News Briefing for April 4

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Area tea party to host annual Tax Day Rally

“The featured speakers at the sixth annual Tax Day Rally presented by the Cincinnati Tea Party are leaders of the country’s two largest tea party groups. Freedom Works CEO Matt Kibbe and Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin are the featured speakers for the rally, which will be held on April 15 — tax day — at the Sharonville Convention Center. Doors open at 6 p.m.

The two tea party organizations represent more than 1 million tea party supporters, according to Ann Becker, president of the Cincinnati Tea Party and West Chester Twp. resident. This year’s theme: “Be the Change You Want to See.” Tickets are $15 per person, or $25 per pair and are available at Several locals will also be a part of the event, including Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel, Heidi Huber from Ohioans Against Common Core and Ted Stevenot from the Ohio Precinct Project…”




Teachers Union Says Obamacare Hurts Women And Old People But Totally Supports It Anyway

“The National Education Association, America’s largest teachers union, released a report on Thursday which is critical of an excise tax on high-cost health plans. The tax is required under the Affordable Care Act. The steep excise tax is intended to burden people who enjoy generous health plans. However, the NEA’s report asserts, the excise tax actually tends to burden women, older people and people who live in places where the cost of living is already high. Milliman, an actuarial and consulting firm, produced the report for the NEA. (You can view the full report here.) The problem, the report suggests, is that the rules for assessing the excise tax erroneously equate high insurance premiums with lavish health insurance benefits. However, people often must pay higher premiums for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the benefits they receive. “We believe that it’s more accurate to call the excise tax on high-cost plans an ‘Age-Sex-Geography Tax,’” said NEA spokeswoman Kim Anderson in a statement obtained by The Daily Caller. “America’s tax policy should not be a game of chance for working families.”…”


Obamacare Pinches the Poor

“Despite the extensive problems associated with Obamacare — both those known at the time of enactment and those discovered since — one significant perversity that disproportionately affects the poor seems to have gone largely unnoticed. During these busiest two weeks of tax season, when up to 25 percent of returns are filed, our attention turns to compliance. Many Americans are just now beginning to appreciate that health insurance compliance must be reported on their tax returns, and that failure to have coverage results in a penalty that shows up as an additional tax on the return. Of course, there are a number of exemptions available that can be obtained through the marketplace or claimed directly on the return. These exemptions allow particular groups of uninsured to avoid the penalty. One particular exemption is of special interest stemming from its especially perverse impact. According to the web site, you can get an income-based exemption if “you don’t have to file a tax return because your income is below the level that requires you to file.” Sounds simple enough, right? Until further investigation reveals that this exemption is claimed directly on the tax return. That’s right – the tax return you’re not required to file…”


IRS gives Obamacare filers more time to complete returns

“The Internal Revenue Service on Friday gave Obamacare customers more time to file their tax returns without penalty because of government errors on health-plan forms. Customers unable to file by April 15 due to the mistake should file for an automatic extension and will be free from any penalty as long as they file a return by Oct. 15, a Treasury spokesman said. Only a small fraction of tax filers received the incorrect forms, the spokesman said. The IRS previously said that Obamacare customers who have already sent in their tax returns using the incorrect forms do not have to file amended returns because the government will not pursue collection of any additional taxes based on updated forms…”


IRS deadline extended for ObamaCare customers sent the wrong tax form

“ObamaCare customers who received the wrong tax form from the federal government this spring will not face penalties if they miss the April 15 deadline, officials announced Friday. Anyone who have not yet been sent corrected tax forms and are “unable to file an accurate tax return” now have until Oct. 15 to file — as long as they request an extension. The government did not say how many people will be given extra time, though officials said in late March that 80,000 people were still waiting on their corrected tax forms. A total of 800,000 people had mailed the wrong forms….”


Governor approves expanded health exchange audit

“Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has signed into law an expanded audit for the state-run health insurance exchange, along with an agreement on funding a program granting driver’s licenses to immigrants regardless of their legal status. Hickenlooper signed a total of 13 bills Friday. They include a bill ordering a more thorough review of Connect For Health Colorado. That is the state-run health insurance shopping marketplace, which has already undergone a limited audit that uncovered some improper spending. The new laws also include a spending agreement to allow the Department of Motor Vehicles to collect and spend fees from immigrant applicants and help with office staffing. The law gives the agency money to open three offices, down from the original request of five….”




Obama Holds Closed-Door Meeting With Mormon Leaders About Immigration and Religious Freedom

“President Barack Obama held a closed-door meeting with leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Thursday night, with the group discussing immigration and religious freedom, among other subjects. “The President is pleased to meet with top LDS leaders as so many presidents before him have done,” White House deputy press secretary Eric Schultz told reporters before the meeting. “Among other issues, they will discuss the church’s long record of service, including its work on disaster relief and other humanitarian issues, and the need to fix our broken immigration system.” On his first trip to Utah as president, Obama met with church elders Tom Perry and Todd Christofferson and presidents Dieter Uchtdorf and Henry Eyring. Uchtdorf had previously spent time meeting with Obama at the White House in 2014, where he shared his views on immigration reform, according to KSTU-TV. Schultz said that the group, which met at the Sheraton Hotel in Salt Lake City, also discussed the need to find common ground in the areas of benevolent service both in the U.S. and abroad, according to the Weekly Standard. A press release published by the church said that the visit lasted 20 minutes, confirming that the topics discussed centered on “families, immigration, humanitarian aid, and religious freedom and non-discrimination.” “The church leaders expressed their appreciation to President Obama for the example he and his wife provide through their healthy marriage and family life,” the release read. “The president expressed appreciation for the church’s leadership role on resolving the issues of religious freedom and non-discrimination as well as the church’s worldwide humanitarian aid efforts.” Not in attendance at the meeting was The Church of Latter-day Saints president Thomas S. Monson, who was saving up his strength for the General Conference this weekend, according to the Salt Lake Tribune…”


Obama Huddles Privately With Mormon Leaders in Utah

“President Obama met privately with Mormon leaders last night in Utah. One topic on the agenda for the meeting? Immigration. “President Obama is meeting with leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City, including President Henry Eyring, President Dieter Uchtdorf, Elder Tom Perry and Elder Todd Christofferson,” White House deputy press secretary Eric Schultz told the press. “The President is pleased to meet with top LDS leaders as so many presidents before him have done. Among other issues, they will discuss the church’s long record of service, including its work on disaster relief and other humanitarian issues, and the need to fix our broken immigration system. The leaders will discuss the need to forge more common ground across differences and to promote service to our neighbors, both in our own country and around the world.” The press asked to be in the president’s meeting, but was left out. “The full pool asked to be included in the LDS meeting but did not succeed. WHCA board member Jeff Mason says he is lodging a formal complaint,” the pool reporter wrote last night…”


Utah latest stop on Obama tour of Republican states


Obama met with Mormon leaders on immigration — a rare issue they actually agree on

“President Obama met with leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Thursday during his trip to Utah. Among the topics they discussed was immigration, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. And while Mormons are heavily Republican and Obama is, well, not, they have a large amount of common ground on this issue. The first thing to know is Obama is unpopular with Mormons. Like, really unpopular. A July Gallup poll found only 18 percent approve of the job he’s doing, the lowest percentage among religious groups. But the church’s stance on immigration is actually more similar to Obama’s than the GOP’s is these days. In November 2010, the church came out in favor the Utah Compact, a document about guidelines for immigration policy that emphasized keeping families together over enforcement. It came a few months after Arizona passed its controversial immigration enforcement bill, SB 1070 (which just so happened to be sponsored by a Mormon, state Sen. Russell Pearce), and showed the church could turn public opinion on the issue. According to Utah Voter Poll, the percentage of Utah voters who said they favored Arizona-style immigration reform dropped from 66 percent to 57 percent by 2011…”


This new but little-known immigration program seeks to reunite Central American families in U.S.

