President Barack Obama is presented a plaque by philanthropist Lois Pope and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, during the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial dedication ceremony in Washington. President Obama paid tribute to disabled U.S. veterans on Sunday, pointing to the dedication of a new memorial honoring those severely injured in war as a symbol of the nation’s perseverance and character.
On This Day: First Lady Michelle Obama greets guests during a Mother’s Day Tea in the State Dining Room of the White House, May 7, 2010 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)
Today (All Times Eastern)
11:05 ET: President Obama departs the White House
1:35 ET: Arrives Arkansas
3:50 ET: Travels to central Arkansas to view the devastation from the recent tornadoes and severe storms and meet with the families affected by this disaster, as well as first responders and recovery workers. The President will deliver remarks.
4:35 ET: Departs Arkansas
8:0 ET: Arrives Los Angeles
9:55 ET: Delivers remarks and answers questions at a joint fundraiser for House and Senate Democrats, private residency, Los Angeles
11:10 ET: Attends USC Shoah Foundation dinner, Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, Los Angeles
The Week Ahead
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.
USC: USC Shoah Foundation To Host President Obama As Featured Speaker At 20th Anniversary Gala
On May 7, 2014, USC Shoah Foundation – The Institute for Visual History and Education will gather in Los Angeles for its 20th Anniversary Ambassadors for Humanity Gala. To help mark this occasion, the Institute will have the great privilege of welcoming President Barack Obama, who will speak to common values and shared responsibilities in building a brighter future.
Institute founder and USC trustee Steven Spielberg will recognize President Obama with the Institute’s highest honor, the Ambassador for Humanity Award for his global efforts to protect human rights, his commitment to education and expanding educational technology, and his work advancing opportunities for all people.
“President Obama’s commitment to democracy and human rights has long been felt,” Spielberg said. “As a constitutional scholar and as president, his interest in expanding justice and opportunity for all is remarkably evident. The president’s recent appointment of the first special envoy for Holocaust Survivor Services in United States history demonstrates his staunch commitment to honoring the past while building a better future. I am extremely grateful to have President Obama join us on this significant milestone of the USC Shoah Foundation.”
Bloomberg: Insurers Say Most Obamacare Customers Paid First Premiums
Three large health insurers including WellPoint Inc. (WLP) and Aetna Inc. (AET) say that a high percentage of their new Obamacare customers are paying their first premiums, undermining a Republican criticism of enrollment in the program.
As many as 90 percent of WellPoint customers have paid their first premium by its due date, according to testimony the company prepared for a congressional hearing today. For Aetna, the payment is in the “low to mid-80 percent range,” the company said in its own testimony. Health Care Service Corp., which operates Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in five states including Texas, said that number is at least 83 percent.
Making the first monthly payment is the last step to confirm enrollment in plans sold under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and Republicans have made the question of how many paid a line of attack on the law.
President Barack Obama called the kidnapping of nearly 300 girls in Nigeria “awful,” and added that the U.S. will “do everything we can” to help Nigeria. “Obviously, what’s happening is awful and, as a father of two girls, I can’t imagine what the parents are going through,” Obama said in an interview with CBS, one of a collection of interviews the president gave to local and national TV outlets on Tuesday afternoon. Coverage of the incident has grown since the kidnappings occurred three weeks ago, thanks in part to the social media hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, which has been trending worldwide, and has been tweeted more than a million times, according to BBC News.
Obama said in his interview with CBS that the White House is “sending in a team made up of our military, and law enforcement and other experts and we’re very glad that Nigeria’s accepted the help.” Obama called Boko Haram, the group that has claimed to have taken the girls as “one of the worst, regional or local terrorist organizations in the world.” Boko Haram, whose name roughly translates in English to “Western education is sinful,” is an Islamic terrorist group based in the Northeast region of Nigeria. ”We’ve long sought to work with Nigeria on dealing with them and we’re going to do everything we can to assist them in recovering these young women,” Obama said, adding that more work is needed in targeting the group. “More broadly though, we’re going to have to really tackle a pernicious problem inside that country — an organization that has carried out ruthless attacks and killed thousands of people over the last several years,” Obama said.
Jonathan Cohn: See How Right-Wing Media “Covered” Obamacare’s Big News Day
Monday was a pretty big news day for Obamacare. But you wouldn’t know it by reading conservative media.
In the morning, Gallup reported that the percentage of adults without health insurance had dropped to 13.4 percent, at least according to its surveys. That’s the lowest rate the organization has recorded since it began asking the question in early 2008. Then, in the afternoon, the Annals of Internal Medicine published a major study, based on data from Massachusetts, suggesting that giving people health insurance makes people healthier—and that, by extension, the Affordable Care Act could end up saving more than 10,000 lives a year.
The news got lots of attention from the mainstream media and from health-care policy analysts. But on the right? Crickets.
Brian Beutler: Democrats Should Absolutely Boycott the GOP’s Phony Benghazi Committee
Events are still unfolding, but everything that’s happened so far today points to the likelihood that House Democrats will protest the Select Committee on Benghazi, leaving Republicans to re-re-re-re-re-re-investigate the 2012 attacks, and their aftermath, in partisan fashion.
