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.
OurFuture.org's Richard Eskow:  "...the Koch Brothers and other private financiers [are] major backers of "ALEC" - the 'American Legislative Exchange Council' ... While everybody's focused on what goes on in Washington, ALEC is able to plunder the massive resources of state and local government ... Scott Walker's actions fit the playbook perfectly. In fact, his bill was reportedly drafted by ALEC, whose primary objectives include the drafting of 'model legislation.' ... The war on unions is an essential part of the ALEC Assault ... government employees are fighting for pay and benefits that interfere with the broader agenda of strangling all forms of government spending so that taxes can be kept low for the Lootocrats."
Legal questions raised over Gov. Walker's recent actions. Mother Jones:  "Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, a Washington, DC, outfit, asked Wisconsin's Government Accountability Board in a letter sent Wednesday to probe whether Walker broke state law when he sent State Patrollers to locate state Senate Democratic leader Matt Miller. CREW's demand comes on the same day as the Public Campaign Action Fund announced it was looking into whether Walker engaged in illegal political coordination with who he thought was right-wing billionaire David Koch..."
Wisconsin protests to spread across state today. AFL-CIO's Eddie Vale:  "This Thursday will be the largest demonstrations outside of Madison in Wisconsin’s history."
Koch boys launch ad campaign as questions swirl about conflict of interest. Madison Capital Times:  "Americans for Prosperity, long backed financially by Charles and David Koch, announced in a news release that it is launching a $342,200 TV ad in support of Walker ... Koch Companies Public Sector, a lobbying arm of Koch Industries, opened an office a block away from the Capitol two weeks before Walker was elected to office Nov. 2 ... There have also been numerous media reports exploring whether there is a connection between the Koch brothers and a budget repair bill provision that would allow for no-bid sales of the state's power plants. The brothers have coal and energy interests in the state."
Kochs deny they want bill to pass so Gov. Walker can sell them public assets. Politico:  "'The power plant assertion is one more example of many baseless falsehoods and speculation made by a vested interest that gets picked up and repeated over and over in the media' said a statement from Philip Ellender, president of government and public affairs for Koch Cos. Public Sector LLC. 'We have no interest in purchasing any of the state owned power plants in Wisconsin and any allegations to the contrary are completely false.'"
Indiana Republicans pull union-busting bill, but Dem lawmakers say threat isn't over, won't allow quorum. TPMDC:  "[State Rep. Scott] Pelath rejected the notion that 'right-to-work' was dead because state Republicans have chosen to abandon the bill that was focused on it. He said there are union-busting plans in other bills and dropping one bill didn't put an end to the fight. But Democrats are also upset over [Gov. Mitch] Daniels statewide school voucher plan..."
Biden stands up for unions. The Hill:  "... Biden said, unions are part of the reason the country has a middle class ... 'We are going to see the economic conditions they created used as an excuse to fundamentally go after the social agenda that the far right has been trying to accomplish for a long time,' Biden said."
"The Housing Bubble, Not Unions, is Major Predictor of State Budget Gaps"  finds New Deal 2.0's Mike Konczal.
Speaker Boehner proposes two-week government operations measure with spending cuts based on rejected draconian measure. NYT:  "...the proposal, still being assembled for a possible vote next week, would call for $4 billion in reductions in exchange for an additional two weeks to allow the House and Senate to negotiate a spending plan to finance the government through Sept. 30. Democratic aides said the short-term proposal was likely to be deemed unacceptable since it simply reflected a staggered version of the $61 billion in cuts approved by the House..."
GOP caucus reportedly won't consider compromise at least until shutdown happens, according to HuffPost:  "According to sources familiar with the discussions, Republican negotiators have said that the only way they could build support within their own party for reducing the size of the cuts -- even in the stopgap measure -- would be to let the government actually shut down ... The floating of a government shut down as form of political persuasion is new phrase in negotiating tactics, one that bolsters the Democrats' argument that GOP leadership is being led by its Tea Party faction. And when asked to respond to this account, it was telling that Speaker John Boehner's office offered a swift, on record, denial."
The Tea Party's endgame is "no government," argues The Guardian's Michael Tomasky:  "In 95, Republican legislators gave Gingrich a long leash to negotiate for them. That won't be the case now. Many are so extreme they're barely Republicans, and they don't care about finding a compromise ... The Tea Party congress in Washington seems to revel in the idea of walking the government off a cliff."
