Progressive Breakfast for December 19

Morning Message

The New Center Democrats: There’s No There There

The debate in the Democratic Party is being framed in much of the mainstream media as a struggle between a “pragmatic center” that wants to “get things done” and an angry populist wing – led by Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Sherrod Brown and others – that vilifies enemies and creates division. This week, William Galston, a veteran New Democrat scribe, used his perch on the Wall Street Journal op-ed page to second Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) in making the case for a “nonpopulist liberalism, more interested in diagnosing conditions than in identifying enemies.” ... So what is the agenda of a pragmatic liberalism in a populist reality? ... Galston’s offering is a version of Gertrude Stein’s Oakland: There’s no there there.

Progressive Caucus Chair Touts Warren ’16

Rep. Keith Ellison encourages Warren run for president. The Hill: “‘I would love to see Elizabeth Warren in this race,’ Ellison said on a conference call with members of the liberal group Democracy for America (DFA). ‘I think it would be fantastic. I think that it would help the quality of the debate and she may win, but even if she doesn’t, I think she’ll make Hillary Clinton a better candidate,’ he added.”

WSJ explores Warren’s rise and the Dem divide: “Democrats looking for a way forward after their election losses this year have wound up in a debate over how best to frame the party’s economic message, with the most liberal members rallying behind Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) and her calls for a focus on income inequality … Other Democrats say Ms. Warren’s message will lead only to more electoral defeats, as many voters will reject the focus on income inequality and instead want policies aimed at broad economic growth.”

Senate GOPers eye moderate Dems. USA Today: “Come January, there will be about a dozen moderate Democrats left in the Senate, down from at least 18 in 2011 … Progressives fear that, even in smaller numbers, moderate Democrats can do big damage to the advancement of a populist economic agenda by voting to help cut entitlement benefits, pass trade deals that move jobs overseas or cut taxes for corporations.”

GOP congressman predicts faction won’t vote for Boehner as Speaker. Buzzfeed: “‘Right now, I’ve been meeting with a small group, and we — about 16, 18 — and we’re hoping to have a name of a sitting member of Congress that we can call out their name,’ [Rep. Walter] Jones said on the North Carolina-based Talk of the Town radio program.”

Banks Win Another

Banks win Volcker Rule delay. Bloomberg: “The Federal Reserve granted the delay yesterday after banks said selling the stakes quickly might force them to accept discount prices … Extending the Volcker deadline until July 2017 will let banks get out of their investments ‘in an orderly manner,’ the Fed said in an order … ‘It is striking, that the world’s leading investment bankers, noted for their cleverness and agility in advising clients on how to restructure companies and even industries however complicated, apparently can’t manage the orderly reorganization of their own activities in more than five years,’ Paul Volcker said in an e-mailed statement.’Or, do I understand that lobbying is eternal, and by 2017 or beyond, the expectation can be fostered that the law itself can be changed?'”

But Wall Street shrinking in size. Bloomberg: “Wall Street firms have failed to keep up with a stock market that’s boomed for more than five years … There were just 32 U.S. financial firms among the world’s largest 500 companies by market capitalization when trading closed yesterday in New York. That compares with 41 at the end of 2006, the last full year before the credit crisis. Some companies that remain on the list, like Citigroup Inc. and American International Group Inc., have shrunk to a fraction of the size of tech giants like Apple Inc. … Goldman Sachs Group Inc. has a lower market value than its peak in 2007.”

Obama Reshapes Judiciary

Senate runs up big numbers on judicial confirmations. Roll Call: “White House Counsel Neil Eggleston on Wednesday highlighted the 134 judges confirmed in the 113th Congress alone, saying that was 44 percent of the total confirmed during President Barack Obama’s tenure. That number included 132 federal district and circuit judges … that never would’ve happened without the fundamental shift in Senate operations that came last November when the sweeping change in precedent allowed Democrats alone to get Obama’s nominees through to confirmation. A grand total of 96 judges have been confirmed since that event…”

Most diverse group of judges ever. Time: “‘What Obama has done within terms of his judicial legacy is what no other president has ever done before and it’s doubtful that any future president is going to match it,’ says Sheldon Goldman, a professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst … as a recent political science study notes, Obama is ‘on track to be the first president in U.S. history to have a majority of his judicial nominees be either women or persons of color,’…”

Breakfast Sides

Uninsured rate continues to drop thanks to Obamacare. The Hill: “The percent of Americans without insurance is on track to reach a historic low after the country’s unprecedented surge in healthcare sign-ups last year, newly released government data show. About 9.7 million people gained healthcare in ObamaCare’s first year … A total of 11.3 percent of Americans were uninsured in the first half of this year, down from 14.4 percent last year before the rollout of the Affordable Care Act.”

Nebraska court ruling on Keystone could happen soon. The Hill: “The Nebraska Supreme Court could rule as early as Friday on whether the governor had authority to approve a route for the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline through the state … The Obama administration froze its review of the pipeline in April to let the Nebraska court fight play out, enraging Republicans, the oil industry and pipeline developer TransCanada. If the court doesn’t hand down a decision by Friday, the ruling will likely come early next year.”

Conservatives push anti-union municipal ordinances. NYT: “…groups including the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Heritage Foundation and a newly formed nonprofit called Protect My Check are working together to influence local governments … A carefully devised plan began to unfold last week, when the Warren County Fiscal Court met here and preliminarily approved, in a 6 to 1 vote, a ‘right to work’ ordinance … Supporters of the effort say that if they are successful in Kentucky, they will try to pass similar local laws in Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and other places that do not have a statewide right-to-work law. Protect My Check is promising to pay for the legal battles of any local government that tries it.”

“…the White House is thought to be preparing … new regulation forcing employers to make more workers eligible for overtime pay,” reports The Hill.