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Please add information about where Senator Obama stands on the issues, with links to source materials.
Barack Obama has proposed bold initiatives to put America on the path to a clean and secure energy future. Obama supports implementation of a bold market-based cap-and-trade system to reduce dependence on foreign oil and nonrenewable, polluting sources of energy. Obama will also dramatically increase federal investment in advanced clean-energy technologies and energy efficiency. The Obama plan to create an energy independent America will cut U.S. oil consumption by 2.5 million barrels of oil per day, take 50 million cars worth of pollution off the road, and save American consumers more than $50 billion at the gas pump. Addressing Global Climate Change
We need to take steps to stop catastrophic, manmade climate change. If we do not act, the consequences will be devastating for future generations, especially for the poorest global populations. As president, Barack Obama will act decisively and creatively to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.
Barack Obama supports implementation of a market-based cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050. The cap-and-trade system will include an initial partial auction of pollution credits to raise money to upgrade our energy infrastructure, create hundreds of thousands of new, high-wage jobs, and make America truly energy independent. Tackling U.S. Dependence on Foreign Oil
Raise Fuel Economy Standards
"Today, there are two kinds of car companies â€“ those that mass produce fuel-efficient cars and those that will. The American auto industry can't afford to be one of those that will anymore. And America can't afford to follow the world. For the sake of our economy, our security, and our planet, we must lead it."
Due to congressional gridlock, Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards have remained frozen for 20 years. As president, Barack Obama will gradually increase CAFE standards while protecting the financial future of domestic automakers. In the Senate, Barack Obama introduced a bold new plan that brought Republicans and Democrats, CAFE supporters and long-time opponents together, and offered what the New York Times editorial page called â€œreal as opposed to hypothetical results.â€ As president, Barack Obama will:
Increase and Strengthen CAFE Standards. Obama will establish a targeted 4 percent increase each year in CAFE standards - a rate that the National Academy of Sciences has determined is possible without changes in vehicle weight, safety or performance - unless the experts at NHTSA justify a deviation in that rate by proving that the increase is technologically unachievable, cannot maintain overall fleet safety, or is not cost-effective.
Provide Flexibility for Manufacturers. Obama will provide fairness and flexibility to automakers by establishing different standards for different types of cars. Currently manufacturers have to meet broad standards over their whole fleet of cars. Obama's plan provides further flexibility by giving NHTSA the authority to allow companies to earn credit for improving fuel efficiency beyond the CAFE standard in one type of car, and using those credits to meet goals for other vehicle models.
Achieve Real Results. If the 4 percent per year target is met for 10 years after the continuous provision improvements go into effect, Obama's plan will save 1.3 million barrels of oil per day and 20 billion gallons of gasoline per year. If gasoline is just $2.50 per gallon, consumers will save over $50 billion per year at the pump by 2020.
Help for Consumers
Under current law, tax credits of up to $3,150 are available for consumers who buy hybrid vehicles -- but only if they buy one of the first 60,000 ultra-efficient vehicles produced by a given manufacturer. This irrational rule reduces both consumer incentives to buy efficient vehicles and manufacturer incentives to make them on a massive scale. Toyota reached the 60,000 mark in the summer of 2006. As president, Barack Obama will lift the 60,000-per-manufacturer cap on buyer tax credits to encourage more Americans to buy ultra-efficient vehicles.
Help for Domestic Car Manufacturers
"Healthcare for Hybrids' stroke of genius is in connecting the dots - decreasing oil consumption is clearly a top national priority but it will not happen without a national investment."
-Walter McManus Director of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute's Office for the Study of Automotive Transportation
The auto industry must invest in more fuel-efficient cars if it hopes to compete with foreign competition and thrive in the future. With the challenges that U.S. automakers face, the federal government has a role in helping them do it. As President, Barack Obama will help American automakers meet these important goals. He will offer car makers a choice between the following two benefits:
Retiree health care relief. Participating automakers in the Health Care for Hybrids program could receive federal financial assistance to cover 10 percent of their annual legacy health care costs through 2017. Automakers would be required to invest at least 50 percent of these savings into manufacturing advanced, fuel efficient cars in the United States.
Generous tax incentives for retooling parts and assembly plants. Participating automakers could receive generous tax incentives for retooling their assembling plants to produce advanced parts.
Under Obama's plan, autoworkers will get the health care they have been promised, the auto industry will be back on a competitive footing, and our reliance on foreign oil will be reduced.
National Low Carbon Fuel Standard
"It's not enough to only build cars that use less oil â€“ we have to start moving away from that dirty, dwindling fossil fuel altogether. . . . it's time we produced, sold, and used biofuels all across America â€“ it's time we made them as commonly available as gasoline is now."
Transportation accounts for 60 percent of U.S. oil consumption, and one-third of U.S. global warming pollution. As president, Obama will implement a plan to transition toward fuels that emit less carbon dioxide. In January 2007, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger issued an executive order to establish a low carbon fuel standard for transportation fuels sold in California. Under the California standard, the carbon intensity of California's passenger vehicle fuels would be reduced by 10 percent by 2020.
Barack Obama will create a National Low Carbon Fuel Standard (NLCFS), which will:
Set a National Standard for Low Carbon Fuels. The lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of the pool of passenger vehicle fuels sold in the U.S. will be reduced by 5 percent in 2015 and 10 percent in 2020.
Let the Market Work. The market, rather than the government, will determine which fuels are used by fuel distributors and blenders to meet the NLCFS. Because biofuels generally have lower lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline, the NLCFS in effect would spur greater production of renewable fuels, such as corn and cellulosic ethanol, and biodiesel made from plant oils such as soybeans.
Real Results: Reduced Emissions. According to one estimate, the NLCFS would reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by about 180 million metric tons in 2020 compared to 2007 levels. This is the equivalent of taking over 30 million cars off the road in 2020. If enacted in conjunction with Obama's proposal to raise fuel efficiency standards, the NLCFS would reduce emissions by about 530 million metric tons of greenhouse gases in 2020, the equivalent of taking over 50 million cars off the road.
Real Results: Reduced Gasoline Consumption. By making greater use of home-grown, renewable fuels, the NLCFS could reduce the annual consumption of gasoline derived from foreign oil imports by about 30 billion gallons in 2020.
Expand the Use of E85 and Other Renewable Fuels
While there are more than 167,000 gas stations across America, only about 1,200 offer E85 -- a blend of 85 percent clean-burning, domestically grown ethanol and 15 percent petroleum gasoline. Thanks to legislation that Barack Obama championed, gas stations are now eligible for tax credits for installing E85 ethanol refueling pumps. The tax credit covers 30 percent of the costs of switching petroleum pumps to E85. The tax credit will help create the infrastructure to support more flex-fuel vehicles. Obama also sponsored legislation requiring oil companies, that made at least $1 billion in profits in the first quarter of 2006 to invest at least 1 percent of their total reported first quarter 2006 profits into installing E85 pumps. Barack Obama also successfully authorized $40 million to bring a combined flexible fuel vehicle and plug-in hybrid car to the market within five years. Building a Clean Energy Future
Require 20 Percent of Electricity to Come from Renewable Sources by 2020: Barack Obama will establish a 20 percent Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to require that 20 percent of electricity consumed in the U.S. is derived by clean, sustainable energy sources. This requirement will spur significant private sector investment in renewable sources of energy and create thousands of new American jobs, especially in rural areas. As an Illinois state senator, Obama cosponsored a measure to create an RPS in Illinois that phased up to 10 percent.
Invest in Advanced Technologies: Obama will increase basic science and research funding for clean energy projects. Obama also will invest proceeds from his cap-and-trade proposal into improving the efficiency of our buildings and consumer products, investing into carbon capture and sequestration technology, and other advanced technologies that make use of our biomass, solar and wind resources.
Engage Disadvantaged Youth in Advanced Energy Job Sector: Barack Obama will create the 5-E (Energy Efficiency, Environmental Education and Employment) Disconnected Youth Service Corps. This program will directly engage disconnected and disadvantaged youth in energy efficiency and environmental service opportunities to strengthen their communities while also providing them with practical skills and experience in important career fields of expected high-growth employment. The program will engage private sector employers and unions to provide apprenticeship opportunities. The program also encourages summer high school students to stay in school, and provides GED help and other wrap-around social services for drop-outs.
Universal Health CareEdit
The U.S. spends $2 trillion on health care every year, and offers the best medical technology and scientific research in the world. Yet, the benefits of the American health care system come at a price that an increasing number of individuals and families, employers and employees, and public and private providers cannot afford. Barack Obama discusses healthcare, and the personal story of one of his supporters in Iowa City on May 29, 2007.;
47 million Americans ( including nearly 9 million children ) lack health insurance.
