Columbine came and went. We mourned, we vowed never again, we resolved to be a better nation. But it wasn’t enough.
Ft. Hood came and went. We mourned, we vowed “Terror won’t win”, we resolved to learn the lessons imparted. But it wasn’t enough.
Gabby Giffords will never be the same, and members from both sides of the aisle heaped praise on her. It wasn’t enough.
Newtown scarred us as nothing had before. Twenty innocent children mowed down in a mix of easy access to weapons of war, mental illness, and a society at war with itself. We wept, we beat our chests, we vowed to honor their memories. It, too, wasn’t enough, the words of resolve as evaporating steam.
Eight thousand have died at the end of a bullet since Newtown. All of them loved by someone, all of them precious to someone’s heart. Their deaths weren’t enough.
And now, another shooting, this time on a military base. And I will say it right here: it won’t be enough.
USA Today: President Obama is back on the road Thursday, starting a two-day bus trip to promote plans to cut college costs.
First up is a flight to upstate New York, where Obama will speak at the University of Buffalo, the State University of New York. The president and his bus then travel to Henninger High School in Syracuse.
“At these two schools, the President will discuss his plan to make college more affordable, tackle rising costs, and improve value for students and their families,” says the White House schedule.
…. After discussing college costs in Buffalo and Syracuse, Obama spends the night in Auburn, N.Y. The president wraps up his bus tour on Friday with stops in Binghamton, N.Y., and Scranton, Penn.
Too many here in Washington believe education is an expense that can be cut in tough economic times. I believe education is an investment.
The White House is tackling the status quo that’s sent college costs out of control.
For decades now, America’s approach to higher-education policy has been a delightful synthesis of left-wing and right-wing ideas. In stark contrast to the K–12 universe, college is a playground for individual choice and market competition …. In a speech Thursday morning in Buffalo, N.Y., on ways to enhance college affordability, President Obama will likely lay out policy measures that, while relatively modest on their own terms, propose to radically subvert that bargain on a conceptual level.
The president has decided, essentially, that the old bargain has failed …. he wants to find ways for the federal government to put its muscle behind an idea that’s both modest and radical: that public money should pay for outcomes, not just more stuff. Attempting to nudge the health care system in that direction was a key element of the Affordable Care Act. Nudging K–12 education in that direction has been the centerpiece of the Obama education agenda. Bringing it to the realm of higher education in a serious way would be extremely difficult but also an extraordinary achievement if we can be sent down that path.
President Obama plans to announce a set of ambitious proposals on Thursday aimed at making colleges more accountable and affordable by rating them and ultimately linking those ratings to financial aid.
A draft of the proposal, obtained by The New York Times and likely to cause some consternation among colleges, shows a plan to rate colleges before the 2015 school year based on measures like tuition, graduation rates, debt and earnings of graduates, and the percentage of lower-income students who attend. The ratings would compare colleges against their peer institutions. If the plan can win Congressional approval, the idea is to base federal financial aid to students attending the colleges partly on those rankings.
“All the things we’re measuring are important for students choosing a college,” a senior administration official said. “It’s important to us that colleges offer good value for their tuition dollars, and that higher education offer families a degree of security so students aren’t left with debt they can’t pay back.”
USA Today: Small-business jobs rise as economy improves
Small-business hiring and confidence about the future are rising, a signal of the economy’s growing strength and diminishing concerns about employee insurance coverage required by the new health care law.
Job creation at small companies has almost doubled in the last six months, reaching 82,000 jobs at firms with 49 or fewer employees in July, according to payroll processor ADP. Borrowing by small businesses and sales of new franchises have also climbed, indicating business owners are willing to take on new expenses and risk.
Opponents of a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants had a plan to apply grassroots pressure on congressional Republicans in their home districts. Why did it fizzle?
Activists opposed to immigration reform were all set to spend this month putting pressure on lawmakers to kill the legislation. But it hasn’t exactly been a show of force.