“The Obama administration in recent months has rolled out a new but little-known program that allows Central American immigrants who reside legally in the United States to bring family members to the country. The new policy applies to children from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador who face harm from violence and other dangers. Admission is also possible for spouses and grandchildren of immigrants in some cases. The State Department and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services implemented the program in December. Vice President Joe Biden first announced it at a summit on economic development with Central American leaders in November, but the administration has barely promoted the initiative domestically aside from posting announcements and details on agency Web sites. Officials say the change is necessary to prevent children from risking their lives to cross the border and protect them from exploitation by smuggling networks. The new policy applies exclusively to Central Americans because of a 2008 anti-trafficking law that emphasizes protection of minors from that part of the world. Under the reunification program, at-risk children can qualify for refugee status, putting them on a path for green cards, resettlement assistance and eventually U.S. citizenship. Those who don’t meet the requirements can become eligible for parole, which allows them to reside in the United States without the other benefits. An official for the State Department, which shares responsibility for the program along with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said the policy change provides a “safe, legal and orderly alternative to the dangerous journey that some children were undertaking to join parents.” The new refugee program has garnered relatively little attention compared other executive actions Obama has taken in recent months. Some immigration advocates were unaware of the plan until federal officials e-mailed them about it in early February, according to a Boston Globe article that month…”


Obama Admin Quietly Welcoming Central American Immigrants In New Program

“The Obama administration is moving forward with a little-known program that will bring the families of legal immigrants from Central America to the United States. The Obama administration launched the program, the Central American Minors Refugee/Parole Program, in December, minus any legislation from Congress, but hasn’t widely advertised it yet. The joint program between the State Department and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is bringing in primarily children (under 21) and in certain cases, grandchildren and spouses of immigrants who are from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. The immigrants currently in the United States who are eligible include legal immigrants, including those with deferred action. The USCIS website bills it as a “safe, legal and orderly alternative to the dangerous journey that some children are currently undertaking to the United States.” Immigrants eligible for the program can qualify for refugee status — which allows them to eventually receive green cards and ultimately citizenship. Those who don’t meet refugee requirements can become eligible for parole, which is applied in urgent humanitarian cases, according to USCIS. State Department officials say they’ve received 329 applications so far, but haven’t approved any, according to The Washington Post…”



“On Friday, Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar, along with Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) and Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ), sent a letter to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson and ICE Deputy Assistant Secretary Saldaña warning them not to release an illegal immigrant with drug-resistant tuberculosis into the general public. “I was alarmed when I was forwarded a letter written by Pinal County Director of Public Health Thomas Schryer indicating that the ICE Detention facility in Florence is planning on releasing an illegal immigrant with drug resistant tuberculosis into the Pinal County Community in the next couple days,” Gosar said in a statement. “I demand ICE and DHS rethink this awful decision and not release this dangerous individual. Such actions put our citizens at risk and will impose significant financial burdens on the County.” Dr. Thomas Schryer, Director of Public Health for Pinal County, wrote a letter explaining his concerns about releasing the detained illegal immigrant, who has been receiving treatment for seven months for his tuberculosis. “Tuberculosis is a very dangerous disease that can spread easily, due to the public health threat Arizona Revised Statutes and good public health practice dictates that we provide healthcare to treat tuberculosis for anyone residing in our county (other than those incarcerated) as a result when the ICE facility releases this individual he will be treated at the local tax payers’ expense,” he stated. “From a public health perspective it is essential that anyone who is suffering from TB be treated so they are not a health threat to others, I request that ICE pay the costs of those who are released from their facility.”


Study: Obama Immigration Programs Would Mean Higher Wages, GDP Growth

“The president’s executive action immigration programs could mean $103 billion more in wages for those who qualify and a $230 billion increase in the nation’s gross domestic product in 10 years, according to a study issued Thursday by a group supportive of the programs. The Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, calculated the economic benefits the programs, known largely by their acronyms DACA and DAPA, could provide. Under the programs, certain immigrants not here legally could get protection from deportation and work permits. That would lead to higher wages, opportunities to find jobs that match the immigrants’ abilities, greater economic productivity and greater tax revenues, the center said. Those benefits will also mean growth in U.S. economic activity that would create more than 28,000 jobs in the next decade. The findings were offered as a contradiction to arguments made by governors and attorneys general from 26 states who are challenging the executive action in a lawsuit. They have argued the programs are a financial burden to their states. Marshall Fitz, the center’s vice president for immigration policy, said the study shows otherwise. “Whatever reasons the governors and attorneys general have for filing suit, it was not because these policies are going to harm them fiscally or economically,” Fitz said. But last month, the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for tough immigration enforcement and drastically reduced immigration flow, published an analysis of costs that would stem from lower education levels and lower income levels of those who would qualify for the programs…”


Low Turnout for DREAMers Driver’s Licenses in Arizona

“Only about a third of the young immigrants who became eligible three months ago for an Arizona driver’s license after a lengthy legal battle have obtained one, according to state data. The immigrants, often referred to as DREAMers, are part of a federal program that shields them from deportation and gives them a Social Security number and work permit for two years. President Barack Obama created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, in 2012 for young people who had been brought to the United States illegally as children. A similar program that would benefit parents of U.S.-citizen children is on hold pending a federal lawsuit. Young immigrants in Arizona have been able to apply for a driver’s license since late December, when U.S. District Judge David Campbell issued a preliminary injunction against an Arizona policy that denied DACA participants driver’s licenses. Campbell made the injunction permanent in January, but the state is appealing the ruling. Nearly 20,000 people in the program are eligible for a license in Arizona, but only about 6,700 of them obtained one between Dec. 30 and March 20, according to figures from the Arizona Department of Transportation. Dream Act Coalition co-director Erika Andiola, an immigration activist who received her license last month, said a lack of information about who qualifies for a driver’s license is partly to blame. “It was a very confusing time for people because the lawsuit was very confusing. Now it’s about awareness,” she said. Andiola said her two-year work permit had lapsed and she had to wait until it was renewed before applying. “It’s actually starting to feel like a relief because I have gotten tickets before, because I had to drive,” she said. Department of Transportation spokesman Ryan Harding said seven Motor Vehicle Division offices have seen the vast majority of DACA participants, including one in west Phoenix where about half have gotten their licenses…”




Pace of US hiring weakens with just 126K jobs added in March

US employers back off, adding only 126,000 workers in March; jobless rate steady at 5.5 pct.

