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: Romney, Lead Your Party. Fight For Payroll Tax Cut.
OurFuture.org’s Robert Borosage: “Instead of simply renewing the vital payroll tax cut – and extending unemployment insurance – they are piling on irrelevant demands, arguing with each other, and forcing yet another unnecessary crisis. Extending the payroll tax cut for the full year will give the average American an additional $1,000, a $40 boost in each paycheck. This will help sustain the demand vital to creating jobs. Republican antics make no sense. The sabotage must stop. The question for Mitt Romney is: You claim to lead this party, are you willing to stand up for common sense?”
GOP Threatening Tax Cut Extension
House GOP threatens termination of payroll tax cut by insisting on jobless aid cuts. NYT: “…Republicans are seeking numerous policy changes connected to unemployment benefits — like a mandatory high school equivalency program and possible drug testing for beneficiaries — that Democrats have rejected out of hand. They would also reduce the benefits to 59 weeks, far less than the 79 weeks sought by President Obama … Democrats presented a one-page counterproposal to the House offer on unemployment insurance benefits that would cap the length of time that unemployment benefits are paid out at 93 weeks for the remainder of the year. Republicans all but laughed.”
Conservatives overlook the obvious reason why working-class families are struggling, argues NYT’s Paul Krugman: “Suddenly, conservatives are telling us that it’s not really about money; it’s about morals. Never mind wage stagnation and all that, the real problem is the collapse of working-class family values, which is somehow the fault of liberals … it is, frankly, amazing how quickly and blithely conservatives dismiss the seemingly obvious answer: A drastic reduction in the work opportunities available to less-educated men.”
Inequality extending to education. NYT: “…researchers are finding that while the achievement gap between white and black students has narrowed significantly over the past few decades, the gap between rich and poor students has grown substantially during the same period … the imbalance between rich and poor children in college completion — the single most important predictor of success in the work force — has grown by about 50 percent since the late 1980s … lower-income families, which are now more likely than ever to be headed by a single parent, are increasingly stretched for time and resources.”
Mixed Reaction To Foreclosure Fraud Settlement
Settlement will have “limited” impact on the housing market, says McClatchy: “‘Realistically, this is a settlement that at the end of the day will make nobody really happy,’ said Rick Sharga, a foreclosure expert and executive vice president at Carrington Mortgage Holdings in San Diego. … ‘People watching the housing market won’t think it is a cure-all to what ails the market. And from the financial side of things, banks will quickly realize this doesn’t remove liability on a host of other issues.’ In fact, Obama stressed that the settlement dealt only with problems in the servicing of mortgages and that his administration continues to investigated alleged fraud in the origination of mortgages and in the packaging of them into the complex instruments known as mortgage-backed securities.”
But banks have not escaped all legal trouble either. LAT: “The settlement releases the banks from claims involving foreclosures, mortgage customer servicing and loan originations. However, authorities can still investigate various fraud claims, including those involving the mortgage bonds whose meltdown triggered a global financial crisis. What’s more, there is no criminal immunity or release from private claims by individuals or class-action lawsuits.”
“Foreclosure Fraud Settlement Costs Big Banks Half Of Last Year’s Profits” notes ThinkProgress.
Reuters’ Felix Salmon is upbeat: “Other big-money lawsuits over securitization can and almost certainly will still be brought — which means that the big banks all still have significant litigation risk hanging over their heads … [But] what’s happening here is that the mortgage settlement is at heart largely just encouraging banks to bring their balance sheets closer to reality … [And] insofar as principal reductions can increase the value of a mortgage, this deal is actually making banks money … really is a win for all sides.”
“Mortgage Settlement Fight Not Over, Say Organizers” reports Truthout: “…Gordon Whitman, policy director at the Pacific Institute for Community Organizing (PICO) National Network and organizer with The Bottom Line, it will only help a handful of homeowners … ‘The way forward is much more pressure and investigation and pressure on the big banks,’ he continued, which ‘opens the pathway to get upwards of $300 billion in debt relief for American taxpayers. Wall Street wants to make this problem go away, but it won’t go away.’”
Fannie and Freddie resisting the “principal reduction” accepted by banks in the settlement. ProPublica: “The two companies aren’t directly part of the settlement … But Fannie and Freddie do guarantee or own roughly half of the mortgages in the U.S. … Principal reduction is being pushed heavily by the Obama administration as a way to lower the rate of foreclosures. The administration recently tried to encourage Fannie and Freddie by offering to triple incentives for principal reduction. So far, the companies and their federal overseer, DeMarco, have declined to do so.”
Pressure on Freddie Mac and FHFA regarding past bets against homeowners. ProPublica: “‘I don’t understand why you make a bet that you can largely control the outcome of, and want your bet to lose,’ [Sen. Robert] Menendez said … 10 senators sent a letter to Edward DeMarco, the head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the regulator that oversees Freddie Mac, calling the report ‘deeply troubling.’ … the inspector general for the FHFA confirmed Wednesday that it is looking into Freddie Mac’s investments.”
WH Reportedly Will Adjust Contraception Rule
ABC reports that WH plans contraception compromise: “The move, based on state models, will almost certainly not satisfy bishops and other religious leaders since it will preserve the goal of women employees having their birth control fully covered by health insurance … Sources say it will involve health insurance companies helping to provide the coverage, since it’s actually cheaper for these companies to offer the coverage than to not do so, because of unwanted pregnancies and resulting complications.”
Sen. Maj. Leader Reid blocks GOP anti-contraception amendment to transportation bill. Politico: “…Reid blocked the move, telling Republicans to ‘calm down’ until a final rule comes out. ‘This is a rule that hasn’t even been made final yet. There’s no final rule … Let’s wait until there is at least a rule that we can talk about.’”
House, Senate Diverge On Transportation Bill
Six House GOPers break ranks on tying Arctic oil drilling to transportation bill. NYT: “Six House Republicans on Thursday sent a letter to their leadership opposing the opening of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling to help pay for a pending transportation bill … With tough re-election campaigns coming, House Republicans of all stripes may be looking for ways big and small to assert their independence from an unpopular Republican leadership.”
Bipartisan transportation jobs bill in the Senate nears passage. Reuters: “A bipartisan proposal for the federal government to spend $109 billion over two years to upgrade roads, bridges and transit systems and create jobs easily cleared a crucial hurdle on Thursday when the Senate voted 85 to 11 to allow it to proceed to debate.”
WH to release review of clean energy loan guarantee program today. The Hill: “The much-anticipated review comes as House Republicans are pummeling the administration for greenlighting a $535 million loan guarantee in 2009 to the solar firm Solyndra … Herb Allison, a former Treasury Department official who oversaw the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), conducted the review and delivered his report to the White House late last month.”
Republican chair of House Financial Services Cmte investigated for insider trading. W. Post: “The Office of Congressional Ethics … investigators have notified Bachus that he is under investigation and that they have found probable cause to believe insider-trading violations have occurred … OCE investigators are examining whether Bachus violated Securities and Exchange Commission laws that prohibit individuals from trading stocks and options based on ‘material, non-public’ inside information…”