Speaking from the White House late Thursday afternoon, President Obama announced there are now 8 million people enrolled in Obamacare, a small jump up from 7.1 million at the beginning of April and after former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has left office.
"Eight million people," Obama said. "Thirty-five percent of people who enroll through the federal market place are under the age of 35. All told, independent experts now estimate that millions of Americans who were uninsured have gained coverage this year."
The White House has still not produced numbers detailed how many people have paid for their insurance plans and has not defined what exactly "enrolled" means.
Beau Biden, the son of Vice President Joe Biden has announced he will run for Governor of Delaware. The race is two years away, but Beau made the announcement saying that he won’t be running for re-election as the state’s attorney general in November.
This past year, Beau faced health issues and underwent surgery to remove a small lesion from his brain. He also suffered a mild stroke in 2010. The 45 year old made the announcement about his plans for the future in a written statement today. He did not make himself available for interviews or a press conference.
Biden's announcement Thursday that he will pursue the governor's office in 2016 will have ripple effects on the First State's politics. Lt. Gov. Matt Denn, a Democrat, and Rep. John Carney, who lost a Democratic gubernatorial primary in 2008 to now-Gov. Jack Markell, also have been seen as potential gubernatorial candidates.
Biden, the eldest son of Vice President Joe Biden, was first elected attorney general in 2006 and was re-elected in 2010, dedicating significant time last year to fundraising. He raised more than $1.4 million through his campaign and political action committees in 2013 and had more than $900,000 in cash on hand at the end of the year.
Even through recent weeks, Beau’s political director claimed he was planning on running for a third term for his attorney general seat. As the election is still far away, we will have to wait and see how this race will play out. Will Joe Biden’s track record affect his son’s political future?
Well, if this isn't a burgeoning political headache for the party of “tolerance” and “inclusiveness,” I don't know what is. An Arkansas Democratic gubernatorial candidate has filed two complaints against state organizations affiliated with the Democratic Party. She claims Arkansas Democrats snubbed her at a dinner by refusing to let her speak, and on a separate occasion, referred to her primary opponent as “the next governor of Arkansas”…as she sat and listened.
From ABC’s affiliate KATV:
Arkansas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dr. Lynette Bryant has filed a complaint against the Democratic Party of Arkansas and the Saline County Democratic Party for "unfair treatment" against her candidacy.
So far, Bryant has filed the complaints with the NAACP and the Democratic National Committee. In the complaint, Bryant cites the denial of her request to speak at the upcoming Saline County Jefferson Jackson Dinner.
"Upon further conversation and restating my request to speak, Mr. (George 'Bucky') Ellis [Chairman of the Saline County Democratic Party] told me no, I could not Speak at the Saline County Jefferson Jackson Dinner again," writes Bryant.
Bryant also cites an instance where DPA Chair Vince Insalaco introduced Mike Ross, who is running against Bryant in the primary, as "the next governor of Arkansas" at an event that both candidates were attending.
Bryant concludes her complaint by asking the NAACP and the DNC to get involved in order to ensure a 'fair race.'
The Democratic Party of Arkansas (DPA) released a statement, which you can read here. The DPA claims they never endorse in primaries; but Dr. Bryant’s testimony is evidence she feels they’re not exactly being impartial, either. Of course, I assume her mistreatment has nothing to do with her race or gender, and everything to do with her own party’s eagerness to nominate a candidate other than her. Still, it’s rather ironic that the political party that always accuses Republicans of racism and waging a “war on women” is reportedly slighting an African-American female candidate who has every right to participate in the political process.
Obviously, if she is asking the DNC and the NAACP to get involved this is no laughing matter. She feels as if the system is rigged against her. And that’s wrong, no matter how you slice it.
Engaging in favoritism and shady campaign tactics is always indefensible. After all, Dr. Bryant should at least be afforded the right to make her pitch (and she will get that opportunity, we're told), even if the powers that be don't necessarily want to hear it.
Some good news out of Maine: A new poll by the Portland-based Pan Atlantic SMS Group shows incumbent GOP Governor Paul LePage with a slight lead over his Democrat challenger Rep. Mike Michaud. This is the first poll that has shown LePage with a lead over Michaud.
The live telephone survey of 400 Maine residents was conducted between March 31 and April 5 and included a mix of landline and cell phone interviews, according to Pan Atlantic SMS. It shows LePage with a 1.3 percentage point lead over Michaud, 38.6 percent to 37.3 percent, while independent Eliot Cutler trails both of his rivals with 20.3 percent. The governor's lead is well within the poll's 4.9 percent margin of error, meaning the poll shows LePage and Michaud in a virtual tie with more than seven months remaining before the election.
