TPM: Today the presidential gloves really come off.
In a Tuesday speech hosted by the Associated Press in Washington, D.C., President Obama will deliver a broadside to the House-passed Republican budget, which calls for upending Medicare and making deep cuts to domestic social programs. Obama will describe it as a dark vision for America and draw a clear contrast with his campaign themes of reducing inequality and asking the wealthy to help pay down the nation’s debt.
“This congressional Republican budget, however, is something different altogether. It’s a Trojan Horse,” Obama plans to say, according to excerpts provided by the White House. “Disguised as deficit-reduction plan, it’s really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country. It’s nothing but thinly veiled Social Darwinism. It’s antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity and upward mobility for everyone who’s willing to work for it — a place where prosperity doesn’t trickle down from the top, but grows outward from the heart of the middle class. And by gutting the very things we need to grow an economy that’s built to last — education and training; research and development — it’s a prescription for decline.”
Business Insider: Over the next eight hours, twenty automakers will report March auto sales in the U.S. Already, it appears the seasonally adjusted annual rate of sales will top all industry estimates, new data out of Business Insider shows.
First out the gate this month is Chrysler, with a better-than-expected sales gain of 34.2 percent, moving 163,381 units in March.
At that healthy gain, Business Insider estimates total U.S. SAAR will run between 15.2 million and 16.1 million. This is well above current estimates of 14.6 million units, per Bloomberg.
The last time auto sales topped an annualized pace of 15.2 million was four years ago, in February 2008.
Detroit News: Chrysler Group LLC sold 163,381 cars and trucks last month, translating into a 34 percent year-over-year increase and making March another stellar month for the Auburn Hills automaker.
Meanwhile, Ford Motor Co. said Tuesday that its auto sales were up 5 percent in March — the company’s best March in five years. And Hyundai Motor Co. said it set a new all-time record for U.S. auto sales in March, up 13 percent to 69,728 on strong sales of its fuel-efficient models.
NYT: For several weeks, Mitt Romney has seized on the rising cost of gasoline to attack President Obama and his environmental aides for what Mr. Romney calls their misguided desire to see higher energy prices.
…. But Mr. Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, has in the past appeared much more open to the notion that rising energy costs could be good for the American economy. In his 2010 book, “No Apology,” Mr. Romney described a gradual increase in the cost of energy as the kind of market-based incentive that conservatives could embrace.
…. Charles Ebinger, the director of the energy security initiative at the Brookings Institution, said Mr. Romney’s openness to the benefits of higher energy prices was similar to the approach that Mr. Obama’s advisers had espoused for years.
Steve Benen: ….. The main problem, as the New York Times reported today, is that Romney has already argued for the same policies he’s now against.
…. As governor, Romney also raised gas taxes — by 400% — and hired an energy advisor who opposes reduction in oil prices. Romney even pushed for more energy-efficient light bulbs, though he now opposes the idea.
Clearly, the former governor is aware of public concerns and wants to incorporate energy policy into the 2012 race, but between Romney’s Big Oil ties and his previous personas, it’s not going to be easy for him to stay coherent on the subject.
TPM: A new report by an independent government auditor concludes that implementing President Obama’s health care law as intended will make a significant dent in the long-term debt forecast.
…. it concludes that if key cost-control measures in the law, and other automatic cuts to Medicare spending baked into current law, are ignored, or overridden by Congress, the implications for the national debt are vast.
If “Obamacare” is implemented as intended, and other measures, such as automatic payment cuts to Medicare physicians, take effect, “spending on Medicare and Medicaid grows from 5 percent of GDP in 2010 to over 7 percent by 2030.”
By contrast, if Congress overrides those provisions, “spending on health care grows much more rapidly ….”
2:00: VP Biden attends a campaign event in Fort Worth, Texas.
6:30: VP Biden attends a campaign event in DeKalb, Texas.
7:15: PBO delivers remarks at a campaign event.
9:10: PBO delivers remarks at a campaign event.
11:00: First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks at a DNC reception in Los Angeles.
