Category Archives: Obama

Obama: Fox News And Rush Limbaugh Are Why Washington DC Is Such A Mess

via Business Insider: 


Rush obama

In a sit-down interview with The New Republic released today, President Barack Obama cast blame on Fox News and Rush Limbaugh for shaping compromise as a “dirty word.”

Obama talked about the recent deal to avert the fiscal cliff, saying he thought House Speaker “genuinely wanted” to come to a deal sooner but felt he was vulnerable to attack from the right.

Here’s the relevant excerpt:

I think if you talk privately to Democrats and Republicans, particularly those who have been around for a while, they long for the days when they could socialize and introduce bipartisan legislation and feel productive. So I don’t think the issue is whether or not there are people of goodwill in either party that want to get something done. I think what we really have to do is change some of the incentive structures so that people feel liberated to pursue some common ground.

One of the biggest factors is going to be how the media shapes debates. If a Republican member of Congress is not punished on Fox News or by Rush Limbaugh for working with a Democrat on a bill of common interest, then you’ll see more of them doing it.

I think John Boehner genuinely wanted to get a deal done, but it was hard to do in part because his caucus is more conservative probably than most Republican leaders are, and partly because he is vulnerable to attack for compromising Republican principles and working with Obama.

Obama said the same thing happens with the far left — but that “left-leaning media outlets” are more willing to accept compromise. In turn, that’s why Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi are willing to compromise, Obama said.

Obama also criticized how the media in general shapes partisan gridlock in Washington as a two-party issue. He suggested that it’s a handful of conservative Republicans preventing compromise:

[L]et me be clear. There’s not a — there’s no equivalence there. In fact, that’s one of the biggest problems we’ve got in how folks report about Washington right now, because I think journalists rightly value the appearance of impartiality and objectivity. And so the default position for reporting is to say, “A plague on both their houses.” On almost every issue, it’s, “Well, Democrats and Republicans can’t agree”—as opposed to looking at why is it that they can’t agree. Who exactly is preventing us from agreeing?

Read the whole interview at TNR >

‘Obamacare’ to hit smokers with huge penalties

via RT: 

AFP Photo / Justin Sullivan

Smokers, beware: tobacco penalties under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act could subject millions of smokers to fees costing thousands of dollars, making healthcare more expensive for them than Americans with other unhealthy habits.

The Affordable Care Act, which critics have also called “Obamacare”, could subject smokers to premiums that are 50 percent higher than usual, starting next Jan 1. Health insurers will be allowed to charge smokers penalties that overweight Americans or those with other health conditions would not be subjected to.

A 60-year-old smoker could pay penalties as high as $5,100, in addition to the premiums, the Associated Press reports. A 55-year-old smoker’s penalty could reach $4,250. The older a smoker is, the higher the penalty will be.

Nearly one in every five U.S. adults smokes, with a higher number of low-income people addicted to the unhealthy habit. Even though smokers are more likely to develop heart disease, cancer and lung problems and would therefore require more health care, the penalties might devastate those who need help the most – including retirees, older Americans, and low-income individuals.

“We don’t want to create barriers for people to get health care coverage,” California state Assemblyman Richard Pan told AP. “We want people who are smoking to get smoking cessation treatment.”

Nearly 450,000 US residents die of smoking-related diseases each year, making the unhealthy habit a serious concern for lawmakers. One legislator is trying to criminalize smoking in his state, while others have raised taxes on cigarettes and the Obama administration has tried to inflict hefty fines upon smokers’ premiums.

Karen Pollitz, a former consumer protection regular, told AP that no insurers want to provide coverage for Americans who have been smoking for decades, and that the penalties might prompt people to abandon the habit.

“You would have the flexibility to discourage them,” she told AP.

But quitting is not easy, and charging older smokers up to three times as much as younger ones could make it difficult for them to seek care in the first place. A 60-year-old smoker charged with the penalty could be paying about $8,411 per year for health insurance, which is about 24 percent of a $35,000 income and is considered “unaffordable” under federal law.

