Posts Tagged ‘budget

17
Jul
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama hikes along the coastline in Acadia National Park, Maine, July 17, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

 11:20: President Obama departs the White House

12:15: Arrives Delaware

2:10: Delivers remarks on Infrastructure, Port of Wilmington, Wilmington

3:15: Departs Delaware

4:0: Arrives New York City

5:45: Attends a DNC fundraiser, private residence, New York City

7:30: Attends a fundraiser for House Democrats, private residence, New York City

9:15: Departs New York

10:30: Arrives White House

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Jelani Cobb: Talking Openly About Obama And Race

In September, 2009, just eight months into Barack Obama’s first term, when it was still possible for unsentimental observers to perceive the Tea Party’s riotous fulminations as a passing blip, Jimmy Carter remarked that opposition to the President’s agenda was driven, largely, by one thing: race. “I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he’s African-American,” Carter said. One hears it in the questioning of Obama’s American birth and legitimacy—the idea that he couldn’t really be President without trickery, that he has stolen something—and his presence in rooms where someone like him shouldn’t be.

Carter’s words are, if not conventional wisdom, then certainly one of those truths that most of us know but few are willing to admit. That reticence, along with a large dose of cynicism, explains the reaction to Eric Holder’s statement, in an interview with ABC News, that the opposition to the Administration (“You know, people talking about taking their country back”) is partly driven by racism. Holder’s assessment that “I don’t think this is the thing that is a main driver, but for some there’s a racial animus” is, on the whole, more tempered than Carter’s words, and far less incendiary than Charlie Rangel’s dismissal of the Tea Party, in 2013, as “the same crackers who fought against civil rights.”

More here

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Thank you Nath, for this perfect summation of America’s history

You know what, Kathleen, President Carter was spot on! For some of us with a little knowledge of history, the reaction to the election of President Obama was reminiscent of the reaction to the election of Black people to local, state and national offices, during the Reconstruction period after the Civil War. Whites made sure that Reconstruction State governments, with substantial Black participation, failed. Black elected officials were routinely accused of ignorance and corruption. Even though those accusations were false. Eventually whites resorted to violence to finally force Blacks from political office. But they were able to accomplish that with the complicity of the media, the Congress and the two political parties. Beginning with the 1877 “Hayes Compromise” the Republican party–the party of Abraham Lincoln– began abandoning Black people. By the beginning of the 20th Century Black folks, especially in the South, had no where to go politically. Lilly white Republicans shunned them and Dixiecrat Democrats were hostile against them. The migration of Blacks from the South to Northern cities during the World War I era began to change the racial demographics of many of those cities. Blacks in Northern cities slowly gained political clout. In 1928, South side Chicago elected the firs black to Congress from the North. In the 1950s Chicago would be joined by other Northern cities like Detroit and New York in electing Blacks to the House of Representatives. Still, two or three members of House of Representatives were never considered a threat to white supremacy.

The situation changed dramatically when Blacks were able to form coalitions to elect mayors to some of the biggest cities in America. White supremacist reaction to the election of Black Mayors in major cities during the late 1960s to 1980s was comparable to white supremacist reaction during Reconstruction, and white supremacist reaction following the election of President Obama. White supremacists on city councils made absolutely sure to obstruct everything the Black Mayors proposed to do. In some cities, major businesses relocated to suburbs or other states so as to deprive cities ruled by Black mayors of tax revenues. The goal: to make cities ruled by black mayors so dysfunctional, and thus to consequently discredit the wisdom of electing Black mayors. This is exactly the playbook the GOP in Congress decided to follow from day one of President Obama’s presidency. Thankfully, in his first two years, the GOP playbook was thwarted by Democrats who controlled both houses of Congress. Then came the 2010 and Republicans gained a majority in the House of Representatives, and enough votes to use the filibuster to paralyze the U.S. Senate.

Basically, the GOP’s goal is the same as the white supremacists’ goal, advocated by Rush Limbaugh: Make sure that President Obama fails! GOP and Rush could care less if President Obama’s failure translates into a failure that affects the vast majority of Americans. Other than their idiotic followers who stand to suffer if President Obama’s policies are defeated, people like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Rupert Murdoch and Fox, GOP members of Congress, and the billionaire Koch brothers, wouldn’t experience that much suffering and hardship. They are, however, certain that if President Obama fails, America will never again make a mistake of electing another Black person President.

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Emily Hauser: Incompetence Or Indifference?

As a peace advocate, I am forever confronted by Israeli and/or American Jews (and the occasional gentile) who take one look at any exchange of fire between Israel and Palestinian militants and say: “Yes, sure, all civilian deaths are terrible — but for Israelis, they’re unintentional. The Palestinians actually target civilians.” And as one of those civilians who used to be targeted on the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, I have no problem saying that intentionally targeting civilians is wrong — is, in fact, a war crime…. But I weary of the desperate clinging to the word “unintentional” on my side of this decades-long war.

From the end of September 2000 through the end of September 2012, Israel was responsible for the deaths of 3,034 Palestinian noncombatants, of whom well more than a third were minors: 1,338. And that’s not counting the noncombatants and children (including several toddlers and at least one pregnant woman) killed in the last week alone. But when I look at those numbers, when I see the pictures of tiny, broken bodies pulled from utter destruction, when I see the wailing of fathers and mothers, their dead children wrapped in white shrouds, never to feel their parents’ arms around them again—I no longer care. Incompetence or indifference, neither can be an excuse anymore. And in the meantime, more children die.

More here

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Michael Grunwald: Lower Health Care Costs Brighten America’s Debt Outlook

Fiscal doom will be delayed thanks to lower health care inflation in recent years. But will Congress take notice? For years, America’s health care costs grew at an unsustainable rate. That was the main reason America’s long-term fiscal position looked unsustainable as well; Medicare, Medicaid, and other health programs were spiraling out of control. But our health care cost inflation is no longer unsustainable. That’s huge news, because it means our long-term deficits should be manageable, too.

Republicans have spent the last five-and-a-half years griping about the budget deficit, and most of their gripes have been absurd. They were wrong to accuse President Obama of creating a record trillion-dollar deficit, which he actually inherited from President Bush. They were wrong to criticize Obama for increasing the deficit with his 2009 stimulus bill, which was an amazingly effective Keynesian response to an economic crisis; the budget-balancing austerity approach the GOP was advocating led to much slower recoveries and double-dip recessions in Europe. And they were wrong to accuse Obama of turning the U.S. into Greece; the deficit has shrunk by more than half during his presidency, dropping from 10 percent of GDP to less than 4 percent as the recovery has progressed.

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Edwin Lyngar: I was Poor, but A GOP Die-Hard: How I Finally Left The Politics Of Shame

I hated government – even as it was the only thing trying to save me. Here’s how, one day, I finally saw the light I was a 20-year-old college dropout with no more than $100 in the bank the day my son was born in 1994. I’d been in the Coast Guard just over six months. Joining the service was my solution to a lot of problems, not the least of which was being married to a pregnant, 19-year-old fellow dropout. We were poor, and my overwhelming response to poverty was a profound shame that drove me into the arms of the people least willing to help — conservatives. Looking around, I saw no other young servicemen. Coming from the white working class, I’d always been taught that food stamps were for the “others” — failures, drug addicts or immigrants, maybe — not for real Americans like me.

I felt my own poverty was a moral failure. To make up for my own failures, I voted to give rich people tax cuts, because somewhere deep inside, I knew they were better than me. They earned it. My support for conservative politics was atonement for the original sin of being white trash. I finally “got it.” In 2012, I shunned my self-destructive voting habits and supported Obama. The people who most support the Republicans and the Tea Party carry a secret burden. Many know that they are one medical emergency or broken down car away from ruin, and they blame the government. They vote against their own interests, often hurting themselves in concrete ways, in a vain attempt to deal with their own, misguided shame about being poor. They believe “freedom” is the answer, even though they live a form of wage indenture in a rigged system. I wish I could take the poorest, struggling conservatives and shake them. I would scream that their circumstances or failures or joblessness are not all their fault. They should wise up and vote themselves a break. Rich people vote their self-interest in every single election. Why don’t poor people?

More here

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Variety: Michelle Obama Calls For Focus On The Arts In Grammy Museum Speech

First Lady Michelle Obama appeared in Los Angeles before a crowd of music professionals, educators and students on Wednesday, as she called for greater recognition of the value of arts education. “We cannot be satisfied until every child in America has some exposure to the arts,” Obama said. Obama’s address was part of the Grammy Museum’s Jane Ortner Education Award Luncheon, named in honor of the late public school teacher Jane Ortner, who promoted music education.Obama said that some 6 million school children have no music or arts classes in their schools, a problem exacerbated by cuts in public education.

She said that for many young people, “the arts are a way to channel that pain and frustration into something meaningful and productive and beautiful.” “For many young people and arts education is the only reason they get out of bed in the morning,” she said, her voice often passionate as she delivered her remarks. She also called on arts organizations across the country to adopt programs that include activities for students, as the Grammy Museum does. The museum participates in an educational component of the White House’s concert series, which airs on PBS as “In Performance at the White House.”

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Mark Thompson: Lawyer: Bergdahl ‘Deeply Grateful’ To Obama

No one’s heard anything yet from Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the former prisoner-of-war freed in a May 31 swap for five Taliban leaders after nearly five years as a Taliban prisoner. He hasn’t spoken to the press—by all accounts, he hasn’t even spoken to his parents. But, in typical American fashion, he has retained—and spoken to—an attorney. “Sergeant Bergdahl is deeply grateful to President Obama for having saved his life,” Eugene Fidell, retained a week ago by the soldier, told TIME on Wednesday.

Fidell has traveled to Texas—where Bergdahl has returned to active duty at a desk job in San Antonio following his “re-integration” back into the service—to discuss with his client the investigation into the circumstances leading up to Bergdahl’s abduction in 2009. The attorney declined to offer any insights into Bergdahl’s mood, legal defense, or relationship with his family. Bergdahl also has an Army lawyer.

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Anne Barnard: Boys Drawn to Gaza Beach, And Into Center Of Mideast Strife

The four Bakr boys were young cousins, the children of Gaza fishermen who had ordered them to stay indoors — and especially away from the beach. But cooped up for nine days during Israeli bombardments, the children defied their parents and went out Wednesday afternoon, the eldest shooing away his little brother, telling him it was too dangerous. As they played on and around a jetty in the late-afternoon sun, a blast hit a nearby shack. One boy was killed instantly. The others ran. There was a second blast, and three more bodies littered the sand. One was charred, missing a leg, and another lay motionless, his curly head intact, his legs splayed at unnatural angles.

The Israeli military acknowledged later that it had launched the strike, which it said was aimed at Hamas militants, and called the civilian deaths “a tragic outcome.” The four dead boys came quickly to symbolize how the Israeli aerial assaults in Gaza are inevitably killing innocents in this crowded, impoverished sliver of land along the Mediterranean Sea. They stood out because they were inarguably blameless, children who simply wanted to play on their favorite beach, near the fishing port where their large extended family keeps its boats.

