NYT: Justice Dept. Sets Record In Penalties For Fraud
The Justice Department collected a record $24.7 billion in penalties from fraud and other cases in the 2014 fiscal year, the agency said on Wednesday, as fines against banks for financial misconduct soared. Collections from civil and criminal actions, including money collected on behalf of other agencies, was $8 billion in 2013, and $13 billion in 2012. Collections in 2014 were bolstered by multibillion-dollar payouts from JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup to resolve claims they misled investors about the quality of mortgage bonds in the run-up to the financial crisis, and include $11 billion in payments made to federal agencies or states. Payouts in the 2014 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, also include hundreds of millions of dollars in fines levied on UBS and Royal Bank of Scotland.
(Excerpts from his remarks, as provided by the Justice Department)
“We have seen a great deal of progress over the years. But we also see problems and these problems stem from mistrust and mutual suspicion.
I just had the opportunity to sit down with some wonderful young people and to hear them talk about the mistrust they have at a young age.
These are young people and already they are concerned about potential interactions they might have with the police.
I understand that mistrust.
I am the Attorney General of the United States, but I am also a black man. …I think about my time in Georgetown — a nice neighborhood of Washington — and I am running to a picture at about 8 o’clock at night. I am running with my cousin.
Police car comes driving up, flashes his lights, yells, ‘Where you going? Hold it!’ I say, ‘Whoa, I’m going to a movie.’
Now my cousin started mouthing off; I’m like, ‘This is not where we want to go. Keep quiet.’
I’m angry and upset.
We negotiate the whole thing and we walk to our movie.
At the time that he stopped me, I was a federal prosecutor. I wasn’t a kid. I was a federal prosecutor.
I worked at the United States Department of Justice.
So I’ve confronted this myself.
We are starting here a good dialogue. But the reality is the dialogue is not enough. We need concrete action to change things in this country. That’s what I have been trying to do. That’s what the President has been trying to do.
We have a very active Civil Rights Division. I am proud of what these men and women have done. As they write about the legacy of the Obama administration, a lot of it is going to be about what the Civil Rights Division has done.
So this interaction must occur. This dialogue is important. But it can’t simply be that we have a conversation that begins based on what happens on August 9, and ends sometime in December, and nothing happens.
As I was just telling these young people, change is possible. The same kid who got stopped on the New Jersey freeway is now the Attorney general of the United States.
On This Day: President Obama greets people following his remarks at the Ford Motor Company Chicago Assembly Plant in Chicago, Ill., Aug. 5, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
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Today (all times Eastern)
12:30: White House press briefing
1:45: VP Biden Delivers Remarks at U.S.-Africa Business Forum
2:45: President Obama delivers remarks and participates in the U.S.-Africa Business Forum
9:30: The President and First Lady host a dinner at the White House for African heads of state – Lionel Richie performs
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President Obama meets with advisors in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Aug. 4, 2014 (Photo by Pete Souza)
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The Week Ahead
Wednesday: The President participates in Summit Leader Meetings as part of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit.
First Lady Michelle Obama, in partnership with former First Lady Laura Bush and the Bush Institute, will host a day-long spouses symposium at the Kennedy Center focused on the impact of investments in education, health, and public-private partnerships.
Thursday & Friday: Attends meetings at the White House
President Barack Obama is announcing $14 billion in commitments by U.S. businesses to invest in the continent of Africa.
Obama plans to make the announcement Tuesday at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum in Washington. The forum is bringing together African heads of state and American business leaders to find ways to boost economic ties. It comes on the second day of a U.S.-Africa summit involving nearly 50 African heads of state.
The White House says the investments include industries like construction, banking, information technology and energy.
WH.gov: The First Lady at the U.S. – Africa Leaders Summit
On August 6, 2014, the Office of First Lady Michelle Obama, the George W. Bush Institute, and the U.S. Department of State will host Investing in Our Future at the U.S. – Africa Leaders Summit.
The day-long symposium will bring together First Lady Michelle Obama, Mrs. Laura Bush, African first spouses from nearly 30 countries, leaders from non-governmental and non-profit organizations, private sector partners, and other leading experts.
The symposium will highlight the important role first spouses play and will focus on the impact of investments in education, health, and economic development through public-private partnerships. This collaboration builds on the Bush Institute’s 2013 African First Ladies Summit, Investing in Women: Strengthening Africa, held in Tanzania.
Although the enemies of health reform will never admit it, the Affordable Care Act is looking more and more like a big success. Costs are coming in below predictions, while the number of uninsured Americans is dropping fast, especially in states that haven’t tried to sabotage the program. Obamacare is working. But what about the administration’s other big push, financial reform? The Dodd-Frank reform bill has, if anything, received even worse press than Obamacare, derided by the right as anti-business and by the left as hopelessly inadequate. But also like Obamacare, financial reform is working a lot better than anyone listening to the news media would imagine. The decision to create a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau shouldn’t have been controversial, given what happened during the housing boom.
At this point, however, all accounts indicate that the bureau is in fact doing its job, and well — well enough to inspire continuing fury among bankers and their political allies. A recent case in point: The bureau is cracking down on billions in excessive overdraft fees. how do you rescue the banking system without rewarding bad behavior? The answer is that the government should seize troubled institutions when it bails them out, so that they can be kept running without rewarding stockholders or bondholders who don’t need rescue. In 2008 and 2009, however, it wasn’t clear that the Treasury Department had the necessary legal authority to do that. So Dodd-Frank filled that gap, giving regulators Ordinary Liquidation Authority, also known as resolution authority, so that in the next crisis we can save “systemically important” banks and other institutions without bailing out the bankers.
TPM: Israel-Hamas Truce Sets Stage For Talks On Gaza
Israel and Hamas began observing a temporary cease-fire on Tuesday that sets the stage for talks in Egypt on a broader deal on the Gaza Strip, including a sustainable truce and the rebuilding of the battered, blockaded coastal territory.
Israel withdrew its ground forces from Gaza’s border areas, and both sides halted cross-border attacks as the three-day truce took effect at 8 a.m. (0500 GMT) Tuesday. The shelling stopped and in Gaza City, where streets had been deserted during the war, traffic picked up and shops started opening doors.
If the calm holds, it would be the longest lull in almost a month of fighting that has killed nearly 1,900 Palestinians and 67 Israelis.
For the last two hours we’ve heard nothing but sonic booms and the sound of rockets and mortars. Shells have fallen on our street a few hundred yards from my father-in-law’s house, where my wife and I, and our five kids, are staying, and on the street behind us.