“The weakening U.S. economy spilled into the job market in March as employers added only 126,000 jobs — the fewest since December 2013 — snapping a streak of 12 straight months of gains above 200,000. The Labor Department said Friday that the unemployment rate remained at 5.5 percent. Friday’s jobs report raised uncertainties about the world’s largest economy, which for months has been the envy of other industrialized nations for its steadily robust hiring and solid growth. U.S. employers appear wary about the economy, especially as a strong dollar has slowed U.S. exports, home sales have stagnated and cheaper gasoline has yet to unleash more consumer spending. Some of the weakness may prove temporary: An unseasonably cold March followed a brutal winter that slowed key sectors of the economy. Last month’s subpar job growth could make the Federal Reserve less likely to start raising interest rates from record lows in June, as some have been anticipating. The Fed may decide that the economy still needs the benefit of low borrowing costs to generate healthy growth. Reflecting that sentiment, government bond yields fell Friday after the news of disappointing job growth. The yield on the U.S. 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.84 percent from 1.90 percent before the announcement. U.S. stock markets are closed in observance of Good Friday. Last month, the manufacturing, building and government sectors all shed workers. Factories cut 1,000, snapping a 19-month hiring streak. Construction jobs also fell by 1,000, the first drop in 15 months. Hiring at restaurants plunged from February. The mining and logging sector, which includes oil drilling, lost 11,000…”


March job gains disappoint at 126,000, unemployment steady at 5.5 percent

“The U.S. economy added a disappointing 126,000 jobs and the unemployment rate held steady in March as evidence mounted that the economic recovery lost momentum to start 2015. Friday’s numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics fell short of Wall Street’s expectations for closer to 245,000 new jobs. Revisions also took away 69,000 jobs from past months’ gains. The disappointing March numbers and revisions showed a reversal of broader trend toward bigger job increases heading into 2015. Over the past three months, average monthly employment gains have averaged 197,000, well below the roughly 260,000 average for 2014. The last time job gains fell short of the 200,000 mark was January of 2014. The labor force shrunk slightly in March, keeping the unemployment rate steady by decreasing the number of job-seekers. At 62.7 percent in March, the labor force participation rate was again at the lowest level since the late 1970s. Labor force participation has been driven down in the wake of the recession both by the aging of the Baby Boom generation into retirement and by workers becoming discouraged and quitting the job hunt…”


Hiring slowdown: US employers added just 126K jobs in March


Jobs growth slows dramatically in March

“The U.S. economy added only 126,000 jobs in March, a much lower number than expected, ending a yearlong streak of monthly gains topping 200,000. The disappointing figure, the lowest jobs gains in more than a year, is likely to raise questions about the economy’s underlying strength. The unemployment rate held at 5.5 percent in March. The rising economy has been a boon for President Obama and has raised the likelihood that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates later this year. White House Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Jason Furman downplayed the low figure, saying he doesn’t get too excited when a monthly jobs figure is above or below expectations. He did call on Congress to replace the “sequester,” which limits federal spending…”


U.S. job growth brakes sharply, clouds Fed rate hike timing


March jobs report a “big miss”: 126,000 jobs added, 5.5% jobless rate


Today’s Jobs Report, in Twitters


Cloudy economy rains on Barack Obama’s parade

As the president touts improvement, jobs growth suddenly turns sluggish.

“President Barack Obama is on the road this week talking up the United States economy. But he also appears increasingly aware that significant threats are building that could derail U.S. growth and make his last two years in office a difficult slog. “Our economy has been growing, we’ve got momentum,” Obama said Thursday in Louisville, Kentucky, the first leg of a trip that will take him to Salt Lake City, Utah, on Friday where he will comment on a March jobs report that showed a gain of just 126,000, well below expectations and the weakest number since December of 2013. “But that momentum can stall,” Obama added. “Because the economies in Europe are weak, the economies in Asia are weak, the dollar is becoming stronger because a lot of people want to park their money here, they think it’s safer, but that makes our exports more expensive. So we’ve got to stay hungry.”…”


The March jobs report was a big disappointment — and there’s probably more to come

“Nobody saw Friday’s jobs report coming. It showed the US economy added just 126,000 jobs in March, whereas the consensus forecast was for a gain of 245,000. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.5%. It was the biggest miss in payrolls since December 2009, and broke a streak of 12 straight months of job gains over 200,000. Deutsche Bank’s Joseph LaVorgna says there’s more weakness to come…”


Americans Not in Labor Force Exceed 93 Million for First Time; 62.7% Labor Force Participation Matches 37-Year Low

“The number of Americans 16 years and older who did not participate in the labor force–meaning they neither had a job nor actively sought one in the last four weeks–rose from 92,898,000 in February to 93,175,000 in March, according to data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That is the first time the number of Americans out of the labor force has exceeded 93 million. Also from February to March, the labor force participation rate dropped from 62.8 percent to 62.7 percent, matching a 37-year low. Five times in the last twelve months, the participation rate has been as low as 62.8 percent; but March’s 62.7 percent, which matches the participation rate seen in September and December of 2014, is the lowest since February of 1978…”


Record 12,202,000 Black Americans Not in Labor Force

“A record 12,202,000 black people were not in the labor force in March, as the participation rate for this group declined over the month to 61.0 percent, according to data released from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). According to the BLS, the more than 12 million black people not in the labor force in March means that they did not have a job or actively seek one in the past four weeks. The number climbed from 12,122,000 in February to 12,202,000 in March, an increase of 80,000. The labor force participation rate for this group, which is the percentage of the population who participated in the labor force by either having a job or actively seeking one, declined from 61.2 percent in February to 61.0 percent in March. The unemployment rate for black people in March was 10.1 percent, which is nearly double the overall national unemployment rate of 5.5 percent. Last month, the unemployment rate for black people was 10.4 percent. For black teens, age 16 to 19 years old, the unemployment rate was even higher at 25.0 percent, meaning that one in four black teens who were actively seeking a job did not have one. The participation rate for this group also declined 3.4 percentage points from 29.1 percent in February to 25.7 percent in March…”



“Corresponding with the national increase in Americans not in the workforce the number of women, African Americans, and Asians not in the workforce also experienced an increase in March. According to data released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 56,131,000 million women were not in the labor force last month, an increase of more than 100,000 from February when 56,023,000 women were not in the workforce. The level is a record high, and the labor force participation for the month of March at 56.6 percent is a 27-year low, according to CNS News. In February that rate for women was 56.7 percent. People not in the labor force are defined as those 16 years and older who are not employed and have not “made specific efforts to find employment sometime during the 4-week period ending with the reference week.” The unemployment rate for women did decline, from 5.4 percent to 5.3 percent. The number of African Americans not in the labor force also experienced a slight increase in March to 12,202,000 from 12,122,000 in February. And the labor force participation rate also took a slight dip from 61.2 percent to 61.0 percent. African American unemployment also remained high at 10.1 percent, but did decline from 10.4 percent in February. Asians experienced a slight uptick in the population not in the work force as well, with 5,363,000 in March, compared to 5,253,000 in February. And their participation rate also declined from 63.2 percent in February to 62.5 percent in March. Asian unemployment was down to 3.2 percent in March, from 4.0 percent in February. The Latino population was one group that saw a decline in the number of people not in the workforce, with 13,236,000 in March, compared to 13,282,000 in February. The participation rate increased as well, with 66.3 percent in March compared to 66.2 percent last month. The unemployment rate increased from 6.6 percent to 6.8 percent in March…”


End of robust hiring streak raises doubts about job market

“For months, the U.S. economy’s strength has been flagging. Manufacturing slowed. Fewer homes were built. Cheaper gas failed to ignite consumer spending. Yet month after month, employers kept on hiring vigorously. In March, the economy’s slump finally overtook the job market. Employers added just 126,000 workers — the fewest since December 2013 — snapping a 12-month streak of gains above 200,000. At the same time, the unemployment rate remained at 5.5 percent. The slowdown reported Friday by the Labor Department posed a puzzle to economists: Was the tepid job gain a temporary blip due mainly to a harsh winter and an economy adjusting to much lower oil prices? Or did it mark a return to the middling performance that’s defined much of the nearly 6-year-old recovery from the Great Recession? No one will know for sure until the government’s monthly employment reports later this spring help gauge the direction of the job market. That leaves the U.S. economy — until very recently the envy of other industrialized nations — facing a renewed sense of uncertainty….”–finance.html


How Worried Should U.S. Be About These Two Significant Statistics About the Job Market?