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L.A. Times: Federal Judge Rules California Death Penalty Is Unconstitutional

A federal judge in Orange County ruled Wednesday that California’s death penalty violates the U.S. Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney, ruled on a petition by death row inmate Ernest Dewayne Jones, who was sentenced to die nearly two decades ago. Carney said the state’s death penalty has created long delays and uncertainty for inmates, most of whom will never be executed. He noted that more than 900 people have been sentenced to death in California since 1978 but only 13 have been executed. “For the rest, the dysfunctional administration of California’s death penalty system has resulted, and will continue to result, in an inordinate and unpredictable period of delay preceding their actual execution,” Carney wrote.

Carney’s ruling can be appealed to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Carney, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, said the delays have created a “system in which arbitrary factors, rather than legitimate ones like the nature of the crime or the date of the death sentence, determine whether an individual will actually be executed,” Carney said. A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge in 1995 sentenced Jones to death for the 1992 rape and killing of Julia Miller, his girlfriend’s mother. Jones killed Miller 10 months after being paroled for a previous rape.

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Reuters: U.S. Retail Sales, Manufacturing Data Point At Firming Economy

A gauge of U.S. consumer spending rose solidly in June, in the latest indication that the economy ended the second quarter on a stronger footing. That momentum appeared to have carried into the third quarter, with another report on Tuesday showing factory activity in New York state expanded sharply in July. “This is not a fragile economy,” said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ in New York. “The consumer continues to play their part in moving the economy forward.”

Core sales, which strip out automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, increased 0.6 percent last month after rising an upwardly revised 0.2 percent in May, the Commerce Department said. Core sales, which correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product, were previously reported as being flat in May. Economists had expected them to rise 0.5 percent in June. The report added to signs of the economy’s strengthening fundamentals, which could buoy optimism the recovery is on a self-sustaining path, after output contracted sharply in the first quarter.

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First Lady Michelle Obama hugs six-time Grammy nominee singer Janelle Monae as they attend the Grammy Museum’s Jane Ortner Education Award luncheon honoring Monae and Southern California-based educator Sunshine Cavalluzzi July 16, 2014 in Los Angeles

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On This Day

President Barack Obama attends a bipartisan meeting of freshman House members in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on July 17, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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On a weekend trip to Acadia National Park in Maine, the President showed his daughters, Malia and Sasha, how to skip stones during a hike in the park.” July 17, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama greets tourists and hikers in Acadia National Park, Maine, July 17, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and their daughters Sasha and Malia watch the World Cup soccer game between the U.S. and Japan, from the Treaty Room office in the residence of the White House, Sunday, July 17, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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24
Jun
14

President Obama’s Policies = Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!

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Paul Davidson: Local Government Hiring Picks Up

After laying off workers through most of the recovery, city and county governments are adding jobs at the fastest pace in five years, providing support for the economy’s overall payroll gains. Stronger economic growth is driving higher municipal revenue, allowing local governments to add police officers and firefighters, reopen shuttered parks and make long-deferred street repairs. “We’re beginning to see cities and towns coming out of the Great Recession,” says Neil Bomberg, a program director for the National League of Cities. Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, notes that total U.S. payroll gains have topped 200,000 each of the past four months.

Local governments are on more solid financial footing in part because of a gradual rise in home values that have boosted property tax collections, says Michael Pagano, dean of the college of urban planning and public affairs at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Earlier this year, Columbus, Ohio, passed an $807 million operating budget, its largest ever, that restores six recreation centers that had been open part-time to full-time status. The city’s finances have been stable since it raised its income tax to 2.5% from 2% in 2009, says Dan Williamson, spokesman for Mayor Michael Coleman.

More here

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23
May
14

The President’s Day

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President Barack Obama shares a laugh with a patron as they get breakfast at Valois Cafeteria in Chicago

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USA Today: Obama Breakfasts At Old Chicago Favorite

It was an old home kind of Friday for President Obama. The president — and former Chicago resident — had breakfast at a favored old stomping ground, Valois Restaurant in Hyde Park. Obama, who dined with Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, ordered two eggs over medium with bacon and hash browns, and then plopped down a pair of $20 bills. “I don’t take free food,” Obama said.

It was a familiar place for Obama. A glass cabinet featured Valois coffee mugs adorned with Obama’s face, while assorted Obama clippings and photos hung on a wall. A separate menu board featured “President Obama’s favorites,” including “N.Y. steak and eggs”; two eggs with bacon or sausage; two pancakes; steak omelet; Mediterranean omelet; and an “all-vegi” egg white omelet.

More here

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President Barack Obama waves while boarding Air Force One before leaving O’Hare International Airport in Chicago

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President Barack Obama salutes as he steps from Air Force One in Andrews Air Force Base

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President Barack Obama is escorted to Marine One helicopter from the steps of Air Force One

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President Barack Obama waves as he walks across the South Lawn of the White House following his arrival on Marine One

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President Barack Obama carries his jacket over his shoulder and whistles as he walks towards the Oval Office

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President Barack Obama signs H.R. 685 in the Oval Office. H.R. 685 is the American Fighter Aces Congressional Gold Medal Act with the presentation of a single congressional gold medal in recognition of the Aces military service. From back left are Rep. Denny Heck, D-Wash., Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Va., Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Fred Dungan, American Fighter Ace, of San Clemente, Calif., Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, and Clayton Gross, of Portland, Ore., American Fighter Ace.

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White House: Statement by the Press Secretary on H.R. 685 and H.R. 1209

On Friday, May 23, 2014, the President signed into law: H.R. 685, the “American Fighter Aces Congressional Gold Medal Act,” which provides for the award of a single congressional gold medal to the American Fighter Aces, collectively, in recognition of their heroic military service and defense of the Nation’s freedom throughout the history of aviation warfare; and

H.R. 1209, which provides for the award of a single congressional gold medal to the World War II members of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, for outstanding heroism, valor, skill, and service to the United States in conducting the bombings of Tokyo.

More here

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President Barack Obama, along with Vice President Joe Biden, announces the nomination of San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to replace current Secretary Shaun Donovan who was nominated to lead the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)

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White House: President Obama Nominates Julián Castro As Next HUD Secretary And Shaun Donovan As OMB Director

Today, in the White House State Dining Room, President Obama nominated San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro as the next Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and current HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan to serve as the Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Mayor Castro will be an invaluable member of the Obama Administration. In five short years, Mayor Castro has made significant progress in San Antonio and put the city and its citizens on a new trajectory. He has been a leader among mayors in implementing housing and economic development programs that have tremendously benefitted the people of San Antonio. He has also built good relationships with other mayors and key partners in the Administration’s Promise Zones initiative, which spotlights San Antonio as a shining example of a city that has been revitalized over the past few years due in large part to Mayor Castro’s leadership.

President Obama also believes that Secretary Donovan will make an excellent choice as the new Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. Donovan has committed his life to public service, focused on good government and smart investment. Under Donovan’s leadership, HUD helped stabilize the housing market and worked to keep responsible families in their homes. In the wake of the foreclosure crisis, Donovan reaffirmed HUD’s commitment to building strong, sustainable, inclusive neighborhoods that are connected to education and jobs and provide access to opportunity for all Americans. While at HUD, Donovan made critical investments to speed economic growth, while also offering new savings proposals and ensuring fiscal responsibility. Donovan also chaired the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, which developed a comprehensive regional plan, based on local vision for redevelopment, to guide long-term disaster recovery efforts. Donovan has a track record of using data to make good decisions and drive results. In the role, he has become a trusted advisor to the President and partner to other members of the Cabinet.

More here

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15
May
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder attend the 32nd Annual National Peace Officers Memorial Service at the West Front Lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC on May 15, 2013

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Today (All times Eastern)

9:40 AM: The President and First Lady tour the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, New York City

10:0 AM: The President delivers remarks

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Also at White House Live

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11:20 AM: Depart New York City

12:30 PM: Arrive White House

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A quote from Virgil seen during a press preview of the National September 11 Memorial Museum at the World Trade Center site May 14, 2014 in New York

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Morgan Whitaker: Obamacare Saved Consumers Billions, New Report Finds

A new analysis finds American consumers saved billions in 2011 and 2012 thanks to a key provision of the Affordable Care Act. The report from The Commonwealth Fund released Tuesday finds the medical loss ratio provision, which caps profits for health insurance companies, benefited consumers by about $3 billion over the past two years through a combination of rebates from insurance companies and reduced overhead spending. The law’s provision limits insurance companies to spending a minimum of 80-85% of premiums specifically on treatment and medical costs, rather than overhead and profits.

The rebate receipts sent to consumers hit $1 billion in 2011 and about $500 million in 2012, an indication that insurance providers successfully shifted business models to fit the new spending requirements. In addition to the rebates provided to consumers, insurers reduced profits and spending on general overhead by about $1.4 billion, the report finds. “The medical loss ratio requirement of the Affordable Care Act creates a higher-value insurance product for consumers,” said The Commonwealth Fund President David Blumenthal said in the report. “It ensures that a substantial portion of their premium dollar pays for medical care, as opposed to administrative costs and profits. It also encourages insurers to improve the care their customers receive, by investing in initiatives that will help achieve better outcomes for patients.”

More here

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ABC News: Obama Aide To Oversee VA Review

President Barack Obama is dispatching one of his closest White House advisers to oversee a review of the beleaguered Veterans Affairs Department as the agency grapples with allegations of treatment delays and preventable deaths at a Phoenix veterans hospital. White House deputy chief of staff Rob Nabors will be temporarily assigned to the VA to work on a review focused on policies for patient safety rules and the scheduling of patient appointments, officials said Wednesday. The move signals Obama’s growing concern over problems at the department, particularly recent reports that hospital administrators in Phoenix kept an off-the-books list to conceal long wait times as 40 veterans died waiting to get an appointment. Similar problems have since been reported in other states.

“While we get to the bottom of what happened in Phoenix, it’s clear the VA needs to do more to ensure quality care for our veterans,” Obama said in a statement. “I’m grateful that Rob, one of my most trusted advisers, has agreed to work with Secretary Shinseki to help the team at this important moment.” Despite calls for Shinseki to step down, the White House insists that Obama continues to have confidence in the secretary, a retired four-star Army general. Shinseki said he welcomed Nabors’ help in ensuring veterans have access to timely, quality health care. Though Nabors has kept a low public profile, he is one of Obama’s closest advisers and has played key roles in the president’s fiscal battles with congressional Republicans. Nabors, the son of an Army veteran, was appointed deputy chief of staff following Obama’s re-election and previously served as the president’s chief congressional liaison and deputy budget director.

More here

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Rick Ungar: Who Says Obamacare Is Turning Out To Be Good For The Economy? Goldman Sachs Does, That’s Who!

