Posts Tagged ‘salary

08
Jan
16

Another History Making Jobs Report. Thanks, President Obama

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THIS. Thank you, thank you, thank you, President Barack Obama!

07
Oct
15

The President’s Day

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President Barack Obama shakes hands with German President Joachim Gauck during a meeting in the Oval Office. The two leaders participated in a bilateral meeting that marked the 25th anniversary of German reunification

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U.S. President Barack Obama is introduced by Terrance Wise, a second-generation fast food worker, at the White House Summit on Worker Voice in Washington October 7, 2015. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

President Barack Obama is introduced by Terrance Wise, an organizer and fast food worker, at the White House Summit on Worker Voice

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President Barack Obama speaks during White House Summit on Worker Voice, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. The summit is an effort to give unions, organizers and some businesses a platform to discuss wages and other issues. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

President Barack Obama speaks during White House Summit on Worker Voice in the East Room of the White House. The summit is an effort to give unions, organizers and some businesses a platform to discuss wages and other issues

U.S. President Barack Obama embraces Terrance Wise, a second-generation fast food worker, who introduced Obama to speak at the White House Summit on Worker Voice in Washington October 7, 2015. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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President Barack Obama during a event co-hosted by coworker.org during the White House Summit on Worker Voice in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015. On stage with Obama is Michelle Miller, co-founder of coworker.org. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

President Barack Obama speaks during a event co-hosted by coworker.org during the White House Summit on Worker Voice. On stage with the president is Michelle Miller, co-founder of coworker.org

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The full conference with President Obama and Vice President Biden’s remarks

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President Barack Obama takes off his jacket as he arrives to participate in a conversation co-hosted by coworker.org during the White House Summit on Worker Voice in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015, with workers, employers, unions, organizers and other advocates and experts on how to energize a new generation of Americans to come together and recognize the potential power of their voice at work. On stage is Michelle Miller, co-founder of coworker.org. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

President Barack Obama, accompanied by Michelle Miller, co-founder of coworker.org, left, speaks during a conversation co-hosted by Coworker.org during the White House Summit on Worker Voice, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. Workers, employers, unions, organizers and other advocates were meeting on how to energize a new generation of Americans to come together and recognize the potential power of their voice at work. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

President Barack Obama, second from left, and Michelle Miller, co-founder of coworker.org, left, listen as International President of the Service Employees International Union Mary Kay Henry, right, speaks during a conversation co-hosted by Coworker.org at the White House Summit on Worker Voice, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. Workers, employers, unions, organizers and other advocates were meeting on how to energize a new generation of Americans to come together and recognize the potential power of their voice at work. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

President Barack Obama, right, listens as Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, left, speaks the White House Summit on Worker Voice in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015. Participants included workers, employers, unions, organizers and other advocates and experts on how to energize a new generation of Americans to come together and recognize the potential power of their voice at work. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Barack Obama attends a conversation co-hosted by Coworker.org during the White House Summit on Worker Voice, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. Workers, employers, unions, organizers and other advocates were meeting on how to energize a new generation of Americans to come together and recognize the potential power of their voice at work. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

President Barack Obama shakes a present that her received following a conversation co-hosted by coworker.org at the White House Summit on Worker Voice in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015. Participants included workers, employers, unions, organizers and other advocates and experts on how to energize a new generation of Americans to come together and recognize the potential power of their voice at work. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Barack Obama shakes a present that he received following a conversation co-hosted by coworker.org

President Barack Obama stops to pose for a photograph with Terrence Wise, right, and Wise's mom Joann Wise, center, during the White House Summit on Worker Voice, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. The summit is an effort to give unions, organizers and some businesses a platform to discuss wages and other issues. Terrence Wise is a second-generation fast food worker from Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

30
Jun
15

President Barack Obama: A Champion For Workers

Chicago Sun Times Obama

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President Barack Obama: A Hard Day’s Work Deserves A Fair Day’s Pay

It’s been a good few days for America. On Thursday, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the Affordable Care Act. It is here to stay. And, Democrats and Republicans in Congress paved the way for the United States to rewrite the rules of global trade to benefit American workers and American businesses. On Friday, the Court recognized the Constitutional guarantee of marriage equality. With that ruling, our union became a little more perfect — a place where more people are treated equally, no matter who they are or who they love. These steps build upon America’s steady progress in recent years. Out of the depths of recession, we’ve emerged ready to write our own future. Our businesses have created 12.6 million new jobs over the past 63 months — the longest streak on record. More than 16 million Americans have gained health insurance. More kids are graduating from high school and college than ever before. But more work lies ahead, if we are to succeed in making sure this recovery reaches all hardworking Americans and their families.

We’ve got to keep making sure hard work is rewarded. Right now, too many Americans are working long days for less pay than they deserve. That’s partly because we’ve failed to update overtime regulations for years — and an exemption meant for highly paid, white collar employees now leaves out workers making as little as $23,660 a year — no matter how many hours they work. This week, I’ll head to Wisconsin to discuss my plan to extend overtime protections to nearly 5 million workers in 2016, covering all salaried workers making up to about $50,400 next year. That’s good for workers who want fair pay, and it’s good for business owners who are already paying their employees what they deserve — since those who are doing right by their employees are undercut by competitors who aren’t. That’s how America should do business. In this country, a hard day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay.

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Mike Dorning: Obama Plans To Expand Overtime Eligibility For Millions

The Obama administration plans to raise the wages of millions of Americans who work more than 40 hours a week by requiring their employers to pay them overtime. Workers who earn as much as $970 a week would have to be paid overtime even if they’re classified as a manager or professional, based on draft rules to be announced as soon as Tuesday, said an administration official. Many employees now receiving as little as $455 a week, or $23,660 a year — below the federal poverty line for a family of four — aren’t entitled to overtime pay because they are classified as managers exempt from overtime pay. The regulations, from the Labor Department, would take effect in 2016, said the official, who asked for anonymity because the plan hasn’t been announced. Workers in retail stores and restaurants are among most likely to be affected.

“You would be hard pressed to find a rule change or an executive order that would reach more middle class workers than this one,” said Jared Bernstein, a former economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden who is now a senior fellow at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. The median U.S. household income of $54,600 in April was $1,600 short of the amount at the start of the recession in December 2007, according to inflation-adjusted estimates from Sentier Research. Ross Eisenbrey, vice president of the Economic Policy Institute, a research group partly funded by labor unions, has estimated that the higher salary threshold would expand overtime to as many as 15 million additional workers.

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31
Mar
15

President Of The People

Barack Obama

President Barack Obama signs a Memorandum of Disapproval regarding a joint resolution providing for congressional disapproval of a rule submitted by the National Labor Relations Board relating to representation case procedures. The joint resolution passed by Congress is a rarely used oversight tool that allows legislators to block regulatory actions

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10
Feb
15

More Jobs? Thanks, President Obama

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Josh Zumbrun: Job Openings At 14-Year High As Hiring Returns To Pre-Recession Levels

For the first time since January 2001, the U.S. had more than five million job openings at the end of December, a sign of a labor environment shifting in favor of workers. December was also the best month for hiring since before the recession struck more than seven years ago. More than 5.1 million people were hired in December, the most since November 2007, according to the Labor Department‘s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, known as JOLTS.

The report adds to signs that the labor market is strengthening considerably. The Labor Department’s main jobs report, released on February 6, showed that November, December and January comprised the best three-month stretch of hiring since 1997, raising hope that the U.S economy will start delivering stronger wage growth for a wider swath of Americans after more than five years of sluggish recovery from a deep recession.

