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: If The President Won’t Do Something About Jobs, Who Will?
OurFuture.Org’s Richard Eskow: " Whatever his reasons, we now know that President isn’t about to use his "bully pulpit" to contradict Republicans like DeMint. So if the White House won’t step up to the plate, who will? Somebody needs to take action. To paraphrase Al Franken, why not you? Public pressure has persuaded the White House to change course before. In the run-up to the President’s State of the Union address, advanced reports said he planned to announce Social Security cuts. A lot of people raised the alarm, call-ins and other actions were organized, and in the end no cuts were announced. …That pressure didn’t just save American seniors from needless hardship. It also prevented the White House from committing political suicide. …The White House’s staunchest supporters and its fiercest progressive critics share a common goal. They both need to persuade the President and his advisors to make the case for creating jobs. Whether the Administration wants it or not, right now it needs a little help from its friends."
Nearly half of Americans say the U.S. is nearing a great depression: "Some economists might be worried about a double-dip recession, but a large number of Americans have an even worse scenario in mind. Approximately 48 percent of Americans say they think that a Great Depression is either very or somewhat likely to occur within the year, according to a CNN Opinion Research Poll, the highest percentage of respondents that have stated that level of certainty since CNN first started asking the question in October 2008."
The economy is stagnating because Americans lost wealth in the recession: "One reason that the U.S. economy still struggles to achieve sustained growth is that Americans are a long way from recovering the trillions of dollars of household wealth lost during the Great Recession. U.S. household wealth fell by about $16.4 trillion of net worth from its peak in spring 2007, about six months before the start of the recession, to when things hit bottom in the first quarter of 2009, according to figures from the Federal Reserve."
Paul Krugman asks, "Who benefits from economic stagnation?": "The latest economic data have dashed any hope of a quick end to America’s job drought, which has already gone on so long that the average unemployed American has been out of work for almost 40 weeks. Yet there is no political will to do anything about the situation. …What lies behind this trans-Atlantic policy paralysis? I’m increasingly convinced that it’s a response to interest-group pressure. Consciously or not, policy makers are catering almost exclusively to the interests of rentiers — those who derive lots of income from assets, who lent large sums of money in the past, often unwisely, but are now being protected from loss at everyone else’s expense."
U.S. unemployment could persist for years: "The U.S. will still face high unemployment in 2020 except in “the most optimistic scenario for job creation”, according to a new report to be published on Friday. America needs to create 21m new jobs to keep up with population growth, say analysts at the research arm of consultancy McKinsey, but that will only happen if the economic trends of the last decade are reversed. The report implies that U.S. policymakers and politicians must rethink their assumption that today’s 9.1 per cent unemployment rate will automatically fall back towards 5 per cent as the economy recovers. "
Millions of Americans stand to lose unemployment benefits: "Even though the nation’s jobless rate is on the rise, millions of people could see their unemployment checks stop coming at the end of the year. Nearly all Americans who find themselves out of work starting next month will likely receive only 26 weeks of state unemployment checks — at most. Why? Because the deadline to file for extended federal benefits expires at the end of the year. "Most people who lose their jobs after July 1… won’t be eligible for federal unemployment benefits," said George Wentworth, senior staff attorney at the National Employment Law Project."
Companies spending on equipment, not employees: "Two years into the recovery, hiring is still painfully slow. The economy is producing as much as it was before the downturn, but with seven million fewer jobs. Since the recovery began, businesses’ spending on employees has grown 2 percent as equipment and software spending has swelled 26 percent, according to the Commerce Department. A capital rebound that sharp and a labor rebound that slow have been recorded only once before — after the 1982 recession. With equipment prices dropping, and tax incentives to subsidize capital investments, these trends seem likely to continue."
Robert Reich says the president must come up with demand-side solutions to economic stagnation: "Can we get real for a moment? …The problem isn’t on the supply side. It’s on the demand side. Businesses are reluctant to spend more and create more jobs because there aren’t enough consumers out there able and willing to buy what businesses have to sell. …How to get jobs back, then? By reigniting demand. Put more money in consumers’ pockets and help them renegotiate their mortgage loans. "
It’s too late for Obama to save the economy, but not for an emergency recovery agenda: "This president does not seem to understand that he gains clarity with voters by explaining the true nature of his opponents, by explicitly sharpening the differences, by promising folks he will fight for them. …An emergency recovery agenda would change the subject from deficit reduction to comforting citizens in desperate circumstances. It would also reanimate the possibility of Congressional action. Do Republicans want to oppose these humane measures? Very well, let’s have some roll calls. Suddenly, they would face hard choices. Let’s test their coldblooded convictions with the public."
GOP Losing Medicare/Medicaid Battle
Democrats are winning the Medicare battle: "Obama and Dems winning the battle over Medicare: New Post polling out this morning demonstrates this in the clearest terms yet. The poll finds that Obama holds a double digit lead over Republicans on who is most trusted to do a better job “protecting the Medicare system,” 49-35. That’s almost as big an advantage that Bill Clinton held on the issue amid the standoff with Republicans in 1995, which Clinton decisively won. That’s not all. The poll also finds that less than a third of Americans, 32 percent, support the GOP Medicare plan, even though the question merely says it would “change” Medicare, not end it, and specifies that the plan would not change the status of those over 55, a key GOP defense of the proposal. Forty-nine percent oppose it."