Michelle Obama appears on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno”.
In case you missed…
Chief of Staff Jack Lew briefs President Barack Obama during Lew’s first senior advisors meeting as chief of staff in the Oval Office, Jan. 30, 2012. Participating in the meeting are, from left: Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett; Lew; Senior Advisor David Plouffe; Counsel to the President Kathryn Ruemmler; Director of Communications Dan Pfeiffer; Counselor to the President Pete Rouse: Press Secretary Jay Carney; Rob Nabors, Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs; Nancy-Ann DeParle, Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy; Alyssa Mastromonaco, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations; and Bruce Reed, Chief of Staff to the Vice President. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Sun Times: While the attention is on the Tuesday Republican primary here, the Obama 2012 re-election team has been organizing in this state for months and already has 11 Florida offices.
…. Here are highlights of the Chicago-based Obama campaign on-the-ground organizing in the Sunshine state:
• 194 State of the Union Watch Parties ranging from Key West all the way to Pensacola.
• Held nearly 3,000 trainings, planning sessions, house parties, and phone banks.
• Held 4,500+ one-on-one meetings.
• Opened 11 campaign offices across the state, including in Jacksonville, Tallahassee, Orlando, St. Petersburg, Tampa, Palm Beach County, Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
In November, Romney was rated somewhat or very negatively by 22 percent of independents.
In December, Romney was rated somewhat or very negatively by 29 percent of independents.
And in the new poll, Romney was rated somewhat or very negatively by 42 percent of independents — 20 points higher than two months ago.
Also: In November, Romney was beating Obama 47-34 among those voters. Now the numbers are upside down: Obama is beating Romney 44-36.
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was the first act President Obama signed, fulfilling a campaign pledge.
The Act amended the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
It gave legal support to Lilly Ledbetter’s 1998 equal-pay lawsuit – a lawsuit that the Supreme Court ruled against in 2007, by a 5-4 majority.
Lilly Ledbetter’s case had been largely ignored until then, but the decision made it “a rallying issue for the left … in their attempt to persuade the public that the Supreme Court was moving too far to the right”. (See more here)
The bill was re-introduced in Congress in January 2009. It passed in the House of Representatives with 247 votes in support and 171 against. The vote was nearly perfectly split along party lines…. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act passed the Senate, 61-36, on January 22, 2009.
President Obama had long championed this bill and Lilly Ledbetter’s cause and by signing it into law ensured that women like Lilly Ledbetter and other victims of pay discrimination could effectively challenge unequal pay.
By the way, here’s how professional left darling Cenk “Obama is a moron” Uygur (the pure ‘progressive’ who’s only 41, but ….. is a ‘former’ Republican whose hero was Reagan, who voted for George HW Bush and Bob Dole, who opposed affirmative action, was anti-choice on the abortion issue, supported Clarence Thomas, had a serious problem with feminism, attended Federalist Society meetings (an organization of conservatives and libertarians co-founded by the charming Robert Bork) and, to this day, is an Armenian Genocide denier – and opposed PBO from almost his first day in office and called on Democrats to vote against him in this year’s Iowa primary …. PBO got 98.5% of the vote, so that worked well) described The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act:
“Eventually the Democrats had a 60 seat majority in the Senate, they were unstoppable. And what did we get? Lilly Ledbetter. If you don’t know, that’s a minor bill that passed in the beginning of the administration … it’s a good bill, that’s why I bring it up … about women being entitled to equal pay. God bless. Incredibly easy victory.”
A “minor” bill?
Ooops, Uygur’s inner Republican slipped out. He should try telling Lilly Ledbetter it’s a “minor” bill.
Read Hoos Left on this fraud, fantastic: “A failed corporate lawyer and neocon with an enhanced opinion of himself and an ego as fat as his broad ass.”
