It’s been a good few days for America. On Thursday, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the Affordable Care Act. It is here to stay. And, Democrats and Republicans in Congress paved the way for the United States to rewrite the rules of global trade to benefit American workers and American businesses. On Friday, the Court recognized the Constitutional guarantee of marriage equality. With that ruling, our union became a little more perfect — a place where more people are treated equally, no matter who they are or who they love. These steps build upon America’s steady progress in recent years. Out of the depths of recession, we’ve emerged ready to write our own future. Our businesses have created 12.6 million new jobs over the past 63 months — the longest streak on record. More than 16 million Americans have gained health insurance. More kids are graduating from high school and college than ever before. But more work lies ahead, if we are to succeed in making sure this recovery reaches all hardworking Americans and their families.
We’ve got to keep making sure hard work is rewarded. Right now, too many Americans are working long days for less pay than they deserve. That’s partly because we’ve failed to update overtime regulations for years — and an exemption meant for highly paid, white collar employees now leaves out workers making as little as $23,660 a year — no matter how many hours they work. This week, I’ll head to Wisconsin to discuss my plan to extend overtime protections to nearly 5 million workers in 2016, covering all salaried workers making up to about $50,400 next year. That’s good for workers who want fair pay, and it’s good for business owners who are already paying their employees what they deserve — since those who are doing right by their employees are undercut by competitors who aren’t. That’s how America should do business. In this country, a hard day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay.
Mike Dorning: Obama Plans To Expand Overtime Eligibility For Millions
The Obama administration plans to raise the wages of millions of Americans who work more than 40 hours a week by requiring their employers to pay them overtime. Workers who earn as much as $970 a week would have to be paid overtime even if they’re classified as a manager or professional, based on draft rules to be announced as soon as Tuesday, said an administration official. Many employees now receiving as little as $455 a week, or $23,660 a year — below the federal poverty line for a family of four — aren’t entitled to overtime pay because they are classified as managers exempt from overtime pay. The regulations, from the Labor Department, would take effect in 2016, said the official, who asked for anonymity because the plan hasn’t been announced. Workers in retail stores and restaurants are among most likely to be affected.
“You would be hard pressed to find a rule change or an executive order that would reach more middle class workers than this one,” said Jared Bernstein, a former economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden who is now a senior fellow at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. The median U.S. household income of $54,600 in April was $1,600 short of the amount at the start of the recession in December 2007, according to inflation-adjusted estimates from Sentier Research. Ross Eisenbrey, vice president of the Economic Policy Institute, a research group partly funded by labor unions, has estimated that the higher salary threshold would expand overtime to as many as 15 million additional workers.
First Lady Michelle Obama smiles as she is introduced by Dylan Tete, an Iraq War veteran and executive director of Bastion Community of Resilience, at an event honoring efforts to help homeless veterans in New Orleans. First Lady Michelle Obama and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu spoke Monday to leaders from government, industry and the non-profit sector. The topic was the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness, which Obama started last June. She said the city has moved more than 260 veterans into housing since the initiative began
Worth a read: The First Lady and @DrBiden on preventing and ending veteran homelessness in America: bit.ly/1HMgLoJ
This is horrific. Black people are being targeted left, right, and sideways. Get arrested for walking, get arrested for driving, get arrested for riding a bicycle. This country is waging a war everyday against Black people. It’s too much
“Of the 10,000 bicycle tickets issued by Tampa police in the past dozen years, the newspaper found that black cyclists received 79 percent of those citations, despite making up less than a quarter of the city’s population.”
Today, the average after-tax income of a member of the top 1 percent of earners is $1.12 million. The average after-tax income of someone in the bottom 20 percent is $13,300. That means the average person at the top takes home 84 times the income that the average person in the bottom takes home. Now, consider what it would be like if none of President Obama’s tax policy changes had happened: not the upper-income tax hikes negotiated at the beginning of last year, not the upper-income tax increases imposed by the Affordable Care Act, not the low-income tax credits enacted in the 2009 stimulus and later renewed.
In this alternative universe, the average member of the top 1 percent would take home $1.2 million, or 6.5 percent more in income, according to a new analysis. The average member of the bottom 20 percent would bring home $13,100, or 1.2 percent less in income. As a result, the average member of the 1 percent would take home 91 times what the average person in the bottom would bring home. If you’ve wondered whether Obama has made any headway at reducing income inequality, here’s evidence that he has. Based on tax policy alone, he has slightly increased the income of the poor and more significantly reduced the income of the rich.
On This Day – Pete Souza: “One of the most poignant days of the year was when Ruby Bridges visited the White House. Ruby is the girl portrayed in Norman Rockwell’s famous painting, “The Problem We All Live With,” which depicts Ruby as she is escorted to school on the court-ordered first day of integrated schools in New Orleans in 1960. When the Norman Rockwell Museum loaned the painting to the White House for a short period of time, the President invited Ruby to view the painting while it was on display outside the Oval Office.” July 15, 2011
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Today (All Times Eastern)
11:10: The President tours the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center, McLean, Virginia
11:35: Delivers remarks
12:30: Josh Earnest briefs the press
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The Week Ahead
Wednesday: The President will attend meetings at the White House.
Thursday: The President will travel to New York City area to attend a DNC roundtable. Further details on the President’s travel to New York will be made available in the coming days.
Friday: The President will attend meetings at the White House.
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President Obama holds up three fingers while talking with three-year-old Holden Fossum and his sisters Ayla, 8, and Alexandria, 4, during a greet with wounded warriors and their families in the East Room of the White House, July 14, 2014. Holden, Ayla, and Alexandria are the children of Staff Sergeant Brendan Fossum and wife Dana of Woodbine, Md (Photo by Pete Souza)
How many Americans know how health reform is going? For that matter, how many people in the news media are following the positive developments? I suspect that the answer to the first question is “Not many,” while the answer to the second is “Possibly even fewer,” for reasons I’ll get to later. And if I’m right, it’s a remarkable thing — an immense policy success is improving the lives of millions of Americans, but it’s largely slipping under the radar.
How is that possible? Think relentless negativity without accountability. The Affordable Care Act has faced nonstop attacks from partisans and right-wing media, with mainstream news also tending to harp on the act’s troubles. Many of the attacks have involved predictions of disaster, none of which have come true. But absence of disaster doesn’t make a compelling headline, and the people who falsely predicted doom just keep coming back with dire new warnings.
NYT: Anxious Moments For An Afghanistan on the Brink
It was the Germans who uttered the first alarm that a potentially deadly power struggle might be brewing, after weeks of Western officials’ staying on the sidelines as the Afghan election crisis deepened. Just over a week ago, they threatened to withdraw funding and training troops from Afghanistan if a powerful regional governor declared a breakaway government led by the presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah. What followed was as tumultuous a six-day stretch for Afghanistan as any since the American invasion in 2001. Interviews with Western officials, the two presidential campaigns and other Afghan officials detailed a week that went beyond any
previous political crisis in carrying the risk of a factional conflict that would tear open the wounds of the devastating civil war. According to Mr. Manawi and others, it was a call from President Obama to Mr. Abdullah just after dawn last Tuesday that helped stop a headlong rush into a disastrous power struggle. Mr. Obama warned Mr. Abdullah not to even consider seizing power and to keep calm over the three days until Secretary of State John Kerry could get to Kabul. “Really here the U.S. government did a great favor to the Afghan people,” Mr. Manawi said. “If it was not for the telephone call to Dr. Abdullah, this would not have stopped.”
Danny Vinik: The Border Crisis Has Nothing To Do With Border Security
By linking them, a GOP congressman could kill Obama’s emergency request On “Fox News Sunday,” House Homeland Security Chairman Mike McCaul floated the idea of tying his border security bill to President Barack Obama’s request for $3.7 billion to help ease the humanitarian crisis unfolding at the Southwest border. That crisis is real and requires immediate action from Congress, but it has nothing to do with border security. McCaul’s attempt to combine the issues only puts the funding request in jeopardy.
Those funds are needed to house and feed the 50,000-plus unaccompanied minors who have entered the U.S. so far this year; find sponsors for them while they await their court proceedings; hire more immigration judges to reduce the case backlog; and, for those who aren’t allowed to stay, transport them home. Obama’s request also includes money for increased border security. This is a reasonable response to the border crisis — one that focuses on treating the kids in a humane way while upholding U.S. law.
Brian Beutler: Republicans’ Failure To Pass Immigration Reform Has Cost Us $900 Billion
Republicans have raised several objections to the White House’s plan to address the child-migrant crisis, but none so self-discrediting as their objection to the nearly $4 billion cost of the bill.