Health care costs are skyrocketing. Health insurance premiums have risen four times faster than wages over the past six years. Lack of affordable health care is compounded by serious flaws in our health care delivery system. About 100,000 Americans die from medical errors in hospitals every year.
Too little is spent on prevention and public health. The nation faces epidemics of obesity and chronic diseases as well as new threats of pandemic flu and bioterrorism. Yet, despite all of this, less than four cents of every health care dollar is spent on prevention and public health. Barack Obama's Plan for a Healthy America: Lowering health care costs and ensuring affordable, high-quality health care for all
Pauline Taylor, 55, a nurse who lives in Iowa City and is a member of SEIU Local 199, a health care workers' union, [said], "He touched on all the highlight"s...(Obama's plan) is wonderful." Taylor said she liked the emphasis on preventative care and getting more generic medications on the market. A nurse for 33 years, Taylor said she has seen what happens when medical conditions go unchecked for years. "People will not put off going to the doctor for so long," she said.
-Iowa City Press Citizen 5/30/07
Barack Obama believes we live in the greatest country in the world and that when it comes to health care, America can and must do better. The Obama plan will save a typical American family up to $2,500 every year on premiums by:
1. Providing affordable, comprehensive and portable health coverage for every American; 2. Modernizing the U.S. health care system to contain spiraling health care costs and improve the quality of patient care; and 3. Promoting prevention and strengthening public health to prevent disease and protect against natural and man-made disasters.
Quality, Affordable & Portable Health Coverage for All
Douglas Davis, an emergency room technician for the University of Iowa hospitals, said he believes Obama's plan gives hope to families. "I believe it's achievable but the most important thing I'm taking from the plan is the security for families," Davis said. "We can't idly sit by and let families take the burden when you have corporations making" billions of dollars.
-Des Moines Register (as reprinted on USAToday.com), 5/29/07
The Obama plan both builds upon and improves our current insurance system, upon which most Americans continue to rely, and leaves Medicare intact for older and disabled Americans.
1. Obama's Plan to Cover the Uninsured. Obama will create a new national health plan to allow individuals without access to affordable insurance coverage to buy coverage similar to that available to members of Congress. The Obama plan will have:
- Guaranteed eligibility. No American will be turned away because of illness or pre-existing conditions.
- Comprehensive benefits. The benefit package will be similar to the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), and cover all essential medical services, including preventive, maternity and mental health care.
- Affordable premiums, co-pays and deductibles.
- Subsidies. Individuals who do not qualify for Medicaid or SCHIP but still need assistance will receive an income-related federal subsidy to buy into the new public plan or purchase a private health care plan.
- Simplifying paperwork and reining in health costs.
- Easy enrollment. The new public plan will be simple to enroll in and provide ready access to coverage.
- Portability and choice. Participants in the new public plan and the National Health Insurance Exchange (see below) will be able to move from job to job without changing their health care coverage.
- Quality and efficiency. Participating insurance companies will be required to collect and report data to ensure that standards for quality, health information technology and administration are being met.
2. National Health Insurance Exchange. Obama will create a National Health Insurance Exchange to help individuals who wish to purchase private insurance. The Exchange will act as a watchdog group and help reform the private insurance market by creating rules and standards for participating insurance plans to ensure fairness and to make individual coverage more affordable and accessible. Insurers would have to issue every applicant a policy, and charge fair and stable premiums. The Exchange will require benefits comparable to those offered in the new public plan. Insurers would be required to justify an above-average premium increase. The Exchange would evaluate plans and provide information about differences between them.
3. Employer Contribution. Employers that do not offer or make a meaningful contribution to the cost of quality health coverage for their employees will be required to contribute a percentage of payroll toward the costs of the national plan. Small employers that meet certain revenue thresholds will be exempt.
4. Mandatory Coverage of Children. Obama will require that all children have health care coverage.
5. Expansion of Medicaid and SCHIP. Obama will expand eligibility for Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program.
6. Flexibility for State Plans. Obama's plan allows states to continue innovating on health care reform. Modernizing the U.S. Health Care System to Lower Costs and Improve Quality
Achieving universal coverage has long been a goal of Democratic presidential hopefuls. But Obama's emphasis on cost savings is bound to appeal to people who have insurance but still have seen their costs skyrocket... If Obama's plan helped a little it would mean a lot to her family and many others, Amy . . . said. "There are lots of factors that play into our success or failure, but in our case, the high cost of health insurance premiums is really dragging our family down," said [Amy]... "The month-to-month cost of the premiums is out of balance with the reality of our income. If we could have just a little help, if it could be reduced just a little, it would really help."
-Quad City Times, 5/29/07
1. Reducing Costs of Catastrophic Illnesses for Employers and their Employees. Catastrophic health expenditures account for a high percentage of medical expenses for private insurers. The Obama plan would reimburse employer health plans for a portion of the catastrophic costs they incur above a threshold if they guarantee such savings are used to reduce the cost of workers' premiums.
2. Lowering Costs by Ensuring Patients Receive and Providers Deliver Quality Care.
- Support disease management programs. Seventy five percent of total health care dollars are spent on patients with one or more chronic conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Obama will require that providers that participate in the new public plan, Medicare or the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) utilize proven disease management programs.
- Coordinate and integrate care. Over 133 million Americans have at least one chronic disease and these chronic conditions cost a staggering $1.7 trillion yearly. More than half of Americans with serious chronic conditions have multiple physicians, leading to duplicate testing and conflicting treatments. Obama will support greater integration and coordination of care for those with chronic conditions.
- Require full transparency about quality and costs. Obama will build on his efforts in the U.S. Senate and Illinois State Senate to ensure that patients receive accurate information about hospital and provider quality. Obama will require hospitals and providers to collect and publicly report measures of health care costs and quality, including data on preventable medical errors, nurse staffing ratios, hospital-acquired infections, and disparities in care.
Ensuring Providers Deliver Quality Care
- Promoting patient safety. Obama will require providers to report preventable medical errors, and support hospital and physician practice improvement to prevent future occurrences.
- Aligning incentives for excellence. Both public and private insurers tend to pay providers based on the volume of services provided, rather than the quality or effectiveness of care. Providers who see patients enrolled in the new public plan, the National Health Insurance Exchange, Medicare and FEHBP will be rewarded for achieving performance thresholds on outcome measures.
- Comparative effectiveness research. Obama will establish an independent institute to guide reviews and research on comparative effectiveness, so that Americans and their doctors will have the accurate and objective information they need to make the best decisions for their health and well-being.
- Harnessing the power of genetic medicine. Genomics has the potential to revolutionize the practice of medicine, but despite significant scientific advances, very few genomics-based tests or treatments have reached consumers. As President, Obama has a plan to overcome the scientific barriers, adverse market pressures, and outdated federal regulations that have stood in the way of better medicine.
- Tackling disparities in health care. As a United States Senator, Barack Obama has fought to maintain funding for the Centers of Excellence in Women's Health at the Department of Health and Human Services and helped spearhead legislative efforts to address gender and ethnic health disparities. As President, Obama will continue to challenge the medical system to eliminate inequities in health care through quality measurement and reporting, implementation of effective interventions such as patient navigation programs, and diversification of the health workforce.
- Reforming medical malpractice. Obama will strengthen antitrust laws to prevent insurers from overcharging physicians for their malpractice insurance, and will promote new models for addressing physician errors that improve patient safety, strengthen the doctor-patient relationship, and reduce the need for malpractice suits.
3. Lowering Costs through Investment in Electronic Health Information Technology Systems. Obama will invest $10 billion over five years to move the U.S. health care system to broad adoption of standards-based electronic health information systems. Obama will ensure that patients' privacy is protected.
4. Lowering Costs by Increasing Competition in the Insurance and Drug Markets.
- Increasing competition. The insurance business today is dominated by a small group of large companies that has been gobbling up their rivals. Obama will prevent companies from abusing their monopoly power through unjustified price increases and force insurers to spend more funds on patient care instead of keeping exorbitant amounts for profits and administration.
- Lowering prescription drug costs. Pharmaceutical companies are selling the exact same drugs in Europe and Canada but charging Americans more than double the price. Obama will allow Americans to buy cheaper medicines from other developed countries if the drugs are safe. Obama will also repeal the ban that prevents the government from negotiating with drug companies for the Medicare prescription drug benefit, which could result in savings as high as $30 billion. Finally, Obama will work to increase the use of generic drugs in federal benefits programs and prohibit drug companies from keeping generics out of markets.
On Tuesday in Iowa City, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, a Democrat, announced his [health care plan]... one aspect is particularly noteworthy: It includes limits on the profits of private-sector health-care businesses. He believes that's the right move for consumers, but it risks offending some powerful interests. He did it anyway. That tells voters something important about him.
