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: Privatizing Medicare Is Political Malpractice
OurFuture.org’s Digby: “This could be the worst political time in history to propose something like this. That Democatic Sen. Ron Wyden has opened the door for it — and re-empowered an extremist like Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, a man who characterizes progressivism as a ‘cancer’ — is political malpractice of the highest order. (Not to mention that he’s actually validating Mitt Romney as well.) But I’m sure he’ll get a lot of attention for his ‘bipartisan’ bravery and that’s a very valuable currency in Village circles.”
White House Slams Ryan-Wyden
WH spox calls Ryan-Wyden plan to partially privatize Medicare straight out of Gingrich playbook. The Hill: “[Dan] Pfeiffer said the new plan ‘would end Medicare as we know it for millions of seniors.’ He invoked Gingrich’s 1995 statement that Medicare would ‘wither on the vine’ when faced with competition from private insurers.”
Mostly conservatives praise plan. Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: “… many conservatives and Republicans applauded Ryan for getting a prominent congressional Democrat to endorse a fundamental structural shift in Medicare toward choice and private competition … But activists and policy experts on the left were mostly chilly to the Ryan-Wyden plan, echoing the White House criticisms that it was a step toward dismantling the traditional Medicare entitlement that has been a critical component in the safety net for seniors.”
Could become law if Obama loses, argues Slate’s Matthew Yglesias: “The original Ryan plan is far too right-wing to implement, but you could certainly imagine an emboldened new Senate Republican majority backed by President Romney or President Gingrich going for Ryan Lite.”
Romney and Gingrich back Ryan-Wyden plan reports National Journal.
NYT chronicles Gingrich’s advocacy for key components of President Obama’s health reform: “…Mr. Gingrich was cheering a $19 billion part of the [stimulus] package that promoted the use of electronic health records, something that benefited clients of his consulting business … Although he now says he is opposed to the so-called individual mandate, in a May 2009 conference call — previously unreported — he told health care executives, ‘We believe there should be must-carry; that is, everybody should have health insurance, or if you’re an absolute libertarian, we would allow you to post a bond.’”
Deal Appears To Avert Shutdown
Deal potentially averts shutdown, but payroll tax issue still unresolved. NYT: “… the Senate, which has until Dec. 31 to act on the payroll tax before it reverts to a higher level, will seek a two-month stopgap extension of the payroll tax holiday, unemployment insurance and Medicare payment rates for doctors, at a cost of an estimated $40 billion. Senate leaders were still hoping to reach a deal on a longer-term plan.”
Compromises galore in government operations bill. Politico: “The White House … won concessions including expanded transfer authority to address a funding shortfall at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, so important to President Barack Obama’s Wall Street reforms. And the final bill strips out a Republican amendment to the Treasury budget to reinstate Bush-era restrictions on travel to Cuba … Republican language seeking to block new standards for light bulbs was left in the bill … Pell Grants for low-income college students survive … at the maximum award level of $5,500, but also substantial reforms are written into the bill to come up with about $1.36 billion in savings…”
“Reid, GOP leaders $90 billion apart on payroll tax holiday package” reports The Hill.
Dems pushing for clean energy tax credits in payroll tax compromise. Bloomberg: “They are proposing to continue a program that allows companies to claim grants instead of tax credits, extend the main tax credit for wind energy production and revive a program that provided tax credits to manufacturers … The wind credit doesn’t expire until the end of 2012. Industry advocates have been urging Congress to extend it now, because the deadline applies to the start of energy production, meaning that the potential expiration affects investment decisions before the deadline. The advanced energy manufacturing credit, created in a 2009 economic stimulus law, has effectively expired.”
New congressional study finds “People Receiving Unemployment Insurance Work Harder To Find Jobs.” ThinkProgress quotes: “…beneficiaries of federal UI benefits have spent more time searching for work than those who were ineligible for UI benefits. In fact, since Congress enacted federal unemployment benefits, time spent looking for a job has tripled among the long‐term unemployed who are out of work as a result of job loss…”
NYT’s Paul Krugman on how Ron Paul’s nutty monetary views have captured the GOP: “After Lehman Brothers fell, the Fed began lending large sums to banks as well as buying a wide range of other assets, in a (successful) attempt to stabilize financial markets, in the process adding large amounts to bank reserves … [Paul and] many right-leaning economists, were sure about what would happen as a result: There would be devastating inflation … [But in three years] consumer prices have risen just 4.5 percent … [Yet] hard-money doctrine and paranoia about inflation have taken over the party, even as the predicted inflation keeps failing to materialize.”
Justice Dept. brings hammer down on anti-immigrant AZ sheriff. W. Post: “[The Justice Department said] Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s department illegally detained Hispanic residents and denied them critical services in jail. That report was followed hours later by a Department of Homeland Security announcement that it was terminating the sheriff’s participation in a federal-state program to enforce immigration laws.”
EPA is expected to issue tough new rules on coal pollution today. Time’s Bryan Walsh: “…on Friday—under a court order—the EPA is expected to finally issue new regulations that will require power plants to reduce emissions of mercury and other toxics within the next three years. The utility industry is already fighting back, claiming that the rules will destroy jobs, raise electricity prices and even lead to blackouts—so [EPA's Lisa] Jackson knows she has a fight on her hands … The EPA says that the new rules could have public health benefits ranging from $53 to $140 billion, while imposing costs of $11 billion … the power industry has known for years that these mercury regulations were on their way, and many utilities are on record saying they’re already prepared.”
Obama administration stands by California high-speed rail. LAT: “‘We are not going to flinch on that support,’ said Joseph Szabo, chief of the Federal Railroad Administration. Szabo said that his agency had committed itself to provide $3.3 billion for a construction start next year in the Central Valley and that federal law prohibits any change of mind about where to begin building the first segment of the state’s high-speed rail system. ‘The worst thing we could do is make obligations to folks and start to renege on our word,’ Szabo told the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.”