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: “Helpless President Lit” Is Fiction
OurFuture.org’s Richard Eskow: “A recent Ezra Klein column is the latest in a growing genre which celebrates our Commander-in-Chief, not as a powerful leader, but as a perennial victim. It portrays him as someone who’s powerless over other people’s actions, and sometimes even over his own. In this genre the President is forever at the whim of forces beyond his control, even when he has a supermajority in the Senate and a strong majority in the House … Klein … challenges his readers to rebut him if they dare – but only, he cautions, ‘if you have a realistic vision for what an actual president operating in the American political system could have done differently.’ Ezra, you’re on. Here are five realistic things the President could have – and should have – done…”
What Should Be In Obama’s Jobs Plan?
Obama should not let voters’ conflicting views about Keynesian ideas to restrain him, argues TNR’s Ruy Teixeira: “It is true that voters would never identify themselves as Keynesians. If you asked them whether they would support an increase in government spending to make up the current shortfall in aggregate demand, they’d tell you to get lost (to the extent they could even understood you at all). But … as voters express skepticism that government spending can create jobs and endorse anti-Keynesian measures like a balanced budget amendment, they are quite capable of supporting each of the measures in a strong jobs program because they do want to see specific programs meet specific goals: Putting money in the pockets of consumers and the unemployed; helping businesses hiring workers; fixing roads and schools; and preserving jobs for teachers, police and other local government workers.”
W. Post’s Ezra Klein argues the economic goal is to reduce household debt: “When the financial markets collapsed, household debt was nearly 100 percent of GDP . It’s now down to 90 percent. In 1982, which was the last time we had a big recession, the household-debt-to- GDP ratio was about 45 percent … you either need to make consumers better able to pay their debts, which you can do through conventional stimulus policy like tax cuts and jobs programs, or you need to make their debts smaller so they’re better able to pay them, which you can do by forgiving some of their debt through policies like cramdown or eroding the value of their debt by increasing inflation.”
Bernanke may, or may not, indicate plans for additional monetary stimulus on Friday. NYT: “Stock markets have been rallying this week, partly on hopes that Mr. Bernanke may signal more monetary stimulus is on the way, or at least under what conditions more stimulus would be likely … [But] there are reasons to think Mr. Bernanke’s speech may be especially noncommittal.”
Conservative business lobbies underwhelmed with President Obama’s list of proposed reform of inefficient regulations. LAT: “The Obama administration is unveiling a slate of regulatory changes it says will cut government red tape and save businesses more than $10 billion over the next five years … The plan includes about 500 changes aimed at saving businesses money in a variety of ways, such as consolidating their IRS paperwork, simplifying hazard warnings they must post for workers, and expediting payment to government contractors … The administration’s review was a ‘worthy effort’ to get rid of duplicative and confusing regulations, said Bill Kovacs, senior vice president … at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. But the effort is undermined by new regulations, he said.”
Amtrak gets high-speed rail money, previously slated for FL, to upgrade Northeast Corridor. W. Post: “Construction on the projects is expected to start over the next year. Officials said the work would generate 12,000 jobs.”
GOP Backs Higher Taxes … On Middle Class
“The GOP will raise taxes — on the middle class and working poor” notes W. Post’s Harold Meyerson: “America’s presumably anti-tax party wants to raise your taxes. Come January, the Republicans plan to raise the taxes of anyone who earns $50,000 a year by $1,000, and anyone who makes $100,000 by $2,000 … It’s the payroll tax that they want to raise — to 6.2 percent from 4.2 percent of your paycheck … when taxes come chiefly from the middle class and the poor, all those anti-tax right-wingers have no problem raising them.”
Presidential candidate Rick Perry half-heartedly tries to distance himself from past support for stripping constitutional power to levy an income tax. CBS: “In the book, ‘Fed Up,’ the Texas governor … calls for the nation to consider replacing the current tax system with a flat tax or, alternatively, to ‘repeal the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution (providing the power for the income tax) altogether, and then pursue an alternative model of taxation such as a national sales tax … Perry also called the 16th amendment ‘the great milestone on the road to serfdom’ … Asked about Perry’s proposal, Perry spokesman Mark Miner criticized the 16th Amendment but added that the U.S. ‘can’t undo’ the situation ‘overnight.’”
The Hill adds: “The Perry campaign has distanced itself repeatedly from controversial passages in the book since Perry declared his candidacy last week.”
GOP Super Committee Member Keeps Doors Open
Politico checks in on August town halls with GOP Super Committee member Fred Upton: “…his approach is to head off the criticism early, warning voters they won’t all be happy … When asked why Social Security and Medicare seem to be facing steeper cuts than other spending, Upton shot back that ‘all spending, defense as well as non-defense, virtually every aspect of the federal pie’ will be looked at by the deficit commission … He largely refused to entertain questions about specific areas the committee might hit to find more than $1 trillion in savings … When asked if he would pay more taxes to help aid in the recovery, he said ‘We’ll see where the panel comes’”
Super Committee members mostly represent Obama voters, suggesting a deal is possible. W. Post’s Aaron Blake: “Ten of the 12 members … represent districts or states that went for President Obama … None of the 12 members have immediate concerns about their political futures in the 2012 election … None of the senators on the committee faces reelection in 2012.”
CBPP’s Paul N. Van de Water argues that raising Medicare retirement age would increase health care costs: “Raising Medicare’s eligibility age from 65 to 67 figures to be one option before the new congressional ‘supercommittee’ on deficit reduction, and there’s speculation that the Administration will include it in the budget plan that it will release after Labor Day … [But that] would save the federal government money by shifting costs to individuals, employers, and states. These increased costs would be twice as large as the net federal savings…”
NY AG Gets Boot After Pushing For Bank Investigations
NY AG kicked off state AG group negotiating foreclosure fraud settlement with banks. Bloomberg: “[AG Eric] Schneiderman, who doesn’t want a settlement to block state investigations, was removed from the executive committee of state officials working on the deal … ‘New York has actively worked to undermine the very same multistate group that it had spent the previous nine months working very closely with,’ said [Iowa AG Tom] Miller, … Several attorneys general, including Schneiderman, have criticized any possible settlement that would protect banks from state investigations by providing the lenders with broad releases from liability.”
HuffPost adds: “New York’s top legal officer is investigating whether banks followed the state’s laws when bundling mortgages into securities. That probe could prove explosive.”
Health insurance lobby targets Affordable Care Act tax on insurance companies. W. Post: “…AHIP and the National Federation of Independent Businesses launched a new Web site, ‘Say No to Higher Health Care Costs.’ They’ve kicked off a letter writing petition. AHIP tells me they plan to roll out new Web videos and ads a little after Labor Day. That will be followed by a series of commissioned papers later in the fall that detail how much premiums would be raised for individuals and small businesses.”
GOP’s demonized of EPA ignores how much money energy industry is making, notes Miami Herald’s Carl Hiaasen: “They claim that the economy is being smothered by regulations designed to keep our air and water safe. No iota of evidence is being offered, and in fact the record profits of big energy companies indicate a spectacular lack of suffering.