President Obama listens as he has lunch with five young people at The Coupe restaurant in the Columbia Heights section of Washington, Friday, Jan. 10. The five are spearheading creative outreach efforts to connect with and help enroll young consumers through the Marketplaces or are interested in getting more involved with these efforts. Seated at the table with Obama are, from left, Anne Johnson, Andres Cruz, Obama, Jasmine Hicks, Tommy McFly and David Dimock:
On This Day: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama walk towards the White House after observing a moment of silence for the victims of the Arizona shooting, on the South Lawn, Jan. 10, 2011 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
The President has no public events scheduled
12:45: Press Briefing by Jay Carney
USA Today: Obama to visit North Carolina next week
President Obama will prepare for his Jan. 28 State of the Union speech with a visit next week to North Carolina. Obama will travel to the Raleigh-Durham area on Wednesday for an event on the economy, the White House announced Thursday.
…. The new report from Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the U.S. economy added only 74,000 jobs in December, far below economists’ expectations. The unemployment rate dropped to 6.7% – its lowest point since October 2008 – but that appears largely to be the result of people dropping out of the workforce.
…. this is an initial estimate, which will be revised twice more, and may end up looking far less discouraging than it does right now. Indeed, the revisions from October and November showed an additional 38,000 U.S. jobs that had been previously unreported.
…. For congressional Republicans to undermine the economy on purpose by cutting off extended unemployment benefits makes it that much more difficult for the job market to return to where it needs to be.
All told, so far in calendar year 2013, the economy added 2.18 million jobs, while the private sector alone created 2.21 million jobs.
December’s job totals were clearly a bitter disappointment, but now that we have 12 months of job data, we can ask a different question: how did 2013 shape up?
In all, the U.S. economy added 2.186 million jobs last year, while the private sector created 2.213 million. Looking back over the last couple of decades, that means when it comes to the overall economy, 2013 was the best year for jobs in the United States since 2005 and the second best year since 1999.
That’s right: last year, the economy created more jobs than seven of the eight years Bush/Cheney was in office….
Brian Beutler: Most important political news this week: New report kills GOP’s radical agenda
Christie and the bridge is big. But Obamacare driving down healthcare inflation is even bigger. Here’s why.
The furthest-reaching political news of the week has nothing to do with who clogged the George Washington Bridge or what Robert Gates thinks of Barack Obama’s completely justifiable skepticism of David Petraeus and the war in Afghanistan.
It came in a seemingly boring actuarial report from a government agency most people probably have never of, showing that for the first time since the 1990s, total U.S. healthcare spending grew at a slower rate than the U.S. economy at the beginning of the current decade.
This sounds like the kind of thing only wonks and other nerds care about, which is probably why it didn’t become a #hashtag meme on Twitter or whatever, but the implications of the great healthcare spending slowdown are vast, and have thus reignited a long-simmering academic and ideological debate over whether, and to what extent, Obamacare deserves credit.
Something really interesting is happening on the health-care front: costs are rising much less rapidly than anyone expected. This is good news for the budget; it’s also good news for Obamacare. There was much skepticism about promises that health reform would “bend the curve”, reducing cost growth; well, the curve is bending, and it’s likely that the cost control measures that are part of Obamacare (and have been in effect for several years) are part of the reason.
One thing I haven’t seen mentioned much, however, is that another aspect of recent developments — the rapid rise in Medicaid enrollment, despite Republican efforts to block it — adds to the prospect of continuing good news on health costs.
Greg Sargent: Steve Beshear: Don’t fear the politics of Obamacare, Dems
The rollout of Obamacare in Kentucky may represent the most interesting experiment in the politics of health care in the country right now. Dem governor Steve Beshear is perhaps the most outspoken defender of the Affordable Care Act in the south. This, in a deep red state where the reform known as “Obamacare” is deeply unpopular; where the leading foe of the President’s agenda is on the ballot this year; and where the need for reform is urgent.
In an interview today, Beshear offered fellow Dems — red state and otherwise — some startling advice: Stand up for Obamacare because it’s the right thing to do. What’s more, Beshear insists, Republicans are wrong: the health law will be a political positive for Dems next fall.
“We’re doing the right thing,” Beshear told me. “That’s the most important point here. The people of America, and the people of Kentucky, deserve access to affordable health care. For the first time in the history of this country, we have a tool that allows us to accomplish this goal.”
The capital may be enduring a brief spell of record-low temperatures this week, but the federal deficit continues to melt away.
According to the latest figures from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the red ink for the first quarter of fiscal 2014, which began Oct. 1, dropped by almost 40% compared with the same period a year earlier.
The deficit has gone down so much that the federal government actually ran a surplus for December — a one-time occurrence that resulted from some special circumstances but still an indicator of the rapidly improving state of the government’s finances.
The New York Daily News isn’t often linked here …. but if you missed it, the editorial on Christie is a bit of a must-read: here
The Wire: The Four Key Questions Chris Christie Didn’t Answer at His Press Conference
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie held a lengthy press conference on Thursday aimed at answering questions about his administration’s involvement in the sudden decision to close traffics lanes in the town of Fort Lee last September. But a number of critical questions went unanswered.
Background: The closure of most of the on-ramp lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge between New Jersey and New York the week of September 9 meant a massive traffic back-ups in Fort Lee, slowing emergency vehicles (with dangerous effect) and delaying commuters. The town’s mayor, Mark Sokolich, wrote a letter on Thursday of that week, suggesting the closures were punitive.
At the time, two Christie appointees ran the Port Authority’s New Jersey arm, both of whom have resigned. One, David Wildstein, had his emails subpoenaed, revealing that Bridget Anne Kelly, deputy chief of staff to Christie, told him shortly before the traffic change that it was “time for traffic problems in Fort Lee.”
Christie’s press conference lasted about two hours, but there remain some outstanding questions….
…. I spent a couple of hours watching his bop-til-you-drop press conference this morning, and I came to the following conclusion.
What a fking poltroon.
…. The basic theme of the press conference was that Big Chicken was responsible for one thing and one thing only — of trusting people who preyed on his well-known innocence and his extensively documented and deeply held faith in his fellow human beings …. What a world it is when a man cannot trust the hacks whom he appoints to serve him. Jesus H. Christ in the HOV lane, Nixon threw Haldeman and Ehrlichman out the windows with more compassion and fellow feeling than Christie demonstrated yesterday.
…. the simple fact is that Big Chicken remains a bully, and now he stands exposed as a coward, as most bullies are, and an entirely self-centered cad. “You need to understand this,” he said. “I am resolved to do the job, but I am a very sad person today. A person I gave a high public office betrayed me. I might get angry later. But I am a sad person today.”
On Thursday morning, the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice held a hearing on HR 7, the “No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act.” That subcommittee, which is headed up by Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) and comprised of 12 other male lawmakers, is deciding whether to advance sweeping restrictions on abortion coverage that would make the procedure less affordable for women across the country.
Abortion opponents are relentless in their efforts to ensure that taxpayer dollars don’t end up financing abortion services. But HR 7 is actually deceptively titled. Under the guise of preventing federal money from covering abortion, it would actually have dramatic consequences for the insurance industry and the tax code as a whole, potentially creating a society in which private insurance no longer includes abortion care.