First Lady Michelle Obama, with Dr Jill Biden, applauds the crowd as they return the sentiment during an event for caregivers of veterans in the East Room of the White House. The First Lady and Dr Biden announced new steps by private and public sector organizations to help ease the heavy burden on a vital but largely invisible workforce.
Leaving the White House
Arriving at JFK
President Obama shakes hands with Rev. Al Sharpton as he arrives to speak at the National Action Network conference
President Obama is greeted by Spike Lee and Rev Al Sharpton after speaking at the National Action Network
Going into this morning, expectations for economic growth in the second quarter — April, May, and June of this year — were quite poor, making the actual GDP report a little more encouraging.
The U.S. economy grew at a 1.7% annual rate in the second quarter, buoyed by a solid gain in consumer spending and a sharp increase in business investment, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected growth to total 1.0%.
To be sure, 1.7% GDP growth is not, by any fair measure, good news. It tells us the economy is growing, but the recovery is at best sluggish. But given the news we were expecting, 1.7% is a relatively pleasant surprise, especially since the previous quarter’s growth was revised down to 1.1%.
Bloomberg: Economy in U.S. Expands More Than Forecast on Inventories
The economy in the U.S. grew more than projected in the second quarter, reflecting an unexpected pickup in inventory building as consumer spending cooled. Growth in the previous three months was revised down.
Gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced, rose at a 1.7 percent annualized rate, after a 1.1 percent gain the prior quarter, Commerce Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 85 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a 1 percent advance for last quarter. Consumer spending, the biggest part of the economy, climbed 1.8 percent after increasing 2.3 percent.
Job gains and rising home prices are shoring up Americans’ confidence and lifting automobile sales and production, making it likely the U.S. will pick up once government spending cuts and tax increases pose less of a restraint. The report also showed inflation is falling further below the Federal Reserve’s goal….
Steve Benen: Reality gets in the way of far-right shutdown scheme
As a large group of Republicans push for a government shutdown over the Affordable Care Act, Norm Ornstein offered some compelling context. “You could say it’s a do-nothing Congress but that doesn’t do justice to it,” he said. “These guys are doing something, which is to destroy the economic fabric of the country by holding the functions of government hostage to a non-negotiable demand to eliminate Obamacare.”
That’s plainly true, though Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), arguably the main ringleader of the scheme, apparently believes destroying the economic fabric of the country by holding the functions of government hostage to a non-negotiable demand to eliminate Obamacare is a fine idea. As Sarah Kliff reported, however, there is a flaw in the right-wing premise…..
Steve Benen: ATF finally poised to move forward with real leadership
Ask conservative opponents of gun reforms what they’d like to see from law enforcement, and you’ll probably get a predictable answer: we should enforce the gun laws we already have, not approve new ones. For the last several years, however, that’s been easier said than done.
Enforcement of existing gun laws generally falls under the purview of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which has lacked a permanent, Senate-confirmed leader for the last seven years, thanks to opposition from Republicans and the National Rifle Association, both of which have reflexively balked at the very idea of an ATF chief.
With this in mind, we may be poised for a breakthrough this week….
ThinkProgress: Texas Lawmakers Are Too Busy Focusing On Abortion Restrictions To Get Anything Else Done
Just over an hour after Texas legislators concluded their second special session — an extra lawmaking session they used to enact sweeping abortion restrictions — Gov. Rick Perry (R) called them back for a third one. An outstanding highway funding bill is the only item on the agenda. “When it comes to transportation, the stakes facing our state could not be higher,” the governor noted in a statement.
Perry cited that same transportation measure as one of the reasons he believed it was necessary to call the first special legislative session at the beginning of June. But instead of focusing on getting that done, the governor demonstrated a different set of priorities — adding a slew of anti-abortion provisions that were unable to advance during the state’s regular session to the docket.
Bob Cesca: Bradley Manning Lives in a Nation of Laws, and, Hero or Not, He Broke 16 of Those Laws
While fleeing from the law in Hong Kong, Edward Snowden encouraged a return to “the rule of law rather than men.” In spite of his politically incorrect usage of “men” instead of “men and women,” he’s right. Generally speaking, individual citizens shouldn’t be held above the law — least of all a soldier named Pfc. Bradley Manning who stole 720,000 classified documents and handed them over to be be indiscriminately posted for public consumption by Julian Assange’s Wikileaks.
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden shake hands in the Oval Office following a phone call with House Speaker John Boehner securing a bipartisan deal to reduce the nation’s deficit and avoid default, Sunday, July 31, 2011. (Photo by Pete Souza)
Washington Post: Romney’s 12-million job promise has garnered a lot of attention. We became interested in this ad after a reader asked whether the campaign had provided much detail on how he would reach this total …
…. the candidate’s personal accounting for this figure in this campaign ad is based on different figures and long-range timelines stretching as long as a decade — which in two cases are based on studies that did not even evaluate Romney’s economic plan. The numbers may still add up to 12 million, but they aren’t the same thing — not by a long shot.