“Fewer than two-thirds of Americans are working or looking for work, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. The labor force participation rate last month was 62.7 percent, as low as it’s been since the Carter administration. “This is a measure of everybody who could be in the work force, who is in the work force, and the fact that it’s so low says that there remains a sizable chunk of the labor force that simply isn’t working or looking for work,” The Wall Street Journal explains. The BLS says the American economy added 126,000 jobs in March, far fewer than the 243,000 that had been forecast. “It’s definitely a disappointing report,” Jeffrey MacDonald, Director of Fixed Income Strategy at Fiduciary Trust Company International, tells USA Today. “It really was under any estimate you could find.” In addition, BLS revised its job growth numbers from January and February downward by some 69,000. The unemployment rate remained at 5.5 percent. Stock markets are closed for Good Friday, but futures trading plunged on the weak economic news. Economists at the Atlanta Federal Reserve aren’t surprised. They just dropped their growth forecast for the first quarter to zero, down from the 1.9 percent growth they had been predicting. Despite lower gasoline prices, consumers simply aren’t buying, the Atlanta Fed explains…”


New federal jobs numbers hint at labor supply imbalance, experts say

“Federal employment numbers released today show that businesses added fewer jobs than expected last month, providing further evidence to what some say is a widening gulf between the labor supply and employer needs. The U.S. economy added only 126,000 jobs in the month of March, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), far short of the 245,000 jobs forecasted. Unemployment remained at 5.5 percent nationwide, and hourly wages were up 0.3 percent. The employment situation nationally isn’t far off from what Michigan is seeing, according to employers and economists who see the so-called “skills gap” as a hindrance to higher growth. “Our workforce doesn’t match the jobs needs out there,” said Brian Long, an economist and director of supply chain management at Grand Valley State University. “The problem is that requirements for the labor force have shifted. You’ve got high school graduates that don’t have any skills right now. That’s our gap.” Indeed, construction and manufacturing — two of the industries in West Michigan most affected by the skills gap — “showed little change this month” in the national BLS report. Meanwhile, Michigan’s unemployment rate, which currently sits at 5.8 percent and is trending lower, remains slightly worse than the national level. However, Kent County is significantly better, with unemployment of just 3.9 percent, according to the Michigan Department of Technology Management and Budget. Despite a pretty major miss on the national jobs number, The Upshot — the policy blog for The New York Times — notes the current conditions are not as bad as some people have positioned them. “Where it all settles is still murky,” wrote senior economics correspondent Neil Irwin. “The good news is that if you look at the longer time horizon, the job market still looks quite strong. Job gains have averaged 261,000 a month over the last six months.” Labor concerns continue to be at the forefront for businesses in Michigan. On Thursday, Business Leaders for Michigan hosted an executive panel discussion in Grand Rapids on “Growing a Skilled Workforce,” during which leaders from Meijer Inc., Autocam Medical Devices LLC and Wolverine World Wide Inc. spoke to the challenges of finding the right people to fill the open jobs…”,-experts-say



“Capitol New York reports NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and activist Van Jones met with fellow Progressives, including Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy and Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, to discuss a “template” based upon the Republican’s 1994 “Contract with America” to elevate income equality as a top issue in the 2016 elections. The site writes: “How is it that it’s already April 2015 and there is no serious debate on income inequality in this country, we are not talking about the things that would actually address the situation?” de Blasio said at a press conference, where he was joined by Malloy, Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona and the activist Van Jones, among others. “All of this is focused on a notion that we are not having a discussion of income inequality in this country and we are not having that discussion at our peril,” de Blasio said. “We must change the debate and the dialogue and that must lead to real policy solutions because too many people are being left behind, the economy is not working for a huge number of Americans, and this is not a sustainable path to our future. While the language fits more with an Elizabeth Warren than a Hillary Clinton, the effort may force Clinton to court the Left by signing on, since she’ll need progressives to win in 2016. De Blasio is planning visits to Iowa and Wisconsin to push the effort, while the group hopes to hold a “bipartisan” forum on the topic after the template is created. Whether that would help drive the discussion in 2016 remains to be seen. Van Jones, co-founder of Rebuild the Dream, described the Gracie Mansion as a “major development in this country.” “The mayor is a big man, this is a big house, this is a big deal,” Jones said. “The sound you just heard is the sound of jaws dropping and hitting their desks in Washington D.C.”…”


Shock US jobs figures force Yellen to put rate hike on back burner

“Weak jobs figures cast doubt over the strength of the US recovery yesterday as employers took on far fewer staff than expected in March. The closely-watched monthly jobs report from the world’s biggest economy revealed employers added only 126,000 jobs – barely half the amount pencilled in by economists, and the lowest since December 2013. The disappointing figures also broke a year-long run in which private sector employers have taken on more than 200,000 staff a month. The dollar also sank as the weak figures strengthened speculation that the US Federal Reserve chairman Janet Yellen would not press ahead with a first rate hike since 2006 until September at the earliest. Rates have been held at close to zero since the financial crisis in 2008. Revisions to previous data also disappointed as private sector firms took on 69,000 fewer staff than expected in January and February. “It is clearly a bad miss,” ING Bank’s James Knightley said. The unemployment rate remained at 5.5 per cent over the month. While the figures may have been dampened by an unusually cold March, experts said a stronger dollar had hit exports while cheaper petrol prices had yet to feed through to consumer spending. Gad Levanon, head of economics for the Conference Board – a US employers’ group – said: “The slew of disappointing news about consumption and investment in recent months might be catching up with employment. It is too early to conclude that job growth is slowing down, but it is a possibility.” The detailed figures showed sectors including professional services, retailers and healthcare adding staff over the month, but US factories cutting 1,000 jobs – breaking  a run of 19 months of hiring  in a row. Building firms also shed staff for the first time  in 15 months, while mining and oil drilling firms cut 11,000 staff…”


Obama wants to train 75,000 new solar workers by 2020

“During a visit to Utah’s Hill Air Force Base on Friday, according to White House officials, President Obama will launch a new initiative to expand the nation’s solar industry workforce. The Energy Department will seek to train 75,000 people — including veterans — to enter the solar workforce by 2020, increasing the goal it set in May 2014 by 25,000. Dan Utech, deputy special assistant to the president for energy and climate change, told reporters in a phone call Friday the initiative reflects the president’s conviction that “no challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.” Utech noted the solar industry is adding jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy, and many of them are in construction and installation. Last year the solar industry the US installed 6,201 megawatts (MW) of solar photovoltaics and 767 MW of concentrating solar power, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, enough to power the equivalent of about 1.4 million homes. “We’ve made huge strides in recent years,” he said, noting that it had grown 20-fold between 2008 and 2014. “It’s also creating jobs, good-paying American jobs.”…”


Obama pushes to train veterans for solar power

“The Obama administration is aiming to train 75,000 workers — many of them military veterans — for the solar power industry. The goal is a 50 percent increase from President Obama’s last commitment on solar training, announced last May. Obama will announce the goal along with efforts to achieve it Friday at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, the White House said….”