PS Uygur is so progressive, he followed Jane Hamsher and Glenn Greenwald’s lead by setting up a PAC pleading for donations for causes he, um, passionately believes in. And as Hamsher and Greenwald could tell you, these PACs can be very profitable ;-)
First Lady Michelle Obama shows NFL PLAY 60 Super Kid James Gale, 11, historical photos from previous administrations on display in the Booksellers Area during a National Football League (NFL) taping in the East Wing of the White House, Jan. 30, 2012. At right is James’ mother Lisa Gale. The taping will air during the Super Bowl, Feb. 5, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
President Barack Obama participates in a college affordability roundtable with college presidents in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Dec. 5, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
9:35 The President departs the White House
12:25 Arrives Kansas City
1:55 Delivers remarks on the economy
4:25 Departs Kansas City en route to Andrews
AP: President Barack Obama is channeling President Theodore Roosevelt, embracing a mantle of economic fairness for the nation’s middle class Tuesday that draws parallels to the progressive reformer’s calls for a “square deal” for regular Americans more than a century ago.
Obama intends to use a speech in small town Osawatomie, Kan. – where Roosevelt delivered his “New Nationalism” address in 1910 – to lay out economic themes of giving middle-class workers a fair shake and greater financial security, concepts the president will probably return to repeatedly during the 2012 campaign.
…. The president will be speaking at a high school about 50 miles southwest of Kansas City, not far from the presidential electoral prize of Missouri, which Obama narrowly lost to Republican John McCain in 2008.
Spike Dolomite Ward (LA Times): ….. I want to apologize to President Obama. But first, some background. I found out three weeks ago I have cancer. I’m 49 years old, have been married for almost 20 years and have two kids…. We’re good people, and we work hard. But we haven’t been able to afford health insurance for more than two years….
…. Fortunately for me, I’ve been saved by the federal government’s Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan, something I had never heard of before needing it. It’s part of President Obama’s healthcare plan, one of the things that has already kicked in, and it guarantees access to insurance for U.S. citizens with preexisting conditions who have been uninsured for at least six months …. for me it’s been a lifesaver – perhaps literally.
….. Which brings me to my apology. I was pretty mad at Obama before I learned about this new insurance plan. I had changed my registration from Democrat to Independent, and I had blacked out the top of the “h” on my Obama bumper sticker, so that it read, “Got nope” instead of “got hope.” I felt like he had let down the struggling middle class. My son and I had campaigned for him, but since he took office, we felt he had let us down.
So this is my public apology. I’m sorry I didn’t do enough of my own research to find out what promises the president has made good on. I’m sorry I didn’t realize that he really has stood up for me and my family, and for so many others like us. I’m getting a new bumper sticker to cover the one that says “Got nope.” It will say “ObamaCares.”
USA Today: More than 2.65 million Medicare recipients have saved more than $1.5 billion on their prescriptions this year, a $569-per-person average, while premiums have remained stable, the government plans to announce today.
That’s because of the provision of the health care law that put a 50% discount on prescription drugs in the “doughnut hole,” the gap between traditional and catastrophic coverage in the drug benefit, also known as Part D.
And, as of the end of November, more than 24 million people, or about half of those with traditional Medicare, have gone in for a free annual physical or other screening exam since the rules changed this year because of the health care law…..
Steve Benen: Politico will host an awards dinner tonight, honoring “Policymakers of the Year” in a variety of categories and fields. That wouldn’t be especially interesting, were it not for the news organization’s choice for “Health Care Policymaker of the Year.”
…..House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan….
…. It’s been several months since the political world debated Paul Ryan’s approach to health care in detail, so perhaps Politico has forgotten some of the more important realizations from the debate. Let’s remind the publication of the relevant details….. (see post)
To know all of this, and give this guy an award “Health Care Policymaker of the Year” anyway, is madness.
Steve Kornacki: President Obama’s remarks this afternoon captured how dramatically his posture toward congressional Republicans has changed since this summer …. he is shifting the battle to a new, more promising front: the looming expiration of payroll tax cuts.
