Posts Tagged ‘budget



16
Oct
14

The Deficit Is Falling? You Can Thank President Obama

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Brett Logiurato: The Budget Deficit Just Fell To Its Lowest Level Under Obama

The US budget deficit fell to about $483 billion in fiscal year 2014, almost a $200 billion drop from the previous year and the lowest level of President Barack Obama’s six years in office. The US Treasury Department released the official figures on Wednesday, generally confirming figures released by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office last week. It’s the smallest deficit recorded since 2008.

FY2014 was the fifth consecutive year the deficit declined as a percentage of GDP. It is now an estimated 2.8% of GDP, a percentage that puts it below the average of the past 40 years. The Treasury’s figures chalked up the shrinking deficit to increased revenues from taxes and slowed growth in government spending. “It’s really a rise in revenues because of economic growth, because of the policies the president pursued, that we’ve made progress on the deficit,” said Shaun Donovan, the director of the Office of Management and Budget.

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09
Oct
14

That Hopey Changey Thing Is Working Out Great. Thanks, President Obama!

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Rolling Stone: The Obama Hope And Change Index: 6 Years Of Progress, By The Numbers

Peak unemployment, October 2009: 10 percent
Unemployment rate now: 5.9 percent
Consecutive private sector job growth: 55 months
Private sector jobs created: 10.3 million
Federal deficit, 2009: 9.8 percent of GDP
Deficit in 2013: 4.1 percent of GDP

Average tax rate for highest earners 2008: 28.1 percent
Average tax rate for highest earners 2013: 33.6 percent
Banks regulated as too big to fail, 2009: 0
Banks regulated as “systemically important financial institutions” — a.k.a. too big to fail — 2014: 29
Billions returned to consumers by Consumer Financial Protection Bureau enforcement: $4.6 billion
Americans compensated for being swindled by banks, lenders and credit card companies: 15 million
Dow Jones close, inauguration day 2009: 7,949
Dow Jones yesterday: 16,719

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Required MPG (miles per gallon) for cars when Obama took office: 27.5
Required MPG for light trucks/SUVs when Obama took office: 23
MPG requirement by 2016 for cars, light trucks/SUVs: 35.5
MPG required by 2025: 54.5
Gigawatts of wind power installed when Obama took office: 25
Gigawatts of wind power installed through end of 2013: 61
Peak summertime solar power generation June 2008: 128 gigawatt hours
Peak summertime solar power generation June 2014: 2,061 gigawatt hours
Coal burned in electrical generation 2008: 1 billion short tons
Coal burned in electrical generation 2013: 858 million short tons
Reduction: 14.2 percent
EPA-proposed CO2 reductions for power sector by 2030: 30 percent

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Pell grant funding 2008-2009: $18 billion
Pell grant funding 2013-2014: $33 billion
Adults gaining insurance under first year of Obamacare: 10.3 million
As a percentage of the uninsured: 26
Annual cost for birth control prior to Obamacare: Up to $600
Annual cost for birth control under Obamacare-compliant policies: $0
Prescriptions now required to obtain emergency contraception: 0
2009 projection for Medicare going broke: 2017
2014 projection for Medicare going broke: 2030

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Troops in Iraq, inauguration day 2009: 144,000
Troops in Iraq today: 1,600
Osama bin Ladens alive 2009: 1
Osama bin Ladens alive 2014: 0
Troops in Afghanistan, day, 2009: 34,400
Troops pledged in Afghanistan by end of 2014: 9,800
Guantánamo detainees inauguration day 2009: 242
Gitmo detainees today: 149
Crack vs. Powder cocaine-crime sentencing disparity when Obama took office: 100:1
Crack vs. Powder disparity today: 18:1
Drug offenders eligible to seek early release under new sentencing guidelines: 46,000

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06
Oct
14

The American Economy Is Growing? You Can Thank President Obama

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Bloomberg: Corporate U.S. Healthiest In Decades Under Obama With Lower Debt