… Clearly, some clever campaign staffer thought it would be nice to match up poll-tested themes such as “energy independence,” “tax reform” and “cracking down on China” with actual job numbers. We just find it puzzling that Romney agreed to personally utter these words without asking more questions about the math behind them.
Greg Sargent: …. Let’s recap what Kessler has discovered here. The plan that is central to Romney’s candidacy on the most important issue of this election — jobs — is a complete sham. This is every bit as bad — or worse — than Romney’s claim to have created 100,000 jobs at Bain, or his vow to cut spending by eliminating whole agencies without saying which ones, or his refusal to say how he’ll pay for his tax cuts.
This could not have come at a better time for Obama. Here is the evidence he needs to spell out as clearly as possible that Romney is peddling economic hokum to the American people. Any fair reading of the backup the Romney campaign itself supplied for his plan reveals that it is nothing but a bill of goods. Obama needs to seize on this in a big way. This should be a big story.
Oh, and by the way: Economists have evaluated Obama’s jobs plan. And they concluded it would create one to two million jobs. The bottom line is simple: One candidate has a jobs plan, and the other doesn’t.
KaavyaWriting: “See that Discovery World building in the background? The line starts half a mile away from that building, snakes in a triple bend, then wraps around the building to come out the other side and snake onward. And people are still arriving. So huge, and I’m so PROUD Obama has such strong support. Long line, continue on!”
President Obama walks with National Security Advisor Tom Donilon in the West Wing of the White House, July 11 (Pete Souza)
Richard Adams (The Guardian): What will be overlooked in discussion of the booing of Mitt Romney is what he actually called healthcare reform: a “non-essential programme”.
Here’s the quote:
“I will eliminate all the expensive non-essential programmes I can find, that includes Obamacare”
Healthcare is “non-essential,” is it Mitt Romney? Maybe that’s what people were booing: the idea that federally-funded health provision for America’s poorest such as Medicaid was “non-essential”.
ThinkProgress: To hear conservatives and Tea Partiers tell it, President Obama is a serial tax-raiser who has increased taxes on “millions of Americans.” But according to the latest data from the Congressional Budget Office, tax rates under Obama hit a 30-year low in 2009, in part because of the tax cuts he implemented in response to the country’s economic downturn…
ThinkProgress: In a vote of 244 to 185, the House of Representatives has repealed the Affordable Care Act — just days after the Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality.
This is the 31st attempt by Congressional Republicans to eliminate the measure. The GOP has spent an estimated “88 hours and 53 minutes” since January of 2011 trying to undo the reform, an analysis by Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) office finds, though this latest bill is expected to die in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
David Usborne (UK Independent): Mitt Romney received an embarrassingly rough reception from members of the NAACP, the country’s oldest black civil rights organisation yesterday, which erupted into boos and shouts of disapproval when he said he meant to overturn Barack Obama’s healthcare reforms.
His rocky ride at the NAACP convention in Houston came as he faced a wave of new assaults from the campaign of President Obama over his apparent failure fully to disclose the extent of and the reasons for his multiple holdings overseas, including now or in the past in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands.
The murkiness of his personal financial affairs is emerging as a potential drag for Mr Romney who so far has released tax returns for only 2010 and an estimate for 2011. Democrats are contrasting him with his father, George Romney, who, when he ran for the White House in 1967, released 12 years of returns.
…. The tax filings released during the primaries last winter forced Mr Romney to revise earlier financial disclosures, which had made no mention of some 20 newly revealed overseas holdings – a fact highlighted in a harsh New York Times editorial yesterday….
….Chip off the old block? No, his father divulged his wealth…
ABC: Mitt Romney offered a slightly inaccurate version of his tax return history in an interview today, saying he’s released two years of tax returns and that he has released the “same level of information” as John McCain and John Kerry.
…. The presumptive GOP nominee has released one year of his returns and an estimate of his 2011 returns…
John McCain released two years, but John Kerry actually released more than that in his 2004 race, going back to 1999. He released many more returns as a United States senator, as many as twenty. McCain released a total of six documents, two for himself, two for his wife Cindy McCain, and two for the McCain Family Foundation.
…His father, George Romney, started the precedent of presidential candidates’ releasing returns when he released 12 years during his 1968 run for president, but Mitt Romney has so far resisted calls for to release more years. President Obama has released 12 years.
In the interview, Mitt Romney changed the subject in order to hit the president for the Fast and Furious gun-walking scandal…
NYT Editorial: In ruling on the constitutionality of requiring most Americans to obtain health insurance, the Supreme Court faces a central test: whether it will recognize limits on its own authority to overturn well-founded acts of Congress.
… The court has no authority under the Constitution to judge the merits or effectiveness of the health care law. That is Congress’s job.
…. If the Supreme Court hews to established law, the only question it must answer in this case is modest: Did Congress have a rational basis for concluding that the economic effects of a broken health care system warranted a national solution? The answer is incontrovertibly yes.
