Nel's New Day

December 25, 2014

My Kind of President

For a brief time, President Obama became “Sorter-in-Chief” when he and his wife, Michelle, put toys into the “girls” and “boys” bins for the Marine’s Toys for Tots program at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling. The President’s staff had donated about 1,000 toys for the annual holiday toy drive.

Being very selective, the president started putting sports and science toys into the “girls” bin. Adding a basketball to the “girls” box, he said “I just wanna make sure some girls play some ball.” Questioned about adding Legos for the girls, the president asked, “Girls don’t like toys?” Then he added a T-Ball set to the collection. “I’m just trying to break down these gender stereotypes,” the president explained.

Toys for Tots

[Those who fear the president’s “War on Christmas” might want to note that the bags he carries are emblazoned with “Merry Christmas.”]

PHOTO: White House photographer Pete Souza shared this image of President Obama while doing his 2014 edits, Dec. 24, 2014.

President Obama knows that girls like Legos. Earlier this year, he consented to wearing a tiara in a group photo with Brownies from Girl Scout Troop 2612 of Broken Arrow (OK) taken at the White House Science Fair. The girls had exhibited a Lego flood-proof bridge project (below). President Barack Obama eschewed one of his self-professed rules of the job for a Girl Scout troop earlier this year. The White House Science Fair took place on May 27 and focused on girls and women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields who are inspiring the next generation of scientists.

“We’re putting a special focus on all the inspiring girls and young women who are excelling in science,” the president said, noting that “fewer than 3 in 10 workers in science and engineering are women … we’ve got to change those numbers.”

Watch for conservatives to become unglued after a photo of President Obama wearing a “crown” circulates throughout their media!

Another source of ire for conservatives is a recent poll about the Affordable Care Act:  78 percent approve of the insurance exchanges; 76 percent support the federal subsidies; 75 percent support the Medicaid expansion; and 60 percent support the employer mandate. These are the options that GOP congressional members promise to eradicate this coming year—if the Supreme Court doesn’t do it for them.

 

 

November 5, 2012

‘Life Is Better Than Four Years Ago’

Tomorrow we have a choice between the 21st century or the 19th century—moving forward into greater income equality for people in this country or a Gilded Age that rewards only the wealthiest. Many of the past blogs in Nel’s New Day have concentrated on Romney’s faults: today’s blog is about Obama’s amazing accomplishments during the past four years, despite conservative obstructionists in the Congress who have spent all their political capital to destroy the president.

When I started writing this, I thought that I could easily condense the information into the average length of a blog. Boy, was I wrong! I have taken so much of what happened in the last four years for granted. When people ask if the country is better off than four years ago, give them these reasons. For a great—and much longer—description, check out this article on 50 of Obama’s achievements.

Perhaps the president’s most notable accomplishment was to prevent another Great Depression. Eighteen months after he started on that project, he again rescued the country from economic destruction after the conservatives proposed raising the debt ceiling and therefore not paying the nation’s debts.

Currently the United States is one of a handful of countries not mired in a double-dip recession. In fact, the U.S. has netted over 5 million new jobs during the last 32 months, compared to the 818,000 jobs lost in just the last month of George W. Bush’s second term, the largest loss in one month during the past 60 years. Part of the jobs came from the stimulus bill, much maligned by the Republicans who wanted President Obama—and the country–to achieve nothing. The stimulus also insourced thousands of job from overseas companies that moved factories back to the U.S. In addition to the advantage of the jobs, these businesses rented empty facilities from the government. Blade Dynamics now produces wind turbines for green energy in the U.S. This in addition to saving the auto industry.

His second most notable accomplishment is his sweeping health care reforms that moved the country toward universal health coverage, as it allows children under 26 to stay on their parents’ policies; lowered drug costs for people on; provided free immunizations, mammograms and contraceptives; banned lifetime limits on insurance payments; and mandated the denial of coverage to children with pre-existing conditions, adding this mandate to all people in 2014. Four years ago, 50 million Americans could not get health insurance; now 36 million Americans have access to healthcare for the first time, over a million young Americans are now covered on their parents’ policy, and all women have access to contraception and preventive healthcare, with no copay.

The third primary achievement was unraveling our knotted involvement in Middle East conflicts, first by taking 146,000 military members out of Iraq and then by winding down Afghanistan while keeping us out of Libya and other countries hit by the “Arab Spring” revolutions. In Libya, President Obama gathered international backing for airstrikes during the uprising, thus keeping American military forces in a background role. The president also negotiated a much tougher regime of multilateral economic sanctions on Iran. The killing goes on in Syria, but the administration is working to identify and support moderate insurgent forces there.

