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: Grover’s Not Over Yet
OurFuture.org’s Terrance Heath: “For years progressive have simultaneously envied and despised Grover Norquist for his ability to organize conservatives and keep them organized, and more recently for the power his anti-tax pledge held over Republicans. So it’s understandable that we might celebrate the apparently cracks in Norquist’s ‘wall’ of anti-tax Republicans. However, we should careful not to get too carried away by ‘greatly exaggerated’ reports of Grover’s demise. Without progressives holding their feet to the fire, Democrats could let Republicans lead them over an ideological cliff of no return, with little more than an old shell-game trick.”
Retirement Security Off The Table?
Dems “raise their asking price” reports The Hill: “Senate Democratic leaders signaled Tuesday they would not agree to any entitlement reforms before the end of the year that cut spending on Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. They also said that any year-end deal to avoid the expiration of tax cuts and implementation of spending cuts … must include a provision to raise the debt ceiling … The White House and Reid have indicated they will not consider cuts to Social Security, a notable change from 2011 … A Senate Democratic aide said Durbin believes Congress should look at Medicare and Medicaid reforms as part of long-term deficit-reduction talks, but separately from a short-term deal to avoid the cliff … Reid on Tuesday said he would consider cuts to Medicare, however, that did not affect beneficiaries … Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) expressed disappointment that Obama had moved Social Security off the table and now is considering shielding Medicare and Medicaid from significant reforms.”
But Dem Sen. Dick Durbin suggests Social Security and Medicare should face changes next year, after short-term deal is struck. Bloomberg: “Durbin called today for a commission in 2013, outside of fiscal cliff and deficit-reduction discussions, to examine Social Security and ensure the program still has 75 years of solvency.”
Some Dem division on retirement security. AP: “There’s a growing consensus among Senate Democrats and the White House that Social Security should be exempt from any deficit-reduction package. But some centrist Democrats in the Senate argue that fellow Democrats must be willing to consider cuts to Medicare and Medicaid in order to get concessions from Republicans on taxes.”
“Pressure for Entitlement Cuts is on Medicare, Medicaid” more than Social Security, says Bloomberg: “Democrats say Social Security is off the table. So if Republicans are successful in pushing for changes to entitlement programs in U.S. budget talks, the pressure for cuts will be on Medicare and Medicaid. Republicans propose raising the Medicare eligibility age. Other options for squeezing money out of the health care program for the elderly include additional co-payments and an increase in premiums paid by high-income recipients. In February, President Barack Obama proposed saving about $70 billion over 10 years by revising the formula for federal matching of state Medicaid expenditures and making other changes.”
We can reduce health care costs by … waiting. TNR’s Jonathan Cohn: “…the long-term goal of fiscal policy should be to stabilize the debt-to- GDP ratio … it’s possible to achieve that goal for the next decade or so without dramatic cuts to entitlements. Stabilizing the debt-to- GDP ratio after the next decade would indeed require additional revenue or spending cuts, but, at this point, why not wait and see whether the Obamacare reforms do the job? It’s entirely possible they might. If they don’t, we can make further adjustments in the future…”
More revenue possible for infrastructure, without gas tax hike. Politico: “More revenues for infrastructure could be wrung out of a linkage with energy in a number of ways, but the possibilities discussed the most include instituting a fee on oil production, or expanding oil and natural gas drilling availability.
GOP Concession On Bush Tax Cuts?
But top House GOPers urges party to accept Obama proposal to extend tax cuts for middle class first. Politico: “Republican Rep. Tom Cole urged colleagues in a private session Tuesday to vote to extend the Bush tax rates for all but the highest earners before the end of the year — and to battle over the rest later. The Oklahoma Republican said in an interview with POLITICO that he believes such a vote would not violate Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge and that he’s not alone within Republican circles.”
Republicans insist on immediate spending cuts. Roll Call: “‘In the past, Democrats have demanded tax hikes now for spending cuts that never actually happened,’ Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday. ‘Not this time. A balanced approach means real spending reductions now.’”
“Competing immigration reform efforts begin” reports LAT: “…a group of House members is preparing to reconvene after two years of inaction. The bipartisan group includes Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose), Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.). Its members drafted parts of immigration legislation as recently as 2010, but had disbanded because of strong political head winds. The House Republican leadership has tacitly blessed the effort … Retiring Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) introduced the Achieve Act on Tuesday … Hutchison said she believed it would be better to tackle small pieces of immigration reform one at a time because agreement on a large package had proven too difficult. Fewer young immigrants would qualify under her proposal than would have been eligible under the Dream Act. Unlike the Dream Act, the GOP bill would not guarantee a pathway to citizenship.”
“U.S. Treasury Declines to Name China Currency Manipulator” reports Bloomberg: “In declining to brand China a manipulator, the Treasury cited the reduced intervention and ‘steps to liberalize controls on capital movements, as part of a broader plan to move to a more flexible exchange-rate regime.’ … ‘This report all but admits China’s currency is being manipulated, but stops short of saying so explicitly,’ U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, said in a statement. ‘The formal designation matters because there can be no penalties without it. It’s time for the Obama administration to rip off the Band-Aid, and force China to play by the same rules as all other countries.’”