President Barack Obama signs a Presidential Memorandum directing Labor Secretary Tom Perez to modernize overtime protections. He is bypassing Congress and ordering changes in overtime rules so employers would required to pay millions more for extra time they put in on the job.
President Obama waits for a heavy rain to pass before crossing West Executive Avenue from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building to the West Wing of the White House, March 12, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Today (all times Eastern):
1:0: Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney
2:45: The President holds a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk; the Vice President also attends
4:0: First Lady Michelle Obama Speaks at a Special Screening of Disney’s Muppets Most Wanted
4:15: The President drops-by meeting with women Members of Congress, The Roosevelt Room
The percentage of uninsured Americans is falling sharply, reaching 15.9% as of the end of February, according to Gallup. That’s the lowest rate the survey firm has measured since 2008. The greatest gains in insured status were shown by people earning less than $36,000 — a prime target for the act — and black Americans. Hispanics still lag. — The cost of health insurance and medical care came sharply down in January, according to number-crunchers at Goldman Sachs and the Commerce Department. Goldman Sachs attributed the slide to cuts in the reimbursement formulas for Medicare services, which are written into the law. The ACA is effectively putting more money in people’s pockets —
the Commerce Department estimated that the expansion of Medicaid benefits under the ACA amounted to $19.2 billion in January. — The grand total of Obamacare enrollees — including insurance exchanges, Medicaid members, and young persons kept on their parents plans — can be estimated as high as 13 million, according to independent statistician Charles Gaba, whose conclusions and methodology can be found here. The ACA is making increasingly deep inroads into the population of uninsured persons, not merely those who had insurance previously and have just switched over to exchange plans or Medicaid.
We’ve remarked before on the tendency of businesses and others to use the Affordable Care Act as a scapegoat for changes in their healthcare benefits or in the healthcare landscape that have other causes — such as their own greed or long-term trends. Galen Benshoof, a guest contributor at theincidentaleconomist.com, identifies a good case of what we might call Obamacare derangement syndrome — the conviction that everything that happens in healthcare today must have been caused by the ACA. Benshoof’s example involves rising deductibles. His jumping-off point is a recent review of a book by Ezekiel Emanuel, one of the ACA’s architects, by David Goldhill in the Wall Street Journal.
Goldhill is a businessman who, judging from his earlier writings, is predisposed to expect the ACA to fail — in fact, prefers catastrophic coverage to almost all other forms of health insurance. In his review, Goldhill cites “the rapid spread of high-deductible insurance among employers and on the exchanges” as “one of the immediate unanticipated consequences of the ACA.” Benshoof calls him on this misstatement. The truth is that the rapid spread of “high-deductible” health plans (based on IRS regulations, that’s technically any plan with a deductible of $1,250 per person and $2,500 per family, or above) is very much an artifact of the pre-ACA healthcare landscape. Indeed, one of the goals of the ACA is to relieve the economic pressures that prompted employers to jack up deductibles on their employees toward this level every year.
NYT: Titans In Russia Fear New Front In Ukraine Crisis
When Vladimir V. Putin returned to the Russian presidency in 2012, one of the first messages he sent to his political elite, many of them heads of banks and large corporations, was that the times had changed: Owning assets outside Russia makes you too vulnerable to moves by foreign governments, he told them. It is time to bring your wealth home. Nearly two years later, those words seem almost prophetic. After a week of escalating tensions between Russia and the United States, it has become clear that the conflict over Ukraine will move to the battlefield of finance. Those same business titans are now contemplating the damage that the crisis could inflict on Russia’s economy.
Financial sanctions, which the United States and the European Union have suggested they will impose if the conflict escalates, are intended to test the cohesion of the political system. Still, the prospect of losing access to Western finance is a frightening thought for Russian business leaders, whose voice in foreign policy decision-making is muted compared with the tight circle of Mr. Putin’s former K.G.B. colleagues, for whom economic factors may be secondary. Anxiety over possible economic fallout has begun to radiate from business circles, and some wondered whether Mr. Putin had been warned clearly about the magnitude of the possible damage to the economy. One analyst described their mind-set as one of “cognitive dissonance.”
