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.
Not Even Hiding It Anymore.
New Alaska Senate nominee Joe Miller tells CNN he wants to end Social Security. “CNN’s JOHN KING: How about an American born tomorrow or born the day after Joe Miller was sworn in in Washington? Would that person perhaps grow up in an America where there is not a federal Social Security program if you got your way? JOE MILLER: Absolutely.”
Alan Simpson calls another Social Security defender, risks learning something. HuffPost: “[Merton] Bernstein, who was a senior consultant to the 1983 commission that reformed Social Security, said he used the opportunity to try to educate Simpson … ‘That’s not true,’ Bernstein said of Simpson’s claim — which he has made in the past and repeated to Bernstein — that the commission did not account for baby boomers. ‘They very clearly and explicitly addressed that issue. That’s why they built in a surplus.’ … ‘Then why are they in such trouble now?’ Simpson responded. Bernstein responded that they are not in fact in trouble today. The surplus is now over $2 trillion and is projected to reach $4.6 trillion.”
Not Just Simpson. Take Social Security Off The Table: OurFuture.org continues petition campaign to protect Social Security from debt commission.
Paul Krugman finds many prominent debt hysterics were also completely wrong about the housing bubble: “…the same people who denied the existence of a housing bubble also told investors that budget deficits would send interest rates soaring; in other words, anyone who believed these people in the past, and acted on that belief, has lost a lot of money.”
Dean Baker rejects IMF debt hysteria report: “The NYT reports on a new set of papers from the IMF, one of which warns that many wealthy countries, including the United States, are very close to the limit of their ability to increase their national debt. It is worth noting that this paper’s methodology indicated that Japan and Italy were already well above the limit of their ability to take on debt. The financial markets apparently assess the situation differently than the IMF since both countries are still able to issue long-term debt at very low interest rates.”
Romer’s Final Plea: More Stimulus. Now.
Departing WH econ adviser Christina Romer calls for more public investment and middle-class tax cuts to spur job creation. The Hill: “‘The only surefire ways for policymakers to substantially increase aggregate demand in the short run are for the government to spend more and tax less .. The key is that we need to take action and we need to do it quickly.” Romer mentioned additional tax cuts for the middle class, spending on infrastructure and a pending bill to boost small-business lending.”
Romer explains why Recovery Act helped avert Great Depression, even if her baseline jobs prediction was too optimistic. NYT: “…she also gave her most detailed explanation yet for why her original forecast that unemployment would peak at 8 percent ‘was so far off.’ … Because such financial shocks are rare, she added, ‘to this day economists don’t fully understand why firms cut production as much as they did, and why they cut labor so much more than they normally would.’ … She recalled that until reports in 2009 showed slowdowns in Asian and European countries, she and Mr. Obama’s other advisers had anticipated that those trading partners would help bolster the American economy.”
McClatchy speculates Dems don’t have the votes to allow Bush tax cuts for multi-millionaires to expire: “…a small but growing number of moderate Democrats are balking at boosting taxes on the rich … ‘Sometimes we forget how we became the majority. We did it by winning some affluent districts,’ [Rep. Gerald Connolly] said … at least three [Dem Senators] — [Indiana's Evan] Bayh, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Kent Conrad of North Dakota — have signaled that they won’t back a permanent repeal of the tax cuts for the wealthy.”
TNR’s Jonathan Cohn asks economists, what if we had a bigger stimulus? “…unemployment would have been more than a full percentage point lower than it is today … Five million more jobs…”
After criticizing federal aid to states, MS Gov. Haley Barbour plans to take the aid … and do nothing with it. Wonk Room’s Pat Garofalo: “…as it turns out, Barbour not only wants the money, he wants to save it, in order to make his budget look better next year … Barbour is just the latest in a line of Republican governors — including Gov. Rick Perry (TX), Gov. Tim Pawlenty (MN), and Gov. Mitch Daniels (IN) — who criticize the stimulus while reaping its benefits and bragging about their fiscal stewardship of their respective states.”
