10:15AM: President Obama meets with the Dalai Lama
12:30PM: Daily Briefing with Press Secretary Josh Earnest
First Lady Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey speak at the White House Summit on the United State of Women
President Barack Obama speaks on the Orlando shooting at the Treasury Department while Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper look on. President Obama rebuked Donald Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States
President Barack Obama speaks during the White House Summit on the United State Of Women
President Barack Obama delivers a statement on economy in the James Brady Press Briefing Room. President Obama made a statement in response to the Treasury Department announcement on corporate tax inversions that would stop companies from avoiding U.S. taxes by moving their tax base overseas
First Lady Michelle Obama plants the White House Kitchen Garden with students. The garden which Mrs. Obama started in 2009, provides fruits and vegetables to the White House kitchen and homeless shelters
President Barack Obama speaks during a meeting with combatant commanders and Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Cabinet Room of the White House
Vice President Joe Biden speaks to University of Pittsburgh students about their role in preventing sexual assault as part of the It’s On Us campaign
The US budget deficit fell to about $483 billion in fiscal year 2014, almost a $200 billion drop from the previous year and the lowest level of President Barack Obama’s six years in office. The US Treasury Department released the official figures on Wednesday, generally confirming figures released by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office last week. It’s the smallest deficit recorded since 2008.
FY2014 was the fifth consecutive year the deficit declined as a percentage of GDP. It is now an estimated 2.8% of GDP, a percentage that puts it below the average of the past 40 years. The Treasury’s figures chalked up the shrinking deficit to increased revenues from taxes and slowed growth in government spending. “It’s really a rise in revenues because of economic growth, because of the policies the president pursued, that we’ve made progress on the deficit,” said Shaun Donovan, the director of the Office of Management and Budget.
President Obama pauses in the Oval Office after making a series of telephone calls to Members of Congress, Dec. 1, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Jason Sattler: REMINDER: The Number Of Uninsured Americans Increased By 7.9 Million Under George W. Bush
The week President Obama took office, initial jobless claims, the statistic that immediately gauges layoffs, hit a 26-year high with 637,000 applying for unemployment insurance in one week. It was clear that the president was inheriting a record deficit, a cratering economy and two floundering wars. But buried in all those crises was an unspoken slow-motion disaster that people rarely mentioned: the steady crumbling of our health care system.
“When [former president Bill] Clinton left office, the number of uninsured Americans stood at 38.4 million,” Ron Brownstein wrote in 2009. “By the time [former president George W.] Bush left office that number had grown to just over 46.3 million, an increase of nearly 8 million or 20.6 percent.” The numbers were just as bad when you looked at the share of the uninsured. When Clinton left office, 13.7 percent of the population was uninsured. Bush left with 15.4 percent lacking coverage.
The New York Times‘ Paul Krugman calls the Affordable Care Act’s role in bringing health-cost growth to its lowest rate on record the law’s “secret success.” But the other secret success is how Obamacare is helping to reverse the growth of the uninsured population. This began in 2011 with children and young adults being able to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26, covering more than three million. And it continues this year with millions of Americans being added to the Medicaid rolls and millions likely to sign up for private plans, if the law’s health care exchanges begin working well enough.
At the federal level, one would think that Democrats might have some success actually passing an increase. After all, raising the minimum wage always polls extremely well, and with many state and local increases happening, it’s easy to imagine business lobbyists willing to accept a relatively modest national increase that could take a lot of steam out of those other initiatives. There’s plenty of precedent for Democrats forcing the issue by attaching a minimum wage hike to something Republicans want and managing to get it passed.
And while most Republicans in Congress surely oppose an increase, it’s not as if there’s some important principle violated by a $10 an hour minimum wage compared with $7 and change. Perhaps it will happen. But if not, the culprit is going to be, once again, the post-policy Republican Party. This just isn’t how the American political system is supposed to work. There really is an opportunity here for a deal that could enact popular policy ideas from both sides. But thanks to a dysfunctional Republican Party, it’s very hard to see it happening.