When initially contemplated, the idea was met with swift derision by some members of the commentariat. Ron Fournier, a tribune for bipartisan comity, thinks a boycott would be an error.
And the broader vibe is that a boycott wouldn’t be a sporting move. But that argument is incorrect. A boycott would be excellent politics, and Democrats have none other than Mitch McConnell to thank for the insight.
AP: US To Let Some High-Skilled Immigrant Spouses Work
The Obama administration wants to allow some spouses of high-skilled immigrants to work in the United States, the departments of Homeland Security and Commerce announced Tuesday. The rule change, which is set to be published in the Federal Register later this week, would affect spouses of as many as 100,000 holders of H-1B high-skilled visas. “The proposals announced today will encourage highly skilled, specially trained individuals to remain in the United States and continue to support U.S. businesses and the growth of the U.S. economy,” said Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said the rule change would help the U.S. attract and keep “world-class talent” working in the United States. The new rule is the latest in a series of administrative actions President Barack Obama has announced as efforts to win broad immigration reform in Congress have failed. The H-1B visas for high-skilled workers are among the most sought-after by high-tech firms. Earlier this year the 85,000 H-1B visas available for 2015 were gobbled up in just a week. The same thing happened last year.
If you compare the costs of the Reagan Administration’s serial security lapses in Beirut to the costs of Benghazi, it’s clear what has really deteriorated in the intervening three decades. It’s not the security of American government personnel working abroad. It’s the behavior of American congressmen at home.
The story in Beirut wasn’t over. In September of 1984, for the third time in eighteen months, jihadists bombed a U.S. government outpost in Beirut yet again. President Reagan acknowledged that the new security precautions that had been advocated by Congress hadn’t yet been implemented at the U.S. embassy annex that had been hit.
The problem, the President admitted, was that the repairs hadn’t quite been completed on time. As he put it, “Anyone who’s ever had their kitchen done over knows that it never gets done as soon as you wish it would.” Imagine how Congressman Issa and Fox News would react to a similar explanation from President Obama today.
ThinkProgress: Here’s Why Nigeria Hasn’t Yet Found Its 300 Missing Girls
The world isn’t just aware of the plight of three hundred girls kidnapped from their boarding school in Nigeria now. It has become, finally, invested. Globally, people are demanding that the Nigerian government do more to find the 276 girls still missing, while a hashtag, #BringBackOurGirls, unites the web behind their cause.
BREAKING: Official says `many, many' killed in extremist attack on Nigerian border town, property razed.
The world is eager to see the girls, stolen away in the night three weeks ago, returned. But part of the reason why the girls remain abducted lies in just how the government has waged its war against the terrorists who carried out the kidnapping over the last half a decade. And the terrorists who hold them captive remain an unpredictable factor, leaving even experts unsure just how to bring about their freedom from the men determined to prevent them from gaining an education.
BBC: Ukraine Crisis: Pro-Russian Troops Seize Back Mariupol City Hall
Pro-Russian separatists have seized back the city hall in the southern Ukrainian port of Mariupol, hours after being ousted by security forces. Government forces first raised the Ukraine flag on the building but later left – allowing the rebels who captured it last week to be back in control. Rebels have occupied official buildings in dozens of towns in eastern Ukraine in recent weeks. The Kiev government has sent troops to restore its authority. Shortly after the Russian and “Donetsk Peoples’ Republic” flags were hoisted over Mariupol’s city hall, the scene of tensions moved to the police station where 16 arrested pro-Russian activists were being held.
Heavily-armed police fired warning shots into the air as an angry crowd of friends and relatives gathered at the police gates concerned that the detainees would be moved to another province, the BBC’s Sarah Rainsford reports from the scene. Earlier on Wednesday, Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said government troops had taken over Mariupol’s city hall following a joint operation by ministry troops and the army. Russian President Vladimir Putin, meeting the chair of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Moscow, said he was ready to “seek ways out of this crisis”.
President Obama returns to the Oval Office after giving interviews in the Rose Garden of the White House, May 6, 2014 (Photo by Pete Souza)
TPM: Charlie Crist Says He Became A Democrat Because Of GOP Racism
Charlie Crist said once again Tuesday that racism motivates many of President Obama’s most hostile GOP adversaries.
It was partly for that reason that Crist, the former Republican governor of Florida who’s now trying to reclaim his old job as a Democrat, broke with his former party.
“I couldn’t be consistent with myself and my core beliefs, and stay with a party that was so unfriendly toward the African-American president, I’ll just go there,” Crist told Fusion’s Jorge Ramos. “I was a Republican and I saw the activists and what they were doing, it was intolerable to me.”
Health insurance companies say the number of people who paid their Obamacare premiums will be higher than House Republicans implied. The House Energy and Commerce Committee said last week that, based on information it received from insurers, only 67 percent of people who signed up for private coverage through Obamacare’s exchanges had gone on to pay their first month’s premium. Conservatives have fixated on the number of unpaid premiums, arguing that the White House’s statistics—8 million people have selected a plan—are meaningless. Consumers aren’t truly enrolled until they pay their first premium, so the number of paid enrollments is indeed a more accurate picture of how many people the law’s exchanges are covering.