Last week, the Tea Party Patriots and NumbersUSA, two groups opposed to “amnesty” legislation, heavily publicized a rally in Richmond, Virginia, featuring Steve King … but only a few dozen people showed up – far short of the hundreds organizers had planned for.
…. as August winds down, the Richmond event seems indicative of the overall trend. Hundreds of immigrant advocates have appeared at rallies and town halls across the country. But the other side, the opponents, have been mostly absent.
Steve Benen: The nation’s full faith and credit is not a ‘leverage point’
About a week ago, National Review’s Robert Costa reported that congressional Republicans are considering an incredibly dangerous new plan: they’re prepared to hold the nation’s debt limit hostage again, creating a crisis comparable to the one we saw in the summer of 2011, unless Democrats agree to take health care benefits away from millions of Americans.
Earlier this week, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), a prominent member of the House Democratic leadership, said he now sees this scenario as likely. And overnight, Reuters reported (see here) that another GOP debt-ceiling crisis appears to be on the way…..
… In other words, GOP leaders are effectively prepared to swap one hostage for another …. this is nothing short of madness. As Ezra Klein recently put it, “Trading a government shutdown for a debt-ceiling breach is like trading the flu for septic shock”….
A variety of Republican governors have sought federal funds under Obamacare, many of them to expand Medicaid eligibility for more residents, a centerpiece of the law that the Supreme Court made optional for states last year.
But shhh! Don’t call it Obamacare, they say, for they despise that law.
In the latest example, vociferous Obamacare critic and Texas Gov. Rick Perry is seeking roughly $100 million in federal funds under a program set up under Obamacare, called Community First Choice … “The bottom line is it has nothing to do with Obamacare,” said Perry spokeswoman Allison Castle.
Only it has everything to do with Obamacare …
Perry is in good company among Republican governors, many of whom want billions of federal funds under the law’s Medicaid expansion, but don’t want to call it Obamacare …. One example is Arizona’s Jan Brewer …. another is Florida’s Rick Scott….
NBC: Even Republican young adults want health insurance, poll finds
Obamacare may have become a partisan issue, but more Republicans than Democrats have signed up for one of its most popular provisions, according to a survey published Wednesday.
The survey also pokes holes in the idea that most 20-somethings act like “Young Invincibles” who believe they don’t need health insurance.
A team at the Commonwealth Fund, which strongly supports healthcare reform, looked at one of the main target groups of the 2010 Affordable Care Act – young adults who have been going without health insurance. One of the most popular provisions of the law lets people age 26 and younger stay on their parents’ health insurance.
…. They found that by last March, 63 percent of young adults identifying as Republicans had enrolled in a parent’s health plan in the last 12 months, compared to 45 percent of those who considered themselves Democrats….
Texas Tribune: Voter ID Debate Heats Up as Dallas County Joins Fight
A fight against the state’s contentious voter ID laws escalated this week when Dallas County became the first Texas county to claim that the requirements would disenfranchise thousands of eligible voters.
In a 3-2 vote on Tuesday, the Dallas County Commissioners Court voted to join U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, in a lawsuit urging a federal district court to issue an injunction against the voter ID law. The law requires voters to present one of seven forms of state or federal identification or a so-called election identification certificate, which can be obtained from the state’s Department of Public Safety.
On Wednesday in an appearance on MSNBC, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins applauded the commissioners’ decision. Jenkins said 220,000 of 1.1 million total registered voters in Dallas County indicated they did not have the required forms of ID to vote.
Pete Souza: “On vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, the President was golfing at the Vineyard Golf Club. I switched my digital camera to the black-and-white setting to capture the ominous clouds.” Aug. 22, 2010
First Lady Michelle Obama greets attendees during a Joining Forces event at Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville, Fla., Aug. 22, 2012 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
Statement from the Vice President and Dr. Jill Biden:
Yesterday our son Beau underwent a successful procedure. He is in great shape and is going to be discharged tomorrow and heading home to Delaware. He will follow up with his local physicians in the coming weeks.
