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For Obama, a sudden struggle with personal appeal

In Barak Obama, General News, Political News on November 4, 2013 at 7:50 pm
Hundreds of FBI employees gathered to hear Pre...

Hundreds of FBI employees gathered to hear President Barack Obama’s speech and greet him afterward during his visit to FBI headquarters. White House photographer Pete Souza is to Obama’s left. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

JENNIFER AGIESTA, AP

WASHINGTON (AP) — For years, President Barack Obama’s personal favorability ratings served as a political firewall that sustained him through an economic recession, grueling fights with congressional Republicans, and the grind of a re-election campaign.

But after a rough start to Obama’s second term, Americans increasingly view the president unfavorably. And perhaps most concerning for the White House: an Associated Press analysis of public polling shows it has become more difficult over time for Obama to fully rebound from dents in his favorability ratings.

“It’s a slow cumulative effect,” Republican pollster David Winston said, adding that personal favorability “is a much harder number to move if it starts to go south.”

The public’s increasingly negative view of Obama may be less of a concern for his future given that he is barred from running for re-election. But the president still needs a strong connection with the public in order to rally Americans around his policy proposals and, in turn, to show Congress he remains politically relevant at a time when lame duck status is lurking.

The president’s advisers need only look at Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, to see the impact of a crumbling relationship with the public. Positive impressions of the Republican trailed off in the beginning of 2005 amid public frustration with the Iraq war and the government’s flawed response to Hurricane Katrina. Bush’s favorability rating never recovered and he struggled to fulfill significant policy goals throughout the rest of his presidency.

A series of recent polls show Obama’s personal favorability now leaning negative, including an NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll released last week that found positive views of Obama at the lowest point of his presidency and down 6 points from earlier in October. The drop follows the 16-day government shutdown, the cascade of problems during his health care law’s rollout, and another flood of revelations about U.S. government spying.

White House officials blame the shutdown in particular for Obama’s falling favorability, given that it resulted in shuttering many federal services and furloughs for hundreds of thousands of Americans, while again highlighting the troubled ties between the president and Capitol Hill. But Obama aides note that the impact of the shutdown on congressional Republicans has been even worse, with both their personal and job performance ratings at record lows.

Logo of the United States White House, especia...

Logo of the United States White House, especially in conjunction with offices like the Chief of Staff and Press Secretary. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Everybody gets hurt when there’s dysfunction in Washington,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

Throughout Obama’s presidency, his job approval and personal favorability ratings have generally risen and fallen in tandem. But his favorability numbers, which often reflect the public’s gut-level reaction to a politician, generally remained the more positive of the two measures.

That, the president’s supporters argue, made the public more likely to give him a chance even when they disagreed with his policies or the direction the country was headed. His strong likability was seen as a particular asset during his 2012 re-election campaign when most polls showed that voters saw him in a more favorable light than his Republican rival Mitt Romney.

“For the president, it’s meant that people have cared about what he had to say because they liked him,” said Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster.

The question for the White House now is whether that dynamic will hold if the public’s personal opinions of the president continue to sour. An Associated Press-GfK poll from early October found that 52 percent of Americans didn’t think Obama was very honest and were split on whether he was even likable.

The president’s favorability has taken hits during other points in his presidency. Most polling found the public’s impression soured in late summer 2011 around the first round of debt ceiling negotiations and again last summer in the midst of his presidential campaign.

Although Obama’s favorability improved somewhat after each hit, he never fully recovered, with each rating rebound peaking below earlier average favorability ratings.

For example, Obama began 2011 with majority favorable ratings in most polling. When the debt ceiling fight pushed his favorability below 50 percent in late 2011, he came back to an average right around 50 rather than above it. This latest battle has led to average ratings in the mid-40s, worse than he’s seen at any point previously.

Past presidents have also struggled to recover from dips in their favorability ratings.

Bush left office with majorities saying they had both a negative impression of him personally and disapproved of his job performance. And former President Bill Clinton’s favorability numbers never recovered after a fall in 1998 as the Monica Lewinsky story unfolded, though his job approval remained strong through his last days at the White House.

Republican President Ronald Reagan evoked the warmest reaction from the American public, leaving office with high job approval numbers, 63 percent according to Gallup polling in December 1988, and a majority holding a favorable impression of him personally.

