11:55: President Obama and VP Biden hold an event at the White House to unveil a package of proposals to reduce gun violence
Washington Post: President Obama on Wednesday will formally announce the most aggressive and expansive national gun-control agenda in generations as he presses Congress to mandate background checks for all firearms buyers and prohibit assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips.
…. Obama will begin this effort Wednesday in the presence of children who wrote him letters after last month’s mass shooting at a grade school in Newtown….
In addition to background checks and restrictions on military-style guns and ammunition magazines, Obama is expected to propose mental health and school safety initiatives such as more federal funding for police officers in schools….
….. the proposals amount to the most comprehensive federal regulations of the firearms industry since 1968, when President Lyndon B. Johnson acted in the aftermath of high-profile assassinations…..
BBC: The mother of a British boy shot in the Newtown school massacre has wept as she told how she learned of his death. Dylan Hockley, six, was one of 20 children and six teachers killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Connecticut, on 14 December.
Speaking to BBC News, Dylan’s mother Nicole recalled “shaking” and not being able to stop as police revealed their son was among the gunman’s victims …. Dylan’s body was found in the embrace of his classroom assistant, Anne Marie Murphy.
…. Mr Hockley urged Washington to act on a number of different areas, saying: “The unthinkable has happened. All the shootings that have come before have indeed been terrible tragedies, but now it’s sunk so low that very small children have now been the target of this.
“How could it possibly get worse? If they cannot address this now, it’s as if they think they can never address it and they will give up and this will go on.”
Michael Tomasky: The NRA’s new ad is beyond anything we’ve seen, in political propaganda terms, in the modern history of this country….
…. It’s designed to make people who despise the president despise him even more; and it’s designed to make them despise his children, 14 and 11 years old, because they live a cosseted life that you and your kids don’t; they are ergo elitist hypocrites just like their father.
It’s not even the logic, though, that’s most disturbing … Just mentioning the president’s daughters in an ad full of violent imagery and sounds – silhouettes of assault rifles, profiles of heavily armed soldiers, martial music – is an invitation to certain viewers to make certain mental connections. I’ll stop there. But it’s really a shocking thing…..
Josh Marshall (TPM): It takes a lot for the NRA to shock. But this is just beyond disgusting …. There are so many vile things about this ad. But one thing to note is the ad is really only designed to appeal to people who have a deep – really deep – animosity toward the President. The sort of people who don’t think he and his daughters should be in the White House and wish him the sort of ill citizens should never wish upon a freely elected head of state.
Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns tells TPM: “At some point the NRA’s Washington lobbyists may realize that this kind of thing is making them irrelevant. It does nothing but offend the reasonable people who make up the bulk of their country – and the bulk of their own membership.”
Economy Watch: Retail sales rose more than expected in December as Americans shrugged off the threat of higher taxes and bought automobiles and a range of other goods, suggesting momentum in consumer spending as the year ended….
Economy Watch: For nine straight months, national home prices have been in the positive, and the gains are only getting larger. The latest reading for November shows a 7.4 percent jump from a year ago, according to CoreLogic. That includes sale prices of distressed properties, bank-owned homes and short sales. This is the largest year-over-year jump since 2006 when we were at the height of the housing boom
Chicago Sun-Times: The Chicago Public Library today unveiled artist Steve Musgrave’s new portrait of President Obama to celebrate the upcoming inauguration …. the portrait reflects Obama’s efforts as a community organizer in the South Side Chicago neighborhood prior to seeking public office.
…. the portrait features images of people who have influenced the president’s life including his First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia, his mother and grandmother, Martin Luther King Jr., Frederick Douglass, Rosa Parks, Harold Washington, David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett, among others.
President Barack Obama talks with Kathryn Ruemmler, Counsel to the President, in the Outer Oval Office, Jan 15, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
TPM: A lesser-known but important provision in “Obamacare” that regulates how health insurance companies spend their money is yielding benefits for consumers, a new study finds.
By this August, insurers are projected to send consumers a total of $1.3 billion in rebates, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis released Thursday – $541 million to large employers, $377 million to small businesses and $426 million to people with their own insurance plans.
The rebates are the result of a rule in the Affordable Care Act that requires insurance companies to spend at least 80 percent or 85 percent of premium earnings on health care – as opposed to marketing and administrative activities – or otherwise provide rebates to their consumers.
Steve Benen: Joe Weisenthal published a pretty remarkable chart today noting economic growth in the United States, United Kingdom, and Europe over the last nine years….
…. Once President Obama took office and the Recovery Act/stimulus began putting capital back into the economy, the U.S. economy began growing again. In the U.K., the economy started to improve, right up until British officials began implementing an austerity agenda – at which point the national economy stagnated and slipped back into a recession.
Obama rejected austerity, and as a result, American growth, while fragile and insufficient, is easily outpacing Europe’s and UK’s, where austerity measures have ruled the day.
….When David Cameron’s austerity policies began, Republicans were not only certain they would work, they pleaded with American policymakers to follow the Tories’ lead …. The remarkable thing is, Republicans aren’t the least bit chastened by the track record of failure.
ThinkProgress: …. The Romney campaign organized a conference call today with three of Romney’s foreign policy advisers to push back (against VP Biden’s foreign policy speech). During the call, Romney adviser Ambassador Pierre Prosper attacked President Obama for dealing with Russia, albeit using geographical terms from the Cold War era:
PROSPER: ….. The United States abandoned its missile defense sites in Poland and Czechoslovakia….
Aside from the fact that “Czechoslovakia” broke up into the Czech Republic and Slovakia nearly 20 years ago, the Obama administration never “abandoned” missile defense sites because they were never there to begin with….
Michael Tomasky: It seems clear that the main issue Mitt Romney is going to use to try to reestablish himself as a moderate is immigration …. Can Romney, who staked out an immigration position during the primaries that left him sounding like Pat Buchanan, really pull this off? My bet: He’ll be smooth, he’ll do almost everything right, he’ll say all the right things — and he’ll end up with something very much like the 31 percent of the Latino vote John McCain got, maybe two or three points more, tops. The reason is simple: Romney, like his party, is just too white.
…. There is no signal, at least yet, that Rubio would make a whit of difference. Last weekend, a poll came out in which 1,000-plus Latinos were asked about Obama-Biden matchups against Romney-Rubio, and Romney paired with various other Hispanic Republicans ….. in Florida, Obama did better among Latinos against Romney with Rubio on the ticket, suggesting that maybe to know him isn’t to love him.
NYT: The group Americans for Prosperity just went up with a $6.1 million ad buy in swing states that accuses the Obama administration of squandering American taxpayer dollars on green energy projects, asserting that some of the money actually went to foreign entities….
In making the general assertion that “billions of taxpayer dollars spent on green energy went to jobs in foreign countries,” the ad cites as evidence $1.2 billion that went “to a solar company that’s building a plant in Mexico.” In fact, the company involved in the plant, SunPower, said that the $1.2 billion federal loan guarantee was for its solar ranch in California….
The ad also says that the Obama administration sent “half a billion to an electric car company that created hundreds of jobs in Finland.” …. Loans under the agency’s alternative vehicle program went to Fisker Automotive, an American electric car company based in California that has facilities in Finland, as well as China and Germany. The agency provided $169 million for engineering and tooling work, all carried out in the United States….