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: Jobs, No. Narrow Rape Definition, Yes!
OurFuture.org’s Dave Johnson: “After winning the midterms by running against Democrats for not creating enough jobs fast enough, Republicans are in charge of the House. So what are they doing? Well, not much on creating jobs … [House bill] #1 was ‘reserved for the Speaker,’ #2 was repealing health care reform and passed, so let’s look at #3, the No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act. This astonishing law, if passed, redefines rape and incest as only that which is ‘forcible.’ … This bill tries to deny federal funding for abortions resulting from rape or incest if there wasn’t sufficient ‘force’ involved! … Before jobs, this is what the new House is working on!”
Waiting For Jobs
Backers of House anti-abortion bill can’t explain how narrow it would define rape. W. Post: “Under the proposed language, however, rape becomes ‘forcible rape.’ Critics say the modifier could distinguish it from other kinds of sexual assault that are typically recognized as rape, including statutory rape and attacks that occur because of drugs or verbal threats … In a sign of the potential confusion that could arise, one senior GOP aide said the wording was meant to prevent coverage for minors who engage in consensual sex that results in pregnancy … But Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee, said he interpreted the wording to exclude all statutory rape…”
Dems tout aviation bill as job creator. Politico: “The bill, introduced by Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.), authorizes about $35 billion in spending and would modernize the nation’s air traffic control system [and] would pay for upgrades to runways, taxiways and other airport infrastructure … Reid said the airport construction funds would help ‘create or save’ 280,000 jobs.”
Liberal groups push for bolder jobs legislation. The Hill: “‘We’ll take job creation any way we can get it, but there are ways to create jobs without spending money that are more effective than what they’re talking about with the FAA extension,’ said Robert Borosage, co-director of the Campaign for America’s Future. ‘Passing “Buy American” provisions at every level of government would not only create demand for American-made goods but it would encourage foreign companies to make siting plans for manufacturing here,’ he added.”
Dem Sen. Bob Casey seeks to push states to spend transportation funds. USA Today: “He introduced two bills last week: the Redistribution of Unspent Earmarks Act and the Use It or Lose It Act. Together, they would mandate that earmarks older than three years be returned to the states to use on any eligible highway project.”
Conservative Activist Judge Gives New Meaning To “Hack Job”
Conservative activist judge rules entire health reform law should be thrown out: “Since the individual mandate is the ‘keystone or linchpin’ of Obama’s health law, [Judge Richard] Vinson also ruled that it and all the other provisions of the law ‘are all inextricably bound together in purpose and must stand or fall as a single unit.’ … Democratic leaders and consumer and family advocacy groups who supported the overhaul criticized the ruling as political and predicted that it would be overturned.”
Judicial opinion brazen political hack work. TNR’s Jonathan Cohn: “[Judge] Vinson asserts that the decision not to carry health insurance has ‘zero’ economic impact. But then, literally a paragraph later, he acknowledges that uncompensated care for the uninsured transfers $43 billion in costs to the rest of society … Vinson is desperate to play down the link between decisions to forgo insurance and the impact on other people’s premiums–a link that history and scholarship have established firmly. And that’s because the link, if real, would place it within most contemporary understandings of the Commerce Clause’s reach.”
Matt Yglesias adds: “The giveaway in the latest court ruling against the Affordable Care Act is the judge’s ruling that the allegedly unconstitutional ‘individual mandate’ is ‘non-severable’ from the rest of the law. That means that all the parts of the law are being thrown out. The provision reducing subsidies to for-profit student loans? Unconstitutional! Expanded Medicaid eligibility? Unconstitutional! Reduced prescription drug costs for seniors? Unconstitutional!”
Digby reminds who effectively has the final word: “…in the end, this isn’t a public issue anymore, it’s an Anthony Kennedy issue. And while he may be subject to public opinion in his deliberations on some level I doubt it’s very significant.”
