fresh voices from the front lines of change







Each morning, Bill Scher and Terrance Heath serve up what progressives need to affect change on the kitchen-table issues families face: jobs, health care, green energy, financial reform, affordable education and retirement security.

Weak Job Growth Projected Without Additional Action

Latest WH projections show weak job growth for the year. McClatchy: "President Barack Obama's top economic advisers offered a cautious forecast on Thursday that U.S. job gains for 2010 will average 95,000 a month ... [It's] below the consensus of private Blue Chip forecasters, who envision a more optimistic monthly average of 116,000 jobs ... 'These job projections are very reasonable, but they are also very disappointing since they imply the unemployment rate will remain very high for a very long time,' said Larry Mishel, the president of the Economic Policy Institute..."

President meets with civil rights leaders on jobs. Focus on region, not race. W. Post: "[NAACP's Ben] Jealous said the conversation focused less on race than on the many economically hard-hit areas of the country, from Detroit to rural areas in North and South Carolina."

NAACP urges passage of Senate jobs bill, even if it's small: "'It needs to be passed. It needs to get through the Senate. It’s not enough for the Republicans in the Senate to say "no, no, no" ... Jealous said. 'It’s all needed. It’s all critical. We need twice as much of everything in that bill.'"

House jobs bill has regional emphasis. Politico: "Congress is now considering a jobs bill, which on the House side includes provisions offered by the CBC that address unemployment in the areas that have been hardest hit by the economic decline. [Rep. Barbara] Lee, who met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), has urged the Senate to adopt a similar approach. Lee said she was encouraged by Wednesday's meeting..."

Regional provisions were not in the initial Senate draft reports LAT.

Christian Science Monitor's Mark Trumbull highlights four key facts about race and the economy: "The jobless rate of 16.5 percent for blacks is much higher than the national jobless rate of 9.7 percent ... It's astronomically higher for black teens — 43.8 percent — than for white teens, at 23.5 percent. While young people have been hit harder by this recession than previous ones, one longstanding pattern has changed little: African-Americans for decades have had a harder time getting jobs, and the gap with whites has widened because of recessions."

Senate Dems to meet on jobs today. Politico: "Senate Democrats — or at least those who can make it — plan to talk about jobs during their weekly lunch, which was moved to Thursday because of the storms. But even if negotiators reach agreement on a bill quickly, it would be difficult for Reid to get it passed this week.

State budgets face years of problems after recession ends, stressing need for federal aid. Stateline: "Even as the economy slowly heals, history shows that the worst budget crunch for states comes in the year or two after a recession ends and that a full recovery can take years. Magnifying the problem facing states, the federal stimulus dollars that helped plug almost 40 percent of budget holes will start drying up at the end of 2010."

Has Obama Gone Soft On Bonuses?

After Bloomberg/BusinessWeek interview suggests President doesn't "begrudge" giant bonuses, Simon Johnson at The Washington Note deems the President confused: "Does the president truly not understand that Dimon and Blankfein run banks that are regarded by policymakers and hence by credit markets as 'too big to fail'? This is the antithesis of a free-market system. ... The president's only political chance is to take on the too big to fail banks directly and clearly."

Paul Krugman expresses shock -- "Oh. My. God": "If the Bloomberg story is to be believed, Obama thinks his key to electoral success is to trumpet the influence corporate leaders have had on his economic policies. We're doomed."

WH says Bloomberg's characterization was not to be believed, in a Dep. Press Sec. blog post:"The President has said countless times as he did in the interview that he doesn't 'begrudge' the success of Americans, but he also expressed 'shock' at the size of bonuses and made clear that there are a number of steps that need to be taken to change the culture of Wall Street."

WSJ's Jonathan Weisman backs up the President: "...a closer look at the transcript reveals that, in fact, Obama does what he almost always does. He fell back on aphorisms he's been using for nearly a year now."