Settlement near in foreclosure fraud scandal. W. Post:  "State and federal officials ... are moving closer to a settlement that could force banks to reduce the principal on mortgages for some borrowers who owe more than their homes are worth ... the settlement also could require that banks increase their efforts to modify mortgages for distressed borrowers and pay penalties that could be used as restitution for homeowners who have wrongfully faced foreclosure ..."
WSJ adds:  "... some state attorneys general and federal agencies are pushing for banks to pay more than $20 billion in civil fines or to fund a comparable amount of loan modifications for distressed borrowers ... But forging a comprehensive settlement may be difficult. A deal would have to win approval from federal regulators and state attorneys general, as well as some of the nation's largest mortgage servicers, including Bank of America Corp., Wells Fargo & Co, and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. Those banks declined to comment."
Naked Capitalism scoffs at "whitewash":  "The magic number across the industry is a mere $20 billion in civil fines or payments to fund loan mods. We know from BP not to have a great deal of confidence in settlement funds ... in any kind of settlement of fraud, like securities fraud charges, various responsible parties are also barred from working in the industry, sometimes for life. None of that is on the table. ... given the meager settlement amount, this is a complete and utter joke. The mods will be too shallow and too few in number to help either borrowers or the housing market."
Bloomberg's Jonathan Weil questions what Citigroup knew about the financial crisis, and when did it know it:  "On Feb. 14, 2008, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency sent a seven-page letter to Citigroup Inc.’s chief executive, Vikram Pandit ... The gist of the regulator’s findings: Citigroup’s internal controls were a mess ... Eight days later, on Feb. 22, Citigroup filed its annual report to shareholders, in which it said 'management believes that, as of Dec. 31, 2007, the company’s internal control over financial reporting is effective.' ... The OCC’s letter to Pandit was one of hundreds of newly released documents the FCIC posted to its website before it closed shop this month..."
Wall St. bonuses down, salaries up. Bloomberg:  "The average Wall Street employee took home a cash bonus of $128,530 in 2010, a drop of 9 percent that was greater than the total decline because the pool was shared among more workers ... Wall Street is changing its compensation practices in response to regulatory reforms adopted in the aftermath of the greatest financial meltdown since the Great Depression. Past practices rewarded short-term gains at the expense of long-term profitability"
President's new jobs council meets today. USA Today:  "President Obama will challenge business and labor leaders today to generate ideas for creating jobs, sustaining the economic recovery and making America more competitive ... 'The president is looking for good ideas that he can put into action quickly,' said White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, the president's emissary to the business community."
White House econ aide Austan Goolsbee cautiously optimistic on recovery, but lists possible roadblocks. W. Post:  "...overall he expects the economy to continue to recover ... But he added that his 'greatest area of concern' is what happened last year, when the economy appeared to be improving but faded after 'we ran into financial problems in Europe.' ... the White House is also monitoring the potential economic impact of the upheaval in the Middle East, which is driving up the cost of oil ... Goolsbee acknowledged that the depth of states' massive funding gaps ... 'has been a negative for overall employment,' ..."
Key Fed official says not enough growth to warrant monetary policy pull back. Bloomberg:  "James Bullard was the first Federal Reserve official to call for another round of asset purchases to boost the U.S. economy. He now may be the man to watch as policy makers consider how long to keep the stimulus ... In an interview last month, Bullard said the central bank should press on with Treasury purchases even amid signs the outlook for U.S. growth has improved."
EPA modifies proposed standards for industrial boilers in response to business concerns. Lobbyists still complain. McClatchy:  "The boiler and incinerator rules, required under the Clean Air Act, will cut soot and toxic air emissions, such as mercury and lead ... The EPA estimates the standards will save as many as 6,600 lives each year [and] produce a net gain of 2,200 permanent jobs ... the new rule requires the most pollution controls for coal-fired boilers ... cost savings will come from reducing requirements for boilers that run on biomass ... the Council of Industrial Boiler Owners, said the final rule was an improvement but still 'a terrible disappointment.'"
NYT suggests more lax boiler rule could more looser greenhouse gas rules:  "Changes to the boiler rule could foreshadow a less muscular approach to air pollution rules due for power plants next month and a series of regulations of greenhouse gases to be rolled out over the next several years ... About 187,000 of [the nation's 200,000 industrial boilers] are relatively small sources of the target pollutants — lead, mercury, soot and toxic gases — and will have to do little more than perform routine 'tune-ups' every year or two to meet the new standard."
WH rebuts conservative attack on "clean energy standard" proposal. The Hill quotes:  "... a CES would not pick particular clean technologies, but instead let markets and businesses determine the most cost-effective technologies to achieve the target share of clean energy..."