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.

President To Announce Expanded Oil Drilling

President to announce significant expansion of coastal drilling today. NYT: "The Obama administration is proposing to open vast expanses of water along the Atlantic coastline, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the north coast of Alaska to oil and natural gas drilling, much of it for the first time ... end[ing] a longstanding moratorium on oil exploration along the East Coast from the northern tip of Delaware to the central coast of Florida ... The environmentally sensitive Bristol Bay in southwestern Alaska would be protected ... drilling would begin only after the completion of geologic studies, environmental impact statements, court challenges and public lease sales. Much of the oil and gas may not be recoverable at current prices and may be prohibitively expensive even if oil prices spike as they did in the summer of 2008."

W. Post deems plan part of a "middle ground" energy strategy: "This week the administration [also] will finalize the nation's first greenhouse-gas limits for emissions from cars and light trucks, regulations that will boost the fuel economy of the U.S. vehicle fleet over several years."

LAT sees move as way to improve chances of a broader climate bill: "The administration is pushing expanded offshore exploration as a bargaining chip in its attempts to enact sweeping legislation to curb oil imports and reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

Washington Independent's Aaron Wiener questions the political logic: "If Obama’s goal here is to win support for a climate bill, wouldn’t he have waited to use this leverage until negotiations in the Senate had actually begun in earnest? Or has he already struck a deal with oil-state moderates like Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)?"

It's Getting Hot In Here's Morgan Goodwin accuses Obama of backstabbing young supporters: "They are being sold out by the Obama administration in a misguided attempt to curry political favor ... what about young people who are thinking about protecting this coastline for us and our children, long after the tiny amounts of energy have been extracted?"

Grist's Jonathan Hiskes stunned, but sees possible bright side: "Baffling. With the new policy Obama appears to be taking a major step toward siding with carbon-polluting industries in the battle to defend the energy status quo. I’m holding out hope that things appear worse than they are ... The crucial issue is whether oil and gas companies decide it’s worth their money to go out, find, and retreive the stuff. And things could be brighter on that front, because, as Joe Romm explains, the payoff in these reserves may not be worth the trouble."

Mother Jones' Kevin Drum unfazed: "...I've never really had a big problem with opening up these offshore tracts as long as (a) the affected states are OK with it and (b) oil companies don't get sweetheart deals."

Dog bites man. Climate scientists didn't fake data. AP: "A parliamentary panel investigating allegations that scientists at one of the world’s leading climate research centers misrepresented data related to global warming announced Wednesday that it had found no evidence to support that charge."

Optimism, Pessimism On Financial Reform

GOP Sen. Bob Corker shifts tone, after predicting financial reform would pass, in WSJ interview: "I couldn't support the bill in its current form ... I am absolutely not throwing in the towel. I have no plans to support the current legislation. I hope we'll get back to the negotiating table."

WH Press Sec Gibbs and econ aide Paul Volcker express optimism reform will pass this year. NYT: "The bills being debated in Congress would put responsibility for managing systemic financial risks in the hands of a council of regulators. Mr. Volcker said he was 'a little skeptical' about the efficiency and effectiveness of giving that responsibility to such a council, but suggested that the idea could be made to work."

Volcker warns of weakening by bank lobbyists. Time's Michael Scherer: "...he voiced skepticism about efforts by banking lobbyists to carve out exemptions from regulation that would force transparency on certain types of derivative trading ... he offered a pointed warning about exemptions for certain types of derivatives, which are contained in both the House version of financial reform and, to a lesser extent, the bill proposed by Sen. Chris Dodd..."

Ezra Klein argues capital requirements for banks can be handled domestically: "Some think that the international character of the financial market means that an international body -- probably the Basel Committee -- needs to make the call. That's been one of the explanations for the Dodd bill's vague language ... 'That's self-serving nonsense,' [says former Asst Treas Sec Richard Carnell]. 'So the regulators go into a back room at Basel and come up with something. Then when criticized, they say we’ll work to improve this, but they don’t have to take full responsibility.'"

