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.
MORNING MESSAGE: Media Lets Rich Off The Deficit Hook
OurFuture.org’s Sam Pizzigati: “How can you tell whether you live in a plutocracy? Easy. Just conduct this simple test. First, identify a ‘pressing problem’ that pundits are splashing over your nation’s op-ed pages. Then take a glance at the ‘solutions’ to this national woe that pop up, on these same op-ed pages, as ‘politically possible.’ If you live in a plutocracy, not one of these ‘politically possible” proposals will ever do more than, at worst, inconvenience your nation’s super rich … Earlier this month, the New York Times offered readers an interactive online opportunity to solve this deficit situation. [Yet,] the Times list had no options for inflicting significant sacrifice on people of wealth.”
Deficit Reduction “Consensus”?
W. Post asserts “consensus” emerging on Simpson-Bowles approach to cutting the deficit: “Big cuts at the Pentagon. Higher taxes, including those on home ownership and health care. Smaller Social Security checks and higher Medicare premiums. A debate is raging over the size and shape of those changes, particularly the wisdom of cutting Social Security benefits. But a surprisingly broad consensus is forming around the actions required to stabilize borrowing … [The Simpson-Bowles plan] has been respectfully received with a few exceptions by both parties. Its major elements are also winning support from a striking line-up of commentators.”
Dean Baker reminds that consensus does not include the American people: “[The Washington Post] never mentions the fact that poll after poll continue to show that the vast majority of the public strongly opposes cuts to Social Security.”
Cutting Social Security benefits would spell political disaster in 2012, argues Nancy Altman and Eric Kingson in LAT oped: ” Despite the clear view of the American people, the elites in Washington seem to think it would be better to reduce benefits than to require the wealthy to pay the same percentage of their salaries into Social Security as everyone else does. If politicians choose to cut Social Security benefits, when they could simply scrap the cap, we predict that this midterm will seem like a walk in the park compared to what awaits them in 2012.”
W. Post’s E.J. Dionne says Republicans should be pressured to respond to Simpson-Bowles with actual numbers of their own: “…on the one hand, we have to cut, cut, cut because fiscal catastrophe is looming. On the other, we have to make the problem worse by shoveling more money to the rich because . . . taking care of those with tidy incomes is contemporary conservatism’s highest purpose … Boehner should show he has Pelosi’s courage in committing to a vote before knowing what the commission will produce.”
Pushing Rope argues the deficit commission has harmed Obama’s reputation on Social Security: “More proof the deficit commission was a political disaster for the Obama administration. The Republican Party is now more trusted on dealing with Social Security than Barack Obama. The Republican Congress polls 7 percent higher than Obama [even though] 74 percent of the Tea Party is against cutting Social Security benefits to decrease the deficit.”
Truthout’s Gerald E. Scorce argues Democrats should embrace one part of Simpson-Bowles tax reform package: “Making money in the market is a wonderful thing. It’s un-wonderful to tax market gains at a lower rate than wages, benefiting only the haves, the have-mores and especially the have-mosts … An early report from President Obama’s bipartisan national debt commission tilted right, but it did call for equal taxes on capital gains, dividends and other income…”
Will GOP Suffer After Filibustering For Multimillionaires?
GOP runs big risk if it filibusters bill to extend tax cuts to the middle-class. The Hill: “Republican leaders, backed by a handful of Democrats, are insisting the extensions [for the middle-class and wealthy] be considered as a package. A filibuster of the Democrats’ proposal, however, carries its own perils for conservatives, who would be forced to go on the record ‘holding the middle-class tax cuts hostage,’ in the words of Dean Baker … Michael Bailey, political science professor at Georgetown University, agreed that ‘the optics’ of fighting the tax plan could spell trouble for the GOP.”
New Tea Party senator refuses to raise the debt ceiling, risking global economy. ABC: ” Senator-elect [Mike] Lee staked-out a no-compromise, hard-line stand on the national debt that may soon put him at odds with his own party leadership … Economists warn that failure to raise the limit could trigger a crisis the U.S. bond market … not even the prospect of a federal default on debt or a government shutdown would convince him to raise the debt limit.”