The Obama/bonus flap, along with the filibustered Craig Becker nom, prompts's Dave Johnson to revisit who is "anti-business": "This isn't about being "anti-business" at all, it is about being in favor of a level playing field, where the innovative small and medium companies have a fair chance to compete. It is the giant monopolistic corporations that are "anti-business."

Global bank tax could be agreed up by G20 in June. The Guardian: "'"Support is building' for a deal to potentially tax the international financial services sector to the tune of tens of billions of pounds, [UK PM Gordon Brown] said ... Brown said he hoped a deal would be hammered out at the G20 summit in Canada in June ... The US president disagreed with Brown earlier in the year after he proposed that the state should take a cut of bank transactions ... but the IMF is thought to be considering alternatives, such as a tax on bank profits, turnover or remuneration."

Bailout watchdogs worry about commercial real estate failures. NYT: " A huge wave of mortgage failures on commercial real estate could hit next year, causing banks to lose as much as $300 billion, imperiling lending for small businesses and hindering the economic recovery, a Congressional panel is warning ... [Chair Elizabeth Warren said,] 'There is no single fix here. It’s a big bubble that has to come down, and that means substantial losses for investors, and for the banks that lent them money.'"

More from Bloomberg/BusinessWeek interview with the President, full text coming tomorrow: "He said he would press for passage this year of free-trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia, though he cautioned that 'different glitches' must first be negotiated with each country. He dismissed the idea of expanding the payroll tax break he proposed for small businesses to larger companies. And he offered a less-than-optimistic forecast for the legislative prospects of the 'Volcker Rule' he embraced last month to bar commercial banks from proprietary trading."

GOP Sen. Floats Deal For Smaller Health Care Bill

GOP Sen. Judd Gregg suggests deal to scale back health care bill, dedicate less Medicare savings to health care: "...the changes Gregg will want are sure to aggravate the White House’s already frayed relationship with the left ... Gregg has repeatedly pressed Democrats to apply the nearly $500 billion in Medicare-related savings in the House and Senate health care bills toward deficit reduction. One option for Obama would be to split the dollars, keeping half to expand health coverage and half to address the long-term solvency of the existing Medicare trust fund. Doing so would mean giving up as much as $250 billion in 10-year savings ... more than $50 billion of this could be recovered, Gregg said, by embracing something Republicans and Democratic moderates also want: medical malpractice reform ... 'Worth considering' was the response of an administration official..."

TNR's Jonathan Chait shows how the GOP talking point of "starting over" exposes the weakness of their obstructionist goal: "If Republicans truly thought the public shared their beliefs, they wouldn't be talking constantly about starting over and doing it right in a bipartisan fashion."

HCAN's Jason Rosenbaum sees path to health care refom in this week's ABC/W. Post poll: "...America wants comprehensive reform, they want reform finished right before a bill is signed, and they think Republicans are standing in the way, which gives an implicit endorsement for Democrats to use majority rule to do what the American people want."

Ad Push For Climate Bill

Gore group targets conservaDems and some GOPers. The Hill: "The ads by Repower America ... show residents from the states touting the benefits of 'clean energy' ... The ads will begin airing in Indiana and Maine on Friday, and Missouri and Arkansas early next week ... The ads will air widely in the states on local and cable networks for three weeks..." Watch the ads at

VoteVets runs ads making national security case for climate bill. TreeHugger: "The group is using TV ads to target Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO), Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) and other elected officials saying that their obstruction is funding terrorists."

HuffPost's Robert Stavins argues a "cap-and-dividend" approach could improve the bill's prospects, but Cantwell-Collins version needs work: "as it is currently structured, only producers and importers of fossil fuels can buy the carbon allowances ... there is no sound reason to exclude other entities from participating in the auction markets; and doing so will greatly reduce market liquidity. Furthermore, the Senators' proposal says that holders of carbon allowances are actually prohibited from creating, selling, purchasing, or trading carbon derivatives, thereby tremendously reducing the efficiency of the market and needlessly driving up costs. While no doubt borne out of a well-intentioned desire to protect consumers (remembering the recent impacts of mortgage-backed securities on financial markets), the Senators' approach is akin to responding to a tragic airplane crash by concluding that the best way to protect consumers from air disasters in the future is simply to ban flying."