-Editorial, Des Moines Register, 6/1/07 Promoting Prevention and Strengthening Public Health
Obama's emphasis on reducing waste and inefficiencies and increasing spending on prevention appealed to Dr. George Weiner, director of the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at UI. The cost of providing health care to those without insurance often is more expensive than prevention would have been, he said. "I'm excited about his plan and others," Weiner said. "The time is right for universal health care."
-Cedar Rapids Gazette, 5/29/07
Barack Obama believes that protecting and promoting health and wellness in this nation is a shared responsibility among individuals and families, school systems, employers, the medical and public health workforce, and federal, state, and local governments.
1. Employers. An increasing number of employers are offering worksite health promotion programs and insurance plans that cover preventive services. Obama will support and expand these important efforts.
2. School Systems. Obama will work with schools to create more healthful environments for children. He will work to get junk food out of vending machines in schools and improve nutritional content of lunches through financial incentives, increase grant support for physical education, expand federal reimbursement for school-based health services, and provide grants for health educational programs for students.
3. Workforce. Obama will expand funding - including loan repayment, adequate reimbursement, grants for training curricula, and infrastructure support to improve working conditions - to ensure a strong workforce that will champion prevention and public health activities.
4. Individuals and Families. The way Americans live, eat, work, and play have real implications for their health and wellness. The Obama health plan will require coverage of essential clinical preventive services such as cancer screenings and smoking cessation programs in all federally supported health plans. Obama will also increase funding to expand proven community-based preventive interventions.
5. Federal, State and Local Governments. Governments at all levels should develop a national and regional strategy for public health that includes funding mechanisms for implementation. Senator Obama also supports greater organization of the 3,000 health departments in this nation and supports collaborative arrangements between government and the private sector. The Obama plan will also force government to examine its own policies, including agricultural, educational, and environmental policies, to assess and improve their effect on public health in this nation. As president, Barack Obama will prioritize these activities to strengthen prevention and public health, as well as fight for the following initiatives:
- Fight AIDS Worldwide. There are 40 million people across the planet infected with HIV/AIDS. As president, Obama will continue to be a global leader in the fight against AIDS. Obama believes in working across party lines to combat this epidemic and recently joined Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) at a large California evangelical church to promote greater investment in the global AIDS battle.
- Improve Mental Health Care. Mental illness affects approximately one in five American families. The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that untreated mental illnesses cost the U.S. more than $100 billion per year. As president, Obama will support mental health parity so that coverage for serious mental illnesses are provided on the same terms and conditions as other illnesses and diseases.
- Protect Our Children from Lead Poisoning. More than 430,000 American children have dangerously high levels of lead in their blood. Lead can cause irreversible brain damage, learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and, at very high levels, seizures, coma and death. As president, Obama will protect children from lead poisoning by requiring that child care facilities be lead-safe within five years.
- Reduce Risks of Mercury Pollution. More than five million women of childbearing age have high levels of toxic mercury in their blood, and approximately 630,000 newborns are born at risk every year. Barack Obama has a plan to significantly reduce the amount of mercury that is deposited in oceans, lakes, and rivers, which in turn would reduce the amount of mercury in fish.
- Support Americans with Autism. More than one million Americans have autism, a complex neurobiological condition that has a range of impacts on thinking, feeling, language, and the ability to relate to others. As diagnostic criteria broaden and awareness increases, more cases of autism have been recognized across the country. Barack Obama believes that we can do more to help autistic Americans and their families understand and live with autism. He has been a strong supporter of more than $1 billion in federal funding for autism research on the root causes and treatments, and he believes that we should increase funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to truly ensure that no child is left behind.
More than anything, autism remains a profound mystery with a broad spectrum of effects on autistic individuals, their families, loved ones, the community, and education and health care systems. Obama believes that the government and our communities should work together to provide a helping hand to autistic individuals and their families.
Ending Iraq OccupationEdit
Before the war in Iraq ever started, Senator Obama said that it was wrong in its conception. In 2002, then Illinois State Senator Obama said Saddam Hussein posed no imminent threat to the United States and that invasion would lead to an occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. Since then, Senator Obama has laid out a plan on the way forward in Iraq that has largely been affirmed by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group led by James Baker and Lee Hamilton.
"I don't oppose all wars. And I know that in this crowd today, there is no shortage of patriots, or of patriotism. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war."
-Barack Obama Anti-War Rally, Chicago 2002
At the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations in November 2005, Senator Obama called for: (1) a reduction in the number of U.S. troops; (2) a time frame for a phased withdrawal; (3) the Iraqi government to make progress on forming a political solution; (4) improved reconstruction efforts to restore basic services in Iraq; and (5) engaging the international community, particularly key neighboring states and Arab nations, to become more involved in Iraq. In January 2006 he traveled to Iraq and met with senior U.S. military commanders, Iraqi officials and U.S. troops in Baghdad and Fallujah.
Senator Obama introduced legislation in January 2007 to offer a responsible alternative to President Bush's failed escalation policy. The legislation commences redeployment of U.S. forces no later than May 1, 2007 with the goal of removing all combat brigades from Iraq by March 31, 2008 -- a date consistent with the bipartisan Iraq Study Group's expectations. The plan allows for a limited number of U.S. troops to remain in Iraq as basic force protection, to engage in counter-terrorism and to continue the training of Iraqi security forces. If the Iraqis are successful in meeting the 13 benchmarks for progress laid out by the Bush Administration, this plan also allows for the temporary suspension of the redeployment, provided Congress agrees that the benchmarks have been met.
Free Trade AgreementsEdit
Stand firm against CAFTA for labor & environmental standards
Fight for Fair Trade:
Obama will fight for a trade policy that opens up foreign markets to support good American jobs. He will use trade agreements to spread improved labor and environmental standards around the world and stand firm against agreements like the Central Amercan Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) that fail to live up to those important standards.
Source: Campaign website, BarackObama.com, "Resource Flyers" Aug 26, 2007
Congress subsidizes megafarms & hurts family farmers Q: How do you protect jobs without hurting farmers?
A: Congress subsidizes these big megafarms and hurts family farmers oftentimes in the process. And we've got to cap those subsidies so that we don't have continued concentration of agriculture in the hands of a few large agribusiness interests. But, on the trade issue generally, we're not going to suddenly cordon off America from the world. Globalization is here, and I don't think Americans are afraid to compete. And we have the goods and the services and the skills and the innovation to compete anywhere in the world. But what we've got to make absolutely certain of is that, in that competition, we are hard bargainers. You know, I'm always struck by the Bush administration touting that this is the MBA president and they're such great businessmen, and they get taken to the cleaners in a lot of these trade agreements. And we've got to have somebody who's negotiating on behalf of workers and family farmers
Source: 2007 Democratic primary debate on "This Week" Aug 19, 2007
People don't want cheaper T-shirts if it costs their job Q: The flip side to fair trade: how do you convince a working family that's struggling to get by that buying American is still best for them, when American T-shirts cost $20 and imported ones are $10?
A: Look, people don't want a cheaper T-shirt if they're losing a job in the process. They would rather have the job and pay a little bit more for a T-shirt. And I think that's something that all Americans could agree to.
But this raises a larger point, which is: globalization is here. And we should be trading around the world. We don't want to just be standing still while the rest of the world is out there taking the steps that it needs to in order to expand trade.
Congress has a responsibility because we've got right now provisions in our tax code that reward companies that are moving jobs overseas instead of companies that are investing right here in the US. And that is a reflection of the degree to which special interests have been shaping our trade policy. That's something that I'll end.
Source: 2007 AFL-CIO Democratic primary forum Aug 8, 2007
Amend NAFTA to add labor agreements Q: Would you scrap NAFTA or fix it?
A: I would immediately call the president of Mexico, the president of Canada to try to amend NAFTA because I think that we can get labor agreements in that agreement right now. And it should reflect the basic principle that our trade agreements should not just be good for Wall Street, it should also be good for Main Street.
Source: 2007 AFL-CIO Democratic primary forum Aug 7, 2007
Reinvest in communities that are burdened by globalization Q: A lot of Americans are concerned with outsourcing of US jobs. What's your solution?
A: I moved to Chicago to work with churches that were dealing with the devastation of steel plants that had closed all throughout the region. Tens of thousands of people had been laid off. There was never a federal effort to come in after those closings and to figure out how can we retrain workers for the jobs of the future, how can we invest and make sure capital is available to create new businesses in those communities. And so not only do we have to deal with our trade agreements, not only do we have to eliminate tax breaks for companies that are moving overseas, not only do we have to work on our education system, but we also have to have an intentional strategy on the part of the federal government to make sure that we are reinvesting in those communities that are being burdened by globalization and not benefiting from it.
