Bravo, Chris Rock! It is not up to Black people to end racism. It is up to white people. That is the hard truth a lot of people shy away from. Black people know what racism is. They know the sting of it, they know the hurt, they know the pain, they know the economical and institutional pain of it, they know the death that results from it. It is not Black people who are out there committing heinous racist acts and crimes. Black people have been speaking about this to the world for decades. If you want a country where a child doesn’t get gunned down because of the color of his skin, white people have to look at themselves and ask what role do I play in this and how can I first listen, believe, and help to end this scourge.
The same people who don't "see color" don't see injustice, oppression, privilege or anything else that might upset their fragile worldview.
What would you do in Ferguson that a standard reporter wouldn’t?
I’d do a special on race, but I’d have no black people.
Well, that would be much more revealing.
Yes, that would be an event. Here’s the thing. When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it’s all nonsense. There are no race relations. White people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy. To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before.
Right. It’s ridiculous.
So, to say Obama is progress is saying that he’s the first black person that is qualified to be president. That’s not black progress. That’s white progress. There’s been black people qualified to be president for hundreds of years. If you saw Tina Turner and Ike having a lovely breakfast over there, would you say their relationship’s improved? Some people would. But a smart person would go, “Oh, he stopped punching her in the face.” It’s not up to her. Ike and Tina Turner’s relationship has nothing to do with Tina Turner. Nothing. It just doesn’t. The question is, you know, my kids are smart, educated, beautiful, polite children. There have been smart, educated, beautiful, polite black children for hundreds of years. The advantage that my children have is that my children are encountering the nicest white people that America has ever produced. Let’s hope America keeps producing nicer white people.
It’s about white people adjusting to a new reality?
Owning their actions. Not even their actions. The actions of your dad. Yeah, it’s unfair that you can get judged by something you didn’t do, but it’s also unfair that you can inherit money that you didn’t work for.
Would you seek out someone to interview who might not normally be sought out?
I would get you to interview somebody, and I would put something in your ear, and I’d ask the questions through you.
You’d have a white guy.
And I would ask them questions that you would never come up with, and we’d have the most amazing interviews ever.
And we’d be asking white people and black people?
Just white people. We know how black people feel about Ferguson—outraged, upset, cheated by the system, all these things.
So you think people can be lulled into saying the outrageous shit they really feel?
Michael Moore has no problem getting it. Because he looks like them. But the problem is the press accepts racism. It has never dug into it.
When Obama was running for president, a certain kind of white person would routinely tell reporters, “He’s just not one of us.” Few reporters want to push that person to the wall and say, “What do you mean he’s not like you, unless you’re talking about the fact that he’s African-American?” Where else besides Ferguson would you hypothetically want to interview white people?
I’d love to do some liberal places, because you can be in the most liberal places and there’s no black people.
Rabbi David Saperstein claps as President Obama approaches to sign an executive order to protect LGBT employees from federal workplace discrimination
Surrounded by LGBT supporters, including Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, President Barack Obama signs executive orders to protect LGBT employees from federal workplace discrimination in the East Room of the White House. President Obama’s executive orders prohibit discrimination against gay and transgender workers in the federal government and its contracting agencies, without a new exemption that was requested by some religious organizations
President Obama arrives to make a statement on the situation in Ukraine and Gaza
President Obama attends a town hall meeting to discuss his My Brother’s Keeper initiative while at the Walker Jones Education Campus in Washington. President Obama announced that leaders of 60 of the largest school systems have pledged to expand minority boys’ access to better preschools and advanced classes and to try to prevent grade retention, suspensions and expulsions
President Obama bestows former Army Staff Sergeant Ryan M. Pitts with the Medal of Honor in the East Room of the White House. Pitts is the ninth living recipient of the nation’s highest decoration for battlefield valor for actions in Iraq and Afghanistan
• • •
Chips butting in on Nerdy’s post:
A year ago today, the weirdest thing happened: Manchester United and Chelsea teamed up.
Yup, it’s exactly 12 months since Chelsea Girl took over the running of TOD with me, and I don’t have to tell you how much she has contributed since then, or how much work she has put in to the site with wonderful posts like this, every single day. And without her, TOD honestly wouldn’t even exist any more.
Thank you for everything – your intelligence, your energy, your passion, your determination, your dedication, your friendship, and your support.
It was a very, very happy day when you came in to TOD’s life, and mine.
10:55: President Obama meets with Prime Minister John Key of New Zealand
1:0 Josh Earnest briefs the press
Parade: The President and Michelle Obama on Work, Family, and Juggling It All
… On Monday, June 23, the President and Mrs. Obama will host a Working Families summit in Washington, D.C. to discuss the need for affordable childcare and paid family leave, raising minimum wage, and achieving equal pay for all. In an interview conducted by Parade, the Obamas opened up about their personal connection to these issues and what they hope to accomplish during their remaining time in the White House.
President Barack Obama and wife Michelle have never been your typical working stiffs. With four Ivy League degrees between them, they’ve enjoyed high incomes and strong job security. But before and during college, they each worked minimum-wage jobs. And there was a time when they felt the same kind of financial aches and marriage strains that today’s dual-income families know all too well. As a young married couple in Chicago, they were mired in student debt, juggling multiple jobs and two kids, and bickering over who did what housework. “I wouldn’t fold,” remembers the president. “I didn’t separate, and Michelle’s point was, that’s not laundry.”
TPM: Obama Administration To Extend Family Leave To Same-Sex Couples
The Obama administration announced that it would direct the Department of Labor to begin issuing regulations to extend the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to same-sex couples, according to a White House official.
After the Supreme Court’s struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act last year, Attorney General Eric Holder and other members of the administration began to reviewing relevant statutes and laws to extend federal benefits to same-sex couples. The administration said that its extension of FMLA is simply part of that process. The new regulations will clarify that an employee is eligible to take leave to care for a same-sex spouse in the instance of an illness, regardless of whether that employee lives in a state where same-sex marriage is legal.
Paul Krugman: Veterans and Zombies – The Hype Behind the Health Care Scandal
…. it’s important to understand that the Veterans Affairs scandal, while real, is being hyped out of proportion by people whose real goal is to block reform of the larger system.
…. A scandal is a scandal, and wrongdoing must be punished. But beware of people trying to use the veterans’ care scandal to derail health reform.
And here’s the thing: Health reform is working. Too many Americans still lack good insurance, and hence lack access to health care and protection from high medical costs — but not as many as last year, and next year should be better still. Health costs are still far too high, but their growth has slowed dramatically. We’re moving in the right direction, and we shouldn’t let the zombies get in our way.
