Posts Tagged ‘finance

20
Jun
14

Rise and Shine

Parade

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Today (all times Eastern)

10:55: President Obama meets with Prime Minister John Key of New Zealand

1:0 Josh Earnest briefs the press

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Parade: The President and Michelle Obama on Work, Family, and Juggling It All

… On Monday, June 23, the President and Mrs. Obama will host a Working Families summit in Washington, D.C. to discuss the need for affordable childcare and paid family leave, raising minimum wage, and achieving equal pay for all. In an interview conducted by Parade, the Obamas opened up about their personal connection to these issues and what they hope to accomplish during their remaining time in the White House.

President Barack Obama and wife Michelle have never been your typical working stiffs. With four Ivy League degrees between them, they’ve enjoyed high incomes and strong job security. But before and during college, they each worked minimum-wage jobs. And there was a time when they felt the same kind of financial aches and marriage strains that today’s dual-income families know all too well. As a young married couple in Chicago, they were mired in student debt, juggling multiple jobs and two kids, and bickering over who did what housework. “I wouldn’t fold,” remembers the president. “I didn’t separate, and Michelle’s point was, that’s not laundry.”

More here

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TPM: Obama Administration To Extend Family Leave To Same-Sex Couples

The Obama administration announced that it would direct the Department of Labor to begin issuing regulations to extend the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to same-sex couples, according to a White House official.

After the Supreme Court’s struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act last year, Attorney General Eric Holder and other members of the administration began to reviewing relevant statutes and laws to extend federal benefits to same-sex couples. The administration said that its extension of FMLA is simply part of that process. The new regulations will clarify that an employee is eligible to take leave to care for a same-sex spouse in the instance of an illness, regardless of whether that employee lives in a state where same-sex marriage is legal.

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Paul Krugman: Veterans and Zombies – The Hype Behind the Health Care Scandal

…. it’s important to understand that the Veterans Affairs scandal, while real, is being hyped out of proportion by people whose real goal is to block reform of the larger system.

…. A scandal is a scandal, and wrongdoing must be punished. But beware of people trying to use the veterans’ care scandal to derail health reform.

And here’s the thing: Health reform is working. Too many Americans still lack good insurance, and hence lack access to health care and protection from high medical costs — but not as many as last year, and next year should be better still. Health costs are still far too high, but their growth has slowed dramatically. We’re moving in the right direction, and we shouldn’t let the zombies get in our way.

Full post here

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Washington Post: Ukraine claims full control of its border with Russia

Ukraine announced Friday that it has regained full control of its border with Russia, which the government has set as an important precondition for a unilateral ceasefire in its conflict with pro-Russian separatists in the east.

The sealing off of the border, which could not be independently verified, would be significant because it would rob the rebels of an important supply route for new fighters and weapons.

The announcement that troops had recaptured the border area near the village of Izvaryne in the Luhansk region comes as President Petro Poroshenko is set to unveil the details of his 14-point peace plan.

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Smartypants: The “what about me?” syndrome

For years black academics criticized the Obama administration for not targeting programs to the African American community. Obamacare didn’t count – even though it has disproportionately affected people of color. All of his talk about income inequality didn’t matter, neither did his proposal for universal pre-K. What they wanted to see were initiatives that directly (and only) affected African Americans.

Then along came the announcement about President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” program targeting boys of color. It didn’t take long for many of the same critics to go after that one because it didn’t include girls. As I see it, this is what most efforts to target a specific community will eventually face…the “what about me?” syndrome.

That’s not to say that its wrong to initiate and promote targeted programs. Sometimes they’re needed. Its more about the fact that when they are proposed, we need to remember WHY they’re targeted and – by definition – will exclude.

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ThinkProgress: Governor Scott Walker Accused Of ‘Criminal Scheme’

New federal court documents released Thursday reveal that Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) is the subject of a “Joe Doe” investigation. Prosecutors allege Walker was part of a “criminal scheme” to circumvent state election laws. While the courts are still mulling a motion by the dark money outside groups at the center of the allegations to stop the investigation, the facts of the case are yet another demonstration of the folly of the Supreme Court’s assumptions in the infamous Citizens United ruling.

The documents show that prosecutors believe illegal coordination occurred in the 2011 and 2012 Wisconsin Senate and Gubernatorial recall elections and that groups like the Wisconsin Club for Growth worked with Scott Walker’s campaign arm (“Friends of Scott Walker”) to arrange undisclosed spending by an array of pro-Walker tax-exempt organizations. They note that several individuals were working both for Friends of Scott Walker and Wisconsin Club for Growth at the time, and that Walker himself boasted of the coordination in an email to Karl Rove.

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Esquire: Prosecutor Is Closing In on Gov. Christie

Indictments against four cronies are near certain, sources say. Only question is if David Samson, Christie’s longtime mentor, will flip.

“It’s over, it’s done, and I’m moving on.” – Chris Christie, reassuring potential donors in Utah on June 14th

Back on planet Reality, meanwhile, Paul Fishman, the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, wades through the sewage of Christie’s stewardship. Two sources with intimate knowledge of the case say Fishman’s pace is quickening – he has empaneled a second grand jury, and the U.S. Justice Department has sent assistant prosecutors and FBI agents to work the case.

“What’s taking the most time,” according to one source, “is separating what’s viable from all the bad stuff they’re finding that may not be viable.”

