On This Day: President Barack Obama hugs Vicki Kennedy as he touches the coffin of her husband, Senator Edward Kennedy during his funeral at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica in Boston, Aug. 29, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
Today (all times Eastern)
11:30: Press Briefing by Josh Earnest
12:30: President Obama departs the White House
1:55: Arrives Westchester County, New York
2:40: Attends a DNC fundraiser, private residence, New Rochelle, New York
4:35: Attends a DNC fundraiser, private residence, Purchase, New York
5:20: Departs Westchester
6:10: Arrives Warwick, Rhode Island
7:35: Delivers remarks at a fundraiser for House Democrats; private residence, Newport, Rhode Island
8:50: Departs Rhode Island for DC
President Obama talks with staff during a meeting in the Oval Office, Aug. 28, 2014 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Steve Benen: Obama crafting plan for ISIS threat in Syria
For good or ill, President Obama sometimes offers candid, shorthand assessments without much regard for how they’ll be perceived by the political world – or how easily the comments might be taken out of context. From a distance, I get the sense he just doesn’t care what offhand phrase might send the Beltway into a tizzy and generate a half-dozen Politico items. After nearly six years on the job, Obama just seems to have bigger things on his mind.
But those of us who regularly swim in these waters – and who’ve internalized Republican talking points to the point at which we can visualize Fox News segments before they even air – tend to see the pointless uproars coming.
Alarm is growing in Kiev and the West over Russia’s role in eastern Ukraine. But what is Russian President Vladimir Putin trying to achieve?
The indications are clear that Russia is being more confident and less discreet about the presence of its troops and equipment in eastern Ukraine.
As well as sightings of Russian tanks, and reports of Russian paratroopers not only captured by Ukraine but also killed “while carrying out their duties”, statements by separatist leaders have changed too.
After months of calling for assistance from Russia, separatist leaders now say that they can “do without outside help”. All this could indicate that Russian planners felt the military situation of Russian-backed separatists was severe enough to need more direct assistance.
Equally, it could be that Russia is simply less concerned at this stage about discretion and deniability.
Was I the last person on planet earth to see this splendiferous suit? I was? Okay. And am I the last person on earth to learn that the media didn’t listen to a single word he said, they were too busy commenting on the suit? I am? Okay……
TPM: Obama Did A Huge Thing For Workers, Now States Should Do The Same
This weekend marks the unofficial end of summer as well as a chance for us to reflect on the achievements of American workers. This year, workers across the country have a lot to celebrate, thanks in part to a series of executive orders signed by President Obama, including the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order, which cracks down on federal contractors who violate labor laws.
In a significant step towards greater accountability for private contractors, corporations will be required to report their labor violations in updates to government agencies every six months, and contractors will also be responsible for making sure any subcontractors are playing by the rules as well. Additionally, the report directs contractors not to require employees to enter into pre-dispute arbitration agreements for sexual assault and harassment crimes, as well as violations of the Civil Rights Act.
Most importantly, any contractor that’s found to violate labor laws will be restricted from competing for certain contracts, and government agencies will have additional guidance on how to take labor violations into account in their process of awarding contacts. This will help keep taxpayer dollars out of the coffers of companies that are guilty of repeated violations that endanger the lives of workers and cheat employees out of pay.
I went out yesterday for a minute for a worky thing and didn’t get home until after one in the morning – does this phenomenon happen anyone else on a regular basis?
Any way, wasn’t ready for sleep, so began watching PBS’s Emmett Till documentary that I’d recorded a while ago. There were so many details about the case that I’d forgotten, and I’d forgotten too what an extraordinary woman Mamie Till was.
The Emmett Till and Michael Brown cases were, of course, hugely different, but they had the same outcome: ie murdered black boys. And, I fear, Michael Brown’s family will receive as much justice: none.
What struck me last night, though, was the part about the locals raising money – a lot of money – for Emmett’s murderers, and I thought of the people donating huge money to Darren Wilson.
Not content with cheerleading the killers of black boys, they are intent on helping them profit from their crimes too. For reasons of pure, unadulterated hate.
So, I went to sleep thinking, some things just never ***ing change.
Bloomberg: Obama’s Advisers in Final Review of Immigration Options
President Barack Obama’s lawyers are finishing months of work on a legal rationale for unilateral action on immigration that will have to withstand Republican assaults in the courts and during the congressional election campaign.
With a self-imposed deadline three weeks away, Obama has kept his deliberations closely held, even among White House advisers, while requesting information from staff, according to an administration official. The legal review of his authority hasn’t been presented to Obama yet, the official said.
No announcement is likely until after Obama returns from a trip next week to Estonia and Wales, according to the official…
I’m seriously late posting this after a crazy week or two – apologies Tally, and thank you!
A Word From Tally
Why Health Care Matters, and why the US is still vulnerable
The US is the only country on Earth where it’s legal to make a profit on someone’s illness. I understand why; it’s a giant conflict of interest. But because of that profit, the system is still out of reach for many, especially in red states with asshole GOP governors who refused the Federal Medicaid expansion funds.
So…… what if something like the West Africa Ebola outbreak happens here?
If EVERYONE doesn’t have affordable access to healthcare, how do you contain such an outbreak?
As awesome as the ACA is, Obamacare doesn’t cover all our citizens yet, and we must clear the way for everyone in this country to have access to healthcare, yes, even illegal aliens and people visiting here from other countries.
