Hella Bus Blog
In case you weren't aware, the deadline to sign up for the Affordable Care Act is March 31st.
People lacking coverage (either through their employers, parents, or private market plans) will owe the government either $285 or 1% of their yearly household income,
Also when they get sick they'll end up owing thousands of dollars to a hospital that provides them with bare bones care.
Still not clear? Maybe watch Obama and Zach Galifianakis talk about birth certificates and spider bites.
In 2008 the country elected our first black President amidst a horrid recession with the powerful urgency of hope. In Seattle people amassed in the streets, poured champagne into stranger's mouths and danced in a celebration usually reserved for the toppling of third world dictators.
Four years later, it happened again.
President Obama won a second term Tuesday night. In some ways this is just as huge as his first win. After four years of slow, erratic and sometimes painful progress, Obama faced what would have been a referendum on his first term.
As it turns out, we're just not that into referendums.
Obama won with a projected 303 electoral votes Tuesday night. He's currently slightly ahead in Florida which would be another 27 electoral votes. (Rumor has it Floridian's are still in line waiting to vote.) In 2008 Obama won with 365 electoral votes. Obama carried the popular vote once again.
His eponymous accomplishment, Obamacare, has now survived numerous Republican attempts at repeal, a Supreme Court case, and an oppositional Presidential campaign aimed at killing it. Obamacare is the floor all future healthcare legislation will be built upon.
He now has four more years, four years in which we'll likely see two more Supreme Court justice picks, and ideally some kind of grand bargain on our tax policy in order to address the deficit he inherited.
The Democrats not only maintained power in the Senate, but managed to pick up one extra seat. They remain the minority party in the House. While a recipe for gridlock, it's also an indication that most of the signature legislation of the last four years will remain in place.
Elizabeth Warren of Harvard picked up Massachusetts' Senate seat, defeating Scott Brown.
Richard "God's Will" Mourdock of Indiana and Todd "Legitimate Rape" Akin of Missouri were both defeated by their Democratic challengers. Both men rose to fame for making incoherently poor statements about rape, and voters of their respective states responded. This is also a win for science, as Akin, a man with zero understanding of women's reproductive anatomy was just voted off of the House Science Committee.
Angus King, the Independent Candidate from Maine pulled in a solid victory against his Democratic and Republican challengers. As a pragmatic Independent, he's expected to regularly caucus with the Senate Democrats, but has fought valiantly to avoid joining the partisanship on each side. He will be the second Independent Senator currently in office, joining Bernie Sanders who was elected as a Socialist.
In other close races, Connecticut's Christopher S. Murphy (D) wrestled his senate seat away from former WWE CEO Linda McMahon. In Wisconsin, Tammy Baldwin (D) beat out Tommy Thompson (R). Nevada's incumbent Dean Heller (R) held onto his senate seat. And in Virginia, Tim Kaine (D) beat out former Gov. George Allen solidly.
In The House:
The Republican party was able to hold onto their majority in the House of Representatives, although the Democrats did pick up 3 new seats (and a few are still undecided). In some ways, this victory is more a victory for gerrymandering than it is for a particular party - in 2010 a lot of congressional districts were redrawn to favor incumbents, at the time the majority of which were Republicans. The Senate is less affected by these fluctuations in part because we don't redraw state borders every 10 years.
Here in Washington's redrawn 1st District, Microsoft Exec Susan DelBene (D) beat out John Koster. Delbene won two elections, both the race to finish the rest of Jay Inslee's term as congressman, and the race to replace him come the new session.
Turns out Paul Ryan was smart to hedge his bets: while he won't be the Vice President, he did win his re-election bid for the Wisconsin House. He'll maintain his role as the chair of the House Budget Committee, where he'll continue to convince people that he's "kinda a numbers guy". Ryan's supporters and GOP officials are already talking about Ryan being a potential presidential candidate in 2016.
To The Future, And Beyond!
The next big confrontation between House Republicans and the Senate Democrats will be over how to deal with the "fiscal cliff", a horrible shorthand for a slew of reasonable cuts and tax increases set to land January 1st, 2013. If the Republicans are unwilling to compromise, the Democrats can just let the Bush era tax cuts expire and return to the rates we had under Clinton. More of a fiscal "watch your step."
President Obama and Mitt Romney held their second of three debates Tuesday night. Readers may recall, as a fact-based true-believer, I called the first debate in Obama's favor - polls said differently. Apparently we decide debates based solely on gumption and eye contact.