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Daily Beast: The Crash and Churn of Lawrence O’Donnell

In an exclusive interview, the MSNBC anchor Lawrence O’Donnell reveals how he survived a head-on car crash, and why afterwards he cut himself off from the negative litany of the news cycle.

“What a stupid way to die,” Lawrence O’Donnell thought to himself.

A split-second earlier, the host of MSNBC’s 10 p.m. program, The Last Word, had been gazing down at a map on his iPhone, following the progress of his taxi, a Chevy van, as he and his older brother Michael rode to dinner on the resort island of Tortola. It was around 7:45 p.m., Saturday, April 12, the start of what promised to be a lovely vacation in the British Virgin Islands with his big brother, a Boston lawyer.

The vacation didn’t happen. Instead, O’Donnell, 62, underwent a life-altering crucible that he’s still trying to make sense of, while figuring out how to explain it to viewers when he returns to his show on Monday night after two-and-a-half months off the air.

More here

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On This Day

President Obama and Vice President Biden meet with National Security Staff in the Situation Room of the White House, June 20, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama talks with Vice President Biden on the Colonnade of the White House outside the Oval Office, June 20, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and Vice President Biden meet with a bipartisan group of mayors to discuss the economy and local efforts to create jobs and spur economic growth, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, June 20, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Pueblo, June 20, 2012

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MoooOOOooorning!

06
Apr
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama talks to Coach Mike Krzyzewski, who led Duke to win the NCAA Men’s Division One Basketball Championship, in the Oval Office, April 6, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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The Week Ahead

Today: The President has no public events scheduled.

Monday: The President will travel to Prince George’s County, MD to host an event on the economy. Following this event, he will meet with the Commander-in-Chief and Executive Director of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Tuesday: The President  will host an event on the economy at the White House.

Wednesday: The President and the First Lady will travel to Houston, TX. The President will attend DCCC and DSCC events. More details regarding the President and First Lady’s travel to Houston will be forthcoming.

Thursday: The President and the First Lady will travel to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library in Austin, TX. The President will deliver remarks at a Civil Rights Summit to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act. The President and the First Lady will return to Washington, DC, in the afternoon.

Friday: The President will travel to New York, NY to deliver remarks at the National Action Network’s 16th Annual Convention.

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KEYE Tv: President Obama To Attend Memorial At Ft. Hood

A White House aide says President Barack Obama plans to attend a memorial service Wednesday at Fort Hood — the site of last week’s shooting rampage. A Fort Hood spokesman confirms there will be a remembrance ceremony that day, and presidential adviser Dan Pfeiffer tells CBS’ “Face the Nation” that Obama will be there. Investigators say that an Army truck driver, Ivan Lopez, had an argument before opening fire at the Texas post last Wednesday, killing three soldiers and wounding 16 others before taking his own life.

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White House: Statement By The President On Elections In Afghanistan

On behalf of the American people, I congratulate the millions of Afghans who enthusiastically participated in today’s historic elections, which promise to usher in the first democratic transfer of power in Afghanistan’s history and which represent another important milestone in Afghans taking full responsibility for their country as the United States and our partners draw down our forces.

We commend the Afghan people, security forces, and elections officials on the turnout for today’s vote –- which is in keeping with the spirited and positive debate among candidates and their supporters in the run-up to the election.

These elections are critical to securing Afghanistan’s democratic future, as well as continued international support, and we look to the Afghan electoral bodies to carry out their duties in the coming weeks to adjudicate the results –- knowing that the most critical voices on the outcome are those of Afghans themselves.

Today, we also pay tribute to the many Americans –- military and civilian –- who have sacrificed so much to support the Afghan people as they take responsibility for their own future.

The United States continues to support a sovereign, stable, unified, and democratic Afghanistan, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with the new government chosen by the Afghan people on the basis of mutual respect and mutual accountability.

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Jim Kuhnhenn: Obama To Sign Executive Order With Equal Pay Rules For Federal Contractors

Lacking congressional backing to raise wages or end gender pay disparities, President Barack Obama is imposing his policies directly on federal contractors, following a long-established tradition of presidents exerting their powers on a fraction of the economy directly under their control. This week, the president will sign an executive order that would prohibit federal contractors from retaliating against employees who discuss their pay with each other. The prohibition on the wage “gag rules” is similar to language in a Senate bill aimed at closing a pay gap between men and women. That legislation is scheduled for a vote this week, though it is not likely to pass.

In addition, Obama on Tuesday will direct the Labor Department to adopt regulations requiring federal contractors to provide compensation data based on sex and race. The president will sign the executive order and the presidential memo during an event at the White House where he will be joined Lilly Ledbetter, whose name appears on a pay discrimination law Obama signed in 2009.Separately, on Monday, Obama will also announce the 24 schools that will share in more than $100 million in grants to redesign their schools to better prepare high school students for college or for careers. The awards are part of an executive order Obama signed last year. Money for the program comes from fees that companies pay for visas to hire foreign workers for specialized jobs.