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06
Feb
15

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs. Thanks, President Obama

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Victoria Stilwell: Jobs Report Crushes It

The U.S. labor market leaped forward in January, capping the greatest three-month jobs gain in 17 years and delivering the biggest wage increase since 2008. Payrolls advanced by 257,000 last month following increases in December and November that were even bigger than previously reported, figures from the Labor Department showed Friday in Washington. The unemployment rate rose to 5.7 percent from 5.6 percent as more than a million Americans streamed into the labor force seeking work. The sustained employment gains are creating a virtuous cycle as Americans spend newfound incomes on goods and services. The growth in jobs will probably help assure Federal Reserve policy makers that the expansion is well-rooted and can withstand an increase in interest rates later this year.

“These are pretty amazing numbers,” said Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at IHS Inc. in Lexington, Massachusetts, and the top forecaster of payrolls over the last two years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. “The January number is strong, but then you’ve got sizzling November and December numbers too. And then you’ve got the wage gains.” Average hourly earnings jumped 0.5 percent, the most since November 2008, from the prior month. They were up 2.2 percent over the past year, the biggest advance since August. Payroll gains averaged 336,000 over the last three months, the strongest since a comparable period ended in November 1997. A striking aspect of the report was a revision that added 147,000 jobs to the payroll tally for the previous two months, which also incorporated adjustments back to 2010. Employment in November was revised up to a 423,000 gain, the most since May 2010. Private payrolls, which exclude government agencies, soared 414,000 that month, the biggest advance since September 1997.

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Continue reading ‘Jobs, Jobs, Jobs. Thanks, President Obama’

13
Jan
15

The U.S. Economy Keeps Progressing. Thanks, President Obama

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Rich Miller: U.S. Retakes The Helm Of The Global Economy

The U.S. is back in the driver’s seat of the global economy after 15 years of watching China and emerging markets take the lead. The world’s biggest economy will expand by 3.2 percent or more this year, its best performance since at least 2005, as an improving job market leads to stepped-up consumer spending, according to economists at JPMorgan Chase & Co., Deutsche Bank AG and BNP Paribas SA. That outcome would be about what each foresees for the world economy as a whole and would be the first time since 1999 that America hasn’t lagged behind global growth, based on data from the International Monetary Fund. About 3 million more Americans found work in 2014, the most in 15 years and a sign companies are optimistic U.S. demand will persist even as overseas markets struggle.

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The U.S. is breaking away from the rest of the world partly because it has had more success working off the debt-driven excesses that helped precipitate the worst recession since the Great Depression. “The progress has been far greater in the U.S.,” Glenn Hubbard, dean of the Columbia Business School in New York and a former chief White House economist, told the American Economic Association annual conference in Boston on Jan. 3. The U.S. has pulled ahead of other industrial nations partly because its policy-making has been better, according to Paul Mortimer-Lee, chief economist for North America at BNP Paribas in New York. U.S. budget policy also has been more effective than the euro region’s austerity strategy, which undercut the continent’s economy, Mortimer-Lee added.

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11
Jan
15

The Obama Economy Keeps Moving Forward Without Any Help From The GOP

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Jason Furman: The Employment Situation In December

1. The private sector has added 11.2 million jobs over 58 straight months of job growth, extending the longest streak on record. Today we learned that total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 252,000 in December, mainly reflecting a 240,000 increase in private employment. Private-sector job growth was revised up for October and November by a combined 50,000 so that over the past three months, private-sector job growth has averaged 280,000 per month. Private employment has risen by at least 200,000 for 11 consecutive months, the first time that has happened since the 1990s.

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2. Total employment rose by 2.95 million in 2014, the most in any calendar year since 1999. Private-sector employers added 2.86 million jobs last year, the strongest private-sector job growth in any calendar year since 1997. The pace of overall job growth has increased, averaging 246,000 per month in 2014, up from 194,000 per month last year. On a percentage basis, the economy is adding jobs at a rate of about 2 percent per year, also on pace for the largest percentage increase in any calendar year since the late 1990s. Crucially, the pickup in the pace of job growth in 2014 has primarily been in industries with higher wages. For instance, the pace of manufacturing job growth has more than doubled to 16,000 per month this year, from 7,000 per month last year, and average weekly earnings for manufacturing workers are about $170 higher than for all private-sector workers. As discussed in greater detail below (see point #4), overall real average earnings have generally been growing, but there is more work to be done to raise wages and address longer-standing challenges around family incomes.

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DEFINITION OF ‘WAGE PUSH INFLATION’
A general increase in the cost of goods that is preceded by and results from an increase in wages. In order to maintain corporate profits after an increase in wages, employers must increase the prices they charge for the goods and services they provide. The overall increased cost of goods and services has a negative effect on the wage increase, and eventually, higher wages will be again needed to compensate for the increased prices for consumer goods.

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06
Oct
14

The American Economy Is Growing? You Can Thank President Obama

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Bloomberg: Corporate U.S. Healthiest In Decades Under Obama With Lower Debt

Steve Wynn, founder of the Wynn Resorts Ltd. (WYNN) casino empire, once called President Barack Obama’s administration “the greatest wet blanket to business and progress and job creation in my lifetime.” Barry Sternlicht, chief executive officer of Starwood Property Trust Inc. (STWD), said Obamacare was driving down wage growth and “affecting spending and the desire to buy houses and everything else.” Corporate and economic statistics almost six years into his administration paint a different picture. Companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 (SPX) Index are the healthiest in decades, with the lowest net debt to earnings ratio in at least 24 years, $3.59 trillion in cash and marketable securities, and record earnings per share. They are headed this year toward the fastest average monthly job creation since 1999, manufacturing is recovering and the U.S. has returned as an engine for global growth. The recovery, which stands in contrast to weak growth in Europe and Asia, has underpinned an almost threefold gain in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index since March 2009.

“The U.S. is leading the way — we’re the only major economy with accelerating growth,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist in West Chester, Pennsylvania, for Moody’s Analytics Inc. and a registered Democrat who has advised both the Obama administration and Senator John McCain, a Republican. “Obama deserves some credit for that, but he probably won’t get it.” Barring any major disruptions, the economy is setting up for Obama to leave office on a high note, said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian and professor at Rice University in Houston. “History will eventually show that Obama inherited the Great Recession and resuscitated the economy,” Brinkley said in an interview. One example is General Motors Co. (GM), which last week regained its investment-grade debt rating from Standard & Poor’s only five years after the government-backed bankruptcy. Obama’s $49.5 billion bailout of the automaker in exchange for taxpayers owning 61 percent of the company kept it from being liquidated, an outcome that could have crippled parts suppliers and economies throughout most of 50 states, not just the Midwest. In the broader economy, consumers are buying again and homebuilding is increasing. The unemployment rate has declined to 6.1 percent, the lowest since 2008. The economy expanded at a 4.6 percent annualized rate in April through June. Obama’s 2010 health-care program will hold down consumer prices for years to come as millions of Americans obtain coverage, BNP Paribas SA and Credit Suisse Group AG said. The “Medicare cost miracle” resulted at least in part from Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Nobel-Prize winning economist Paul Krugman wrote in a Sept. 1 New York times article.

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9.26.14

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Steve Benen: Economic Growth Improves To Eight-Year High

The preliminary figures on second-quarter GDP looked good; the revised tally looked better; and the final report looks even better still. The U.S. economy grew at a 4.6% annual pace in the second quarter, matching the best performance since the recession ended in mid-2009. The increase in real gross domestic product was revised up from 4.2%, mainly because of higher exports and business investment, the Commerce Department said Friday. Americans also spent more on health care, but the gain was offset by lower spending on other services. Economists polled by MarketWatch had predicted GDP would be revised up to a seasonally adjusted 4.7%. Consumer spending, the main source of economic activity, was unchanged at 2.5% growth. The biggest gains came in business investment, a good sign for the economy in the months ahead. To provide some additional context, 4.6% growth is tied for the best quarter since the start of the Great Recession.

