By Bill Scher
October 24, 2011 - 9:43am ET
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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: Beware Elites Promising Tax Reform
OurFuture.org's Sam Pizzigati: "... this Saturday, the silver anniversary of the 'landmark' 1986 tax act ... is coming and going without any gala celebrations ... the 1986 tax legislation had been a top-down exercise right from the start. No grassroots movement had mobilized to demand a fairer tax system — and keep lawmakers honest. So all the wheeling and dealing around the 1986 reform legislation essentially involved only lawmakers, wonks, and lobbyists for the rich and powerful. The resulting 'reform' didn’t do much more than inconvenience America’s economic elite. The wealthy, in the years right after 1986, found themselves having to 'shift' their income around to avoid higher taxes ... They pushed back — against the 1986 act’s noblest advances. The capital gains tax rate, under their pressure, would eventually drop back from 28 to almost 20 percent in 1997. That rate would drop even further, in 2003, to 15 percent, and that remains the rate today ... The good news amid all this? With Occupy Wall Street, we have taking root a broad and varied popular movement that openly challenges a system rigged to benefit the top 1 percent, the movement we so sorely missed back in 1986."
President To Take Executive Action On Jobs
President Obama to take executive action on jobs, avoiding congressional GOP obstruction. NYT: "... President Obama on Monday will begin a series of executive-branch actions to confront housing, education and other economic problems over the coming months, heralded by a new mantra: 'We can’t wait' ... Mr. Obama will kick off his new offensive in Las Vegas, ground zero of the housing bust, by promoting new rules for federally guaranteed mortgages so that more homeowners, those with little or no equity in their homes, can refinance and avert foreclosure ... [Then,] Mr. Obama will announce policy changes to ease college graduates’ repayment of federal loans ..."
Jared Bernstein exposes how the "small business" lobby fails to represent the interests of actual small businesses, in NYT oped: "Many face distinctive hurdles compared with large businesses: they have tighter profit margins and thus less room for mistakes, they have diminished access to credit markets and, even with creditworthy borrowing records, many say they’re not getting the loans they need. Small manufacturers often have less access to export markets, and, with emerging economies growing a lot faster than advanced economies, that’s a big disadvantage. Yet the sector’s primary lobbying group — the National Federation of Independent Business — tends to fight less for these pragmatic policies and more for the standard conservative agenda of lower taxes and deregulation. Indeed, the group has become a purely partisan operation."
What Went Wrong On Housing?
W. Post examines why anti-foreclosure efforts to date have fallen short: "...the president and his senior advisers, after a series of internal debates, decided against more dramatic actions to help homeowners, worried that they would pose risks for taxpayers and the economy ... They consistently unveiled programs that underperformed, did little to reduce mortgage debts owed by ordinary Americans and rejected a get-tough approach with banks ... in a private meeting with his advisers at the White House in December, [Obama's] concerns boiled over ... He pointed out that he had been assured by his advisers that banks would be able to step up ... he said he was now frustrated to learn, by way of a conclusive new federal review, that banks were not providing required relief to many borrowers."
Fannie/Freddie regulator may roll out new proposals this week. The Hill: "Edward DeMarco, acting director of the FHFA, has been telling lawmakers that the agency would soon take several concrete steps to help homeowners, including raising the loan-to-value ratio of 125 percent used for determining eligibility for the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP), enabling underwater borrowers with government-backed mortgages to refinance. He also has said the agency would tackle problems with refinancing fees, home appraisals and representations and warranties."
Tax Reform Deal Seen As Unlikely ... But Not Dead
NYT's John Harwood sees broad tax reform as unlikely: "Using that supply-side reasoning, Republicans on the special Congressional deficit reduction committee have promoted tax reform [that cuts corporate taxes] as a source of revenue ... But Democrats reject the 'dynamic scoring' methods that supply-side economists rely on to estimate revenue gains (as do Congressional tax experts in their official analyses of legislative proposals). Like the Simpson-Bowles commission, Democrats insist that additional revenue from tax reform be calculated without using them. Which is precisely what led Mr. Boehner, hamstrung by his balky Republican caucus, to abandon compromise talks with Mr. Obama this summer. That places the tax reform debate, like the broader deficit discussion, in the polarizing jet stream of the 2012 campaign."
200 special interests lobbying Super Committee, reports Politico: "The scale of the effort ... suggests that companies are taking the committee seriously and hoping to blunt whatever comes their way, even as hopes fade on Capitol Hill for a major deal ... the health care industry is leading the charge ... Representatives from the defense, transportation, energy, telecom and education sectors are also weighing in."
NYT edit board frets Washington will give in to multinationals and pass a counterproductive "tax holiday": "A report by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations leaves no doubt that tax holidays encourage tax avoidance ... Yet, in the warped politics of Washington, a second tax holiday is a distinct possibility. Senator Charles Schumer, a Democrat of New York, and other Democratic senators have floated the idea that a tax holiday could be used to establish an infrastructure bank ... the bipartisan deficit reduction supercommittee ... might also try to use the short-run revenue gain from a tax holiday to mask the depth of spending cuts. Or Congressional Republicans may demand passage of a tax holiday in exchange for extending federal unemployment benefits ... Unless President Obama leads the fight, this wrongheaded policy is too likely to become the law of the land."
Pentagon report details potential massive cost savings from reducing military waste and fraud. The Hill: "Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) last week highlighted what he called a 'shocking' internal Pentagon report that concluded defense companies defrauded the military by $1.1 trillion ... 'The supercommittee also should see the extent to which these companies committed fraud on behalf of the government,' the Sanders aide said. 'We will get this to the supercommittee, at least at the staff level.'"
GOP Candidates Headed "Off Cliff" Over Immigration
Republican presidential candidates being pushed "off a cliff" by anti-immigrant conservatives. The Hill: "Pessimists worry that this could doom Republican efforts to attract Hispanic votes next November, something that would all but end the GOP’s chances of winning the White House..."
Mitt Romney hit for hypocrisy, attacking assistance for undocumented workers, after providing it as governor. LAT: "'We have to turn off the magnet of extraordinary government benefits,' Romney said at the recent Fox News-Google debate in Florida ... But Massachusetts officials involved in crafting the healthcare law said there was broad understanding when Romney signed it that at least some people who would benefit would be in the country illegally. That's supported by language in the law."
Peter Beinart busts the Republican candidates on their bigotry: "No, no, you say, this has nothing to do with animosity toward Hispanics; it’s about protecting the border and obeying the law. Really? Then why don’t we call the CEOs of the companies that hire illegal immigrants 'illegals'? Our last three presidents all violated America’s drug laws. The current Treasury secretary violated America’s tax laws. Former House majority leader Tom DeLay recently was convicted of money laundering. I look forward to hearing Mitt Romney and Fox News refer to them as 'illegals' too."
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