The news just keeps getting better and better for Obamacare. Marketwatch is reporting that an advisory issued by economic researcher Alec Phillips over at Goldman Sachs reports that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) boosted GDP in the first quarter of 2014 and projects that the same will occur in the second quarter. While Phillips—and other Goldman analysts—had initially been quite skeptical about the impact of the government subsidies provided to the many Americans who will now be able to purchase health insurance, the group has turned a corner and now views the subsidies as a major, beneficial contributor to first quarter numbers and what they project to be second quarter growth of 3.9 percent. Of even greater interest is the explanation provided by the Goldman analyst as to why healthcare spending rose 9.9 percent in the first quarter. Phillips pins the rise not on some undesired side-effect of Obamacare but on the fact that people had money in their pocket to spend on the health of their families as a result of $37 billion boost in personal income—something also projected to continue into the second quarter.

While the U.S. Bureau of Economics had predicted a higher spending figure on healthcare for the first quarter than what turned out to be the case, it is worth noting that the Congressional Budget Office—back when first reviewing the Senate bill to reform healthcare—predicted that we would see such a boost following the first enrollment period of Obamacare. Just because healthcare spending increased substantially in the first quarter does not mean that healthcare prices increased—a detail the GOP hopes you will miss. It simply means that more people were able to get the healthcare they were previously unable to afford; not that those of us who already had access to care had to pay more for that care. Phillips sees the trend continuing, suggesting that the positive effects of Obamacare will boost the economy in 2015 and 2016.

More here

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Katie Lobosco: Washington State Defies Minimum Wage Logic

Raising the minimum wage could lift hundreds of thousands of low-wage workers out of poverty, but it’s also a job killer. Right?
Not so fast. In Washington state, small businesses are adding jobs faster than any other state in the country, according to a report from Paychex and IHS. It’s also the state where minimum wage, at $9.32 per hour, is the highest. The federal minimum wage is just $7.25 an hour, and a battle is raging about whether it should be raised to $10.10. Small businesses, often called the engine of the U.S. economy, find themselves at the heart of the debate. Critics of a wage hike say that raising the minimum wage too high and too fast could put them out of business.

But the report from Paychex and IHS, which measured job additions and layoffs at 350,000 small businesses, could dispute that claim. Not only was Washington the strongest state, San Francisco — with a minimum wage of $10.74, the country’s highest — had the greatest job gains in the past year among cities measured. Washington state has been progressive on the issue for years. The state’s minimum wage rate has been tied to inflation since 1998, and the mayor of Seattle is currently pushing to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15.

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Russ Britt: Obamacare Is Good For The Economy, Goldman Sachs Researcher Says

Obamacare is good for the economy? That’s what one venerable Wall Street brokerage is saying. Alec Phillips, economic researcher at Goldman Sachs, said in a note issued late last week to clients that subsidies from the Affordable Care Act boosted gross domestic product during the first quarter and are likely to do the same during the second quarter. Phillips says that he now has a more optimistic view of the second quarter’s GDP growth, with a gain of 3.9% now estimated, and 4.5% annualized growth in real personal consumption.

“While we were initially skeptical of the large estimated effect of the new subsidies on personal income, these now look more reasonable to us in light of revisions, greater enrollment than expected several months ago, and the fact that states are likely contributing to the subsidies on top of the well-known estimates of federal costs,” Phillips said. But the health-care industry won’t be the only one to benefit, Phillips says, as subsidies will free up income for those who had no coverage before, as well as those who had insurance but were paying for it themselves. “Overall, around 40% of the subsidies should find their way to non-health consumption this year,” he wrote.

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America’s Foremost Dumb Dumb

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William Douglas: McCain: Send U.S. Troops To Rescue Kidnapped Girls In Nigeria

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., wants to see more than hashtag messages voicing displeasure over the abduction of nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls by the terrorist group Boko Haram. He wants to see U.S. troops go into Nigera and rescue the girls, even if it means doing so without permission from the Nigerian government. ‘If they knew where they were, I certainly would send in U.S. troops to rescue them, in a New York minute I would, without the permission of the host country,’ McCain said Tuesday. Referring to Nigeria’s president, McCain added: ‘I wouldn’t be waiting for some kind of permission from some guy named Goodluck Jonathan.’

Thus far, the Obama administration has sent a team to Nigeria that includes FBI officials with hostage negotiation skills, five State Department officials, including a team leader, two strategic communications experts, a civiliam security expert and a regional medical support officer. There are also 10 Defense Department planners and advisers who were already in Nigeria and have been instructed to provide support to the kidnapping response, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters.

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TPM: Federal Judge Denies Governor’s Motion To Put Idaho Gay Marriages On Hold

A federal magistrate judge has refused to put gay marriages on hold in Idaho pending an appeal from the state’s governor. U.S. District Magistrate Judge Candy Dale wrote Wednesday morning that Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s appeal isn’t likely to succeed, and so there’s no reason to keep same-sex couples from seeking marriage licenses or marrying on Friday. On Tuesday, Dale struck down Idaho’s same-sex marriage ban in response to a lawsuit from four Idaho couples.

Dale said Idaho’s law unconstitutionally denies gay and lesbian couples their fundamental right to marry and wrongly stigmatizes their families. She said the state must start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples Friday morning. Gay marriage is legal in 17 states and the District of Columbia.

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Greg Sargent: Time To Revisit Conventional Wisdom About Politics Of Obamacare

The initial conventional wisdom about the Arkansas Senate race — that incumbent Mark Pryor is the nation’s preeminent Dead Dem Walking — is rapidly getting revised in the wake of new polls showing him ahead of GOP Rep. Tom Cotton. So perhaps, in the context of the Arkansas race, it’s also worth revisiting the conventional wisdom that Obamacare is nothing but a hideous liability for Democrats, and can only shower Republicans with political gold from now until election day. One of Senator Pryor’s senior campaign strategists tells me Pryor will not shy away from making the case that the state’s “private option” —

its version of the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare — represents Pryor’s brand of good governance, and that Cotton’s repeal stance is extreme and bad for the state. This is particularly relevant right now, as a fascinating new report from David Ramsey of the Arkansas Times demonstrates. Ramsey reports that the bipartisan private option — which uses Medicaid funds to expand private coverage to 150,000 Arkansans — has become a major issue in several state legislative Republican primaries.

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Louise Radnofsky: A Washington State Health Insurer Plans To Cut Rates In 2015

An insurer in Washington state selling plans under the Affordable Care Act is proposing to lower customers’ health premiums next year in what appears to be one of the first such decreases proposed for 2015. The proposal by Molina Healthcare Inc. MOH +0.60% was part of a batch of state rate filings released Monday that included Washington and Indiana. While most carriers are seeking increases, Molina’s filing signals that insurers that priced cautiously for 2014 could face pressure to be more competitive in the second full year of the law’s insurance marketplaces. Molina proposed a decrease averaging 6.8% for Washington customers for 2015. It told state regulators in its rate filing that it was betting that people signing up through the insurance exchange were in better health than the carrier previously thought,

and that it anticipated new entrants when the law’s penalties for not carrying coverage grow next year. Molina, a company that historically has focused on managed Medicaid plans, offered some of the most expensive premiums among insurers selling on the Washington exchange in this year. It said it had only about 1,200 members in 2014. Ben Lynam, vice president for Molina’s actuarial pricing, said in an interview that the company had made conservative assumptions for 2014 about the medical claims likely to be incurred by its enrollees, in part because it hadn’t had much previous commercial experience. “With hindsight and looking at what’s going on across the country…we’ve improved those assumptions and lowered our rates in 2015,” he said.

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Reuters: Jobless Claims Hit Seven-Year Low, Inflation Ticks Up

New applications for U.S. unemployment benefits hit a seven-year low last week while consumer prices recorded their largest increase in 10 months in April, pointing to a firming economy. The economy’s outlook was further brightened by other data on Thursday showing factory activity in New York state expanding at its quickest pace in nearly four years in May. “It conveys the message of solid economic activity. Labor conditions continue to improve and I expect this will be validated by payroll reports over the next few months,” said Anthony Karydakis, chief economic strategist at Miller Tabak in New York.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits declined 24,000 to a seasonally adjusted 297,000, the Labor Department said, offering fresh evidence the jobs market was strengthening. That was the lowest reading since May 2007 and brought claims back to their pre-recession level. Economists had forecast first-time applications ticking up to 320,000 last week. In a second report, the department said its Consumer Price Index increased 0.3 percent last month as food prices rose for a fourth consecutive month and the cost of gasoline surged. The rise in the CPI was the biggest rise since June last year and added to March’s 0.2 percent rise. The combination of a strengthening jobs market and an uptick in inflation pressures should give the Federal Reserve ammunition to continue scaling back its monetary stimulus. However, the U.S. central bank is not expected to start raising overnight interest rates, currently near zero, before the second half of 2015.

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On This Day

President Obama takes a stroll through the White House Rose Garden, May 15, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama walks in the White House Rose Garden, May 15, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama meets with former Secretary of State, General Colin Powell, in the Oval Office, May 15, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins gives President Obama a Phillies jersey and autographed baseball while Obama welcomes the 2008 Major League Baseball World Series Champion Philadelphia Phillies at the White House, May 15, 2009

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First Lady Michelle Obama addresses Spelman graduates at their May 15, 2011 commencement.

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President Obama greets people in the audience at the National Peace Officers Memorial Service, an annual ceremony honoring law enforcement who were killed in the line of duty, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., May 15, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama presents a birthday cake to Admiral Jonathan Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations, during a dinner for Combatant Commanders and senior military leadership in the Blue Room of the White House, May 15, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama and Attorney General Holder attend the 32nd Annual National Peace Officers Memorial Service at the West Front Lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC on May 15, 2013

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President Obama poses with a souvenir jersey as he is flanked by players David Beckham and Landon Donovan, members of the LA Galaxy, Major League Soccer’s Championship team, at the White House, May 15, 2012

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13
May
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama addresses the recipients of the 2014 National Association of Police Organizations Top Cops lined up in the State Dining Room prior to a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, May 12, 2014 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today

12:30: Jay Carney briefs the press

3:0: The President awards Kyle J. White, U.S. Army, the Medal of Honor

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The Week Ahead

Wednesday: The President and the First Lady will travel to New York. While there, the President will host an event on the economy and attend DNC and DSCC events. More details will be forthcoming.

Thursday: The President and the First Lady will tour the National September 11th Memorial and Museum; the President will also deliver remarks at the dedication ceremony. Following his remarks, the President and the First Lady will return to Washington, DC.

Friday: The President will attend meetings at the White House.

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Yahoo: Turns Out Obamacare Premiums Aren’t More Expensive After All

When the cost of an employer-provided health insurance plan is compared to the cost of an Affordable Care Act plan bought on a state health insurance exchange, the ACA plan will be more affordable on average, a new analysis from PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute finds. “In 2014, the premiums for health plans offered on new state exchanges under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are comparable to — and in some cases lower than — those being offered by employers with similar levels of coverage,” the analysts concluded. “The data suggest the new exchanges are competitive with the current insurance market.”

The analysis is based on employer-sponsored premiums of 156 million people in 2013. But what about all those news stories about people whose premiums had shot way up? Those were often people whose pre-ACA insurance did not meet even the most basic standards set forth by the law. “Some of the sticker shock noted among enrollees in the new exchanges is due to more comprehensive insurance coverage in the exchange plans,” the PwC analysis notes, citing research in Health Affairs. “More than half the people in the individual market had coverage below the bronze level of 60%, the lowest level in the exchanges.”

