skill that hopefully they’ll be able to turn around.

And lastly, Mr. President, the Defense Department, they’re going to initiate 2,300 construction and rehabilitation projects on 359 military facilities across the country.

So, Mr. President, whether it’s more energy-efficient facilities in our park system or more teachers or more cops on the street, construction cranes and hard hats are going to be seen a lot more this summer than they have in the past. We’re accelerating our efforts, Mr. President, across the federal government. And as I said, at the end of this hundred days we feel confident we’re going to be able to demonstrate to you we have created or saved another 600,000 jobs.

Fairly ambitious, Mr. President, but I asked the Cabinet, give me what they think is realistic, what’s within their wheelhouse, what they can get done. And as a consequence of all this, Mr. President, we’re also starting up a new Web site today; it’s — as well as the individual agency Web sites, as well our as our overall Web site.

And this is going to have a little bit of an interactive aspect to it, Mr. President, because what we want to do is we want average Americans as they’re watching this happen this summer, as they’re watching it happen in their neighborhoods, the parks they’re visiting, whatever, we want them knowing that what we’re doing is fully transparent, we’re fully accountable, and we want them to watch us closely, and we want their input. We want them to tell us whether they think it’s working or not working and how it’s affecting them.

So Mr. President, by the fall I think we’re going to be much further down the road to recovery. And I can say in conclusion, Mr. President, we’ve made a lot of trips around the country and I understand we got a lot of major, major things you’re dealing with here in Washington and we’re all dealing with, and it’s a worldwide consequence.

But I’m telling you, when we go out — and almost every Cabinet member has been with me at least once — when we go out, the feeling of optimism, the feeling of something getting done is palpable. People are coming up to us at these meetings and saying, I’m now working now; my brother-in-law has got a job; look at what (inaudible)doing down the street here; this school is open. And the coverage in the communities we go into — big cities like St. Louis; small, little towns in eastern part of North Carolina — it’s uniform. They get it, it’s starting to work, Mr. President, and hopefully we’re going to be able to sit with you in the beginning of the fall and say, “Boss, another 600,000 jobs and we’re on our way to that 3.5 million.”

THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you, Joe, and thanks to all of you Cabinet, sub-Cabinet, agencies that have been involved in this process. Your leadership, Joe, has been critical on this; I’m grateful to you and your team for helping to coordinate between all the agencies because there are a lot of moving parts to this whole process.

On Friday, we learned that we had lost an additional 345,000 jobs in the month of May. That was far less than was expected, but it’s still too many. That means that there are families who are still losing not only their jobs, but maybe losing their homes, finding themselves under extraordinary financial straits. And it’s a reminder that we’re still in the middle of a very deep recession that was years in the making, and it’s going to take a considerable amount of time for us to pull out of.

Having said that, this was the fewest number of jobs that we have lost in about eight months — so it was about half the number lost of just a few months ago. And it’s a sign that we’re moving in the right direction. The key is for us to build on the modest progress that has been made in the months to come.

When we arrived here, we were confronting the most significant recession since the Great Depression. It was bad and it was getting worse. Had we done nothing, I think it’s fair to say that most economists believed we could have really gone into a tailspin. We decided to move swiftly and boldly, and I signed a Recovery Act into law just over a hundred days ago, and we’ve done more than ever, faster than ever, more responsibly than ever, to get the gears of the economy moving again. We’ve created and saved, as you said, Joe, at least 150,000 jobs — jobs of teachers and nurses and firefighters and police officers. People who have been laid off are not being laid off. Folks who might have seen that plant close, as you pointed out, in my hometown, suddenly they started seeing orders coming back in, and that meant that they were retained.

We offered immediate relief to 95 percent of working families through our tax cut. We helped struggling state governments safeguard critical safety-net programs and in some cases made them work better. So Kathleen, as you know, a lot of people, they lose their jobs, they lose their health care. Because of the Recovery Act, if even when they lost their jobs, many of them were actually able to use the COBRA program that was cost-prohibitive previously.

So we’ve got some good news to report. I’ve been receiving the weekly reports from all of you, and I thank you and your teams for your dedication in moving this forward.

Having said that, I’m not satisfied. We’ve got more work to do. The biggest concern that I have moving forward is that the toll that job losses take on individual families and communities can be self-reinforcing. People lose jobs, they pull back on spending, that means businesses don’t have customers, and suddenly you start seeing more job lay-offs. Our whole task here with the Recovery Act is to reverse that negative cycle into a positive cycle, and it’s going to take some work.

So I’m pleased to know that having put the infrastructure in place, having gotten your teams up and running, many of the criteria by which money is going out in a responsible way that protects taxpayers, having been created, now we’re in a position to really accelerate.

And so the goal here is that we’re going to create or save 600,000 jobs over the next 100 days. Joe highlighted some of the specific commitments that we’re making to keep the recovery moving forward: keeping teachers in the classroom, cops on the streets, providing summer jobs for youth that are particularly hard-hit in this job market, breaking ground on hundreds of new projects all across the country in clean energy and transportation, and so on.

And we’re going to do it continuing to operate in a transparent fashion so that taxpayers know this money is not being wasted on a bunch of boondoggles. And I think that sometimes good news comes in what you don’t hear about, and you haven’t heard a bunch of scandals — knock on wood — (laughter) — so far.

That doesn’t mean that this thing is going to be flawless, but I think it is fair to say that given the speed with which we’ve acted, all of you can be proud that many of the safeguards and transparency measures that have taken place so far seem to have worked. We’ve got to keep that up because at a time when everybody is tightening their belts, the last thing the American people want to see is that any of this money is being wasted.

Now I know that there are some who, despite all evidence to the contrary, still don’t believe in the necessity and promise of this Recovery Act, and I would suggest to them that they talk to the companies who, because of this plan, scrapped the idea of laying off employees and in fact decided to hire employees. Tell that to the Americans who receive that unexpected call saying, come back to work. Tell it to the Americans poised to benefit from critical investments that this plan makes in our long-term growth and prosperity.

In the end, that’s the only measure of progress, is whether or not the American people are seeing some progress in their own lives. And so although we’ve seen some stabilizing in the financial markets and credit spreads have gone down, we’re seeing a reduction in the fear that gripped the market just a few months ago, stock market is up a little bit — all that stuff is not our ultimate goal. Our ultimate goal is making sure that the average family out there — mom working, dad working — that they are able to pay their bills, feel some job security, make their mortgage payments; the small business owner there is starting to see customers coming back in, they can make payroll, they can even think about hiring a little bit more and expanding. That’s the measure, how ordinary families are helping to rebuild America once more.

We’ve got a long way to go, but I feel like we’ve made great progress. I’m grateful to you, Joe, for your leadership. I want to thank all of you for the good work you’re doing. And now we’re going to get into the nitty-gritty of how we’re going to make this happen.

Press, thank you. You’re getting kicked out now.