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.

Battle To Curb Wall Street Heats Up

Chamber of Commerce has spent $3M so far to kill consumer protection agency, Dems, progressives seek to counter. W. Post: "Union leaders and other consumer advocates are planning demonstrations across the country this month, culminating with a massive march on Wall Street ... This week, the administration will launch a series of speeches and newspaper op-eds to draw attention to the financial regulatory overhaul and its impact on the economy"

Hedge fund managers donating heavily to congresspeople. Politico: "...the nation’s 10 richest hedge fund managers have dumped nearly $1 million into campaign accounts over the past several years ... onsumer advocates and critics from other financial sectors say hedge funds would get off pretty easily under the regulatory reform bill Dodd’s committee approved last month — a charge Dodd’s aides reject."

Treas. Sec. Tim Geithner backs Senate financial reform bill in W. Post oped, emphasizes stronger requirements on capital and liquidity: "...major global financial institutions — whether they look like Goldman Sachs, Citigroup or AIG — will be required to operate with less leverage and less risk-taking. Crucially, if a major firm does mismanage itself into failure, the Senate bill gives the government the authority to wind down the firm with no exposure to the taxpayer. No more bailouts. Instead, we will have a bankruptcy-like regime where equityholders will be wiped out and the assets will be sold."

"[GOP Rep. Spencer] Bachus Falsely Claims That Financial Reform ‘Would Make AIG-Style Bailouts Permanent’," reports Wonk Room's Pat Garofalo.

Washington Mutual intentionally created the toxic assets that contributed to the financial crisis, concludes Senate investigation. LAT: "...its executives knowingly created a 'mortgage time bomb' by making subprime loans they knew were likely to go bad and then packaging them into risky securities ... the bank took loans in which it had discovered fraudulent activity -- such as misstated income by borrowers -- and rolled them into mortgage securities sold to investors without disclosing the fraud."

WaMu execs to be grilled on the Hill today, criminal charges possible. AP: "Former senior executives of mortgage lender Washington Mutual, the biggest U.S. bank in history to fail, are appearing before Congress on Tuesday for the first time since the bank's September 2008 collapse ... the panel won't decide until after the hearings on Tuesday and Friday whether to make a formal referral to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution."

Lehman created undisclosed firm to shift high-risk transactions off its books. NYT: "Entities like Hudson Castle are part of a vast financial system that operates in the shadows of Wall Street, largely beyond the reach of banking regulators. These entities enable banks to exchange investments for cash to finance their operations and, at times, make their finances look stronger than they are."

JPMorgan Chase fighting against homeowner help. HuffPost's Shahien Nasiripour: "In testimony to be delivered Tuesday afternoon, David Lowman, chief executive officer for home lending ... will fight back against the program which calls for lenders and investors to decrease the outstanding debt owed on a home mortgage ... Lowman will effectively tell the House Financial Services Committee that it's the homeowner's responsibility to bear the losses that came as a result."

Media Pushing Deficit Hysteria In Run-up To First Debt Commission Mtg

USA Today gets so deficit hysterical it embraces the Teabaggers: "Nation's soaring deficit calls for painful choices ... 'We can't do this without a lot of pain,' [presidential debt commission co-chair Erskine Bowles] says ... Without changes, almost nothing will be left for defense, education, veterans or anything els ... The public awareness is best exemplified by the Tea Party movement..."

This year's deficit coming in lower than expected. W. Post: "[White House] officials attributed the results to higher tax revenue and to lower spending than projected on bailing out the financial system. If the trend continues for the rest of the year, it would mean the annual deficit would be $1.3 trillion -- about $300 billion less than the administration's projection ..."'s Dave Johnson hits W. Post for shoddy deficit reporting: "Obama did not 'balloon' the deficit, as the Washington Post claimed. It was tax cuts for the rich, Iraq and military increases, Wall Street bailouts and other conservative policies and/or consequences of failed conservative policies."

Debt commission member Alice Rivlin floats Social Security changes, higher taxes before initial meeting. The Hill quotes: "...Social Security is a rather minor part of the problem, but fixing that would have a lot of confidence-building effects, I think, and we have to take action on the revenue side as well."

Some progressives concerned about push for a value-added tax that could be regressive. Washington Independent's Martha White: "The prospect of a VAT is likely to be discussed by the fiscal commission established by President Obama ... 'It crushes the low-income and the elderly,' said Robert McIntyre, director of Citizens for Tax Justice ... Poor people, who tend to spend a higher percentage of their income than wealthier ones, are disproportionately affected by consumption-based taxes ... Offering refundable tax credits for Americans living below a certain income threshold, for instance, would help equalize the burden [argues Columbia's Michael Graetz]."

NYT edit board suggests some simple revenue raisers: "Congress could raise $28 billion over the next decade just by closing the loophole that allows wealthy private equity and hedge fund managers to pay a lower rate of tax than most other Americans ... Another good area for savings is President Obama’s proposal to bring the enforcement powers of the Labor Department and the Internal Revenue Service to bear on employers who evade taxes when they misclassify employees as independent contractors. That would raise $7 billion over 10 years."

Dean Baker says the deficit hawks missed the housing bubble, but aren't missing a chance to exploit it's aftermath: "Ironically, the collapse of the bubble was even a disaster from the standpoint of the issue that concerns the deficit hawks most: the deficit. The deficits that the nation is incurring as a result of the collapse of the housing bubble are projected to have added more than $4 trillion to the national debt by the end of this decade. The people who allowed for this bubble to grow unchecked should be incredibly embarrassed and certainly should be apologetic about laying the basis for this wreckage. It is difficult to envision a more serious policy failure."

