Archive for July 10, 2012
New York, New York this afternoon.
This hardly comes as a surprise to me considering that the major media in the United States is under the control of six massive corporations. Americans’ confidence in television news has hit an all-time low, according to a new survey by Gallup. Twenty-one percent of the 1,004 adults polled said they had “a great deal” or “a lot” of confidence in television news media, continuing a steady decline from the 46 percent who expressed confidence in television media in 1993. Meanwhile, just 25 percent of those polled expressed confidence in newspapers, the second-lowest rating since 1973 and less than half of the 51-percent peak in 1979.
Of 16 U.S. institutions tested — including the police, the church, the Supreme Court, banks, and big business — newspapers ranked tenth, television news eleventh. (The military is the most trusted institution, with a 75 percent confidence rating; Congress is the least trusted institution, with a 13 percent confidence rating). “It is not clear precisely why Americans soured so much on television news this year compared with last,” when confidence was at 27 percent, the authors at Gallup wrote. “Americans’ negativity likely reflects the continuation of a broader trend that appeared to enjoy only a brief respite last year. Americans have grown more negative about the media in recent years, as they have about many other U.S. institutions and the direction of the country in general.”
Confidence in television news also declined across the ideological spectrum, though the decline in confidence among liberals and moderates was far more severe, putting their outlook below that of conservatives for the first time since 2007. Nineteen percent of liberals expressed confidence in television media, versus 20 percent of moderates and 22 percent of conservatives. Gallup also cited the blunders at CNN and Fox News during the Supreme Court healthcare ruling as a sign that “confidence in television news could plummet further.” “[T]hese and other networks — and the news media as a whole — will have to renew their efforts to show Americans that they deserve a higher level of confidence than what they enjoy today,” the authors wrote.
More and more, Americans are turning to the blogs for their news and analysis. Sixty-one percent of Americans said they get at least some of their news online, according to a survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. That’s compared with 54 percent who said they listen to a radio news program and 50 percent who said they read a national or local print newspaper. There is no definitive reason given for this shift to the internet and blogs for news but, as I have suggested, it probably is for a myriad of reasons. Boring and sequential story reporting on the network newscasts and a lack of both objective and investigative reporting on the cable networks.
Lori Stahl covers politics and culture in Texas for The Washington Post. Follow her on Twitter @LoriStahl.
Texas has the sovereign right to keep the very worst health care in the country, Gov. Rick Perry insisted on Monday. Then he boldly blamed the finding that we have more uninsured people, and rank last in just about every known way to measure care, on a federal government that supposedly “doesn’t like Texas to begin with.’’ One in four Texans lack health insurance, so why would we want federal help? Yes, we knew Monday was going to be “buck the federal government day’’ in Texas; everyone has been stoked for a big showdown this week when federal judges started a hearing on the Texas voter ID law. (Critics loved the prequel, which had the same plot but was set in South Carolina.) But who knew we were going to get a double-feature?
Even as the state’s top lawyers battled the US Justice Department over voter ID, Perry launched a battle against “Obamacare” on Fox News. First, he told the interviewer that our state won’t participate in health care expansion because the real issue is freedom: “We’re just not going to be a part of socializing health care in the state of Texas.’’ That means Texas won’t expand Medicaid or establish a marketplace for consumers to shop for insurance — two major facets of the Affordable Care Act that were upheld by the Supreme Court earlier this month. He’s now the sixth Republican governor to say no to participation in the Medicaid expansion. But he distinguished himself in disputing the premise of a fair-minded question about our state’s millions of uninsured residents. “Every Texan has health care in this state,’’ Perry maintained. “From the standpoint of having access to health care, every Texan has that.’’ “How we pay for it and how we deliver it should be our decision, not some bureaucrat in Washington D.C. that may have never been to Texas day in their life…trying to mandate this one-size fits all kind of health care.”
That’s an extra bold statement, coming less than a week after Texas ranked worst in the nation in health care services and delivery, according to an annual scorecard issued by the federal Agency for Health Care Research and Quality. “Rated “weak” or “very weak” in nine of 12 health delivery categories, Texas dropped from 47th place in 2010 to 51st in 2011, behind all other states and Washington, D.C.,’’ according to the Houston Chronicle. The lead author of the federal study told the Chronicle that one factor in the ranking was the high proportion of residents who lack any form of health insurance.
In fact, Texas has the nation’s highest rate of uninsured people; more than 25 percent of Texans lack medical coverage. But when the Fox interviewer asked about that, Perry simply disputed the findings. “The idea that this federal government, which doesn’t like Texas to begin with, can pick and choose and come up with some data and say somehow Texas has the worst health care system in the world is just fake and false on its face,’’ Perry said. Perhaps the TV interviewer was going to grill Perry about why he thinks the feds “don’t like” Texas. Or about what he meant when he said that “every Texan has health care in this state.’’ It would have been fascinating. But at that point, Perry had fiddled so much with his television earpiece that the Fox anchor interrupted the interview to ask: “Are you OK with your hearing, by the way? Are you able to hear us all right, Governor?’’