Viruses don’t care where you were born, how much money you make, what color your skin is, what sex you are, what religion (if any) you practice, what your sexual orientation is, who you voted for, what flavor of ice cream you prefer, or where you live.
They’re equal opportunity killers, and you aren’t magically protected from getting a virus from someone who is uninsured, even if you are.
The US is a sitting duck when it comes to this, and healthcare access should be a National Security issue. We’re the country who’s population never take vacation, and suck it up when we’re sick by going to work anyway, less we appear weak. By doing so, we’re spreading our germs everywhere, allowing the virus to spread far and wide, mutating in the process.
It would be easy to lay us low between our work-at-all-costs attitude, and lack of access to affordable care.
There’s a reason other countries have Nationalized health care systems, and don’t drive their citizens into financial ruin if they get sick. It’s better, and healthier when people just go to the doctor when they’re sick, then go home and get better.
It’s only in the US where working yourself to death is a badge of honor, and denying citizens health care is acceptable to some.
On This Day
The white draped casket of Senator Edward Kennedy sits before (from left) the Senator’s son Edward Kennedy Jr., his widow Vicki Kennedy, former President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former president George W. Bush, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joseph Biden and his wife Jill Biden, and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter and former President Jimmy Carter during funeral services at the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Boston, Mass. on Aug. 29, 2009. (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wait to be introduced at Xavier University in New Orleans, La., before delivering remarks marking the five-year anniversary of hurricane Katrina, Aug. 29, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
First Lady Michelle Obama shakes hands with spectators at Xavier University on August 29, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet members of Maude Smith’s family at her home in New Orleans, La., Aug. 29, 2010. The President and First Lady were visiting New Orleans to mark the five-year anniversary of hurricane Katrina (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama walks with daughter Malia Obama on August 29, 2010 upon their return to the White House. The First Family completed their 10-day vacation on Martha’s Vineyard and spent August 29, in New Orleans, Louisiana
First Lady Michelle Obama participates in a “Pop the Question” question and answer segment during a taping of the “Rachael Ray Show” at Chelsea Television Studios in New York, N.Y., Aug. 29, 2012.
First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Mehmet Oz jump rope during a taping of the “Dr. Oz Show,” at Rockefeller Plaza in New York, N.Y., Aug. 29, 2012.
President Obama reacts after recognizing actress Sissy Spacek in Charlottesville, Va., Aug. 29, 2012. The President happened upon Spacek while greeting people following a stop in the town (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the White House Summit on Working Families at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington. President Obama, as part of efforts to make the U.S. workplace more accommodating for employees with families, will on Monday direct federal agencies to step up efforts to give workers more leeway in determining their schedules.
President Barack Obama sits with, from left, Mark Weinberger, Ernst & Young, Alex Gorsky, CEO of Johnson and Johnson, Shelia Marcello, CEO of Care.com, Debra Lee, Chairman and CEO of BET Networks, and Dave Lissy from Bright Horizons during their meeting at the White House Summit on Working Families
President Barack Obama is encouraging Congress and the country to focus on issues here at home — namely how to improve the livelihoods of working families.Here are the five things we learned from our sitdown with the President: 1. The goal of the summit is … “… to lift up the conversation that everybody is already having individually and let people know you’re not alone out here,” Obama said. Priority one: Paid family leave According to a survey from the United Nations’ labor agency, of the 185 countries and territories with readily available information, only three do not provide paid maternity leave. And, you guessed it, the United States made that list. The other two countries are Oman and Papua New Guinea. “Paid family leave, we’re the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t have it,” the President said. “It doesn’t make any sense. There are a lot of countries that are a lot poorer than we are that also have it.”
"I take this personally because I’m the husband of a brilliant woman who struggled to balance work and raising our girls." —President Obama
Priority two: Workplace flexibility The President said he’s pushing for workplace flexibility to give parents the opportunity to become more involved in their children’s lives and education. “We always say that we want parents involved in our kids’ education,” he said. “There are millions of families out there who can’t even imagine taking time off to go to a parent-teacher conference.” This type of workplace flexibility is a practice that he and the first lady believe will improve employee morale and motivation. Priority three: Child care. “We don’t do a very good job providing high-quality, affordable child care, and there are a lot of countries, a lot of our competitors do it,” Obama told Bolduan. “That means that it’s a lot easier for women to be in the workforce and not have to make choices that ultimately mean they’re, in some cases, getting paid less or having less opportunities. And it also means, by the way, that our kids are more likely to thrive.” Add to that list: Equal pay for equal work.
