In this week's address, the President shared his plan, outlined in his State of the Union address earlier this week, to give hardworking families the support they need to make ends meet by focusing on policies that benefit the middle class and those working to reach the middle class.
Through common-sense proposals like closing loopholes that benefit the wealthy and providing tax relief to the middle class, making two years of community college free for responsible students, strengthening paid leave policies and access to quality child care for working families, and raising the minimum wage, we can ensure that everyone benefits from, and contributes to, America's success.
Middle-class economics is working, and we have laid a new foundation, but there is still progress to be made, and the President said he is eager to get to work.
President Barack Obama speaking to Congress and the American people:
... tonight, we turn the page. Tonight, after a breakthrough year for America, our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999. (Applause.) Our unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the financial crisis. More of our kids are graduating than ever before. More of our people are insured than ever before. (Applause.) And we are as free from the grip of foreign oil as we've been in almost 30 years. (Applause.)
Tonight, for the first time since 9/11, our combat mission in Afghanistan is over. (Applause.) Six years ago, nearly 180,000 American troops served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, fewer than 15,000 remain. And we salute the courage and sacrifice of every man and woman in this 9/11 Generation who has served to keep us safe. (Applause.) We are humbled and grateful for your service.
America, for all that we have endured; for all the grit and hard work required to come back; for all the tasks that lie ahead, know this: The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong. (Applause.)
The recent advertising campaign, launched by Nikon, "I Am Generation Image," has attracted a huge amount of media buzz, specifically because two of their featured subjects are a black gay male couple and their kids.
librarisingnsf had a diary about them last week. The Instagram photo they uploaded doing their girl's hair in the morning, set off a firestorm - some supportive, and some very hateful, but it got them noticed by Nikon.
"Last year, we were surprised when a picture of us doing our daughters' hair went viral. To us, that's just part of our morning routine. With our images, we want to share our family's life - and maybe reveal how much our family is like yours."
In this week's address, the President recounted the stories of letter writers from around the country who will be joining him when he delivers his annual State of the Union address this Tuesday: Carolyn, who was able to expand her small business through a Small Business Administration loan, and this year raised wages for their hourly employees; Jason, a wounded warrior who served in Afghanistan and is now back home with his wife and first daughter, born in November; and Victor, who affords his student loans with help from the Income Based Repayment Plan, and has health insurance because of the Affordable Care Act.
Stories like theirs are proof of the progress our country has made. The President encouraged everyone to tune in Tuesday evening to hear more about America's comeback, and the steps we can take to ensure all Americans - not just a fortunate few - benefit from our American resurgence.
As expected, the GOP-controlled House of Representatives today passed a package of measures that would roll back President Obama's executive actions shielding hundreds of thousands of DREAMers, and millions of parents of children who are U.S. citizens or legal residents, from deportation.[...]
Today's action goes further than merely defunding Obama's recent executive actions deferring the deportation of immigrants brought here as children (the 2012 DACA) and of millions of parents of children who are U.S. citizens or legal residents (the more recent DAPA).
It also defunds the implementation of the 2011 Morton memos. [...]
"Republicans just voted against a mainstream law enforcement utilization of prosecutorial discretion," Frank Sharry of America's Voice tells me. "Would they instruct enforcement agents to treat a DREAMer, the spouse of a soldier, or the mother of an American citizen as an equal deportation priority to a convicted gang member, a smuggler, or a serious criminal?"
The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Jan. 7-11 among 1,504 adults, finds that Obama's job approval has risen five points since December (42%). [...]
For the first time in five years, more Americans say Obama's economic policies have made conditions better (38%) than worse (28%); 30% say they have not had much of an effect. And Obama engenders more confidence on the economy than do the leaders of the new Republican majority in Congress.[...]
Currently, 40% approve of Republican leaders' plans and policies for the future, while somewhat more (49%) disapprove. Shortly after the midterm elections, when Republicans gained full control of Congress, about as many approved as disapproved of GOP future plans (44% approved vs. 43% disapproved).
