President Barack Obama speaks about raising the minimum wage for federal contract workers, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House. The wage increase to $10.10 an hour goes into effect next year, and applies to new contracts and replacements for expiring contracts
You can see video of the President’s Iowa speech here
Steve Benen: I was surprised to learn two weeks ago that federal firefighters, including many combating brutal wildfires in Colorado, are considered temporary employees who are ineligible for health care coverage through the Forest Service. They’re working incredibly dangerous jobs under life-threatening conditions, but many go without insurance.
President Obama is poised to change that. The Denver Post reported yesterday on a shift in administration policy:
President Barack Obama has directed federal officials to offer seasonal firefighters the option of purchasing federal health insurance coverage…On a recent trip to Colorado Springs, the president was apparently moved by the men and women firefighters he met, senior administration officials said in an interview Tuesday. When he returned to Washington, he told his cabinet that he wanted to “find a solution” for the hundreds of workers toiling in dangerous conditions without the option to buy in to federal insurance.
….it appears to be a huge step forward…. Whatever the mechanism, the access to health insurance for these firefighters will begin later this month….
NYT Editorial: Paying taxes forthrightly has long been a matter of civic pride for most American politicians, a demonstration of honesty and of a willingness to share in society’s burdens. Since the Watergate era, presidential candidates have released several years of tax returns, allowing voters to peer at their financial choices and discern their entanglements.
Mitt Romney has upended that tradition this year. He has released only one complete tax return, for 2010, along with an unfinished estimate of his 2011 taxes. What information he did release provides a fuzzy glimpse at a concerted effort to park much of his wealth in overseas tax shelters, suggesting a widespread pattern of tax avoidance unlike that of any previous candidate.
Mr. Romney has resisted all demands for more disclosure, leading to growing criticism from Democrats that he is trying to hide his fortune and his tax schemes from the public. Given the troubling suspicions about his finances, he needs to release many more returns and quickly open his books to full scrutiny.
Jonathan Chait: Michael Gerson is a former speechwriter for George W. Bush turned Washington Post columnist, from which perch he has spent the entirety of the Obama administration gleefully predicting a downward spiral into ruin and dysfunction reminiscent of, well, George W. Bush. Having possibly run low on Obama tragic failure scenarios, Gerson devotes today’s column to musing about why Obama has not proposed any major new initiative to address the economic crisis.
Gerson begins by arguing that Obama is declining to propose any major plans because he does not want to admit failure …. But wait! Through diligent research — I have hired a team of laid-off Bush-era Middle East intelligence veterans just for this research task — we have scoured the public record and uncovered a startling fact: Obama does have an ambitious new set of policy proposals!
He unveiled it in a nationally televised address last fall, after which point he has been touring the country and touting it daily….
…. I’m sure once he has become aware that all his objections about Obama are false — that Obama is not denying the crisis, that he does have a plan to address it, that Keyensian economists do support the plan, and it won’t increase the long-term deficit — surely he will change his mind on this.
TPM: A central element of the 2012 campaign cycle has become just when Mitt Romney left Bain Capital. The Romney campaign says he left in early 1999 — in time to get him off the hook for some controversial investments. Factcheck.org backs up Mitt while David Corn and the Obama campaign have brought forward numerous pieces of documentary evidence indicating he didn’t leave until a couple years later.
Now here’s even more evidence that he didn’t leave in 1999 as he now claims.
….I’ve found yet more instances where Romney made declarations to the SEC that he was still involved in running Bain after February 1999. To the best of my knowledge, no one has yet noted these.
Matt Miller (Washington Post): The House is voting (again) to repeal the Affordable Care Act on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, six Republican governors (so far) say they won’t go along with the law’s planned Medicaid expansion for 4 million uninsured people in their states, even though the feds would pick up nearly all the tab.
See the pattern here?
The Republican message to uninsured Americans in the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling couldn’t be clearer: You’re on your own.
…. Fifty million uninsured Americans would be the immediate casualties of the GOP’s “let them eat the emergency room” mentality. But all of us would be at risk. In America — alone among wealthy nations — everyone is a pink slip or job change or new illness away from finding they’ve lost coverage or are uninsurable.
This is the shameful reality behind the GOP’s rhetoric on health care. Republicans don’t want to spend a penny to insure the uninsured.
2:15: President Obama will meet in the Oval Office with Democratic congressional leaders “to discuss their legislative agenda for the coming months and his proposals to provide small businesses new incentives to grow and hire, encourage companies to create jobs here at home, and ensure that middle class families don’t see a massive tax hike at the end of the year,” the White House said.
Attendees include Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, Sen. Chuck Schumer, Sen. Patty Murray, Rep. Jim Clyburn, Rep. Steve Israel, and Rep. Chris Van Hollen.
WH: The Federal Government is the largest property owner in the United States. But some 14,000 of its properties sit unused and unneeded, costing taxpayers millions of dollars a year in operating and maintenance expenses. To cut down on this wasteful and inefficient spending, the Obama Administration has taken unprecedented steps to reduce this stock of unused property and is on track to save $3.5 billion by the end of Fiscal Year 2012.