As the Affordable Care Act continues to find its footing and the system grows stronger, its detractors are finding that their arguments are running into each other in unhelpful ways.
For example, for years, Republicans have argued that “Obamacare” redistributes wealth in such a way as to punish the wealthy. The party stuck to that line, right up until Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) argued the exact opposite: ”[Obamacare] exacerbates income inequality. This is why the rich have gotten richer under President Obama.”
You can say the ACA goes too far to help the poor, or the ACA goes too far to help the rich, but you shouldn’t say both at the same time. The same is true of enrollment numbers – critics of the law tend to complain that enrollment totals to date are both too high and too low.
Likewise, the right has long believed the health care law goes too far to help bring coverage to the uninsured. Now, however, some conservatives are arguing it doesn’t go far enough.
The last hurdle to a clean debt ceiling increase, Ted Cruz’s proposed second rendering of “Green Eggs and Hams”, was soundly defeated in the Senate today, though all the Republicans who voted to rob Cruz of the opportunity to filibuster then turned around and voted to default the United States. That latter vote was inconsequential, of course, as 55 Democrats voted to do the responsible thing and pay America’s bills.
The bill was already passed by the House with a smattering of Republicans joining the Democratic minority, as LL reported here earlier in the week, and the president will sign it. But this debt ceiling skirmish smelled and looked different from the ones Republicans have put up in the past two and a half years that they have been in charge of the US House. This one not only has a taste of bitter defeat for the Republicans, it has the hint of resignation. I can’t call it a fight, because they didn’t even put up a fight.
Paul Waldman: Racial Fears, Gun Fantasies, And Another Dead Teenager
The basic facts are that Dunn and his fiancée pulled into a convenience store, where she went inside and he stayed outside. Dunn then got into an argument with four teenagers in another car over the volume of the music they were playing; the argument escalated, and eventually Dunn took out his gun and fired ten shots, killing Jordan Davis, one of the teens. Dunn claims that he saw a shotgun, or maybe a pipe, emerge from the teens’ car, so he had no choice but to defend himself. No such gun or pipe was ever found. That part of his story was also contradicted by his fiancée, who testified that afterward he said nothing to her about them having a gun.
While in jail awaiting trial, Dunn wrote letters to his family that said, among other things, “It’s spooky how racist everyone is up here and how biased toward blacks the courts are. This jail is full of blacks and they all act like thugs.” When he says “racist” in that letter, I’m pretty sure he wasn’t talking about bias against black people. He also wrote, “This may sound a bit radical but if more people would arm themselves and kill these **** idiots when they’re threatening you, eventually they may take the hint and change their behavior.” That doesn’t sound like a man who’s “crazy with grief,” as he testified he was over the shooting.
NYT: Over 1.1 Million Added To Rolls Of Health Plan
More than 1.1 million people signed up for health insurance through federal and state marketplaces in January, according to the government, and the number of young people enrolling increased faster than that of any other group. Most promising, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, is that 25 percent of those signing up for insurance from October through January were ages 18 to 34 — the young and presumably healthy people whom insurance companies need as customers in order to keep premiums reasonable for everyone.
“These encouraging trends show that more Americans are enrolling every day, and finding quality, affordable coverage in the marketplace,” said Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services. “The case for repeal is infinitely harder now that people actually have coverage,” said Dan Pfeiffer, a senior adviser to the president, who added that the increased momentum of enrollment documented in Wednesday’s report gives the advantage to Democrats. “A message of ‘elect me so I can take health care away from my soon-to-be constituents’ is a dead-bang loser.”
AP: NSA: Co-Worker Provided A Digital Key To Snowden
A National Security Agency employee resigned from the agency after admitting to federal investigators that he gave former NSA analyst Edward Snowden a digital key that allowed him to gain access to classified materials, the NSA has told Congress. Snowden has previously said he did not steal any passwords.
The unnamed civilian employee who worked with Snowden resigned last month after the government revoked his security clearance, according to a letter that NSA legislative director Ethan L. Bauman sent this week to the House Judiciary Committee. A military employee and a private contractor also lost their access to NSA data as part of the continuing investigation by the FBI, Bauman said.
SmartyPants: How Political Journalists Gave Up The Freakin’ Plot
As someone who loves looking at the big picture, I am particularly glad to see Jay Rosen write about this kind of thing. He zero’s in on that second article by Chris Cillizza in a piece aptly titled: Behold how badly our political journalists have lost the freakin’ plot. Nobody knows exactly when it happened. But at some point between Teddy White’s The Making of the President, 1960 and the Willie Horton ads in 1988, political journalism in this country lost the plot. When it got overly interested in the inside game, it turned you and me and everyone who has to go into the voting booth and make a decision into an object of technique, which it then tried to assess.