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Michael Hiltzik: A Look At How Many Obamacare Enrollees Were Uninsured: 5.4 Million

As we observed earlier this week, one of the obsessions of opponents of the Affordable Care Act is the question of how many enrollees in Obamacare health plans already had insurance. The goal is to knock down the latest enrollment numbers by suggesting that most of the 7.1 million people enrolled through the individual insurance exchanges just moved from one insurance plan to another in a waste of time and effort. The real figure probably won’t be known for weeks, even months. But researchers at the Urban Institute’s Health Policy Center have weighed in with their own estimate. They’re figuring that the ACA has reduced the number of uninsured Americans by 5.4 million from the first quarter of 2013 through early March this year.

Their estimate is based on data from their March 2014 Health Reform Marketing Survey, which consists of public polling. Their finding is that the uninsurance rate for adults ages 18–64 was 15.2% for the nation in early March, a decline of 2.7 percentage points since September 2013, just before open enrollment on the exchanges began Oct. 1. “This represents a gain in coverage for about 5.4 million adults,” they write. Although the Urban Institute figures aren’t keyed to the enrollment figures, it’s worth observing that if all those newly insureds were among those who signed up on the individual exchanges, that would mean that of the 7.1 million enrollees, 77% were previously uninsured.

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AP: Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Over Drone Strikes

A federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit against Obama administration officials for the 2011 drone-strike killings of three U.S. citizens in Yemen, including an al-Qaida cleric. Permitting a lawsuit against individual officials “under the circumstances of this case would impermissibly draw the court into ‘the heart of executive and military planning and deliberation,'” said Collyer. She said the suit would require the court to examine national security policy and the military chain of command as well as operational combat decisions regarding the designation of targets and how best to counter threats to the United States. “Defendants must be trusted and expected to act in accordance with the U.S. Constitution when they intentionally target a U.S. citizen abroad at the direction of the president and with the concurrence of Congress,” said Collyer. “They cannot be held personally responsible in monetary damages for conducting war.” The lawsuit sought unspecified damages.

Anwar al-Awlaki’s classification as a key leader raises fundamental questions regarding the conduct of armed conflict, Collyer’s 41-page opinion stated. The Constitution commits decision-making in this area to the president, as commander in chief, and to Congress, the judge said. U.S.-born al-Qaida leader al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, an al-Qaida propagandist, were killed in a drone strike in September 2011. Al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, was killed the following month.  Anwar al-Awlaki had been linked to the planning and execution of several attacks targeting U.S. and Western interests, including a 2009 attempt on Christmas Day on a Detroit-bound airliner and a 2010 plot against cargo planes. “The fact is that Anwar al-Awlaki was an active and exceedingly dangerous enemy of the United States, irrespective of his distance, location, and citizenship,” said Collyer. “As evidenced by his participation in the Christmas Day attack, Anwar al-Awlaki was able to persuade, direct, and wage war against the United States from his location in Yemen, without being present on an official battlefield or in a hot war zone.” She said that the U.S. government moved against al-Awlaki as authorized by the defendants and she said the officials acted in accordance with the Authorization for Use of Military Force, which was enacted by Congress after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

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Bruce Japsen: Medicare Seniors Like ObamaCare’s Team Approach

As the U.S. health care system moves away from fee-for-service medicine to more accountable care that uses a teamof health professionals, seniors covered by Medicare say they are okay with these new models that include nurses, social workers and other allied health professionals in the front lines of their treatment, according to a new analysis. Increasingly, the Medicare health insurance program for the elderly as part of the Affordable Care Act is moving to a system that rewards doctors and hospitals for working together to improve care. A new national survey of adults 65 and older from the John A. Hartford Foundation about “team care and the medical home” shows 27 percent say they get this kind of care right now, they like it and it has improved their health.

The openness to new models debunks theories by some in health care who think patients only want to see a doctor for all their health care needs. The bulk of the sample, or 73 percent say they want such care and 61 percent say they believe it would improve their health. Medicare, too, is moving aggressively toward more accountable models with success achieving savings. In the first year of the Medicare Shared Savings Program, almost half of the ACOs that started operations in 2012 had lower medical expenses than projected, exceeding their quality benchmarks, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. There were 29 ACOs that generated shared savings of more than $125 million.

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Bloomberg: Private U.S. Payrolls Top Pre-Recession Peak

Private employers in the world’s largest economy reached an important milestone in March: they have made up all the jobs lost as a result of the recession, and then some. The CHART OF THE DAY shows payrolls excluding government agencies climbed to 116.1 million, surpassing the prior peak of 116 million in January 2008. Winning industries include mining and logging, education and health care, and professional services. Manufacturing and construction have lagged behind.

“Private-sector employment has popped its head out of the hole, and finally replaced the headcount lost due to the recession,” said Ward McCarthy, chief financial economist at Jefferies LLC in New York. “The labor market is the heartbeat of the economy, so when it finally gets to the point where it’s growing again, good things happen.” The recovery in private payrolls signals better times ahead for Americans still looking for work and lays the ground for a gradual pickup in wages and consumer spending, according to McCarthy. Steady progress also will probably prompt Federal Reserve policy makers to continue trimming stimulus while keeping interest rates low.

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Cynthia Tucker: Irrational Hatred Of Obamacare Is Hard To Fathom

My friend Isatou has just received an invoice from Kaiser Permanente, testament to her new coverage through the Affordable Care Act — usually called “Obamacare.” She’s thrilled to finally have health insurance so she can get regular checkups, including dental care. A reasonably healthy middle-aged woman, she knows she needs routine mammograms and screenings for maladies such as hypertension. But before Obamacare, she struggled to pay for those things. She once had to resort to the emergency room, which left her with a bill for nearly $20,000. (She settled the bill for far less, but it still left her deeply in debt.) She is one of more than 7 million people who have signed up for health insurance through the ACA, stark evidence of the overwhelming market demand.