Source: 2007 Democratic Primary Debate at Howard University Jun 28, 2007
Insist on labor and human rights standards for China trade The U.S. should be firm on issues that divide us [from the Beijing government] -like Taiwan-while flexible on issues that could unite us. We should insist on labor standards and human rights, the opening of Chinese markets fully to American goods, and the fulfillment of legal contracts with American businesses-but without triggering a trade war, as prolonged instability in the Chinese economy could have global economic consequences.
Source: Press Release, "Renewal of American Leadership " Jul 12, 2004
Fair trade should have tangible benefits for US [Obama believes in] ensuring fair trade by enforcing existing trade agreements. Obama believes any trade agreement must have real, tangible benefits for U.S. business and workers and will work to enforce the trade agreements on the books.
Source: Campaign website, ObamaForIllinois.com Jun 25, 2004
Voted YES on free trade agreement with Oman. Vote on final passage of a bill to implement the United States-Oman Free Trade Agreement.
- Opponents of the bill say to vote NAY because: International trade can confer tremendous benefits on all of its participants. Unfortunately, the Oman Free Trade Agreement fails to live up to that potential.
- In 2001, the US entered into a similar trade agreement with the country of Jordan. The agreement was heralded for its progressive labor standards. However, we have recently seen in Jordan instances of foreign workers forced into slave labor, stripped of their passports, denied their wages, and compelled to work for days without rest.
- These incidents have been occurring in Jordan because Jordanian labor laws preclude protections for foreign workers. My fear in Oman is that they have far weaker labor standards, and that would lend itself to even worse conditions than in Jordan.
- When our trade partners are held to different, less stringent standards, no one is better off. When Omani firms can employ workers in substandard conditions, the Omani workers and American workers both lose. The playing field is not level.
- Proponents of the bill say to vote YEA because: The Oman Free Trade Agreement sends a very important message that the US strongly supports the economic development of moderate Middle Eastern nations. This is a vital message in the global war on terrorism.
- Since the end of WWII, the US has accepted nonreciprocal trade concessions in order to further important Cold War and post-Cold War foreign policy objectives. Examples include offering Japan and Europe nonreciprocal access to American markets during the 1950s in order to strengthen the economies of our allies and prevent the spread of communism.
- Oman is quickly running out of oil and, as a result, has launched a series of measures to reform its economy. This free-trade agreement immediately removes Oman's uniform 5% tariff on US goods.
Reference: United States-Oman Free Trade Agreement; Bill S. 3569 ; vote number 2006-190 on Jun 29, 2006
Voted NO on implementing CAFTA for Central America free-trade. Approves the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States-Free Trade Agreement entered into on August 5, 2005, with the governments of Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua (CAFTA-DR), and the statement of administrative action proposed to implement the Agreement. Voting YES would:
- Progressively eliminate customs duties on all originating goods traded among the participating nations
- Preserve US duties on imports of sugar goods over a certain quota
- Remove duties on textile and apparel goods traded among participating nations
- Prohibit export subsidies for agricultural goods traded among participating nations
- Provide for cooperation among participating nations on customs laws and import licensing procedures
- Recommend that each participating nation uphold the Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work
- Urge each participating nation to obey various international agreements regarding intellectual property rights
Reference: Central America Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act; Bill HR 3045 ; vote number 2005-209 on Jul 28, 2005
Barack Obama believes the immigration issue has been exploited by politicians to divide the nation rather than find real solutions. This divisiveness has allowed the illegal immigration problem to worsen, with borders that are less secure than ever and an economy that depends on millions of workers living in the shadows. Obama believes we must rise above divisive politics and act in the interests of our national and economic security. Obama has played a leading role in crafting comprehensive immigration reform and believes that our broken immigration system can only be fixed by putting politics aside and offering a solution that strengthens our security while reaffirming our heritage as a nation of immigrants.
Creating Secure Borders
Barack Obama wants to preserve the integrity of our borders to reduce illegal immigration. He supports additional personnel, infrastructure, and technology on the border and at our ports of entry. Obama believes we need additional Customs and Border Protection agents equipped with better technology and real-time intelligence. However, enforcing our borders is only one step of comprehensive immigration reform. Despite tripling the size of the U.S. Border Patrol along the southern border between 1990-2005, the undocumented population doubled in size, the death rate of border crossings tripled, and the per-apprehension cost increased from $300 in 1992 to $1700 in 2002, according to the Center for American Progress.
Removing Incentives to Enter Illegally
To remove incentives to enter the country illegally, we need to crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants. Barack Obama has championed a proposal with Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA), Ted Kennedy (D-MA), and Max Baucus (D-MT) to create a new employment eligibility verification system so employers could verify that their employees are legally eligible to work in the U.S., making it fair to legal workers and tougher on employers.
Improving Legal Immigration
The overwhelming majority of immigrants, both legal and undocumented, come into this country with the hope that hard work and sacrifice will secure a better life for their children. Every year, an estimated 500,000-800,000 people enter the country illegally or illegally overstay their visa. Another million enter legally. Barack Obama believes we must address illegal immigration by stronger border measures and fixing the dysfunctional bureaucracy to balance the needs of American workers and the U.S. economy.
That includes creating legal avenues for people to work here. Barack Obama believes immigrant workers should have legal protections to avoid abuse and downward pressure on American wages and working conditions.
Obama believes that we have to fix our immigration system to increase the number of people we allow into the country legally to a level that unites families and meets the demand for workers for jobs employers cannot fill.
The US Citizenship and Immigration Services has decided to raise fees on applications to as much as $2,400 for a family of four. Obama joined Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) to introduce the Citizenship Promotion Act to ensure that immigration application fees are both reasonable and fair. This bill reverses large fee increases for legal immigrants seeking to become citizens and provides grants to states to help educate and promote citizenship.
A key choke point in the process to becoming a legal permanent resident or a U.S. citizen is the FBI name/security check. Many law-abiding legal immigrants see their immigration applications delayed by months and often years as the overwhelmed FBI completes their background check. Obama introduced legislation that passed the Senate to improve the speed and accuracy of these background checks.
Bringing People Out of the Shadows
America has always been a nation of immigrants. There are millions of people living in the shadows that would like to fully embrace our values and become full members of our democracy. For the millions here illegally but otherwise playing by the rules, we must encourage them to come out of hiding and get right with the law. Barack Obama supports a system that requires undocumented immigrants that are in good standing to pay a fine, learn English, not commit crimes, go to the back of the line for citizenship, and then after all those conditions are met, they would be granted the opportunity to stay in the United States.
Honoring our Immigrant Troops
About 69,300 foreign-born men and women serve in the U.S. armed forces, roughly 5 percent of the total active-duty force. Of those, 43 percent - 29,800 - are not U.S. citizens. The Pentagon says more than 100 immigrant soldiers have died in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Barack Obama believes that legal immigrants who have fought for us overseas should have expedited procedures towards citizenship.
Throughout America's history, education has been the vehicle for social and economic mobility, giving hope and opportunity to millions of young people. Our public schools have produced a competitive, productive workforce that has transformed the world economy. Today, our schools must prepare students not only to meet the demands of the global economy, but also help students take their place as committed and engaged citizens. It must ensure that all students have a quality education regardless of race, class, or background.
Barack Obama is committed to strengthening our public schools to maximize our country's greatest natural resource â€“ the American people. However, right now, six million middle and high school students read at levels significantly below their grade level. A full third of high school graduates do not immediately go on to a community college or university. America now has one of the highest high school dropout rates in the industrialized world. Obama believes that we must equip poor and struggling districts, both rural and urban, with the support and resources they need to provide disadvantaged students with an opportunity to reach their full potential.
Too often, our leaders present this issue as an either-or debate, divided between giving our schools more funding, or demanding more accountability. Obama believes that we have to do both, and has offered innovative ideas to break through the political stalemate in Washington. PRESCHOOL
Expand Early Childhood Education: Research shows that many low-income children do not enter kindergarten ready to learn. In fact, half of low-income children start school up to two years behind their peers in preschool skills, and these early achievement gaps continue throughout elementary school. Barack Obama supports increasing funding for the Head Start program to provide preschool children with critically important learning skills, and supports the necessary role of parental involvement in the success of Head Start. ELEMENTARY, MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOLS
Innovation to Improve Teacher Quality: Barack Obama introduced a plan to support school districts that implement innovative methods to improve student learning, working with local teacher representatives to support and reward successful teachers, instructional teams, and school leaders. Under his initiative, 20 districts across the country will get grants to develop innovative plans in consultation with their teacher unions. Successful teachers, and those who take on new responsibilities, such as mentoring new teachers, will be eligible for pay increases beyond their base salary. Dynamic school leadership and quality teaching can improve both the work environment for teachers and the learning opportunities for students. These innovation districts will implement systemic reforms, and show convincing results that can be replicated in other school districts.