My wife, Hanna, is arguing with the kids over what to buy to celebrate Eid, the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan. She has forbidden them to go to the grocery store, and she’s adamant that they won’t visit the Internet cafes or the PlayStation shop near my father’s place. They don’t understand the impossibility of shopping at a time of war.
Last night, we all became convinced that the tank fire would soon reach the Jabaliya refugee settlement, where our families live. All night long the tanks fired on the eastern side of the camp. The buildings on our street creaked and lurched, as if about to fall. Everything shifts with each strike. It’s as if you’re an extra in a disaster movie.
BBC: Ebola Crisis: World Bank Announces $200M Emergency Fund
The World Bank has announced that it is allocating $200m (£120m) in emergency assistance for West African countries battling to contain the Ebola outbreak. The money will be distributed to the governments of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea as well as to the World Health Organization (WHO). The number of people killed in the outbreak has reached 887, the WHO says.
The World Bank’s announcement came as African leaders including 35 presidents discuss the crisis in Washington. World Bank President Jim Yong Kim – an expert on infectious diseases – said that he was “deeply saddened” by the spread of the virus and how it was contributing to the breakdown of “already weak health systems in the three countries”.
Watch Rand Paul run away from a DREAMer who confronts him and Steve King:
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Ed Kilgore: In the Middle of An August Friday Night
If you want to do something politically dangerous in Washington that you’d just as soon not draw widespread notice, doing it late on a Friday night before the August Congressional Recess begins is about as good as it gets. And that’s exactly what House Republicans did on Friday night, passing an insultingly small “border resources” package that will vanish without a trace if and when Congress returns and gets serious about the issue, and then passing another bill prohibiting continuation of the Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals program, which has enabled children and young adults (usually collectively known as DREAMers) under strict conditions to avoid deportations.
When I looked at the news aggregators this morning, there was zippo about this whole topic, which dominated political chatter last week. It’s as though quite literally nothing of interest happened Friday night.
The Obama administration took a “historic” step in changing the drug war Friday, activists said, when Attorney General Eric Holder said the rationale prosecutors often use to defend mandatory-minimum sentences was worthless. “Some have suggested that these modest changes might somehow undermine the ability of law enforcement and prosecutors to induce cooperation from defendants in federal drug cases,” Holder said in remarks before the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers conference in Philadelphia, according to prepared remarks posted to the Justice Department website.
“But the reality is that nothing could be further from the truth,” Holder went on, citing his own past as a federal prosecutor. “Like anyone who served as a prosecutor in the days before sentencing guidelines existed and mandatory minimums took effect, I know from experience that defendant cooperation depends on the certainty of swift and fair punishment, not on the disproportionate length of a mandatory-minimum sentence,” Holder said. The speech was a big deal, said Families Against Mandatory Minimums. Price’s spokesperson, Mike Riggs, was more direct. “It’s pretty damn historic,” he said.
March 30, 2011: President Obama greets James Brady in Press Secretary Jay Carney’s West Wing office at the White House. Brady’s wife Sarah, right, and son Scott, center, joined him for the meeting (Photo by Pete Souza)
Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the family of former White House Press Secretary James Brady on his passing. Jim is a legend at the White House for his warmth and professionalism as press secretary for President Reagan; for the strength he brought to bear in recovering from the shooting that nearly killed him 33 years ago; and for turning the events of that terrible afternoon into a remarkable legacy of service through the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Since 1993, the law that bears Jim’s name has kept guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals. An untold number of people are alive today who otherwise wouldn’t be, thanks to Jim.
Every day, reporters and White House staffers walk past a plaque marking the day in 2000 that the White House Briefing Room was renamed the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room. It reads, “May his courage and dedication continue to inspire all who work in this room and beyond.” Those words will endure, as will his legacy. Our thoughts and prayers are with Jim’s wife Sarah, who has been Jim’s steadfast partner in advocacy, and their children Scott and Melissa.
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Elite Daily: Happy Birthday, Mr. President: 26 Times Barack Obama Has Killed The Game
President Obama waits to be introduced at a luncheon for U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias of Illinois at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago, Ill., Aug. 5, 2010. Right to left, Trip Coordinator Jordan Whichard, Bobby Schmuck, political affairs staff assistant, and Director of Political Affairs Patrick Gaspard, wait with the President (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama talks on the phone at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago, Ill., Aug. 5, 2010. From left, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Eric Whitaker and Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett work nearby (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama signs memorabilia as he talks on the phone at the Chicago Cultural Center in Chicago, Ill., Aug. 5, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
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President Obama arrives at the White House after spending the night at Camp David on Sunday, August 5, 2012 in Washington, DC.
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President Obama meets with former Negro League baseball players in the Cross Hall of the White House, Aug. 5, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)
On This Day: President Obama kisses First Lady Michelle Obama for the “Kiss Cam” while attending the U.S. Men’s Olympic basketball team’s game against Brazil at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., July 16, 2012. Vice President Joe Biden and Malia Obama look up at the jumbotron (Photo by Pete Souza)
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Today (all times Eastern)
12:45: Vice President Biden Speaks to Generation Progress Summit
NYT: Budget Office Revises Estimate of Federal Spending on Health Care
The growth of federal spending on health care will continue to decline as a proportion of the overall economy in the coming decades, in part because of cost controls mandated by President Obama’s health care law, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said on Tuesday.
The budget office said in its annual 25-year forecast that federal spending on major health care programs would amount to 8 percent of gross domestic product by 2039, one-tenth of a percentage point lower than its previous projection.
With the latest revision, the budget office has now reduced its 10-year estimate for spending by Medicare, Medicaid and other health programs by $1.23 trillion starting in 2010, the year the health care law took effect. By 2039, the savings would amount to $250 billion a year in today’s dollars.
The estimable Sarah Kliff tabulates all the predictions of Obamacare disaster that didn’t come true; she puts it at seven major themes, ranging from “the website will never work” to “nobody will sign up”. We can presume, then, that people like John Boehner — who declared that it would never work and that more people would lose insurance than gain it — are spending some time now trying to understand how they could have been so wrong.
April fools! (Yes, I know it’s July.)
…. It’s probably about partisanship, which means both living in an information bubble and being so deeply committed to a worldview that you literally can’t consider facts that don’t fit.
Washington Post: House Democrats unveil policy ‘Action Plan’ as Pelosi sets ambitious goal for November
House Democrats plan to unveil a list of election-year proposals Wednesday that party leaders hope will resonate with women, blue-collar workers and younger voters — three key constituencies that historically don’t show up to vote in significant numbers in midterm election years.