On this subject, Republicans are increasingly nervous and divided ….. This set the stage for Obama’s appearance this afternoon, where he struck a confident tone and sought to make the GOP squirm even more. Just behind the president was a countdown clock that indicated a tax hike is just 26 days away unless action is taken. He called on Congress to “keep your word to the American people, and don’t raise taxes on them right now,” and belittled the GOP for its seemingly selective devotion to tax relief. “I know many Republicans have sworn an oath never to raise taxes as long as they live,” Obama said. “How could it be the only time there’s a catch is when it comes to raising taxes for middle-class families?”
….This is a new phenomenon in the 112th Congress: Obama and his party seem to have the upper hand – and they know it.
“We agree, of course, with former Speaker Gingrich – this is a country of people of enormous talent. Those who deliver thousands of babies like Dr. Paul and those who spend their time focusing on promoting themselves for profit. We even have those who lobby, but don’t call it such because, as they say, they can make $60,000 per speech. While those of us in the Paul camp might disagree with Newt Gingrich about whether Donald Trump is the right man to host a serious political debate, we do agree New York is a wonderful place to go at Christmas. We are sure two average Americans like Speaker Gingrich and Donald Trump will have a wonderful time picking out gifts for their wives. We suggest a place called Tiffany’s, we hear it is quite nice this time of year and given their celebrity status they can probably get special deals and $500,000 lines of credit.”
Reuters: Mitt Romney spent nearly $100,000 in state funds to replace computers in his office at the end of his term as governor of Massachusetts in 2007 as part of an unprecedented effort to keep his records secret, Reuters has learned.
…. The effort to purge the records was made a few months before Romney launched an unsuccessful campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008.
… Theresa Dolan, former director of administration for the governor’s office, told Reuters that Romney’s efforts to control or wipe out records from his governorship were unprecedented.
Dolan said that in her 23 years as an aide to successive governors “no one had ever inquired about, or expressed the desire” to purchase their computer hard drives before Romney’s tenure.
LA Times: ….. Romney says his Bain experience shows he knows how to create jobs …. But a closer examination of the prospectus paints a different picture of Bain’s operation …. Bain expanded many of the companies it acquired. But like other leveraged-buyout firms, Romney and his team also maximized returns by firing workers, seeking government subsidies, and flipping companies quickly for large profits. Sometimes Bain investors gained even when companies slid into bankruptcy.
…. Four of the 10 companies Bain acquired declared bankruptcy within a few years, shedding thousands of jobs. The prospectus shows that Bain investors profited in eight of the 10 deals, including three of the four that ended in bankruptcy.
…. Bain formed GSI in the early 1990s by spending $24 million to acquire and merge steel companies with plants in Missouri, South Carolina and other states. Company managers cut jobs and benefits almost immediately. Meanwhile, Bain and other investors received management fees from GSI and a $65-million dividend in the first years after the acquisition….
Charles P. Pierce (Esquire): Why Does Everybody Hate Mitt? …. I’ve cast my memory back as far as I can, and I cannot recall a major politician of either party who causes so many members of his party to spit (metaphorically, one hopes) at the simple mention of his name. And this is not a recent phenomenon. One of the few insights worthy of anyone’s time in that horrible Game Change book was the fact that, by the end of the 2008 presidential cycle, all of the other Republican candidates had come to despise Willard. (John McCain was apoplectic on the subject, even by McCain’s standards, which are considerable.) This now has seemed to transfer itself to the Republican electorate in general. Nobody likes this guy…..
On the surface, this elemental loathing seems disproportionate, even if you take into account how much of the GOP’s Jesus-jammin’ base distrusts the extended coven into which Romney was born …. Willard is something of a foof who spends all his time falling a few yards short of sincerity. He speaks a form of trust-fund English that can be off-putting. He is as utterly unprincipled as a politician can be, and he’s about as trustworthy as a puff adder… all Romney’s done is change his position on a whole host of issues, and talk like the guy who’s come to repossess the family farm…..