Media Matters: How Print And Broadcast Media Are Hiding Obamacare’s Success In Controlling Costs
Jason Furman: “ACA Is Contributing To The Recent Slow Growth In Health Care Prices.” In a November 20 report, economist Jason Furman, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors (CEA), highlighted several positive impacts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). According to Furman, the ACA has already helped reduce waste and overpayment in Medicare that is “contributing to the recent slow growth in health care prices and spending.” Furman argues that reduced spending in Medicare is having an effect across the health care sector
Print Media Devote Only Five Stories To ACA’s Role In Slowed Costs. Since the release of the CEA report on November 20, the five top newspapers in the United States – The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and USA Today – issued only five articles that mentioned the ACA’s role in slowing the growth of health care costs. In the same time period, all print outlets combined issued 67 stories focusing on other aspects of the ACA rollout, including issues with the Healthcare.gov website and cancellations of individual policies. Only two outlets — USA Today and The New York Times — issued front page stories mentioning the CEA report.
However, a funny thing is happening. Conservatives have forgotten how to play the game. Or rather, what passes for conservative now is so to the right that it no longer bears any relation to reality. Thus D’Souza tweets his tweet about President Obama being a grown-up Trayvon, and that the US must “survive” him. Thus Rush Limbaugh compares the nuking of the filibuster to allowing rape. Thus every half-assed thing which comes out of a conservative’s mouth makes people who have some sense shake their heads in bewilderment.
At this point, it’s as if conservatives can’t help themselves. The fact that Obama has run rings around them in spite of their vigorous efforts has led to a psychotic break. Republicans fight Democrats with vile assertions. Republicans knife each other in purity contests. A strong, intelligent, black Democratic president who knows exactly what they’re up to, and times his attacks for maximum effect, has put them flat on their backs. They’re used to Democrats and liberals who are defensive. They’re used to the triangulations of a Bill Clinton. Barack Obama’s strength has sent them into a fugue state from which, as yet, they haven’t been able to awaken.
Reuters: Cayman Islands, Costa Rica Sign Tax Pacts With U.S.
The United States has signed agreements with the Cayman Islands and Costa Rica to help those countries’ banks comply with an anti-tax evasion law starting next year, the Treasury Department said on Friday. The deals are part of the US effort to enforce the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), which was enacted in 2010 and is set to take effect in July 2014. FATCA requires foreign financial institutions to tell the US Internal Revenue Service about Americans’ offshore accounts worth more than $50,000.
It was enacted after a Swiss banking scandal showed that 17,000 US taxpayers had hidden substantial fortunes overseas. On Thursday a former UBS banker, Raoul Weil, agreed to be extradited to the US to face charges arising from that scandal. With these two deals, both signed this week, the Treasury has now finished 12 FATCA “intergovernmental agreements” (IGAs), which help countries’ financial institutions comply with the law.
Timothy Garnder: U.S. Extends Iran Oil Sanctions Waivers To China, India, South Korea
The U.S. State Department extended six-month Iran sanctions waivers on Friday to China, India, South Korea and other countries in exchange for their reducing purchases of Iranian crude oil earlier this year. The waivers had been expected. Under a law governing sanctions imposed on Iran’s disputed nuclear program by the United States, the State Department is required to determine whether the Islamic Republic’s oil consumers have reduced their purchases.
The decision comes even after the United States and five other global powers, known as the P5+1, agreed in Geneva this month to ease Iran’s access to about $4.2 billion in foreign currency reserves for six months in exchange for Tehran’s taking steps to curb its nuclear program. The waivers, which the State Department calls exceptions, mean that banks in the consuming countries will not face being cut off from the U.S. financial system for the next six months.