The release of the “100 Day Action Plan” comes as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that her goal is to pick up 25 GOP seats in November, a bold ambition given historical trends: The party of a two-term president usually loses seats in his sixth year in office.
…. But Pelosi believes that her new policy plan and the recent talk among House Republicans about filing a lawsuit or possibly impeaching Obama will shore up support among Democratic-base voters, win over independents and give the party a narrow edge.
Milt Shook: Dems are not wimps! Some of the 375 bills they passed in 111th Congress!
By request, I’m reposting this again, to remind everyone just how much damage the GOP has done with their abuse of the filibuster, and to remind some progressives of the major bonehead moves they made in 2010.
In addition to the constant trashing of Obama’s real record with lies and distortions, I’m also sick to death of claims that Democrats “had no spines” and couldn’t pass anything. Republicans held Congress from 1994-2006 and rigged the filibuster rules in 2005, under the threat of killing it altogether. They made it easier for a single senator to hold up a bill anonymously, and they effectively transformed the Senate into a body that requires 60 votes to pass that bill.
The SOLUTION to the problem in 2010 would have been to keep the House, and reduce the number of Republicans in the Senate. Instead, we had the Right Wing crying “Democrats can’t get anything done!” and the Left Wing crying, “Democrats can’t get anything done!” THAT is why Democrats lost so badly last year; instead of offering up an alternate viewpoint, we basically echoed theirs. That’s what drove turnout down, and gave the GOP one of the biggest wins in their history.
Read these and tell me Democrats weren’t trying really hard to make things better.
CBS: Eric Holder demands Congress address inequality
Attorney General Eric Holder called on Congress and the American people to not only celebrate civil rights successes but also renew the spirit of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by working to “eradicate” inequality.
“Like all who are old enough to remember those days, I will never forget the turmoil and violence that characterized the Civil Rights era,” Holder told a crowd of civil rights advocates, cabinet officials and students during an event at Howard University celebrating the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act. “I am especially mindful that without the Civil Rights Act or the monumental progress that followed few of us would be here. I would not stand before you as attorney general of the United States.”
TPM: Holder Expects To Challenge GOP Voting Measures In Ohio, Wisconsin
Attorney General Eric Holder plans to support challenges to Republican-backed voting laws in two key midwestern battleground states.
Holder told ABC’s Pierre Thomas in an interview that has yet to air that he expects the Justice Department to join lawsuits challenging laws in both Ohio and Wisconsin.
GOP lawmakers in the Buckeye State passed measures earlier this year that chopped six days off the state’s early voting period, while Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted eliminated early voting on Sundays.
Trevor LaFauci (The People’s View): ‘Murica and Murrietta: Xenophobia and Racism in 21st Century America
Ask a Republican about the good old days.
No really, do it. There’s nothing more enlightening for a progressive than to hear about what life was like back in the day. Odds are the narrative you hear will go something like this: First and foremost, there was a trusted man in the White House, usually with the first name Ronald and the last name Reagan. There was a harmonious family life, where the husband made a decent wage and the mother stayed home and raised he kids. The neighborhoods were free of gangs, the schools were all good, and everybody went to church on Sundays. The local communities were full of mom and pop stores and you grew up the same town where you would eventually raise your own family. As long as you worked hard, you would be able to go to college, get a good job, find a spouse, and start a family of your own. You’d buy a nice home with a decent patch of land where you raise your kids and babysit your grand kids. This was the America that Republicans all knew and loved.
ThinkProgress: The GOP’s Plot To Convince You They Support Birth Control
There’s a war over birth control brewing in the Senate, and Republican lawmakers want to make it clear that the GOP is on the right side.
On Tuesday, after Senate Democrats introduced a measure to override the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on Hobby Lobby and clarify that for-profit companies must offer contraceptive coverage, their Republican colleagues announced some forthcoming legislation of their own. As the Hill reports, GOP leadership will introduce a bill that appears to be supportive of women’s access to birth control.
…. the GOP’s competing legislation likely wouldn’t do anything to change the status quo or ensure that Hobby Lobby employees have insurance coverage for contraception. Instead, it’s simply a way for Republicans to reinforce the point that the high court’s ruling on Hobby Lobby doesn’t inhibit women’s legal access to birth control.
… But legality isn’t exactly the same as accessibility. And the Hobby Lobby case was about the latter.
Charles Pierce: Things In Politico That Make Me Want To Mainline Antifreeze, Part The Infinity
Its puerilty has finally crossed over into indecency. Its triviality has finally crossed over into obscenity. The comical political starfcking that is its primary raison d’erp has finally crossed over into $10 meth-whoring on the Singapore docks. Once a mere surface irritation, Tiger Beat On The Potomac has finally crossed over into being a thickly pustulating chancre on the craft of journalism. It has demonstrated its essential worthlessness. It has demonstrated that it has the moral character of a sea-slug and the professional conscience of the Treponema pallidum spirochete. Trust me. Stephen Glass never sunk this low. Mike (Payola) Allen has accomplished the impossible. He’s made Jayson Blair look like Ernie Pyle…..
… You [Dick Cheney] cheap fraud. You people didn’t “face” any threat before 9/11. Every damn one of you fell asleep at the switch. You abandoned counterterrorism in favor of chasing porn merchants and Tommy Chong. You exiled Richard Clarke. You started worrying about missile defense. Your boss took a vacation and blew off his CIA briefings and failed to read his presidential daily briefings. You watched the towers fall, at least partly through your sheer dereliction of duty, and you turned a national tragedy into a personal opportunity to get rich.
SmartyPants: Pundits join Putin in 19th century thinking
An awful lot of pundits these days seem just as stuck in the 19th century as Vladimir Putin. For example, check out this jaw-dropping commentary on the Israel/Palestinian situation from Cokie Roberts on ABC’s This Week:
It’s a real absence of the American leadership in the region…We haven’t made a strong enough presence in that region to have people be afraid of this country. So I think there’s a sense that they can get away with anything they want to get away with. So much criticism of President Obama for not going in, conducting the air strikes against Syria.
Its almost hard to know where to begin. In the end, her point seems to be that if President Obama had bombed Syria he could have prevented the current escalation of the situation in Israel/Gaza. And that’s – of course – because there aren’t enough people in the Middle East who are afraid of us. So lets go bomb some more brown people over there because they’re sure not going to get mad about that and fight back. What they’ll do instead is be afraid and quit all that shooting/bombing each other.
