Progressive Breakfast for April 1

Morning Message

The Backlash Against Discrimination And GOP’s “Indiana” Problem

This week Mike Pence came to embody what might henceforth be known as the GOP’s “Indiana problem.” Once a symbol of the GOP’s “deep bench” and one of its top presidential contenders for 2016, Pence’s conservative credentials — and the religious right’s continued influence over the GOP — demanded that he defend Indiana’s anti-gay “religious freedom” law. Likewise, GOP presidential hopefuls rushed to defend Indiana’s law, seeking to motivate Christian conservatives to back them in the primaries. The problem is that Republicans have to be either dishonest or deluded to back “religious freedom” laws, only to end up tripping over the truth or running headlong into reality.

Republican Anti-Gay Push Met With Corporate Backlash

Walmart calls on Arkansas governor to veto anti-gay “religious freedom” bill. Fortune: “[Walmart’s CEO] said that the legislation, ‘threatens to undermine the spirit of inclusion present throughout the state of Arkansas and does not reflect the values we proudly uphold.'”

Republicans throwing away 2016 with anti-gay stance, argues W. Post’s Dana Milbank: “[Governor Mike] Pence backed down Tuesday and called for new legislation ‘that makes it clear that this law does not give businesses a right to deny services to anyone.’ Alas for Republican 2016 hopes, the leading candidates had already backed the original, discriminatory version of the law.”

Republicans Can’t Decide How Much Pain To Inflict

House and Senate yet to reconcile their competing budgets. The Hill: “While the Senate blueprint sticks to sequestration caps through 2021, the House’s plan would raise the Pentagon’s spending cap by $387 billion over the next 10 years … the Senate would cut [Medicaid] by $400 billion, while the House would cut it by more than $900 billion … The House would make the deepest cuts [to domestic programs], with nearly $760 billion over the next 10 years. The Senate would cut funding for domestic programs by $236 billion.”

Obama vetoes anti-union bill. The Hill: “Congress passed a resolution of disapproval this month on a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling that sped up union elections … Obama vetoed Congress’ measure shortly after noon in the Oval Office, the fourth veto of his presidency. Obama said that the Republican resolution would reverse ‘common-sense, modest changes to streamline’ the union voting process.”

Too much federal policy is via tax breaks, argues NYT’s Eduardo Porter: “At bottom, the American government’s approach to taxing and spending is mildly progressive, but basically an impotent weapon against inequality … For instance, President Obama’s American Opportunity Tax Credit to subsidize college tuition has particularly benefited families making from $100,000 to $180,000 … Many economists have exposed how the mortgage tax deduction, which rises in value for those in higher tax brackets, does little [for] middle-class homeownership…”

Breakfast Sides

Student debt resisters meet with Education Department. HuffPost: “Fourteen federal student loan borrowers refusing to make their monthly payments to protest the U.S. Department of Education’s shoddy oversight of for-profit colleges met with senior government officials on Tuesday to share their stories and learn about the department’s plan to help them. The Education Department’s answer, in short: Keep on waiting.”

“Americans Don’t Feel the Slowdown in Health Costs” notes Drew Altman in WSJ: “…even when spending and premiums experienced record-low growth in 2013 … 52% said they had been growing faster than usual. The American people are not out to lunch; their view of the problem of health costs is very different from that of experts. The amount that people with employer-based insurance pay for premiums has risen 212% in the last 15 years, while wages have risen 54% and inflation 43% … Experts (myself included) often focus on cost measures such as health spending as a percentage of GDP and the rate of increase in health spending … Americans with coverage care about … premium costs [and] deductibles…”