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Posts Tagged ‘and barack obama.’

Senate GOP poised to scuttle Obama’s jobs plan

In Barak Obama, Democrats, News, Politics, Republican on October 11, 2011 at 10:04 am

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., center, accompanied by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., left, and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl of Ariz., talks about President Obama's job bill, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

By ANDREW TAYLOR, AP

 

President Barack Obama’s jobs bill, facing a critical test in the Senate, appears likely to fail because Republicans oppose its spending components and its tax surcharge on millionaires.

Obama has been waging a campaign-style effort to rally public support behind the $447 billion measure, which was expected to be the subject of a Senate vote Tuesday. The plan combines payroll tax cuts for workers and businesses with $175 billion in spending on roads, school repairs and other infrastructure, as well as unemployment assistance and help to local governments to avoid layoffs of teachers, firefighters and police officers.

The key elements of the jobs package reprise parts of Obama’s $800 billion-plus 2009 stimulus measure and a Social Security payroll tax cut enacted last year. Unlike the controversial stimulus bill, the jobs measure would be financed by a 5.6 percent surcharge on income exceeding $1 million, raising more than $450 billion over a decade.

In making the case for the bill, the White House cites economists like Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics, who predicts that the measure would add 2 percentage points of growth to the economy, add 1.9 million payroll jobs and reduce unemployment by a percentage point. But Republicans point to optimistic predictions about the 2009 measure that didn’t come to pass; unemployment hovers just above 9 percent nationwide.

Republicans say the 2009 stimulus measure was an expensive failure and say the current plan is just like it.

The president has been struggling in opinion polls, and his crusade for the measure has always been a long shot, given that Republicans control the House and can filibuster at will in the Senate. Obama has nonetheless pressed for the bitterly divided Congress to pass the measure in its entirety rather than seek compromise with his GOP rivals.

“This is not the time for the usual games or political gridlock in Washington,” Obama said in his weekend radio and Internet address. “Any senator out there who’s thinking about voting against this jobs bill needs to explain why they would oppose something that we know would improve our economic situation.”

While Republicans backed the payroll tax cut last year and support elements like continued tax breaks for investments in business equipment, they’re adamantly opposed to further spending and say the tax surcharge would strike at small businesses.

“It’s not a jobs bill. In our view, it’s another stimulus bill,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told Fox News last week. “I don’t think it’ll pass and I don’t think it should.” House GOP leaders say they won’t bring the measure to the floor.

Democratic unanimity is not assured. Moderates like Sens. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. — both are up for re-election next year in states where Obama figures to lose — may abandon their party, even as oil-state Democrats have been assuaged by a decision to get rid of an Obama proposal to have oil companies give up tax breaks.

“We’re likely to lose two, three, four Democrats,” Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second ranking Democrat in the Senate, told Chicago’s WTTW-TV Monday. “I don’t know if we’ll pick up any Republicans.”

Tuesday’s vote is on whether to cut off a GOP filibuster on a motion to simply begin debate on the measure. If Democrats fail as expected — they control 53 votes in the 100-member Senate — it will start up a fresh wave of partisan finger-pointing.

Both the House and Senate are then expected to turn this week to approving U.S. trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, one of the few areas of agreement between Republicans and the administration on boosting the economy.

Source: Associated Press

 

 
 
 
 
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Election-year ruling looms for health overhaul

In Barak Obama, Health Care, News on September 29, 2011 at 9:49 am

Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, 91, works in his office at the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2011. His new book is titled "Five Chiefs: A Supreme Court Memoir," a personal reflection on the five chief justices he has known. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

By MARK SHERMAN, AP

President Barack Obama’s landmark health care overhaul appears headed for a Supreme Court ruling as the presidential election season hits full stride in the coming year.

The health care law affecting virtually every American is sure to figure prominently in President Barack Obama’s campaign for re-election. Republican contenders are already assailing it in virtually every debate and speech.

The administration on Wednesday formally appealed a ruling by the federal appeals court in Atlanta that struck down the law’s core requirement that Americans buy health insurance or pay a penalty beginning in 2014. The administration said the appeals court decision declaring the law’s central provision unconstitutional was “fundamentally flawed.”