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29
Sep
14

More Positive Economic News? Thanks, President Obama

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NYT: Business Spending, Exports Spur Big Bounce In U.S. Economy

The U.S. economy grew at its fastest pace in 2-1/2 years in the second quarter with all sectors contributing to the jump in output in a bullish signal for the remainder of the year. The Commerce Department on Friday raised its estimate of growth in gross domestic product to a 4.6 percent annual rate from the 4.2 percent pace reported last month. The United States is bucking a spate of weaker overseas growth with the euro zone and Japan slumping, and growth in China slowing as well. the expansion in consumer spending, combined with strong business investment,

was nevertheless enough to push domestic demand ahead at its fastest pace since 2010. That suggests the economy’s recovery is becoming more durable after output slumped at a 2.1 percent rate in the first quarter because of an unusually cold winter. So far, data covering manufacturing, trade and housing suggest that much of the second quarter’s momentum spilled over into the third quarter. Growth estimates for the July-September quarter range as high as a 3.5 percent pace. When measured from the income side, the economy grew at a 5.2 percent pace during the second quarter…export growth was raised to an 11.1 percent pace, the fastest since the fourth quarter of 2010, from a 10.1 percent rate.

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Jason Furman: Third Estimate of GDP For The Second Quarter Of 2014

1. Real gross domestic product (GDP) increased 4.6 percent at an annual rate in the second quarter of 2014, the fastest pace since the fourth quarter of 2011, according to the third estimate from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The strong second-quarter growth represents a rebound from a first-quarter decline in GDP that largely reflected transitory factors like unusually severe winter weather and a sharp slowdown in inventory investment. Growth in consumer spending and business investment picked up in the second quarter, and residential investment increased following two straight quarters of decline. Additionally, State and local government spending grew at the fastest quarterly rate in five years. However, net exports subtracted from overall GDP growth, as imports grew slightly faster than exports.

Real gross domestic income (GDI), an alternative measure of the overall size of the economy, was up 5.2 percent at an annual rate in the second quarter. 3. Over the past four quarters, real GDP has risen 2.6 percent, faster than the 2.0 percent annualized pace observed over the preceding eight-quarter period. Looking at four- and eight-quarter changes to smooth some of the quarter-to-quarter volatility, it is clear that many components of GDP are showing improvement. The growth rates of consumer spending, business investment and exports have all picked up, and the pace of declines in the Federal sector have moderated a bit. In addition, the State and local government sector has turned positive, after several years of steady cutbacks. One area that has slowed over the last four quarters is residential investment, although it did rebound in the second quarter.

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28
Aug
14

Democrat + Forward Thinking Policies = Growing Economy

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Yahoo: Economy In U.S. Expands 4.2%, More Than Previously Forecast

The biggest gain in U.S. business investment in over two years helped the world’s largest economy expand more than previously forecast in the second quarter, raising expectations for the rest of 2014. Gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced, rose at a 4.2 percent annualized rate, up from an initial estimate of 4 percent and following a first-quarter contraction, Commerce Department reported today in Washington. Other reports showed the outlook for home sales improved in July, fewer people filed claims (INJCJC) for jobless benefits last week and consumer confidence climbed. Recent data showing American factories are receiving more orders and employment is picking up indicate companies such as General Electric Co. (GE) will probably see demand sustained into the second half of the year. “The recovery is becoming more well-entrenched,” said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James & Associates Inc. in St. Petersburg, Florida, who correctly projected the gain in GDP.

“There is more optimism among businesses about increased demand. The drop in firings is probably helping Americans feel more secure in their jobs. The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose in the week ended Aug. 24 to the highest level in more than a month as views of household finances advanced to an almost four-month high, another report showed. Household consumption, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy, grew at a 2.5 percent annualized rate, the same as previously estimated. Automobile sales near an eight-year high bode well for consumer spending and factory production. Consumers’ purchasing power improved, with disposable income adjusted for inflation rising at a 4.2 percent from April through June after a 3.4 percent gain in the first quarter. Gross domestic income, which reflects all the money earned by consumers, businesses and government agencies climbed at a 4.7 percent annualized rate in the second quarter, the most since early 2012. More hiring and stock-market gains that are boosting confidence also are healing household finances, which will help consumer spending. Payrolls in July marked the sixth month of gains exceeding 200,000, the longest such stretch since 1997, according to the Labor Department.

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Jason Furman: Second Estimate Of GDP For The Second Quarter Of 2014

1. Real gross domestic product (GDP) increased 4.2 percent at an annual rate in the second quarter of 2014, according to the second estimate from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The strong second-quarter growth represents a rebound from a first-quarter decline in GDP that largely reflected transitory factors like unusually severe winter weather and a sharp slowdown in inventory investment. Growth in consumer spending and business investment picked up in the second quarter, and residential investment increased following two straight quarters of decline. Additionally, state and local government spending grew at the fastest quarterly rate in five years.

3. Over the last four quarters, real GDP has risen 2.5 percent, faster than the 2.0 percent annualized pace observed over the preceding eight-quarter period. Looking at four- and eight-quarter changes to smooth some of the quarter-to-quarter volatility, it is clear that many components of GDP are showing improvement. The growth rates of consumer spending, business investment and exports have all picked up, and the pace of declines in the Federal sector have moderated a bit. In addition, the State and local government sector has turned positive, after several years of steady cutbacks. One area that has slowed over the last four quarters is residential investment, which is discussed in greater detail in the next point.

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24
Jun
14

President Obama’s Policies = Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!

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Paul Davidson: Local Government Hiring Picks Up

After laying off workers through most of the recovery, city and county governments are adding jobs at the fastest pace in five years, providing support for the economy’s overall payroll gains. Stronger economic growth is driving higher municipal revenue, allowing local governments to add police officers and firefighters, reopen shuttered parks and make long-deferred street repairs. “We’re beginning to see cities and towns coming out of the Great Recession,” says Neil Bomberg, a program director for the National League of Cities. Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, notes that total U.S. payroll gains have topped 200,000 each of the past four months.

Local governments are on more solid financial footing in part because of a gradual rise in home values that have boosted property tax collections, says Michael Pagano, dean of the college of urban planning and public affairs at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Earlier this year, Columbus, Ohio, passed an $807 million operating budget, its largest ever, that restores six recreation centers that had been open part-time to full-time status. The city’s finances have been stable since it raised its income tax to 2.5% from 2% in 2009, says Dan Williamson, spokesman for Mayor Michael Coleman.

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11
Apr
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: First Lady Michelle Obama participates in an interview with Stephen Colbert during a taping of “The Colbert Report,” at the Colbert Report Studio in New York, N.Y., April 11, 2012 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

11:0 President Obama announces the nomination of Sylvia Burwell to be HHS Secretary

12:15: First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden Host a Joining Forces Caregivers Event

1:55: The President and First Lady depart the White House

3:05 Arrive New York City

4:10 The President delivers remarks at the National Action Network’s 16th Annual Convention

11:30 The President and First Lady depart New York

12:40 Arrives White House

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 Caitlin Macneal: Arkansas Free Clinic Closing, Citing More Insured Through Obamacare

A medical clinic in Mena, Ark. announced that it would be closing, citing a large drop in need for the clinic as people have signed up for health insurance under Obamacare. “Because people are qualifying for insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, our free medical clinic will not be needed anymore,” Stacey Bowser, the director of the 9th Street Ministries Clinic, told the Mena Star.