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Steve Benen: Budget Deficit On Track For Six-Year Low

It was about a year ago when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) appeared on Fox News and told viewers that Congress should be “focused on trying to deal with the ultimate problem, which is this growing deficit.” There were a couple of glaring problems with the comment. For one thing, to prioritize the deficit as the “ultimate problem” – as opposed to, say, creating jobs and reducing unemployment – is to have a fairly warped sense of urgent policy needs. For another, the deficit, in reality, is most certainly not “growing.” The U.S. government ran a big surplus in April, thanks to a flood of tax payments that helped keep the budget on track for the lowest annual deficit in six years…. Through the first seven months of the 2014 budget year, which began Oct. 1, the deficit totals $306.4 billion. That’s down 37 percent from the same period last year. The Congressional Budget Office is forecasting a deficit of $492 billion for the full budget year.

That would be the narrowest gap since 2008. To be sure, none of this should come as a surprise, at least not to the policy mainstream. In recent years, the federal government has raised taxes and cut spending – and wouldn’t you know it, when Washington takes in more while spending less, the deficit gets smaller. This is a basic budgetary truism that Republicans continue to resist. Indeed, last year, when top marginal rates increased on households making more than $400,000 a year, a variety of GOP lawmakers argued that this would likely cause the deficit to go up – as they saw it, higher taxes on the wealthy would slow growth, which would mean fewer jobs, which would mean fewer people paying income taxes, which would mean a larger deficit. It appears on this, Republicans had it backwards, which will do nothing to shake the Beltway perception of the GOP as the “fiscally responsible” party. The fact remains, however, that the annual budget deficit is on track this year to have shrunk by about $900 billion since President Obama took the oath of office.

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NYT: Scientists Warn Of Rising Oceans From Polar Melt

A large section of the mighty West Antarctica ice sheet has begun falling apart and its continued melting now appears to be unstoppable, two groups of scientists reported on Monday. If the findings hold up, they suggest that the melting could destabilize neighboring parts of the ice sheet and a rise in sea level of 10 feet or more may be unavoidable in coming centuries. Global warming caused by the human-driven release of greenhouse gases has helped to destabilize the ice sheet, though other factors may also be involved, the scientists said. The rise of the sea is likely to continue to be relatively slow for the rest of the 21st century, the scientists added, but in the more distant future it may accelerate markedly, potentially throwing society into crisis. “This is really happening,” Thomas P. Wagner, who runs NASA’s programs on polar ice and helped oversee some of the research, said in an interview. “There’s nothing to stop it now. But you are still limited by the physics of how fast the ice can flow.”

The West Antarctic ice sheet sits in a bowl-shaped depression in the earth, with the base of the ice below sea level. Warm ocean water is causing the ice sitting along the rim of the bowl to thin and retreat. As the front edge of the ice pulls away from the rim and enters deeper water, it can retreat much faster than before. Those six glaciers alone could cause the ocean to rise four feet as they disappear, Dr. Rignot said, possibly within a couple of centuries. He added that their disappearance will most likely destabilize other sectors of the ice sheet, so the ultimate rise could be triple that. The effects will depend in part on how much money future governments spend to protect shorelines from a rising sea. Research published in 2012 found that a rise of less than four feet would inundate land on which some 3.7 million Americans live today. Miami, New Orleans, New York and Boston are all highly vulnerable.

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BBC: Woman To Lead UN Peacekeeping Mission For First Time In Cyprus

For the first time, a woman will command a UN peacekeeping force, after Norway’s Major General Kristin Lund was appointed to lead troops in Cyprus. Maj Gen Lund, 55, has a distinguished military career going back 34 years and including postings in Lebanon and Afghanistan, a UN statement said. She will replace China’s Major General Chao Liu on 13 August.In Cyprus, she will command 996 soldiers and police officers as well as 149 civilian staff. Maj Gen Lund was congratulated on her appointment by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at UN headquarters in New York.

Interviewed by the Associated Press news agency, she said she was looking forward to the challenges of her new job – maintaining the ceasefire and supporting efforts to deal with minefields, unaccounted people, property disputes and other issues. She also said she was proud to crack the glass ceiling in UN peacekeeping: “I think it’s time, and I think it’s important, that other women see that it’s possible also in the UN system to get up in the military hierarchy to become a force commander.”

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Alec MacGillis: Marco Rubio Denies Climate Change While His Hometown Drowns

Marco Rubio, as you may have heard, has issued yet another blunt rejection of the whole notion of man-made climate change. “Well, yeah, I don’t agree with the notion that some are putting out there, including scientists, that somehow there are actions we can take today that would actually have an impact on what’s happening in our climate,” he said yesterday on ABC’s “This Week.” He continued: “Our climate is always changing. And what they have chosen to do is take a handful of decades of research and say that this is now evidence of a longer-term trend that’s directly and almost solely attributable to man-made activities…I don’t know of any era in world history where the climate has been stable. Climate is always evolving, and natural disasters have always existed… I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it.

That’s what I—and I do not believe that the laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it, except it will destroy our economy.” For this, Rubio has been roundly ridiculed by reality-based commentators. But even their scorn seems to skip over what is perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Rubio’s evasion on climate change. It would be one thing if Rubio was trying to downplay man-made climate change if he was the senator from a state that is greatly dependent on drawing fossil fuels out of the earth and pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere—say, Oklahoma or West Virginia or North Dakota. But Rubio represents Florida, and is in fact from Miami. Which—how to say this nicely?—is in the process of drowning.

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Boston Globe: Vermont Legislators Agree On $10.50 Minimum Wage By 2018

The Vermont House has agreed with the Senate to raise the state’s minimum wage to $10.50 by 2018, as lawmakers adjourned for the year. The current state minimum wage is $8.73 per hour. ‘‘Any time we can put money in the hands of Vermonters who need it most, it’s a win,’’ said Representative Tom Stevens, a Waterbury Democrat, as he presented the bill to his colleagues Friday night. ‘‘Is it enough? It’s a start.’’ Governor Peter Shumlin issued a statement praising the bill. ‘‘I will be proud to sign it,’’ he said.

The State House was filled with frenetic activity Friday and Saturday, as conference committees met on budget and tax packages for fiscal 2015 and reached deals on several other bills, including one streamlining the process for medicating mentally ill patients against their will. Majority Democrats in the House in March had passed a minimum wage increase to $10.10 an hour to take effect in January, but the Senate called for a slower approach. The House was ready to pass a compromise Thursday evening, but a printer’s error — the wrong bill on the matter had been placed in the legislative calendar — caused it to be delayed.

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Morgan Whitaker: Most Americans Want Obamacare To Stay, But Tweaked: Poll

They may not love all of it, but most Americans want the president’s signature health reform policy to stay. A significant majority (61%) of Americans want the Affordable Care Act kept as-is or improved with changes, while a little more than a third (38%) want the law fully repealed or replaced, according to new polling released Sunday. A little less than half (49%) of all respondents said “make some changes” when asked what they thought Congress should do with respect to the law, according to the CNN/ORC poll. Another 12% want the law kept in place in its exact form. Among those supporting repeal, 18% said they wanted to repeal and replace the health reform law with a new law, and 20% said it should just be repealed.

Independent voters show a slightly more repeal-friendly breakdown, with 55% supporting a law in its original or improved form, and 45% supporting repeal either with or without replacement. Broken down across age groups, younger adults (ages 18-34) are most likely to support making minor changes to the law (50%). Seniors, many of whom already received health coverage from Medicare, are more likely than any other demographic to support a full repeal of the law with no replacement, at 25%. Across racial groups, nonwhites are more likely than whites to want the law kept as is or improved, 79% to 53%. While whites are slightly more likely than nonwhites to support repeal or repeal with replacement, 46% to 21%. Recent polling from Gallup found African-American and Latino Americans saw more significant decreases in the uninsured rate since the law’s health exchange open enrollment period began. The poll also finds a slight increase in the overall number of Americans who see the law as a success – a four-point jump since November 2013 from 8% to 12%.

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Jimmy Vielkind: Obama To Visit Tappan Zee Bridge As G.O.P. Convenes

President Barack Obama will visit the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project on Wednesday as part of an administration push for more infrastructure spending, a White House spokesman confirmed. Obama chose the Tappan Zee—which carries the New York State Thruway over the Hudson River, between Tarrytown and Nyack—to make a point about streamlined federal approval processes, White House spokesman Keith Maley said.

A $3.9 billion replacement structure is now under construction, spearheaded by Governor Andrew Cuomo and helped by a $1.6 billion federal loan that was approved in October. There is already visible progress on the replacement structure. “President Obama and his administration are focused every day on what we can do to expand opportunity for every American,” said Maley. “In today’s economy, that means building a first-class infrastructure that attracts first-class jobs and takes American businesses’ goods all across the world.”

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5.12.14

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Steve Benen: A Law By Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet

It’s been nearly a year since Jason Cherkis published it, but his health care anecdote out of Kentucky resonates because of its salience. As Cherkis reported last August, a middle-aged man in a red golf shirt shuffled up to a small folding table at the Kentucky State Fair to hear about Kynect, the state’s health benefit exchange established by the Affordable Care Act. The man liked what he heard. “This beats Obamacare I hope,” he said, apparently unaware that Kynect and Obamacare are the same thing. A year later, as NBC News’ First Read discovered, there’s a lot of this going around. When it comes to views of the new health care law, sometimes it’s all in a name. In Kentucky, our NBC-Marist poll found that 57% of registered voters have an unfavorable view of “Obamacare,” the shorthand commonly used to label the 2010 Affordable Care Act. That’s compared with only 33% who give it a thumbs up – hardly surprising in a state where the president’s approval rating hovers just above 30%.

By comparison, when Kentucky voters were asked to give their impression of kynect, the state exchange created as a result of the health care law, the picture was quite different. A plurality – 29% – said they have a favorable impression of kynect, compared to 22% who said they view the system unfavorably. I put together the above chart to help capture the difference, and while kynect is less well known – 27% of Kentuckians said they hadn’t heard of it, with another 21% saying they were unsure – the difference is hard to miss. It’s a timely reminder that polling on health care is tricky in this political climate. If you ask Americans whether they like “Obamacare.” in most cases, they do not. Ask them whether they support the policy provisions within the Affordable Care Act and suddenly the law looks very popular. What explains the discrepancy? Some of it’s based on lingering confusion – a lot of folks still don’t know much about the law – and some of it’s tribal, with those who hold the president in contempt rejecting the reform law, not on the merits, but because Obama signed it.

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Don Lee: After Decades of Exodus, Companies Returning Production To The U.S.

In 2001, Generac Power Systems joined the wave of American companies shifting production to China. The move wiped out 400 jobs in southeast Wisconsin, but few could argue with management’s logic: Chinese companies were offering to make a key component for $100 per unit less than the cost of producing it in the U.S. Now, however, Generac has brought manufacturing of that component back to its Whitewater plant — creating about 80 jobs in this town of about ‎14,500 people. The move is part of a sea change in American manufacturing: After three decades of an exodus of production to China and other low-wage countries, companies have sharply curtailed moves abroad. Some, like Generac, have begun to return manufacturing to U.S. shores.