Since the beginning of the sanctions regime in 2012, all 20 of Iran’s oil customers have qualified for the periodic waivers. But despite the Geneva agreement, the United States reserves the right to sanction any oil consuming country should it suddenly increase its purchases.
Mark Barabak: Kentucky Governor Sees Health Law As Chance To Heal An Ailing State
Relations between President Obama and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear have not always been friendly. But leading one of the nation’s poorest, sickest states, Beshear has improbably overseen one of the most successful rollouts of Obama’s troubled healthcare overhaul and become, deep in his long public career, a hero to Democrats grasping to find a redeeming figure amid the political wreckage. “I knew if I was going to make a huge difference in the health status of Kentucky, it was going to take some kind of transformational tool to do that, and that’s what the Affordable Care Act is for me,”
Beshear, white-haired and greyhound-lean, said as he sat behind a big maple desk in his office. “I think we’ve started something here,” he later added, “that a generation from now you’ll see a very different Kentucky than what you see today. The need for care in this pretty but hard-pressed state is unarguable. Kentucky leads the nation in cancer deaths and preventable hospitalizations and suffers some of the highest rates of diabetes, cardiovascular illness and premature death. Extending healthcare to as many as possible could make a difference, the 69-year-old Beshear said, long after he is gone. “To me,” he said, “it was the morally responsible and the right thing to do.”
LA Times:The Chalice That Helped Make Possible The Iran Nuclear Deal
Many paths led to the international agreement to temporarily curb Iran’s nuclear program: secret meetings in Oman, formal negotiations in Geneva, and a quiet encounter in New York involving two diplomats and an exquisite silver chalice in the shape of a mythical winged creature. The latter session led in September to the return of the chalice to Iran, where officials hailed it as a gesture of friendship by the United States.
When Rouhani announced plans to attend the U.N. General Assembly in New York in September, Obama’s advisors decided the moment was right for a gesture. A day after Obama delivered his annual address to the world body, the American diplomat received an email from Washington, which he read at his desk three blocks from U.N. headquarters. He was instructed to find a way to return the griffin chalice to the Iranians with no fanfare before Rouhani left in two days. Two days later, Rouhani accepted a telephone call from Obama, the first such high-level contact since 1979, when militants stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, taking hostages they held for 444 days.
Lisa Mascaro: GOP Promise Of Immigration Reform Fades A Year After Election
Earlier this year, as House Republicans began considering changes to the nation’s immigration laws after their party’s defeat in the presidential election, they were given a list of do’s and don’ts that updated GOP thinking on the issue. The suggestions seemed obvious to most but signaled a new tone for the Republican Party. “Don’t use the term’anchor baby’ or phrases like ‘send them all back,'” said the memo from a Republican-aligned advocacy group, the Hispanic Leadership Network.
“Do acknowledge that ‘our current immigration system is broken and we need to fix it.'” Changing the way the party talks about immigration is about all House Republicans have to show for their efforts over the last 11 months — and even that effort has notable exceptions. In fact, the House’s most visible immigration-related action was a measure to defund an Obama administration program to defer deportations of young immigrants, a vote that increased Latino animosity even though it failed to become law.
On December 1st, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus and her courageous act sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Civil Rights Movement that changed the course of history. We are forever grateful.
On This Day:
Pete Souza: “He and the Vice President were headed for the short walk from the White House to the Eisenhower Executive Office building to brief Congressional leaders on his new Afghanistan strategy that he would publicly unveil at West Point that night. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had just pulled up in her motorcade and the Vice President congratulated her that her daughter, Chelsea, had just gotten engaged.” Dec. 1, 2009
President Obama gestures while talking on the phone Oval Office prior to leaving for his speech at West Point, Dec. 1, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
An ornament hangs on the official White House Christmas Tree in the Blue Room of the White House, Dec. 1, 2009 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
President Obama jokes with Vice President Biden and former Secretary of State Colin Powell following their meeting in the Oval Office, Dec. 1, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
The President with Malia and the First Lady with Sasha wait backstage before the lighting of the National Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C., Dec. 1, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and his daughter Sasha at the lighting of the National Christmas Tree in Washington December 1, 2011
President Obama at the NCAA basketball game between Oregon State and Howard University on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2010 … a day after he needed 12 stitches in his lip when he took an elbow during a game of basketball with friends and family at Fort McNair
Today (All Times Eastern):
1:20: President Obama pardons the National Thanksgiving Turkey
2:35: Holds a bill signing
4:30: The First Family participates in a service event
FACT: More than 7.3 million Americans with Medicare have saved an average of $1,137 each on prescription drugs thanks to #Obamacare.