Most gubernatorial challengers skip the specifics. Stateline: “There are proposals for change in virtually every one of the 37 states where governors will be elected this November. Some of the ideas are genuinely substantive. Most of the time, though, they avoid specific plans for raising revenue or cutting spending and focus on governmental process.”
Warren Poised To Be Picked?
Speculation intensifies that Elizabeth Warren will head consumer protection bureau. W. Post: “‘I’m writing to let you know that Professor Jerry Frug will be teaching your Contracts class this term instead of Professor Elizabeth Warren,’ [Harvard] law school dean Martha Minow wrote to students on Tuesday … She continued to teach fall classes in 2008 and 2009, even as she chaired the [TARP] oversight panel, and the Harvard Law School Web site still lists her as teaching this semester – three days a week. Apparently, she has other plans.”
Former Lehman CEO Richard Fuld blasts Fed at Financial Crisis Inquiry hearing. W. Post: “Fuld testified that Lehman gave government regulators a number of options for saving the company but that these were rejected. He said the regulators just weeks later extended similar measures to other Wall Street banks.”
OurFuture.org’s Zach Carter blasts Fed and Fuld: “No sympathy for Fuld, but the Fed’s line that they had the authority to AIG but not Lehman has always been preposterous … Whatever excuses Fuld puts up, his firm engaged in a classic Enron deception to stay afloat.”
Bernanke testifies to crisis commission today reports AP. Liveblogging from OurFuture.org’s Zach Carter.
FT’s John Gapper tells hedge fund managers to pipe down and accept fair taxes: “… Stephen Schwarzman, the co-founder of Blackstone, compared the US government’s attempt to increase the amount of tax paid by the partners of financial firms to Adolf Hitler’s invasion of Poland in 1939 … Daniel Loeb, founder of the hedge fund Third Point, described a proposed change in the taxation of sales or initial public offerings of such funds as an ‘arguably unconstitutional Bill of Attainder’ that showed the Obama administration was ‘operating from a playbook quite different from the one we are used to as American business people.’ … Mr Schwarzman’s rhetoric was self-evidently ludicrous [and the] proposed ‘enterprise value tax’ on sales of financial partnerships is not a bill of attainder as prohibited by the US constitution…”
Loeb is the “Robespierre Of The Hedge Fund Revolution” says OurFuture.org’s Richard Eskow: “Loeb’s turgid and overblown prose (can’t he afford a ghostwriter?) serves two very clear business objectives: to impress current and prospective clients, and to push for a political climate that will better serve his personal interests. If that means talking like a Tea Partier, then bring on the three-cornered hat.”
James Kwak writes at Truthout that just because you make a lot of money doesn’t mean you know what you’re talking about: “Who, in making a list of America’s founding principles, would put ‘nonpunitive taxation’ first? Oh, right. A hedge fund manager.”
Allegations of unethical Wall Street fundraising detailed. The Hill: “[Dem Rep. Joseph] Crowley left during the Dec. 10 debate over amendments to the legislation in order to attend his holiday fundraiser at financial industry lobbyist Julie Domenick’s home, which is also her office. He then came back and voted against amendments that would have strengthened the bill … [GOP Rep. Tom] Price’s fundraising luncheon took place on Dec. 10 and was specifically aimed at the financial services sector … He also held a fundraising breakfast there on Dec. 2, the same day the bill was voted out of committee …
Health Care Hypocrisy
MN. Gov. Tim Pawlenty rejects funds from health reform law, punishing his constituents. TNR’s Jonathan Cohn: “… I hope somebody asks him why he wanted to go easy on the insurance industry, potentially forcing his state’s residents to pay more for their health insurance … The grants [he's rejecting] will help states educate consumers about coverage options, for example, and expand (or create) temporary programs that offer limited coverage to people that have pre-existing medical conditions.”
