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President Obama Defies Unions And Fellow Democrats To Push For The TPP

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In really crappy news, President Obama announced today that he is willing to defy Democrats and the labor unions that helped elect him to side with Republicans to push through the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“Those who oppose these trade deals ironically are accepting a status quo that is more damaging to American workers,” Obama said at the Business Roundtable. “There are folks in my own party and in my own constituency that have legitimate complaints about some of the trend lines of inequality, but are barking up the wrong tree when it comes to opposing TPP, and I’m going to have to make that argument.”

Barking up the wrong tree? Working families do not need another NAFTA that will continue to decimate American manufacturing. Since NAFTA we have lost millions of good high paying manufacturing jobs. The TPP will open the door for more manufacturers to offshore our jobs.

We do need to create a new trade agreement with our partners in the Far East, but we need to make it harder, not easier, for companies to offshore jobs. We also need to change our tax policies that reward corporations who build factories in China.

The biggest problem with opening up trade with China is that, we as Americans’ are buying billions of dollars worth of Chinese made stuff, yet China is not returning the favor. Comparatively China only buys a fraction of the U.S. made products creating a massive trade deficit.

If we want to see an economy that works for everyone again then we need to boost our own manufacturing base, and stop importing everything.

Look at Germany undoubtedly one of the strongest economies in the world, they have a trade surplus. A trade surplus leads to more jobs and higher wages.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership will do nothing for the millions of struggling workers here in the United States. As cheap Chinese products flood U.S. markets, American manufacturers will be forced to lower wages to compete with the slave labor wages in China. The TPP would only benefit the multi-national corporations who are only looking to boost their already obscene profits.

Any trade policy that does not turn our trade deficit to a trade surplus should be rejected. 

AFT’s Weingarten: Obama’s Action Reunites Families, Brings Workers Out of the Shadows

AFT President Weingarten  (Photo by Bruce Gilbert)

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WASHINGTON—Statement by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on President Obama’s executive order that expands protections to millions of undocumented immigrants:

“As a union, we’ve always been committed to opening the doors of opportunity for all children, and immigration is an issue that touches every community we serve. After the House of Representatives refused to act on comprehensive immigration reform, although the Senate had passed bipartisan legislation, President Obama—as he did with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and as many of his predecessors have done—is using his legal authority to secure our nation’s borders, to help keep families together and to expand our economy.

“A great and diverse nation, founded by immigrants seeking a safer, more prosperous life, continues to deliver the promise of the American dream. Yet our broken immigration system has hurt millions of students and families. We continue to hear heartbreaking stories of kids who don’t know if their parents are coming home or have been deported. We hear from teachers whose students stop showing up for school after their parents are sent to a country these children have never called home. Our nation’s children are counting on us. We must unite, not divide, families. The president’s plan will give many of these families the security of knowing they can stay together, and it will bring many workers out of the shadow economy, ensuring higher wages for all. We remain eager for Congress—especially the Republican-controlled House—to take legislative action and show unity on an issue so personal to American families.”

President Obama To Address The Nation On Immigration, Republicans Threaten Shutdown

Image by Chuck Kennedy (Official White House photo) CC FLKR
Image by Chuck Kennedy (Official White House photo) CC FLKR

Image by Chuck Kennedy (Official White House photo) CC FLKR

Today is the day that millions of aspiring Americans have been waiting for. The day when President Obama stands up to Congress and states clearly that if they will not do something to pass meaningful immigration reform then he will do what he can through executive orders.

It was announced last night that the President would make a prime-time address announcing his plans to stop the deportations of millions of aspiring Americans seeking citizenship. He will also stop the ripping apart of families, by stopping the deportation of the parents of children who are legal US Citizens.

A group of immigration lawyers from across the country sent a letter to President Obama citing his legal authority to defer deportations through executive actions.

“Our letter confirms that the administration has specific legal authority to use prosecutorial discretion as a tool for protecting an individual or group from deportation,” said Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, Samuel Weiss Faculty Scholar at Penn State Law. “This legal authority served as foundation for prosecutorial discretion policy across several administrations. Historically, this policy has been premised on the twin policy goals of managing limited resources and shielding people with compelling situations from removal.”