We became the people on whom the masters of politics practiced their craft. Then political journalism tried to recover an audience from the people it had turned into poll numbers and respondents to packaged stimuli. Tricky maneuver. In other words, political journalists turned their focus away from being the source of information to become analysts of the power game. Voters/citizens are objectified via the assumption that we are merely the field on which these games are played. This is why Chuck Todd can so blithely claim that its not his job to call out the lies being told about Obamacare. Its not because he is a tool of the GOP. Its because he literally doesn’t think its his job to provide the public with accurate information about policies. He thinks his job is to analyze what works/doesn’t work for the power players in politics.
A federal judge in Norfolk struck down as unconstitutional Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage Thursday night, saying the country has “arrived upon another moment in history when We the People becomes more inclusive, and our freedom more perfect.” U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen issued a sweeping 41-page opinion that mentioned at length Virginia’s past in denying interracial marriage and quoted Abraham Lincoln. She struck the constitutional amendment Virginia voters approved in 2006 that both bans same-sex marriage and forbids recognition of such unions performed elsewhere. She stayed her decision pending appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond, meaning same-sex marriages will be not be immediately available in the commonwealth.
Think Progress: Minnesota Bill Would Provide 61,000 Free Lunches To Low-Income Students
Thanks to two state Congressman, Senator Jeff Hayden (D) and Representative Yvonne Selcer (D), thousands of Minnesota students may receive free lunches in the near future. In a state with inconsistent meal policies, a bill entitled No Child Turned Away would remedy stringent and humiliating practices currently affecting students who cannot afford to purchase school food.
No Child Turned Away aims to provide free lunches to 61,000 students who qualify for reduced-lunch programs but not free ones. At present, 250,000 students are eligible for free lunches, and 62,000 participate in reduced-price lunch policies. Nevertheless, research shows that schools across Minnesota consistently fail students in need of food assistance.
Elissa Gomez: Report: 5.8 Million Lose Access To Medicaid Due To GOP Obstruction
According to an Urban Institute study, if all 50 states expanded Medicaid, “an estimated 10.3 million poor uninsured adults would have new options for insurance coverage.” In the 25 states that have decided against expanding Medicaid as of January, the study finds that an estimated 5.8 million Americans – accounting for 27.2 percent of all uninsured adults nationwide — will not be eligible for health coverage through the program.
The reasons have overwhelmingly been tied to ideology and party politics. GOP lawmakers have argued that Medicaid expansion is “big government” intrusion and detrimental to state economies. According to the report, in many of these states, uninsured residents with incomes between 100 and 138 percent of the federal poverty level may qualify for subsidies to purchase coverage through the federally run exchanges. Uninsured adults with incomes below the poverty level will not have access to any new coverage options.
Lynn Parramore: I’m Proud My Mother Was Arrested Fighting Extremism In North Carolina
It was a proud day for this Raleigh native. On Saturday, a crowd of riled-up citizens that the North Carolina NAACP estimated to number upwards of 80,000 — the largest such gathering in the South since the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march — headed to the state capitol to protest the extremist policies of North Carolina’s GOP-controlled legislature.
Black and white, young and old, gay and straight, the people gave voice to a full roster of outrages, from racist attacks on voting rights to the state government’s refusal to expand Medicaid to half a million vulnerable Tar Heels to limitations on women’s reproductive freedom. From a four-year-old girl carrying a sign that read “Nope to Pope!” (referring to Art Pope, the state’s multimillionaire budget director and Koch ally) to the indomitable Rosa Nell Eaton, a 92-year-old veteran of the Civil Rights movement, they were united with one message: “Forward together, not one step back.”
President Obama visits Parkville Middle School and Center of Technology in Parkville, Maryland February 14, 2011. At left is teacher Susan Yoder.
President Obama and Vice President Biden talk with Vice President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China and members of the Chinese delegation following their bilateral meeting in the Oval Office, Feb. 14, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Pete Souza: “The President genuinely enjoys being with kids. Here, he played a magnifying glass game with children during a visit to a pre-kindergarten classroom at the College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center in Decatur, Georgia.” Feb. 14, 2013
President Obama joins in a music program at the College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center in Decatur, Ga., Feb. 14, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Today, tomorrow and Monday: The President has no public events scheduled.
Tuesday: The President will attend meetings at the White House. In the evening, he will depart Washington, DC en route Stockholm, Sweden.
Wednesday: The President will arrive in Stockholm. While there, he will hold a bilateral meeting and joint press conference with Prime Minister Reinfeldt. He will then participate in an event honoring Raoul Wallenberg at the Great Synagogue in Stockholm and tour an expo featuring clean energy innovations at the Royal Institute of Technology. In the evening, he will take part in a dinner with Nordic Leaders.
Thursday: The President will hold a bilateral meeting with the King and Queen of Sweden. He will then depart Stockholm en route Saint Petersburg, Russia where he will attend the G-20 Summit.
Friday: Attends the G-20 Summit. Returns to Washington, DC on Friday evening.