But this week, in written testimony to the same committee, insurers say the 67 percent figure was premature—and that they warned the committee not to draw sweeping conclusions from the information it requested. Energy and Commerce’s figure included people who signed up for coverage but whose first premium hadn’t come due at the time of the committee’s inquiry. And that’s a lot of people. Wellpoint, the largest insurer in the Obamacare exchanges, said the payment rate is closer to 90 percent among people who reached their first payment deadline. The company has given investors the same estimate. Health Care Service Corp., which administers Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in several states, told the committee the same thing: Of plans that have reached their payment deadlines, about 80 percent to 90 percent are paid enrollments.
Michael Dunn: Nutter Raises Minimum Wage For Most City Contract Workers
Mayor Michael Nutter has decided to raise the minimum wage that companies doing business with the city must pay to their workers. And he extended that requirement to subcontractors as well. “This is something that’s been on my mind for a long, long time,” he said today. “I finally came to the conclusion that the unemployment rate is coming down, more and more people seem to be working, the city is doing a little better.
And I came to the conclusion that we cannot leave folks behind — that if people are doing better in this city, that we need to make sure that some of that benefit is being spread to those who need it the most.” And, with that, Nutter signed an executive order that does two things: it extends the living wage requirement to subcontractors, and secondly, effective next January, it raises the wage rate from $10.88 an hour to $12 an hour. The mayor said he was convinced to do this both by urgings to all mayors by President Obama, and by the local work of city councilman-at-large Wilson Goode Jr.
Steve Benen: Following GOP Misstep, Senate Slowly Fills The Federal Bench
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) no doubt understands that his party’s majority status is in jeopardy and his eight-year run heading the chamber may be wrapping up at the end of this Congress. The question is what he intends to do with the next several months. Part of the focus will be on what Senate Democrats call their “Fair Shot” agenda. Republicans have already killed proposals on pay equity and the minimum wage, but Dems still have other policy measures in mind – including an upcoming fight on college affordability – that the party hopes will leave them better positioned for the midterm elections. But Reid is also thinking ahead when it comes to confirmation votes.
Yesterday, for example, the Senate confirmed Kansas Supreme Court Justice Nancy Moritz to fill a vacancy on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. There’s been a lot of these kinds of votes lately. On Thursday the Senate confirmed two district-court judges. The day before, six other district-court judges were confirmed, which followed an appeals-court confirmation the day before that. In late March, shortly before the Senate broke for its Spring recess, the chamber confirmed another appeals-court nominee and four other district-court nominees. All told, we haven’t seen a flurry of jurists fill vacancies on the federal bench like this in quite a long while. Had it not been for the so-called “nuclear option,” we almost certainly would not see all of this progress.
Democrats, if you want to win in the fall, take some advice from Pharrell Williams: “Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth.” The Mountie-hat-wearing pop singer’s infectious “Happy” should be the Democratic Party’s theme song for the midterm election. Despite Republican claims to the contrary, things are definitely looking up. Democrats ought to be clicking their heels and spreading the good news. Friday’s announcement that unemployment fell to 6.3 percent was huge. The fact that the economy added 288,000 jobs in April — despite continued bad weather early in the month in parts of the country — suggests that the recovery has greater momentum than pessimists had feared. Economists were expecting decent numbers. These are great. The stock market, meanwhile, is flirting with an all-time high. The Dow has risen about 10 percent over the past year; the S&P 500, more than 16 percent; the Nasdaq, about 22 percent . During President Obama’s term in office, the Dow has more than doubled. If he were a socialist, as his harshest critics claim, he’d be a truly lousy one.
When Obamacare stats come in positive, GOP has no option but to fabricate bad news: ow.ly/wqQ1a
The numbers prove that Obama is, in fact, a skillful capitalist who guided the economy out of its worst slump since the Great Depression. He accomplished this feat despite being saddled with a Republican opposition in Congress that reflexively opposes his every initiative — even those based on policies the GOP supported in the past. Speaking of which, the Affordable Care Act — which is based, you’ll recall, on a framework developed in Republican think tanks — is clearly a success and may soon be seen as a triumph. More than 8 million people have signed up for insurance through the federal and state exchanges; Obama’s benchmark had been 7 million. Enough of these enrollees are young and healthy to ensure the program’s continued viability. Democrats now have a positive story they can tell in their campaign ads and speeches: “We promised you that these were the right policies to get the economy on track and reform health care. We said it would take time to see results and asked for patience. You gave us your trust, and now we’re seeing the benefits. This is just the beginning. Give us a mandate to keep moving forward on an agenda that is working.” Listen up, Democrats. You fixed the economy. You expanded access to health care. Oh, and you ended two wars. Show a little happiness. It’s contagious.
