Posts Tagged ‘greed


Rise and Shine

President Obama talks on the phone with a foreign leader in the Oval Office, Jan. 26, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)



Sara Kliff: Don’t Look Now, But Obamacare Might Just Hit A Sign-Up Projection

Three million people have signed up for private insurance coverage through the health law marketplaces, according to Health and Human Services. Health and Human Services says that at least 800,000 people signed up for coverage through this week. So this new figure shouldn’t be seen as representing overall January enrollment–that number will likely inch up a bit, when the Obama administration releases a monthly enrollment report in February. Back in September, the Obama administration had projected 1.1 million people would sign-up in the first month of 2014–and these new figures suggest that enrollment could easily hit that number.

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Louise Radnosfky: Court Says Missouri Can’t Block Health-Law Helpers

A federal court has temporarily blocked Missouri officials from restricting organizations in the state from helping people sign up for health insurance as part of the federal health-overhaul law.

The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri granted an injunction Thursday blocking the Missouri insurance department from enforcing a state law passed last year that limited the activities of people seeking to enroll the uninsured through new insurance exchanges.

Judge Ortrie Smith granted a preliminary injunction on the grounds that the plaintiffs, St. Louis Effort for AIDS and Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, were likely to prevail in their argument that the state had improperly tried to override the federal government’s efforts to implement the health-care overhaul.

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Edward Lucas: Edward Snowden: Did The American Whistleblower Act Alone?

Spy agencies engage in espionage, an inherently disreputable trade: it involves stealing secrets. When details leak, they look shocking. But the hypocrisy of the Snowdenistas is as jarring as their naivety. Our enemies – notably Russia and China – are spying on us. So too are our allies. France runs a mighty industrial espionage service for the benefit of its big companies. Germany has an excellent signals intelligence agency, the Kommando Strategische Aufklärung. Germany’s spies were recently caught spying on their Nato ally, Estonia, using an official who was also spying for the Russians. Far from denigrating American intelligence, we should applaud it. It helps catch terrorists, gangsters and spies. Moreover, its oversight and scrutiny is the toughest in the world. America has taken the most elusive and lawless part of government and crammed it into a system of legislative and judicial control.

America is also part of the world’s only successful no-spy agreement, with its close allies – notably Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. A list of countries that would trust Germany or France not to spy on them would be rather shorter.  Instead, the great grievance of the Snowden camp is what they see as the arbitrary power of the NSA and GCHQ. Who gave these agencies the power to bug and snoop? The real answer to that is simple: the elected governments and leaders of those countries, the judges and lawmakers charged with supervising the intelligence services, and the directors of those agencies in the exercise of their lawful powers. The question deserves to be posed in the other direction. What gives the Snowdenistas and their media allies the right to leak our most closely guarded and expensive secrets?

The Snowden affair is a story of secrecy and deception – but not on the side of the intelligence agencies. Far too little attention has been paid to the political agendas of the most ardent Snowdenistas – people such as the bombastic Brazil-based blogger, Glenn Greenwald, hysterical “hacktivist” Jacob Appelbaum, and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. They cloak their extreme and muddled beliefs in the language of privacy rights, civil liberties and digital freedoms.

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Think Progress: Why Target’s Part-Time Employees Will Be Better Off Under Obamacare

Chain retailer Target announced on Wednesday that it will stop offering health insurance to employees who work less than 30 hours per week, instead sending these workers to Obamacare’s insurance marketplaces to buy new plans. Target will continue offering insurance to those who work for 30 hours or more per week, the threshold Obamacare sets for large employers with 50 or more employees. The company won’t be cutting anyone’s work week in order to save on its bottom line, will employ consultants to help workers sign up for new health plans, and will give them a one-time cash payment of $500 to help with the cost.

The sorts of plans that retailers and restaurants offer to part-time workers are nothing approaching comprehensive. By contrast, Obamacare’s marketplace plans have to offer comprehensive benefits, including for mental health services and prescription drugs, and cannot place annual or lifetime limits on coverage. A 27-year-old non-smoking Target employee named Jane makes $12 per hour and works 29 hours per week. Jane has a pre-tax annual income of about $16,704, meaning she is at about 145 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). The Kaiser Family Foundation’s (KFF) subsidy calculator shows that Jane would pay less than $52 per month for a mid-level “Silver” plan under Obamacare after getting her premium subsidy.

Since Jane makes less than 2.5 times the poverty level, she’d be eligible for even more Obamacare cost-sharing subsidies that would limit her yearly deductible and hold her maximum out-of-pocket medical expenses at $2,250 per year. An employee who made even less, like a 24-year-old non-smoker making $9 per hour, would qualify for Medicaid if he or she lived in a state that took place in Obamacare’s expansion of the program, or would have to pay just $20 per month for a Silver plan on the marketplaces.

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The Atlantic: Obamacare Is A Powerful New Crime-Fighting Tool

An astonishing two-thirds of the 730,000 men and women released from America’s lockups each year have either substance abuse problems, mental health problems, or both. Very often, those problems were largely responsible for getting them locked up in the first place. Most addicted and mentally ill prisoners receive little or no effective treatment while they’re incarcerated or after they’re turned loose, so it’s little surprise that, like Sanders, they soon wind up back in jail. But for some, that revolving door may stop spinning this year, thanks to a little-noticed side-effect of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Obamacare, it turns out, might be a crime-fighting tool.

Among many other reforms, the ACA is drastically expanding Medicaid, the federal insurance scheme for the poor. Previously, able-bodied childless adults were generally not covered by Medicaid, regardless of how impoverished they might have been. But starting this year, any American citizen under age 65 with a family income at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty line—about $25,000 for a family of three—is eligible for Medicaid (at least in the two dozen states that have so far agreed to participate in this aspect of Obamacare). Meanwhile, citizens and legal immigrants earning between 138 percent and 400 percent of the poverty line are now entitled to subsidies to help pay for private insurance. Taken together, those two provisions mean that tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of the inmates released every year are now eligible for health insurance, including coverage for mental health and substance abuse services.

