ALERT: Horrific Job Losses In December
New job numbers released this AM by Bureau of Labor Statistics are horrifying. 524,000 jobs lost in December. 2.6M jobs lost in 2008, majority in past four months. Manufacturing losses near 800,000 since Dec. 2007. Unemployment rate now at 7.2%, up 0.4. Underemployed part-time workers now at 8M, up 3.4M in past year.
Urgent Need To Pass American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan
LA Times notes Obama’s speech backs active government to revitalize our economy: “Rejecting decades of rhetoric casting government as an impediment, he vowed to do more than pull the nation out of its economic downturn. His aim, he said, was for people to drive cleaner cars, study in modernized classrooms and live in buildings powered by wind and sun. The agent for transformation on this sweeping scale, he said, is government.”
Crooks and Liars’ John Amato: “As much as I get ticked off with all this bipartisan talk, Obama understands that government can be the agent of hope in this time of crisis and thus will be reversing Reagan’s anti-government mantra.”
Politico reports on continued pushback on Obama’s tax cut components from key congresspeople in private meetings, but notes “the tone was described as businesslike, more questioning than hostile and even Republicans said later that a plan could jell for all sides.”
NYT header plays up conflict, but reports: ” [Sen. Kent] Conrad, who described the meeting as extremely positive, said [Obama econ adviser Larry] Summers ended it by telling the senators, “Message received, loud and clear.” … Senator John F. Kerry … said he expected adjustments to be made. ‘We are in a good dialogue,’ he said. ‘I am very confident about some adjustments being made.’”
More on senatorial tax cut skepticism from Wonk Room and TPM
Digby sees a kabuki dance: “I simply don’t believe that Kerry and Conrad are out there running at Obama from the left on their own. They just don’t have it in them. They are staking out this position for negotiating purposes on his behalf..”
Kabuki dance impact? David Brooks is happier about massive econ plan than Paul Krugman.
This is daring and impressive stuff. Obama’s team has clearly thought through every piece of this plan. There’s no plank that’s obviously wasteful or that reeks of special-interest pleading. The tax cut is big and bipartisan. Obama is properly worried about runaway deficits, but he’s spending money on things one would want to do anyway. This is not an attempt to use the crisis to build a European-style welfare state.
…the C.B.O. says, however, that “economic output over the next two years will average 6.8 percent below its potential.” This translates into $2.1 trillion of lost production. “Our economy could fall $1 trillion short of its full capacity,” declared Mr. Obama on Thursday. Well, he was actually understating things.
To close a gap of more than $2 trillion — possibly a lot more, if the budget office projections turn out to be too optimistic — Mr. Obama offers a $775 billion plan. And that’s not enough.
Now, fiscal stimulus can sometimes have a “multiplier” effect … But only about 60 percent of the Obama plan consists of public spending. The rest consists of tax cuts — and many economists are skeptical about how much these tax cuts, especially the tax breaks for business, will actually do to boost spending.
Oliver Willis laments infighting: “of course its time for the Dems to do what they do when they get in power: Tear down the leader of the party and leave him open to Republican attack.”
Campaign for America’s Future calls for immediate passage, sets up webpage for users to contact their Washington reps.
More strong polling. Gallup shows support of a “$775B economic stimulus plan as soon as possible,” 53%-36%.
Five-Thirty Eight analyzes the strong polling coming from Politico: “Politico’s poll … reports that 79 percent of Americans favor the stimulus, versus just 17 percent opposed. I would take some issue with [the] wording, as it characterizes the stimulus in rather flattering terms … Nevertheless, it suggests that — if framed appropriately by the administration — the stimulus could be quite popular indeed, a finding also implied by other surveys.”
DailyKos’ SusanG tells Politico to read its own poll.
More Splits in the GOP
MSNBC’s First Read: “While Mitch McConnell and John Boehner are doing their best to maintain an air of bipartisanship and not rejecting the emerging plan out of hand, the incoming head of the House conservative caucus is calling the plan, such as it is, ‘not only ineffective, but nonsensical.’”
GOP’s #2 in the House Eric Cantor uses fuzzy math on CNN: “The president- elect has said that out of that trillion dollars, we’ll see over three million jobs created. At that rate, it’s almost $330,000 per job…” (Of course, Obama has yet to final cost figure on the plan, and not all of the money, such as tax cuts and aid for state governments, will be slated for job creation.)
RedState: “Mitch McConnell Lost His Testicles and Now Infects the Senate GOP With a Cancer”
New Polling Shows Strong Support for EFCA
AFL-CIO releases new survey from Hart Research Associations:
[The poll] shows a striking level of support for the provisions of the Employee Free Choice Act and the freedom to form unions. This support crosses party and state lines, with 74 percent of those who identify as moderate or liberal Republicans in favor; conservative Republicans were the only group not expressing majority support. Support remains steady, even when those surveyed heard messages from both supporters and opponents of the bill.
Here are some key findings:
* 75 percent of those surveyed support recognizing a union when a majority of workers have signed up in support.
* 64 percent support strengthening penalties against companies who illegally intimidate or fire workers who are trying to form a union.
* 61 percent favor binding arbitration if a company will not agree to a first contract. (This provision had the highest number of respondents who weren’t sure how they felt about it.)
In These Times’ Art Levine asks: Have Anti-Union Ads Flopped?