Conservative plan to spend heavily to kill Calif. carbon cap at the ballot box.'s Cameron Scott: "...spurred by obscure Republican state legislator Dan Logue, a battle is now brewing over the law that will likely get very, very ugly ... Logue's battle against AB32 is being piloted by the Orwellian-monickered People's Advocate, a group that specializes in manipulating Californians into populist votes that hurt them in the long run ... The hit on AB32 will portray the measure as a job-killer ... Never mind that all the evidence suggests that greening the state's economy has and will continue to create jobs.."

Interior Sec. tells oil CEOs their top lobbyist isn't helping by attacking the White House. WSJ: "Because the Interior Department controls access to the nation’s onshore and offshore oil and natural gas reserves, API members can’t easily ignore his complaints. It’s not clear, however, whether the meeting will bring the Obama administration and the oil industry any closer to resolving their differences over President Barack Obama’s proposals to raise taxes on the industry and to require companies to pay for their emissions of heat-trapping gases linked to climate change."

Weather Underground's Jeff Masters explains how record snowstorms bolster, not debunk, the reality of global warming: "..It's not hard at all to get temperatures cold enough for snow in a world experiencing global warming ... The more difficult ingredient for producing a record snowstorm is the requirement of near-record levels of moisture. Global warming theory predicts that global precipitation will increase ... as the climate warms, evaporation of moisture from the oceans increases ... According to the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, water vapor in the global atmosphere has increased by about 5% over the 20th century, and 4% since 1970 ... the authors did find a significant increase in winter heavy precipitation events have occurred in the Northeast U.S." (via The Vine)

Breakfast Sides

Unions warn of depleted support for Dems after no action to assist workers: "The 52-33 vote on [NLRB nom Craig] Becker — who needed 60 to be confirmed — really set labor unions on edge, but the list of setbacks is growing. The [Employee Free Choice Act] that would make it easier to unionize employees has gone nowhere. A pro-union Transportation Security Administration nominee quit before he even got a confirmation vote."

Jonathan Tasini at Working Life finds three countries with a forecasted government debt of less than 50% of the GDP — Finland, Sweden, and Denmark — and shows why: "Three countries whose governments do the following: 1. Provide health care ... 2. Provide a government-backed pension ... 3. Ask people to pay their fair share [in taxes] ... 4. ... have a strong wage policy that does not allow an underclass to develop ... our problem is not too much government. It is that we don't have enough honest, sane government."

USA Today finds GOPers who received plum cmte seats steering federal dollars to their home states: "[Sen. Sam] Brownback inserted $12.5 million for his state in the agriculture bill — up from the $2.4 million he got into the same bill three years ago ... [Sen. George] Voinovich's earmarks in that spending bill increased from zero in 2008 to $23.3 million this year ... [Sen. Bob] Bennett moved up to become the top Republican on the subcommittee handling energy and water spending. His earmarks in that bill nearly tripled, from $17.4 million in 2008 to $51.3 million this year."

Streetsblog's Elana Schor reviews growing debate between gas tax and mileage tax to fund transportation priorities: "...while 25 gallons of taxed gas will last for an estimated 725 miles in a 2010 Ford Escape hybrid SUV (at a combined 29 miles per gallon), the lighter 2010 Ford Mustang (estimated at 19 miles per gallon) would go just 425 miles while paying the same amount of gas tax. The heavier car ends up putting more stress on the road while paying less for it. Is that an equitable system of maintaining the transportation network? ... perhaps the question isn't whether to sell the public on a viable VMT [vehicle miles traveled] tax as a replacement for the gas tax, but how to make both policy tools work effectively in tandem."

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