Today’s report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that the economy added 171,000 jobs last month, beating analysts’ expectations. The private sector added 184,000 jobs (offset by some public sector losses), making this the 32nd consecutive month that the private sector has grown.
Overall, even accounting for the horrific month for jobs that was January 2009, the private sector has added 759,000 jobs overall under Obama. At this same point in the George W. Bush administration — October 2004 — the private sector had lost more than 1 million jobs. This chart shows the difference:
During the entirety of the Bush administration, the private sector ended up losing nearly 650,000 jobs.
Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee are threatening to subpoena the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) over the Obama Administration’s use of public relations contracts to advertise their landmark health care reform law, even though the Bush Administration spent even more money on campaigns to publicize its Medicare program.
Republicans are implying that the Administration’s efforts to raise awareness about core Obamacare provisions is a politically-motivated misuse of public funds. As the Hill reports, GOP members claim that previous requests to HHS for documentation regarding the public relations campaign have gone unanswered, and say that they will be forced to issue subpoenas barring a response by the end of the month:
Ways and Means Republicans previously requested documents about the PR work, but said the administration failed to respond.
“Either the Department is unable to keep track of the work products it buys with taxpayer dollars or the Department is trying to delay any response until after this year’s election,” the lawmakers wrote. “Neither explanation is acceptable.”
They threatened to issue subpoenas if HHS doesn’t respond by Oct. 31. The letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was signed by Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Charles Boustany (R-La.).
Since an overhaul of Obamacare’s magnitude typically requires some form of public education to prevent confusion, HHS signed a $20 million contract to set aside funds for PR campaigns to explain the new consumer benefits under the reform law, as well as an additional $3.1 million contract to inform consumers about state-level health insurance exchanges. Some states, such as California, have used federal grants to promote their state’s own health exchanges.
And federal PR campaigns about major government programs are nothing new. After President Bush’s successful effort to pass the Medicare prescription drug benefit (Medicare Part D), the Bush Administration undertook a significantly larger campaign to inform seniors about their new benefits — also with money specifically set aside by the reform law.
Unlike the current Obamacare PR efforts, however, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the Bush Administration broke several federal laws by distributing videos that made their narrators appear to be impartial reporters instead of spokesmen hired by the Bush HHS. GAO also found a two-page flier about Medicare Part D that the Bush Administration sent out to 36 million households to not be “totally free of political content” and contain “notable omissions and other weaknesses.”
Romney’s support from the Iraq war’s lead planners reaches to the top. Most of the war’s key players who aren’t advising Romney have strongly come out in support him, lending the imprimatur of their foreign policy instincts to his campaign. Here are some of the key endorsements of Romney or his foreign policy:
WHAT HE SAID ABOUT ROMNEY: “When I think about the kind of individual I want in the Oval Office in that moment of crisis, who has to make those key decisions, some of them life-and-death decisions, decisions as the commander in chief, who has the responsibility for sending our young men and women in harm’s way – that man’s Mitt Romney.”
WHAT HE SAID ABOUT ROMNEY: “The Obama administration has gone out of its way to try to deemphasize the ideological part of the problem, and to define the conflict as a conflict that the United States has with an organization and its affiliates, rather than an international movement tied together by an ideology. I think Romney did a pretty good job in making it clear that the problem is broader than Al Qaeda.”
WHAT HE SAID ABOUT IRAQ: “What we did after 9/11 was look broadly at the international terrorist network from which the next attack on the United States might come. And we did not focus narrowly only on the people who were specifically responsible for 9/11.”
WHAT HE SAID ABOUT ROMNEY: “Terrific, comprehensive speech by Gov. Romney at [the Virginia Military Institute]. He knows America’s role in the world should be as a leader not as a spectator.”
WHAT HE SAID ABOUT IRAQ: “Freedom’s untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things.”
WHAT SHE SAID ABOUT ROMNEY: “Our military capability and technological advantage will be safe in Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan’s hands.”
Today’s jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that the American economy added 114,000 jobs in September. BLS also revised the job gains for July and August up by a total of 86,000, and the report contained several other good signs for the economy. The private sector has now added jobs for 31 consecutive months, and there are more than 600,000 more total jobs than there were when Obama took office, even though the public sector continues to lag behind.
At the same point in his administration, President George W. Bush’s record wasn’t as positive. Through 44 months, the private sector had lost more than 1 percent of its jobs (under Obama, it has gained 0.46 percent), and the only reason Bush could claim positive overall growth was because the public sector had grown by almost 4 percent.