FACT: In the 250 days since Newtown, more than 7,000 Americans have been killed by gun violence. #WhatWillItTake for Congress to act?
A few months ago, conservative senators felt the need to kill a popular, bipartisan proposal on firearm background checks, and relied primarily on a single talking point: the proposal might lead to a firearm database. The very idea of some kind of national gun registry was so offensive to the right that the legislation had to die at the hands of a Republican filibuster.
It didn’t matter that the bipartisan bill had no such database. It didn’t matter that the bipartisan bill explicitly made the creation of such a registry a felony. All that mattered was that conservatives had a lie they liked, and which they used to great effect.
Four months later, Steve Friess reports that a massive, secret database of gun owners exists after all. But it wasn’t built by the Justice Department or the Department of Homeland Security; it was compiled without gun owners’ consent by the National Rifle Association.
ThinkProgress: The Worst Thing In That Maureen Dowd Column Isn’t Actually Her Misquote Of Bill DeBlasio’s Wife
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd is taking a lot of very justified heat for a column about New York City mayoral candidate Bill DeBlasio and his wife Chirlane McCray, in which she appears to have distorted a quotation of McCray’s to imply that McCray is impugning rival Democratic candidate Christine Quinn for being a lesbian.
…. Dowd is now suggesting that a noisy coffee shop obscured her audio recording, and she ended up relying on what turn out to have been bad-quality notes for the quotation….
…. as bad as Dowd’s quoting malpractice is, and as frivolous as the overall column is, these problems aren’t actually the worst part of the column. That would be the way Dowd describes McCray’s sexual orientation, and places it in a context of Sexuality and the New York Mayoral Race….
Erica Lafferty, daughter of Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung, stops at her mother’s grave on her wedding day
People: ….. “I wanted to let her know how much I missed her,” Lafferty says. “No daughter should ever have to do that on her wedding day … and I make sure she is always part of every day, like she always had been.”
…. For her bridal ensemble, Lafferty wore custom-dyed converse sneakers, something she and her mom often joked about.
“My mom always teased me because I was such a tomboy,” she says. “When I was picking out my dress, we found you could custom Converse sneakers, so she knew I had ordered them.”
Lafferty works with Mayors Against Illegal Guns, “to fight common-sense gun laws and join with others who’ve lost loved ones. I’m using my voice to make sure that things change and ensure no one else has to experience one of the most important days of their life without their mother due to gun violence.”
Increasingly frustrated by his dealings with President Hamid Karzai, President Obama is giving serious consideration to speeding up the withdrawal of United States forces from Afghanistan and to a “zero option” that would leave no American troops there after next year, according to American and European officials.
Mr. Obama is committed to ending America’s military involvement in Afghanistan by the end of 2014, and Obama administration officials have been negotiating with Afghan officials about leaving a small “residual force” behind. But his relationship with Mr. Karzai has been slowly unraveling, and reached a new low after an effort last month by the United States to begin peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar.
Mr. Karzai promptly repudiated the talks and ended negotiations with the United States over the long-term security deal that is needed to keep American forces in Afghanistan after 2014.
Steve Benen: …. We’re left with a dynamic that the political establishment still finds difficult to fully grasp: GOP officials could make the federal health care system better and more to their liking, but they see no value in that. They’d rather sabotage it, regardless of the real-world consequences. They could help get rid of a mandate they oppose, but they’d rather keep the policy they hate in the hopes it won’t work, people will feel adverse consequences, and there will be new fodder for 30-second attack ads a year from now.
Some people pursue public service want to build things, and some pursue public service because they just want to watch things burn.
…. The most generous thing I can say about their approach is that it’s fundamentally unserious about helping anyone. The least generous thing I can say is probably inappropriate for a family-friendly blog.
Ezra Klein: Obamacare just got easier to implement, not harder
This hasn’t been a banner news week for Obamacare. But can it really be true, as my colleague Jennifer Rubin writes, that “Everyone now agrees: Obamacare can’t be implemented”?