Obama pitches clean energy industry as jobs program for military veterans


Obama promotes solar power as economic fuel


President Obama departs Utah after clean energy speech


This Is How Obama Is Going To Reward Veterans … With Solar Industry Jobs


Obama solar energy plan for veterans faces resistance

“A new White House initiative to train veterans for jobs in the solar energy industry could turn into a rout if its key federal solar energy subsidy is phased out on schedule next year — a problem for the industry is that it’s dependent on the subsidy for hiring. The plan may also face challenges as the administration’s plan for heavy energy industry regulation is coming under fire from courts, Congress and state governments. Dan Utech, the President Obama’s energy and climate change adviser, said Friday the president is aware of the threat and has included in his budget for fiscal year 2016 a plan to maintain solar subsidies. But that will be a challenge for the president’s party during a presidential election year. The investment credit for solar expires at the end of 2016, and Congress is not eager to extend a credit that has in previous years proved hard to defend…”


Goodlatte Predicts $11 Billion In New Taxes, Fees From Net’s New Rules

“Republican Rep. Bob Goodlatte delivered a blistering critique of new Internet regulations Thursday, claiming they will stifle innovation and lead to $11 billion in new taxes and fees, 500 million of which would end up on the heads of consumers, according to experts. Goodlatte, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, claimed in an op-ed on his website Thursday that the Federal Communications Commission’s “Open Internet” order regulating the Internet as a public utility “would be a mistake and undermine the intent of net neutrality.” (RELATED: FCC Votes in Favor of Net Neutrality) In February, the FCC voted to subject Internet providers to Title II of the Communications Act—the same rules covering landline telephones—with the ostensible intention of enforcing “net neutrality,” the concept that internet service providers should not be allowed to either block legal content or prioritize certain types of content by charging fees for faster access speeds. “The FCC’s rule is the wrong direction for the Internet,” Goodlatte asserts, calling Title II “the most heavy-handed regulatory regime imaginable.” (RELATED: Net Neutrality Bait and Switch to Title II) Contrary to the agency’s claims, Goodlatte predicts the new rules will reduce competition, innovation, and investment in the industry, pointing out that, “The Internet has transformed the economy and thrived precisely because of an environment of limited regulation.”…”


The EPA’s Mercury Rule Will Cost The Economy At Least $16 Billion Per Year

“The Environmental Protection Agency says its new Mercury and Air Toxics Standard—the legality of which is before the U.S. Supreme Court this term—will produce $24 to $80 billion in net economic benefits to U.S. citizens by improving their health. To put these figures in perspective, the profits of the five largest American health insurance companies were a combined $12.7 billion in 2014. In other words, the EPA says the power of its regulatory pen is roughly two to six times more productive than the Big Five health insurers combined. The legal question before the court actually has nothing to do with the details of the EPA’s benefit analysis; it’s purely a question of statutory interpretation. Nonetheless, during oral arguments on March 25, Chief Justice John Roberts lambasted the EPA for inflating the rule’s estimated net benefits. At one point, Justice Roberts even called the EPA’s public health benefits “illegitimate.” I’m a lawyer, not a doctor, so I won’t question the medical veracity of the EPA’s numbers (as an aside, a Harvard toxicologist testified to Congress that the EPA’s methodology for calculating the health benefits was “highly imprecise”). But I can tell you that, in a number of important ways, the Chief Justice is correct: The EPA has doctored its benefit figures. EPA’s mercury rule will be the most expensive ever – EPA’s mercury rule requires approximately 600 U.S. power plants to emit about 75% less mercury and other toxic pollutants starting in 2016. The EPA acknowledges that its mercury rule will be its most expensive rule ever—approximately $9.6 billion dollars per year. But, according to the agency, these costs are swallowed by the rule’s enormous public health benefits, which fall into two categories. The first, and most obvious, are the direct health benefits of reducing mercury and other toxic air pollutants (which is, of course, the rule’s focus). EPA says these amount to at most $6 million per year. Clearly, these benefits pale in comparison to the rule’s billions of dollars in costs. So how does the EPA justify its claim that the rule will nonetheless provide enormous net economic benefits? The answer is that the EPA included a number of “co-benefits” in its calculations—namely, the health benefits associated with reducing other ancillary pollutants, such as CO2 and particulate matter. “Social welfare” benefits? –  You see, when fully implemented, the rule will force a lot of existing coal-fired power plants to shut down because they can’t afford to comply. That will reduce CO2 emissions nationwide, and the EPA estimates that this will produce $360 million per year in “social welfare” benefits. Similarly, when power plants install technology to remove mercury from the emission stream, that technology also removes another pollutant, particulate matter, which, when inhaled, can have negative impacts on public health. According to the EPA, reducing particulate matter emissions will produce another $33 to $90 billion in annual public health benefits…”


Astonishing Number: Americans Think Corporate Profits Are 36% Of Sales

“A wonderful little find by Mark Perry. Something that helps to explain quite why so many completely ridiculous economic ideas and public policies manage to gain traction. The problem is that the average person just doesn’t understand the economy at all. No, I don’t mean economics, or the abstruse arguments about whether we should use monetary or fiscal policy. But just the basic raw numbers of what’s actually going on out there. As Perry goes on to point out this, well, let’s not beat about the bush here, let’s call it what it is, this ignorance of the universe they’re inhabiting by the average person out there is what keeps the economic demagogues in business. Here’s what Perry found: When a random sample of American adults were asked the question “Just a rough guess, what percent profit on each dollar of sales do you think the average company makes after taxes?” for the Reason-Rupe poll in May 2013, the average response was 36%! That response was very close to historical results from the polling organization ORC’s polls for a slightly different, but related question: What percent profit on each dollar of sales do you think the average manufacturer makes after taxes? Responses to that question in 9 different polls between 1971 and 1987 ranged from 28% to 37% and averaged 31.6%. That’s simply a ridiculous belief. Plain howling at the Moon crazy. The capital share of the economy isn’t that high and the capital share is made up of a great deal more than just profits (depreciation, rent, interest and so on as well as profits). There’s just no way that this is anywhere near true. As Perry goes on to point out: According to this Yahoo YHOO +0.02%! Finance database for 212 different industries, the average profit margin for the most recent quarter was 7.5% and the median profit margin was 6.5%. As Perry points out this might explain the support that pretty silly ideas like a $15 minimum wage, massive expansions of workers’ benefits and so on again. If you did think that 36 cents of every dollar you spent in Walmart really was going to the Walton family (OK, they own half the company, so 18 cents maybe) then you probably would think they could curb their profits a bit and pay the workers a bit better. By the way, that actual number for the Walton family is more like 1.5 cents of every dollar spent at Walmart. Which is rather less than we all save per dollar by the existence of the chain of stores which seems a fair enough split. The usual calculation here is that US consumers save $240 billion a year or so from the existence of Walmart. since US sales are $280 billion or so that means that the Waltons get 1.5 cents for every 50 cents on the dollar that we save by the existence of the firm. Which really is a pretty good split for us….”


Pelosi to Japan: Dems want to back Obama on trade

“The House’s top Democrat told Japan’s prime minister on Friday that her members want to support the Obama administration’s trade agenda.  House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), who met with Prime Minister Shinzō Abe in Tokyo, said she is working to build support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) amid a wealth of concerns from congressional Democrats. “All of our members want to be a ‘yes’ but we have some concerns,” she said. “We want a road to ‘yes,’ a path to ‘yes,’ with some bumps in the road so far.” U.S. and Japanese negotiators are trying to make as much progress as possible in their parallel TPP talks before Abe travels to Washington at the end of the month…”


Guess who doesn’t much care for that no-new-tax pledge: Republicans

“George H.W. Bush famously came to regret his “Read my lips: No new taxes” comment. His son, Jeb Bush, is making no such promise in 2016. But will it hurt him? The younger Bush isn’t toeing the line when it comes to some key conservative litmus-test issues. Among them is the no-new-taxes pledge spearheaded by Grover Norquist. While the pledge is signed by the vast majority of Republicans running for and serving in Congress, Bush hasn’t signed it and says he won’t. And according to a new poll, he’s actually on pretty solid ground — even among Republicans. The latest Washington Post-ABC News poll shows just 21 percent of registered voters say they would prefer a presidential candidate who “pledges never to raise taxes,'” while 74 percent prefer “someone who does not make such a pledge.” Among Republicans, it’s nearly as lopsided against the pledge. Twenty-six percent say they want a pledge supporter, while 69 percent prefer someone who doesn’t pledge not to raise taxes…”




Fed Ed

“I don’t think a lot of people appreciate the extent to which education policy has been centralized during the Obama administration. It’s the topic of my latest Bloomberg column. Congress hasn’t reauthorized the main federal programs for primary and secondary schools since Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act became law in 2002. That law was written on the assumption that Congress would revisit education policy well before now. Since the law has instead continued on auto-pilot, most schools are now technically failing its standard of 100 percent proficiency and thus are subject to penalties. The Department of Education has filled the vacuum. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has given states waivers from these penalties in return for their adoption of policies he favors — including the Common Core standards that many conservative activists abhor.”




