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RELEASE: The Power of the President–Recommendations to Advance Progressive Change

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Contact: Madeline Meth
Phone: 202.741.6277
Email: mmeth@americanprogress.org

By the Center for American Progress Staff and Senior Fellows, Compiled by Sarah Rosen Wartell | November 16, 2010

Washington, D.C.–Today the Center for American Progress released "The Power of the President–Reccomendations to Advance Progressive Change" in a press call with John D. Podesta, Sarah R. Wartell, and Neera Tanden. This report focuses on how concentrating on executive powers presents a real opportunity for the Obama administration to turn its focus away from a divided Congress and the unappetizing process of making legislative sausage. Instead, the administration can focus on the president’s ability to deliver results for the American people on the things that matter most to them:

  • Job creation and economic competitiveness
  • Educational excellence
  • A clean energy future and energy independence
  • Quality affordable health care
  • Consumer protection
  • The home foreclosure crisis
  • Accountable government delivering results at lower cost
  • Sustainable security for the nation

In addition, the key legislative accomplishments of President Obama’s first two years in office, most notably health care and financial reform, now need to be implemented effectively. Both the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act require hundreds of separate rule-makings and other agency actions to implement the legislative framework.

The public has made clear its disgust with Washington’s ways—the same sentiment that helped to bring President Obama to office. It would be a welcome relief from watching legislative maneuvering to see the work of a strong executive who is managing the business of the country through troubled times, doing more with less, each day working to create a stronger economy and a more effective government.

The Obama administration, of course, is already using the capacity of the presidency to drive change in the public and private sector. For example, it promoted the formation of Skills for America’s Future, a new public-private initiative in support of the president’s goal of 5 million more community college graduates and certificates by 2020. At the recent White House Community College Summit, convened by Dr. Jill Biden, industry, labor unions, community colleges, and other training providers made commitments to help put this initiative into action.

Similarly, President Obama’s recent trip to India provided an opportunity for him to win agreements that will bring significant economic benefits to U.S. firms and American workers. Trade transactions were announced or showcased, exceeding $14.9 billion in total value with $9.5 billion in U.S. export content, supporting an estimated 53,670 U.S. jobs in the production of aircraft, energy generation equipment, advanced machinery, and telecommunications services, among others.

There is much more the president can do. The list below of ideas from the Center for American Progress’s policy experts offers just some of the many possible actions the administration can take using existing authority to move the country forward.

Specifically, in the energy and environmental arena, the president can:

  • Reduce oil imports and make progress toward energy independence.
  • Progress toward reducing greenhouse gas pollution by 17 percent by 2020.
  • Conserve federal lands for future generations.
  • Manage public lands to support a balanced energy strategy.
  • Convene and engage hunters and anglers in the development of a fish and wildlife climate adaptation plan.
  • Generate solar energy on U.S. Air Force hangar roofs.

On the domestic economic policy front, President Obama can:

  • Direct an assessment, strategy, and new policy development to promote U.S. competitiveness.
  • Launch the new consumer financial protection bureau with an aggressive agenda to protect and empower consumers.
  • Increase the capacity of small businesses to expand hiring and purchases by accelerating the implementation of the Small Business Jobs Act.
  • Promote automatic mediation to avoid foreclosure where possible and speed resolution.
  • Create a web portal to empower housing counselors, reduce burdens on lenders, and speed up home mortgage modifications.
  • Help stabilize home values and communities by turning “shadow REO” housing inventory into “scattered site” rental housing.
  • Promote practices that support working families.

Elsewhere on the domestic policy front, the Obama administration can:

  • Partner with the private sector in health care payment reform.
  • Focus on health care prevention in implementing the Affordable Care Act.
  • Streamline and simplify access to federal antipoverty programs.
  • Replace costly, inhumane immigration detention policies with equally effective measures.
  • In the education policy arena, the president can:
  • Launch an “educational productivity” initiative to help school districts spend every dollar wisely to best prepare our children for the 21st century.
  • Ensure students can compare financial aid offers from different postsecondary institutions.
  • Improve the quality, standards, and productivity of postsecondary education.

In improving the performance of the federal government, the president can:

  • Scrutinize federal spending programs and tax expenditures to achieve greater returns on public investment.
  • Build the next-generation Recovery.gov web site to track all public expenditures and performance in real time.
  • Use new information technology for faster, more transparent freedom of information.
  • Create a virtual U.S. statistical agency.
  • Collect data on lesbian ,gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans in federal data surveys.

And in the foreign policy and national security arena, the president and his administration can:

  • Rebalance our Afghanistan strategy with greater emphasis on political and diplomatic progress.
  • Promote domestic revenue generation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  • Appoint a special envoy for the Horn of Africa and the southwest Arabian Peninsula region.
  • Appoint a special commission to assess contracting practices in national security and foreign affairs.
  • Use executive branch authority to mitigate the impact of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy if Congress does not repeal it.
  • Redouble support for Palestinian state- and institution-building efforts.
  • Pursue dual-track policy on Iran while sharpening focus on Iranian human rights issues.
  • Reinvigorate the U.S.-Turkey strategic alliance. Develop a comprehensive policy on the Russia-Georgia conflict.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the important policy objectives President Obama can pursue over the next two years, but it illustrates the range of important executive branch work beyond proposing and negotiating legislation.

To read the full report, click here.

Read the full report (pdf)

Download the executive summary (pdf)

Download the report to e-readers and mobile devices from Scribd

Statement from John Podesta

To listen to today’s press call, click here.

To read "A $400 Billion Opportunity: 10 Strategies to Cut the Fat Out of Federal Procurement," click here.

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To speak with our experts on this topic, please contact:

Print: Allison Preiss (economy, education, poverty)
202.478.6331 or apreiss@americanprogress.org

Print: Tom Caiazza (foreign policy, health care, energy and environment, LGBT issues, gun-violence prevention)
202.481.7141 or tcaiazza@americanprogress.org

Print: Chelsea Kiene (women's issues, Legal Progress, Half in Ten Education Fund)
202.478.5328 or ckiene@americanprogress.org

Spanish-language and ethnic media: Tanya Arditi
202.741.6258 or tarditi@americanprogress.org

TV: Rachel Rosen
202.483.2675 or rrosen@americanprogress.org

Radio: Chelsea Kiene
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