By Bill Scher
January 14, 2011 - 9:50am ET
Each morning, Bill Scher and Terrance Heath serve up what progressives need to affect change on the kitchen-table issues families face: jobs, health care, green energy, financial reform, affordable education and retirement security.
MORNING MESSAGE: We Need An Unemployed People's Campaign
OurFuture.org's Isaiah Poole: "When Martin Luther King Jr. gave the sermon at the National Cathedral in Washington on March 31, 1968 to highlight the Poor People's Campaign he was organizing for later that spring, unemployment was hovering just under 7 percent—for African Americans. The nationwide average was under 4 percent. Last week the Labor Department reported unemployment rates that were more than double that—9.4 percent nationally; 15.8 percent for African Americans ... With a conservative Congress in the name of deficit reduction seeking to box President Obama into making choices that would stymie the economic growth and job-creation we need, we could use a massive, dramatic confrontation on behalf of the more than 27 million who are unemployed or underemployed today."
Call For President to "Keep The Promise" On Social Security
Strengthen Social Security and Campaign for America's Future launch "Keep The Promise" campaign with video urging President to stand by past statements rejecting Social Security benefit cuts in State of the Union address.
"Liberal groups worry president will cut deal on 'crown jewel' Social Security" reports The Hill: "'Everybody and their cousin is talking to the White House about this,' said a Democratic strategist ... 'Nobody in the progressive world thinks the president ought to endorse the Bowles-Simpson Social Security stuff ... No one knows for sure where the White House is,' ... The Campaign for America’s Future plans to release polling data next week conducted by Stan Greenberg showing public attitudes about Social Security and the economy."
Daily Kos' Meteor Blades calls on congressional Dems to urge President to stand by past statements: "Sen. Reid is an important ally in the effort to keep Social Security whole. But other prominent Democrats need to stand beside him. The best time for them to do it is now. They can get the President's back in this matter, show him that they fully support his keeping those promises he made."
Conservative Ramesh Ponnuru warns GOP not to embrace Social Security or Medicare cuts, unless the President goes first, in NYT oped: "Would-be reformers should draw two lessons from this history. The first is that reform can’t be sprung on the electorate. Reagan hadn’t campaigned on cutting Social Security in 1980, nor did the Gingrich Republicans promise to reduce the growth of Medicare. Today is no different ... Keep in mind that most voters oppose cuts to Social Security and Medicare, so they are likely to be very nervous about any proposals to restrain their growth..."
President May Resist Severe Spending Cuts, Push Tax Reform
W. Post suggests President Obama's budget won't cut as deep as Simpson-Bowles plan wants: "Obama is planning to propose deeper cuts in agency spending in the budget request he will submit to Congress next month, including a sharp reduction at the Pentagon. But the president is unlikely to trim nearly as much from future spending as the commission has proposed and nowhere near as much as House Republicans are demanding, the sources said ... Obama is unwilling to backtrack on one of the central tenets of his administration - protecting middle-class Americans from higher taxes ... The White House is pursuing some elements of the fiscal commission's plan [such as] overhauling the corporate tax code to close loopholes and lower a 35 percent tax rate..."
Geithner meets with CEOs today to talk tax reform. WSJ: "Many corporate leaders want Washington to reverse its longstanding policy and let them bring back billions in overseas profits without being taxed in the U.S. More-targeted changes have also been floated recently by some corporate leaders, including sharp tax-rate reductions for income generated from patents and other intellectual property ... Administration officials said they were open to corporate leaders' suggestions for specific breaks such as a patent box, but cautioned against breaks that add to deficits. 'If someone has an idea for greater incentives for investment, great,' one official said. 'But I hope they come with ways to accommodate it within [the standard of] revenue neutrality.'"
House to hold tax reform hearing next week. CQ: "[House Ways and Means Cmte Chair Dave] Camp has said he would like to reduce the corporate income tax rate to 25 percent, from the current 35 percent maximum, but it is unclear whether Democrats would go along with such a cut unless it was part of a broader overhaul."
Federal employees try to stave off further salary and benefit cuts. W. Post's Joe Davidson: ".. a coalition of federal employee organizations has asked President Obama to reject proposals to cut health and retirement benefits, reduce the federal workforce by 10 percent and freeze pay for three years ... Realizing the pay freeze is a done deal, at least for two years, the organizations give primary attention to proposals affecting retiree and health benefits."
Dean Baker slams NYT story promoting debt warnings from dubious credit agencies: "...S&P and Moody's, both of whom rated hundreds of billions worth of mortgage backed securities backed by subprime mortgages as investment grade ... if the article had talked to an economist they might have pointed out that the projections of large long-term budget deficits are attributable to projections of exploding private sector health care costs."
NJ Gov. Christie deficit hysteria may have worsened his deficit. Bloomberg: "New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s comments that rising health-care costs might 'bankrupt' the state, made on the same day of a planned bond sale, drew criticism for their poor timing and may have driven borrowing costs higher ... 'He is scaring some people when he says the state is going bankrupt,' said Gary Pollack, head of bond trading at Deutsche Bank Private Wealth Management ... About 30 minutes after Christie’s comments, an eight-year authority bond sold in April dropped in price ..."