Pay Teachers More: Barack Obama wants to make a promise to educators -- if you're a teacher or a principal doing the hard work of educating our children, we will reward that work with the salary increase that you deserve. If you're willing to take on more responsibilities like mentoring, we'll pay you more. And if you excel at helping your students achieve success, your success will be valued and rewarded as well. Obama believes the key is finding new ways to increase pay that are developed with teachers, not imposed on them and not based on some arbitrary test score. Obama will start treating teachers like the professionals they are.
Reform and Fund No Child Left Behind: The goal of the No Child Left Behind Act is the right one â€“ ensuring that all children can meet high standards â€“ but the law has significant flaws that need to be addressed. Unfulfilled funding promises, inadequate implementation by the Department of Education, and shortcomings in the design of law itself have limited its effectiveness and undercut its support among many people who care deeply about our schools and our students. Barack Obama would reform and fund No Child Left Behind.
Support Teachers: Barack Obama wants to support teachers at all stages of their careers. This means modifying the certification and teacher preparation process so that, for example, a chemistry major can avoid unnecessary and expensive coursework to become a teacher, and instead learn to teach through proven programs such as teaching residencies that pairs up new recruits with master teachers. Such a program was introduced by Obama and passed by the Senate. It means giving successful teachers more control over what goes on in their classrooms, and more opportunities to advance through career ladders, where teachers may choose to take on additional instructional leadership roles. It also means paying teachers what they're worth, and offering incentives for teachers to enter and remain in the profession.
Improve Testing and Accountability: Barack Obama believes that, before we can hold our teachers and schools accountable, we need to hold our government, parents, and our communities accountable for giving teachers the support that they need. Obama believes that we should work with teachers, states, and school districts to develop more reliable and more useful measures of student learning.
Give More High School Students Access to Rigorous College-level Courses: Students who participate in Advanced Placement (AP) programs, which give students the opportunity to take college-level courses in high school, are much more likely to enroll and be successful in college. While enrollment in AP courses has nearly tripled over the past decade, many students attend schools that do not offer AP classes. Barack Obama, with Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), introduced a bipartisan plan to allow students who do not have access to college-level courses at their high schools, to apply for need-based grants and seek credit at local colleges or community colleges.
Expand Summer Learning Opportunities: Differences in learning opportunities during the summer contribute to the achievement gaps that separate struggling poor and minority students from their middle-class peers. Barack Obama's "STEP UP" plan addresses this achievement gap by supporting summer learning opportunities for disadvantaged children through partnerships between local schools and community organizations. One portion of this proposal was included in a comprehensive bill to improve U.S. competitiveness that passed the Senate in April 2007, with a provision for summer programs focused on increasing student math and problem-solving skills.
"Summer is an incredible opportunity to help children who are under-performing in school achieve grade-level proficiency, develop as young leaders, and enter school ready to excel in the fall. The support of Senators Obama and Mikulski demonstrates their commitment to children and education. The STEP UP Act is a tremendous opportunity to deepen and expand our impact on children's lives and help them achieve high academic standards."
- Earl Martin Phalen, CEO of BELL (Building Educational Leaders for Life) HIGHER EDUCATION
Increase Federal College Aid: Across the country, millions of students use Pell Grants to finance their college educations. Two decades ago, the maximum grant covered 55 percent of costs at a public four-year college, compared with only 32 percent today. The first bill Barack Obama introduced in the U.S. Senate would have helped make college more affordable for many Americans by increasing the maximum Pell Grant from the existing limit of $4,050 to a new maximum of $5,100. Senator Obama has worked in a bipartisan way on the Senate HELP Committee to propose an increase in the Pell Grant to $5,400 over the next few years, paying for these increases through decreased government subsidies to banks and lenders.
Free Up Money for Student Aid and Protect Student Borrowers: Currently, there are two basic college loan programs. The Direct Loan system allows students to borrow from the government through their schools. The Federal Family Education Loan Program instead gives private banks federal subsidies to make government-backed student loans. These privately funded FFEL loans cost about $6 more per $100 loan than loans through the Direct Loan program. Barack Obama cosponsored Senator Kennedy's Student Debt Relief Act, which encourages colleges to participate in the Direct Loan program and use the savings to invest in grant aid to students. The legislation also increases need-based aid, and decreases fees and interest rates for student loans. Obama would eliminate wasteful subsidies to private student lenders and instead support the federal Direct Loan program, invest the savings in additional student aid, and add greater transparency to the student financial aid process.
There are 36.5 million poor Americans. Most poor Americans are in the workforce, yet still cannot afford to make ends meet. And too many poor Americans are single mothers who are raising children. Changing the Odds for Urban America
Barack Obama has been a lifelong advocate for the poor -- as a young college graduate, he rejected the high salaries of corporate America and moved to the South Side of Chicago to work as a community organizer. As an organizer, Obama worked with churches, Chicago residents and local government to set up job training programs for the unemployed and after-school programs for kids.
Obama later took these experiences to the Illinois State Senate and the United States Senate, where he has been a consistent proponent of expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), increasing the minimum wage, ensuring that low-income students have access to the best and brightest teachers, lowering the costs of college education, and helping Americans purchase their own homes without relying on predatory mortgage lenders. As president, Barack Obama will continue to fight for meaningful opportunities for low-income Americans to join the middle class. JOBS
Expand Transitional Jobs and Career Pathways Programs: Barack Obama believes that all Americans who want to work should not only be able to gain meaningful employment, but should also be able to move up the career ladder to further support their families.. Obama will invest $1 billion over five years in transitional jobs and career pathways programs that implement proven methods of helping low-income Americans succeed in the workforce. This investment will be coupled with other measures to incentivize the private sector, as well as state and local governments, to increase their support of these effective employment programs.
Transitional Jobs: Obama will create a transitional jobs program to place people with extreme difficulties getting and keeping good jobs into temporary, subsidized wage-paying jobs to gain necessary job skills before applying for unsubsidized jobs in the private and public sectors. The Obama transitional jobs program will also offer mentoring and social services designed to address work-blocking problems, such as personal and family conflicts. By gaining valuable work experience, training and counseling, participants in the transitional jobs program will prepare to apply and successfully obtain employment in the regular job market.
Career Pathways: Workers without a high-school degree are nearly 30 percent less likely to move out of a low-wage job than their more educated peers. In addition to helping people enter the job market, Obama will also help people move up the career ladder by providing funding for bridge and career pathways programs that partner the federal government with employers, organized labor and community-based organizations to identify job opportunities, develop customized training and apprentice programs, and help place low-income employees in better jobs.
Ensure Freedom to Unionize: Barack Obama believes that workers should have the freedom to choose whether to join a union without harassment or intimidation from their employers. Although an estimated 60 million Americans would join a union if given the opportunity, companies too often deny workers the opportunity to organize and improve their lives. Obama cosponsored and is strong advocate for the Employee Free Choice Act, a bipartisan effort to assure that workers can exercise their right to organize and secure initial agreements with their employers. The act requires employers to recognize a union if the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) finds that a majority of employees have signed cards designating the union as its bargaining representative (a "card check"), mandates arbitration if negotiations over a first contract stall, and imposes penalties on employers that illegally coerce workers not to join unions. As president, Obama will continue to work for EFCA's passage and sign it into law.
Help Youth Connect with Growing Job Sectors: Barack Obama will create the 5-E (Energy Efficiency, Environmental Education and Employment) Disconnected Youth Service Corps. This program would directly engage disconnected and disadvantaged youth in energy efficiency and environmental service opportunities to strengthen their communities while also providing them with practical skills and experience in important career fields of expected high-growth employment. The program would engage private sector employers and unions to provide apprenticeship opportunities. The program also encourages summer high school students to stay in school, and provides GED help and other wrap-around social services for drop-outs.
Improve Transportation Access to Jobs: Three quarters of welfare recipients live in areas that are poorly served by public transportation and low-income workers spend up to 36 percent of their incomes on transportation. As president, Barack Obama will work to eliminate transportation disparities. Obama will double the federal Jobs Access and Reverse Commute program to ensure that additional federal public transportation dollars flow to the highest-need communities and that urban planning initiatives take this aspect of transportation policy into account.