USA Today busts congressional GOP anti-climate science report for plagiarism: “An influential 2006 congressional report that raised questions about the validity of global warming research was partly based on material copied from textbooks, Wikipedia and the writings of one of the scientists criticized in the report, plagiarism experts say … 35 of the report’s 91 pages ‘are mostly plagiarized text, but often injected with errors, bias and changes of meaning.’”
Long, long road, no quick comprehensive deal, expected for global climate talks. Bloomberg: “It took decades for negotiators to write treaties that curb nuclear warheads and settle trade disputes between nations, and by that measure, efforts to limit global warming may just be getting started … ‘Climate negotiations are going to be an ongoing process, much like trade talks, not a single task with a clear endpoint,’ [Harvard's Robert] Stavins said in a telephone interview. ‘It took 50 years to build the institutions that led to the World Trade Organization…’”
Dire global warming rhetoric may be harming the cause, new research show. Time’s Bryan Walsh: “…subjects were then randomly assigned to read one of two newspaper-style articles. Both pieces were identical through the first four paragraphs, providing basic scientific information about climate change, but they differed in their conclusions, with one article detailing the possibly apocalyptic consequences of climate change, and the other ending with a more upbeat message about potential solutions … participants given the doomsday articles came out more skeptical of climate change, while those who read the bright-side pieces came out less skeptical.”
China may start importing coal directly from the Pacific NW. NYT: “The United States now ships coal to China via Canada, but coal companies are scouting for new loading ports in Washington State. New mines are being planned for the Rockies and the Pacific Northwest. Indeed, some of the world’s more environmentally progressive regions are nascent epicenters of the new coal export trade…”
EPA turns to waste clean ups in low-income areas. W. Post: “Obama administration officials are looking at hazardous waste storage, toxic air emissions and an array of other contaminants to try to determine whether low-income and minority communities are disproportionately exposed to them … Among the EPA’s moves: reviving an interagency environmental justice task force that had been dormant for a dozen years; issuing a formal guidance to regional offices instructing them to seek the input of disadvantaged groups when making decisions; and drafting a plan to integrate the concept of environmental justice into the agency’s everyday decision-making. This flurry of activity worries industry officials such as Keith McCoy [of] the National Association of Manufacturers, who warned that it could hurt business operations across the country.”
Currency markets responding well to Fed move, undercutting conservative and foreign critics. Bloomberg: “Leaders from Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to John Boehner, the nominee to be the next speaker of the House of Representatives, have said Fed Chairman Bernanke’s plan to print money and buy $600 billion of U.S. government debt will cause instability and faster inflation. The $4 trillion-a-day currency market is signaling the Fed’s strategy is unlikely to debase the dollar as long as the economy continues to strengthen.”
Stateline takes a closer look at NJ Gov. Chris Christie’s budget, finds it doesn’t live up to the conservative hype: “Some of Christie’s budget fixes look a lot like tax hikes to the people on the receiving end of them. They include the working poor who will pay higher income taxes due to reductions in the state earned-income tax credit; homeowners who didn’t get their customary rebates on property taxes this year; transit riders who are paying substantially higher fares; and university students who must pay higher tuition. And although Christie promised in March to ‘not shove today’s problems under the rug only to be discovered again tomorrow,’ his plan leaned heavily on the familiar Trenton budget trick of skipping a required payment to the state’s pension fund, which is already $48 billion underfunded … Christie’s budget assumes tens of millions of dollars in savings from privatization that has yet to occur … Many local jurisdictions, faced with the sudden evaporation of state aid that propped up their own budgets, say they will raise property taxes in response.”
Chamber of Commerce invites President to speak. NYT: “White House officials said the request for a January speech by the president is being considered to see if it will work into Mr. Obama’s schedule. For Mr. Obama, better relations with the business group could help him with business leaders, some of whom have concluded that his administration is pursuing policies that are not friendly to businesses. But it could also prompt objections from Mr. Obama’s liberal supporters, who see the influential group as a proxy for the corporate interests who have resisted the main tenents of the president’s agenda.”
Hate airport patdowns? Get on the high-speed train, says McClatchy’s Curtis Tate: “…next time you experience the full-body airport scan — or the alternative pat-down — think for a moment about a fast, comfortable ride on a high-speed train you boarded without having to compromise your privacy and dignity.”