“This letter reflects a clear, broad, and informed consensus on two key points,” said Hiroshi Motomura, Susan Westerberg Prager Professor at UCLA School of Law. “First, the president has the legal authority, exercising his discretion as the nation’s top immigration prosecutor, to establish enforcement priorities. Second, the president’s lawful discretion includes the authority to set up an orderly system, modeled on DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), for granting temporary relief from deportation.”

“It is well established that the President has the legal authority to end this crisis by granting temporary relief to a broad class of workers,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “It is also equally established that current enforcement of immigration law is at odds with our American vision of a just society and our values of family, hard work and fairness.”

President Obama’s Executive Order would protect nearly 5 million people currently residing in the United States.

Of course the Republicans were quick to respond to the announcement with more threats to harm real Americans if the President takes action without Congress.

“If ‘Emperor Obama’ ignores the American people and announces an amnesty plan that he himself has said over and over again exceeds his Constitutional authority, he will cement his legacy of lawlessness and ruin the chances for Congressional action on this issue — and many others,” said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel.

Senator Marco Rubio who once championed immigration reform in the Senate now is hints of a government shutdown if the President takes executive action on Immigration.

The Des Moines Register reported that Rep Steven King wants to tie executive action on immigration to funding the government.

“If the president wields his pen and commits that unconstitutional act to legalize millions, I think that becomes something that is nearly political nuclear …,” King said. “I think the public would be mobilized and galvanized and that changes the dynamic of any continuing resolution and how we might deal with that.”

King said if that happens, House-passed legislation on border security, including rolling back the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, order, “becomes a requirement” for a continuing resolution.

Over the last six months conservative pundits has indicated that President Obama’s threat to defer action on deportations is unlawful and would warrant everything from a government shutdown to all out impeachment.

The irony of this is that Republicans have already forgotten that their hero, President Ronald Regan, took similar action to provide amnesty to over 3 million undocumented residents.

“The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) gave up to 3 million unauthorized immigrants a path to legalization if they had been “continuously” present in the U.S. since January 1, 1982 (The Hill).

The IRCA was not without issues, forcing the government to deport the immediate family members of those who were covered under the new order.

President George H.W. Bush followed up the IRCA with a “family fairness” policy that would close the loophole in the IRCA in turn protecting another 1.5 million aspiring Americans. The combination of the “family fairness” policy and President Reagan’s executive action provided amnesty to over 40% of the undocumented population living in the United States.

President Obama’s proposal to some seems extreme, however it would cover approximately 40% of the undocumented population currently residing in the United States.

The battle is set to begin tonight as President Obama lays out his plan to help millions of aspiring Americans.

The current government funding extension will expire on December 11th and we will have to wait to see if the Republicans will harm millions of Americans in their opposition to the President by completely shutting down the government.

 

Related Articles:

When Reagan and GHW Bush took bold executive action on immigration.

The American Immigration Council And The AFL-CIO Push For An Executive Order On Immigration

Obama’s Immigration Plan Could Shield Four Million

In Case You Don’t Remember: The Republicans Have a “Jobs Plan”

GOP Jobs Plan

Haven’t read this morning’s New York Times? Here’s what you’re missing:

WASHINGTON — Anticipating a takeover of Congress, Republicans have assembled an economic agenda that reflects their small-government, antiregulation philosophy… The proposals would mainly benefit energy industries, reduce taxes and regulations for businesses generally, and continue the attack on the Affordable Care Act. It is a mix that leaves many economists, including several conservatives, underwhelmed.

What’s on the list?


View Fraccidents Map in a larger map

What’s not on the list?

  • Fixing our roads and bridges (even though more than 177,000 bridges around the country are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete)
  • Overhauling immigration laws (maybe Fox News and the Tea Party think xenophobia is good for the country)

Look again, at that last omission from the Republicans’ “Jobs Plan.”

A bipartisan Senate-passed bill on immigration would increase economic growth by 3.3 percent in a decade and save $175 billion by then, the Congressional Budget Office estimated.

Look again, at what could have been… if only the GOP hadn’t been so determined to stop anything and everything President Obama proposed.

When Mr. Obama sent Congress his jobs package three years ago, several forecasting firms estimated that it could add up to 150,000 jobs a month in the first year.

