The Obama Administration

Obama Compared to Prior Presidents On Job Creation, In Graphs

B arack Obama has some reason to crow about the direction the economy has been moving lately. As he said in his press conference on Friday, "as a country, we have every right to be proud of what we've accomplished: more jobs, more people insured, a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, booming energy." And it's true that there are some kinds of economic data that look excellent, particularly job creation, which is what I want to focus on for the moment. We've had 50 straight months of positive job growth, since September 2010, which is pretty remarkable. Once we get the December numbers there will probably wind up being around 3 million jobs created in 2014, which would make it the best year since 1999. So how does Obama stack up against his predecessors in this department? As always, it depends how you look at it. But let's start with just the job numbers . Here's a graph showing every president since Eisenhower: A few things jump out from this graph. While we don't...

Meet the Congressional Mouthpieces of the Anti-Cuba Lobby

They hail from both parties, but they have one thing in common: something called the U.S. Cuba-Democracy PAC.

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) Like his Republican counterparts who oppose the president's opening to Cuba, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, has ties to the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC. On Wednesday, December 17, he accused President Barack Obama of "vindicat[ing] the brutal behavior of the Cuban government.” This March 27, 2014, file photo shows him in his role as Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, listening as the committee's ranking member, Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. This article originally appeared at AlterNet . O n Wednesday, President Barack Obama announced that Cuba would be freeing several American captives while also overhauling relations between the two countries, moving to a full normalization of relations that would include a gradual lifting of the travel and trade bans. Obama's move is in sync with public opinion. Gallup has long polled Americans about their...

Barack Obama, Set Free

President Obama on the phone yesterday with Cuban president Raul Castro. (White House photo by Pete Souza)
Here's a little blast from the recent past, a meeting of the minds between Bill O'Reilly and Brit Hume in October 2013: O'Reilly asked Hume, "Is he just not interested? Is he bored with it? Is it deniability?" Hume said that unlike some past presidents, Obama is "not a micromanager" and prefers to rely on others. O'Reilly charged that right now, Obama's performance is so bad, he's in "major trouble on the history front" and has to be "in the bottom ten" in a ranking of all the U.S. presidents. This was a major theme in conservative and not-so-conservative media for quite some time: Obama is passive, he's bored, he just doesn't care anymore, he's like a senior two weeks from graduation who just can't wait to get it over with. Here's a piece from June by Ron Fournier passing on complaints about Obama from anonymous Democrats, including "his disengagement from the political process and from the public." "He's bored and tired of being president," Fournier cites one as saying. Not long...

Is Barack Obama's Revival On the Way?

White House photo by Pete Souza
Is Barack Obama about to have a revival? Peter Beinart argued the other day that he is, for three reasons: his actions on immigration have improved his standing among Hispanics, the economy is picking up steam, and there's a natural swing of the pendulum in press coverage as reporters tire of writing the current story after a while and look for change and new developments. An Obama comeback would fit the bill. I think Beinart is probably right, and the economy is the main reason; it swamps every other consideration in evaluating the president. We could have some major shock that upends the momentum it has been gaining, but if things proceed for the next two years on the trajectory they're on, the Obama presidency will be one of the best for job creation in recent history. But it's also important to understand that an Obama revival, should it happen, is going to look different than that of other presidents. Among recent two-term presidents, George W. Bush left office with approval...

The Great Budget Sellout of 2014: Do We Even Have a Second Party?

The Democrats not only lost this vote on issues they allegedly care about; they lost their role as a credible opposition.

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) For in the great budget sellout of December 2014, fully 57 House Democrats voted with the Republicans to narrowly pass this deal. Key Senate Democrats close to Wall Street, such as Chuck Schumer of New York, shown here, were its enablers. This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post . I n principle, Saturday's vote to keep the government open should be the perfect curtain-raiser for the political debates between now and the 2016 election. As their price for averting a government shutdown, Republicans demanded and got a gutting of one of the most important provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act, preventing banks from speculating with government insured money. Agencies hated by Republicans such as the Environmental Protection Agency took big cuts, and a rider was inserted permitting "mountaintop removal" coal mining once again. Another extraneous provision demanded by conservatives permits massive increase in individual campaign contributions. The IRS...

