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Weekly remarks: Obama sees less job loss, Carly Fiorina worries over feds shaping women's healthcare

December 5, 2009 |  3:00 am

Democrat president Barack Obama's White House at Dawn

Weekly remarks by President Obama, as provided by the White House

Every month since January, when I became your President, I’ve spoken to you about the periodic reports of the Labor Department on the number of jobs created or lost during the previous month; numbers that tell a story about how America’s economy is faring overall.  

In those first months, the numbers were nothing short of devastating. The worst recession since the 1930s had wreaked havoc on the lives of so many of our fellow Americans. Yesterday, the numbers released by the Labor Department reflected a continuing positive trend of diminishing job loss.

But for those who were laid off last month and the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs in this recession, a good trend isn’t good enough. Trends don’t buy the groceries. Trends don’t pay....

...the rent or a college tuition. Trends don’t fulfill the need within each of us to be productive, to provide for our families, to make the most of our lives, to reach for our dreams.

So, it is true that we, as a country, are in a very different place than we were when 2009 began. Because of the Recovery Act and a number of other steps we’ve taken, we’re no longer facing the potential collapse of our financial system or a second Great Depression. We’re no longer losing jobs at a rate of 700,000 a month. And our economy’s growing for the first time in a year.

But too many of our neighbors are still out of work because the growth we’ve seen hasn’t yet translated into all the jobs we need. Stung by this brutal recession, businesses that have kept their doors open are still wary about adding workers.  Instead of hiring, many are simply asking their employees to work more hours, or they’re adding temporary help. 

History tells us this is usually what happens with recessions – even as the economy grows, it takes time for jobs to follow. But the folks who have been looking for work without any luck for months and, in some cases, years, can’t wait any longer. For them, I’m determined to do everything I can to accelerate our progress so we’re actually adding jobs again.

That’s why, this week, I invited a group of business owners from across the country to the White House to talk about additional steps we can take to help jumpstart hiring. We brought together unions and universities to talk about what we can do to support our workers today and prepare our students to outcompete workers around the world tomorrow. We brought together mayors and community leaders to talk about how we can open up new opportunities in our cities and towns.

On Friday, I spent the day in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and met with workers and small business owners there. I stopped by a steel company called Allentown Metal Works, and spoke at Lehigh Community College. I visited folks at a job placement center, and stopped by a shift change at Alpo. 

The stories and concerns I heard mirrored the countless letters I receive every single day. And they speak louder than any statistic or government report. The folks in Allentown – and in all the Allentowns across our country – are the most dedicated, productive workers in the world. All they’re asking for is a chance, and a fair shake.

And that’s exactly what I’m working to give them. In the coming days, I’ll be unveiling additional ideas aimed at accelerating job growth and hiring as we emerge from this economic storm.

And so that we don’t face another crisis like this again, I’m determined to meet our responsibility to do what we know will strengthen our economy in the long-run. That’s why I’m not going to let up in my efforts to reform our health care system; to give our children the best education in the world; to promote the jobs of tomorrow and energy independence by investing in a clean energy economy; and to deal with the mounting federal debt.

From the moment I was sworn into office, we have taken a number of difficult steps to end this economic crisis. We didn’t take them because they were popular or gratifying. They weren’t. We took these steps because they were necessary.

But I didn’t run for President to pass emergency recovery programs, or to bail out banks or to shore up auto companies. I didn’t run for President simply to manage the crisis of the moment, while kicking our most pressing problems down the road. I ran for President to help hardworking families succeed and to stand up for the embattled middle class. I ran to fight for a country where responsibility is still rewarded, and hard-working people can get ahead.  I ran to keep faith with the sacred American principle that we will deliver to our children a future of even greater possibility.