At the same time, however, the winners in that appellate case, 26 states and the National Federation of Independent Business, also asked for high court review Wednesday, saying the entire law, and not just the individual insurance mandate, should be struck down.

The Supreme Court almost always weighs in when a lower court has struck down all or part of a federal law, to say nothing of one that aims to extend insurance coverage to more than 30 million Americans.

The bigger question had been the timing.

The administration’s filing makes it more likely that the case will be heard and decided in the term that begins next week.

Repeating arguments it has made in courts across the country in response to many challenges to the law, the administration said Congress was well within its constitutional power to enact the insurance requirement.

Disagreeing with that, the 26 states and the business group said in their filings that the justices should act before the 2012 presidential election because of uncertainty over costs and requirements.

On the issue of timing, their cause got an unexpected boost from retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who said voters would be better off if they knew the law’s fate before casting their ballots next year.

The 91-year-old Stevens said in an Associated Press interview that the justices would not shy away from deciding the case in the middle of a presidential campaign and would be doing the country a service.

“It would be better to have that known about than be speculated as a part of the political argument,” Stevens said in his Supreme Court office overlooking the Capitol.

Though the Atlanta appeals court struck down the individual insurance requirement, it upheld the rest of the law. The states and the business group say that would still impose huge new costs.

In another challenge to the same law, the federal appeals court in Cincinnati sided with the administration.

In a separate Supreme Court filing Tuesday night, the Obama administration said it does not appear necessary to grant review of the Cincinnati case, adding that consolidating the two cases could complicate the presentation of arguments “without a sufficient corresponding benefit.”

The law would extend health coverage mainly through subsidies to purchase private insurance and an expansion of Medicaid. The states object to the Medicaid expansion and a provision forcing them to cover their employees’ health care at a level set by the government.

The individual insurance mandate “indisputably served as the centerpiece of the delicate compromise that produced” the law, according to the states, with Florida taking the lead.

The administration said in the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the law’s changes in the insurance market, including requiring insurers to cover people without regard for pre-existing health conditions, would not work without the participation mandate.

The insurance requirement is intended to force healthier people who might otherwise forgo insurance into the pool of insured, helping to reduce private insurers’ financial risk.

Both appeals stressed the importance of resolving the overhaul’s constitutionality as soon as possible, which under normal court procedures would be by June 2012.

Stevens said that if he still had a vote on the court on timing, he would cast it in favor of hearing the case sooner rather than later. He would not say how he would vote on the issue of the law’s constitutionality, although he said the court’s 6-3 decision in a 2005 case involving medical marijuana seems to lend support to the administration’s defense of the law.

In addition to the competing rulings on the law’s validity, a federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., ruled that it was premature to decide the law’s constitutionality. Citing a federal law aimed at preventing lawsuits from tying up tax collection, that court held that a definitive ruling could come only after taxpayers begin paying the penalty for not purchasing insurance. The administration suggested that the Supreme Court should consider that issue because of the appellate ruling.

The states, along with Florida, are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Source:  Associated Press.

 

 

 

 
 
 
 

Analysis: Democrats hit reset on health care

In Democrats, Health Care, News on September 27, 2011 at 9:31 am

FILE - In this May 25, 2011, file photo Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., center, with Majority Whip Dick Durbin D-Ill., left, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., partially obscured at right, speaks to media at the Capitol in Washington after the Senate voted down a budget plan from the Republican-majority House, that called for turning Medicare into a voucher-like program for future beneficiaries. Democrats are hitting the reset button on health care for next years elections. Weary of getting pounded over the new health overhaul law, President Barack Obama and his party are changing the subject to Medicare. Obama signaled last week hes on board with the shift. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR, AP

Democrats are hitting the reset button on health care for next year’s elections.

Weary of getting pounded over the new health overhaul law, President Barack Obama and his party are changing the subject to Medicare.

Obama signaled last week he’s on board with the shift. His latest debt plan for Congress omitted an increase in the Medicare eligibility age, a proposal he’d put on the table in earlier discussions with House Speaker John Boehner. Gone was the consensus-seeking compromiser as Obama threatened to veto Medicare beneficiary cuts unless Congress also raises taxes on the rich.