Here's a Bargain Republicans and Democrats Could Make on Obamacare

Shake on it - for America. (Flickr/ClaraDon)
Since Congress just passed a budget and we are therefore at the dawn of a new era of bipartisan comity and compromise, I'd like to propose a trade, one that will allow both Democrats and Republicans to gain something significant without giving much up. The topic is the Affordable Care Act, and the trade is this: What if Republicans agree to pass a technical fix to address what it essentially a typo in the ACA, one that threatens to take insurance from millions of middle-class Americans, and in exchange, Democrats agree to repeal the ACA's employer mandate? Everybody would win. Let's start with the employer mandate. Republicans hate it, because it infringes on the prerogatives of business owners, whom Republicans tend to believe are the most virtuous among us. There is certainly a cost of the mandate, in that some employers who hadn't offered insurance before will now have to do so. Raise their expenses, and there will be some effect on employment as they don't hire as many workers...

Progressives Just Lost a Fight On the Budget. So Why Are They So Happy?

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
O ver the weekend, the "Cromnibus" budget was passed by a coalition that included the GOP leadership and the Obama White House. Neither conservative Republicans nor liberal Democrats were happy with what was in it. So why is it that the conservatives are feeling bitter and betrayed, while the liberals seem positively elated, despite the fact that they both lost? We don't need to work too hard to understand the conservatives' reaction. The budget doesn't stop President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration, and Republican leaders decided not to force another government shutdown in a vain attempt to do so. As usual, the conservatives are convinced that John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are wimps who do nothing more than bide their time between capitulations. But what explains the liberal reaction? For the first time in this presidency, liberal Democrats feel as though something like a coherent bloc, outside of and sometimes in opposition to the White House, is beginning to form...

Just How Delusional Are Congressional Republicans On Immigration?

Flickr/Anne
If you're enough of a weirdo to be following Congress' attempts to pass a budget before tonight's deadline, you've heard about the "CRomnibus," the oh-so-clever combination of bills Republican leaders devised to avoid a shutdown and simultaneously convince their members that they're really, truly going to give it to Barack Obama over his executive actions on immigration. The "omnibus" part is the bill that will keep every department but one operating through the end of the fiscal year (next October), while the "CR" part is the continuing resolution that applies only to the Department of Homeland Security, keeping it operating only until the end of February. At that point, tea partiers in Congress were told, we can have another shutdown fight and we'll really get that Obama, just like you want to. Now that the thing (in whatever final form it arrives) is about to pass, it's time to marvel at just what a bunch of fools those Republicans are if they think that come February they're going...

What You Really Need to Know About the Torture Report

The two contractors who designed the program were paid $81 million. And that's just one thing.

CIA.gov
This article was originally published by BillMoyers.com . O n Tuesday, amid much controversy and after a year of political combat between the Senate Intelligence Committee and the CIA, a long-anticipated summary of the committee’s report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program was released. Here’s what you need to know… What are the key points? You can read a quick roundup of the report’s main findings here . New York Times reporters Matt Apuzzo, Haeyoun Park and Larry Buchanan looked at what the report says about the efficacy of torture techniques in a series of specific cases. For those with strong stomachs, The Daily Beast’ s Shane Harris and Tim Mak sifted through the report to unearth “ the most gruesome details ,” which we chose to omit below. It was torture… According to the report, after being authorized by the Bush White House to detain people with suspected ties to terrorist groups, the agency’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” were far more brutal than the...

Movements for Racial Justice and Economic Justice Could Converge to Form a Powerhouse for Change

(Photo by Rachel M. Cohen for The American Prospect)
What happens to a dream deferred? Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it explode? T hat was the poet Langston Hughes, in 1951. In that year, more than half a century ago, the most basic dreams of African Americans were deferred. Segregation was mandatory in the old South. Discrimination was legal everywhere in America, whether in housing, education, or employment. Blacks were not just separated, but isolated, marginalized, restricted to the worst jobs and most dilapidated neighborhoods, the most dismal schools. For many, the racism just sagged, like a heavy load. It destroyed hope that hard work would be rewarded. The deferred dreams of that era seldom produced explosions, because the state had a very efficient system of terror. Blacks who resisted were likely to be lynched, jailed, or otherwise destroyed. It is a testament to sheer grit, tenacity and courage that large numbers of blacks managed to get educations, raise families, start businesses, and enter professions at...