Both presidents experienced recessions early in their terms, but as this chart from Nick Bunker and Michael Linden from the Center for American Progress shows, the labor market has recovered faster under Obama even though the Great Recession was deeper and more painful than the 2001 recession:
Under Obama, the public sector has shrunk by more than 600,000 jobs, increasing only while the government conducted the 2010 Census. Without those losses, the unemployment rate would be near 7 percent. The unemployment rate would be lower still had Republicans not blocked the American Jobs Act, which economists estimated would have added more than one million jobs to the economy.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s tax plan would be a boon for the wealthiest Americans, a fact Romney himself admitted in GOP primary debates.
Now, though, Romney has decided that cutting taxes for the rich isn’t what his plan will do, and he insists that he won’t support any tax plan — even his own, apparently — that provides the rich with a massive tax cut. “I will not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans,” Romney said in last night’s presidential debate.
The last Republican president used a similar argument to sell his tax proposal when he was running for election. At a debate on October 3, 2000, George W. Bush made the exact same claim, telling debate moderator Jim Lehrer that once his tax plan became law, “the wealthiest of Americans” would “pay more taxes”:
BUSH: Let me tell you what the facts are. The facts are, after my plan, the wealthiest of Americans pay more taxes on the percentage of the whole than they do today. Secondly, if you’re a family of four making $50,000 in Massachusetts, you get a 50% tax cut.
Bush’s tax cuts eventually became law, and as a result, the wealthy got a massive tax cut. In addition to rate cuts on income taxes, the Bush tax cuts included cuts to the capital gains rate and other investment taxes and an estate tax cut, all of which largely benefit the rich. The plan came at a cost of $2.5 trillion over its first decade.
And while Bush was technically correct that the rich did “pay more taxes on the percentage of the whole,” that is “a useless measure of tax progressivity,” as Center for American Progress Director of Tax and Budget Policy Michael Linden has explained. The share of taxes paid by the wealthy grew by 25 percent under Bush, but their share of income grew by 30 percent, evidence that they actually got a massive tax cut. Bush’s promise, just like Romney’s, is a vague misdirection meant to distract from the overall tax cut he planned to provide.
Romney’s plan, at a cost of nearly $5 trillion, is even bigger. And though Romney at least says he will cover some of the cost, the closure of loopholes wouldn’t offset the cuts for the rich, and to avoid adding to the deficit, he would have to raise taxes on the middle class. Romney relies on another similar argument Bush used, insisting that economic growth will offset the remaining costs. But the Bush tax cuts were followed by years of tepid job and economic growth that blew a massive hole in the federal budget and left Bush flailing when it came to his promise to pay off the national debt in a decade.
A Republican National Committee spokesperson earlier this year said that Romney’s economic policies would be “Bush, just updated.” It turns out his arguments are too. (HT Chris Hayes)
Earlier this week, the Nation uncovered the fact that Paul Ryan — who has voted with his party to repeal President Obama’s health care law over 30 times — requested Obamacare funds for his Wisconsin district in 2010. However, after the news broke that Ryan sought to fund a new community health center with federal money provided through health care reform, his campaign was quick to retort that grant program has nothing to do with supporting Obamacare because it was created under former President George W. Bush.
Bush did support federal grant programs for community health centers during his presidency. But the specific grant requested by Ryan is funded through Obamacare, which provides $11 billion to expand community health centers. When Ryan requested the funds in 2010, they represented money that Obama approved — under a law that Ryan has referred to as “Washington’s reckless spending spree.”
As the Huffington Post points out, it’s difficult to understand the distinction between Ryan’s support for Bush’s health care spending and his opposition to the exact same health care spending under Obamacare:
But the response from Ryan’s spokesman [Brendan Buck] also raises a question about the candidate’s philosophy on federal spending on health care: Why would he consider dollars approved by Bush to be a good use of money, but funds approved by Obama to be bad?
“Don’t dumb things down,” Buck suggested to HuffPost. “You think he’s opposed to all federal spending on health care? Health care spending makes up a significant portion of his budget.”
On the specific program in question, related to community health centers, Buck said Ryan was merely supporting a constituent. “It’s casework,” he said. “As a general principle he’s not going to turn away his constituents who come to him for help based on his own views of a program.”
Ryan is not alone in his hypocrisy. A laundry list of Republican lawmakers have suggested scrapping Obamacare only to replace it with the exact same health reform measures. When health care reform is acceptable under Republicans but unconstitutional under Obama, GOPers expose themselves as putting partisanship over policy.
Since leaving the White House, former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura Bush have pursued humanitarian work abroad in an area that has become particularly contentious for Republicans at home: women’s health. The Bushes recently opened a women’s health clinic in Zambia, a country that has the second highest rate of cervical cancer in the world.
The former president made a push for bipartisan initiatives to combat HIV/AIDS during his time in office. In the years since, he has raised over $85 million for cervical cancer programs. Bush explains his commitment to women’s health in moral terms:
BUSH: We care because we believe that to whom much is given, much is required. And those of us, who live in America, live in the most blessed nation ever and therefore when we see suffering, we ought to act. But the saddest thing of all is to know a lady’s life has been saved from AIDS but died from cervical cancer. And so starting in Zambia, the Bush Center, along with our partners, are going to put on a cervical cancer crusade to save lives.