As LePage was elected by a razor-thin 10,000 vote margin in 2010 over independent candidate Eliot Cutler (who is running again in the 2014 race) and Democrat Libby Mitchell, the 2014 gubernatorial election has widely been labeled as a toss-up. Cutler is currently polling in a distant third.
LePage's election in 2010 marked the state's first Republican governor since 1994. LePage has focused much of his efforts on reforming the state's welfare system. Michaud is one of the few remaining members of the Blue Dog Coalition of fiscally conservative Democrats.
While it's certainly far too early to cast any electoral positions, the polls are moving the right way for a LePage reelection.
A battle between parents and educators has erupted over standardized testing in the state of New York. These exams have been the norm under the No Child Left Behind Act, but parents, frustrated that schools are using these tests for teacher evaluation - as opposed to the students' academic progress - are launching a boycott and instructing their children to sit out of the exams.
State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. said the number of students and parents refusing the standardized tests was a "small but meaningful percentage." Just take a look at a few of the more surprising numbers throughout the upper region:
School District / Number of students refusing exam / 3-8 grade enrollment / Percent of students refusing test
West Seneca 877 3,087 28.41%
Lake Shore 287 1,135 25.29%
Wilson 120 562 21.35%
Springville-Griffith 151 833 18.13%
Alden 136 800 17.00%
Hamburg 269 1,718 15.66%
East Aurora 137 882 15.53%
Downstate is no different. In in Public School 368 in Harlem, Jasmine Batista, who has two sons the school, revealed to the NY Post how the tests negatively affected her 10-year-old:
“He was concerned that he would not go on to the next grade,” she said. “He was crying, he had no appetite, he couldn't sleep. He was so happy when that test was done.”
In addition to stress, parents cited a number of other reasons for telling their kids to reject the tests:
Some are educators who are upset that the exams are being used to measure how teachers and schools perform. Some are concerned that subjects such as social studies and art are being edged out as schools focus on preparing students for math and English exams.
Now, teachers and administrators are facing the challenge of how to deal with parents who are rejecting the standardized system and what to do with children who opt out of these exams. One school district in particular, Starpoint, where 8 percent of students opted out of the English Language Arts exam, decided to add the extra expense of hiring substitute teachers to supervise children in the hall as their peers work at their desks.
Despite the hostility between parents and teachers, New York is standing by the supposed merits of standardized testing:
State Education Department spokesman Dennis Tompkins defended the testing as “one of many tools that should be used to measure student growth and help inform instruction.”
What do you think? Are these parents in the wrong for telling their children to refuse to take the tests, thus stretching schools' resources by having to hire extra help? Or are they right to challenge state regulations that don't seem to improve their kids' education?
One thing's for sure: Educators are going to get headaches either way.
Yesterday President Obama gave a speech in Oakdale, Pennsylvania with Vice President Joe Biden about skill training. Last week, just thirty miles away in Murrysville, a student went on a mass stabbing rampage at Franklin Regional High School. Twenty people were severely injured in the incident, making it one of the worst mass stabbing events in U.S. history.
But despite being close to the scene of the tragic and horrifying event, Obama failed to mention the incident during his nearly 30 minute long remarks.
I have a feeling if there had been a recent tragedy that involved a gun at a school near the location of an Obama speech, we'd be hearing all about it. Apparently, 20 people being stabbed isn't politically expedient enough for the White House.
This is really scary. According to a report in USA Today and Israeli media, Jews in eastern Ukraine have been ordered to register themselves. Russia took over parts of the region this week and have no plans to stop moving.The excuse being used for the registration is that Jews support independence from Russia. Jewish citizens of Ukraine who do not register are being threatened with deportation.
Jews in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk where pro-Russian militants have taken over government buildings were told they have to "register" with the Ukrainians who are trying to make the city become part of Russia, according to Israeli media.
Jews emerging from a synagogue say they were handed leaflets that ordered the city's Jews to provide a list of property they own and pay a registration fee "or else have their citizenship revoked, face deportation and see their assets confiscated," reported Ynet News, Israel's largest news website.
The leaflet begins, "Dear Ukraine citizens of Jewish nationality," and states that all people of Jewish descent over 16 years old must report to the Commissioner for Nationalities in the Donetsk Regional Administration building and "register."
It says the reason is because the leaders of the Jewish community of Ukraine supported Bendery Junta, a reference to Stepan Bandera, the leader of the Ukrainian nationalist movement that fought for Ukrainian independence at the end of World War II, "and oppose the pro-Slavic People's Republic of Donetsk," a name adopted by the militant leadership.
