The daily Progressive Breakfast serves up what progressive movement members need to know to start their day.
Push For Jobs Bill After Weak Labor Report
85K lost jobs in Dec., after slight job gains in November. Unemployment rate unchanged. MarketWatch: “U.S. job losses resumed in December after revisions showed payrolls rose in November for the first time in nearly two years, the Labor Department estimated Friday. Nonfarm payrolls fell by a seasonally adjusted 85,000 in December following a revised 4,000 gain in November. During 2009, payrolls fell by 4.2 million. Since the recession began two years ago, payrolls have fallen by 7.3 million. The official unemployment rate remained at 10% in December. An alternative gauge of unemployment, which includes discouraged workers and those forced to work part-time, rose to 17.3% from 17.2%.” MORE from today’s Bureau of Labor Statistics release.
AP on pessimistic 2010 outlook: “The report caps a disastrous year for U.S. workers. Employers cut 4.2 million jobs in 2009, and the unemployment rate averaged 9.3 percent … Most economists worry that 2010 won’t be much better. Federal Reserve officials, in a meeting last month, anticipated that unemployment will decline “only gradually,” according to minutes of the meeting released earlier this week. The Fed and most private economists expect the unemployment rate will remain above 9 percent through the end of this year.”
Senate working on jobs bill to take up later this month. The Hill: “Senate Democrats are crafting a job creation bill that would boost funding for small businesses, public services, infrastructure projects and energy efficiency programs … They are considering new transit and highway spending and efforts to help stave off public employee layoffs, as well as a new tax credit for businesses hiring new workers and a program providing incentives for homeowners to retrofit their homes, according to a source off Capitol Hill. That would be similar to the jobs bill passed by Democrats in the House last month. The House bill did not include the tax credit and ‘cash for caulkers’ proposals, which are supported by President Barack Obama.”
President to step up focus on jobs. Politico: “President Barack Obama on Friday is making his promised hard pivot to jobs … with an East Room announcement at 2:40 p.m. ET about stimulus dollars going to clean-tech jobs … the White House is expected to focus on events on the economy next week. The president will be pushing Congress to pass several new jobs measures that he’ll be rolling out in the run-up to his State of the Union address, likely in early February. The key elements were foreshadowed in a Dec. 8 speech at the Brookings Institution: Infrastructure improvements, green jobs and small-business incentives for hiring and investment … As the second part of a one-two administration economic punch, Attorney General Eric Holder has chosen Palm Beach — ground zero for Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme – for a major speech at lunchtime today setting out a marker that financial security will be a priority…”
Insurance Tax Debate Heats Up In Final Negotiations
HuffPost reports on House Dem health care strategy meeting: “Democrats were nearly unified in calling for the House to push to include its revenue-raising mechanism — a surtax on the wealthy — rather than the Senate plan to tax so-called ‘Cadillac’ insurance plans.”
President to meet with union leaders Monday to discuss insurance tax reports HuffPost.
Bloomberg suggests some version of tax will survive: “U.S. House lawmakers may agree to pay for the nation’s health-care overhaul by adopting versions of Senate proposals to raise Medicare payroll taxes and tax health benefits for the first time, Democratic aides said. House leaders may also discard a plan to impose a surtax on the wealthiest Americans, which has come under fire from some Senate Democrats, aides said … The talks are at a preliminary stage until the Senate returns later this month, and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel predicted ‘tough’ negotiations … At the least, the tax on health benefits would have to be revamped by raising the value of the plans to which it would apply and adjusting how it’s indexed for inflation, [Rep. Joe] Courtney said.”
Medicaid expansion deal with Nebraska may be expanded to other states reports Politico.
New study concludes health care reform will create jobs: “National healthcare legislation in Congress could slow the growth of medical costs, allowing employers to create 250,000 to 400,000 new jobs a year over the next decade, economists from Harvard University and USC are predicting .. Specifically, healthcare savings could be achieved through proposals for greater competition in insurance markets, better coordination of care and shrinking administrative expenses … With those changes, employers could then reallocate money now spent on ever-growing premiums to other business priorities.”