However, this position is a departure from the one that has recently been advanced by the rest of the Republican Party. Rather than ensuring that women’s preventive care is fully funded across the country because of the moral imperative to “save lives,” as Bush puts it, GOP lawmakers have focused on partisan divides on abortion services and austerity policies.
Republican legislatures have repeatedly moved to defund Planned Parenthood based on concerns about the abortion services that it provides — despite the fact that the organization operates about 800 health centers across the country that provide nearly 770,000 Pap tests and nearly 750,000 breast exams each year, both critical preventative services to detect cancer. Earlier this year, Republicans also proposed a plan to avoid an increase in student loan interest rates by taking money from a preventative health care fund that largely benefits women’s health.
There is much more work to be done to bolster global health, but supporting preventive services for women — rather than cutting funds for women’s health issues across the board, as many Republicans in this country have elected to do — is a good start.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) today released their “Torture Database” website, making over 100,000 pages of government documents on the George W. Bush administration’s interrogation policies, primarily obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests by the ACLU, searchable by the general public.
Alexander Abdo, a Staff Attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project, announced the new database in a Guardian column today. Abdo wrote:
…[T]the government has yet to create a single, official report documenting the post 9/11 abuses. There is hope that the Senate Intelligence Committee will fill the void when it completes its long-expected report on the CIA’s program later this year. In the meantime, the ACLU today is launching the Torture Database to help fill the transparency gap. Our database allows researchers and the public to conduct sophisticated searches of thousands of documents relating to the Bush administration’s policies on rendition, detention, and interrogation.
Abdo and the ACLU hope the database will put pressure on the Obama administration to release more information about torture and other so-called enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs) authorized during the Bush administration. “[The Obama administration] continues to withhold hundreds of CIA cables describing the use of waterboarding and other harsh techniques, hundreds of photographs of detainee abuse throughout Iraq and Afghanistan, and the presidential memorandum that authorized the CIA to establish its secret prisons overseas,” writes Abdo.
The database includes: Justice Department legal memos authorizing torture; autopsy reports completed by Army medical examiners after detainees died in U.S. custody; reports documenting and evaluating the interrogation practices of the military and CIA; and a series of email and correspondences “linking the CIA’s and military’s interrogation policies to officials at the highest levels of our government.”
While much of the database is dedicated to documents outlining torture and EITs, the ACLU emphasizes that the site also offers “inspiring and heroic stories” in the form of written dissents from soldiers, lawyers, officials and others as they resisted the interrogation policies approved by senior political leaders.
Sixty-eight percent of Americans — including 49 percent of Republicans — say President George W. Bush is responsible for the state of today’s economy, a new Gallup poll finds.
Indeed, the country is still reeling from Bush’s disastrous economic stewardship. His irresponsible tax cuts and deregulatory policies have contributed significantly to the slow recovery and are partly responsible for the nation’s economic plight. Here are 5 reasons why:
1. Deregulated Wall Street: It was a great time to be a Wall Street executive during the Bush administration. Sweeping financial deregulation helped build the housing bubble and allowed financial institutions to pursue risky trades unchecked. In fact, Bush eliminated the rules that allowed Wall Street to cause the financial crash that plunged the nation into the Great Recession.
2. Cut Taxes For The Wealthy: The Bush tax cuts — over 50 percent of which benefited the richest 5 percent of American taxpayers — cost about $2.5 trillion over the decade after they were enacted. Ten years later, Bush’s tax cuts are still the main driving factor of the national debt:
3. Ran Up A Tab On Two Wars: The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost the country trillionsofdollars. Combined with Bush’s tax cuts, war spending was a main factor in blowing up the deficit and spending the surplus accumulated under Clinton. Lawmakers now use the deficit as an excuse for inaction.
Apparently, the Game of Thrones set has some pretty weird stuff kicking around, because someone has noticed that George W. Bush’s head is among those impaled on spikes on the Red Keep, and David Benioff and Dan Weiss said on the DVD commentary that “we just used whatever heads we had around.” I’m with SEK in finding thatsomewhat surprising. And actually, I think it would have been a better easter egg if it had turned out there were a bunch of recognizable figures dipped in tar so they’d be less recognizable, mounted on that wall for people to puzzle out obsessively. It’s the kind of thing that would have immunized the show against the inevitable accusation that suggestions of violence against conservatives are treated less seriously than suggestions of violence against liberals. And it would have made the same point more directly: be you George W. Bush or Stringer Bell, Bill Clinton or Al Swearengen, Joffrey Baratheon will make sure you get got if you displease him.