Steve Wynn, founder of the Wynn Resorts Ltd. (WYNN) casino empire, once called President Barack Obama’s administration “the greatest wet blanket to business and progress and job creation in my lifetime.” Barry Sternlicht, chief executive officer of Starwood Property Trust Inc. (STWD), said Obamacare was driving down wage growth and “affecting spending and the desire to buy houses and everything else.” Corporate and economic statistics almost six years into his administration paint a different picture. Companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 (SPX) Index are the healthiest in decades, with the lowest net debt to earnings ratio in at least 24 years, $3.59 trillion in cash and marketable securities, and record earnings per share. They are headed this year toward the fastest average monthly job creation since 1999, manufacturing is recovering and the U.S. has returned as an engine for global growth. The recovery, which stands in contrast to weak growth in Europe and Asia, has underpinned an almost threefold gain in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index since March 2009.

“The U.S. is leading the way — we’re the only major economy with accelerating growth,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist in West Chester, Pennsylvania, for Moody’s Analytics Inc. and a registered Democrat who has advised both the Obama administration and Senator John McCain, a Republican. “Obama deserves some credit for that, but he probably won’t get it.” Barring any major disruptions, the economy is setting up for Obama to leave office on a high note, said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian and professor at Rice University in Houston. “History will eventually show that Obama inherited the Great Recession and resuscitated the economy,” Brinkley said in an interview. One example is General Motors Co. (GM), which last week regained its investment-grade debt rating from Standard & Poor’s only five years after the government-backed bankruptcy. Obama’s $49.5 billion bailout of the automaker in exchange for taxpayers owning 61 percent of the company kept it from being liquidated, an outcome that could have crippled parts suppliers and economies throughout most of 50 states, not just the Midwest. In the broader economy, consumers are buying again and homebuilding is increasing. The unemployment rate has declined to 6.1 percent, the lowest since 2008. The economy expanded at a 4.6 percent annualized rate in April through June. Obama’s 2010 health-care program will hold down consumer prices for years to come as millions of Americans obtain coverage, BNP Paribas SA and Credit Suisse Group AG said. The “Medicare cost miracle” resulted at least in part from Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Nobel-Prize winning economist Paul Krugman wrote in a Sept. 1 New York times article.

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9.26.14

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Steve Benen: Economic Growth Improves To Eight-Year High

The preliminary figures on second-quarter GDP looked good; the revised tally looked better; and the final report looks even better still. The U.S. economy grew at a 4.6% annual pace in the second quarter, matching the best performance since the recession ended in mid-2009. The increase in real gross domestic product was revised up from 4.2%, mainly because of higher exports and business investment, the Commerce Department said Friday. Americans also spent more on health care, but the gain was offset by lower spending on other services. Economists polled by MarketWatch had predicted GDP would be revised up to a seasonally adjusted 4.7%. Consumer spending, the main source of economic activity, was unchanged at 2.5% growth. The biggest gains came in business investment, a good sign for the economy in the months ahead. To provide some additional context, 4.6% growth is tied for the best quarter since the start of the Great Recession.

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30
Aug
14

President Obama’s Policies Aren’t Working? Tell Us Another Lie, GOP

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28
Aug
14

Democrat + Forward Thinking Policies = Growing Economy

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Yahoo: Economy In U.S. Expands 4.2%, More Than Previously Forecast

The biggest gain in U.S. business investment in over two years helped the world’s largest economy expand more than previously forecast in the second quarter, raising expectations for the rest of 2014. Gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced, rose at a 4.2 percent annualized rate, up from an initial estimate of 4 percent and following a first-quarter contraction, Commerce Department reported today in Washington. Other reports showed the outlook for home sales improved in July, fewer people filed claims (INJCJC) for jobless benefits last week and consumer confidence climbed. Recent data showing American factories are receiving more orders and employment is picking up indicate companies such as General Electric Co. (GE) will probably see demand sustained into the second half of the year. “The recovery is becoming more well-entrenched,” said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James & Associates Inc. in St. Petersburg, Florida, who correctly projected the gain in GDP.