Sen. Obama on board his campaign plane at Midway Airport en-route to Washington DC, May 7, 2008 in Chicago
First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden wait for the start of the Women’s Leadership Forum Issues Conference at the Washington Hilton in Washington, D.C., May 7, 2010 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)
First Lady Michelle Obama chats with a member of her mentoring program, as her mother Marian Robinson looks on at the State Dining Room of the White House May 7, 2010
President Obama arrives to discuss the April jobs numbers outside the Oval Office, May 7, 2010. With him are Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, Budget Director Peter R. Orszag, Secretary of Commerce Gary F. Locke and Chief of the National Economic Council Larry Summers
President Obama and First Lady Michelle leave Komi restaurant in the Dupont Circle neighborhood May 7, 2010 in Washington, DC
First Lady Michelle Obama receives applause following her commencement address to the 2011 graduating class at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa, May 7, 2011 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama leave Tosca Restaurant in Washington, DC on May 7, 2011
President Obama greets 2010 Fermi Award recipients Dr. Burton Richter, right, and his wife Laurose, and Dr. Mildred S. Dresselhaus, third from right, and her husband Gene, in the Oval Office, May 7, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama and President Park Geun-hye of the Republic of Korea walk on the Colonnade of the White House before a working lunch in the Cabinet Room, May 7, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
First Lady Michelle Obama participates in a book signing, May 7, 2013, at the Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, DC.
Washington Post: Life After Jan. 1: Kentucky Clinic Offers Early Glimpse At Realities Of Health-Care Law
The envelopes began arriving in December across eastern Kentucky, one of the sickest and poorest corners of the country. “Dear member . . . We want you to be healthy . . .” read the letter to Mary Combs, and with it came a plastic card representing the first insurance she ever had: a Medicaid plan made possible by the nation’s new health-care law, effective Jan. 1. Nine days into the new year, the 41-year-old call-center worker headed to the health clinic on Highway 15. She saw a doctor about her chronic stomach ulcers, had her blood drawn for tests and collected referrals for all the specialists she had been told she needed but could never afford. The next week, she saw a neurologist, who found lesions on her brain and prescribed medicine for the cluster headaches, which are also called “suicide headaches” for pain that is far more intense than a migraine and which Combs had been treating with an alcohol-soaked cloth wrapped around her head.
“That’s the big question — does getting insurance bend the cost curve or the health outcomes curve?” said Karen Ditsch, the executive director of Juniper Health, which runs the nonprofit Breathitt clinic. Life since Jan. 1: The number of uninsured has dropped by 520 people, which represents about 21 percent of the those without coverage. Of that 520, 472 qualified under the health-care law’s expanded income parameters for Medicaid, which is aimed at the working poor. Here and there, for-profit clinics that never accepted the uninsured have hung “Welcome new patients!” signs on doors. A new blue billboard hovering above the Hardee’s advertises surgery to treat acid reflux.
Insurance companies, bless their hearts, seem determined to remind us why we need the Affordable Care Act. The latest example comes from Anthem Blue Cross, which has just hit 306,000 customers in California with premium increases of up to 25%. As reported by my colleague Chad Terhune, the increases average 16% and are scheduled to kick in April 1, unless the state Department of Insurance jawbones Anthem into backing down.
Here’s the kicker: No one can blame these increases on the mandates of the Affordable Care Act, a popular argument among critics of the act. That’s because the increases are for grandfathered policies exempt from the act.
“It’s a rich irony,” says Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access, a leading California consumer advocacy group. “The insurers can’t have it both ways — they can’t blame the increases on the ACA while increasing rates on their non-ACA-compliant plans as well.” Luckily, Anthem customers have a choice this time around. They can check the state’s insurance exchange at coveredca.com to see if they can replace their old plan with a new one that might well be better, at lower cost.
Memo to former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and the bosses at for-profit corporations who think they belong in every doctor’s office and that they should be able to decide whether their employees have access to birth control: Women who use birth control do not have an “overactive libido.” We are not looking for a handout from “Uncle Sugar” to score a contraceptive fix. We are not sluts. This is not the reality for women — it never has been and never will be.
In fact, women who use birth control are your mother, partner, sister, and daughter. Ninety-nine percent of sexually active American women have used birth control at some point in their lives. We are just regular people trying to take care of ourselves medically and financially. That’s why seven in ten Americans believe that health insurance companies should be required to cover the full cost of birth control, just as they do for other preventive services.
One of America’s most accomplished lawmakers—a crusader responsible for cleaner air, safer food, and healthier kids—is calling it a career. On Thursday, Congressman Henry Waxman announced that he would retire at the end of this term, 40 years after he first came to Congress. The list of laws for which he deserves substantial credit is simply staggering—not only for its length, but also for its breadth. Waxman was behind the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, the Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments, plus laws regulating lead, greenhouse gas emissions, and formaldehyde. That arguably makes him his generation’s most influential lawmaker on environmental issues.