Publicly, Republicans say bring it on. While they were nervous over the skeptical public reaction to their Medicare privatization plan this spring, they now insist they can hold their own in a debate. After all, Obama himself has publicly acknowledged Medicare is headed toward insolvency.

It’s hard to see anything but the economy mattering to voters in 2012, but Medicare may be different.

It’s perennially a top issue for older voters, who turn out more regularly than younger people.

Voters 60 and older have swung between Republican and Democratic candidates over the last six House elections, according to Robert Blendon, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health who tracks public opinion on health care.

“On the Medicare side, anything that looks like a major change in the existing program would be very threatening to whichever party is identified with it,” Blendon said.

In 2010, Democrats paid the price for using $500 billion in Medicare cuts to finance coverage for the uninsured under Obama’s health care overhaul. Older voters saw tapping Medicare as a threat, and they helped deliver the House to Republicans.

Democrats want to return the favor in 2012, and they believe the House-passed GOP budget gives them a way.

The plan by Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., called for replacing Medicare for future retirees with a voucher-like payment. Current retirees — about 48 million beneficiaries — could still keep the Medicare they know. People now 54 and younger would use their government payment to pick from a range of regulated private insurance plans.

An analysis by the Congressional Budget Office found that within 20 years, 65-year-olds would on average be on the hook for more than two-thirds of their health care costs, almost a mirror-image of the financial split between current beneficiaries and Medicare.

As expected, the House plan went nowhere in the Democratic-led Senate.

No harm, no foul?

Not if Democrats have their way. Their message to seniors: The Ryan budget will become reality if the GOP wins the White House and full control of Congress.

“This is not a theoretical issue, it is a place where Republicans have taken votes that are very unpopular,” Democratic pollster Celinda Lake said. “It would be foolish of Democrats to waffle on this issue.”

The House budget would have also kept Obama’s Medicare cuts, the $500 billion that Republicans accused Obama of “raiding” the program for. And it would have repealed a provision of the health care law that is starting to bring down costs for seniors with high prescription drug bills.

Republicans say they’re not backing down. According to the top domestic policy expert for 2008 GOP presidential candidate John McCain, his party was right to take on Medicare, but the timing was off.

“The lesson of the House budget was that it’s premature to start offering solutions when you haven’t educated the American people on why you can’t sustain the status quo,” said economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin, now president of the American Action Forum, a conservative public policy center.

Holtz-Eakin doesn’t think Republicans harmed themselves. The Medicare trustees, among other neutral parties, have provided ample evidence of the program’s long-term financial problems. If Obama and the Democrats are going to criticize Republicans for offering a solution, they have to spell out a fix of their own. And those fixes almost surely would require painful cuts for beneficiaries.

“If the status quo is untenable, and it is, then (Obama) has an obligation to produce some reforms,” said Holtz-Eakin. “Otherwise, he’s defending something that’s broken, and raiding it, to boot.”

The top GOP presidential candidates have jousted with one another over who would be quicker and more effective in overturning Obama’s health care law. Less clear is what they would do about Medicare.

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann voted for the House budget, but she hints that as president she might make some changes to the plan.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has been getting criticized for comparing Social Security to a Ponzi scheme. His stance on Medicare could prove just as controversial. A law he signed this year calls for the federal government to turn over Medicare and Medicaid to groups of states.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney praises the House GOP budget as an honest attempt to save Medicare. He says his own plan will differ but share the same objectives.

GOP candidates have the luxury now of playing to an audience of conservative primary voters, but Democratic pollster Lake says that won’t last.

“Cutting Medicare is a much more dicey proposition in the general election,” she said. “Medicare is popular even among the people who think it’s in trouble.”

The Associated Press.

 

 
 
 
 

GOP candidates in SC vow to carry tea-party banner

In News, Republican, Tea Party on September 6, 2011 at 1:44 pm

By PHILIP ELLIOTT, AP

Pledging fidelity to the Constitution and vowing to carry the tea party’s priorities to the White House, the Republicans chasing the GOP‘s presidential nomination pitched themselves Monday to their party’s libertarian activists as the strongest candidates to roll back four years of President Barack Obama’s tenure.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said the Obama administration flouted the Constitution to push a political agenda. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota stridently called Obama’s policies “unconstitutional” at the same tea party-backed forum on Labor Day. And Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the third member of his party’s top tier, told a separate town hall-style audience earlier in the day that he has a better record on jobs than the president.