Source: Associated Press

 

Obama Declares Big Banks Too Big to Jail

In Barak Obama, Economic News, Financial News, General News on December 12, 2012 at 9:08 pm
hsbc

hsbc (Photo credit: dumyat)

 

Decision not to prosecute bank’s money laundering sparks outrage

 

 The Obama administration officially bought into the idea that big banks are “too big to jail” yesterday, by deciding to fine HSBC instead of criminally prosecuting its vast money laundering operation—which funneled cash to Mexican drug cartels and Saudi banks with ties to al-Qaeda. The stated reason? The White House thought prosecution would upset markets.

 

“It is a dark day for the rule of law,” the New York Times laments in an editorial today. If prosecutors can’t pursue “a case as egregious as this, the law itself is diminished.”

 

Glenn Greenwald at the Guardian is even more outraged, pointing out that “the US is the world’s largest prison state, imprisoning more of its citizens than any nation on Earth.” The poor, and racial minorities in particular are locked up at an astonishing rate, often for minor drug offenses. Yet HSBC gets off the hook. “It is truly difficult to imagine corruption and lawlessness more extreme than having the government explicitly place the most powerful factions above the rule of law.”

 

Source: Associated Press

 

 

 

Obama says he ‘won’t compromise’ on taxes

In Barak Obama, Democrats, Political News on December 10, 2012 at 10:11 pm

Tax

By BEN FELLER, 

President Obama  warned Monday that he “won’t compromise” on his demands that the wealthiest Amereicans 

pay more in taxes, digging in on the chief sticking point between the White House and Republicans asthey seek a way to avert the “fiscal cliff.” 

Obama brought his pressure-Congress campaign to the heart of industrial America, ripping lines from his own reelection bid as the nation inched closer to a perilous economic cliff. He said the country couldn’t afford a”manufactured” crisis and pledged to cheering auto workers that he would fight to extend tax cuts for the middle

class before they expire at year’s end. 

“That’s a hit you can’t afford to take,” Obama declared. 

Obama’s campaign-style trip to Michigan came one day after he and House Speaker John Boehner met privately at the White House. While neither side would characterize the meeting, the mere fact that the two leaders talked face-to-face was seen as progress in negotiations to avoid a series of year-end tax hikes and spending cuts. 

Republicans have long opposed Obama’s call for higher tax rates on the wealthy, but some GOP lawmakers are suggesting the party relent on taxes in order to win concessions from the president on changes to benefit programs such as Medicare. Still, Boehner’s office indicatedMonday that the speaker wasn’t ready to take that step. 

“The Republican offer made last week remains the Republican offer,” said Brendan Buck, a Boehner spokesman. He was referring to a GOP plan that offered $800 billion in new revenue over the next decade through reducing or eliminating unspecified tax breaks on upper-income earners, but not by raising tax rates. 

Source:  Associated Press.

August jobs report disappoints

In Barak Obama, Employment, General News, Political News on September 7, 2012 at 3:20 pm

By  Jill Schlesinger

English: Graph of US Civilian Labor Participat...

English: Graph of US Civilian Labor Participaton Rate from 1948 to 2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The U.S. economy added only 96,000 in jobs in August and the unemployment rateedged lower to 8.1 percent, from 8.3 percent. The report was disappointing for two reasons:

Job creation was lower than expected and the unemployment rate dropped only because eligible workers left the labor force.Coming on the heels of the two major parties’ conventions, the political stakes are high when it comes to jobs. Poll after poll show that voters are most concerned with the economy and the jobs markets and there are only two more monthly Labor Department reports due before the general election.

No president since the Great Depression has won re-election when the jobless rate was higher than 7.4 percent, the level at which Ronald Reagan won a landslide reelection in 1984.

Given the current pace of job creation this year (139,000 jobs per month), the unemployment rate will likely remain above 8 percent by Election Dayand probably by the end of the year as well.

unemployment

unemployment (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

During the past two weeks, the parties have released dueling narratives of the jobs situation:

Republicans claim that progress is too slow and Democrats say that while the improvement may not be ideal, the damage was too vast to be repaired in a normal time frame. Who’s right?

There is no doubt that the country has seen gains in the jobs crisis: The economy has added 3.8 million jobs since employment bottomed in February 2010. (4.3 million private jobs created were offset by just over a half a million government jobs lost). But the hole is deep: There are still 4.8 million fewer total non-farm jobs since before the recession started.

It’s the same story with the unemployment rate: It’s down from over 10 percent only a couple years ago, but has remained above 8 percent for over three years, the longest stretch since monthly records began in 1948. Just before the beginning of the recession, the rate was 5 percent and at the current rate of job creation, it will take approximately 3 to 4 years to return to that level.