Ukraine announced Friday that it has regained full control of its border with Russia, which the government has set as an important precondition for a unilateral ceasefire in its conflict with pro-Russian separatists in the east.
The sealing off of the border, which could not be independently verified, would be significant because it would rob the rebels of an important supply route for new fighters and weapons.
The announcement that troops had recaptured the border area near the village of Izvaryne in the Luhansk region comes as President Petro Poroshenko is set to unveil the details of his 14-point peace plan.
For years black academics criticized the Obama administration for not targeting programs to the African American community. Obamacare didn’t count – even though it has disproportionately affected people of color. All of his talk about income inequality didn’t matter, neither did his proposal for universal pre-K. What they wanted to see were initiatives that directly (and only) affected African Americans.
Then along came the announcement about President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” program targeting boys of color. It didn’t take long for many of the same critics to go after that one because it didn’t include girls. As I see it, this is what most efforts to target a specific community will eventually face…the “what about me?” syndrome.
That’s not to say that its wrong to initiate and promote targeted programs. Sometimes they’re needed. Its more about the fact that when they are proposed, we need to remember WHY they’re targeted and – by definition – will exclude.
ThinkProgress: Governor Scott Walker Accused Of ‘Criminal Scheme’
New federal court documents released Thursday reveal that Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) is the subject of a “Joe Doe” investigation. Prosecutors allege Walker was part of a “criminal scheme” to circumvent state election laws. While the courts are still mulling a motion by the dark money outside groups at the center of the allegations to stop the investigation, the facts of the case are yet another demonstration of the folly of the Supreme Court’s assumptions in the infamous Citizens United ruling.
The documents show that prosecutors believe illegal coordination occurred in the 2011 and 2012 Wisconsin Senate and Gubernatorial recall elections and that groups like the Wisconsin Club for Growth worked with Scott Walker’s campaign arm (“Friends of Scott Walker”) to arrange undisclosed spending by an array of pro-Walker tax-exempt organizations. They note that several individuals were working both for Friends of Scott Walker and Wisconsin Club for Growth at the time, and that Walker himself boasted of the coordination in an email to Karl Rove.
Esquire: Prosecutor Is Closing In on Gov. Christie
Indictments against four cronies are near certain, sources say. Only question is if David Samson, Christie’s longtime mentor, will flip.
“It’s over, it’s done, and I’m moving on.” – Chris Christie, reassuring potential donors in Utah on June 14th
Back on planet Reality, meanwhile, Paul Fishman, the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, wades through the sewage of Christie’s stewardship. Two sources with intimate knowledge of the case say Fishman’s pace is quickening – he has empaneled a second grand jury, and the U.S. Justice Department has sent assistant prosecutors and FBI agents to work the case.
“What’s taking the most time,” according to one source, “is separating what’s viable from all the bad stuff they’re finding that may not be viable.”
In an exclusive interview, the MSNBC anchor Lawrence O’Donnell reveals how he survived a head-on car crash, and why afterwards he cut himself off from the negative litany of the news cycle.
“What a stupid way to die,” Lawrence O’Donnell thought to himself.
A split-second earlier, the host of MSNBC’s 10 p.m. program, The Last Word, had been gazing down at a map on his iPhone, following the progress of his taxi, a Chevy van, as he and his older brother Michael rode to dinner on the resort island of Tortola. It was around 7:45 p.m., Saturday, April 12, the start of what promised to be a lovely vacation in the British Virgin Islands with his big brother, a Boston lawyer.
The vacation didn’t happen. Instead, O’Donnell, 62, underwent a life-altering crucible that he’s still trying to make sense of, while figuring out how to explain it to viewers when he returns to his show on Monday night after two-and-a-half months off the air.
President Obama and Vice President Biden meet with National Security Staff in the Situation Room of the White House, June 20, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama talks with Vice President Biden on the Colonnade of the White House outside the Oval Office, June 20, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and Vice President Biden meet with a bipartisan group of mayors to discuss the economy and local efforts to create jobs and spur economic growth, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, June 20, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama embraces Vice President Biden in the Oval Office after a meeting on the budget, April 8, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Today (All Times Eastern):
11:45 EDT: President Obama delivers remarks on equal pay, East Room
@petesouza: Pres Obama takes the stage at Bladensburg High School
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.
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.
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.”
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.
White ppl talking about racism like it's an academic exercise irks me. It's my LIFE. Not something you write about after a glass of scotch.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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?”
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
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)
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)
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)
LA Times: Obamacare Meeting Goal Of Reducing Number Of Uninsured, Data Indicate
Evidence has begun to resolve one of the odder controversies surrounding Obamacare: The new law appears to be achieving its top goal of reducing the number of Americans who lack health insurance. The dispute over that question is a strange one because the answer would seem to be fairly obvious: Under the Affordable Care Act, the government will spend hundreds of millions of dollars to subsidize families who decide to buy insurance, a product that the vast majority of Americans value highly. Basic economics would seem to say that those subsidies would have to increase the number of people buying insurance. Gallup, which surveyed about 28,000 Americans concerning their health insurance from Jan. 2 to Feb. 28, found that the percentage who say they lack any form of insurance has dropped significantly, from 18% of the U.S. adult population to 15.9%.
That would translate to between 4 and 5 million fewer people without insurance. As the unemployment rate has dropped, some people may have gained coverage at work, but Gallup’s numbers indicate that employer coverage has ticked downward by about 2 percentage points. Increases have come in the share of Americans buying their own insurance and the share covered by Medicaid, which the new law expanded. Those trends are all consistent with what the new law was expected to do. The other new piece of data comes from the McKinsey Co., which has conducted four surveys of people who are eligible to sign up for insurance under Obamacare. McKinsey found that 27% of those who signed up on the law’s new marketplaces in February were previously uninsured, up from 11% in its earlier surveys.
NYT: Little Know Health Act Fact: Prison Inmates Are Signing Up
In a little-noticed outcome of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, jails and prisons around the country are beginning to sign up inmates for health insurance under the law, taking advantage of the expansion of Medicaid that allows states to extend coverage to single and childless adults — a major part of the prison population. State and counties are enrolling inmates for two main reasons. Although Medicaid does not cover standard health care for inmates, it can pay for their hospital stays beyond 24 hours — meaning states can transfer millions of dollars of obligations to the federal government. But the most important benefit of the program, corrections officials say, is that inmates who are enrolled in Medicaid while in jail or prison can have coverage after they get out.