With Labor Day marking the unofficial start to the 2012 campaign, the contenders were painting themselves to the tea party during an afternoon forum with Sen. Jim DeMint in his home state — site of the first nominating contest in the South. The event was designed to probe the candidates on their views of spending, taxes and the Constitution — bedrock principles for the tea party activists whose rising clout is likely to shape the nominating process.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen an administration who has gone further afield from the Constitution … than the Obama administration, not just with regulation, but with energy policy, with financial regulatory policy and, with the worst example, Obamacare,” Romney said, outlining conservatives’ broad indictment of Obama’s tenure.

It also was a prime opportunity for the candidates to level pointed — though, in many cases, familiar — criticism of Obama.

“The track record we have creating jobs, I’d put up against anyone running for president of the United States, particularly the current resident of the White House,” said Perry, whose late entry into the race threatens Romney’s one-time aura of inevitability with support from tea partyers.

And Bachmann sought to sustain her status as a movement darling and suitable alternative to Romney. Although she never engaged him directly, her remarks seemed centered on Romney.

Bachmann warned that Obama and Democrats’ health care legislation was taking away freedoms and giving Washington abject power.

“They will become a dictator over our lives,” she said of federal requirements included in the overhaul that requires Americans to have health insurance. Massachusetts requires a similar mandate.

“This is the foundation for socialized medicine. Make no mistake about it. It will change the face of this nation forever,” she warned.

After keeping the tea party at arm’s length most of this campaign, Romney appeared at two tea party-related events this holiday weekend, first in New Hampshire on Sunday and then Monday here. He slightly tweaked his pitch and acknowledged critics of Massachusetts’ health plan.

“Our bill dealt with 8 percent of our population, the people who weren’t insured,” Romney said.

“He dealt with 100 percent of American people. He said, `I’m going to change health care for all of you.’ It’s simply unconstitutional. It’s bad law. It’s bad medicine. … It has got to be stopped and I know it better than most.”

Aware of the tea party’s potential to pick the nominee, all candidates have tailored their pitches to appeal to the libertarian and grassroots activists.

Bachmann, a former federal tax lawyer, called the Constitution “that sacred document” and challenged Obama’s understanding of his powers under it. She cited Obama’s advisers, whom she called “czars,” the Justice Department’s decision not to appeal a court’s overturning of a federal marriage law, and his immigration policies.

“These are areas where we see unconstitutionality,” she said of Obama, a Harvard Law School graduate and former constitutional law lecturer at the University of Chicago.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich played up the founding fathers’ writings on liberties during his appearance: “These rights are inalienable. That means no politician, no bureaucrat, no judge can take that away from you.”

Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, a favorite of the GOP’s libertarian wing, decried government largesse: “People were supposed to carry guns, not bureaucrats.” He also warned against a Washington that gives the Federal Reserve too much power, a favorite rallying cry for his steadfast supporters.

And pizza magnate Herman Cain of Georgia, who does well during these forums with amusing quips but hasn’t built a serious campaign organization, again was critical of Washington.

“The idea in Washington, D.C. … is if you reduce the growth, that’s a cut,” he said. “That’s not a cut. That’s deceiving the American people.”

Ahead of the forum, Perry spoke at a town hall-style meeting before heading home to Texas in a last-minute schedule change to monitor raging wildfires. He phoned DeMint to apologize for his schedule change; DeMint said Perry needed to be home.

Romney, who had initially planned to bypass the South Carolina forum, changed his schedule last week to join DeMint, whose backing he enjoyed during his first presidential bid.

While DeMint is tremendously popular here in his home state and with his party’s tea party faction, he isn’t rushing to publicly pick a favorite this time and has suggested he might not back a candidate in the primary.

That’s not to say wooing the tea party is without peril.

After Washington’s debt showdown this summer, an Associated Press-GfK poll found that 46 percent of adults had an unfavorable view of the tea party, compared with 36 percent just after last November’s election.