Increase Access to Capital in Underserved Communities: Access to capital is critically important to the development of businesses. Yet there has been a growing gap between the amounts of venture capital and access to business loans available to minority-owned small businesses compared to other small businesses. Less than 1 percent of the $250 billion in venture capital dollars invested annually nationwide has been directed to the country's 4.4 million minority business owners. A recent study found that minority business owners, even if they have the same characteristics as other business owners, are significantly denied credit more frequently and required to pay higher interest rates than white applicants. To compound this problem, in recent years there has been a significant decline in the share of Small Business Investment Company financings that have gone to minority-owned and women-owned businesses. In order to increase their size, capacity, and ability to do business with the federal government and to compete in the open market, minority firms need greater access to venture capital investment, as well as greater access to business loans. Barack Obama will strengthen Small Business Administration programs that provide capital to minority-owned businesses, support outreach programs that help minority business owners apply for loans, and work to encourage the growth and capacity of minority firms.
Create a National Network of Public-Private Business Incubators: Barack Obama will support entrepreneurship and spur job growth by creating a national network of public-private business incubators. Business incubators facilitate the critical work of entrepreneurs in creating start-up companies. They offer help designing business plans, provide physical space, identify and address problems affecting small businesses, and give advice on a wide range of business practices. Business incubators will engage the expertise and resources of local institutions of higher education and successful private sector businesses to help ensure that small businesses have both a strong plan and the resources for long-term success. Obama will invest $250 million per year to increase the number and size of incubators in disadvantaged communities throughout the country.
Promote Digital Inclusion: Getting broadband Internet access into every home and business in urban America at an affordable rate will spur economic development and give more low-income resident access to the 21st century digital economy. As president, Barack Obama will reform the Telephone Universal Service Program, direct the FCC to better manage the nation's airwaves, and encourage public-private partnership to get more low-income communities connected
Reduce Crime Recidivism by Providing Ex-Offender Supports: America is facing an incarceration and post-incarceration crisis in urban communities. Today, nearly 2 million children have a parent in a correctional facility. In the U.S. Senate, Obama has worked to provide job training, substance abuse and mental health counseling, and employment opportunities to ex-offenders. In addition to signing these important programs into law, Obama will create a prison-to-work incentive program, modeled on the successful Welfare-to-Work Partnership to create ties with employers and third-party agencies that provide training and support services to ex-offenders, and to improve ex-offender employment and job retention rates. Obama will also work to reform correctional systems to break down barriers for ex-offenders to find employment. INCOME
Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit: In both the Illinois State Senate and the U.S. Senate, Obama has championed efforts to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which is one of the most successful anti-poverty programs to date. As president, Obama will reward work by increasing the number of working parents eligible for EITC benefits, increasing the benefit available to parents who support their children through child support payments and reducing the EITC marriage penalty which hurts low-income families. Under the Obama plan, full-time workers making the minimum wage would get an EITC benefit up to $555, more than three times greater than the $175 benefit they get today. If the workers are responsibly supporting their children on child support, the Obama plan would give those workers a benefit of $1,110. Obama would also increase the EITC benefit for those families most likely to be in poverty -- families with three or more children.
Raise the Minimum Wage: Barack Obama believes that people who work full time should not live in poverty. Before the Democrats took back Congress, the minimum wage had not changed in 10 years. Even though the minimum wage will rise to $7.25 an hour by 2009, the minimum wage's real purchasing power will still be below what it was in 1968. As president, Obama would further raise the minimum wage, index it to inflation and increase the EITC to make sure that full-time workers can earn a living wage that allows them to raise their families out of poverty and pay for basic needs such as food, transportation, and housing -- things so many people take for granted.
Support Low-Income Families: The Child Tax Credit allows parents to receive $1,000 per child and has been an important financial resource for working families. Unfortunately, the credit is skewed such that many families who need it the most cannot get it. Because of high income limits that are indexed to inflation, parents who work full time at the minimum wage are not eligible for the credit. As a result, nearly 17 million low-income children get less than the full credit. Barack Obama worked with Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) to introduce legislation lowering the income limit so that 600,000 more families can benefit from the credit. FAMILIES
Promote Responsible Fatherhood: Since 1960, the number of American children without fathers in their lives has quadrupled, from 6 million to more than 24 million. Children without fathers in their lives are 5 times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime, 9 times more likely to drop out of school, and 20 times more likely to end up in prison. Barack Obama has re-introduced the Responsible Fatherhood and Healthy Families Act to remove some of the government penalties on married families, crack down on men avoiding child support payments, and ensure that payments go to families instead of state bureaucracies. The legislation would also fund support services for fathers and their families, including domestic violence prevention efforts. As President, he will sign this bill into law and continue to implement innovative measures to strengthen families.
Support Parents with Young Children: Barack Obama would expand the highly successful Nurse-Family Partnership to all low-income, first-time mothers. The Nurse-Family Partnership provides home visits by trained registered nurses to low-income expectant mothers and their families. The trained nurses use proven methods to help improve the mental and physical health of the family by providing counseling on substance abuse, creating and achieving personal goals, and effective methods of nurturing children. Proven benefits of these types of programs include improved women's prenatal health, a reduction in childhood injuries, fewer unintended pregnancies, increased father involvement and women's employment, reduced use of welfare and food stamps, and increased children's school readiness. Researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis concluded that these programs produced an average of five dollars in savings for every dollar invested and produced more than $28,000 in net savings for every high-risk family enrolled in the program. The Obama plan would assist approximately 570,000 first-time mothers each year.
Expand Paid Medical Leave: Today, three-out-of-four low-wage workers have no paid sick leave. It is fundamentally unfair that a parent playing by the rules can get fired or lose wages because their child gets sick. Barack Obama supports efforts to guarantee workers seven days of paid sick leave per year, a proposal that will not impose an onerous burden on employers. EDUCATION
Increase Funding for Head Start: Research shows that many poor and minority children do not enter kindergarten ready to learn. Black children start school substantially behind white children in reading and math, and these early achievement gaps expand throughout elementary school. Barack Obama supports increasing funding for the Head Start program to provide low-income preschool children with critically important learning skills, and supports the necessary role of parental involvement in the success of Head Start.
Place High-Quality Teachers in Low-Income Classrooms: Some studies have indicated that the most important factor in a child's education is the quality of their teacher. Barack Obama introduced a plan to support school districts that try new methods to improve student achievement and reward high-quality teachers and school leaders. Under his initiative, 20 districts across the country will get grants to develop innovative plans in consultation with their teacher unions. High-performing teachers, and those who take on new responsibilities, such as working at struggling schools and mentoring new teachers, will be eligible for pay increases beyond their base salary. These innovation districts will show results that can be replicated in other school districts.
Extend Summer School Opportunities to Low-Income Students: Students lose an average of two months or more worth of math facts and skills during the summer, with the largest learning loss affecting children who live in poverty, suffer from learning disabilities, or do not speak English at home. Barack Obama's "STEP UP" plan addresses the achievement gaps among grade-school children by supporting summer learning opportunities for disadvantaged children through partnerships between local schools and community organizations.
Make College More Affordable: College tuition rates are rising almost 10 percent a year. These surging tuitions priced over 200,000 students out of college altogether in 2004. Two decades ago, the Pell maximum grant covered 55 percent of costs at a public four-year college, compared with only 32 percent today. The very first bill Barack Obama introduced in the U.S. Senate was a bill to help make college more affordable by increasing the maximum Pell Grant amount to $5,100. Barack Obama will also eliminate wasteful subsidies to private banks under the federal student loan program. Reforming this program will save taxpayers billions of dollars each year -- money that Obama will direct to fund need-based grants, such as the Pell Grant. HOUSING
Create an Affordable Housing Trust Fund: In too many communities, low-income families are priced out of the housing market. Between 1993 and 2003, the number of units of affordable to low-income households fell by 1.2 million. Barack Obama believes we should create an Affordable Housing Trust Fund to develop affordable housing in mixed-income neighborhoods. The Affordable Housing Trust Fund would use a small percentage of the profits of two government-sponsored housing agencies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to create up to 14,000 new units of affordable housing every year.
Combat Mortgage Fraud and Subprime Loans: There is a growing epidemic of mortgage fraud crimes in which sophisticated scam artists cheat homeowners out of their mortgages. Some have estimated that more than 2 million homeowners with subprime mortgages are at risk of losing their homes. Barack Obama believes we must establish stiff penalties to deter fraud and protect consumers against abusive lending practices. Obama introduced the STOP FRAUD Act, which would increase funding for federal law enforcement programs, create new criminal penalties for mortgage professionals found guilty of fraud, and require industry insiders to report suspicious activity. In March 2007, Obama urged Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to bring together lenders, consumer advocates, federal regulators and housing agencies for a summit meeting on preserving home ownership. The bill also provides counseling to homeowners and tenants to avoid foreclosures. As president, Obama will continue to fight to ensure more Americans can achieve and protect the dream of home ownership.
