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: The Selling of Afghanistan, 2011
OurFuture.org’s Richard Eskow: "Pop quiz: Can you list some specific, concrete military objectives we’re trying to accomplish in Afghanistan? …Now write a speech uniting the nation around your objectives. Explain that they’ve been achieved successfully enough to begin bringing troops home, but not successfully enough to bring them home very quickly. Finally, convince your fellow citizens that spending billions each month to meet these objectives is more important than investing in jobs, growth, education, or a crumbling national infrastructure. If you thought this quiz was hard, you have a pretty good idea why the President gave himself a tough assignment for his Afghanistan speech."
Study War No More
Bill Boyarsky says Americans aren’t interested in the president’s long goodbye in Afghanistan:"Some media pundits say people don’t care, that the fighting by U.S. volunteers is remote to them. But those volunteers have families. And many of them are in the National Guard, pulled from home and jobs by repeated deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq. These National Guard women and men and their families, friends, neighbors and work colleagues make up a formidable network. The latest poll by the Pew Research Center indicates how public opinion has changed. Fifty-six percent of those surveyed this month wanted us out of Afghanistan as soon as possible. That compares with 33 percent in a September 2008 Pew survey."
William Bradley says Obama’s big Republican problem is that Republicans are turning anti-war: "Barack Obama has plenty of problems with the Republican Party. But his biggest problem is the least obvious of them: the Republicans are turning anti-war. And as they do so, any popular base of support for the Afghan War disappears. While the Republicans’ long-entrenched hawk faction favors a less aggressive withdrawal from Afghanistan than Obama outlined in his Wednesday night address, or none at all, growing numbers of Republicans in Congress, many new Tea Party types, want the war to simply end. And because they are backed up by polling numbers showing a sharp decline in support for the war among Republican voters, the party’s presidential candidates have responded with much less resolute rhetoric than in the past.
Orzala Ashraf Nemat writes that the surge was no success for Afghans: "Three years on, the evidence from implementing the military surge shows how the reality differs from the president’s narrative that the surge was a success. …The escalation in the war not only caused casualties on both sides, but it also resulted in the further militarisation of communities, either through the government’s initiative of arming local militias or via criminal gangs and anti-government forces. This is undoubtedly affecting provision of very basic services such as health, education, agricultural and various socioeconomic development programs. Furthermore, the military surge certainly resulted in an increase in recruitment to anti-government forces. This was partly due to civilian casualties, but also to the reaction of those forces loyal to the Taliban to the increased military presence.
Debt Deal Gone Bust?
Insiders doubt a debt limit deal will happen by July 1st: "Despite the self-imposed deadline of July 1 set by the bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Vice President Joe Biden to craft a deficit-reduction plan, a majority of Democratic and Republican Members of Congress doubt that target will be met for the holiday weekend, according to this week’s National Journal Congressional Insiders Poll."
Ezra Klein says why Cantor can’t deal:"Eric Cantor is pulling out of the debt-ceiling talks. But he’s not saying they should end. In fact, he’s saying they’ve been very successful thus far. ‘We have a blueprint to move forward to trillions of spending cuts and binding mechanisms to change the way things are done around here,’ he said in a statement. But having agreed on spending, now the two parties need to agree on taxes. And Cantor doesn’t want to be the one to make that agreement. It’s time, he told the Wall Street Journal, for ‘the president to come in and talk to the speaker.’"
Steve Benen says Cantor just passed the buck to Beohner:"It’s gone largely overlooked in recent weeks, but Republican leaders know there has to be a deal, but don’t necessarily want to be the one to strike the deal. National Journal reported recently that Boehner put Cantor in the room to give the Speaker some cover: ‘The debt deal must have Cantor’s fingerprints on it.’ But Cantor doesn’t want his fingerprints on a controversial measure, especially when he has the option of making Boehner do the hard work."