Vice President Biden listens as President Obama speaks to members of the media about Syria during a meeting with Baltic leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Aug. 30
…. The map, from Columbia University’s really exceptional Gulf/2000 Project, shows the different ethnic and linguistic groups of the Levant, the part of the Middle East that’s dominated by Syria, Lebanon and Israel. Each color represents a different group. As you can see, there are a lot of groups swirled together. There are enclaves, and there is overlap.
Ethnic and linguistic breakdowns are just one part of Syria’s complexity, of course. But they are a really important part. The country’s largest group is shown in yellow, signifying ethnic Arabs who follow Sunni Islam, the largest sect of Islam. Shades of brown indicate ethnic Kurds, long oppressed in Syria, who have taken up arms against the regime. There are also Druze, a religious sect, Arab Christians, ethnic Armenians and others.
The United States and allies are preparing for a possibly imminent series of limited military strikes against Syria, the first direct U.S. intervention in the two-year civil war, in retaliation for President Bashar al-Assad’s suspected use of chemical weapons against civilians.
If you found the above sentence kind of confusing, or aren’t exactly sure why Syria is fighting a civil war, or even where Syria is located, then this is the article for you. What’s happening in Syria is really important, but it can also be confusing and difficult to follow even for those of us glued to it.
Here, then, are the most basic answers to your most basic questions.
This week more than ever has reminded me of how lucky and blessed we are to have chosen Obama. His deliberation in the face of a howling chorus is a far contrast to any other President in my lifetime. And in far contrast to the other alternatives. Those emoprogs and those having Iraq flashbacks and comparing him to Bush need to remember that unlike Bush, Obama makes his own decisions based on logic, truth, and in his own time. He doesn’t lie, he doesn’t chestbeat, he doesn’t rush in without planning. He doesn’t need to cement a place in history: just being the first African-American President has secured that. Obama is the man that Shrub could never be, the President he couldn’t even try to be. That very maturity drives both right and left crazy, for we haven’t had a President like him, really, ever. Think about it: a President who isn’t driven by his insecurities like Nixon or Carter, who doesn’t buy into ideological crap like Reagan or Daddy Bush, or sometimes the captive of his appetites like Clinton, or lazy like Bush. There are no hooks on him to make him do something he doesn’t want to do.
Sometimes I think many on the left have issues with power and the responsibility it brings. Having been the subjects of the abuse of power has allowed a certain “righteousness” without responsibility. It’s easy to think all uses of American military or financial power are corrupt without nuance. As long as daddy “conservatives” ran the place, there was no need to think about the deep decisions regarding America’s place in the world. Instead one could choose to “drop out” or talk “third party” or be haplessly pacifist in the face of an armed world. And one could have a progressive fiefdom of adoring followers without the need to reach out to others or be civilly engaged.
Syria is a tough cookie, no matter how you slice it. Assad is just like his father, a brutal bastard who has shown he would kill everyone he can to keep a power that was never granted to him either by election or a legitimate monarchy. And while many of the rebels just want Assad gone and a chance to take their lives in their own hands, some of the assistants just want another theocracy like Iran, which is simply tyranny by another name. But chemical weapons are the cruelest of all weapons. Even after the dead are buried, the soil is heavily contaminated, killing people long after the war is over. So Obama has a hard decision to make, but he’s up to the task and I trust him based on experience to make the right one or at least the best one he can make. If he goes for it, he has a plan to get things done. If he pulls away from the brink, he’ll have something to show for it.
Obama was right about Iraq, right about Afghanistan, right about Libya, right about Bin Laden. What was the media right about? Romney’s win?
Spandan C (The People’s View): The US Intelligence Assessment on Syria and the Next Steps in the National Debate
…. This president and his administration has done everything possible up to this point to avoid getting involved in Syria militarily, against the drum beats of the war mongers. Even now, he has shown considerable restraint. But it is important to remember that Barack Obama was not elected on the promise of complete and total pacifism; he was elected on the promise of careful consideration, judgment and letting the facts speak for themselves.
Whatever the president does, I am sure his critics will be many and the criticisms will be far and wide. As has been noted, he has no good options here. But as we debate this going forward, I want us to understand the complexity of the issue, drop the righteousness (either side – no one should take the idea of dropping bombs lightly just as no one should make light of the massacre from the chemical weapons), and do something the pundits won’t do – let’s keep it on the facts, not the conjectures and the rhetoric.
Washington Post: Ginsburg will be first justice to officiate at same-sex wedding
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will become the first Supreme Court member to conduct a same-sex marriage ceremony Saturday when she officiates at the Washington wedding of Kennedy Center President Michael M. Kaiser.
The gala wedding of Kaiser and economist John Roberts at the performing arts center brings together the nation’s highest court and the capital’s high society and will mark a new milepost in the recognition of same-sex unions.
…. During a recent interview, Ginsburg seemed excited about being the first member of the court to conduct such a ceremony and said it was only a logical next step.
“I think it will be one more statement that people who love each other and want to live together should be able to enjoy the blessings and the strife in the marriage relationship,” Ginsburg said.