Create Fund to Help Homeowners Avoid Foreclosures: In addition to taking important steps to prevent mortgage fraud from occurring in the future, Barack Obama will establish policies to help Americans currently facing foreclosure through no fault of their own. For instance, in communities where there are many foreclosures property values of innocent homeowners are often also negatively impacted, driving them toward foreclosure, too. Obama will create a fund to help people refinance their mortgages and provide comprehensive supports to innocent homeowners. The fund will also assist individuals who purchased homes that are simply too expensive for their income levels by helping to sell their homes. The fund will help offset costs of selling a home, including helping low-income borrowers get additional time and support to pay back any losses from the sale of their home and waiving certain federal, state and local income taxes that result from an individual selling their home to avoid foreclosure. These steps will ensure that individuals who have to sell their homes will be able to quickly regain stable financial footing. The fund will be partially paid for by Obama's increased penalties on lenders who acted irresponsibly and committed fraud. Fully Fund the Community Development Block Grant: The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program is an important program that helps strengthen cities and towns throughout the nation by providing housing and creating jobs primarily for low- and moderate-income people. The Bush Administration has consistently attempted to cut funding for CDBG, including by $1.2 billion next year and $6.9 billion over the next five years. Barack Obama has fought against these cuts, and as president, he will restore funding for the CDBG program. HEALTH CARE
Provide Universal Health Care and Lower Health Costs: Barack Obama is committed to signing universal health legislation that ensures all Americans have high-quality, affordable health care coverage by the end of his first term in office. His plan will save a typical American family up to $2,500 every year on medical expenditures by providing affordable, comprehensive and portable health coverage for every American; modernizing the U.S. health care system to contain spiraling health care costs and improve the quality of patient care; and promoting prevention and strengthening public health to prevent disease and protect against natural and man-made disasters.
Fight Health Disparities: Barack Obama cosponsored the Minority Health Improvement and Health Disparity Elimination Act to better understand the root causes of health disparities and to start addressing them. The bill puts new emphasis on disparity research by directing the Department of Health and Human Services to collect and report health care data by race and ethnicity, as well as geographic and socioeconomic status and level of health literacy. The legislation outlines mechanisms to conduct educational outreach, increase diversity among health care professionals, and improve the delivery of health care to minorities and other under served groups.
Foster Healthy Communities: How a community is designed -- including the layout of its roads, buildings and parks -- has a huge impact on the health of its residents. For instance, nearly one-third of Americans live in neighborhoods without sidewalks and less than half of our country's children have a playground within walking distance of their homes. This lack of a safe place to walk and play is a major contributor to the growing numbers of overweight children. Barack Obama introduced the Healthy Places Act to help local governments assess the health impact of new policies and projects, like highways or shopping centers. Once the health impact is determined, the bill gives grant funding and technical assistance to help address potential health problems. TACKLE CONCENTRATED URBAN POVERTY
Create a White House Office on Urban Policy: The Obama White House will take the federal government's role in supporting urban America seriously. Today, government programs aimed at strengthening metropolitan areas are spread across the federal government -- including the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Transportation, Department of Labor and Department of Commerce -- with insufficient coordination or strategy. Barack Obama will create a White House Office of Urban Policy to develop a strategy for metropolitan America and to ensure that all federal dollars targeted to urban areas are effectively spent on the highest-impact programs. The Director of Urban Policy will report directly to the president and coordinate all federal urban programs.
Ensure Community-Based Investment Resources in Every Urban Community: The United States has made a strong commitment to furthering economic development in poor regions around the globe through the World Bank, yet it makes no similar centralized and coordinated commitment to poor communities in the U.S. Barack Obama will task his new Director of Urban Policy to work across federal agencies and with community and business leaders to identify and address the unique economic development barriers of every major metropolitan area in the country. Obama will provide additional resources to the federal Community Development Financial Institution Fund, the Small Business Administration and other federal agencies, especially to their local branch offices, to address the needs identified by the Director of Urban Policy.
Establish â€˜Promise Neighborhoods' for Areas of Concentrated Poverty: Successful strategies to address concentrated, intergenerational poverty are comprehensive in nature and address the full range of obstacles that stand in the way of poor children. One highly-acclaimed model is the Harlem Children's Zone in New York City, which provides a full network of services to an entire neighborhood from birth to college.
Obama will create 20 Promise Neighborhoods in cities that have high levels of poverty and crime and low levels of student academic achievement. The Promise Neighborhoods will model the Harlem Children's Zone and seek to engage all resident children and their parents into an achievement program based on tangible goals, including college for every participating student, strong physical and mental health outcomes for children as well as retention of meaningful employment and parenting schools for parents. Promise Neighborhood sites will be selected by the federal government after review of applications from cities and their existing non-profit organizations and school districts. Cities and private entities will be required to pay 50 percent of the program costs. ADDRESS RURAL POVERTY
Build Roads, Airports, and Infrastructure: Rural businesses and family farmers depend on good infrastructure to grow and prosper. Barack Obama supports adequate investment in water, sewer and other community "backbone" systems so that rural America will not be left behind. He also supports greater flight access between small city airports and regional hubs, greater federal investment in restoring deteriorating roads and bridges, modernization of locks and dams, and investment in intermodal transportation hubs to help spur business development.
Reinvest in Rural Technology Resources: Many rural communities lack high-speed Internet, which is a critical component to economic development. Barack Obama wants to ensure that technology is used effectively in our rural schools, businesses and hospitals to link them to resources across the nation and around the world. Cell phone companies and wireless Internet providers often invest in rural areas last. We need a comprehensive federal effort to boost investment in information infrastructure in rural America so that modern farmers have access to modern technologies, residents have access to telemedicine and distance learning for secondary education, and all communities have access to modern emergency communication services like 911 emergency services.
Encourage Investment in Rural America: Barack Obama believes that rural America has not only formed the backbone of the American economy and society in decades past, and more importantly will an increasingly vital role in the future as we address the challenges of energy independence and globalization. Obama will build on his record in the U.S. and Illinois State Senates to promote American-grown renewable biofuels and ensure that all of rural America benefits from these investments, not just corporate agri-business. As president, Obama will work to implement innovative public-private partnerships that have the potential to bring thousands of new jobs to rural America. REBUILD NEW ORLEANS
Senator Obama not only led criticism of the Bush Administration's response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster, he also helped lead Congressional efforts to bring effective and prompt relief to the Gulf Coast. Obama worked with the Congressional Black Caucus to introduce the Hurricane Katrina Recovery Act of 2006, which provides comprehensive federal supports for the victims of Hurricane Katrina and the reconstruction of New Orleans.
Strengthen Accountability on Behalf of Katrina Victims: In wake of reports of no-bid construction contracts and administrative waste in the Katrina relief process, Barack Obama worked to create a Chief Financial Officer for federal spending on the Gulf Coast to ensure that money is spent appropriately and that all contracts were accessible to local businesses, including small and minority owned firms, through fair and open competition.
Expand and Streamline the Child Tax Credit: Barack Obama worked to make all working families that were victims of Hurricane Katrina eligible for an expanded and refundable Child Tax Credit.
Passed Legislation for "Special Needs" Disaster Planning: Prior to Hurricane Katrina, the federal government did not require localities to make specific plans for safeguarding Americans with special needs like the elderly, the poor and people with disabilities. Senator Obama championed legislation that was signed into law to require special needs planning for future disasters, whether they be man-made or natural.
Need justice that is not just us, but is everybody Q: In the last decade, whites were 70% of persons arrested, but only 40% of inmates. Why?
A: The criminal justice system is not color blind. It does not work for all people equally, and that is why it's critical to have a president who sends a signal that we are going to have a system of justice that is not just us, but is everybody. I passed racial profiling legislation at the state level. It requires some political courage, because oftentimes you are accused of being soft on crime. Source: 2007 Democratic Primary Debate at Howard University Jun 28, 2007
Some heinous crimes justify the ultimate punishment While the evidence tells me that the death penalty does little to deter crime, I believe there are some crimes--mass murder, the rape and murder of a child--so heinous that the community is justified in expressing the full measure of its outrage by meting out the ultimate punishment. On the other hand, the way capital cases were tried in Illinois at the time was so rife with error, questionable police tactics, racial bias, and shoddy lawyering, that 13 death row inmates had been exonerated Source: The Audacity of Hope, by Barack Obama, p. 58 Oct 1, 2006
Videotape all capital punishment interrogations In the Illinois Senate, I sponsored a bill to require videotaping of interrogations and confessions in capital cases [after the] governor had instituted a moratorium on al executions.