Now that Americans have caught a glimpse of the future, they appear to be having a bit of buyers remorse.
"Since I've only got two years left in the job, I tend to be impatient and I didn't wait to wait for the State of the Union to start sharing my plans," the President quipped at the top of his remarks. [...]
New actions to protect identities and privacy The President announced a number of new steps today to safeguard Americans' identities and privacy:
1. We're introducing legislation to create a single, national standard protecting Americans from identity theft.
2. More banks, credit card issuers, and lenders are giving customers free access to their credit scores.
3. We're also introducing a new Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.
4. We're working to protect our children's personal information and privacy online.
"We pioneered the Internet, but we also pioneered the Bill of Rights, and a sense that each of us as individuals have a sphere of privacy around us that should not be breached, whether by our government, but also by commercial interests," the President said. "And since we're pioneers in both these areas, I'm confident that we can be pioneers in crafting the kind of architecture that will allow us to both grow, innovate, and preserve those values that are so precious to us as Americans."
In this week's address, President Obama discussed the economic gains we made in 2014, which was the strongest year for job growth since the 1990s.
In the coming weeks, the President will continue to preview his State of the Union address and the agenda he'll put forward to build on that progress. The President will showcase ways he's working to help every American get ahead in the new year, like plans he announced this week to make community college free for two years, make mortgages more affordable and accessible for creditworthy families, and support manufacturing.
Today, the President unveiled a new proposal: Make two years of community college free for responsible students across America.
In our growing global economy, Americans need to have more knowledge and more skills to compete -- by 2020, an estimated 35 percent of job openings will require at least a bachelor's degree, and 30 percent will require some college or an associate's degree. Students should be able to get the knowledge and the skills they need without taking on decades' worth of student debt.
This is a win-win for the economy and for the next generation. Cash-strapped states (many of which strapped themselves to tax-cut fever which is burning up their seed corn) are cutting back on their funding of higher education. A recent story in NPR reported that tuition now outweighs state aid as the major source of revenue for public colleges. Tuition that is paid for by student loan debt and parent loan debt ... or the high cost of which has made it impossible for low-income students to afford college.
According to new data, based on an analysis of Labor Department statistics by the Economic Policy Institute, Americans with four-year college degrees are not only equipped for a fulfilling adult and professional life but made 98 percent more an hour on average than those without a degree. And, the wage gap is only increasing, up from 89 percent five years ago, 85 percent a decade earlier, and 64 percent in the early 1980s.
College graduates are also more likely to be employed full-time than their less-educated counterparts, and are less likely to be unemployed, 4 percent versus 12 percent, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center.
The 114th Congress was sworn in yesterday with much fanfare. Finally, according to the beltway pundits, we have Republican lawmakers ready to do the serious business of the people. Speaker John Boehner, entering his 5th year at the helm of the ship of fools known as the Republican House, is now joined by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the very very serious doer-of-the-people's-business who once declared that the top priority of the Republican Senate was to make Barack Obama a one term president.
The 112th and 113th Congresses were marked by what they were against rather than what they were for. Repealing the Affordable Care Act consumed much of the time, forced birth initiatives consumed some and of course the investigations into the Fox scandals (IRS targeting of conservatives, Benghaziiii, the president's birth certificate) consumed more. But they pretty much knew that the show bills they passed were big sloppy kisses to their base rather than legislation that would be taken up by the Senate for consideration. Now, every bill they pass will be part of the resume of Republican Governance that they are building to, according to them, "show the American people how grand this ol' party is so that they will elect a Republican president". Remember the Bush years of glorious health and prosperity for the American people? Funny, neither do I. Maybe we can ask a beltway pundit to help us remember.
And really, do we need a Republican Congress to serve as an example of the outcome of Republican Governance? We have evidence in state after state after state where anti-women, anti-black, anti-environment, anti-poors laws have made ordinary people's lives miserable.
The House of Reprehensibles did not take long to show us what they will consume their time with over the next two years.