This latest move by Russia brings back horrific memories and Israeli officials are in talks to figure out what to do next. Sanctions imposed by the United Staters on top Russian officials close to President Vladimir Putin are clearly not slowing the dangerous and rapidly escalating situation.
UPDATE: The U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine has confirmed this is happening.
UPDATE: Thank goodness, it looks like it was a false flag.
The Donetsk Jewish community dismissed this as “a provocation,” which it clearly is. “It’s an obvious provocation designed to get this exact response, going all the way up to Kerry,” says Fyodr Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs. “I have no doubt that there is a sizeable community of anti-Semites on both sides of the barricades, but for one of them to do something this stupid—this is done to compromise the pro-Russian groups in the east.”
Why? The Russian government has been playing up the (real but small) role of fascists and neo-Nazis in the victory of the EuroMaidan in Kiev. The Ukrainian government, utterly powerless to fight off the Russians and their local stooges, have had to rely on other methods, like leaking taped phone calls of allegedly local separatists getting their commands from Moscow. This may be just another tactic to smear the so-called anti-Maidan in the east of Ukraine: you think we’re fascists? Well, take a look at these guys.
Meanwhile, "pals" Barack Obama and Joe Biden are busy taking selfies in their limo.
Can Obamacare be fixed? Vulnerable Democrats are pot committed to this idea. They say most Americans do not want to repeal Obamacare and therefore the only way to make it work is to reform it. They accuse Republicans of not having a viable alternative and wasting billions of dollars on failed efforts to defund it. As a consequence, some Democrats are urging the party to stand firm on this issue, and to stop running way from a law many of them voted for.
Republicans already were pushing their luck by vowing to "repeal and replace" the health care law without having a viable replacement in mind, said Thomas Mills, a Democratic consultant and blogger in North Carolina. Now, he said, Democrats have even more reasons to rise from their defensive crouch on this topic.
"Democrats need to start making the case for Obamacare," Mills said. "They all voted for it, they all own it, so they can't get away from it. So they'd better start defending it."
Even some professionals who have criticized the health care law say the political climate has changed.
"I think Democrats have the ability to steal the health care issue back from Republicans," health care industry consultant said Bob Laszewski said. "The Democratic Party can become the party of fixing Obamacare."
Perhaps. But is this a wise strategy? That is, campaigning on Obamacare if you’re a vulnerable Democrat? A Bloomberg poll released last month suggests it isn’t:
According to the poll, 73 percent of respondents who said they would repeal the health-care overhaul known as Obamacare say the law will be a "major" factor in their vote. And 73 percent said they will "definitely" vote in this year's midterm elections.
By contrast, 45 percent of respondents who support modifications and 33 percent of those who support the law as it currently stands said Obamacare will be a "major" factor in how they vote. Meanwhile, 61 percent and 54 percent of those groups' respondents, respectively, said they will "definitely" turn out to vote.
At the same time, large swaths of the progressive base aren’t feeling particularly energized to vote in this year’s midterm elections. Question: if Democrats continue to defend Obamacare -- rather than run from it -- won’t that merely incentivize Republicans to turn out in greater numbers on Election Day? It’s true that Democrats can’t hide from their voting records given the barrage of attack ads coming their way, but to invoke the Affordable Care Act on the campaign trail in a red state at all seems like political suicide. It will remind voters that millions of Americans were promised they could keep their health care plans, when in fact they couldn’t, by the same people running for re-election. Best to ignore the issue altogether, no?
The polls show pretty consistently four years after the law passed that Obamacare is not a political winner. But if Democrats want to run on it, be my guest.
A man delivering a pizza late at night in upstate New York looks like an easy target for a robber — and he probably is without a gun. The good news is, the pizza delivery man attacked by four armed robbers outside a house in Buffalo Monday did not go to work that day unarmed.
The Buffalo News reported:
A gang of robbers attacked a pizza deliveryman just before 10:30 p.m. Monday as he brought food to a house in the 400 block of Cornwall Avenue, near Erie County Medical Center.
In the front hallway of the house, one of the robbers, who wore a mask and had a brown hoodie pulled over his face, hit the deliveryman on the head with a hammer, according to police.
The masked man also displayed what appeared to be a gun, police said.
But then, the deliveryman told investigators, he pulled out his own handgun and fired a shot, striking the masked man. The rest of the gang scattered.
The pizza delivery man suffered from wounds to the head and bruises on his left hand. The masked man, 18-year-old DeJuan Coleman, is under police guard while he recovers from the gun shot wound. He will face charges of first-degree robbery.
