Progressive Breakfast is the morning roundup of what progressive movement members need to know to start the day.
Senate conservatives bash unions, automakers, economy, America into ground
The conservative Senate minority filibustered the auto rescue package last night. Technically, the Senate was eight short of the needed 60 vote super-majority, but D-Day notes that because of absences and procedural reasons, the Senate majority was more likely only three votes short.
Obstructionist conservatives were itching to lower worker wages. WSJ; “talks fell apart after Republicans insisted that wages reach parity in 2009. Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.), who emerged as a pivotal player this week in negotiations over the industry’s future, said negotiators were close to striking a bipartisan compromise. Democrats were willing to reach parity, but not on such a swift timetable. … Sen. Christopher Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, complained that Republicans had attempted to turn the wage issue into a political matter about organized labor, instead of making it an ‘an economic issue.’ With the economy in recession, he suggested it wouldn’t be fair to force auto workers to accept wage cuts in 2009.”
Is it any different to be for raising taxes on the middle-class in a recession than for slashing wages in a recession?
AP lede blames unions: “A $14-billion emergency bailout for U.S. automakers collapsed in the Senate after the United Auto Workers union refused to accede to Republican demands for swift wage cuts. The collapse late Thursday came after bipartisan talks on the auto rescue broke down over Republican demands that the union agree to steep wage cuts by 2009 to bring their pay into line with Japanese carmakers.”
That would be Japanese auto factories in the American South which are non-union, not Japanese auto factories in Japan, which are unionized.
Rachel Maddow looked at union-bashing v. facts last night on MSNBC:
Eyes turn to the TARP fund or the Federal Reserve
NYT: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other lawmakers called on the administration to use the Treasury’s bigger financial system stabilization fund to help the automakers, but there may not be enough money left to do so. About $15 billion remains of the initial $350 billion disbursed by Congress and Treasury officials have said that money is needed as a backstop for existing programs … So far, the Federal Reserve also has shown no willingness to step in to aid the auto industry. Democrats have argued that the Fed has the authority to do so and some said the central bank may now have no choice but to prevent the automakers from entering bankruptcy proceedings that could have ruinous ripple effects.”
Time: “But most Republicans realize they can’t afford to be blamed for letting hundreds of thousands of more Americans lose their jobs at the holidays, and many in their ranks believe that the outgoing leader of their party should take the political hit by authorizing the use of TARP funds himself.”
More on The Obstructionist Double-Standard Cowards
CNN reports Bush may be ready to tap TARP: “Bush officials warned wavering GOP senators that if they didn’t support the legislation, the White House will likely be forced to tap the Wall Street bailout to lend them money, two Republican congressional officials told CNN earlier … One of the sources said the a White House official made clear to a GOP Senator that would be the worst option, because the loan could go to the auto companies with few or no requirements along with it.”
In other words, the obstructionist Senators know a federal loan is needed to avoid drowning the economy deeper into recession, but they are too cowardly to take the political risk themselves, and prefer to dump it in someone else’s lap and put the entire economy at risk..
Politico argues the obstructionists are taking an even bigger risk: “While the high-stakes gambit places them squarely within the mainstream of anti-bailout public sentiment, at the same time it exposes the party to potentially devastating criticism that its failure to compromise doomed the Big Three automakers and deepened the economic recession.”
They’re more right-wing than Cheney! More Politico: “That was the message Vice President Dick Cheney brought to a closed-door Senate GOP lunch Wednesday, reportedly warning that it’ll be ‘Herbert Hoover’ time if aid to the industry was rejected…”
Why doesn’t Chrysler majority owner Cerberus Capital Management pony up? Not that easy. WSJ: “Lawmakers had called for Cerberus to put more money into the company, but Cerberus maintains it can’t because the bylaw of its investment funds prevents it from putting more than a small percentage of its investors’ funds into any single investment.”
Emptywheel notes the Republican proposal put a deadline-certain concession on workers, but not on bondholders, suppliers or dealers. “The Republicans in the Senate are risking crashing the world economy simply because hundreds of thousands of real workers wouldn’t make concessions that the local owners and white collars bankers weren’t asked to make.”
Robert Reich: “[GOP Sen. Bob] Corker’s compromise — which would force the UAW to match the wages of foreign, mostly non-unionized autoworkers in the South — would essentially make the UAW irrelevant. Why have a union if you can get the same deal without one? But Republicans also know that the Big Three and their suppliers are spread out over the battle-ground states of Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Minnesota. Republicans don’t dare give up these states or alienate their citizens.”
Mathew Gross: “Funny how no one demanded the banksters take a pay cut before we handed out 50 times what the Big 3 were asking for. But oh well.”
The Agonist’s Sean-Paul Kelley: “There is a nasty double standard at work here, as many have already mentioned. But what troubles me the most is that several hundred thousand good paying, factory jobs will be lost adding to an already stressed employment market. Add to the loss of auto manufacturing jobs are those of the parts suppliers. Add to that the loss of income from these folks, which will undoubtedly ripple through the general economy in the form of even less consumer demand and you have a mess.”
Digby: “if there’s anyone left out there who thinks that these guys are on the post-partisan bandwagon, think again. They will do everything in their power to weaken Obama and [f***] up this country even worse than they already have. At this point, the only route they see power is to make things worse and blame it on the Democrats. What else do they have?”
