Progressive Breakfast for May 6

Morning Message

Enormous, Humongous March Trade Deficit Creating Jobs Elsewhere

The U.S. Census Bureau reported Tuesday that the March goods and services trade deficit was $51.4 billion. This was an increase of $15.5 billion, or 43.1 percent, from the revised figure of $35.9 billion in February ... The U.S. goods trade deficit with Korea has more than doubled in the full first three years since the U.S.-Korea free trade agreement (FTA) went into effect ... The March trade numbers show there is increased demand in our economy, enough to create a lot of jobs and make businesses a lot of money ... But thanks to our trade policies we created them somewhere else because we import more than we export.

Fast Track Heading To Senate Floor

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sets up fast track vote. WSJ: “The Senate leader said Tuesday that he planned to bring the trade measure up for a vote after the chamber finishes work on a bill to give Congress final review power over a deal with Iran …

WH knocks Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid for plotting a delay on fast track vote. The Hill: “‘We are setting the bar awfully low if the Senate cannot handle multiple issues at once,’ [WH spokesperson Josh] Earnest said. ‘We should be able to expect the United States Senate to do more than one thing over the next month.'”

While McConnell praises Obama. The Hill quotes: “At the risk of having some of you literally faint, I want to compliment the president for the way he’s handling the trade issue. I thought what he did last year in speaking the truth to his base was welcome and shows that he is intent on working with us to get both the Trade Promotion Authority in place and to subsequently approve, hopefully, [the] Trans-Pacific Partnership deal.”

Does Reid have the votes? Politico: “…so far, Carper and Nelson are the only two Democrats who’ve said they’d break ranks with Reid; at least four others would be needed to allow McConnell to forge ahead next week on trade legislation, assuming the GOP leader is able to keep Southern Republicans who are skeptical of trade deals to side with him on opening debate. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the lone Republican to oppose the bill in committee, said in an interview he would vote to open debate on the bill, shoring up the GOP’s whip count.”

The Hill whip counts Dems on fast track: “…47 House members of [Obama’s] party already lined up against [fast track] … In the Senate, 13 Democrats have also said they won’t back trade promotion authority … So far, eight House Democrats have expressed support …”

Democratic Senate candidates running against TPP. The Hill: “…Democrat Jason Kander, who is challenging Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), blasted the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as a ‘bad deal for Missouri.’ A progressive group led by former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), who is polling ahead of GOP Sen. Ron Johnson in Wisconsin, called the TPP ‘ruinous for our middle class.’ And former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland (D) said trade policy would be one of the ‘major defining issues’ in his race against GOP Sen. Rob Portman … Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.) doesn’t have a top-tier GOP opponent yet in his quest to replace Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). But he too has come out strongly against the TPP…”

Sen. Chuck Schumer explains his currency concerns to HuffPost: ” Steel fabricators in Schumer’s state were losing sales not because of any failing on their part, but because the government of China was using a trick of the international currency market to keep Chinese manufacturers’ goods as much as one-third cheaper. The label for the practice is currency manipulation, and Schumer has harped on it ever since…”

But Schumer not threatening to attach currency provision to fast track bill. WSJ: “One potential problem for the trade bill appeared to ease when Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) declined to insist that he be allowed to offer an amendment on the fast-track bill dealing with currency manipulation. Instead, Mr. Schumer said there might be other ways to advance his measure … ‘I’m not trying to use currency to kill TPA, but I feel very strongly we should get a path to passing it and we’re working on the best way to do that,’ Mr. Schumer told reporters.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren argues fast track could eventually hurt bank reform. Politico quotes: “After fighting hard to protect Dodd-Frank for years, Democrats in the next few weeks could give Republicans the very tool they need to dismantle Dodd-Frank … A six-year fast track bill is the missing link they need to make that happen.”

“Trade with Asia Isn’t About Jobs” argues Chas Freeman in Politico Magazine: “In trying to divide Asia, TPP is not just sending an unfriendly message to China. It is getting the United States into a fight it is most unlikely to be able to win.”

De Blasio Readies His Own “Contract For America”

Mayor Bill de Blasio to unveil 13-point plan to reduce inequality next week. Politico: “On Tuesday, de Blasio will hold a 3 p.m. news conference outside the U.S. Capitol with labor leaders, Democratic lawmakers and liberal activists to unveil his ‘Progressive Agenda to Combat Income Inequality.’ … Among the planks is a universal pre-kindergarten program … $15 minimum wage … paid family leave … and proposals for ‘tax fairness’ … more than 60 big names have signed on, including Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.); Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.); Marian Wright Edelman and Howard Dean…”

Reducing inequality “requires acting on many fronts — economic but also legal and regulatory” argues NYT’s Eduardo Porter: ” In his forthcoming book ‘Inequality, What Can Be Done?’ … Anthony B. Atkinson of Oxford puts forth a set of proposals to reduce inequality in Britain. They include not just a higher minimum wage — set at a living wage standard — but also a guarantee of government employment up to 35 hours a week, to address unemployment and the proliferation of unstable hourly jobs that make it so hard for the working poor to earn a living. He proposes strengthening unions and creating a ‘social and economic council’ where representatives of labor and civil society could have a say in policy, offering a counterweight to corporate power.”

Budget clears Senate. Politico: “…the chamber voted, 51-48, to pass the deal that gives the Pentagon a budget increase next year but keeps domestic funding below spending caps set out in a 2011 deficit reduction law … Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), both 2016 presidential contenders, were the only Republicans to vote against the document because it didn’t go far enough … Next up are the dozen appropriations bills to fund the federal government, a process that’s bound to be arduous.”