President Obama, flanked by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, in the Roosevelt Room, Nov 28
WH: Over the weekend, a report by the Associated Press detailed how the Affordable Care Act is dramatically reducing drug costs for seniors who hit the prescription drug coverage gap known as the donut hole. This year, seniors are benefiting from a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs in the donut hole. And the discount and other provisions in the law are saving money for seniors. As the AP reported:
The average beneficiary who falls into the coverage gap would have spent $1,504 this year on prescriptions. But thanks to discounts and other provisions in President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul law, that cost fell to $901…
…. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, seniors will receive bigger discounts in the years ahead. By 2020, the donut hole will be closed completely.
And even if you don’t hit the donut hole, there’s still good news for beneficiaries with Medicare Part D. Prescription drug premiums will not rise next year, and thanks to health reform, seniors can get preventive services like mammograms and other cancer screenings for free.
President Obama has dinner with campaign donors and winners of the “Dinner with Barack” contest at The Liberty Tavern in the Clarendon neighborhood of Arlington, Va.
MSNBC: Medicare’s basic monthly premium will rise significantly less than expected next year, the government announced Thursday. That could pay political dividends for President Barack Obama and for Democrats struggling to win over seniors in a close election.
…. In a statement accompanying release of the Medicare premiums, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius asserted that seniors have nothing to fear from the new health care law.
“The Affordable Care Act is helping to keep Medicare strong and affordable,” she said. “People with Medicare are seeing higher quality benefits, better health care choices and lower costs.”
ThinkProgress: Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry released a tax plan this week that he and many media reports called a “20 percent flat tax.” But Perry’s new alternative tax scheme is hardly “flat”.
Leaving aside the fact that it is layered on top of the existing tax code, it establishes not one but two different tax rates: 20 percent for wages, and zero percent for investment income. Because capital gains and dividends would be sheltered from taxes under Perry’s plan, some of the wealthiest Americans would wind up paying nowhere near 20 percent overall.
In fact, billionaire Warren Buffett, who has lamented the fact that he currently pays only 11 percent of his adjusted gross income in federal income taxes, would pay as little as 0.2 percent under Perry’s plan.
ABC: Today’s New York Times story … includes an intriguing reference to a staff memo directing those traveling in a car with Mr. Cain, “Do not speak to him unless you are spoken to.”
Could the affable Mr. Cain really have a “don’t-talk-to-me-unless-I-talk-to-you” policy?
Yes. He does. Really.
A top aide to Mr. Cain explains to me why.
“It’s the same policy for any Secretary of Defense or four-star general,” a senior Cain staffer explained to ABC News. “You don’t talk to them unless they talk to you, generally. Sometimes you get guests in the car and they want to talk and talk and talk, and then Mr. Cain wants to prepare for the next interview or the next speech and he’s very engaging, so it can be a distraction. After a while, he gets to the point where he doesn’t want to talk, but wants to prepare for what he’s doing next.”
More excellent comedy from Dick Halperin today in Time. He magnificently ignored all the polls that show President Obama leading RomPerryCain in swing states, and concluded that if the election was held today he’d lose.
It’d be nice, though, if Halperin had an original thought:
Mark Halperin (today): Is President Obama on the ropes? …. The coalition that helped elect the President …. has been disbanded.
Mark Halperin (December 2010): The coalition that got Barack Obama elected President just two years ago has been shattered ….
Last year, Alex Pareene of Salon (which I seriously hate linking because it’s become Firebagger Central) did a series on “the worst columnists and cable news commentators America has to offer …. the most predictable, dishonest and just plain stupid pundits in the media.” Halperin had to settle for the runners-up prize, behind Richard Cohen. It’s worth a read again:
Alex Pareene (2010): Mark Halperin – The Drudge-loving political analyst who gets everything wrong …. his belief in the unerring political instincts of Karl Rove and the godlike omniscience of Matt Drudge ….
…. Halperin’s worst quality is actually that he is constantly wrong. He is a professional political analyst, yet he often seems to be completely, 100 percent wrong about even the horse-race aspects of politics that he specializes in. He kept promising, in 2006, that Bush’s approval ratings would once again surge past 50 percent. Remember when John McCain “suspended his campaign” to fix the economy? Mark Halperin said McCain won the week.
