TPM: A lesser-known but important provision in “Obamacare” that regulates how health insurance companies spend their money is yielding benefits for consumers, a new study finds.
By this August, insurers are projected to send consumers a total of $1.3 billion in rebates, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis released Thursday – $541 million to large employers, $377 million to small businesses and $426 million to people with their own insurance plans.
The rebates are the result of a rule in the Affordable Care Act that requires insurance companies to spend at least 80 percent or 85 percent of premium earnings on health care – as opposed to marketing and administrative activities – or otherwise provide rebates to their consumers.
Steve Benen: Joe Weisenthal published a pretty remarkable chart today noting economic growth in the United States, United Kingdom, and Europe over the last nine years….
…. Once President Obama took office and the Recovery Act/stimulus began putting capital back into the economy, the U.S. economy began growing again. In the U.K., the economy started to improve, right up until British officials began implementing an austerity agenda – at which point the national economy stagnated and slipped back into a recession.
Obama rejected austerity, and as a result, American growth, while fragile and insufficient, is easily outpacing Europe’s and UK’s, where austerity measures have ruled the day.
….When David Cameron’s austerity policies began, Republicans were not only certain they would work, they pleaded with American policymakers to follow the Tories’ lead …. The remarkable thing is, Republicans aren’t the least bit chastened by the track record of failure.
ThinkProgress: …. The Romney campaign organized a conference call today with three of Romney’s foreign policy advisers to push back (against VP Biden’s foreign policy speech). During the call, Romney adviser Ambassador Pierre Prosper attacked President Obama for dealing with Russia, albeit using geographical terms from the Cold War era:
PROSPER: ….. The United States abandoned its missile defense sites in Poland and Czechoslovakia….
Aside from the fact that “Czechoslovakia” broke up into the Czech Republic and Slovakia nearly 20 years ago, the Obama administration never “abandoned” missile defense sites because they were never there to begin with….
Michael Tomasky: It seems clear that the main issue Mitt Romney is going to use to try to reestablish himself as a moderate is immigration …. Can Romney, who staked out an immigration position during the primaries that left him sounding like Pat Buchanan, really pull this off? My bet: He’ll be smooth, he’ll do almost everything right, he’ll say all the right things — and he’ll end up with something very much like the 31 percent of the Latino vote John McCain got, maybe two or three points more, tops. The reason is simple: Romney, like his party, is just too white.
…. There is no signal, at least yet, that Rubio would make a whit of difference. Last weekend, a poll came out in which 1,000-plus Latinos were asked about Obama-Biden matchups against Romney-Rubio, and Romney paired with various other Hispanic Republicans ….. in Florida, Obama did better among Latinos against Romney with Rubio on the ticket, suggesting that maybe to know him isn’t to love him.
NYT: The group Americans for Prosperity just went up with a $6.1 million ad buy in swing states that accuses the Obama administration of squandering American taxpayer dollars on green energy projects, asserting that some of the money actually went to foreign entities….
In making the general assertion that “billions of taxpayer dollars spent on green energy went to jobs in foreign countries,” the ad cites as evidence $1.2 billion that went “to a solar company that’s building a plant in Mexico.” In fact, the company involved in the plant, SunPower, said that the $1.2 billion federal loan guarantee was for its solar ranch in California….
The ad also says that the Obama administration sent “half a billion to an electric car company that created hundreds of jobs in Finland.” …. Loans under the agency’s alternative vehicle program went to Fisker Automotive, an American electric car company based in California that has facilities in Finland, as well as China and Germany. The agency provided $169 million for engineering and tooling work, all carried out in the United States….
Rolling Stone: …. When Obama 2008 campaign manager David Plouffe likened the campaign’s email list to a television network in his campaign memoir, it was a rough analogy. But for the revamped Obama 2012 campaign, the meaning is quite literal. The YouTube and social media revolution of the last four years has given the campaign the power to produce and disseminate powerful video content that it can broadcast to a highly targeted audience of millions, effectively for free.
….. The folks in Chicago have spent next to nothing on television ads. Yet the campaign’s digital team – the biggest squad by far in Obama 2012’s massive headquarters in a downtown skyscraper – is quietly churning out nearly a video a day, designed to reengage Obama supporters, activate new volunteers, or persuade fence-sitting independents.
…. We’re seeing something really new in the history of presidential politics develop out of Chicago. This is a social-media-optimized campaign …. All of this direct communication with targeted voters is happening without the advice or consent of the mainstream media, in ways that David Plouffe could scarcely have imagined just four years ago. Meanwhile, the Mitt Romney campaign website looks like it’s still trying to catch up to Obama 2008.
Pew Research: The gender gap in presidential politics is not new. Democratic candidates have gotten more support from women than men for more than 30 years. Even so, Barack Obama’s advantages among women voters over his GOP rivals are striking.
