Screen grab of President Barack Obama’s Dec. 18 Press Conference from the White House. (WhiteHouse.gov)
President Barack Obama addressed a press conference Dec. 18, where he talked about a lot of issues, answering questions from members of the Press. Siliconeer presents excerpts from this press meet. (@siliconeer, #siliconeer, #BarackObama, #WhiteHouse)
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. Clearly, this is not the most important event that’s taking place in the White House today. There is a screening of Star Wars for Gold Star families and children coming up. So I’ll try to be relatively succinct. Let me say a few words about the year behind us and the year ahead, and then I’ll take a few questions.
As I look back on this year, one thing I see is that so much of our steady, persistent work over the years is paying off for the American people in big, tangible ways. Our early actions to rescue the economy set the stage for the longest streak of private sector job growth on record, with 13.7 million new jobs in that time. The unemployment rate has been cut in half—down to 5 percent. And most importantly, wages grew faster than at any time since the recovery began. So, over the course of this year, a lot of the decisions that we made early on have paid off.
Years of steady implementation of the Affordable Care Act helped to drive the rate of the uninsured in America below 10 percent for the first time since records were kept on that. Health care prices have grown at their lowest levels in five decades; 17 million more Americans have gained coverage, and we now know that six million people have signed up through HealthCare.gov for coverage beginning on January 1st — 600,000 on Tuesday alone. New customers are up one-third over last year. And the more who sign up, the stronger the system becomes. And that’s good news for every American who no longer has to worry about being just one illness or accident away from financial hardship.
On climate, our early investment in clean energy ignited a clean energy industry boom. Our actions to help reduce our carbon emissions brought China to the table. And last week, in Paris, nearly 200 nations forged an historic agreement that was only possible because of American leadership.
Around the world—from reaching the deal to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, to reestablishing diplomatic relations with Cuba, to concluding a landmark trade agreement that will make sure that American workers and American businesses are operating on a level playing field and that we, rather than China or other countries, are setting the rules for global trade—we have shown what is possible when America leads.
And, after decades of dedicated advocacy, marriage equality became a reality in all 50 states.
So, I just want to point out—I said at the beginning of this year that interesting stuff happens in the fourth quarter—and we are only halfway through.
I do want to thank Congress for ending the year on a high note. I got to sign an education bill that is going to fix some of the challenges that we had with No Child Left Behind, and promises to invest more in high-quality early childhood education. We signed a transportation bill that, although not as robust as I think we need, still allows states and local governments to plan and actually get moving, putting people back to work rebuilding our roads and our bridges. We got Ex-Im Bank back to work supporting American exports.
And today they passed a bipartisan budget deal. I’m not wild about everything in it—I’m sure that’s true for everybody—but it is a budget that, as I insisted, invests in our military and our middle class, without ideological provisions that would have weakened Wall Street reform or rules on big polluters.
It’s part of an agreement that will permanently extend tax credits to 24 million working families. It includes some long-sought wins like strengthening America’s leadership at the IMF. And because it eliminates the possibility of a shutdown for the first time—or for the first nine months of next year, Congress and I have a long runway to get some important things done on behalf of the American people.
Now, there’s still a lot of work to do. For example, there’s still a lot more that Congress can do to promote job growth and increase wages in this country. I still want to work with Congress—both Democrats and Republicans—to reform our criminal justice system. And earlier today I commuted the sentences of 95 men and women who had served their debt to society, another step forward in upholding our fundamental ideals of justice and fairness.
And, of course, our most important job is to keep Americans safe. I’ve had a lot to say about that this week, but let me reiterate, the United States continues to lead a global coalition in our mission to destroy ISIL. ISIL has already lost about 40 percent of the populated areas it once controlled in Iraq, and it’s losing territory in Syria. As we keep up the pressure, our air campaign will continue to hit ISIL harder than ever—taking out their leaders, their commanders and their forces. We’re stepping up our support for partners on the ground as they push ISIL back. Our men and women in uniform are carrying out their mission with trademark professionalism and courage. And this holiday season, all of us are united in our gratitude for their service, and we are thankful to their families, as well, because they serve alongside those who are actually deployed.
Squeezing ISIL’s heart—its core in Syria and Iraq—will make it harder for them to pump their terror and propaganda to the rest of the world. At the same time, as we know from San Bernardino, where I’ll visit with families later today, we have to remain vigilant here at home. Our counterterrorism, intelligence, homeland security, and law enforcement communities are working 24/7 to protect our homeland. And all of us can do our part by staying vigilant, by saying something if we see something that is suspicious, by refusing to be terrorized, and by staying united as one American family.
In short, for all the very real progress America has made over the past seven years, we still have some unfinished business. And I plan on doing everything I can with every minute of every day that I have left as President to deliver on behalf of the American people. Since taking this office, I’ve never been more optimistic about a year ahead than I am right now. And in 2016, I’m going to leave it out all on the field.
President Obama then took questions from the members of the Press.