Now, young adults can stay on their parents’ health insurance policies until they are 26 years old — a boon in an economy where many young folks are struggling to find decent jobs. Now, patients with previously diagnosed illnesses (“pre-existing conditions,” in insurance lingo) can’t be denied coverage. Now, the chronically ill don’t have to worry about hitting a lifetime cap that would deny them essential procedures or pharmaceuticals. Now, working folks who don’t get insurance through their employers can purchase affordable policies. The GOP’s relentless opposition has been puzzling. Republicans have resorted to extreme measures to try to derail Obamacare, including an implicit threat to prevent the National Football League from participating in a marketing campaign to encourage people to sign up.It’s strange. Could it be that Republicans are simply furious that millions of Americans like Isatou finally have health insurance?

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Bloomberg: Cement Deals Lay Foundation For Building Boom

For signs that construction is on the mend, look no further than the cement industry. Money being spent to acquire suppliers of building materials worldwide is surging to the highest level since at least May 2008, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. After $22 billion of deals in the past 12 months, Holcim Ltd. (HOLN) and Lafarge SA (LG) — the world’s two biggest cement makers with a combined market value of more than $50 billion — are in advanced merger talks. “What we’re seeing is a recognition by these companies that the bottom is in and that the recovery is happening,” Todd Vencil, a Richmond, Virginia-based analyst at Sterne Agee Group Inc., said in a phone interview.

“Companies are feeling confident enough about that to have the buyers and sellers able to come together now.” In the U.S., construction spending increased 8.7 percent in the 12 months ended in February and 9.4 percent in the period ended in January, the fastest since 2006, data from the Census Bureau compiled by Bloomberg show. U.S. cement consumption will rise 8.1 percent this year to 86 million metric tons and will continue to increase through 2018, according to estimates from the Portland Cement Association.

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Tara McGuiness: While Marketplace Enrollment Ended, Medicaid Enrollment Continues

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has already provided coverage to millions of Americans. More than 7.1 million Americans signed up for coverage through the Marketplaces, 3 million additional young adults were covered under their parents’ insurance and millions more will have access through Medicaid. A new report shows that more people are gaining coverage through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) as a result of the health law. The analysis, produced by the Health and Human Services Department shows enrollment in Medicaid and CHIP in February was at least 3 million people higher than it was, on average, between July and September. That does not include March, which saw an enormous spike in Marketplace enrollment and traffic to HealthCare.gov.

While this is great progress, states where governors or legislatures refuse to implement the Medicaid expansion provisions of the law will leave 5.7 million Americans uninsured. States that have expanded Medicaid, such as Kentucky and New York, have seen particularly dramatic declines in their uninsured populations. Just take Kentucky, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal, Kentucky has seen a 40 percent drop in its rate of uninsured since October 1.While open enrollment for the Marketplaces closed on March 31st, Medicaid coverage enrollment continues year round. That means we are going to continue, working with partners, to sign people up for Medicaid. We have made improvements to our systems and we are ramping up the tactics and tools that are working to reach uninsured Americans. We have learned that Medicaid expansion had a positive impact in getting people covered, as enrollment growth in states that expanded Medicaid was over 5 times higher than in other states (8.3 percent versus 1.6 percent).

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AlJazeera America: Medicaid Boosted By 3 Million, Bringing ‘Obamacare’ Sign-Ups To 10 Million

Three million lower-income Americans have enrolled in the Medicaid program so far during the rollout of U.S. President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law. That brings to more than 10 million the number of people who have signed up for both public and private health coverage since the Oct. 1 launch of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. This week, the White House announced there were 7.1 million sign-ups as of March 31 for private health plans through new electronic insurance marketplaces now operating in all 50 states.

The current data includes people who qualify for Medicaid programs that have existed for decades, but it does seem as if the health care law is the reason behind many of the new enrollees: Medicaid enrollment has been brisker in states that are expanding the program – with a rate 8.3 percent higher than before Oct. 1. States that have not expanded Medicaid have seen enrollment rise by only 1.6 percent.

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Joe Conason: On Our Highest Court, A Former Lobbyist Guts Campaign Finance Reform

It was Kennedy who wrote the majority opinion in Citizens United, which dismissed the notion that corruption will arise from unlimited political campaign contributions because they will all be disclosed. “Citizens can see whether elected officials are ‘in the pocket’ of so-called moneyed interests …and disclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way,” he wrote. “This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.” But if any Supreme Court justice knows how ridiculous that sounds, it must be Kennedy – whose own background as a corporate lobbyist and son of a lobbyist has been forgotten in nearly three decades since his Senate confirmation in 1987. His father, Anthony “Bud” Kennedy, was a backslapping, hard-drinking partner in a powerful lobbying law firm run by one Arthur “Artie” Samish, “the “secret boss of California” who finally went to prison on tax charges in the mid-1950s, while young Tony was studying to enter law school.

