Each morning, Bill Scher and Terrance Heath serve up what progressives need to affect change on the kitchen-table issues families face: jobs, health care, green energy, financial reform, affordable education and retirement security.
Voters: Don’t Cut Retirement Security. Conservatives: Get The Knife
Daily Kos’ Joan McCarter reports on Democracy Corps/CAF poll showing support for progressive paths toward deficit reduction: “…letting the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire polls at 54 percent, while raising the retirement age to 70 nets 33 percent…. the average American voter is a lot smarter than the average Republican in Congress, because they understand that the only way to grow out of this economic crisis is with aggressive investment in jobs and infrastructure, and that that is necessary to reduce deficits.”
Poll shows voters across the ideological spectrum oppose cutting Social Security and Medicare to reduce the deficit notes OurFuture.org’s Richard Eskow.
Poll shows divide between public and DC elite on Social Security observes OurFuture.org’s Dave Johnson.
Go to ourfuture.org/deficitpoll2010 for full poll results.
Democrats hitting GOP on Social Security privatization, in run-up to programs 75th birthday. USA Today: “Democrats are holding events at senior centers and are attacking plans by some Republicans to privatize the program. GOP lawmakers say Democrats have ‘raided’ the Social Security trust fund by spending, rather than saving, excess payroll taxes.”
Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Rep. Raul Grijalva tells President cutting Social Security benefits is off the table, in letter and on Daily Kos: “What these fiscal hawks don’t tell you is that income above a $106,800 earnings cap is not subject to Social Security payroll taxes … Instead of hacking away at one of America’s fundamental promises to its retirees, the debt commission should think about the possibility of having high-wage earners pay the same amount to protect our retirement system as everyone else does.”
Dem House leader says raising retirement age rejected by party caucus. HuffPost: “”The consensus position in the caucus is we can preserve the existing structure of Social Security including the retirement age,” said [Democratic Congressional Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.)] … The influential Democratic polling firm Democracy Corps released new findings that echoed and amplified Van Hollen’s point. The firm found that 68 percent of respondents responded favorable to a message that: ‘The federal deficit is a big national problem but we should not make major spending cuts in Social Security or Medicare.’”
GOP Rep. Paul Ryan proposes to cut and gut Medicare, in W. Post oped: “Future Medicare beneficiaries would receive a payment to apply to a list of Medicare-certified coverage options. The Medicare payment would grow every year, with additional support for those who have low incomes and higher health costs, and less government support for high-income beneficiaries.”
EARLIER Paul Krugman on Rep. Ryan’s Medicare plan: “…we already know, from experience with the Medicare Advantage program, that a voucher system would have higher, not lower, costs than our current system. The only way the Ryan plan could save money would be by making those vouchers too small to pay for adequate coverage. Wealthy older Americans would be able to supplement their vouchers, and get the care they need; everyone else would be out in the cold.”
Warren At The White House
Elizabeth Warren met with top WH adviser yesterday. WSJ: “…the meeting will likely trigger buzz in Washington because White House officials are still in the process of determining whether to nominate Warren to be the first director of the [Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.] … White House officials haven’t said when anyone will be officially nominated for the post, and it’s unclear if a controversial nomination could be moved through the Senate before the November Congressional recess.”
Warren gets the W. Post Style Section treatment: “She has received fervent backing from consumer advocates, labor unions, academics and scores of Democratic lawmakers. Tens of thousands of people have signed online petitions urging Obama to choose her. Her endorsements have ranged from the New York Times to MoveOn.org to Dr. Phil. Others have made no secret about their distaste for Warren, questioning her qualifications and describing her as an ideologue. ‘I get disgusted every time I hear her speak. It’s like she’s sitting in some ivory tower, not understanding the ramifications of anything she says,’ Anton Schutz, president of Mendon Capital Advisors…”
Wells Fargo Overdraft Scam Makes Elizabeth Warren More Important Than Ever writes OurFuture.org’s Zach Carter.
Sen. Chris Dodd still throwing up roadblocks reports HuffPost’s Shahien Nasiripour.