President Barack Obama mimics someone handing him a baby
President Barack Obama walks down Calvert Street NW to have lunch at a Chipotle Mexican Grill in Washington, before they attended the White House Summit on Working Families. Walking with President Obama, from second from left are, Shirley Young, Shelby Ramirez, Lisa Rumain, and Rodger Trombley
President Barack Obama with Shelby Ramirez
Robin Roberts and First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House Summit on Working Families
On This Day: First Lady Michelle Obama participates in an interview with Stephen Colbert during a taping of “The Colbert Report,” at the Colbert Report Studio in New York, N.Y., April 11, 2012 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
Today (All Times Eastern)
11:0 President Obama announces the nomination of Sylvia Burwell to be HHS Secretary
12:15: First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden Host a Joining Forces Caregivers Event
1:55: The President and First Lady depart the White House
3:05 Arrive New York City
4:10 The President delivers remarks at the National Action Network’s 16th Annual Convention
11:30 The President and First Lady depart New York
12:40 Arrives White House
People insured under Kathleen @Sebelius: 10+ million
People insured by Republicans: 0 (or NEGATIVE 5M if you count blocking Medicaid)
Caitlin Macneal: Arkansas Free Clinic Closing, Citing More Insured Through Obamacare
A medical clinic in Mena, Ark. announced that it would be closing, citing a large drop in need for the clinic as people have signed up for health insurance under Obamacare. “Because people are qualifying for insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, our free medical clinic will not be needed anymore,” Stacey Bowser, the director of the 9th Street Ministries Clinic, told the Mena Star.
“We’ve gone from seeing around 300 people a month on a regular basis, but as people were enrolling in Obamacare, the numbers we were seeing have dropped. We were down to 80 people that came through the medical clinic in February, all the way down to three people at the medical clinic in March. Our services won’t be needed anymore, and this will conclude our mission,” she continued.
LA Times: Bank Of America To Pay $772 Million For Illegal Credit Card Practices
Bank of America Corp. has agreed to refund customers $727 million and pay $45 million in fines for illegal credit card practices, according to a settlement with federal regulators announced Wednesday. The refunds will go to as many as 2.9 million people who were deceived into signing up for products such as credit monitoring and identity theft protection or were improperly charged for such services, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said. The action was part of a crackdown by the bureau on deceptive marketing, enrollment and billing practices related to such so-called add-on products by credit card companies. Bank of America is the fifth financial services company to be hit with fines and refund orders.
“Bank of America both deceived consumers and unfairly billed consumers for services not performed,” said Richard Cordray, the bureau’s director. “We will not tolerate such practices and will continue to be vigilant in our pursuit of companies who wrong consumers in this market.” Bank of America agreed to the refunds and penalties without admitting or denying the allegations. In addition to the refunds, the bank will pay a $20-million civil penalty to the bureau and a $25-million civil penalty to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
Meg Finnegan thought she might never be able to afford to have a baby. Finnegan, who is self-employed and has a pre-existing medical condition, was having trouble finding health insurance at all, let alone a policy that would cover pregnancy and childbirth. So she was thrilled to discover that the plan she signed up for last fall under the Affordable Care Act includes maternity coverage. “When you don’t have insurance, you’re afraid of any life event that brings you to the hospital, for a good or a bad reason,” said Finnegan, 37, an Evanston resident. “If I didn’t have insurance, I wouldn’t have a baby. All those doctor’s appointments and tests, and possibly a high-risk delivery — how would you pay for it?” A guarantee of maternity coverage — all new insurance policies must provide it — is just one of a basket of provisions in the federal health law that specifically benefit women. Other guaranteed services include preventive care, which must be covered with no out-of-pocket cost. For most plans, preventive care includes at least one annual “well-woman” visit, breast-feeding support, contraceptives and contraceptive counseling, annual mammograms and cervical cancer screening.
Women’s health advocates also expect women to benefit more from some provisions in the law that apply to people of either sex. For example, the expansion of Medicaid, as well as financial assistance in the form of tax credits and cost sharing, is expected to disproportionately benefit women, who are more likely than men to have low incomes. Insurers also are required to cover mental health screening and treatment, and women have higher rates of depression and other types of mental illness. Kathy Waligora of EverThrive Illinois (formerly the Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition) said she considers the law “a huge victory for women.” Finnegan, who said she has a rare condition called Behcet’s disease, is one of 129 million Americans with pre-existing conditions, which private policies generally did not cover before the health overhaul. Now, by law, insurers may not deny coverage or charge higher premiums on the basis of health status. “I couldn’t get insurance,” said Finnegan, who owns TruFit Personal Training Studio in Evanston. “I tried five different companies. One offered me a policy for $850 a month with a huge deductible and terrible coverage — nothing related to my condition. But all my medical costs are related to that, so basically it meant no coverage.” At the same time, many insurance plans used to consider pregnancy, cesarean section, and even domestic violence and sexual abuse as pre-existing conditions.
USA Today: Man Cleared Of NYC Murder After 25 Years In Prison
A man who spent almost a quarter-century behind bars for murder was freed Tuesday and cleared of a killing that happened when he was 1,100 miles away on a Disney World vacation. Jonathan Fleming was in tears as he hugged his lawyers and family in a Brooklyn courtroom. Relatives said, “Thank you, God!” after he was freed. “After 25 years, come hug your mother,” she said, and he did. Defense attorneys and prosecutors asked a Brooklyn judge to dismiss Fleming’s conviction in the 1989 shooting. A key eyewitness recanted, new witnesses have implicated someone else and a review by prosecutors turned up a hotel receipt putting Fleming in Florida hours before the killing, defense lawyers Anthony Mayol and Taylor Koss said.