By now, we are all familiar with this iconic image, which for all of us symbolizes the tragic murder of Trayvon Martin, and the "hoodie" that racists have used to blame him for his death at the hands of George Zimmerman.
Other images have followed this one, especially the "hand-up don't shoot" gesture from protestors across America after the killing of Michael Brown. Or the last words of Eric Garner "I can't breathe."
Yesterday, former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo (D) passed away at age 82. The speech mentioned as his most important was his short speech at the Democratic National Convention in 1984 where he described Reagan's "Shining City on a Hill" as actually a tale of two cities: one for the rich and one for the rest of America. It is a theme revisited many times over the years because, really, Republicans simply will not give up on their ideal America - where the wealthy and connected have the power and the have-nots fight among themselves for the scraps left over.
Gov. Mario Cuomo:
President Reagan told us from the very beginning that he believed in a kind of social Darwinism. Survival of the fittest. "Government can't do everything," we were told, so it should settle for taking care of the strong and hope that economic ambition and charity will do the rest. Make the rich richer, and what falls from the table will be enough for the middle class and those who are trying desperately to work their way into the middle class.
You know, the Republicans called it "trickle-down" when Hoover tried it. Now they call it "supply side." But it's the same shining city for those relative few who are lucky enough to live in its good neighborhoods. But for the people who are excluded, for the people who are locked out, all they can do is stare from a distance at that city's glimmering towers. [...]
The Republicans believe that the wagon train will not make it to the frontier unless some of the old, some of the young, some of the weak are left behind by the side of the trail. "The strong" -- "The strong," they tell us, "will inherit the land."
We Democrats believe in something else. We democrats believe that we can make it all the way with the whole family intact, and we have more than once. [...]
Their policies divide the nation into the lucky and the left-out, into the royalty and the rabble.
Today's ceremony in Kabul marks a milestone for our country. For more than 13 years, ever since nearly 3,000 innocent lives were taken from us on 9/11, our nation has been at war in Afghanistan. Now, thanks to the extraordinary sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, our combat mission in Afghanistan is ending, and the longest war in American history is coming to a responsible conclusion.
@BFriedmanDC: What the end of two wars looks like:
Well, of course there are probably some Republicans who are glad that the economy is doing well (perhaps as a sign that the trickling down that started in 1981 is finally reaching ordinary Americans????) ... but in general terms Eric Boehlert is right: this is NOT good news for those who are willing to destroy the economy to bring down President Obama.
Real gross domestic product (GDP) grew 5.0 percent at an annual rate in the third quarter of 2014-the strongest single quarter since 2003-according to the third estimate from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. While quarterly growth reports are volatile, and some of the growth in Q3 reflected transitory factors, the recent robust growth data indicate a solid underlying trend of recovery. Indeed, the strong growth recorded in each of the last two quarters suggests that the economy has bounced back strongly from the first-quarter decline in GDP, which largely reflected transitory factors like unusually severe winter weather and a sharp slowdown in inventory investment. Consumer spending, business investment, and net exports all remained positive contributors this quarter. Real gross domestic income (GDI), an alternative measure of the overall size of the economy, was up 4.7 percent in Q3.
Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell says health care sign-ups are off to an encouraging start, but a lot of work is still needed to make the second open enrollment season for the federal insurance market a success.
Burwell says 1.9 million new customers have picked a plan through the federal market as of Dec. 19. It serves 37 states.
Another 4.5 million have renewed existing coverage, with most automatically re-enrolled.
In this week's address, the President reflected on the significant progress made by this country in 2014, and in the nearly six years since he took office.
This past year has been the strongest for job growth since the 1990s, contributing to the nearly 11 million jobs added by our businesses over a 57-month streak. America is leading the rest of the world, in containing the spread of Ebola, degrading and ultimately destroying ISIL, and addressing the threat posed by climate change. And earlier this week, the President announced the most significant changes to our policy towards Cuba in over 50 years.
