January 6, 2012 - 10:04am 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. Bill Scher returns on Monday.
MORNING MESSAGE: Jobs Report: Dodging The Right-Wing Austerity Bullet
OurFuture.Org's Isaiah J. Poole : "It may not feel like it, but we dodged a bullet in 2011 when it came to unemployment. Today's report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the economy created 200,000 jobs in the month of December, bringing the annual net total to 1.6 million new jobs for the year. The unemployment rate is now at 8.5 percent. The bullet the nation dodged was the one that congressional conservatives aimed at the heart of the economy in the early months of 2011. A budget plan passed by House Republicans early in 2011 would have slashed close to a million jobs off the total had it gone into full effect, the Economic Policy Institute estimated last February."
Economic Mobility Stalled
Harder for Americans to Rise From Lower Rungs [NY Times] : "Benjamin Franklin did it. Henry Ford did it. And American life is built on the faith that others can do it, too: rise from humble origins to economic heights. ...But many researchers have reached a conclusion that turns conventional wisdom on its head: Americans enjoy less economic mobility than their peers in Canada and much of Western Europe. ...At least five large studies in recent years have found the United States to be less mobile than comparable nations. A project led by Markus Jantti, an economist at a Swedish university, found that 42 percent of American men raised in the bottom fifth of incomes stay there as adults. That shows a level of persistent disadvantage much higher than in Denmark (25 percent) and Britain (30 percent) — a country famous for its class constraints."
Elise Gould and Natalie Sabadish, at EPI, paint a picture of low economic mobility and high inequality : "In a world of perfect mobility, people will be able to move up in the income distribution with hard work and dedication, regardless of where in the distribution they started out. ...These data tell another story: High-income students who have low test scores are more likely to graduate from college than low-income students with high test scores. Other research demonstrates that mobility is more restricted for some groups than others. African Americans who start out in the bottom 25 percent of the income distribution are nearly twice as likely to remain there than whites. In addition, white Americans who start out in the bottom 25 percent are about four times more likely to make it to the top 25 percent of the income distribution than blacks.
No More Mr. Nice President
Obama Testing 2-Tier Strategy for Re-election : "Just three hours after President Obama announced that he was defying Congressional Republicans to fill a high-level regulatory position while lawmakers were out of town, Mitt Romney sent out the obligatory news release ripping the president. 'Chicago-style politics at its worst,' Mr. Romney fumed, accusing the president of "circumventing Congress." The statement was just what the White House wanted. It put the Republican presidential front-runner squarely on the side of the Republicans in Congress, a group with toxic poll numbers that the president's campaign hopes will hurt his rivals for the White House."
Harold Meyerson says Obama is through being nice : "There's a common and compelling logic to President Obama's recess appointments of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Board and of three appointees to the National Labor Relations Board. In the case of both boards, the appointments were necessary if the boards were to function at all — the very reason that Senate Republicans had made clear their determination to appoint nobody at all to the two boards. It's a back-door way to repeal federal law establishing such agencies, a course the GOP has taken precisely because it lacks the votes to dis-establish them. By making his recess appointments, Obama hasn't, as Republicans allege, arrogated congressional power to himself. Rather, he's restored the right of majorities that enact legislation not to have that legislation negated by congressional minorities. He's also sending one more signal that the days of his accommodating Republican rejectionists are over."
Obama Campaign Teams in Early States Dwarf Republican Operations [Businessweek] : "The biggest presidential primary campaign team in New Hampshire is tucked on a Manchester side street inside a four-story brick building and it belongs to the best-financed candidate seeking nomination: President Barack Obama. The office is one of seven in the state and his re-election campaign has about 20 paid employees. ...The Obama camp's short-term goal is the same as the Republican primary rivals, to turn out the vote on Jan. 10, primary night. While his nomination isn't on the line, his support in the state has plunged. His team can use the event to test its operations and score bragging rights if the party's turnout measures competitively with that in the contested Republican primary.
Cordray Gets Down To Business
Obama's Consumer Watchdog Targets Mortgage Firms, Payday Lenders [BusinessWeek] : "Richard Cordray's appointment as director of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau moves the new agency nearer to fulfilling its intended role as a one- stop shop for borrower safeguards. Unlike the historically patchwork oversight of consumer finance, the bureau centralizes the federal government's authority and in some cases extends it. Consumers may benefit from its reach whenever they take out a payday loan, negotiate a mortgage rate, borrow money for school or pay a credit card fee. For those who think they've been wronged, there will be a complaint system to help them fight back."