Although no one keeps precise statistics, the retreat from offshoring is clear from various sources, including federal data on assistance to workers hurt by overseas moves. U.S. factory payrolls have grown for four straight years, with gains totaling about 650,000 jobs. That’s a small fraction of the 6 million lost in the previous decade, but it still marks the biggest and longest stretch of manufacturing increases in a quarter century. Harry Moser, an MIT-trained engineer who tracks the inflow of jobs, estimates that last year marked the first time since the offshoring trend began that factory jobs returning to the U.S. matched the number lost, at about 40,000 each. “Offshoring and ‘re-shoring’ were roughly in balance — I call that victory,” said Moser

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On This Day

 Sen. Barack Obama stops to speak with school kids from Holy Cross as he departs after a vote on amendments to S.2284, the “Flood Insurance Reform and Modernization Act of 2007,” on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 13, 2007

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President Obama walks to the podium to deliver a statement on the situation in Sri Lanka, May 13, 2009

President Obama enters the stage to give the commencement address at Arizona State University Commencement at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe Arizona May 13, 2009

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President Obama talks on the phone with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev about the final details of the START Treaty, in the Oval Office, Saturday, March 13, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron during a joint press conference in the East Room at the White House on May 13, 2013

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15
Apr
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama greets participants after a Land Titling event at the Plaza de San Pedro, Cartagena, Colombia, April 15, 2012. President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia is seen at right (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern):

11:30: President Obama meets with faith leaders to discuss ways to promote an immigration bill now pending in the U.S. House.

2:49: Observes a moment of silence to mark the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing

6:30: The President and First Lady host a Passover Seder at the White House

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The Week Ahead:

Wednesday: President Obama and Vice President Biden will travel to Leetsdale, Pennsylvania for an event on the economy.

Thursday: The President will welcome the Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride to the White House in celebration of the eighth annual Soldier Ride.

Friday: The President will meet with the National Commander and Executive Director of the American Legion. Later, he will welcome the United States Naval Academy Football Team to the White House to present them with the 2013 Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy.

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ThinkProgress: Very Bad News For Obamacare Opponents In The Government’s Latest Report

Premiums for health care insurance in the Affordable Care Act are lower than the federal government had anticipated, the Congressional Budget Office reported on Monday when it revised its cost estimate for the health care law. The nonpartisan office now believes that the ACA will cost the government $5 billion less than projected in 2014 and $104 billion less for the 2015-2024 period. It also found “no clear evidence” that premiums will surge in 2015, noting that “enrollees in the future will be healthier, on average, than the smaller number of people who are obtaining such coverage in 2014.” The agency estimated that the national average premium for individual silver policy plans would increase by $100 that year.

The CBO attributes the additional savings to government, relative to the CBO’s last assessment from February 2014, to lower-than expected premiums, which in turn lowered the cost for exchange subsidies, and higher-than expected revenues from the excise tax on high-premium insurance plans.

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Steve Benen: CBO: Affordable Care Act getting even more affordable

…. what have we learned of late?

* ACA enrollment through exchanges reached 7.1 million, ahead of early estimates.

* The ACA is quickly reducing the uninsured rate.

* Thanks in part to the ACA, health care spending has slowed dramatically and health care inflation is at its lowest point in 50 years.

* According to the Department of Commerce, the ACA is also having a positive effect on personal incomes.

* And according to the CBO, the system is even more affordable than perviously projected.

… this is a system that’s working. The right can either acknowledge reality or embrace delusions and conspiracies, but the facts are quite evident for those who care to look.

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NYT: In New York, Hard Choices on Health Exchange Spell Success

In contrast with the early stumbles in most of the country, New York State, almost from the start, has provided a textbook lesson in how to make the Affordable Care Act work. But it has done so by making some tough decisions.

New York has signed up more than 900,000 people for commercial or government plans, lured 16 insurance companies onto its exchange, provided subsidies for most customers and reduced premiums across the board.

“I have to say that on the whole this is a very savvy bunch of people they have operating the exchange,” Mark P. Scherzer, a lawyer and consumer advocate, said. “It really is a story of something that government could actually do right.”

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Simon Maloy (Salon): Chris Cillizza, call your office: Buffoonish Obamacare critic gets it all wrong, again

…. The newest offering from the CBO is bad news for Obamacare’s conservative critics. Much of their criticism can be divided into three basic arguments — Obamacare is ineffective, it costs taxpayers too much, and it will send insurance premiums skyrocketing – and the CBO report took the wind out of all three. It found that Obamacare will cover more people than earlier estimates, will cost less money than earlier estimates, and will not preside over a nationwide premium spike.

…. DOWN GOES THE NARRATIVE! Right…?

Not really….

Take Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post as an example. Click over to the Fix or comb through his Twitter feed, as of early Monday evening, and you won’t find a single word written about the CBO’s latest findings. That’s curious, given that when the CBO issued a report in early February on Obamacare’s projected impact on the labor market, Cillizza was all over it.

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Brian Beutler: The Right’s New Scam: Feigning Anger on Behalf of People They Encouraged to Skip Obamacare

Beginning last summer, and continuing unabated until a few weeks ago, conservatives undertook a variety of efforts (both subtle and explicit) to discourage people, particularly young people, from enrolling in ACA-compliant health plans.

The idea was to deny state-based insurance markets critical mass, and sound risk pools, and send them into actuarial death spirals. In almost every instance, conservatives were appealing to strangers to undertake considerable personal risk in service of dubious ideological principles.

Though these efforts failed to achieve the larger goal, they almost certainly succeeded at convincing some people to skip Obamacare. And when confronted about the recklessness of their strategy, the most unscrupulous conservatives would say, No biggie! Obamacare allows people to enroll after they get sick or injured. So there’s no risk at all.

This was a lie. And if it weren’t such a dangerous lie, I’d be amused to find that conservatives now want you to be outraged about the fact that the Affordable Care Act creates limited open-enrollment periods each year to prohibit precisely that kind of free riding.

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NDN: Total Removals, Returns of Unauthorized Immigrants Plummet Under Obama

Over the past several months, NDN/NPI has published a series of analyses which argue that through greater investment, better strategies and deeper cooperation with Mexico, the Obama Administration has made the immigration system better and the border safer while seeing a dramatic expansion of trade with Mexico.

Today we release a simple analysis which sheds new light on the hotly debated issue of deportations. Using a broader, more accurate measure of the number of unauthorized immigrants removed from the country since the first year of the Bush Presidency, we find that in fact the total number of “removals[i]” and “returns[ii]” has actually plummeted during the Obama Presidency. In 2012, the Obama Administration removed and returned almost a million people less than the height of the Bush Presidency. And every year of the Obama Presidency has seen a sizable decline in the total number of unauthorized migrants removed or returned to their countries.

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ThinkProgress: The Budget Deficit In March Was The Smallest Since 2000

The federal budget deficit for the first half of this year was $413 billion, a decline of $187 billion compared to the same time last year, according to the Treasury Department.

The deficit for the month of March stood at $37 billion, down from $107 billion last year. That figure was the smallest deficit for the month of March since 2000. The deficit is expected to be a about 4.1 percent of gross domestic product this year, a drop from almost 10 percent in 2009. Those falling numbers continue a trend, as the deficit fell faster in 2013 than in any year since the end of World War II, dropping from $1.1 trillion in 2012 to $680 billion.

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Didn’t think Coates would be featuring at TOD any time soon, but here you go:

Ta-Nehisi Coates: Barack Obama’s Challenge to American Morality

If you haven’t yet, it’s work checking out Barack Obama’s address before the National Action Network, last week. I think it’s one of the most significant and morally grounded speeches of his presidency. I think we will eventually regard this current effort to suppress the vote through voter-ID laws, ending early voting, restricting voting hours, etc., in the same way we regard literacy tests and poll taxes.

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BBC: Ukraine crisis: Obama urges Putin to rein in separatists

US President Barack Obama has urged his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to use his influence to make separatists in eastern Ukraine stand down.

The phone call between the two leaders came as pro-Russian activists continued to occupy buildings in eastern towns.

…. The White House said the “frank and direct” conversation between the two presidents was made at Russia’s request.

“The president expressed grave concern about Russian government support for the actions of armed, pro-Russian separatists who threaten to undermine and destabilise the government of Ukraine,” a statement said.

“The president emphasised that all irregular forces in the country need to lay down their arms, and he urged President Putin to use his influence with these armed, pro-Russian groups to convince them to depart the buildings they have seized.”

The statement also threatened Moscow with wider sanctions, saying “the costs Russia already has incurred will increase if those actions persist”.

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Charles Pierce: Revisiting Homeland Security’s 2009 Domestic Terrorism Report

I think this is a particularly good day to look back to, say, April of 2009, when the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano presiding, put out a nine-page report in which the DHS pointed out that veterans were being recruited by rightwing terrorist groups around the country. (This was about when people started noticing that the real crazy had come out of the jar when this particular president had been sworn in.) Oh, the fuss that this raised.

John Boehner said of Napolitano that he wanted an “explanation for why she has abandoned using the term ‘terrorist’ to describe those, such as al Qaeda, who are plotting overseas to kill innocent Americans, while her own Department is using the same term to describe American citizens who disagree with the direction Washington Democrats are taking our nation.”

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MilkFoundation.org: USPS Harvey Milk Forever Stamp White House Ceremony

Following the announcement that the United States Postal Service first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony of the Harvey Milk Forever Stamp will take place at the White House on May 22, Harvey Milk’s nephew and co-founder of the Harvey Milk Foundation Stuart Milk released the following statement:

“A stamp dedication ceremony on May 22 at the White House comes with incredibly special significance for both place and date. President Obama and his administration have provided the nation with steadfast and trend setting leadership in support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community in the US and abroad….

“The Milk family thanks President Obama and other allies and champions of LGBT inclusive diversity as exemplified by Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, all of the LGBT leaders who have stood on uncle Harvey’s shoulders to run for and serve openly in public office, and each and every LGBT individual who go about their daily life with authenticity, refusing to hide who they are and who they love. Together, all of us, continue to move humanity forward, bending that arc of the moral universe ever closer to justice.”

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Wake-up Call:

AP: Donors return to Crossroads, give $5m in March

After a stretch of anemic fundraising, the Karl Rove-backed American Crossroads super PAC raised more cash in March than it did during the previous 14 months combined, according to summaries of campaign filings released Monday.

The GOP establishment’s favorite super PAC raised almost $5.2 million last month and had more than $6.3 million in the bank as of March 31, according to the report summary. That cash will be used as the outside group tries to help Republicans pick up the six seats they need to win control of the Senate. American Crossroads has been running ads supporting establishment GOP candidates in Alaska and North Carolina and is expected to support former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown in his bid to unseat Democrat Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire.