Making the Lois Lerner Problem Disappear

U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen decides not to send her contempt citation to a federal grand jury.

“On March 31, Ronald Machen, the outgoing U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, wrote Speaker John Boehner to inform him that the Justice Department would not present Lois Lerner’s contempt citation to a federal grand jury. The letter explaining his decision is an exercise in misdirection — the kind of misdirection that magicians use to fool an audience. Why? Because at no point in his detailed, seven-page legal analysis does Machen mention the most important point demonstrating that Lois Lerner did, in fact, waive her Fifth Amendment right…”


Ex-IRS ethics office lawyer disbarred for … ethics violations

“A lawyer who worked in the IRS ethics office was disbarred Thursday by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, which concluded she misappropriated a client’s funds from a case she handled in private practice, broke a number of ethics rules and showed “reckless disregard for the truth” in misleading a disbarment panel looking into the matter. The lawyer, Takisha Brown, reportedly had bragged that she would never be punished because her boss would protect her, but an IRS spokesman said Wednesday that she was no longer an employee at the agency. “Our records indicate that this employee no longer works for the IRS,” spokesman Matthew Leas said, though he wouldn’t comment further on the case, which became another black eye for the embattled tax agency when The Washington Times first reported on it last year. Ms. Brown had her licenses suspended and then was disbarred after misusing money she won for a client in an automobile accident case. Under terms of the deal, Ms. Brown was to use part of the settlement to pay the victim’s medical bills, but the lawyer withdrew the money herself and ignored repeated requests from the client’s physicians to make good on the bills, the appeals court said. Ms. Brown also misled a disbarment hearing panel when it began looking into the matter, the court said. “The record amply supports the conclusions that Ms. Brown intentionally misappropriated funds and made false statements with reckless disregard for the truth,” the appeals court concluded in a 14-page order finalizing her disbarment….”


Tea party groups win Round 1 in court as federal judge demands IRS’s list of all 298 conservative nonprofits it targeted

“–Right-wing groups want court to let them sue the IRS in a class-action lawsuit for violating their constitutional right to equal treatment

–IRS applied different criteria to right-wing groups, holding up their applications for years while liberal organizations skated through

–Obama administration fought the release of a list of 298 groups it denied tax-exempt status beginning in 2010, citing privacy concerns

–Judge in Cincinnati overruled the government and ordered the IRS to hand over the list

–If court ‘certifies’ class-action status, the tea party groups will be free to demand emails, phone records and other documents..”


Vets group sues State Department for not producing Clinton Benghazi emails

“A veterans group that was among the first to announce its intention to sue the State Department in pursuit of a long-neglected Freedom of Information Act request after news of the Clinton email scandal broke will also seek the communications of a top agency staffer. Veterans for a Strong America filed a lawsuit in a federal district court Wednesday in an attempt to compel the department to release former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails and phone records from noon on Sept. 11, 2012, the day of the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, through noon the next day. The group had asked for those records in a July 2014 FOIA request in the course of writing a book, The Difference It Makes, about the Libya attacks. The State Department failed to provide the requested records…”


Voters want next president to favor climate policies, poll finds

“Most voters want the next president to favor policies to fight climate change, outnumbering those who want a president who opposes such policies by nearly 2-to-1. The Washington Post-ABC News poll said that 59 percent want a president who “favors government action to address climate change,” compared with 31 percent who want someone who opposes government action. The poll matches other recent surveys showing that voters care about fighting climate change and want the government to do something about it. But it might also show that climate is a growing priority for voters, because so many are naming it as an issue they will care about in the 2016 race. Climate change has consistently ranked among the lowest priorities among voters. Only 28 percent of voters in last year’s midterm elections said climate change was a top priority, according to a Pew Research Center survey at the time…”


DHS secretary apologizes to Chaffetz over Secret Service flap

“Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson called to personally apologize to House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) Thursday night after reports that Secret Service employees may have circulated personnel information revealing that Chaffetz had once been rejected for a job at the elite agency. “Secretary Johnson has called for an investigation and if the allegations in the report are true, those responsible should be held accountable,” Homeland Security Department spokeswoman Marsha Catron said in a statement to The Hill on Friday.   “Last night, Secretary Johnson also called Chairman Chaffetz to personally apologize to him for being put in the situation that he had to acknowledge a matter that should have been kept confidential.”…”


Frustrated reporters to send Obama list of press freedom demands

“The White House Correspondents’ Association, the organization that represents hundreds of reporters who cover the presidency, is crafting an extensive list of press freedom rules that it wants the White House to adhere to — following an incident in which President Obama kept reporters out of a meeting with Mormon leaders. “The principle of the full [White House press] pool is so important to us that we’re working to address it in a set of written practices we’d like this and future administrations to follow,” Association President Christi Parsons said in a statement to the Washington Examiner media desk. “We’ve been working on that document for almost a year now and will have more to say about it when we release it later this spring.” White House press pools are the pack of journalists, broadcast and print, who follow the president each day, writing up his activity and dispatching those reports to an extensive list of other media professionals. On Thursday, the pool of reporters following President Obama to Salt Lake City, Utah, where he was meeting with leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, were broken up and only photographers were allowed in to see the meeting…”


Rand Paul Has J.C. Watts in His Corner

“When Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky kicks off his campaign for president on Tuesday, one of the people who will endorse him and share the stage is former Representative J.C. Watts, one of the few black Republicans to have served in Congress. Mr. Watts is expected to be a vocal surrogate for Mr. Paul, who has made clear he is trying to show he can broaden the Republican Party’s base to newer voters. “Senator Paul has shown what I have always believed, a leader can be a strong economic and social conservative and yet be concerned about the least of these,” Mr. Watts, who retired from Congress in January 2003, said in a statement. Mr. Watts, a college quarterback for the Oklahoma Sooners before serving in the House from that state, has lamented before that Mr. Paul is one of the few members of the Republican Party trying to reach out to voters who have traditionally not been part of the base. Mr. Watts was a strong supporter of social conservative issues as a congressman. But people close to him say he has admired Mr. Paul’s approach toward growing his base…”


Hillary Clinton Just Took a Big Step Toward Declaring for 2016

“Hillary Clinton has signed a lease on office space in Brooklyn for what is expected to be the headquarters for her 2016 presidential campaign, MSNBC reported Friday. The lease-signing means a formal declaration of her candidacy is likely imminent, given federal election rules that say an individual must file with the FEC within 15 days of undertaking any campaign action…”


Hillary Clinton’s Team Signs Lease on Office Space in Brooklyn


Will Hillary Announce on Equal Pay Day?

