MORNING MESSAGE: Did Obama Pivot On Education?
OurFuture.org’s Jeff Bryant: “It was hard for a progressive not to get a chocolate high from President Obama’s inauguration speech … But hardly anyone in the education community had anything notable to say about it …advocates for education and public schools have heard Obama say sweet things about education before, only to quickly see him revert to tired truisms about America’s ‘failed’ schools that are so in need of ‘accountability’ … [We should] not expect Obama to lead but look for opportunities where his positions allow us to lead … let’s hold him accountable to the following pivot-points that align with ‘we’re in this together’ values: Parents don’t need a ‘choice’ of schools for their children; they need a guarantee that their neighborhood schools are good schools. Parents and students shouldn’t have to compete with other parents and students on an inequitable playing field; they should be assured of equitable school funding based on students’ needs.”
Reid, McConnell Near Filibuster Deal
Filibuster reform deal may be announced today. TPM: “It would permit the majority to bypass a filibuster on the motion to proceed to debate — if a group of senators on each side agree or if there’s a guarantee that both sides will get to offer amendments, the sources said Wednesday evening. It also includes an expedited process for some nominations and lowers the number of cloture motions required to go to conference with the House … The final unresolved detail in the negotiations between the two leaders involves the amount of post-cloture time for nominees, the sources said, describing it as a minor hurdle. The emerging accord is a major step away from the Merkley-Udall ‘talking filibuster’ plan … The major proponents of reform believe the Reid-McConnell deal under discussion would not make it easier to pass legislation, and believe the only meaningful upside is that it may speed up the confirmation of some judicial nominations.”
House GOP: Suspend Debt Limit, Speed Devastating Austerity
House passes 4-month suspension of debt limit. Roll Call: “The bill would suspend the debt limit through May 18, then automatically increase the current $16.4 trillion ceiling to accommodate additional debt accumulated before that date. The legislation also would tie congressional pay to passage of a budget plan by suspending salaries of members of the House or Senate if either chamber does not adopt a resolution by April 15. Lawmakers would be paid at the end of the 113th Congress should their pay be delayed. Although he had promised not to negotiate over the debt limit, the scheme won tacit approval from President Barack Obama, who signaled he would sign the bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he will pass it through the Senate unchanged.”
Boehner declares House budget will offer massive austerity, eliminate deficit in 10 years. LAT: “The new proposal to balance the budget in a decade would zero out the federal deficit almost twice as fast as previous Republican efforts … But because Republicans want to protect the Pentagon, their approach would require steep reductions in domestic programs — particularly education, infrastructure investment and the safety net for low- and moderate-income Americans … similar blueprints for eliminating the deficit in 10 years have pointed to austere measures: turning Medicare into a voucher-like program and raising the age at which seniors become eligible, cutting food stamps and school lunch subsidies…”
Sen. Schumer suggests Senate budget will include more tax revenue. The Hill: “Sen. Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), the Senate Democrats’ chief political strategist, sees a joint budget resolution between the Senate and House as the key to raising another $600 billion in new tax revenues. Democratic leaders say that will be the minimum amount needed from tax reform to stop automatic spending cuts … The revenue would come from limiting deductions and closing loopholes and would affect only people earning above $250,000 … Schumer reasons it will be easier to get House Republicans to agree to raise half a trillion dollars in new tax revenue as a part of tax reform than as a straight offset to the sequester of funds from domestic and defense programs. Simplifying the tax code has long been a Republican priority and some of the revenue gained from eliminating special tax breaks could be used to lower income tax rates, another GOP goal.”
Another GOP governor pushes elimination of income tax. NYT: “Inside the Kansas State Capitol here this week, Gov. Sam Brownback and Republican legislators have been drafting … a bill to inch the state closer to eliminating income taxes, a centerpiece of a broad legislative vision that many in the Republican Party here hope will serve as a model of conservative governance for other states, if not the nation, to follow … Mr. Brownback proposed to help cover the [$850M] cost of [already enacted] cuts by keeping in place a sales tax increase that was scheduled to expire this year and by eliminating the mortgage interest deduction. Both proposals have proven unpopular among conservatives and liberals alike.
WI, IN Laws Slice Union Membership
Union membership hits modern low, after loss of rights in WI and IN. NYT: “…the total number of union members fell by 400,000 last year, to 14.3 million, even though the nation’s overall employment rose by 2.4 million. The percentage of workers in unions fell to 11.3 percent, down from 11.8 percent in 2011 … The portion of private sector workers in unions fell to just 6.6 percent last year, from 6.9 percent in 2011 … Union membership showed sharp drops in Wisconsin, which passed a law in 2011 curbing the collective bargaining rights of many public employees, and in Indiana, which enacted a right-to-work law last February that may have prompted many workers to drop their union membership.”
CEPR’s Kris Warner explains “The Real Reason for the Decline of American Unions” in Bloomberg oped: “Canada has gone through many of the same economic and social changes as the U.S. since the middle of the 20th century, yet it hasn’t seen the same precipitous decline in unionization. The unionization rate in the U.S. and Canada followed fairly similar paths from 1920 to the mid-1960s, at which point they began to diverge drastically … Several [Canadian] provinces have bans on temporary or permanent striker replacement, which don’t exist in the U.S. And there is no Canadian equivalent of the ‘right-to-work’ laws that have been enacted in 24 U.S. states … Card-check authorization, which is used in almost half of Canadian provinces, allows a majority of employees to form a union at their workplace simply by signing cards stating that they would like to do so…”