That objection is self-discrediting for two reasons: First, because Republicans are on record in support of substantially more spending to shore up the border. Second, because with respect to immigration (and everything else) their claims to fiscal probity are a shell game they return to anytime they need a plausible-sounding reason to object to something they oppose for other reasons.
To demonstrate both, one need only look back to the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill, which Republicans helped design and pass just over a year ago.
Steve Benen: An Abundance Of Rhetoric, A Dearth Of Solutions
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the House Homeland Security committee, argued yesterday that “some” of the unattended minors from Central America he saw “looked more like a threat to coming into the United States.” How could he tell? McCaul didn’t say.
Soon after, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) argued in support of sending the National Guard to the border. Asked what good Guard troops could under the circumstances, Perry couldn’t say. (In fact, he seemed confused by the question.)
A variety of congressional Republicans have now balked at President Obama’s appeal for emergency resource, insisting the package costs “too much.” What’s the GOP’s alternative response? What’s the proper amount of spending? They wouldn’t say.
WH.gov: President Obama To Award The Medal Of Honor
In the afternoon of July 21, 2014, President Barack Obama will award Ryan M. Pitts, a former active duty Army Staff Sergeant, the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry. Staff Sergeant Pitts will receive the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions while serving as a Forward Observer with 2nd Platoon, Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, during combat operations at Vehicle Patrol Base Kahler, in the vicinity of Wanat Village in Kunar Province, Afghanistan on July 13, 2008.
Staff Sergeant Pitts will be the ninth living recipient to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. He and his family will join the President at the White House to commemorate his example of selfless service.
Central to the Benghazi conspiracy: the alleged stand-down order that kept help from arriving from Tripoli. It never happened—and now we learn that Republicans have known for months.
Let’s redirect our attention back to Benghazi. When is that special Benghazi committee in the House of Representatives going to get cracking, you may have wondered? Good question. It hasn’t been announced yet. But here’s a better question. What, now, is it going to investigate?
While we’ve all been focused during the past week on the border, there was a pretty major news development on Benghazi that got buried and is in need of a little sunshine. Last week, the Associated Press reported on transcripts of hours of closed-door interviews with nine U.S. military leaders that had been conducted by two House committees, Armed Services and Oversight (the latter is Darrell Issa’s committee). Those military leaders agreed on a, or maybe the, central point as far as this continuing “investigation” is concerned: There was no stand-down order.
Max Fisher: This Chart Shows Every Person Killed In The Israel-Palestine Conflict Since 2000
It’s no secret that the death tolls in the Israel-Palestine conflict are lopsided, with Palestinians far more likely to be killed than Israelis. But just how lopsided is driven home by looking at the month-to-month fatality statistics, which the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem has been tracking since September 2000. Those numbers also tell some important stories about the conflict, how it’s changed, and maybe where it’s going. Here are the monthly, conflict-related deaths of Israelis and Palestinians since September 2000: You’ll notice right away that the overwhelming majority of the deaths are Palestinian, and have been for the almost 14 years since B’Tselem began tracking.
Overall, the group has recorded 8,166 conflict-related deaths, of which 7,065 are Palestinian and 1,101 Israeli. That means 87 percent of deaths have been Palestinian and only 13 percent Israeli. Put another way, for every 15 people killed in the conflict, 13 are Palestinian and two are Israeli. (Statistics for the past two months are from United Nations Office for the Coordinator of Humanitarian Affairs.) That number is even more staggering when you consider that there are about twice as many Israelis as there are Palestinians. This means, very roughly, that a Palestinian person has been 15 times more likely to be killed by the conflict than an Israeli person
The South’s auto industry continues its phenomenal growth, as evidenced by recent expansions expected to bring thousands of new jobs and billions of dollars in new investment — including a deal announced Monday that will bring production of a new SUV to the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga. With the Volkswagen win, Tennessee is now at the forefront of the industry’s growth. Recent gains include a new Infiniti engine plant that opened this month in Decherd; a pending expansion that will add two new vehicles to the General Motors plant in Spring Hill; and projects over the past year that have brought new vehicles and significantly bumped up employment at Nissan’s Smyrna plant. The Volkswagen announcement of an expansion that will add 2,000 jobs in auto assembly and 200 in research and development was “pretty impressive,”
said Sujit CanagaRetna, fiscal policy manager for the Atlanta office of the Council of State Governments and a leading expert on the South’s auto industry. “I believe it reinforces that this region has become a real magnet, not only for new plants, but also for expansions,” he said. “BMW in South Carolina is another great example. They’ve been there 20 years and have gone through five or six expansions, with the latest announced in March for $1 billion. “All of the ancillary industries related to the auto companies, such as tire manufacturers, are flourishing in the South as well,” CanagaRetna said. “(Clarksville) Tennessee is getting Hankook Tire, there are four major tire makers in South Carolina, including one recently announced from Singapore, and several in Georgia.”
Sen. Barack Obama smiles as he is introduced prior to his address on Iraq policy and U.S. national security at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center July 15, 2008 in Washington, DC
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President Obama greets the family of newly appointed FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski in the Oval Office prior to his swearing in on July 15, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama greets the Gramajo family, participants with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, in the Oval Office on July 15, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
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President Obama is interviewed by Chuck Todd, of NBC News, at Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, Mich., July 15, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama sits in an electric Ford Focus alongside Mayor Kurt Dykstra following a groundbreaking ceremony for Compact Power’s new advanced battery factory in Holland, Michigan, July 15, 2010
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First Lady Michelle Obama and kids double-dutch jump rope during a taping for the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA) challenge and Nickelodeon’s Worldwide Day of Play, on the South Lawn of the White House, July 15, 2011 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
President Obama, Ruby Bridges, and representatives of the Norman Rockwell Museum view Rockwell’s “The Problem We All Live With,” hanging in a West Wing hallway near the Oval Office, July 15, 2011. Bridges is the girl portrayed in the painting (Photo by Pete Souza)
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Former President George H. W. Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush present President Obama with a pair of socks in the Map Room of the White House, July 15, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the White House Summit on Working Families at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington. President Obama, as part of efforts to make the U.S. workplace more accommodating for employees with families, will on Monday direct federal agencies to step up efforts to give workers more leeway in determining their schedules.
President Barack Obama sits with, from left, Mark Weinberger, Ernst & Young, Alex Gorsky, CEO of Johnson and Johnson, Shelia Marcello, CEO of Care.com, Debra Lee, Chairman and CEO of BET Networks, and Dave Lissy from Bright Horizons during their meeting at the White House Summit on Working Families
President Barack Obama is encouraging Congress and the country to focus on issues here at home — namely how to improve the livelihoods of working families.Here are the five things we learned from our sitdown with the President: 1. The goal of the summit is … “… to lift up the conversation that everybody is already having individually and let people know you’re not alone out here,” Obama said. Priority one: Paid family leave According to a survey from the United Nations’ labor agency, of the 185 countries and territories with readily available information, only three do not provide paid maternity leave. And, you guessed it, the United States made that list. The other two countries are Oman and Papua New Guinea. “Paid family leave, we’re the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t have it,” the President said. “It doesn’t make any sense. There are a lot of countries that are a lot poorer than we are that also have it.”
"I take this personally because I’m the husband of a brilliant woman who struggled to balance work and raising our girls." —President Obama
Priority two: Workplace flexibility The President said he’s pushing for workplace flexibility to give parents the opportunity to become more involved in their children’s lives and education. “We always say that we want parents involved in our kids’ education,” he said. “There are millions of families out there who can’t even imagine taking time off to go to a parent-teacher conference.” This type of workplace flexibility is a practice that he and the first lady believe will improve employee morale and motivation. Priority three: Child care. “We don’t do a very good job providing high-quality, affordable child care, and there are a lot of countries, a lot of our competitors do it,” Obama told Bolduan. “That means that it’s a lot easier for women to be in the workforce and not have to make choices that ultimately mean they’re, in some cases, getting paid less or having less opportunities. And it also means, by the way, that our kids are more likely to thrive.” Add to that list: Equal pay for equal work.
President Barack Obama mimics someone handing him a baby
President Barack Obama walks down Calvert Street NW to have lunch at a Chipotle Mexican Grill in Washington, before they attended the White House Summit on Working Families. Walking with President Obama, from second from left are, Shirley Young, Shelby Ramirez, Lisa Rumain, and Rodger Trombley
President Barack Obama with Shelby Ramirez
Robin Roberts and First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House Summit on Working Families
President Obama is welcomed to Sukiyabashi Jiro restaurant by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe before dinner in Tokyo
Steve Benen: Supreme Court upholds Michigan’s affirmative action ban
The ruling on affirmative action in Michigan did not come as too great a surprise, but it’s nevertheless one of the year’s big cases at the U.S. Supreme Court.