Samish liked to brag that he had amassed more power than anyone else in the state, including the governor, that he could buy any legislator with “a baked potato, a bottle, or a broad,” and that he was able to “unelect” any lawmaker who didn’t vote his way. The major clients of Samish and Kennedy were racing, entertainment, and liquor interests, notably including Schenley Industries, then run by J. Edgar Hoover’s mobbed-up pal Lewis Rosenstiel. When Bud Kennedy died suddenly in 1963, young Tony was only two years out of law school. But he went into the family business and inherited his late father’s clientele. While Kennedy always insisted that lobbying was only a “sideline” in his law practice, his billings were substantial – the equivalent of hundreds of thousands or more in today’s dollars. In 1974, he pushed through a bill for Capitol Records that saved the company (and cost the state) millions in sales taxes. How did he do it? The same way that special interests work their will today – by doling out huge wads of cash to lawmakers on behalf of his clients.

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Washington Post: Facing Obamacare Deadline, More Young People Signed Up In March

Five state-based health insurance marketplaces and the District of Columbia’s exchange have so far provided an age breakdown of people who signed up for coverage through March 31, the official end of open enrollment. Compared against numbers reported by the Department of Health and Human Services in January and February, young adults in March signed up at higher rates.These numbers don’t tell the whole story of youth enrollment, though. HHS hasn’t reported March demographic data for the 36 states where it’s operating the marketplaces. Nine other state-based exchanges also haven’t yet provided an age breakdown for March enrollment.

People who struggled to sign up before March 31 can still enroll before April 15 through HealthCare.gov, the federal enrollment portal. HHS said it doesn’t have a reliable estimate of how many are still trying to enroll. State-run exchanges have also allowed some deadline leeway. The numbers also don’t account for young adults who enrolled in coverage outside the exchanges. The online Web broker eHealthInsurance, which sells off-exchange plans nationwide, recently reported that 45 percent of its shoppers since Jan. 1 are between 18 and 34 years old. Insurers must consider exchange customers and non-exchange customers as part of the same risk pool if they’re selling in both markets.

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Jonathan Cohn: Obamacare Is Helping People Via Medicaid – Except In States Where Officials Are Fighting It

Some new Obamacare information: As of the end of February, the number of Americans on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) was 3 million higher than it was at the beginning of the Affordable Care Act’s open enrollment period. It’s one more sign that the health care law is reducing the number of Americans without insurance significantly—although it doesn’t tell us by how much or whether, at year’s end, the reduction will live up to original projections. It’s also one more window into our growing geopolitical divide—between the part of America where officials are trying aggressively to help poor people get health insurance, and the part where officials are not. taking advantage of flexibility following the 2012 Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare, a large swath of mostly conservative states have opted not to expand eligibility.

As a result, millions of low-income Americans living in these states remain with no viable source of comprehensive coverage. The story is different in states that have expanded Medicaid. That explains the new figures, which the Department of Health and Human Services released on Friday morning. In states expanding Medicaid, enrollment in the two programs rose by more than 8 percent. In states that haven’t expanded Medicaid, enrollment rose by just 1.8 percent. Presumably a lot of these people were already eligible for Medicaid but either didn’t know it or hadn’t decided to do it before they heard about Obamacare. Wonks call this the “woodworking” effect.

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 On This Day:

Sen. Barack Obama, D-IL, talks on his cell phone outside of the Senate chamber during a cloture vote on the immigration reform bill on April 6, 2006, on Capitol Hill in Washington

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President Obama speaks with National Security Advisor Gen. James Jones following a reception with Turkish President Abdullah Gul and heads of state attending the Alliance of Civilizations Dinner April 6, 2009, at Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul, Turkey (Photo by Pete Souza)

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The Mount Ennon Baptist Church Children’s Chorus, from Clinton, Md., perform at an Easter Prayer Breakfast with Christian leaders in the East Room of the White House, April 6, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama walks to an outdoor meeting with, from left, Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor, Dan Pfeiffer, communications director, Jim Messina, deputy chief of staff, and Bob Bauer, counsel to the President, in the Rose Garden of the White House, April 6, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama and Vice President Biden meet with staff in the Oval Office following a late night meeting with House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on the budget, April 6, 2011. Pictured, from left, are: Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew; Rob Nabors, Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs; Senior Advisor David Plouffe; and Director of Communications Dan Pfeiffer (Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, bottom right, meet with Members on Congress to discuss the Joining Forces military families initiative in the Map Room of the White House, April 6, 2011 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Filmmaker Spike Lee uses his iPad to photograph President Obama as he greets guests at the National Action Network’s Keepers of the Dream awards gala in New York, N.Y., April 6, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden greet participants during a roundtable meeting with military spouses, veterans, and volunteers to discuss the Joining Forces military families initiative in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, April 6, 2011 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden talk to AFPS reporter Elaine Sanchez about “Joining Forces,” the new White House initiative to raise awareness about the challenges facing military families, in the Map Room at the White House, April 6, 2011

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President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama host a Passover Seder Dinner for family, staff and friends, in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House, April 6, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama host a Passover Seder Dinner for family, staff and friends, in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House, April 6, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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03
Apr
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: April 3, 2013: “The President hugs Sue Connors and Jane Dougherty, right, following his remarks at the Denver Police Academy in Denver, Colo. The women lost their sister, Mary Sherlach, in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Conn.” (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern):

3:20: President Obama welcomes the 2014 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams to the White House; East Room

4:0: Signs the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act

6:0: Meets with the bipartisan Congressional leadership

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E.J. Dionne: The GOP Must Admit It Was Wrong On Obamacare

Is there any accountability in American politics for being completely wrong? Is there any cost to those who say things that turn out not to be true and then, when their fabrications or false predictions are exposed, calmly move on to concocting new claims as if they had never made the old ones? The fact that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) hit its original goal this week of signing up more than 7 million people through its insurance exchanges ought to be a moment of truth — literally as well as figuratively. It ought to give everyone, particularly members of the news media, pause over how reckless the opponents of change have been in making instant judgments and outlandish charges.