“We’ve gone from seeing around 300 people a month on a regular basis, but as people were enrolling in Obamacare, the numbers we were seeing have dropped. We were down to 80 people that came through the medical clinic in February, all the way down to three people at the medical clinic in March. Our services won’t be needed anymore, and this will conclude our mission,” she continued.

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LA Times: Bank Of America To Pay $772 Million For Illegal Credit Card Practices

Bank of America Corp. has agreed to refund customers $727 million and pay $45 million in fines for illegal credit card practices, according to a settlement with federal regulators announced Wednesday. The refunds will go to as many as 2.9 million people who were deceived into signing up for products such as credit monitoring and identity theft protection or were improperly charged for such services, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said. The action was part of a crackdown by the bureau on deceptive marketing, enrollment and billing practices related to such so-called add-on products by credit card companies. Bank of America is the fifth financial services company to be hit with fines and refund orders.

“Bank of America both deceived consumers and unfairly billed consumers for services not performed,” said Richard Cordray, the bureau’s director. “We will not tolerate such practices and will continue to be vigilant in our pursuit of companies who wrong consumers in this market.” Bank of America agreed to the refunds and penalties without admitting or denying the allegations. In addition to the refunds, the bank will pay a $20-million civil penalty to the bureau and a $25-million civil penalty to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

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Judy Peres: How Obamacare Affects Women’s Health

Meg Finnegan thought she might never be able to afford to have a baby. Finnegan, who is self-employed and has a pre-existing medical condition, was having trouble finding health insurance at all, let alone a policy that would cover pregnancy and childbirth. So she was thrilled to discover that the plan she signed up for last fall under the Affordable Care Act includes maternity coverage. “When you don’t have insurance, you’re afraid of any life event that brings you to the hospital, for a good or a bad reason,” said Finnegan, 37, an Evanston resident. “If I didn’t have insurance, I wouldn’t have a baby. All those doctor’s appointments and tests, and possibly a high-risk delivery — how would you pay for it?” A guarantee of maternity coverage — all new insurance policies must provide it — is just one of a basket of provisions in the federal health law that specifically benefit women. Other guaranteed services include preventive care, which must be covered with no out-of-pocket cost. For most plans, preventive care includes at least one annual “well-woman” visit, breast-feeding support, contraceptives and contraceptive counseling, annual mammograms and cervical cancer screening.

Women’s health advocates also expect women to benefit more from some provisions in the law that apply to people of either sex. For example, the expansion of Medicaid, as well as financial assistance in the form of tax credits and cost sharing, is expected to disproportionately benefit women, who are more likely than men to have low incomes. Insurers also are required to cover mental health screening and treatment, and women have higher rates of depression and other types of mental illness. Kathy Waligora of EverThrive Illinois (formerly the Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition) said she considers the law “a huge victory for women.” Finnegan, who said she has a rare condition called Behcet’s disease, is one of 129 million Americans with pre-existing conditions, which private policies generally did not cover before the health overhaul. Now, by law, insurers may not deny coverage or charge higher premiums on the basis of health status. “I couldn’t get insurance,” said Finnegan, who owns TruFit Personal Training Studio in Evanston. “I tried five different companies. One offered me a policy for $850 a month with a huge deductible and terrible coverage — nothing related to my condition. But all my medical costs are related to that, so basically it meant no coverage.” At the same time, many insurance plans used to consider pregnancy, cesarean section, and even domestic violence and sexual abuse as pre-existing conditions.

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USA Today: Man Cleared Of NYC Murder After 25 Years In Prison

A man who spent almost a quarter-century behind bars for murder was freed Tuesday and cleared of a killing that happened when he was 1,100 miles away on a Disney World vacation. Jonathan Fleming was in tears as he hugged his lawyers and family in a Brooklyn courtroom. Relatives said, “Thank you, God!” after he was freed. “After 25 years, come hug your mother,” she said, and he did. Defense attorneys and prosecutors asked a Brooklyn judge to dismiss Fleming’s conviction in the 1989 shooting. A key eyewitness recanted, new witnesses have implicated someone else and a review by prosecutors turned up a hotel receipt putting Fleming in Florida hours before the killing, defense lawyers Anthony Mayol and Taylor Koss said.

“He is elated and stunned, while tempered by the fact that he realizes that this is just the first step in getting his life back,” Koss said before the hearing. Fleming had plane tickets, videos and postcards from his trip, his lawyers said, but authorities suggested he could have been in New York at the actual time of the shooting, and a woman testified that she had seen him shoot Rush. The exoneration, first reported by the New York Daily News, comes amid scrutiny of Brooklyn prosecutors’ process for reviewing questionable convictions — scrutiny that comes partly from the new DA Kenneth Thompson himself. He unseated longtime DA Charles “Joe” Hynes last year after a campaign that focused partly on wrongful convictions on Hynes’ watch. Hynes had created a special conviction integrity unit to review false-conviction claims, but some saw the effort as slow-moving and defensive.

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Jim Puzzanghera: Small-Business Optimism Rebounds As Winter Ends, Survey Says

Small-business owners were more optimistic about the economy last month and expected sales to increase as a winter marked by severe weather ended, according to survey results released Tuesday. The confidence index from the National Federation of Independent Business rose to 93.4 in March, from 91.4 the previous month. The measure is one of the few monthly barometers of the small-business sector, which is a key driver of the economy.

About 12% of the those surveyed said they expected higher sales volumes during the next three months, up 9 percentage points from the February survey. Hiring also improved last month. Small-business owners reported increasing their payrolls by an average of 0.18 workers in March, up from 0.11 the previous month. It was the sixth straight month the survey showed an increase in hiring.

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Igor Volsky: Kathleen Sebelius’ Biggest Achievement Is The One No One Is Talking About

Kathleen Sebelius wasn’t President Obama’s first choice to run the Department of Health and Human Services and oversee the passage and implementation of health care reform. But after Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD) dropped out, Obama tapped the two-term Kansas governor and former state insurance commissioner. Sebelius didn’t have much D.C. experience, but had an impressive track record of working across the aisle as a Democratic governor in a red state. And while the united GOP opposition to health legislation eventually overwhelmed any goodwill Sebelius had built up within the Republican party and the rocky rollout of Obamacare has come to dominate the discussion of her tenure as secretary, that bipartisan quality proved essential to the implementation of the law. Sebelius leaves the office having enrolled some 10 million people in health care coverage. This was only possible because she convinced numerous Republican lawmakers in bright red states to extended health care coverage to the poorest Americans. No one is talking about it, but it is her biggest and most impressive achievement as secretary.

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision invalidating Obamacare’s compulsory Medicaid expansion, most Republican-controlled states refused to extend health care coverage to residents below 133 percent of the poverty line. But Sebelius traveled the country, urging Republican governors to reconsider. As of today, eight GOP-controlled states have approved expansion — in no small part because of the flexibility Sebelius and her team provided. The flexibility extended beyond Medicaid. Sebelius and her team convinced red states to form partnership health care exchanges in which the federal government and the state would share responsibilities in running the marketplaces. They routinely presented GOP governors with information on all other state models and waivers, assuring them that they could customize reform to their specific state needs. As a result, several Republican-dominated states bucked the national party and chose to run their exchanges either on their own, or in collaboration with HHS.