More here

Do what you can —> link

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 On This Day

At the Cuban Club during a fund raiser in Ybor City on April 15, 2007 in Tampa, Florida

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President Obama speaks about Tax Day in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, April 15, 2009

President Obama presents a birthday cake April 15, 2009, to senior advisor Pete Rouse in the Oval Office (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama jokes with senior advisors Mona Sutphen and David Axelrod during a birthday party April 15, 2009, for senior advisor Pete Rouse in the Oval Office (Photo by Pete Souza)

Bo is shown the Oval Office April 15, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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First Lady Michelle Obama hugs a woman working at New Roots Community Farm in San Diego, Calif., April 15, 2010 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

President Obama exits Air Force One with Rep. Suzanne M. Kosmas and Sen. Bill Nelson at the Shuttle Landing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center on April 15, 2010

President Obama tours the commercial rocket processing facility of Space Exploration Technologies, known as SpaceX, along with Elon Musk, SpacdeX CEO at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida on April 15, 2010

President Obama is given an “I’m an Obamanaut” bumper sticker at NASA operations at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., April 15, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama meets with Press Secretary Jay Carney, left, and Senior Advisor David Plouffe, center, before an interview with Ben Feller of the Associated Press, in Chicago, Ill., April 15, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama serves himself during a buffet lunch with President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia and U.S. and Colombian delegations at Casa de Huéspedes in Cartagena, Colombia, April 15, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama holds up an Alabama football jersey that was presented to him by Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron during ceremonies honoring the Crimson Tide as the BCS college national championships on the South Lawn of the White House on April 15, 2013

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President Obama speaks during a statement to the press following explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon in the briefing room of the White House April 15, 2013

14
Apr
14

This CBO Report Is Another Big Win For Obamacare

Business Insider: This CBO Report Is Another Big Win For Obamacare

More than 12 million people will gain health insurance under the Affordable Care Act this year, according to new projections released by the Congressional Budget Office Monday. And millions more stand to benefit from the law over the next decade.

At the same time, the law’s costs to the federal government are shrinking. According to the new projections, the federal government will spend more than $100 billion less on Obamacare’s coverage provisions through 2024 than previously projected. That includes a downward estimate of about $5 billion this year. Overall, spending on the federal and state insurance exchanges are projected to cost 14% less than originally forecast.

More here

14
Apr
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: First Lady Michelle Obama greets children during her visit to a school, Escuela Siete de Enero, in Mexico City, Mexico, April 14, 2010 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)

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Today (all times Eastern):

9:30 AM: The President hosts an Easter Prayer Breakfast, East Room

1:0: Jay Carney briefs the press

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The Week Ahead

Tuesday: The President and the First Lady will mark the beginning of Passover with a Seder at the White House with friends and staff.

Wednesday: President Obama and Vice President Biden will travel to Leetsdale, Pennsylvania for an event on the economy.

Thursday: The President will welcome the Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride to the White House in celebration of the eighth annual Soldier Ride.

Friday: The President will meet with the National Commander and Executive Director of the American Legion. Later, he will welcome the United States Naval Academy Football Team to the White House to present them with the 2013 Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy.

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CNN Money: Thankful for Obamacare

Many enrollees are thankful for Obamacare coverage. CNNMoney looks at some of the success stories.

Name: Kathy Bentzoni, 58

I started feeling sick in January, but I thought driving a school bus, I was picking up whatever the kids had. But when I was checking the school bus early in the morning in the cold, all my fingers would go numb.

I had signed up for health insurance early enough to get coverage for Jan. 1. I had to drop my old, useless insurance back in November because I could no longer afford the premiums. The insurer denied every claim I sent in because they said it was a pre-existing condition. That’s the wonder of Obamacare … they can’t say that anymore.

I have a Highmark Blue Shield silver plan. I pay $55 for the premium with the tax credit. I almost cried when I saw it. I thought ‘Oh my god, I can actually afford this. It’s amazing!”

On March 1, I had to go the ER. They found my hemoglobin level was 5.7, and the normal is 14. I needed a transfusion. It was due to a rare blood disorder.

Where would I be without Obamacare? ER, 3 units of blood, multiple tests in the hospital and a 5-day inpatient stay without insurance? Probably dead.

I have to thank Obamacare for saving my life.

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Brian Beutler: Democrats Need to Start Blaming the GOP for the Death of Charlene Dill

How liberals should talk about the Medicaid expansion

On Wednesday, the Orlando Weekly published the explosive and infuriating story of Charlene Dill, a struggling, 32 year old mother of three who collapsed and died on a stranger’s floor late last month. According to Weekly reporter Billy Manes, Dill suffered from a treatable heart condition. She also fell into what policy experts call the Medicaid coverage gap — a hole the Supreme Court punctured in the health safety net when seven of its justices rendered the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion entirely voluntary.

Over 20 Republican state governments have ripped that hole wide open by refusing billions of federal dollars, offered on the sole condition that they be used to insure residents who earn less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level. In their states, residents who weren’t previously eligible for Medicaid, but currently earn too little to qualify for subsidies to purchase private insurance, are out of luck. Experts estimate that five million people nationwide have fallen into the gap. Nearly a million of those people reside in Florida alone — collateral damage in the GOP’s war against Obamacare. Dill was one of those people. She was selling a vacuum cleaner to earn the money she needed to buy her heart medication when she collapsed.

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ThinkProgress: Kathleen Sebelius’ Biggest Achievement Is The One No One Is Talking About

Kathleen Sebelius wasn’t President Obama’s first choice to run the Department of Health and Human Services and oversee the passage and implementation of health care reform. But after Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD) dropped out, Obama tapped the two-term Kansas governor and former state insurance commissioner. Sebelius didn’t have much D.C. experience, but had an impressive track record of working across the aisle as a Democratic governor in a red state.

And while the united GOP opposition to health legislation eventually overwhelmed any goodwill Sebelius had built up within the Republican party and the rocky rollout of Obamacare has come to dominate the discussion of her tenure as secretary, that bipartisan quality proved essential to the implementation of the law. Sebelius leaves the office having enrolled some 10 million people in health care coverage. This was only possible because she convinced numerous Republican lawmakers in bright red states to extend health care coverage to the poorest Americans. No one is talking about it, but it is her biggest and most impressive achievement as secretary.

More here

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BBC: Ukraine crisis: Pro-Russian attack in Ukraine’s Horlivka

Pro-Russian activists have attacked another official building in east Ukraine, ignoring a deadline to leave or face eviction by Ukrainian forces.

A crowd stormed a police station in the town of Horlivka, near Donetsk, taking control of the building.

Ukraine’s interim president hit out at “aggression” from Russia, but signalled support for a national referendum.

Olexander Turchynov said Kiev was “not against” a vote on the future of the country, a key demand from protesters.

Mr Turchynov also said Ukraine was preparing an “anti-terrorist operation” against gunmen occupying government buildings in Sloviansk and a number of other towns and cities.

Correspondents says people in eastern Ukraine are anxiously waiting to see if Mr Turchynov carries through on his threat to use the army against the pro-Russian groups.

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Bloomberg: Obama’s Shrinking Budget Deficits Silence Foreign Fiscal Critics

Six months ago, global finance officials meeting in Washington berated the U.S. for failing to put its fiscal house in order. This time, the critics were silent.

The Congressional Budget Office is projecting the 2014 deficit will be the lowest in six years and down more than 60 percent from the record $1.4 trillion in 2009. With the annual April 15 tax filing deadline looming, the U.S. has received about $80 billion more in income taxes this fiscal year than it had 12 months earlier.

The Treasury’s coffers are swelling as the almost five-year economic expansion gains momentum, generating more corporate and personal income-tax revenue and reducing spending on social services. Stronger growth, in turn, will depend less on government spending to fuel growth than it has in the past.

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Steve Benen: Obama calls out ‘the real voter fraud’

It’s easy to get inured to stories about voting restrictions. The imposition of new hurdles, intended to keep more Americans from participating in their own democracy, has been ongoing for about three years, and the tactics have become so common in so much of the country, maintaining a sense of outrage is simply exhausting.

But common or not, the outrageousness hasn’t changed. The very idea that a major political party in a modern democracy has decided to give itself an electoral advantage by systemically and deliberately blocking voter access should be called what it is: a genuine national scandal.

Given this, it was heartening to see the issue get the spotlight by way of the president’s bully pulpit.

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ThinkProgress: The 3 Most Sobering Graphics From The U.N.’s New Climate Report

The overall message of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s newest report is simple: a rapid shift to renewable energy is needed to avert catastrophic global warming. The science behind that message, however, is less simple.

In an attempt to make the message more clear, the IPCC’s report — produced by 1250 international experts and approved by every major government in the world — uses a number of charts to get its point across. Though the charts themselves are very complex, they provide a way to visualize increases in human-caused greenhouse gases, where those gases come from, and what they could do to our climate.

Here are three of the most sobering charts from that report, and what they tell us about the state of our warming world….

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USA Today: Obama: Kansas shooting ‘horrific’

President Obama says his administration will assist in the investigation of the Kansas shooting that left three people dead at a Jewish community center and retirement complex.

“I want to offer my condolences to all the families trying to make sense of this difficult situation, and pledge the full support from the federal government as we heal and cope during this trying time,” Obama said in a statement.

The president, who called the shootings “horrific” and “heartbreaking,” said that he and first last Michelle Obama “offer our thoughts and prayers to the families and friends who lost a loved one and everyone affected by this tragedy.”

A white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan member has been arrested and charged with the shooting.

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Crooks and Liars: Minnesota Becomes Fifth State To Hike Minimum Wage In 2014

With Congress deadlocked and incapable of addressing mounting economic inequality, cities and states are doing what they can to pick up the slack.

On Friday, the Minnesota House approved raising the state minimum wage to $9.50 per hour. According to the National Employment Law Project (NELP), it’s the fifth state to hike the minimum wage this year, following  Delaware, West Virginia, Connecticut and Maryland, which just approved its hike earlier this week.

Two aspects of the Minnesota bill make it especially helpful for low-wage workers.

More here

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Courier Journal: Grimes: Raising minimum wage would help families

The shared belief that if you have the grit to work hard, there should be no ceiling to your potential, is what binds us together as Kentuckians. We are people who reward ingenuity and industry. We celebrate success, and believe in the virtue of a job well done.

But the hard truth today is that far too many families in the commonwealth are struggling to make ends meet. The promise that every Kentuckian has a chance at working their way into the middle class is fading. The rich are getting richer, while many Kentuckians live below the poverty level.

