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.
Tax Cuts For Jobs?
WH continues to deliberate on additional economic strategy, possibility including infrastructure spending and tax cuts. WSJ: “On the list of possible actions: additional tax cuts for small businesses beyond those included in a $30 billion small-business lending bill before the Senate … a possible payroll tax cut for businesses and individuals, as well as other business tax breaks … The White House is struggling with whether to propose ideas that would appeal to Republicans, and thus get support on Capitol Hill—such as tax cuts—or whether to promote ideas that officials believe could have more economic impact but might hit political resistance, such as more aid for states and more infrastructure funding.”
NYT’s David Leonhardt proposes tax cuts that can pass Congress and might work: “…the most effective tax cut for putting people back to work quickly is one that businesses and households get only if they spend money. Last year’s cash-for-clunkers program was an example. So was a recent bipartisan tax credit for businesses that hired workers who had been unemployed for months. Perhaps the broadest example is a temporary cut in the payroll tax for businesses, which reduces the cost of employing people … One possibility is an expanded tax credit for new clean energy projects … this kind of bill would force opponents to explain why they instead wanted smaller tax cuts for middle-class families and businesses and a bigger one for the affluent.”
Robert Rubin and Julian Robertson call for return of the estate tax, in WSJ oped: “We would recommend continuing 2009′s regime, with a top rate of 45% and a $3.5 million individual exemption. Small businesses and family farms can be protected both through the exemption (which is $7 million for a couple) and through special deferred payment rules … A key criterion in choosing taxes is to have the least negative impact on economic activity. The estate tax, in our opinion, meets that test. An estate tax can provide revenue—with little, if any, adverse supply-side economic impact—to fund deficit reduction, additional public investment or added assistance to those affected by the economic crisis…” (via Economist’s View.)
FT’s Martin Wolf argues the President’s caution on the economy will get him boxed in by a Republican Congress on taxes: “I assume that, after the midterm elections, resurgent Republicans will offer new tax cuts and ignore the fiscal deficits. They will pretend that this has nothing to do with any reviled stimulus, though it is much the same thing – increasing fiscal deficits, thereby offsetting private frugality. That would put the administration on the spot. It would have to choose between vetoing the tax cuts and accepting them, so allowing the Republicans to get the credit for their ‘yacht and mansion-led’ recovery. Any recovery is better than none. But it could have been much better than this. Those who were cautious when they should have been bold will pay a big price.”
Federal government finds illegal Chinese aluminum subsidies, but not currency manipulation. AP: “The Obama administration wants to address worries by lawmakers who say the United States is losing jobs because China’s currency policy keeps its currency undervalued against the dollar and makes Chinese products cheaper in the United States. But it also wants to maintain a good relationship with a country seen as crucial to dealing with global economic and environmental issues and with nuclear standoffs with Iran and North Korea.”
Corporate Lobbies Plan Labor Day Attack On Labor
Corporate lobbies plan Labor Day ad blitz against labor-friendly candidates. The Hill: “Local groups will target Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Rep. Paul Hodes, the Democrat running for Senate in New Hampshire, and Kentucky Senate Democratic candidate Jack Conway in their states over their record on labor-related issues … particularly on their stance on the Employee Free Choice Act …”
W. Post’s Harold Meyerson reports the labor movement’s November grassroots effort: “Working America’s canvassers hear that anger every day — sometimes directed at Wall Street, sometimes at the president, immigrants and other right-wing bogeymen. They grapple with it by highlighting job-creation programs (improving local roads) and anti-offshoring legislation that Democrats have backed and Republicans opposed. Next week, they’ll start campaigning for actual candidates, using these criteria. Their message is surely the right one. The question is whether congressional Democrats and Obama in particular actually measure up to progressive-populist claims that labor makes for them.”
Katrina vanden Heuvel takes stock of the labor movement as we approach Labor Day: “Unions are in trouble. They represent less than 13 percent of the workforce and less than 8 percent of private workers … when unions represented over 33 percent of all private workers in the 1940s, they drove wage increases for everyone … Now, unions struggle just to defend their members’ wages and benefits … their revival is central to building a new foundation for this economy…”
Final Hearings For Financial Crisis Commission
Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission struggling to overcome divisions, as final round of hearings begins today. NYT: “… as the commission prepares for its final round of public hearings … including appearances by Richard S. Fuld Jr., the former chief executive of Lehman Brothers, on Wednesday, and Ben S. Bernanke … on Thursday — it faces substantial obstacles … several commissioners are divided over how much to blame specific individuals and banks, how and when to release the documents it has gathered and whether to make available testimony of government officials and bank executives it has interviewed privately.”
Follow today’s hearing with liveblogging from OurFuture.org’s Zach Carter.
“JPMorgan Said to End Proprietary Trading to Meet Volcker Rule” reports Bloomberg: “The Volcker rule may cost JPMorgan as much as $1.4 billion in annual profit, analysts at Barclays Capital led by Jason Goldberg estimated in a June 28 research report.”
SEC plans to prosecute overseas credit-ratings fraud under new financial reform law. Bloomberg: “The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said it plans to use new financial laws to pursue credit-rating fraud initiated overseas after dropping a case against Moody’s Corp. amid uncertainty over its [prior] authority.”
Paul Krugman offers further insight on why Wall Streeters turned on Obama: “I talked to some financial-industry backers of Obama back during primary season; they really didn’t know or care much about policy issues, but were in love with Obama over his style — and also over the prospect of being in his inner circle, something they knew wouldn’t happen with Hillary. Now they’re mad because they don’t feel that they’re getting enough stroking. And you have to bear in mind that this comes after Obama has made immense efforts to placate the financial industry. There were no bank nationalizations; there were hardly any strings attached to bailouts; the financial reform bill was by no means draconian … as far as I can tell, hardly any of the new anti-Obamanites is thinking at all about what will really happen once John Boehner is speaker.”