The problem continues to be the tepid pace of economic growth (1.85 percent in the first half of the year and 1.7 percent in 2011), which has been too slow to prompt companies to hire. Economists say that the economy needs to grow by closer to 2.5 to 3 percent to put more people back to work.

Beyond the raw numbers on job creation and unemployment rate, another insidious problem is infecting the U.S. labor market: Middle class wages are shrinking.

The Pew Research Center recently released a report called “The Lost Decade of the Middle Class.” Pew’s definition of middle class is households with annual earnings ranging from $39,000 to $118,000 in 2011 dollars. In 2011, this middle-income tier included 51 percent of all adults, a drop from 61 percent in 1971.

Source: MoneyWatch

FACT CHECK: Obama and the phantom peace dividend

In Barak Obama, Political News, U.S. News on September 7, 2012 at 2:16 pm

By TOM RAUM and CALVIN WOODWARD, AP

Barack Obama

Barack Obama (Photo credit: jamesomalley)

President Barack Obama laid claim to a peace dividend that doesn’t exist when he told the nation he wants to use money saved by ending wars to build highways, schools and bridges.

The wars were largely financed by borrowing, so there is no ready pile of cash to be diverted to anything else.

The claim was one of several by Obama in his acceptance speech Thursday at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., and by Vice President Joe Biden in earlier remarks that did not match the facts. A look at some of their assertions:

OBAMA: “I’ll use the money we’re no longer spending on war to pay down our debt and put more people back towork — rebuilding roads and bridges, schools and runways. After two wars that have cost us thousands of lives and over a trillion dollars, it’s time to do some nation-building right here at home.”

THE FACTS: The idea of taking war savings to pay for other programs is budgetary sleight of hand, given that the wars were paid for with increased debt. Obama can essentially “pay down our debt,” as he said, by borrowing less now that war is ending. But he still must borrow todo the extra “nation-building” he envisions.

He made a similar statement in his State of the Union address, and it is no less misleading now than in January. And the savings appear to be based at least in part on inflated war spending estimates for future years.

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OBAMA: “We will reform and strengthen Medicare for the long haul, but we’ll do it by reducing the cost of health care, not by asking seniors to pay thousands of dollars more.”

THE FACTS: Some of the proposals the Obama administration has floated in budget negotiations with Congress would ask Medicare beneficiaries to pay more. Among them: revamping co-payments and deductibles in ways that could raise costs for retirees and increasing premiums for certain beneficiaries.

Obama even indicated a willingness to consider raising the eligibility age, currently 65, to 67. As word of some of the proposals leaked out, the president faced a backlash from fellow Democrats. He has since said he would not accept Medicare cuts as a part of a deficit reduction deal, unless it also includes higher taxes on the wealthy. Still, some level of increased costs for middle-class and upper-income Medicare recipients is likely to be part of any future deficit reduction deal.

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OBAMA: “We can help big factories and small businesses double their exports, and if we choose this path, we can create a million new manufacturing jobs in the next four years.”

THE FACTS: Obama has claimed an increase of some 500,000 manufacturing jobs over the past 29 months. But this is cherry picking by the president. From the beginning of Obama’s term 3 1/2 years ago, manufacturing jobs have declined by more than 500,000, according to the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. Manufacturing jobs have been on a steady decline for nearly two decades.

Even though there has been a modest uptick in manufacturing jobs this year, unless there is a major turnaround, it seems unlikely that Obama’s goal of 1 million new manufacturing jobs can be reached by his target date of 2016.

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OBAMA: “And now you have a choice: We can give more tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas or we can start rewarding companies that open new plants and train new workers and create new jobs here in the United States of America.”

BIDEN: “Gov. Romney believes that in the global economy, it doesn’t much matter where American companies put their money or where they create jobs. As a matter of fact, he has a new tax proposal — the territorial tax — that experts say will create 800,000 jobs, all of them overseas.”

Official portrait of Vice President of the Uni...

Official portrait of Vice President of the United States . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

THE FACTS: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney‘s proposal is actually aimed at encouraging investment in the U.S., not overseas.

The U.S. currently has a global tax system that is filled with credits, exemptions and deductions that enable many companies to avoid U.S. taxes and provides an incentive for corporations to keep their profits in other countries. Whether Romney’s plan would spur investment in the U.S. is debatable, but it’s not a plan aimed at dispersing profits abroad.

Experts differ on the impact of a territorial system on employment in the U.S. But Biden’s implication that Romney’s plan sends jobs abroad is not supported by the expert opinion he cites.