He was also behind a series of Medicaid expansions, the Ryan White Care Act, the Orphan Drug Act, the Waxman-Hatch Generic Drug Act, and, of course, the Affordable Care Act. That almost certainly makes him the most influential living lawmaker on health care issues. Other major accomplishments include the Food Quality Protection Act and the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act—and, somewhere along the way, he found time to modernize the postal service. How has Waxman done it? For one thing, Waxman recognizes that lawmaking requires patience and persistence—that you have to build the case for legislation, through investigations and stagecraft, even if that takes years or even decades.
Hannah Allam: Kerry’s First Year As Top U.S. Diplomat Yields Breakthroughs On Thorny Issues
A year ago, John Kerry succeeded Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, joking on one of his first days at work that he had “big heels to fill.” Now a year into his role as America’s top diplomat, Kerry has proven that any trepidation about following such a high-profile figure was misplaced. Kerry’s anniversary this week – he assumed office on Feb. 1, 2013 – finds him, in the opinion of foreign policy analysts, with more significant, concrete breakthroughs than Clinton had in her entire four-year term. As showpieces they hold up the nuclear deal with Iran and the chemical weapons pact with Syria.
A year into Kerry’s tenure, Ross said, the picture from Asia is brighter. Ross, who’s in Beijing for six months, said U.S. diplomacy has brought about improved cooperation with China on North Korea, including landmark banking and other sanctions. And while there are still no U.S.-Chinese military agreements, he said, there are deeper military contacts so that American officials can “pick up the phone and call them if there’s an escalation.” “Secretary Kerry speaks with a quieter voice and made real policy adjustments,” Ross said. “The quiet approach has been more useful than his predecessor’s.”
In the bitter cold, dark hours of the night, as many others are sleeping, Rocio Caravantes begins her hourlong journey on public transportation from her home in Logan Square to one of her two jobs downtown. Once she arrives at work, Caravantes spends hours vacuuming and scrubbing floors, polishing sinks and toilets, cleaning the bar areas and event spaces and tidying up the rugs in an upscale luxury hotel where she can’t afford to spend a night. Panic at times grips her as she thinks about how she will pay all her bills, she said.
“It is impossible to live on $8.25 an hour,” Caravantes said in Spanish, through an interpreter. “Not even three jobs are enough. I earn $495 biweekly. The first check goes to rent — it’s $500 a month. The second is for transportation, food, (phone) and education.” Caravantes, 40, is one example of the minimum wage workers who have become the focus of a national conversation about salaries for the working poor. It’s a political debate in the Illinois governor’s race, and Gov. Pat Quinn used his State of the State address last week to renew his push for an increase in the state minimum wage. President Barack Obama weighed in on the issue too when he asked Congress to increase the federal wage to $10.10.
But the Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research organization in Washington, D.C., paints a broader portrait of low-wage workers. “People tend to think of low-wage workers as teenagers who are working on the weekends for extra spending money,” said David Cooper, an analyst with the institute. “While that is a portion of these workers, the vast majority don’t fit that stereotype.” According to the institute’s research, more than half of low-wage workers are older than 30.
As President Barack Obama made clear in his State of the Union address, it is time to focus on restoring opportunity for all. That means helping to make sure more Americans can take part in our growing economy and build some economic security for the long term. To get that done, we are putting forward real, concrete solutions to our most pressing problems – from college affordability and job training to fair wages and a stable retirement. This program, which will begin later this year, is called myRA or My Retirement Account. This account is designed to help low- and middle-income workers, who are too often overlooked or ignored, begin saving for retirement. We are talking about the waitress who is holding down two part-time jobs to support her kids; the recent graduate who landed a job but is grappling with student loans; the janitor who has never been given the chance to invest in a retirement account.
Here is how myRA, which is simple, safe and affordable, will work. You will be able to start saving with an initial deposit of as little as $25 and contribute as little as $5 each payday. If an employer chooses to participate, contributions are made through automatic payroll deductions, making them hassle-free. There are no fees – 100 percent of any contribution goes into the account and is invested in a Treasury security. That means it will be backed by the full faith and credit of the United States, will earn the same interest rate that is available to federal employees for their retirement savings, and the balance will never go down. Finally, myRA is not tied to any one employer – it belongs to the worker, not the workplace. In other words, the account is portable and can be easily rolled into a Roth IRA. And if myRA savers ever need to, they can withdraw their contributions tax-free, at any time.
It is utterly irrelevant if Chris Christie ‘wins the day’ or the weekend or the next 5 minutes or the next week. Irrelevant. The bottom line is that he is in serious trouble, politically and legally. On the legal front, the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey is probing allegations by the mayor of Hoboken that a member of Christie’s cabinet and the lieutenant governor linked federal Hurricane Sandy relief funds to the the mayor’s support for a redevelopment project in Hoboken that would exclusively benefit one of Christie’s closest allies – whom he appointed to chair the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
This morning on his MSNBC show Steve Kornacki discussed reporting he and I (and producer Jack Bohrer) did showing that those federal Hurricane Sandy funds have not been monitored by the Christie Administration as required by a law that Christie himself signed last March. Furthermore, relief funds have been extremely hard to account for because Christie vetoed a bill that would have created a single website to track Sandy funding and contract information. Based on the reactions of two congressmen who watched the report with me, officials in Washington will be loath to trust Christie with the next round of federal funds and we should not be surprised if an investigation is on the horizon.