People coming out of jail or prison have disproportionately high rates of chronic diseases, especially mental illness and addictive disorders. Few, however, have insurance, and many would qualify for Medicaid under the income test for the program — 138 percent of the poverty line — in the 25 states that have elected to expand their programs. Health care experts estimate that up to 35 percent of those newly eligible for Medicaid under Mr. Obama’s health care law are people with histories of criminal justice system involvement, including jail and prison inmates and those on parole or probation. “For those newly covered, it will open up treatment doors for them” and potentially save money in the long run by reducing recidivism, said Dr. Fred Osher, director of health systems and services policy for the Council of State Governments Justice Center. He added that a 2009 study in Washington State found that low-income adults who received treatment for addiction had significantly fewer arrests than those who were untreated.
The Detroit News: Dexter Cancer Patient Who Called Health Care ‘Unaffordable’ Will Save More Than $1K
A Dexter cancer patient featured in a conservative group’s TV ad campaign denouncing her new health care coverage as “unaffordable” will save more than $1,000 this year. Julie Boonstra, 49, starred last month in an emotional television ad sponsored by Americans for Prosperity that implied Democratic U.S. Rep. Gary Peters’ vote for the Affordable Care Act made her medication so “unaffordable” she could die. Peters of Bloomfield Township is running for an open U.S. Senate seat against Republican Terri Lynn Land.
The Detroit News and fact checkers last month cast doubt on the accuracy of the TV ad. On Monday, Boonstra acknowledged which health plan she chose, offering the first evidence of cost savings. Boonstra’s old plan cost $1,100 a month in premiums or $13,200 a year, she previously told The News. It didn’t include money she spent on co-pays, prescription drugs and other out-of-pocket expenses. By contrast, the Blues’ plan premium costs $571 a month or $6,852 for the year. Since out-of-pocket costs are capped at $5,100, including deductibles, the maximum Boonstra would pay this year for all of her cancer treatment is $11,952.
A bipartisan plan to overhaul the way sexual-assault cases are handled in the military was easily approved by the Senate Monday evening. The measure written by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) was approved 97 to 0 — a rare unanimous vote. But Congress has been quick to respond to the rising rate of assault and rape in the ranks. Last year lawmakers voted to revamp the military’s legal system, ending the statute of limitations on assault and rape cases, making it a crime to retaliate against victims who report assaults and requiring the dishonorable discharge or dismissal of anyone convicted of sexual assault or rape.
McCaskill’s proposal goes further by eliminating the “good soldier” defense that takes irrelevant factors such as the service record of the accused into account. In cases where there is a dual jurisdiction because the crime occurred off of a military base, the victim would get a say in whether the case would be handled in a civilian or military court. The proposal would extend protections to students in service academies. It also would require that in every decision on every promotion in the military, that commander’s record on the handling of sexual-assault cases would have to be taken into account. Although it passed easily in the Senate, the proposal’s fate remains unclear in the House.
A month ago, when Ukraine’s old regime was just starting to crack under the pressure of a revolution, few people in the country had ever heard of Sergei Aksyonov. He was then a marginal figure even in the local politics of the region of Crimea. His Russian Unity party had only three seats in the regional legislature and no representation anywhere else. But that has not stopped him from taking charge. In late January, as the protesters in Kiev began seizing government buildings, Aksyonov started to form an army on the Crimean peninsula. Now he is the de facto leader of the entire region, a post that has thrust him into the center of the most dire political crisis Europe has confronted in years. From the beginning, the stated aim of his paramilitary force was to defend against the revolutionary wave that was sweeping across Ukraine and, ultimately, to break away from the country entirely.
Its first battalion of 700 men came from the youth group of Aksyonov’s political party, and as he continued calling in the proceeding weeks for a “full scale mobilization,” hundreds of others joined his Crimean self-defense brigades. By Feb. 21, the day the Kiev uprising toppled the Ukrainian government, Aksyonov was in command of several thousand troops. “All of them,” he says, “answer to me.” His rise to power has made him a valuable ally to Moscow and a serious threat to Ukraine and its Western partners. His written appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin is what opened the door for the Russian occupation of Crimea at the beginning of this month, and on March 4, Putin recognized Aksyonov as the legitimate leader of Crimea, apparently without ever having met the man.
Bloomberg: Ukraine Starts Military Exercises As Russia Warns On East
Ukraine began military drills as Russian forces tightened their hold on the Crimean peninsula and the Foreign Ministry in Moscow warned of “lawlessness” in the former Soviet republic’s eastern provinces. Ukraine’s armed forces are testing the combat-readiness of troops, the Defense Ministry said today on its website, reiterating the government’s desire for a peaceful end to the standoff in Crimea. Russia, which has vowed to defend the ethnic Russians that dominate Crimea after an uprising in Kiev, accused Ukraine of ignoring radicals in the nation’s east.
Usually, Galifianakis is the one making his guests feel incredibly uncomfortable (“I just have never interviewed a 7-year-old before,” he told Justin Bieber when the young star appeared on the show), but that dynamic was mostly flipped with Obama. Yes, Galifianakis did stumble over Obama’s name in the way he does for most guests (‘Bieber’ became ‘Beevers’), but almost immediately Obama was the one making Galifianakis feel awkward. “If I ran a third time, it’d be sort of like doing a third hangover movie,” Obama dug. “It didn’t really work out very well, did it?”
Obama took a risk going on a show as weird as Between Two Ferns; it could have made him look weird and awkward and bumbling. But he hacked it, flipping that dynamic back around on his host. This also made it easy for Obama, who is clearly trying to enroll the youth stoner demographic though his signature health care law, to make his plug for Healthcare.gov. Obama’s presidency has overlapped with the rise of the meme, and both he and Michelle have taken advantage of this. They have both made frequent appearances on late night shows (Obama is one of the politicians who’s slow jammed the news), and his administration is responsible for the pajama boy meme and the McKayla Maroney ‘not impressed’ face picture. Obama even embraced the existing meme of his ‘Not Bad’ faceduring a Reddit “ask me anything.”
Katie Valentine: Neil DeGrasse Tyson To Science Deniers: ‘Science Is Not There For You To Cherry Pick
Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and host of National Geographic and Fox’s new show Cosmos, said Sunday that he thinks the media needs to stop providing false balance in stories on scientific subjects like climate change. Host of CNN’s Reliable Sources Brian Stelter asked Tyson whether he thought the media had a responsibility portray science correctly, particularly when discussing climate change. “The media has to sort of come out of this ethos that I think was in principle a good one, but it doesn’t really apply in science,” Tyson said. “The ethos was, whatever story you give, you have to give the opposing view. And then you can be viewed as balanced.”