Perry stopped fiddling and completed the interview. It seemed as though he heard every question. In Texas, on this day, our leader picked his battles. Just because the feds say the state has the nation’s worst health care doesn’t mean we have to believe it. Nor do we have to believe those statistics about the highest percentage of uninsured Texans. We put our energy behind a larger, less-intrusive mission: requiring every voter to get a photo ID.
U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor joins a Republican news conference Tuesday to discuss repeal of the health care law.
House Republicans are using their seats in Congress to shamelessly campaign against President Obama on our time and on our dime. They have launched an all-out assault Tuesday against President Barack Obama’s signature health care reform law, holding a series of committee hearings and other events ahead of a planned vote Wednesday on repealing the measure. The measure has no chance of passing. At news conferences, in media interviews and before congressional panels, GOP opponents of the 2010 Affordable Care Act depicted it as an unwarranted government intrusion in their health decisions that would reduce patients to commodities treated on a cost basis.
Democratic supporters complained that Republicans offer no real alternative to needed reforms in a health care structure that leaves millions of Americans uninsured and faces spiraling costs. Any House repeal effort is sure to die in the Democratic-led Senate, and the White House made clear Obama would veto such a measure. However, the daylong attacks on the health care law were intended to ignite public opposition to the law and force Democrats to publicly defend it. Republicans made clear that the goal is to inspire voters to rally against the law. “If you give us more elected representatives to fix this problem, we will fix this problem in 2013,” House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, said in an interview with CNBC.
The vote Wednesday will be the latest in a series of dozens of House GOP efforts to undermine the health care law, including previous Republican-led moves to repeal the measure or cut funding for various provisions. Even when passed by the House, the measures have mostly died in the Senate. Wednesday’s vote will be the first on the subject since last month’s Supreme Court ruling that upheld the constitutionality of the popularly act known as Obamacare.
Obama and Democrats say the June 28 high court ruling should have ended the political debate over the health care law, rather than revive the Republican repeal effort. “The Supreme Court has spoken,” Obama told supporters at a campaign event Friday in Pittsburgh. “The law we passed is here to stay.” On Monday, the White House formally notified House leaders that Obama will veto any repeal bill that manages to reach his desk, saying repeal “would cost millions of hard-working middle class families the security of affordable health coverage and care they deserve.” “The last thing the Congress should do is refight old political battles and take a massive step backward by repealing basic protections that provide security for the middle class,” a White House statement said. “Right now, the Congress needs to work together to focus on the economy and creating jobs.”
But Republicans, led by certain presidential nominee Mitt Romney, call for eliminating the law and starting over on the complex issue that affects every American. “That’s why we’ve voted over 30 times to repeal it, defund it, replace it. And we are resolved to have this law go away and we’re gonna do everything we can to stop it,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters Tuesday. Democrats, meanwhile, complained the committee hearings Tuesday were stacked by the Republican leadership with witnesses opposing the health care law. They also repeatedly noted the federal law was modeled after a Massachusetts health care law implemented by Romney when he was governor.
At a hearing by a House Oversight subcommittee on the law’s impact on the health care industry, Republican members cut off responses by the lone Democratic witness on the panel of five people who testified. The witness, Ron Pollack of Families USA, had noted support for the health care law by major national organizations including the American Medical Association, the American Association of Pediatrics, the American College of Physicans, the AARP advocacy group for senior citizens and others. When asked questions by GOP panel members, Pollack was told twice to limit his responses to “yes” or “no.”
Republican witnesses complained that the health care law would deny people medical care based on need, saying cost would be the determining factor. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tennessee, asked fellow doctors on the panel if they agreed the law would increase costs and harm proper care for patients. He quickly declared the response for the record, saying: “Doctors would you agree with that? All the doctors are nodding.” The GOP’s conservative base strongly opposes the individual mandate in the law that requires people to obtain health insurance or pay a fine. In its ruling, the Supreme Court said the mandate is constitutional under the government’s taxing authority, and Republicans have jumped on that to characterize the provision as a tax increase on middle-class Americans.
Obama and Democrats respond that only people who can afford health insurance but choose not to get it would have to pay, amounting to about 1% of the population. The health care issue has been among the most divisive of Obama’s presidency. Conservative anger over the measure helped launch the tea party movement, and conservative groups joined with industry groups to fund a giant public pressure campaign against the legislation, which Democrats pushed through Congress with no Republican support. Opponents contend the health care law represents a dramatic government intrusion in the health care industry that will end up increasing costs for consumers and driving up budget deficits.
Supporters say the reforms are necessary to ensure that all Americans have access to health coverage. They note that some provisions already have brought benefits, such as preventing insurance companies from denying coverage for children with pre-existing conditions, and that the comprehensive approach is needed as a long-term strategy that will reshape the industry to control spiraling health care costs and improve overall care. The major provisions of the health care law will take effect in 2014, including health insurance exchanges to provide options for individuals and small businesses to purchase coverage. Full implementation also will expand benefits, such as preventing insurance companies from denying coverage for adults with pre-existing conditions.