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Josh Israel: Jindal Demands Congressman Resign Over Extramarital Kissing, But Defended Prostitute-Hiring Senator

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) called for Rep. Vance McAllister (R-LA) to resign his House seat, after a videotape surfaced of the freshman Congressman kissing a married woman who is not his wife. But in 2007, Jindal defended Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) when he was revealed to be a client of a DC prostitution service. Jindal released a statement on Thursday, calling McAllister’s behavior “an embarrassment” and suggesting that “the best way to get privacy and work on putting his family back together is to resign from Congress.” But seven years ago, then-Congressman Jindal made no such suggestion to the state’s U.S. Senator. After Vitter’s name appeared on the phone list for “D.C. Madam” Deborah Jeane Palfrey, he apologized for the “very serious sin in my past.” Yet Jindal’s response was to stand by Vitter

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Jonathan Cohn: Sebelius Resigns

On Thursday morning, Kathleen Sebelius testified before Congress and announced that Obamacare signups had reached 7.5 million people. On Thursday evening, news broke that Sebelius was stepping down as Secretary of Health and Human Services. Implementing Obamacare was never going to be easy. The law is full of compromises that, however politically necessary, weakened regulations and depleted funding that would have made introducing the new insurance system a lot easier. And Sebelius never had the kind of control a chief executive officer would. She was always dealing with a host of other players—from superiors at the White House to underlings at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to Democrats on Capitol Hill to lobbyists for the health care industry. And that’s to say nothing of her war with the congressional Republicans, who were trying actively to sabotage the law through repeal votes, funding cuts, and intimidation of would-be allies.

More important, the law seems to be working, despite all of those early problems. That 7.5 million figure she announced on Thursday is a genuinely big deal—particularly since, from what I hear, the final number is likely to be even higher. Sebelius can’t take all or even most of the credit for those successes, any more than she should take all or most of the blame for the law’s troubles. But her role in those achievements (and others, like improvements to Head Start and stronger regulations on child care safety) is also part of her record. To take one obvious example, Sebelius worked extensively with Republican governors who wanted to expand Medicaid in states with hostile conservative constituencies. Some of those efforts succeeded. The memories of Obamacare’s difficult start will certainly linger. But to the millions of people around the country who now have access to affordable medical care, I’m not sure that really matters.

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Fem Chat: 6 Things Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler Missed About The Gender Wage Gap

Glenn Kessler presents a very one-sided discussion of the wage gap in this April 9th “Fact Checker” post in which he increased President Obama’s rating on his use of wage gap statistics from one Pinocchio (in the 2012 campaign) to two—he should have lowered it from one to zero. President Obama has correctly used a long standing data series issued every year by the Census Bureau. The 77 percent wage ratio figure is an accurate measure of the inequality in earnings between U.S. women and men who work full-time, year-round in the labor market. Here are some other things to keep in mind about that statistic: 1) Kessler claims that President Obama uses the 77 percent wage ratio figure because it shows the biggest wage gap when other data series available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show slightly smaller gaps.

Leaving aside how Kessler could get inside the President’s head and know why he picked a certain series, everyone who writes about this issue should know that this figure based on median annual earnings is the historical headline figure that allows the longest comparison across time. 2) Kessler claims that the other series—weekly or hourly earnings—are more accurate, but there is simply no basis for saying so. The 77 percent figure actually includes the broadest range of kinds of earnings; for example annual bonus payments are a big part of remuneration in some fields and are included in the 77 percent figure, but are excluded from the weekly or hourly earnings figures.

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Brian Beutler: The Right Searches For Obamacare Alternative, Finds Obamacare

The Affordable Care Act’s enrollment comeback has confounded conservatives in many ways. The realization that there happens to be popular demand for something as self-evidently grotesque as Obamacare has given rise to a palpable cognitive dissonance on the right. A growing recognition among Republicans that they can’t bank on organizing the midterm campaign around relentless Obamacare opposition has party elders looking at contingency plans (even if they haven’t exactly gone back to the drawing board). But most importantly, it has thrown the conservative health policy community for a loop, and completely wrong-footed Republicans in Congress who were hoping — against considerable odds and a well-worn historical pattern — to craft an Obamacare alternative that both passes the laugh test and doesn’t create a significantly lower level of welfare.

If enrollment had sputtered, that task would have been considerably easier. The fact it surged in March, and continues to grow today, measurably limits their options. If you accept (or acquiesce) to the need for a large coverage expansion and don’t want a single payer or substantial expansion of existing public systems, you need to make sure private insurers cover the sick, which means you need guaranteed issue and community rating — so that nobody is closed out of the system, and so that risk is spread across large populations, not assigned to individuals. But if you have those two things then you need a coverage requirement, so you’re not just spreading risk among old, sick people. And if you have that mandate, you need substantial subsidies — means tested or otherwise — so people aren’t required to purchase insurance they can’t afford. Of course, that’s just Obamacare.

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Bill Schneider: An Election Democrats Can Win

Obamacare versus Ryanomics. That’s the battle line for 2014. It’s also a battle Democrats can win. Why? Because most Americans are pragmatists. Pragmatists believe that whatever works is right. Ideologues believe that if something is wrong, it can’t possibly work — even if it does work. That’s the Republican view of Obamacare: It’s wrong, so it can’t possibly work. But it now looks like Obamacare may work. More than 7 million people signed up for health insurance by the March 31 deadline, meeting the Obama administration’s original goal. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said, “The Affordable Care Act, whether my Republican friends want to admit it or not, is working.” On April 1, Ryan came out with a 10-year budget plan involving massive cuts in popular federal programs like Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, education, student loans and environmental protection.

Ryan’s proposal would eventually change Medicare — the most popular of all federal programs — from an insurance policy to a “premium support” program, where seniors would be given subsidies to purchase private insurance. GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney proposed doing that in 2012. Look where it got him.  Democrats will run against Ryanomics. Republicans will run against Obamacare. Remember the rule of pragmatism: Whatever works is right. If Americans come to believe Obamacare works, they will be reluctant to throw it out. Especially the millions who will already have a stake in Obamacare. On the other hand, Ryan is threatening to do away with programs like Medicare that people know are working. Why? Because he and his fellow Republicans think those programs are wrong. Attacking programs that work is pure ideological bloodlust. And a losing battle for sure.

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Ann Sanner: About 106,000 Ohioans Enroll In Expanded Medicaid

More than 106,000 Ohioans have signed up for Medicaid under an expansion of the taxpayer funded health program, while thousands of others are waiting to hear whether they are deemed eligible. Republican Gov. John Kasich’s administration moved forward with extending Medicaid eligibility last fall under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. Coverage took effect Jan. 1. The safety-net program for the poor and disabled provides coverage for one of every five Ohioans. The Medicaid expansion allows those earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level to gain health care coverage. For a single adult, that’s about $16,104 a year. Ohio’s monthly report on Medicaid caseloads shows that 106,238 residents had enrolled under the extension as of March 31.

That’s about 29 percent of the roughly 366,000 newly eligible people estimated to sign up by the end of June 2015. Residents have been enrolling in Medicaid through the state’s new benefits website. Potential enrollees can use the site instead of visiting county Job and Family Services offices, where many low-income residents apply for food stamps, cash assistance and other public programs. More than 345,000 people have sought Medicaid coverage through the state’s benefit site since Oct. 1. About 65 percent of the applications have been resolved, while roughly 120,000 are still pending. Many of those cases await eligibility determinations by the state’s largest counties.

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LOL GOP: 5 Ways Paul Ryan’s Budget Screws Seniors

Republicans often point out that Obamacare cuts Medicare Advantage and reforms the program. But they fail to mention, as Democrats often do, the benefits the president’s health law has given to current Medicare beneficiaries. The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare reports: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently reported that since the passage of the ACA, over 7.9 million Medicare beneficiaries in the Medicare Part D donut hole have saved $9.9 billion on their prescription drugs, an average of $1,265 per person. Also, 37.2 million people with Medicare took advantage of at least one preventive service with no cost sharing, including an estimated 26.5 million people with traditional Medicare, and more than 4 million who took advantage of the Annual Wellness Visit. Ryan’s budget would repeal those benefits while keeping the cuts Republicans have been campaigning against for four years now.