Bank earnings are up, but so are “problem banks.” NYT: “…the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s quarterly report card on Tuesday showed that the banking sector is slowly starting to recover … the number of problem banks remains at its highest level in more than 16 years … Even so, bank earnings continue to rebound … The stronger performance reflected that banks are also setting aside less money to cover future losses than they were before and taking advantage of ultralow interest rates to improve lending margins.”
Congressional ethics panel recommends three congressmen for further investigation regarding Wall St. fundraisers. NYT: “The investigation focused on lawmakers who raised money from lobbyists or executives of financial firms that had objected to provisions of the legislation. Each of the three House members — Representatives John Campbell, Republican of California; Joseph Crowley, Democrat of New York; and Tom Price, Republican of Georgia — criticized the referrals on Tuesday, with two of them saying the quasi-independent ethics office had not produced evidence of wrongdoing.”
Renewable Energy Standard Back On Senate Table?
Sen. Harry Reid suggests he could put higher renewable energy standards on the Senate floor this year. The Hill: “…Reid told reporters on a conference call Tuesday the energy bill is still a work in progress and cited two Republicans who have expressed interest in an RES … He noted the Senate would resume work after the recess but added, ‘Maybe, after the elections, we can get some more Republicans to work with us.’”
New poll shows strong support for EPA regulation of greenhouse gas pollution. Climate Progress’ Daniel Weiss: “When asked whether ‘the government should regulate greenhouse gases from sources like power plants and refineries in an effort to reduce global warming,’ 60% support it and just 34% oppose it … When asked about a bill ‘would suspend the EPA’s power to regulate greenhouse gases for two years,’: Just 37% support it, while 53% oppose it … During the midst of the worse economy in 80 years, Senator Rockefeller’s dirty air bill is still opposed by Democrats, Independents, and Republicans alike.”
Cape Wind offshore wind farm clears another legal hurdle. AP: “…Massachusetts’ high court rejected a claim that the project sidestepped local opposition to win a key permit.”
Another hit by Fannie and Freddie against PACE clean energy retrofit program. Grist’s Jonathan Hiskes: “The mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac issued letters today saying that homeowners must pay off PACE assessments before refinancing their mortgages, if they have sufficient equity … The continued antagonism from Fannie and Freddie isn’t surprising; they’ve stuck to their attack on PACE assessments despite criticism from building contractors, local leaders, governors, members of Congress, and the Obama administration.”
Grist’s Ted Nace proposes a “Cash For Coal Clunkers” plan to shut down dirty plants: “The answer to the financing riddle can be found in the work of tobacco policy analysts, who have developed the crucial insight that smoking (like coal plant emissions) not only inflames arteries and darkens lungs, but also plays pickpocket with Uncle Sam. That’s because smoking kills income earners, and income earners pay taxes. In addition, people who are disabled by smoking (or coal plant emissions) create fiscal burdens on federal programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and the Veterans Administration.”
New ethics rules for oil drilling regulators. Mother Jones’ Kate Sheppard: “…staffers will be barred for two years from handling any matter involving a former employer in the industry. Employees will also have to inform their supervisors about any other potential conflicts of interest, and will be required to submit requests to be relieved of duties that might present a conflict. Staffers will also have to recuse themselves from duties that involve companies that employ a family member or friend.”
Two million smart meters have been installed, thanks to the stimulus. The Hill: “DOE cited an analysis by the Electric Power Research Institute — a utility industry group — that found various ‘smart grid’ technologies could trim power use by more than 4 percent annually by 2030. ‘That would mean a savings of $20.4 billion for businesses and consumers around the country each year … ‘$61 in annual utility savings for every man, woman and child…,’ according to DOE.”
Climate Progress’ Joe Romm warns people to resist climate change skeptic Bjorn Lomborg’s recent flip-flop: “…the penultimate paragraph of [his new] book tells you everything you need to know about Lomborg’s new ‘thinking’ … ‘It is unfortunate that so many policy makers and campaigners have become fixated on cutting carbon in the near term as the chief response to global warming.’ … Lomborg’s ‘solution’ is to mostly skip the CO2 reductions and focus on geo-engineering and energy R&D and non-CO2 GHGs … Lomborg hasn’t really changed his stripes…”
Ohio Tea Party group sets disturbing standards for candidates. The Guardian quotes from email sent to candidates: “The regulation of Carbon Dioxide in our atmosphere should be left to God and not government … I oppose Ohio’s State Income Tax … all same sex partners should be banned from combat duty in the military because of the propensity to transmit blood-borne diseases in the theatre of battle.”
Health Care Hypocrisy
Hypocrisy abounds as conservative state governments seek health care subsidies. LAT: “The Obama administration announced Tuesday that nearly 2,000 businesses, labor unions and state and local governments have qualified for federal subsidies to offset the cost of providing their retirees and dependents with medical insurance … Among those taking advantage of the program are more than half of the nation’s Fortune 500 companies … Several states that are suing to overturn the healthcare law are among those that plan to seek the aid, including Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska and Nevada.”
“Govs. Pawlenty And McDonnell Apply For Abstinence-Only Funding From Health Law They Opposed” reports HuffPost’s Amanda Terkel.
States can reduce Medicaid costs by expanding eligibility, Urban Institute finds. Wonk Room’s Igor Volsky: “… states will have to expand their enrollment efforts to net healthier (and maybe younger) enrollees who are below the poverty line to balance the costs of covering the sicker population. But that may take some time … Fortunately, states will receive the highest federal matching fund during that critical early period.”