Each morning, Bill Scher and Terrance Heath serve up what progressives need to effect change on the kitchen-table issues families face: jobs, health care, green energy, financial reform, affordable education and retirement security.
MORNING MESSAGE: Beyond Wisconsin. The March 10 Jobs Summit
OurFuture.org’s Bill Scher: “Over the weekend, progressives rallied in front of all 50 statehouses in support of the protesting Wisconsin civil servants, but with a message that went beyond specific opposition to Gov. Scott Walker’s attack on the right for workers to negotiate. The “Rally To Save The American Dream” also demanded an end to the scapegoating of unions for our economic ails, and called for renewed public investment to create jobs and fair taxation so the wealthy pay their fair share and help balance our budgets. Now we need to take the debate to the next level, press Washington to expand the national debate from the narrow and misguided focus on cuts and austerity. On March 10, the Campaign For America’s Future will do just that, as we host “The Summit for Jobs and America’s Future” in Washington, DC.
Two-Week Spending Compromise May Not Avert Shutdown
Two-week extension to keep government open expected to pass, reports McClatchy: “Still, some bad blood and unfinished business continues. While lauding the compromise measure, Boehner blasted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., for blocking a Senate vote on a House-approved spending package that would cut more than $60 billion over the next seven months … congressional Democratic leaders continued to balk at the size and scope of the cuts in the House bill.”
Temporary compromise doesn’t resolve underlying issues. NYT: “None of that resolves looming disputes over spending for the remainder of the 2011 fiscal year, over the 2012 budget, over increasing the debt limit or over long-term solutions to swelling deficits. It could prove to be the last sweet spot…”
Time adds: “When it comes to bipartisan agreement, the supply of obvious cuts is quickly exhausted. A successful short-term agreement means very little for the prospects of a lasting deal.”
Speaker Boehner insists he doesn’t want a shutdown. LAT quotes: “Americans want the government to stay open.”
Tea Party leader Dick Armey tries to walk Republicans off the cliff. USA Today quotes: “The  discussion (among Republicans) was, presidents get blamed for shutdowns. My point was, Republicans get blamed for shutdowns. It’s counter-intuitive that Democrats who love government would shut it down.”
Public broadcasting in fierce fight to protect funding. NYT: “…the House approved a bill for 2011 that cut all financing for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for the year 2013 … [Dem Rep. Earl] Blumenauer predicted that when the budget process was finished, ‘there may be some modest cut although the majority of the funding will be in place.’ Gloomier assessments have speculated that broadcasters could lose as much as $100 million, or slightly less than 25 percent of what the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which disburses the money to public radio and television stations, received in the current fiscal year.”
State governments need more federal money, not austerity. W. Post: “The budget crisis facing many states is threatening to undermine key elements of President Obama’s agenda, but with Republicans in control of the House and widespread concern over the federal deficit, he has few options to make a significant difference … State and local governments have cut 400,000 workers since 2008. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says 850,000 more jobs would be lost if states tried to make ends meet solely by getting rid of employees … Obama has offered several new proposals that could help states in fiscal straits. His 2012 budget unveiled this month would make it easier for states to delay payments on money they have borrowed from the federal government for unemployment insurance payments. Republicans oppose the $3.6 billion measure.” President meets with nation’s governors today reports LAT.
NYT’s Paul Krugman fears Texas budget-cutting will become a model: “… in low-tax, low-spending Texas, the kids are not all right. The high school graduation rate, at just 61.3 percent, puts Texas 43rd out of 50 in state rankings. Nationally, the state ranks fifth in child poverty; it leads in the percentage of children without health insurance. And only 78 percent of Texas children are in excellent or very good health, significantly below the national average … [Now,] the Legislature proposing a [Medicaid] funding cut of no less than 29 percent … education will also face steep cuts, with school administrators talking about as many as 100,000 layoffs.”
Conservative GOPers from Florida not rushing to cut Social Security. Politico: “Florida sent seven Republican freshmen to the House this year, and they’re walking a tightrope, acknowledging that something needs to be done to reform entitlements while vowing not to hurt senior citizens … ”
Wisconsin Protests Don’t Stop
Wisconsin protesters remain in capitol building. TPMDC: ” In a major victory for the protesters at the Wisconsin state Capitol — who were supposed to clear out at 4 p.m. CT today, but have remained inside in the hundreds — Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs has announced that those protesters still in the building will be able to stay the night.”
W. Post’s E. J. Dionne lays out the cynical attack on public sector unions: “‘The game goes like this,’ according to one pro-union political consultant I spoke with. ‘Destroy private-sector unions, reduce private-sector health and retirement benefits, then say “Hey, how come those public employees get such [relatively] good benefits? That’s not fair.”‘ He scoffed at those now insisting that they like private but not public-sector unions: ‘Private-sector unions are only “okay” once they are completely emasculated.’”