Senate Dems have the votes to block GOP Medicaid overhaul: "Forty-one Senate Democrats have signed on to several letters vowing to oppose House Republicans’ proposed Medicaid overhaul, ensuring the proposal won’t get enough votes to clear a filibuster hurdle. One letter, to President Obama, spearheaded by longtime Medicaid defender Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), garnered 37 signatures. It makes clear that the senators will oppose proposals to cap federal spending on Medicaid, a program whose spending currently fluctuates with need. Four other senators — Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Mark Udall (Col.), Michael Bennet (Col.), and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) — wrote separate letters to the president."
Joan McCarter says Democrats are hamming the GOP on Medicare with good reason — it works: The DCCC is not letting the Medicare issue go, with automated calls going out in 13 Republican districts, reminding voters that their representative voted to end Medicare. …There’s a good reason to keep on hammering on Medicare. It works. It’s not the Republicans just haven’t hit on the right messaging strategy for their plan. The country hates it. The latest polling is also interesting in pointing out that, so far at least, the GOP’s efforts to attack Dems from the left on Medicare isn’t working."
Jed Lewison says Medicare is what sank the U.S.S. Newt: "Let’s not forget that Newt’s troubles began when he opposed the Republican plan to effectively end Medicare. That’s the real story here: if you don’t support ending Medicare, you don’t have a shot in the GOP. "
Mutiny on the U.S.S. Newt
While Newt Gingrich is on a vacation cruise, his campaign staff abandons ship: "Newt Gingrich’s senior staff resigned en masse today, dealing a potentially fatal blow to his already faltering presidential campaign. According to various reports those quitting include campaign manager Rob Johnson, adviser and former South Carolina GOP chair Katon Dawson, and Gingrich’s longtime spokesman, Rick Tyler. Their reasons for quitting were not immediately clear. Gingrich has been out of the country for the past two weeks on a cruise in Greece. …Gingrich responds on Facebook: ‘I am committed to running the substantive, solutions-oriented campaign I set out to run earlier this spring. The campaign begins anew Sunday in Los Angeles.’ And here is Tyler’s explanation for departing after over a decade at Gingrich’s side: ‘There is a path to victory. But there was a dispute on what that path to victory was.’"
Digby says Newt’s nine lives may save him again : " If Newt Gingrich really has been run out of the presidential race because he dissed Paul Ryan’s "throw grandma from the train" wreck, my faith in karma and poetic justice have been renewed. No one on the planet deserves to be hoist by his own petard more than Newtie. But don’t worry. He’ll be back. He was after all, finally forced to resign from the House after surviving at least one coup attempt by his own leadership team. He was next seen at the GOP convention giving an afternoon speech introducing the American Beach Volleyball team. The next time we saw him he was advising the US Military in the wake of 9/11."
Matt Yglesias says Paul Ryans budget blocks his foreign policy goals: "For all his repeated claims that American international decline “is a choice” that policy-makers must resist, however, his speech also doubled down on budget ideas that make decline inevitable. Under the guise of preserving America’s military strength, Ryan would gut our economy over the long run by weakening our physical infrastructure and disinvesting in the human beings who are our greatest asset. Consequently, even as Ryan, who has emerged as the new intellectual leader of the Republican Party, is pushing the GOP in a sensible direction on international relations, he’s seeking to force the country onto an economic path that would make effective American leadership in the world impossible. "
Rep Gabrielle Giffords may not return to Congress: "An aide says U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords struggles to communicate and it remains unclear whether she will be able to return to work five months after being shot in the head. Chief of Staff Pia Carusone tells the Arizona Republic that Giffords uses hand gestures and facial expressions to communicate because she still struggles to find words and put together sentences. She says it is too early to say whether she will resume her position in Congress. She says they have until May 2012 to decide."
Rep. Anthony Weiner’s constituents are out of touch with the mainstream — most of them want him to stay: " Even as Weiner’s fellow Congressional Democrats have called for his resignation, the residents of New York’s Ninth District appear to stand behind their congressman in solid formation. According to a recent poll by Marist and NY1, 56 percent of those interviewed said that Weiner shouldn’t resign, while only 33 percent said he should (12 percent said they hadn’t made up their minds)."
Rachel Maddow calls the GOP out for hypocrisy on Weiner: "Rachel Maddow appeared on Wednesday’s "Late Show" to discuss the Anthony Weiner scandal with David Letterman. …But Maddow said that Republicans were being hypocritical, since some of their politicians, such as David Vitter, had also been involved in sex scandals. ‘Nobody in the Republican party has ever called on him to resign and yet they are calling on Anthony Weiner to resign,’ she said. ‘That says to me a lot more about the Republican party than it does about Anthony Weiner.’ "