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. Bill Scher returns Wednesday.
MORNING MESSAGE: Tell Obama To Stop Protecting Bankers
OurFuture.org’s Richard Eskow: “Lately we’ve been hearing some strong words from President Obama about Wall Street crime. But when the cameras and lights aren’t around, his administration’s been working feverishly to protect bankers from state law enforcement officials. … White House officials are obstructing them by pushing a sweetheart deal with the banks that would end their investigations and prevent them from prosecuting crooked bankers. If more people knew what was happening, the White House would be flooded with calls and emails demanding that it stop protecting Wall Street. It’s still not too late for that.” Read more »
Bair: Pain Relief for Mortgage Headache?
Sheila Bair is eyed as a potential overseer of a state mortgage settlement. “Bair, who led the [Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation] from 2006 until this year, is supported by some states as a third-party monitor of any accord with mortgage servicers including Bank of America Corp., though Citigroup Inc. opposes her selection, said the person. Selection of a monitor is one of the final issues to be worked out between the banks and state and federal officials, said the person and one other also familiar with the talks. … Lawmakers including Representative Barney Frank, the Massachusetts Democrat who led efforts to enact the regulatory overhaul that bears his name, praised Bair for pushing banks and regulators to protect homeowners as foreclosures soared after the collapse of the U.S. mortgage market.”
Who ultimately got Fed bailout money? Even the Fed doesn’t know. Bloomberg: “One of the central bank’s emergency-lending programs remains so secretive that names of borrowers may be hidden from the Fed itself. As part of a currency-swap plan active from 2007 to 2010 and revived to fight the European debt crisis, the Fed lends dollars to other central banks, which auction them to local commercial banks. Lending peaked at $586 billion in December 2008. While the transactions with other central banks are all disclosed, the Fed doesn’t track where the dollars ultimately end up, and European officials don’t share borrowers’ identities outside the continent. The lack of openness may leave the U.S. government and public in the dark on the beneficiaries and potential risks from one of the Fed’s largest crisis-loan programs.”
Robert Reich calls a lawsuit against the Commodity Futures Trading Commission filed by Wall Street lobbyists to block rules curbing speculative trading another example of Wall Street being “its own worst enemy… making the public more distrustful than ever.” The stakes: “For years Wall Street has speculated like mad in futures markets – food, oil, other commodities – causing prices to fluctuate wildly. The Street makes bundles from these gyrations, but they have raised costs for consumers. In other words, a small portion of what you and I pay for food and energy has been going into the pockets of Wall Street. It’s just another hidden redistribution from the middle class and poor to the rich. The new Dodd-Frank law authorizes the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to limit such speculative trading.”
Business Try To Milk Payroll Tax Deal
Businesses are trying to attach goodies to payroll tax deal, reports The Hill: “Business advocates, applauding the inclusion of a capital investment provision in the House GOP payroll tax proposal, are now trying to make sure it stays in any final deal. … House Republicans on Friday released their formal legislation to extend the current 2 percentage point cut in the payroll tax rate for workers and extend unemployment insurance benefits, both of which expire at the end of the year. The measure has several provisions that Democrats object to, including a proposal to quicken approval of the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline. … But the capital investment provision, also called 100 percent bonus depreciation and one of the few tax proposals in the GOP plan, has support from lawmakers in both parties and a wide range of business groups. It also has proven to be less controversial than other tax ideas, like the repatriation holiday.”
Key Republican concedes the Keystone pipeline won’t be in the final payroll tax deal. “The pipeline’s probably not going to sell,” Sen. Lindsey Graham predicts on Meet The Press. But “Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested Sunday that President Obama was bluffing when he promised to veto an extension of the payroll tax cut if it included a provision that required the construction of the Keystone pipeline.”
Paul Begala thinks GOP stubbornness on the payroll tax cut will save Obama’s reelection. In Newsweek: “I cannot think of a time when the economy declined but the president was not blamed—but this may be the first. If the Republicans were smart, they would do on taxes what they did on trade: quietly pass Obama’s proposals, knowing full well that even a million new jobs will not be enough to climb out of the hole Obama inherited. (Fourteen million Americans are unemployed.) The economy isn’t giving Obama enough jobs, but the Republicans are giving him the next best thing: a villain to blame for the poor economy. By killing Obama’s jobs agenda, Republicans may just save his presidency.”
Meanwhile, Congress appears poised to avoid another government shutdown threat, says The Washington Post. “It appears increasingly likely that, with little fuss, lawmakers will approve a bipartisan compromise in coming days that will keep government running past Friday, when a short-term funding measure that has kept the lights on expires. … appropriators from the House and Senate have been quietly working toward the unveiling, expected late Monday, of a compromise spending measure that would outline how government agencies should spend nearly $1 trillion through Sept. 30, 2012. ”
Krugman Calls It A Depression
“It’s time to start calling the current situation what it is: a depression,” Paul Krugman writes in his latest column. “True, it’s not a full replay of the Great Depression, but that’s cold comfort. Unemployment in both America and Europe remains disastrously high. Leaders and institutions are increasingly discredited. And democratic values are under siege.” In Europe, “demands for ever-harsher austerity, with no offsetting effort to foster growth, have done double damage. They have failed as economic policy, worsening unemployment without restoring confidence; a Europe-wide recession now looks likely even if the immediate threat of financial crisis is contained. And they have created immense anger, with many Europeans furious at what is perceived, fairly or unfairly (or actually a bit of both), as a heavy-handed exercise of German power.”
Bridgeport, Conn. is ground zero for the nation’s worsening income inequality, says Bloomberg Businessweek. “If this region were a country, it would be the 14th-most unequal spot on the planet, ranking just below Brazil, based on figures in the CIA World Factbook. … Connecticut’s per capita income is the highest of any state in the nation at $36,775, according to the census. In the Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk metro area, 53,076 households took home at least $200,000 — and 16,505 earned less than $10,000.”
San Francisco’s minimum wage now tops $10 an hour. HuffPo takes a closer look: “The city’s hourly wage for its lowest-paid workers will hit $10.24, more than $2 above the California minimum wage and nearly $3 more than the working wage set by the federal government. … San Franciscans passed a proposition in 2003 that requires the city to increase the minimum wage each year, using a formula tied to inflation and the cost of living. It’s just another way the progressive people of the City by the Bay have shown their support for the working-class in a locale where labor unions remain strong and housing costs are sky high.”
Occupy movement plans actions at several key U.S. ports: “By marching on U.S. ports from California to Alaska, organizers look to call attention to economic inequalities in the country and a financial system they complain is unfairly tilted toward the wealthy.”
Goldman Sachs is a top target of today’s protests. San Francisco Chronicle: “They represent the greed of the corporate elite, the 1 percent that’s causing ruin for everybody else,” Michael Novick, a member of Occupy Los Angeles, said of Goldman Sachs in a Dec. 7 telephone interview.
Occupy the courts: “More than 700 Occupy Wall Street protesters are expected to appear in court this week to answer a slew of summonses — potentially creating a nightmare scenario for courthouse personnel.”