Patch: First Lady Michelle Obama will deliver keynote speeches at a pair of events today
…. She will first speak at a Unite for Veterans event at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza hotel in Century City. The event is aimed at discussing ways of providing opportunities for veterans to find employment and housing.
…. Obama is also scheduled to speak at the Grammy Museum’s Jane Ortner Education Award Luncheon. The award honors educators who “find innovative ways to engage students by integrating music in their classrooms and curricula.”
This year’s honoree is Sunshine Cavalluzzi, a teacher at El Dorado High School in Placentia. She is being recognized for what the museum called her “innovative economics lesson plans.” Six-time Grammy nominee Janelle Monae will also be honored for her “continued commitment to Grammy Museum educational programming.”
President Obama and his family hike on Cadillac Mountain at Acadia National Park in Maine, July 16, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
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Vice President Biden and President Obama look at an app on an iPhone in the Outer Oval Office, Saturday, July 16, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
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President Obama talks with coach Geno Auriemma and members of the U.S. Women’s Olympic basketball team following their 99-67 win over Brazil at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., July 16, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama talks with LeBron James as First Lady Michelle Obama hugs Deron Williams during their greet with members of the U.S. Men’s Olympic basketball team at halftime of the game against Brazil at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., July 16, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama in Cincinnati, July 16, 2012
President Obama and VP Biden at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., July 16, 2012
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President Obama visits with Make-A-Wish child Suhail Zaveri, 14, from Anaheim, Calif., in the Oval Office, July 16, 2013. Accompanying Suhail are his parents, Sandeep and Asmi Zaveri, and younger brother Arsh Zaveri (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama places a wreath at the Tomb of the Unkowns at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day
President Barack Obama speaks during Memorial Day ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia
Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, and President Barack Obama, stand as the National Anthem is played during a Memorial Day Observance at Arlington National Cemetery
President Obama on Monday honored all the Americans who have given their lives for their country, from the Civil War of a century-and-a-half ago to the Afghanistan war that is wrapping up this year. In Memorial Day remarks delivered a day after a surprise visit to Afghanistan, Obama said the U.S. troops there “are coming home” from the conflict that began a month after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. “By the end of this year, our war in Afghanistan will finally come to an end,” Obama said during the annual Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. During his speech, Obama praised veterans from all the nation’s wars. “Everything that we hold precious in this country was made possible by Americans who gave their all,” Obama said.
"Let us never forget their service and always be worthy of the sacrifices made in our name." —President Obama #MemorialDay
The president delivered his Memorial Day speech just four hours after his return to the White House. During his Sunday trip to Afghanistan, Obama received a briefing from commanders at Bagram Air Force, spoke at a rally for the troops, and visited wounded warriors at the base hospital. Shortly after arriving back at the White House early Monday morning, Obama hosted a Memorial Day breakfast. Guests included senior members of the military leadership, as well as veterans’ and military families’ organizations. Obama then traveled to the Arlington cemetery, where he placed the traditional wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns.
President Barack Obama speaks in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House following his meeting with Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki. The White House moved Wednesday to address the growing furor over allegations of misconduct at the Department of Veterans Affairs, summoning VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to an Oval Office meeting, hours before the House was scheduled to vote on a bill that would grant the secretary more authority to fire or demote senior executives.
Just three months ago, Senate was poised to pass a big bill expanding VA funding. It was blocked by a GOP filibuster: reuters.com/article/2014/0…
NPR: Obama: People ‘Will Be Held Accountable’ For Veterans Affairs Problems
Anybody found to have manipulated or falsified Veterans Affairs records “will be held accountable,” President Obama said Wednesday. The president condemned the reported widespread problems at the VA, defending Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki. Obama spoke after he and Shinseki met in the Oval Office Wednesday morning with White House deputy chief of staff Rob Nabors, who since last week has been detailed to work with the VA. Neither of those men attended the president’s news conference. Speaking about reports of long wait times — and efforts to cover up the delays — Obama said that if they’re proven true, the behavior is “dishonorable” and “disgraceful.” “I will not stand for it,” Obama said. “None of us should.”
The president said that Nabors is heading to Phoenix today to look into reports that a facility there had produced misleading statistics about veteran care. Obama mentioned accountability several times in his prepared remarks; he also noted that some employees had already been put on administrative leave. He said that his administration will continue “bringing the VA into the 21st century – which is not an easy task.” Obama also defended Shinseki, saying, “No one cares more about our veterans.” But Obama added that he told Shinseki today that he expects accountability and improvement in the full report on the VA’s problems.
On This Day: President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder attend the 32nd Annual National Peace Officers Memorial Service at the West Front Lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC on May 15, 2013
Today (All times Eastern)
9:40 AM: The President and First Lady tour the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, New York City
A new analysis finds American consumers saved billions in 2011 and 2012 thanks to a key provision of the Affordable Care Act. The report from The Commonwealth Fund released Tuesday finds the medical loss ratio provision, which caps profits for health insurance companies, benefited consumers by about $3 billion over the past two years through a combination of rebates from insurance companies and reduced overhead spending. The law’s provision limits insurance companies to spending a minimum of 80-85% of premiums specifically on treatment and medical costs, rather than overhead and profits.
The rebate receipts sent to consumers hit $1 billion in 2011 and about $500 million in 2012, an indication that insurance providers successfully shifted business models to fit the new spending requirements. In addition to the rebates provided to consumers, insurers reduced profits and spending on general overhead by about $1.4 billion, the report finds. “The medical loss ratio requirement of the Affordable Care Act creates a higher-value insurance product for consumers,” said The Commonwealth Fund President David Blumenthal said in the report. “It ensures that a substantial portion of their premium dollar pays for medical care, as opposed to administrative costs and profits. It also encourages insurers to improve the care their customers receive, by investing in initiatives that will help achieve better outcomes for patients.”
President Barack Obama is dispatching one of his closest White House advisers to oversee a review of the beleaguered Veterans Affairs Department as the agency grapples with allegations of treatment delays and preventable deaths at a Phoenix veterans hospital. White House deputy chief of staff Rob Nabors will be temporarily assigned to the VA to work on a review focused on policies for patient safety rules and the scheduling of patient appointments, officials said Wednesday. The move signals Obama’s growing concern over problems at the department, particularly recent reports that hospital administrators in Phoenix kept an off-the-books list to conceal long wait times as 40 veterans died waiting to get an appointment. Similar problems have since been reported in other states.