“He is elated and stunned, while tempered by the fact that he realizes that this is just the first step in getting his life back,” Koss said before the hearing. Fleming had plane tickets, videos and postcards from his trip, his lawyers said, but authorities suggested he could have been in New York at the actual time of the shooting, and a woman testified that she had seen him shoot Rush. The exoneration, first reported by the New York Daily News, comes amid scrutiny of Brooklyn prosecutors’ process for reviewing questionable convictions — scrutiny that comes partly from the new DA Kenneth Thompson himself. He unseated longtime DA Charles “Joe” Hynes last year after a campaign that focused partly on wrongful convictions on Hynes’ watch. Hynes had created a special conviction integrity unit to review false-conviction claims, but some saw the effort as slow-moving and defensive.
Small-business owners were more optimistic about the economy last month and expected sales to increase as a winter marked by severe weather ended, according to survey results released Tuesday. The confidence index from the National Federation of Independent Business rose to 93.4 in March, from 91.4 the previous month. The measure is one of the few monthly barometers of the small-business sector, which is a key driver of the economy.
About 12% of the those surveyed said they expected higher sales volumes during the next three months, up 9 percentage points from the February survey. Hiring also improved last month. Small-business owners reported increasing their payrolls by an average of 0.18 workers in March, up from 0.11 the previous month. It was the sixth straight month the survey showed an increase in hiring.
Igor Volsky: Kathleen Sebelius’ Biggest Achievement Is The One No One Is Talking About
Kathleen Sebelius wasn’t President Obama’s first choice to run the Department of Health and Human Services and oversee the passage and implementation of health care reform. But after Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD) dropped out, Obama tapped the two-term Kansas governor and former state insurance commissioner. Sebelius didn’t have much D.C. experience, but had an impressive track record of working across the aisle as a Democratic governor in a red state. And while the united GOP opposition to health legislation eventually overwhelmed any goodwill Sebelius had built up within the Republican party and the rocky rollout of Obamacare has come to dominate the discussion of her tenure as secretary, that bipartisan quality proved essential to the implementation of the law. Sebelius leaves the office having enrolled some 10 million people in health care coverage. This was only possible because she convinced numerous Republican lawmakers in bright red states to extended health care coverage to the poorest Americans. No one is talking about it, but it is her biggest and most impressive achievement as secretary.
In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision invalidating Obamacare’s compulsory Medicaid expansion, most Republican-controlled states refused to extend health care coverage to residents below 133 percent of the poverty line. But Sebelius traveled the country, urging Republican governors to reconsider. As of today, eight GOP-controlled states have approved expansion — in no small part because of the flexibility Sebelius and her team provided. The flexibility extended beyond Medicaid. Sebelius and her team convinced red states to form partnership health care exchanges in which the federal government and the state would share responsibilities in running the marketplaces. They routinely presented GOP governors with information on all other state models and waivers, assuring them that they could customize reform to their specific state needs. As a result, several Republican-dominated states bucked the national party and chose to run their exchanges either on their own, or in collaboration with HHS.
Josh Israel: Jindal Demands Congressman Resign Over Extramarital Kissing, But Defended Prostitute-Hiring Senator
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) called for Rep. Vance McAllister (R-LA) to resign his House seat, after a videotape surfaced of the freshman Congressman kissing a married woman who is not his wife. But in 2007, Jindal defended Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) when he was revealed to be a client of a DC prostitution service. Jindal released a statement on Thursday, calling McAllister’s behavior “an embarrassment” and suggesting that “the best way to get privacy and work on putting his family back together is to resign from Congress.” But seven years ago, then-Congressman Jindal made no such suggestion to the state’s U.S. Senator. After Vitter’s name appeared on the phone list for “D.C. Madam” Deborah Jeane Palfrey, he apologized for the “very serious sin in my past.” Yet Jindal’s response was to stand by Vitter
On Thursday morning, Kathleen Sebelius testified before Congress and announced that Obamacare signups had reached 7.5 million people. On Thursday evening, news broke that Sebelius was stepping down as Secretary of Health and Human Services. Implementing Obamacare was never going to be easy. The law is full of compromises that, however politically necessary, weakened regulations and depleted funding that would have made introducing the new insurance system a lot easier. And Sebelius never had the kind of control a chief executive officer would. She was always dealing with a host of other players—from superiors at the White House to underlings at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to Democrats on Capitol Hill to lobbyists for the health care industry. And that’s to say nothing of her war with the congressional Republicans, who were trying actively to sabotage the law through repeal votes, funding cuts, and intimidation of would-be allies.
More important, the law seems to be working, despite all of those early problems. That 7.5 million figure she announced on Thursday is a genuinely big deal—particularly since, from what I hear, the final number is likely to be even higher. Sebelius can’t take all or even most of the credit for those successes, any more than she should take all or most of the blame for the law’s troubles. But her role in those achievements (and others, like improvements to Head Start and stronger regulations on child care safety) is also part of her record. To take one obvious example, Sebelius worked extensively with Republican governors who wanted to expand Medicaid in states with hostile conservative constituencies. Some of those efforts succeeded. The memories of Obamacare’s difficult start will certainly linger. But to the millions of people around the country who now have access to affordable medical care, I’m not sure that really matters.
Fem Chat: 6 Things Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler Missed About The Gender Wage Gap
Glenn Kessler presents a very one-sided discussion of the wage gap in this April 9th “Fact Checker” post in which he increased President Obama’s rating on his use of wage gap statistics from one Pinocchio (in the 2012 campaign) to two—he should have lowered it from one to zero. President Obama has correctly used a long standing data series issued every year by the Census Bureau. The 77 percent wage ratio figure is an accurate measure of the inequality in earnings between U.S. women and men who work full-time, year-round in the labor market. Here are some other things to keep in mind about that statistic: 1) Kessler claims that President Obama uses the 77 percent wage ratio figure because it shows the biggest wage gap when other data series available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show slightly smaller gaps.
