NYT: Obama Says Income Gap Is Fraying U.S. Social Fabric
In a week when he tried to focus attention on the struggles of the middle class, President Obama said in an interview that he was worried that years of widening income inequality and the lingering effects of the financial crisis had frayed the country’s social fabric and undermined Americans’ belief in opportunity.
“If the economy is growing, everybody feels invested,” President Obama said in an interview last week in Galesburg, Ill. “Everybody feels as if we’re rolling in the same direction.”
Upward mobility, Mr. Obama said in a 40-minute interview with The New York Times, “was part and parcel of who we were as Americans.”
“And that’s what’s been eroding over the last 20, 30 years, well before the financial crisis,” he added.
“If we don’t do anything, then growth will be slower than it should be. Unemployment will not go down as fast as it should. Income inequality will continue to rise,” he said. “That’s not a future that we should accept.”….
10:50: The President delivers a statement on the confirmation of Richard Cordray as the Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
12:45: Press Briefing by Jay Carney
NYT: Individuals buying health insurance on their own will see their premiums tumble next year in New York State as changes under the federal health care law take effect, state officials are to announce on Wednesday.
State insurance regulators say they have approved rates for 2014 that are at least 50 percent lower on average than those currently available in New York. Beginning in October, individuals in New York City who now pay $1,000 a month or more for coverage will be able to shop for health insurance for as little as $308 monthly. With federal subsidies, the cost will be even lower.
Supporters of the new health care law, the Affordable Care Act, credited the drop in rates to the online purchasing exchanges the law created, which they say are spurring competition among insurers that are anticipating an influx of new customers. The law requires that an exchange be started in every state.
“Health insurance has suddenly become affordable in New York,” said Elisabeth Benjamin, vice president for health initiatives with the Community Service Society of New York. “It’s not bargain-basement prices, but we’re going from Bergdorf’s to Filene’s here.”
“The extraordinary decline in New York’s insurance rates for individual consumers demonstrates the profound promise of the Affordable Care Act,” she added.
AG Eric Holder: “So Trayvon’s death last spring caused me to sit down to have a conversation with my own 15-year-old son, like my dad did with me. This was a father-son tradition I hoped would not need to be handed down. But as a father who loves his son and who is more knowing in the ways of the world, I had to do this to protect my boy. I am his father, and it is my responsibility, not to burden him with the baggage of eras long gone, but to make him aware of the world that he must still confront. This is a sad reality in a nation that is changing for the better in so many ways.”
Full NAACP speech from yesterday (transcript here):
…. Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell struck a deal, abetted apparently by John McCain, that averted the invocation of the nuclear option by Reid and the Democrats. Reid got just about everything he wanted. The Senate is going to pass through all seven nominees that Reid brought up in this skirmish….
…. About as clear a win for one party over another as we’ve seen in a long time. Why did it happen? Because everyone in the room knew that the Democrats had the 51 votes to change the rules. Stand together or fall apart, as the old cliche goes. It’s true. It’s still pathetic that it had to come to this for the president to fill his cabinet (and sub-cabinet), but it goes to show that holding the line as a group works.
Steve Benen: …. Will what transpired in the Senate yesterday actually, you know, matter? …. The cautious answer is that it’s evidence of incremental progress, the results of which will have a real-world impact on the lives of real people.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, for example, looks out for consumers against predatory excesses from the financial industry. As Sen. Elizabeth Warren told Chris Hayes last night, in light of yesterday’s deal and Richard Cordray’s confirmation, “We know this agency is here to stay. No more clouds over what it legally is entitled to do. No more attacks that say maybe we’re going to be able to undercut it in this way or weaken it in that way. We’ve got a full-fledged watchdog. The one we fought for, and [Cordray] is going to be there to fight for us.”
…. I’ve heard plenty of criticisms of yesterday’s agreement, and detractors have raised fair concerns … But in today’s environment, incremental progress is still progress, and there’s ample reason to believe yesterday’s deal moves the ball forward.
Congress is taking the first steps toward bringing back pre-clearance of voting laws under the Voting Rights Act this week, as activists express tempered optimism in lawmakers’ willingness and ability to act.
The U.S. Supreme Court last month tossed out the Voting Rights Act’s formula that determined which jurisdictions must submit their voting law changes to the federal government before enacting them. The 5-4 ruling did not get rid of pre-clearance altogether but said Congress must come up with an updated standard to enforce it rather than the 1965 version that covered Georgia and other Deep South states with a history of overt discrimination.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will kick off the congressional response with a hearing Wednesday featuring Congress’ civil rights conscience: Atlanta Democratic U.S. Rep. John Lewis.
Michael Tomasky: …. the narrative about the IRS targeting Obama’s enemies has been thoroughly debunked….