Obamacare reforms have also lowered the growth of Medicare’s costs to zero. If this trend continues, the program would be solvent even through the peak of Baby Boomer retirements, protecting seniors from future benefit cuts. In an effort to balance the budget in 10 years while keeping tax cuts that mostly benefit the rich, Ryan would cut a slew of programs seniors have relied on. “Funding for Older Americans Act programs like Meals on Wheels, family caregiver support, job training, senior centers, and disease prevention programs, would suffer significant cuts when the need for these services is increasing,” the National Council on Aging (NCOA) reports. “Over time, these programs—which are NOT contributing to the federal budget deficit—would be cut by 22 percent below current levels.” Another $137 billion would be cut from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, aka food stamps. Currently, 9 million seniors and people with disabilities receive SNAP benefits.

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BBC: Hamid Aboutalebi: US Congress Passes Ban On Iran Envoy

The US Congress has sent a bill to the president that would bar Iran’s pick for ambassador to the UN from entering the country. The House of Representatives passed the measure unanimously two days after the Senate approved it. Hamid Aboutalebi was a part of the Muslim student group that seized the US embassy in Tehran in 1979. The White House has told Iran Mr Aboutalebi was “not viable” but has not taken a position on the bill. Fifty-two Americans were held for 444 days at the height of Iran’s Islamic revolution, which saw pro-American Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi sent into exile and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini take power.

Mr Aboutalebi, who previously served as Iran’s ambassador to Belgium, the European Union, Italy and Australia, told Iranian media his participation in the hostage crisis began only after the initial seizure of the embassy, and primarily involved translation. On Thursday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said, “We’ve made clear and have communicated to the Iranians that the selection they’ve put forward is not viable.” As the host country of the United Nations, the US has previously but rarely denied entry to an envoy or head of state. Those included a previous Iranian diplomat and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. In those cases the applications were withdrawn after the US signalled opposition, or the state department simply declined to process the visas. Those options are available in Mr Aboutalebi’s case.

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Paul Krugman: Health Care Nightmare

When it comes to health reform, Republicans suffer from delusions of disaster. They know, just know, that the Affordable Care Act is doomed to utter failure, so failure is what they see, never mind the facts on the ground. Thus, on Tuesday, Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, dismissed the push for pay equity as an attempt to “change the subject from the nightmare of Obamacare”; on the same day, the nonpartisan RAND Corporation released a study estimating “a net gain of 9.3 million in the number of American adults with health insurance coverage from September 2013 to mid-March 2014.” Some nightmare. And the overall gain, including children and those who signed up during the late-March enrollment surge, must be considerably larger. First, there was the amazing come-from-behind surge in enrollments.

Then there were a series of surveys — from Gallup, the Urban Institute, and RAND — all suggesting large gains in coverage. Taken individually, any one of these indicators might be dismissed as an outlier, but taken together they paint an unmistakable picture of major progress. But wait: What about all the people who lost their policies thanks to Obamacare? The answer is that this looks more than ever like a relatively small issue hyped by right-wing propaganda. RAND finds that fewer than a million people who previously had individual insurance became uninsured — and many of those transitions, one guesses, had nothing to do with Obamacare. It’s worth noting that, so far, not one of the supposed horror stories touted in Koch-backed anti-reform advertisements has stood up to scrutiny, suggesting that real horror stories are rare. Republicans clearly have no idea how to respond to these developments. They can’t offer any real alternative to Obamacare.Their political strategy has been to talk vaguely about replacing reform while waiting for its inevitable collapse. And what if reform doesn’t collapse? They have no idea what to do.

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On This Day

President Obama listens during a meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel at Blair House in Washington, D.C., before a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India, April, 11, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama meets with Director of Speechwriting Jon Favreau on the Colonnade outside the Oval Office, April 11, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama returns to the Oval Office through the Rose Garden after surprising students from Altona Middle School in Longmont, Colo., during their White House tour, April 11, 2011. President Obama received a letter from the mother of an Altona student who worried that her son’s trip to Washington, D.C., would be canceled if there was a government shutdown (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Sherman and Tammie Gillums look at their pictures with First Lady Michelle Obama as Mrs. Obama continues to greets guests at the Joining Forces Community Challenge event on the South Lawn of the White House, April 11, 2012 (Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

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President Obama holds Chaplain (Captain) Emil Kapaun’s Easter stole in the Oval Office during a greet with Kapaun’s family in the Oval Office, April 11, 2013. The President and First Lady Michelle Obama met with members of Chaplain Kapaun’s family before awarding him the Medal of Honor posthumously during a ceremony in the East Room (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama talks on the phone with Nicole Hockley and families of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Conn., in the Oval Office, April 11, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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14

When Women Succeed, America Succeeds

President Barack Obama is introduced to speak by Lilly Ledbetter at an event aimed at increasing transparency about women’s pay during an event at the White House. The first law President Obama signed after taking office in 2009 was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which extended time periods for employees to file claims for wages lost as a result of discrimination.

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President Barack Obama signs executive actions, with pending Senate legislation, aimed at closing a compensation gender gap that favors men, during an event marking Equal Pay Day. President Obama announced new executive actions to strengthen enforcement of equal pay laws for women.

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Lisa De Bode: Obama Signs Executive Order On Equal Pay For Women

Keeping with his promise to champion women’s rights in the workplace, President Barack Obama signed an executive order Tuesday that addresses the issue of unequal pay among federal contractors.The executive order addresses the federal government’s gender wage gap by mandating that contractors publish wage data — by gender and race — to ensure compliance with equal-pay laws. The order also prohibits contractors from retaliating against employees who compare salaries. Tuesday’s signing coincides with National Equal Pay Day, serving as a reminder that more than 50 years after the Equal Pay Act was made law, women still earn less then men. On average, women earn only about 77 cents on the dollar compared with men. African-American women and Latinas take home even less, just 64 cents and 54 cents, respectively, for every dollar earned by white men, according to the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC). Obama called the numbers “embarrassing,” and “wrong.”

“It is good to move the ball forward on improving our equal pay policies,” Fatima Graves, NWLC vice president for education and employment, told Al Jazeera. “It’s important because right now workers are left in the dark about wage disparity information.” “What we really need is for Congress to pass the Fair Paycheck Act which would get at all workers,” she said. A Senate vote on that act, slated for Tuesday, would extend the order’s requirements to most other employers. However, the bill has already failed to pass twice, despite evidence that pay transparency can reduce the gender wage gap. In the federal government, for example, where pay rates are publicly available, the gender wage gap is much smaller than in the private sector, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.The Fair Paycheck Act would close loopholes in the Equal Pay Act of 1963

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Members of Congress including Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., pose for photos in the East Room of the White House in Washington, before an event marking Equal Pay Day

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14

Rise and Shine

President Obama embraces Vice President Biden in the Oval Office after a meeting on the budget, April 8, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern):

11:45 EDT: President Obama delivers remarks on equal pay, East Room

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@petesouza: Pres Obama takes the stage at Bladensburg High School

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The Week Ahead

Wednesday: The President and the First Lady will travel to Houston, TX. The President will attend a memorial service at Fort Hood. He 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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Bryce Covert: Obama’s New Move On Gender And Pay Could Have More Impact Than The Lilly Ledbetter Act

President Obama on Tuesday is expected to sign two executive orders that will address the pay disparity between women and men. One will bar federal contractors from retaliating against employees who talk about their pay with each other. The other will require businesses to hand over data on pay, broken down by race and gender, to the Labor Department. The goal of both steps is to increase transparency, which is more important than it may sound. It’s hard to fight pay discrimination if you don’t even know what other people make. That’s exactly what happened to Lilly Ledbetter, for whom the Lilly Ledbetter Act is named. She didn’t find out she was being paid less than the men around her until 19 years after she started at Goodyear. Even then, it was thanks only to an anonymous note. While President Obama has touted the fact that his first act as president was to sign that bill, it was a very, very incremental step toward gender wage parity. The law merely gives women more time to bring suits.