“The effect of the smoking (penalty) allowed under the law would be that lower-income smokers could not afford health insurance,” said Richard Curtis, president of the Institute for Health Policy Solutions.

Ultimately, the law that is meant to make health care more affordable could have the opposite effect on older smokers at a time when smoking-related illnesses usually arise.

The Most Devastating Look At How Barack Obama’s Digital Team Crushed Mitt Romney’s And Won Him The Election

via Business Insider: 

The Obama campaign’s digital operations proved to be a crucial point of success that led to the re-election of President Barack Obama in November. 

Based on a sophisticated effort and larger emphasis on digital and new media, the Obama campaign engaged supporters and raised an unprecedented amount of money through its digital efforts.

How did the Obama campaign become so effective in the digital realm? Engage, an interactive digital political agency in Washington, D.C., recently published a report entitled “Inside the Cave.” It features a 93-page, step-by-step in-depth look at the secrets to the Obama digital team’s success.

We’ve collected 15 of the report’s key topics and published them here.

(Note: A special thanks to Engage president Patrick Ruffini for permission to republish parts of the report.)


“The Cave” was the site of the Obama analytics team in Chicago where a group of programmers revolutionized the way that campaigns are run.

Right off the bat, it’s clear that the Obama organization lapped Romney when it came to employee presence online, the number of donors, and the size of the email list support.

While Romney’s campaign beefed up staff, it still was far from enough to compete with the Obama digital and analytics staff.

The team Obama built came from a wide array of startups, tech firms and even particle physics labs.

Here’s where the Obama analytics team delivered: They were able to accurately discover the real effect of early voting and predict with startling accuracy how people would vote.

The beefed-up digital squad had a large effect on fundraising, amounting for the vast majority of campaign revenue.

One single email — with an “I will be outspent” subject line — pulled in $2.7 million alone.

The email pleas went through a significant amount of testing among focus groups to see what subject lines and body text were the most effective at eliciting a response.

Quick Donate was an important feature that made giving easy — it allowed mobile users to give and streamlined the whole process.

From the internal site system alone, the Obama campaign received $250 million from supporters.

Their website was built to last and designed to serve as a useful resource. Traffic to dwarfed traffic to Romney’s site.

The internal system was vigorously tested constantly to design for unprecedented use. The closest thing the Romney campaign had — known as “Project Orca” — was untested and flopped on Election Day.

The Obama campaign also invested an unprecedented amount in online ads.

Even more, the campaign took a “Moneyball” approach to TV ad buys, looking at metrics that normally went unnoticed to reach a core audience, targeted audience more effectively.

The Obama digital model will endure and serve as the model for any serious campaign to come, outliving phone calls, landline polling and earlier campaign structures.


This Picture Of Barack Obama Barefoot In Burma Is Fantastic

via Business Insider: 


Official White House photographer Pete Souza posted another crop of photos to the Obama administration’s Flickr account Friday, including this gem from President Barack Obama’s recent trip to Southeast Asia.

According to the caption, Obama is posing for a photo in front of the Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon, Burma. All visitors to the pagoda must remove their shoes and socks — and Obama seems pretty thrilled about being barefoot.


obama barefoot

White House via Flickr


And here’s a closer shot of the President’s feet, walking alongside his guides and Secret Service agents:


obama barefoot

White House via Flickr


Firefighter fired for installing Barack Obama toilet paper in firehouse bathroom

via Daily Caller: 

A Florida firefighter is out of a job after putting toilet paper with President Barack Obama’s face in his fire department’s bathroom.

Clint Pierce, who admitted placing the Obama toilet paper in the restroom as a “gag,” had until 5:00 p.m. Friday to turn in his badge after the city of Pompano Beach, Fla. determined his joke was a disrespectful repeat offense, according to a report from the Sun Sentinel.