Dallas News: Wendy Davis raises $470,000 from outside Texas following her nationally viewed filibuster
In the six weeks following her headline-grabbing filibuster, Wendy Davis raised $1.2 million — nearly 40 percent of it from outside Texas. Davis drew national attention following the filibuster against an abortion-restriction bill that helped shut down the Texas Senate and prompted Gov. Rick Perry to call lawmakers back into another special session. In the wake of Davis’ new-found fame, Davis has been urged by some Democrats to run for governor next year. She says she will announce her political plans — whether to run for reelection as a senator from Fort Worth or as a Democrat for governor — in a few weeks.
The White House began installing solar panels on the First Family’s residence this week, a White House official confirmed Thursday. The Obama administration has already undertaken a number of measures to increase the federal government’s energy efficiency and use of renewable energy while cutting greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change, a plan the president outlined in an executive order he signed in October 2009.
The administration has doubled the number of hybrid cars and truck in the federal fleet, increased the government’s use of renewable energy to 7 percent, cut the federal government’s greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent and committed $2 billion to upgrade federal buildings’ energy efficiency through contracting requirements at no up-front cost to taxpayers.
So far these measures have collectively saved 7 million gallons of gas and been equivalent to permanently removing 1.5 million cars from the road, according to the White House.
Heidi Mitchell: Stand And Deliver: After Her 12-Hour Filibuster, How Far Will Texas Senator Wendy Davis Run?
Just a week prior, the scene besieging the two-term senator was altogether less serene. On the final day of a special session of the Eighty-third Legislature, an omnibus antiabortion bill known as SB 5, which proposed new restrictions on family-planning clinics, was up for a vote in the Senate—and Davis arrived at the Capitol building in Austin prepared for a long fight.
Wearing pink Mizuno running shoes and a sky-blue Escada day coat concealing a back brace, the 50-year-old runner and cyclist held the floor for a twelve-hour filibuster that packed the rotunda with pro-choice defenders and had the nation biting its collective nails as coverage streamed online and the clock ticked down to midnight. In those hours, Davis’s Facebook likes spiked. The hashtag #StandWithWendy began trending as high as some 125,000 tweets per hour. Barack Obama used it. Lena Dunham tweeted her support. John Oliver made a joke about a new line of shoes, the Fila-busters, the next night on The Daily Show.
We’ve known for a few weeks now that conservative groups are attempting to sabotage Obamacare by planning and staging campaigns to dissuade young people and families from enrolling in state insurance exchanges. Via Greg Sargent, these efforts include a new radio spot from the conservative group Americans for Prosperity, and the good news is that in addition to being heartless and cruel, it’s also incredibly stupid. “Two years ago, my son Caleb began having seizures … if we can’t pick our own doctor, how do I know my family is going to get the care they need?”
Set aside for a moment that the one factual claim about the law in that quote — “we can’t pick our own doctor” — is false, and will be false until the president of Kaiser Permanente hypnotizes all of Washington and persuades Congress to ban PPOs. Set aside too that the single most well known and well liked provision of the Affordable Care Act is the one banning insurance companies from discriminating against people with preexisting conditions. That’s the reason Caleb will never have to worry about being locked out of coverage for the rest of his life.
A spirited debate has unfolded within the Republican Party over the last several weeks about what the party intends to do to sabotage the federal health care system. A significant contingent within the GOP has demanded a hostage strategy: Republicans should tell Democrats that they’ll shut down the government unless Dems agree to deny health care benefits to millions of Americans. The strategy is, of course, destined to fail. Democrats will never agree to pay such a ransom, and Republicans don’t want to be on the hook for a shutdown that puts their control of Congress in jeopardy.
It seems increasingly obvious that congressional Republicans are less a governing party and more a group of intemperate children who like to play with matches — and it just so happens they’ve stumbled upon some explosives. To be sure, a government shutdown would be an awful development that would hurt the economy and severely undermine public services Americans rely on. But a debt-ceiling crisis is on a whole other level — it’s like comparing cutting your hand with a kitchen knife and needing stitches, and amputating your hand altogether. The former is serious; the latter is tough to recover from.
Maybe there’s something about presidential vacations that many folks find irksome on a reflexive level. Americans may think that presidents shouldn’t take off when there’s so much work to be done. But RNC Chairman Reince Priebus is taking these attitudes to a very silly level. First, President Obama is taking an eight-day break because, well, humans in stressful jobs occasionally need to take a breather. But for Republicans to make hay out of this is absurd — Obama has taken 87 days off since his first inauguration, and at the comparable point in George W. Bush’s presidency, Obama’s Republican predecessor had taken 399 days off. Remember this chart?
At this point, I imagine conservatives are asking, “Why is it Bush’s days off were fair game for criticism but Obama’s aren’t?” The answer is pretty straightforward: it’s because Bush’s time away from the office was extraordinary. No modern president ever took as much time off as he did. Bush’s vacation days, in other words, became noteworthy because they were record-breaking. For every day off Obama has taken, Bush took 4.5 days off over a comparable period of time.