MN Gov. Tim Pawlenty happy to take federal Medicaid funds, just not “Obamacare” funds. TPMDC: “It turns out that Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), who ordered his state yesterday to not apply for grant money from the federal health care reform … will still probably take $263 million in federal Medicaid money that passed as part of an emergency spending package for the states … ‘It’s not Obamacare, it is something that we were going to be doing anyhow.’”
“At Least 20 Companies On U.S. Chamber Of Commerce Board Of Directors Applied For Grants From Health Law” reports Wonk Room’s Igor Volsky: “[The Chamber] plans to spend some $75 million trying to unseat Democrats who voted for the health care law all the while its board members profit from it.”
State flexibility provision in health care reform prompts OR Sen. Ron Wyden to pursue federal waiver. HuffPost: “The Oregon Democrat is seeking to take advantage of a provision he helped write into the legislation that allows states to set up their own health care systems as long as they meet minimal requirements established by the Department of Health and Human Services … he strongly suggested that the state should use the provision to exempt Oregon from the individual mandate.”
Conservative Congressman Bravely Defends Big Oil
Leading House GOPer stands up for Big Oil, claims Democrats of “demonizing” oil industry. The Hill: “Rep. Kevin Brady (Texas), the top House Republican on the Joint Economic Committee and a senior member of the Ways and Means Committee, said he hoped a GOP majority in the House would end the scapegoating of the industry … ‘This White House and this Congress is demonizing them — the new drilling moratorium, the new energy taxes…’”
At end of BlueGreen Alliance tour, United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard presses Senate to pass comprehensive climate legislation to create jobs: “At the turn of the 20th Century, smoke meant jobs … Now, however, good-paying industrial jobs need not exact untimely death from workers and their families. In fact, it’s the opposite. Development of clean renewable energy generators — the likes of wind turbines, solar cells, biomass — would create family-supporting industrial jobs in America and would reinforce traditional manufacturing jobs in the U.S. … it’s not a choice between clean air and jobs. The choice is leaving a legacy of environmental hell or bequeathing climate unchanged.”
EPA administrator tells CA enviro officials that voting to scrap state carbon cap sends wrong message. HuffPost’s Laura Bassett: “‘The most damaging thing that could be done nationally would be to somehow co-join these two things, that climate change in California was shown to have a negative impact on the economy,’ [federal EPA Administrator Jared Blumenfeld] said. ‘What we need to show, and many people have, is that taking action early on climate change is a good thing for the economy.’”
Major utility may retire several dirty coal plants after tougher enviro standards. Charlotte Observer: “Duke said it may retire by 2015 all coal-fired units for which it’s not economical to install sulfur-dioxide controls called scrubbers. That would increase by 890 megawatts the coal plants Duke had planned to retire a year ago … Duke said it might convert [one plant] from coal to natural gas fuel. Natural gas burns more cleanly than coal, and Duke expects gas prices to drop 35 percent as previously-untapped shale deposits are explored.”
Big Oil attacking EPA smog standards, reports Blog For Clean Air: “OILY FICTION: ‘this action lacks scientific justification and there is absolutely no basis for EPA to propose changing the ozone standards promulgated by the EPA Administrator just two years ago.’ THE TRUTH: EPA has proposed exactly what its independent science advisers have recommended … because of clear and compelling evidence that smog can make you sick and even kill you.”
Grist’s David Roberts urges focus on state climate action, as federal action seems increasingly implausible: “What will be possible in a Senate with 47 Republicans? One has to conclude: nothing. There will be no climate legislation seriously limiting carbon emissions in the next two years … The real hope for progress now lies in states and cities.”
Illegal Immigration Declines
Undocumented population down nearly 1 million. McClatchy: “Possibly because of tighter enforcement measures and economic circumstances driving some immigrants back home, the population is down from its estimated 2007 peak of 12 million.”
Attention 14th Amendment haters: countries that don’t have birthright citizenship pay a steep price. LAT oped from Julie Weise: “Dragging economies, new forms of fraud, a disenfranchised underclass, children deported to places they have never even visited — countries that do not have birthright citizenship have experienced these problems and more, and have been forced to reconsider their practices.”