Romney, while pledging to repeal the health care law if elected, also says some provisions of it should be maintained, such as the ban on denying coverage for pre-existing conditions. On Monday, the Democratic campaign arm for the U.S. House of Representatives released a series of new online ads attacking some House Republicans over their opposition to the health care law. The ads target seven House Republicans considered vulnerable in November by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “House Republicans are sending an unmistakable message to voters that Republicans want to cut benefits for middle class families and protect insurance companies instead,” DCCC Chairman Steve Israel said in a statement. “The American people don’t want more of these political stunts from Republicans to pander to special interests, they want action to strengthen the middle class and create jobs.”
What the health care ruling means to you
The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act means that the predictions about how it will affect Americans remain in place. The court did rule that a part of the law involving Medicaid must change. The law calls for an expansion of eligibility for Medicaid, which involves spending by the federal government and the states. The law threatens to remove existing Medicaid funding from states that don’t participate in the expansion. The high court said the government must remove that threat. Several groups that follow the health care law closely said they were concerned about the high court’s ruling on the Medicaid portion of the law.
Read the court ruling (.PDF)
Here are some highlights:
The decision leaves in place the so-called individual mandate — the requirement on Americans to have or buy health insurance beginning in 2014 or face a penalty — although many are exempt from that provision.
In 2014, the penalty will be $285 per family or 1% of income, whichever is greater. By 2016, it goes up to $2,085 per family or 2.5% of income.
Health care exchanges, which are designed to offer cheaper health care plans, remain in place as well.
American Cancer Society CEO John Seffrin said his organization was looking at the ruling on Medicaid, and is “concerned that the decision may limit the expansion of quality coverage to some of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens.”
The group Health Care for America Now, which spent tens of millions of dollars on ads supporting the health care plan, said it was “disappointed” and will work to make sure no states “choose to exclude the lowest-income uninsured adults from their Medicaid programs.”
Medicaid Health Plans of America, the trade group representing Medicaid health plans, praised the court “for keeping in place key elements of this historic legislation” and said it remains “committed to a strong partnership with the states and CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) to find a way to cover this population in need.”
Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Georgia, a physician who staunchly opposed the health care law, told CNN he believes many who would have received Medicaid will now enter the health care exchanges, which offer subsidized plans. That, he argued, could cost taxpayers billions of dollars across the country.
Because the requirement remains for people to have or buy insurance, the revenue stream designed to help pay for the law remains in place. So insured Americans may be avoiding a spike in premiums that could have resulted if the high court had tossed out the individual mandate but left other requirements on insurers in place.
Millions of young adults up to age 26 who have gained health insurance due to the law will be able to keep it. The law requires insurers to cover the children of those they insure up to age 26. About 2.5 million young adults from age 19 to 25 obtained health coverage as a result of the Affordable Care Act, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Two of the nation’s largest insurers, United Healthcare and Humana, recently announced they would voluntarily maintain some aspects of health care reform, including coverage of adult dependents up to age 26, even if the law was scrapped.
People with pre-existing conditions
Since the law remains in place, the requirement that insurers cover people with pre-existing medical conditions remains active.
The law also established that children under the age of 19 could no longer have limited benefits or be denied benefits because they had a pre-existing condition.
Starting in 2014, the law makes it illegal for any health insurance plan to use pre-existing conditions to exclude, limit or set unrealistic rates on coverage.
It also established national high-risk pools that people with such conditions could join sooner to get health insurance. As of April, a total of only about 67,000 people were enrolled in federally-funded pools established by the health care law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
More than 13 million American non-elderly adults have been denied insurance specifically because of their medical conditions, according to the Commonwealth Fund. The Kaiser Family Foundation says 21% of people who apply for health insurance on their own get turned down, are charged a higher price, or offered a plan that excludes coverage for their pre-existing condition.
No matter what the Supreme Court had decided, it would have been a mixed bag for all Americans when it comes to federal spending. There is heated dispute over what impact the health care law will have on the country over the long term.
The federal government is set to spend more than $1 trillion over the next decade to subsidize coverage and expand eligibility for Medicaid.
It is not immediately clear how the high court’s ruling on the part of the law dealing with the expansion of Medicaid eligibility could affect spending.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the law could reduce deficits modestly in the first 10 years and then much more significantly in the second decade.
The CBO said a repeal of the mandate could reduce deficits by $282 billion over 10 years, because the government would be subsidizing insurance for fewer people. But the nation faces costs in various ways for having people who are uninsured. The Urban Institute’s Health Policy Center estimated that without a mandate, 40 million Americans would remain uninsured.
Meanwhile, the Flexible Spending Accounts that millions of Americans use to save money tax-free for medical expenses will be sliced under the law. FSAs often allow people to put aside up to $5,000 pre-tax; as of 2013, they were to face an annual limit of $2,500.
Opinion: Are voters ready to move on?
Small business owners
The rules and benefits small business owners face as a result of the health care law remain in place.
As CNN has chronicled, the law brought a mix of both. The director of the National Federation of Independent Business is one of the plaintiffs who pushed the court to strike down the law. Meanwhile, a group called Small Business Majority fought to protect the law, saying its loss could be a nightmare.
As of 2014, under the law, small firms with more than 50 full-time employees would have to provide coverage or face expensive fines.
All Americans, in lesser known ways
The massive health care law requires doctors to report goodies they get from medical supply companies; demands more breastfeeding rooms; requires all chain restaurants to list calories under every menu item, and includes numerous other provisions, which now remain in place.