Crooks and Liars sums up Elizabeth Warren CNBC interview: "Commercial Mortgages Will Cause A 'Very Serious Problem' In The Economy, Will Take Years To Resolve." Economic Populists offers other highlights: "...get rid of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, why is Citigroup growing when it should be shrinking and 50% of all Commercial Real Estate will have loans greater than the properties are worth by the end of 2010 "

Health Reform Repeal Movement Already Sputtering

GOP leaders are squeamish over right-wing calls for health reform repeal. AP: "...strategists from both parties [say] a fiercely repeal-the-bill stance might prove far less popular in a general election than in a conservative-dominated GOP primary, especially in states such as Illinois and California ... Republican leaders are stepping cautiously, wary of angering staunchly conservative voters bent on repealing the new law."

Georgia AG rejects suing over health reform law, conservatives demand impeachment. NYT: "... the Democratic attorney general has rejected such lawsuits as 'frivolous' and 'a waste of taxpayer money.' ... [Gov. Sonny] Perdue has said he would circumvent [AG Thurbert] Baker by appointing a 'special attorney general'..."

"Obama’s RomneyCare Shout Out Puts The Former Massachusetts Governor In A Bind," argues Wonk Room's Igor Volsky.

End Of Student Loan Bank Subsidies Now Law

Student loan law signed, ending bank subsidies. NYT: " President Obama signed legislation on Tuesday to expand college access for millions of young Americans by revamping the federal student loan program in what he called 'one of the most significant investments in higher education since the G.I. Bill.'"

FireDogLake Jane Hamsher praises: "Glenn Beck and Jim DeMint, so-called libertarian 'populists' who are supposed to be against government subsidies, are both pretending that this is a 'government takeover' of student lending ... What Obama put an end to was not 'student loans,' but a giant corporate welfare scam that subsidized the losses of private lenders like Citigroup, JP Morgan and Sallie Mae..."

Conservatives grouse, praise banks. LAT: "Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said that students would prefer getting such crucial financing from a banker they know rather than from anonymous bureaucrats. 'I don't see how the students of this country are going to get the same service out of four call centers as they get from their individual banks,' Grassley said."

Sen. Lindsey Graham attack pronounced "False" by Politifact: " say that students are somehow paying $1,700 or $1,800 more is wrong. Before Congress voted to eliminate subsidies for the Federal Family Education Loan, students paid 6.8 percent on their unsubsidized federal loans. Now that the bill is passed, students will still pay 6.8 percent interest on those loans. There is no 'surcharge' in the bill, as Graham says."

Conservative Census Boycott Backfiring

Political Wire notes GOP may reap the results of their anti-census propaganda: "...While Texas is counting on the 2010 Census to deliver four new congressional districts, as of Friday afternoon, just 27% of Texas households had filled in and returned their census forms -- well below the national average of 34%."

Alternet's Tana Gavena recounts how some high profile Republicans spread fear about the census: "Spewing crazy, anti-government lies for short-term political gain doesn't always work as planned, especially when you're a member of said government and want to stay that way."

Matthew Yglesias says too bad conservatives opposed statistical sampling for the Census:: "...the black fly in your chardonnay here is that well-documented census under-responses could be easily compensated for if the Census Bureau did the sensible thing and attempted to create a statistically accurate model of the American population. But instead-at the insistence of the American right-it's legally required to just count up the forms, and undercount populations that don't like to mail forms in."

Breakfast Sides

Tula Connell writes that Sen. Tom Coburn can't take the heat for killing jobless aid: "Coburn, who blocked a short-term extension for unemployment insurance (UI), issued a press release
making it look as though Senate Democrats blocked the extension and he was a helpless victim of the vote.... In fact, Coburn blocked the emergency UI extension bill, effectively killing it until after the Senate returns from break April 12. Some 200,000 jobless workers a week will now lose UI support because of Coburn. Worse, Coburn has said he would continue to block UI extension after the Senate returns."

Katrina vanden Heuvel looks into the coming fight to stop the expiration of the Bush tax cuts: "These regressive remnants of Bush's presidency are thankfully set to expire on December 31, 2010. But if there's one thing we can count on [it's that] Republicans and conserva-Dems will pull out all stops in trying to keep that from happening ... Mike Lapham, director of Responsible Wealth and a signer of the pledge, said ... We need people who have benefited from these cuts to step forward and say plainly, 'We don't want them and our nation can't afford them.'"

DMI's Cristina Jiminez notes that immigration is shaping up to be a losing issue for the GOP: "...Republican candidates running for office are using immigration as a political wedge issue once again ... Using immigrants as a political wedge issue in the 2008 election resulted in big losses for the Republican Party.

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