The Oct. 19 incident marked the third time Pierce brought political props onto city property, after he was told to stop.

“It was clearly a case of insubordination,” city spokeswoman Sandra King said Friday, according to the paper. “He had a similar situation of posting political messages on city property and he was given a free pass at that time and told to cease and desist and he did it again and really exacerbated the situation.”

Fire Chief Harry L. Small determined that Pierce’s actions showed “tasteless and disrespectful treatment” of President Obama and “caused significant divisiveness within the department and community.”

And according to activists who came to a City Commission meeting Tuesday, his actions were racist and offensive, the Sun Sentinel reported.

Small concluded in a Nov. 20 memo, however, that he “found no evidence to indicate that Pierce’s actions were racially motivated, but rather they were politically motivated.”

Toilet paper with former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s face, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s face, and and others are readily available online.

Pierce, a firefighter since 1993, reportedly apologized, but to no avail.

“Your apology for your actions is appreciated, but does little to undo the widespread damage to the reputation of the city and the fire department organization,” Small responded.


6 TV Shows President Obama Keeps On His DVR

via Business Insider: 

Sure President Obama is busy running the country by day, but at night, the POTUS still finds time to watch a few shows that he and his family make sure to DVR.


Obama opened up to TV Guide about his viewing habits, revealing “I am a big fan of ‘Homeland’ and ‘Boardwalk Empire,’ and I think ‘The Wire’ is one of the greatest shows of all time — and I confess I am an avid watcher of ‘SportsCenter.'”

But the President hasn’t appointed anyone to be in charge of recording his favorite shows — other than his daughters.

“For the most part, we program our own shows on our DVR, but it wasn’t always this way,” he says. “Sasha had to teach Michelle and me how to program it because we didn’t know how to do it ourselves.”

Here’s what Obama has to say about his must-see TV:

1. “Parks and Recreation”: Obama says the NBC comedy starring Amy Poehler gives him “a good laugh.” In March, series co-star Aziz Ansari attended a fundraiser event in New York City and Obama informed him that he has a fan in the White House. “Aziz Ansari … now this is big because Malia is a big ‘Parks and Recreation’ fan,” the president said at the fundraiser. “So having Aziz here is like the only thing she thinks is worth me doing. I want to thank him for what he said earlier. I know he’s backstage, but I just want to say that I have more Twitter followers than you, man.”

2. “Modern Family”: “Michelle and the girls and I love watching ‘Modern Family,'” the President told TV Guide, while the First Lady revealed to Us magazine that she recorded the show “to catch up on after the election.”

3. “Boardwalk Empire”: “I am a big fan,” Obama says of the HBO prohibition-era drama.

4. “Downton Abbey”: Michelle Obama has an advanced copy of the show’s new season, according to Us magazine.

5. “SportsCenter”: “I confess I am an avid watcher of “SportsCenter,” Obama told TV Guide, adding “We usually watch it when we’re working out. Michelle also likes watching ‘The Biggest Loser’ because the contestants inspire her.”

6. “Homeland”: “‘Homeland’ is my favorite TV show,” the Prez told Us magazine of the Showtime hit starring Claire Danes.

Drudge Is Trolling Tim Geithner And The White House’s ‘Opening Bid’ Fiscal Cliff Offer

via Business Insider: 


Here’s Matt Drudge’s take on President Barack Obama’s fiscal cliff “opening bid”:


It’s a good one. Drudge links to a Weekly Standard story that reports Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell “burst into laughter” when Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner outlined Obama’s plan.

Here are the full details of Obama’s plan >


Several Top Economists Privately Told Obama That He Screwed Up The Recovery In One Major Way

via Business Insider: 

A number of economists privately told Obama that his recovery policies were weak in one key area: They didn’t do enough to address the mountain of homeowner debt.