In negotiating the bill, I talked about the common value that I believed everyone shared--that no innocent person should end up on death row, abd that no person guilty of a capital offense should go free. At the end of the process, the bill had the support of all the parties involved, and it passed unanimously. Source: The Audacity of Hope, by Barack Obama, p. 57-59 Oct 1, 2006
Battles legislatively against the death penalty Obama's most significant contribution has been his legislative battles against the death penalty, and against in the criminal justice system. In Illinois, it's been a series of shocking exonerations of innocent people who are on death row. He was involved very intimately in drafting and passing legislation that requires the video taping of police interrogations and confessions in all capital cases. And he also was one of the co-sponsors of this very comprehensive reform or the death penalty system in Illinois, which many people say may trigger the retreat on the death penalty in many other states. Source: Salim Muwakkil and Amy Goodman, Democracy Now Jul 15, 2004
Supports alternative sentencing and rehabilitation
- Principles that Obama supports to address crime:Implement penalties other than incarceration for certain non-violent offenders.
- Increase state funds for programs which rehabilitate and educate inmates during and after their prison sentences.
- Provide funding for military-style "boot camps" for first-time juvenile felons.
Source: 1998 IL State Legislative National Political Awareness Test Jul 2, 1998
Voted YES on reinstating $1.15 billion funding for the COPS Program. Amendment would increase funding for the COPS Program to $1.15 billion for FY 2008 to provide state and local law enforcement with critical resources. The funding is offset by an unallocated reduction to non-defense discretionary spending.
Proponents recommend voting YES because:
This amendment reinstates the COPS Program. I remind everyone, when the COPS Program was functioning, violent crime in America reduced 8.5% a year for 7 years in a row. Throughout the 1990s, we funded the COPS Program at roughly $1.2 billion, and it drove down crime. Now crime is rising again. The COPS Program in the crime bill worked, and the Government Accounting Office found a statistical link between the COPS grants and a reduction in crime. The Brookings Institution reported the COPS Program is one of the most cost-effective programs we have ever had in this country. Local officials urgently need this support.
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
The COPS Program has some history. It was started by President Clinton. He asked for 100,000 police officers. He said that when we got to 100,000, the program would stop. We got to 110,000 police officers and the program continues on and on and on.
This program should have ended 5 years ago or 6 years ago, but it continues. It is similar to so many Federal programs that get constituencies that go on well past what their original purpose was. It may be well intentioned, but we cannot afford it and we shouldn't continue it. It was never thought it would be continued this long. Reference: Biden Amendment; Bill S.Amdt.529 on S.Con.Res.21 ; vote number 2007-110 on Mar 23, 2007
International Treaties/Nuclear ProliferationEdit
As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Obama has fought to strengthen America's position in the world. Reaching across the aisle, Obama has tackled problems such as preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction and stopping the genocide in Darfur.
Strengthening American Security in the 21st Century
On April 23, 2007, Barack Obama laid out his vision of American leadership in the world. Read the speech.
Obama rejects the notion that the American moment has passed and believes that America must neither retreat from the world nor try to bully it into submission. Obama believes that America must lead the world, by deed and example, and that America cannot meet the threats of the century alone and that the world cannot meet them without America.
Under his leadership America will lead in five specific ways: First, we will bring a responsible end to the war in Iraq and refocus on the critical challenges in the broader region. Second, we will rebuild and transform the military to meet 21st-century threats. Third, we will marshal a global effort to secure, destroy, and stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Fourth, we will renew the alliances and partnerships necessary to meet common challenges, such as terrorism and climate change. And fifth, we will strengthen impoverished, weak and ungoverned countries that have become the most fertile breeding grounds for transnational threats like terror and pandemic disease and the smuggling of deadly weapons. Learn more about Obama's vision for American security.
Taking Weapons Out of Terrorists' Hands
Today, 80 percent of the world's spending on armaments is on conventional weapons not nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. These conventional weapons are a threat to our security. Since the 1970s, more than 40 civilian aircraft have been hit by shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles, and in recent conflicts around the world, small arms have caused four out of every five casualties. There are countless caches of mortars, landmines and other weapons spread across the globe. Insurgents in Iraq have used these caches against our troops by converting older munitions into roadside bombs.
In 2005, Senator Obama traveled to the former Soviet Union with Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) to investigate the dangers posed by unsecured weapons. The two senators returned from the trip and introduced legislation to establish the next generation of the Nunn-Lugar initiative. Senator Obama helped shepherd this legislation through Congress and it was signed into law in January 2007. The Lugar-Obama initiative cracks down on conventional weapon caches by building on the Nunn-Lugar program, which has secured nearly 7,000 Soviet nuclear warheads, in order to find and destroy conventional arms.
Lugar-Obama "The Dynamic Duo" "The most dynamic duo in Washington today crosses party lines. Old-school realist Richard Lugar, the five-term Republican senator from Indiana, has embraced new-school realist and rising star Barack Obama, the junior Democratic senator from Illinois ... The two agree on much and seem to genuinely like each other. Rather unusual in hyper-partisan Washington, these days."
-Washington Monthly September 2006
"This is a homeland-security sort of bill that America urgently needs to become law."
-Martin Schramm, Scripps Howard News Service Columnist, 12/06/2005
Stopping Nuclear Terrorism
The greatest threat our nation faces is a nuclear weapon falling into terrorists' hands. The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed 650 cases of illicit trafficking in nuclear and radiological materials worldwide between 1993 and 2004. As little as four kilograms of plutonium - about the size of a soda can - can potentially be enough for a fissile nuclear bomb.
Senator Obama passed legislation with Senator Lugar to prevent weapons of mass destruction from being smuggled across the globe. Signed into law in January 2007, the Lugar-Obama initiative will help other nations detect and secure weapons of mass destruction before they ever leave their borders. Senator Obama also worked with Senator Lugar to successfully restore $8 million in budget cuts to the original Nunn-Lugar Initiative.
Preventing an Avian Flu Pandemic
Senator Obama was one of the first legislators to recognize the dangers of a potential avian influenza pandemic, and was successful in securing $25 million that U.S. agencies in Southeast Asia are currently using to combat and contain widespread outbreaks of avian flu. He also worked with other Senators to provide $4 billion in funding to the Centers for Disease Control to combat avian flu which included more than $3 billion to build a stockpile of antiviral drugs that had been in short supply.
"Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) understands how dangerous (a bird flu pandemic) would be and just how small the world has become...Obama is to be commended for recognizing that the U.S. and the world have to stay a step ahead of the avian flu."
-Chicago Tribune, Editorial, March 7, 2005
Ending the Conflict in Congo
An estimated 3.9 million people have died from war-related causes since the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo began. Nearly 80 percent of Congo's 56 million people live in extreme poverty and more than 70 percent are undernourished. The United Nations has its largest peacekeeping force in the world in the Congo, and in the summer of 2006, the country held competitive national elections for the first time in more than 40 years.
Senator Obama wrote and passed legislation to build on this historic election and promote stability in the country. Senator Obama revamped U.S. policy in the Congo to include a commitment to help rebuild the country, develop lasting political structures, hold accountable destabilizing foreign governments, crack down on corrupt politicians, and professionalize the military. The bill also authorizes $52 million in U.S. assistance for the Congo, calls for a Special U.S. Envoy to resolve ongoing violence, and urges the administration to strengthen the U.N. peacekeeping force.
"It was a source of considerable encouragement to learn that the Congo Bill which (Senator Obama) graciously initiated and sponsored was recently passed and signed into law (S.2125). This is an important and most welcome development for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) at this critical juncture of its history."
- William Lacy Swing, U.N. Special Representative in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Stopping the Genocide in Darfur
Senator Obama has been a leading voice in Washington urging the end of genocide in Sudan. He worked with Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) on the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act, a version of which was signed into law. Senator Obama has traveled to the United Nations to meet with Sudanese officials and visited refugee camps on the Chad-Sudan border to raise international awareness of the ongoing humanitarian disaster there. He also worked with Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) to secure $20 million for the African Union peacekeeping mission.
"Two senators from opposite sides of the aisle have joined together to call for increased U.S. involvement in Darfur. They are Sam Brownback, Republican of Kansas, and Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois."
-Gwen Ifill, Newshour with Jim Lehrer, PBS, February 16, 2006
Bringing a Brutal Warlord to Justice
Former Liberian President Charles Taylor has been accused of committing war crimes by international prosecutors. After taking the presidency following a brutal civil war that decimated Liberia's population, Taylor created a rebel group that fought in neighboring Sierra Leone's civil war. These rebels committed a range of atrocities including rape, murder and the use of child soldiers.
On July 19, 2005, Senator Obama passed a bipartisan amendment, along with Senators Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Judd Gregg (R-NH) to provide $13 million for the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Signed into law in November 2005, the Obama amendment provides critical funding to keep the Court up and running and dramatically enhances efforts to bring Charles Taylor to justice. Taylor was arrested in 2006 and awaits trial in April 2007.
"The knowledge that we have secure funding for 2006 now allows me to concentrate my energies and efforts to bring Mr. Taylor to trial."
- Desmond de Silva, Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone