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A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have! - Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Michelle Obama Hosts Roundtable Discussions with Working Women

Michelle Obama visited with Michigan women Wednesday morning to hear about the challenges they face in juggling work and family commitments and keeping up with soaring costs—and to discuss how Senator Obama’s economic policies will provide real relief for women and families. Michelle has been hosting women’s roundtables over the course of the campaign, helping to communicate Senator Obama’s vision and share her perspective on his background and approach to making America more prosperous for everyone.

Michelle will meet with working women in Kansas City, Missouri on Thursday.

“As President, Barack will change our politics and change our policies—so that instead of just talking about family values, we actually have policies that make it easier for working parents to care for their loved ones and support their families; policies to ensure that working women no longer have to choose between their kids and their careers,” Michelle Obama said.

At the roundtable in Pontiac, Michelle was joined by Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm and four local women.

Taniesha Clanagan
Taniesha is a 29 year old woman making $31,000 a year. She has health insurance but still struggles with the burden of additional medical costs, like lab fees. She has decided not have children because she can’t afford to raise them the way she’d like to.

Under Obama’s plan, Taniesha would benefit from a $500 tax credit. She would have access to affordable, high-quality and portable health insurance that would reduce her costs. Obama’s plan would reduce health care costs $2,500 for the typical family.

Leann Olmstead
Leann is a 57 year old widow who suffers from fibromyalgia. She lost her job because of her illness and now works from home, earning between $600-$800 a month. She has no health insurance and large medical bills that she cannot afford. She rents a trailer, and she helps her daughter with her child care needs and costs when she can. Her daughter works multiple jobs and has troubles making ends meet.

Under Obama’s plan, Leann would have access to affordable, high-quality and portable health insurance – even with a pre-existing condition. She would receive up to $500 in the “Making Work Pay” tax credit.

Eloise Williams
Eloise is a teacher who has two children in college and is raising her ten-year-old grandson, Jonathan. Her son has just moved back home to save money as he pays off his student loans and applies for law school. She makes about $56,000 a year, owns her house and spends the bulk of her money on utilities and gas. Eloise has health insurance through the school and pays extra to cover both children and her grandson. She relies on help from her sister and Jonathan’s other grandmother for child care.

Under Obama’s plan, Eloise will create a $4,000 American Opportunity Tax Credit for middle class families and eliminate the confusing and bureaucratic financial aid application process. Eloise would get a $500 Making Work Pay tax credit every year and would also get up to a $500 federal match on her retirement savings, depending on her level of savings. And Obama recognizes the strain working families face so he will provide 1 million more children access to afterschool programs. Obama has long term plans to reduce gas prices and has called on the President to provide immediate relief to families like the Eloise’s by enacting a 2nd round of economic stimulus checks.

Nicole Blocker
Nicole is a single mother of two sons, 13 years old and three years old; she makes $40,000-60,000 a year in sales. Nicole has no health insurance but both boys are insured through the state’s program, MiChild. One of her major concerns is her lack of health insurance because costs wipes out her budget from the month. She spends $5,000 - $7,000 a year on health costs for herself. She owns her home. Her younger son is in day care five days a week all day, which takes about $900 a month of her budget. Her biggest challenge is balancing work, family responsibility and time with her sons.

Under Obama’s plan, Nicole will have access to affordable health insurance coverage that is portable (not tied to an employer) and high-quality. His plan will reduce health care costs for the typical family by up to $2,500. Obama will also double federal funding for afterschool programs to benefit 1 million more children – because he understands that both parents need help in the afterschool hours and children also can benefit from additional learning time. Obama understands that working families are struggling, that’s why he’ll reform the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit so more families are able to benefit from this tax credit for credit care expenses. Sen. Obama’s work/family balance initiatives would help her including paid leave, expansion of FMLA, and flexible work schedules.

Remarks of Michelle Obama
Women’s Economic Roundtable
Pontiac, Michigan

Wednesday July 9, 2008

As Prepared for Delivery

IIt’s so good to be here in Michigan – where too often the strength of our economy is forecasted by the strength of this state’s working families. And, I’m so happy to be here with all of you in Pontiac to have a conversation about the issues that I know are on so many of your minds – and on my mind – every day.

Like all of you, and like women I’ve met all across this country, I play so many different roles – I’m a wife, I’m a working woman, I’m a daughter and a sister and a best friend.

But most importantly, I’m a mom. My girls are the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning and the last thing I think about when I go to bed at night. No matter where I am – at work, on the campaign trail, you name it – they’re always on my mind.

So for me, policies that support working women and working families aren’t just political issues, they’re personal. They’re the causes I carry in my heart every single day.

I’m always amazed at how different things are for working families today than when I was growing up. Back when I was kid, my father, a blue collar city worker, could earn enough from his job to support our whole family while my mother stayed home to take care of me and my brother.

But today, one income – especially a shift worker’s income like my dad’s – just doesn’t cut it anymore. In most families, both parents have to work. And it’s even harder for single parents. Often times these parents work more than one job to make ends meet.

And that doesn’t include the jobs that have to get done after folks get home from work: The jobs that, let’s be honest now, still mostly fall to women: making dinner, doing homework, paying bills, packing lunches, doing laundry, handing out discipline…and when the bills keep piling up, and that list of chores seems endless, many of us find ourselves with yet another job: worrying late into the night.