Well, as Biden preluded, this debate played out quite differently. Obama was pugnacious, truculent and militant, or to put another way: Red Bull gave him wings.*
Where before Obama performed with a smug docility, this time around he contested every Romney statement. And while uncivil - about damn time.
Romney (and more recently Ryan) have been playing fast and loose with facts, figures and promises this entire election cycle, banking on the current state of journalism to let their claims go untested.
Well, this time Obama held Romney accountable, and the polls are rewarding him. Probably the best knock-out exchange was Romney's aggressive assertion that Obama failed to call the attack on the Libyan embassy an act of terror.
Obama did in fact call the deaths of four Americans an "act of terror" immediately, but waited for two weeks to definitively establish it was a planned attack, and not a response to an offensive YouTube video.
Ladies Love Cool Mitt:
The debate was a Town Hall format, and many of the questions from undecided voters revolved around domestic policy. One woman asked the candidates:
"In what new ways do you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace? Specifically regarding females making only 72% of what their male counterparts earned?"
Obama mentioned the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which he signed into law the day he took office.
Romney went another direction, telling an anecdote about hiring women when he was the Governor of Massachusetts, and how he sought out "binders full of women".
The Internet exploded with "Binders Full of Women" memes, but I failed to find this as notable as his total inability to answer the question. In response to an answer about fair pay for women, Romney told a factually incorrect anecdote about hiring women when he was the Governor of Massachusetts. No mention of whether his female binders were paid as much as his male binders. In addition he added that female employees needed more flexible schedules so they could make it home in time to cook dinner.**
Romney claimed to have sought out more women on his own, but the true story was a non-partisan group of women hoping to see more equal representation pushed candidate Romney and his opponent to agree in advance to hire more women. He did.
Romney also claimed that 580,000 women lost jobs under Obama. This number is made up.
Guns Don't Kill People, Single Mothers Kill People:
One of the benefits of a Town Hall forum is voters get the chance to ask questions that the campaigns have otherwise managed to avoid. As was the case when one voter asked the candidates how they'd limit access to assault rifles.
"Weapons that were designed for soldiers don't belong on our streets," said Obama, and went on to say he'd like to see an Assault Weapons ban introduced. (Which realistically is unlikely to pass through the Tea Party controlled House of Representatives.)
In contrast, Romney stated that he wasn't in favor of any new legislation, and instead, the answer was good schools and two parent households:
"Gosh, to tell our kids that before they have babies they ought to think about getting married to someone, that's a great idea," said the candidate who's vowed to defund Planned Parenthood.
Parents to Mexico, Children to Iraq:
The one last moment that really stood out was the candidate's response to immigration policy. Romney declared he wouldn't allow amnesty for anyone who was here
"illegally" without documentation, and doubled down on the "Self Deportation" statements he made during the Republican Primary. He did concede that children of undocumented immigrants who grew up here could stay, but added that "military service for instance is one way they would have that pathway."
This of course is the same character who dodged the Vietnam draft to be a Mormon missionary in France and lamented how much easier this election would be if he was Latino.
On the other hand, Obama has been no champion of immigrant rights. He has deported undocumented immigrants at approximately 1.5 times the rate as George W. Bush. But he did admit "we need to fix a broken immigration system" and told the audience "I've done everything I can on my own." He also used the term undocumented workers, in contrast to Romney's use of the term "illegals", which is overwhelmingly considered offensive.
One more debate to go. Also, check your mail - ballots are arriving here in Washington State. Once again full video after the jump:
The first presidential debate went off last night, and bars in Seattle were packed. I personally watched the back and forth at Moe Bar surrounded by jeering drunk Seattleites while sipping on a double.
Which may be why I was so confused at the end when the media at large proclaimed Romney the winner.
Goofus v. Gallant
The general consensus was that Romney was the winner based on his aggressive attacks and Obama's weak rebuttals. But all I saw was Romney spouting make-believe and Obama grinning through it all.
Historically the first debate in any Presidential election favors the challenger. This trend is even more pronounced when the challenger has led such a bumbling campaign. While both campaigns were trying to play the low expectations game in the debate lead-up, Romney's been doing it for 9 months.
Romney's camp "leaked" the news that they were preparing pre-planned zingers for the debate. But the closest thing to a Romney zinger was probably this:
"The place you put your money makes a pretty clear indication of where you heart is." - Says the guy who left his heart in the Cayman Islands.