Stelter showed a clip of President Obama’s climate speech last year, in which he decried climate deniers by saying the country didn’t have time for a “meeting of the flat Earth society.” Tyson said the president’s reference was a good example of how the idea of “balance” in scientific stories doesn’t make sense. “In the clip you showed of the president — you don’t talk about the spherical Earth with NASA, and then say ‘now let’s give equal time to the flat Earthers,” he said. “Plus, science is not there for you to cherry pick…You can decide whether or not to believe in it but that doesn’t change the reality of an emergent scientific truth.”
The New York Times reports this morning that Chris Christie’s administration used wreckage from 9/11 as “politically motivated gifts,” part of a politicization of the Port Authority that is coming under increasing scrutiny from federal prosecutors in the wake of the Bridgegate scandal. For a state that lost hundreds of lives on Sept. 11, the gifts were emotionally resonant: pieces of steel from the ruins of the World Trade Center. They were presented by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to 20 carefully chosen New Jersey mayors who sat atop a list of 100 whose endorsements Gov. Chris Christie hoped to win. At photo opportunities around the mangled pieces of steel, Bill Baroni, Mr. Christie’s top staff appointee at the Port Authority, told audiences how many people wanted a similar remnant of the destroyed buildings, and how special these mayors were.
Mayors lower on the list of 100 — such as Mark Sokolich, of Fort Lee, at No. 45 — received other Port Authority perquisites: an intimate tour of the National September 11 Memorial, or the new World Trade Center construction site, or Port Authority money for jobs programs or new firefighting equipment, even in towns far from the port. Turning wreckage of the twin towers into politically motivated gifts before Mr. Christie’s 2013 re-election was only one example. The authority became a means to reward friends (or hire them) and punish adversaries, and a bank to be used when Mr. Christie sought to avoid raising taxes. Major policy initiatives, such as instituting a large toll and fare increase in 2011, were treated like political campaigns to burnish the governor’s image.
Zach Johnson: Aretha Franklin On President Obama’s “Respect” Flub: “Spelling And Giving It Is A Huge Difference”
Aretha Franklin realizes everyone make mistakes—even the President of the United States. After Barack Obama botched the spelling of “Respect” during the White House’sWomen of Soul Event last week, the Queen of Soul herself released a statement regarding the politician’s flub. “I’m sure the President had much on his agenda and was just a little tired,” Franklin told E! News. “However, spelling and giving it, is a huge difference. The President and I are mutual when it comes to R-E-S-P-E-C-T.”
President Barack Obama greets members of the U.S. Senate youth program at the South Portico of the White House, March 11, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama meets with the Congressional Black Caucus to discuss health care reform in the State Dining Room of the White House, March 11, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama delivers remarks before a screening of the HBO ten-part World War II miniseries “The Pacific” in the Family Theater of the White House, March 11, 2010. Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, the two executive producers of “The Pacific”, sit in the front row (Photo by Pete Souza)
First Lady Michelle Obama participates in a “Let’s Move!” and NHL partnership event with Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Capitals players on the South Lawn of the White House, March 11, 2011 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)
President Obama talks with members of the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks following a ceremony to honor the team’s 2009-10 championship season on the South Lawn of the White House, March 11, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama talks on the phone with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai from his vehicle outside the Jane E. Lawton Community Center in Chevy Chase, Maryland, Sunday, March 11, 2012. The President called to express his shock and sadness over the reported killing of Afghan civilians. (Photo by Pete Souza)
First Lady Michelle Obama participates in a “Let’s Move!” Twitter Office Hour in the First Lady’s East Wing Office of the White House, March 11, 2013 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
President Obama speaks while standing in front of a printed version of a stained glass window known as the Sun Man, from the Cosmovitral Botanical Garden, at a news conference at the state government palace in Toluca, Mexico
Presidential Schedule (All Times Eastern):
5:35PM EST: President Obama delivers remarks and answers questions at the Democratic Governors Association dinner, Washington
12AM EST: First Lady Michelle Obama will be a guest on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon
USA Today: California Exceeds 2014 Exchange Enrollment Goals
Well before the March 31 deadline to buy insurance, California announced Tuesday it has already exceeded its 2014 enrollment goals for its health care exchange.
By the end of January, 728,410 people had enrolled in private health plans through Covered California, and 100,000 more signed up in the first two weeks of February. About 26% are 34 and younger.
“These enrollment numbers mean that with six weeks to go, California has already exceeded its projected base enrollment for the 2014 open-enrollment period,” said Covered California executive director Peter Lee. “While this is a strong showing, our goal is not pinned to meeting projections, but to making sure every Californian gets covered.”
In a surprising move, Gap Inc. informed its employees on Wednesday that it would set $9 as the minimum hourly rate for its United States work force this year and then establish a minimum of $10 next year. Gap said this move would ultimately raise pay for 65,000 of its 90,000 American employees, including those at Banana Republic, Old Navy and other stores.
Gap is making this move as many states consider raising their minimum wage, and as Republicans and Democrats debate a bill that includes a proposed increase in the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2016. President Obama has endorsed the increase, and has campaigned for it at stops around the country.
In explaining the wage increases, Mr. Murphy told employees: “We work for a company with a strong set of values, which can be directly linked to our founders, Doris and Don Fisher. They invented specialty apparel retail, but Don also challenged us to live up to our promise to ‘do more than sell clothes.’ ”
Sun Times: Michelle Obama on “Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon” Thursday
A year ago, First Lady Michelle Obama and Jimmy Fallon created a YouTube hit with their dance skit, “Evolution of Mom Dancing.” On Thursday, Mrs. Obama teams up again with Fallon, guesting during his inaugural week of hosting the “Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.”
Mrs. Obama marks this month the fourth anniversary of her signature “Let’s Move” anti-obesity, healthy eating drive and it would not be a surprise to see another high-energy sketch with Fallon.
Mrs. Obama hits New York for Fallon and a high-dollar Democratic National Committee fundraiser at the home of Obama “bundler” Maneesh Goyal. The funder is billed as a roundtable with the tab ranging from $10,000 to $15,000 per person. Mrs. Obama did a California swing for the DNC last month and more DNC events are in her pipeline.
I think of dying at 17, in my loudness, in my vanity, which is to say in my human youth, and I tremble. I was barely anything. I understood barely anything. When Michael Dunn killed Jordan Davis, he obliterated a time-stream, devastated an open range of changes. And somewhere on that American jury, someone thought this was justice, someone believed in the voodoo of shotguns and teleportation. Michael Dunn killed a boy, and too robbed a man of his chance to be.
And this will happen again, must happen again, because our policy is color-blind, but our heritage isn’t. An American courtroom claiming it can be colorblind denies its rightful inheritance. An American courtroom claiming it can be colorblind is a drug addict claiming he can walk away after just one more hit. Law and legacy are at war. Legacy is winning. Legacy will always win. And our legacy is to die in this land where time is unequal, and deeded days are unequal, and blessed is the black man who lives to learn other ways, who lives to see other worlds, who lives to bear witness before the changes.