And my commitment to you, the American people, is that I will focus every single day on how we can get people back to work, and how we can build an economy that continues to make real the promise of America for generations to come.    ###

The Capitol Dome at Night

Remarks by Carly Fiorina, California Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, as provided by the Senate Republican Communications Center

Hello. This is Carly Fiorina. And today I’d like to speak to you as one of the more than two and a half million women in America who have been diagnosed with breast cancer — and beaten it.

Like everyone else who’s diagnosed with cancer, I never thought it would happen to me. I was fit, healthy, and active. I even got regular check-ups. But earlier this year, just two weeks after a clear mammogram, I discovered a lump through a self-exam.

Soon after that came the diagnosis, the surgery, the long and difficult treatment regimen, and the painful experience of wondering whether I would make it, whether I’d pull through.California Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate Carly Fiorina

I’m fortunate to live near one of the greatest cancer centers in the world. I’m fortunate to have the incredible love and support of family and friends.

And, my diagnosis gave me time to think about my future — because one of the things that happens when you have to face your fears, including the fear of dying, is that you can face your future with renewed hope and enthusiasm. 

My doctors tell me I have won my battle with cancer. And I realize that this makes me one of the lucky ones. Last year alone, more than 40,000 Americans died from breast cancer. Aside from lung cancer, breast cancer is the most fatal form of cancer for American women. Nearly 200,000 new cases were reported last year alone.  

That’s why a recent recommendation on mammograms by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a government-run panel of health care professionals that makes recommendations on prevention, struck such a nerve.

The task force did not include an oncologist or a radiologist, in other words, cancer experts did not develop this recommendation. They said that most women under 50 don’t need regular mammograms and that women over 50 should only get them every other year. And yet we all know that the chances of surviving cancer are greater the earlier it’s detected. If I’d followed this new recommendation and waited another two years, I’m not sure I’d be alive today.

What’s more this task force was explicitly asked to focus on costs, not just prevention. As it turned out, costs were a significant factor in this recommendation. Will a bureaucrat determine that my life isn't worth saving?
All this takes on even greater urgency in the midst of the ongoing health care debate in Washington. We wonder if we are heading down a path where the federal government will at first suggest and then mandate new standards for prevention and treatment. Do we really want government bureaucrats rather than doctors dictating how we prevent and treat something like breast cancer?
The response we’ve gotten to these questions has been less than encouraging. In the face of a national outcry over the recent task force recommendations, the Secretary of Health and Human Services said the Preventive Services Task Force doesn’t set federal policy. The real question, though, is whether bodies like this would set policy under the $2.5 trillion, 2,074-page plan that’s now making its way through Congress?  

Unfortunately, the answer to that question isn’t encouraging either. The health care bill now being debated in the Senate explicitly empowers this very task force to influence future coverage and preventive care. Section 4105, for example, authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services to deny payment for prevention services the task force recommends against.

Another section requires every health plan in America to cover task force recommended preventive services. In fact, there are more than a dozen examples in the bill where this task force is empowered to influence care.

There is a reason American women with breast cancer have a higher survival rate than women in countries with government-run health care. Unlike those countries, our government doesn’t dictate what prevention and treatments women can get.
While some defend the idea of a government task force, my experience with cancer tells me it’s wrong. Cutting down on mammograms might save the government some money that it will then spend on something else. But it won’t save lives. And isn’t that what health care reform was supposed to be all about?
This is just one in many examples of serious problems with this healthcare reform legislation. Rather than remaking the entire national healthcare system at the cost of higher taxes and exploding deficits, we should build on what works, such as expanding access to integrated care and to community clinics that will give those most in need appropriate care at a reasonable price.
Congress should reform medical malpractice to match what we have in California where frivolous lawsuits are a thing of the past. We should permit consumers to purchase health insurance from any company in the country, expanding consumer choice and driving down cost and unnecessary mandates.

People want to know that their care will stay where it belongs: in the hands of doctors and patients. Unfortunately, the path Congress is on in this debate is not giving us the confidence that it will. Thank you.    ###

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Photos: Ron Edmonds / Associated Press; Associated Press (Fiorina).