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Blog Tyrant at Work:

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On This Day

President Obama and the First Lady with daughters Malia and Sasha and their new dog Bo on the South Lawn of the White House, April 14, 2009

First Lady Michelle Obama visits the Department of Homeland Security in Washington D.C, April 14, 2009 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)

President Obama meets with Jon Favreau Director of Speechwriting in the Oval Office to review a speech April 14, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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First Lady Michelle Obama gives an address to students at Universidad Iberoamericana, April 14, 2010

President Obama hugs country music artist Garth Brooks in a West Wing hallway at the White House, April 14, 2010. The President was presented with the 2007 Grammy Award for best spoken word album for his book “The Audacity of Hope” (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama meets with senior advisors in the Oval Office, April 14, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama meets with bipartisan leaders of the House and Senate, including from left, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., House Republican Leader John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to discuss Wall Street reform, in the Cabinet Room of the White House, April 14, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama walks through the Rose Garden of the White House with National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, April 14, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama gives gifts to Make-a-Wish child Kai Dunbar, third from left, and her family, during their visit to the Oval Office, April 14, 2011. Pictured, from left, are: Kai’s mother, Kimberly Dunbar; father, Kem Dunbar; sister, Kacie Dunbar; and brother, Kem Dunbar II (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama puts on a Chicago Bulls hat and waves to the crowd after delivering remarks at a 2012 campaign event at Navy Pier in Chicago on April 14, 2011

President Obama delivers remarks at a 2012 campaign event at Navy Pier in Chicago on April 14, 2011

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President Obama meets with President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina during the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, April 14, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama at the CEO Summit of the Americas, in Cartagena, Colombia, April 14, 2012

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MoooOOOooorning!

11
Apr
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: First Lady Michelle Obama participates in an interview with Stephen Colbert during a taping of “The Colbert Report,” at the Colbert Report Studio in New York, N.Y., April 11, 2012 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

11:0 President Obama announces the nomination of Sylvia Burwell to be HHS Secretary

12:15: First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden Host a Joining Forces Caregivers Event

1:55: The President and First Lady depart the White House

3:05 Arrive New York City

4:10 The President delivers remarks at the National Action Network’s 16th Annual Convention

11:30 The President and First Lady depart New York

12:40 Arrives White House

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 Caitlin Macneal: Arkansas Free Clinic Closing, Citing More Insured Through Obamacare

A medical clinic in Mena, Ark. announced that it would be closing, citing a large drop in need for the clinic as people have signed up for health insurance under Obamacare. “Because people are qualifying for insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, our free medical clinic will not be needed anymore,” Stacey Bowser, the director of the 9th Street Ministries Clinic, told the Mena Star.

“We’ve gone from seeing around 300 people a month on a regular basis, but as people were enrolling in Obamacare, the numbers we were seeing have dropped. We were down to 80 people that came through the medical clinic in February, all the way down to three people at the medical clinic in March. Our services won’t be needed anymore, and this will conclude our mission,” she continued.

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LA Times: Bank Of America To Pay $772 Million For Illegal Credit Card Practices

Bank of America Corp. has agreed to refund customers $727 million and pay $45 million in fines for illegal credit card practices, according to a settlement with federal regulators announced Wednesday. The refunds will go to as many as 2.9 million people who were deceived into signing up for products such as credit monitoring and identity theft protection or were improperly charged for such services, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said. The action was part of a crackdown by the bureau on deceptive marketing, enrollment and billing practices related to such so-called add-on products by credit card companies. Bank of America is the fifth financial services company to be hit with fines and refund orders.

“Bank of America both deceived consumers and unfairly billed consumers for services not performed,” said Richard Cordray, the bureau’s director. “We will not tolerate such practices and will continue to be vigilant in our pursuit of companies who wrong consumers in this market.” Bank of America agreed to the refunds and penalties without admitting or denying the allegations. In addition to the refunds, the bank will pay a $20-million civil penalty to the bureau and a $25-million civil penalty to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

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Judy Peres: How Obamacare Affects Women’s Health

Meg Finnegan thought she might never be able to afford to have a baby. Finnegan, who is self-employed and has a pre-existing medical condition, was having trouble finding health insurance at all, let alone a policy that would cover pregnancy and childbirth. So she was thrilled to discover that the plan she signed up for last fall under the Affordable Care Act includes maternity coverage. “When you don’t have insurance, you’re afraid of any life event that brings you to the hospital, for a good or a bad reason,” said Finnegan, 37, an Evanston resident. “If I didn’t have insurance, I wouldn’t have a baby. All those doctor’s appointments and tests, and possibly a high-risk delivery — how would you pay for it?” A guarantee of maternity coverage — all new insurance policies must provide it — is just one of a basket of provisions in the federal health law that specifically benefit women. Other guaranteed services include preventive care, which must be covered with no out-of-pocket cost. For most plans, preventive care includes at least one annual “well-woman” visit, breast-feeding support, contraceptives and contraceptive counseling, annual mammograms and cervical cancer screening.

Women’s health advocates also expect women to benefit more from some provisions in the law that apply to people of either sex. For example, the expansion of Medicaid, as well as financial assistance in the form of tax credits and cost sharing, is expected to disproportionately benefit women, who are more likely than men to have low incomes. Insurers also are required to cover mental health screening and treatment, and women have higher rates of depression and other types of mental illness. Kathy Waligora of EverThrive Illinois (formerly the Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition) said she considers the law “a huge victory for women.” Finnegan, who said she has a rare condition called Behcet’s disease, is one of 129 million Americans with pre-existing conditions, which private policies generally did not cover before the health overhaul. Now, by law, insurers may not deny coverage or charge higher premiums on the basis of health status. “I couldn’t get insurance,” said Finnegan, who owns TruFit Personal Training Studio in Evanston. “I tried five different companies. One offered me a policy for $850 a month with a huge deductible and terrible coverage — nothing related to my condition. But all my medical costs are related to that, so basically it meant no coverage.” At the same time, many insurance plans used to consider pregnancy, cesarean section, and even domestic violence and sexual abuse as pre-existing conditions.

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USA Today: Man Cleared Of NYC Murder After 25 Years In Prison

A man who spent almost a quarter-century behind bars for murder was freed Tuesday and cleared of a killing that happened when he was 1,100 miles away on a Disney World vacation. Jonathan Fleming was in tears as he hugged his lawyers and family in a Brooklyn courtroom. Relatives said, “Thank you, God!” after he was freed. “After 25 years, come hug your mother,” she said, and he did. Defense attorneys and prosecutors asked a Brooklyn judge to dismiss Fleming’s conviction in the 1989 shooting. A key eyewitness recanted, new witnesses have implicated someone else and a review by prosecutors turned up a hotel receipt putting Fleming in Florida hours before the killing, defense lawyers Anthony Mayol and Taylor Koss said.

“He is elated and stunned, while tempered by the fact that he realizes that this is just the first step in getting his life back,” Koss said before the hearing. Fleming had plane tickets, videos and postcards from his trip, his lawyers said, but authorities suggested he could have been in New York at the actual time of the shooting, and a woman testified that she had seen him shoot Rush. The exoneration, first reported by the New York Daily News, comes amid scrutiny of Brooklyn prosecutors’ process for reviewing questionable convictions — scrutiny that comes partly from the new DA Kenneth Thompson himself. He unseated longtime DA Charles “Joe” Hynes last year after a campaign that focused partly on wrongful convictions on Hynes’ watch. Hynes had created a special conviction integrity unit to review false-conviction claims, but some saw the effort as slow-moving and defensive.

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Jim Puzzanghera: Small-Business Optimism Rebounds As Winter Ends, Survey Says

Small-business owners were more optimistic about the economy last month and expected sales to increase as a winter marked by severe weather ended, according to survey results released Tuesday. The confidence index from the National Federation of Independent Business rose to 93.4 in March, from 91.4 the previous month. The measure is one of the few monthly barometers of the small-business sector, which is a key driver of the economy.

About 12% of the those surveyed said they expected higher sales volumes during the next three months, up 9 percentage points from the February survey. Hiring also improved last month. Small-business owners reported increasing their payrolls by an average of 0.18 workers in March, up from 0.11 the previous month. It was the sixth straight month the survey showed an increase in hiring.

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Igor Volsky: Kathleen Sebelius’ Biggest Achievement Is The One No One Is Talking About

Kathleen Sebelius wasn’t President Obama’s first choice to run the Department of Health and Human Services and oversee the passage and implementation of health care reform. But after Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD) dropped out, Obama tapped the two-term Kansas governor and former state insurance commissioner. Sebelius didn’t have much D.C. experience, but had an impressive track record of working across the aisle as a Democratic governor in a red state. And while the united GOP opposition to health legislation eventually overwhelmed any goodwill Sebelius had built up within the Republican party and the rocky rollout of Obamacare has come to dominate the discussion of her tenure as secretary, that bipartisan quality proved essential to the implementation of the law. Sebelius leaves the office having enrolled some 10 million people in health care coverage. This was only possible because she convinced numerous Republican lawmakers in bright red states to extended health care coverage to the poorest Americans. No one is talking about it, but it is her biggest and most impressive achievement as secretary.

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision invalidating Obamacare’s compulsory Medicaid expansion, most Republican-controlled states refused to extend health care coverage to residents below 133 percent of the poverty line. But Sebelius traveled the country, urging Republican governors to reconsider. As of today, eight GOP-controlled states have approved expansion — in no small part because of the flexibility Sebelius and her team provided. The flexibility extended beyond Medicaid. Sebelius and her team convinced red states to form partnership health care exchanges in which the federal government and the state would share responsibilities in running the marketplaces. They routinely presented GOP governors with information on all other state models and waivers, assuring them that they could customize reform to their specific state needs. As a result, several Republican-dominated states bucked the national party and chose to run their exchanges either on their own, or in collaboration with HHS.

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Josh Israel: Jindal Demands Congressman Resign Over Extramarital Kissing, But Defended Prostitute-Hiring Senator

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) called for Rep. Vance McAllister (R-LA) to resign his House seat, after a videotape surfaced of the freshman Congressman kissing a married woman who is not his wife. But in 2007, Jindal defended Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) when he was revealed to be a client of a DC prostitution service. Jindal released a statement on Thursday, calling McAllister’s behavior “an embarrassment” and suggesting that “the best way to get privacy and work on putting his family back together is to resign from Congress.” But seven years ago, then-Congressman Jindal made no such suggestion to the state’s U.S. Senator. After Vitter’s name appeared on the phone list for “D.C. Madam” Deborah Jeane Palfrey, he apologized for the “very serious sin in my past.” Yet Jindal’s response was to stand by Vitter

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Jonathan Cohn: Sebelius Resigns

On Thursday morning, Kathleen Sebelius testified before Congress and announced that Obamacare signups had reached 7.5 million people. On Thursday evening, news broke that Sebelius was stepping down as Secretary of Health and Human Services. Implementing Obamacare was never going to be easy. The law is full of compromises that, however politically necessary, weakened regulations and depleted funding that would have made introducing the new insurance system a lot easier. And Sebelius never had the kind of control a chief executive officer would. She was always dealing with a host of other players—from superiors at the White House to underlings at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to Democrats on Capitol Hill to lobbyists for the health care industry. And that’s to say nothing of her war with the congressional Republicans, who were trying actively to sabotage the law through repeal votes, funding cuts, and intimidation of would-be allies.

