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: A Jobs Bill Wrongly Ignored In Budget-Cut Mania
OurFuture.Org’s Isaiah J. Poole: "At a time when the nation faces a lost decade of chronically high unemployment, you would think any serious proposal for putting people back to work would be discussed and dissected, with the best ideas getting the full weight of our advocacy. So why is it that legislation introduced in Congress last week that could put well over a million people back to work without adding to the federal deficit did not get so much as a mention in either the mainstream media or on any of the major blogs? The legislation that got this silent treatment is the Humphrey-Hawkins 21st Century Full Employment and Training Act (H.R. 870), sponsored by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich. Under the bill, state and local governments would receive "employment opportunity grants. …This is a time for bold ideas about the jobs crisis. …This is a time in which the limits of the political consensus have to be exploded. That, in fact, is the attitude of the conservatives who are driving the attack on Social Security and other programs designed to lift up dispossessed people and dispossessed communities. ]…Why do we not see a similar audaciousness about pushing for a substantive jobs program that calls upon Wall Street to help pay for a revival of Main Street?"
Washington Doesn’t Get Jobs
Liz Rose writes that politicians need to hear from the public that this isn’t the time to cut middle class jobs: "Most of the 15 million unemployed Americans want to be back at work. What Americans need first and foremost is to be able to go to work and bring home a paycheck. Two more of my friends just lost their jobs. I have two brothers-in-law who are out of work. They aren’t lazy. They’re willing to do just about anything. How can we revive the middle class in America? We don’t need fancy cars or McMansions. We just want to have decent jobs and be able to pay our utility bills. We need to send a message to lawmakers that we want policies that will revive the American Dream for the broad middle class. They need to stop giving tax breaks to companies that move jobs overseas. A jobless recovery–where CEOs get bonuses and tax breaks and middle class workers’ pensions get cut–isn’t a good deal."
The Nation’s Christopher Hayes explains “Why Washington Doesn’t Care About Jobs”: “This disconnect between the jobs crisis in the country and the blithe dismissal thereof in Washington is the most incomprehensible aspect of the political moment. But I think there are two numbers that go a long way toward explaining it. The first is 4.2. That’s the percentage of Americans with a four-year college degree who are unemployed. It’s less than half the official unemployment rate of 9 percent for the labor force as a whole and one-fourth the underemployment rate… The other number is 5.7 percent. That’s the unemployment rate for the Washington/Arlington/Alexandria metro area and just so happens to be lowest among large metropolitan areas in the entire country. In 2010 the DC metro area added 57,000 jobs, more than any in the nation, and now boasts the hottest market for commercial office space. In other words: DC is booming…. What these two numbers add up to is a governing elite that is profoundly alienated from the lived experiences of the millions of Americans who are barely surviving the ravages of the Great Recession.”
At A World of Progress, Leslie Boyd explains that public sector jobs are jobs, and what happens when they’re gone: "Get rid of public jobs and your taxes go down, right? The private sector can pick up the services and then we don’t have to pay those high wages and benefits, plus it’s more efficient.
Only if you think Halliburton and the other no-bid contractors have saved us money in Iraq and Afghanistan. Public sector jobs are jobs. If you fire public workers, you have that many more unemployed… When you privatize public services, the union workers lose their jobs and are replaced with people making a whole lot less money and often receiving few, if any, benefits. Meanwhile costs for the same services go up. There’s less oversight, which is just what the right wants."
Where, asks Robert Kuttner, is the party of recovery: "Only in the Washington echo chamber is fiscal austerity Job One. Out in America, Job One is, well, jobs, a topic eerily absent from White House priorities. According to a January New York Times/CBS poll, 43 percent of those polled put job creation as the top concern. Deficit reduction was the main issue for only 14 percent. Though it is unthinkable for Democratic deficit hawks and Republican foes of public outlay, domestic job creation will require substantially more public investment and larger deficits for the next few years. The time to pay down debt is when the economy recovers. …When public opinion is basically on your side, it is a moment to lead, not to prematurely compromise. It would be salutary for the president to put forth a bold recovery program and dare Republicans to vote it down. Necessary compromise to keep the government operating can come afterward, and it will. Even better would be for Democrats to make it crystal clear which party defends and strengthens social insurance."