Doctors and other health care providers
Health care providers have already begun making changes based on the 2010 law, and in preparation for what will go into effect in 2014. Those plans continue.
In the short term, doctors avoid “chaos” that may have resulted from the law suddenly being dropped or changed, according to Bob Doherty, senior vice president of governmental affairs at the American College of Physicians, who wrote a blog post on the website kevinmd.com this spring.
Medical groups have disagreed over the law.
CNN’s Miriam Falco, Caleb Hellerman, Paul Steinhauser, Ashley Killough and Jennifer Bixler contributed to this report.
Mitt Romney has a lot of money but where in the world is it and how much does he really have? When it comes to campaign finance, Mr. Romney is not transparent. At all. Romney has refused to name his bundlers, the well-connected fundraisers who help the campaign haul in stacks of checks adding up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Mr. Romney is under no legal obligation to reveal his bundlers, other than the relative handful who are also registered lobbyists. Federal election law requires that campaigns report the names of those giving $200 or more, but the existence and proliferation of bundlers means the truly valuable information, about which fundraisers the campaign is most indebted to, remains secret. Mr. Romney’s position is an unfortunate step back.
The Washington Post reports that Romney has doubled down on this lack of transparency, telling NBC that he does not plan on releasing his tax returns. even if he becomes the Republican presidential nominee. “Never say never, but I don’t intend to do so,” Mr. Romney said Wednesday. On Thursday, that stance seemed to be softening somewhat, to: “We don’t have any current plans to release tax returns, but never say never.’’ This is unacceptable and, as with the Romney campaign’s stance on bundlers, a sharp departure from previous practice. Some presidential candidates, including Hillary Rodham Clinton (D) and John McCain, balked — incorrectly in our view — at releasing tax returns during the primary season.
What is Romney hiding. And where? it has become a given that nominees, much like presidents and vice presidents, release their income tax returns. Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) has released his, and former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R) pledged he would do so upon becoming the nominee. As with bundlers, Mr. Romney hides behind legal requirements. It is true that candidates are required to file financial disclosure forms, but tax returns provide information not otherwise available, including charitable contributions and effective tax rates. During Mr. Romney’s 1994 bid to unseat Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), he called on the senator to release his tax returns to prove he had “nothing to hide.” Yet Mr. Romney did not release his own returns during that campaign or his subsequent run for, and service as, governor.
His personal net worth is estimated at $250 million dollars making Mitt one of the richest men ever to run for the White House. In a revealing investigation by Vanity Fair Magazine, reporter Nicholas Shaxson attempts to blow the lid off this secrecy, diving deep into the limited paper trail to explore some of the shadier ways that the Romney family has made, invested, and perhaps hid, his millions. Here are some of the highlights:
- In 1997, Romney set up a Bermuda-based entity called Sankaty High Yield Asset Investors Ltd., that has been described in securities filings as “a Bermuda corporation wholly owned by W. Mitt Romney.” The entity was transferred to his wife’s blind trust on Jan. 1, 2003, the day before Romney was inaugurated as governor of Massachusetts. The director and president of the entity is the Romneys personal lawyer R. Bradford Malt, who also oversees the blind trust. Romney did not list it on financial disclosures until his 2010 tax return, but Shaxson writes that, “even after examining the return, we have no idea what is in this company, but it could be valuable, meaning that it is possible Romney’s wealth is even greater than previous estimates.”
- Romney has personal interests in at least 12 Bain funds in the Cayman Islands, worth as much as $30 million. Shaxson reports that “the Romney campaign insists he saves no tax by using them, but there is no way to check this.”
- A $3 million Swiss bank account appeared on Romney’s 2010 returns, but disappears on the 2011 returns, after the Romneys trustee closed it. USC tax law professor Ed Kleinbard told Shaxson that the Swiss account “has political but not tax-policy resonance” because it was essentially a bet against the U.S. dollar.
- The Romneys’ I.R.A.’s have been receiving profit interest from Cayman Island–based Bain Capital funds that were set up long after Romney left the firm in 1999. Shaxson writes that although firms are technically only supposed to do this if the compensation is for past services, tax law experts say that Romney “can get away with it because of excessive ‘administrative indulgences’ that have allowed a ‘perversion of the law in favor of a small class of overcompensated investment managers.’”
- Romney’s I.R.A. appears to have invested in “blocker corporations” located in tax havens like the Cayman Islands, which are designed to make it easier to avoid U.S. business taxes.
- Shaxson also suggests that, under Romney, Bain Capital may have helped wealthy foreign investors take advantage of special U.S. tax exemptions. He writes that investors in Romney’s first Bain Capital Fund, in 1984, included “newspaper tycoon, tax evader, and fraudster Robert Maxwell, who fell from his yacht, and drowned, off of the Canary Islands in 1991 in strange circumstances, after looting his company’s pension fund,” “Eduardo Poma, a member of one of the ’14 families’ oligarchy that has controlled most of El Salvador’s wealth for decades,” “a Geneva-based trustee overseeing a trust that invested $2.5 million, a Bahamas corporation that put in $3 million, and three corporations in the tax haven of Panama.”