CNBC: Housing Starts Up 5.9%; Q2 Productivity Beats Forecasts
The Commerce Department said on Friday that housing starts increased 5.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 896,000 units. June’s starts were revised up to show a 846,000-unit pace instead of the previously reported 836,000 units.Permits to build homes rose 2.7 percent in July to a 943,000-unit pace. Meanwhile, productivity increased at a 0.9 percent annual rate, the Labor Department said. Economists polled by Reuters had expected productivity to gain at a 0.6 percent rate.
Output rose at a 2.6 percent rate in the second quarter, while the number of hours worked increased at a 1.7 percent rate. Unit labor costs—a gauge of labor-related costs for any given unit of output—rose at 1.4 percent rate in the second quarter, slightly above forecasts of economists polled by Reuters. Builders have been complaining about a shortage of labor and materials. Still, residential construction remains on a firmer footing and should again contribute to economic growth this year.
President Barack Obama has breakfast with small business owners at Rausch’s Cafe in Guttenberg, Iowa, during a three-day bus tour in the Midwest, Aug.16, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama browses crafts and antiques at Grasshoppers store in LeClaire, Iowa, Aug. 16, 2011, during a three-day bus tour in the Midwest. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama talks with people at Grasshoppers store in LeClaire, Iowa, Aug. 16, 2011, during a three-day bus tour in the Midwest. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Kate Sheppard: Obama Issues Order To Prevent The Next West, Texas-Style Explosion
On Thursday, President Obama issued an executive order on chemical facility safety, three and a half months after the deadly ammonium nitrate explosion in a West, Texas fertilizer plant. The order outlines a number of new initiatives intended to modernize oversight of plants and strengthen the coordination of the various agencies responsible for safety at these facilities.
To take up those mandates, the order establishes a new Chemical Facility Safety and Security Working Group, which will include the top officials from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Homeland Security. It also directs federal, state, local, and tribal groups to figure out how to work together better on this issue.
Clare Kim: Meet The Academy of Motion Picture’s First African-American President
Cheryl Boone Isaacs has been elected president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, becoming the first African-American and third woman to lead the organization that awards the Oscars every year.
Boone Isaacs, a marketing executive who currently heads CBI Enterprises, was voted in by the board of governors Tuesday night. She has consulted on films like The Artist, The King’s Speech and Precious. She has also served as executive vice president of worldwide publicity at Paramount Pictures and as president of theatrical marketing for New Line Cinema. Earlier this year, she produced the 4th annual Governors Awards for the Academy.
President Barack Obama named a new, full-time commissioner of the IRS on Thursday, giving the besieged agency a permanent leader.
Obama nominated John Koskinen, a veteran of government service who helped oversee the restructuring of mortgage giant Freddie Mac in the aftermath of the 2008-09 recession, to lead the IRS.
“John is an expert at turning around institutions in need of reform,” Obama said in a statement. “With decades of experience, in both the private and public sectors, John knows how to lead in difficult times, whether that means ensuring new management or implementing new checks and balances.”
Joseph Diebold: Texas Republicans Want Wendy Davis To Pay For Special Session
After spending their first special session watching State Sen Wendy Davis’ (D) marathon filibuster and their second passing the abortion restrictions Davis was fighting against, the Texas legislature is back for a third session. Now, they need to handle the transportation measure that was the motivation for the original special session, before they got sidetracked with anti-abortion legislation.
Unfortunately for the state’s taxpayers, the extra time will cost them an additional $2.4 million. But one lawmaker has an idea for who should foot part of that bill: Davis herself. State Rep. Giovanni Capriglione told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram he thinks Davis should be on the hook for the cost of the extra lawmaking sessions.
Davis shrugged off the criticism, noting that Republican Gov. Rick Perry is the one who decides to add special sessions. “It’s unfortunate that the leadership in power squandered taxpayer dollars pursuing partisan politics before Texas priorities and forced an unnecessary special session,” she said.
Leading Republicans appear to be nerving themselves up for another round of attempted fiscal blackmail. With the end of the fiscal year looming, they aren’t offering the kinds of compromises that might produce a deal and avoid a government shutdown …. they’re threatening, once again, to block any rise in the debt ceiling, a move that would damage the U.S. economy and possibly provoke a world financial crisis.
Yet even as Republican politicians seem ready to go on the offensive, there’s a palpable sense of anxiety, even despair, among conservative pundits and analysts. Better-informed people on the right seem, finally, to be facing up to a horrible truth: Health care reform, President Obama’s signature policy achievement, is probably going to work.
And the good news about Obamacare is, I’d argue, what’s driving the Republican Party’s intensified extremism. Successful health reform wouldn’t just be a victory for a president conservatives loathe, it would be an object demonstration of the falseness of right-wing ideology. So Republicans are being driven into a last, desperate effort to head this thing off at the pass……
Greg Sargent: Even Republicans are openly worried about GOP’s sabotage governing
The notion that GOP sabotage governing tactics could ultimately prove counter-productive and self defeating for the Republican Party is now being increasingly voiced by Republicans themselves.