…. The ruling will be especially relevant in states that have chosen to ban affirmative action – the policies have been curtailed in Arizona, California, Florida, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, and the state of Washington – while also signaling to other states that they can now do the same without fear of judicial intervention.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a stinging dissent.
The entirety of the ruling is online here (pdf), but this excerpt helps capture the extent to which she disagreed with the majority.
….. “Today’s decision eviscerates an important strand of our equal protection jurisprudence. For members of historically marginalized groups, which rely on the federal courts to protect their constitutional rights, the decision can hardly bolster hope for a vision of democracy that preserves for all the right to participate meaningfully and equally in self-government.”
The Day of Jubilee, declared by Chief Justice John Roberts in his decision gutting the Voting Rights Act, and celebrated in another venue with the McCutcheon decision, in which we learned that the only real form of political corruption is a direct quid pro quo, and that influence peddled is not influence at all, goes on and on at the Supreme Court, where today yet another decision was handed down that was not About Race, because nothing is ever About Race.
…. The decision was written by Anthony Kennedy, who lives in that wonderful world where the law is a pure crystal stream running through green meadows, unsullied by the grit and silt that piles up in the actual lives of actual human beings. It must be a wonderful world in which Anthony Kennedy lives.
…. This is pure majoritarianism – grotesquely so, if you consider the ongoing shenanigans at the state level regarding ballot access and voter suppression. There will be a real impact on real people – just as there will be with the gutting of the Voting Rights Act and with the cascade of money that this Court has unleashed on the political system….
From the bench, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who grew up in the real world and apparently still lives there, was having none of Kennedy’s rainbows and unicorns.
At a press conference last week, a reporter asked President Obama whether “it’s time for Democrats to start campaigning loudly and positively on the benefits” of the Affordable Care Act. The president suggested the larger political discussion should start to include other issues, but he nevertheless gave Dems some direction. “I think that Democrats should forcefully defend and be proud” of the Americans benefiting from the ACA, he said, “I don’t think we should apologize for it, and I don’t think we should be defensive about it. I think there is a strong, good, right story to tell.” And with increasing frequency, Democrats have become eager to tell this strong, good, right story.
In Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial race, Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D) launched this new spot today. We talked two weeks ago, for example, about a very impressive independent-expenditure ad in Alaska, touting Sen. Mark Begich’s (D) support for the health care reform law. In Louisiana, meanwhile, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) is touting the importance of Medicaid expansion and pushing to allow voters to decide its fate in November. And in states like Michigan, North Carolina, and Arkansas, groups aligned with Democrats are airing pretty hard-hitting ads criticizing Republicans who don’t support health care reform.
Times Record: Arkansas DHS: 155,000 Applications Approved For Private Option
More than 155,000 Arkansas have applied and been found eligible for the so-called private option, or about 70 percent of the 225,000 Arkansans estimated to qualify for the program, the state Department of Human Services said Monday. The agency also estimated that 82 percent of those Arkansans had incomes too low to qualify for federal subsidies to buy insurance through the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace. The subsidies are available to families with incomes between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level. “We now know that an overwhelming majority of Arkansans in the program would have likely gone without health insurance had the Legislature not passed the private option,”
DHS Director John Selig stated in a news release. “Clearly there was a real need in a lot of these families.” The private option, signed into law last April, allows the state to use federal Medicaid money to pay the private health insurance premiums for people earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $16,105 for a household of one. Statewide, 61 percent of Arkansans in the program are women and 64 percent are ages 19-44, a somewhat younger population than those getting coverage through the federal insurance marketplaces, said Arkansas Medicaid Director Andy Allison.
Maggie Fox: Most Support Birth Control Mandate, Survey Shows
Most Americans — 69 percent — support the requirement that health insurance plans pay for birth control, a new survey shows. The 2010 Affordable Care Act requires health insurers to pay for contraception as part of 10 essential benefits, including vaccines and cancer screenings. It’s the most controversial requirement, with religious groups,
some conservative commentators and some employers objecting. The Supreme Court is expected to rule by June on one appeal by two employers who say paying for certain forms of birth control interferes with their religious beliefs. Free coverage of contraception for most health plans started in 2012.
Dylan Scott: Red States Hatch Plans To Block Obamacare Even If Dems Take Over
Republicans are taking no chances when it comes to Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. They’re closing every possible door. Under bills passed in Georgia and Kansas recently, even if a Democratic candidate were to pull off an upset and take the governor’s seat, they would not be able to expand the program without the consent of the state legislature — which will almost certainly remain Republican. In other words, GOP lawmakers have taken steps to guarantee that many of their poorest residents will remain uninsured under the health care reform law, no matter what happens in the gubernatorial election.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) and Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) both oppose Medicaid expansion. They both look likely — if not quite certain — to win re-election in November. That should make the bills passed by their respective state lawmakers unnecessary, but they seem intent on guarding against even the remote possibility of a Democratic governor. Georgia and Kansas have left a combined 487,000 residents uncovered under Obamacare because they refused to expand Medicaid. And, though the law remains unpopular, a recent poll found that majorities of Georgians (54 percent) and Kansans (55 percent) support Medicaid expansion.
Adam Beam: Beshear: 413,000 People Signed Up For Health Care In KY
Beth Moore left her job – and her health insurance – to start her own company in January. In March, while visiting Texas, she had an emergency appendectomy followed by a nasty bout with pneumonia that added up to more than $30,000 in medical bills. But Moore was one of 413,410 Kentuckians who signed up for free or subsidized health insurance through kynect, Kentucky’s state-run health insurance marketplace made possible by the federal Affordable Care Act. So far, the most she has paid for her treatment is $150. “If I had not had insurance (it) would have been catastrophic for me,” Moore said. “I’m very grateful that I am a resident of Kentucky and that this was an option for me.”
Moore told her story alongside Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear and other state officials Tuesday who were celebrating the end of the open-enrollment period of Kentucky’s health insurance marketplace. While signups on the federal website were delayed by numerous technical glitches, Kentucky’s system worked smoothly. At its peak, Beshear said, the state’s website processed more than 7,000 applications per day. The final number is likely to grow because workers are still processing paper applications. Kynect’s next open enrollment period begins Nov. 15. “We’re going to keep enrolling people until everybody in Kentucky who needs health coverage has it,” Beshear said.
Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill on Tuesday to further restrict the use of abortion-inducing drugs in Oklahoma, despite objections from opponents who say it will force more women to have surgical abortions. The bill was written in response to a recent Oklahoma Supreme Court decision that ruled a similar bill signed by Ms. Fallin in 2011 was unconstitutional.
The measure would prohibit off-label uses of certain abortion-inducing drugs by requiring that doctors administer them only in accordance with Food and Drug Administration protocol. That protocol calls for the drugs to be given in higher doses than is customary today, and only in the first seven weeks of pregnancy. It takes effect on Nov. 1.
NYT: The American Middle Class Is No Longer The World’s Richest
The American middle class, long the most affluent in the world, has lost that distinction. While the wealthiest Americans are outpacing many of their global peers, a New York Times analysis shows that across the lower- and middle-income tiers, citizens of other advanced countries have received considerably larger raises over the last three decades. After-tax middle-class incomes in Canada — substantially behind in 2000 — now appear to be higher than in the United States. The poor in much of Europe earn more than poor Americans. The numbers, based on surveys conducted over the past 35 years, offer some of the most detailed publicly available comparisons for different income groups in different countries over time.
They suggest that most American families are paying a steep price for high and rising income inequality. Although economic growth in the United States continues to be as strong as in many other countries, or stronger, a small percentage of American households is fully benefiting from it. Median income in Canada pulled into a tie with median United States income in 2010 and has most likely surpassed it since then. Median incomes in Western European countries still trail those in the United States, but the gap in several — including Britain, the Netherlands and Sweden — is much smaller than it was a decade ago.
Defunct factories around the country are in high demand as U.S. production once again revs up.
The past two decades have been brutal for American manufacturing as companies shifted production overseas and introduced high-tech systems that eliminated jobs.
Many of these once-thriving hubs have been idle for years, but that’s starting to change.
“Demand for closed factories has picked up since the recession,” said Stuart Lichter, president of Industrial Realty Group, which works with defunct commercial property.
This resurgence is largely triggered by U.S. companies bringing production back home. There has also been a boom in international firms, especially from China, shifting production to the U.S. as a way to grow their business and cut costs.
