Progressive Breakfast for September 29

Morning Message

Why an Unequal Planet Can Never Be Green

In more equal societies, analysts note, most people can afford the same things. In that environment, things don’t matter all that much. But things become a powerful marker of social status in unequal societies where most people can’t afford the same things. In these societies, you either accumulate more and bigger things or find yourself labeled a failure. How do we begin to reverse this endless consumption cycle? We can overcome “socially and environmentally destructive status competition,” social scientists Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett argue in their just-published pamphlet A Convenient Truth, by working to “extend democracy into the economic sphere.”

Republicans Abandon Key Conservative Positions for Midterms

Parties will give up on certain races soon. The Hill: “In October, the cycle is entering the phase when party officials must put candidates through triage, like a hospital station on the Western Front. Campaigns and candidates that can be saved will get attention. Others will basically be left to die … This year, there is one unarguable fact when it comes to the Senate landscape. NRSC Chairman Sen. Jerry Moran (Kan.) has substantially less money to work with than Sen. Michael Bennet (Colo.), the chairman of the DSCC. The Senate Democratic committee reported $25.3 million in cash on hand at the end of August, while the Senate Republican committee reported $19.9 million.”

Republicans not running on cutting spending. The Hill: “…a year after an unpopular government shutdown triggered by GOP demands to defund ObamaCare, Republicans have largely changed their tune in 2014. They are focusing their arguments on President Obama’s failed leadership … Arguments about the deficit and out-of-control spending, however, have largely been put to the side … unless candidates are running in a solidly safe district or state, they don’t want to be accused of supporting a substantial debt reduction package.”

Gala 2014 banner PB/PMU-EB

Or tax cuts. Politico: “It’s a turnabout for a party sometimes mocked as maniacally focused on tax cuts, and a big switch from the last time voters went to the polls, when lawmakers clashed over the fate of trillions in Bush-era tax cuts. It also amounts to a little-noticed boon this election season to Democrats, who’ve long been pummeled over whether the public deserved tax ‘relief.’ A bigger question is whether it also signals a change within the Republican Party.”

But some likely Republican winners will pull party farther right. NYT: “…in at least a dozen safe or largely safe Republican House districts where more mild-mannered Republicans are exiting, their likely replacements will pull the party to the right … [Tom] Petri, one of the last of the veteran Republican centrists, is likely to be replaced by Glenn Grothman, one of the most conservative members of the Wisconsin State Senate. Mr. Grothman has explained his opposition to equal-pay legislation by saying, ‘You could argue that money is more important for men.’ … [Howard] Coble, an 83-year-old known as much for his colorful sport jackets as his aw-shucks demeanor, will almost certainly be replaced by Mark Walker, a Baptist pastor who wrote on Facebook that … ‘most of these [African-]Americans have no concept of the pride and joy when we, as parents, invest in our children.'”

Obama To Sell Economy On Stump

Obama plans to use economy to keep Senate Democratic. The Hill: “The president told ’60 Minutes’ that he will spend the next six weeks campaigning on his economic record … Despite months of jobs and stock market growth, the president’s approval ratings on the economy remain stubbornly low … Obama acknowledged the problem, saying Americans ‘don’t feel’ the economic recovery. ‘The reason they don’t feel it is because incomes and wages are not going up,’ he said. But the president said he believes he can convince people that the economy is improving under his watch, and that wage stagnation and other economic drags can be addressed through a Democratic policy platform.”

Biden to announce job-training grants. The Hill: “Vice President Joe Biden and other top administration officials will announce Monday that some 71 community colleges across the country have won $450 million in federal grants for career training programs. Schools receiving the federal funds are required to partner with employers to develop a programs intended to build up skills that are valuable to businesses. Businesses including ExxonMobil, IBM, Delta, JetBlue, CVS, and Habitat for Humanity are among those who have agreed to help create the training programs.”

AIG Lawsuit To Shed Light On Bailout

Former AIG CEO Hank Greenberg brings his suit to court today. Politico: “On Monday, a federal court will begin hearing the former AIG chief executive’s lawsuit against the government over the bailout in which he charges that the terms of the government rescue were punitive toward shareholders. His firm, Starr International, named after AIG founder Cornelius Vander Starr, is seeking $40 billion in damages.”

“Far-fetched” case will help us learn “the truth” says Noam Scheiber in NYT oped: “At the heart of the controversy is the fact that the government has never provided a plausible explanation for why the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which had enormous leverage over banks like Goldman thanks to its role as their regulator, didn’t lean on them to accept less than 100 cents on the dollar in their payouts from A.I.G. … forcing an honest admission out of Mr. Geithner, who is scheduled to testify in the trial, would be a helpful, even cathartic, development. Traumatic historical episodes often require a high-profile public reckoning before the country can move on.”

Breakfast Sides

Speaker Boehner predicts action on tax reform and transportation next year. The Hill: “Tax reform legislation and a long-term highway bill ‘are in the realm of doable’ during President Obama’s final two years in office, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Sunday … ‘I didn’t come to Washington to make noise,’ Boehner added. ‘I went there to do something on behalf of my country. And I think the president ran for office to do something on behalf of the country.'”

India trade deal eyed during Prime Minister visit to Washington. The Hill: “Obama and the U.S. business community are focused on repairing a damaged trading relationship and setting a course for the two nations to work together to bridge other concerns. Specifically, the groups want India to approve an agreement worked out earlier this year in Bali to cut red tape and ease trade and hope to address broader concerns over intellectual property protections and higher tariffs in some sectors. Administration officials said there will be a robust conversation about greatly expanding trade and the constraints on investment. They will push India to sign onto the trade deal while considering the food security issues India has put on the table.