On This Day: President Obama makes Congressional calls from the Oval Office before the final Senate vote repealing the ban on gay men and women serving openly in the military, Saturday, Dec. 18, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Today (all times Eastern):
12:30: Jay Carney briefs the press
2:05: President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama meet with moms to discuss health care, Oval Office
Sue Spanke of Missoula, Mont., was highly displeased this fall when she learned her health insurance had been canceled. “I got so mad that I went to my phone and started calling all the political people and giving them what for,” Spanke told The Billings Gazette. That was before she learned she was eligible for a policy at a much lower cost.
After angrily calling her state auditor’s office, Spanke, a self-employed artist in her 50s, found she was eligible for a federal subsidy. Her new insurance will cover her for a mere $30 to $40 a month with a deductible of only $500. She had been paying $350 a month for a Blue Cross policy with a $5,000 deductible. “I went from a horrible policy that didn’t cover anything, that was breaking me, to the best policy at the best price I’ve had since I was in my 20s,” she said.
With the website largely fixed, one of the last lines of attack against Obamacare is that the president lied when he said if people like their insurance plans, they can keep them. The White House is hoping stories like Spanke’s will inoculate them against those arguments. And the positive stories abound.
…. Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, had asked for input on the Affordable Care Act during an open house Monday at his office in the E. Ross Adair Federal Building, and he got it…
…Lee Albright, owner of the south-side meat market carrying his last name, doesn’t want the Affordable Care Act repealed, which Stutzman and the Republican-controlled House have voted to do numerous times. Albright told his congressman that his monthly payment for family health coverage will drop from $3,800 to $1,700 by enrolling in a plan offered through the much-maligned law.
Albright said most of his dozen employees also are enrolling in Affordable Care Act plans and will have coverage for the first time. “If the Republican Party thinks they’re going to kill Obamacare, you guys need to realize that those nine people that I add on, are they going to vote Republican ever again if you take their health care from them?”
WMGT: Congressman Scott Talks Healthcare, Farm Bill at Town Hall Meeting
Residents from all around middle Georgia met with U.S. Representative Austin Scott to talk about concerns they have in the nation’s capitol during a town hall meeting on Monday.
Gridlock in Washington has left local business owners like Bob Schumacher, frustrated. He hasn’t had health insurance for some time, and has tried multiple times to use the scrutinized healthcare.gov website and hasn’t had any luck, until now.
“I was able to get an insurance plan and with the tax credit, it’s going to be about half of the price that it was going to be two and a half years ago,” Schumacher said.
…. “They’ve definitely got the website up and running now, and so you can get online and see if there is something out there that works for you.”
CT Mirror: CT insurance exchange enrollment up more than 50% in two weeks
Connecticut’s health insurance exchange is enrolling about 1,400 people a day and is on track to have 50,000 to 60,000 people signed up for health care coverage by the end of the year, an official said Tuesday.
Jason Madrak, chief marketing officer for Access Health CT, the state’s exchange, said about 20,000 people have signed up for private insurance plans through the marketplace, about 70 percent of whom will get federal financial assistance to discount their premiums.
In addition, about 17,000 people have signed up for Medicaid coverage through the exchange, Madrak said.
The approximately 37,000 people signed up for coverage through the exchange marks a nearly 58 percent increase from enrollment as of Dec. 4, the previous figures Access Health reported.
I’ve done some research on the question, and by my calculations, judging from current trends, this will happen approximately . . . never.
I base this on the criticism of the auto bailout of early 2009. Almost five years later, the industry is healthy again and large swaths of the Midwest have been spared what would have been certain economic devastation. All this was achieved for a relatively modest sum: … It would seem that the argument against the bailout has been settled. Yet opponents continue to argue their case — if anybody will listen.
Dana Milbank has an interesting piece today …. he compares Obamacare to the auto bailout, which at this point looks like a rousing success — but continues to be lambasted by the right, because it shouldn’t have worked, and therefore can’t have worked.
….. it’s a strong signal that the press is catching up to the reality that December is not October, and that the news — while there are still many troubles — is increasingly positive. Actually, so is Darrel Issa’s angry rebuke to a health care official: “You need to watch more Fox News.”
National Memo: What If Every Voter Denied Medicaid Expansion By Republicans Voted Democratic?
A new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that 4.8 million Americans will be denied health insurance because Republican governors and legislatures have refused to expand Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act.