Despite these juicy details, however, Shaxson’s findings are inconclusive, underscoring the gaping holes in the public’s knowledge of Romney’s financial past — holes that the candidate has so far been unwilling to close. As Shaxson notes, Romney’s campaign has stuck to the defense that the candidate never broke any laws, so any perceived unfairness is the fault of the system. Still, that argument is unlikely to change the perception that Cayman Island bank accounts are associated with drug trafficking criminals, or that betting against the U.S. dollar with a Swiss bank account looks bad for someone who is trying to get elected president. “What Romney does not get,” Washington lawyer and offshore expert Jack Blum told VF, “is that this stuff is weird.”
There is another story today from the Christian Science Monitor that points out Romney has raised more campaign money than President Obama for two months in a row. In May, Mr. Romney and the Republican National Committee brought in $17 million more than did Mr. Obama and the Democratic National Committee. In June, that gap widened to $35 million, as Romney and the RNC raked in a total of $106 million, while Obama took in $71 million. For the Romney campaign, this is great news. It appears that Wall Street donors are flocking back to the Republican banner, after a 2008 election cycle in which many financiers supported Obama. The presumptive GOP nominee and his allies appear well on their way toward their goal of an $800 million campaign war chest – a cash cushion that might enable them to outspend their opponents in the 2012 struggle for the White House.
But the overall money picture is a bit more complicated than the headline “Romney Outdoes Obama in Fundraising” indicates. For one, the campaigns did not start their general election money race from the same point. Romney has had to fight his way through a tough primary season, with all the spending that entails. Obama has been able to save up, waiting for his election moment. The website, OpenSecrets.org which is the wesbsite for the Center for Responsive Politics shows that the Obama campaign by itself had about $109.6 million in cash on hand. The Romney campaign had much less money at its disposal: about $17 million, according to CRP.
This edge has enabled Obama to buy large blocks of airtime early in swing states such as Ohio, hammering Romney on his Bain Capital years, and so forth. Obama’s cash-on-hand lead may quickly dissipate, as Romney raises money and Obama spends. There’s some question whether early ad spending will make much difference in November. But at this point Obama leads in the spending race, and in the end it is spending, not fundraising per se, that may make a difference at the polls. Plus, Romney’s campaign through the end of May was less efficient in its cash accumulation than was its Democratic counterpart.
Through May, about 25 percent of Romney’s expenditures went to fundraising expenses. The corresponding figure for Obama? Five percent. The disparity here isn’t quite as big as it seems – Obama’s percentage is lower partly due to the fact that his total amount of expenditures has been greater. But again, the most important thing in politics is not how much money you get, but how much you have to spend on ads, get-out-the-vote organizations, and so forth. Cash laid out to set up dinners for high rollers is cash you don’t have available to spend in Ohio on attack ads. None of this means Romney won’t end up on top in the overall money wars. What it does mean is that the situation may not be as simple as the press releases of both sides suggest. Romney trumpets his fundraising successes as evidence of his electoral appeal. Team Obama talks about Romney’s cash as a means to try to motivate Democratic donors.
My opinions are based on reporting from The Christian Science Monitor, The Washington Post and Vanity Fair Magazine.
The latest DMN projection is based on polling in each state.
The race for the White House is dead even according to a new poll. And the survey also indicates that there’s a major difference in motivation between supporters of President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney. According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll released Tuesday morning, 47% of registered voters nationwide say if the November election were held today, they would vote for the president, with an equal amount saying they would cast a ballot for Romney, the presumptive GOP nominee. The ABC News/Washington Post survey is the latest in a string of national polls released over the past two weeks to indicate the battle for the presidency either tied up or with only a slight edge for Obama.
While the horse race is all knotted up, there’s a wide gap when it comes to motivation. Three-quarters of Obama supporters say their vote is for him, with just 23% saying they’re voting against Romney. Only 37% of Romney supporters say their vote is for their candidate, with nearly six in ten saying their vote is against Obama. There was a similar trend in President George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election victory over Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, the Democratic nominee. The ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted July 5-8, with 1,003 adults nationwide, including 855 registered voters, questioned by telephone. The survey’s sampling error for registered voters is plus or minus four percentage points.
Karl Rove and James Carville are brilliant campaign strategists. Rove, known as the “architect” who constructed George W. Bush’s victories is busy lining up PAC money for Mitt Romney while James Carville who orchestrated Bill Clinton’s 1992 victory is busy commenting on CNN. I hold both in very high regard when it comes to brass knuckles campaigning. Carville, who recently offered President Barack Obama some sharp criticism about his messaging strategy, said Tuesday that he’s now “very pleased” with how the president has turned his campaign around.
In an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America” with Stan Greenberg to promote their new book, “It’s the Middle Class, Stupid!” the veteran Democratic strategist was asked whether the Obama camp is now back “on track.” “Yeah, I do,” he answered. “I think he’s made – I think they’re very aggressive. And I think that the president’s message is a lot more honed, if you will, on the middle class, which we both think is important.” He added, “Yes, I would describe myself as very pleased.”