Washington Monthly’s Hilzoy: “So the Senate Republicans were willing to let a million jobs, give or take, go down because they wanted the UAW to make massive wage concessions, over and above those it has already made, within one year as opposed to three years. That shouldn’t be a dealbreaker, except to people who don’t want a deal to start with.”
Naked Capitalism: “GM and Chrysler have been stretching payables, which means that many auto parts suppliers are in dire cash flow straits. And if auto parts makers fail, it doesn’t hurt just the Detroit car makers, but the foreign transplants as well.”
Reality-Based Community’s Jonathan Zasloff: “The Republican Party was so anxious to destroy the unions that they decided to destroy the auto industry in the process.”
Talking Points Memo: “In the future I think it will be difficult to explain why this happened, perhaps even more challenging to explain why this key national decision was left in the hands of lame duck senate Republicans.”
Daschle Pick Prioritizes Health Care for All In “This Year”
NYT: “In selecting Tom Daschle to be his health and human services secretary, President-elect Barack Obama said Thursday that he wanted Mr. Daschle, a former South Dakota senator, to pursue something that had eluded federal officials for decades: securing ‘affordable, accessible health care for every single American.’
“[Daschle] wants to establish a Federal Health Board, a powerful independent entity modeled on the Federal Reserve, to decide which drugs, devices and treatments are covered by federal health programs. And he says the federal government should offer its own health insurance plan, to compete directly with private plans, a proposal that alarms many insurers and Republican members of Congress … Democrats said that private insurers would hold down costs and improve care if they had to compete with a public plan. But Republicans said a government plan would have unfair advantages and could drive private insurers from the market.”
TNR’s Jonathan Cohn: “Obama just gave the clearest signal yet that he intends to make health care reform a top priority. After running through the litany of familiar problems–rising costs, faltering coverage, poor quality–he vowed to tackle the problem ‘this year and in this administration.’ Afterwards, he confronted head-on the argument that the rough economy makes this a poor time to try health care reform. He noted that economic insecurity and our health care crisis our inextricably linked.”
D-Day: “That suggests he is determined to move quickly on health care, which is exactly what is needed to secure passage. There are going to be a lot of neo-Hooverists out there calling for delay, but if Obama sticks with his solid rhetoric, he should parry those calls pretty easily. It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you take the long view of the subject. If health care costs continue to expand at their current rate, today’s recession will look like a small bump in the road. Nobody really knew what Obama would spend his political capital on early in his term. If it’s health care, I’m very pleased.”
Ezra Klein: “[Obama] also introduced Jeanne Lambrew’s appointment as Daschle’s deputy. Lambrew is an incredibly talented and knowledgeable health wonk, and her involvement should cheer liberals. Unlike during the campaign, when Obama’s health care team seemed heavy on relatively cautious academics, Lambrew has long White House and executive branch experience, and comes to health care as a crusade as much as a topic of study.”
The American Prospect’s Joanne Kenen and Sarah Axeen: “A recent report by the New America Foundation’s health policy program estimates that the cost of doing nothing about health care, including poor health and shorter lifespan of the uninsured, is well above $200 billion a year, and rising. That’s enough to cover the uninsured and still have some left over for other public health needs.”
Wanna save some health care money? WSJ Health Blog: “On the same day President-elect Barack Obama criticized Medicare Advantage, a report out from Government Accountability Office provides fodder for Dems who claim the privately administered plans are merely taxpayer-subsidized profit centers for insurers. According to the GAO report [PDF file], Medicare Advantage plans reaped $3.36 billion in profits in 2006, some $1.3 billion more than they’d projected to going into the year. It was the second year in a row the plans exceeded profit projections.”
Better Health Care On Day 1?
W. Post: “President-elect Barack Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress are devising plans to significantly expand the health provisions in next month’s economic recovery legislation, arguing that pouring billions of dollars into an array of health programs will not only boost the economy but also make a down payment on promises of broader health-care reform … Obama has already pledged to increase federal Medicaid spending — perhaps by more than $40 billion over two years — and to make a large investment in health information technology. Talks are underway about also adding money to retrain medical workers, extending the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, and expanding the law that allows unemployed people to purchase health insurance through a previous employer’s plan, known as COBRA.”
Similar provisions are in the Institute for America’s Future Main Street Recovery Program.
“Green Dream Team”
Grist: “Obama’s green team hasn’t yet been made official (and probably won’t be until next week), but his rumored choices are eliciting passionate reactions nonetheless. Enviros, for the most part, are pleased with the picks, while business-oriented interests are offering more guarded reviews … League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski went so far as to call the choices a ‘green dream team’ in a press release Thursday morning.”
W. Post: “The Obama administration has ambitions for a radical change in U.S. environmental policy. But President-elect Barack Obama did not pick radicals to lead it … Rep. Henry A. Waxman, who will be the new chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, called Obama’s picks ‘outstanding people.’ ‘It’s going to be a dramatic change from what we’ve seen in the last eight years from the Bush administration, where even some of the agencies that were supposed to be working to protect the environment were doing all they could to undermine it,’ Waxman said in an interview.”
W. Post on Energy pick Steven Chu: “Chu’s views on climate change would be among the most forceful ever held by a cabinet member. In an interview with The Post last year, he said … a cap-and-trade approach to limiting greenhouse gases ‘is an absolutely non-partisan issue,’ and that scientists had come to ‘realize that the climate is much more sensitive than we thought.’”
Southern-Fried Breakfast Side: Fair Trade
Eyes on Trade reports on how fair trade messages propelled Democratic victories in the South.