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.
New Health Reform Benefits Kick In Today
Kaiser Foundation’s Drew Altman praises early implementation in W. Post op-ed: ” The federal government that many regard as sluggish and ineffective has turned major elements of the legislation into reality right on schedule … [HHS] has set up a program to help people with preexisting health conditions get coverage through state or federal high-risk pools; established a program to help employers provide health insurance to early retirees; issued rebates to help pay drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries stuck in the ‘doughnut hole’; provided tax credits to small businesses to provide insurance coverage; and created a consumer-friendly Web site, http://HealthCare.gov, that rivals anything coming out of Silicon Valley…”
NYT explores who stands to gain as reform begins: “Sometimes lost in the partisan clamor about the new health care law is the profound relief it is expected to bring to hundreds of thousands of Americans who have been stricken first by disease and then by a Darwinian insurance system.”
Insurers are already changing their practices, for better and for worse. NYT: “Insurers are cutting administrative staff to lower overhead costs, investing in big technology upgrades … Despite the talk among some Republicans of repealing all or part of the law, insurers say they cannot afford to put off the changes … Blue Shield says it has already increased its efforts to address the cost and quality of care by exploring new ways to pay doctors and hospitals … Still, several have chosen to avoid the new rules by ceasing to offer certain policies…”
Initial phase of reform is narrow, reminds Time’s Kate Pickert: “…a relatively small number of Americans will be personally impacted by them.”
“Sharron Angle Slams Mandated Health Care Coverage For Autism Treatment, Maternity Leave” reports HuffPost: “In video shot of Angle making the criticism, she can be seen making air quotes as she says ‘autism.’”
Obama keeps making the health care pitch. LAT: “The White House Wednesday again tried to sell it by surrounding the president with Americans who are benefiting from the law, including several small-business owners who plan to use the tax credits and seniors who have received $250 rebate checks to help them with their prescription drug bills. Wednesday morning, Obama also met with state insurance commissioners whom the administration is counting on to protect consumers from excessive rate hikes by insurance companies.”
Senate May Not Vote On Bush Tax Cuts Before Election
Senate Dems to meet today and decide course on Bush tax cuts. NYT: “Floor debate over the highly contentious issue of what to do about the expiring Bush-era tax cuts may be delayed until after the November elections … Senate Democrats will meet over lunch on Thursday to discuss the issue … House Democratic leaders were already planning to wait for Senate action before forcing rank-and-file lawmakers, many of them battling to keep their jobs, to cast a vote …”
Some senators pushing for debate on outsourcing instead of Bush tax cuts. W. Post: “Instead of spending their time tussling over income tax rates, some Senate Democrats are pressing their leaders to stage a debate over companies that ship jobs overseas, an issue that proved politically potent in a Pennsylvania special election this year … key Democrats this week unveiled a bill that would offer businesses a two-year payroll tax holiday on jobs repatriated from abroad. The measure also would end subsidies for certain manufacturing companies that do business overseas or close U.S. plants and move them offshore.”
Michael Tomasky is unimpressed: “A black guy with an alien name who was called a Muslim and a terrorist got elected president of the US by saying that he would raise taxes on people above $250,000. To which a Blue Dog would say, well, he lost my district by 15 points. To which I say, well, you’re not black with an alien name who’s being called a Muslim. Get out there and show some guts for a change.”
GOP Offers Alternative Agenda
“Pledge To America” sketches out GOP agenda if it takes control of Congress. USA Today summarizes: “Repealing the health care law … Extending [all] tax cuts enacted under then-president George W. Bush that are due to expire in December … Freezing hires in all government agencies except the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security … Opposing taxes on carbon fuels…”
McClatchy quotes Dem response: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., issued a statement that says the plan pledges allegiance to a wide array of special interests, including: ‘Insurance companies, who we want to put back in charge of health care . . . the wealthiest of the wealthy, who we will protect before the middle class . . . the oil companies, whom we apologized to . . . big corporations, and the jobs they outsource . . . with a recession and huge deficits for all.’”
Previews gridlock if GOP wins in November. Politico: “…Republicans make clear that a takeover of the House could lead to a contentious two years and possibly gridlock if both sides aren’t willing to compromise. Most of the ideas have little chance of becoming law in a divided government…”
Pledge drafted by former corporate lobbyist reports HuffPost.
Details scarce. W. Post: “There are no specifics about how the spending cuts would be carried out, and the agenda does not outline how Republicans would deal with Social Security and other expensive federal entitlement programs…”
Though Ezra Klein sees enough detail to determine where it would takes us: “…you’re left with a set of hard promises that will increase the deficit by trillions of dollars, take health-care insurance away from tens of millions of people, create a level of policy uncertainty businesses have never previously known, and suck demand out of an economy that’s already got too little of it.”