Gov. Walker wants Wisconsin’s economy to look like the South, argues TNR’s Ed Kilgore: “It is based on a theory of economic growth …relentlessly focused on breaking the backs of unions; slashing worker compensation and benefits; and subsidizing businesses in order to attract capital from elsewhere and avoid its flight to even more benighted locales. Students of economic development will recognize it as the ‘smokestack-chasing’ model of growth adopted by desperate developing countries … students of American economic history will recognize it as the ‘Moonlight and Magnolias’ model of development, which is native to the Deep South.”
Wisconsin civil servants taking early retirements to avoid having their benefits decimated. The Progressive: “The number of people retiring from the public sector in the next two weeks could easily dwarf the 12,000 lay-offs the governor has threatened … jobs that will likely go unfilled as experienced people leave, and brain drain as public sector work looks increasingly unattractive to people who had been considering a career in public service.”
Dean Baker publishes new research showing unions are being wrongly blamed for pension shortfalls: “Most of the pension shortfall using the current methodology is attributable to the plunge in the stock market in the years 2007-2009 … The size of the projected state and local government shortfalls measured as a share of future gross state products appear manageable.”
William Lerach points the finger squarely at Wall Street: ” Originally, many states required pension funds to invest in safe, interest-bearing bonds. But Wall Street could not make a lot of money from that, so it bank-rolled initiatives and legislation to repeal these protections and permit pension funds to be invested in the stuff they make big profits by peddling. Then Wall Street money managers captured pension funds’ investment portfolios by assuring trustees that ever-higher stock prices would pay for the retirement promises. Charging enormous fees, they made risky stock market bets, putting up to 80% of pension plan assets in the stock market. The Wall Street wisdom that ever-rising stock prices would fund pension plan promises was wrong. In fact, we have seen three major equity wealth destruction events in last 20 years.”
Wisconsin’s civil servant have modest pensions, notes Bloomberg’s Tom Juravich: “… median state and local pensions in Wisconsin are less than $23,000. Fewer than 2 percent receive pensions of $100,000, the threshold bantered around in the press as commonplace. These pensions are most likely the managers and top administrators, as well as senior police and firefighters, who, coincidentally, are excluded from Walker’s draconian legislation.”
Unions quite willing to make concessions in the name of shared sacrifice, and to keep basic right to negotiate. NYT “Some of Wisconsin’s major public sector unions, faced with what they see as a threat to their existence, have decided to accept concessions that they had been vigorously fighting … In Tennessee, where teachers are fighting a bill that would repeal the 1978 law that gave them the right to bargain collectively, they have already signaled that they would be willing to make some concessions on tenure …
Maine Gov. looking to follow Wisconsin’s lead. Politico: “Maine Gov. Paul LePage said Saturday he would push forcefully ahead with right-to-work legislation in his state, even if it means a Wisconsin-style fight with unions.”
Where Are The Wall Street Indictments?
“Why aren’t more meltdown moguls indicted?” asks USA Today edit board: “If anyone acted and looked the part of a villain, it was the co-founder of Countrywide … The former managing director of credit rating agency Moody’s Corp. found a novel way to quadruple his company’s market share in rating mortgage-backed securities — he transferred, or fired, most of the analysts in the group … The former head of AIG’s financial products used the sterling credit of his parent company to quickly become the world’s largest insurer of the complex mortgage products Wall Street was churning out”
“You Have More Money In Your Wallet Than Bank Of America Pays In Federal Taxes”
reports ThinkProgress: “…as politicians are asking ordinary Americans to sacrifice their education, their health, their labor rights, and their wellbeing to tackle budget deficits, some of the world’s richest multinational corporations are getting away with shirking their responsibility and paying nothing.”
LAT has the latest on the cost of the bailouts: “In mid-2009, [TARP] was projected to lose as much as $341 billion. That’s been reduced to $25 billion … Still, many people are worried about the long-term effects of the government actions [by setting] a dangerous precedent, opening the door to future crises … critics also said that hundreds of billions of dollars in bailout money … will not come back, mainly because of … Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which combined have consumed $150 billion … most recent estimates of losses for all the various bailout efforts range from $238 billion to $380 billion. But Treasury officials think those estimates might be too high. They said the total cost of all the financial interventions is likely to be less than $140 billion … less expensive than the federal losses from the savings and loan crisis in the late 1980s and early 1990s…”
Conservative Judge May Try Blocking Health Reform Implementation
Conservative activist judge may ban implementation of health reform law this week. Politico: “The Justice Department asked [Judge Roger] Vinson to clarify his ruling that struck down the law as unconstitutional. Justice must file its brief on the motion by Monday, and Vinson has said he would rule quickly after that … The smart money says Vinson will halt implementation, and legal observers are wondering why Justice would take that risk … [But most] legal experts think the administration would go straight to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and ask for a stay of Vinson’s ruling. And they predict that the court would grant it — probably quickly.”
Massachusetts, the model for national health reform, taking on health care costs. Stateline: “[Gov. Deval] Patrick’s current plan would give the state more authority to reject insurance increases based on existing medical contracts and would provide incentives for doctors and hospitals to base their fees on quality of care. The state could reject rates if they exceed the increase in the state’s gross domestic product or total medical expenses in the region. Medical providers that move from a fee-for-service system to an alternative payment structure aimed at improved efficiency and patient care would be given favorable consideration.”