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.
How Far Will a GOP Congress Go?
TNR’s John Judis argues a GOP Congress would undermine EPA, OSHA and other key agencies: “…they would abolish cabinet departments, repeal Obamacare, and privatize social security … but they won’t be able to overcome a Senate filibuster or a presidential veto. … What they will be able to do, however, is undermine the work of regulatory agencies … it it could make life very difficult for them to function by cutting their funding…”
AFL-CIO’s Mike Hall writes that Tea Party “Tenthers” would abolish wage and child labor law, Social Security, Medicare and much more: “Most cults are a based in some sort of skewed spiritual vision or the worship of a charismatic leader, but there is a reemerging cult that bows down at the feet of the 10th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Many of them want to bring their cultish beliefs to the halls of Congress and are running for election this fall … Their rationale—irrationale would be a better word—is that if a federal power is not specifically spelled out in the Constitution, well the government doesn’t have it, according to their view of the 10th amendment.”
Corporate donors buying their stake in House Min. Leader John Boehner. NYT: “Boehner for Speaker collected $1.9 million between July 1 and Sept. 30 … Much of that haul came in contributions came from the mining industry, along with the financial sector and electric utilities…”
EPA Not Waiting For Congress
EPA prepares carbon limits on trucks and buses. Politico: “The Obama administration will propose the first-ever greenhouse gas emission limits for heavy trucks and buses next week. The proposal will call for a 20 percent reduction in heat-trapping emissions from trucks’ tailpipes … Auto manufacturers supported the first round of standards aimed at cars and light-duty trucks, but it’s unclear where industry will come down on the truck rules … The agencies can expect pushback from greens who want stricter limits. ‘What could have been a dramatic cut is instead a modest cut,’ [Safe Climate Campaign's Dan] Becker said.”
TNR’s Jonathan Chait argues the EPA moves should increase chances for a climate deal, if conservatives were rational: “National Review’s Stephen Spruiell complains that ‘We’re Getting Cap, No Trade’ … He may be right … In a rationale world, this would set up a deal: Republican politicians would agree to cap and trade, or a carbon tax, or something substantial, in return for the EPA suspending its carbon regulations. In reality, that probably can’t happen … the conservative base probably won’t accept the logic of ‘let’s let our members of Congress vote for a bill we hate to prevent regulations we hate even more.’”
The damage to the Arctic caused by the climate crisis, so far, is likely permanent, finds new NOAA report. McClatchy: ” Greenland had its warmest year on record … Other glaciers also shrank, and this ice loss is accelerating. Predictions about sea level rise will have to be revised upward … the warming trend made any return to previous Arctic conditions increasingly unlikely …”
Rep. Ed Markey pushes WH for info on China rare earth mining policies. The Hill: “The letter and his plan to hold a hearing shows that China’s policy on rare earths – which are used in wind turbines and other low-carbon technologies – is receiving high-level political attention on Capitol Hill … the state-owned China Daily reported this week that cuts in export quotas are planned. But Chinese officials have pushed back against the reports … Markey is asking Defense Secretary Robert Gates which rare earth elements are of specific concern to defense applications and the status of the market.”
Small Government Conservatives Suddenly Love Big Government Medicare
Attack ads from U.S. Chamber of Commerce incoherently and inaccurately accuse Dems of “Big Government Health Care” and cutting Medicare. HuffPost’s Amanda Terkel: “…Chamber spokesman J.P. Fielder said there was no inconsistency in the organization’s ads. ‘It is perfectly consistent to oppose a massive expansion of government involvement in health care, while also opposing taking $500 billion from Medicare to pay for this expansion,’ … Edwin Park, Center for Budget and Policy Priorities co-director of health policy, took issue with the claim … ‘It scaled back overpayments, tried to institute efficiencies, tried to use Medicare as a leader in how health care is delivered, but didn’t make cuts to benefits, per se,’…” EARLIER from OurFuture.org: The Health Care Ad Wars: “Cutting Medicare” = “Reckless Spending”
Just as many “likely voters” want a even bigger health reform law than want it repealed. AP: “36% said they want to revise the law so it does more to change the health care system. A nearly identical share — 37% — said they want to repeal it completely … only 15% said they would leave the overhaul as it is. And 10% wanted modifications to narrow its scope.” Ourfuture.org: The Media Says You’re Not A “Likely Voter.” Prove Them Wrong.
Battle brewing over what services private insurers required to cover. Bloomberg: “The health law passed in March requires that insurers … begin covering a package of ‘essential benefits’ in 2014. The law doesn’t say what care should be included, leaving that up to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That, in turn, has spurred a lobbying push by advocacy groups for chiropractic care, autism treatments and dozens of therapies.”
TNR’s Jonathan Gruber debunks charges that the health reform law is forcing employers to drop coverage: “Employer-sponsored insurance in the U.S. is already eroding, on its own. The share of individuals with employer-sponsored coverage has declined by almost 15 percent over the past decade. These individuals have to turn to a broken and dysfunctional non-group market, resulting in higher premiums, growing rates of uninsurance, and increased medical bankruptcy. These are exactly the individuals who will be assisted by the market reforms and tax credits put in place by Affordable Care Act.”
