By Bill Scher
March 26, 2012 - 7:06am ET
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: What The Supreme Court Will Miss
OurFuture.org's Sam Pizzigati: "What won’t be at stake in the Supreme Court’s health care reform decision: the ultimate health of the American people ... On nearly every global yardstick that measures life expectancy and health, the just-published Annual Review of Public Health analysis shows, the United States now ranks either last among major developed nations or close to it. What’s going on here? Inequality is going on. Inequality generates a chronic stress that saps and zaps our physical health, and no major developed nation has become more unequal over recent decades than the United States."
Supreme Court Takes On Health Care This Week
Supreme Court begins three days of oral argument on President's health care reform today. USA Today: "The government's case is simple: Congress has clear authority to regulate interstate commerce. The mandate does just that by regulating the financing of health care, which represents 18% of the nation's economy. It is 'necessary and proper' in order to carry out the changes in the insurance market ... And it's authorized by Congress' taxing power ... Opponents say the government has never required Americans to enter into commerce and warn that such a mandate could lead to more in the future."
McClatchy lays out the schedule: "Monday ... starts with a technical argument about whether the lawsuits can even proceed because the 1867 Anti-Tax Injunction Act prohibits lawsuits against taxes until they have been imposed ... The most closely watched argument, which takes place Tuesday afternoon, is whether Congress exceeded its constitutional authority with the health care law's requirement that most individuals either buy insurance or pay a fee. The court's nine justices will separately be deciding whether Congress can use the threat of withholding money to coerce states into expanding Medicaid coverage."
TNR's Jonathan Cohn explores the toughest legal argument by conservatives: "Roughly speaking, the conservative argument goes like this. By forcing people to get insurance or pay a fine, the government is not regulating commerce ... There would be nothing to stop the government from, say, making people buy broccoli ... The simple response, according to the law's defenders, is that the premise is wrong: Boundaries to the commerce power already exist and the mandate lies well within them ... Recent cases, involving most of the justices who will be on the bench this week, have suggested regulations that are 'reasonably related' and 'rationally adapted' to legitimate goals are constitutional. And the mandate, which makes possible regulations guaranteeing access to health insurance for all people, would appear to meet standard easily."
Obama team embraces "ObamaCare" label. CBS quotes WH adviser Plouffe: "I'm convinced at the end of the decade, the Republicans are going to regret turning this [into] 'Obamacare,' Most of the law doesn't take effect until 2014. But important parts are getting implemented right now. Two and half million people between the ages of 21 and 26 have health care only because of the health care law. Over 5 million seniors are getting over $600 in prescriptions drug relief. So for people who are experiencing it - and it's a small portion of the population right now - I think they are seeing it quite differently than was advertised [by the Republicans]."
Buffett Rule Cued Up For Vote
Buffet Rule to get Senate vote on Tax Day. The Hill: "Obama has pushed Congress to pass legislation that he and other Democrats call a way to ensure millionaires pay their fair share ... The Buffett Rule, however, has little chance of passing in the GOP-controlled House, where Republicans have been reluctant to approve any tax increases."
Rep. Paul Ryan refuses to say what tax loopholes he would close to satisfy his budget. TPM: "...the House Budget Chairman’s suggested it isn’t his job to specify which ones. His message boils down to this: Trust us, we’ll get to it. 'That’s what the Ways & Means Committee is supposed to do. That’s not the job of the Budget Committee,' Ryan said on Fox News Sunday ... Ryan made a similar pledge to take on these tax loopholes last year, but that hasn’t yet materialized."
GOP leadership plans tax reform proposal, but may flinch from voting before November. Politico: "...GOP leaders do not expect to force a floor vote on the most controversial and broad-ranging element of those tax cut packages, those covering individual tax rates, GOP sources said. Republican strategists believe voting to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans could prove a political liability in November."
New data on income gap demands tax reform, argues NYT's Steven Rattner: "...a dizzying 93 percent of the additional income created in the country that year, compared to 2009 — $288 billion — went to the top 1 percent of taxpayers, those with at least $352,000 in income ... The bottom 99 percent received a microscopic $80 increase in pay per person in 2010 ... Government has also played a role, particularly the George W. Bush tax cuts, which, among other things, gave the wealthy a 15 percent tax on capital gains and dividends. That’s the provision that caused Warren E. Buffett’s secretary to have a higher tax rate than he does."
Top Romney adviser backs higher gas tax, and Romney himself suggested the same. New Yorker's Elizabeth Kolbert: "Writing in the Times earlier this year, [Greg] Mankiw observed, 'Economists who have added up all the externalities associated with driving conclude that a tax exceeding $2 a gallon makes sense.' He went on, 'By taxing bad things more, we could tax good things less.' ... in [Romney's] book “No Apology” he wrote that 'higher energy prices would encourage energy efficiency.'"
Florida's infamous "Stand Your Ground" law shines light on shadowy conservative group ALEC. NYT's Paul Krugman: " Despite claims that it’s nonpartisan, it’s very much a movement-conservative organization, funded by the usual suspects: the Kochs, Exxon Mobil, and so on. Unlike other such groups, however, it doesn’t just influence laws, it literally writes them, supplying fully drafted bills to state legislators ... To a large extent the organization seeks not limited government but privatized government, in which corporations get their profits from taxpayer dollars, dollars steered their way by friendly politicians."
NYT's Thomas Edsall explores whether "the ultra conservative primary electorate has pushed [GOP] presidential candidates past the point of no return.": "The ascendance of the religious right has produced 'the highest percentage recorded in a presidential nominating process, 4.29 million votes out of 8.49 million cast,' ... This represents a significant increase from 2008, when 44 percent of Republican turnout was made up of evangelical Christians ... Ron Brownstein described in the National Journal what he called 'an epic failure by the G.O.P. contenders to attract and engage minority voters. White voters, especially older ones, are routinely casting 90 percent or more of the votes in G.O.P. contests this year.'"
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