Another study, called Health Care for America Now (HCAN), was released last week and found that 4,831,590 people were being denied Medicaid in red states, nearly duplicating Kaiser’s result. HCAN went a step further and estimated that the result of not expanding insurance to these eligible residents would result in the loss of 27,000 lives in 2014, while denying the states $42.6 billion a year in economic activity.
Most of these people who earn too much for Medicaid and too little to purchase insurance in the health care exchanges — 79 percent — live in southern states.
After the government shutdown, Republicans took a big hit in the polls. A very, very large hit in the polls in fact. It turned out that while various people are willing to talk about what they don’t like about “big government,” there are even more things that the government provides that they do like. While Republicans thought they had a “winning strategy” by using the shutdown to attempt to repeal “Obamacare” (for the 40′th plus time), it turned out that the public thought it was really stupid, particularly when all those things like national parks had to close. Add in a lack of action on any substantive issues, the unpopularity of various Republican governors, and some losses in elections they thought were winnable, and things are starting to get tense for them.
Once again, former Karl Rove self-actualization guru Ron Fournier has taken to the pages of the National Journal – Motto: There’s A Reader Out There Somewhere – to explain that the president misapprehended the results of the 2012 election, and that he has been operating under the illusion that, because he got the most votes, he got to be president again. To elucidate this for the dimmer people among us, Ron shows how brilliant he was in the immediate aftermath of said election, and employs the useful tool of Historical Parallelism, which he applies repeatedly and vigorously to his own forehead.
…. The IRS dumbassery was just that. The NSA surveillance started under Bush – with considerably more Democratic support in the Congress, Ron, than this president has gotten from Republicans on anything – and Benghazi, Benghazi!, BENGHAZI! remains a hoax. I’m afraid we are past the point where an intervention would help. Better just fire off the stun gun and pry the tool of Historical Parallels out of his hand.
ThinkProgress: Why Obama Is Sending Openly Gay Athletes To Russia’s Olympics
As controversy erupted over Russia’s anti-gay law ahead of next year’s Sochi Olympics, President Barack Obama said that he opposed boycotting the Games in favor of letting the United States delegation lead by example on the LGBT rights front.
“One thing I’m really looking forward to is maybe some gay and lesbian athletes bringing home the gold or silver or bronze, which i think would go a long way in rejecting the kind of attitudes were seeing there,” Obama said. “And if Russia doesn’t have gay or lesbian athletes, it’ll probably make their team weaker.”
Tuesday, Obama took a step forward in showing that example, selecting tennis legend and former U.S. Olympic coach Billie Jean King, a lesbian who has long been an LGBT equality advocate, to be a part of the delegation that will represent the White House at the opening ceremony on February 7. Hockey player Caitlin Cahow, who is also openly gay, will be a part of the delegation to the closing ceremonies on February 23.
…. note that the U.S. Olympic delegation is traditionally led by someone from the White House – current or former president, vice president, or member of the First Family. For Sochi, as Rachel noted on the show last night, Obama tapped former DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, which means no one from the White House or even from the president’s cabinet will be on hand for the opening ceremony.
… this also strikes me as this latest in a series of elections-have-consequences moments. Conservatives have come to celebrate Vladimir Putin as something of an international hero, while religious right activists cheer on his culture war from afar. Obama has been highly ambitious and progressive when it comes to advancing LGBT civil rights, and his choice in Olympic delegation members sends a signal the world will notice…
LA Times: Homeless men invited to help Pope Francis celebrate birthday
Pope Francis boosted his down-to-earth image by inviting a group of homeless men to his Vatican residence to help him celebrate his 77th birthday.
The group of men joined Francis on Tuesday as he gave his morning Mass and then ate breakfast with him …. the men, a Pole, a Slovak and a Czech, were sleeping under the portico outside the Vatican’s press center when they were approached by Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, who distributes charitable contributions for the pope.
“Would you like to come to Pope Francis’ birthday party?” Krajewski reportedly asked them. “After a moment of bewilderment and wonder, they started packing up their beds, pieces of cardboard and covers which were arranged to protect them from the bitter cold of the Roman night.”
President Obama walks with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to their bilateral meeting at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, Dec. 18, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Pete Souza: “The President briefs European leaders following a multilateral meeting in which an agreement was tentatively reached at the United Nationals Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. Most conferences like this are very scripted; this one was just the opposite.” Dec. 18, 2009
President Obama speaks during a multilateral meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Brazilian President Lula da Silva, Indian Prime Minister Prime Manmohan Singh, and South African President Jacob Zuma during the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, Dec. 18, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama shows military officials the White House Christmas Tree in the Blue Room following a meeting, Dec. 1, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
USA Today: Obama selection of Billie Jean King for Sochi ‘genius’
President Obama’s selection of Billie Jean King for the official U.S. delegation to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games is a stroke of genius.