The push to build Barack Obama’s presidential library officially got underway Friday with the establishment of a foundation managed by three of his longtime supporters. “The president’s future library will one day serve as an important part of our nation’s historical record, and our mission is to build a library that tells President Obama’s remarkable story in an interactive way that will inspire future generations to become involved in public service,” Nesbitt said.
The foundation is responsible for developing a library that reflects Obama’s values and priorities, according to Nesbitt. He said it will focus on economic opportunity, inspiring an ethic of American citizenship and promoting peace, justice and dignity around the world, among other things.
Pete Souza: “White House valets had moved the sofas in the Oval Office to accommodate the large number of press photographers that were covering the President’s meeting with Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas. When the photo-op ended, the President said to Gov. Douglas, ‘let’s move the sofas back in place.’ Gov. Douglas didn’t quite know what to do as the President did the heavy lifting. The valets now good-naturedly cringe when they look at this picture because it was their responsibility to move the sofas back in place.” Feb. 2, 2009
President Obama walks to the Oval Office after returning to the White House following a trip to Nashua, N.H., Feb. 2, 2010 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
First Lady Michelle Obama speaking alongside Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Democratic Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, on childhood obesity during a meeting with Cabinet and Congressional members in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House, February 2, 2010
Vice President Joe Biden talks with Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., after President Barack Obama signed the New START Treaty in the Oval Office, Feb. 2, 2011. Behind them, the President talks with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama is updated on the severe winter storm currently moving across the country during a phone call with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate in the Oval Office, Feb. 2, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Vice President Joe Biden snaps a photo of President Barack Obama and keynote speaker Eric Metaxas during the National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C., Feb. 2, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Pete Souza: President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden provide encouragement to Erick Varela, who was about to introduce the President, prior to an event to outline new efforts to help the long-term unemployed, in the Green Room of the White House
The first steps toward building President Barack Obama’s library and museum were announced on Friday with the launch of a foundation to oversee the competitive selection process with the target date of picking a site early in 2015. Martin Nesbitt, Obama’s close friend who will run the effort with two other Obama associates, told me in an interview they are committed to a “thoughtful, consistent, fair and transparent” process with the ultimate choice left to Obama and first lady Michelle. “We have no preconceived idea about what these proposals will look like. We want to create a blank canvass, create sort of a white canvas with some guiding principles that allow people to respond in a thoughtful and creative way and we will evaluate them when they come in,” Nesbitt said.
Incorporation papers for the newly created Barack H. Obama Foundation were filed Friday in Washington, D.C. The foundation is led by Chicagoan Nesbitt, the co-CEO of The Vistria Group and treasurer of Obama’s two White House campaigns; Julianna Smoot, a co-chair of the 2012 re-election bid and the 2008 National Finance Director and J. Kevin Poorman, the Wilmette businessman who took over several companies run by Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker when she stepped down to join Obama’s cabinet. Obama asked Nesbitt to take on the duty of running the foundation last summer, and I broke the news that Nesbitt and Smoot would helm a foundation last July.
Terry Tang: Tape Of Martin Luther King Jr. Ariz. Speech Found
Mary Scanlon had no idea a $3 purchase from a Goodwill store in Phoenix would turn out to be a rare link to the civil rights movement’s most revered leader. Last April, Scanlon was at the thrift store when she spotted a pile of 35 vintage reel-to-reel tapes, including one labeled with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s name. Despite the moldy and torn packaging, she snapped up all of them. “I didn’t really necessarily have any expectation that this tape would be rare,” Scanlon said. Arizona State University archivists have found that tape is the only known recording of speeches the slain civil rights leader gave at ASU and at a Phoenix church in June 1964.
The hour-long audio has since been digitized and is now available for listening on ASU’s website through June 30. The tape illustrates that King had been eager to visit supporters in Arizona, a state that would draw criticism more than 20 years later for rescinding the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Scanlon, who donated all the tapes to the school, said the find is one of the high points of her life. “To have anything about myself connected in any way to Martin Luther King, what more could a person ask for? I’m so proud,” Scanlon said.
NYT: Ex-Port Authority Official Says ‘Evidence Exists’ Christie Knew About Lane Closings
The former Port Authority official who personally oversaw the lane closings at the George Washington Bridge, central to the scandal now swirling around Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, said on Friday that “evidence exists” the governor knew about the lane closings when they were happening. In a letter released by his lawyer, the former official, David Wildstein, a high school friend of Mr. Christie’s who was appointed with the governor’s blessing at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which controls the bridge, described the order to close the lanes as “the Christie administration’s order”
and said “evidence exists as well tying Mr. Christie to having knowledge of the lane closures, during the period when the lanes were closed, contrary to what the governor stated publicly in a two-hour press conference” three weeks ago. During his news conference, Mr. Christie specifically said he had no knowledge that traffic lanes leading to the bridge had been closed until after they were reopened. “I had no knowledge of this — of the planning, the execution or anything about it — and that I first found out about it after it was over,” he said. “And even then, what I was told was that it was a traffic study.”