New York is hardly the friendliest state for gun owners. On Tuesday residents protested Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D-NY) anti-gun legislation by tearing SAFE Act registration cards to pieces, and they are not the only ones disgruntled. A rising number of Americans support fewer gun laws, a January Gallup poll revealed:
Gun-control advocates often use tragedies to push anti-gun legislation. However, the poll above, conducted after the December 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting, shows that even fewer Americans supported gun-control in the aftermath of the tragic event.
The gap between those wanting stricter gun laws and those wanting less strict laws narrowed as a result of a sharp increase in the percentage of Americans who want less strict laws, now at 16% up from 5% a year ago. Support for making gun laws stricter fell to 31% from 38% last January. The January 2013 poll was conducted shortly after the December 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting tragedy, which sparked some state governments to consider new gun laws and a robust national discussion about the issue.
Since politicians continue to use heart-wrenching events to promote their political agendas, it's important that these everyday stories of citizens protecting themselves through their Second Amendment rights are told.
The notion that Obamacare is bending downward the so-called "cost curve" on national health spending has been debunked by the government's own numbers. At late 2013 estimate from CMS projected that aggregate healthcare-related expenses would climb by 6.1 percent this year, as opposed to 4.5 percent in the absence of the new law. Overall federal spending on healthcare will be $621 billion higher than the previous trajectory over the next decade due to Obamacare, according to the same study. President Obama vowed that his signature law would readjust the trajectory in a downward direction. But the the rise of health costs has slowed in recent years, a trend for which the Obama administration has baselessly taken credit. Once again, the White House's posturing was discredited by government accountants, who determined that Obamacare was not among the top four major factors behind the deceleration. One of the factors they did cite was a naggingly weak economy, which would obviously present messaging problems for Democrats. And now that deceleration, as we noted earlier in the month, appears to be over -- because of Obamacare. The Los Angeles Times reports:
A historic slowdown in U.S. healthcare spending in recent years may be drawing to a close. An industry report published Tuesday and healthcare experts point to a steady rise in medical care being sought by consumers seeing specialists, getting more prescriptions filled and visiting the hospital. Other factors such as millions of newly insured Americans seeking treatment for the first time and higher prices from healthcare consolidation could also help drive up costs. Experts aren't predicting an immediate return to double-digit increases in medical spending. But the emerging trend underscores how difficult it will be for policymakers, employers and health plans to control healthcare costs going forward...From 2009 to 2012, U.S. healthcare spending grew annually at less than 4%, according to federal data. That's been the lowest rate of growth in half a century, and has sparked considerable debate about the underlying reasons. Many health economists and industry officials have attributed the slowdown primarily to lingering effects of the Great Recession, when millions of Americans cut back on medical care. But the Obama administration and other experts have pointed to fundamental changes in healthcare reimbursement and the delivery of care spurred by the Affordable Care Act.
Nope. Although the story does point to potential counterweights to the new acceleration, including Obamacare's narrower choices and limited access for consumers -- a cost-saving mechanism that betrays the president's "keep your doctor" pledge for many. The newsworthiness of this this story is twofold: First, the apparent end to the years-long, recession-influenced health cost slowdown (again, not a reduction) is a big deal. Second, it's an opportunity to highlight Team Obama's willingness to disingenuously claim credit for something in an attempt to boost Obamacare. In our post about the Census Bureau's profoundly ill-timed methodology shift on quantifying America's uninsured population, we floated the following scenario:
Democrats, famously allergic to nuance when the political moment demands a cudgel, will shout from the rooftops about the "stunning" improvement in uninsured rates [as a result of the new formula]. Obamacare is working! They'll elide the crucial caveats mentioned above, plugging the exciting news into television ads, talking points and stump speeches. Sure, they'll receive multiple Pinocchios and "mostly false" ratings from fact-checkers, but when has that ever stopped them? The media's push-back will mostly be pro forma. When Republicans move to debunk the figures, Democrats will deride them as bitter and anti-science. They're from the non-partisan Census Bureau, after all.
A White House aide chastised me on Twitter, noting that the new data would reflect stats from 2013, not 2014. Correct. Which brings us back to the administration's propensity toward shameless credit claiming. They've congratulated themselves over "good news" for which Obamacare was not responsible in the very recent past. They crafted a PR strategy of celebrating inflated "enrollment" numbers for their own aggrandizement. One can easily argue that this sort of behavior is politics as usual, but one can't credibly contend that the White House and its allies won't try to exploit the forthcoming apples-to-oranges switcheroo for political gain. For its part, MSNBC has two words for the questions and concerns being raised about the Census Bureau's major, White House-assisting methodological shift in the thick of a roiling healthcare debate:
MSNBC just covered the Census Bureau/Obamacare stats "conspiracy theory." | http://t.co/5wxMaqL0yg— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) April 16, 2014