The executive orders could start a new wave of progress. About half of American workers are either expressly barred or strongly discouraged from discussing pay with each other. Obama’s action won’t change that fact for everyone, but it will affect 22 percent of the workforce. And it can have ripple effects to other companies that might want to compete for federal contracts, changing standards over time.President Obama has proposed a universal preschool system that includes care for children ages zero to three and would go a long way toward helping parents afford the skyrocketing costs of child care. But many of these ideas are anathema to conservatives in Congress, because they would require government spending and/or interfering with the free market. Until that changes, executive orders like the ones Obama will issue Tuesday may be the best hope for a while.

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Meghashyam Mali: Obama Administration Reverses Planned Cuts To Medicare Advantage

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Monday announced that it would increase payments to insurers offering Medicare Advantage plans by 0.4 percent, reversing a planned cut. The move comes after criticism from insurance groups and Democratic lawmakers who feared the fallout from trimming benefits for seniors in a difficult midterm election year.

CMS had proposed a 1.9 percent rate cut in February. But on Monday, agency officials said that changed estimates allowed for them to reverse the cut. CMS in a statement said that the rate changes would “ensure beneficiaries will continue to have access to a wide array of high quality, high value, and low cost options while making certain that plans are providing value to Medicare and taxpayers.”

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Jamelle Bouie: Jonathan Chait’s Look At Race During The Obama Era Is Missing One Thing: Black Americans

You should contrast this with Jonathan Chait’s most recent feature for New York magazine, where the story of race in the Obama administration is a story of mutual grievance between Americans on the left and right, with little interest in the lived experiences of racism from black Americans and other people of color. It’s a story, in other words, that treats race as an intellectual exercise—a low-stakes cocktail party argument between white liberals and white conservatives over their respective racial innocence.That might fit the experiences of a mostly white pundit class, but it has nothing to do with race as experienced in the “day-to-day” lives of ordinary people. When a twentysomething black New Yorker talks about race, she isn’t as concerned with the rhetoric of Republicans as she is with the patrol car that trails her teenage brother when he rides his bike to the corner store.

What’s odd about the argument is that Chait clearly shows the extent to which conservatism—even if it isn’t “racist”—works to entrench racial inequality through “colorblindness” and pointed opposition to the activist state. But rather than take that to its conclusion, he asks us to look away.Of course, it’s not accusing conservatives of “racism” to note that particular policies—say, tax cuts to defund the social safety net, or blocking the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act—have a disparate impact. That’s just reality. And it’s not tarring your opponents to note that race plays a huge part in building popular support for those policies. Chait finishes his piece with a note (a hope?) that this dynamic of grievance will become irrelevant with time: “The passing from the scene of the nation’s first black president in three years, and the near-certain election of its 45th nonblack one, will likely ease the mutual suspicion. In the long run, generational changes grind inexorably away.” Yes, the Return of the White President will cause this tension to recede, as arguments over racial innocence—“You’re racist!” “You’re a race baiter!”—fade like the elves of Middle-Earth. But that’s only the end of the story if you’re most concerned with partisan fights.

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Eli Clifton: Exclusive: Shady Double-Agent’s Obamacare Sabotage: Top “Supporter” Quietly Funded Its Opposition

While proponents of the Affordable Care Act took a victory lap on the April 1 signup deadline, opposition to the state-run marketplaces continues to expand across the country through “Health Care Freedom Acts,” bills that would seek to limit state governments’ cooperation with the Affordable Care Act. But the untold story, until now, is that a key White House ally in passing the Affordable Care Act may have helped lay the groundwork for these very anti-ACA legislations being introduced across the country. Billy Tauzin, the president of the pharmaceutical lobby, couldn’t help gloating while delivering a keynote speech at his final PhRMA annual meeting before his 2010 retirement. Reflecting on the industry’s decision to support comprehensive healthcare reform, the mega-lobbyist quipped, “This PhRMA team is a Super Bowl championship team of advocacy.” That comparison might be more accurate if the NFL’s championship team had rigged the Super Bowl.

Tax records show that PhRMA initiated a series of payments to the American Legislative Exchange Council with a $379,192 contribution in 2008. Tauzin’s powerful lobby continued its payments to ALEC throughout its negotiations with the White House. Between 2008 and 2011, those contributions exceeded $1.25 million. ALEC, a conservative group serving as a clearinghouse for state-level legislation, opposed the Affordable Care Act and launched its Health Care Freedom Initiative in 2008, the same year that PhRMA initiated its support. The project promised to “expose the truth about ObamaCare and fight back — one state at a time.” It also armed state lawmakers with “14 specific recommendations to push back against Obamacare” and offered boilerplate legislation with its “Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act.”In a previously unpublished “Schedule of Contributors” tax filing, PhRMA is listed as contributing $339,000 to ALEC in 2010, making it ALEC’s second largest donor after cigarette giant Reynolds American. The filing lists Pfizer, a member of the pharmaceutical lobby, as contributing an additional $136,000 on its own.

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Think Progress: Black Women Are Breaking Barriers But Still Not Getting Compensated For It

Black women are graduating high school, attending college, participating in the labor force, and starting businesses at higher rates, but they still aren’t seeing the rewards of their hard work, according to a recent report from the Black Women’s Roundtable, the women’s initiative of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation. Young black women have increased their high school graduation rate by 63 percent over the past 50 years, more than tripling it and “virtually eliminating the gap with Asian women (down to 2%), and significantly narrowing the gap with white women (7%),” the report notes. That gap between the rates of black women and white women has shrunk from 22 percent in 1960. After they leave high school, black women have begun to dominate college. “Though all women lead their male counterparts in college enrollment and degree attainment,” the report says, “Black women do so at higher rates than any other group of women in America.”

In 2010, they were 66 percent of all blacks who finished a Bachelor’s Degree, 71 percent with a Master’s, and 65 percent with a Doctorate. And they keep excelling after they graduate. “As they have from the beginning of their experience in America, Black women lead all women in labor force participation rates,” according to the report. Their labor force participation rate is higher than all other women, and that continues to be true even after they become mothers. They are also very entrepreneurial, starting businesses at six times the national average and representing the fastest growing segment of women-owned businesses. Black women own more than 1 million firms, employ 272,000 people other than themselves, and generate an estimated $44.9 billion in revenue. But even as they’ve been working harder on their educations and starting more businesses, black women aren’t seeing higher returns. While women working full-time, on average, make 77 percent of what men make, black women make 64 percent of what white men make.

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Michael Cohen: How Putin Is Losing In Crimea: A Reality Check

A funny thing happened on March 21: Russia lost a war and virtually no one noticed. It was precisely this agreement — and the refusal of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to sign it — that led to the bloody demonstrations in Kiev that forced Yanukovych from power and spurred Russia’s seizure of Crimea. It’s the kind of trade that looks bad for Russia on the surface — and will only look worse in the future. Russia’s political influence in Ukraine and its dreams of creating an economic union to compete with the EU lies in tatters. Rather than push the U.S. and EU away from his western border, Putin’s actions have practically invited them in by strengthening the bonds between Kiev and the West. It is yet another reminder that Putin’s decision to seize Crimea, rather than serve as a triumphant moment, is far more likely to end up a disaster.