Chris Geidner: Edith Windsor’s Lawyer Seeks To Argue In Utah Marriage Appeal
Three same-sex couples — represented by the New York lawyer who represented Edith Windsor in her successful challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act — have asked the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to allow them to intervene in the pending lawsuit challenging Utah’s marriage laws.
In a Friday filing at the court, Roberta Kaplan argued on behalf of the couples that they should be allowed to intervene in the appeal — a move they acknowledge would be an “exceptional case” — in order to raise questions about other portions of Utah law that prevent recognition of same-sex couples.
TPM: Keystone XL Oil Pipeline Clears Major Hurdle For Construction
The proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada has cleared a significant hurdle after the State Department raised no major environmental objections to its construction. The department’s report was released Friday. It says Canadian tar sands are likely to be developed regardless of U.S. action on the pipeline and other options to get the oil from western Canada to Texas Gulf Coast refineries are worse for the environment. The latest environmental review stops short of recommending approval of the project. State Department approval of the project is needed because it crosses a U.S. border. A decision is not expected before the summer.
1. Wildstein is claiming evidence exists that Christie knew. He would look bad if such evidence does not come to light. 2. Wildstein spent time with Christie while the lanes were closed. If you had been ordered to close traffic lines for punitive reasons, and you saw the governor, wouldn’t you either tell him about it, or else already know he approved?
Undertaking an action like that without knowing the governor approved it, and without having any desire to take credit, seems like an implausible motivation. 3. Christie has changed his story about when he knew about the lane closings. Having first asserted he learned on October 1, Christie later claimed he learned earlier, though would not say when. 4. His campaign manager is pleading the fifth.
Dylan Scott: Study: Thousands Of People Will Die In States That Don’t Expand Medicaid
As many as 17,000 Americans will die directly as a result of states deciding not to expand Medicaid under Obamacare, according to a new study. Researchers from Harvard University and City University of New York have estimated that between 7,115 and 17,104 deaths will be “attributable to the lack of Medicaid expansion in opt-out states” in a study published in Health Affairs.
“The results were sobering,” Samuel Dickman, one of the authors, said, according to theMorning Call. “Political decisions have consequences, some of them lethal.” They projected that 423,000 fewer diabetics would receive medication to treat their disease. If opt-out states had expanded Medicaid, 659,000 women who are in need of mammograms and 3.1 million women who should receive regular pap smears would have become insured, the study found.
Powerful commercial. Native Americans are human beings and the NFL is disgusting for not treating them as such
Sahil Kapur: Boehner Promises GOP No Path To Citizenship In Immigration Reform
Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told House Republicans that the immigration blueprint his leadership team released on Thursday was “as far as we are willing to go” to make reform happen, according to a source in the room.
The blueprint supports legal status for undocumented immigrants, which is already further than many conservatives want to go. If Democrats demand the promise of citizenship for people living in the U.S. illegally, as the bill passed by the Senate would do, the Speaker said the House would block reform.
OFA: What Does Health Insurance Mean To This 20-Something?
In 2009, I was healthy, preparing to graduate from college, and getting ready to start on a career that I love with an exciting opportunity at a new startup in an emerging field. And when I say startup, I mean startup. Shoe-string, even. There were only two of us. It was pretty risky, but I was beyond excited.
But then—out of the blue—I was diagnosed with a chronic condition that nearly derailed it all. Luckily, I was able to get treatment and was soon back to being myself. But I had two things added to my life: daily medicine to keep the condition in check, and a “pre-existing condition.” That’s when I really got why this whole health insurance thing matters.
thanks to the Affordable Care Act, it’s going to stay that way. When it was time for me to shop on the marketplace for my own coverage this winter, I was protected: No plan could deny me because of my pre-existing condition. I found one that is really comprehensive and is still within my budget. Now, I’m healthy, and I’ve got my own plan that I can afford and rely on.
Reuters: Two Obamacare Exchanges See More Health Insurer Competition
At least two U.S. states running their own Obamacare health insurance exchanges expect new insurers to enter their marketplaces and bolster competition in 2015, officials said on Friday.
Kynect, which is Kentucky’s marketplace, and the Rhode Island Health Benefits Exchange have had separate talks about 2015 with health insurers that could opt to join the online marketplaces set up under President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law. Kentucky also expects an expansion of physician networks available within current plans.
Increased competition would increase consumer choices and tend to put downward pressure on health insurance cost trends. It could also help ensure the future of Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which depends on the success of new online marketplaces.
Get the facts – there’s now a permanent link in the sidebar on the right
ThinkProgress: The Remarkable Slowdown In Health Care Costs Since The Passage Of Obamacare
A new survey of health care premiums for employer-sponsored health care coverage shows that health care inflation is slowing, further undermining critics’ predictions that costs would skyrocket in the aftermath of the Affordable Care Act.
…. Other reports have also uncovered a slowdown in cost increases. The number of double-digit rate increases requested by health insurers in the individual market has plummeted over the past four years and Medicare’s projected spending between 2010 and 2020 had dropped by over $500 billion. Under the new cost scenario, the entitlement program would, by 2085, make up 4 percent of the economy instead of the previously projected 7 percent.