On the other hand, I'd credit Obama with getting a few good knocks, including his retort on the Romney/Ryan plan to privatize Medicare. When Romney assured current retirees that Medicare was safe for them, Obama replied "if you're 54 or 55, you might want to listen, because this -- this will affect you.."
Just the Facts
Much can be said about impressions and zingers, but when it comes to whose arguments were factually accurate, Obama comes out drastically ahead.
While it's fair to say there were times Obama laid out arguments and numbers that were vague or cherry picked, Romney's statistics and proposals were straight out of Narnia.
Obama told voters that Romney's tax plan amounted to a $5 trillion dollar tax cut, which would add to the deficit or take away programs middle class Americans use.
Romney denied the claim. But The Washington Post finds that lacking any specificity on what loopholes Romney would close, the truth lies with Obama.
Romney's claim that Obama is raiding $716 billion from Medicare is patently false. The number comes from the lowering of payments to doctors and hospitals under Obamacare, not any money taken from seniors. While doctors could gripe about these cuts, the claim comes across exceptionally hollow from a man whose running mate would cut just as much in his plan to privatize Medicare.
Romney also stated that the Congressional Budget Office found that 20 million people will lose their insurance if Obamacare is enacted. Politifact ruled that a big old lie back in June.
The debate was 90 minutes long and brimmed with more falsehoods.
Overall I think a lot of people wanted to see Obama do more of the fact checking during the debates. Maybe he could have. But the news networks for the next few days will have plenty of time to call Romney on his claims. And Obama has two more debates to stand up for the truth.
The time has come! Charles Darwin himself would be proud.
Today Obama came out for Marriage Equality!!!! The most powerful man in the land just added his voice to the Marriage Equality Movement.
If somehow Saturday night you weren't rabidly following what Washington insiders refer to as "Nerd Prom", President Obama and Jimmy Kimmel delivered a series of clever speeches two nights ago at the White House Correspondents Dinner.
The jokes were a highlight reel of inside-the-beltway humor (Etch-a-Sketch, dog-eating, the Republican primary), but ideally anyone following Hella Bus religiously (all of you) will get a kick out of it.
"Jimmy got his start years ago on The Man Show.
In Washington, that’s what we call a congressional hearing on contraception."
The White House Correspondents Dinner was started in 1920 to recognize the value of a free press. It's traditional to invite a comedian to roast the President and both political parties. Kimmel's awesome speech after the break.
OH YEEEEEEAAAAHHH. President Obama sets the tone with this awesome slow jam on keeping student loans (comparably) affordable.
Draw down the curtains. Pour yourself a nice glass of Chianti. And feel the love.
Getting randy on affordable loan financing.
The constitutionality of President Obama's Affordable Care Act will be questioned by the Supreme Court this coming Monday. The lawsuit, filed by 26 different states against "Obamacare", challenges the individual mandate to buy insurance. Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna filed for Washington State.
The Act extends insurance coverage to more than 30 million American's who were previously unable to obtain coverage (approximately 10% of the population). It also protects patients against some of the most egregious abuses of insurance companies. In exchange for these protections, there will also be an individual mandate that all people purchase coverage from private companies. For those who are unable to afford coverage, the government will subsidize or waive the requirement.
Let's dig in...
President Obama gave a thrilling speech in defense of unions and his administration's successful auto-industry bailout.
The Obama campaign machine is a sight to see. The way this man can whip up a crowd is always a spectacle. As we get closer to November, we're likely to see more speeches like this.
"Hard work, that's a value. Looking out for one another, that's a value."
Obama released a heartwarming video recapping the last five years. I've only seen one other instance of such egregious product placement. (Oh man I wish I had Facebook stock.)
But I dare you to get halfway through the video without feeling a little bit sentimental.
As someone who's been following the ongoing coverage of contraception under the Affordable Care Act, I was a little surprised by today's New York Times blog post titled the "White House May Look to Compromise on Contraception Decision".
The article quotes David Axelrod, one of Obama's top re-election advisers, saying the president would "look for a way to address vocal opposition from religious groups."
Catholic ministers have been in an uproar regarding the decision that birth control will be considered preventative medicine, and therefor covered at no-cost under the Affordable Care Act.
