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: Burr/Coburn Medicare Plan: 10 Deceptions – and a Free-Market “Death Panel”
OurFuture.org’s Richard Eskow: “There’s a new “Medicare” proposal – sorta. It’s really the same old bait-and-switch we’ve seen a dozen times. Still, you gotta hand it to ‘em: Republican Sens. Tom Coburn and Richard Burr have taken the usual right-wing think-tank-designed buzzwords, deceptive packaging, and sleights of hand, and have taken them to new heights. These foundation-forged assaults on the middle class may be old, battered ideas that have been debunked a dozen times, but still they just won’t die. Like the old Terminators, they keep coming back with the same mission: Must. Kill. Medicare. … Here are 10 deceptions in the Coburn/Burr plan — plus a bonus: your “Free-Market Death Panel” explained.”
Politico calls it “a John Boehner production.” “Boehner, his staff and other top leaders have their fingerprints all over the pact. While top congressional tax writers Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) were critical to the final deal, Boehner’s senior aides helped negotiate key provisions of the deal leading up to the ultimate night of negotiations.”
Christian Science Monitor: “…in the end, the political pressure on House GOP leaders to avoid what would seem to be a tax hike was simply too high.”
House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer will oppose the payroll tax deal. “The Maryland Democrat said a provision to cut retirement funds for some federal workers proved to be a deal-breaker. … Hoyer’s position aligns him against a number of other Democratic leaders, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who announced Thursday that her concerns with the bill — including those over the pension offset — were outweighed by the provisions Democrats favor, including an extension of the payroll tax holiday and emergency unemployment benefits.”
House conservatives ram Keystone Pipeline approval, oil drilling through House. Reuters: The House bill “would wrest control of a permit for the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline away from President Barack Obama, who has put the project on hold. The bill, part of a broader House Republican effort to fund highways and infrastructure projects, would also expand offshore oil drilling and open up parts of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. … Senate leaders were still negotiating on Thursday whether to allow a vote on Keystone as part of debate on a highway funding legislation, said Senator John Hoeven, a Republican from North Dakota who has been a key advocate for the $7 billion Canada-to-Texas project.”
USA Today cites Congressional Budget Office assessment that the revenue from oil drilling won’t do much for funding transportation. “The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the offshore drilling portions alone would bring in $4.3 billion between 2013-2022, a number Republicans say is underestimated. It was also unclear whether the energy provisions, which were added as a sweetener to get tea partiers behind the expensive transportation bill, will help save the measure. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, put off action on the legislation until after next week’s congressional recess when it became clear even his own party wasn’t enthusiastic about it.”
Climate Progress adds that several Senate Republicans are moving to require Keystone Pipeline approval before President Obama can make any withdrawals from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
Sen. Byron Dorgan joins retired Gen. Jim Jones and Booz Allen Hamilton’s Mark Gerencser in calling for “reimagining U.S. infrastructure” in Politico op-ed: “Our highways and gas stations were built for the gas guzzlers on “Mad Men,” while those in other nations are designed to provide the fuel-efficiency and mass-transit capabilities required in the modern world. It is not sustainable for Washington to adopt temporary fixes to these problems. For real change, political leaders must trade short-term, partisan or parochial interests for long-term policies that serve U.S. national interests.”
“Where are the women?” Talking Points Memo: “The question is being repeated by Democrats and women’s rights groups as they attempt to shape the narrative of the contraception issue. The Democrats’ new mantra really began before the hearing convened in a fight over witnesses. Democrats on the Committee had pushed for a specific woman to testify in the hearing. This was Sandra Fluke, a law student at Georgetown University Law School, who was asked to discuss contraception as a health care issue. … Democrats know that the fight over contraception coverage will tip in their favor if they make it about women and contraception coverage, as several polls on the rule and on the President suggest…. If anyone tuned in to the news Thursday, the Democrats made sure they heard, “Where are the women?” And they intend to keep it that way.”
This “could be an Anita Hill moment,” reports Politico. “The image of men dominating the discussion about women’s health, say those on the left, may galvanize women voters in the way that the Senate Judiciary Committee’s handling of sexual harassment allegations against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas did in 1991. That incident is widely credited with the election of a large number of Democratic women the next year.”
Jonathan Alter at Bloomberg notes how Catholics and conservative Protestants are coalescing around this issue, but that’s bad news for Republicans. “The Republicans may end up with a nominee, Rick Santorum, who has warned of “the dangers of contraception in this country.” He said: “It’s not OK because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” This from a candidate who recently said of the president: “He thinks he knows better how to run your lives.” Imagine what [President] Obama would do with that in a debate. Instead of running away from Santorum, many Republicans are running toward him — once again, failing to get the memo on when to stop.”
Rachel Maddow exposes the conservative hypocrisy of their contraception opposition, citing a Los Angeles Time story that finds that “years before the current partisan firestorm, GOP lawmakers and governors around the country, including Huckabee, backed similar mandates” on insurance coverage for contraception to the one President Obama announced.
Taxpayers will end up paying part of the mortgage settlement with big banks, Yves Smith argues. “…[N]ot only is the settlement designed to shift the costs of the banks’ misdeeds onto already victimized investors, but taxpayers will also be picking up some of the widely touted $25 billion tab. Shahien Nasiripour tells us in the Financial Times that banks will be able to count future mods made under HAMP [the Home Affordable Mortgage Program] towards the total. … [B]anks get to game HAMP payments as part of the settlement. “
ProPublica explains “How Citibank Dumped Lousy Mortgages on the Government”: “Citi was passing on mortgages with particularly high rates of default to the FHA [Federal Housing Administration], costing taxpayers millions in insurance claims. … The quality control unit in charge of reviewing the mortgages had “marching orders” to pass questionable loans by “brute force.” … The company admits to passing on loans that were “not eligible” for government guarantees.”
The death of the Republican dog-whistle? Markos Moulitsas: “I n the idealized version of the GOP primary, establishment Republicans would curry favor with their Wall Street pals while sending coded dog whistles to their foot soldiers—on race, immigration, reproductive freedoms, etc. Those dog whistles would motivate the GOP base without revealing their true radical nature to the American mainstream. It was a genius system while it worked, one that saw no parallel on the progressive side. But the days of the dog whistle are over. … [E]very day that this race continues is a day in which base conservatives demand their candidates—including that former “moderate” Romney—pledge vocal and overt fealty to an agenda so outside the mainstream, that independents are flocking to the Democratic Party.”
Arizona conservatives seek a referendum to slash the state’s minimum wage. AFL-CIO Blog: “Currently it is at $7.65 an hour but this recent measure, if approved by voters, would allow businesses to pay teens and young adults as little as $4.65 an hour. … it’s hard to understand how anyone could think that paying workers less than subsistence wages would benefit Arizona’s economy. No one, not even supporters, expects the referendum to pass at the ballot box. … So this is basically tea party legislators wasting our time rather than taking tangible steps to balance the budget and bring good jobs to Arizona.”
Sustainable development is a “naked power grab by unelected bureaucrats” inspired by a United Nations plot, in the view of Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Ted Cruz, writes Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Linda P. Campbell. This man, she notes, used to be the Texas solicitor general.