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.

Obama Hits The Road For Health Care

Obama in Philly today, St. Louis tomorrow reports Bloomberg:

Focus groups show public wants Congress to get health care done. Politico: "'Four weeks ago, it was an open question, whether or not the best thing to do was just to abandon [health care reform] and move on. But the picture is changing,' says veteran Democratic pollster Geoff Garin, who has been conducting health care focus groups for a range of Democrat-affiliated clients around the country in recent weeks. 'What I’m finding in the focus groups is that, however skeptical voters are of health reform, they’re now saying just go ahead and pass it just to get something done,' added Garin, one of the first Democratic strategists to warn of a potential anti-reform wave last year."

Did the failed bipartisan summit lead the public to support a partisan bill? TNR's John Judis: " the first poll conducted after the summit on February 25, Ipsos/McClatchy found that those who favor versus those who oppose 'the health care reform proposals presently being discussed,' went from 37 to 51 percent in late January to 41 to 47 percent. That's an eight point swing ... among the 47 percent who oppose the reform proposals 37 percent do so because they 'don’t go far enough.'"

CBO cost estimate of proposed budget reconciliation revisions expected week's end. Roll Call: "...after [the CBO analysis] they would forward the legislation to the Senate Parliamentarian to ensure that it complies with the chamber’s strict rules for 51-vote bills ... the Republicans’ strategy to defeat the reconciliation bill includes raising numerous budget points of order where they feel the legislation violates the rules and proposing an infinite number of amendments."

TNR's Jonathan Cohn pushes back on naysayer claims that the cost savings won't materialize: "The [CBO] has predicted that health care reform, fully implemented, will save a small sum of money in the first decade and a considerable sum of money in the second decade. This is not an accounting trick ... it's a worst-case scenario, given CBO's famously dour predisposition. And, despite what you may have heard, the government has actually kept promises to cut costs before."

GOP tries to sow mistrust between House and Senate. Bloomberg: "Two House Democrats who voted against the legislation the first time, Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania and John Adler of New Jersey, said on 'Fox News Sunday' that they are keeping an open mind ... Altmire said he’s worried the Senate might not pass the reconciliation changes once the House has ratified the underlying Senate bill ... Republicans are encouraging the view that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid might not get the job done. 'What the president is really doing is asking the House Democrats to hold hands, jump off a cliff, and hope that Harry Reid catches them,' said Senator Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican."

The Guardian's Michael Tomasky reminds reconciliation is not being used the pass the entire bill: "The Senate passed the bill, last December, under the 'normal' rules and with 60 votes. Our system is messed up but it isn't that messed up that they'd have to pass the exact same bill two times. When we talk about reconciliation, we're talking then not about the whole bill again, but a limited set of amendments to the bill."

Fed Wins Another Reg Battle?

Dodd compromise will keep Fed authority over big banks. FT: "Chris Dodd, the Senate banking committee chairman, had proposed hiving off all bank supervision to a single regulator but is set to propose this week that the 23 largest institutions stay under the Fed’s oversight, according to people familiar with the plans ... The Fed’s retention of authority over the biggest banks is partly a result of demands by Tim Geithner ...But it also comes after a mobilisation of regional Fed presidents, unprecedented since the second world war..."

Naked Capitalism rejects argument that Fed role matters less after reforms: "The notion that makes this guaranteed-to-continue-to-be-weak oversight OK is that the big banks will be permitted to fail. While that may be credible for some of the really big banks ... any large capital markets player is an integral part of crucial debt market operations. Those large firms in turn are deeply enmeshed via counterparty relationships, most notably repos and credit default swaps. How, pray tell, do you shut down a trading firm in an orderly fashion? You can’t freeze positions, which is what you need to do in an unwind, and not create pain and inconvenience for the counterparties."

HuffPost's Robert Kuttner chastises Dodd's dealmaking: " working with Corker, Dodd did a 180 when it came to the Fed. Their working draft legislation proposes more power for the Federal Reserve, not less ... No financial reform worth having will come out of the Senate if the price is a bipartisan bill."

NYT's Paul Krugman says contrasting Irish and Canadian experiences point to need to strong regulators, as well as regulations: " By all means, let’s limit both leverage and the use of securitization ... But such measures won’t matter unless they’re enforced by people who see it as their duty to say no to powerful bankers. That’s why we need an independent agency protecting financial consumers..."

NYT reviews possible nominees for Fed board: "It could use the expertise of an outsider with Main Street credentials, but savvy in bank regulation ... an esteemed economist, but one whose vision extends beyond fighting inflation..."