….. with Republicans hurtling towards another set of crises over the debt limit and funding the government they are openly nervous about the GOP’s continued embrace of its intransigent scorched earth governing posture…
…. More public disunity from Republicans about their tactics – even as Dems remain relatively united behind their insistence that they won’t negotiate over the debt limit and will continue to demand new revenues as part of any budget deal – will only encourage the White House to hold a harder line.
And see Steve Benen: Senate GOPer calls shutdown threat ‘the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard’
Washington Post: White House hardens stance on budget cuts ahead of showdown with Republicans
Senior White House officials are discussing a budget strategy that could lead to a government shutdown if Republicans continue to demand deeper spending cuts, lawmakers and Democrats familiar with the administration’s thinking said Thursday.
The posture represents a more confrontational approach than that of this spring, when President Obama decided not to escalate a fight over across-the-board reductions known as sequestration in an earlier budget battle with Republicans.
The change in tone has been evident in repeated and little-noticed veto threats over the past few weeks by Obama, who has rarely issued the warnings with such frequency. He has made it clear that he will not sign into law Republican spending bills that slash domestic programs even more deeply than sequestration.
Steve Benen: Either job creation is the top priority or it isn’t
…. In addition to the voluminous list of documented problems, just over the last few days we’ve gotten a better sense of the ways in which [sequestration cuts are] hurting the military, public schools, parks, and the justice system. The poor and minorities are disproportionately suffering.
Did the political world care about these stories? Not really…. So what made yesterday different? This did:
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office on Thursday estimated that keeping the spending cuts from sequestration in place through fiscal 2014 would cost up to 1.6 million jobs …. Canceling the cuts, on the other hand, would yield between 300,000 to 1.6 million new jobs, with the most likely outcome being the addition of 900,000, the CBO said.
CNN: Organizing for Action, the political advocacy group aligned with President Barack Obama, has turned the hour-long speech the president delivered in Illinois on Wednesday into a 60-second television spot that will air on national cable.
Clips of the president are spliced together with photographs of construction workers, manufacturers, students, and families, all designed to promote the economic message the White House says will be their focus on the coming months.
Kurt Eichenwald: Zimmerman, Abortion, and Obamacare: 25 Contemplations on Current Events
…. It makes no sense to argue that you support Stand Your Ground and then condemn Trayvon Martin for confronting a guy who was following him. You can’t pick and choose who gets to stand their ground based on a perception of threat. Which is why that law is so obscene.
….. All anti-abortion protesters should be presented, on the spot, with an application to sign up as foster parents. They should also be given the names of children in their area in need of adoptive parents. And if they won’t sign or volunteer, they should shut up.
…. If Obamacare is so awful, why do conservatives have to lie so much about what it really does? (See death panels, government takeover of health care, preventing folks from choosing their own doctors, and pretty much anything any Republican has said about the program over the last few years.)
…. The fact that some folks learned something in school does not make them elitist. It makes them educated.
Steve Benen: What ‘conservatives gone wild’ looks like in North Carolina
….. [In North Carolina} …. the most sweeping voter-suppression efforts seen anywhere in the United States in generations ….. the proposal is remarkable in its scope, including a needlessly discriminatory voter-ID provision, new limits on early voting, blocks on voter-registration drive, restrictions on extended voting times to ease long lines, an end to same-day registration, new efforts to discourage youth voting, and expanded opportunities for “vigilante poll-watchers to challenge eligible voters.”
How many North Carolina Republican lawmakers supported these suppression tactics for no apparent reason? Each and every one of them…..
Salon’s arc of fail last week began with David Sirota’s meditation that “we are all targets now,” which spawned a minor revolution on social media and inspired TWiB Prime to break its hiatus for the “This Motherfucker Right Here Hour.” Now, Cornel West, among many others, has repeated the parallel, alleging that Obama is a “global George Zimmerman” because the Administration has sanctioned the use of drones for targeted killing in Yemen and elsewhere.
The strange essence of the critique is that Obama is a hypocrite for publicly, personally identifying with one murdered Black boy while the Administration’s foreign policy justifies the murders of innocent brown people abroad. This inappropriate parallel between Obama and Zimmerman erases the suffering of Black people and other marginalized groups in America, allows white men to co-opt the conversation while claiming that they are anti-racist, ignores crucial differences between vigilante justice and foreign policy, and requires Obama to be superhuman to maintain authority.
There are several incidents of privilege-blindness among the mostly white male drone-obsessed elite….
Dallas News: In Washington, Wendy Davis represents a progressive Texas
It was her stance on abortions that carried Texas Sen. Wendy Davis into the national spotlight, but it wasn’t the reason behind Thursday’s trip to Washington.
A more progressive Texas, not abortion, was the focus of Davis’s trip, which included two fundraisers and multiple meetings with members of Congress and local groups,
“People all across Texas are starting to stand and see that basic Texas values are being abused and abandoned by state leaders,” she told a group of 400, who paid between $25 and $250 to crowd into a bar on Thursday evening to hear Davis speak.