The IRS “scandal,” lately dormant, is returning soon to cable-news channel near you: Tomorrow, Russell George, the Treasury Department inspector general who produced the original report at Darrell Issa’s request, is going back before Issa’s committee, and this time he’s in for some pretty serious grilling from Democrats. The evidence is now even more preponderant than it already was that there was absolutely no political agenda in the IRS’s review of 501(c)(4) applications. In fact, evidence is mounting that if anyone was behaving politically here, it was George — and, of course, Issa and the other Republicans who launched into their baseless tirades about “enemies lists” and other such nonsense.
…. what about the mainstream media that swallowed whole from the Republican-conservative spoon, running huge headlines and ominous editorials, all those breathy stories that got nearly half the American public believing, on the basis of zero hard evidence, that the White House was involved here? It’s not in the nature of the beast to run huge headlines saying “No Scandal Here.” But it should be in the beast’s nature to take a much harder look at Issa, George, and the other perpetuators of this non-story. And it should start tomorrow, when George testifies.
Reuters: President Barack Obama on Tuesday for the first time admitted that it was unlikely that the Republican-led House of Representatives would pass sweeping immigration reforms before lawmakers left Washington for a month-long break in August.
In television interviews taped with four Spanish-language newscasts, Obama said he thinks many Republicans need more time to grapple with concerns about border security and the changing demographics of America.
…. Obama has insisted that reforms must include the path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. “It does not make sense to me, if we’re going to make this once-in-a-generation effort to finally fix the system, to leave the status of 11 million people or so unresolved,” he told Telemundo’s Denver affiliate.
Many House Republicans oppose that measure, calling it “amnesty” for people who have broken existing immigration laws. But Obama said ignoring the problem would resign undocumented immigrants to “a lower status.” “I think that’s not who we are as Americans,” he said.
Democrats once ruled Texas. Then came five decades of steady decline. Can Wendy Davis, the Castro brothers, and Team Obama’s vaunted field operation return their party to power? And if they can’t, can anyone?
“Somebody has to step up,” Wendy Davis observed one evening in late May over drinks at the bar of the Four Seasons Hotel in Austin. “As long as the Democrats continue to buy into the same bullshit that some of the Republicans are saying — ‘Oh no, it’s Texas, it’s hopeless’ — and continue to act like it won’t happen for six, eight, twelve, sixteen years from now, that perpetuates the problem.”
“So are you going to run for statewide office?” I asked.
Her green eyes sparkled. “One day, someday,” she said coyly.
One day, someday, about a month later, on the morning of June 25, the petite fifty-year-old Democratic state senator from Fort Worth fixed herself a single boiled egg for breakfast. It would be her only meal of the day. She slipped on a pair of pink tennis shoes, headed over to the Capitol, and stepped up……
President Obama hosted members of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority at the White House on Tuesday as the group gather in Washington for their annual convention. The Oval Office meeting marked the 100th anniversary of the African-American sorority and the 51st anniversary of its convention. Obama met with members including the sorority’s president, Cynthia Butler-McIntyre.
@petesouza: Pres Obama with make-a-wish visitor Suhail Zaveri, 14, and his family in the Oval Office
CBS: Cuban and U.S. officials will hold the first migration talks between the two nations since 2011 in Washington on Wednesday. Analysts believe both countries have a strong interest in getting them off the ground again.
…. The Bush Administration broke off these twice-yearly talks, along with taking other measures such as severely restricting the rights of Cuban Americans to travel back to the island – limiting them to only one visit every three years.
President Obama reestablished the rights of Cuban Americans to visit their homeland as much as they want and resumed the talks, only to break them off over the detention and jailing of U.S. contractor Alan Gross, which the State Department has repeatedly said remains a major obstacle to any improvement in relations between the two neighboring countries.
Ever since Marci Lieber, a part-time social worker in Brooklyn, learned she was pregnant, she and her husband have been scrambling to find health insurance. But insurers consider pregnancy a pre-existing condition, and won’t sell anyone a new policy that covers it.
That changes on Jan. 1, 2014, when insurers will no longer be permitted to deny coverage of pre-existing conditions — and all Americans will be required to have health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Ms. Lieber, 37, hopes to purchase a policy through New York State’s new health exchange as early as this October.
Between the state’s anti-abortion bill, its move to defund contraception providers, and its war on sex education, experts predict tens of thousands of unplanned pregnancies next year.
The war on women is a nationwide phenomenon, but nowhere are women in more danger of having their reproductive health undermined at every turn than in Texas. Under the leadership of Gov. Rick Perry and a Republican Party completely in the thrall of the religious right, Christian fundamentalists have launched a three-pronged attack on the well-being of women of the state….
ThinkProgress: In a piece that contains the telling (even in context) line “I am a racist,” longtime Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen employed a mishmash of poorly explained statistics and bafflingly ignorant mathematical reasoning to argue that Trayvon Martin was “understandably suspected because he was black” — that is, Americans should assume any young black men they meet are criminals.