Jenna Portnoy: Former Christie Staffer Under Subpoena Takes Job With Port Authority
A former aide to Gov. Chris Christie who has been subpoenaed in the George Washington Bridge scandal, recently took a high-level job at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, The Star-Ledger learned today.
Nicole Crifo, who served as the liaison from the governor’s office to the Port Authority for three years, was named chief of staff to Deb Gramiccioni, the deputy director of the bi-state agency, last month. Christie selected Gramiccioni to replace Bill Baroni, who has been implicated in the scandal over the closing of access lanes to the bridge in September.
In my State of the Union Address, I asked more businesses to do what they can to raise their employees’ wages. Today, I applaud Gap, Inc. for announcing that they intend to raise wages for their employees beginning this year – a decision that will benefit about 65,000 workers in the U.S. As a chief executive, I’ve required federal contractors to pay their employees a wage of at least $10.10 an hour, and more states are taking steps to raise their minimum wage as well. But only action from Congress can make a difference nationwide. Right now, there is a bill in front of both the House and the Senate that would boost America’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, and lift wages for more than 16 million workers – all without requiring a single dollar in new taxes or spending. It’s time to pass that bill and give America a raise.
Garin lays out right strategy for Ds. Take ACA foes on! Let them defend "good old days" of insurance abuses.
The Atlantic: A Question For Obama’s Syria Critics: What Are The Alternatives?
McCain and others like Anne-Marie Slaughter, formerly of Hillary Clinton’s State Department policy planning staff, have called for more boldness in America’s Syria policy. Slaughter has advocated establishing humanitarian zones, or corridors, inside Syria—but these zones could require U.S. or international forces to establish no-fly zones and use force to halt Syrian military incursions against those seeking refuge in such zones.
But most of those urging the U.S. to intervene more aggressively in Syria are woefully short on details and shrug off the risks of blowback and escalation. If a strategy existed that would tip the scales toward the rebels with little likelihood of blowback, then skeptics like me might be turned into supporters.
It’s emotionally wrenching to watch killing on the scale that the world is witnessing now in Syria. But the depressing likelihood is that the country will be convulsed with conflict for years to come. Obama is not to blame for that. In fact, he should be commended for the abundant caution he has shown during this tragedy.
Frida Ghitis: Venezeulan Opposition Tries New Strategy Of Confrontation
The Venezuelan opposition has shifted gears and is steering down a new path, carrying a message that the country is crumbling and there is no time to wait for change. The decision to take a much more confrontational approach comes in an environment of growing popular discontent, with an accelerating downward economic spiral and increasingly harsh living conditions under the rule of the late Hugo Chavez’s hand-picked successor, President Nicolas Maduro. The move by the opposition is a calculated gamble. It could provoke a much harsher crackdown from the regime, creating an even deeper chasm between the two sides of Venezuela’s already profound political divide. It could trigger a wave of violence that would be difficult to control. And it could also lead to a splintering of the opposition. But it might just have a chance of bringing an end to Maduro’s presidency. The call to take the fight to the streets came from the charismatic and photogenic hard-liner Leopoldo Lopez, a Harvard-educated local mayor who is now under arrest after leading massive anti-government protests.
Economic mismanagement and ad hoc socialist policies are unraveling the economy of oil-rich Venezuela. Yearly inflation is approaching 60 percent. Foreign investment has dried up in the face of the government’s capricious confiscation of private businesses. Currency controls have stoked a red-hot black market for hard currency, with the illegal dollar rate now at 13 times the official exchange rate. Venezuelans who can afford it are buying dollars and taking them out of the country to preserve what they can of their assets. Hard currency shortages are destroying manufacturing by making it virtually impossible for businesses to buy raw materials. Newspapers are shutting down because they cannot find enough foreign exchange to buy newsprint. Car manufacturers are stopping assembly lines, and staples of daily life are disappearing from the shelves amid chronic shortages of basic consumer goods. The government’s response has been to blame the shortages on speculators and saboteurs.
Fearing that a call for a truce was a ruse, protesters tossed firebombs and advanced upon police lines Thursday in Ukraine’s embattled capital. Government snipers shot back and the almost-medieval melee left at least 22 people dead. Video footage on Ukrainian television showed shocking scenes Thursday of protesters being cut down by gunfire, lying on the pavement as comrades rushed to their aid, trying to protest themselves with shields. Protesters were seen leading apparently captured policemen around the sprawling protest camp in central Kiev, or carrying bodies away on sheets of plastic or planks of wood.
An AP cameraman saw snipers shooting at protesters in Kiev. Video footage showed that at least one sniper wearing the uniform of Ukraine’s riot police. President Viktor Yanukovych and the opposition protesters who demand his resignation are locked in an epic battle over the identity of Ukraine, a nation of 46 million that has divided loyalties between Russia and the West. Parts of the country— mostly in its western cities — are in open revolt against Yanukovych’s central government, while many in eastern Ukraine favor strong ties with Russia, their former Soviet ruler. At least 50 people have died this week in the clashes in Kiev, a sharp reversal in the three-month, mostly peaceful political crisis.
Russian officials denouncing what they called a coup by right-wing extremists, even as the United States and Europe threatened to impose sanctions on those responsible for the violence that has erupted in the capital, Kiev, and spread to other cities. The starkly divergent reactions underscored the deepening confrontation between Russia and the West over Ukraine’s fate, with each side accusing the other of interference and disputing even the facts of what was happening. Expressing alarm at the escalating death toll, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President François Hollande of France blamed the security forces of President Viktor F. Yanukovych and made it clear that they supported a political transition that would allow Ukrainians to elect a new government. Russia, by contrast, vowed to use all its influence to support Ukraine’s government and joined Mr. Yanukovych in accusing his opponents of trying to seize power in what amounted to a coup.
President Obama, on a visit to Mexico, interrupted his opening meeting with President Enrique Peña Nieto to tell reporters that “the United States condemns in the strongest terms” the violence that has claimed lives in the last two days. He pointedly warned the Ukrainian military on Wednesday to stay out of the political crisis that has already ravaged the streets of Kiev and said the United States would hold the government responsible for further violence. The substance of that threat became clear on Wednesday evening, when the Obama administration said it had imposed a visa ban on 20 senior Ukrainian officials whom it accused of playing a role in the government’s crackdown on Tuesday. The State Department declined to say which officials were on the list, but a senior State Department official said it included “the full chain of command responsible for ordering the violence last night.”