I asked around …. Larry Levitt, vice president of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation: “….. If anything the delay removes some potential administrative complexities from the plates of the implementers……” …. Timothy Jost, a health law expert at Washington and Lee University’s School of Law, was even blunter. “Implementation just got easier rather than harder,” he said.
Well, so much for “everyone.”
As those interviews indicate, the thinking among health-care experts is closer to the precise opposite of Rubin’s bombastic headline: The Obama administration has decided to accept some bad media coverage now, and some higher costs later, in order to make Obamacare much, much simpler to implement next year…..
Steve Benen: On Friday, when he hoped no one was looking, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) approved sweeping new restrictions on reproductive rights, including a requirement that women receive a medically unnecessary ultrasound before terminating a pregnancy, and regulatory measures that would close half of the state’s abortion clinics.
The law was supposed to go into effect statewide yesterday. A federal court had other ideas…..
ThinkProgress: Sorry, Republicans, Your Own Investigation Proves No Dead People Voted In South Carolina….
South Carolina never found a single dead voter in recent elections. At least, that is the final word from the State Election Commission investigation into whether 900 people voted using a dead person’s name….
…. When Attorney General Alan Wilson demanded the original investigation, he cited “an alarming number” of cases reported by the DMV that “clearly necessitates an investigation into criminal activity.” ….
…. [This] will not prevent state Republicans from redoubling strict voter ID efforts, invigorated by the recent Supreme Court decision on the Voting Rights Act. In fact, Wilson celebrated the decision, calling the Voting Rights Act an “extraordinary intrusion” and pledging to implement voter ID ….
ThinkProgress: Bush-Appointed Judge Slams Decision Striking Voting Rights Act — Court’s Reasoning Was ‘Made Up’
If a leading conservative scholar and former judge were now on the Supreme Court instead of Chief Justice Roberts or Justice Alito, it is likely that the Voting Right Act would remain intact.
Judge Michael McConnell was a leading conservative law professor at the time President George W. Bush named him to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in 2002 …. McConnell was also widely viewed as a possible Supreme Court nominee during the Bush Administration.
In an interview with NPR’s Nina Totenberg, McConnell has harsh words for the five conservative justices’ recent decision neutering much of the Voting Rights Act — labeling the reasoning that drove that decision “made up.”
President Barack Obama shoots baskets on the White House basketball court with Justin Friedlander and his family, July 6, 2010. Friedlander, who was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor in March, 2009, has launched an initiative called “Justin’s Quest,” in which he will shoot 63,000 basketball shots, one for every person diagnosed with a primary brain tumor each year in the United States. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
ThinkProgress: While the unemployment rate for all veterans fell below the national unemployment rate months ago, one group of veterans — those who have served since September 11, 2001 in Iraq and Afghanistan — continued to lag behind as the rest of the job market recovered. But in the last few months, the unemployment rate for so-called Gulf War II era veterans —defined by the BLS as those who served in the Armed Forces sometime since September 2001 and have since returned to civilian life — has steadily declined, even eventually dipping below the national unemployment rate for the first time since February 2012. That trend continued on Friday, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its June jobs report showing that the unemployment rate for this newest group of veterans fell to just 7.2 percent last month, its lowest level ever since the BLS regularly began tracking veterans’ unemployment rates in 2009. June also marks the fifth consecutive month in which the unemployment rate for new veterans has fallen.
Always cute when the party that left us losing 900,000 jobs a month complains that only 195,000 jobs were created.
The unemployment rate for veterans overall still remains lower than the national average, at just 6.3 percent. A coalition of businesses and officials in the Obama administration have placed a premium on the hiring of veterans. Legislation like the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 offer businesses tax credits for each veteran a company hires and strengthens federal transition assistance programs, while companies like Tesla Motors, Southwest Airlines and JPMorgan Chase have been commended by veterans groups like the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) for their commitment towards the hiring of returning veterans.