On Day 157 of operating without a full budget, and 13days before the short term fix runs out, the White House and the GOP remain deadlocked: "On Day 157 of operating without a full budget, and with 13 days to go before the latest short-term fix expires, lawmakers appear no closer to a deal to keep the government running. Lawmakers stuck to entrenched positions Sunday, with Republicans insisting on spending cuts nearly 10 times larger than the $6.5 billion offered by the White House. …On Saturday, Obama signaled he is willing concede more ground. "I’m prepared to do more," Obama said in his weekly radio address. ‘But we’ll only finish the job together — by sitting at the same table, working out our differences, and finding common ground.’"
E.J. Dionne explains the GOP’s "ingenious madman strategy": " Richard Nixon espoused what he called ‘the madman theory.’ It’s a negotiating approach that induces the other side to believe you are capable of dangerously irrational actions and leads it to back down to avoid the wreckage your rage might let loose. House Republicans are pursuing their own madman theory in budget negotiations, with a clever twist: Speaker John Boehner is casting himself as the reasonable man fully prepared to reach a deal to avoid a government shutdown. But he also has to satisfy a band of ‘wild-eyed bomb-throwing freshmen,’ as he characterized new House members in Friday’s Wall Street Journal by way of comparing them fondly to his younger self. Thus are negotiators for President Obama and Senate Democrats forced to deal not only with Republican leaders in the room but also with a menacing specter outside its confines. As ‘responsible’ public officials, Democrats are asked to make additional concessions just to keep the bomb-throwers at bay."
DKos’ Laurence Lewis says Democrats are ceding the entire Democratic economic ideology: “Irresponsibility from the Republicans should be expected. Rapacious greed from the Republicans should be expected. Class warfare from the Republicans should be expected. So should lies… The problem is that, on economic issues, DC Democrats have forgotten how to be Democrats. By making the Bush tax cuts their own, they have removed even from discussion the most obvious means of addressing any fiscal issues. And it isn’t confined to the White House. Congressional Democrats are playing along by accepting those short-term budget cuts for a mere delay in the shutdown showdown, signaling as the White House already did with the tax cuts that the Republicans can get their way by playing hardball. But is it really only the Republicans’ way?”
America’s Not “Broke”
Michael Moore reveals that America is not “broke”: “Contrary to what those in power would like you to believe so that you’ll give up your pension, cut your wages, and settle for the life your great-grandparents had, America is not broke. Not by a long shot. The country is awash in wealth and cash. It’s just that it’s not in your hands. It has been transferred, in the greatest heist in history, from the workers and consumers to the banks and the portfolios of the uber-rich. Today just 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all Americans combined. Let me say that again. 400 obscenely rich people, most of whom benefited in some way from the multi-trillion dollar taxpayer ‘bailout’ of 2008, now have more loot, stock and property than the assets of 155 million Americans combined. If you can’t bring yourself to call that a financial coup d’état, then you are simply not being honest about what you know in your heart to be true."
Bonds show why Boehner’s saying "We’re Broke," is just a figure of speech: "House Speaker John Boehner routinely offers this diagnosis of the U.S.’s fiscal condition: ‘We’re broke; Broke going on bankrupt,’ he said in a Feb. 28 speech in Nashville. Boehner’s assessment dominates a debate over the federal budget that could lead to a government shutdown. It is a widely shared view with just one flaw: It’s wrong. ‘The U.S. government is not broke,’ said Marc Chandler, global head of currency strategy for Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. in New York. ‘There’s no evidence that the market is treating the U.S. government like it’s broke.’"
