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Oct. 3, 2011 at 10:00 PM   |   Comments

Obama to Cabinet: Work on job growth

WASHINGTON, Oct. 3 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama said Monday he's putting his Cabinet to work on creating jobs for Americans as he waits for Congress to debate his job-recovery bill.

The president, appearing at the White House with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, said he had instructed the Cabinet to talk about "the one topic that is on everyone's mind, and that is how to put America back to work."

"Each of the secretaries and heads of agencies have been assigned to look at what we can do administratively to accelerate job growth over the next several months," the president said in advance of a Cabinet meeting Monday.

"But, ultimately, we still have to have congressional action. It's been several weeks now since I sent up the American Jobs Act. And as I've been saying on the road, I want it back. I'm ready to sign it," the president said in remarks released by the White House.

Obama said he would be talking with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., as well as House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California to insist on a vote on his bill.

"My expectation is ... now that we're in the month of October, that we will schedule a vote before the end of this month," he said.

Presidential spokesman Jay Carney said Obama wants to see his jobs bill passed intact but would be willing to sign legislation that includes just parts of it.

"Then he would turn around and demand the rest of the bill, those provisions that haven't been passed by Congress, and will continue to shine a spotlight on the need to take action, the need to put people back to work and grow the economy, throughout the rest of this year, and will continue to put pressure on Congress to act," Carney said.

He said it's incumbent on those who oppose aspects of the Obama legislation to explain why they are against specific portions, "especially if it's paid for."

Carney responded to concerns among Republicans that if they vote on the entire package, it would be used against them in the coming elections.

"Let me be absolutely clear. I can allay those suspicions," Carney said. "To avoid anything like that, they could simply pass all of it. Yes, if Congress sends to the president less than all of the American Jobs Act, he's going to come out and we're going to come out and say, thank you, that's great, this is important, it's going to help the economy, it's going to help job creation, but there's more to be done. And ... if then more gets done, well, that's great. That's exactly the way the system should work.

"We would much rather -- much rather -- see the entire thing passed, because it would be good for the economy and good for the American people."


Wall Street protesters have Obama's ear

NEW YORK, Oct. 3 (UPI) -- The message of anti-Wall Street protesters demanding U.S. social and economic policy change has reached the Oval Office, a White House spokesman said Monday.

Jay Carney, President Obama's top spokesman, told reporters he hadn't discussed the Wall Street protests with the president but said he is "sure he's aware of it because he follows the news."

"I would simply say that, to the extent that people are frustrated with the economic situation, we understand," Carney said. "And that's why we're so urgently trying to focus Congress's attention on the need to take action on the economy and job creation. "And as regards Wall Street, I mean, one of the things that this president is very proud of is the consumer protections that were put into place through legislation that Republicans are now eager to try to dismantle. We think that's a bad idea.

"Because these are common-sense consumer protections that would prevent the kind of abuse that credit card companies engaged in against credit card holders, that would protect against some of the actions that were taken that led to, or contributed to, the financial crisis that we saw in 2008."

Asked if Obama was concerned about law enforcement's treatment of the protesters, Carney responded he hadn't discussed that with the president "and I haven't followed it that closely."

The protests have spread from New York to many other cities -- including Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver, Seattle, Charlotte, N.C., and Albuquerque -- driven by social media Web sites, organizers say.

Chicago protesters have occupied the sidewalk outside the city's branch of the Federal Reserve Bank since Sept. 23.

Hundreds in Los Angeles marched on City Hall Saturday on the first day of protests and remained there Sunday, vowing to stay. Several dozen people camped outside the Federal Reserve branches in San Francisco and Boston.

Occupy Boston, inspired by Occupy Wall Street that started Sept. 17, plans a round of protests during Tuesday's morning rush hour near the Boston Fed, The Boston Globe reported.

A Web site called occupytogether.org, which calls itself "an unofficial hub for all of the events springing up across the country in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street," lists offshoots of the New York protest existing or planned in 44 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, as well as in nearly 30 cities around the world from Melbourne and Tokyo to Montreal and Tijuana, Mexico.

Those protesting in New York have been circulating grievances aimed at corporations they say are too powerful and often unethical.

Among the complaints cited by The Wall Street Journal -- bank executives getting "exorbitant" bonuses shortly after receiving taxpayer bailouts and companies having "poisoned the food supply through negligence" and continuously seeking "to strip employees of the right to negotiate better pay and safer working conditions."

A group called the 99 Percent said its members would "no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1 percent."


Durbin: BofA 'sticking it to' consumers

WASHINGTON, Oct. 3 (UPI) -- A top U.S. Senate Democrat said Monday Bank of America Corp. is "sticking it to American consumers" with a $5-per-month fee on most of its debit card accounts.

BofA announced the fee last month, calling it an effort to recoup revenue lost with new rules limiting swipe fees -- charges banks levy against retailers when retail customers use debit cards.

Speaking on the Senate floor Monday, Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, assistant majority leader, said executives at BofA "and other banks ... have to decide what their priority is going to be. Will it be their customers? Or will it be the most profits they can squeeze out of those customers?

"I think it's obvious what Bank of America's priority is."

Durbin accused BofA of "helping drive our economy to the cliff's edge in 2008," and then accepting a $45 billion taxpayer bailout through the TARP program."

"And it was just as happy to take that money and hand out $3.3 billion in employee bonuses in 2008. And don't forget the excellent track record Bank of America has with handling mortgages When it's not losing paperwork or refusing to answer the phone, it's foreclosing on American families right and left," he said.

"But at least this time, Bank of America is being transparent about a fee it is charging. As opposed to the overdraft fees, 'research' fees, swipe fees, and other hidden fees it has charged, this time Bank of America is being upfront about sticking it to American consumers."

Citing a study that BofA has 38.7 million debit cardholders, Durbin estimated the $5 dollar monthly fee will generate about $2.32 billion annually for the bank "on top of the over 300 percent per-transaction profit it will get from the Fed's swipe fee rates."

"This new fee is just another attempt by Bank of America to make even more pure profit off the backs of consumers," Durbin said.


Obama spokesman: No apology due Bush

WASHINGTON, Oct. 3 (UPI) -- U.S. President Obama owes no apology for criticizing the previous administration's severe methods of interrogating terror suspects, his spokesman said Monday.

Asked for his reaction to former Vice President Dick Cheney's remarks during the weekend that Obama should apologize to the George W. Bush administration for criticizing its practice of using waterboarding and other so-called enhanced interrogation techniques to extract information from terror suspects, White House spokesman Jay Carney said such tactics are "unacceptable."

Cheney suggested an apology should be forthcoming in the wake of successful attacks to take out al-Qaida leaders such as Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen.

"Well, we certainly don't owe an apology for the fact that under this administration's policy, this president's policy, the United States of America does not torture, does not engage in torture," Carney said, adding, "There is no reason to sacrifice our values when it comes to interrogation and torture -- because we don't need to. We can win this battle without those kinds of measures.

"Torture was not the right way to go. He does not believe that the United States of America should torture. And, I think as has been amply demonstrated, this administration, this president, have been able, quite effectively, to wage -- take the fight to al-Qaida, keep the pressure on al-Qaida, remove leaders of al-Qaida from the battlefield, and be very effective about it without having to resort to measures that we don't think are the right way to go.

"So we just disagree on that point."

Asked later if by torture, he meant the enhanced interrogation techniques of the previous administration, Carney replied, "yes."

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