Torture Gets the 'Only In America' Treatment

Joe Biden, Bidening. (Flickr/Adam Fagen)
L et it not be said anywhere, at any time, by anyone, that Joe Biden does not love America. Biden's love for America is high as a mountain, and deep as the sea. In fact, Biden's love for America is so great that he is convinced that all other countries fortunate enough to share this planet with America are populated by nothing but knaves and fools. Or maybe it's just that his love gets the better of him sometimes, as it did in this discussion of the torture report issued yesterday by the Senate Intelligence Committee: "No, I think it's a badge of honor," Biden said when asked at Politico 's Women Rule Summit whether the sharply critical report by the Senate Intelligence Committee is a "black stain." "Every country, every country, has engaged in activities somewhere along the line that it has not been proud of," he added. "Think about it, name me another country that’s prepared to stand and say, 'This was a mistake, we should not have done what we’ve done and we will not do it again...

Businessmen Don't Understand Politics, Part 3,486

Flickr/Sam Graf
Yesterday, Barack Obama, who as we all know is on a mission to destroy capitalism, sat down with a group of capitalists from the Business Roundtable to hear their sage advice and answer their insightful questions about the economy and the state of the nation. During the session , Fred Smith, the CEO of Federal Express, mentioned a couple of bills floating around Congress to increase the gas tax, and asked the president, "Why not, before the Congress goes home for December, just pass a bill that takes the two bipartisan bills that I just mentioned, up, and solves the problem?" Yes, why not "just pass a bill"? Strange how nobody in Washington seems to have thought of that. It took a can-do business leader to cut through all the baloney and find the solution to the problem of crumbling infrastructure. I'm sure Smith is a smart guy in his way — I can't imagine an idiot could run a huge company like FedEx. But it's obvious that he knows nothing about politics. Yet I'm sure that like most...

The Cycle of Republican Radicalization

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported on a Quinnipiac poll from a week ago showing a striking change in public opinion on immigration. The question was whether undocumented immigrants should be deported or should be able to get on a path to citizenship. Clear majorities of the public have long favored a path to citizenship (especially if you provide details of what that path would entail, which this poll didn't). But that has changed, because Republicans have changed. As the Post described the Quinnipiac results, "Although [Republicans] supported citizenship over deportation 43 to 38 percent in November 2013, today they support deportation/involuntary departure over citizenship, 54 to 27 percent." That's an enormous shift, and it provides an object lesson in a dynamic that has repeated itself many times during the Obama presidency. We've talked a lot about how the GOP in Congress has moved steadily to the right in recent years, but we haven't paid as much attention to the movement...

Low Oil Prices Are History's Greatest Case of Market Failure

(AP Photo/Hasan Jamali, File)
(AP Photo/Hasan Jamali, File) R emember "Peak Oil?" The world was running out of oil , we were told: Prices would soon skyrocket, and we had better find other fuels. Well, that argument didn't work out so well for environmentalists, did it? As oil reserves and those of other carbon fuels became scarce and prices rose, the law of supply and demand kicked in. The industry invested the profits from those higher prices in new technologies, and the oil barons found even more destructive ways to extract oil and gas—by exploiting the muck from tar sands, inventing hydro-fracking, and despoiling sources in developing countries. So now, oil is cheaper than it's been in years, about $66 a barrel. Regular unleaded gasoline can be had for well under $3 a gallon. One of the few things sustaining U.S. consumer purchasing power in the face of dismal wages is close to $100 billion saved in energy costs. OPEC's pricing power has been broken , and the United States is about to surpass Saudi Arabia as...

Is Obama Bold Enough For You Now?

Barack Obama, being all passive and weak. (White House photo by Pete Souza)
Remember when the problem everyone had with Barack Obama was how passive he was? In late October, Charles Krauthammer lamented Obama's "observer presidency with its bewildered-bystander pose." Dana Milbank agreed that "The real problem with Obama is not overreach but his tendency to be hands-off." Milbank quoted Mitt Romney approvingly for his criticism of Obama for not being sufficiently "focused" on the Ebola threat (I guess a more focused president would have managed to avert the thousands of American Ebola deaths—oh wait). Anonymous Hillary Clinton aides tell reporters that unlike the "passive" Obama, their boss is going to be "aggressive" and "decisive" when it comes to foreign crises. Leon Panetta writes a memoir criticizing Obama for being passive, but the specific criticisms look a lot like, "I told the President to do something, and he didn't follow my advice!" This isn't a new complaint. For years, pundits who are supposed to have some sense of how politics actually works...

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