AP: First Lady announcing one-stop job site for vets
Aiming to streamline employment resources for people leaving the military, the government is creating an integrated website that can help job-seekers create resumes, connect with employers and become part of a database of veterans and their spouses for companies to mine for skills and talents.
First lady Michelle Obama was announcing the launch of the new Veterans Employment Center on Wednesday at Fort Campbell, Ky., during a special veterans’ jobs summit organized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the Pentagon and the departments of Veterans Affairs and Labor.
“Our service members haven’t always had the time or information they needed to prepare their resumes, to plot their career goals, to meet with employers and get the jobs they deserve,” the first lady said in her prepared remarks. Mrs. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden’s wife, Jill, have long been focused on the needs of veterans.
Breakups are rough — regrets, pain and bitter memories. As Republicans in the House block immigration reform time after time, American Latinos get the message: It’s over, don’t call me. Have a good life. What remains are the weekly flip-flops by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), the yelps of “amnesty” coming from a seemingly frightened Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the tiny fig leaf provided by Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s (R-Va.) seven bills he’s been talking about for a year and the shameful action to deport all Dreamers through the recently unanimous vote of the House Republican caucus’s fantasy bill, the Enforce Act. On my radio show every day, and on social media 24/7, I am part of a conversation where responsibility for both the failure of comprehensive reform, and the acrid discourse surrounding it, is laid at the feet of Republicans exclusively.
New to American politics, organic groups of American Latinos have formed online with the express purpose of increasing Latino turnout in November and dealing the GOP a blow. No longer tied to the traditional activist organizations, still espousing 1960s tactics and attitudes, these new groups are savvy Facebookers and Tweeters that can spread a political message across the country with the click of the mouse – reaching tens of thousands of people in an instant, hundreds of thousands per day. This political battle is now personal. Just like the Tea Party fervor of 2010, driven by a single-minded focus to oppose President Obama, these online Latino groups share a similar obsession with throwing Republicans out of office. Come this November 4, Republicans may just wake up to the ugly reality that breaking up with American Latinos over immigration was an easily avoidable and ultimately very costly divorce.
The folded hands of President Obama are seen, second from left, at the U.S. Capitol Holocaust Memorial event April 23, 2009, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Pete Souza)
The President throws a football to one of his aides before a meeting in the Oval Office. April 23, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama talks with Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel in the Outer Oval Office, April 23, 2010. Brian Mosteller, left, and Terry Szuplat work nearby (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama watches as active duty service members take the United States Oath of Allegiance during a naturalization ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House, April 23, 2010.(Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
President Obama salutes an active duty service member following a naturalization ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House, April 23, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama talk with patrons at 12 Bones restaurant in Asheville, N.C., April 23, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have a chance encounter with other hikers while walking along a trail off the Blue Ridge Parkway outside of Asheville, N.C., April 23, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
On this Day: President Obama strikes the Heisman pose after accepting a football from quarterback Tim Jefferson, left, during the Commander-in-Chief Trophy presentation to the United States Air Force Academy football team in the East Room of the White House, April 23, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama tours the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., with Sara Bloomfield, museum director, and Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Holocaust survivor, April 23, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama tours the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., with Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Holocaust survivor, and Sara Bloomfield, museum director, April 23, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
… with Elie Wiesel
First Lady Michelle Obama poses with a “Flat Stanley” cutout as Kelly McMahon takes her picture backstage at the Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C., April 23, 2013. Watching nearby, from left, are: Danielle Gray, Cabinet Secretary; Tina Tchen, the First Lady’s Chief of Staff; Kristen Jarvis, Deputy Director of Advance & Traveling Aide for the First Lady; and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
MoooOOOooorning everyone! A gazillion thanks to Nerdy for adding a bunch of great news stories to the post while I was snoring last night – Legend.
It’s the right’s worst nightmare: Obamacare working to boost not just the number of Americans who have affordable health insurance — but also the number who are registered to vote. And it could be coming true. Under the terms of an agreement between California and an alliance of good government groups, the state will mail voter registration forms to 4 million people who applied for Obamacare via California’s online exchange. The deal could end up creating 400,000 new registered Golden State voters — the actual numbers will be available later this year.
Nationwide, Obamacare could ultimately be responsible for registering anywhere from 3 to 7 million voters — potentially over 10% of the total number of eligible voters who aren’t registered today — over the next eight years. Here’s why: Under the 1993 National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), which aimed to boost voter registration, people applying for public assistance—as well as DMV customers—must be offered the chance to register to vote. That means every state insurance exchange like California’s, as well as the federal exchange, will need to ask people whether they want to register. Even those people who end up getting covered via Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion or through other parts of the law, rather than through the private market, will still be offered the chance to register to vote.
President Obama will meet with the leaders of four Asian nations, answer questions at a town hall-style event at a university in Malaysia and address U.S. service members in South Korea during a week-long trip that begins Tuesday, the White House announced. Administration officials hailed the president’s visit to Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines as a chance to underscore the United States’s commitment to the Asia-Pacific, with an emphasis on regional allies.
“Unlike many of the president’s overseas trips, particularly to Asia, there are no large summits involved,” National Security Adviser Susan Rice said while briefing reporters on Obama’s itinerary Friday. “So the agenda in each country can focus intensively on energizing our bilateral relationships and advancing the different elements of our Asia strategy.” The town-hall event at Malaya University will be with young leaders from 10 Southeast Asian nations, and Obama also will meet with civil-rights leaders in Malaysia, as the United States attempts to promote democratic values.
Wendy George: After 17 Years, I’m Bringing My Little Sister Home From Prison
When we were little, we used to tell our mama she had good ears. My little sister and I would whisper under the covers in our bed after lights out, and somehow mom could always hear us. She’d tell us to quit talking and go to sleep. Tomorrow I’m going to pick up my sister from prison. She’s been away for 17 years, and until last December I thought she would never come home. I can’t wait to drive back to my house, get in bed, and tell each other everything like we used to. You’d think I had a twin. As kids, my sister and I looked a lot alike. Our mom used to dress us the same. Even as we got older, we wore the same kinds of clothes. We raised our small kids together. We both wanted to style hair for a living. Since she’s been gone, a part of me has been missing. A part of me has been locked up for years.
Stephanie was 26 with four small kids when she was sentenced. Even though the judge objected, a mandatory minimum law meant that she got life without the possibility of parole for being “a girlfriend and bag holder and money holder” in a drug conspiracy. When Stephanie was sentenced, I took her kids into my home and raised them. I am grateful I had the strength to keep pushing on to make sure that her kids got to the prison to visit their mom. She told me horror stories of some of the women in there who didn’t have a family outside to help with the kids. It was a rough role, but I thank God for giving me the strength to raise them all. I talked to my sister on the phone last week and joked that once she gets home, I am going to take a month vacation. She said I deserve it. Even when they said she had a life sentence, I never accepted that. I’ve been praying and fighting for this day since day one. And the fighting has paid off. Finally, my sister’s sentence has been commuted by President Obama.
NYT: Republicans See Political Wedge In Common Core
The health care law may be Republicans’ favorite weapon against Democrats this year, but there is another issue roiling their party and shaping the establishment-versus-grass-roots divide ahead of the 2016 presidential primaries: the Common Core. A once little-known set of national educational standards introduced in 44 states and the District of Columbia with the overwhelming support of Republican governors, the Common Core has incited intense resistance on the right and prompted some in the party to reverse field and join colleagues who believe it will lead to a federal takeover of schools. Conservatives denounce it as “Obamacore,” in what has become a surefire applause line for potential presidential hopefuls. Other Republicans are facing opprobrium from their own party for not doing more to stop it.
What we have is billionairism. A joyous, deluded oligarchy, where billionaires are seen as heroes; above the law; beyond democracy.
The learning benchmarks, intended to raise students’ proficiency in math and English, were adopted as part of a 2010 effort by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers to bolster the country’s competitiveness. Unlike the health care law, the Common Core retains bipartisan support and has the backing of powerful elements of the business community. The Republican revolt against the Common Core can be traced to President Obama’s embrace of it, particularly his linking the adoption of similar standards to states’ eligibility for federal education grants and to waivers from No Child Left Behind, the national education law enacted by President George W. Bush. “There is a great deal of paranoia in the country today,” said Sonny Perdue, a former governor of Georgia, who was also instrumental in creating the program. “It’s the two P’s, polarization and paranoia.”