Harold Meyerson sees the union movement possibly re-uniting in preparation for the EFCA fight: “Presidents of the nation’s largest unions, along with the presidents of the two national labor federations, the AFL-CIO and Change To Win (CTW), met Wednesday in Washington to discuss how they can reunify their fragmented movement. The meeting took place as, and in no small part because, the unions are gearing up to battle for their lives in the coming congressional fight over the Employees Free Choice Act.”
NYT previews the corporate propaganda campaign: “Intent on blocking organized labor’s top legislative goal, corporations are quietly contributing to lobbying groups with appealing names like the Workforce Fairness Institute and the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace. These groups are planning a multimillion-dollar campaign in the hope of killing legislation that would give unions the right to win recognition at a workplace once a majority of employees sign cards saying they want a union. ”
W. Post says: “Labor supporters … worry that the SEIU controversies will deplete support for their agenda in Washington, including in a looming battle over the Employee Free Choice Act…” BUT EARLIER, the LA Times reported: “Peter Dreier, an Occidental College politics professor and labor expert, said [SEIU President Andy] Stern should not be judged too harshly in light of the ‘rotten apples’ in the union. ‘It’s an organization with human beings in it, some of whom are selfish and corrupt,’ Dreier said. ‘This is a time for the labor movement to celebrate its victories, and nobody deserves to celebrate more than Andy Stern…’”
Of course, no one in the corporate world is selfish and corrupt…
Daschle Hearings Free of Friction, Hints of Strategy
Ezra Klein analyzes the Daschle confirmation hearing and its impact on health care reform:
Enzi, the ranking Republican, [offered] a glimpse to both the GOP’s quiet fears and likely lines of attack. He first asked for a one word answer on “whether you would pledge to cooperate with all senators on the committee whether Democratic or Republican.” Enzi elaborated that this meant sharing information, responding rapidly to requests, conveying new developments as soon as they emerge, and much else. In other words, will you, Senator, pledge that you are not now, nor will you become in the future, Ira Magaziner? Daschle’s answer: “Yes.”
Enzi then turned to a more complicated concern. “We do follow the legislative process and you’re very familiar with that. One part you’re very familiar with is the use of budget reconciliation, which can undermine bipartisan support for policy. Will you discourage members from using the budget reconciliation process and even the stimulus package?”
Daschle’s answer was, again, “yes.” “Our goal, our hope, and our desire is to use the regular order,” he said. Daschle has, in the past, been forthright about his belief that reconciliation might be the best way to proceed. This doesn’t contradict that. But they still have the option. The reconciliation process — which allows the plan to pass on a straight majority vote, and closes off the filibuster — is the quiet threat behind the legislative maneuvering. It gives Democrats a Plan B. If Republicans move into a position of flat obstruction, Democrats will move to a parliamentary procedure that freezes them out of the process.
NYT editorial board impressed with Daschle, disappointed at lack of hard questions: “…Obama sure picked the right man to stage manage his health care reforms … The hearing before a Senate health committee was mostly a love-fest … Unfortunately, the hearing did not tell us much at all about how the incoming Obama administration intends to pay for its emerging health care programs or how, for all of his smoothness at the hearing, Mr. Daschle will deal with the very real and very big differences his team has with Republicans on this and other vital issues.”
Climate Progress: “But now we learn from E&E Daily … that ‘the president-elect’s team said they were currently eyeing $10 billion worth of energy-related tax incentives in the package, out of an expected $300 billion in tax provisions in the bill overall.’ No suprise, then that Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said ‘Energy is way under-represented here in the package that has been discussed.’”
W. Post reports more than traditional tax credits will be needed:
President-elect Barack Obama said yesterday that he wanted to double the production of alternative energy over the next three years, a goal that will probably require a new set of government incentives for the capital-intensive solar and wind industries. Six months ago, some of the biggest names in solar- and wind-project finance were firms such as Lehman Brothers, Morgan Stanley, GE Capital, Wells Fargo and Municipal Mortgage & Equity. But many of those firms are mired in their own financial crises, and existing tax benefits for renewable energy projects are now unattractive to them…
…Obama’s economic advisers are negotiating with Senate leaders about how to revive stalled projects in the renewable sector. One issue is how to structure new incentives and whether to increase the current budget year’s deficit or figure out a way to push the cost into later years…
…Advocates of renewable energy, including solar and wind trade groups, are pushing the incoming Obama administration and Congress to make the renewable energy tax credits refundable. That means that if a company has no tax liability, the government would simply write the firm a check for the amount of the tax credit. One advantage of making the credits refundable is that it would not require a new appropriation.
Solar firms are also pressing Congress to let homeowners use federal credits even if local or state governments provide other incentives. In Berkeley, Calif., for example, the city is using its borrowing ability to lower interest rates for homeowners who install solar panels. The city gets the money back over 30 years by raising property tax assessments for solar-powered homes. Currently those homeowners would not receive federal tax breaks on the portion of the cost subsidized by the city.
Solar trade groups also want incentives for firms that build manufacturing plants in the United States. Most solar panel makers manufacture in China, the Philippines and other countries.
Lastly, solar firms want Obama to back a $10 billion government effort to install solar on federal buildings. “The elegant beauty here is that you’re not only creating hundreds of thousands of jobs but also saving the federal government money in electricity costs over the next 20 years,” [solar energy advocate Rhone] Resch said.
FiveThirtyEight says Politico’s polling shows green stimulus is popular: “The public seems to tolerate the spending on bridges and highways — but they also see it, perhaps not wholly improperly, as makework. The long-run benefits of the alternative energy programs, on the other hand, are far more intuitively appealing”