Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Washington Watch: Week 9


So much going on this week in Washington. All with major repercussions on how we live. I'll summarize here and then continue with the stories that moved me the most this week.


A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that most Americans  (indeed nearly two/thirds!) do not understand the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare to most) or how it will affect themselves and their families.

Recognize that we are three years after the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the ACA), and the subsequent Supreme Court Ruling on the mandate...yet there is little coverage on the major provisions which are coming in 2014.  Little coverage ..and NO EXPLANATION of what the states are, and are not, doing to prepare for implementation. So many questions, including the basics:

Will everyone be covered? What are the costs for individuals and families? Will insurance premiums increase? Will everyone have access to quality care? What are these 'exchanges' we hear about? Will Medicare and Medicaid (or MediCal in California) continue as is?

2014 is coming soon and the American public knows very little.  For the full findings of the Kaiser tracking poll click here.

This is Obama's baby and the Administration is NOT getting the information out to the masses. Congress has no reason to do so because they want to overturn the President's health reform bill, (at least the GOP-controlled House does).

DOMA and Prop 8 

The Supreme Court takes on Gay rights as they hear arguments to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act (which defines marriage for federal purposes as between a man and a woman) and California's Proposition 8 which outlawed same-sex marriages. In a stunning reversal, in just a few short years, the American public now supports same-sex marriage, as does the President and many in Congress on both sides of the aisle. All eyes are now on the Supreme Court.

Oral arguments continue, although the Administration is not defending DOMA (signed into law by Bill Clinton who now believes it should be overturned); neither is California Attorney General Kamala Harris going to argue in favor of Prop 8. Stay tuned.

The Sequester Festers

Who knows where we are with the Sequester and the Federal budget?  The media seems to be able to report only one major story a week and the budget has been off of the front page for the past couple of weeks.  Cuts are being made (last week I talked about cuts to Veteran's programs) but it only seems to matter to those being affected.  Which is why....

Americans are Unhappy With Government

Eight out of ten Americans are unhappy with government according to a CBS News poll released Tuesday. According to HuffPo:

"Eighty percent of Americans expressed some level of unhappiness with things in Washington -- 30 percent said they were "angry" and another 50 percent said they were "dissatisfied." Just 18 percent expressed positive opinions.
There have also been other signs of dissatisfaction in Washington. President Barack Obama's approval rating, which bounced after his reelection, has since fallen back below 50 percent in most polls. Congress, which has suffered low approval for years, is at a near record-low of 11 percent, according to CBS."

From the 'Other' America (AND their numbers are growing):

While Washington spins its wheels, there is real suffering going on in America. There were two stories which moved me this week. Those of us who interface with the homeless know these stories...we can put real faces on these stories...still to read them reminds us there is SO much to be done to fight hunger, homelessness and poverty in America. Remember, many of these people had jobs, homes, healthcare, and stable lives at one point. Maybe their condition is compounded by bad decisions, but there is no denying the economy's effect on these citizens. Read the stories.

The American Prospect reports (warning...this is a lengthy story), the Great Recession has turned formerly stable families into the new homeless.  

And then there's The Nation's: Old, Female, and Homeless, the title says it all.


President Obama's First Term
A Look Back at Week 9 - 2009: 
(Excerpts from my National Scene blog, March 24, 2009)

  • Obama Meets with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus
    The President held a meeting with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to discuss immigration and the US-Mexico relationship, including how the two countries can work together to stem Mexico’s drug-related violence. President Obama, who supports comprehensive immigration reform, announced that he will travel to Mexico next month to meet with President Calderon.
  • The President Visits Orange County
    President Barack Obama led a town hall meeting in an auditorium on the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa.  The purpose of the meeting was to drum up support for his economic plans while reassuring “average” Americans that he understands the economic challenges they are facing.  Attendees waited in long lines overnight to get seats to the event.
    As part of the Administration’s desire to disseminate needed information on the economic stimulus, the Treasury Department launched a website called -- The purpose of the site is to ensure that everybody who can take advantage of the President’s housing plan has access to information which explains how the plan works and who qualifies.  The site is one of several tools the Administration is using to slow down the foreclosure crisis that has gripped the nation. The site includes a calculator that allows homeowners to estimate the reduction to their monthly mortgage payment that the plan provides. Another tool for distressed homeowners is the Homeowner's HOPE Hotline (888-995-HOPE).
  • Lessons Learned in California
    While meeting representatives from the National Conference of State Legislatures, President Obama described lessons from his town halls in California, namely—on the heels of the AIG bonus scandal—the need for accountability. The President stated, “Over the last two days I've been traveling in California, talking with Americans about the challenges they're facing as a result of this economic crisis.” He stressed the importance of responsible investing by the Legislators saying, “Decisions about how Recovery Act dollars are spent will be based on the merits."


And Finally.....

This past week, in the first foreign trip of his second term, President Obama embarked on a four-day visit to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan.

In Jerusalem.....

President Obama tours the crypt containing the birthplace of Jesus. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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