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: Social Security “Cannot Exist” Says Cantor
OurFuture.org’s Isaiah Poole: “House Majority Leader Eric Cantor appears to have called for the eventual elimination of Social Security because it stands in the way of what ‘we’ want America to be. Here’s the quote: “…we’ve got to protect today’s seniors. But for the rest of us? … We’re going to have to come to grips with the fact that these programs cannot exist if we want America to be what we want America to be.” … Who is this ‘we’ that Cantor talks about? It does not include these people who depend on Social Security. It does not include a majority of Americans.”
Speaker May Split Party To Prevent Shutdown
Expecting defections, Speaker’s team tries to put together bipartisan support for 2011 budget compromise. W. Post: “The basic outline would involve more than $30 billion in cuts for the 2011 spending package, well short of the $61 billion initially demanded by freshman Republicans … Such a deal probably would be acceptable to Senate leaders and President Obama as long as the House didn’t impose funding restrictions on certain social and regulatory programs … Although a deal with Democrats could avoid a government shutdown and point the way for future compromises, it also could come at a steep price for Republican leaders who risk the ire of some conservatives, including some attending a tea party rally Thursday on Capitol Hill demanding the deepest spending cuts possible … With 241 Republicans, GOP leaders can afford to lose 23 GOP votes before needing Democratic help.”
Boehner and Cantor not in sync. Politico: “… House Majority Leader Eric Cantor distanced himself Tuesday from spending compromises discussed with the White House and took a harder line on whether Republicans should keep the government open …”
Conservative Republicans try rebranding “shutdown.” The Hill: “It’s a ‘slowdown,’ according to the new refrain from Tea Party leader Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.). Or as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) put it on Monday, the stalemate over spending could cause the government ‘to partially shut down.’ …”
Concerns that anti-environmental riders could survive in a budget compromise. NYT: “…some Democrats on both sides of the Rotunda have expressed an interest in curbing some of those rules. The Senate is expected to vote this week on three proposals — two of which come from Democrats — to curb some regulations. That could serve as a bit of a test of where members stand.”
Some conservative senators will try to filibuster any increase in the debt limit. The Hill: “This means Democrats will have to split the Senate GOP conference to win the support they need to increase the debt limit, which Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has made one of his highest priorities.”
IBM parts ways with other multinationals, isn’t backing “tax holiday.” The Hill: “Representatives from the computer giant are scheduled to meet Wednesday with Treasury Department officials and lawmakers. They are expected to stress that the push for a tax holiday is a distraction from the pressing need to address the corporate tax code.”
Treasury Foreclosure Fail
NYT investigation finds broken mortgage relief effort: “Officials unveiled a $1 billion program to offer loans to help the jobless pay their mortgages until they could find work again. It was supposed to take effect before the end of the year, but as of today, the program has yet to accept any applications … [The] federal mortgage modification program [is] crippled by weak oversight, conflicts of interest, mind-numbing complexity and poor performance by many participating banks … ‘We needed to go out and fine the five worst offenders,’ said a former administration official familiar with internal discussions, who was not allowed to talk publicly given his current position. ‘In hindsight, I’m almost certain we would have been well served by taking the risk and being challenged in court.’”
House votes to abolish HAMP anti-foreclosure program, replace it with nothing. NYT: “Republicans argue that the program forces taxpayers to bail out banks at a time when budget cuts are needed to strengthen the economy … The White House has said the measure will be vetoed if it reaches President Obama’s desk. Democrats, who acknowledge the program’s shortcomings, say repealing the program would eliminate a viable alternative to foreclosure and further undermine the housing market recovery.”
Former TARP inspector general details “Where the Bank Bailout Went Wrong” in NYT oped, in advance of congressional testimony today: “Though there is no question that the country benefited by avoiding a meltdown of the financial system, this cannot be the only yardstick … [TARP] had far broader goals, including protecting home values and preserving homeownership … it has been Treasury’s broken promises that have turned TARP … into a program commonly viewed as little more than a giveaway to Wall Street executives.”