First Lady Michelle Obama has also made a big effort to help transition veterans into civilian jobs upon their return, most recently with the announcement of a new credentialing program that aims to help veterans acquire the necessary civilian certification for jobs in the IT industry.
Bryce Covert: Rhode Island state House voted 53-18 to pass a bill that would allow workers to take paid time off to care for a new child or a sick or injured family member. The Senate had previously passed the bill, but due to a technical change in the House version it headed back for a final vote in the Senate. That vote will send it to Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s (D) desk, who activists expect will sign it into law.
The bill expands the state’s current Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) program, which currently only covers those who need time off for a work-related illness or injury, to cover those who need family leave. Temporary Caregiver Insurance (TCI) will allow workers to pay into the program through a payroll deduction and then, starting January 2014, take up to four weeks of paid leave, which would rise to six weeks the year after and eight weeks by 2016. Paying into the program would cost someone making $43,000 a year 83 cents a week. The minimum weekly payment for the TDI program is currently $72 and the maximum is $752. It would cover nearly 80 percent of the state’s workforce. California and New Jersey are the only other two states that have programs similar to this one, which allow employees to pay into paid leave insurance. Connecticut also took a step toward creating such a program recently by setting up a task force to study the feasibility.
Bryce Covert: All but 12 House Republicans voted for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act two weeks ago, which would ban abortions in the country 20 weeks after fertilization. But for the party of supposed fiscal restraint, such a move comes with a cost. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scored the bill last week and found that it would increase government spending and deficits. This should surprise no one, however. Reducing access to women’s reproductive choices comes with a high price tag for taxpayers. In scoring the House bill, the CBO said, “Depending on the number of additional births under H.R. 1797, such Medicaid costs could range from about $75 million over the next 10 years to more than $400 million over that period.” The bill would increase the deficit by $75 million between 2014 and 2018 and by $225 million from 2014 to 2023. These costs are thanks to the fact that 40 percent of all births are paid for by Medicaid and additional births will drive up those costs.
Texas, however, should know that cutting off reproductive choices can drive up the government’s costs. In 2011, state legislators slashed funding for family planning services by $73 million in an attempt to deny Planned Parenthood taxpayer dollars because it provides abortions, despite the fact that the clinics that receive state subsidies didn’t provide the service. Denying low-income women access to family planning services was going to mean the delivery of 24,000 babies that they wouldn’t otherwise have had, which were going to cost Texans as much as $273 million thanks to medical expenses and covering their infants under Medicaid. After staring down those numbers, Texas lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have started working to reinstate the funds.
Guests take pictures as President Barack Obama signs HR 4348, the Transportation and Student Loan Interest Rate bill, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, July 6, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Jamelle Bouie: Today’s story from the New York Times on IRS “filtering” should be the final word on whether this was political targeting or a more mundane instance of mistakes and misjudgments from overworked bureaucrats. Of the nearly 200,000 applications for tax-exempt status the IRS received between 2010 and 2012, it flagged 22,000 for further review. Of those, just 296 came from partisan political groups. In other words, notes the Times, “most of the applications pulled aside for further scrutiny in those years had nothing to do with politics, conservative or liberal, just as most of the red flags thrown up by the I.R.S.’s lookout lists were not overtly political.”
What were some of the other groups flagged by the IRS? “Medical marijuana purveyors, organizations formed to carry out President Obama’s health care law, and open source software developers who create software tools for computer code writers and distribute them free of charge.” Unless Republicans can prove that the White House has it out for open-source developers as well as tea party activists, it’s hard to see how they continue to stand by their claims.
President Barack Obama listens during a communications planning meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, July 6, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Neil Irwin: Usually, we are among the first to insist that the monthly jobs report matters not for the wild swings it can create on financial markets but for what it tells us about the state of the U.S. economy and the employment and earnings prospects of our 300 million fellow citizens. Not today. The jobs numbers were pretty good: The nation added 195,000 positions in June, and job creation was significantly stronger than it seemed in April and May. The unemployment rate was unchanged, but more people joined the workforce. All in all, things seem to be getting better, and maybe getting better more quickly than it had seemed 24 hours ago.