Kathy Lally: Ukraine, Short On Military Budget, Starts Fundraising Drive
Ukraine’s new government inherited an army so bereft of modern equipment and training that when Russian troops entered Crimea and agitators stormed government offices in eastern Ukraine, the country proved helpless to protect its borders and citizens. The corruption that had darkened all the nation’s institutions had provoked demonstrators to stand their ground in Kiev until the old leaders fled. But the depth of the damage took the country by surprise when the Crimean Peninsula was easily lost to Russian annexation last month, revealing a military profoundly weakened by theft and neglect. “Our army has been systematically destroyed and disarmed,” Deputy Defense Minister Petro Mehed said at a briefing this past week, “and its best personnel dismissed.” In the east, militants have occupied buildings in more than a dozen cities and on Saturday showed no signs of giving up their positions.
The army was sent in and looked more anemic than ever when small knots of civilians managed to block armored personnel carriers simply by standing in front of them. Ukraine’s position is dire. The new government found the treasury empty when it took over Feb. 27. The Ministry of Defense was so desperate for money that it went to the public for help. People across the country have responded by pulling together for the Support the Ukrainian army fundraising drive, trying to repair the damage done by years of thieving governments. Children have held fairs and bake sales to raise money. Adults have delivered food and water to tent encampments. Community groups have collected shoes, clothes and canned goods. Ukrainian businesses and individuals had raised more than $9 million for the military as of Friday, the Defense Ministry reported. Of that, $2 million came from cellphone users who made 50-cent donations from their accounts by calling a designated number.
Michael Laris: Voting-Rights Quest In Va. Will Soon Become Easier For Ex-Prisoners Held On Serious Drugs Charges
Those convicted in Virginia of manufacturing drugs, distributing drugs, having the intent to distribute drugs or “accommodating” the sale of drugs will now be put in the same category as those who were found guilty of mail fraud, check kiting, embezzlement or simple drug possession when it comes to processing requests to have their voting rights restored. The drug-dealing and other major drug charges had been on the state’s “violent/more serious” list of offenses. Bumping them to the list of nonviolent crimes will have far-reaching implications. Since McDonnell’s reforms, those types of lesser offenses are processed in a faster, more streamlined fashion, taking weeks or months rather than years. Unlike most states, Virginia requires ex-felons to proactively pursue their voting rights — they are not automatically restored.
Virginia law, the American Civil Liberties Union says, has prevented hundreds of thousands of people — many convicted of drug crimes — from voting, and advocates point to racial disparities. About 45 percent of those arrested for drug offenses are black, said Edward Hailes, general counsel for the Advancement Project, a civil rights group active on the issue. “We should see a large number of African Americans in Virginia getting their rights restored more automatically,” he said, adding that one in five can’t vote because of felony convictions. “Virginia is making progress but is still far behind most of the states in the union.” Attorney General Eric Holder, speaking at the Georgetown University Law Center this year, called for further changes in Virginia and elsewhere. “Eleven states continue to restrict voting rights to varying degrees even after a person has served his or her prison sentence and is no longer on probation or parole,” Holder said. “It is time to fundamentally reconsider laws that permanently disenfranchise people who are no longer under federal or state supervision.”
Lucia Graves: Good News For Obamacare Is Bad News For Conservative Pundits
Conservatives were sure at every turn that Obamacare would fail, but as the numbers roll in, those convictions are looking increasingly ideological. First they said nobody would enroll. Then they said first-year premiums would be through the roof. And later, they warned of a “death spiral,” wherein premiums would go up uncontrollably. My colleague Sam Baker has written an excellent analysis of the situation, the upshot of which is that Obamacare is on a winning streak. The next great frontier of conservative hyperbole concerns premiums for 2015, with critics warning that costs will double or even triple next year. As of this week, we have good evidence to the contrary.
Health insurance premium rates are expected go up just 7 percent—a rate of increase much lower than what critics were predicting. And the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is predicting that premium hikes will be relatively modest. “The double-rate increases we’ve been hearing are probably exaggerated,” Dave Axene, a fellow with the Society of Actuaries, told USA Today. “That’s not what we’re seeing from the actuarial organizations—I guess we’re being a little bit more optimistic.” “A little bit more optimistic” is something of an understatement. For weeks, pundits have been spouting apocalyptic notions about the costs of insurance premiums, warning Americans that “the worst is yet to come.”
Derek Thompson: Get Rich, Live Longer: The Ultimate Consequence Of Income Inequality
Brookings economist Barry Bosworth crunches the data on income and lifespans for the Wall Street Journal, and the numbers tell three clear stories. 1. Rich people live longer. 2. Richer people’s lifespans are growing at a faster rate. 3. The problem is worse for women than for men. First, let’s look at the guys. A rich man (top decile) born in 1940 can expect to live 10 years longer after he turns 55 than a poor man (bottom decile). That longevity gap grew by four years in one generation. Women live longer than men, overall. But their inequality gap getting worse. A rich woman at 55 can expect to live a decade longer than a poor woman, too. But this gap grew even more between the Silent and early Boomer generations, by six years.
The typical guy in McDowell County, West Virginia, makes less than $30,000 a year and doesn’t live to 65. Five hours north on the highway, a typical man living in Fairfax County, Virginia, makes more than $100,000 and lives more than 80 years. The two Virginian counties are two different countries. When somebody in Washington proposes raising the retirement age for Social Security or Medicare, he typically says something like: “We can afford it, because we are living longer.” Yes, We can afford it, when the We in that sentence applies to an audience of white rich old men and women who really are seeing their lifespans grow by leaps and bounds. But We doesn’t apply to the millions of poor women whose lifespans are actually declining. Raising the Social Security retirement age disproportionately reduces lifetime benefits for the very people Social Security was invented to protect.
USA Today: New Data Signal Smaller Jump In Health Care Costs
Several new reports also hint at a bend in the health cost curve — even as health spending picks up with the improving economy. The change after years of large increases in how much health care costs seems to be coming for several reasons, the reports find: Americans are using their prescribed medications more often, which may be keeping them out of the hospital; payment systems have begun to reward quality over quantity, which has encouraged a team-based, data-driven approach; and record numbers of medications have been developed to address chronic disease, while older medications have come off their expensive patents. The week’s findings include a report from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics that found that even as health care spending has rebounded with the economy, the growth rate remains lower than usual. In addition, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected lower health insurance premiums than originally expected.
Aitkin says people spent more on drugs and less on follow-up visits and hospitalizations, which could be key to keeping the growth rate low. Health experts have long held that if people can afford — and take — prescribed medications, it may keep them safe from heart attacks or low blood sugar levels, and ultimately keep their overall health costs lower. Aitkin says 23% of prescription drugs had no co-pays in 2013, mostly because of provisions within the Affordable Care Act, including the one for coverage of contraceptives as preventive medications. Women saved $483 million in out-of-pocket costs in 2013 for contraceptives alone. And hospitalizations from emergency room visits decreased 14.6%, possibly because consumers were encouraged to try other options first. This week, the CBO downgraded its original premium projections by about 15% lower than projected in the fall of 2009, in part due to “lower projected health care costs for the federal government and the private health sector.”
Frank Newport: Newly Insured In 2014 Represent About 4% of U.S. Adults
Four percent of Americans are newly insured this year, reporting that they have health insurance now but did not last year. A little more than half of that group, or 2.1% of the U.S. population, got their new insurance through health exchanges. The rest got it using some other mechanism. Overall, 11.8% of U.S. adults say they got a new health insurance policy in 2014. One-third of this group, or 4% nationally, say they did not have insurance in 2013. Another 7.5% got a new policy this year that replaced a previous policy. The ACA envisioned that the new healthcare exchanges would be the main place where uninsured Americans would get their insurance this year, but it appears that a sizable segment of the newly insured Americans used another mechanism.
These sources presumably include employee policies, Medicaid, and other private policies not arranged through exchanges. The newly insured are, on average, much younger than the overall population, with most younger than age 65. Within the 18 to 64 age range, the newly insured are slightly more overrepresented in the 18 to 29 age category than in the 30 to 49 and 50 to 64 age categories. These data suggest that the ACA’s efforts to add previously uninsured young people to the ranks of the insured have been modestly successful. The newly insured who signed up outside of the exchanges are substantially younger than those who signed up through the exchanges.
Energy.Gov: Energy Department Announces $15 Million To Help Communities Boost Solar Deployment
In support of the Administration’s goal of doubling renewable energy generation for a second time by 2020, the Energy Department today announced $15 million to help communities develop multi-year solar plans to install affordable solar electricity for homes and businesses. The United States continues to be a global leader in solar, with total U.S. solar energy installations reaching 13 gigawatts last year. As the cost of solar energy continues to decline, more states and local communities are deploying solar energy projects to meet their electricity needs.