Financial Crisis Commission To Grill Goldman Sachs
LA Times reports on the plans for the first hearings next week of the Pecora-style commission: “Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein, JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon and Morgan Stanley Chairman John Mack are among the top managers who will be grilled Wednesday by members of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission during the first of two days of hearings.”
W. Post notes the commission’s slow start: “The commission has until Dec. 15 to produce a report. Although legislation to reform financial regulation already is moving through Congress, [Chair Phil] Angelides said the commission’s work remains relevant because more bills are likely to follow and a better understanding of what happened could inform the way laws are enforced … Both Angelides and [Vice-Chair Bill] Thomas acknowledged that the commission is off to a slow start, having waited more than a year since the peak of the crisis to hold its first hearing. Thomas said that a lot of work already was happening behind the scenes and that the hearing next week could be compared to a rocket lifting off after a lengthy construction process.”
Krugman lays out principles of financial reform: “Transparency is part of the answer. Before the crisis, hardly anyone realized just how much risk the banks were taking on. More disclosure, especially with regard to complex financial derivatives, would clearly help. Beyond that, an important aspect of reform should be new rules limiting bank leverage … [The House bill's] limits on leverage look O.K. Not great, but O.K. It would, however, be all too easy for those rules to get weakened to the point where they wouldn’t do the job.”
Time reports “The falling number of bank loans is emerging as the No. 1 economic concern of 2010.” “As of Dec. 23 … bank lending at nearly $6.7 trillion was down $100 billion from the month before. In the past year, the volume of loans outstanding by banks in the U.S. has fallen just over $500 billion … most analysts don’t see bank lending turning around anytime soon. Paul Miller of FBR Capital says a combination of banks wanting to take fewer risks and lower demand for credit from consumers and businesses will cause banks to continue to make fewer loans this year than last … says Christopher Whalen of research firm Institutional Risk Analytics. ‘This is a disaster.’”
NYT reports on unearthed emails between NY Fed and AIG counseling suppression of info regarding key aspects of the bailout: “New revelations that the government stopped the American International Group from revealing information about its bailout had securities lawyers and policy makers buzzing on Thursday about whether the information had to be disclosed under federal securities law, and if so, what to do about the lack of compliance. Joel Seligman, a historian of the Securities and Exchange Commission, said the disclosure rules were supposed to apply to all public companies, with only a few narrow exceptions … Others disagreed, saying that bank and insurance regulators normally keep their discussions with struggling financial institutions private…”
Elliot Spitzer demands fuller release of AIG emails on New Deal 2.0: “If five months of emails reveal information key to our understanding of the aftermath of the crisis, imagine what 10 years of emails could contribute to our understanding of its causes. We believe the AIG emails and other internal company documents are the ‘black box’ of the financial crisis. If we understand the failure of AIG, we will more fully understand the crisis – what caused it and more importantly how to prevent it from happening again.”
Climate Bill Still On Says Graham
The Vine’s Brad Plumer finds GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham sticking to his guns on crafting a climate bill. Says Graham: “Whatever political push back I get I’m willing to accept because I know what I’m trying to do makes sense to me.”
LA Times edit board praises EPA, Interior moves: “…there will be more government and public review of proposed [oil and gas] leases and a better [Interior Dept.] planning process. Congressional Republicans and the oil industry are crying foul, saying Salazar’s initiatives will create delays and lead to higher energy prices. But it’s hard to believe things could get worse for the industry than they are now; the Bush administration’s laissez-faire attitude led to multiple court challenges of leasing decisions … [And] the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday proposed a stricter federal standard for smog … Scientists also proposed a secondary standard during growing seasons to protect crops, whose growth is retarded by ozone — the main ingredient in smog. Yet after direct intervention from Bush, the secondary standard was rejected and the primary standard was set at 75 parts per billion, too high to protect human health. After reviewing the evidence, EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson is now proposing to set the standards that the agency had originally endorsed. Meeting the tougher rules will be expensive, but not as costly as treating the medical conditions linked to smog.”