In the Pew Research Center’s most recent national survey, conducted March 7-11, Obama led Mitt Romney by 20 points (58% to 38%) among women voters. It marked the second consecutive month that Obama held such a wide advantage over Romney among women (59% to 38% in February).
MSNBC: …. a new NBC News/Marist poll shows President Obama holding a sizable advantage over his Republican opposition in Wisconsin, which he carried in 2008 but where Republicans made big gains in the 2010 midterms.
Obama leads Romney in Wisconsin among registered voters, 52 percent to 35 percent, with 13 percent undecided. And he edges Santorum, 51 percent to 38 percent, with 11 percent undecided….
Benefitting Obama is growing optimism about the state of the economy (52 percent believe the worst is behind them), as well as a more negative perception of the Republican Party (48 percent say the Democratic Party does a better job in appealing to those who aren’t hard-core supporters, while just 32 percent say that about the GOP).
What’s more, there’s a significant gender gap: Obama leads Romney among women by 25 points (55 percent to 30 percent) and men by 12 points (50 percent to 38 percent). The president’s job-approval rating in Wisconsin stands at 50 percent.
Bloomberg: The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits dropped last week to the lowest level in almost four years, adding to evidence the U.S. labor market is strengthening.
Initial jobless claims fell 5,000 in the week ended March 24 to 359,000, the lowest since April 2008, the Labor Department reported today in Washington…..
Companies are retaining workers and hiring as sales improve along with confidence in the expansion. The pace of employment has gained momentum in the past three months, helping drive income growth that may ease the strain of higher gasoline prices.
…. The U.S. jobless rate could drop to as low as 6 percent by the first half of 2013, according to research from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
E.J. Dionne: Three days of Supreme Court arguments over the health-care law demonstrated for all to see that conservative justices are prepared to act as an alternative legislature, diving deeply into policy details as if they were members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
Senator, excuse me, Justice Samuel Alito quoted Congressional Budget Office figures on Tuesday to talk about the insurance costs of the young. On Wednesday, Chief Justice John Roberts sounded like the House whip in discussing whether parts of the law could stand if other parts fell. He noted that without various provisions, Congress “wouldn’t have been able to put together, cobble together, the votes to get it through.” Tell me again, was this a courtroom or a lobbyist’s office?
It fell to the court’s liberals — the so-called “judicial activists,” remember? — to remind their conservative brethren that legislative power is supposed to rest in our government’s elected branches.
CNN: President Barack Obama holds a double-digit lead over GOP presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum in hypothetical general election matchups, according to a new poll.
And a CNN/ORC International survey released Wednesday also indicates that the president’s approval rating has inched over the 50% mark in CNN surveys for the first time since last May, when the polls were still registering the after effects of the death of Osama bin Laden. The number of Americans who say the economy’s in good shape has jumped 13 points since January, though the survey shows a majority still think it is in poor shape.
If the general election were held today instead of in early November, 54% of registered voters say they would back Obama, with 43% supporting Mitt Romney … That’s up from a five-point 51%-46% advantage the president held over Romney in February.
And Obama would have a 55%-42% lead over Santorum …. the president led Santorum by a seven-point 52%-45% margin last month.
Mediaite: In recent weeks and months, there has been much made about the frequent “rich guy gaffes” that Mitt Romney has been making …. these gaffes seem to show the candidate can’t relate to the people he wants to lead …. Today he made yet another one. Perhaps Chris Matthews was right; this guy just isn’t “trainable”.
So, what did he do this time? Well, Romney called in to a “telephone town hall” in Wisconsin where he talked up his support of Gov. Scott Walker and Rep. Paul Ryan. All good, right? You’d think, but, at towards the beginning, Romney decided to tell a funny story about his history with the state of Wisconsin and … just see for yourself.
ABC: …. Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said in a statement: ”The only things more out-of-touch than Mitt Romney’s ‘joke’ about his dad closing a factory are his policies that would give massive tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires and allow insurance companies to discriminate against individuals with pre-existing conditions. He continues to be callous about the struggles that ordinary Americas face and his policies would make it harder-not easier-for anyone but the very wealthy to succeed.”
Sun Times: The eagerly-anticipated “Biggest Loser” makeover episode is here, and this season, it’s bigger than ever. First Lady Michelle Obama guest stars in a two-part celebration that whisks the contestants away to the White House to reunite with their loved ones, and take part in the show’s first-ever White House workout. The episode will air as two, one-hour episodes on Tuesday, April 3 (8-9 p.m. ET) and Tuesday, April 10 (8-9 p.m. ET).
Bloomberg: From northern Michigan’s iron mines to Pennsylvania’s natural-gas fields, the industrial heartland of America is humming with jobs again as a region once left for dead recovers faster than the rest of the U.S. ….. The economies of Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania have improved faster than that of the U.S. since the recession’s depth in April 2009 …. Michigan is expected to lead all 50 states during the next six months….