Barack Obama

The Washington Post’s Zachary Goldfarb reveals this in a great new story:

One year and one month before President Obama won reelection, he invited seven of the world’s top economists to a private meeting in the Oval Office to hear their advice on what do to fix the ailing economy. “I’m not asking you to consider the political feasibility of things,” he told them in the previously unreported meeting.

There was a former Federal Reserve vice chairman, a Nobel laureateone of the world’s foremost experts on financial crises and the chief economist of the International Monetary Fund , among others. Nearly all said Obama should introduce a much bigger plan to forgive part of the mortgage debt owed by millions of homeowners who are underwater on their properties.

Just as in during the financial crisis, the reaction of The White House was to not do much. Part of it was the result of political expediency (no big “homeowner bailout” has much chance if it needs to go through Congress) and part of it seems to be a thinking on the part of the administration that helping out over-indebted homeowners is not really plausible.

The idea that huge and persistent levels of homeowner debt remain a big economic drag should be understood by anyone familiar with Richard Koo’s “Balance Sheet Recession” framework (although the primary economist whose doing work on the subject these days is University of Chicago professor Amir Sufi, who has literally written (along with economist Atif Mian) the paper on the subject titled “Household Balance Sheets,Consumption, and the Economic Slump“).

The abstract of that paper explains how a theoretical notion (that high levels of debt were a drag) could be demonstrated in the data.

The large accumulation of household debt prior to the recession in combination with the decline in house prices has been the primary explanation for the onset, severity, and length of the subsequent consumption collapse. Using novel county level retail sales data, we show that the decline in consumption was much stronger in high leverage counties with large house price declines. Levered households experiencing larger house price declines faced larger drops in credit limits, were unable to refinance mortgages into lower rates, and paid down existing debts at a faster pace. Using zip code level data on auto purchases and exploiting within-county variation, we show that the consumption response to declining house prices was stronger in areas with more reliance on housing as a source of wealth.

The paper’s charts show a worse-than-average consumption decline in areas characterized by high debt.

Click the chart to enlarge.



Note that unlike some economic debates which break on predictably partisan lines (with liberals favoring more intervention, and conservatives favoring less) this question is a little different.

For example, in a post following up on Goldfarb today, liberal economist Dean Baker disagrees that the mortgage debt hangover is the main problem, and instead says that the main problem is just the normal collapse in asset prices, and that the real failure was the lack of a sufficiently large stimulus.

Baker writes:

In fact, there is no need to turn to implausible underwater mortgage debt explanations for the weakness of the economy. The economy is acting exactly as those who warned of the bubble predicted. We saw a sharp falloff of residential construction as we went from a near record boom, with construction exceeding more than 6.0 percent of GDP at the 2005 peak, to a bust where it fell below 2.0 percent of GDP. This meant a loss in annual demand of more than $600 billion a year.

We also saw a large falloff in consumption due to the loss of $8 trillion in housing wealth. The housing wealth effect is one of the oldest and most widely accepted concepts in economics. It is generally estimated people spend between 5 and 7 cents each year per dollar of housing wealth. This means that the collapse of the bubble would be expected to cost the economy between $400 billion and $560 billion in annual demand.

There is no mechanism that would allow the economy to easily replace the combined loss of between $1 trillion and 1.2 trillion in demand that would be predicted from the collapse of the housing bubble. Therefore it is hard to see why anyone would feel the need to look to explanations involving the indebtedness of underwater homeowners, the whole downturn is easily and simply explained by the collapse of the bubble.

On Twitter today, Sufi defended his ideas in a series of tweets. Here are a few of them:



Amir Sufi, Twitter


Bigger picture, when people talk about “the debt” these days, they’re probably talking about The National Debt, even though it really doesn’t seem connected at all to the problems of the economy. Homeowner debt, however, is a real burden. There may not be much plausibly that can be done, but it should get much more attention.

For more on the balance sheet recession, see this awesome Richard Koo presentation >