“There is more optimism among businesses about increased demand. The drop in firings is probably helping Americans feel more secure in their jobs. The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose in the week ended Aug. 24 to the highest level in more than a month as views of household finances advanced to an almost four-month high, another report showed. Household consumption, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy, grew at a 2.5 percent annualized rate, the same as previously estimated. Automobile sales near an eight-year high bode well for consumer spending and factory production. Consumers’ purchasing power improved, with disposable income adjusted for inflation rising at a 4.2 percent from April through June after a 3.4 percent gain in the first quarter. Gross domestic income, which reflects all the money earned by consumers, businesses and government agencies climbed at a 4.7 percent annualized rate in the second quarter, the most since early 2012. More hiring and stock-market gains that are boosting confidence also are healing household finances, which will help consumer spending. Payrolls in July marked the sixth month of gains exceeding 200,000, the longest such stretch since 1997, according to the Labor Department.

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Jason Furman: Second Estimate Of GDP For The Second Quarter Of 2014

1. Real gross domestic product (GDP) increased 4.2 percent at an annual rate in the second quarter of 2014, according to the second estimate from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The strong second-quarter growth represents a rebound from a first-quarter decline in GDP that largely reflected transitory factors like unusually severe winter weather and a sharp slowdown in inventory investment. Growth in consumer spending and business investment picked up in the second quarter, and residential investment increased following two straight quarters of decline. Additionally, state and local government spending grew at the fastest quarterly rate in five years.

3. Over the last four quarters, real GDP has risen 2.5 percent, faster than the 2.0 percent annualized pace observed over the preceding eight-quarter period. Looking at four- and eight-quarter changes to smooth some of the quarter-to-quarter volatility, it is clear that many components of GDP are showing improvement. The growth rates of consumer spending, business investment and exports have all picked up, and the pace of declines in the Federal sector have moderated a bit. In addition, the State and local government sector has turned positive, after several years of steady cutbacks. One area that has slowed over the last four quarters is residential investment, which is discussed in greater detail in the next point.

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27
Aug
14

Medicare Is Not Destroying The Budget? Thanks, ObamaCare

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David Leonhardt: Medicare: Not Such A Budget-Buster Anymore

You’re looking at the biggest story involving the federal budget and a crucial one for the future of the American economy. Every year for the last six years in a row, the Congressional Budget Office has reduced its estimate for how much the federal government will need to spend on Medicare in coming years. The latest reduction came in a report from the budget office on Wednesday morning. The changes are big. The difference between the current estimate for Medicare’s 2019 budget and the estimate for the 2019 budget four years ago is about $95 billion dollars. That sum is greater than the government is expected to spend that year on unemployment insurance, welfare and Amtrak — combined. It’s equal to about one-fifth of the expected Pentagon budget in 2019. Widely discussed policy changes, like raising the estate tax, would generate just a tiny fraction of the budget savings relative to the recent changes in Medicare’s spending estimates.

In more concrete terms, the reduced estimates mean that the federal government’s long-term budget deficit is considerably less severe than commonly thought just a few years ago. The reduced estimates are also an indication of what’s happening in the overall health care system. Even as more people are getting access to health insurance, the costs of caring for individual patients is growing at a super-slow rate. That means that health care, which has eaten into salary gains for years and driven up debt and bankruptcies, may be starting to stabilize as a share of national spending. The Affordable Care Act, in particular, made significant reductions to Medicare’s spending on hospitals and private Medicare plans, to help subsidize insurance coverage for low- and middle-income Americans.

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22
Aug
14

Rise and Shine

 On This Day: “A man salutes the President as he travels from Seneca Falls to Syracuse, N.Y. during the college affordability bus tour. Aug. 22, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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NYT: Obama Cares. Look At The Numbers.

AS the predominantly black, disproportionately poor community of Ferguson, Mo., erupted in protest after the shooting death of Michael Brown, critics excoriated President Obama for his failure to empathize. Michael Eric Dyson, for example, called the president’s statement about the case on Monday a “stunning epic failure.” Mr. Obama’s defenders point to his second-term commitment to issues that touch the lives of poor communities of color, especially his initiative to assist young minority men, My Brother’s Keeper. But what both sides are ignoring is the president’s first-term record.