Balls in Boehner’s court, but he says tax increases are off the table: "Speaker John Boehner doesn’t sound too enthusiastic about being called off the bench by Majority Leader Eric Cantor to handle tax issues in deficit talks. …Asked at a previously scheduled press conference on the Hill minutes after Cantor’s announcement whether he backed the move, Boehner was circumspect. ‘I understand his frustration, I understand why he did what he did, but I think those talks could continue if they’re willing to take the tax hikes off the table,’ he said.
Throw Grandma From The Budget Deal
Americans are worried that the GOP budget will force grandma out of the nursing home:"Told that the Ryan budget "would cut $750 billion from Medicaid, including funding for 80 percent of nursing home residents, forcing many seniors to be kicked out of their nursing homes," 63 percent of respondents said they were "very" concerned. That figure was 69 percent for seniors and 64 percent for independents. About 64 percent of senior nursing home residents depend on Medicaid as the primary means of paying for their housing. Still more rely on Medicaid for other expenses or to be able to stay in their own homes."
Sen. Baucus says there are Medicare cuts in the debt limit deal: "One of the Democrats participating in bipartisan debt discussions said he’s "very disappointed" his Republican counterpart has ditched negotiations over an impasse on taxes, but says he hopes to continue working with the group in a different context. He also made an impassioned case that new tax revenues be part of any deal to raise the debt limit that involves significant cuts to entitlement programs. ‘I’m disappointed that Leader Cantor’s withdrawn,’ said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus during a hearing on health care spending. ‘I think we should stay at the table. I think we should keep working, difficult as it is, and try to balance between Medicare cuts — additional Medicare cuts — so long as there is commensurate additional revenue. We need balance here.’"
Dave Dayen at FDL writes that Medicare cuts in the budget deal are purely political: "Now, there’s literally no connection between Medicare cuts and revenue increases (which could include the elimination of tax expenditures, presumably), just like there’s no connection between a dollar-value increase in the debt limit and spending cuts. These connections are all made for political reasons. Baucus can go back to his party and constituents and say, ‘Sure, we cut Medicare by $200 billion but we got $200 billion in new revenue.’"
Where Have All The Good Jobs Gone?
William Lazonik asks and answers the question "Where have all the good jobs gone?": "At first sight, the Great Recession of 2008-2009 appears to be detached from these changes in employment practices, given its origin in the casino-like activities on financial firms in the subprime mortgage market. Yet the very existence of a large body of subprime borrowers derived in large part from the failure of US industrial corporations since the 1980s to invest in innovation and high-quality job creation while middle-class jobs were permanently lost through rationalization, marketization, and globalization. Through subprime lending, Wall Street sought to exploit the vulnerability of a working-class population to whom industrial corporations no longer delivered middle-class employment opportunities. And… the current dismal employment situation and outlook reflects the ongoing investment and employment practices of US industrial corporations that, over the past three decades, have become thoroughly financialized."
That’s a question the folks at Tom Harkin’s hearing on economic misery would like answered: "’In the decades after World War II, our economy grew as our middle class flourished," Harkin’s, one of the Senate’s most liberal members, said in his opening statement during the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing. "In these years, rising worker productivity was met with equally rising incomes. …Unions have deteriorated and defined benefit pension plans have all but disappeared. Our manufacturing base has been shipped overseas. Large corporations have put returns for their shareholders and higher pay for their executives over their workers’ economic security. Income and wealth inequality are at levels not seen since immediately before the Great Depression.’ Having set the stage, Harkin’s invited guests testified to the misery of today’s workers.
Teagan Goddard reports on a Pew survey showing that Americans have grow more pessimistic about the economy: "A new Pew Research poll finds that 29% of respondents expect that economic conditions will be better a year from now while 23% say things will be worse. Last October, more than twice as many said the economy would be better, rather than worse, in a year (35% vs. 16%). Key finding: ‘The public’s economic optimism is now at its lowest point since July 2008, shortly before the financial crisis. In the fall of 2008, as perceptions of current national economic conditions turned more negative, views of future economic conditions improved — and remained relatively optimistic well into Obama’s presidency. But the percentage saying they expect the economy to be better a year from now has fallen 13 points since April 2010 (from 42% to 29%) and is at the lowest point since Obama took office.’"