“While we get to the bottom of what happened in Phoenix, it’s clear the VA needs to do more to ensure quality care for our veterans,” Obama said in a statement. “I’m grateful that Rob, one of my most trusted advisers, has agreed to work with Secretary Shinseki to help the team at this important moment.” Despite calls for Shinseki to step down, the White House insists that Obama continues to have confidence in the secretary, a retired four-star Army general. Shinseki said he welcomed Nabors’ help in ensuring veterans have access to timely, quality health care. Though Nabors has kept a low public profile, he is one of Obama’s closest advisers and has played key roles in the president’s fiscal battles with congressional Republicans. Nabors, the son of an Army veteran, was appointed deputy chief of staff following Obama’s re-election and previously served as the president’s chief congressional liaison and deputy budget director.
Rick Ungar: Who Says Obamacare Is Turning Out To Be Good For The Economy? Goldman Sachs Does, That’s Who!
The news just keeps getting better and better for Obamacare. Marketwatch is reporting that an advisory issued by economic researcher Alec Phillips over at Goldman Sachs reports that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) boosted GDP in the first quarter of 2014 and projects that the same will occur in the second quarter. While Phillips—and other Goldman analysts—had initially been quite skeptical about the impact of the government subsidies provided to the many Americans who will now be able to purchase health insurance, the group has turned a corner and now views the subsidies as a major, beneficial contributor to first quarter numbers and what they project to be second quarter growth of 3.9 percent. Of even greater interest is the explanation provided by the Goldman analyst as to why healthcare spending rose 9.9 percent in the first quarter. Phillips pins the rise not on some undesired side-effect of Obamacare but on the fact that people had money in their pocket to spend on the health of their families as a result of $37 billion boost in personal income—something also projected to continue into the second quarter.
While the U.S. Bureau of Economics had predicted a higher spending figure on healthcare for the first quarter than what turned out to be the case, it is worth noting that the Congressional Budget Office—back when first reviewing the Senate bill to reform healthcare—predicted that we would see such a boost following the first enrollment period of Obamacare. Just because healthcare spending increased substantially in the first quarter does not mean that healthcare prices increased—a detail the GOP hopes you will miss. It simply means that more people were able to get the healthcare they were previously unable to afford; not that those of us who already had access to care had to pay more for that care. Phillips sees the trend continuing, suggesting that the positive effects of Obamacare will boost the economy in 2015 and 2016.
Raising the minimum wage could lift hundreds of thousands of low-wage workers out of poverty, but it’s also a job killer. Right?
Not so fast. In Washington state, small businesses are adding jobs faster than any other state in the country, according to a report from Paychex and IHS. It’s also the state where minimum wage, at $9.32 per hour, is the highest. The federal minimum wage is just $7.25 an hour, and a battle is raging about whether it should be raised to $10.10. Small businesses, often called the engine of the U.S. economy, find themselves at the heart of the debate. Critics of a wage hike say that raising the minimum wage too high and too fast could put them out of business.
But the report from Paychex and IHS, which measured job additions and layoffs at 350,000 small businesses, could dispute that claim. Not only was Washington the strongest state, San Francisco — with a minimum wage of $10.74, the country’s highest — had the greatest job gains in the past year among cities measured. Washington state has been progressive on the issue for years. The state’s minimum wage rate has been tied to inflation since 1998, and the mayor of Seattle is currently pushing to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15.
Russ Britt: Obamacare Is Good For The Economy, Goldman Sachs Researcher Says
Obamacare is good for the economy? That’s what one venerable Wall Street brokerage is saying. Alec Phillips, economic researcher at Goldman Sachs, said in a note issued late last week to clients that subsidies from the Affordable Care Act boosted gross domestic product during the first quarter and are likely to do the same during the second quarter. Phillips says that he now has a more optimistic view of the second quarter’s GDP growth, with a gain of 3.9% now estimated, and 4.5% annualized growth in real personal consumption.
“While we were initially skeptical of the large estimated effect of the new subsidies on personal income, these now look more reasonable to us in light of revisions, greater enrollment than expected several months ago, and the fact that states are likely contributing to the subsidies on top of the well-known estimates of federal costs,” Phillips said. But the health-care industry won’t be the only one to benefit, Phillips says, as subsidies will free up income for those who had no coverage before, as well as those who had insurance but were paying for it themselves. “Overall, around 40% of the subsidies should find their way to non-health consumption this year,” he wrote.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., wants to see more than hashtag messages voicing displeasure over the abduction of nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls by the terrorist group Boko Haram. He wants to see U.S. troops go into Nigera and rescue the girls, even if it means doing so without permission from the Nigerian government. ‘If they knew where they were, I certainly would send in U.S. troops to rescue them, in a New York minute I would, without the permission of the host country,’ McCain said Tuesday. Referring to Nigeria’s president, McCain added: ‘I wouldn’t be waiting for some kind of permission from some guy named Goodluck Jonathan.’
Thus far, the Obama administration has sent a team to Nigeria that includes FBI officials with hostage negotiation skills, five State Department officials, including a team leader, two strategic communications experts, a civiliam security expert and a regional medical support officer. There are also 10 Defense Department planners and advisers who were already in Nigeria and have been instructed to provide support to the kidnapping response, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters.
TPM: Federal Judge Denies Governor’s Motion To Put Idaho Gay Marriages On Hold
A federal magistrate judge has refused to put gay marriages on hold in Idaho pending an appeal from the state’s governor. U.S. District Magistrate Judge Candy Dale wrote Wednesday morning that Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s appeal isn’t likely to succeed, and so there’s no reason to keep same-sex couples from seeking marriage licenses or marrying on Friday. On Tuesday, Dale struck down Idaho’s same-sex marriage ban in response to a lawsuit from four Idaho couples.
Dale said Idaho’s law unconstitutionally denies gay and lesbian couples their fundamental right to marry and wrongly stigmatizes their families. She said the state must start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples Friday morning. Gay marriage is legal in 17 states and the District of Columbia.
Greg Sargent: Time To Revisit Conventional Wisdom About Politics Of Obamacare
The initial conventional wisdom about the Arkansas Senate race — that incumbent Mark Pryor is the nation’s preeminent Dead Dem Walking — is rapidly getting revised in the wake of new polls showing him ahead of GOP Rep. Tom Cotton. So perhaps, in the context of the Arkansas race, it’s also worth revisiting the conventional wisdom that Obamacare is nothing but a hideous liability for Democrats, and can only shower Republicans with political gold from now until election day. One of Senator Pryor’s senior campaign strategists tells me Pryor will not shy away from making the case that the state’s “private option” —
its version of the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare — represents Pryor’s brand of good governance, and that Cotton’s repeal stance is extreme and bad for the state. This is particularly relevant right now, as a fascinating new report from David Ramsey of the Arkansas Times demonstrates. Ramsey reports that the bipartisan private option — which uses Medicaid funds to expand private coverage to 150,000 Arkansans — has become a major issue in several state legislative Republican primaries.