“As part of the President’s all-of-the-above energy strategy, solar energy is helping families and businesses throughout the U.S. access affordable, clean renewable power,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “The Energy Department is committed to further driving down the cost of solar energy and supporting innovative community-based programs – creating more jobs, reducing carbon pollution and boosting economic growth.”
Maggie Fox: Obamacare Helped Up To 10 Million Get Insurance, Gallup Finds
Obamacare has helped as many as 9.9 million people to get new health insurance, and more than 4 percent of all Americans have gotten health insurance for the first time, according to a new Gallup poll. It’s the largest poll yet to assess the effects of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, and the findings add to what’s been reported in earlier surveys and the government tally of how many people signed up through the new online exchanges. The percentage of the U.S. population that has no health insurance has plummeted from an all-time high of 18 percent during the last quarter of 2013 to just 15 percent this past March, says Dan Witters, lead researcher for the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.
About half got insurance on the new state and federal online health exchanges, the survey found, and half got it through Medicaid, an employer or bought it directly from an insurance company. “We feel pretty comfortable attributing much of this change to the Affordable Care Act,” Witters told NBC News. The survey confirms that people started getting insurance in the last months of 2013 and really started signing up in the first three months of 2014. “There is no evidence that the exchanges only signed up extremely sick people,” said Frank Newport, Gallup’s editor in chief. Gallup found younger people aged 18-29 tended to gravitate to buying health insurance directly, not on the exchanges, while those signing up on the new exchanges tended to be in the 50-64 age group. Overall, 30 percent of those getting insurance for 2014 were 18 to 29; 24 percent bought insurance on the exchanges and 37 percent got it elsewhere.
Taxed enough already? Hardly. According to the Congressional Budget Office, your effective federal tax rates are near historic lows.
One of the great ironies of the rise of the tea party movement was that it coincided with the lowest total tax burdens seen in at least 30 years. The chart below plots effective federal tax rates since 1979 by income group. The key word here is “effective” — these are the tax rates people actually pay after factoring in things like the mortgage interest deduction, the child tax credit and the myriad other deductions and credits written into the U.S. tax code. Values for 2011 and 2012 aren’t yet available, but the CBO does provide projections for 2013 tax filings, which I’ve plotted, as well.
Overall the trend is downward. The average filer saw her effective tax rate drop from 22 percent in 1979 to 18.1 percent in 2010. Rates on the bottom 20 percent of tax filers went from 7.5 percent to 1.5 percent, while the top 20 percent of earners saw a more modest decrease, from 27.1 to 24.0 percent over the same period. The effect of crisis-era policy is clearly visible in the sharp drop in rates from 2007 to 2008, mostly from tax provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Tax rates hit rock bottom in 2009, right as the tea party movement was gaining steam.
The headlines about the Affordable Care Act have turned positive lately, and they’re starting to pile up. The most dire predictions from the law’s critics simply haven’t panned out, and now Democrats are headed into another big health care fight—the confirmation of a new Health and Human Services secretary—with stronger real-world evidence than they’ve had before. Narratives feed on themselves, and there was a time when Obamacare just kept losing. But over the past few weeks, the news has started to roll in the other direction. Enrollment has surged beyond expectations. Costs are coming in lower than predicted. Various reports say the number of uninsured Americans is falling. Now it’s good news snowballing, and it’s critics who increasingly seem to have missed the mark with their warnings of inevitable collapse.
Critics still promise that the law cannot work as intended, but the evidence keeps piling up in the other direction. The opportunities for failure keep falling away, and worst-case predictions keep going bust. There was no death spiral, nor will there be one. And there was never going to be a “death panel.” The next big warning is about premiums for 2015. Critics say premiums will skyrocket because not enough healthy people signed up this year. some insurers are looking to expand their presence in the exchanges next year, and others have indicated they might jump in for the first time, after taking a wait-and-see approach this year. So far, no large plans have said they intend to leave the exchange marketplace. All of that indicates that insurers see the market as stable. And more plans competing for more new customers will likely keep premium increases in check. According to Gallup, the percentage of Americans without health insurance has fallen from 18 percent in to 15 percent.
Sen. Barack Obama with Caroline Kennedy before addressing supporters at a rally in Scranton, Pa., April 20, 2008
President Obama with Tiger Woods in the Oval Office April 20, 2009
On This Day: First Lady Michelle Obama greets students after talking to them about the importance of exercise as part of the “Let’s Move!” initiative at River Terrace Elementary School in Washington on April 20, 2010
President Obama speaks at a “town hall” at Facebook headquarters, with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in Palo Alto, California on April 20, 2011
President Obama signs a proclamation to designate federal lands within the former Fort Ord as a national monument under the Antiquities Act in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, April 20, 2012. Fort Ord is a former military base located on California’s central coast and is a world-class destination for hikers, mountain bikers, and outdoor enthusiasts
President Obama greets members of the military and their families during the kick off event for the Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride on the South Lawn of the White House April 20, 2012
On This Day: First Lady Michelle Obama participates in an interview with Stephen Colbert during a taping of “The Colbert Report,” at the Colbert Report Studio in New York, N.Y., April 11, 2012 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
Today (All Times Eastern)
11:0 President Obama announces the nomination of Sylvia Burwell to be HHS Secretary
12:15: First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden Host a Joining Forces Caregivers Event
1:55: The President and First Lady depart the White House
3:05 Arrive New York City
4:10 The President delivers remarks at the National Action Network’s 16th Annual Convention
11:30 The President and First Lady depart New York
12:40 Arrives White House
People insured under Kathleen @Sebelius: 10+ million
People insured by Republicans: 0 (or NEGATIVE 5M if you count blocking Medicaid)
Caitlin Macneal: Arkansas Free Clinic Closing, Citing More Insured Through Obamacare
A medical clinic in Mena, Ark. announced that it would be closing, citing a large drop in need for the clinic as people have signed up for health insurance under Obamacare. “Because people are qualifying for insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, our free medical clinic will not be needed anymore,” Stacey Bowser, the director of the 9th Street Ministries Clinic, told the Mena Star.
“We’ve gone from seeing around 300 people a month on a regular basis, but as people were enrolling in Obamacare, the numbers we were seeing have dropped. We were down to 80 people that came through the medical clinic in February, all the way down to three people at the medical clinic in March. Our services won’t be needed anymore, and this will conclude our mission,” she continued.
LA Times: Bank Of America To Pay $772 Million For Illegal Credit Card Practices
Bank of America Corp. has agreed to refund customers $727 million and pay $45 million in fines for illegal credit card practices, according to a settlement with federal regulators announced Wednesday. The refunds will go to as many as 2.9 million people who were deceived into signing up for products such as credit monitoring and identity theft protection or were improperly charged for such services, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said. The action was part of a crackdown by the bureau on deceptive marketing, enrollment and billing practices related to such so-called add-on products by credit card companies. Bank of America is the fifth financial services company to be hit with fines and refund orders.
“Bank of America both deceived consumers and unfairly billed consumers for services not performed,” said Richard Cordray, the bureau’s director. “We will not tolerate such practices and will continue to be vigilant in our pursuit of companies who wrong consumers in this market.” Bank of America agreed to the refunds and penalties without admitting or denying the allegations. In addition to the refunds, the bank will pay a $20-million civil penalty to the bureau and a $25-million civil penalty to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
Meg Finnegan thought she might never be able to afford to have a baby. Finnegan, who is self-employed and has a pre-existing medical condition, was having trouble finding health insurance at all, let alone a policy that would cover pregnancy and childbirth. So she was thrilled to discover that the plan she signed up for last fall under the Affordable Care Act includes maternity coverage. “When you don’t have insurance, you’re afraid of any life event that brings you to the hospital, for a good or a bad reason,” said Finnegan, 37, an Evanston resident. “If I didn’t have insurance, I wouldn’t have a baby. All those doctor’s appointments and tests, and possibly a high-risk delivery — how would you pay for it?” A guarantee of maternity coverage — all new insurance policies must provide it — is just one of a basket of provisions in the federal health law that specifically benefit women. Other guaranteed services include preventive care, which must be covered with no out-of-pocket cost. For most plans, preventive care includes at least one annual “well-woman” visit, breast-feeding support, contraceptives and contraceptive counseling, annual mammograms and cervical cancer screening.