In an interview on the same show last month, Carville had sounded the alarm bell on Obama’s messaging strategy, warning that he could be turning off voters by trying to paint a picture of an improving economy. “I’m worried that when the White House or the campaign talks about the progress that’s being made, people take that as a signal that they think that things are fine and people don’t feel they ought to believe that,” Carville said. The comments had come on the heels of a research document Carville had co-written with pollsters Stan Greenberg and Eric Seifert for Democracy Corps, in which the strategists warned that Democrats could be in serious trouble come Election Day unless the party adopted a more forward-looking economic message with a clear focus on the middle class.
The president would be best to pursue “minimal discussion of the recovery and jobs created and maximal empathy for the challenges people face,” they wrote. This week, Obama called on Congress to extend for one year the Bush-era tax cuts for middle class Americans who make less than $250,000 a year — an income threshold that some Democrats have suggested should be increased to $1 million — saying that the country needs more policies that can grow and strengthen the middle class.
Lloyd Grove from the Daily Beast sat down with Carville who wrote a new book with Clinton pollster Stan Greenberg that has a lot to say about a perverse political and media elite that snubs and otherwise disses America’s most vital yet distressed demographic. American politics in 2012 is an area of human endeavor that is slickly superficial, obsessed with short-term gain, and pigheadedly focused on the wrong problems—slavishly devoted to a cocktail-party agenda served up by East Coast elites who have little regard for real difficulties hurting ordinary people in the flyovers. “I tell my students,” says Carville, who teaches a course in political practice at New Orleans’s Tulane University, “that the single most powerful thing that we have in this country—something that literally harbors no dissent and no questioning—is the all-powerful elite narrative.”
He elaborates: “Facts don’t get in the way of an elite narrative, OK? It’s like: ‘Obama hasn’t led on immigration.’ The truth of the matter is he put the bill up and it was filibustered by the Republicans. But you have to say that because that’s what they say at cocktail parties.” Carville cites the conventional wisdom—promulgated by elected officials, various nonprofit foundations, the Bowles-Simpson commission, and liberal and conservative think tanks alike—that long-term deficit reduction and entitlement reform are two most urgent issues confronting U.S. policymakers and politicians.
In their book—a mix of chatty dialogue between the authors, graphs, pie charts, and public-opinion surveys—Carville and Greenberg argue the opposite. Instead of worrying about mushrooming debt, the federal government should immediately spend hundreds of billions of additional dollars on repairing and enhancing the country’s infrastructure and other public projects to shore up the suffering middle class—which, after all, is America’s economic engine. About healthcare Carville argues that the problem is not Medicare and Medicaid, it’s the obscenely inflated health-care system, the most expensive on the planet, orchestrated by insurance companies and the medical establishment—a factor usually discounted in elite theorizing, he claims.
“If our health-care costs were the same as the second highest in the industrialized world, we would not even have a crisis,” he says. “But the elite answer is that we have to reduce the amount the government spends on health care. The middle-class answer is we have to reduce the amount the countryspends on health care.” It’s a rare focus group on the middle class, Carville says, where at least one of the participants doesn’t break down in tears in the midst of recounting their family’s economic ordeals. “Our point is that if you put this issue front and center,” Carville says, “and you ask: where is the National Commission on the Middle Class? Where is the Princeton Institute for the Study of the American Middle Class? You might end up with a different result.”
As for Obama, Carville believes the president made an error in early 2009 by compromising on too small a government spending package and “that instead of selling the stimulus as a short-term fix for the economy, it would have been better if we had a sold it as a way to rebuild the middle class … The branding of the Democratic Party should be that we are the party of the great American middle class.” Obama “is getting more focused now, and he’s I don’t know how many times better than Romney on this question, but to do better than Romney is not [difficult]. Romney doesn’t even notice the middle class,” Carville says. “They deny it’s a problem. They just say ‘Everybody’s got cellphones, and why are you worried about it?’ They’re kind of the economic equivalent of birthers.”
The irony of all of the above, of course, is that Carville, one of the 1 percent, lives a pretty fabulous lifestyle consorting with the very Washington–New York–Hollywood elites he likes to decry. He’s famously married to, and shares two daughters with, Republican political operative, pundit, and book publisher Mary Matalin, a Mitt Romney supporter. “What am I supposed to do, get a divorce?” Carville demands. “What, I’m not supposed to talk to my sister? I have a bunch of sisters, some agree with me, some disagree. I go to a dinner party and God knows who I see at dinner parties. What am I supposed to do, shun people?” He adds: “You know I’ve been part of that [the elites] for the last 20 years, and I just finished writing this book. I never give myself credit for much, but I give myself credit for being in it for 20 years, and I’ve withstood the conventional wisdom.”
Carville raises some excellent points that I wholeheartedly agree with. The elites, whether they be Republican or Democrat are ruining this country and I will add that by allowing our legislative body to become a body of professionals that we pay enormous pensions for whether they serve 2 years or 30 and have the power to exempt themselves from laws that apply to us…our problems are much bigger than we can possibly imagine. I will offer this projection. The Republicans can continue to campaign on tax breaks for the rich, getting rid of healthcare with no plan to fix the situation for the under insured and uninsured and we will all see President Obama re-elected. Not because we are thrilled about 4 more years of President Obama but because the alternative has offered us nothing.