America's resurgence is real, and the President expressed his commitment to working with Congress in the coming year to make sure Americans feel the benefits.
A series of tubes filled with enormous amounts of material
Lots of folks are noticing that the president is having a pretty good month. Republicans are beside themselves because they expected him to curl up in a fetal position in a corner after the midterm election. Instead, with a series of executive orders, new government agency rules, diplomatic initiatives, and the results of his policies yielding positive benefits, the president is finishing the year strong.
November 10: Surprised everyone by announcing his support for strong net neutrality.
November 11: Concluded a climate deal with China that was not only important in its own right, but has since been widely credited with jumpstarting progress at the Lima talks last week.
November 20: Issued an executive order protecting millions of undocumented workers from the threat of deportation.
November 26: Signed off on an important new EPA rule significantly limiting ozone emissions.
December 15: Took a quiet victory lap as Western financial sanctions considerably sharpened the pain of Vladimir Putin's imploding economy.
December 16: Got nearly everything he wanted during the lame duck congressional session, and more. Democrats confirmed all important pending nominees, and then got Republican consent to several dozen lesser ones as well.
December 17: Announced a historic renormalization of relations with Cuba [...]
All of these things are worthwhile in their own right, of course, but there's a political angle to all of them as well: they seriously mess with Republican heads. GOP leaders had plans for January, but now they may or may not be able to do much about them. Instead, they're going to have to deal with enraged tea partiers insisting that they spend time trying to repeal Obama's actions. They can't, of course, but they have to show that they're trying. So there's a good chance that they'll spend their first few months in semi-chaos, responding to Obama's provocations instead of working on their own agenda.
"Provocations", indeed. Democrats like to call them "good government initiatives".
Paul Waldman at The American Prospect: "... the man certainly looks like he's been set free. He doesn't have to worry about getting reelected or about losing Congress (done both), so he can go back to see what fell off the to-do list and do things that he's always wanted to, whether they were politically risky or not."
But Greg Sargent at WaPo notices something else about "Obama Unbound": it is not just "cementing a legacy" but setting up some stark contrasts between Democrats and Republicans going into the 2016 election cycle:
When you step back and look at the degree to which these actions are beginning to frame , it's striking. Hillary Clinton has now endorsed Obama's move on Cuba. GOP presidential hopefuls are lining up against it. She has vowed to protect Obama's actions on climate "at all costs," a stance that could take on added significance if a global climate treaty is negotiated next year. Potential GOP presidential candidates will likely vow to undo those actions and line up against U.S. participation in such a treaty. Clinton has come out in support of Obama's action to shield millions from deportation. GOP presidential hopefuls have lined up against it, effectively reaffirming the party's commitment to deporting as many low-level offenders and longtime residents as possible.
So to the extent that there is an "Obama coalition" to pass on to the Democratic nominee in 2016, his actions have created policy positions that the Republicans are already on board as opposing. These positions are popular with youth and minorities, groups that will be courted in the 2016 general election.
Black men live and dream. Have emotions, feelings, hopes and fears. At a time when black men, especially younger ones are being vilified, de-humanized, incarcerated in massive numbers, and yes-shot dead in the streets, with an outcry and nationwide demonstrations as a result and reaction, I hope people will share the following film by a young black artist.
Thank you, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), for standing up to the NRA and paving the way for Dr. Vivek Murthy to be our next Surgeon General!!!
What?!!?? That was not your intent when you forced the Senate to remain in session on Saturday? Regardless, Dr. Vivek Murthy will finally get a vote:
[Dr.] Murthy is an impressive medical professional with sterling credentials. He's an attending physician, an instructor, and a public-health advocate, so when Obama nominated him for the post, no one questioned his qualifications. But Murthy, like so many in his field, also sees a connection between gun violence and public health, which meant Republicans and the NRA decided to destroy his nomination.