Source: Associated Press

 

 
 
 
 

Employers added no jobs in August, stirring fears

In Barak Obama, News, Unemployment on September 3, 2011 at 1:38 pm

By PAUL WISEMAN and CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER, AP

Employers added no jobs in August — an alarming setback for the economy that renewed fears of another recession and raised pressure on Washington to end the hiring standstill.

Worries flared Friday after release of the worst jobs report since September 2010. Total payrolls were unchanged, the first time since 1945 that the government reported a net job change of zero. The unemployment rate stayed at 9.1 percent.

The stock market plunged in response. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 253 points, or more than 2 percent, in mid-afternoon trading.

Analysts say the economy cannot continue to expand unless hiring picks up. In the first six months of 2011, growth was measured at an annual rate of 0.7 percent.

Companies are mostly keeping their payrolls intact. They’re not laying off many workers, but they’re not hiring, either. Without more jobs to fuel consumer spending, economists say another recession would be inevitable. Consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of economic growth.

Like a wobbling bicycle, “you either reaccelerate or you fall over, said James O’Sullivan, chief economist at MF Global. “Something has to give.”

Consumer and business confidence was shaken this summer by the political standoff over the federal debt limit, a downgrade of long-term U.S. debt and the financial crisis in Europe. Tumbling stock prices escalated the worries.

Even before it stalled last month, job growth had been sputtering. The economy added 166,000 jobs a month in the January-March quarter, 97,000 a month in the April-June quarter and just 43,000 a month so far in the July-September period.

“Underlying job growth needs to improve immediately in order to avoid a recession,” said HSBC economist Ryan Wang.

The dispiriting job numbers for August will heighten the pressure on the Federal Reserve, President Barack Obama and Congress to find ways to stimulate the economy.

So far, the Fed has been reluctant to launch another round of Treasury bond purchases. Its previous bond-buying programs were intended to force down long-term interest rates, encourage borrowing and boost stock prices.

On Thursday, Obama will give a televised speech to a joint session of Congress to introduce a plan for creating jobs and spurring economic growth.

Even for people who do have jobs, income growth is stalled. That will hold back their ability to spend. The only sure way to reduce the risk of recession is with more hiring, economists say.

“The importance of job growth cannot be overstated,” said Joshua Shapiro, chief U.S. economist at MFR Inc.

The economy needs to add roughly 250,000 jobs a month to rapidly bring down the unemployment rate. The rate has been above 9 percent in all but two months since May 2009. Roughly 14 million Americans are unemployed.

The weakness was underscored by revisions to the jobs data for June and July. Collectively, those figures were lowered to show 58,000 fewer jobs added than previously thought. The downward revisions were all in government jobs.

The average workweek and hourly earnings also declined in August. Cutbacks by federal, state and local governments have erased 290,000 government jobs this year, including 17,000 in August.

“There is no silver lining in this one,” said Steve Blitz, senior economist at ITG Investment Research. “It is difficult to walk away from these numbers without the conclusion that the economy is simply grinding to a halt.”

The unemployment rate for black men jumped a full percentage point in August to 18 percent. That’s the highest level for that group since March 2010. And unemployment for black people as a whole surged from 15.9 percent to 16.7 percent even as unemployment for white Americans ticked down to 8 percent from 8.1 percent.

Obama has faced doubts within his own party, including black lawmakers who say he hasn’t done enough to help chronic unemployment in black communities.

Yet Obama is unlikely to win support for any new stimulus spending from congressional Republicans, who oppose further spending and argue that the president’s economic policies have failed. They favor deeper spending cuts and less government regulation.

On Friday, Obama took a step toward winning their support. He directed the Environmental Protection Agency to abandon rules that would have tightened health-based standards for smog. Republicans and some business leaders have said the proposed rules would have cost jobs.

Kurt Karl, chief economist for the Americas at Swiss Re, said the August jobs report “implies a rising probability of recession.”

Still, he noted, employment fell for six quarters after the 2001 recession — and the economy kept chugging along at an annual rate of 2.1 percent over that time.

The economy’s 0.7 percent growth rate in the first half of 2011 was the slowest six months of growth since the recession officially ended in June 2009.