An insurer in Washington state selling plans under the Affordable Care Act is proposing to lower customers’ health premiums next year in what appears to be one of the first such decreases proposed for 2015. The proposal by Molina Healthcare Inc. MOH +0.60% was part of a batch of state rate filings released Monday that included Washington and Indiana. While most carriers are seeking increases, Molina’s filing signals that insurers that priced cautiously for 2014 could face pressure to be more competitive in the second full year of the law’s insurance marketplaces. Molina proposed a decrease averaging 6.8% for Washington customers for 2015. It told state regulators in its rate filing that it was betting that people signing up through the insurance exchange were in better health than the carrier previously thought,
and that it anticipated new entrants when the law’s penalties for not carrying coverage grow next year. Molina, a company that historically has focused on managed Medicaid plans, offered some of the most expensive premiums among insurers selling on the Washington exchange in this year. It said it had only about 1,200 members in 2014. Ben Lynam, vice president for Molina’s actuarial pricing, said in an interview that the company had made conservative assumptions for 2014 about the medical claims likely to be incurred by its enrollees, in part because it hadn’t had much previous commercial experience. “With hindsight and looking at what’s going on across the country…we’ve improved those assumptions and lowered our rates in 2015,” he said.
Reuters: Jobless Claims Hit Seven-Year Low, Inflation Ticks Up
New applications for U.S. unemployment benefits hit a seven-year low last week while consumer prices recorded their largest increase in 10 months in April, pointing to a firming economy. The economy’s outlook was further brightened by other data on Thursday showing factory activity in New York state expanding at its quickest pace in nearly four years in May. “It conveys the message of solid economic activity. Labor conditions continue to improve and I expect this will be validated by payroll reports over the next few months,” said Anthony Karydakis, chief economic strategist at Miller Tabak in New York.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits declined 24,000 to a seasonally adjusted 297,000, the Labor Department said, offering fresh evidence the jobs market was strengthening. That was the lowest reading since May 2007 and brought claims back to their pre-recession level. Economists had forecast first-time applications ticking up to 320,000 last week. In a second report, the department said its Consumer Price Index increased 0.3 percent last month as food prices rose for a fourth consecutive month and the cost of gasoline surged. The rise in the CPI was the biggest rise since June last year and added to March’s 0.2 percent rise. The combination of a strengthening jobs market and an uptick in inflation pressures should give the Federal Reserve ammunition to continue scaling back its monetary stimulus. However, the U.S. central bank is not expected to start raising overnight interest rates, currently near zero, before the second half of 2015.
President Obama takes a stroll through the White House Rose Garden, May 15, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama walks in the White House Rose Garden, May 15, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama meets with former Secretary of State, General Colin Powell, in the Oval Office, May 15, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins gives President Obama a Phillies jersey and autographed baseball while Obama welcomes the 2008 Major League Baseball World Series Champion Philadelphia Phillies at the White House, May 15, 2009
First Lady Michelle Obama addresses Spelman graduates at their May 15, 2011 commencement.
President Obama greets people in the audience at the National Peace Officers Memorial Service, an annual ceremony honoring law enforcement who were killed in the line of duty, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., May 15, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama presents a birthday cake to Admiral Jonathan Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations, during a dinner for Combatant Commanders and senior military leadership in the Blue Room of the White House, May 15, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and Attorney General Holder attend the 32nd Annual National Peace Officers Memorial Service at the West Front Lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC on May 15, 2013
President Obama poses with a souvenir jersey as he is flanked by players David Beckham and Landon Donovan, members of the LA Galaxy, Major League Soccer’s Championship team, at the White House, May 15, 2012
President Barack Obama walks across the tarmac with Vice President Joe Biden prior to departure from Fort Campbell, Ky., May 6, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Today (All Times Eastern)
12:30: Jay Carney briefs the press
2:45: President Obama is interviewed by local and national meteorologists participating in “Weather from the White House”
4:15: Meets with Secretary of State Kerry
The Week Ahead
Wednesday: Travels to Los Angeles to participate in a joint DSCC/DCCC event. In the evening, the President will be honored at a dinner hosted by the USC Shoah Foundation. He will remain overnight in Los Angeles.
Thursday: Participates in a DNC roundtable in Los Angeles before traveling to San Diego to participate in a DCCC event. The President will then travel to San Jose where he will participate in two DNC events and remain overnight.
Friday: Participates in an event on energy in the San Jose area. Following the event the President will return to Washington, DC.
We can't get to the reckoning about America's racialized political economy when one of the parties suppresses vote/denies health insurance.
The number of New Jersey residents who enrolled in Affordable Care Act insurance plans more than doubled in the final month before the deadline, bringing the total who signed up from the Garden State to roughly 162,000. More than 80 percent received a federal subsidy to help pay for their policies, according to numbers released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services today.
Another 98,000 New Jersey residents selected coverage through the newly expanded state Medicaid program. One New Jersey health policy expert called the last-minute surge “nothing less than astounding.” It meant the state exceeded the goal set by public-health experts, said Jon Whiten, deputy director of New Jersey Policy Perspective, a think tank that supports health care reform.
The satellite images viewed by President Obama before a meeting with eight Western governors were stark, showing how snowpack in California’s mountains had shrunk by 86 percent in a single year. “It was a ‘Houston, we have a problem’ moment,” recalled White House counselor John D. Podesta, one of two aides who briefed the president that February day. Obama mentioned the images several times as he warned the governors that political leaders had no choice but to cope with global warming’s impact. He is regularly briefed on scientific reports on the issue, including a national climate assessment that he will help showcase Tuesday. He is using his executive authority to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and other sources, and is moving ahead with stricter fuel-efficiency standards for the heaviest trucks. And while he routinely brings up climate change in closed-door meetings with world leaders, according to his aides, he also discusses it in his private life, talking about global warming’s implications with his teenage daughters. “This is really real for him, in terms of what he’s leaving,” said Cecilia Muñoz, who directs the White House Domestic Policy Council and has helped coordinate federal investment in climate-resilient infrastructure projects. “This is personal for him.”