Pledge is silent on earmarks. The Hill: “The word ‘spending’ is stated 47 times in the document, but ‘earmarks’ — an issue that divides Republicans — is not mentioned.”
And opaque on Social Security. TPMDC’s Brian Beutler: “Despite indications earlier this summer that Republicans might use the Pledge to call for Social Security privatization, the language used in the document is much softer. It says, instead, ‘We will make the decisions that are necessary to protect our entitlement programs for today’s seniors and future generations…’” “Republicans Claim That The Bush And Ryan Plans To Privatize Social Security Aren’t Actually Privatization” notes Wonk Room’s Pat Garofalo.
Economist’s View’s Mark Thoma says the Pledge simply turns the clock back: “There don’t seem to be any new ideas here, just a promise to undo what’s been done since the Republicans lost power. Why would we want to return to the policies that brought us a stagnant middle class even in the best of times, widening inequality, out of control financial markets, the biggest recession in recent memory…”
Conservative blogger Erick Erickson complains it doesn’t turn the clock back enough: “… it is full of mom tested, kid approved pablum …. … It is dreck … There is no call for a Spending Limitation Amendment or a Balanced Budget Amendment. It is just meaningless stuff the Democrats can easily undo and that ultimately the Senate GOP will even turn its nose up at.”
No Quick Replacement For Summers
No CEO to replace Summers? NYT: “Officials dampened speculation that the search had already centered on a short list mainly of corporate chiefs or bankers. But White House officials said the president was likely to consider business experience and to look for women who might fill the post.”
Paul Krugman says, no CEO. And not me.: “…companies … are top-down organizations in which people do what they’re told. Market economies are free-for-alls, in which the job of policy is largely to provide incentives to do things … no, not me. Aside from the fact that I’m in a pretty good place for influencing public discussion right now, the job does come with some administrative responsibilities, and also requires significant bureaucratic skills. I has them — not … someone like, for example, Laura Tyson would be fine — she knows her economics, has been around policy, has been a successful academic administrator, and she’s an effective communicator.”
EPI makes case for additional stimulus, against “structural unemployment”: “…many are promoting a different, misguided narrative, that a large share of unemployment is ‘structural,’ meaning that there is a mismatch between unemployed workers and the jobs becoming available … that the pattern of employer behavior regarding job openings, layoffs and hires does not support such a claim … The economy is operating far below its potential output because of a shortfall in demand caused by an extreme loss of financial and housing wealth, and the reduced consumption that resulted.”
Slate’s Jill Priluck says that small biz bill won’t create many jobs: “While the aid package will help many small businesses, it won’t create many jobs because it will benefit more established firms, rather than the young ones that do the bulk of hiring.”
Anti-foreclosure program hits low. HuffPost’s Shahien Nasiripour: “The number of homeowners receiving permanent relief under the Obama administration’s primary foreclosure-prevention initiative hit a 10-month low as home prices dropped and repossessions jumped, threatening more homeowners just as the administration’s aid program winds down.”
Did TARP Work Or Not?
As TARP ends, the debate continues. LAT: “After initial concerns that most if not all of the $700 billion in taxpayer money would never be recovered, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office recently estimated that TARP would cost taxpayers $66 billion … critics charge that any losses are still too large for taxpayers, and that TARP’s cost can’t be measured just by dollars and cents. They said the program has done little to remove toxic mortgage assets from bank balance sheets — its original purpose — and fallen far short of its goal to stem home foreclosures and promote jobs.”
Rep. Pete Stark pushes a international financial transaction tax to meet global goals, in FT oped: “A tiny tax on these transactions, many of which are purely speculative, would raise billions of dollars to invest in key domestic and global priorities, such as fighting disease, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and protecting our children from poverty … I hope the UN Summit, opening on Monday, will challenge countries to adopt such a tax on financial transactions.”
Currency Issue Tops US-China Agenda As House Makes Move
US-China friction over currency issue as UN gathers. NYT: “Mr. Obama issued a warning shot on Monday. ‘They have not done everything that needs to be done,’ he said. ‘We are going to continue to insist that on this issue and on all trade issues between us and China, that it’s a two-way street.’ Then, perhaps hoping to catch [China Premier] Wen’s attention as he arrived in New York, Mr. Obama started talking about enforcing trade laws ‘much more effectively than we have in the past.’”