What Republicans fail to mention is that Tuesday’s report from the budget office, a federal nonpartisan agency, was almost entirely positive about the benefits of raising the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2016, as President Obama and Congressional Democrats have proposed. More than 16 million low-wage workers, now making as little as $7.25 an hour, would directly benefit from the increase, the report said. Another eight million workers making slightly more than the minimum would probably also get raises, because of the upward “ripple effect” of an increase.
That would add $31 billion to the paychecks of families ranging from poverty level to the middle class, significantly increasing their spending power and raising the nation’s economic output and overall income. In fact, the report said, 900,000 people would be lifted from poverty with a wage increase. The income of those below the poverty line would increase by a total of $5 billion, or 3 percent, at no cost to the federal budget. The vast majority of those getting raises would not be teenagers with part-time jobs. Nearly 90 percent of them are adults 20 and older, and 53 percent of them work full time. Women represent 56 percent of them.
NYT: In Signing Farm Bill, Obama Extols Rural Growth
President Obama signed the $956-billion farm bill on Friday at Michigan State University, where he extolled the benefits of a thriving agricultural sector for the nation’s overall economy. In his remarks, Mr. Obama announced a new “Made in Rural America” initiative that he said would help rural businesses market their goods abroad. White House officials also announced five regional forums on rural exports and an “investing in rural America” conference. Mr. Obama directed the White House Rural Council to host sessions in all 50 states to train Department of Agriculture staff members on how to promote rural exports.
The White House released a report Friday from Mr. Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers that said farm income had risen significantly since the president took office in the depths of the recession. The report says that farm income is expected to total $131 billion in 2013, a 46 percent increase since 2008. Most of the increase is attributed to improved productivity, and the report notes that the values of livestock and crops are rising. One of the most contentious elements of the farm bill was the elimination of $5 billion in direct subsidies to farmers for their crops, whether they grew them or not. The subsidies were replaced by an insurance program that will help farmers only when they need it.
“I haven’t had insurance in years and my husband had a shared insurance junk-type policy. The day I signed up on Dec 10, I actually cried when the application went through. I got my first premium notice in the mail yesterday and was never so happy to see a bill before.”
Gayla W., New Hampshire
“I lost my job last April. My partner and I both have pre-existing conditions so our only option was to COBRA my employer-provided plan — at a cost of $1,676 a month. It was a good plan, but now we have a comparable plan through the ACA for $87 a month. I can’t describe just how life changing this is for us. We can afford to live again.”
Fred Kaplan: Barack Obama Isn’t Disengaged: The President’s Foreign Policy Is Just Smarter
There’s a strange notion out there that the dreary outcomes of the two wars this country fought all through the past decade—and the savage sectarian violence erupting across much of the Middle East and surrounding regions today—are due to President Obama’s “disengagement” from the world. It’s a strange notion because the United States is more engaged with the world than at any time in recent memory. There are nuclear talks in Iran (after 34 years of no talking whatsoever), an internationally supervised dismantling of chemical weapons in Syria What many of these critics don’t like about Obama—what they mistakenly, or misleadingly, call “disinterest”—is his disinclination to go to war.
And who can blame him? Obama seems to realize this. He too has an unsentimental outlook on the world. His views have been tempered by Iraq and scorched by Afghanistan. He’s not shy about using military force, but insists, when possible, to grip it tightly. “Escalation” is a suspect term; “uncontrolled escalation,” is an unacceptable one. As evidence, see Libya, Syria, drone strikes, and Stuxnet. One can admire or criticize the actions he’s taken, or not taken, in those crises or with those precision instruments. But they’re all preferable to sending in 100,000 troops in pursuit of a mission that we have no power to accomplish, even with all those men and women in arms. And if going into such conflicts lightly, or not at all, is the emblem of disengagement, let him wear it proudly.
Tom Joyner: Michelle Obama Discusses Health Care And Black History Month
Michelle Obama just turned 50 and she’s looking great. The First Lady is a prime example of how health can help keep you looking and feeling great. With her Let’s Move campaign, Mrs. Obama wants to help all Americans become more aware of the importance of eating healthy and staying fit. This morning she joined the Tom Joyner Morning Show to talk about the Affordable Care Act, one of the most important pieces of legislation in her husband’s time in the White House. The Affordable Care Act makes it possible for millions of uninsured Americans to have affordable health insurance, but there are still some misconceptions about it. The best way for you to start to get more information about how the ACA can work for you is to head to the website, www.healthcare.gov and check out the options for yourself. Here’s why Mrs. Obama thinks it will be the best move you and your family can make this year.
Michelle Obama: We’re talking about education, because as Barack said in his State of the Union address, you know, what we have to focus on, particularly as we celebrate Black History Month, is not just the progress we’ve made but remember how much more work we have left to do. And we need to focus on increasing opportunity for everybody. And for this administration, it means healthcare through the Affordable Care Act. It means economic mobility. It means helping our young men of color. It means making sure more kids have access to college and it’s affordable. So that’s what we’re going to be focusing on, not just this month, but for the rest of this administration, and making sure that people are signing up for healthcare is critical.
Derek Thompson: The Spectacular Myth Of Obama’s Part-Time America – In 5 Graphs
If you’ve been paying attention to a certain slice of the financial media—see:Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, and Fox News—you know for a fact that Obama and his health care law have tag-teamed with global economic trends to drive America inexorably toward a part-time economy. This is a testable claim. So let’s test it.
The first thing you would expect to see from a Part-Time America is that the number of part-time jobs added would rival the number of full-time jobs added. But in the last year, new full-time jobs outnumbered part-time jobs by 1.8 million to 8,000. For every new part-time job, we’re creating 225 full-time positions.
Washington Post: Democratic Mayors Who Backed Christie Struggled To Weigh Politics Vs. Local Needs
In September, Adam Schneider, the liberal mayor of the New Jersey shore town of Long Branch, was having trouble with the state utility board. After repeatedly getting the run-around, Schneider decided to instead try his luck with the office of Gov. Chris Christie. “I’m not talking to any more underlings, and I’m not being delegated to,” Schneider said he told Christie’s aides. In the end, he said, it worked. “I got what I needed.”
Schneider’s call came four months after he crossed party lines to endorse the 2013 reelection of Christie (R), whose performance he admired after Hurricane Sandy. Schneider said that the governor never promised him anything but that he believes he has received “enhanced” access to state officials since the endorsement. Schneider’s experience is typical of many Democratic mayors, who made clear that they thought endorsing Christie’s reelection bid likely directly benefited their towns in the pursuit of Sandy recovery aid and other state support.
