Romney Economics: First in Debt, 47th in Jobs Creation

When Mitt Romney was governor, Massachusetts was number one. Number one in state debt: $18 billion dollars in debt, more debt per person than any other state in the country.

At the same time Massachusetts fell to 47th in job creation; one of the worst economic records in the country. First in debt, 47th in job creation. That’s Romney Economics. It didn’t work then. It won’t work now.

Watch and share today’s video.

Disability Employment App Challenge: Educating Employers and Job Seekers with Disabilities

Nearly 22 years after the Americans with Disabilities Act became law and 39 years after the passage of theRehabilitation Act, employment outcomes for people with disabilities still lag far behind their non-disabled peers. According to the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (April 2012), individuals with disabilities have an unemployment rate of 12.5%, compared to 7.6% for those without disabilities. And those numbers don’t even tell the whole story: currently 8 in 10 Americans with disabilities aren’t even part of the labor force.

But the continued expansion of accessible technology can play a critical role in enabling Americans with disabilities to gain access to the labor force and ultimately find jobs that match their interests and skills.  Technology can make jobs that were once impossible for an individual with a disability accessible, and it can be used to educate employers about the value people with disabilities can bring to the workplace.

That’s why the Labor Department’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) recently launched the Disability Employment App Challenge.

DOL is challenging entrepreneurs and developers to use the information ODEP already produces for the public to create apps that package those data for job seekers and employers. The goal of the challenge is to improve access to job training and transportation resources for those with disabilities. At the same time, the challenge aims to support employers with the recruitment, accommodation, and retention of workers while educating them on the value these individuals can bring to their businesses.

Take a look at the resources at Career One-Stop Centers, state Vocational Rehabilitation agencies or non-profit organizations. Is there a great way to combine these resources into an app that shows the impact an employer can make by more actively recruiting individuals with disabilities? How can your app make it easier for employers to recruit people with disabilities?

Apps can also focus on improving access to job training resources for individuals with disabilities. There are effective job training and skill-building resources provided by the Labor Department that help people prepare for their next job. Can your app make these resources easier to use for individuals with disabilities?  There also are barriers for getting to work; what if your app ranked job opportunities by ease of transportation?

Do you have an innovative app for the web, smart phones, tablets, feature phones or social networking platforms that addresses these issues? Are you inspired to build a new tool that will reduce the unemployment gap between people with disabilities and their non-disabled peers? Visit to enter the Department of Labor’s Employment App Challenge. You could win up to $5,000 for building the most innovative app and be prominently showcased at the upcoming FCC Developing with Accessibility event in Washington DC, September 6 – 7th, 2012.

White House Rural Council Celebrates Its One Year Anniversary

On Tuesday

President Barack Obama holds a town hall meeting at the Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa.. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Yesterday, President Obama talked to local residents and TV reporters from communities around the country with significant rural populations. These interviews come as the White House released a report noting progress that has been made in the agricultural economy and detailing the steps the Obama Administration has taken to help strengthen the farm economy and support jobs in rural America. The report was developed by the White House Rural Council, the Council of Economic Advisors, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In addition, the President announced new investments to help rural small businesses expand and hire.

One year ago today, President Obama established the White House Rural Council in order to better coordinate federal programs and maximize the impact of Federal investment to promote economic prosperity and improve the quality of life in rural communities. It truly is exciting that in just one year, more than a dozen new policy initiatives have been launched to assist rural America. One of those initiatives was a new commitment to invest in rural businesses through the Small Business Administration’s Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) program, at no cost to tax payers. Today the President announced that more than $400 million has already been invested this fiscal year in these businesses through the SBIC program, and that nearly $2 billion in additional funding will be invested by the end of fiscal year 2016.

While much work remains to be done, it is clear from today’s report that rural America is helping to lead the charge as our nation continues to fight its way back from the deepest economic crisis in generations. This past year, food and agriculture exports reached the highest level ever at $137.4 billion and the industry supported more than 1.15 million American jobs. America’s agricultural trade surplus also reached record levels, exceeding $42 billion.This is partly the result of a comprehensive rural strategy implemented to spur innovation, increase export levels, invest in clean energy, and expand opportunities for rural enterprises on and off the farm that create jobs.

