Progressive Breakfast for May 4

Morning Message

After Baltimore: Soul Searching in Another America

When he spoke of Baltimore the other day, President Obama predicted that “we’ll go through the same cycles of periodic conflicts between the police and communities and the occasional riots in the streets. And everybody will feign concern until it goes away and then we go about our business as usual.” He is almost certainly right. But the president did not offer a clear vision for ending the structural failures that have generated this cycle of conflict. That vision is urgently needed. The time for soul searching is now.

Students Demand Debt Relief

“Sen. Warren Receives 240,000 Cancel All Student Debt Signatures” reports OurFuture.org’s Roger Hickey: 240,000 signatures urging Washington to CANCEL ALL STUDENT DEBT were delivered last week to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a champion for reducing debt and free college. 12 groups including CAF collected signatures. It was part of a week of action April 25-May 1 demanding action on student debt and cost of college. Click here to get your I AM A STUDENT DEBT VOTER t-shirt.

Roger Hickey, Campaign for America’s Future, Rachel Colyer, Daily Kos, Amanda Johnson, Working Families, Natalia Abrams, Student Debt Crisis, and John Hlinko, Left Action – representing some of the 12 organizations who helped gather the 240,000 signatures – with Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Corinthian student debt strike pressures WH. NYT: “More than 1,000 others are formally asking the Education Department to wipe out their debt, arguing that the school used false graduation and placement statistics to entice them into taking out burdensome debt. And many of the 16,000 students whose schools were closed last week are also likely to apply for loan discharges. Their effort could cost the department — and ultimately taxpayers — millions of dollars, raising questions about the department’s double role as both lender and collector of federal student loans.”

Strike organizers cancel meeting with Education Department. TNR’s David Dayen: “Organizers of a student debt strike canceled a planned meeting with the Department of Education on Monday, believing it would be used as a ‘publicity stunt’ to announce new rules … organizers got word from sources in Congress and the legal community that the Education Department planned to announce at that meeting an individualized defense-to-repayment process. Under the proposal, students would have to prove their specific injury in order to qualify…”

Trade Fight Intensifies

Many Democrats unimpressed with WH outreach on trade. Politico: “‘[US Trade Representative Michael Froman is] incredibly condescending. It’s like, “You’d be all for this if only you hadn’t gotten an F in economics,”‘ said Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), who said he’s opposed to what he’s seen because it lacks labor standards and measures to address currency manipulation … ‘We know when we’re being suckered,’ said Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), who said he believes that the USTR quotes percentages instead of absolute values on trade statistics that give an overly positive impression. ‘It’s not only condescending, it’s misleading.'”

“[S]ome of the president’s allies on trade say he’s exaggerating the China threat” reports WSJ: “Using foreign-policy rationales to sell trade deals has a long history … But trade deals are ultimately about economic benefits … failure of the TPP talks would give the U.S. a black eye in Asia and lead to further skepticism about Washington’s ability to lead. That might produce satisfaction in Beijing … But it would also mean the current rules governing trade would remain—those developed by the U.S. and ratified by other countries over the past 70 years.”

“GOP scrambling to limit defections” reports The Hill: “Some of the ‘no’ votes will come from Republicans in pro-union districts where workers are worried about jobs heading overseas. A pair of Cuban-American lawmakers from south Florida is opposed over concerns a new Pacific trade deal will harm trade with Central America. Most defections, however, will come from rank-and-file conservatives who think it’s flat-out dangerous to give Obama any more authority.”

Obama wins over one more House Dem. The Hill: “[Rep. Ami] Bera, a top GOP target this election cycle, wrote in [favor of fast track in] a Sacramento Bee op-ed … ‘In the Trade Promotion Authority, Congress has laid out specific parameters that I believe, done right, can lead us to that good deal.'”

“4 Senate Dems could help hand Obama fast track” reports Politico: “Few will be surprised if Sen. Patty Murray of Washington backs the bill, but she’s stopped short of declaring a final position ahead of the looming Senate debate. Another legislative veteran, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, also appears a likely vote for the legislation. But two newer members, Sens. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Tim Kaine of Virginia, may require more convincing…”

Sanders Calls For a “Political Revolution”

Sen. Bernie Sanders lays out rationale for his candidacy on ABC’s This Week: ” think I’m the only candidate who’s prepared to take on the billionaire class … We need a political revolution in this country involving millions of people who are prepared to stand up and say, enough is enough, and I want to help lead that effort … Hillary Clinton has been part of the political class for many, many years. I respect her and I like her, but I think what the American people are saying [is] maybe it’s time for a real political shakeup in this country.”

Republican candidates try identifying with the middle class. NYT: “Republicans’ emphasis on poorer and working-class Americans now represents a shift from the party’s longstanding focus on business owners and ‘job creators’ as the drivers of economic opportunity … Democrats argue that the public will ultimately see through such an approach because Republican positions like opposing a minimum-wage increase and giving private banks a larger role in student loans would hurt working Americans.”

Some “radical ideas for Hillary” from Robert Kuttner: “…a true public drug insurance program under Medicare … Let’s make public university free … End All Federal Subsidies of For-Profit Colleges … A Moratorium on Job-Killing Trade Deals…”