Dr. Vivek Hallegere Murthy, Nominee for Surgeon General, Department of Health and Human Services
Dr. Vivek Hallegere Murthy is the Co-Founder and President of Doctors for America, a position he has held since 2009. Dr. Murthy is also a Hospitalist Attending Physician and Instructor in Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital at Harvard Medical School, a position he has held since 2006. In 2011, Dr. Murthy was appointed to serve as a Member of the Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health. Dr. Murthy has been the Co-Founder and Chairman of the Board of TrialNetworks, formerly known as Epernicus, since 2007. Dr. Murthy co-founded VISIONS Worldwide in 1995, a non-profit organization focused on HIV/AIDS education in India and the United States, where he served as President from 1995 to 2000 and Chairman of the Board from 2000 to 2003. Dr. Murthy received a B.A. from Harvard University, an M.B.A. from Yale School of Management, and an M.D. from Yale School of Medicine.
Dr. Murthy's nomination was approved by Senate committee but put on hold in February by red state Democrats frightened by the NRA. Yes, the same NRA that spent millions to support those red state Democrats' opponents in November 2014 (how'd that work for you, soon-to-be-former Senator Mark Pryor?).
But Saturday afternoon, thanks to the "intervention" of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), Dr. Murthy cleared the first procedural hurdles to his confirmation by a vote of 52-40. On Monday, Senators will vote on cloture, and because of the 50+1 rule, confirmation.
Later this morning, the Senate Intelligence Committee will release an executive summary of what's come to be known as its "torture report."
The report is expected to be the most comprehensive public accounting the interrogation techniques used by the Central Intelligence Agency after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
What's in it is so sensitive and controversial that the report's release has sparked public spats between the CIA and Senate lawmakers.
It all came to a dramatic head on the floor of the Senate in March. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic chairwoman of the Senate intelligence panel, accused the CIA of trying to thwart her committee's work by deleting files and later by illegally spying on Senate computers. The CIA - which eventually apologized to the Senate - had accused Feinstein and her committee of improperly removing classified documents from a government network.
The Senate is expected to release a 460 page executive summary today.
It's official: torture doesn't work. Waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11, did not in fact "produce the intelligence that allowed us to get Osama bin Laden," as former Vice President Dick Cheney asserted in 2011. Those are among the central findings of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA interrogation and detention after 9/11.
The report's executive summary is expected to be released Tuesday. After reviewing thousands of the CIA's own documents, the committee has concluded that torture was ineffective as an intelligence-gathering technique. Torture produced little information of value, and what little it did produce could've been gained through humane, legal methods that uphold American ideals.
In this week's address, the President highlighted the good news in Friday's jobs report - that American businesses added 314,000 new jobs this past month, making November the tenth month in a row that the private sector has added at least 200,000 new jobs. Even with a full month to go, 2014 has already been the best year of job creation since the 1990s. This number brings total private-sector job creation to 10.9 million over 57 consecutive months - the longest streak on record.
But even with this real, tangible evidence of our progress, there is always more that can be done. Congress needs to pass a budget and keep the government from a Christmas shutdown. We have an opportunity to work together to support the continued growth of higher-paying jobs by investing in infrastructure, reforming the business tax code, expanding markets for America's goods and services, making common-sense reforms to the immigration system, and increasing the minimum wage.
You've seen all of the major national news outlets covering Ferguson, and the events surrounding the murder of Mike Brown through their own lens, especially focused on demonizing both Brown, and the people protesting. There were hundreds of reporters assigned to cover "violence" in Ferguson, "looters" etc. It's telling how many aren't covering the ongoing protests and strategies being enacted by people committed to long term change. Try searching the headlines for what is going on right now. Where did the cameras go?
... I think Ferguson laid bare a problem that is not unique to St. Louis or that area, and is not unique to our time, and that is a simmering distrust that exists between too many police departments and too many communities of color. The sense that in a country where one of our basic principles, perhaps the most important principle, is equality under the law, that too many individuals, particularly young people of color, do not feel as if they are being treated fairly.