When the health-care Web site went haywire last fall, conservatives were absolutely certain this technological failure meant that the entire reform effort was doomed. If you doubt this, try a Google search keyed to that period relating the word “doomed” to the health-care law. It should be said that the general public was much wiser. A CNN poll in November that Post blogger Greg Sargent highlighted at the time found a majority (54 percent to 45 percent) saying that the problems facing the law “will eventually be solved.” Political moderates took this view by 55 percent to 43 percent, independents by 50 percent to 48 percent. Only Republicans — by a whopping 72 percent to 27 percent — and conservatives (by 66 percent to 33 percent) thought the law could never be fixed.

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Chan Lowe: Obamacare Beats Its Goal

You have to respect the tenacity of Republicans, especially those who’ve been catering to their benighted primary voters back home by beating the hell out of the ACA. They’ve adhered to a long obstructionist tradition that includes opposition to FDR’s Social Security and LBJ’s Great Society initiatives. They know full well that these “giveaway” programs, as they like to call them, develop faithful constituencies. Once the programs are entrenched, any attempt to destroy them has a way of backfiring on the perpetrator. The Affordable Care Act now boasts over seven million individual advocates, many of whom will be benefiting from preventive health care for the first time in their lives.

As their cancers and other diseases are caught and treated in their incipient stages — before they become fatal — the newly anointed are likely to go out among the multitudes and preach the gospel. The ACA is going to grow, and with each new adherent it will become ever more stable and viable.Meanwhile, the greatest compliment this nation can ever pay to the 44th President of the United States and his legacy will be that, decades from now — when Sasha and Malia are great-grandmothers —America’s national health care plan will continue to thrive and be known by its vernacular title: “Obamacare.”

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Harold Meyerson: How Capitalism Enriches The Few Rather Than The Many

Michael Lewis’s “Flash Boys,” his takedown of high-speed stock trading, may be making headlines this week, but it’s just one of two books on our economic dysfunctions that are flying off the shelves. While “Flash Boys” explains how the fastest-growing form of trading enriches the few at the expense of the many, the other book, Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” provides a more fundamental and disquieting explanation: how capitalism itself enriches the few at the expense of the many. Since 1980, however, their fortunes have swelled again — at the expense of everyone else. Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher slashed taxes on wealth, workers lost the ability to bargain for wages and, crucially, the population growth of many nations ground nearly to a halt. Capital, again, was accumulating faster than the overall economies were growing.

In the United States, Piketty shows, the incomes of the top 1 percent have grown so high — chiefly due to the linkage of top executive pay to share value, a form of capital — that they soon will create the greatest level of income inequality in the recorded history of any nation. Indeed, Piketty’s book provides a valuable explanatory context for America’s economic woes. Wages constitute the lowest share of U.S. GDP, and profits the highest, since the end of World War II. And with heightened accumulations of wealth come heightened accumulations of political power — a shift toward plutocracy to which Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision, permitting the wealthy to contribute to as many electoral campaigns as they wish, adds a helpful push.

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L.A. Times: High Deportation Figures Are Misleading

Immigration activists have sharply criticized President Obama for a rising volume of deportations, labeling him the “deporter in chief” and staging large protests that have harmed his standing with some Latinos, a key group of voters for Democrats.
But the portrait of a steadily increasing number of deportations rests on statistics that conceal almost as much as they disclose. A closer examination shows that immigrants living illegally in most of the continental U.S. are less likely to be deported today than before Obama came to office, according to immigration data. Expulsions of people who are settled and working in the United States have fallen steadily since his first year in office, and are down more than 40% since 2009. On the other side of the ledger, the number of people deported at or near the border has gone up — primarily as a result of changing who gets counted in the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency’s deportation statistics.

The vast majority of those border crossers would not have been treated as formal deportations under most previous administrations. If all removals were tallied, the total sent back to Mexico each year would have been far higher under those previous administrations than it is now. Until recent years, most people caught illegally crossing the southern border were simply bused back into Mexico in what officials called “voluntary returns,” but which critics derisively termed “catch and release.” Those removals, which during the 1990s reached more 1 million a year, were not counted in Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s deportation statistics. Now, the vast majority of border crossers who are apprehended get fingerprinted and formally deported. The change began during the George W. Bush administration and accelerated under Obama. The policy stemmed in part from a desire to ensure that people who had crossed into the country illegally would have formal charges on their records. In the Obama years, all of the increase in deportations has involved people picked up within 100 miles of the border, most of whom have just recently crossed over. In 2013, almost two-thirds of deportations were in that category.

At the same time, the administration largely ended immigration roundups at workplaces and shifted investigators into targeting business owners who illegally hired foreign workers. “If you are a run-of-the-mill immigrant here illegally, your odds of getting deported are close to zero — it’s just highly unlikely to happen,” John Sandweg, until recently the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in an interview. Even when immigration officials want to deport someone who already has settled in the country, doing so is “virtually impossible” because of a lengthy backlog in the immigration courts, Sandweg said. Once people who have no prior removals or convictions are placed in deportation proceedings, actually removing them from the country can take six years or more in some jurisdictions, Sandweg said.

