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 Phony Solyndra Solar Scandal
OurFuture.org’s Dave Johnson: “Well here’s a surprise: conservatives and oil interests are pushing deceptive and destructive stories about President Obama and clean energy. Imagine that! Their intent (as always) is to turn people against President Obama, clean energy, national energy policy, stimulus to help the economy, and government in general. It’s what they do. Here is some information to help you push back on the latest whipped-up, anti-green, anti-government, anti-Obama ‘scandal.’”
WH Testifies To House On Green Energy Loan Program Today
WH aides testify today to House cmte on Solyndra solar energy loan guarantee. The Hill: “Republicans say the bankruptcy shows that the Obama administration’s green energy push — particularly DOE’s loan-guarantee program — is a failure … [GOP Rep. Cliff] Stearns said he is examining a slew of other loan guarantees authorized by the Energy Department.”
Dep. Energy Sec. defends loan program in USA Today oped: “The International Energy Agency projects that solar power will grow steadily, producing nearly a quarter of the world’s electricity within four decades … Our competitors know this, and are playing to win. Winning will require substantial investments. Last year, for example, the China Development Bank offered more than $30 billion in financing to Chinese solar manufacturers, about 20 times more than U.S.-backed loans to solar manufacturers … Government support has an important role to play in developing new industries and emerging technologies, where private financing is not sufficiently available to support investment at commercial scale … we have a choice to make. We can compete in the global marketplace — creating American jobs and selling American products — or we can buy the technologies of tomorrow from abroad.”
Head of loan program Jonathan Silver will testify that Energy Dept. is not “picking winners and losers.” The Hill quotes: “…one of the most important tools – as our global competitors have learned – is low-cost financing, wisely targeted and responsibly deployed. This isn’t picking ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ – it is helping ensure that we have winners here at all. We invented this technology, and we should produce it here.”
Solyndra had GOP and Dem ties. LAT: “Republicans have speculated that Solyndra got the half-billion-dollar loan because its biggest investor has ties to George Kaiser, a major fundraiser for President Obama’s 2008 campaign. But … its second-largest investor was a fund linked to the Walton family of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., who are major donors to Republican campaigns. The chief executive of Solyndra, Brian Harrison, is also a Republican…”
Bush administration pushed Solyndra loan for two years reports ThinkProgress.
NYT’s Tom Friedman argues more renewable energy companies will fail without a cap on carbon emissions: “Without a carbon tax or gasoline tax or cap-and-trade system that makes renewable energies competitive with dirty fuels, while they achieve scale and move down the cost curve, green jobs will remain a hobby … Obama has relied on green subsidies rather than a price signal. Some of this has really helped start-ups leverage private capital, but you also get Solyndras. The G.O.P. has blocked any price signal and fought every regulation. The result too often is taxpayer money subsidizing wonderful green innovation, but with no sustainable market within which these companies can scale.”
Bill Gates leads business group making case for more green energy funding on Capitol Hill. The Hill: “The energy group has identified a range of revenue streams to pay for federal energy investment it would eventually like to see reach $16 billion annually. This includes tapping some of the billions of dollars in annual federal oil-and-gas revenues, cutting or ending subsidies to ‘mature’ industries such as oil-and-gas, enacting a new federal fee on electricity delivered to consumers, adding a few cents to the federal gasoline tax … and even levying a fee on carbon emissions in the long term … Bank of America Chairman Chad Holliday, another member of the group, said they were well-received in meetings Tuesday with members of Senate GOP and Democratic leadership, centrist House Republicans, members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and others.”
EPA chief not leaving, despite ozone rule decision reports Politico.
President Makes Political Case To Boehner For Jobs Bill
WH sees possibility Speaker Boehner will back jobs bill. Politico: “The White House strategy rests on the risky assumption that Obama can sell Boehner on a new political reality: With voters desperate for jobs, neither leader can afford to do nothing … ‘If they don’t meet Obama halfway, a third of the way, a quarter of the way, they will risk losing the majority because they will be viewed as playing politics with jobs,’ said John Anzalone, a Democratic pollster and consultant to candidates in the South.”
Hill Dems question aspects of American Jobs Act. Politico: “‘Terrible,’ Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) told POLITICO when asked about the president’s ideas for how to pay for the $450 billion price tag. ‘We shouldn’t increase taxes on ordinary income. … There are other ways to get there.’ ‘That offset is not going to fly, and he should know that,’ said Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu from the energy-producing Louisiana, referring to Obama’s elimination of oil and gas subsidies … ‘There is serious discomfort with potentially setting up Social Security as a fall guy because you’re taking this contribution out,’ said Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, referring to Obama’s proposal to further slash payroll taxes.”