Banks propose counteroffer in foreclosure fraud settlement talks. W. Post: “…banks have offered to make significant changes such as ending the ‘dual track’ process that has caused homeowners to receive foreclosure notices even as they are negotiating modifications, and giving borrowers a single point of contact when they are seeking to modify their loans. They also plan to implement a series of new servicing standards such as verifying that affidavits submitted in foreclosure cases are accurate and complete …At the same time, the banks’ proposal doesn’t offer the extent of concessions requested … by a core group of state attorneys general [which] included calls for servicers to undertake more principal reductions … Government officials also have considered imposing tens of billions of dollars in penalties …”
Federal regulators proposed higher down payments for lower mortgage rates. W. Post: “A group of federal agencies announced a high standard for home buyers to get the best mortgage rates: Only those who can make a 20 percent down payment and have not had problems paying mortgages in the recent past would be eligible … the proposal has sparked concerns from some groups, which worry that a 20 percent down payment is too onerous for many working-class borrowers. Banks also oppose the heightened down-payment requirement, which regulators had considered setting as low as 10 percent.”
Dean Baker slaps Alan Greenspan for criticizing Wall St. reform law in FT oped: “Just in case you have forgotten, we have 25 million people who are unemployed, under-employed or have given up looking for work altogether because Alan Greenspan did not understand financial markets and the economy. Perhaps the FT will have a column offering advice on disaster management from Michael Brown.”
Fed won’t finish debit card rule by April 21 deadline. The Hill: “Bernanke said the Fed hopes to finalize the rules by July 21 … Delaying the implementation of the provision after being deluged by public comments is the latest evidence of the fierce ongoing battle … The proposed cap has driven banks to warn that they will have to eliminate debit card rewards programs and assess new fees on consumers … Retailers said the Fed delay is evidence it is taking the matter seriously and should not be altered.”
Elizabeth Warren addresses the U.S. Chamber of Commerce today. NYT: “Ms. Warren is expected to stress that she and the chamber’s members share one important belief: ‘Competitive markets are good for consumers and for businesses,’ according to the excerpts. ‘The important question is how to ensure that markets are competitive.’”
W. Post profiles new enforcer of consumer financial protection bureau, Richard Cordray: “Many state attorneys general, who have complained that their efforts to enforce stricter consumer protections have been stymied by federal regulators over the years, have echoed consumer advocates in cheering Cordray’s appointment … Representatives of the banking industry have reacted with far less enthusiasm …”
House Takes Another Whack At Workers
House vote expected this week to hamper union organizing efforts by airline and rail workers. WSJ: “Under the new rule [by the National Mediation Board], a union could be organized if a majority of the votes cast are in favor of collective bargaining. Previously, it took a majority of a company’s entire work force. That meant employees who didn’t participate in the vote were tallied as ‘no’ votes. The repeal of the mediation board’s action is included in the House version of the FAA reauthorization bill.”
GOP Rep. Steven LaTourette breaks ranks, defends union organizing. The Hill: “LaTourette’s amendment would protect a rule finalized last year by the National Mediation Board that would make it easier to organize unions at airline and railway companies.”
Top House Dem question Colombia trade pact. W. Post: “The government of Colombia needs to make extensive changes to its laws and bolster its protection of union members before a free trade agreement moves forward [Rep. Sander M. Levin] said Tuesday in the most explicit statement yet of the hurdles facing the proposed Colombia-U.S. trade deal.”
Wisconsin judge tells governor to stop implementing anti-union law. CNN quotes: “Now that I’ve made my earlier order as clear as it possibly can be, I must state that those that act in willful and open defiance of a court order place not only themselves at peril of sanctions — they also jeopardize the financial and governmental stability of the state of Wisconsin.”
Rev. Jesse Jackson notes the “straight line” from Memphis to Madison: “On Monday, April 4, the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination in Memphis, Tenn., workers across the country will honor Dr. King by standing in solidarity with the public employees under assault in Madison, Wis., and in other states across the Midwest … I was in Memphis at Dr. King’s side — and on Monday I will be in Madison, for there is a straight line from Memphis to Madison.”
Economy Still Bad. Will Fed Notice?
