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 Dave Johnson:  "The justification for a special tax rate for gains from investing capital is supposed to be to provide an incentive to invest. But there is already a really good incentive to invest: to make a bundle of cash. Piling a special 'incentive' on top of making a bundle of cash creates market distortions - moving investors away from deciding where to put their money based on the value and merits of the investment and toward tax-reduction schemes."
Pressure on Romney to release tax returns. W. Post:  "Gingrich plans to release his own returns on Thursday and to tee up the tax issue for a debate Thursday night ... New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, was the most prominent Romney supporter to call publicly for the swift release of his returns..."
"Romney Parks Millions in Cayman Islands" reports ABC:  "In addition to paying the lower tax rate on his investment income, Romney has as much as $8 million invested in at least 12 funds listed on a Cayman Islands registry. Another investment, which Romney reports as being worth between $5 million and $25 million, shows up on securities records as having been domiciled in the Caymans ... [Jack] Blum, the D.C. tax lawyer, said working through an offshore investment vehicle allows the investor to 'avoid a whole series of small traps in the tax code that ordinary people would face if they paid tax on an onshore basis.'"
NYT notes Romney's pledge to release this year's tax return wouldn't tell us much:  " At the end of last year, he could have arranged to have some of his compensation deferred. There are a variety of mechanisms, like grantor retained annuity trusts, that athletes, entertainers and businesspeople routinely use to push their income and tax liability into the future and spread it out over years."
Mitt's father paid an effective 37% tax rate  ThinkProgress uncovers.
Romney's plan to cut taxes on multimillionaires like him would only increase the deficit, finds NYT:  "Mr. Romney’s tax plan — which calls for permanently extending the Bush administration’s tax cuts, reducing the corporate income tax rate and eliminating the estate tax — would cut the taxes of people earning more than a million dollars a year by an average of $295,874, according to an analysis by the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan research group. Since Mr. Romney would also allow some of President Obama’s tax cuts to expire, his plan would effectively raise taxes on some people earning less than $40,000 a year. The Romney tax plan would add to the deficit by reducing federal revenues by $600 billion in 2015, a 16 percent cut, the center found."
Progressive coalition to deliver 360,000 petition signatures to Obama  protesting a "sweetheart deal."
Hedge fund traders indicted, reports Bloomberg:  "The U.S. government vowed to continue its five-year investigation into insider trading on Wall Street as it charged a fourth ring of hedge-fund traders with using illegal information to make millions of dollars. Seven analysts and portfolio managers were accused of securities fraud in the latest sweep, the Justice Department said yesterday. The charges included the first current employee of Steven Cohen’s $14 billion SAC Capital Advisors LP to be caught up in the probe, and the highest-profile manager to be arrested since Raj Rajaratnam was indicted in October 2009."
Dems stake out tough stance in payroll tax talks. TPM:  "...Democratic leaders are beginning 2012 by staking out a firm stance on their left flank: fund a full-year extension of the tax cut, unemployment benefits and Medicare 'doc fix' with a millionaire surtax and war savings — two offsets they know won’t go over well with Republicans."
House GOP takes toothless vote on debt ceiling. CBS:  "The House of Representatives voted to deny President Obama a $1.2 trillion debt limit increase for the federal government to cover its existing obligations today. The vote, however, doesn't mean much. When Republicans negotiated a deal over the summer with President Obama to increase the debt ceiling, they agreed that the president would get the money in two steps ... That second increase would be subject to a 'Resolution of Disapproval' to deny that second increase. Sounds threatening, but even if the Resolution passed both the House and the Senate, the President could veto the measure."
Bill McKibben praises Keystone decision in Daily Beast:  "[Republicans] set the president an essentially impossible task, since Transcanada Pipeline hadn’t even announced the route they wanted to take through Nebraska. But apparently they thought he’d blink anyway ... John Boehner et al may have thought that would work, because money always works with them ... Beating Keystone doesn’t stop climate change—but it does stop Big Oil’s winning streak, and that’s a hopeful sign."
Republicans try to gin up pipeline outrage. The Hill:  "House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said Republicans are eyeing legislation authored by Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) that would move a final decision on the Keystone permit from the State Department to the independent Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ... While the bills are very unlikely to become law (they will face major opposition in the Senate), they will nonetheless be used to bash Obama going into the presidential election."
But it's the Republicans' fault, notes TPM's Brian Beutler:  "[By forcing a deadline for a decision], they knew he’d likely have to reject the project, and for them that created a dilemma. 'It’s a question of whether we’d rather have the pipeline or the issue,' said one of the GOP aides. Black or white. In the end they chose the issue."
The battle isn't over, reminds Time's Bryan Walsh:  "TransCanada, the company that had been set to build the pipeline, has already said that it plans on reapplying for a permit, which today’s ruling allows."
CA Gov. Jerry Brown stands behind high-speed rail project in State of the State address. NYT:  "Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday threw his unequivocal support behind a $100 billion high-speed rail line that has come under fire here in California and across the country, embracing it in a strikingly optimistic State of the State speech in which he asserted that government should pursue ambitious ventures even during times of economic strife. With his speech, Mr. Brown firmly linked his political fortunes to the proposed 520-mile bullet train connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles as he urged lawmakers to release the $9 billion in state bonds needed to begin the project this year..."