Leaving aside how Kessler could get inside the President’s head and know why he picked a certain series, everyone who writes about this issue should know that this figure based on median annual earnings is the historical headline figure that allows the longest comparison across time. 2) Kessler claims that the other series—weekly or hourly earnings—are more accurate, but there is simply no basis for saying so. The 77 percent figure actually includes the broadest range of kinds of earnings; for example annual bonus payments are a big part of remuneration in some fields and are included in the 77 percent figure, but are excluded from the weekly or hourly earnings figures.
Brian Beutler: The Right Searches For Obamacare Alternative, Finds Obamacare
The Affordable Care Act’s enrollment comeback has confounded conservatives in many ways. The realization that there happens to be popular demand for something as self-evidently grotesque as Obamacare has given rise to a palpable cognitive dissonance on the right. A growing recognition among Republicans that they can’t bank on organizing the midterm campaign around relentless Obamacare opposition has party elders looking at contingency plans (even if they haven’t exactly gone back to the drawing board). But most importantly, it has thrown the conservative health policy community for a loop, and completely wrong-footed Republicans in Congress who were hoping — against considerable odds and a well-worn historical pattern — to craft an Obamacare alternative that both passes the laugh test and doesn’t create a significantly lower level of welfare.
If enrollment had sputtered, that task would have been considerably easier. The fact it surged in March, and continues to grow today, measurably limits their options. If you accept (or acquiesce) to the need for a large coverage expansion and don’t want a single payer or substantial expansion of existing public systems, you need to make sure private insurers cover the sick, which means you need guaranteed issue and community rating — so that nobody is closed out of the system, and so that risk is spread across large populations, not assigned to individuals. But if you have those two things then you need a coverage requirement, so you’re not just spreading risk among old, sick people. And if you have that mandate, you need substantial subsidies — means tested or otherwise — so people aren’t required to purchase insurance they can’t afford. Of course, that’s just Obamacare.
Obamacare versus Ryanomics. That’s the battle line for 2014. It’s also a battle Democrats can win. Why? Because most Americans are pragmatists. Pragmatists believe that whatever works is right. Ideologues believe that if something is wrong, it can’t possibly work — even if it does work. That’s the Republican view of Obamacare: It’s wrong, so it can’t possibly work. But it now looks like Obamacare may work. More than 7 million people signed up for health insurance by the March 31 deadline, meeting the Obama administration’s original goal. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said, “The Affordable Care Act, whether my Republican friends want to admit it or not, is working.” On April 1, Ryan came out with a 10-year budget plan involving massive cuts in popular federal programs like Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, education, student loans and environmental protection.
Ryan’s proposal would eventually change Medicare — the most popular of all federal programs — from an insurance policy to a “premium support” program, where seniors would be given subsidies to purchase private insurance. GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney proposed doing that in 2012. Look where it got him. Democrats will run against Ryanomics. Republicans will run against Obamacare. Remember the rule of pragmatism: Whatever works is right. If Americans come to believe Obamacare works, they will be reluctant to throw it out. Especially the millions who will already have a stake in Obamacare. On the other hand, Ryan is threatening to do away with programs like Medicare that people know are working. Why? Because he and his fellow Republicans think those programs are wrong. Attacking programs that work is pure ideological bloodlust. And a losing battle for sure.
Ann Sanner: About 106,000 Ohioans Enroll In Expanded Medicaid
More than 106,000 Ohioans have signed up for Medicaid under an expansion of the taxpayer funded health program, while thousands of others are waiting to hear whether they are deemed eligible. Republican Gov. John Kasich’s administration moved forward with extending Medicaid eligibility last fall under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. Coverage took effect Jan. 1. The safety-net program for the poor and disabled provides coverage for one of every five Ohioans. The Medicaid expansion allows those earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level to gain health care coverage. For a single adult, that’s about $16,104 a year. Ohio’s monthly report on Medicaid caseloads shows that 106,238 residents had enrolled under the extension as of March 31.
That’s about 29 percent of the roughly 366,000 newly eligible people estimated to sign up by the end of June 2015. Residents have been enrolling in Medicaid through the state’s new benefits website. Potential enrollees can use the site instead of visiting county Job and Family Services offices, where many low-income residents apply for food stamps, cash assistance and other public programs. More than 345,000 people have sought Medicaid coverage through the state’s benefit site since Oct. 1. About 65 percent of the applications have been resolved, while roughly 120,000 are still pending. Many of those cases await eligibility determinations by the state’s largest counties.
Republicans often point out that Obamacare cuts Medicare Advantage and reforms the program. But they fail to mention, as Democrats often do, the benefits the president’s health law has given to current Medicare beneficiaries. The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare reports: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently reported that since the passage of the ACA, over 7.9 million Medicare beneficiaries in the Medicare Part D donut hole have saved $9.9 billion on their prescription drugs, an average of $1,265 per person. Also, 37.2 million people with Medicare took advantage of at least one preventive service with no cost sharing, including an estimated 26.5 million people with traditional Medicare, and more than 4 million who took advantage of the Annual Wellness Visit. Ryan’s budget would repeal those benefits while keeping the cuts Republicans have been campaigning against for four years now.
