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.
Deficit Commissioner Says Don’t Cut Until Jobs Come Back
Sen. Dick Durbin, member of WH deficit commission, says no budget cuts until unemployment rate drops. Bloomberg: “Congress shouldn’t make cutting the federal deficit a greater priority than creating jobs until the U.S. unemployment rate falls to 9 percent or lower for at least half a year … ‘If we have two or three quarters of 9 percent or less’ then Congress can ‘breathe a sigh of relief’ and ‘move forward on what we need to do on this deficit,’ Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin said…”
EARLIER 300 Economists declare: “Don’t Kill Growth And Jobs In The Name Of Deficit Reduction.
Dems hit hard on Social Security. Politico: “Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.) sees the Social Security gambit as a legitimate endgame strategy for Democrats because ‘Republicans have had to move so far to the right … to privatize Social Security and undermine Medicare.’ As the campaign heads into its closing weeks, she adds, ‘we will work harder than ever and show the contrast.’”
Tax Cut Vote Maybe As Soon As Next Week
Senate may vote on Bush tax cuts next week reports W. Post’s Greg Sargent.
House may adjourn before then. Politico: “Republicans say an early adjournment would surely mean that Democrats would go home without extending tax cuts for the middle and lower classes — leaving the majority party open to accusations that they won’t act to stop taxes from going up on all Americans.”
W. Post highlights deficit hysterics who want all Bush tax cuts expire, including for middle-class: “Although the down economy might offer good reason to keep tax rates low for another year or two, putting more money in the hands of consumers, [Concord Coalition's Robert] Bixby and other budget experts say it makes no sense to maintain that level of taxation permanently when the government is borrowing more than 40 cents of every dollar it spends.”
Matthew Rothschild says conservatives only cry “class warfare,” when they’re winning the war: “Over the last decade, most Americans have been losing ground, with real wages stagnating and household incomes falling. ‘Real median income for working-age households is now $4,925 below its peak in the year 2000,’ according to the Economic Policy Institute. Right now, they are desperate for tax cuts, and those tax cuts would inject a lot of money into the economy. Whereas, the top 0.1 percent aren’t desperate for tax cuts; they’re just greedy. But in our economy, and in our political system, it’s the richest and the greediest who win the class war, no matter what you call it.”
The American Prospect’s Jamelle Bouie just comes out and says it — the super-rich deserve higher taxes: “After more than a decade of extracting wealth from the economy, why shouldn’t we use the language of morality to describe the obligation they have to the rest of us? I have no problem with using technocratic language to explain a policy of higher taxes on the rich, but that doesn’t preclude us from using moral language to place those higher taxes in a broader context. For my part, the super rich really should see those higher taxes as the price they pay for playing games with our country’s prosperity. They have earned our scorn; we should oblige them.”
TPMDC lists the 50 House Dems who may break with their party to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.
Steve Benen corrects Rep. Eric Cantor’s confused case for more tax cuts for the rich: “A 39.6% top rate will not stifle ‘individual opportunity and entrepreneurship.’ I can say this with confidence because this and higher rates never undermined ‘individual opportunity and entrepreneurship’ before.”
Republicans rejecting their own business tax cut proposals. Bloomberg: “In a letter to President Barack Obama seven months ago, 10 Republican senators lead by Utah’s Orrin Hatch urged him to use tax relief to bolster the U.S. economy and create jobs … Obama this month offered both [of their] proposals as part of his push to spur economic growth. Now, with House and Senate elections looming on Nov. 2, Obama’s proposals are getting a chilly reception from Republicans.”
Radical tax cut ballot initiatives in Colorado frighten both parties. NYT: “…if the measures pass, Colorado would lose $2.1 billion in revenue … Colorado would end up spending nearly all of its general fund budget on education … For politicians and civic groups, even those who support limited government, those numbers are terrifying enough to have spurred a voter outreach effort by elected officials.”
Worst. Recovery. Ever.
Technical end of recession was June 2009. NYT on why you wouldn’t know it: “The United States economy has lost more jobs than it has added since the recovery began over a year ago.”
President Obama seeks to addresses economic frustrations at CNBC town hall. W. Post: “He defended his administration’s efforts to help the middle class, listing achievements such as better protection for mortgage loans and health insurance for those with preexisting conditions … Obama defended his history on a range of policies, pushing back against the idea that his record on health-care reform, financial regulation and intervention in the automobile business has hurt the markets and business community. He said that Wall Street is thriving, pointing out billion-dollar bonuses, and that the auto sector has been revived.”
Fed meets today. Bloomberg: “Federal Reserve officials are under pressure to avoid creating confusion among investors about any new effort to spur the U.S. recovery.”