Providing treatment to those former prisoners could yield enormous benefits for all of us. The average cost to incarcerate someone for a year is roughly $25,000. That means if only one percent of each year’s released inmates stay out of trouble, taxpayers will save nearly $200 million annually— “Success in implementing the Affordable Care Act has the potential to decrease crime, recidivism, and criminal justice costs, while simultaneously improving the health and safety of communities,” sums up a recent report by the federal Department of Justice.

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George Zornick: Justice Department Could Ease Regulations For Legal Weed Businesses ‘Very Soon’

Attorney General Eric Holder announced Thursday that the Obama administration will “very soon” issue some regulations that would make it easier for commercial banks to do business with legal marijuana operations—a seemingly small change, but one that could be seminal in launching legal marijuana into the mainstream. Currently, state-sanctioned marijuana outfits essentially have no access to normal venues for banking and finance. Banks worry that accepting deposits from legal marijuana operations, or giving them loans, could expose the bank to legal or regulatory action, given the patchwork set of laws that make marijuana illegal on the federal level, even if certain states have legalized it.

This is, naturally, a huge problem for commercial marijuana retailers—how can you launch and run a business without any loans? They also often have to pay bills and employees in cash, which is difficult from a logistical perspective. At the University of Virginia on Thursday, Holder cited the problem of undeposited cash and suggested changes are on the way. “You don’t want just huge amounts of cash in these places. They want to be able to use the banking system,” he said. “There’s a public safety component to this. Huge amounts of cash, substantial amounts of cash just kind of lying around with no place for it to be appropriately deposited, is something that would worry me, just from a law enforcement perspective.” Holder added that “we will be issuing some regulations I think very soon to deal with that issue.”

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Sam Polk: For The Love Of Money **(This piece is a MUST READ. 1% + Greed = Obscene)**

IN my last year on Wall Street my bonus was $3.6 million — and I was angry because it wasn’t big enough. I was 30 years old, had no children to raise, no debts to pay, no philanthropic goal in mind. I wanted more money for exactly the same reason an alcoholic needs another drink: I was addicted. After graduation, I got a job at Bank of America. At the end of my first year I was thrilled to receive a $40,000 bonus. Over the next few years I worked like a maniac and began to move up the Wall Street ladder. I became a bond and credit default swap trader, one of the more lucrative roles in the business. Just four years after I started at Bank of America, Citibank offered me a “1.75 by 2” which means $1.75 million per year for two years.

Now, working elbow to elbow with billionaires, I was a giant fireball of greed. I’d think about how my colleagues could buy Micronesia if they wanted to, or become mayor of New York City. They didn’t just have money; they had power. I wanted a billion dollars. It’s staggering to think that in the course of five years, I’d gone from being thrilled at my first bonus — $40,000 — to being disappointed when, my second year at the hedge fund, I was paid “only” $1.5 million. But in the end, it was actually my absurdly wealthy bosses who helped me see the limitations of unlimited wealth. I was in a meeting with one of them, and a few other traders, and they were talking about the new hedge-fund regulations. Most everyone on Wall Street thought they were a bad idea. “But isn’t it better for the system as a whole?” I asked. The room went quiet, and my boss shot me a withering look. I remember his saying, “I don’t have the brain capacity to think about the system as a whole. All I’m concerned with is how this affects our company.”


From that moment on, I started to see Wall Street with new eyes. I noticed the vitriol that traders directed at the government for limiting bonuses after the crash. I heard the fury in their voices at the mention of higher taxes. These traders despised anything or anyone that threatened their bonuses. I had recently finished Taylor Branch’s three-volume series on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement, and the image of the Freedom Riders stepping out of their bus into an infuriated mob had seared itself into my mind. I’d told myself that if I’d been alive in the ‘60s, I would have been on that bus. But I was lying to myself. There were plenty of injustices out there — rampant poverty, swelling prison populations, a sexual-assault epidemic, an obesity crisis. Not only was I not helping to fix any problems in the world, but I was profiting from them. During the market crash in 2008, I’d made a ton of money by shorting the derivatives of risky companies. As the world crumbled, I profited.

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On This Day:

Sen. Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama take the stage for his victory rally at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center January 26, 2008 after winning the South Carolina Democratic primary


President Obama is briefed before the Swearing-in Ceremony for Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner at the U.S. Treasury Department, Jan. 26, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama is briefed prior to making phone calls to foreign leaders in the Oval Office, Jan. 26, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)


President Obama and Rep. Ben Chandler (D-Ky.), call the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team from the Oval Office to thank them for raising over $1 million to help the relief efforts in Haiti through “Hoops for Haiti,” Jan. 26, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)


President Obama exchanges greetings with a supporter after speaking at a UPS facility, Jan. 26, 2012, in Las Vegas


afternoon all

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Steve Benen: …. as it turns out, Bush’s approval rating the summer before his re-election bid isn’t much different than President Obama’s current approval rating. Bush had a few months to see his support grow; Obama has a year.

And why did Bush’s support grow from the mid-40s to the low-50s? Chait argued, persuasively, that voters starting seeing the president “within the context of a partisan choice,” and decided they liked him more after taking a look at the wealthy Massachusetts challenger with an awkward personality and who was often accused of flip-flopping.


…. If Republicans were a popular party with a popular agenda, this would be a very different story. Likewise, if Obama were a poor campaigner facing a charismatic GOP frontrunner, I’d a different set of expectations. But I’ve seen a lot of Obama political obituaries, and at this point, none of them have proven persuasive to me.

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