Obamacare reforms have also lowered the growth of Medicare’s costs to zero. If this trend continues, the program would be solvent even through the peak of Baby Boomer retirements, protecting seniors from future benefit cuts. In an effort to balance the budget in 10 years while keeping tax cuts that mostly benefit the rich, Ryan would cut a slew of programs seniors have relied on. “Funding for Older Americans Act programs like Meals on Wheels, family caregiver support, job training, senior centers, and disease prevention programs, would suffer significant cuts when the need for these services is increasing,” the National Council on Aging (NCOA) reports. “Over time, these programs—which are NOT contributing to the federal budget deficit—would be cut by 22 percent below current levels.” Another $137 billion would be cut from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, aka food stamps. Currently, 9 million seniors and people with disabilities receive SNAP benefits.
BBC: Hamid Aboutalebi: US Congress Passes Ban On Iran Envoy
The US Congress has sent a bill to the president that would bar Iran’s pick for ambassador to the UN from entering the country. The House of Representatives passed the measure unanimously two days after the Senate approved it. Hamid Aboutalebi was a part of the Muslim student group that seized the US embassy in Tehran in 1979. The White House has told Iran Mr Aboutalebi was “not viable” but has not taken a position on the bill. Fifty-two Americans were held for 444 days at the height of Iran’s Islamic revolution, which saw pro-American Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi sent into exile and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini take power.
Mr Aboutalebi, who previously served as Iran’s ambassador to Belgium, the European Union, Italy and Australia, told Iranian media his participation in the hostage crisis began only after the initial seizure of the embassy, and primarily involved translation. On Thursday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said, “We’ve made clear and have communicated to the Iranians that the selection they’ve put forward is not viable.” As the host country of the United Nations, the US has previously but rarely denied entry to an envoy or head of state. Those included a previous Iranian diplomat and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. In those cases the applications were withdrawn after the US signalled opposition, or the state department simply declined to process the visas. Those options are available in Mr Aboutalebi’s case.
When it comes to health reform, Republicans suffer from delusions of disaster. They know, just know, that the Affordable Care Act is doomed to utter failure, so failure is what they see, never mind the facts on the ground. Thus, on Tuesday, Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, dismissed the push for pay equity as an attempt to “change the subject from the nightmare of Obamacare”; on the same day, the nonpartisan RAND Corporation released a study estimating “a net gain of 9.3 million in the number of American adults with health insurance coverage from September 2013 to mid-March 2014.” Some nightmare. And the overall gain, including children and those who signed up during the late-March enrollment surge, must be considerably larger. First, there was the amazing come-from-behind surge in enrollments.
Then there were a series of surveys — from Gallup, the Urban Institute, and RAND — all suggesting large gains in coverage. Taken individually, any one of these indicators might be dismissed as an outlier, but taken together they paint an unmistakable picture of major progress. But wait: What about all the people who lost their policies thanks to Obamacare? The answer is that this looks more than ever like a relatively small issue hyped by right-wing propaganda. RAND finds that fewer than a million people who previously had individual insurance became uninsured — and many of those transitions, one guesses, had nothing to do with Obamacare. It’s worth noting that, so far, not one of the supposed horror stories touted in Koch-backed anti-reform advertisements has stood up to scrutiny, suggesting that real horror stories are rare. Republicans clearly have no idea how to respond to these developments. They can’t offer any real alternative to Obamacare.Their political strategy has been to talk vaguely about replacing reform while waiting for its inevitable collapse. And what if reform doesn’t collapse? They have no idea what to do.
President Obama listens during a meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel at Blair House in Washington, D.C., before a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India, April, 11, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama meets with Director of Speechwriting Jon Favreau on the Colonnade outside the Oval Office, April 11, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama returns to the Oval Office through the Rose Garden after surprising students from Altona Middle School in Longmont, Colo., during their White House tour, April 11, 2011. President Obama received a letter from the mother of an Altona student who worried that her son’s trip to Washington, D.C., would be canceled if there was a government shutdown (Photo by Pete Souza)
Sherman and Tammie Gillums look at their pictures with First Lady Michelle Obama as Mrs. Obama continues to greets guests at the Joining Forces Community Challenge event on the South Lawn of the White House, April 11, 2012 (Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)
President Obama holds Chaplain (Captain) Emil Kapaun’s Easter stole in the Oval Office during a greet with Kapaun’s family in the Oval Office, April 11, 2013. The President and First Lady Michelle Obama met with members of Chaplain Kapaun’s family before awarding him the Medal of Honor posthumously during a ceremony in the East Room (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama talks on the phone with Nicole Hockley and families of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Conn., in the Oval Office, April 11, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama is introduced to speak by Lilly Ledbetter at an event aimed at increasing transparency about women’s pay during an event at the White House. The first law President Obama signed after taking office in 2009 was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which extended time periods for employees to file claims for wages lost as a result of discrimination.
President Barack Obama signs executive actions, with pending Senate legislation, aimed at closing a compensation gender gap that favors men, during an event marking Equal Pay Day. President Obama announced new executive actions to strengthen enforcement of equal pay laws for women.