“Those weren’t just Democrats assembled to complain about Republicans,” she said referring to the hundreds who flooded the Texas capitol building last month during her filibuster. “They were Texans.”
One welcome surprise in gun safety occurred this year in Colorado, where the Democratic-led Legislature dared to defy the gun lobby and mandated universal background checks on firearm sales and 15-round limits on ammunition magazines.
The ink was barely dry, however, before the National Rifle Association was vindictively pressing for recall votes against two supporters of the stronger law….
The recall vote, set for Sept. 10, could hardly be more important as a barometer of whether the public, which repeatedly registers support for tougher gun controls in surveys, will show up at the ballot to defend politicians who bucked the gun lobby.
An intense, behind-the-scenes battle is going on for one of the world’s most powerful jobs: Chairman of the Federal Reserve. Backers of two major candidates – current Fed member Janet Yellen and former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers – are busy lobbying the only voter who counts in this type of campaign: President Obama.
Yellen is the Fed’s vice chair and has helped develop the policies of current chairman Ben Bernanke – a point made by both supporters and critics. Bernanke is expected to retire when his term expires in January.
Senate Democrats are circulating a petition in support of Yellen, and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi endorsed her in an interview with Bloomberg Television.
OFA fellows are fired up and ready for you to join them
Organizing for Action is looking for passionate new leaders who are interested in tackling our country’s big issues for our OFA Fall Fellowship program. This three-month volunteer program is explicitly designed to train the next generation of OFA leaders – if that sounds like you, you can apply today.
Fall Fellows will be working on important issues affecting our country—from protecting Obamacare, to combating climate change, to passing comprehensive immigration reform, Fellows do work that matters every single day.
President Obama laughs with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius following the official Cabinet group photo in the Grand Foyer of the White House, July 26, 2012. Pictured, from left, are: Energy Secretary Steven Chu; Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood; Education Secretary Arne Duncan; and Attorney General Eric Holder (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama with Vice President Joe Biden and Chief of Staff Jack Lew in the Oval Office, July 26, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
11:30: VP Biden meets with law enforcement officials to discuss common sense immigration reform
1:30: Jay Carney briefs the press
5:0: President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama host the Diplomatic Corps Reception (Closed press)
Occupy Democrats: Watch a Doctor Destroy a Koch Brother-Funded Anti-Obamacare Ad in 2 Minutes:
The Hill: The Obama administration on Thursday highlighted lower-than-expected premiums for healthcare plans sold through ObamaCare’s new insurance marketplaces.
In the 11 states that have released rates for next year, premiums for a middle-of-the-road plan are an average of 18 percent cheaper than the Congressional Budget Office had expected.
…. New York is the latest state to report that premiums for plans offered through its exchange would be cheaper than expected — and, on average, 50 percent cheaper than comparable policies available in the state today …. California also reported lower-than-expected premiums…
Six states have released rate filings for plans available to small businesses through a separate exchange. Those policies are also an average of 18 percent cheaper than existing coverage options, HHS said.
President Obama on Thursday touted some good news about Obamacare. And, lord knows, he’s earned the right. Republicans and conservative intellectuals keep seizing on setbacks — some real, some imagined — and predicting that Obamacare will be a catastrophe. They are almost certainly wrong.
Ironically, one of the best reasons to believe in Obamacare may be the very issue that has inspired so much chortling on the right: The insurance premiums for people who buy on their own, because they don’t get coverage from an employer or through a government program.
Insurers around the country have already submitted bids…. they are coming in lower than most experts had predicted….
…. it means the overall price of Obamacare — the amount of money the government must spend, in order to make the law function — is going to be even lower than predicted.
ThinkProgress: Most Media Coverage Ignores Premium Drop, Focuses On GOP Effort To Undermine Obamacare
Early on Wednesday, as House Republicans prepared to vote for a delay of the Affordable Care Act’s employer and individual mandates, New York state officials announced that health care premiums in the new exchange will plummet by at least 50 percent as a result of the law.
For reform advocates, the story represented a reprieve from the constant drum beat of media coverage about implementation delays, predictions of rate shock, and employers dropping coverage. But a ThinkProgress analysis of television reports about the health care law for Wednesday, July 18th, confirms that even with good news to report, bookers and segment producers are still far more interested in broadcasting stories about the political brinkmanship in Washington, DC than the actual, tangible progress of implementation.
Steve Benen: The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the Voting Rights Act did not actually strike down the entire civil-rights law, but rather, gutted it by rejecting Section 4 of the VRA. The burden then shifted to Congress to find a remedy …. Yesterday, the House held its first hearing on the VRA since the court ruling, and if the public comments were any indication, the odds of success in the near future appear long…
Most of the Republican members of the panel apparently didn’t think the hearing was especially important – which is to say, they didn’t show up ….