The Daily Beast, CNN, CBS News and Politico.com contributed to this OP/ED piece.
Luke Marcouiller, 12, jumps into the Big Wood River from an old train bridge to cool off in Sun Valley, Idaho.
LOS ANGELES, California — (DMN/CNN) – Even as the Midwest, Southeast and Northeast cool a bit, the U.S. Southwest is practically boiling. The National Weather Service has issued excessive heat warnings for parts of Arizona, California and Nevada through Wednesday, with temperatures forecast to peak Tuesday at 113 degrees in Las Vegas; 113 in Phoenix; 116 degrees in Yuma, Arizona; and 125 degrees in Death Valley, California. In the Las Vegas Valley, local officials are opening up cooling stations Tuesday to give residents a place to beat the heat. Forecast highs in the 100s will continue into next week.
The scorching temperatures inflamed the passions of some parents whose sons started preseason football practice in Las Vegas on Monday. “I just feel that at 111 degrees … I don’t feel that it’s even reasonable,” a local mom told CNN affiliate KTNV. “I can’t believe the school district is even allowing this because it is so dangerous … These kids should not be playing.” The Clark County School District said it’s up to each coach to determine their practice schedule. “If it is too hot to practice and I feel like kids can’t handle it, then we will adjust our plan and either cut practice short or move inside,” Liberty High School football coach Richard Muraco said.
Las Vegas Fire and Rescue said it gets as many as 10 extra calls a day when the extreme heat kicks in. But the calls tend to involve the homeless and people not acclimated to the region, not people used to working outside during the summer, affiliate KVVU reported. Hydration is key, with officials recommending three-times normal water intake. “When you start to feel thirsty, the body is already damaged,” said Las Vegas Fire and Rescue’s Tim Szymanski. Some may think that the excessive heat warnings are, well, a bit excessive given they’re being issued for the desert where 100-plus temperatures aren’t uncommon. Not so, says Gary Woodall of the National Weather Service in Phoenix.
“We look at our high temperatures and the low temperatures that we’re forecasting,” he told affiliate KPHO. An average temperature of 100 degrees for the day is key, since that would limit the body’s ability to cool itself. “We have tried to recognize those cases where we see more of a human impact, and that’s what we’re trying to represent with those excessive heat warnings,” he said. As the Southwest heated up, the rest of the nation began returning to normal summertime temperatures. A cold front pushed through the Midwest, as well as parts of the South and Mid-Atlantic states, sparking severe storms and heavy rain in some areas.
Flash flooding hit downtown Greensboro, North Carolina, on Monday night as up to five inches of rain fell, said Darin Figurskey, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Raleigh bureau. “Motorists are encouraged to stay off the roads, if possible,” the city said in a statement. Nearby on Interstate 40, between 20 to 30 cars were stranded due to flooding rains, said Figurskey. Severe lighting and heavy rain also raked metro Atlanta Monday night. The front cooled things down.
High temperatures Monday were in the 80s in cities including Chicago, New York, Boston and Washington, where temperatures on Sunday hit 102 degrees and surpassed 95 for the 11th straight day. Even the 91 degrees recorded Monday in St. Louis was a welcome relief. This cool-down follows a heat wave that roasted much of the country for more than a week and comes as the National Climatic Data Center reported the mainland United States has experienced the warmest 12 months since record-keeping began in 1895. The report does not take into account blistering heat from this month, with 2,116 high temperature marks either broken or tied between July 2 and July 8 in communities nationwide. But it does incorporate the warmest March recorded as well as extreme heat in June, which also helped make the first six months of 2012 the warmest recorded of any January-June stretch.
In the last half of June, 170 all-time temperature records were matched or smashed in cities across the lower 48 states. The U.S. State Climate Extremes Committee also is reviewing whether 113-degree temperatures in South Carolina and 112-degree recordings in Georgia qualify as all-time records in those two states. “There are a lot of things going on that have been very unusual over the last several months,” said Dev Niyogi, earth and atmospheric sciences professor at Purdue University. That includes an outbreak of particularly large wildfires in Colorado, which had its warmest June ever, according to NOAA. Most of that state is experiencing extreme to exceptional drought, which is also true in places as far afield as Arizona and Georgia, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, run out of the University of Nebraska.
The average temperature for the U.S. mainland in June was 71.2 degrees — 2 degrees above the 20th-century average. It was the 14th warmest June on record. The conditions contributed to dozens of heat-related deaths, including 18 in Maryland and 10 in Virginia, according to state officials. Millions also lost power at one point or another, many of them for several days, because of severe storms that swept east from Indiana to the Mid-Atlantic states starting on June 29.
It’s not just American dogs that need to cool off. Sandro Capannolo spotted this pup taking a dip in a fountain in Rome. And Istvan Szemes of Hungary shared a video of his German shepherd gleefully splashing around in a baby pool.
January to June 2012 warmest first half of any year on record
January to June 2012 was the warmest first half of any year on record for the contiguous United States, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The average temperature during that period was at 52.9 degrees F, which is 4.5 degrees above the typical average. Twenty-eight states east of the Rockys were had record warm temperatures, with an additional 15 states in the top 10 for warm temperatures. Every state across the contiguous U.S. had warmer than average temperatures, except Washington.