While Putin clearly imagines Russia to be a great power, the country is a hollow shell of its former self, with waning political and military influence and an economy that is teetering on the brink. Higher inflation, a weakening ruble, huge capital outflows and a lack of economic reforms contributed to a major slowdown in the growth rate last year — from a projected increase of 3.6 percent to a mediocre 1.3 percent clip. The Crimea crisis will only add to these economic woes.The far bigger one is that major financial institutions like Deutsche Bank are recommending that their clients keep their money out of Russia; two of the biggest ratings agencies, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch, have downgraded Russia’s investment rating from “stable” to “negative”; and even MasterCard and Visa are ending relationships with key Russian banks to avoid the snare of U.S. sanctions.

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Evan Perez and Steve Katsenbaum: Key Figure In M.J. Traffic Scandal, David Wildstein, Meets With Prosecutors

David Wildstein, a central figure in a political scandal that has upended the administration of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, met recently with federal prosecutors, two U.S. officials familiar with the matter told CNN. The U.S. attorney’s office in Newark is investigating suggestions that top Christie appointees and allies orchestrated traffic tie-ups near the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee last September. Prosecutors are looking at whether the gridlock was politically motivated.

A state legislative committee is also investigating the matter, which involved sudden closures of access lanes to the nation’s busiest bridge over several days. Lawyers from the Justice Department’s public integrity section have joined the investigation to consult on certain legal aspects, particularly over separate allegations the Christie administration conditioned Superstorm Sandy relief money for Hoboken on the mayor’s support for a redevelopment project backed by the governor, according to one U.S. official.

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NYT: In A Test Of Wills With China, U.S. Sticks Up For Japan

On his first trip to China as the secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel is finding himself in the middle of a spat that would not be out of place in “Mean Girls,” a movie about social cliques in high school. For the first time, China will host the Western Pacific Naval Symposium, a meeting every two years of countries that border the Pacific Ocean. The W.P.N.S., as it is known in naval circles, counts among its members the United States, Australia, Chile, Canada and a number of Asian countries, including China and Japan. Often at such meetings, the host country organizes an international fleet review, at which the visiting countries can parade their ships and show off some fancy hardware. For this year’s fleet review, China, which is hosting the event in Qingdao, invited all the countries in the symposium to take part — except Japan.

So on the eve of Mr. Hagel’s trip, which includes a visit to Qingdao, Pentagon officials announced that if Japan could not take part in the review, then neither would the United States. The United States will attend the meeting, the Pentagon said, but no American ships will sail in the fleet review. Late last year, China set off a trans-Pacific uproar after it declared that an “air defense identification zone” gave it the right to identify and possibly take military action against aircraft near the uninhabited islands in the East China Sea known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan and the Diaoyu Islands in China. Japan controls and administers the islands, but China claims them. Japan refused to recognize China’s claim, and the United States has been defying China ever since by sending military planes into the zone unannounced.

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John W. Gonzalez: Allegation Against Battleground Texas Dismissed

Two special prosecutors have rejected public complaints that Battleground Texas violated election laws while registering voters in San Antonio last year. Three people had alleged that a Battleground Texas staffer violated state election law by mining voters’ personal data. The Democratic group has steadfastly denied the allegation as a fiction from conservative activist James O’Keefe III, who’s been criticized for dubious and even criminal tactics.Based on their finding, a state district court judge dismissed the case on Friday, officials confirmed Monday.

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Brendan Sasso: FCC To Break Up Big TV Stations

Overriding intense Republican opposition, the Democratic leaders of the Federal Communications Commission voted Monday to crack down on media consolidation. The new rules bar multiple broadcast TV stations in the same market from sharing a single advertising staff. Democratic FCC officials argue that major TV companies around the country are using “joint sales agreements” to undermine the agency’s media-ownership caps. The FCC bars any company from owning more than one of the top four TV stations in a market. By selling ads for multiple stations, companies have been able to dodge the FCC’s ownership cap while effectively controlling several stations, the agency officials said.

The goal of the TV ownership cap is to ensure that viewers have access to a diverse range of views in the media and that no single corporation is able to dominate the flow of information. While the TV stations serve local markets, major media companies such as Sinclair own dozens of stations around the country. “The commission has long imposed limits on concentration of ownership for use of the public’s airwaves,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said. “Today, what we’re doing is closing off what is a growing end run around those rules.”

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Meredith Clark: Kansas Bill Kills Long-Held Teacher Rights

After a weekend of heated debate, the Kansas legislature passed a bill that strips teachers of the right to challenge dismissals and ensures tax breaks for corporations that fund private school scholarships. Despite huge majorities in the state House and Senate, the bills passed narrowly over the objections of hundreds of teachers and activists who packed the galleries to protest the bill. Until now, a teacher with three years of experience was guaranteed the right to receive a written reason for possible termination and the right to appeal the decision. Teachers in Kansas have had the right to due process since 1957. Without it, a teacher could be fired for being gay, or disagreeing politically with an administrator, and have no recourse.

The bill also provides $126 million to address disparities in public school funding. The Kansas supreme court ruled in March that the state’s current funding system is unconstitutional. The court had ordered the legislature to craft a solution before July 1. Some Republican lawmakers sought policy changes like the end of due process in exchange for supporting the funding measure. Republican Governor Sam Brownback has not said whether he will sign the bill. Kansas’ teachers are among the lowest paid in the United States, with the state coming in 42nd in teacher pay. Educators fear that eliminating due process rights for teachers will make it even harder to retain talented teachers. “How do we get great teachers to come to Kansas when they’re already getting paid so little, and now they have no due process?” Aaron Estabrook, a school board member in the city of Manhattan asked msnbc. “How can we recruit them when they won’t be protected?”

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On This Day

Sen. Barack Obama before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the situation in Iraq, Capitol Hill, April 8, 2008

Sen. Barack Obama at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the situation in Iraq, Capitol Hill, April 8, 2008

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President Obama offers a fist-bump to senior staff member Pete Rouse, during a meeting with senior advisors in the Oval Office, April 8, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama admires a tapestry at Prague Castle in Prague, Czech Republic, April 8, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, left, and Czech Republic President Vaclav Klaus, share a toast during a luncheon at Prague Castle, Czech Republic, April 8, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama talks with Secretary of State Rodham Clinton following the expanded delegation bilateral meeting with President Medvedev of Russia at Prague Castle in Prague, Czech Republic, April 8, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama talks with Vice President Biden in the Oval Office in between meetings to discuss the ongoing budget negotiations, April 8, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama is reflected in a mirror in the Outer Oval Office as talks with Chief of Staff Bill Daley, left, and Vice President Biden in the doorway of the Oval Office, April 8, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama meets with staff in the Roosevelt Room of the White House to discuss the ongoing negotiations on a budget funding bill, April 8, 2011. Pictured, from left, are: National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling; Bruce Reed, Chief of Staff to the Vice President; Phil Schiliro, Assistant to the President and Special Advisor; and Nancy-Ann DeParle, Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama talks on the phone with House Speaker John Boehner in the Oval Office, April 8, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama gestures while meeting with staff in the Roosevelt Room of the White House to discuss the ongoing negotiations on a budget funding bill, April 8, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama delivers a statement in the Blue Room of the White House after Democrats and Republicans reached a short-term budget deal to prevent a government shutdown, April 8, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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