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.
Health Reform Backers More Likely To Win
Candidates who back health care reform more likely to win, new poll finds. HuffPost: “Fifty-four percent of voters say they would be more likely to back a candidate who supported health care reform, according to the poll. That number includes 51 percent of independents and 79 percent of Democratic voters …”
The whining from McDonald’s executives about health insurance reform is proof that the new law is working, says NYT’s David Leonhardt: “In 2014, however, the choice for McDonald’s workers will no longer be between a bad policy and no policy. Through the exchanges, they will be able to buy a real health insurance plan — one that covers cancer, heart attacks, surgeries, M.R.I.’s and hospital stays … many families will end up paying less than they are now paying out of pocket … The fact that it is beginning to disrupt the status quo — that some insurance policies will eventually be eliminated and some inefficient insurers will have to leave the market altogether — is all the proof we need.”
Fed Ready To Act?
Fed may step up support for economy before year is out. Bloomberg: “Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke is leaving little doubt that he has enough support for more unconventional easing as soon as November.”
TomDispatch’s Andy Kroll investigates who are the long-term unemployed, finds well-educated older workers suffering most: “Long-term unemployment, research shows, doesn’t discriminate: no age, race, ethnicity, or educational level is immune. According to federal data, however, the hardest hit when it comes to long-term unemployment are older workers … Nearly half of the long-term unemployed who are 45 or older have ‘some college,’ a bachelor’s degree, or more. By contrast, those with no education at all make up just 15% of this older category. In other words, if you’re older and well educated, the outlook is truly grim.”
W. Post’s Steven Pearlstein aims to put income inequality in the spotlight: “There are moral and political reasons for caring about this dramatic skewing of income … But there is also an important economic reason: Too much inequality, just like too little, appears to reduce global competitiveness and long-term growth, at least in developed countries like ours … runaway inequality … undermines the unity of purpose necessary for any firm, or any nation, to thrive. People don’t work hard, take risks and make sacrifices if they think the rewards will all flow to others. Conservative Republicans use this argument all the time in trying to justify lower tax rates for wealthy earners and investors, but they chose to ignore it when it comes to the incomes of everyone else.”
RNC Chair Michael Steele couldn’t say what minimum wage currently is while on MSNBC’s The Last Word.
The Hill notes delaying the Bush tax cut vote hasn’t turned down the volume of conservative attacks: “Pelosi wanted a pre-election vote on extending tax relief for middle-class families, but lost the scheduling debate to vulnerable and centrist Democrats who balked at the prospect of ending tax cuts for the wealthy. But leaving town without a defining vote on one of the biggest issues of the campaign has failed to shield embattled incumbents.”
Leo Hindrey backs proposal to extend Bush tax cuts to small businesses that hire American and buy American: “…Representatives Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), who just put forward a proposal in the House that I believe no responsible Member of Congress … should find objectionable … extend the 2001 tax cuts for all small businesses that might be subject to the top two tax brackets if these businesses can merely certify that they are manufacturing in the U.S., only hiring American citizens, and generally buying domestic content goods and materials.”
Scapegoating Public Employees
States increasingly targeting public employee pensions. W. Post: “The move to curtail retirement benefits for public-sector workers is fueled both by stark budget realities and by the resentment felt by private-sector workers who have seen their pay diminish in recent years. … Union leaders say their members are being asked to pay for the mistakes made by politicians who chose not to adequately contribute to pension plans and by Wall Street firms whose disastrous bets led to big investment losses.”
Dean Baker says the media has stoked the public pension backlash: “It is worth noting that major media outlets, like the Washington Post, routinely highlight and often exaggerate the pay and benefits received by public sector workers. In contrast, they deliberately mislead their audience about the extent of public support for major Wall Street banks.”
W. Post’s Harold Meyerson criticizes “Waiting For Superman” for unfairly demonizing teachers’ unions: “The intensity of the local [Washington, D.C. school reform] battle might blind them to the experience of cities where the school district and the union have jointly embraced a reform agenda, even including a version of merit pay. And yet, such an agreement — an impossibility, if we are to believe the conventional narrative — was reached just two weeks ago in the faraway city of Baltimore.”
“Painful choices” on budget matters await new governors. Stateline: “At least half of the country’s governors will be new next year, and newly elected lawmakers will take their seats in state legislative chambers in the midst of crippling budget difficulties exacerbated by the winding down of the federal stimulus program.”
AFL-CIO calls for a foreclosure freeze reports W. Post: “Foreclosures across the nation could grind to a halt anyway as more states freeze the process.”
Treasury Says AIG Deal Further Lowers Bailout Cost
Treasury estimates far smaller than expected losses on bailouts. NYT: “The Treasury Department expects to lose $29 billion on the federal bailouts stemming from the financial crisis, with most of the losses in its housing finance program and the auto rescue … far below the $350 billion the Congressional Budget Office once estimated … Recently, the Congressional Budget Office put the cost at $66 billion … The Treasury arrived at its figure by adding in profits that it expects to receive on shares of A.I.G. stock.”