Senate Ends Filibuster To Restore Jobless Aid

Four Republicans break ranks to end filibuster and restore jobless aid. NYT: "The measure must clear other procedural hurdles, but Democrats hope to win its approval this week. The $9 billion cost of the aid would be added to the deficit, which Democrats said was justified because of the grim national employment picture ... Four Republican senators — Scott Brown of Massachusetts, George V. Voinovich of Ohio and Susan Collins and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine — joined Democrats..."

Robert Reich sees downward pressure on wages even after hiring picks up, in "Outsourcing abroad has increased dramatically. Companies have discovered that new software and computer technologies have made many workers in Asia and Latin America almost as productive as Americans ... Companies have also cut costs by substituting more computerized equipment for labor ... The only way many of today’s jobless are likely to retain their jobs or get new ones is by settling for much lower wages and benefits."

Speaker Pelosi tells NYT's Bob Herbert deficit concerns should not stop us from investing in job creation: "Ms. Pelosi acknowledged that 'there is always a calibration' between concerns about deficit reduction and the spending that is necessary to substantially reduce unemployment. But she believes there are several fronts on which Congress and the Obama administration can — in fact, must — still move forward: on infrastructure and green energy initiatives, for example, and assistance to states hobbled with fiscal crises of their own."

Project Syndicate's Dani Rodrik says "industrial policy is back." "The shift toward embracing industrial policy is therefore a welcome acknowledgement of what sensible analysts of economic growth have always known: developing new industries often requires a nudge from government. The nudge can take the form of subsidies, loans, infrastructure, and other kinds of support. But scratch the surface of any new successful industry anywhere, and more likely than not you will find government assistance lurking beneath ... What determines success in industrial policy is not the ability to pick winners, but the capacity to let the losers go – a much less demanding requirement." (via Economist's View)

Climate Bill Surge?

E&E News predicts a "climate bill surge" as Sens. Kerry, Lieberman and Graham finish their compromise bill notes Mother Jones' Kate Sheppard.

Sen. Reid wants a climate bill. The Hill: "Asked if he hoped to bring the bill to the floor before July 4, Reid said 'I hope so. We're going to try very hard.'"

Sen. Kerry unconcerned that SCOTUS fight will bump climate, reports The Hill.

Grist's Todd Woody on the 2009 wind industry boom, need for smarter grid: "...a record 10,010 megawatts of new capacity added last year in the United States ... the number of turbine makers doing business in the U.S. has tripled from five to 15 ... There's an astounding 300,000 megawatts worth of planned projects seeking connection to the grid, only a fraction of which is likely to get built due to transmission constraints ... Constructing that transmission will be akin to building the interstate highway system of the past century, and will involve juggling a slew of competing local, state, and federal interests -- a task the market alone is unlikely to facilitate and finance."

The energy-intensive South could cut carbon with aggressive energy-efficiency measures. NYT: "...: introducing aggressive efficiency measures to industrial processes as well as to the residential and commercial building sectors ... could well offset the expected growth in energy demand in the South over the next 20 years."

Will Senate climate bill include "Buy American" provision? Bloomberg: "Chinese turbines powered by west Texas winds are sparking a debate over whether 'Buy American' rules should be imposed on renewable-energy investments backed by the U.S. government ... Buy-American restrictions may be added to climate legislation that will be introduced in the Senate as early as next week ... 'We need to be very, very careful about any kinds of protectionist measures' in clean energy, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said ..."

AFL-CIO Blog's James insists green jobs must be American jobs, with American rights: "We also should make sure that green jobs come with American rights at work, including the freedom to form unions, to bargain with the employer and to be free from discrimination based on race, religion, gender, national origin and immigration status and sexual orientation as well."

China Signals Gradual Currency Changes

President Hu Jintao says China will "stick to a path of reforming" it's currency system, reports Reuters: "China will chart its own course in reforming the yuan, President Hu Jintao told President Barack Obama, reinforcing the view that Beijing is likely to tip-toe, not leap, toward appreciation ... Notable by its absence in Hu's reported comments was a declaration, previously a stock phrase for Chinese leaders, that a stable yuan was benefiting the global economy."

Bloomberg says China won't wait very long to move. "Hu’s comments suggest the yuan will be revalued in 'coming months' especially because Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner can’t indefinitely delay a report originally due on April 15 that may label China a currency 'manipulator,'..."

Conservatives Offering Their Own Health Care Plans, And They're Hilarious

Conservative candidate seeking to oppose Sen. Harry Reid in Nevada GOP primary offers health care plan: barter. Washington Monthly quotes: "I think that bartering is really good. Those doctors who you pay cash, you can barter, and that would get prices down in a hurry."

Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO) argues insurers should get to deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions. ThinkProgress' Matt Corley quotes: "Access for kids who have pre-existing conditions, who would be against that? But access for adults, who have done nothing to take care of themselves, who actually will have as I’ve just described every incentive not to get insurance until the day that you know that you’re going to have medical expenses, that’s, that’s a very different kind of story."

TNR's Jonathan Chait flags the failed Republican effort to repeal Social Security in 1936: "...Republicans were sure that they had an issue that would undermine labor’s support for Roosevelt. Republican candidate Alf Landon, who in September had declared that Social Security was 'unjust, unworkable, stupidly drafted, and wastefully financed,' upped the stakes still further by insisting the federal government had no way of keeping track of Social Security recipients."

HHS working on defining "medical-loss ratio" so insurers cannot excessively profiteer. Wonk Room's Igor Volksky: "... it is absolutely critical that these rules don’t allow insurers to game the system or simply reclassify costs to meet the new requirements."

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