Just How Out of Touch is Romney?

NASCAR team–owning friends.

“A couple” of Cadillacs.

A sincere belief that “corporations are people.”

Romney’s memorably put his foot in his mouth many times over the course of his campaign, but the reality is these aren’t gaffes. They’re moments that show who Romney truly is: a candidate who simply cannot relate to the lives of ordinary Americans.

Watch the newest web video and pass it along.


Making Medicare Stronger

Over the past few years, health care cost increases have been slowing – both for Medicare and private health care. And both CBO and Medicare estimate that cost increases are slowing. Despite these encouraging trends, there is much more we need to do – both to reduce costs and strengthen the Medicare program for future generations and to improve health care quality so patients get the best care possible.

Achieving these goals takes serious work. That’s why the Affordable Care Act is designed to learn from the best health systems and experts in the country to find better ways to improve health care.  Under health reform, we will reward doctors and hospitals that focus on spending time with patients, that better coordinate care, and that improve the quality of care patients are receiving while lowering costs.

Health reform also establishes the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). IPAB will be composed of fifteen experts including doctors, consumers and patient advocates who will be recommended by Congressional leaders, nominated by the President, and confirmed by the Senate.  It will recommend policies to Congress to help Medicare provide better care at lower costs.  Congress could pass these or other changes to strengthen Medicare.  Starting in 2015, if Medicare cost growth per beneficiary exceeds a growth rate target, IPAB recommendations would take effect only if Congress fails to act.

Today, Congressional Republicans are working to repeal and dismantle the Independent Advisory Board before it even gets started even though experts like former Bush Administration Medicare Official Mark McClellan called for “[strengthening] and [clarifying] the authority and capacity of the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB).”  And a coalition of economists including Nobel Prize Winners said “…the Affordable Care Act contains essentially every cost-containment provision policy analysts have considered effective in reducing the rate of medical spending. These provisions include…An Independent Payment Advisory Board with authority to make recommendations to reduce cost growth and improve quality within both Medicare and the health system as a whole”

At the same time, House Republicans passed a plan for Medicare last year that does nothing to reduce overall health care costs.  Instead, the Republican plan shifts costs to seniors and empowers insurance companies. Below is a table on how the Republican plan and IPAB compare.

Rather than revisiting the past and trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Congress should work on strengthening Medicare and creating jobs.

Republican Medicare Plan

Affordable Care Act IPAB

Ration Care? Yes. Under the Republican plan, nothing would prevent private insurance companies from rationing care. No. IPAB is legally prohibited from making recommendations that would ration health care.
Increase premiums and cost sharing? Yes. Under the Republican plan, administrative costs and health care prices would rise, and seniors would pay about $6,400 more per year for their health care coverage, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). No. IPAB is legally forbidden from modifying Medicare premiums or cost sharing.
Control Costs? No. Under the Republican plan, administrative costs and health care prices would rise according to the CBO. Yes. IPAB would lower Medicare costs, premiums, and cost sharing according to CBO.  Former CBO Director Robert Reischauer called IPAB a “big deal” that “could generate substantial savings.” Hundreds of prominent economists, including three Nobel Laureates, agree that IPAB is an important component of the Affordable Care Act that will slow health care cost growth.
Who is in Charge? Insurance companies. The Republican plan ends Medicare as we know it and repeals the Affordable Care Act, giving free rein to insurance companies to decide what care you get and when, with no clear limits to protect consumers or prevent insurance companies from taking in exorbitant profits. You and your doctor. IPAB strengthens traditional Medicare, making it sustainable for doctors, patients and taxpayers.
Protects Your Guaranteed Medicare Benefits? No.  The Republican plan would eliminate Medicare’s guaranteed benefits and limits on cost sharing and premiums. Instead, insurance companies would determine which benefits seniors on Medicare would receive and how much they pay. Yes.  IPAB is legally prohibited from cutting benefits or increasing premiums and co-payments.  And it builds on the health law’s coverage of preventive benefits and closing of the drug donut hole.

President Obama: “What is it about working men and women they find so offensive?”

President Barack Obama addresses auto workers in Washington, DC on February 28, 2012. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama delivered a speech to a conference of auto workers on Tuesday, reminding them that he took the chance and gambled on the American auto industry. “I placed my bet on American workers.” the President said, “I know our bet was a good one because I’ve seen the payoff first hand.”

The U.S. auto industry, which stood on the brink of extinction at start of the President’s term has turned around and seen record profits this year.

In his speech on Tuesday, Obama also responded to Republican criticism that saving the auto industry was just a payoff to the UAW and Democratic-leaning voters in the Midwest. “Even by the standards of this town, that’s a load of you-know-what” the President said. He vowed to stand by American workers President Obama and, rejecting Republican attacks, he quoted the late SenatorTed Kennedy, “What is it about working men and women they find so offensive?”