And as I said last week, when any part of the American family does not feel like it is being treated fairly, that's a problem for all of us. It's not just a problem for some. It's not just a problem for a particular community or a particular demographic. [...]
It was a cautionary note I think from everybody here that there have been commissions before, there have been task forces, there have been conversations, and nothing happens. What I try to describe to people is why this time will be different. And part of the reason this time will be different is because the President of the United States is deeply invested in making sure this time is different. When I hear the young people around this table talk about their experiences, it violates my belief in what America can be to hear young people feeling marginalized and distrustful, even after they've done everything right. That's not who we are. And I don't think that's who the overwhelming majority of Americans want us to be.
Chuck Ramsey, the Commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department and Laurie Robinson, a professor of criminology, law and society at George Mason University, and a former assistant attorney general will be chairing the task force.
[The task force] is not only going to reach out and listen to law enforcement, and community activists and other stakeholders, but is going to report to me specifically in 90 days with concrete recommendations, including best practices for communities where law enforcement and neighborhoods are working well together -- how do they create accountability; how do they create transparency; how do they create trust; and how can we at the federal level work with the state and local communities to make sure that some of those best practices get institutionalized.
He will also be changing some rules related to reporting the use of military equipment local law enforcement acquires via the 1033 program, "proposing some new community policing initiatives that will significantly expand funding and training for local law enforcement, including up to 50,000 additional body-worn cameras for law enforcement agencies", some of which will require Congressional action, and sending Attorney General Eric Holder to convene meetings such as this one in various parts of the country. Attorney General Holder will start with a trip to Atlanta.
For 44 years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has defended the American people's right to breathe clean air by setting national air quality standards for common air pollutants.
Successful public health protection depends on the latest science. Think of it this way: If your doctor wasn't using the latest medical science, you'd be worried you weren't getting the best care.
That's why the Clean Air Act requires EPA to update air quality standards every five years, to ensure standards "protect public health with an adequate margin of safety" based on the latest scientific evidence.
So today, following science and the law, I am proposing to update national ozone pollution standards to clean up our air, improve access to crucial air quality information, and protect those most at-risk -- our children, our elderly, and people already suffering from lung diseases like asthma. [...]
Ground-level ozone pollution, commonly known as smog, comes from industrial action, motor vehicles, power plants, and other activities. Breathing ozone irritates the nose, throat, and lungs. Thousands of scientific studies (from renowned institutions like Harvard University, the University of North Carolina Medical School, and many others) tell us that cutting air pollution to meet ozone standards lowers the risk of asthma, permanent lung damage, cardiovascular harm, and premature death.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: First and foremost, we are a nation built on the rule of law. And so we need to accept that this decision was the grand jury's to make. There are Americans who agree with it, and there are Americans who are deeply disappointed, even angry. It's an understandable reaction. But I join Michael's parents in asking anyone who protests this decision to do so peacefully. Let me repeat Michael's father's words: "Hurting others or destroying property is not the answer. No matter what the grand jury decides, I do not want my son's death to be in vain. I want it to lead to incredible change, positive change, change that makes the St. Louis region better for everyone." Michael Brown's parents have lost more than anyone. We should be honoring their wishes. [...]
Finally, we need to recognize that the situation in Ferguson speaks to broader challenges that we still face as a nation. The fact is, in too many parts of this country, a deep distrust exists between law enforcement and communities of color. Some of this is the result of the legacy of racial discrimination in this country. And this is tragic, because nobody needs good policing more than poor communities with higher crime rates. The good news is we know there are things we can do to help. And I've instructed Attorney General Holder to work with cities across the country to help build better relations between communities and law enforcement. [...]
Those of you who are watching tonight understand that there's never an excuse for violence, particularly when there are a lot of people in goodwill out there who are willing to work on these issues.
On the other hand, those who are only interested in focusing on the violence and just want the problem to go away need to recognize that we do have work to do here, and we shouldn't try to paper it over. Whenever we do that, the anger may momentarily subside, but over time, it builds up and America isn't everything that it could be.