(Read about the Senate GOP filibuster here.)

Then, remember that the GOP’s opposition started on the first day of Obama’s first term.

WASHINGTON — As President Barack Obama was celebrating his inauguration at various balls, top Republican lawmakers and strategists were conjuring up ways to submarine his presidency at a private dinner in Washington.

And then, think about what this “GOP Jobs Plan” is really all about.

GOP Jobs Plan

President Obama Signs Fair Pay And Safe Workplace Executive Order

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From:
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary

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FACT SHEET: Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order

While the vast majority of federal contractors play by the rules, every year tens of thousands of American workers are denied overtime wages, not hired or paid fairly because of their gender or age, or have their health and safety put at risk by corporations contracting with the federal government that cut corners.  Taxpayer dollars should not reward corporations that break the law, so today President Obama is cracking down on federal contractors who put workers’ safety and hard-earned pay at risk.

As part of this Year of Action, the President will sign an Executive Order that will require prospective federal contractors to disclose labor law violations and will give agencies more guidance on how to consider labor violations when awarding federal contracts.  Although many contractors already play by the rules, and federal contracting offers already must assess a contractor’s record of integrity, these officers still may not necessarily know about companies’ workplace violations. The new process is also structured to encourage companies to settle existing disputes, like paying back wages.  And finally, the Executive Order also ensures that workers are given the necessary information each pay period to verify the accuracy of their paycheck and workers who may have been sexually assaulted or had their civil rights violated get their day in court by putting an end to mandatory arbitration agreements at corporations with large federal contracts.

By cracking down on federal contractors who break the law, the President is helping ensure that all hardworking Americans get the fair pay and safe workplaces they deserve.

  Key Provisions of the Executive Order   

The Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order will govern new federal procurement contracts valued at more than $500,000, providing information on companies’ compliance with federal labor laws for agencies.  We expect the Executive Order to be implemented on new contracts in stages, on a prioritized basis, during 2016.  The Department of Labor estimates that there are roughly 24,000 businesses with federal contracts, employing about 28 million workers.

1. Hold Corporations Accountable: Under the terms of the Executive Order, agencies will require prospective contractors to disclose labor law violations from the past three years before they can get a contract.  The 14 covered Federal statutes and equivalent state laws include those addressing wage and hour, safety and health, collective bargaining, family and medical leave, and civil rights protections.  Agencies will also require contractors to collect similar information from many of their subcontractors.

2. Crack Down on Repeat Violators: Contracting officers will take into account only the most egregious violations, and each agency will designate a senior official as a Labor Compliance Advisor to provide consistent guidance on whether contractors’ actions rise to the level of a lack of integrity or business ethics.  This advisor will support individual contracting officers in reviewing disclosures and consult with the Department of Labor.  The Executive Order will ensure that the worst actors, who repeatedly violate the rights of their workers and put them in danger, don’t get contracts and thus can’t delay important projects and waste taxpayer money.

3. Promote Efficient Federal Contracting: Federal agencies risk poor performance by awarding contracts to companies with a history of labor law violations.  In 2010, the Government Accountability Office issued a report finding that almost two-thirds of the 50 largest wage-and-hour violations and almost 40 percent of the 50 largest workplace health-and-safety penalties issued between FY 2005 and FY 2009 were at companies that went on to receive new government contracts.  Last year, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin issued a report revealing that dozens of contractors with significant health, safety, and wage and hour violations were continuing to be awarded federal contacts.  Another study detailed that 28 of the companies with the top workplace violations from FY 2005 to FY 2009 subsequently received federal contracts, and a quarter of those companies eventually had significant performance problems as well—suggesting a strong relationship between contractors with a history of labor law violations and those that cannot deliver adequate performance for the taxpayer dollars they receive.  Because the companies with workplace violations are more likely to encounter performance problems, today’s action will also improve the efficiency of federal contracting and result in greater returns on federal tax dollars.