Political journalism is sometimes criticized, fairly, for its “pack” mentality. Major news organizations wait for the conventional wisdom to organically take shape, and then the players stick to their scripts, reinforcing an agreed upon consensus. In practically no time at all, there are certain political facts that “everyone knows” to be true.
But soon after, that gets dull, the conventional wisdom invites skeptics, and contrarian instincts kick in. Maybe, the political world starts to wonder, those truths that “everyone knows” aren’t so true after all.
For the last several weeks, the consensus in establishment circles was that the Affordable Care Act’s open-enrollment period was not only a disaster, but a catastrophe that would destroy Obama’s presidency, the Democratic Party, the American health care system, and the very idea of progressive governance. Pundits could hardly contain their analogies – this was Obama’s Katrina, Obama’s Iraq, Obama’s Watergate, Obama’s Iran-Contra, and even Obama’s Bay of Pigs.
But the funny thing about narratives is that they’re sometimes fleeting….
I suggested yesterday that we’re probably heading for a turning point in the health reform discussion. Conservatives are operating on the assumption that it’s an irredeemable disaster that they can ride all the way to 2016; but the facts on the ground are getting better by the day, and Obamacare will turn into a Benghazi-type affair where Republicans are screaming about a scandal nobody else cares about.
And it’s already starting to happen.
…. media coverage is shifting fast. It’s still mostly trying for equivalence — each positive story of people being helped matched by a negative story of people hurt. But the stories don’t actually match up at all.
… At this rate, the whole horrors-of-Obamacare meme will be gone in weeks, not months. But the GOP echo chamber won’t be able to let it go.
Barbara Starr: Official: U.S. B-52s Flew Over China’s Controversial New Air Defense Zone
Two U.S. military aircraft flew into China’s newly claimed and challenged air defense zone over the East China Sea, a U.S. official said. The U.S. Air Force B-52 planes — which were not armed because they were on a training mission — set off Monday from Guam and returned there without incident. The mission lasted for several hours, and the aircraft were in China’s newly declared air zone for about an hour, according to the U.S. official.
The flights came two days after China unilaterally announced the creation of a “Air Defense Identification Zone” over several islands it and Japan have both claimed. The two countries have been sharply at odds over those isles, which are believed to be near large reserves of natural resources. Washington responded negatively to what Secretary of State John Kerry characterized as an “escalatory action (that) will only increase tensions in the region and create risks of an incident.” The U.S. government has rallied around its ally Japan, where thousands of its troops are stationed as part of a security treaty.
And specifically regarding China’s new air defense zone, the United States has said it won’t recognize it. Japan’s two main commercial airlines said Wednesday that following a request from the Japanese government, they and other members of the Scheduled Airlines Association of Japan will not submit flight plans to Chinese authorities for flights through the zone claimed by Beijing.
Look, there’s something going on with the Affordable Care Act that doesn’t require an IT specialist to explain. There’s a world beyond the ginned-up anecdote. Who knew?
…. through Covered California, the state’s individual insurance marketplace, they’ve found a plan through Sharp Healthcare that will cover them both for a total premium of $142 a month …. More important than that was knowing that they couldn’t be turned down for coverage come Jan. 1. “We felt we didn’t have to panic, or worry,” Holzman says. “If not for the Affordable Care Act, our ability to get insurance would be very limited, if we could get it at all.”