… Anyone predicting congressional Republicans might do the right thing on voting rights should probably adjust their expectations accordingly. GOP policymakers at the state level are rushing to impose new restrictions to keep voters from participating in their own democracy, and GOP policymakers at the federal level appear content to do nothing to stop them.
As part of our Summer Of Fakery, the House allegedly has taken up the job of repairing the damage done to the Voting Rights Act that occurred when John Roberts declared the day of jubilee. One of the witnesses today was Hans von Spakovsky, who’s been scamming this particular scam for over a decade now. Anyway, this is what von Spakovsky was peddling today.
“[That section] was an unprecedented, extraordinary intrusion into state sovereignty……..”
…. Not to bring that pesky Constitution into things again, but here’s an extraordinary intrusion into state sovereignty:
Amendment XIII: Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction…..
…. If you want to understand why modern conservatives seem so impatient with settled law, remember that they owe their modern ascendancy to the people who refused to accept any of these three Amendments because they didn’t believe the freaking Civil War changed anything.
ThinkProgress: On Thursday, three Texas Republicans filed a measure that would criminalize abortion services after a fetal heartbeat can be detected — which typically occurs around six weeks of pregnancy, before many women even know they’re pregnant.
The Texas legislature is currently in the midst of a special session that was convened specifically to give lawmakers more time to consider abortion restrictions. The session will end on July 31. Until then, GOP lawmakers have been busy proposing a slew of anti-abortion bills in the hopes of being able to rush them through.
First Lady Michelle Obama talks with children attending Camp Noah as they make trail mix at the McAlpine Park Recreation Center in Birmingham, Ala., July 18, 2012 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
Presidential Daily Schedule (All Times Eastern)
11:25: The President delivers a statement on the Affordable Care Act
12:25: First Lady Michelle Obama, Rahm Emanuel and Amy Rule visit Urban Alliance Chicago
3:0: The President participates in an Ambassador Credentialing Ceremony (closed press)
Steve Benen: Jobless claims show sharp improvement, reach three-month low
Last week’s report on initial unemployment claims was unexpectedly discouraging, making the good news this morning that more reassuring.
The number of people who applied for regular state unemployment-insurance benefits dropped 24,000 to 334,000 in the week that ended July 13, hitting the lowest level of new claims since early May, signaling a slower pace of layoffs, the U.S. Department of Labor reported Thursday. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected initial claims to fall to 341,000 from an original estimate of 360,000 in the prior week. However, it’s difficult to precisely measure claims this month because of distortions from events such as annual auto plant shutdowns and the July 4 holiday, they said…. The four-week average of initial claims, a less volatile gauge, declined 5,250 to 346,000.
Philip Bump: Those of you who are old enough may remember a time when Barack Obama was plagued with scandal. “Scandal politics sweep Capitol Hill,” Politico yelped. The suffix “-gate” was added to various words. So what happened to the scandals? For the most part, they’ve been hollowed out. The scandal: Benghazi. What it was: The death of four Americans at a diplomatic (read: CIA) outpost in the Libyan city of Benghazi last September 11th bubbled for a while. The release of emails suggesting a cover-up kicked conspiracy theories into high gear.
How real it was in the first place: Not very. Current status: Last rites administered Those emails reported by ABC News were only part of the story. The White House released the full email chain, making it clear that the administration’s involvement in drafting a set of post-attack talking points wasn’t what opponents suggested. (We even declared the scandal dead the same week.)
President Barack Obama meets with senior advisors in the Oval Office before a phone call with President Vladimir Putin of Russia, July 18, 2012. Pictured, from left, are: Chris Mizelle, Director for Russia and Central Asia, NSS; National Security Advisor Tom Donilon; Chief of Staff Jack Lew; and Denis McDonough, Deputy National Security Advisor. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
News from New York: it looks as if insurance premiums on the individual market are going to plunge thanks to Obamacare. This shouldn’t come as a surprise; in fact, the New York experience perfectly illustrates why Obamacare had to look the way it does. And it also illustrates why conservatives should be terrified about this legislation, as it takes effect. Americans may have had a lot of misgivings in advance, thanks to vast, deliberately spread misinformation. But I agree with Matt Yglesias — unless the GOP finds even more ways to sabotage the plan, this thing is going to work, it’s going to be extremely popular, and it’s going to wreak havoc with conservative ideology.
Conservatives are right to be hysterical about this: it’s an attack on everything they believe — and it’s going to make Americans’ lives better. What could be worse?
Abby Ohlheiser: House Republicans followed up on the Obama administration’s decision to delay the implementation of the employer mandate for one year by voting to make that decision a law, and to extend that delay to all individuals, too. It’s a more limited protest vote than what we’re used to seeing from the House GOP on Obamacare: There have been 38 legislative attempts to revoke either all or part of the health care reform law since 2011.
On Wednesday, both votes to delay passed easily: 264 – 161 for the employer mandate, and 251 – 174 for the individual mandate. They will not become law: President Obama would veto both bills if they made it to his desk.
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.