4. Protect Responsible Contractors: The vast majority of federal contractors have clean records.  The Department of Labor estimates that the overwhelming majority of companies with federal contracts have no federal workplace violations in the past three years.  Contractors who invest in their workers’ safety and maintain a fair and equitable workplace shouldn’t have to compete with contractors who offer low-ball bids—based on savings from skirting the law—and then ultimately deliver poorer performance to taxpayers.  The Executive Order builds on the existing procurement system, so it will be familiar to contractors and will fit into established contracting practices. Responsible businesses will check a single box on a bid form indicating that they don’t have a history of labor law violations.  The Federal contracting community and other interested parties will be invited to participate in listening sessions with OMB, DOL, and senior White House officials to share views on how to ensure implementing policies and practices are both fair and effective.  DOL and other enforcement agencies along with the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council will consider this input as they draft regulations and guidance, which will be published for public comment before being finalized.

5. Focus on Helping Companies Improve: The goal of the process created by the Executive Order is to help more contractors come into compliance with workplace protections, not to deny contracts to contractors.  Companies with labor law violations will be offered the opportunity to receive early guidance on whether those violations are potentially problematic and remedy any problems.  Contracting officers will take these steps into account before awarding a contract and ensure the contractor is living up to the terms of its agreement.

6. Give Employees a Day in Court: The Executive Order directs companies with federal contracts of $1  million or more not to require their employees to enter into predispute arbitration agreements for disputes arising out of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act or from torts related to sexual assault or harassment (except when valid contracts already exist).  This builds on a policy already passed by Congress and successfully implemented at the Department of Defense, the largest federal contracting agency, and will help improve contractors’ compliance with labor laws.

7. Give Employees Information About their Paychecks: As a normal part of doing business, most employers give their workers a pay stub with basic information about their hours and wages.  To be sure that all workers get this basic information, the Executive Order requires contractors to give their employees information concerning their hours worked, overtime hours, pay, and any additions to or deductions made from their pay, so workers can be sure they’re getting paid what they’re owed.

8. Streamline Implementation and Overall Contractor Reporting: The Executive Order directs the General Services Administration to develop a single website for contractors to meet their reporting requirements—for this order and for other contractor reporting.  Contractors will only have to provide information to one location, even if they hold multiple contracts across different agencies.  The desire to “report once in one place” is a key theme in the feedback received from current and potential contractors.  This step is one in a series of actions to make the federal marketplace more attractive to the best contractors, more accessible to small businesses and other new entrants, and more affordable to taxpayers.

Part of the basic American bargain is that if you take responsibility, work hard and play by the rules, workers can count on fair wages, freedom from discrimination on the job, and safe and equitable workplaces. Taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be used by unscrupulous employers to drive down living standards for our families, neighbors, and communities.  By creating incentives for better compliance and a process for helping contractors come into compliance with basic workplace protection laws, the Executive Order is basic good government that will increase efficiency in federal contracting and will help strengthen our workforce and our economy.

Head of largest federal employee union calls for 4% pay raise in 2015

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AFGE president says President Obama must send strong show of support for federal workforce

AFGE Logo 2WASHINGTON – American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. today called on President Obama to provide federal employees with a 4% pay raise next year.

Obama’s fiscal 2015 budget, to be unveiled next week, will propose a 1% across-the-board pay raise for federal employees and members of the military. But that is a pitiful amount that does little to help federal workers recover from a three-year pay freeze, higher retirement contributions and the loss of pay due to sequestration-related furloughs last year, Cox said.

“A 4 percent pay raise is a modest and affordable increase that will help employees keep up with rising living costs, including higher retirement and healthcare expenses,” Cox said.

Wages for federal employees have gone up just 3 percent since 2010, while prices have risen 9 percent – not counting additional out-of-pocket expenses for sequestration-related furloughs, retirement contributions and healthcare premiums. In salary alone, federal employees are more than 6 percent worse off under President Obama.

Federal employees had their pay frozen for three consecutive years, and new workers are being forced to pay substantially more toward their retirement. Without counting the losses due to sequestration furloughs, these cuts amount to $120 billion in lower wages and benefits for federal employees during the next decade.

“The president must send a strong message that inflicting pain on federal employees was a miserable failure. The administration punished federal workers in order to endear itself to those who despise the federal workforce, and it didn’t work,” Cox said. “If the president truly wants to put an end to austerity and the decline of the middle class, there is no better place to start than with his own employees.”