Keeping with his promise to champion women’s rights in the workplace, President Barack Obama signed an executive order Tuesday that addresses the issue of unequal pay among federal contractors.The executive order addresses the federal government’s gender wage gap by mandating that contractors publish wage data — by gender and race — to ensure compliance with equal-pay laws. The order also prohibits contractors from retaliating against employees who compare salaries. Tuesday’s signing coincides with National Equal Pay Day, serving as a reminder that more than 50 years after the Equal Pay Act was made law, women still earn less then men. On average, women earn only about 77 cents on the dollar compared with men. African-American women and Latinas take home even less, just 64 cents and 54 cents, respectively, for every dollar earned by white men, according to the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC). Obama called the numbers “embarrassing,” and “wrong.”
“It is good to move the ball forward on improving our equal pay policies,” Fatima Graves, NWLC vice president for education and employment, told Al Jazeera. “It’s important because right now workers are left in the dark about wage disparity information.” “What we really need is for Congress to pass the Fair Paycheck Act which would get at all workers,” she said. A Senate vote on that act, slated for Tuesday, would extend the order’s requirements to most other employers. However, the bill has already failed to pass twice, despite evidence that pay transparency can reduce the gender wage gap. In the federal government, for example, where pay rates are publicly available, the gender wage gap is much smaller than in the private sector, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.The Fair Paycheck Act would close loopholes in the Equal Pay Act of 1963
With a strong, optimistic beginning and an unforgettable ending, that may have been President Obama’s best State of the Union speech. Apparently none of the commentators who have been saying his presidency is on its last legs bothered to let him know. He opened with a portrait of the country – not an America gripped by crisis or mired in despondency, but a sunny place where unemployment is falling, school test scores are rising, housing prices are recovering, deficits are shrinking and manufacturing jobs are coming home.
the president’s tone throughout the speech was buoyant, not sour. His defense of the Affordable Care Act was an observation that House Republicans’ first 40 useless votes to repeal the law really should suffice. Even when he bludgeoned the GOP over long-term unemployment benefits or the minimum wage, he did it with a smile. His argument for equal pay and family leave? “It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a ‘Mad Men’ episode.” His call for raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10? “Join the rest of the country. Say yes. Give America a raise.”
The end of the speech, a tribute to wounded Sgt. 1st Class Cory Remsburg, was an indelible moment. To end with such a powerful story of bravery and resilience gave emotional depth to the overall theme of the speech: America is back. I don’t know how much of his agenda Obama will achieve. But I’m pretty sure the last three years of his presidency won’t be boring.
Once again, he was the only obvious president in the room, much good may that do him. He did not rile up the base. He was not combative. He did not dwell on issues that his base wanted to hear. (If you had “Keystone XL,” or “NSA,” or “TPP” in your State of the Union drinking game, you probably wound up as the designated driver.) But he was firm on one thing. He is not going to be a lame duck as long as he can still walk. There were a lot of sentences that began with some variation of, “If Congress won’t act…” And he can still throw a sneaky right hand over the top: Now, I do not expect to convince my Republican friends on the merits of this law. But I know that the American people are not interested in refighting old battles. So again, if you have specific plans to cut costs, cover more people, increase choice, tell America what you’d do differently. Let’s see if the numbers add up. But let’s not have another 40- something votes to repeal a law that’s already helping millions of Americans like Amanda.
He was extraordinarily strong in spots, particularly on voting rights, where he plainly had a lot to say, and said it all, and on the process of getting the country off what he rather daringly described as the “permanent war footing” it had been on since 2001. But, if this speech burned no barns, it didn’t sound anything like a last chance, either. The president seemed to have a pen and one hand, and that well-worn olive branch still in the other. He is what he always has been, the coolest head in the room. You can never say he isn’t that.
Stem cell researchers are heralding a “major scientific discovery”, with the potential to start a new age of personalised medicine. Scientists in Japan showed stem cells can now be made quickly just by dipping blood cells into acid. Stem cells can transform into any tissue and are already being trialled for healing the eye, heart and brain. The latest development, published in the journal Nature, could make the technology cheaper, faster and safer.
The human body is built of cells with a specific role – nerve cells, liver cells, muscle cells – and that role is fixed. However, stem cells can become any other type of cell, and they have become a major field of research in medicine for their potential to regenerate the body. Embryos are one, ethically charged, source of stem cells. Nobel prize winning research also showed that skin cells could be “genetically reprogrammed” to become stem cells (termed induced pluripotent stem cells).
Every winter since 2009, President Obama has stood at the podium of the House and pleaded for the cooperation of Congress. For the last three State of the Union speeches, he has largely been ignored. That has left a growing trail of unfinished business: background checks for gun buyers, immigration reform, a higher minimum wage, tax fairness, universal preschool. This year was different. Mr. Obama’s speech on Tuesday night acknowledged the obvious: Congress has become a dead end for most of the big, muscular uses of government to redress income inequality and improve the economy for all, because of implacable Republican opposition.
“America does not stand still, and neither will I,” he said. “So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.” Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour for federal contract workers might benefit only a few hundred-thousand people, but it increases the pressure on other businesses and, ultimately, Congress to raise the wage for everyone. One particularly promising request the president made of Congress was to expand the earned-income tax credit, which now benefits 15 million families a year, to workers without children. That would not only boost the incomes of many at the bottom of the ladder, but it would provide the incentive to work that many Republicans say they support.