Women’s health advocates also expect women to benefit more from some provisions in the law that apply to people of either sex. For example, the expansion of Medicaid, as well as financial assistance in the form of tax credits and cost sharing, is expected to disproportionately benefit women, who are more likely than men to have low incomes. Insurers also are required to cover mental health screening and treatment, and women have higher rates of depression and other types of mental illness. Kathy Waligora of EverThrive Illinois (formerly the Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition) said she considers the law “a huge victory for women.” Finnegan, who said she has a rare condition called Behcet’s disease, is one of 129 million Americans with pre-existing conditions, which private policies generally did not cover before the health overhaul. Now, by law, insurers may not deny coverage or charge higher premiums on the basis of health status. “I couldn’t get insurance,” said Finnegan, who owns TruFit Personal Training Studio in Evanston. “I tried five different companies. One offered me a policy for $850 a month with a huge deductible and terrible coverage — nothing related to my condition. But all my medical costs are related to that, so basically it meant no coverage.” At the same time, many insurance plans used to consider pregnancy, cesarean section, and even domestic violence and sexual abuse as pre-existing conditions.
USA Today: Man Cleared Of NYC Murder After 25 Years In Prison
A man who spent almost a quarter-century behind bars for murder was freed Tuesday and cleared of a killing that happened when he was 1,100 miles away on a Disney World vacation. Jonathan Fleming was in tears as he hugged his lawyers and family in a Brooklyn courtroom. Relatives said, “Thank you, God!” after he was freed. “After 25 years, come hug your mother,” she said, and he did. Defense attorneys and prosecutors asked a Brooklyn judge to dismiss Fleming’s conviction in the 1989 shooting. A key eyewitness recanted, new witnesses have implicated someone else and a review by prosecutors turned up a hotel receipt putting Fleming in Florida hours before the killing, defense lawyers Anthony Mayol and Taylor Koss said.
“He is elated and stunned, while tempered by the fact that he realizes that this is just the first step in getting his life back,” Koss said before the hearing. Fleming had plane tickets, videos and postcards from his trip, his lawyers said, but authorities suggested he could have been in New York at the actual time of the shooting, and a woman testified that she had seen him shoot Rush. The exoneration, first reported by the New York Daily News, comes amid scrutiny of Brooklyn prosecutors’ process for reviewing questionable convictions — scrutiny that comes partly from the new DA Kenneth Thompson himself. He unseated longtime DA Charles “Joe” Hynes last year after a campaign that focused partly on wrongful convictions on Hynes’ watch. Hynes had created a special conviction integrity unit to review false-conviction claims, but some saw the effort as slow-moving and defensive.
Small-business owners were more optimistic about the economy last month and expected sales to increase as a winter marked by severe weather ended, according to survey results released Tuesday. The confidence index from the National Federation of Independent Business rose to 93.4 in March, from 91.4 the previous month. The measure is one of the few monthly barometers of the small-business sector, which is a key driver of the economy.
About 12% of the those surveyed said they expected higher sales volumes during the next three months, up 9 percentage points from the February survey. Hiring also improved last month. Small-business owners reported increasing their payrolls by an average of 0.18 workers in March, up from 0.11 the previous month. It was the sixth straight month the survey showed an increase in hiring.
Igor Volsky: Kathleen Sebelius’ Biggest Achievement Is The One No One Is Talking About
Kathleen Sebelius wasn’t President Obama’s first choice to run the Department of Health and Human Services and oversee the passage and implementation of health care reform. But after Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD) dropped out, Obama tapped the two-term Kansas governor and former state insurance commissioner. Sebelius didn’t have much D.C. experience, but had an impressive track record of working across the aisle as a Democratic governor in a red state. And while the united GOP opposition to health legislation eventually overwhelmed any goodwill Sebelius had built up within the Republican party and the rocky rollout of Obamacare has come to dominate the discussion of her tenure as secretary, that bipartisan quality proved essential to the implementation of the law. Sebelius leaves the office having enrolled some 10 million people in health care coverage. This was only possible because she convinced numerous Republican lawmakers in bright red states to extended health care coverage to the poorest Americans. No one is talking about it, but it is her biggest and most impressive achievement as secretary.
In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision invalidating Obamacare’s compulsory Medicaid expansion, most Republican-controlled states refused to extend health care coverage to residents below 133 percent of the poverty line. But Sebelius traveled the country, urging Republican governors to reconsider. As of today, eight GOP-controlled states have approved expansion — in no small part because of the flexibility Sebelius and her team provided. The flexibility extended beyond Medicaid. Sebelius and her team convinced red states to form partnership health care exchanges in which the federal government and the state would share responsibilities in running the marketplaces. They routinely presented GOP governors with information on all other state models and waivers, assuring them that they could customize reform to their specific state needs. As a result, several Republican-dominated states bucked the national party and chose to run their exchanges either on their own, or in collaboration with HHS.
Josh Israel: Jindal Demands Congressman Resign Over Extramarital Kissing, But Defended Prostitute-Hiring Senator
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) called for Rep. Vance McAllister (R-LA) to resign his House seat, after a videotape surfaced of the freshman Congressman kissing a married woman who is not his wife. But in 2007, Jindal defended Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) when he was revealed to be a client of a DC prostitution service. Jindal released a statement on Thursday, calling McAllister’s behavior “an embarrassment” and suggesting that “the best way to get privacy and work on putting his family back together is to resign from Congress.” But seven years ago, then-Congressman Jindal made no such suggestion to the state’s U.S. Senator. After Vitter’s name appeared on the phone list for “D.C. Madam” Deborah Jeane Palfrey, he apologized for the “very serious sin in my past.” Yet Jindal’s response was to stand by Vitter
On Thursday morning, Kathleen Sebelius testified before Congress and announced that Obamacare signups had reached 7.5 million people. On Thursday evening, news broke that Sebelius was stepping down as Secretary of Health and Human Services. Implementing Obamacare was never going to be easy. The law is full of compromises that, however politically necessary, weakened regulations and depleted funding that would have made introducing the new insurance system a lot easier. And Sebelius never had the kind of control a chief executive officer would. She was always dealing with a host of other players—from superiors at the White House to underlings at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to Democrats on Capitol Hill to lobbyists for the health care industry. And that’s to say nothing of her war with the congressional Republicans, who were trying actively to sabotage the law through repeal votes, funding cuts, and intimidation of would-be allies.
More important, the law seems to be working, despite all of those early problems. That 7.5 million figure she announced on Thursday is a genuinely big deal—particularly since, from what I hear, the final number is likely to be even higher. Sebelius can’t take all or even most of the credit for those successes, any more than she should take all or most of the blame for the law’s troubles. But her role in those achievements (and others, like improvements to Head Start and stronger regulations on child care safety) is also part of her record. To take one obvious example, Sebelius worked extensively with Republican governors who wanted to expand Medicaid in states with hostile conservative constituencies. Some of those efforts succeeded. The memories of Obamacare’s difficult start will certainly linger. But to the millions of people around the country who now have access to affordable medical care, I’m not sure that really matters.
Fem Chat: 6 Things Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler Missed About The Gender Wage Gap
Glenn Kessler presents a very one-sided discussion of the wage gap in this April 9th “Fact Checker” post in which he increased President Obama’s rating on his use of wage gap statistics from one Pinocchio (in the 2012 campaign) to two—he should have lowered it from one to zero. President Obama has correctly used a long standing data series issued every year by the Census Bureau. The 77 percent wage ratio figure is an accurate measure of the inequality in earnings between U.S. women and men who work full-time, year-round in the labor market. Here are some other things to keep in mind about that statistic: 1) Kessler claims that President Obama uses the 77 percent wage ratio figure because it shows the biggest wage gap when other data series available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show slightly smaller gaps.
Leaving aside how Kessler could get inside the President’s head and know why he picked a certain series, everyone who writes about this issue should know that this figure based on median annual earnings is the historical headline figure that allows the longest comparison across time. 2) Kessler claims that the other series—weekly or hourly earnings—are more accurate, but there is simply no basis for saying so. The 77 percent figure actually includes the broadest range of kinds of earnings; for example annual bonus payments are a big part of remuneration in some fields and are included in the 77 percent figure, but are excluded from the weekly or hourly earnings figures.
Brian Beutler: The Right Searches For Obamacare Alternative, Finds Obamacare
The Affordable Care Act’s enrollment comeback has confounded conservatives in many ways. The realization that there happens to be popular demand for something as self-evidently grotesque as Obamacare has given rise to a palpable cognitive dissonance on the right. A growing recognition among Republicans that they can’t bank on organizing the midterm campaign around relentless Obamacare opposition has party elders looking at contingency plans (even if they haven’t exactly gone back to the drawing board). But most importantly, it has thrown the conservative health policy community for a loop, and completely wrong-footed Republicans in Congress who were hoping — against considerable odds and a well-worn historical pattern — to craft an Obamacare alternative that both passes the laugh test and doesn’t create a significantly lower level of welfare.