AFGE Issues Top 10 List of Actions Obama Should Take to Help Federal Workers

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Union issues response to President’s call to action in State of the Union address

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WASHINGTON – The American Federation of Government Employees, the nation’s largest federal employee union, has outlined 10 issues President Obama can address today through executive order to improve the federal government’s workforce.

The Top 10 list comes in response to President Obama’s State of the Union address, in which he pledged to act without legislation “wherever and whenever” possible to expand opportunity for American families.

“These are concrete actions President Obama can take right now to address inequalities that currently exist in the federal workforce, while improving accountability and saving taxpayer dollars,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said.

The list:

1.      Align locality boundaries so hourly and salaried federal employees who work in the same location are treated the same when it comes drawing local pay area boundaries.  No private firm that pays geographic pay differentials treats its hourly and salaried employees differently in this respect and the federal government should follow suit.  The disparate treatment of federal workers who work side-by-side for the same employer is unfair and unproductive.

2.      Extend to Transportation Security Officers the same disciplinary appeal rights enjoyed by most federal employees, including Transportation Security Administration managers. Currently, TSOs are limited in their ability to appeal adverse actions to the Merit Systems Protection Board, instead having to rely primarily on an internal disciplinary review board within TSA.

3.      Immediately stop the Department of Veterans Affairs from downgrading low-wage positions, many of which go to veterans and disabled veterans. These downgrades, dubbed a “reclassification” by the agency, cut thousands of dollars annually from already paltry salaries, and when applied to current workers, cause reductions in salary and retirement benefits and degrade services to veterans.

4.      Free agencies from the Office of Management and Budget’s arbitrary constraints on the size of in-house workforces, so that they can instead manage by budgets and ceilings. If agencies have work to do and money to spend, there is no reason why federal employees cannot be used. Currently, these performance decisions are being dictated by arbitrary workforce caps and cuts.

5.      Provide agencies with a long-awaited costing methodology to govern the insourcing process and encourage them to look for opportunities to save money through intelligent insourcing.

6.      Direct agencies to expedite compliance with inventories of service contracts and integrate them into budget processes, so agencies have the same control over service contract spending that they have already over federal employee spending and can systematically identify bad contracts or contracts that cost too much.

7.      Direct the Department of Defense to stop using borrowed military manpower, which is resulting in scores of hard-working civil servants – many of them Wounded Warriors – being replaced with more expensive, less experienced military personnel.

8.      Ensure that the administration is ready to issue a rule to implement the statutory reduction in the annual cap on taxpayer subsidies on contractor compensation. In June, the cap will be reduced to $487,000 assuming the Federal Acquisition Regulation Council has issued the necessary rule.

9.      Support allowing Bureau of Prisons correctional officers who work in highly dangerous areas of federal prisons to routinely carry pepper spray to defend themselves if physically attacked by violent inmates.

10.  Order the U.S. Department of Agriculture to withdraw its proposal to radically overhaul the federal poultry inspection system by removing most federal inspectors from the slaughter line and turning over inspection activities currently performed by federal inspectors to untrained plant employees. The cost-cutting plan would endanger the health and safety of employees and the American public by allowing plants to increase their line speeds up to 175 chicken carcasses per minute. This means the lone remaining federal inspector on the slaughter line would have one-third of one second to examine each chicken carcass for disease, infection and contamination.

Immigration Reform and the State of the Union

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A statement from the Immigration Policy Center: 

Tonight, President Barack Obama pressed the reset button and laid out his priorities for 2014—and, ultimately, the final leg of his presidency. During the State of the Union address, the President discussed the need to create jobs and greater opportunity for all. He also made it clear that immigration reform and economic recovery go hand-in-hand, and he expects the House of Representatives to make the next move on immigration reform. The President said:
“Finally, if we are serious about economic growth, it is time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, and law enforcement – and fix our broken immigration system.  Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have acted.  I know that members of both parties in the House want to do the same.  Independent economists say immigration reform will grow our economy and shrink our deficits by almost $1 trillion in the next two decades.  And for good reason: when people come here to fulfill their dreams – to study, invent, and contribute to our culture – they make our country a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for everyone.  So let’s get immigration reform done this year.”
The President’s inclusion of immigration as a matter of economic necessity reinforces efforts over the last few years to redefine how we think about immigration reform. Immigrants create jobs as consumers and entrepreneurs and spend their wages in U.S. businesses—buying food, clothes, appliances, cars, etc. This builds our economy as businesses respond to the presence of these new workers and consumers by investing in new restaurants, stores, and production facilities. Also immigrants are 30 percent more likely than the native-born to start their own business. The end result is more jobs for more workers.
The President’s message on immigration extended beyond his speech. Immigrants and immigration activists attended as guests of Congress and the First Lady. Mrs. Obama invited two immigrants to attend as her guests: Cristian Avila, a DREAMer and DACA recipient who recently completed a 22-day fast on the National Mall in support of immigration reform and Carlos Arredondo, a Costa-Rican-American peace activist made famous by his heroic acts after the Boston Marathon bombing.

