Progressive Breakfast for January 23

Morning Message

Environmental Groups Denounce Fast Track Trade Process

The Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the League of Conservation Voters and 41 other environmental groups sent a letter to Congress this week, asking them to oppose “fast track” trade promotion authority ... Instead of this corporate-dominated process, the environmental groups ask for an open, transparent process that delivers benefits for working people ... Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club said, “Trade should be done right — not just fast — to protect our families and neighbors from pollution and climate disruption. Fast-tracking flawed trade pacts is a deal-breaker. With fast track, we would be trading away clean air, clean water, and safe communities.”

Can Dems Stop Fast-Track?

The Atlantic’s Russell Berman asks if Dems can stop fast-track: “They couldn’t in 2011, when the Republican-led House and a Democratic Senate approved long-stalled deals with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama. This time around, the mobilization has started early, with Democrats in both the House and Senate trying to blunt any momentum from Obama’s State of the Union call.”

Former Reagan admin official Clyde Prestowitz slams TPP in LAT oped: ” U.S. leaders promised [that past] deals would create high-paying jobs, reduce the trade deficit, increase GDP and raise living standards. But none of these came true … those promoting the TPP know all this, which leads them to make a backup argument, namely that the deal would strengthen security ties between the U.S. and its Asian allies … [But] the ever-closer linking of the U.S. economy to those of the TPP countries over the last 35 years has not prevented the rise of Chinese power…”

States Abandoning Austerity?

States and cities move away from austerity, invest in infrastructure. Bloomberg: “…for the first time since 2001, Atlanta is seeking voter approval to sell bonds for infrastructure … If approved on March 17, officials say the $250 million would begin addressing $1 billion of needed improvements … Atlanta’s decision is part of a shift for American states and cities as the economy expands at the fastest pace in over a decade: They’re using the taxpayer credit card again … the $3.6 trillion municipal-bond market may grow this year for the first time since 2010 because of borrowing for construction projects.”

Austerity is still killing Europe, says NYT’s Paul Krugman: “Spendthrift, loose-money America is experiencing a solid recovery — a reality reflected in President Obama’s feisty State of the Union address. Meanwhile, virtuous Europe is sinking ever deeper into deflationary quicksand … The thing that strikes me about Europe’s archons of austerity, its doyens of deflation, is their self-indulgence. They felt comfortable, emotionally and politically, demanding sacrifice (from other people) at a time when the world needed more spending.”

House Transportation chair talks down gas tax, talks up repatriation to fund transportation bill. The Hill: “‘I know the popular thing that a lot of people are talking about is the gas tax. But I just don’t believe the votes are there in the Congress at this point to do that,” [Rep. Bill] Shuster said in a speech to the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington. ‘It seems that … the number one source that’s being talked about is this repatriation of funds…'”

Breakfast Sides

The populist wave is putting Republicans “in a bind” argues W. Post’s Harold Meyerson: “[Democrats] seem to be finding a new ideological and political sweet spot: They’re the party that rewards work, that seeks to increase labor income even if — and you’d better believe they’ve polled on this — it means taking a bite out of capital income … Their new emphasis may also help them win back a share of the white working-class voters … The GOP would be happy to increase workers’ incomes if it didn’t involve diminishing the ability of wealthy investors and CEOs to claim the lion’s share of Americans’ incomes for themselves. Alas, for the Republicans, that’s arithmetically impossible.”

Dynamic scoring may be a bust for GOP. Bloomberg: “The problem is that many of the tax bills the Republicans have promoted as job creators — including the research credit and breaks for small businesses — barely register under the macroeconomic models used by the nonpartisan scorekeepers in Congress. And some of the bills that would partly pay for themselves were opposed by many Republicans, such as the 2009 economic stimulus and the 2013 immigration plan backed by President Barack Obama.”

Sen. Majority Leader McConnell cuts off Dem amendments to Keystone bill. Politico: “Around midnight, a seemingly endless series of amendment votes and quorum calls shifted as McConnell moved to end debate … Blindsided Democrats accused the Kentucky Republican of shutting down a Senate that he had promised to run in a more open way … The Senate is set to finish work on six remaining amendments to the Keystone bill starting on Monday, with a final passage vote on the legislation before the end of next week.”