Federal Reserve risks timidity, argues NYT’s David Leonhardt: “If the economic data improves and inflation does not drop, ending QE2 will be the right call. But if the economy continues to weaken, there will be a strong case for doing more. One option would be to buy both Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed bonds, as the Fed did during QE1, as a way to attack the double dip in the housing market. The problem is that some Fed officials already seem to have made up their minds, regardless of the data.”
Enormous “wealth gap.” AFL-CIO’s Tula Connell: “The richest 5 percent in the United States now own 65 percent of the nation’s wealth—making the wealth gap even more unequal here than the already gaping income gap. A new report by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) cites foreclosures and falling housing values…”
President To Detail Energy Independence Plan
President will lay out plan to cut oil imports by one-third during the next 10 years. The Hill: “…Obama will outline a four-point plan for reducing the country’s reliance on foreign oil. The president will call for domestic oil-and-gas development, incentives for natural-gas vehicles and biofuels and an increase in vehicle efficiency, the official said. A key part of the plan is a proposal to provide incentives to industry to develop unused oil and natural-gas leases on public lands both onshore and off- … In recent weeks, the plan, dubbed ‘use it or lose it,’ has become a Democratic counterpoint to Republican calls to open up new land for oil-and-gas drilling … Obama will also tout a proposal he outlined during his State of the Union address to get 80 percent of the country’s electricity from low-carbon sources like wind, solar, natural gas and nuclear by 2035.”
Senate vote expected today on amendment to ban EPA from cutting carbon emissions. The Hill: “Although the amendment is unlikely to pass, Republicans are hoping for a political boost in their efforts to stop the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions … At the same time, Republicans said two alternative Democratic amendments to limit rather than eliminate EPA’s climate authority are simply political cover …” “Carbon Pollution Lobby Launches Anti-EPA Blitz”> reports Wonk Room.
Presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty renounces past support for a carbon cap. Politico quotes: “Everybody in the race, at least the big names in the race, embraced climate change or cap-and-trade at one point or another … in my case, I’ve said, ‘Look, I’ve made a mistake.’ I think cap-and-trade would be a ham-fisted, unhelpful, damaging thing to the economy … ”
Bipartisan “Gang of 10″ senators convening on energy, reports The Hill.
No need for nuclear, renewables are ready, argues HuffPost’s Karl Grossman: “Scientific American, a most conservative scientific publication, in a cover story on October 26, 2009 — unveiled its ‘A Plan for a Sustainable Future.’ It declared in its ‘Plan to Power 100 Percent of the Planet with Renewables’ that, ‘wind, water and solar technologies can provide 100 percent of the world’s energy, eliminating all fossil fuels.’”
“United States slipped to third in clean energy race” reports Climate Progress.
Possible manslaughter charges in BP Gulf gusher. W. Post: “The Justice Department is considering manslaughter charges, along with a range of other possible violations, in its criminal probe into the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster … the sources said no charges are imminent, and it is unclear whether they would be filed against the companies or against individual managers or executives.”
Approval of Tea Party at all-time low in CNN poll: “… 32 percent of the public has a favorable view of the two year old anti-tax movement … down five points from December … says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. ‘It looks like the rise in the movement’s unfavorable rating has come mostly among people who make less than $50,000.’”
Presidential candidate Rick Santorum says abortion is hurting Social Security. Time: “…the reason it is in big trouble is that there aren’t enough workers to support retirees. He blamed the population trend on what he called the nation’s abortion culture, and said that culture, coupled with policies that do not support families, is denying America what it needs — more people.”
Some Republicans are flinching at House Budget Chair Paul Ryan’s proposal to privatize Medicare. Wonk Room’s Igor Volsky: “[They are] fearing that voting to significantly alter the program (and potentially alienate senior voters) makes no political sense if the proposal will go nowhere in the Senate.”
After killing high-speed rail in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker begs for federal stimulus funds for rail improvements. HuffPost: “…he is joining several other Midwestern states in asking for $150 million in federal funds to pay for upgrades to an Amtrak line. In a striking irony, the funds he’s requesting are only available because another conservative governor, Rick Scott of Florida, rejected some $2 billion for a high-speed rail project in his state”