These guests remind us of the humanitarian nature of immigration reform that cannot, and should not be overlooked.  As we grapple with efforts to create a more just and equal system in which everyone has a fair shot at economic prosperity, we cannot forget the need for a fair and just immigration system.  Deportations that separate families, disrupt businesses, and destroy hopes and dreams help no one and ultimately do not reflect our tradition as a nation of immigrants.
Tonight, the President reiterated that he is prepared to use the authority of his office to push a range of initiatives forward. Thus, if 2014 is to truly be a year of action and opportunity, we encourage the president not only to support efforts to complete immigration reform, but to do all in his power to end needless costs—to families, to workers, and to the economy—of an immigration system that does not fulfill the promise of America.

People Are Signing Up For The ACA In Droves; One Senator Wants To Extend Open Enrollment

Image from MSNBC http://on.msnbc.com/1aF5cf1

There is no denying the fact that the Affordable Care Act’s (aka Obamacare) federal exchanges have had some hiccups, glitches, and major problems.  On October 1st the exchanges went live and millions of people flocked to the web to sign up.  In fact so many people went to Healthcare.Gov that the servers could not handle the volume of traffic and crashed.

Since the exchanges opened up there have been two very different responses to the website crashes.  Republicans are quick to start conspiracy theories that it is all Obama’s fault.

We are concerned that the administration required contractors to change course late in the implementation process to conceal ObamaCare’s effect on increasing health insurance premiums,” 

The people who live in reality understand that the high volume of traffic was too much for the servers to handle.  People were jumping at the chance to sign up and save money on healthcare.

The opening of state- and federal-run insurance marketplaces Tuesday saw a combination of huge interest and balky technology that led to a series of glitches, delays and even crashes that marred the first hours of the centerpiece of President Obama’s health law.

‘Some of the delays were due to high volume. About 2.8 million people visited the federal website HealthCare.gov since midnight,’ said Marilyn Tavenner, director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.” (USA Today)

Nobody on the right or the left is denying the website has had problems. However every day since the rollout the updates to the equipment have been made. There has also been a decline in the number of people who are going to the site every day.  Combined that all together and you have a smoother, faster, easy to navigate website that is working for everyone.

Senator Shaheen (D-NH) has raised concern that due to the errors in the rollout there may not be enough time for all Americans to sign up before the open enrollment ends.  Shaheen is urging the White House to extend the open enrollment period past March 31, 2014 in order to give Americans more time to obtain coverage. Reports indicate that approximately 65,000 Granite Staters could buy insurance on the New Hampshire marketplace next year.

In a letter sent to President Barack Obama (below) this afternoon, Shaheen suggested extending open enrollment to “provide greater flexibility for the American people seeking to access health insurance.”  Shaheen also asked that the White House to clarify how the “individual responsibility penalty will be administered and enforced” in light of the website’s difficulties.

“The difficulty that people in New Hampshire and in other states that are relying on the federally facilitated marketplaces are experiencing is incredibly frustrating and disappointing,” she added while citing the goal of making health reform a success.

Shaheen also highlighted that the “the healthcare law has already had a significant impact on the lives of millions of Americans” and once fully implemented it will benefit even more Americans. She specifically noted that “seniors are now paying less for their prescription drugs, important preventive care services, such as some cancer screenings and immunizations, are available for free and important work is being done to improve the quality of care we receive.  Americans now have the opportunity to receive tax credits to purchase quality health insurance, and starting in January, 2014, insurance companies will no longer be able to deny health coverage because of a pre-existing condition or drop coverage if someone is sick.”