Wealthy Still Make Out Fine If Some Bush Tax Cuts Expire
Moneywatch’s Mark Thoma reminds wealthy they still do OK if only the “middle-class” tax cuts are kept: “The CBPP explains … ‘a family making more than $1 million will receive more than five times the tax cut benefit, in dollar terms, as a middle-class family’ … The wealthy will still receive the same benefits as everyone else in percentage terms for all income they earn up to the $250,000 threshold, it’s only income in excess of this amount that will be subject to the tax increase that Bush scheduled to avoid having to pay for his tax cuts…”
Conservative Senate candidate says tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans do not go to the wealthiest Americans. Wonk Room’s Pat Garofalo: “[Marco Rubio said] ‘It’s not the very wealthiest Americans … there’s a bunch of businesses in America that pay their taxes on the personal level … 20 million Americans work for companies who are organized as S-corporations whose taxes will go up if the Democrat [sic] plan passes.’ … Rubio attempts to cloud the water by pointing to S-corporations, which are companies that typically don’t pay federal corporate income taxes, but pass their earnings on to people who then file personal income taxes … the vast majority of those reporting S-corporation income that would be affected by the expiration of the Bush tax cuts are super-rich.”
Border Security Bill Clears Congress
Senate clears House border security bill by unanimous consent. NYT: “In a highly unusual session, the chamber of filibusters and anonymous holds temporarily came back from its summer recess on Thursday to send a border security measure to President Obama’s desk … with only two senators present, Charles E. Schumer of New York and Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland…”
Does increased border security help or hurt the drive for broad reform? LAT: “The border-only strategy has political risks for Democrats who are relying on Latino voter turnout in the November election, especially in swing Southwestern states. Many Latino voters prefer a comprehensive approach to immigration. Some immigration advocates think there will be an endless quest for additional security measures, putting off a broader debate on overhauling the immigration system. But Schumer said that addressing border security would propel the broader debate forward because it ‘pulls away their No. 1 excuse.’”
“Enforcement First” has already worked, now it’s time for broad reform. writes W. Post’s Edward Schumacher-Matos: “Over the past 15 years, the government has gained operational control over the Texas and California borders. That success has pushed most of the illegal immigration into the Arizona deserts. The new funding is largely to help plug that last gap … the old ‘catch and release’ programs ended in 2005 … The Border Patrol can search without a warrant up to 25 miles away, and in some cases up to 100 … Many local jails check every detainee against immigration databases … every federal contractor has been checking new hires against the ever-improving databases … illegal border traffic is at its lowest level since 1970.”
Florida Tea Party candidate suggests interment camps for undocumented immigrants. Salon.com’s Justin Elliot: “…a Republican candidate for the Florida state Legislature stood by her controversial idea to arrest illegal immigrants and send them to ‘camps’ where they can be held en masse. ‘We can ship them out to the middle of the country and put up high walls and leave them there,’ said Marg Baker…”
Can The Fed Do More?
NYT’s Paul Krugman charges Fed with failing to do enough to carry out its mission to maximize employment: “What could the Fed be doing? [A decade ago], Mr. Bernanke suggested, among other things, that the Bank of Japan could get traction by buying large quantities of ‘nonstandard’ assets — that is, assets other than the short-term government debt central banks normally hold. The Fed actually put that idea into practice during the most acute phase of the financial crisis, acquiring, in particular, large amounts of mortgage-backed securities. However, it stopped those purchases in March.”
Time’s Michael Grunwald explains Bernanke’s hesitation: “…if Bernanke understands perfectly well that there’s more he can do, why isn’t he doing it? The short answer seems to be that Bernanke fears the potential benefits of more monetary stimulus would be modest and uncertain, while the potential risks would be dramatic and real … Bernanke’s deeper concern is that the potential blowback from additional easing – which would give additional girth to the Fed’s balance sheet- — could overwhelm any potential benefit. He’s particularly afraid that markets might stop perceiving the Fed as a credible inflation-fighter…”
Fed’s most recent move hasn’t calmed investors reports Bloomberg.