At DKos, Meteor Blades asks "Why isn’t the United States no. 1 where it counts?": "In matters that matter, I want the United States to be No. 1. Unfortunately, metric after metric, in matters that matter, we aren’t No. 1. Not even close. Too few people are asking why the hell that’s the case. …We are No. 1 in overall military spending. However you count it, the United States spends vastly more on its military than any other nation. …We’re still No. 1 in total gross domestic product at $14.62 trillion. … For 60 years, that was true in per capita terms, too. Now, however, we are No. 10. We’re tied for 22nd on literacy. We’re No. 17 in childhood poverty, according to a study of 21 nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. One in five U.S. children is born poor. We come in at No. 42 for income inequality, as measured by the Gini Index. …We are No. 1 in percentage of GDP spent on health-care expenditures, and more than twice the OECD average."
Wisconsin layoffs could happen in April: "Thousands of Wisconsin state workers were bracing for layoff notices Friday as the Republican governor and absent Democratic lawmakers remained in a standoff over a budget balancing bill that would also strip public workers of their collective bargaining rights. Gov. Scott Walker said he would issue 1,500 layoff notices Friday if at least one of the 14 Senate Democrats doesn’t return from Illinois to give the Republican majority the quorum it needs to vote. Senate Republicans voted Thursday to hold the missing Democrats in contempt and force police to bring them back to the Capitol. Walker wants to decrease funding to school districts and local governments to ease a budget deficit. He says taking away public employees’ collective bargaining rights is necessary because schools and local governments would have a tough time making cuts if they have to negotiate with unions."
Wisconsin Protests continued Saturday, despite layoffs threat: "Tens of thousands of demonstrators again descended on the state Capitol in Wisconsin Saturday in opposition to Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to dramatically curb collective bargaining for public employees in the state. The protests, which followed massive demonstrations the past two weekends, came one day after Walker notified unions that he would lay off as many as 1,500 state workers next month – jobs that he said could be saved if his plan were enacted."
Wisconsin Dems aren’t coming home, yet: "One of the 14 Wisconsin Democratic senators exiled in Illinois in protest of Gov. Scott Walker’s budget refuted a report late Sunday night indicating Democrats would return “soon” to Madison, ending a weeks-long stalemate. Sen. Chris Larson attacked via Facebook a Wall Street Journal report based on quotes from Minority Leader Mark Miller, saying the publication “fished for the quote they wanted” and emphasizing that Democrats will not return until Walker takes the elimination collective bargaining for most public workers off the table."
Wisconsin recall drives could make history: "Formal recall campaigns have now been launched against 16 state senators – eight Republicans and eight Democrats. That’s everyone in the 33-member Wisconsin Senate who is legally eligible to be recalled this year. Even though state law is designed to make recalls difficult and rare, some political insiders expect the petition drives now under way to succeed in forcing multiple lawmakers to face recall elections this summer. Much like the ongoing budget fight, the recall battles could play out on a national stage. The two parties and groups across the political spectrum will be invested in the outcome, with Wisconsin now serving as the state testing ground in a broader struggle over government spending, unions and the public workforce in the run-up to the 2012 election."
Chris Bowers explains why Wisconsin is a serious threat to Republicans: “Crudely speaking, in the face of a straight, white, Christian, married, non-poor and non-unionized plurality, the Democratic Party is the coalition of everyone else. Or, perhaps it’s more accurate to say that it’s the party of “everyone-elses,” since the groups making up the Democratic coalition are diverse both internally and relative to one another… In Wisconsin, all of the “everyone-elses” are joined together in a coherent political operation, and we are winning because of it. Despite the full-backing of the iron fist of the conservative movement, a newly elected hard-right Governor has seen his approval ratings plummet to around 40% only two months after taking office. That’s unheard of. If what happened in Wisconsin is replicated elsewhere, then conservatives are in a deep pile of doo-doo. They know it, too. Tea party groups are sending out fundraising emails on Wisconsin admitting that they are losing.”