BBC: US Man Walks Free After 25 Years On Death Row
A man who spent more than 25 years on death row in the US state of Louisiana has walked free from prison after his murder conviction for the 1983 killing of a jeweller was overturned. Glenn Ford, 64, had been on death row since August 1988. He had been found guilty of killing 56-year-old Isadore Rozeman, a jeweller for whom Mr Ford occasionally worked. US media reports say that he is one of the longest-serving death row inmates in modern US history to be exonerated. Mr Ford had always denied killing Mr Rozeman. Asked by a reporter how he was feeling as he left the high security prison in Angola, Louisiana, Mr Ford said: “My mind is going in all kinds of directions but it feels good.”
He said that he did harbour some resentment because he had been locked up for almost 30 years “for something I didn’t do” and had lost years of his life. “Thirty years, 30 years of my life if not all of it. I can’t go back and do anything that I should’ve been doing when I was 35, 38 and 40 – stuff like that. My son when I left was a baby, now they’re grown men with babies.” The many flaws in the case against Mr Ford have been listed by the US press: No murder weapon was ever found and there were no eyewitnesses to the crime Mr Ford was initially implicated in the killing by a woman who later testified she had lied Mr Ford’s original court-appointed lawyers had never tried a murder case. Mr Ford, a black man, was convicted by an all-white jury who recommended the death sentence
NYT: Obama Will Seek Broad Expansion Of Overtime Pay
President Obama this week will seek to force American businesses to pay more overtime to millions of workers, the latest move by his administration to confront corporations that have had soaring profits even as wages have stagnated. On Thursday, the president will direct the Labor Department to revamp its regulations to require overtime pay for several million additional fast-food managers, loan officers, computer technicians and others whom many businesses currently classify as “executive or professional” employees to avoid paying them overtime, according to White House officials briefed on the announcement. Under current federal regulations, workers who are deemed executive, administrative or professional employees can be denied overtime pay under a so-called white-collar exemption.
Under the new rules that Mr. Obama is seeking, fewer salaried employees could be blocked from receiving overtime, a move that would potentially shift billions of dollars’ worth of corporate income into the pockets of workers. Currently, employers are prohibited from denying time-and-a-half overtime pay to any salaried worker who makes less than $455 per week. Mr. Obama’s directive would significantly increase that salary level. In addition, Mr. Obama will try to change rules that allow employers to define which workers are exempt from receiving overtime based on the kind of work they perform. Under current rules, if an employer declares that an employee’s primary responsibility is executive, such as overseeing a cleanup crew, then that worker can be exempted from overtime.
Yahoo: Ukraine Won’t Intervene In Crimea, President Says
Ukraine’s acting president said the country would not use its army to stop Crimea from seceding, the latest sign that a Russian annexation of the strategic peninsula may be imminent. Oleksandr Turchynov’s comments came after the Crimean parliament voted for independence ahead of a Sunday referendum on joining Russia, while Washington and Moscow locked horns in one of their fiercest clashes since the Cold War. The interim leader said intervening on the southeastern Black Sea peninsula, where Kremlin-backed forces have seized de facto control, would leave Ukraine exposed on its eastern border, close to Russia.
“We cannot launch a military operation in Crimea, as we would expose the eastern border and Ukraine would not be protected,” Turchynov told AFP. Describing the secession vote as a “sham”, he said: “What they call the referendum will not happen in Crimea but in the offices of the Kremlin.” The latest escalation in the crisis also saw Moscow lash out at Washington for promising “illegal” financial assistance to Kiev’s new leaders, who rose to power on the back of three months of deadly protests that toppled a Russia-friendly regime. Undeterred, the European Union announced trade breaks worth 500 million euros ($690 million) Tuesday that could ease Ukraine’s burden from restrictions that Russia has threatened in response to Kiev’s tilt toward the West.
LA Times: Funny Thing Is, Barack Obama’s ‘Between Two Ferns’ Segment Works
Something historic happened in the early hours of Tuesday, March 11, 2014. The President of the United States was a guest on “Between Two Ferns With Zach Galifianakis,” a highly occasional semi-fake talk show that lives on the website Funny or Die. Obama went to the Web to promote the Affordable Care Act to the people — the young people — who hang out there. The choice of “Between Two Ferns,” with its cable-access vibe, eight-bit graphics, halting pace and awkward, unprepared, inappropriate and antagonistic host seems an odd one, certainly, an unwelcoming or unseemly platform either for the president or his pitch. But that is part of what makes it funny. And being funny is what makes it good.