It should also be noted that those states that chose to run their own exchanges have not had the same problems as the federal exchange.

Alan R. Weil, the executive director of the National Academy for State Health Policy, an independent nonpartisan group, credited the relative early success of some state exchanges to the fact that they could leap on problems more quickly than the sprawling, complex federal marketplace.

“Individual state operations are more adaptable,” Mr. Weil said. “That does not mean that states get everything right. But they can respond more quickly to solve problems as they arise.” (NY Times)

“The state-run exchange in New York announced Tuesday (seven days after rollout) that it had signed up more than 40,000  people who applied for insurance and were found eligible.” (NY Times Oct 8th)

Americans are jumping to finally get a chance to have affordable health care.   Look at Oregon for example.  Over 50,000 people have signed up for insurance reducing their total uninsured residents by over 10%.  This reduction is in spite of their online exchange not being up yet.  Many of the people signing up are because Oregon also expanded their Medicaid option to cover more than 260,000 more residents.

If state legislators were really interested in helping people acquire healthcare and increase the health of their residents then expanding Medicaid is the best option.  Those legislators who are opposing Medicaid and refused to start their own healthcare exchanges are not going to stop Obamacare, there are only hurting their own constituents.

 

#    #   #   #    #

Text of letter to President Obama from Senator Shaheen (D-NH)

Dear Mr. President:

 The Affordable Care Act has already positively impacted the lives of millions of Americans and once fully implemented, this law has great promise.  However, I am concerned about the problems that people are experiencing with the Affordable Care Act’s website, healthcare.gov. As website glitches persist, we are losing valuable time to educate and enroll people in insurance plans.  I also fear that people that have tried, and failed, to enroll online may become frustrated and not return to the website to try again at a later date.

Given the existing problems with the website, I urge you to consider extending open enrollment beyond the current end date of March 31, 2014.  Allowing extra time for consumers is critically important so they have the opportunity to become familiar with the website, survey their options and enroll. 

Further, in light of the difficulties individuals may be having with enrolling through healthcare.gov, I ask that you clarify how the individual responsibility penalty will be administered and enforced.  If an individual is unable to purchase health insurance due to technical problems with enrollment, they should not be penalized because of lack of coverage.

The difficulty that people in New Hampshire and in other states that are relying on the federally facilitated marketplaces are experiencing is incredibly frustrating and disappointing.  For over three years, we have been waiting for the creation of the health insurance exchanges, which now in their fourth week of existence, are riddled with problems. 

I know that the White House is working diligently to address the website issues, and I know that you share my interest in making this law work successfully.  And I fully understand that the healthcare law has already had a significant impact on the lives of millions of Americans; seniors are now paying less for their prescription drugs, important preventive care services, such as some cancer screenings and immunizations, are available for free and important work is being done to improve the quality of care we receive.  Americans now have the opportunity to receive tax credits to purchase quality health insurance, and starting in January, 2014, insurance companies will no longer be able to deny health coverage because of a pre-existing condition or drop coverage if someone is sick.

Ultimately, however, we must do better. As you continue to fix problems with the website and the enrollment process, it is critical that the Administration be open to modifications that provide greater flexibility for the American people seeking to access health insurance – extending the open enrollment period and clarification on the enforcement and administration of the individual responsibility penalty would be a great start.  

I look forward to continuing to work with you to implement the law.

 

                                                                                    Sincerely,

 

                                                                                    Jeanne Shaheen

                                                                                    US Senator

 

 

Forget “The Decider”: WHO was President in 2005?

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No, it wasn’t in The Onion. It was in the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

In answer to the question, “Who do you think was more responsible for the poor response to Hurricane Katrina: George W. Bush or Barack Obama?,” 29 percent of a pool of Republican primary voters in Louisiana blamed Obama, who took office in 2009, and 28 percent blamed Bush, whose term lasted through 2008. Hurricane Katrina hit on Aug. 29, 2005.

One more time: despite the fact that he didn’t take office until more than 40 months after Hurricane Katrina hit, more Louisiana Republicans blamed President Obama for the federal government’s inadequate response than blamed President Bush.

Wow.

Got anything YOU want to blame on President Obama? There’s a meme generator for that.

 

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