Big July jump in foreclosures. AP: “Lenders repossessed 92,858 properties last month, up 9 percent from June and an increase of 6 percent from July 2009 … Banks have stepped up repossessions this year to clear out the backlog of bad loans … Still, the number of homeowners who have fallen behind on their payments remains high, and these borrowers are being allowed to stay in their homes longer. That’s partly because lenders are reluctant to add to the glut of foreclosed homes on the market.”
Health Insurance CEOs Make Mint, Fight Feds
HCAN says health insurance CEOs took nearly $1 billion in compensation last year: “Last year’s compensation for health-insurance CEOs was enormous, enough to fund stress tests to check the heart health of up to 776,000 patients, or to pay for every resident of Philadelphia, Dallas and Minneapolis combined (3.2 million people) to go to their regular doctor for an office visit. Over the full decade covered in the report, average CEO pay has reached nearly $10 million a year per company.”
Insurance premiums rising? Daily Kos’ Joan McCarter reads the new HCAN study and says blame a CEO: “We knew that the legislative battle was just the first one, and the regulatory fight to make the Affordable Care Act actually have teeth was going to be just as tough, but a lot less public. Out-of-control compensation for CEOs and rising premium rates will hopefully make the insurance commissioners a little less amenable to the insurance company lobbying.”
“Insurers Lobbying To Weaken Regulations, Despite Record Profits” finds Wonk Room’s Igor Volsky: “Insurers are spending less on health care and seeing higher profits. Despite these riches, the industry is still lobbying regulators to soften the medical loss ratio reporting requirements and other mandates that are part of health care law.”
Consumer Watchdog calls on HHS to investigate insurers for trying to skirt new law: “The medical loss ratio is the percentage of premiums earned spent on consumers’ health care. Congress sought to set a floor for the MLR so that insurers could not continue their practice of denying their customers care at unreasonable levels. But as the insurers wait for the regulation to be implemented, they are raising premiums and lowering their MLRs without providing clear explanations for their actions.”
Boost For Coal, If Climate Ball Passes
Federal government report says carbon capture of coal emissions feasible if broader climate legislation enacted. The Hill: “Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) applauded the report on carbon capture and storage, or CCS, even though he has called for putting aside legislation to cap greenhouse gas emissions.”
NYT’s Andrew Revkin still skeptical of carbon capture’s prospects: “Today the Obama administration put as optimistic a spin as possible on a report [which] concluded that the [carbon capture] process will remain expensive for decades to come without substantial added government investment above and beyond a rising price on CO2 emissions. Of course even getting a price on such emissions, let alone finding more money, has proved impossible so far…”
Dan Froomkin reports that the Obama’s Gulf Coast vacation beach will be oil free, but just on the surface: “Starting just 80 miles to the west, from Pensacola Beach and on to Alabama, the beaches were hit a lot worse. And a University of South Florida scientist told HuffPost those beaches, thanks to a ‘superficial’ cleanup job by BP, remain contaminated.”
State energy-efficiency projects moving thanks to stimulus. Stateline: “…Massachusetts, Arizona, Kentucky and other states are moving ahead on hundreds of projects that were at a standstill … A majority of the stimulus dollars are going toward energy upgrades at state facilities, including hospitals, office buildings, prisons, universities and schools. … In many cases, states are using stimulus money to leverage private investment and create revolving credit funds designed to pay for efficiency projects for years to come … Energy-efficiency projects are among the best leveraged uses of federal money because they attract private investment and result in immediate reductions in states’ utility bills.”
My Party Has No Ideas, Says GOP Senator
GOP Sen. Dick Lugar worries his party doesn’t have a plan to help govern if its regains majority. The Hill: “‘Yes, I am,’ he said when asked if he was concerned that GOP candidates hadn’t offered enough ideas at a national level. ‘That’s why I challenged today, without going into great detail, the fact that we had better begin thinking in the next 13 weeks about what we are going to do.’”
Sen. Schumer lays out September Senate agenda. The Hill: “…Senate leaders will keep trying to change [the voter mood] with a jobs-based September agenda … Schumer said the Senate in September will focus on a bill to promote small businesses, a child nutrition bill, a tax-credit bill for companies and possibly a vote on the Bush-era tax cuts or the START arms treaty between the United States and Russia.”