“Hillary Clinton has reportedly leased office space in Brooklyn on Wednesday for what is likely to be a campaign for president. The Democrat supposedly signed the lease sometime in the last few days, and according to regulations Clinton must file with the Federal Election Commission within 15 days of conducting campaign activity. In addition to the lease, several Clinton hands have been traveling to early primary states like Iowa on a “volunteer” basis. So what day could she announce? Rand Paul is expected to announce on April 7, and Marco Rubio on April 13. April 15 is Tax Day, which would be an inauspicious start to a Democratic campaign. All of this suggests Clinton could announce her candidacy on April 14, otherwise known as “Equal Pay Day.” That’s the day that symbolizes how long into a new year women have to work to earn the same as men did over the course of the previous year. And for Clinton, who aspires to be the first woman president, announcing her candidacy on that day would have significant resonance. But if Clinton did announce on April 14, it might also draw attention to her own deficiencies on “gender equality.” As the Washington Free Beacon reported, women working in Clinton’s Senate office earned 72 cents for every dollar earned by male employees…”


Robert De Niro: Hillary Clinton Should Be the Next President


In emerging Dem race, O’Malley new target of Clinton machine


Scarborough: ’18 Senate run possible


McCain could face national ‘tea party’ battle for seat

“…”The grass roots in Arizona want McCain to retire or be replaced by a conservative in the primary next year,” said Ken Cuccinelli, the former Virginia attorney general who now is president of the Senate Conservatives Fund. The tea-party-aligned group last year unsuccessfully tried to oust now-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and veteran Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi in their primaries. “If a strong, viable conservative runs, SCF is ready and willing to support them,” Cuccinelli said. “Arizona voters deserve to have senators who share their values.” For their part, McCain and his allies maintain he will be prepared for whatever might confront him in the primary. “There has been no stronger opponent of President (Barack) Obama’s feckless and failed foreign policy than Senator John McCain,” McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said. “He’s proud of his conservative record of small government, low taxes and a strong national defense, and would match that record against anyone’s.” Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who already has endorsed McCain for re-election in advance of his announcement, pointed out that McCain in 2010 was able to smash a conservative primary challenge from former Rep. J.D. Hayworth. “He’ll run as if everybody is running against him — he runs hard — but I think he’ll be fine because, overall, he has a very conservative record,” Flake said. “We saw what happened last time: All the polls that showed him vulnerable, but in the end, he won big in the primary and he won big in the general election. He knows how to run campaigns.” In addition to the Senate Conservatives Fund, other national groups told The Arizona Republic that they are following developments in Arizona and might intervene against McCain under certain circumstances — namely if the right conservative challenger steps up. Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., who represents a conservative East Valley district, appears to be these groups’ top choice, but Salmon has not publicly made any move to suggest he would seriously consider taking on McCain. Most political watchers in Arizona are not expecting him to run….”


McCain may face national ‘tea party’ battle for 6th term

“The senator is preparing to launch a 2016 re-election campaign. National conservative groups such as the Club for Growth, FreedomWorks and the Senate Conservatives Fund may back a GOP rival.”


The gray areas in the Iran deal

How a pre-dawn meeting in Switzerland produced one of the Iran deal’s many fuzzy areas.


Obama’s tough task: Selling Iran nuke deal to Congress

“President Obama will begin the tough work of selling the administration’s framework agreement with Iran to skeptical politicians at home, reports CBS News correspondent Major Garrett. The White House will begin briefing key leaders on classified and unclassified details next week. The imperative is to keep Congress from passing new sanctions or demanding congressional approval of the accord. On both, veto fights could be on the horizon, because skepticism is bipartisan. Mr. Obama warned Congress that meddling with the emerging nuclear deal with Iran could bring the U.S. closer to war. “If Congress kills this deal, then it’s the United States that will be blamed for the failure of diplomacy,” he said. “International unity will collapse, and the path to conflict will widen.” In an interview with CBS News correspondent Margaret Brennan, Secretary of State John Kerry repeated calls for members of Congress not to impose new sanctions. “New sanctions now would clearly be unnecessary, given what we’ve been able to achieve and yes, it would have a profoundly negative impact on this,” Kerry said. “It would be highly irresponsible to simply break this apart by now stepping in the middle when the measure of this agreement, I believe, can stand the test of scrutiny.” Mr. Obama telephoned top Republican and Democratic leaders to outline the deal. Many lawmakers reacted cautiously, insisting on more details…”


Obama Goes Negative to Sell His “Framework”

“Seth Mandel highlights what he rightly calls this “remarkably spiteful comment” by Obama: It’s no secret that the Israeli prime minister and I don’t agree about whether the United States should move forward with a peaceful resolution to the Iranian issue. If in fact Prime Minister Netanyahu is looking for the most effective way to ensure Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapon, this is the best option. Obama wants us to believe that Netanyahu wants the U.S. to go to war, and might not actually care about Iranian nukes…”


Obama to Congress: Don’t Kill Nuclear Deal With Iran


Obama warns Congress against new Iran sanctions

“President Obama now begins the tough work of selling the administration’s framework agreement with Iran to skeptical politicians at home. Major Garrett reports from the White House, where the president has already begun calling Congressional leaders.”


GOP to Obama: ‘Congress Will Have Its Say’ on Iran Deal

“Key members of the House and Senate will press ahead with legislation that would require Congress to approve any final Iran nuclear agreement that’s reached this June, an attempt to provide some oversight to a deal that many members already vehemently oppose. The U.S. and other world powers announced an outline of an agreement on Thursday, and created some confusion over what was agreed, as the U.S. and Iran offered slightly different takes on what’s in the deal. Still, several Republicans said it seemed clear the deal was no good, since it would still let Iran operate thousands of centrifuges and wouldn’t permanently dismantle this equipment or any of Iran’s nuclear facilities…”


Obama’s Iranian nuke deal irks Republicans – ‘a colossal mistake’ and ‘farcical approach’

“Press and pundits continue to tip and sway over the news that a preliminary deal has at last emerged from the Iran nuclear talks. But is it a done deal? Republican lawmakers are not buying it. “Allowing Iran to retain thousands of centrifuges, keeping facilities such as Fordow open and not limiting Iran’s ballistic missile program indicate to me that this deal is a colossal mistake,” says Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. “This attempt to spin diplomatic failure as a success is just the latest example of this administration’s farcical approach to Iran.” House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul was just as blunt: “The Obama administration’s efforts to get a deal at any cost will have a greater cost than the world can bear. Iranian leaders will now find a nuclear weapon dangerously within reach. Even during these recent negotiations, Iranians have continued to chant ‘Death to America.’ When people show you who they are, it’s important to believe them the first time. If this deal moves forward, the consequences for the U.S. and our allies in the region will be dire.” One Tennessee Republican advises the nation stay calm and carry on. “We must remain clear-eyed regarding Iran’s continued resistance to concessions, long history of covert nuclear weapons-related activities, support of terrorism, and its current role in destabilizing the region,” says Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “If a final agreement is reached, the American people, through their elected representatives, must have the opportunity to weigh in to ensure the deal truly can eliminate the threat of Iran’s nuclear program and hold the regime accountable. Rather than bypass Congress and head straight to the U.N. Security Council as planned, the administration first should seek the input of the American people,” Mr. Corker suggests. “The key question is: Can Iran be trusted?” adds Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress. “I fear a scenario in which, in 10 years, we will have resuscitated the Iranian economy without curbing Iran’s nuclear arms development.”…”


Obama’s quest for Iran deal set to collide with Capitol Hill

“After securing a surprisingly broad and detailed framework for a nuclear agreement with Iran, President Barack Obama must now subject his signature foreign policy pursuit to the gauntlet of partisan American politics. A blueprint finalized Thursday after marathon negotiations in Switzerland did little to ease the standoff between Obama and some lawmakers over Congress’ role in a final accord. The president has vowed to veto legislation giving Congress the ability to approve or reject a deal, and he made a fresh appeal for lawmakers to give the U.S. and its international partners space to hammer out a comprehensive agreement ahead of a June 30 deadline. “The issues at stake here are bigger than politics,” Obama said. “These are matters of war and peace.” But Republican leaders reaffirmed their intent to vote on legislation giving Congress the last word. Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said the panel will vote on such a measure when lawmakers return from a spring recess on April 14….”