The book Halperin wrote …. “The Way to Win,” his preview of “the way to win” the presidential election in 2008. His advice was to emulate Karl Rove and worship Matt Drudge – the key to victory seemed to involve a lot of Matt Drudge – and the 2008 election as it actually happened made the whole book (which he co-wrote with Politico co-founder John Harris!) look utterly ridiculous.
… All we ask for is a little accountability. At the very least, Halperin’s TV chyron should read, “ALWAYS WRONG ABOUT EVERYTHING.”
Marketwatch: With a little more than two trading days left in the month, it is shaping up to be the best October ever for the Dow Jones Industrial Average. And that is saying something, since the Dow has existed since 1896, 115 years ago.
As of mid-day trading on Thursday, the Dow INDU is ahead more than 11% for the month. The previous record for the month of October was held by 1982, when the Dow turned in a 10.7% return. That’s an auspicious historical precedent, since that month came very early in that decade’s spectacular bull market which, arguably, didn’t end until nearly 20 years later.
President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and senior staff, react in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, as the House passes the health care reform bill, March 21, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Des Moines Register: After more than five weeks on a ventilator, Amy Ward is finally being weaned off it to breathe on her own. She no longer requires dialysis. But a near-fatal infection resulting from a freak accident has left her with a long road of rehab ahead.
In the time he’s spent at his wife’s bedside in a hospital critical care unit, her husband has been able to do a lot of thinking. Ross Daniels, on unpaid family medical leave from his IT job to tend to his wife, has had to face the real possibility that he would lose her, though she’s just 39….
… Daniels has also thought about what would have happened if portions of the new federal health care law had not been in place. His wife’s insurance had a million dollar lifetime cap on benefits. Her current expenses have already exceeded that. One medication – a potent antifungal agent – costs $1,600 a dose. Without the protection against lifetime limits the new law provides, they would have had to declare bankruptcy.
That law, derisively dubbed “Obamacare” by the president’s opponents, has been portrayed as the essence of evil among Republican presidential candidates. At a tea party-sponsored debate this week, front-runners Rick Perry and Mitt Romney vowed to sign executive orders exempting states from enforcing it. Michele Bachmann bragged of working for its repeal in Congress.
Those attitudes confound Daniels, who says, “It is hard for us to believe that so many of the GOP candidates would have us go back to a time where an illness like this would have forced us, or any other family for that matter, into bankruptcy.” He’s also grateful for the law’s protection against insurance companies denying coverage for pre-existing conditions.
…. by the time the next president is sworn in, enough people will have experienced the protections and benefits it offers that no elected official would risk his or her standing by rescinding it. That’s the value of first-hand experience, painful as it may be. It brings you closer to the truth than all the political platitudes in the world.
Maggie Mahar (Taking Note): It is an article of faith, at least among conservatives, that as long as Medicare remains a government program, outlays will rise relentlessly, year after year. Only “the market” could possibly tame Medicare inflation, they say. The fear-mongers argue that unless we either shift costs to seniors; raise the age when they become eligible for Medicare; or turn the whole program over to private sector insurers, Medicare expenditures will bankrupt the country.
Here is the truth: Both Standard & Poor’s (S&P) and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) now have 18 months of hard data showing that Medicare spending has begun to slow dramatically.
Health reform legislation has not yet begun to kick in to pare Medicare payments, but something is changing on the ground. Medicare spending began to plunge in January of 2010. After levitating by an average of 9.7 percent a year from 2000 to 2009, CBO’s monthly budget reports show that Medicare pay-outs are now rising by less than 4 percent a year…..
… This slow-down is not a result of Congress cutting Medicare spending. Instead, as former White House health care adviser Dr Zeke Emanuel pointed out, providers are “anticipating the Affordable Care Act kicking in 2014”. They can’t wait until the end of 2013, he explained: “They have to act today. Everywhere I go,” Emanuel, told me, “medical schools and hospitals are asking me, ‘How can we cut our costs by 10 to 15 percent?’ They know that they must trim their own costs if they are going to lower the bills that they send to Medicare.’”….