The first six months were also drier than average, producing 1.62 inches below nationally-averaged precipitation. Fourteen states had precipitation totals among their ten driest for the time period. However, wetter-than-average conditions were observed Northwest and upper Midwest. Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington had six-month precipitation totals among their ten wettest. The higher temperatures were aided by the recent heat wave that caused at least 65 deaths. While temperatures have cooled down, the temperature has broken more than 2,100 temperature records since July 1.
The high heats have also aided the wildfires in their spread and damaged crops in the Midwest. Iowa farmer Andy Hall said that corn prices have risen 18 percent this month because of the heat damage. “You can tell the corn’s been stressed by the way the leaves are curled up. It looks like pineapples,” Hall explained to CBS News. The high-temperatures may be a warning for future warming trends, Jake Crouch, a scientist at the National Climatic Data Center, told Reuters. Whether or not pollution from carbon dioxide emissions is the main cause, the higher temperatures are becoming a “new normal.” “It’s hard to pinpoint climate change as the driving factor, but it appears that it is playing a role,” he said. “What’s going on for 2012 is exactly what we would expect from climate change.”
CBS News and CNN’s Greg Botelho, Joe Sutton, Devon Sayers and Dave Alsup contributed to this report.
HOUSTON, Texas — (DMN) – The nations fourth largest city, Houston, created the most jobs from May 2011 to May 2012 of any major American city, according to Arizona State University’s “Job Growth USA” study. Houston was the last city to sink into recession and the first to climb out of it. Houston added 88,000 jobs during the year that ended this past May. Some 21,000 of those positions were in health care compared with just 9,000 in the natural resources sector.
The city’s economy, it turns out, has greatly diversified since the 1980s oil boom went bust and wiped out 1 of every 7 of the region’s jobs. “I wouldn’t just leave it as something related to the energy sector,” said Nathaniel Karp, the Houston-based chief U.S. economist at BBVA Compass. “We’ve had very good results in terms of foreign trade and health care.” Houston has also been helped by what it didn’t have: a housing bubble. Perhaps to the chagrin of other states, Texas has stricter rules in place for home lending than many others.
The economy was not just “growing based on the housing boom or people retiring in Houston,” Karp said. “So the fundamentals were much stronger before the crashes and throughout the crashes.” While the city remains prosperous, Houston is investing some of the rewards of its economic growth in ventures that defy its car-dependent image — in a rapidly expanding light rail system (meant to make the city more walkable) as well as other sustainability measures. Yet, city officials seeking to copy Houston’s success should keep in mind that the area’s development resulted from “the combination of some policies that have been explicitly placed by policymakers but also the outcome of market forces,” said Stephen Klineberg, a professor of sociology at Rice University who for 30 years has tracked the region’s growth through the Kinder Houston Area Survey.
“The lesson, I think, is let the private sector do what they do best, without necessarily interfering or trying to fast-forward or generate some sort of outcome that is good from some political perspective,” he said. Beneath all the job creation news, however, lie some trends less welcomed by policymakers. The success is a “deeply uneven tide of economic well-being where there are lots of very good jobs and lots of crappy jobs,” Klineberg said. “You’ve really got to look at what kinds of jobs we’re talking about.” Many of the new job opportunities, he noted, are highly bifurcated into positions for college graduates — geologists, seismologists and neurologists — and those for people with less education — service and retail workers, hospital orderlies.
Klineberg ticked off downsides to the region’s growth: Houston has the highest percentage of children without health insurance of any major U.S. city. For this year’s survey, more people than ever before told him of having trouble buying groceries. Still, Klineberg said, there must be something to admire in a city with just 7.3 percent unemployment, almost a full percentage point below the national rate. Part of the secret is the openness to immigration, he said. After years of Latino and Asian migration to the area, Houston’s population is only 33 percent Anglo. “All the growth has been non-Anglo growth,” Klineberg said. “It’s a story of immigration: Wherever immigrants go, the economy improves. And that’s the irony of the anti-immigrant fervor in this nation.”
The jobs news comes as Forbes magazine places Houston among the top 20 cities in the nation in its 14th annual ranking of The Best Places for Business and Careers on June 29. Houston Mayor Annise Parker said “it’s great for our city to have national recognition for something Houstonians have known all along – we’re a business-friendly city with a lot to offer, such as plentiful jobs. Houston was one of the last cities to feel the economic recession of the rest of the country and the first to recover. Our population is expanding when many cities are not, because people are finding Houston is a great place to live, work and raise a family.”
Forbes rated the 200 largest U.S. metro areas based on 12 metrics using data from Moody’s Analytics, the U.S. Census and Bert Sperling, who runs Sperling’s BestPlaces. Factors included job growth (past and projected), costs (business and living), income growth over the past five years, educational attainment and projected economic growth through 2014. Forbes also included quality of life issues like crime rates, cultural and recreational opportunities and net migration patterns. The magazine gave the most weight to business costs and educational attainment in the overall ranking, including the number of highly ranked colleges in an area per Forbes’ annual college rankings.
New Orleans, Louisiana this morning.