Fate of Iran bill rests with Democrats

Republicans hate the deal, but they don’t yet have the votes to kill it.


Top Dems voice ‘great skepticism’ over Iran nuclear deal

“Several top Democrats are voicing grave reservations over the Obama administration’s emerging deal governing the future of Iran’s nuclear program.  Reps. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) and Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) said they welcome a discussion on the framework agreement unveiled Thursday, but harbor deep doubts that the Iranians can be trusted to make good on their commitments. “I greet any deal with Iran with great skepticism given its deceptive history and ongoing destabilizing and dangerous activities,” Deutch, the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs subpanel on the Middle East, said in a statement. “I remain deeply concerned as to how a number of issues have been addressed in the framework and may be addressed in a final agreement.”…”


Kerry dismisses critics of Iran deal: ‘They don’t have an alternative’


The Iran Deal’s Fatal Flaw

Nothing can work without tough inspections and enforcement. And for that we must rely on … Vladimir Putin.


WaPo: The Iran deal is a cave — by Obama’s own standards

“The Washington Post editorial board embarrassed itself yesterday, but today they score a direct hit on Barack Obama and the deal he cut to escape the vigilance required to contain Iran. The editors remind readers about the principles that the US — and Obama himself — insisted on having in any deal with Tehran to end sanctions over their nuclear-weapons program. Even off of Obama’s own demands, made just three years ago, yesterday’s agreement in principles is an unmitigated defeat: None of Iran’s nuclear facilities — including the Fordow center buried under a mountain — will be closed. Not one of the country’s 19,000 centrifuges will be dismantled. Tehran’s existing stockpile of enriched uranium will be “reduced” but not necessarily shipped out of the country. In effect, Iran’s nuclear infrastructure will remain intact, though some of it will be mothballed for 10 years. When the accord lapses, the Islamic republic will instantly become a threshold nuclear state. That’s a long way from the standard set by President Obama in 2012 when he declared that “the deal we’ll accept” with Iran “is that they end their nuclear program” and “abide by the U.N. resolutions that have been in place.” Those resolutions call for Iran to suspend the enrichment of uranium. Instead, under the agreement announced Thursday, enrichment will continue with 5,000 centrifuges for a decade, and all restraints on it will end in 15 years. At least as importantly, the containment of Iran will end with this deal — up front — with no commitment to ending their support for terrorism: The proposed accord will provide Iran a huge economic boost that will allow it to wage more aggressively the wars it is already fighting or sponsoring across the region. Whether that concession is worthwhile will depend in part on details that have yet to be agreed upon, or at least publicly explained…”


The US surrendered to Iran on nuke deal, says …. France

“How’s that for a confidence builder, eh? While Barack Obama tried to put a sunny spin on the interim agreement with Iran in his Rose Garden speech, the Wall Street Journal found out that the final act of the negotiations mainly rested on American retreat at the bargaining table. In fact, the concessions began almost immediately in September 2013 and never stopped: The White House decided a less ambitious agreement would be pursued. “As soon as we got into the real negotiations with them, we understood that any final deal was going to involve some domestic enrichment capability,” a senior U.S. official said, referring to the production of nuclear fuel, which has both civilian and military uses. “But I can honestly tell you, we always anticipated that.” Crucially, the goal of the talks shifted—away from dismantling structures and toward a more complex set of limitations designed to extend the time Iran would need to “break out” and make a dash toward a nuclear weapon. The end result left everyone puzzled about the value of the deal. A former IAEA inspection chief wonders why the US would leave Iran on the brink of making a nuclear weapon, even if they stay at that point for the next ten years: “I’m a little puzzled by the political agreement,” said Olli Heinonen, a previous inspections chief at the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency. “You’re going to leave Iran as a threshold state. There isn’t much room to maneuver.”…”




Israeli Cabinet ‘united’ against Iran deal


Netanyahu: ‘The Survival of Israel Is Non-Negotiable’

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday blasted the Iran nuclear agreement announced Thursday as a deal that legitimizes Iran’s nuclear program, and made a new demand that any final agreement must force Iran to recognize Israel’s right to exist. “Just two days ago, in the midst of the negotiations in Lausanne, the commander of the Basij security forces in Iran said this: ‘The destruction of Israel is non-negotiable,’ ” Netanyahu said in a message posted to Facebook. “Well, I want to make clear to all. The survival of Israel is non-negotiable,” he added. “Israel will not accept an agreement which allows a country that vows to annihilate us to develop nuclear weapons, period.” “In addition, Israel demands that any final agreement with Iran will include a clear and unambiguous Iranian recognition of Israel’s right to exist,” Netanyahu concluded…”


Iran president promises nation will abide by nuclear deal

“Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has pledged his nation will abide by its commitments in the nuclear agreement reached the previous day in Switzerland. Rouhani says Iranians will “remain loyal and stand by the promises” they made. He says Iranians “do not seek to deceive” the international community. The Iranian president addressed the nation on Friday, a day after Iran and six world powers announced they have reached a set of understandings on how to curb the Iranian nuclear program. They face a June 30 deadline for a final deal. Rouhani also called on the world powers to fulfill their part of the deal, a reference to the further lifting of sanctions imposed on Tehran over the controversial program…”




State Dept. defends release of separate Iran nuke deal parameters



“Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said that Iran, a sponsor of terrorism against the U.S. and its allies, cannot be trusted to abide by the terms and conditions of a nuclear deal. Congressman Zinke, who served in Iraq as a Navy SEAL commander, accused the Obama administration of appeasement towards Iran. Today, President Obama announced that U.S.-led world powers and Iran had agreed on the parameters of a nuclear agreement. Under the framework, sanctions against Iran are expected to be lifted in phases as Iran shows compliance with certain conditions. “I highly doubt Iran is going to adhere to the terms and conditions of a nuclear deal,” Rep. Zinke told Breitbart News. “The facts are very clear that Iran has supported and funded terrorist activities globally against the United States and our allies, and for some reason this administration insists somehow we can take them at their word — that Iran has changed as far as their behavior goes,” he added. “You don’t have to look very far. The facts on the ground are, that’s not in fact the case. Iran continues its support and funding of terrorist activities.”…”


How the GOP presidential field reacted to the Iran deal

“The provisional Iranian nuclear agreement announced Thursday has been sharply denounced by several potential GOP presidential candidates, whose criticism of the Obama administration’s foreign policy has already become a central theme in the 2016 campaign. The deal, if approved in June, would ease certain sanctions placed on Iran so long as the country complies with regulations intended to prevent it from acquiring a nuclear weapon. But the fledgling 2016 GOP field appears united in their skepticism of Iran’s intentions. “The reported details of the Iran deal include significant concessions to a nation whose leaders call for death to America and the destruction of Israel. Iran remains a major destabilizing force in the region, working against American interests,” former Florida governor Jeb Bush said in a statement Thursday. “Nothing in the deal described by the administration this afternoon would justify lifting US and international sanctions, which were the product of many years of bipartisan effort. I cannot stand behind such a flawed agreement.” Former Texas governor Rick Perry also accused the White House of making too many concessions to Iran and hinted at the additional strain the deal could put on U.S.-Israeli relations…”


Here’s the Difference Between How Obama and Reagan Handled Nuke Negotiations