….. this is increasingly looking like the last chance for the United States to join the rest of the industrialized world in crafting a sensible health-care policy for its citizens. All of its citizens.
Think Progress: Treasury And IRS To Crack Down On Super PACs Masquerading As Tax-Exempt Social Welfare Groups
The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service issued proposed guidelines on Tuesday that could force dark-money political groups like Crossroads GPSand the American Future Fund to spend less of their money on campaign advertising and other overt electioneering. If implemented, this guidance would clarify what actions by tax-exempt social welfare organizations are limited “candidate-related political activity” and what actions can count toward their principal purpose.
According to the Wall Street Journal, these rules would label “campaign advertising, voter registration, get-out-the-vote efforts, and distribution of voter guides and campaign materials,” as “candidate-related political activity.” None of that would be able to count as part of the group’s tax-exempt purpose — meaning only a minority of its work could fall into those categories. While 501(c)(4)s would still be free to engage in those activities, they couldn’t be the main focus. This could mean groups accused of masquerading as (c)(4)s could have to find new ways to spend their money.
Sally Kohn: The GOP’s Late-Term Abortion Strategy Is Backfiring
As the Supreme Court announces it will hear a challenge to Obama’s contraception mandate, a study on late-term abortion seekers finds the GOP’s anti-abortion laws are backfiring.
Right wing politicians who are push laws to restrict a woman’s access to later-term abortions presumably do so because they don’t want women having abortion after 20 weeks. But new research from medical school-based scholars finds that other policies that conservative Republicans are pushing, including restrictions on access to clinics as well as constrained access to health insurance, actually result in more women seeking later-term abortions. In other words, not only are Republicans hypocrites—but their hypocrisy is backfiring.
Mother Jones: Republicans Refuse To Cover The Poor, Then Complain That Obamacare Isn’t Covering The Poor
The New York Times has gotten hold of the “House Republican Playbook” on Obamacare, and I have to admit that it brought back warm memories. It’s just like the launch kits. In any case, it’s all pretty predictable stuff: Obamacare is an abomination; people are losing their insurance; small companies are being ruined; etc. etc.
Needless to say, this is primarily because Republicans governors have refused to implement Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, even though it’s 100 percent paid for at first and 90 percent paid for forever. These governors literally prefer to have their state’s residents pay taxes and get nothing in return rather than give so much as an extra dime to poor people who need health care. It’s truly hard to fathom what kind of human being is callous enough to do this, but apparently there are a bunch of them in the Republican Party.
CBS News distributed a summary of findings from an internal investigation into the discredited Oct. 27 “60 Minutes” report on Benghazi. The investigation was conducted by Al Ortiz, executive director of standards and practices at CBS News, and the findings addressed the various red flags that “60 Minutes” failed to heed in featuring the testimony of Dylan Davies, a security contractor in Benghazi at the time of the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on U.S. interests in the Libyan city. The document cited 10 discrete issues with the Benghazi story. Lara Logan, the correspondent on the story, and the segment’s producer, Max McClellan, are taking leaves of absence following the breakdowns.
CBS News and “60 Minutes” might as well be on different planets. For CBS News, Benghazi represents the folly of firewalls. Right after the Benghazi attack itself, “60 Minutes” correspondent Steve Kroft asked President Obama how he viewed the tragedy. “Do you believe that this was a terrorist attack?” asked Kroft. Here’s how he responded: OBAMA: Well, it’s too early to know exactly how this came about, what group was involved, but obviously it was an attack on Americans. And we are going to be working with the Libyan government to make sure that we bring these folks to justice, one way or the other.
Trouble was, the public didn’t find out about the president’s response for weeks, until just two days before Election Day — long after it might have affected the course of the campaign. Somewhere between “60 Minutes” and the rest of CBS News, the Kroft-Obama exchange got lost.