Kimberly Clausing, an economics professor at Reed College in Portland, Ore., said a pure territorial tax system could increase employment in low-tax countries by 800,000. But that did not mean U.S. jobs moving overseas. Clausing later wrote: “My analysis does not speak to the effects on jobs in the United States.”

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OBAMA: “You can choose a future where we reduce our deficit without wrecking our middle class. Independent analysis shows that my plan would cut our deficits by $4 trillion.”

THE FACTS: Three years ago, Obama pledged to cut in half the deficit “we inherited” by the end of his first term, a mark he’s set to miss by a wide margin. The deficit when he took office was $1.2 trillion, and the $800 billion stimulus bill Obama signed soon afterward increased the shortfall to over $1.4 trillion. The White House predicts this year’s federal budget deficit will end up at $1.2 trillion, marking the fourth consecutive year of trillion dollar-plus red ink.

Obama’s new $4 trillion target over 10 years resets the goalposts with some fancy budget footwork. For one thing, it includes $1 trillion in cuts already signed into law. And it assumes that Congress will pass the administration’s plan to raise the capital gains tax, boost taxes on households earning over $250,000 a year and impose a minimum 30 percent tax on incomes above $1 million. It also assumes a reduction in the amount of interest the government must pay on its debt.

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BIDEN: “After the worst job loss since the Great Depression, we’ve created 4.5 million private sector jobs in the past 29 months.”

THE FACTS: This seems to be a favorite statistic, because many speakers at the convention cited it. But it’s misleading — a figure that counts jobs from when the recession reached its trough and employment began to grow again. It excludes jobs lost earlier in Obama’s term, and masks the fact that joblessness overall has risen over Obama’s term so far.

As well, in the same 29 months that private sector jobs grew by 4.5 million, jobs in the public sector declined by about 500,000, making the net gain in that period about 4 million.

Overall, some 7.5 million jobs were lost during the recession that began in December 2007 in President George W. Bush’s term and ended officially in June 2009 with Obama as president. Never since World War II has the economy been so slow to recover all the jobs lost in a downturn.

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OBAMA: “Millions of students are paying less for college today because we finally took on a system that wasted billions of taxpayer dollars on banks and lenders.”

THE FACTS: “Technically it is true,” said Bryan Cook, director of the Center for Policy Analysis at the American Council on Education. “How much of a savings is not clear.”

Large increases in federal Pell Grants, GI Bill benefits and the 2009 American Opportunity Tax Credit led to a significant increase in the amount of aid provided to students who qualify for these benefits. The current per year maximum Pell Grant is $5,550 — $900 higher than it was in 2008 for a program that serves more than 9 million students.

Under the Obama administration, Congress passed legislation requiring all federal loans be issued through the Education Department; previously, they were also issued by private lenders. This will also probably mean students pay less in the long term.

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OBAMA: “In 2014, our longest war will be over.”

THE FACTS: Although most U.S. troops will leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014, thousands are likely to stay and continue a U.S. presence for years. There is no telling what fighting they might be drawn into, despite the decision to end the U.S. combat role.

Military leaders and administration officials have not yet said how many will stay, asserting that such decisions are far from being made. But analysts say the U.S. envisions a post-2014 force of as many as 20,000 American troops to continue training the Afghan forces, hunt terrorists and keep watch on Iran and other nations in the region.

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BIDEN: “What they didn’t tell you is that the plan they’ve put down on paper would immediately cut benefits to more than 30 million seniors already on Medicare. What they didn’t tell you is the plan they’re proposing would cause Medicare to go bankrupt by 2016.”

THE FACTS: Biden wasn’t referring to any Medicare plan of Romney or running mate Paul Ryan, but to the consequences of fully repealing Obama’s health care law, which is unpopular with seniors even though it has sweetened Medicare in certain ways. A Medicare plan put forward by Ryan in Congress would have no immediate effect because it would apply only to future retirees.

Obama’s health care law improved Medicare benefits, adding better coverage for beneficiaries with high prescription costs as well as removing co-pays for a set of preventive benefits. If the law is repealed, those benefits would be lost unless Congress decides otherwise.

Similarly, Romney’s promise to restore Obama’s $716 billion in Medicare cuts could have unintended consequences for the program. The cuts don’t affect seniors directly, instead falling on hospitals, insurers and other service providers. Restoring the higher payments to providers would accelerate the depletion of Medicare’s trust fund for inpatient care, from 2024 currently to 2016, unless Congress acts to stave that off.