Economic forecasters say American Jobs Act would make significant impact. NYT: “…forecasters saying that the decisions Washington makes in the weeks ahead could have a substantial effect on economic growth and unemployment. At a minimum, the stimulus could be insurance against the headwinds blowing from Europe’s debt crisis and the impact of the recent government spending cuts in this country. The jobs package of tax cuts and spending initiatives could add 100,000 to 150,000 jobs a month over the next year, according to estimates from several of the country’s best-known forecasting firms; [additional] Fed actions could add 15,000 more jobs a month over two years.”
Deficit Reduction Plan Looms
Democrats worry President will propose deep cuts to Medicare and Medicaid next week. NYT: “…many say that if, as expected, Mr. Obama next week proposes $300 billion to $500 billion of savings over 10 years in entitlement programs, he will provide political cover for a new bipartisan Congressional committee to cut just as much or more … hamstring[ing] Democrats who had been hoping to employ Medicare as a potent issue against Republicans in 2012 campaigns … [President Obama] has not sent a similar message on Social Security, even though in budget talks with Republicans this year he entertained the idea of changing the way annual increases in payments are calculated.”
Super Committee members clash over the cause of the debt. USA Today: “To Democrats, it was the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, the Bush-era tax cuts and the GOP prescription-drug plan for Medicare patients. To Republicans, it was a poor economy and growing federal spending … [GOP Sen. Jon] Kyl then pushed [CBO director Douglas] Elmendorf for estimates of savings that could be achieved through cracking down on waste, fraud and abuse, and by selling unneeded property. Elmendorf was reluctant to give figures, but said he was skeptical those numbers could ‘begin with “T” for trillion.’”
CBO makes clear that increased revenue is necessary for deficit reduction. TPM: “‘[I]f you want a role that has benefit programs for older Americans, like the ones we’ve had in the past, and that operate for the rest of the government like the ones we’ve had in the past, then more tax revenue is needed than under current tax rates,’ Elmendorf said. ‘On the other hand, if one wants those tax rates, then one has to make very significant changes in spending programs for older Americans’ or all the rest of the government’s functions … that’s the debate Democrats want to be having … And it’s precisely the debate Republicans do not want to have.”
CBO chief “all but endorses American Jobs Act” notes W. Monthly’s Steve Benen: “…, the director of the CBO wants to see a short-term boost in spending, a rejection of efforts to impose sharp short-term budget cuts, and a longer-term approach to debt reduction, including possible tax increases. If this sounds familiar, it’s because President Obama wants the same thing, and has made this approach the basis for his American Jobs Act.”
“Romney Is No Better than Perry on Social Security” notes AFL-CIO’s Tula Connell: “Romney and Perry both have suggested raising the retirement age for Social Security and both have made noises about privatizing it—that is, relegating it to the volatility of the stock market.”
Poverty Spikes In 2010
Awful 2010 poverty numbers conclude “lost decade.” NYT: “…the percentage of Americans living below the poverty line last year, 15.1 percent, was the highest level since 1993 … The past decade was also marked by a growing gap between the very top and very bottom of the income ladder …”
Poverty crisis proves failure of “welfare reform.” Mother Jones’ Stephanie Mencimer: “…the number of people living in deep poverty—that is, below 50 percent of the poverty level, or $11,000 for a family of four—is the highest its been since 1975 … The extreme poverty rate for women is more than 6 percent, the highest recorded in 22 years, and the poverty rate for black women is up a percentage point from 2009, to more than 25 percent … Just as the numbers support more stimulus, they also offer a rebuke to congressional Republicans and former president Bill Clinton, who killed off one of the nation’s oldest anti-poverty programs by passing welfare reform during the early 1990s.”
Remaining anti-poverty programs worked to cushion blow. CBPP’s Robert Greenstein: “Unemployment insurance kept 3.2 million people above the poverty line in 2010. The official poverty measure doesn’t count the EITC or SNAP (food stamp) benefits as income, but the Census Bureau reported that if they were counted, as many analysts favor, they would be shown to lift out of poverty 5.4 million and 3.9 million people, respectively…”
House Clears Transportation, FAA Funding Extensions
House passes temporary extension of transportation and FAA funding, avoiding gas tax fight. The Hill: “…there were murmurs for a month that the federal gas tax in the highway funding bill could be the next standoff between Democrats and the ascendant Tea Party. As a result, transportation associations were breathing a sigh of relief Tuesday after the House approved a combined bill that extends highway and aviation funding through the beginning of next year.”
GOP snubbed Heritage Foundation to back transportation bill notes Roll Call.
Senate breaks filibuster of disaster relief bill with support from handful of GOPers. Roll Call: “… eight Republicans vot[ed] with Democrats, including Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, whose state has suffered major flooding. Other GOP backers included Senators from states that have been hit hard by recent storms, such as David Vitter of Louisiana, Roy Blunt of Missouri and John Hoeven of North Dakota.”