If enrollment had sputtered, that task would have been considerably easier. The fact it surged in March, and continues to grow today, measurably limits their options. If you accept (or acquiesce) to the need for a large coverage expansion and don’t want a single payer or substantial expansion of existing public systems, you need to make sure private insurers cover the sick, which means you need guaranteed issue and community rating — so that nobody is closed out of the system, and so that risk is spread across large populations, not assigned to individuals. But if you have those two things then you need a coverage requirement, so you’re not just spreading risk among old, sick people. And if you have that mandate, you need substantial subsidies — means tested or otherwise — so people aren’t required to purchase insurance they can’t afford. Of course, that’s just Obamacare.
Obamacare versus Ryanomics. That’s the battle line for 2014. It’s also a battle Democrats can win. Why? Because most Americans are pragmatists. Pragmatists believe that whatever works is right. Ideologues believe that if something is wrong, it can’t possibly work — even if it does work. That’s the Republican view of Obamacare: It’s wrong, so it can’t possibly work. But it now looks like Obamacare may work. More than 7 million people signed up for health insurance by the March 31 deadline, meeting the Obama administration’s original goal. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said, “The Affordable Care Act, whether my Republican friends want to admit it or not, is working.” On April 1, Ryan came out with a 10-year budget plan involving massive cuts in popular federal programs like Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, education, student loans and environmental protection.
Ryan’s proposal would eventually change Medicare — the most popular of all federal programs — from an insurance policy to a “premium support” program, where seniors would be given subsidies to purchase private insurance. GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney proposed doing that in 2012. Look where it got him. Democrats will run against Ryanomics. Republicans will run against Obamacare. Remember the rule of pragmatism: Whatever works is right. If Americans come to believe Obamacare works, they will be reluctant to throw it out. Especially the millions who will already have a stake in Obamacare. On the other hand, Ryan is threatening to do away with programs like Medicare that people know are working. Why? Because he and his fellow Republicans think those programs are wrong. Attacking programs that work is pure ideological bloodlust. And a losing battle for sure.
Ann Sanner: About 106,000 Ohioans Enroll In Expanded Medicaid
More than 106,000 Ohioans have signed up for Medicaid under an expansion of the taxpayer funded health program, while thousands of others are waiting to hear whether they are deemed eligible. Republican Gov. John Kasich’s administration moved forward with extending Medicaid eligibility last fall under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. Coverage took effect Jan. 1. The safety-net program for the poor and disabled provides coverage for one of every five Ohioans. The Medicaid expansion allows those earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level to gain health care coverage. For a single adult, that’s about $16,104 a year. Ohio’s monthly report on Medicaid caseloads shows that 106,238 residents had enrolled under the extension as of March 31.
That’s about 29 percent of the roughly 366,000 newly eligible people estimated to sign up by the end of June 2015. Residents have been enrolling in Medicaid through the state’s new benefits website. Potential enrollees can use the site instead of visiting county Job and Family Services offices, where many low-income residents apply for food stamps, cash assistance and other public programs. More than 345,000 people have sought Medicaid coverage through the state’s benefit site since Oct. 1. About 65 percent of the applications have been resolved, while roughly 120,000 are still pending. Many of those cases await eligibility determinations by the state’s largest counties.
Republicans often point out that Obamacare cuts Medicare Advantage and reforms the program. But they fail to mention, as Democrats often do, the benefits the president’s health law has given to current Medicare beneficiaries. The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare reports: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently reported that since the passage of the ACA, over 7.9 million Medicare beneficiaries in the Medicare Part D donut hole have saved $9.9 billion on their prescription drugs, an average of $1,265 per person. Also, 37.2 million people with Medicare took advantage of at least one preventive service with no cost sharing, including an estimated 26.5 million people with traditional Medicare, and more than 4 million who took advantage of the Annual Wellness Visit. Ryan’s budget would repeal those benefits while keeping the cuts Republicans have been campaigning against for four years now.
Obamacare reforms have also lowered the growth of Medicare’s costs to zero. If this trend continues, the program would be solvent even through the peak of Baby Boomer retirements, protecting seniors from future benefit cuts. In an effort to balance the budget in 10 years while keeping tax cuts that mostly benefit the rich, Ryan would cut a slew of programs seniors have relied on. “Funding for Older Americans Act programs like Meals on Wheels, family caregiver support, job training, senior centers, and disease prevention programs, would suffer significant cuts when the need for these services is increasing,” the National Council on Aging (NCOA) reports. “Over time, these programs—which are NOT contributing to the federal budget deficit—would be cut by 22 percent below current levels.” Another $137 billion would be cut from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, aka food stamps. Currently, 9 million seniors and people with disabilities receive SNAP benefits.
BBC: Hamid Aboutalebi: US Congress Passes Ban On Iran Envoy
The US Congress has sent a bill to the president that would bar Iran’s pick for ambassador to the UN from entering the country. The House of Representatives passed the measure unanimously two days after the Senate approved it. Hamid Aboutalebi was a part of the Muslim student group that seized the US embassy in Tehran in 1979. The White House has told Iran Mr Aboutalebi was “not viable” but has not taken a position on the bill. Fifty-two Americans were held for 444 days at the height of Iran’s Islamic revolution, which saw pro-American Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi sent into exile and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini take power.
Mr Aboutalebi, who previously served as Iran’s ambassador to Belgium, the European Union, Italy and Australia, told Iranian media his participation in the hostage crisis began only after the initial seizure of the embassy, and primarily involved translation. On Thursday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said, “We’ve made clear and have communicated to the Iranians that the selection they’ve put forward is not viable.” As the host country of the United Nations, the US has previously but rarely denied entry to an envoy or head of state. Those included a previous Iranian diplomat and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. In those cases the applications were withdrawn after the US signalled opposition, or the state department simply declined to process the visas. Those options are available in Mr Aboutalebi’s case.
When it comes to health reform, Republicans suffer from delusions of disaster. They know, just know, that the Affordable Care Act is doomed to utter failure, so failure is what they see, never mind the facts on the ground. Thus, on Tuesday, Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, dismissed the push for pay equity as an attempt to “change the subject from the nightmare of Obamacare”; on the same day, the nonpartisan RAND Corporation released a study estimating “a net gain of 9.3 million in the number of American adults with health insurance coverage from September 2013 to mid-March 2014.” Some nightmare. And the overall gain, including children and those who signed up during the late-March enrollment surge, must be considerably larger. First, there was the amazing come-from-behind surge in enrollments.
Then there were a series of surveys — from Gallup, the Urban Institute, and RAND — all suggesting large gains in coverage. Taken individually, any one of these indicators might be dismissed as an outlier, but taken together they paint an unmistakable picture of major progress. But wait: What about all the people who lost their policies thanks to Obamacare? The answer is that this looks more than ever like a relatively small issue hyped by right-wing propaganda. RAND finds that fewer than a million people who previously had individual insurance became uninsured — and many of those transitions, one guesses, had nothing to do with Obamacare. It’s worth noting that, so far, not one of the supposed horror stories touted in Koch-backed anti-reform advertisements has stood up to scrutiny, suggesting that real horror stories are rare. Republicans clearly have no idea how to respond to these developments. They can’t offer any real alternative to Obamacare.Their political strategy has been to talk vaguely about replacing reform while waiting for its inevitable collapse. And what if reform doesn’t collapse? They have no idea what to do.
President Obama listens during a meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel at Blair House in Washington, D.C., before a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India, April, 11, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama meets with Director of Speechwriting Jon Favreau on the Colonnade outside the Oval Office, April 11, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama returns to the Oval Office through the Rose Garden after surprising students from Altona Middle School in Longmont, Colo., during their White House tour, April 11, 2011. President Obama received a letter from the mother of an Altona student who worried that her son’s trip to Washington, D.C., would be canceled if there was a government shutdown (Photo by Pete Souza)
Sherman and Tammie Gillums look at their pictures with First Lady Michelle Obama as Mrs. Obama continues to greets guests at the Joining Forces Community Challenge event on the South Lawn of the White House, April 11, 2012 (Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)
President Obama holds Chaplain (Captain) Emil Kapaun’s Easter stole in the Oval Office during a greet with Kapaun’s family in the Oval Office, April 11, 2013. The President and First Lady Michelle Obama met with members of Chaplain Kapaun’s family before awarding him the Medal of Honor posthumously during a ceremony in the East Room (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama talks on the phone with Nicole Hockley and families of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Conn., in the Oval Office, April 11, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)