Larry Derfner: Under The Radar: Israel’s Security Establishment Supports New Iran Agreement
The news from Israel is that Israel hates the Iranian nuclear deal struck in Geneva – but the news is not entirely accurate. It’s true, of course, that Netanyahu and his government ministers (with the exception of Justice Minister Tzipi Livni) think the agreement is bad, very bad, very very bad, and that Obama and the West sold the Jews out to Hitler again. But there are some other extremely powerful Israelis who don’t think the agreement is so bad, and who certainly prefer it to the no-agreement that Bibi and AIPAC were driving toward – and these Israelis make up the country’s military-intelligence establishment.
It shouldn’t be a big surprise; these are the same people who, with an assist from President Shimon Peres and the Israeli media, stopped Netanyahu and then-defense minister Ehud Barak from bombing Iran like they wanted to last year. Israel’s generals don’t relish going head-to-head with the United States, they don’t live on paranoia, apocalyptic visions and scare-mongering, and right there you have enough to understand why they don’t go along with Netanyahu on Iran. The Israeli brass are certainly not peaceniks. They’re not sanguine at all about the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran. They are not opposed in principle to bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities – in fact, like with most Israelis, their preferred solution is for the U.S. to bomb them. But unlike Netanyahu and the right, they don’t automatically see red when they look at Iran
AP: Obama’s Gatekeeper Now Point Man On Health Care
White House chief of staff Denis McDonough was ready to vent. “I’ve had too much humble pie,” he fumed, striding into a top aide’s West Wing office. “That was the last slice. I’m full.” McDonough had just finished another hand-holding meeting with health care advocates anxious over the disastrous rollout of the health care law. McDonough’s message: It was time to change tactics, quit lamenting the problems and start emphasizing the benefits of the health care overhaul.
McDonough is now holding evening meetings every day with key players in the health care rollout, offering support even as he holds agency leaders accountable. “We went straight into problem solving,” he said last week during a stroll on the White House South Lawn. “We knew that going into this, that no plan survives first contact. We knew that we would be confronted with challenges along the way. “We are focused on getting it working, absolutely, and we’re making good progress on that.”
“Denis takes everything personally. Nobody is going to be harder on Denis than himself,” says his friend Ben Rhodes, a deputy White House national security adviser. “He was angry, frustrated, all of the above. If there is a problem, it is his personal mission to fix it, even if it is beyond his direct capacity to do so.” Of all the chiefs of staff who have worked for Obama, McDonough, 43, has the closest relationship with the president. McDonough is a fierce defender of the president, known during his national security days for vigorously challenging reporters. In a recent meeting with Democratic senators, a participant in the room said, he had a feisty exchange with Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, over a fix the president had proposed to the health care law.
Washington Post: The Treasury Department team had been working nonstop on a plan to freeze Libyan assets in U.S. banks, hoping they might snare $100 million or more and prevent Moammar Gaddafi from tapping it as he unleashed deadly attacks against protesters who wanted him gone.
Now, at 2:22 Friday afternoon, Feb. 25, an e-mail arrived from a Treasury official with startling news. Their $100 million estimate was off — orders of magnitude off. The e-mail said there was in “excess of $29.7 Billion — yes, that’s a B.” And most of the money was at one bank.
It was a piece of extraordinary good fortune for the Obama administration at a crucial moment in the efforts to address the bizarre and deadly events unfolding in Libya.
Never before had U.S. officials so quickly launched economic sanctions affecting so many assets of a targeted country.
The frenetic 72 hours leading up to the Executive Order 13566 illustrate how a process of identifying and freezing assets — something that customarily has taken weeks or months — has become one of the first tactical tools to employ in the midst of fast-breaking crises.
It also shows that government officials have learned from other recent economic sanction efforts, including against Iran and North Korea. Instead of being a secondary measure, as in the past, economic sanctions have become a centerpiece of national security policy.