In total, the Obama Administration has invested in more than 6,250 new rural community facilities projects and over 12,000 grants and loans that assisted over 50,000 rural small businesses. This assistance has been essential in supporting small towns and rural areas attract new business, spur growth, and create jobs.

The Council has implemented policies that hold true to the President’s all-of-the-above approach to harnessing every domestic energy source. In 2011, the U.S. became a net exporter of ethanol and researchers have linked the increasing supply of ethanol to a drop in gasoline prices of approximately $0.25 per gallon on average. These investments provide increasing opportunities for farmers, ranchers, and forest managers to contribute to U.S. energy security and greenhouse gas mitigation goals. But we can’t stop there. As part of his “To-Do List,” the President has called on Congress to pass the production tax credit, which will play an essential role in supporting American businesses and American jobs in communities across the county, while also investing in American innovation.

The exceptional accomplishments of The White House Rural Council over the past year show the Obama Administration’s commitment to improving the lives of rural Americans. But we have more to do; we look forward to continuing the critical work of bringing more investments and support to the vital, hardworking rural communities that truly are the cornerstone of America.

Unleashing Innovation and Deepening Democracy Through Prizes

Prizes have a long history of driving important breakthroughs: Napoleon’s 1800 Food Preservation Prize resulted in the invention of canning; the 1927 Orteig Prize helped inspire Charles Lindbergh to make the first nonstop flight from New York to Paris. More recently, the 2011 Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X Challenge spurred an Illinois company to create a cleanup method for oil slicks that is four times more effective than any previous one.

It is with that powerful history in mind that on Tuesday, in Washington, hundreds of leaders from the White House and Federal agencies joined their peers from some of the Nation’s most recognizable companies and organizations to develop strategies to use prizes and competitions as a key method to spark innovation and deepen citizen engagement.

You may ask: Are prizes still relevant? Absolutely. New social media tools have enabled smarter and more cost-effective approaches, and the public sector has begun to take advantage of prizes as a way of tackling some of the most perplexing challenges that affect us all – with promising results.

Experience shows that prizes are a catalyst for innovation. They reward and elevate excellence – and encourage it to spread. Through programs such as our America’s Giving Challenges, we at the Case Foundation have long supported prizes as a way to ignite community engagement, connect with hard-to-reach populations, spur innovation, and make philanthropy more democratic.

In the past few years, there has been unprecedented growth in the use of prizes, by large and small organizations alike. The list is lengthy – from challenges that encourage people to generate support for their own causes (like the Chase Community Giving Challenge), to competitions focused on specific topic areas (like the Knight Foundation’s News Challenges that aims to spark new approaches to journalism), to GE’sHealthymagination initiative, awarding $100 million for promising breast cancer research ideas.

The White House has been at the forefront of a similar appreciation of prizes and competitions in the public sector. Stemming from the Obama administration’s Open Government Initiative and the America COMPETES Act, which together strongly encourage and provide specific guidance on the use of competitions and challenges in the Federal Government, there has been significant momentum in the use of incentive prizes in the public sector in the past two years. In 2010, we partnered with the White House to host a forum that brought together decision makers from  several agencies  and trailblazers in the private sector to share lessons and develop strategies for the future. This helped lead to the launch of, a one-stop clearinghouse that agencies can use to mount their own challenges.

So what were the results? A retired engineer from Lima, Peru, for example, won a prize in an Air Force Research Laboratory competition for creating a low-cost, safe, and effective way to safely stop fleeing vehicles by using a small, remote-controlled platform that accelerates to 130 mph in 3 seconds and inflates a balloon under the escaping car. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Flu App Challenge competition resulted in “Flu-Ville!”, an app that brings flu data to more individuals by folding the information into a game. And the Department of Veterans Affairs’ first-ever prize competition focused on strategies to implement the “Blue Button,” which gives veterans easy access to their health care records wherever they are. This innovation is expected to reach one million people by the end of the summer.

To find new ideas and solutions for solving a range of challenges, our Nation must be willing to fearlessly experiment and embrace approaches like prizes that produce impact.  For the Case Foundation (and for other foundations like the Joyce Foundation, our partner for this year’s gathering), prizes and challenges are about democratizing problem-solving and engaging with citizens. For government entities like NASA and the CDC, it’s about finding solutions to long-standing problems. For citizens, it’s about stepping up and being part of the solution in an exciting way. Whatever the reason, this effective tool is here to stay.

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