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The White House

Gaggle with Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack aboard Air Force One, 4-22-09

Office of the Press Secrectary

April 22, 2009
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Washington, D.C.
4:36 P.M. EDT
MR. GIBBS: Okay, wake up, everybody. Shades down and everything back here -- that's good.
So I told you guys on the way out a little bit about what we were going to see and just about the notion that in Iowa people could -- people like then Governor Vilsack and now Secretary Vilsack had done a lot of good for both the country and the state in being able to look around the corner on whether it was biofuels or in harnessing wind energy, to help with energy independence, but also to create good jobs in manufacturing facilities. And I thought I would bring him back to let you guys ask questions or talk a little bit about it.
SECRETARY VILSACK: When Maytag announced that they were going to close their plant, we indicated the community would be happy to help them transition, and we wanted them to look at new and innovative manufacturing and new and innovative businesses.
At the time we were encouraging our utility companies to expand dramatically wind energy. We provided a series of incentives similar to what the President has done in the Reinvestment Act -- tax credits, grants and loans, programs of that nature.
The utility companies responded and what happened was that there was a tremendous increase in the amount of wind energy generated in Iowa, which led to companies being interested in locating their North American facilities for some foreign companies, and Midwestern facilities for some national manufacturers. So when I left the governor's office we actually had a net increase in manufacturing jobs, in large part because of what was being done in the biofuels and in the renewable energy area.
So when I saw the President's reinvestment proposal, it occurred to me that this was -- that Iowa basically is a prototype for what could happen. If you look at state revenues today, while states are struggling, and Iowa certainly is no exception, if you look at the revenues year to date, Iowa's revenues are slightly up, which is pretty amazing, and in large part because they have a low unemployment rate because they're in the right businesses for this time frame.
So what you saw is happening in other communities throughout the state -- in Fort Madison, in Cedar Rapids, a number of other communities. And now what will happen is that the community colleges are getting into the act. They're creating new programs for the folks who maintain windmills, which hasn’t happened before, and now you're going to begin to get component part manufacturers located in the Midwest.
There are 8,800 separate parts to a windmill; somebody has got to make all 8,800 parts. And they really -- it's much more efficient to have them made close to where they're going to be put up. And the High Plains is an area where there is tremendous opportunity. And the President today talked about the high seas -- that's going to spawn additional opportunities on the East and West Coasts.
So it's the right direction for the country, and it is a new 21st century American economy that the President is building. He's on the right track.
MR. GIBBS: Any questions? Any questions for me?
Q Anything on the IMF 1.3 number?
MR. GIBBS: In terms of international --
Q The global economic contracting 1.3 percent.
MR. GIBBS: I think the report said the first time in 60 years. You know, it gets -- we talked a lot about this obviously in the lead-up to the G20. It is why the President undertook the Recovery and Reinvestment Plan that the Governor talks about, to meet -- to try the meet the diplomatic that we were going to see in demand over the course of the next two years. And I know many countries around the world have taken similar steps.
One of the things that came out of G20 in London was that we were going to watch and monitor how the global economy was doing in the later meeting in the fall, which will be held in the United States, to determine if other international actions are needed. I do think the IMF -- the investment also out of the G20 and the IMF in helping countries that are largely dependent upon exports and are emerging markets so that those economies don't undergo even -- an even greater, more severe recession, providing the ability for them to get loans in order to import from, say, the United States and create jobs here is also tremendously important.
But, look, I -- it is another sobering statistic in the problem that we face globally.
Q Tomorrow's credit card -- meeting with credit card executives, what is the President's message going to be to them, I mean, obviously with the credit card reform on the Hill? What are we going to hear?
MR. GIBBS: Well, Congress is working on legislation to address this. And the President has long been a supporter of a fair, more honest, more transparent system so that if somebody gets a credit card, they don't find that their rates go up exponentially on a certain day based on fine print in a contract that no one is ever going to read, or that we find out that certain fees -- you know, interest is charged, an interest rate is charged on certain fees involved in a credit card.
So the amount of credit card debt has increased greatly in the past 10 years, and I think it's incumbent upon this Congress and the President to address some of the deceptive practices that we've seen --
Q What will he tell them tomorrow?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think he's going to outline and go through some principles of what he would like to see and that he believes Congress can get done in order to protect the American people.
Q -- a voluntary action from the credit card companies before Congress acts?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, whether it's foreign or domestic policy, there are always stakeholders that can take voluntary actions. But the Fed is working on finalizing some rules relating to credit cards, and the President wants to make sure that legislation codifies a lot of that, as well.
Q One more thing, Robert. Do you have anything to say about the departure of Ellen Moran?
MR. GIBBS: I addressed this earlier. I mean, look, obviously the team is incredibly grateful and thankful for the work that she's put in over the course of the first part of this administration. I don't know how many days we're up to now -- like, 92 or 93. It's felt like --
Q We're getting close to 100 days.
MR. GIBBS: Amazingly so. It's felt more like 100 or 293 because we've packed it all into a short period of time. And as I said earlier, she has the incredible opportunity to go be Secretary Locke's chief of staff, to work on a series of issues that are very important and interesting to her, continue to serve the public at such a high level. And as I said earlier, you probably get to see your kids and your family a little bit more often, which -- as I said, I saw my son last night when he got up at 11:30 p.m. looking for more milk. So that was the only time I saw him yesterday. And I think it -- she gets a chance to, like I said, continue public service and be able to see her family.
Q What do you make of the implication in some of the coverage that she didn't quite fit in with a lot of the people who have been with the President much longer?
MR. GIBBS: I tend not to focus on what's on blogs.
Q Some web sites, too.
MR. GIBBS: I guess I tend not to focus on blogs and web sites. You know, look, I mean, I think she's -- well, let's just say I don't believe everything I read on a computer, how about that?
Q On the cybersecurity review, when can we expect that to be released? Some people were saying last week it might be in days.
MR. GIBBS: I think they've completed the additional review. I think late last Friday night there was a statement on that. I'll check on what might be forthcoming.
Q How many people worked at Maytag before the plant closed back in 2007?
SECRETARY VILSACK: There were reductions over the course of time as they downsized, but I think, if memory serves me correctly, it was over 1,000. It was their corporate headquarters. It wasn't a single -- I mean, it was their corporate headquarters and had been for over 100 years.
And so it obviously was a blow to that community. But they are coming back. And I'm going to tell you right now, this is the right course for America. There's absolutely no question about it. The President is transitioning -- his vision is to transition from an economy that was based on pollution and waste to an economy that's based on clean energy and clean jobs. And there's no question that with the investments we're going to make over the next couple years, you're going to see a lot of the kind of businesses you saw today all over the country.
Q Governor, in addition to your shared dislike of beets, did you and the President discover any other vegetables or fruits that you don't like? (Laughter.)
SECRETARY VILSACK: As the Secretary of Agriculture, I love all vegetables and fruits. (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: Thanks, guys.
4:47 P.M. EDT