Since early 2011, President Obama hasn’t been able to host many bill-signing ceremonies. After two years in which the White House made arguably historic progress on its agenda in 2009, Congress hasn’t achieved any major legislative accomplishments since Republicans claimed the House majority. But some bills still manage to get through both chambers, and though the farm bill hasn’t always risen to the level of major legislative breakthroughs, Obama and his team nevertheless decided to host a big event in East Lansing, Michigan, today to sign the new $956 billion farm bill into law.
The president won’t be joined today by any Republicans, though it’s not for lack of effort. The White House press secretary, Jay Carney, said that about 50 lawmakers — including many Republicans — had been invited to the bill signing, but that no Republicans had accepted the invitation. […] the fact that every Republican invitee declined the White House’s offer should send a pretty loud signal to those Beltway pundits who still believe Obama would thrive in Washington if only he schmoozed more.
Dylan Scott: Cruz, Rubio, Other GOPers Urge Court To Stop Obamacare Subsidies
Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, along with other top congressional GOPers, have urged a federal court to block Obamacare subsidies for people who signed up for coverage through HealthCare.gov. The group of eight — which includes Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn, Sens. Orrin Hatch (UT), Mike Lee (UT) and Rob Portman (OH) along with Reps. Dave Camp (MI) and Darrell Issa (CA) —
filed an amicus brief Thursday on behalf of businesses and individuals who sued to stop the subsidies from flowing through the federal website, the Washington Times reported. The case, being heard in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit next month, centers on whether people can receive tax subsidies through the federal website, HealthCare.gov. A federal district judge rejected that argument in January, ruling that subsidies should continue to be delivered through HealthCare.gov, which sent the case to the appeals court.
Think Progress: Texas Man Pays Off Students’ School Lunch Debts So They Can Keep Eating
After he heard about the children in Utah whose school lunches were thrown out because their parents were behind on payments, Kenny Thompson was worried about the elementary school kids he tutored and mentored in Houston, Texas. So he went in to check whether they were getting the proper nutrition. “I’m like, ‘Wow. I know that’s probably a situation at my school, and the school my son goes to, and the other schools I mentor at.’ So I came in and inquired about it,” Thompson told local station KSDK.
What he found disappointed him: Dozens of students were on “reduced” lunches, receiving cold peanut butter and jelly or cheese sandwiches instead of the full hot meals they used to receive, all because their parents had fallen behind on lunch payments that amounted to mere 40 cents a day. So Thompson took action. He forked over $465 of his own money and zeroed out the balances on over 60 students’ accounts. “These are elementary school kids. They don’t need to be worried about finances. They need to be worried about what grade they got in spelling,” Thompson told station KPRC.
President Barack Obama signs the farm bill at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich. Watching, from left are, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., Senate Agriculture Committee member Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Senate Agriculture Committee member Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio Rep. Gary Peters, D-Mich. and Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich.
Washington Post: Life After Jan. 1: Kentucky Clinic Offers Early Glimpse At Realities Of Health-Care Law
The envelopes began arriving in December across eastern Kentucky, one of the sickest and poorest corners of the country. “Dear member . . . We want you to be healthy . . .” read the letter to Mary Combs, and with it came a plastic card representing the first insurance she ever had: a Medicaid plan made possible by the nation’s new health-care law, effective Jan. 1. Nine days into the new year, the 41-year-old call-center worker headed to the health clinic on Highway 15. She saw a doctor about her chronic stomach ulcers, had her blood drawn for tests and collected referrals for all the specialists she had been told she needed but could never afford. The next week, she saw a neurologist, who found lesions on her brain and prescribed medicine for the cluster headaches, which are also called “suicide headaches” for pain that is far more intense than a migraine and which Combs had been treating with an alcohol-soaked cloth wrapped around her head.
“That’s the big question — does getting insurance bend the cost curve or the health outcomes curve?” said Karen Ditsch, the executive director of Juniper Health, which runs the nonprofit Breathitt clinic. Life since Jan. 1: The number of uninsured has dropped by 520 people, which represents about 21 percent of the those without coverage. Of that 520, 472 qualified under the health-care law’s expanded income parameters for Medicaid, which is aimed at the working poor. Here and there, for-profit clinics that never accepted the uninsured have hung “Welcome new patients!” signs on doors. A new blue billboard hovering above the Hardee’s advertises surgery to treat acid reflux.
Insurance companies, bless their hearts, seem determined to remind us why we need the Affordable Care Act. The latest example comes from Anthem Blue Cross, which has just hit 306,000 customers in California with premium increases of up to 25%. As reported by my colleague Chad Terhune, the increases average 16% and are scheduled to kick in April 1, unless the state Department of Insurance jawbones Anthem into backing down.
Here’s the kicker: No one can blame these increases on the mandates of the Affordable Care Act, a popular argument among critics of the act. That’s because the increases are for grandfathered policies exempt from the act.
“It’s a rich irony,” says Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access, a leading California consumer advocacy group. “The insurers can’t have it both ways — they can’t blame the increases on the ACA while increasing rates on their non-ACA-compliant plans as well.” Luckily, Anthem customers have a choice this time around. They can check the state’s insurance exchange at coveredca.com to see if they can replace their old plan with a new one that might well be better, at lower cost.
Memo to former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and the bosses at for-profit corporations who think they belong in every doctor’s office and that they should be able to decide whether their employees have access to birth control: Women who use birth control do not have an “overactive libido.” We are not looking for a handout from “Uncle Sugar” to score a contraceptive fix. We are not sluts. This is not the reality for women — it never has been and never will be.
In fact, women who use birth control are your mother, partner, sister, and daughter. Ninety-nine percent of sexually active American women have used birth control at some point in their lives. We are just regular people trying to take care of ourselves medically and financially. That’s why seven in ten Americans believe that health insurance companies should be required to cover the full cost of birth control, just as they do for other preventive services.
One of America’s most accomplished lawmakers—a crusader responsible for cleaner air, safer food, and healthier kids—is calling it a career. On Thursday, Congressman Henry Waxman announced that he would retire at the end of this term, 40 years after he first came to Congress. The list of laws for which he deserves substantial credit is simply staggering—not only for its length, but also for its breadth. Waxman was behind the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, the Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments, plus laws regulating lead, greenhouse gas emissions, and formaldehyde. That arguably makes him his generation’s most influential lawmaker on environmental issues.
He was also behind a series of Medicaid expansions, the Ryan White Care Act, the Orphan Drug Act, the Waxman-Hatch Generic Drug Act, and, of course, the Affordable Care Act. That almost certainly makes him the most influential living lawmaker on health care issues. Other major accomplishments include the Food Quality Protection Act and the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act—and, somewhere along the way, he found time to modernize the postal service. How has Waxman done it? For one thing, Waxman recognizes that lawmaking requires patience and persistence—that you have to build the case for legislation, through investigations and stagecraft, even if that takes years or even decades.