Kokomo Beats London
NYT’s Paul Krugman warns not to follow the British path to draconian austerity: “It would cut government employment by 490,000 workers — the equivalent of almost three million layoffs in the United States — at a time when the private sector is in no position to provide alternative employment. It would slash spending at a time when private demand isn’t at all ready to take up the slack … Never mind that British debt as a percentage of national income is actually below its historical average…”
Grist’s Sarah Goodyear writes that the stimulus brought Kokomo, IN, back from the brink: “…the city of some 45,000 people is revitalized and renewed, thanks to an infusion of federal stimulus money and a variety of economic strategies. The unemployment rate has gone from over 20 percent to 14 percent. Stores have moved from the dying mall to a newly vibrant downtown. … Some of the money is from the auto bailout and is going to build hybrid cars. Some is slated for green tech jobs. And some of it is infrastructure spending that is being used to beautify downtown, help businesses get started, and create streets that draw more pedestrian traffic.”
Economic Strategies Target Women
WH econ policies cushioned blow of recession for women. NYT: “[The National Economic Council] cited the expansion of the earned-income tax credit, which disproportionately benefits working mothers; work-study money for community college students, 56 percent of whom are female; state aid supporting the jobs of teachers and nurses, who are mostly women … Women’s median annual earnings fell by 2.8 percent during the 2007-9 recession, compared with 4.1 percent for men…”
Democrats trying to stoke enthusiasm among women voters. NYT: “In states like Wisconsin and Florida, campaign commercials featuring women and issues like education, children’s health, stem cell research or abortion rights have emerged … ‘We know what happened in 1994 when women stayed home — 16 million women who had voted two years earlier didn’t vote’ said Jess McIntosh, a spokeswoman for Emily’s List. ‘And we are doing all we can to be sure that does not happen in 2010.’”
Reuters speculates that congressional gridlock may mean all the Bush tax cuts will expire: “…with Republicans looking likely to take control of the House of Representatives and gain substantial influence in the Senate, tax policy watchers say neither side will be in a mood to bargain in the post-election ‘lame duck’ session.”
VP Biden suggests tax cut compromise still possible. Bloomberg: “He signaled a willingness to make small concessions in accepting more of the Bush-era tax cuts when asked if the White House would consider raising the $250,000 limit President Barack Obama wants on income that would still be taxed at lower rates … ‘We’re open to speak to the Republicans, if they really mean it. If they’re talking about deficit reduction, if they’re willing to move, I think there’s a possibility,’ Biden said.”
Google’s creative offshore accounting shows how big corporate tax loopholes are. Bloomberg: “Google Inc. cut its taxes by $3.1 billion in the last three years using a technique that moves most of its foreign profits through Ireland and the Netherlands to Bermuda. Google’s income shifting — involving strategies known to lawyers as the ‘Double Irish’ and the ‘Dutch Sandwich’ — helped reduce its overseas tax rate to 2.4 percent, the lowest of the top five U.S. technology companies … Such income shifting costs the U.S. government as much as $60 billion in annual revenue…”
Will Regulators Manage The Foreclosure Crisis Better Than The Financial Crisis?
Foreclosure scandal a test for new Financial Stability Oversight Council. W. Post: “The Financial Stability Oversight Council, which brings together the Treasury secretary and heads of major financial regulators to consider such broad potential threats to the financial system, has met only once, just before the current crisis broke out. But now, several of its members and their deputies are trying to coordinate their efforts … The consensus view among the officials involved is … the banks should be able to weather the losses and the problems are unlikely to cause a broader crisis … But the government failed to foresee the ways the subprime mortgage crisis that began in 2007 would ripple through the economy, and now a Treasury official said there is a concerted push to understand the full potential of the new problem.”
W. Post’s Eugene Robinson rejects the banks’ attempt to blame lawyers for the foreclosure fraud scandal: “… it’s the bankers’ fault that there are so many instances of foreclosure documentation with legal loopholes big enough to drive a moving van through … maybe the crisis will make the banks realize that they ought to be doing fewer foreclosures and more loan modifications — sensible adjustments that allow deserving families to stay in their homes.”
Fannie and Freddie may need more money, or not. NYT: “If the economy recovers more quickly than expected, the projections show that the companies could need as little as $6 billion in new aid. By contrast, if the economy falls into recession, the companies could need another $124 billion.”
Can The G-20 Coordinate?
US pushes G-20 accord to manage trade gaps and currency rates. Bloomberg: “…U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner proposed G-20 members pursue policies to reduce trade gaps ‘below a specified share’ of their economies …That suggestion today split the emerging and industrial countries.”
Some fear G-20 unable to bridge divides. W. Post: “At Obama’s urging last year, the G-20 assumed a central role in coordinating world economic policy, a change that captured both the president’s commitment to multilateralism and the urgent need for action to pull the global economy out of a deep recession. The result was a coordinated move by governments from Beijing to Brasilia to unleash huge amounts of spending to restart economic growth. But a year later, national self-interest and bilateral feuds have reemerged amid concern that major countries risk a debilitating battle for jobs and trade. That, in turn, has prompted doubts about whether the disparate group of nations represented at the G-20 can remain on common ground outside of a global economic crisis.”