Like many of you, I wish I had a machine that could stretch the hours of the day just a little longer; that could give me just a few more hours of sleep at night; or that could let me be in two places at one time – at least.

But Barack and I also know that, as working parents, we’re lucky. We’ve got the resources and support we need to hold our family together. I’m particularly lucky, because I’ve got the greatest resource anyone could have – my mother – who lives nearby and helps watch my daughters during this campaign.

We know that so many working moms and dads we meet aren’t so fortunate. As I’ve traveled this country over the past year and a half, I’ve heard stories every day on the campaign trail of families trying to hold it together with insufficient support:

I’ve heard from mothers struggling to make ends meet because their salaries aren’t keeping up with the cost of groceries. But if they take a second job, they can’t afford the additional cost of childcare. Or the moms who are nervous about taking time from their jobs to care for a sick child. Or the moms-to-be who are scared of getting fired if the boss finds out they’re pregnant.

Then there are women who work hard every day doing the same jobs as men, but earning less. And the military families, who struggle to make ends meet with one paycheck where there used to be two. They welcome their loved ones home with full hearts but little support from their government for their service.

These struggles – the struggles of working women and families across America – aren’t new to me or to any of us. And they’re certainly not new to Barack.

Barack was raised by two strong, working women – his mother and his grandmother.

Growing up, he saw his mother – a young single mom – put herself through school while raising him and his sister. She was determined to show them that in America, there are no barriers to success if you’re willing to work for it. But he also saw her struggle to make ends meet, at times relying on food stamps to get them through the month.

He saw his grandmother – the primary breadwinner for his family – work her way up at a bank. But he also saw how, once she got to a certain level, she hit a glass ceiling despite her hard work and abilities.

And he sees me, his wife, trying to juggle jobs and raising kids…often feeling like when I’m with the kids, I’m shortchanging work. And when I’m at work or on the campaign trail, I’m shortchanging the kids. This type of guilt is something that I know many of you understand. And Barack understands it too.

Barack knows because the women he loves most in the world have gone through it.

That’s why Barack carries our stories – and the stories of women he’s met all across America – with him every day.

That’s why, after college, he moved to Chicago to work with a group of churches on the South Side, helping families who’d been devastated when the local steel plants shut down and the jobs dried up. He spent years working to give these families the tools they needed to make a better life for their kids.

That’s why he worked in the Illinois Senate to pass a welfare reform law that moved people from welfare to work so that generations of kids could have a better life.

That’s why he fought for equal pay for equal work in the Illinois State Senate and helped pass a law that gave more than 300,000 women protection from paycheck discrimination.

It’s why he’s been fighting so hard in the U.S. Senate to pass legislation to help women hold their employers accountable when they’re paid unfairly.

And that’s why, as President, Barack is determined to change Washington so that instead of just talking about family values, we actually have policies that make it easier for working parents to support … to care for … and to raise their families; policies to ensure that working women no longer have to choose between their kids and their careers.

Right now, thousands of women don’t have family leave at their jobs. And those who do, can’t afford to take it because it’s not paid.

22 million working women don't have a single paid sick day.

That’s just unacceptable….families shouldn’t be punished because someone gets sick or has a family emergency.

That’s why, as President, Barack will expand the Family and Medical Leave Act, so that millions of additional Americans will be able to take time off to care for a baby , or an elderly parent – or just to have a few hours to attend a school play or a parent-teacher conference or take a child to the doctor. And Barack will require employers to provide all their workers with at least seven paid sick days a year.

Barack is also committed to ensuring that women are paid fairly for their hard work. Today, although a majority of working women are the primary breadwinners for their families, women still earn just 77 cents for every dollar men earn.

And a recent Supreme Court decision only makes it harder for women to hold employers accountable for paying them less than their male co-workers. That’s why Barack was proud to co-sponsor legislation in the Senate to overturn that decision, and as President, he’ll keep on working until we close that gap once and for all.

You know, when Barack first started talking seriously about running for President, my initial reaction was something like, “Absolutely not! Please don’t do this!”

You see, I thought politics was a mean, rough business. And the last thing in the world I wanted was to turn my girls’ lives upside down. I couldn’t bear the thought of them being in the public eye, watching their dad be criticized on national TV, having him be away for weeks on end. I wanted the best life possible for them, and a presidential campaign was not in any way part of that equation.

But then I took a step back, and I thought about the world I want my girls to grow up in: a world where they’ll be paid fairly for their work. Where they won’t have to choose between their kids and their careers. Where they can dream without limits and achieve without a glass ceiling ever standing in their way.

And then I realized that if that’s the world I want for my girls, then I had to do my part to ensure that someone like Barack would be president.

That’s why I’m here today. Because I believe that helping Barack become President is the best investment I could ever make in my daughters’ future – and in all our children’s future.

Because I want my daughters – and all our sons and daughters – to have opportunities that we and our mothers and grandmothers could only dream of.

Now I’d like the chance to hear from all of you – to learn more about what’s going on in your lives and your families. The discussion we are having here today is just the beginning.

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