With no preemptive declarations of war as George W. Bush did, the president helped repair America’s badly damaged reputation around the world. Of 14 nations, 10 gave the U.S. higher favorability in 2012 than in 2008; the higher ratings were largely in Europe and Asia while understandably the lower four were from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Pakistan. The average increase across all 14 countries was 7.4 points.

The president reversed Bush administration policies that chipped away at minorities’ voting rights and fought anti-immigration laws. When conservatives would not pass a Dream Act to allow entry into citizenship for young people who were brought into the U.S. as children, the president issued an executive order to start this process.

Discrimination against LGBT people began to crack apart during President Obama’s first term. Fifteen years after the legislation of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule that drove  gays and lesbians out of the military, the law was overturned. The so-called Defense of Marriage Act that prevents marriage equality still exists, but the Obama administration does not support this odious act and does support the Respect for Marriage Act that would create federal marriage equality.

If the president wins another four-year term, economists predict further improvement. During the disastrous “bubble” leading to the country’s economic crash, so much building occurred that this industry largely collapsed. At the same time, the excessive household debt created a lack of demand. Economists generally agree that housing booms produce a robust recovery and the lack of demand in buying brings down the economy.

Peter Fagan, in a Bloomberg opinion piece, wrote, “The economy is on course to enjoy faster growth in the next four years as the headwinds that have held it back turn into tailwinds. Consumers are spending more and saving less after reducing household debt to the lowest since 2003. Home prices are rebounding after falling more than 30 percent from their 2006 highs. And banks are increasing lending after boosting equity capital by more than $300 billion since 2009.” He indicated that this would happen with either candidate being elected, but I think that he forgot to take into consideration that Mitt Romney would take all the money and give it to the wealthy.

The Republicans have refused to give the president credit for many of his policies. While the GOP is claiming that he is destroying small business, he pushed through more tax write-offs for new equipment and temporary tax cuts for hiring the unemployed.

In a speech given at the Democratic National Convention, Jim Sinegal, former CEO, co-founder, and current board member of Costco, stated that companies need “a president who takes the long view and makes the tough decisions.” He added, “We don’t want one set of rules for ourselves and another for our employees. Some of my friends in corporate America say that all they need is a government that gets off the backs of businesses … But I think they get it all wrong. Business needs a president who has covered businesses’ backs.”

If conservatives had not blocked the president, he would have a jobs plan for school renovations, repair projects for roads and bridges, aid to states, and more. The Dodd-Frank financial regulation established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, initiated reform of the derivatives market, and imposed higher capital requirements for banks. It’s an incomplete action, again because of the way that conservatives blocked him.

Obama critics claim that the president has not presented an agenda for his second year. The conservatives have not room when one considers their own candidate. Even more, these critics are wrong. President Obama’s second-term agenda includes a budget deal that includes both spending cuts and tax increases; a detailed deficit-reduction proposal to reduce deficit by $3.8 trillion within a decade; implementation of a new health insurance plan; the continued push for clean energy; climate change legislation; upgrading of the nation’s infrastructure; retooling the educational system and training people for well-paying jobs; and new campaign financing system to curtail billionaires’ and corporations’ power.

“The die is cast for a much stronger recovery,” wrote Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s Analytics Inc. He added, “Political uncertainty will abate and hiring and economic growth will revive by this time next year. By 2014, growth will be in full swing as the construction cycle definitively turns up. Real GDP growth is expected to approach a 4% annual pace, with job growth above 250,000 per month and unemployment steadily declining. The economy should return to full employment—defined as a 5.8% unemployment rate—by early 2016.”

“If Mitt Romney defeats President Obama in his bid for reelection on Tuesday, it will mark the success of one of the most deeply cynical political campaigns in American history.—Juan Williams, Fox News political analyst, panelist, and substitute host 

Latest Attempt to Keep Democrats from Voting: Robocalls that Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), U.S. Senate candidate in a tightly contested race, made last weekend to registered Democrats gave the wrong poll place locations, some as far away as 11 miles from the correct one. Other Flake calls sounded as if a church was asking them to vote for him. This followed the misinformation from the Maricopa County Elections Department distributed not once but twice to newly registered voters. The printed documents listed Nov. 6 in English and Nov. 8 in Spanish. Maricopa County is the largest country in Arizona and includes the Phoenix metropolitan area.

And the Opposite: People registered in a federally-declared disaster county in New York may vote on an affidavit ballot at any poll site in the state and mandates that the ballots be sent to the board of elections where the voter is registered. [In Ohio and Florida, voters are still standing in line up to eight hours to vote. Something needs to be done at the federal level to guarantee that people will be allowed to vote.]