…. from Detroit and Pittsburgh to Peoria, Illinois, and the town of Mellen in Wisconsin’s Penokee Hills, employers plan to add jobs and facilities …. Improvement in unemployment, which dropped 19% in Ohio and 29% in Michigan from April 2009 through the end of last year, is a key driver for the Midwest recovery …. The recovery isn’t just about autos and shale – it’s all sorts of related industries, said Steve Steinour, Huntington Bancshares Inc.’s chief executive officer. “We’re seeing now a revival that no one had expected in this sort of time frame”…
…. Michigan gained 66,000 jobs in 2011 ….. It was the first gain in the state since the turn of the century….. “We’ve always heard this Rust Belt thing about our region, even just a few years ago,” said Steinour, speaking of the disparaging image of closed factories and declining industry. “But you don’t hear it so much now, and we might not have to hear it much in the future.”
ABC: President Obama was expected to visit the Washington Auto Show on Tuesday, giving him another forum to talk about GM and Chrysler, along with the administration’s attention to manufacturers and efforts to boost fuel efficiency standards…..
Robert Shrum: …. lost in this year’s bloviating combat over the Reagan banner is another reality that will at first rile and finally infuriate Republicans as the opportunistic Romney runs and then stumbles toward a November showdown with Barack Obama. For on the evidence of history, it’s likely that Obama will be the Reagan of 2012.
The one is certainly not the ideological heir of the other. But this president is beginning to travel a path along an emerging political landscape that parallels Reagan’s in potentially decisive ways.
….. Obama, like Reagan before him, offers an overarching theme that resonates with the distinctive mood of his re-election year …. he has trumpeted his own overarching summons to an America “where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.” …. the narrative can be summed up – and the president has done so – in the “Buffet Rule”…. It connects as well to Mitt Romney ….. Romney is the face of the Republican establishment – and he’s becoming the face of unfairness in America ….
….. in the politics of 2012, Gingrich isn’t the Gipper, and Romney isn’t Ronnie. It’s the other guy, the Democrat who in 2008 presciently – and controversially – praised President Reagan for “chang[ing] the trajectory of America.” He did so amid the winds of an economic storm that finally and slowly cleared. So, in his own landmark achievements, has Barack Obama – and this election year, the trajectory is turning for him as it once did for Ronald Reagan.
Richard Cohen (Washington Post): On Saturday night, at precisely 9:19 and 30 seconds, my iPhone, my iPad, my computer and, for all I know, my toaster were informed that Herman Cain had endorsed Newt Gingrich ….. it was just additional evidence that the Republican Party has become a circus: One clown endorsed another.
….. This has been an exceedingly silly political season … But it has also been a sad one. The Republican establishment acts as if this season’s goon squad of presidential candidates has come out of nowhere, an act of God …. it has only itself to blame. For too long it has been mute in the face of a belligerent anti-intellectualism, pretending that knowledge and experience do not matter and that Washington is a condition and not a mere city. The endorsement of Gingrich by Cain was not a bulletin. It was a feeble blip on a scope. The GOP is brain-dead.
Andrew Sullivan: DADT is dead …. The video above tells you all you need to know .….. I remain intensely grateful for the Obama administration in getting this done and for the military itself which was far more mature about this than so many posturing politicians. This is truly a new day – one so many of us dreamed of but which has now come to pass.
President Obama: Today, the discriminatory law known as ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is finally and formally repealed. As of today, patriotic Americans in uniform will no longer have to lie about who they are in order to serve the country they love. As of today, our armed forces will no longer lose the extraordinary skills and combat experience of so many gay and lesbian service members. And today, as Commander in Chief, I want those who were discharged under this law to know that your country deeply values your service.
I was proud to sign the Repeal Act into law last December because I knew that it would enhance our national security, increase our military readiness, and bring us closer to the principles of equality and fairness that define us as Americans. Today’s achievement is a tribute to all the patriots who fought and marched for change; to Members of Congress, from both parties, who voted for repeal; to our civilian and military leaders who ensured a smooth transition; and to the professionalism of our men and women in uniform who showed that they were ready to move forward together, as one team, to meet the missions we ask of them.
For more than two centuries, we have worked to extend America’s promise to all our citizens. Our armed forces have been both a mirror and a catalyst of that progress, and our troops, including gays and lesbians, have given their lives to defend the freedoms and liberties that we cherish as Americans. Today, every American can be proud that we have taken another great step toward keeping our military the finest in the world and toward fulfilling our nation’s founding ideals.
President Barack Obama shares a laugh with Jean Meyer, the grandmother of Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer, second from left, as they and members of the Meyer family walk along the Colonnade of the White House, Sept. 15. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)