Progressive Breakfast for January 27

Morning Message

Forgive All Student Loan Debt. Build a Movement.

President Obama’s proposal for tuition-free community college education, and the broader discussion that it has inspired, confirms our belief that it is time for a comprehensive solution to a $1.3 trillion problem: student debt in the United States. We strongly support the concept of tuition-free public higher education ... But we must also confront what has been done to the last several generations of students. They have been forced to take on debt that is crippling to them, to our economy and our society ... It is time for a truly transformative idea: Let’s abolish all student loan debt in America. If you agree, go to https://takeaction.ourfuture.org/action/cancel_student_debt to take action

Record Low Deficits

“Federal deficit falling to lowest in Obama presidency” reports USA Today: “The federal government’s 2015 budget deficit will fall slightly this year to $468 billion … The annual deficit topped $1 trillion for each of Obama’s first four years in office, including a record $1.4 trillion in 2009 … CBO also projects the unemployment rate will fall further — to 5.3% by 2017 — as more people are encouraged to enter or stay in the workforce …”

Austerity advocates emphasize projected increase in deficits. NYT: “…the government’s red ink will begin to rise in 2017 and expand with an aging population, the Congressional Budget Office said Monday … it will fortify a Republican Congress’s resolve to pass budgets this spring that would fundamentally reorder health care spending, preserve tough spending caps and force Washington to at least look at Social Security.”

“These are all 10 year projections. A lot can happen in 10 years” reminds Vox’s Danielle Kurtzleben.

“Underspending, Not Debt, Is Holding the Country Back” says TNR’s Danny Vinik: “CBO projects discretionary spending to fall from 6.8 percent of GDP in 2014 to 5.1 percent of GDP in 2025, mostly the result of sequestration. That will be far lower than at any point before 1965.”

CBO also projects lower Obamacare costs. NYT: “In March 2010, when President Obama signed the health care law, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the expansion of coverage would cost the federal government $710 billion in the fiscal years 2015 through 2019, [CBO’s Douglas] Elmendorf said. ‘The newest projections indicate that those provisions will cost $571 billion over that same period, a reduction of 20 percent,’ he said … in states that did expand Medicaid, projections of federal Medicaid spending per beneficiary are lower than expected…”

CBO projects debt ceiling to be reached in September reports The Hill.

Sen. Bernie Sanders teaches Congress about the other deficits. The Hill: “Sanders, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, said lawmakers must address deficits in jobs, income equality, infrastructure, trade, retirement security and education in their next budget blueprint … in an eight-page report … To address what he calls the infrastructure deficit, for example, Sanders says the United States should spend an additional $1 trillion on repairing roads and bridges by 2020 …”

Keystone Vote Delayed

Dems block expedited Keystone vote. W. Post: “Monday’s [filibuster] vote was more a speed bump than a roadblock; both parties are expected to continue hashing out their differences on the bill … While a handful of centrist Democrats crossed over to vote with the GOP, others withheld their support in protest against Republican leaders, who they say unfairly ended consideration of proposed amendments last week.

“Obama to open Atlantic to drilling” reports McClatchy: “The proposal appears to allow drilling in areas off Virginia and the Carolinas, while excluding Florida, Maryland and Delaware. The Interior Department is expected to release final details of the plan Tuesday afternoon … plan is going to exclude drilling in parts of the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas off the Arctic coast of Alaska.”

While seeking to protect the Arctic. Politico: “The Obama administration’s surprise plan to impose new environmental protections on 12 million acres of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge poured fuel on the long-running fight over drilling in the sensitive region … [Sen. Lisa] Murkowski and her Alaska colleagues hope to launch another ANWR drilling push, but it’s unclear whether they can win 60 votes in the Senate — and they almost certainly couldn’t secure the 67 votes needed to overcome a likely Obama veto.”

U.S. Chamber of Commerce pushes gas tax. The Hill: “The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, AAA auto club and American Trucking Association said in a letter to members of Congress on Monday that raising the gas tax would be the easiest way to close a transportation funding shortfall that has reached an estimated $16 billion per year … ‘Thirty-two percent of major roads are in poor or mediocre condition. This neglect costs the average driver $324 each year in additional vehicle repairs and operating costs.’…”

Breakfast Sides

House Dems push paid parental leave. The Hill: “House Democrats introduced a mandatory paid parental leave bill Monday as they sought to force GOP lawmakers to take a stance … The bill … allows federal employees to take six weeks of paid time off for the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child … If the bill fails to garner the Republican support, [Rep. Carolyn] Maloney said she is prepared to put forth a discharge petition to force the bill to the floor for a vote.”

House GOP forced to delay border security bill. Fox News: “ome lawmakers argue the bill — considered a first step toward a more comprehensive immigration package — fails to adequately address the issue of illegal immigrants inside U.S. borders … ‘For God’s sakes, if we can’t unite around border security what can we unite around?’ asked Texas GOP Rep. Michael McCaul, author of the legislation …”