Two GOP senators introduce bill to gut health reform by letting states opt-out. McClatchy: “The bill, crafted by Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John Barrasso of Wyoming, would enable states to shield their residents from having to buy health insurance as required by the landmark legislation Obama signed into law last March. The Graham measure would also let states pass legislation freeing their businesses from the mandate to provide employees medical coverage and rejecting expansion of Medicaid benefits.”
All GOP senators sign on to repeal bill reports Politico.
Dem Sen. Dick Durbin to hold hearing this week on law’s constitutionality. Politico: “…the first indication that Senate Democrats are willing to entertain a debate on whether the law is constitutional, taking critics of the law head-on.”
Pay China First?
GOP leaders not embracing conservative debt ceiling plan. CQ: “More than two dozen House and Senate Republicans are backing legislation [that] would require the Treasury Department to pay U.S. bond holders before settling other government bills. Supporters say the legislation would guard against default on U.S. debt obligations if Congress does not raise the limit. But Treasury officials have warned the legislation is deeply flawed … House GOP leaders worry the measure cedes too much power to the administration … Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal S. Wolin [said] ‘Adopting a policy that payments to investors should take precedence over other U.S. legal obligations would merely be default by another name, since the world would recognize it as a failure by the U.S. to stand behind its commitments.’”
Conservative debt ceiling plan deemed “Pay China First” by Daily Kos’ Jed Lewison.
Clean Energy Standard Bill In The Works
Dem Sen. Jeff Bingaman working with White House on clean energy standard bill. The Hill: “Bingaman has been reluctant to endorse a so-called ‘clean energy standard,’ instead underscoring his support for a ‘renewable electricity standard,’ which focuses strictly on renewable energy. But Bingaman’s remarks Monday suggest that he is willing to negotiate a broad energy standard that includes sources like nuclear and natural gas …
Anti-EPA senators introduce competing bills. The Hill: “Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who is a member of the GOP leadership team, introduced a sweeping bill with several Republican colleagues that would completely upend the ability of federal agencies to regulate emissions or consider climate change when implementing various environmental statutes … Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) introduced a less aggressive bill with several centrist Democrats that would delay EPA’s rules for stationary emissions sources like power plants and refineries for two years.”
President’s upcoming budget will include end of $4B in annual oil subsidies, Big Oil furious. NYT: “Mr. Obama specifically proposes to eliminate roughly $4 billion a year in more than a half-dozen tax exemptions for oil and gas companies and an additional $200 million a year in preferences for coal … said Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute … ‘The federal government by no stretch of the imagination subsidizes the oil industry. The oil industry subsidizes the federal government at a rate of $95 million a day.’”
Climate Progress knocks “Big Oil’s lust for tax loopholes”: “A University of Massachusetts study found that investment in clean energy creates anywhere from two to four times more direct and indirect jobs compared to the same investment in oil and gas production … Domestic oil production has continued to decline since the early 1970s in spite of multiple, generous tax subsidies.”
Outdated rules holding back clean energy from native American lands. Grist’s Van Jones: “The Department of Energy estimates that wind power from tribal lands could satisfy 14 percent of total U.S. electricity demand … Obama and the GOP should join forces to remove the bureaucratic barriers … Promote interagency and federal tribal coordination … Ensure tribal access to the national electricity grid … provid[e] them access to production and investment tax credits already on the books …”
Potential for nuclear power may be inherently limited, despite bipartisan push. NYT: “All forms of clean energy, including solar and wind power, are undercut to some extent by the cheap price of natural gas … federal caps on carbon dioxide emissions from coal- and gas-burning plants, which would benefit clean energy sources, are not expected until 2012. But some obstacles are specific to the nuclear industry, like the ballooning cost estimates for construction of reactors, which are massive in scale. Even when projects are identified as prime candidates for federal loan guarantees, some investment partners turn wary.”