Wen argues jump in currency would wreck China. Bloomberg: “Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said a 20 percent rise in the yuan would cause severe job losses and trigger social instability …”
House committee to vote on China currency measure Friday. W. Post: “The House Ways and Means Committee plans to vote Friday on a bill that would expand the Commerce Department’s power to impose duties on Chinese imports in response to that country’s currency being undervalued on world markets … Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner signaled a tougher stance and told lawmakers that he thought pressure from their end might help persuade the Chinese to move.”
W. Post’s Harold Meyerson charges corporations opposing currency reform with being un-American: “Now, there’s nothing un-American in opposing the legislation as such … Support for and opposition to tariffs are both as American as apple pie. The question here is whether … household names such as Coca-Cola, Bank of America, Ford, GM, Wal-Mart, Intel, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, J.P. Morgan Chase, Chevron, Exxon Mobil and Boeing — are already so deeply invested in China as manufacturers, marketers or retailers that buy goods there to sell them here that their interests are more closely aligned with China’s than with America’s. Revaluing China’s currency would be helpful to domestic U.S. manufacturers, their employees and the communities where those employees live and work, but America’s largest companies have long since ceased to be domestic.”
Renewable Energy Standard Moves Up As Carbon Cap Moves Down
Liberal Senators getting behind compromise renewable energy bill. Politico: “…the bipartisan effort is drawing interest from the White House and Democrats, who see it as a last-ditch attempt to pass anything on energy before Republicans swarm Capitol Hill in the midterm elections. Liberal senators, including Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Al Franken (D-Minn.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.), have signed on as co-sponsors. And they’re getting plenty of help from environmental groups and labor and clean energy advocates …” Top House enviro Rep. Ed Markey open to compromise too reports CQ.
Sen. Jeff Bingaman does not expect comprehensive climate legislation to re-emerge in the next two years. The Hill quotes: “I’d be surprised if that kind of a comprehensive climate and energy bill could pass both houses of Congress in the next Congress, since they’ve been unable to pass in this Congress.”
China’s green goal undercut by warring bureaucracies. LAT’s Doyle McManus: “… its central and local governments often act at cross purposes … President Hu Jintao has declared environmental protection a top priority … But when I visited local officials in Sichuan province last week, they said their top priorities were building 3,000 miles of new freeway … the next time somebody tells you we ought to emulate China’s authoritarian approach to energy and the environment, ask them which part they mean: the ambitious rhetoric, or the disappointing performance.”
Where’s The Tea Party?
W. Post’s E.J. Dionne notes there just aren’t that many Tea Partiers: “Last April, a New York Times-CBS News poll found that 18 percent of Americans identified as supporters of the Tea Party movement, but slightly less than a fifth of these sympathizers said they had attended a Tea Party rally or meeting. That means just over 3 percent of Americans can be characterized as Tea Party activists.”
The American Prospect’s Paul Waldman reads the tea leaves and predicts the future of the Tea Party: “What sets the Tea Party apart from its earlier incarnations is the way Republicans are groveling before it. Barry Goldwater may have tried to keep the John Birch Society at arm’s length, but with just a few exceptions, the entire Republican establishment is outfitting themselves in Revolutionary gear. You can bet your musket that every 2012 GOP contender will be rushing to claim the Tea Party mantle.”
The Nation’s Sarah Posner gets to the root of “Tea Party values”: “Many tea partiers, like religious right activists, find the roots of their thinking on government in the Bible. According to Julie Ingersoll, associate professor of religious studies at the University of North Florida, this view on government’s limited role is based on Christian Reconstructionism, a fundamentalist movement that advocates for the rule of Biblical law (which includes imposition of notions of ‘traditional family’) and which holds that God ordained government with limited (essentially law enforcement) authority. Some activists, ranging from religious right figures to pro-gun and militia groups and secession advocates, emphasize a divine edict to rise up against what they characterize as the federal government’s ‘tyranny’ when it exceeds the authority God granted it.”
WH aide David Axelrod tries to smoke out stealth corporate campaign money in W. Post oped: “One of these groups, the newly established Crossroads GPS, is spearheaded by President George W. Bush’s former chief strategist, Karl Rove, and secretly bankrolled by major Republican donors. This group and its partner, American Crossroads, have raised $32 million to run negative ads against Democrats; they promise to spend $50 million by November. Americans for Job Security, another major player in this special-interest campaign, reportedly was founded with support from the American Insurance Association to advance that industry’s agenda. Yet another group, Americans for Prosperity, is funded by billionaire oil men, David and Charles Koch…”
Outside groups spending on GOP candidates over Dems by 7 to 1 reports Bloomberg.