Brian Beutler: The Right’s Agenda Is Reviled: The Lesson From Obama’s Confident State Of The Union
Intentionally or otherwise, Obama’s speech was a reminder to Democrats that the storm clouds of Obamacare implementation have obscured their view of the popular platform the party ran on so confidently in 2012. That there are a series of issues that animate Democratic constituencies on the docket, both ahead of 2014 and beyond, and all of them are political and substantive winners for the party.
To the extent that the GOP agenda isn’t in flux or concealed by sensitivity training, it remains broadly less popular than the Democratic agenda. Republicans understand this well enough to recognize that they need to at least pretend to want to narrow inequality, but these ideas don’t layer neatly atop the existing party platform.
And, of course, in the long run, fanatical opposition to national health care isn’t easily compatible with any serious equality agenda. Democrats don’t have that problem. And structurally that puts them in a sound place, even if the politics of the moment feel pretty wobbly.
Annie-Rose Strasser: Obama Goes Full Feminist: ‘Time To Do Away With Workplace Policies That Belong In A ‘Mad Men’ Episode’
President Obama let his feminist flag fly during his State of the Union address on Tuesday night. Citing pay disparity and paid leave policy, he argued — to loud applause — that women are still unequal in the United States, and that there are policies that can change that: Today, women make up about half our workforce. But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment. A woman deserves equal pay for equal work. She deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job. A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship– and you know what, a father does, too. It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a “Mad Men” episode. Let’s work together – Congress, the White House, and businesses from Wall Street to Main Street – to give every woman the opportunity she deserves. Because I believe when women succeed, America succeeds.
The President’s ‘Mad Men’-era assessment is apt. Women earn less than their male counterparts in the United States no matter their job, industry, or education. Nationally, women earn 77 cents on a man’s dollar — and that number is not getting better. It affects women right out of college and women at the tops of their fields. Obama is right to call out leave policy, as well, as an issue that keeps women on unequal footing in the workforce. The U.S. is one of the few developed nations without any requirement for paid maternity leave. Over 40 percent of women are forced to take unpaid leave from their jobs when they get pregnant, while about 25 percent quit or are forced out.
USA Today: Obama Unveils New Retirement Savings Plan: ‘MyRA’
A new savings plan will allow Americans to buy savings bonds in a starter retirement account that “guarantees a decent return with no risk of losing what you put in,” President Obama said Tuesday evening in his State of the Union address. Details: Safe: The new savings bonds would have its principal guaranteed by the U.S. government, much like a traditional savings bond. Tax benefits: The MyRA bond would be like a Roth IRA: Your contributions would not be tax-deductible, but your earnings would be free from tax when you withdraw it. As with a Roth, your contributions can be taken out tax-free at any time.
Affordable: Minimum initial investment could be as low as $25, and subsequent investments could be as little as $5, through payroll deduction. Savers can keep the same account when they change jobs. Rates: Savers will earn interest at the same variable interest rate as the federal employees’ Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) Government Securities Investment Fund. The fund earned 1.74% last year. Availability: The MyRA would be open to households earning up to $191,000 a year through their employers. Employers won’t incur any cost to offer the MyRAs. You’ll be able to save up to $15,000 a year for up to 30 years before transferring to a private Roth IRA.
Ryan Cooper: In The State Of The Union, Obama Pledges Strong Action On Climate Change
During President Obama’s speech tonight, he announced many different ways he would use the executive branch to pursue strong action on climate change. The policy framework hasn’t changed. Instead, this is a good signal that President Obama intends to finish what he has started. To a first approximation, climate change is about coal. The oldest and filthiest coal-fired power plants are already being retired, squeezed by cheap natural gas and ever-cheaper renewables on one side, and the EPA on the other. With a bit of luck, and if the president keeps up the pressure, by the time he hands off to his successor coal will be on a permanently downward trajectory.
Here’s the money quote: Over the past eight years, the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth. But we have to act with more urgency – because a changing climate is already harming western communities struggling with drought, and coastal cities dealing with floods. That’s why I directed my administration to work with states, utilities, and others to set new standards on the amount of carbon pollution our power plants are allowed to dump into the air.
The final sentence is the key one. Remember, the EPA still hasn’t even finalized its rule for carbon pollution from existing coal-fired power plants, yet it has managed to close down dozens of plants using rules governing mercury and particulate emissions. Should it come out with an even slightly aggressive rule, it could force all coal plants to eventually shut down. Doing that tomorrow would be ill-advised, but if phased in over a decade or so, the long-term benefits would be spectacular.
President Obama during a budget meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Jan. 29, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Surrounded by members of Congress, and Lilly Ledbetter, President Obama signs the Lilly Ledbetter Bill, Jan. 29, 2009
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a Republican member of the Cabinet, feigns being a blocking back for President Obama as he arrives backstage to meet with GOP House leaders before speaking to their issues conference at the Renaissance Baltimore Harbor Place Hotel in Baltimore, Md., Jan. 29, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama is briefed on the events in Egypt during a meeting with his national security team in the Situation Room of the White House, Saturday, Jan. 29, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
The first family walk together to the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, Jan. 29, 2012
President Obama delivers remarks on immigration at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, Nev., Jan. 29, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama signs an accompanying letter to Congressional leaders after signing H.R. 152, which provides fiscal year 2013 supplemental appropriations to respond to and recover from the severe damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Jan. 29, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)