As president, Obama enacted the first carbon limits for cars and light-duty trucks and helped push through a House bill that would have imposed a national limit on greenhouse gas emissions. Obama has remained wary of some of the risks stemming from hydraulic fracturing, including the release of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. When the subject of natural gas came up during a Nov. 30, 2012, meeting of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, Obama turned to Holdren and his deputy assistant for energy and climate change, Heather Zichal. “Do we have an accurate accounting of methane emissions, and do we have a problem there?” Zichal recalled the president asking. The White House announced a new methane strategy — which will include additional federal regulations — in March. After his reelection, Obama told chief speechwriter Jon Favreau to make climate change “one of the big sections” in his second inaugural address, Favreau recalled. The move surprised even some of his closest aides.
The mortality rate in Massachusetts dropped significantly after the state enacted health care reform in 2006, according to a new study published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Since Massachusetts’ health law relies on many of the same policies as the Affordable Care Act, the findings suggest that Obamacare could help save thousands of lives once it’s fully implemented. That suggests that for every 830 people who gained insurance, one death was prevented.
And perhaps unsurprisingly, the researchers found that that health reform had a particularly significant impact in the areas of Massachusetts with previously high rates of poverty and uninsurance; the mortality rate decline was steepest there. Although life expectancy for Americans as a whole has been on the rise, widening income inequality and deepening health disparities have ensured that poor people’s lives are actually getting shorter. This study suggests that Obamacare has the potential to help reverse that trend — but that’s only possible in the states that agree to fully implement the law.
Brian Beutler: The D.C. Press Corps Is Suffering From Benghazi Stockholm Syndrome
Last week, after Republicans pivoted to Benghazi in unison, The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein observed an interesting phenomenon. When it came time to put White House press secretary Jay Carney in the hot seat, reporters for smaller outlets—whose correspondents are consigned to the back rows of the briefing room—were interested in real, unfolding dramas: Ukraine, the Affordable Care Act, the Snowden disclosures, and so on. But when Carney moved to the big-name journalists at the front of the room, the only thing anyone seemed to care about was Benghazi And that raises an interesting question, because in covering the story as a political scandal, just as Republicans want them to, the only scalps the media has really collected are their own.
CBS suspended Lara Logan after “60 Minutes” aired, and later had to retract, her Benghazi feature; Sharyl Attkisson resigned from the same network, charging her former colleagues with liberal bias—reportedly because they didn’t adequately promote her Benghazi coverage; and ABC’s Jonathan Karl had to apologize last year after he passed along an inaccurate summation of then-unreleased White House Benghazi emails. The administration had granted members of Congress access to the emails in classified briefings, and the source who provided Karl the summary (presumably a Republican) had either taken poor notes, or intentionally misconstrued their contents, to make it appear as if the White House had thumbed the scales in the inter-agency dispute over how to address the attacks publicly.
Terence McCoy: The Man Behind The Nigerian Girls’ Kidnappings And His Death-Defying Mystique
No one knows how old he is. Some say 35. Some say 36. Others think he’s 44. Twice he was believed dead, and twice he reemerged to conduct an even broader campaign of killing and terror that made him one of the most wanted men in the world.
His name is Abubakar Shekau. He is the leader of Boko Haram. And he has your girls. “I abducted the girls at a Western education school,” Shekau proclaimed on Monday in a video, clutching a rifle among several masked men.
“And you are disturbed. I said Western education should end. … I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah. There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell; he commands me to sell. I will sell women. I sell women.”
Shekau, who has a $7 million bounty on his head, grinned a mouth of white teeth.
The death rate in Massachusetts dropped significantly after it adopted mandatory health care coverage in 2006, a study released Monday found, offering evidence that the country’s first experiment with universal coverage — and the model for crucial parts of President Obama’s health care law — has saved lives, health economists say. The study tallied deaths in Massachusetts from 2001 to 2010 and found that the mortality rate — the number of deaths per 100,000 people —
fell by about 3 percent in the four years after the law went into effect. The decline was steepest in counties with the highest proportions of poor and previously uninsured people. In contrast, the mortality rate in a control group of counties similar to Massachusetts in other states was largely unchanged. A national 3 percent decline in mortality among adults under 65 would mean about 17,000 fewer deaths a year.
Attorney General Eric Holder said Monday he is personally overseeing investigations into major banks, and is working with regulators as those probes enter a “key” stage. The Obama administration’s top attorney emphasized that no institution or individual is powerful or influential enough to escape capture, and that the notion of “too big to jail” is a myth. “There is no such thing as ‘too big to jail,’” he said in a video message posted on the Justice Department’s website. “To be clear, no individual or company, no matter how large or how profitable, is above the law.” Holder said in his new message that his team is working closely with financial regulators to mitigate those potential risks, clearing the way for criminal charges if the case can be made.
Holder said Monday that there are times when an institution’s behavior was wrong, but not necessarily illegal. Furthermore, sometimes it can appear that a bank broke the law, but is not backed by evidence permissible in court. Nonetheless, Holder underlined that when banks do break the law, his department will not hesitate to bring forward the case. On that front, he said the Justice Department has made “great strides” in coordinating with financial regulators to address potential economic risks from criminal charges, including the revocation of a bank’s charter to do business in the United States. The Justice Department is reportedly examining BNP Paribas for evading U.S. sanctions, and Credit Suisse for helping Americans evade taxes.
Noam N. Levey: Health Insurance Reduces Deaths, New Massachusetts Study Shows
Giving more people health insurance could save tens of thousands of lives nationwide in the coming years, a new analysis of data from Massachusetts, whose trailblazing reforms became the model for President Obama’s health law, suggests. Throughout the national debate over the Affordable Care Act, critics of the law have questioned whether expanding coverage actually results in better health. The new analysis by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Urban Institute adds to the growing evidence that health coverage does make people healthier.
Mortality rates in Massachusetts measurably improved compared with similar places around the country after the state began guaranteeing its residents health coverage in 2006, the researchers found. A similar trend is emerging nationally, as surveys indicate millions have gained coverage since state marketplaces created by the federal law opened in October. A nationwide Gallup poll released Monday showed the percentage of working-age adults without coverage dropped from 18% last fall to 13.4% in April.
The White House is backing Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki after he faced calls to resign Monday over allegations that veterans died waiting for care in Phoenix and other problems in his department. “As the President said last week, we take the allegations around the Phoenix situation very seriously,” said Shin Inouye, a White House spokesman. “That’s why he immediately directed Secretary Shinseki to investigate, and Secretary Shinseki has also invited the independent Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General to conduct a comprehensive review,” he said.