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Rebecca Berg: With Obamacare Enrollment Milestone Met, Democrats Feel Cautious Enthusiasm

Democrats who have been expecting a tough slog to defend the implementation of Obamacare in this important midterm election year weren’t just pleased this week with news that 7.1 million people had enrolled in health insurance through federal or state exchanges. They were jubilant, and more than a little relieved. “The Affordable Care Act CRUSHED its first major enrollment deadline!” a fundraising email on behalf of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee declared Wednesday.

Such caps-lock, exclamatory enthusiasm is reflective of a brightening mood this week among Democrats, who understand that many of their candidates could win or lose this year on the merits of the health care law and its first-year implementation. And for a party that has suffered a long political winter, the creep of cautious optimism is a welcome warming trend.”This is a new political environment where implementation of law is going well. That’s a much better political environment for us,” said Matt Canter, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee deputy executive director.

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Andy Kroll: The Supreme Court Just Gutted Another Campaign Finance Law. Here’s What Happened

The Supreme Court on Wednesday released its decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the blockbuster money-in-politics case of the current term. The court’s five conservative justices all agreed that the so-called aggregate limit on the amount of money a donor can give to candidates, political action committees, and political parties is unconstitutional. In a separate opinion, conservative justice Clarence Thomas went even further, calling on the court to overrule Buckley v. Valeo, the 1976 decision that concluded it was constitutional to limit contributions to candidates. In their dissent, the court’s four liberal justices called their colleagues’ logic “faulty” and said it “misconstrues the nature of the competing constitutional interests at stake.” The dissent continues, “Taken together with Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, today’s decision eviscerates our Nation’s campaign finance laws, leaving a remnant incapable of dealing with the grave problems of democratic legitimacy that those laws were intended to resolve.”

How’d this happen? In the 2012 election cycle, a wealthy Alabama businessman named Shaun McCutcheon tried to make donations in the amount of $1,776 to 27 right-leaning congressional candidates. Not so fast, replied the Federal Election Commission (FEC), the nation’s campaign finance watchdog.After this decision, how much can Shaun McCutcheon give? Hypothetically, a single donor can now contribute as much as $3.5 million, to be divvied up between candidates, PACs, and political parties. No single entity could receive any more than the legal limits, and when you add up all the contributions a donor could potentially make without the aggregate limits, you get $3.5 million. (The overall aggregate limit was raised to $123,200 for the 2014 cycle.)University of California-Irvine law professor Rick Hasen, who did not support McCutcheon’s cause, nonetheless has argued that the decision could reinvigorate the parties and maybe scale back the gridlock crippling Congress. What comes next? Although the court’s majority opinion in McCutcheon, written by Roberts, blew up the FEC’s aggregate limits, it did not take a broader swipe at campaign finance restrictions in general. Court watchers feared a decision in McCutcheon that would open the door to future legal assaults on the bedrock of campaign finance law: direct contribution limits, such as the $2,600 limit to candidates, the $5,000 limit to PACs and party committees, and so on.

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Dylan Scott: How The White House Is Always Outflanking The GOP On Obamacare

House Republicans will vote on Thursday to repeal yet another piece of Obamacare: the provision that sets 30 hours as the threshold for defining full-time employees, raising it to 40 hours. A company’s compliance with the law’s employer mandate depends on its number of full-time employees, so fewer full-time workers would presumably lighten the mandate’s load on businesses. If that seems like small potatoes for the party after its leaders continued to advocate for full repeal this week, here’s why: The Obama administration has outmaneuvered Republicans on Obamacare, and the opposition party doesn’t have many options left in its quest to roll back any part of the law. The administration already made unilateral alterations to unpopular pieces of the law, drawing bewildered reactions even from supporters.

But by making changes itself, the White House hasn’t let the GOP get in on the game, despite the party’s unending stream of anti-Obamacare bills — therefore denying Republicans the opportunity to extract the high-profile pound of flesh from the law that they’ve been seeking for years. On its face, it’s tough to see the policy rationale for this latest attack on the law. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor explained the GOP’s thinking on the chamber floor Wednesday, arguing that Obamacare’s 30-hour rule had encouraged businesses to cut their workers’ hours and that raising the threshold would restore hours and therefore wages. The Congressional Budget Office projected, however, that the proposal would lead to 500,000 more uninsured Americans and raise the federal deficit by nearly $74 billion over the next 10 years.

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Maidan Translations: Widespread Disappointment Grows In Crimea

Earlier this week, two thirds of the peninsula were left without electricity. Who is to blame is still unclear, but the supply of electricity from the mainland has been substantially reduced. Officials warn that soon the separatists will receive significantly higher electricity bills. The promises to pensioners also turned out to be a myth. Their pensions were never doubled, but simply converted into rubles, reports TSN. Pricing chaos. Empty banks and ATMs. Lines for several days at a time. These are the first results of “improvement,” Crimean-style. All the joys of civilization, which were obvious before, do not work. The lights can be turned off at any time. In one’s passport, an address that doesn’t exist. Salary cards are a bare piece of plastic. Lines for pay, are just like in old Soviet films. For Crimeans, these old films have become a reality.

