Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Last Call For Minding The Gap

It wasn't lost on Democrats that today is Equal Pay Day, the day the average woman has to work to in 2014 on top of working all through 2013 in order to earn equal pay to the average man who worked in 2013.  While Republicans keep trying to disprove the 77 cents on the dollar pay gap, President Obama signed measures today to actually do something to erase it.

President Obama on Tuesday signed two executive measures intended to help close longstanding pay disparities between men and women as Democrats seek to capitalize on their gender-gap advantage at the ballot box in a midterm election year.

Mr. Obama, standing in front of a platform of women in a picture-ready ceremony in the East Room of the White House, said his actions would make it easier for women to learn whether they had been cheated by employers. He called on Congress to pass legislation that would take more significant steps.

Remember, President Obama's first legislative priority when he took office was the Lily Ledbetter Paycheck Fairness Act, which was blocked by Senate Republicans in 2010 and then again in 2012.  Another vote on the act will come tomorrow, where it is expected to be blocked a third time.  Real change will take Congress, but the President can do some things, and he chose to do them today.

Neither of the actions Mr. Obama took on Tuesday would affect the broad American work force. The executive order he signed bars federal contractors from retaliating against employees who discuss their salaries and an executive memorandum he issued instructs the Labor Department to collect statistics on pay for men and women from such contractors.

But the White House staged a ceremony with the sort of profile usually reserved for a major bill signing. Aides arranged for Mr. Obama to be introduced by Lilly M. Ledbetter, who has become a symbol of the pay gap issue since the Supreme Court ruled that her discrimination case had been filed after the expiration of a statute of limitations. Congress passed a measure named for her changing the deadlines for filing such suits and Mr. Obama made it the first bill he signed after taking office.

Ms. Ledbetter said the executive order signed by Mr. Obama would have made a difference in her case. “I didn’t know I was being paid unfairly and I had no way to find out. I was told in no uncertain terms that Goodyear, then and still a government contractor, fired employees who shared their salary information. It was against company policy.”

Meanwhile, Republicans will all vote against this tomorrow and then tell women that they are stupid and being fooled by evil Democrats.

The Unkindest Cuts Reversed

The Obama Administration has quickly decided to reverse February's decision to make cuts to Medicare Advantage plans as Republicans have spent the last six weeks running ads in states like Florida saying how Democrats are the ones really cutting Medicare (pay no attention to Paul Ryan scrapping the program and replacing it with subsidies.)

In a move with big election-year implications, the Obama administration announced Monday that it would reverse a proposed cut to private Medicare Advantage plans. The decision undercuts one of the GOP's favorite lines of attack on Obamacare and on Democrats in general.

The change announced by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services transformed what was a projected 1.9 percent payment cut in 2015 that had been proposed in February into a projected 0.4 percent payment increase.
Medicare Advantage plans are alternatives to Medicare offered by private insurers where recipients share some of the cost of the generally more generous plans. Insurance companies, alongside congressional members from both parties, had urged a stop to the proposed cuts. In total, Obamacare is supposed to cut $150 million from the program over 10 years.

America's Health Insurance Plans, the industry's top lobbying group, called its blitz to stop the cuts its "largest-ever mobilization." Monday's announcement is a big win for the industry -- though it means more red ink for the federal budget. Independent analysts said insurers could still face cuts, though they should be smaller than originally expected.

For Republicans, though, it might be unwelcome news. Attacking the cuts, authorized under Obamacare, had become a favorite criticism of the health care reform law -- especially as other critiques dwindled. And they quickly sought to portray Monday's change as political opportunism by the Democrats.

Which is funny, coming from Republicans over the last 20 years.  Meanwhile, it seems the Obama administration is willing to make compromises to satisfy both seniors and the insurance companies that provide gap coverage for them (and that my friends is a big, big business.)

The Return Of The Entusiasm Gap

Republicans are motivated more than ever to vote in order to "punish" President Obama, Democrats, and the people who voted for them over six years of perceived slights (and Obamacare working).  Democrats, not so much...

There's a number in the new Associated Press-GFK national poll that should put a scare into Democrats on the ballot this November.

The number is 14. That's the percentage point difference between those who say they favor a Republican-controlled Congress (51 percent) and those who want Democratic-controlled one, among people who say they are strongly interested in politics. (Among the broader electorate, the Republican lead is far less consequential on this so-called "generic ballot" question with 37 percent choosing a GOP-controlled Congress while 36 percent opt for a Democratic one.) According to AP's Jennifer Agiesta "in January, this group was about evenly split, with 42 percent preferring Democrats and 45 percent the Republicans."

Guess who votes in midterms -- and particularly the second midterm of a president's tenure? Yup -- people who are "strongly interested" in politics. And therein lies the Democrats' problem.

And, it's not just the AP-GFK poll that shows a disparity of intensity between Democrats and Republicans. A GW Battleground poll showed that 64 percent of Republicans are "extremely likely" to vote while 57 percent of Democrats said the same. In a CBS News-New York Times poll 81 percent of Republican registered voters said they would "definitely" vote in November versus 68 percent of Democrats.

If this remains true in November, then there's going to be serious problems for us.  Unless you think the solution to whatever problem you have with President Obama and the Democrats is "more Republicans in Congress" then we need to vote in November.

And yes, I'm going to keep harping on this for the next 7 months.


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