More important, the law seems to be working, despite all of those early problems. That 7.5 million figure she announced on Thursday is a genuinely big deal—particularly since, from what I hear, the final number is likely to be even higher. Sebelius can’t take all or even most of the credit for those successes, any more than she should take all or most of the blame for the law’s troubles. But her role in those achievements (and others, like improvements to Head Start and stronger regulations on child care safety) is also part of her record. To take one obvious example, Sebelius worked extensively with Republican governors who wanted to expand Medicaid in states with hostile conservative constituencies. Some of those efforts succeeded. The memories of Obamacare’s difficult start will certainly linger. But to the millions of people around the country who now have access to affordable medical care, I’m not sure that really matters.

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Fem Chat: 6 Things Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler Missed About The Gender Wage Gap

Glenn Kessler presents a very one-sided discussion of the wage gap in this April 9th “Fact Checker” post in which he increased President Obama’s rating on his use of wage gap statistics from one Pinocchio (in the 2012 campaign) to two—he should have lowered it from one to zero. President Obama has correctly used a long standing data series issued every year by the Census Bureau. The 77 percent wage ratio figure is an accurate measure of the inequality in earnings between U.S. women and men who work full-time, year-round in the labor market. Here are some other things to keep in mind about that statistic: 1) Kessler claims that President Obama uses the 77 percent wage ratio figure because it shows the biggest wage gap when other data series available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show slightly smaller gaps.

Leaving aside how Kessler could get inside the President’s head and know why he picked a certain series, everyone who writes about this issue should know that this figure based on median annual earnings is the historical headline figure that allows the longest comparison across time. 2) Kessler claims that the other series—weekly or hourly earnings—are more accurate, but there is simply no basis for saying so. The 77 percent figure actually includes the broadest range of kinds of earnings; for example annual bonus payments are a big part of remuneration in some fields and are included in the 77 percent figure, but are excluded from the weekly or hourly earnings figures.

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Brian Beutler: The Right Searches For Obamacare Alternative, Finds Obamacare

The Affordable Care Act’s enrollment comeback has confounded conservatives in many ways. The realization that there happens to be popular demand for something as self-evidently grotesque as Obamacare has given rise to a palpable cognitive dissonance on the right. A growing recognition among Republicans that they can’t bank on organizing the midterm campaign around relentless Obamacare opposition has party elders looking at contingency plans (even if they haven’t exactly gone back to the drawing board). But most importantly, it has thrown the conservative health policy community for a loop, and completely wrong-footed Republicans in Congress who were hoping — against considerable odds and a well-worn historical pattern — to craft an Obamacare alternative that both passes the laugh test and doesn’t create a significantly lower level of welfare.

If enrollment had sputtered, that task would have been considerably easier. The fact it surged in March, and continues to grow today, measurably limits their options. If you accept (or acquiesce) to the need for a large coverage expansion and don’t want a single payer or substantial expansion of existing public systems, you need to make sure private insurers cover the sick, which means you need guaranteed issue and community rating — so that nobody is closed out of the system, and so that risk is spread across large populations, not assigned to individuals. But if you have those two things then you need a coverage requirement, so you’re not just spreading risk among old, sick people. And if you have that mandate, you need substantial subsidies — means tested or otherwise — so people aren’t required to purchase insurance they can’t afford. Of course, that’s just Obamacare.

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Bill Schneider: An Election Democrats Can Win

Obamacare versus Ryanomics. That’s the battle line for 2014. It’s also a battle Democrats can win. Why? Because most Americans are pragmatists. Pragmatists believe that whatever works is right. Ideologues believe that if something is wrong, it can’t possibly work — even if it does work. That’s the Republican view of Obamacare: It’s wrong, so it can’t possibly work. But it now looks like Obamacare may work. More than 7 million people signed up for health insurance by the March 31 deadline, meeting the Obama administration’s original goal. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said, “The Affordable Care Act, whether my Republican friends want to admit it or not, is working.” On April 1, Ryan came out with a 10-year budget plan involving massive cuts in popular federal programs like Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, education, student loans and environmental protection.

Ryan’s proposal would eventually change Medicare — the most popular of all federal programs — from an insurance policy to a “premium support” program, where seniors would be given subsidies to purchase private insurance. GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney proposed doing that in 2012. Look where it got him.  Democrats will run against Ryanomics. Republicans will run against Obamacare. Remember the rule of pragmatism: Whatever works is right. If Americans come to believe Obamacare works, they will be reluctant to throw it out. Especially the millions who will already have a stake in Obamacare. On the other hand, Ryan is threatening to do away with programs like Medicare that people know are working. Why? Because he and his fellow Republicans think those programs are wrong. Attacking programs that work is pure ideological bloodlust. And a losing battle for sure.

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Ann Sanner: About 106,000 Ohioans Enroll In Expanded Medicaid

More than 106,000 Ohioans have signed up for Medicaid under an expansion of the taxpayer funded health program, while thousands of others are waiting to hear whether they are deemed eligible. Republican Gov. John Kasich’s administration moved forward with extending Medicaid eligibility last fall under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. Coverage took effect Jan. 1. The safety-net program for the poor and disabled provides coverage for one of every five Ohioans. The Medicaid expansion allows those earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level to gain health care coverage. For a single adult, that’s about $16,104 a year. Ohio’s monthly report on Medicaid caseloads shows that 106,238 residents had enrolled under the extension as of March 31.

That’s about 29 percent of the roughly 366,000 newly eligible people estimated to sign up by the end of June 2015. Residents have been enrolling in Medicaid through the state’s new benefits website. Potential enrollees can use the site instead of visiting county Job and Family Services offices, where many low-income residents apply for food stamps, cash assistance and other public programs. More than 345,000 people have sought Medicaid coverage through the state’s benefit site since Oct. 1. About 65 percent of the applications have been resolved, while roughly 120,000 are still pending. Many of those cases await eligibility determinations by the state’s largest counties.

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@Politics_PR

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LOL GOP: 5 Ways Paul Ryan’s Budget Screws Seniors

Republicans often point out that Obamacare cuts Medicare Advantage and reforms the program. But they fail to mention, as Democrats often do, the benefits the president’s health law has given to current Medicare beneficiaries. The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare reports: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently reported that since the passage of the ACA, over 7.9 million Medicare beneficiaries in the Medicare Part D donut hole have saved $9.9 billion on their prescription drugs, an average of $1,265 per person. Also, 37.2 million people with Medicare took advantage of at least one preventive service with no cost sharing, including an estimated 26.5 million people with traditional Medicare, and more than 4 million who took advantage of the Annual Wellness Visit. Ryan’s budget would repeal those benefits while keeping the cuts Republicans have been campaigning against for four years now.

Obamacare reforms have also lowered the growth of Medicare’s costs to zero. If this trend continues, the program would be solvent even through the peak of Baby Boomer retirements, protecting seniors from future benefit cuts. In an effort to balance the budget in 10 years while keeping tax cuts that mostly benefit the rich, Ryan would cut a slew of programs seniors have relied on. “Funding for Older Americans Act programs like Meals on Wheels, family caregiver support, job training, senior centers, and disease prevention programs, would suffer significant cuts when the need for these services is increasing,” the National Council on Aging (NCOA) reports. “Over time, these programs—which are NOT contributing to the federal budget deficit—would be cut by 22 percent below current levels.” Another $137 billion would be cut from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, aka food stamps. Currently, 9 million seniors and people with disabilities receive SNAP benefits.

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BBC: Hamid Aboutalebi: US Congress Passes Ban On Iran Envoy

The US Congress has sent a bill to the president that would bar Iran’s pick for ambassador to the UN from entering the country. The House of Representatives passed the measure unanimously two days after the Senate approved it. Hamid Aboutalebi was a part of the Muslim student group that seized the US embassy in Tehran in 1979. The White House has told Iran Mr Aboutalebi was “not viable” but has not taken a position on the bill. Fifty-two Americans were held for 444 days at the height of Iran’s Islamic revolution, which saw pro-American Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi sent into exile and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini take power.

Mr Aboutalebi, who previously served as Iran’s ambassador to Belgium, the European Union, Italy and Australia, told Iranian media his participation in the hostage crisis began only after the initial seizure of the embassy, and primarily involved translation. On Thursday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said, “We’ve made clear and have communicated to the Iranians that the selection they’ve put forward is not viable.” As the host country of the United Nations, the US has previously but rarely denied entry to an envoy or head of state. Those included a previous Iranian diplomat and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. In those cases the applications were withdrawn after the US signalled opposition, or the state department simply declined to process the visas. Those options are available in Mr Aboutalebi’s case.

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Paul Krugman: Health Care Nightmare

When it comes to health reform, Republicans suffer from delusions of disaster. They know, just know, that the Affordable Care Act is doomed to utter failure, so failure is what they see, never mind the facts on the ground. Thus, on Tuesday, Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, dismissed the push for pay equity as an attempt to “change the subject from the nightmare of Obamacare”; on the same day, the nonpartisan RAND Corporation released a study estimating “a net gain of 9.3 million in the number of American adults with health insurance coverage from September 2013 to mid-March 2014.” Some nightmare. And the overall gain, including children and those who signed up during the late-March enrollment surge, must be considerably larger. First, there was the amazing come-from-behind surge in enrollments.

Then there were a series of surveys — from Gallup, the Urban Institute, and RAND — all suggesting large gains in coverage. Taken individually, any one of these indicators might be dismissed as an outlier, but taken together they paint an unmistakable picture of major progress. But wait: What about all the people who lost their policies thanks to Obamacare? The answer is that this looks more than ever like a relatively small issue hyped by right-wing propaganda. RAND finds that fewer than a million people who previously had individual insurance became uninsured — and many of those transitions, one guesses, had nothing to do with Obamacare. It’s worth noting that, so far, not one of the supposed horror stories touted in Koch-backed anti-reform advertisements has stood up to scrutiny, suggesting that real horror stories are rare. Republicans clearly have no idea how to respond to these developments. They can’t offer any real alternative to Obamacare.Their political strategy has been to talk vaguely about replacing reform while waiting for its inevitable collapse. And what if reform doesn’t collapse? They have no idea what to do.

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On This Day

President Obama listens during a meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel at Blair House in Washington, D.C., before a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India, April, 11, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama meets with Director of Speechwriting Jon Favreau on the Colonnade outside the Oval Office, April 11, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama returns to the Oval Office through the Rose Garden after surprising students from Altona Middle School in Longmont, Colo., during their White House tour, April 11, 2011. President Obama received a letter from the mother of an Altona student who worried that her son’s trip to Washington, D.C., would be canceled if there was a government shutdown (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Sherman and Tammie Gillums look at their pictures with First Lady Michelle Obama as Mrs. Obama continues to greets guests at the Joining Forces Community Challenge event on the South Lawn of the White House, April 11, 2012 (Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

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President Obama holds Chaplain (Captain) Emil Kapaun’s Easter stole in the Oval Office during a greet with Kapaun’s family in the Oval Office, April 11, 2013. The President and First Lady Michelle Obama met with members of Chaplain Kapaun’s family before awarding him the Medal of Honor posthumously during a ceremony in the East Room (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama talks on the phone with Nicole Hockley and families of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Conn., in the Oval Office, April 11, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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