Reuters’ Felix Salmon talks to key Treasury official about ending the AIG bailout: “[Jim] Millstein made a number of interrelated points … There’s now an end in sight to a huge and enormously complex corporate restructuring, of an entity — AIG — which was too big to fail, too big to manage, and which had an enormous black hole at its heart known as AIG Financial Products. Today, AIG is set to emerge as a viable entity roughly half its former size, small enough to fail, with the black hole gone. That’s not only a substantial achievement; it’s also a good proof of concept when it comes to the FDIC’s new resolution authority.”
“Wall Street Says Women Worth Less” reports Bloomberg: “Women managers in finance, a group that includes bank tellers as well as executives, earned 63.9 cents for every dollar of income men earned in 2000 … In 2007, the last year for which data are available, the figure was 58.8 cents … the biggest [gap] in any of 13 industries surveyed by the GAO…”
Big Solar Plants On The Horizon
Interior gives approval to two major solar power plants, more on the way. NYT: When complete, the two projects could generate enough energy to power as many as 566,000 homes. Mr. Salazar is expected to sign off on perhaps five more projects this year; the combined long-term output of all the plants would be four times that of the first two … Federal stimulus grants and federal loan guarantees could underwrite as much as hundreds of millions of dollars or more of the $2.1 billion Imperial Valley plant … even with federal approval, a major hurdle remains for most of the projects: finding excess capacity on transmission lines in the desert…”
International business leaders call for 100% renewable energy by 2050. Ecocentric’s Bryan Walsh: “…incredibly ambitious, since it wouldn’t include carbon capture and sequestration or nuclear power—but there weren’t any utility representatives in the group. Add them in, and you’d likely have a far less ambitious goal. The same was true in the food, water and agriculture group, where major agribusinesses like Cargill that have been reluctant to support carbon legislation weren’t present. But a change in business attitudes has to start somewhere.”
Mother Jones’ Kate Sheppard rejects key premise of New Yorker investigation on the climate bill failure: “…the piece claims that at some point there were at least five likely Republican supporters. I’m more than a bit incredulous about this claim. After all, the main sources for the piece are the offices of Lieberman, Graham, John Kerry, and mostly unnamed White House officials, and it always seem to me that there was more hype than actual hope … No amount of deal-making on this bill was ever going to convince Republicans that it was to their political advantage to work with Democrats on this.”
Will WV change from a coal state to a geothermal state? Earth2Tech: “A new report shows that heat underground the state could provide 18,890 megawatts of power using today’s geothermal technology — more than the state’s entire power generation capacity of 16,350 megawatts, most of which comes from coal … making it potentially the largest single site for geothermal power east of the Mississippi.”
“Smart Water Meters Catch On in Iowa” reports NYT: “Many water bills are issued quarterly, so residents may not notice a spike in consumption as a result of leaks or other problems for months. The smart meters in Dubuque, on the other hand, will transmit data on a home’s water use to I.B.M. computers every 15 minutes. Residents can go to a Web site to monitor their water use.”
EPA chief Lisa Jackson tells Politico there’s a Clean Air Act and she plans to use it: “‘The Clean Air Act is a tool. It’s not the optimal tool. But it can be used,’ she said. ‘And, in fact, I’m legally obligated now to use it [for greenhouse gases]. And so we’ve laid a lot of groundwork on that and we’ll continue.’”
EPA chief traveling to China next week reports The Hill.
Calls to investigate conservative campaign funding groups for tax violations. W. Post: “Two campaign-finance watchdogs asked the Internal Revenue Service on Tuesday to investigate Crossroads GPS, the big-spending conservative group supported by Republican guru Karl Rove, for allegedly violating U.S. tax laws limiting the political activities of nonprofit groups.”
Off The Charts’ Paul N. Van de Water succinctly debunks the relentless attack on Social Security: “They allege that the trust funds have been ‘raided’ or disparage the trust funds as ‘funny money’ or mere ‘IOUs.’ Some even label Social Security a ‘Ponzi scheme’ … All of these claims are nonsense … . The federal government borrows funds from Social Security to help finance its ongoing operations in the same way that consumers and businesses borrow money deposited in a bank to finance their spending. In neither case does this represent a ‘raid’ on the funds. The bank depositor will get his or her money back when needed, and so will the Social Security trust funds … Unlike the frauds of Ponzi — and, more recently, Bernard Madoff — Social Security does not promise unrealistically large financial returns and does not require unsustainable increases in the number of participants to remain solvent.”
WH wants IMF to take greater role in China currency reform, reports NYT: “But the Treasury official underscored the reality that the fund’s main power is to produce research and monitor its members’ practices; it does not have the tools to enforce global agreements or compliance. ‘It’s ultimately the responsibility of countries to act, but the fund must speak out effectively about the need for those actions,’ the Treasury official said, adding that the I.M.F. needed to be ‘very clear in its communications on the extent to which countries are living up to their obligations.’”