Watch and share the video of the President’s speech:

Did You See: “Detroit automakers race to keep up with sales”

As auto industry sales continue to grow, Detroit automakers are keeping up as quickly as they can. According to yesterday’s Associated Press report:

“Three years after the U.S. auto industry nearly collapsed, sales of cars and trucks are surging. Sales could exceed 14 million this year, above last year’s 12.8 million.

“The result: Carmakers are adding shifts and hiring thousands of workers around the country. Carmakers and parts companies added more than 38,000 jobs last year, with industry employment averaging 717,000 for 2011. And automakers have announced plans to add another 13,000 this year, mostly on night shifts” The Associated Press reports.

Building a 21st Century Government by Cutting Waste

This morning the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a progress report on the work Congress and the Administration have done over the last year to tackle duplication and fragmentation that leads to waste in government and take advantage of cost-saving opportunities in the Federal government. In addition, it released a second report suggesting areas for future action.

The key findings of the report are:

  • Nearly 80 percent of the issue areas for which GAO recommended action last year, and more than three-quarters of the recommendations for Executive Branch actions associated with those areas (76 percent) were addressed by the Obama Administration in some way.
  • Congress addressed less than 40 percent of the GAO recommendations that required congressional action (39 percent) in some way.

GAO found progress over the last year reducing duplication in areas as diverse as data center consolidation, food safety, interagency contracting, and arms control. It found cost-saving progress in areas as diverse as the management of DOD spare parts, government wide improper payments, strategic sourcing, and electronic filing of tax returns.

Big problems require big solutions, from both the President and Congress. As Congress fails to act, the Obama Administration has said we can’t wait. The Administration is taking aggressive action to eliminate waste across government, with or without Congressional action.

Of course, more work must be done; as GAO states, “a number of the issues are difficult to address and implementing many of the actions identified will take time and sustained leadership.” No matter how difficult it may be to cut this waste, the Administration is committed to getting the job done.

As the President has said, to support an economy that’s built to last, we need a government that’s built for the 21st Century. President Obama has made real progress toward that end and we look forward to working with Congress to enact the reforms proposed by the President to make our government work more effectively and efficiently for the American people.

There’s more about the GAO report online.

Small Manufacturers Driving Job Creation, Economic Growth

Made in America is hot.  More than 400,000 manufacturing jobs have been created since the start of 2010 and there are currently about 229,000 job openings in the manufacturing sector, according to data from the Labor Department.

America’s small manufacturers are a critical part of that. According to BLS and Census data, 98 percent of America’s manufacturing firms are small.  More than one in three Americans who work in manufacturing, work at a small business.

The President and other Democrats been working very hard to make sure these firms have the tools they need to grow and create jobs.

To drive job creation and spur innovation, President Obama signed into law the Small Business Jobs Act in 2010. One of the most important provisions of the bill was increasing the limit on SBA loans from $2 million to $5 million. The higher loan limits directly helped nearly 2,500 small businesses – including nearly 450 small manufacturers – with access to over $10.2 billion to help buy new buildings, buy more equipment, and hire more workers.

Now Democrats are building on that momentum by taking even more steps to help small manufacturers.

For example, a recent study shows that access to a supply chain can help employers increase revenues by more than 250 percent and create 150 percent more jobs. That’s why the Obama Administration is working with America’s biggest companies to develop easier access to those critical supply chains.

In addition, the federal government itself is working to make sure we meet the goal of 23 percent of federal contract dollars going to small businesses, including small manufacturers.  Already, we have had two consecutive years of increases, with nearly $100 billion going to small businesses last year.

Also, a recent report on the state of capital access from the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) – a program of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology – shows a lack of available capital to manufacturers has “restricted the ability of many small manufactures to grow and compete.”  In response, the Administration has developed new tools to support access to capital including a redesigned Supply Chain loan program (CAPLines) that provides low-cost, short-term financing to help small contractors and sub-contractors get the working capital they need to fulfill the contract, including creating jobs in the short-term.

And finally, for those manufacturing small businesses that are poised for significant expansion and growth, the Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) program has been a great source of long-term, patient capital.  It had a record year in 2011, and over the past several years, more SBIC dollars from the debenture program have gone to manufacturing than any other sector.

Through the continued work of the Administration and the White House Office of Manufacturing Policy, the MEP, and many other partners, we will continue to help manufacturers create good jobs here over the long term.

Tax Fairness for Your Family

Take a minute to look at this new infographic showing just how many millionaires pay a lower tax rate than a typical middle-class family like Jennifer, David, and their kids Maggie and Henry.

President Obama has proposed the “Buffett Rule” to close tax loopholes and make sure the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share.

Check out the infographic and make sure to share it with your friends. And in case you missed it last week, get to know a typical American couple that also pays a higher tax rate than millionaires.