A true measure of a president’s priorities lies hidden in plain sight in his budget proposals. Under that standard, Mr. Obama has been more committed to communities like Ferguson than any Democratic president in the past half century. … …. Even after accounting for the higher numbers of poor people caught in the Great Recession, Mr. Obama’s record outshines his predecessors’. His proposed first-term spending per poor individual was $13,731 to Mr. Clinton’s $8,310 and Mr. Carter’s $4,431, in 2014 dollars.

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Slate: Advice For Ferguson From The Supreme Court

Kyle Niere, 23, was arrested on Monday night in Ferguson, Missouri, for “refusing to disperse” as he attempted to leave the QuikTrip station, where hundreds have gathered to protest the police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen. As he later relayed to NBC News, Niere, along with 12 other protesters, was arrested after cops told him and his friends that they “looked like the type that were going to stir up drama and go start looting.” According to Niere, police officers dragged him “face-first on the ground” and were “stepping on the back of our heads.” Niere and the others were held overnight and released. This has been the pattern for more than a week: Dozens of legitimate protesters arrested for essentially doing it wrong, which can be variously described as protesting about issues of race, refusing to stop protesting about issues of race, and in many cases, perhaps most outrageously, protesting while black.

It’s virtually impossible to square the law enforcement definition of illegal protest with the snuggly warm vision of political protest put forth by a unanimous Supreme Court only two months ago in McCullen v. Coakley. That was the case in which the high court struck down a Massachusetts law barring any protests within 35 feet of an abortion clinic. That law was passed after two clinic workers were shot and killed at clinics in 1994. But there is a crucial difference between the abortion opponents whose speech rights were feted by the court in McCullen and the garden variety protesters who can still be rounded up in free speech pens and summarily arrested on the streets of Ferguson: The court was careful to explain that the protesters in Massachusetts are not actually “protesters.” They are “counselors.” This presents an obvious solution for the outraged citizens who have taken to the streets of Ferguson and been met with tear gas, rubber bullets, and incarceration: rebranding. From this day forth you should consider yourself “sidewalk counselors.”

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Brian Lord: A Little Known Robin Williams Story

Years ago I learned a very cool thing about Robin Williams, and I couldn’t watch a movie of his afterward without thinking of it. I never actually booked Robin Williams for an event, but I came close enough that his office sent over his rider. For those outside of the entertainment industry, a rider lists out an artist’s specific personal and technical needs for hosting them for an event- anything from bottled water and their green room to sound and lighting requirements. You can learn a lot about a person from their rider. When I got Robin Williams’ rider, I was very surprised by what I found.

He actually had a requirement that for every single event or film he did, the company hiring him also had to hire a certain number of homeless people and put them to work. I never watched a Robin Williams movie the same way after that. I’m sure that on his own time and with his own money, he was working with these people in need, but he’d also decided to use his clout as an entertainer to make sure that production companies and event planners also learned the value of giving people a chance to work their way back. Thanks, Robin Williams- not just for laughs, but also for a cool example.

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Nick Timiraos: Foreclosed-Property Sales Fall to Lowest Levels Since 2008

Thursday’s home-sales report offers the clearest evidence that the housing market is moving out of the emergency ward and into a rehab facility. The National Association of Realtors reported that home sales rose for the fourth straight month in July to the highest seasonally adjusted annual rate since last September. But the real sign that the housing market is out of critical condition comes courtesy of a separate survey the NAR does of its members. That survey estimates the share of distressed home sales in July fell to 9% of all sales, the lowest level since the trade group’s tally began in October 2008.

the drop in foreclosed-property sales deserves attention. Sales of non-distressed homes, using crude estimates derived from the NAR’s survey, are up slightly from a year ago. Prices are still rising, but not as sharply as they were a year ago. And higher prices could be drawing out more sellers. Inventories are at their highest levels in nearly two years—and this time, they appear to be rising because Joe and Jane Homeowner, not a bank or mortgage-processing company, wants to sell.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

More here

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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!

POTUS Thumbs Up

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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.

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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.

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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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