In less than an hour (midnight), polls will open in Dixville Notch and Hart’s Location, two small New Hampshire towns that compete every election to cast the first ballots. Otherwise polls start opening at 6:00 am (EST). If you haven’t voted, do it! Here’s a bit of humor to get you going.

August 15, 2012

Romney’s Lies about Medicare Unraveled

The minute that Mitt Romney selected Paul Ryan as VP nominee, the subject of Medicare went viral. As usual, the Romney campaign lied about President Obama’s position, accusing him of what the Romney/Ryan plan does. When President Obama declared that he would cut over $700 billion from Medicare in the next decade through improved efficiency and then give more benefits to seniors from the saved money, Romney attacked him for stripping this money from seniors to give to the people benefitting from the Affordable Care act. Both Romney and Ryan have tried to conceal the fact that they plan to charge seniors over $800 billion in the next decade to give money to the wealthy through reduced taxes for the top 1 percent.

The Romney campaign knows that it has just a few days to identify its position on Medicare because this subject may very well define the entire debate for the next 83 days. Following are excerpts from President Obama’s and Republican presidential nominee Romney’s speeches. The first is from the president:

“I think [Republicans] know their plan’s not very popular. You can tell that because they are being pretty dishonest about my plan. Especially, by the way, when it comes to Medicare. Now, this is something I’ve got to point out here because they are just throwing everything at the wall to see if it sticks.

“Here is what you need to know: I have strengthened Medicare. I have made reforms that have saved millions of seniors with Medicare hundreds of dollars on their prescription drugs. I’ve proposed reforms that will save Medicare money by getting rid of wasteful spending in the health care system — reforms that will not touch your Medicare benefits, not by a dime.

“Now, Mr. Romney and his running mate have a very different plan. They want to turn Medicare into a voucher program. That means seniors would no longer have the guarantee of Medicare, they’d get a voucher to buy private insurance. And because the voucher wouldn’t keep up with costs, the plan offered by Governor Romney’s running mate, Congressman Ryan, would force seniors to pay an extra $6,400 a year, and I assume they don’t have it.

“My plan’s already extended Medicare by nearly a decade. Their plan ends Medicare as we know it. My plan reduces the cost of Medicare by cracking down on fraud and waste and subsidies to insurance companies. Their plan makes seniors pay more so they can give another tax cut to millionaires and billionaires. That’s the difference between our plans on Medicare, that’s an example of the choice in this election, and that’s why I am running for a second term as President of the United States of America.”

Romney said:

“One of the things the president did which I find extraordinary, something he never mentioned when he was running for office. You see when he ran for office he said he’d protect Medicare. But did you know that he has taken $716 billion out of the Medicare Trust Fund? He’s raided that trust fund. And do you know what he did with it? He’s used it to pay for Obama care, a risky, unproven federal government takeover to health care. And if I’m president of the United States, we’re putting the $716 billion back.”

In their attempt to explain their Medicare position, the Romney/Ryan campaign has not coordinated its arguments. In one speech, Romney said that his plan regarding Medicare is different from that of Ryan while being similar whereas they have not really looked at how the plans compare.

Kevin Drum pointed out some of the difficulties in coordinating Romney’s position on Medicare:

“Romney, in a rare press conference on Monday night in Florida, repeatedly refused to say whether he backed Ryan’s Medicare reform plan. Some of advisers have gone on television to say publicly that he wholly and enthusiastically endorsed Ryan’s budget proposals and would, if president, have signed it. Others have sought to distance him from it, saying Romney was running on his own plan.”

Ted Marmor, professor emeritus of public policy and management at Yale School of Management, said that providing the Medicare vouchers to pay for private insurance will transfer the risk and increased costs for care from Medicare to the patient. He explained that some patients would have to choose between paying for better coverage and having more money for food and other items. Judy Feder, a professor of public policy at Georgetown University, explained, “Medicare gets much better rates from providers–who can’t afford to say no to such a big pool of customers. That’s not true for private insurance plans. If you divvy up the market power among plans, they’ll likely pay more.”

Romney also wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act that provides more money to seniors for prescription drugs than the regular Medicare Part D. That puts additional costs onto the voucher system. And the repeal of ACA would add almost $1 trillion dollars to the deficit.

Just tell people that Romney/Ryan intend to change Medicare into a voucher system that would cost seniors $6,400 more per year within ten years and that the president will save money from the current Medicare system and provide a better plan while keeping seniors from paying more money for their health care.

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