Randy Ludlow: ‘Voters Bill Of Rights’ Gets One Step Closer To Ohio Ballot
Supporters of an effort to add an “Ohio Voters Bill of Rights” to the Ohio Constitution soon could begin collecting signatures in their bid to place the measure on the statewide ballot. The office of Attorney General Mike DeWine yesterday certified language for the petitions as acceptable after rejecting previous wording on Feb. 13. Black legislative leaders, clergy members and civil-rights advocates are behind the initiative, which would require gathering 385,247 valid petition signatures of registered voters by July 2 to make the Nov. 4 ballot.
The leaders of the G-7 countries issues a stern admonition Wednesday to Russia for its aggression in Ukraine, warning that it would not recognize the outcome of a referendum in Crimea and would take collective action if Russia moved to annex the region. Russia’s annexation of Crimea would be a violation of the United Nations charter, said the G-7 in a statement, as well as several treaties Russia is party to. Crimea’s referendum would be a “deeply flawed process” held under the intimidating presence of Russian troops, it said.
“In addition to its impact on the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, the annexation of Crimea could have grave implications for the legal order that protects the unity and sovereignty of all states,” said the G-7. “Should the Russian Federation take such a step, we will take further action, individually and collectively.”
Fuel Fix: Judge Rejects BP Bid To Halt Gulf Spill Payments
BP’s bid to temporarily halt payments under its $9.2 billion oil-spill settlement so that heightened accounting and fraud safeguards can be established was rejected by a federal judge in New Orleans.
U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, in a three-sentence ruling Tuesday, denied BP’s request without an explanation. BP has said widespread fraud and a faulty interpretation of settlement terms have caused the claims administrator to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in unwarranted claims for damage from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the worst U.S. offshore spill.
Vanity Fair: The Game Of Thrones TV-Show Creator Already Know What Happens At The End Of The Book Series
Benioff and co-creator D. B. Weiss tell Windolf that the show has a lifespan, and they would like to wrap it up after seven or eight seasons. “It doesn’t just keep on going because it can,” Weiss says. “I think the desire to milk more out of it is what would eventually kill it, if we gave in to that.”
Windolf also asks Benioff and Weiss about the recent rumors that President Obama receives screeners of the show to watch before the general public. In an e-mail, they jointly reply, “One perk of being the most powerful man in the world: yes, you get to see episodes early.”
Sen. Barack Obama speaks during a news conference in Chicago on March 12, 2008
President Obama looks through the Oval Office door peephole as his personal secretary Katie Johnson watches, March 12, 2009 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
First Lady Michelle Obama speaks to soldiers and family members during a visit to the Iron Mike Dining Facility at Fort Bragg, N.C., March 12, 2009
President Obama arrives for the dedication of the Abraham Lincoln Hall at the National Defense University at Ft. McNair in Washington on March 12, 2009. Applauding are Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen
President Obama has lunch with, from left: Lt. Gen. Doug Lute, Senior Director for Afghanistan and Pakistan; General John Allen, Commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan; National Security Advisor Tom Donilon; and Ryan Crocker, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, in the Oval Office Private Dining Room, March 12, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama talks with the 2011-2012 White House Fellows in the Oval Office, March 12, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama arrives at the U.S. Capitol to meet with members of the Senate Democratic Caucus, March 12, 2013
Valerie Jarrett: Today POTUS called Pauline Beck to tell her the home care rule has been finalized—in 07’ he took a walk in her shoes
Reuters: Obama to extend wage law to cover two million home care aides
The Obama administration said on Tuesday it will extend the protection of U.S. minimum wage and overtime law to almost 2 million home health workers who assist the elderly and disabled.
Home health aides, personal care aides and certified nursing assistants will be brought under the coverage of the Fair Labor Standards Act, effective in January 2015, the U.S. Department of Labor said in a statement.
“Today we are taking an important step toward guaranteeing that these professionals receive the wage protections they deserve while protecting the right of individuals to live at home,” said Thomas Perez, who was sworn in on September 4 as President Barack Obama’s new labor secretary.