“We must ensure that our nation’s veterans get the benefits and services that they deserve and have earned. The President remains confident in Secretary Shinseki’s ability to lead the Department and to take appropriate action based on the IG’s findings.” Earlier Monday, the American Legion called on Shinseki to resign, although the Veterans of Foreign Wars declined to do so. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., the chairman of the House Veterans’ Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, called on Shinseki to resign “due to chronic mismanagement and systemic failures of the VA under his leadership, ranging from dramatic cost overruns in major construction projects to glaring patient safety problems,” according to a press release.
I know it’s cruel to pick on people who are ill, but in Ron Fournier’s case an exception must be made. Fournier is currently ailing from a condition known as bipartisanship (medical name: vacuousness), which manifests itself when another person expresses a thought that can be deemed partisan. For example, on Monday Paul Krugman wrote a column castigating Republicans for releasing a biased report on whether people were paying their Obamacare premiums. (TPM: “Nearly 40 percent of Obamacare enrollees signed up after March 15—which means their first premium wasn’t due until after the committee finished collecting its data.”) Krugman scolded the GOP and expressed outrage that the Party was so dishonest.
The effect of this was to trigger one of Fournier’s symptoms: writing silly responses to people like Krugman. Fournier begins by agreeing with Krugman’s contention that the GOP is dishonest. Fournier provides no evidence that the White House could get accurate figures, and in any case it’s failure to do so is not an example of “skewing the truth.” Moreover, there will presumably be accurate figures after the end of May, which is when people who enrolled will have to pay up
Danny Vinik: Republicans Still Don’t Have A Jobs Plan, But Americans Think They Do
A Pew Research-USA Today survey released on Monday finds that Americans’ number one priority remains jobs. And yet, while Democrats have fought for increased government spending to boost the recovery, Americans are planning to reward Republicans in November—even though they have still not offered a credible jobs plan. And while the recovery certainly could be much stronger, its weakness is the result of Republican obstruction, not the Democratic agenda.
In the debate over whether to apply fiscal or monetary stimulus, the GOP chooses neither. Facing a massive hole in aggregate demand, Republicans have offered the same supply-side agenda as always: tax cuts, spending cuts, and deregulation. These are not macroeconomic policies for filling a short-term hole in demand and spurring a recovery. Only after the economy returns to sustainable, full employment—something we haven’t achieved in nearly 20 years—should we look at supply-side policies to boost growth.
Jonathan Cohn: More Good News For Obamacare: It May Be Saving Lives After All
It also suggests the health care law, implemented effectively, could save thousands of lives a year. The subject of the new paper is the Massachusetts health care reform scheme, signed into law by then-Governor Mitt Romney, that took effect in 2007. It is an obvious subject for research, because it looks just like Obamacare and it succeeded in reducing the number of uninsured, just as Obamacare seems to be doing. The change made a big difference. Subsequent studies showed that, as more people got insurance, fewer people struggled with medical bills and more people got regular medical care. But while hospitalizations for preventable conditions came down and people reported that they felt better, those findings didn’t fully address the question of how insurance was affecting health. Enter three well-credentialed, well-respected health care economists—Benjamin Sommers (who’s also a physician) and Katherine Baicker, from the Harvard School of Public Health; and Sharon Long, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute.
The trio obtained figures on mortality and, better still, they were able to isolate causes of mortality “amenable to health care.” In other words, they were able to get data on cancers, various cardiac problems, and other conditions that, with better medical care, people should be more likely to survive. Then they compared how the people in Massachusetts fared relative to groups of people from around New England, who were similar in almost every meaningful way—age, income, and so on—except that they lived in states where similar expansions of health insurance were not underway. The results were clear. In those other places, outside of Massachusetts, the death rate from “amenable” causes went down by only a little bit and the overall death rate actually increased a tad. But in Massachusetts, deaths overall and deaths from “amenable” causes both went down—significantly. The authors calculated that, for every 830 people who got insurance in Massachusetts, about one person avoided a premature death.
Uninsured rate drops to 13.4% in April, new all-time low in Gallup Poll. Among blacks, 13.8% versus 20.9% before #Obamacare
That’s a big payoff and it suggests Obamacare might have one, too. If millions of additional Americans end up with health insurance because of the law, as now seems likely, it would mean that at least a few thousand are going to live longer. And the number could get pretty high. A story in the New York Times suggested 17,000 would be a good guess. Harold Pollack has done some back-of-the-envelope math for healthinsurance.org and concluded the number could be as high as 24,000.
Sen. Barack Obama and his wife Michelle wave to the crowd after Obama delivered election night remarks after winning the North Carolina Primary at a rally at the North Carolina State University in Raleigh on May 6, 2008
President Obama with Afghan President Karzai and Pakistan President Zardari walk along the Colonnade following a US-Afghan-PakistanTrilateral meeting in Cabinet Room May 6, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama meets in the Rose Garden of the White House with, from left, Susan Davies, deputy counsel to the President, Phil Schiliro, assistant to the President for legislative affairs, Ron Klain, chief of staff to the Vice President, and Bob Bauer, counsel to the President, regarding the pending Supreme Court nomination, May 6, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Dr. Jill Biden walks down the Cross Hall en route to a Mother’s Day Tea in the East Room of the White House, May 6, 2011. First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Biden hosted the tea for military spouses, relatives, and friends (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
President Obama and Vice President Biden shake hands with the troops following the President’s remarks at Fort Campbell, Ky., May 6, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama disembarks Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, following his trip to Fort Campbell, Ky., May 6, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama plays golf with Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) and Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) at left at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on May 6, 2013
President Barack Obama, flanked by Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, and Vice President Joe Biden, welcome the Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride to the South Lawn of the White House in celebration of the seventh annual Soldier Ride.
USA Today: Obama To Wounded Warriors: “You Inspire Us”
President Obama paid tribute Thursday to once-maimed veterans who are now racing bikes. “You inspire us,” Obama said. “You inspire the country.” The president spoke at the seventh annual Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride to the White House. The event is designed to help the injured recover and to raise awareness of the challenges they face.
Some of the bikers were so badly injured they had to re-learn “the basics,” Obama said — “how to stand again, how to walk again, how to run again.” “You inspire me with your courage, your resolve, your resilience, your tenacity, your optimism,” Obama said. “It makes me proud to be your Commander-in-Chief.”