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.
Both Parties Struggle To Find Footing In Tax Cut Debate
NYT’s Paul Krugman debunks arguments to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest: “we’re told that it’s all about helping small business; but only a tiny fraction of small-business owners would receive any tax break at all. And how many small-business owners do you know making several million a year? Or we’re told that it’s about helping the economy recover. But it’s hard to think of a less cost-effective way to help the economy than giving money to people who already have plenty, and aren’t likely to spend a windfall.”
Senate Min. Leader Mitch McConnell can’t make a coherent argument in defense of the tax cuts, says Wonk Room’s Pat Garofalo: “Earlier this month, Reps. John Boehner (R-OH) and Mike Pence (R-IN) appeared on Meet the Press and were unable to explain their desire to extend the Bush tax cuts for the richest two percent of Americans with their rhetoric about deficit reduction … Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) ran into the same trouble with MTP host David Gregory, and scoffed at the very notion of paying for tax cuts … McConnell basically summed up the Republican approach here, which is that cutting taxes for the rich is either free or worth exploding the deficit to implement.”
Bill Schneider highlights challenges for both parties in tax cut debate: “This is one issue on which Republicans can’t ‘Just say no.’ If Congress fails to act by the end of the year, the Bush tax cuts will expire. And Republicans will have enabled a major tax hike … The tax cut debate shows signs of splitting the Democratic Party along class lines: limousine liberals versus economic populists.”
State ballot initiatives seek to increase, or decrease, taxes: “Washington State is one of nine states without a state income tax. Bill Gates Sr. … is lending his high-profile name and influence to a ballot measure that would tax the income of individuals who earn more than $200,000 … three Colorado measures, if approved, would cut property taxes in half; eliminate most car registration fees and taxes for communications services … and cut the income tax rate from 4.63 percent to 4.5 percent. And in the first of its kind, one measure would prohibit the state from taking on new debt and restrict local governments’ ability to borrow …”
Small Business Week
House Dems to highlight small biz agenda this week. The Hill: “Democratic incumbents and candidates are scheduling business-themed campaign events throughout the country … The chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Carl Levin (D-Mich.), will hold a conference call on Tuesday to push [small biz lending' legislation and highlight small-business tax cuts included in other bills that have already passed."
Inflation hawks step up pressure on Fed to pull back before annual Fed gathering this week. Bloomberg: " Raghuram Rajan … the International Monetary Fund’s former chief economist says the Federal Reserve should consider raising rates, even as almost 10 percent of the U.S. workforce remains unemployed … While inflation isn’t the main threat now, 'you can’t be totally comfortable,' he said in an Aug. 18 interview. People think 'there is significant unused capacity in the economy' and that assumption may be mistaken …"
Obama administration argues pending Korea trade deal will create US jobs. W. Post: "The agreement would eventually eliminate tariffs between the two countries. Because those levies are typically higher on the South Korean side, administration officials estimate the deal could mean more than $10 billion annually in increased U.S. exports to Seoul and tens of thousands of new U.S. jobs … more than 100 Democratic members of Congress signed a letter asking to meet Obama and discuss the agreement. They characterized it as 'job killing' …"
Another Lump Of Coal
Wave of coal plant construction sets back carbon cutting goals. AP: "… more than 30 traditional coal plants have been built since 2008 or are under construction … The expansion, the industry's largest in two decades, represents an acknowledgment that highly touted 'clean coal' technology is still a long way from becoming a reality and underscores a renewed confidence among utilities that proposals to regulate carbon emissions will fail … Still, the price of coal plants is rising, and consumers in some areas served by the new facilities will see their electricity bills rise by up to 30 percent."
EPA delays tougher smog rules. The Hill: "…EPA is backing off plans to finalize the rules later this month, and fall is the new target … tougher rules recently drew fire from a group of seven senators – a mix of Republicans and centrist Democrats – who allege that imposing a more stringent standard than Bush’s 2008 plan will be economically harmful … 'We can only hope it is a temporary setback, and that the EPA does not bow to political pressure on an issue so significant,' [said Clean Air Watch's Frank O'Donnell.]
Right-Wing Madness … Sponsored By Koch Industries
Exhaustive New Yorker profile of radical libertarian billionaire Koch brothers connects their oil money to the Tea Party: “[Peggy] Venable—a longtime political operative who draws a salary from [the Koch-founded] Americans for Prosperity, and who has worked for Koch-funded political groups since 1994 … explained that the role of Americans for Prosperity was to help ‘educate’ Tea Party activists on policy details, and to give them ‘next-step training’ after their rallies, so that their political energy could be channelled ‘more effectively.’ And she noted that Americans for Prosperity had provided Tea Party activists with lists of elected officials to target.”
E. J. Dionne calls on sane Republicans to reject crazy conservatives: “When Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert warns, with absolutely no proof, of the dangers of ‘terror babies’ — children whose mothers allegedly come to the United States to give birth so their offspring can have American passports for later use in terrorist activities — have we not crossed into never-never land? Where are the responsible conservatives who should be denouncing such crackpottery?”
NYT edit board prepares us for upcoming fights to implement Wall St. reform: “Consumer advocates are especially worried about how the Fed will formulate the rules that are supposed to stop lenders from steering creditworthy minority or female applicants into more expensive mortgages and end ‘wealth stripping,’ under which lenders design loans that quickly rob homeowners of their equity.”
HHS Sec may get squeezed by state insurance commissioners on regulating insurer profiteering. Politico: “[Sec. Kathleen] Sebelius is waiting for the National Association of Insurance Commissioners to suggest rules surrounding how much insurance companies must spend on medical costs versus administrative expenses or profits. The report, expected in weeks, isn’t likely to be as strict on insurers as top Democrats have hoped … HHS will have the ultimate say … But overturning the NAIC could arouse accusations that the agency is playing politics …