President Obama jets off to Africa today on the most expensive trip of his presidency – one that will cost $60 million to $100 million, according to The Washington Post. The first African-American president received an extraordinarily warm welcome on his first presidential trip to Ghana in 2009, but his African reception this time is not expected to be nearly as welcoming.
That’s because much of the president’s initiatives in Africa have been overshadowed by more aggressive U.S. military counter-terrorism operations, including drone bases and increased Navy warship missions. U.S. aid to Africa actually fell during Obama’s first term, from $8.2 billion in 2009—an amount set by President George W. Bush -- to $6.9 billion in 2011, according to the Congressional Research Service. “At the same time, other countries, led by China, India and Brazil, have ramped up their investments and trade partnerships” with Africa, The Washington Post David Nakamura and Sudarsan Raghavan writes. - Read more at The Washington Post
1st QUARTER GDP GROWTH WAS OVERSTATED The final reading for GDP growth in the first quarter came in at 1.8 percent, which is down significantly from the 2.4 percent estimate published last month. - See the BEA’s release here
ANOTHER LAVISH IRS PARTY Internal Revenue Service employees sure do love to party. Barely a month ago, the agency was under fire for spending $60 million on lavish conferences. Now The Hill reports that the scandal-ridden agency spent $2.4 million on a 2008 conference in Atlanta, complete with open bar and fine dining. “I had not been to anything like that, certainly not put on by the federal government,” a former IRS employee who attended the conference and spoke on the condition of anonymity told The Hill. “It was first rate, all the way.” The source said the 1,550 attendees were given free leather portfolios as party favors, compliments of the American taxpayers. - Read more at The Hill
HOW DOMA RULING COULD AFFECT SAME-SEX COUPLES’ FINANCES The Supreme Court’s 5 to 4 ruling this morning striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act likely will greatly improve the personal finances of same-sex couples. By nullifying the 1996 ban on federal benefits for legally married same-sex couples, the High Court has greatly enhanced those couples’ rights to qualify for Social Security and Medicare Benefits and how they pay their taxes. Here are some examples of how DOMA currently affects same-sex couples that will be affected by the Supreme Court ruling:
• Social Security- When one partner in a same-sex couple dies, the other partner currently cannot collect the decedent’s Social Security. For a gay couple earning $100,000 a year, that would mean a loss of as much as $25,000 a year in surviving spouse benefits. The surviving spouse currently is not eligible for retirement benefits.
• Medicare premiums--A same-sex married couple with one working spouse making $100,000 a year must pay $504 more in yearly Medicare premiums than a straight married couple, according to calculations based on Medicare's Part B premiums.
• Federal Income Taxes- A married gay couple earning $100,000 annually can pay as much as $7,727 more each year in federal taxes as a married straight couple, according to data from H&R Block. - Read more at The Fiscal Times
A GLIMPSE INTO THE DAY IN THE LIFE OF A CONGRESSMAN Spoiler alert: It includes making lots and lots of fundraising calls. The New Yorkers’ Ryan Lizza sat near a freshman Democrat yesterday and live-tweeted what he heard: Check it out here