Fracking risks drinking water finds Rep. Henry Waxman. NYT: “’We learned that no oil and gas service companies have sought — and no state and federal regulators have issued — permits for diesel fuel use in hydraulic fracturing … This appears to be a violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act.’ … Oil and gas companies acknowledged using diesel fuel in their fracking fluids, but they rejected the House Democrats’ assertion that it was illegal.”
Economists Push For Capital Controls
250 economists urge White House to adopt trade reform. Truthout: “The United States has trade or investment agreements with 52 countries that restrict the use of capital controls and allow private foreign investors the right to sue governments that violate these restrictions …”
Naked Capitalism notes big banks don’t like capital controls: “This letter is at odds with a longstanding project of major financial firms: to allow them to move money across borders with no muss or fuss. This was the dream of Citibank’s Walter Wriston, who perversely was not deterred by the large losses his bank incurred in its sovereign lending misadventures of the late 1970s. It became a matter of policy in the Rubin/Summers Treasury Department.”
Rep. Brad Miller accuses GOP of “amnesia” on financial crisis: “…here’s a question Republicans in Congress don’t want to hear: why haven’t they reminded us that they warned before the financial crisis that subprime mortgages would come to grief? And why haven’t banks, happily exculpated by the narrative, reminded us that they warned at the time that they were being forced to make foolish loans that would endanger their solvency? … the Republican narrative was created from scratch after the financial crisis.”
Elizabeth Warren calls for clearer pricing of financial products. AP quotes: “…there are a couple of major credit card issuers who – following our early conversations last fall – went back and voluntarily rewrote their own credit agreements and began to shrink them down. There have been others who’ve advertised their credit products along the lines of ‘No Tricks,’ ‘Less Fine Print,’ ‘Clearer Agreements.’ This agency, even before it has its full legal authority, has driven a conversation and driven a direction for the industry…”
Did the Fed spark Egyptian uprising? McClatchy: “Since 2008, there’s been sporadic unrest there as the cost of staples, from bread to fruits to vegetables, has gone up steadily … [An] explanation that’s gaining acceptance is that the U.S. Federal Reserve inadvertently exacerbated the price picture for grains and other commodities [with] ‘quantitative easing,’ buying U.S. Treasury bonds to attack the threat of deflation…”
Homeland Security Sec. Napolitano says border security is working. NYT: “She said that arrests by the Border Patrol, an indication of illegal crossings, had fallen 36 percent in two years and that crime rates in many border cities remained low despite surging drug violence in Mexico … Homeland Security Department officials were also fending off criticism that they were too tough on illegal immigrants … the Migration Policy Institute … found that a national program of cooperation with state and local police was not meeting priorities set by the department to focus primarily on deporting immigrants who committed serious crimes.”
Sen. Paul Appointed To Education Committee On Same Week He Proposed Abolishing The Education Dept. reports Wonk Room’s Pat Garofalo.
HuffPost’s Jake Whitney on the damage done by the income gap: “As pointed out by Robert H. Frank, an economics professor at Cornell, increased inequality has spawned ‘expenditure cascades’ that have wreaked havoc with those at the lower half of the economic ladder. These cascades occur when the superrich begin spending more simply because they have so much more. The group just below them, which often travels in the same social circles, starts spending more to keep up with the superrich. This continues down the income ladder until a situation is created where everybody believes they should be significantly wealthier — or at least, look like they are. This has resulted in a huge rise in Americans spending above their means.”
Truthout’s Max Fraad-Wolff and Richard D. Wolff make the case against scapegoating public employees: “As the US economy moved toward crisis, state and local governments did not notably expand their payrolls. Their economics did not spin out of control as did our financial industry and other parts of the private sector … Labeling all public employees ‘fat cats’ is an attempt to make mostly middle-class earners and all social service consumers pay for what the economic crisis did to state and local budgets.”
Sen. Maj. Leader Harry Reid takes “eliminating” Social Security “off the table.” HuffPost quotes: “As long as I’m the majority leader, I’m going to do everything within my legislative powers to prevent privatizing or eliminating Social Security — put simply, say, ‘It’s off the table,’”