"In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences,” said Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
And Mitt Romney is using the issue as a campaign issue, tweeting a link to a petition stating:
"On January 20, 2012, the Obama administration affirmed a rule that would force Roman Catholic hospitals, charities, and universities to purchase health insurance for their employees that includes coverage for contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization, in violation of their religious principles. This is wrong."
In case you missed it, The Washington Bus was out in force at MOE bar last night live-slogging the State of the Union Address. The evening was fun, the company was raucous, drinks were good, and we typed up a storm.
My overall impression:
Success (mostly)! Obama hammered home the completion of the Iraq war, the death of Osama Bin Laden, and the increase of new jobs in the past few months. He referenced his Cash for Clunkers program, which did a lot to save the American Car industry. And he clearly reminded American's that the economic downturn was inherited from He Who Shall Not Be Named.
And in what was clearly the beginning of what will be candidate Obama's campaign style, he eloquently laid out strong ideas to bring America out of our economic crisis. Obama talked about income inequality and re-introduced the Buffet Rule, which would tax American's who make more than $1 million per year.
So much has transpired since Obama graced the Podium of Dreams last January. Occupy has sparked a much needed shift in the national dialogue towards income inequality, we've watched a bewildering array of Republican presidential hopefuls flex their political muscle and then almost immediately implode, and Obama has transmogrified into an adorable kitten.
Come join the Bus, the Stranger, and a stiff drink at Moe Bar next Tuesday 1/24 for a State of the Union watch party! Roll in at 5:30, grab a drink, and watch it all go down in good company.
Will this be Obama's last SOTU? Will Willard be next? What are the best SOTU drinking game keywords? Oh, the drama!
Moe Bar (1425 10th Ave)
5:30-8pm. 21+ (sorry!)
Last Wednesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius made history by overruling an FDA recommendation that Plan B, aka "The Morning After Pill" be made available over the counter. This is the first time in history that an FDA recommendation has been overruled.
Currently Plan B is only available for women over the age of 17 through a pharmacist. Women under the age of 17 have to visit a doctor and receive a prescription. The FDA ruled that the medication was safe and effective for woman of all ages, and could be purchased over the counter. Obama defended Sebelius's decision, referencing his two daughters, ages 13 and 11.
"As the father of two daughters, I think it is important for us to make sure that we apply some common sense to various rules when it comes to over-the-counter medicine,” said Obama. "And as I understand it, the reason Kathleen made this decision was she could not be confident that a 10-year-old or an 11-year-old, going to a drug store, should be able to, alongside bubble gum or batteries,” purchase a powerful contraceptive.
It's perfectly reasonable for Obama to feel uncomfortable thinking about his two daughters purchasing the morning after pill. But placing barriers to accessing life-altering medication for young women doesn't prevent daughters (and fully grown women) across the country from needing Plan B.
"We are extremely disappointed that Secretary Sebelius put politics over science and vetoed the FDA’s recommendation – based on the findings of medical experts – to make Plan B available over the counter for women of all ages," said Alison Mondi, Director of Communications and Public Policy for NARAL Pro-Choice of Washington. "The FDA’s recommendation would have removed barriers to accessing a safe, effective and time-sensitive form of contraception, and helped prevent unintended pregnancies."
Plan B is 89% effective in preventing accidental pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of having unprotected sex or a condom breaking. The efficacy increases to 95% if women are able to take the pill within 24 hours.
"Secretary Sebelius’s decision missed an opportunity to increase access for women of all ages," said Mondi. "Young women will now still need to make a doctor’s appointment, get a prescription, and travel to a pharmacy in order to access Plan B."
"The current rule doesn’t take into account a young woman who is a survivor of rape or incest and does not have the option of talking with her parents if she is from a violent home or was attacked by a relative. Nor does it address the needs of young women without regular access to medical care. And women of all ages run the risk of having their request for Plan B refused by a pharmacist who has personal objections to the medication."
Got an hour to kill? Might I suggest spending it listening to the smooth and ever-populist voice of our Commander in Chief?
Obama was in Kansas yesterday, and he gave a great speech that repeatedly referenced the plight of the 99%, reiterating the need to adjust our tax code so billionaires aren't paying less taxes than teachers and nurses.
While he didn't bring up anything drastically new, these are the points Obama needs to be hitting during the 2012 presidential campaign. And these values will place him in stark comparison to his inevitable challengers: Mitt "1%" Romney or Newt "Money in Politics" Gingrich.