Hannah Allam: Kerry’s First Year As Top U.S. Diplomat Yields Breakthroughs On Thorny Issues
A year ago, John Kerry succeeded Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, joking on one of his first days at work that he had “big heels to fill.” Now a year into his role as America’s top diplomat, Kerry has proven that any trepidation about following such a high-profile figure was misplaced. Kerry’s anniversary this week – he assumed office on Feb. 1, 2013 – finds him, in the opinion of foreign policy analysts, with more significant, concrete breakthroughs than Clinton had in her entire four-year term. As showpieces they hold up the nuclear deal with Iran and the chemical weapons pact with Syria.
A year into Kerry’s tenure, Ross said, the picture from Asia is brighter. Ross, who’s in Beijing for six months, said U.S. diplomacy has brought about improved cooperation with China on North Korea, including landmark banking and other sanctions. And while there are still no U.S.-Chinese military agreements, he said, there are deeper military contacts so that American officials can “pick up the phone and call them if there’s an escalation.” “Secretary Kerry speaks with a quieter voice and made real policy adjustments,” Ross said. “The quiet approach has been more useful than his predecessor’s.”
In the bitter cold, dark hours of the night, as many others are sleeping, Rocio Caravantes begins her hourlong journey on public transportation from her home in Logan Square to one of her two jobs downtown. Once she arrives at work, Caravantes spends hours vacuuming and scrubbing floors, polishing sinks and toilets, cleaning the bar areas and event spaces and tidying up the rugs in an upscale luxury hotel where she can’t afford to spend a night. Panic at times grips her as she thinks about how she will pay all her bills, she said.
“It is impossible to live on $8.25 an hour,” Caravantes said in Spanish, through an interpreter. “Not even three jobs are enough. I earn $495 biweekly. The first check goes to rent — it’s $500 a month. The second is for transportation, food, (phone) and education.” Caravantes, 40, is one example of the minimum wage workers who have become the focus of a national conversation about salaries for the working poor. It’s a political debate in the Illinois governor’s race, and Gov. Pat Quinn used his State of the State address last week to renew his push for an increase in the state minimum wage. President Barack Obama weighed in on the issue too when he asked Congress to increase the federal wage to $10.10.
But the Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research organization in Washington, D.C., paints a broader portrait of low-wage workers. “People tend to think of low-wage workers as teenagers who are working on the weekends for extra spending money,” said David Cooper, an analyst with the institute. “While that is a portion of these workers, the vast majority don’t fit that stereotype.” According to the institute’s research, more than half of low-wage workers are older than 30.
As President Barack Obama made clear in his State of the Union address, it is time to focus on restoring opportunity for all. That means helping to make sure more Americans can take part in our growing economy and build some economic security for the long term. To get that done, we are putting forward real, concrete solutions to our most pressing problems – from college affordability and job training to fair wages and a stable retirement. This program, which will begin later this year, is called myRA or My Retirement Account. This account is designed to help low- and middle-income workers, who are too often overlooked or ignored, begin saving for retirement. We are talking about the waitress who is holding down two part-time jobs to support her kids; the recent graduate who landed a job but is grappling with student loans; the janitor who has never been given the chance to invest in a retirement account.
Here is how myRA, which is simple, safe and affordable, will work. You will be able to start saving with an initial deposit of as little as $25 and contribute as little as $5 each payday. If an employer chooses to participate, contributions are made through automatic payroll deductions, making them hassle-free. There are no fees – 100 percent of any contribution goes into the account and is invested in a Treasury security. That means it will be backed by the full faith and credit of the United States, will earn the same interest rate that is available to federal employees for their retirement savings, and the balance will never go down. Finally, myRA is not tied to any one employer – it belongs to the worker, not the workplace. In other words, the account is portable and can be easily rolled into a Roth IRA. And if myRA savers ever need to, they can withdraw their contributions tax-free, at any time.
It is utterly irrelevant if Chris Christie ‘wins the day’ or the weekend or the next 5 minutes or the next week. Irrelevant. The bottom line is that he is in serious trouble, politically and legally. On the legal front, the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey is probing allegations by the mayor of Hoboken that a member of Christie’s cabinet and the lieutenant governor linked federal Hurricane Sandy relief funds to the the mayor’s support for a redevelopment project in Hoboken that would exclusively benefit one of Christie’s closest allies – whom he appointed to chair the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
This morning on his MSNBC show Steve Kornacki discussed reporting he and I (and producer Jack Bohrer) did showing that those federal Hurricane Sandy funds have not been monitored by the Christie Administration as required by a law that Christie himself signed last March. Furthermore, relief funds have been extremely hard to account for because Christie vetoed a bill that would have created a single website to track Sandy funding and contract information. Based on the reactions of two congressmen who watched the report with me, officials in Washington will be loath to trust Christie with the next round of federal funds and we should not be surprised if an investigation is on the horizon.
The push to build Barack Obama’s presidential library officially got underway Friday with the establishment of a foundation managed by three of his longtime supporters. “The president’s future library will one day serve as an important part of our nation’s historical record, and our mission is to build a library that tells President Obama’s remarkable story in an interactive way that will inspire future generations to become involved in public service,” Nesbitt said.
The foundation is responsible for developing a library that reflects Obama’s values and priorities, according to Nesbitt. He said it will focus on economic opportunity, inspiring an ethic of American citizenship and promoting peace, justice and dignity around the world, among other things.
Pete Souza: “White House valets had moved the sofas in the Oval Office to accommodate the large number of press photographers that were covering the President’s meeting with Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas. When the photo-op ended, the President said to Gov. Douglas, ‘let’s move the sofas back in place.’ Gov. Douglas didn’t quite know what to do as the President did the heavy lifting. The valets now good-naturedly cringe when they look at this picture because it was their responsibility to move the sofas back in place.” Feb. 2, 2009
President Obama walks to the Oval Office after returning to the White House following a trip to Nashua, N.H., Feb. 2, 2010 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
First Lady Michelle Obama speaking alongside Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Democratic Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, on childhood obesity during a meeting with Cabinet and Congressional members in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House, February 2, 2010
Vice President Joe Biden talks with Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., after President Barack Obama signed the New START Treaty in the Oval Office, Feb. 2, 2011. Behind them, the President talks with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama is updated on the severe winter storm currently moving across the country during a phone call with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate in the Oval Office, Feb. 2, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Vice President Joe Biden snaps a photo of President Barack Obama and keynote speaker Eric Metaxas during the National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C., Feb. 2, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)