New Consumer Chief Promises Strong Agenda [NY Times]: "The new director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau outlined a vigorous oversight and enforcement agenda on Thursday, saying that financial companies that take unfair advantage of consumers would face 'real consequences.' 'Today, we are launching the bureau's program for supervising nonbanks,' Mr. Cordray said. 'Many provide valuable services to customers who lack access to other forms of credit. And they are big markets. Nearly 20 million American households use payday lenders and pay roughly $7.4 billion in fees every year."
Romney's Tax Plan For The 1%
Romney's tax plan: Big benefits for the wealthy, higher deficits [Christian Science Monitor] : "A new Tax Policy Center analysis finds that Mitt Romney's tax plan would cut taxes for millions of households but bestow most of its benefits on those with the highest incomes. At the same time, it would significantly cut corporate taxes and add hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit. Compared to current law (assuming the Bush/Obama tax cuts expire as scheduled at the end of this year), Romney would cut taxes by $600 billion in 2015 alone. Relative to a world where those tax cuts remained in place, he would add about $180 billion to the deficit in that year."
Ezra Klein says that Romney's tax plan saves top 1 percent $82,000 : "The Tax Policy Center has released its formal analysis of Mitt Romney's tax plan. The result? Regressive, but not as regressive as the tax plans of his rivals. Compared to current rates, Romney's plan would cost a family in the bottom 20 percent $157 and save a family in the top 1 percent $82,000. That looks pretty tilted toward the rich. But here it is against the other GOP tax plans the Tax Policy Center has assessed — and against President Obama's September proposal to the supercommittee."
Mitt Romney Plan Raises Taxes On Poor Families, Helps Millionaires: Study [Huffington Post] : "On average, households making less than $20,000 would see their taxes increase by more than 60 percent, said the Tax Policy Center, a Washington research group that studied the Romney plan. Households making between $50,000 and $75,000 would get small tax cuts, averaging 2.2 percent, or about $250, the study said. People making more than $1 million would get tax cuts averaging 15 percent, or about $146,000. 'Virtually everybody with a big income is getting a tax cut,' said Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center."
Anniversary of Giffords shooting in Arizona reopens wounds [USA Today] : "One year ago this Sunday, a lone assassin walked up to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords outside a suburban supermarket and shot her in the head, then continued blasting away at others who were waiting to see the congresswoman. It's an anniversary that no one in Arizona wants to celebrate but all will remember. As smoke cleared and sirens wailed, a federal judge, a 9-year-old girl and four others lay dead or dying. Giffords, D-Ariz., was wounded along with 12 other victims. And 22-year-old suspect Jared Loughner, subsequently diagnosed as psychotic, was pinned to the ground by bystanders."
In President Obama's new defense strategy, Fred Kaplan sees the coming war over the Pentagon budget : "It looks like something seriously different is about to happen with the defense budget—and not just the budget, but the way the Pentagon does business and the military fights wars. ...The precise scope and even nature of these changes are not yet clear. The top Pentagon officials—who followed the president's appearance with a slightly more expansive press conference—are leaving the details to their budget rollout in a few weeks. But certain inferences can be drawn from some of their statements. The biggest one is that the Army and Marine Corps will soon be facing an enormous—one might even say, existential—crisis."
Lloyd Gardner writes that America can no longer rely on military aid to influence the Middle East : "American military aid no longer guarantees faithful allies. For nearly four decades the U.S. was able to count on Egypt as a reliable ally in managing Middle Eastern affairs to its liking. From the time of Anwar Sadat through the years of Hosni Mubarak, American military aid sustained a government in Cairo that kept the peace with Israel and did Washington's bidding, whether providing token symbolic military forces for the Gulf wars or rendition destinations in the "war on terror". In any event, it is clear Washington's influence over the course of events in Egypt and elsewhere has diminished as a result of the Arab spring. ...[T]he general picture American policy conveyed was of an aging stand-pat power, fearful of losing its grip."
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