W. Post reviews possible picks for open bank regulator positions: "Perhaps the most anticipated vacancy is at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency ... [Outgoing Comptroller John Dugan's] tenure has been marked by repeated conflicts with state regulators as the OCC asserted an exclusive right to police the activities of banks with national charters, a doctrine known as preemption ... The Obama administration proposed an end to that policy as part of its blueprint for financial regulatory reform, but conservative House Democrats forced party leaders to preserve the OCC's authority in the financial reform bill that the House passed in November. "

NYT's John Harwood suggests that compromises with Wall Street may soon get more notice by the public: "...industry lobbyists have wielded their influence quietly, as health care dominates the public dialogue. Republicans believe the issue’s obscurity has minimized Democrats’ ability to turn the politics of Wall Street against them, even as the minority party resists tax and regulatory elements of the administration’s agenda ... But the issue may soon assume a higher profile. [Dodd] plans to send a bill to the floor for debate later this month. If health care has commanded winter political headlines, Democratic leaders see financial regulation as a chance for springtime renewal. Their goal is Senate passage, and a compromise with the already-passed House version, by July 4."

Superwealthy Worry Estate Tax Would Fight Deficit

Superwealthy worried that higher estate tax would help close deficit gap. Bloomberg: "Lobbyists ... are racing the clock to convince Congress to reinstate the federal estate tax they’ve fought for years to abolish ... Unless Congress acts, current law would raise the tax next year to 55 percent on estates after they exceed $2 million per couple, from nothing this year ... as 2011 nears, so does the prospect that congressional inaction would start to bring in billions of dollars to help reduce trillion- dollar deficits. 'That’s the real fear,' said Rosemary Becchi, who lobbies on tax issues for Washington-based Patton Boggs LLP..."

Time's Zachary Karabell questions "Is There Too Much Worry About the Debt?": "Worrying about debt is like gaining too much weight and worrying about the size of your clothing. America's indebtedness would be sustainable and even healthy if the underlying economy were vibrant, innovative and strong and if federal and state governments could channel those moneys productively and quickly ... And that is the real nub: America isn't investing enough in its future. We are failing to mobilize resources to improve our health care and infrastructure and stay competitive in a global economy ... Focusing on how much we owe won't help us meet our real challenges. America's problem isn't large clothing; it's a body politic that is sliding into dangerous habits."

James Kwak at The Baseline Scenario says the problem isn't the deficit but the lack of political will to do anything about the cause, health care: : "... ironically, deficit peacocks are right that the deficit is a problem, but only because they refuse to do anything about rising health care costs — since the long-term deficit problem is a health care cost problem."

60 Or Bust For Climate Bill

Tripartisan climate trio needs to line up 60 votes before Reid will bring bill to the floor. Roll Call: "...Reid has given Kerry until the Easter recess to come up with a bill, even though sources said the Majority Leader is dubious of bringing up such a political lightning rod in a crucial election year. Boxer, who supports Kerry’s efforts, said Reid has only promised to bring up a climate change measure if supporters can secure a filibuster-proof vote for it ... Kerry said that all the talk about a lack of enthusiasm for climate change is overblown and that his effort has strong momentum."

Mother Jones' Kate Sheppard questions WH nuclear push: "Obama’s 2009 budget provides $54.4 billion in government-backed loans for new reactors ... Environmental and taxpayer protection groups oppose this plan—often citing a damning 2003 report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) that assessed a similar proposed program and predicted that the loans would have a default rate of 'well above 50 percent.' The Department of Energy (DOE) argues that this study 'is not germane to the current project' and says it has taken steps to avoid the financial pitfalls. But in interviews with Mother Jones, Obama administration officials refused to provide specific figures that would support their claim."

KC Schools Latest Victim In Nationwide State Budget Crisis

AP reports on proposal to shutter half of Kansas City schools: "Now it's on the brink of bankruptcy and considering another bold move: closing nearly half its schools to stay afloat ... Nationwide public districts are closing schools to better cope with a recession that has eaten away at academic budgets. In rapidly shrinking Detroit, 29 schools closed before classes began this fall, leaving the district with 172 schools. Washington, D.C. closed 23 of its schools in 2008 because of under-enrollment; last year only three were closed. But proportionally, Kansas City's potential closures are striking in scope."

Some governors crossing legal lines to make drastic cuts. Stateline: "The complaints challenge a wide variety of issues from a governor’s authority to cut the budget to spending money that voters designated for other uses to laying off union workers and cutting school money. California, Illinois, Arizona, Kansas, Indiana, New York and Minnesota have all recently faced lawsuits or are in court now."

Crazy Conservative Quote of the Day

Asked on CNN if "people are unemployed because they want to be," former GOP House leader Tom DeLay said: "Well, it is the truth.

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