What better way to show the nation’s disgust for President Vladimir Putin’s anti-gay propaganda law than for Obama to send an American cultural icon and sports legend who also happens to be openly gay?
@petesouza: Great photo (of President Obama, the First Lady and former Presidents Carter and Clinton) from my colleague Chuck Kennedy, using painter’s pole to elevate camera
Presidential Daily Schedule (All Times Eastern):
The President has no public events scheduled
10:15: VP Biden ceremonially swears in Todd Jones as Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and deliver brief remarks
12:45: VP Biden ceremonially swears in Dan Tangherlini as Administrator of the General Services Administration
Yesterday’s PBS Interview:
USA Today: Obama: No Decision Yet On Launching Syria Military Strike
President Obama said Wednesday that he has not yet made a decision on whether he will order a military strike against Syria, but said the U.S. government has concluded that Bashar Assad’s regime has deployed chemical weapons. In an interview on PBS’ NewsHour following his address to mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, Obama added that he has “no interest” in an open-ended conflict. “I have not made a decision,” Obama said in the interview. “I have gotten options from our military, had extensive discussions with my national security team.”
Obama said, however, that the Syrian regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons would factor into his calculation to act, and he warned that the Assad regime should be held accountable. “I have not made a decision, but I think it’s important that if, in fact, we make a choice to have repercussions for the use of chemical weapons, then the Assad regime, which is involved in a civil war, trying to protect itself, will have received a pretty strong signal that in fact, it better not do it again,” Obama said. “And that doesn’t solve all the problems inside of Syria, and you know, it doesn’t, obviously, end the death of innocent civilians inside of Syria. “
Ian Millhiser: Conservatives Have Twisted The Word ‘Freedom’ Into Something Martin Luther King Would Never Recognize
“Freedom” doesn’t mean what it used to mean. Fifty years ago, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. approached the podium at the original March on Washington, he carried with him a robust sense of what Americans needed to accomplish in order to become a free society. When he stood in Lincoln’s shadow and lamented the “tragic fact that the Negro is still not free,” he was not speaking about a surplus of health care entitlements. When he called for all Americans to be granted the “riches of freedom and the security of justice” he was not concerned that the heirs to their parents’ fortunes might be required to pay a share of those fortune in taxes. Dr. King did not march to get Washington off his back. He marched because he understood that the path to freedom traveled straight through the U.S. Capitol, and that what he labeled the “marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community” would amount to nothing unless the promise of equality was enshrined in law.
By 1895, Field’s libertarian constitution replaced the Constitution of the United States. In just a few short months, the Supreme Court struck down the income tax, gave its blessing to monopolists, and asserted sweeping new powers to weaken labor unions. Six years after Field’s death, the Supreme Court handed down its infamous Lochner decision, which treated any law improving the conditions of workers as constitutionally suspect due to what the Court labeled “freedom of contract.” This is the vision of “freedom” so often touted by American conservatives — indeed, Sen. Paul recently held up Lochner as a “wonderful decision” that should guide America’s judges and policymakers today. Freedom, to Paul and other like-minded thinkers, is the freedom to exploit and the freedom to be exploited.
ThinkProgress: No, Martin Luther King Jr. Was Not A Republican — But Here’s What He Had To Say About Them
“Most people don’t talk about the fact that Martin Luther King was a Republican.”
That’s a quote from Ada Fisher, a Republican National Committeewoman from North Carolina, that was published without qualification or correction this week by ABC News.
Fisher is wrong on two fronts. First, many people talk about the “fact” that King was a Republican. It is asserted incessantly by conservatives on Twitter and elsewhere on the internet, especially in the lead up to today’s 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. The claim is most prominently advanced by King’s niece, Republican activist Alveda King. Over the years, conservative groups have purchased billboards making the claim.
Second, Martin Luther King Jr. was not a Republican. Or a Democrat.
President Barack Obama meets with Ambassador Donald Booth, Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, in the Oval Office, Aug. 28 (Photo by Pete Souza)
USA Today: President Obama tapped his outgoing ambassador to Ethiopia on Wednesday to serve as his special envoy for Sudan and South Sudan.
Obama called Donald Booth “one of America’s most experienced diplomats, with broad experience in helping promote peace and prevent conflict across Africa.”