Tom Kludt: The 7-year-old Virginia boy who was struck by a stray bullet while on his way to watch a Fourth of July fireworks display died Friday, according to Richmond-based NBC affiliate WWBT. Police said the accident was likely the result of someone firing a gun in the air to celebrate the holiday. It is still unknown who fired the shot.
The boy and his father were walking to watch a fireworks show in Brandermill, Va. when the youngster fell behind before suddenly dropping to the ground. His father thought his son had passed out until he noticed the bullet wound on top the boy’s head. The boy died at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center in Richmond, Va.
Zoe Schlanger: A South Dakota man fell asleep on his back porch while holding a loaded handgun, and accidentally shot himself in the midsection when a relative turned on the porch light, the Daily Republic reported.
The 34-year-old man suffered minor flesh wounds and was able to transport himself to the hospital.
TPM: Baltimore man Lassiter Basket, 82, was careful to use blanks and shoot indoors when he fired his handgun to celebrate the Fourth of July, the Baltimore Sun reported. Fragments of a blank moved through his great-granddaughter’s bedroom wall, and burned into her wrists and leg.
LOLGOP: As some debate whether this country has become more like George Orwell’s 1984 of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, keep in mind that for millions of Americans who have no time to debate such a lofty question, actual oppression exists. This oppression isn’t a overwhelming fear of a the Thought Police or even a steady drugging that manufactures consent. It isn’t theoretical or some slippery slope that slowly envelops true liberty. It’s a never-ending concern about survival and sustenance. It’s a need to keep children fed, clothed and well. It’s knowing that disaster lurks every time your boss is unhappy with you.
The dystopian future we may fear already exists for millions. If you’re expecting fascism to come with a cross and a flag, you’re immune — due to over or underexposure — to the actual economic feudalism that has always trapped the working poor in the country. It’s called wage slavery. The easiest way to trap someone into a life of wage slavery is deny them education and have them start a family before they can afford it. Texas Republicans have this formula for a lifetime of poverty worked out to a science.
The Texas GOP’s jihad against family planning and Planned Parenthood creates unintended pregnancies and leaves poor women with no options. This creates generational poverty and a low-wage workforce with no time to consider how the petrol-funded theocracy of the Lone Star state is designed to make the rich richer and workers less safe and more dependent on the corporations that have indentured them.
President Barack Obama shares his strawberry pie with a boy during a lunch stop at Kozy Corners restaurant in Oak Harbor, Ohio. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Christopher S. Rugaber: U.S. employers added a robust 195,000 jobs in June and many more in April and May than previously thought. The job growth raises hopes for a stronger economy in the second half of 2013. The unemployment rate remained 7.6 percent. That was because more people started looking for work in June — a healthy sign. Once people without jobs start looking for one, the government counts them as unemployed. Pay also rose sharply in June, the Labor Department’s monthly jobs report Friday showed. Pay has now outpaced inflation over the past year.
Stock index futures rose shortly after the report was released at 8:30 a.m. EDT. And the yield on the 10-year Treasury note jumped from 2.56 percent to 2.65 percent, a sign that investors think the economy is improving. Friday’s report showed that the economy added 70,000 more jobs in April and May than the government had previously estimated — 50,000 in April and 20,000 in May. Average hourly pay rose 10 cents to $24.01, 2.2 percent higher than a year ago. The hotels, restaurants and entertainment industry added 75,000 jobs last month. Retailers added 37,000. Temporary jobs rose 10,000. Manufacturing shed 6,000 jobs. But construction added 13,000, and health care gained 20,000.
Auto sales in the January-June period topped 7.8 million, their best first half since 2007, according to Autodata Corp. and Ward’s AutoInfoBank. Sales of previously occupied homes exceeded 5 million in May, the first time that’s happened since November 2009. New-home sales rose at their fastest pace in five years.