Olga Kunina does not hesitate to call Yevpatoria her home town, even though she had been living in the Ukrainian capital [Kyiv] for ten years now. She also insists that she will speak Ukrainian on camera. “I want to keep my Ukrainian passport, I want to be proud of being a Ukrainian, I don’t want to be forced to become a Russian because of the situation they are trying to put me in,” she says. Olga’s compatriots – ethnic Russians – dreamed of getting rich immediately after the so-called referendum. They wanted to sell out their citizenship for increased pensions. But the only increase has been in their disappointment. “We got exactly the same [pensions – Ed.], only in Russian rubles,” – explain the retirees. And in coins Russia is withdrawing from circulation. The rubles started causing chaos on the markets and in prices.

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Jonathan Weisman: Health Enrollment Numbers Lift Democratic Hopes

After months of pummeling by Republicans and with a grim election season approaching, Democrats on Tuesday had a rare bright day. President Obama’s announcement that the new health care plan had enrolled 7.1 million Americans coincided with the release by Representative Paul D. Ryan of a new Republican budget that proposes changes in Medicare and deep cuts in spending. It’s far too early to say a political turnaround is at hand, but for the first time this election year, Democrats are evincing some confidence that they have at least stanched the bleeding. “It’s changing. If you’ve been around awhile, and I’ve been around awhile, you can sense it,” said Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate. “You’re not going to turn away seven or 10 million people from insurance coverage — doesn’t work anymore. And then comes Ryan. Thank you, thank you Congressman Paul Ryan, for reminding us what Republicans would do if they had control.”

On the plus side, the president’s announcement that 7.1 million Americans had signed up for private health policies through the law’s exchange is likely to prove understated. Once totals are tabulated to include new Medicaid enrollees, people who signed up for new federally protected policies through private insurance brokers, and young adults who have stayed on their parents’ policies because of the law, the figure is likely to be at least double that. Moreover, the Ryan budget, which was approved by the House Budget Committee on Wednesday night along party lines, will present the Democrats a chance to expand the political conversation. It cuts Medicaid by $1.5 trillion over 10 years, food stamps by $125 billion, education programs by $145 billion — including Pell grants — and makes university students begin paying interest on student loans while still in college.

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Jonathan Chait: Charles Koch Explains Why He Is So Crazy

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page owns the deluded self-pitying billionaire screed genre, and today, it brings us Charles Koch. From the outside, Koch would appear to have it pretty good. He owns a vast fortune inherited in substantial part from his father. He commands enormous political influence, with hundreds of politicians and other political elites at his beck and call. But Koch’s view of himself is as a kind of ragtag freedom fighter hunted nearly to extinction. Here is Koch attempting to explain the major source of his grievance: Instead of encouraging free and open debate, collectivists strive to discredit and intimidate opponents. They engage in character assassination. (I should know, as the almost daily target of their attacks.)

This is the approach that Arthur Schopenhauer described in the 19th century, that Saul Alinky famously advocated in the 20th, and that so many despots have infamously practiced. Such tactics are the antithesis of what is required for a free society—and a telltale sign that the collectivists do not have good answers. So the trouble is that his critics attempt to “discredit” and “intimidate” him and employ “character assassination.” All these terms appear to be Koch synonyms for “saying things about Charles Koch that Charles Koch does not agree with.” In the kind of “free and open” debate he imagines, Koch would continue to use his fortune to wield massive political influence, and nobody would ever say anything about him that makes him unhappy.

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NYT: To Ponder: More Food Is Sourced At Home By Gardeners

The number of American households in which residents are growing their own food — either in home or community gardens — has increased 17 percent over the last five years, to 43 million, or one in three households according to a report to be released Wednesday from the National Gardening Association. While gardening was not so long ago associated with retirees in silly pants, the trend is now driven by Americans from ages 18 to 34 who are tending gardens of all sizes.

The association, which has published annual statistics on food gardening in America since 1978, cited a home gardening campaign by Michelle Obama as one of the factors in the rise. “Six years ago, we planted the White House Kitchen Garden on the South Lawn to inspire a national conversation about food and nutrition,” Mrs. Obama said by email, “and as healthy habits are becoming the new norm in America, I hope that interest in gardening and healthy eating continues to grow.”

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On This Day:

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama join staff aboard Air Force One during their flight April 3, 2009, from Stansted Airport in Essex, England, en route to Strasbourg, France (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama meets with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton aboard Air Force One during flight from Stansted Airport in Essex, England to France, April 3, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama walks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy from the Palais Rohan (Palace Rohan) April 3, 2009, following their meeting in Strasbourg, France (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama, joined by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, receives an enthusiastic welcome April 3, 2009, to Palais Rohan (Palace Rohan) in Strasbourg, France (Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama meets with Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, wife of French President Sarkozy at the Palais Rohan (Rohan Palace) April 3, 2009, in Strasbourg, France (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Obama reviews his speech to the Turkish parliament with speechwriter Ben Rhodes while eating lunch April 3, 2009, in Strasbourg, France (Photo/Pete Souza)

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16
Nov
10

flashback …. it’s okay, i know when i’m not wanted

President Barack Obama walks out of frame as Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Singapore’s finance minister, wanted a picture with first lady Michelle Obama as he arrives for the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2009.




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