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Source: Associated Press writers Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Stephen Ohlemacher, Christine Armario and Paul Wiseman contributed to this report.

Are Americans better off? Obama aides won’t say.

In Barak Obama, Economic News, Mitt Romney, Political News on September 2, 2012 at 9:38 pm
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Flinching in the face of economic weakness, President Barack Obama’s top aides refused to say Sunday in the run-up to the Democratic National Convention if Americans are better off than they were four years ago.  

Barack Obama addressing a joint session of Con...

Barack Obama addressing a joint session of Congress (State of the Union-like) on the night of February 24, 2009. Standing in front of Vice President Joe Biden (left) and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (right). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Obama campaigned in Colorado and Vice President Joe Biden in Pennsylvania as their senior surrogates sought to deflect discomforting questions and turn them into criticism of Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

“The Romney path would be the wrong path for the middle class, the wrong path for this country,” said David Plouffe, one of Obama’s top White House aides.

But responding to the question that has become a staple of presidential campaigns, he sidestepped when asked if Americans are better off than when Obama took office.

“We’ve clearly improved … from the depths of the recession,” he said.

Another aide, David Axelrod, said, “I think the average American recognizes that it took years to create the crisis that erupted in 2008 and peaked in January of 2009. And it’s going to take some time to work through it.”

Not only the economy, but the weather was also a concern for the Democrats with Obama planning to deliver his prime-time acceptance speech on Thursday night before a crowd of tens of thousands at a football stadium.

An enormous sand sculpture made in Obama’s likeness served as a reminder, as if any were needed, that the Democrats were in town. A drenching rain caused damage on Saturday just as work was finishing on the project, but the five-member crew said they had been able to make repairs.

Planeloads of delegates flew into their convention city for two days of receptions before their first meeting in the Time Warner Cable Arena on Tuesday. Hundreds of demonstrators marched through the streets around the hall, protesting what they call corporate greed as well as U.S. drone strikes overseas said to kill children as well as terrorists.

No arrests were reported as dozens of police officers walked along with the parade, carrying gas masks, wooden batons and plastic hand ties.

Biden, campaigning in York, Pa., took a swipe at Romney on foreign policy.

“He said it was a mistake to end the war in Iraq and bring all of our warriors home,” the vice president said. “He said it was a mistake to set an end date for our warriors in Afghanistan and bring them home. He implies by the speech that he’s ready to go to war in Syria and Iran. “

Democrats have been critical of Romney for making no mention of the war in Afghanistan when he accepted the Republican nomination in Tampa, Fla., last week. He previously criticized Obama for setting a public date for the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from the war.

Romney also has faulted Obama for allowing the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad to remain in power. Yet his aides have refused to say for a week if he agrees with French President Hollande’s promise to extend diplomatic recognition to a provisional government if Syrian rebels form one.

Romney spent Sunday at his Wolfeboro, N.H., vacation home, leaving only to attend church services with his wife, Ann.

Aides said he would spend much of the Democrats’ convention week preparing for three fall debates with Obama, beginning on Oct. 3.

Running mate Paul Ryan was booked into North Carolina, counterprogramming the Democratic convention rhetoric.

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro delivers the keynote speech on Tuesday, followed by First lady Michelle Obama‘s remarks.

Obama and Biden will be nominated for second terms on Wednesday night, when former President Bill Clinton has the role of star speaker.

Biden and Obama, deliver their nomination acceptance speeches on Thursday, the convention’s final night.

The economy has recovered fitfully at best from the worst recession in decades, and national unemployment is 8.3 percent. Joblessness was spiking when Obama took office and peaked at over 10 percent before it began receding during his term.

While Republicans want the election to be a simple referendum on Obama’s handling of the economy, he and the Democrats are determined to make Election Day a choice between him and his rival.

That strategy was on display in the Sunday interview programs.

Plouffe, asked on ABC to answer the better-off question with a yes or no, replied: “I think everybody understands we were this close to a Great Depression. We staved that off. We’re beginning to recover. We have a lot more work to do. We need to grow jobs more quickly, we need to grow middle-class incomes more quickly.”

Axelrod, on Fox, said, “I can say that we’re in a better position than we were four years ago in our economy in the sense that when this president took office, we were losing 800,000 jobs a month. The quarter before he took office was the worst quarter that this country has had economically since the Great Depression, and we are in a different place, 29 straight months of job growth, 4.5 million private sector jobs.”

“Are we where we need to be? No. But the problem with what Governor Romney said is for three days they never offered anybody a plausible alternative.”

Source:  Associated Press

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