Annual growth of medical spending has also slowed “from a high of about 8.8 percent in 2003 to an average of about 3 percent per capita from 2009 to 2011, according to data reported in January by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.”
USA Today: States predict more insurance customers
Estimates from 19 states operating health insurance exchanges to help the uninsured find coverage show that at least 8.5 million will use the exchanges to buy insurance. That would far outstrip the federal government’s estimate of 7 million new customers for all 50 states under the 2010 health care law….
…. “It’s not a positive development for the Republican opponents who would like to see this fail,” said Paul Ginsburg, president of the Center for Studying Health System Change…..
Jamelle Bouie: Anti-Obamacare Rage, Once a GOP Hit, Fizzles Despite Town Halls
Tea Party Republicans had a huge hit with their rage against Obamacare. It gave them control of the House of Representatives in 2010, fueled their anti-spending crusade in 2011, inspired the most vocal of the GOP presidential candidates, and elevated a host of right-wing politicians to the Senate, providing a national platform for the crusade against the so-called government takeover of health care.
Hits aren’t built to last, however, and after a while, this one began to fizzle … The magic has fizzled so much that some Republicans have begun to walk away from the project altogether, even as others work to turn Obamacare funding into cause for a government shutdown.
… Heritage can play as many of the old tunes as it likes. When October 1 comes, the Affordable Care Act will be there, ready to confer benefits, provide security, and begin the slow transformation of American health care.
TPM: Rick Perry In Talks To Accept Obamacare Funding For Elderly
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), an ardent opponent of the Affordable Care Act, is in talks with Obama administration officials to accept an estimated $100 million in care for the elderly and disabled through Obamacare….
Texas health officials are seeking to enroll in the so-called Community First Choice program available via the law’s Medicaid expansion. Perry officially declined to enroll his state in the program, saying in April that expanding the program for the poor would make Texas “hostage” to the federal government.
TPM: Only One in Four Young Adults Know About Obamacare Exchanges
Only one in four young American adults are aware of the online health insurance marketplaces that will open on Oct. 1 as part of the federal health care reform law, according to a report released Wednesday.
In a survey of adults ages 19 to 29 by the non-profit nonpartisan Commonwealth Fund, just 27 percent said they knew they would be able to purchase insurance on the marketplaces, also known as exchanges, starting Oct. 1.
The young adult population has been the focal point of the Obama administration’s campaign to promote the marketplaces. The White House has said that it wants to enroll 2.7 million people ages 18 to 35 in the exchanges by next year; 7 million people in total are expected to sign up for health coverage.
The new report underlines the challenge that the administration faces in reaching that population….
Michael Tomasky: Republicans Move to the Center? Nope, They’re Crazier Than Ever
If you thought the GOP would adopt more moderate positions after its 2012 debacle, you were wrong. From debate threats to defunding Obamacare and even more purges, Michael Tomasky on how the insanity’s only increasing.
If you’d asked me six months ago whether the Republican Party would manage to find a few ways to sidle back toward the center between now and 2016, I’d have said yes. But today, on the basis of evidence offered so far this year, I’d have to say a big fat no. With every passing month, the party contrives new ways to go crazier. There’s a lot of time between now and 2016, but it’s hard to watch recent events without concluding that the extreme part of the base is gaining more and more internal control.
Greg Sargent: “Senate Democrats believe that they have several new votes in favor of a bill that would expand background checks for gun buyers, after weeks in which those who opposed the legislation faced strong political backlash at home. One of these votes currently in play may be Senator Johnny Isakson, who sponsored a background check bill on the state level in Georgia. A gun control advocate who met with Senator Isakson today tells me that he said he is open to voting for Manchin-Toomey if and when it comes up again — and that he is in active talks with Senator Joe Manchin about the measure.
To be sure, this is very little grounds, by itself, for hoping for future passage of Manchin-Toomey. After all, Dems need to flip five senators to break the GOP filibuster. But it is clear that Dem leaders really do want to hold another vote, that conversations are continuing, and that a few senators may be open to changing their stance. This will only encourage the gun reform forces to keep up the pressure, which is key.
Dylan Matthews: Robert Rector and Jason Richwine of the Heritage Foundation have made a splash by releasing a paper claiming that the immigration reform bill being weighed in the U.S. Senate will cost the government $5.3 trillion. Or, more precisely, that undocumented immigrants under current law will cost the government $1 trillion, and legalizing those immigrants will increase that to $6.3 trillion. Subtract one from the other and you get the $5.3 trillion total cost estimate.
So does the Heritage estimate hold up? Not really. They make a lot of curious methodological choices that cumulatively throw the study into question. It’s likely that immigrants would pay a lot more in taxes, and need a lot less in benefits, than Heritage assumes, and that other benefits would outweigh what costs remain. the best study we have on the fiscal effects of immigration reform, from the CBO, finds the impact to be minimal or positive. But the Heritage numbers simply are not credible.