Progressive Breakfast for April 20

Morning Message

A Look At The Fast Track Bill Shows It’s The Wrong Thing To Do

Though it was announced that this year’s fast track bill was the result of a “deal” between Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) the 2015 bill is nearly identical to the 2014 bill that died in Congress without support for a vote. ... It is unclear from this comparison why the “negotiations” between Hatch and Wyden took so long, and what Wyden got that enabled him to put his name on it, enabling the bill to be sold as “bipartisan.” ... If you don't want to get mired in the wording and details of the fast track bill, here is a shortcut to deciding if you are for it or against it.

Hillary Competes With Sanders, O’Malley For The Left

Hillary aims to win over progressives. AP: “Clinton’s supporters say her recent comments, particularly on inequality, do not reflect a shift in position [But] Clinton is not in the clear with liberals yet … Her decision to accept political donations from lobbyists … may undercut her efforts to change the campaign finance system. Obama’s push for a trade pact with 11 Pacific nations will put Clinton between the centrist wing of her party and union leaders who oppose the deal.”

Clinton prepares to take spotlight in NH. W. Post: “Clinton will visit a small, family-owned children’s furniture and toy manufacturer in Keene, N.H., on Monday and a community college in Concord on Tuesday. Like the roundtable-style discussions that she held last week in Iowa, the New Hampshire campaign stops are intended to look and feel low-key.”

Sen. Sanders turns up heat on Hillary Clinton in Fox News Sunday interview: “What the secretary will have to convince the American people is, in fact, based on her past record and views today that: she is going to break up the major banks on Wall Street; she is going to ask the wealthiest people in this country to start paying their fair share of taxes; that she’s going to end the abomination of major corporations making millions of dollars, stashing their money in the Cayman Islands and not paying a nickel in income tax; that, in fact, she’s prepared to deal with … our disastrous trade policies [including] the TPP.”

Martin O’Malley makes his pitch on CBS’ Face The Nation: “I guided [Maryland] through this recession, and I did so with results that actually mattered, the highest median income in the country, middle class that is upwardly mobile, greater participation, and fuller participation of my citizens in the economic, social, political life of our state, doing difficult things like passing marriage equality, passing the DREAM Act, doing commonsense things that allow new American immigrants to fully participate, pay their taxes, play by the rules, and take care of their families. That is the inclusive America that I believe all of us want to move to.”

Fast-Track Backlash

Left livid at Sen. Ron Wyden for striking deal on fast-track. Politico: “Wyden has been hounded at home by union groups and other opponents of the trade bill … Why has Wyden put up with all the heat? His home state is heavily dependent on exports, particularly to Asia … Hatch did ultimately agree to many of Wyden’s ‘smart track’ proposals [including] a new requirement that the White House publish the full text of trade pact 60 days before signing it … But critics remain unsatisfied. They say the final provision for potentially stripping fast track from a trade agreement was too weak to make a significant difference.”

NY AG argues TPP will “gut state laws” in Politico Magazine: “One provision of TPP would create an entirely separate system of justice: special tribunals to hear and decide claims by foreign investors that their corporate interests are being harmed by a nation that is part of the agreement … it is particularly worrisome to those of us in states, such as New York, with robust laws that protect the public welfare …”

Is Greece Near Default?

Tensions rise as May payment looms. NYT: “Unless the creditors agree soon to release the next allotment of bailout money, Greece could have trouble making a $763 million payment to the I.M.F. on May 12. It almost certainly would not be able to meet the €11 billion in payments to the European Central Bank, the I.M.F. and payments on Treasury bills in June and July.”

Greece “defiant” reports Bloomberg: “Greek officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Yannis Dragasakis, remained defiant over the weekend, saying the government won’t betray its electoral promises and worsen the pain that came from previous austerity measures … Greece won’t cut wages and pensions, introduce new taxes or sell assets, Alternate Health and Social Security Minister Dimitris Stratoulis told Athens-based Skai TV on Saturday … While ‘so-called’ partners … want to ‘blackmail’ Greece … ‘we won’t betray the people’s mandate,’ Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis said…”

NYT’s Paul Krugman visits Greece: “I came away from the visit fearing that Greece and Europe may suffer a terrible accident, an unnecessary rupture that will cast long shadows over the future.”

House, Senate Republicans Seek Budget Deal

House and Senate budget talks hung up over Medicare. The Hill: “The House budget includes [Rep. Paul] Ryan’s proposal to convert Medicare into a premium support system in 2024 … The problem is that Senate Republicans must defend 24 seats in 2016 to keep their majority, and they are not excited about jumping into a battle with Democrats over a sensitive entitlement program ahead of the election … The GOP hopes to get to a deal in the next few weeks.”

Final budget may get junked after passage. Politico: “…some rank-and-file Republicans are already expressing interest in a much bigger deal that would adjust those caps, sweep away the still-developing blueprint and ease the budgetary pressure on the Pentagon — and, grudgingly, domestic programs if necessary … To crack open the 2011 budget law that put the caps in place, however, they’re going to need buy-in from the White House and its Democratic allies in the Senate, who will demand more spending on nondefense programs in exchange for any loosening of the Pentagon’s purse strings.”

’16ers Cruz and Paul both back flat tax. The Hill: “…advocates also insist that a flat tax would give a spark to the economy by drastically reducing the top marginal tax rates … tax analysts say they expect other GOP candidates in the 2016 race to at least propose slashing the top rate for individuals and businesses, especially after conservative critics have dinged the tax plan of Sen. Marco Rubio, another presidential candidate.”

Republicans slow-walking Obama nominees across the board. Politico: “Sen. John McCain has an explanation for Obama administration appointees whose confirmation votes are languishing in the GOP-led Senate: It’s payback for Democrats using the so-called nuclear option to push through scores of nominations in the previous Congress … There are 18 nominations waiting for a vote on the Senate floor — including Loretta Lynch’s nomination to be attorney general — and more than 130 idling in committees … After three months of no new judges on the federal bench, the full Senate got the trains going on [two] judicial nominations last week … 23 judicial emergencies [exist] across the nation’s courts.”