Oh Happy Day for Prop 8 Plaintiffs Kristin Perry and Sandy Stier as they tied the knot
Annie-Rose Strasser: On Friday afternoon, the ninth circuit court lifted its stay on same-sex marriages in the state of California, acknowledging the Supreme Court’s opinion in Hollingsworth v Perry that supporters of anti-gay Proposition 8 did not have standing to appeal a lower court judge’s ruling that the ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. The move, which came earlier than expected, allows gay and lesbian couples to begin getting married immediately.
As soon as the news came down from the ninth circuit on Friday, California’s Attorney General Kamala Harris began marrying couples — starting with Proposition 8 plaintiffs Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier
Ezra Klein (Washington Post): I had some issues with David Brooks’s column Friday on the two parties’ sequester positions …. A transcript of our conversation follows.
Ezra Klein: In the column, you said that the Obama administration doesn’t have a plan to replace the sequester. I feel like I’ve had to spend a substantial portion of my life reading their various budgets and plans to replace the sequester, and my sense is that you’ve had to do this, too. So, what am I missing?
David Brooks: First, the column was a bit of an over-the-top lampooning column about dance moves. I probably went a bit too far when saying the president didn’t have a response to the sequester save to raise taxes on the rich. In the cool light of day, I can say that’s over the top. There’s chained CPI and $400 billion in health proposals. So I should say I was unfair. I’m going to attach a note to the column, if it’s not up already.
11:55: President Obama and VP Biden hold an event at the White House to unveil a package of proposals to reduce gun violence
Washington Post: President Obama on Wednesday will formally announce the most aggressive and expansive national gun-control agenda in generations as he presses Congress to mandate background checks for all firearms buyers and prohibit assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips.
…. Obama will begin this effort Wednesday in the presence of children who wrote him letters after last month’s mass shooting at a grade school in Newtown….
In addition to background checks and restrictions on military-style guns and ammunition magazines, Obama is expected to propose mental health and school safety initiatives such as more federal funding for police officers in schools….
….. the proposals amount to the most comprehensive federal regulations of the firearms industry since 1968, when President Lyndon B. Johnson acted in the aftermath of high-profile assassinations…..
BBC: The mother of a British boy shot in the Newtown school massacre has wept as she told how she learned of his death. Dylan Hockley, six, was one of 20 children and six teachers killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Connecticut, on 14 December.
Speaking to BBC News, Dylan’s mother Nicole recalled “shaking” and not being able to stop as police revealed their son was among the gunman’s victims …. Dylan’s body was found in the embrace of his classroom assistant, Anne Marie Murphy.
…. Mr Hockley urged Washington to act on a number of different areas, saying: “The unthinkable has happened. All the shootings that have come before have indeed been terrible tragedies, but now it’s sunk so low that very small children have now been the target of this.
“How could it possibly get worse? If they cannot address this now, it’s as if they think they can never address it and they will give up and this will go on.”
Michael Tomasky: The NRA’s new ad is beyond anything we’ve seen, in political propaganda terms, in the modern history of this country….
…. It’s designed to make people who despise the president despise him even more; and it’s designed to make them despise his children, 14 and 11 years old, because they live a cosseted life that you and your kids don’t; they are ergo elitist hypocrites just like their father.
It’s not even the logic, though, that’s most disturbing … Just mentioning the president’s daughters in an ad full of violent imagery and sounds – silhouettes of assault rifles, profiles of heavily armed soldiers, martial music – is an invitation to certain viewers to make certain mental connections. I’ll stop there. But it’s really a shocking thing…..
Josh Marshall (TPM): It takes a lot for the NRA to shock. But this is just beyond disgusting …. There are so many vile things about this ad. But one thing to note is the ad is really only designed to appeal to people who have a deep – really deep – animosity toward the President. The sort of people who don’t think he and his daughters should be in the White House and wish him the sort of ill citizens should never wish upon a freely elected head of state.
Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns tells TPM: “At some point the NRA’s Washington lobbyists may realize that this kind of thing is making them irrelevant. It does nothing but offend the reasonable people who make up the bulk of their country – and the bulk of their own membership.”
Economy Watch: Retail sales rose more than expected in December as Americans shrugged off the threat of higher taxes and bought automobiles and a range of other goods, suggesting momentum in consumer spending as the year ended….
Economy Watch: For nine straight months, national home prices have been in the positive, and the gains are only getting larger. The latest reading for November shows a 7.4 percent jump from a year ago, according to CoreLogic. That includes sale prices of distressed properties, bank-owned homes and short sales. This is the largest year-over-year jump since 2006 when we were at the height of the housing boom
Chicago Sun-Times: The Chicago Public Library today unveiled artist Steve Musgrave’s new portrait of President Obama to celebrate the upcoming inauguration …. the portrait reflects Obama’s efforts as a community organizer in the South Side Chicago neighborhood prior to seeking public office.
…. the portrait features images of people who have influenced the president’s life including his First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia, his mother and grandmother, Martin Luther King Jr., Frederick Douglass, Rosa Parks, Harold Washington, David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett, among others.
President Barack Obama talks with Kathryn Ruemmler, Counsel to the President, in the Outer Oval Office, Jan 15, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)