Most economists expect growth to improve to about a 2 percent annual rate in the July-September quarter. Lower gasoline prices have provided some relief to consumers. And factories are revving up again after being interrupted by Japan’s earthquake and nuclear crisis.

Before Friday’s jobs report, the economy had been showing signs of better health. Consumer spending was strong in August. Auto sales were brisk. Manufacturing expanded. And fewer people applied for unemployment benefits.

Yet even 2 percent growth isn’t fast enough to generate many jobs. And the economy remains vulnerable to outside shocks — a worsening European debt crisis or more political brinkmanship in Washington.

“The economy’s perforated at this point,” said Sean Snaith, director of the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Economic Competitiveness. “Any additional strain on it will tear it apart.”

The Obama administration has estimated that unemployment will average about 9 percent next year, when Obama will seek re-election. The rate was 7.8 percent when he took office.

The White House Office of Management and Budget projects overall growth of just 1.7 percent this year.

“The economy continues to stagger,” said Sung Won Sohn, economist at California State University Channel Islands. “It wouldn’t take much (of a) shock to tip it onto a recession.”

Source:  Associated Press.

 

 
 
 
 

After long struggle, MLK has home on National Mall

In History, News on August 23, 2011 at 1:39 pm

The statue of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is seen unveiled from scaffolding during the soft opening of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, Monday, Aug. 22, 2011. The memorial will be dedicated Sunday, Aug. 28. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

By BRETT ZONGKER and ERRIN HAINES, AP

WASHINGTON — On the 48th anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” speech, a towering memorial will honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as a man of peace among the many monuments to wars and presidents in the nation’s capital. The road to this weekend’s dedication, however, has run through hurdles of all kinds — not unlike the long struggle over King’s legacy itself.

 

Since King’s death, there have been financial worries at the King Center in Atlanta, and legal fights over the use of his image and words and over control of the civil rights organization he co-founded.

Many people wanted to help shape King’s bricks-and-mortar legacy as well, the first memorial for a black leader on the National Mall. There were skirmishes over who would sculpt King’s likeness, where the granite would come from and who would profit from the mammoth $120 million fundraising effort as the family demanded a licensing fee to support its Atlanta priorities.

Overall costs for the memorial rose over time, and the government demanded tougher security amid threats of domestic terrorism, dragging the project 15 years from the time Congress authorized it in 1996 and 27 years from when King’s fraternity first proposed it.

Lesser hurdles have halted others who aspired to build monuments on the mall.

“We have persevered,” said Harry Johnson, a 56-year-old Houston attorney and Alpha Phi Alpha member who for the past 11 years led an effort that culminates Sunday with a massive ceremony featuring President Barack Obama. “Even though we’ve had dark days and dark clouds, we were able to always see a silver lining in the sky, knowing, understanding and believing it was always going to happen.”

One of the darkest days was 9/11, Johnson said, because the memorial foundation was set to go public with its fundraising campaign but had to put plans on hold as the country recovered. Then came the Asian tsunami, Hurricane Katrina and other disasters, plus an economic downturn, all of which made raising donations even more daunting.

Race, too, was a factor in the struggle over how the memorial would be conceived.

The surprise selection of a Chinese sculptor for King’s statue in 2007 eventually drew protests. A black painter launched a petition to try to force a change, saying black artists should have first rights to interpret the memory of the man who did so much for his fellow African-Americans. A bronze sculptor from Denver complained he was pushed aside. Human rights advocates chimed in, saying King would have detested China’s record on civil liberties.

Executive architect Ed Jackson Jr., 62, who oversaw the design process for 15 years, concedes he may have been naive to think others would easily see the power of sculptor Lei Yixin‘s concept and the mastery of his work.

“Politics can actually change the color of your lens … and some of the comments were out of ignorance,” Jackson said.

Still, the memorial foundation maintained King was inclusive of all people and never wavered from the selection of a Chinese sculptor. Jackson said he tried to insulate Lei, even as a federal arts panel criticized the design as too “confrontational.”

Early tours of the memorial by church leaders and civil rights veterans gave Jackson a sense of affirmation he made the right choice.

Source: Associated Press

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