Greg Sargent: If you want to understand what’s really at stake in the battle over Obamacare you need to watch Mitt Romney’s appearance on Jay Leno last night.
It comes down to this: Should the federal government play any meaningful role at all in helping the millions of uninsured who can’t get coverage — particularly those with preexisting conditions?
On Leno, Romney repeated his vow to transfer health reform back to the states. But he was also repeatedly pressed to say what he would do for those with preexisting conditions if Obamacare were repealed. Without saying how, Romney replied that people with preexisting conditions should continue to get insurance — as long as they’ve been insured in the past. He refused to say what should be done about those who have never had insurance.
Washington Post: Half of all Americans now express unfavorable views of Mitt Romney, a new high for the GOP presidential hopeful in Washington Post-ABC News polling…
….. Negative impressions are up eight percentage points in the past week, nudging past the previous high …. 50 percent of all adults and 52 percent of registered voters express unfavorable opinions of Romney…
…. 53 percent of Americans hold favorable views of the president; for Romney, that number slides to 34 percent …Romney is underwater with independents: 35 percent view him favorably, 52 percent unfavorably.
TPM: A set of three new swing state polls from Quinnipiac University show President Obama leading Mitt Romney in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. His smallest lead is in Pennsylvania, where Obama holds a small three point advantage at 45 – 42, and he leads in Ohio 47 – 41. Obama leads outside the margin of error in Florida, a state which Romney has done well in previously, at 49 – 42.
“President Barack Obama is on a roll in the key swing states. If the election were today, he would carry at least two states. And if history repeats itself, that means he would be re- elected,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute in a release. “The biggest reason for the president’s improving prospects probably is the economy. Roughly six in 10 voters in all three states think the economy is recovering. Moreover, voters blame the oil companies and oil-producing countries for the rise in gasoline prices and only about one in six voters blame them on President Obama.”
USA Today: The White House is again unleashing Vice President Joe Biden on the campaign trail, this time to attack Mitt Romney over manufacturing policy …. It’s the third in a series of four campaign speeches Biden is delivering on the economy. The vice president previously discussed the auto bailout in Ohio and Medicare policy in Florida, attacking Romney and other Republican candidates along the way.
Today at PCT Engineered Systems in Davenport, Iowa Biden plans to stress the 430,000 new manufacturing jobs created since January of 2010 …. The Obama campaign has released other excerpts from Biden’s speech:
“Mitt Romney has been remarkably consistent – as an individual investor, a businessman, as Governor of Massachusetts, and now as a candidate for President.
Washington Post: The Obama 2012 campaign unveiled a Barack Obama Pinterest page on Tuesday, taking advantage of the fast-growing social network by sharing images of Obama and his family, campaign supporters and paraphernalia and visuals that support administration policies.
The page, run by the Obama 2012 campaign staff, features eight “boards.” (For those of you not among the 17.8 million Pinterest users last month, boards are like folders where users categorize “pins,” or images they collect and share on the site).
Five of the boards feature lighter fare: ”Obama-inspired recipes” shows the family chili recipe and cupcakes with images of the president on them. The first family and pets wearing Obama gear get their own boards, and merchandise from the Obama campaign store is featured in another. The more substantive boards include pinned infographics on job growth and the health-care act, and another with images of people supporting or affected by the administration’s initiatives.
MTV: Michelle Obama will appear at Nickelodeon’s 25th annual Kids’ Choice Awards to present a special award to Taylor Swift. The first lady will be on hand to honor Swift with the Big Help Award, in recognition of her philanthropic efforts, including work with U.S. tornado and flood survivors. Obama herself was the recipient of the award in 2010, in recognition of her Let’s Move! Campaign…
…. The 25th annual Kids’ Choice Awards in Los Angeles air live Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on Nickelodeon.
USA Today: Almost 4 million seniors saved about $2.16 billion through discounts for their prescription medications in 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services plans to announce today. This, administrators say, should help keep costs to the government down in the future.
“Before, many beneficiaries were forced to stop taking the drugs,” said Jonathan Blum, director of the Center for Medicare. “This reduces costs through better management.”
…. The 2010 health care law required a 50% discount on prescription drugs in the so-called doughnut hole, or the gap between traditional and catastrophic coverage in the Medicare drug benefit, also known as Part D. In 2012, the coverage gap is $2,930. The Affordable Care Act eliminates the doughnut hole by 2020.
The previous report, with numbers through the end of October, had shown 2.65 million Medicare recipients saved $1.5 billion on prescriptions. That rose to 3.76 million recipients by the end of December.
The Hill: Senate Democrats raised more than $5.3 million in February, marking the third straight month in which they raised more than the month before.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) ended February with almost $19 million in the bank. That’s about $3.5 million more than it had one month ago, meaning the committee saved most of what it raised.
Democrats have cleared their debt and raised more than $52 million during the cycle. DSCC Executive Director Guy Cecil said it was the most successful February the committee has ever had.