He is specifically charged with leading the American effort to implement security agreements the two countries agreed to last year and helping resolve long-running disputes over borders and sharing of oil wealth.
President Barack 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. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Bill Clinton set to give a speech on Obamacare 9/4, in Arkansas, a few weeks before open enrollment starts.
Sara Kliff: Huffington Post’s Jason Cherkis spent two days at the Kentucky State Fair with workers from Kynect, the state’s health marketplace. He came back with a better understanding of deep-fried Kool Aid (“funnel cake dough flavored with the powdered drink mix”) and this fantastic anecdote.
A middle-aged man in a red golf shirt shuffles up to a small folding table with gold trim, in a booth adorned with a flotilla of helium balloons, where government workers at the Kentucky State Fair are hawking the virtues of Kynect, the state’s health benefit exchange established by Obamacare. The man is impressed. “This beats Obamacare I hope,” he mutters to one of the workers. “Do I burst his bubble?” wonders Reina Diaz-Dempsey, overseeing the operation. She doesn’t. If he signs up, it’s a win-win, whether he knows he’s been ensnared by Obamacare or not.
This speaks to a point that others, particularly Jonathan Bernstein, have already made: When Americans actually interact with Obamacare, it won’t be called Obamacare at all. In Kentucky, for example, it will be Kynect, the state health marketplace. In Idaho, local residents will purchase coverage from Your Health Idaho. Covered Oregon will serve (surprise!) Oregonians, while neighboring Washingtonians will purchase coverage from WAHealthPlanFinder. If you watch the ads that states have produced to support their marketplaces, they rarely mention the federal law that has set these changes in action.
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet Maude Smith and members of her family at Smith’s 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. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The latest Obamacare story getting everybody’s attention is about the United Parcel Service. On Wednesday, Kaiser Health News and USA Today reported that UPS was making a change in its employee health plan—and that, as a result, 15,000 spouses of UPS employees would lose access to company insurance. One reason for the change, according to the company, is that UPS faces higher insurance costs from Obamacare. Eliminating coverage for these spouses is one way the company can reduce its employee benefit costs.
Employers have been trying to control or cut employee benefit costs for a long time, and it’s no surprise they eventually started looking at spousal coverage. The idea is a relic from an era when dual-income couples were still relatively uncommon. In those years, employers had every reason to offer (mostly male) employees spousal insurance, since the (mostly female) spouses usually had no other source of coverage. But in the last ten to twenty years, as more women have entered the workforce and two-income families have become more common, companies have started asking why they should subsidize coverage for spouses who could just as easily get insurance from their own employers.
Meanwhile, it’s not like UPS is simply kicking spouses to the health care curb. The new exclusion applies only to spouses who have jobs that offer insurance. (At UPS, that’s about half the spouses who get coverage now.) As a result, nobody is actually becoming uninsured because of this change. On the contrary, even as some spouses get coverage elsewhere, more employees and young adult dependents will be getting coverage from UPS.
President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and daughters Sasha and Malia, eat lunch at Parkway Bakery and Tavern in New Orleans, La., Aug. 29, 2010. Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett is seated at left. The First Family was visiting New Orleans to mark the five-year anniversary of hurricane Katrina. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
BREAKING: Initial jobless claims fall 6,000 to 331,000, beating expectations
The U.S. economy expanded at a faster pace in the second quarter as a smaller trade deficit and gains in inventories overshadowed the effects of federal budget cutbacks. Gross domestic product rose at a 2.5 percent annualized rate, up from an initial estimate of 1.7 percent, Commerce Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 79 economists surveyed by Bloomberg projected a 2.2 percent gain.
Consumer spending climbed 1.8 percent, the same as previously reported, propelled by gains in durable goods such as automobiles and appliances. That followed a 2.3 percent increase from January through March. Purchases added 1.2 percentage points to growth. Consumers’ purchasing power improved, with disposable income adjusted for inflation rising at a 3.2 percent annualized rate from April through June after a 7.9 percent decrease in the first quarter. The saving rate in that period increased to 4.5 percent from 4.1 percent.
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. The First Lady’s appearance was part of a back to school tour to discuss improvements to the federal guidelines for school lunches that go into effect this school year, and updates to the Presidential Youth Fitness Program. (Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)
President Barack 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. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
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. The First Lady’s appearance was part of a back to school tour to discuss improvements to federal guidelines for school lunches and updates to the Presidential Youth Fitness Program. (Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)
President Barack 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. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)