GOP Sets Health Reform Repeal Vote For Wednesday
No change in GOP agenda after Tucson shooting, but possibly in rhetoric. Politico: "...they’re going to to re-launch a congressional agenda that’s largely aimed at dismantling the accomplishments of a president who just had one of his most unifying moments. Republicans are not changing a lick of substance. They’re just talking about it differently ... Rep. Mike Pence ... said he’d prefer to call the 'job-killing' health care bill a 'government takeover of health care.' There are no plans to change the title of the repeal bill ... GOP leaders are making clear to their members that their rhetoric is under a microscope — and they plan to reinforce that message this weekend at their retreat."
House leadership sets health reform repeal vote for Wednesday, reports W. Post: "House Republicans had envisioned repealing the health-care law as a triumphant moment ... Instead the effort has become a test of whether Republican leaders can regain the momentum ... and fulfill a campaign promise without the rancor ..."
GOP governors want to weaken law so they can restrict Medicaid eligibility. Stateline: "...the budget crisis gives most states no choice but to try and squeeze cost savings out of Medicaid ... states will be deciding whether to deny costly services to Medicaid patients — as Arizona already has done with organ transplants ... Many governors want flexibility to cut their Medicaid rolls by limiting who is eligible. That’s a strategy that states have used to weather previous recessions, but provisions in the federal health care law, as well as the economic stimulus law, prevent them from doing it now. Last week, all 29 Republican governors who will hold office this year signed a letter to President Obama and congressional leaders asking them to drop that restriction."
Racial disparities in health care widespread. NYT: "...the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday released its first report detailing racial disparities in a broad array of health problems ... the poor, the uninsured and the less educated tend to live shorter, sicker lives."
California challenges health insurance rate hikes. WSJ: "Just 72 hours into his new job, the state's insurance commissioner, Dave Jones ... called on Blue Shield of California to delay premium increases of up to 59%. This week, he asked Aetna Inc. and units of WellPoint Inc. and UnitedHealth Group Inc. to postpone their price jumps ... Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has pledged to 'stand ready to assist ...'"
AIG Shrinks, But Citi Still Too Big To Fail
Treasury on verge of making profit off of AIG bailout. W. Post: "[Today,] the Treasury Department plans to convert its preferred shares in the company into nearly 1.7 billion shares of common stock, giving the agency a 92 percent stake in AIG that it hopes to sell over the next two years. If the company's stock continues to perform well, the government stands to make billions on its AIG investment over time. Of course, those profits could evaporate should the company's stock falter ... The current AIG is a smaller, less risky version of the behemoth that nearly collapsed in 2008."
But Citigroup is still too big to fail, says TARP inspector general. Bloomberg: "'While the year-plus of government dependence left Citigroup a stronger institution than it had been, it remained, and arguably still remains, an institution that is too big, too interconnected, and too essential to the global financial system to be allowed to fail,' [IG Neil] Barofsky wrote." More from HuffPost.
"Key House Republican Prepares To Destroy The 30-Year Mortgage" reports Wonk Room's Pat Garofalo: "[American Banker reports,] '[Rep. Scott] Garrett said the Republicans would probably reject anything that calls for a government mortgage guarantee. 'We’re certainly not leaning that way' ... While a fully privatized mortgage market makes sense in conservative fantasyland, in reality, shifting to such a market would cause a huge mess, almost inevitably destroy the 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage that so many Americans depend upon."
WH Rejects Tying Korea Deal To Panama And Colombia
Obama administration resists pressure to tie approval of Korea trade deal to Bush-era Panama and Colombia deals. CQ: "The top U.S. trade official said Thursday the administration hopes to get a U.S.-South Korea trade deal approved by Congress by July 1, the date a European Union-South Korea trade deal takes effect. But U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said it would be 'a huge mistake' to try to 'force feed' trade deals with Panama and Colombia through Congress at same time, as some House Republicans are advocating."
Commerce Sec. Locke calls on China to end mercantilism. W. Post: "Both China and the United States have been positioning themselves prior to [next week's US-China presidential meeting]. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said Wednesday that China's unwillingness to allow its currency to rise was harming both American competitiveness and the Chinese economy ... [Locke] criticized the country for failing to live up to previous agreements to open its economy, and he said changes would ultimately be in China's interest."
EPA Denies Coal Mine Permit
EPA vetoes permit for WV coal mine. Mother Jones' Kate Sheppard: "This marks the first time since the Clean Water Act was enacted in 1972 that a permit was rescinded following the agency's review [and after] it made attempts to work with the coal company, Mingo Logan, to find an alternative dumping plan. Members of West Virginia's congressional delegation are particularly aggrieved by the EPA's decision.
Graph showing last decade as hottest ever should be front-page news, says HuffPost's Peter H. Gleick: "How often do you have to get hit on the head before you say 'ouch.'"
Plight Of The Formerly Middle-Class
W. Post profiles some who have been jettisoned from the middle-class: "..., for millions of Americans, the lingering legacy of the Great Recession is a Great Slide, as job losses, declining home values and decimated retirement savings have knocked them down the socioeconomic ladder. For the formerly middle class, this slide plays out in big and small ways, from a loss of identity to the day-to-day inconveniences of life with less."
"Unemployment, Housing Prices Forced More Families To 'Double Up' In 2009" reports HuffPost: "According to a report released Wednesday morning by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, a 3 percent uptick in homelessness and a 20 percent increase in foreclosures from 2008 to 2009 contributed to a 12 percent increase in the number of families who had to 'double up' in the homes of their extended family and friends."
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