Truthout’s Rick Wolff explains capitalism’s poverty problem: “The US poverty rate rose between 2008 and 2009 from 13.2 to 14.3 percent. That is, while trillions were thrown at banks and corporations in bailouts and stimulus programs, nearly 4 million more Americans fell into the ranks of the poor. …Over the same year period between 2008 and 2009 – while health insurance ‘reform’ was a top agenda item for the president and the Congress – the number of Americans without any health insurance rose by over 4 million people, from 46.3 million to 50.7 million. Such statistics testify to deepening social divisions and explain correspondingly building mixes of depression and rage.”
Dean Baker looks examines the role of government in relation to the foreclosure crisis:”If the market is allowed to run its course, millions of homeowners will default on mortgages, leaving banks and investors with large losses. Those who believe that is the role of government to redistribute income upward and help the banks want the government to get people to keep paying on underwater mortgages as long as possible … Those who have the competing view … support measures that would directly help homeowners. For example, bankruptcy cram-down would make it easier for homeowners to declare bankruptcy and hold onto their homes.”
Bipartisan Bill For Renewable Energy Standard
Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Sam Brownback to unveil today bipartisan bill to raise renewable energy production standards. The Hill: “Bingaman is usually reluctant to make predictions, so his pronouncement could provide a political shot in the arm to renewable energy advocates struggling to gain momentum in the waning weeks of the 111th Congress.” “Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and ‘others,’” will participate in today’s presser.
Mother Jones’ Kate Sheppard expects the new bill to offer a relatively low standard: “The RES included in Bingaman’s previous energy bill called for utilities to draw 15 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2021. After that RES was approved in committee, the clean-energy industry complained that it was no better than the business-as-usual path. But they’ve since warmed to even the lower standard.”
“…given the tight calendar in the Senate, it looks like it’s the only thing that can pass right now,” observes Washington Independent’s Andrew Restuccia.
Stalled home retrofit financing program PACE could get boost in bill. CQ: “[The Federal Housing Finance Agency] is concerned that PACE loans could take precedence over mortgage debt … PACE supporters are urging lawmakers to pass a bill (HR 5766), sponsored by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., that would direct FHFA to adopt new underwriting standards that support the programs … advocates are eyeing all possible legislative vehicles for the fix, including a possible post-election debate in the Senate on energy legislation.”
Major mismatch in campaign spending between dirty energy corporations and environmentalists. LAT: “Americans for Prosperity, a conservative advocacy group, boasts hundreds of candidates nationwide who have signed its ‘No Climate Tax Pledge’ … The organization has announced plans to spend $45 million this year on a range of issues. In contrast, the League of Conservation Voters plans to spend about $4 million. While that’s less than the group spent in 2008, league officials say it will be more than 2006.”
Karl Rove-backed campaign organization almost solely funded by billionaires. Salon: “In August, American Crossroads raised $2,639,052. Fully $2.4 million of that — or 91 percent — came in the form of gifts from just three billionaires.”
TNR’s Brad Plumer notes oil industry is split on killing California’s carbon cap law: “…not all the oil companies are lined up alongside the Kochs. The big oil giants, such as ExxonMobil, BP, and Chevron, are all staying neutral. Shell actually opposes the repeal campaign. It’s mainly the mid-sized refiners—Koch Industries and Valero and Tesoro—that are fighting hardest to scrap the climate law. One possibility is that the major oil companies think they’ll be able to handle the new carbon restrictions better than their smaller competitors. The Koch brothers, at least, appear to agree.”
NYT edit board rips Kochs for funding opposition: “Who wins if this law is repudiated? The Koch brothers, maybe, but the biggest winners will be the Chinese, who are already moving briskly ahead in the clean technology race. And the losers? The people of California, surely. But the biggest loser will be the planet.”
Railroad companies fighting, and slowing, Obama’s high-speed rail plans. WSJ: “Freight railroads say running faster and slower trains on the same track could slow their trains because they would have to give faster trains more leeway. Freight railroads also worry partnerships with states will bring federal regulations, an unwelcome prospect for an industry largely deregulated in 1980. The Transportation Department is requiring that railroads that benefit from stimulus funds meet performance standards in return.”
Health Care Repeal Plans Lack Reality
NYT details hurdles for GOP to repeal health care reform: “Not even the most optimistic Republicans expect to gain the two-thirds majorities that would be needed to overcome a veto … The health care law saves money, by the reckoning of the Congressional Budget Office, so Republicans would need to find ways to achieve equivalent savings if they repealed the law.”
HHS Sec. challenges repeal advocates to explain their alternative. Wonk Room quotes: “What is the alternative? …There was never really an alternative put forward … no strategy about what to do about the now 50 million Americans that are uninsured. No real strategies about cost control and containment. No strategies about how to go after fraud. All of the ideas that were put on the table were essentially incorporated. So I think there has got to be a realism about this debate.”
Kevin Drum explains what would happen if the GOP really tried to shut down the government over health care: “…not only would Republicans look petulant and childish if they repeatedly passed bills that either failed in the Senate or got vetoed, but Obama would spend the entire time talking about how he’ll never let the Republican Party take away your right to insurance even if you have a preexisting condition. And he’ll never let them take away the small-business tax credits. And he’ll never let them reinstitute the doughnut hole … Not only would Republicans lose the showdown, but they’d quite possibly end up making [health care reform] popular for the first time in its existence.”
Booman writes that the Republican Party’s disarray will be ours, if Tea Party candidates do well in November: “This isn’t a debate about the size of government. It’s a debate about whether the government, as we know it, should really exist. … We’ll all feel the fallout, because Congress won’t be able to do its most basic tasks, like providing funding for the government’s agencies.”
Health care reform is helping us whether the economic downturn, notes TNR’s Jonathan Cohn: “Health care reform is an automatic anti-recession measure, because, during downturns, government ends up enrolling more people in Medicaid and providing more people with subsidies to pay for private insurance. Those are two effective forms of stimulus.”
Senate Dems warn insurers not to spread “misinformation” about health reform law. WSJ: “Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus and Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller sent letters warning five insurance companies against telling consumers their rates are going up because of new mandates in the health law … the senators sent letters directly to five insurers – WellPoint, UnitedHealth, Aetna, Health Care Services Corp. and CIGNA – saying they represent the biggest chunk of the nation’s health-insurance market.”
Some insurers are ending children’s policies to avoid health reform law. Politico: “Beginning Thursday, insurance companies will no longer be allowed to turn down any child who applies for coverage, even if he or she has a pre-existing condition … But insurers are worried that children — or, more likely, their parents — might apply for coverage literally on the way to the hospital or doctor’s office and cancel it once treatment is complete … HHS is still working with insurance companies on the issue and will offer additional regulatory guidance if necessary.”
Worries that drug makers will jack up prices because of health care reform’s rebate checks: “‘There is legitimate concern that some manufacturers will steeply increase the price of drugs in order to offset the cost of the discount to the manufacturers at the expense of both consumers and the Medicare program itself,’ the Center for Medicare Advocacy and the Medicare Rights Center said in a letter to the agency that oversees the federal health insurance program.”
Can The DREAM Become Law?
Previous opponents to DREAM Act immigration reform bill may be persuaded by new language. The Hill: “Democrats helped block the bill three years ago when it fell eight votes short on a procedural motion. While some Republicans supported that motion, eight Democrats voted no, including the late Sen. Robert Byrd (W.Va.) and Sens. Max Baucus (Mont.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Kent Conrad (N.D.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Jon Tester (Mont.) and Byron Dorgan (N.D.). Five of those senators — Conrad, Dorgan, McCaskill, Pryor and Landrieu — told The Hill they haven’t made up their minds about this week’s vote … [But] GOP senators who backed the 2007 motion are planning to vote no this time around.”
Students organize to pass DREAM Act. NYT: “The urgency for change among illegal immigrant students has made them the most outspoken flank of the movement pushing for legislation to open a path to legal status for millions of immigrants here illegally”
Mother Jones’ Andi McDaniel writes that it’s not just people crossing the U.S. Mexico border that’s the problem, but also the people who are literally dying to cross it: “As many as 700 corpses of migrants are found in the deserts and mountains of U.S. border counties each year. Roughly half are anonymous … A dead body without a name can’t be buried, not in good conscience, at least, until efforts to identify it seem completely hopeless … That’s the Juan Doe problem.”
How I Learned To Love The Auto Bailout
“Corker Tells Whopper: ‘I Saved the Auto Industry’” reports AFL-CIO’s Mike Hall: “Last week at a ceremony at GM’s Spring Hill, Tenn., plant to celebrate the rehiring of 483 workers to build a line of fuel-efficient EcoTec engines, [GOP Sen. Bob] Corker, who ranted and railed against the government help to save the auto industry, took credit for the government help to save the auto industry … [That] didn’t go over well with the UAW members in the audience …They surely remembered Corker was one of the loudest voices in the fight against saving GM and Chrysler and used the Senate debate as a platform to push his union-busting, wage cutting schemes.”
TNR’s Jonathan Cohn interviews former auto bailout czar Steven Rattner on his new book: “…if you were expecting shocking revelations about inner workings of the Obama White House, you’ll be disappointed … at a time when neither the bailout nor the administration is particularly popular, he has (mostly) good things to say about both … [And] he thinks the unions get more blame than they deserve for the automakers’ woes…”