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.

Wall St. Throws Hissy Fit Over Bank Reform Compromise

Wall St. campaign donor fleeing Dems after bank reform bill. W. Post: "...contributions from the world's financial capital [are] down 65 percent from two years ago..."

Some Dems say, good riddance. Politico: "Some members of Congress, especially Democrats pushing for strong financial reform legislation, have been reluctant to take money from financial firms, wary of being seen as in the back pocket of an industry in serious disfavor with the public since the meltdown of 2008 and the subsequent recession."

Booman Tribune argues less Wall St. support is good for Dems, maybe: "There's a big donor model and a small donor model. And there are hybrids, which is, in truth, what Obama used to fund his campaign. Now a big chunk of Obama's high donors are pissed off. If they makes him less beholden to Big Money then I'd count it as a blessing. But small donors will have to pick up the slack."

Sen. Scott Brown appears to be a "yes" vote on Wall St. reform. The Hill: "'I’m going to be making a decision soon, but I’m liking what I see,' Brown told WHDH television station in Plymouth, Mass., on Sunday."

WSJ speculates on who will run the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: "Democratic leaders in Congress say their top pick for the post is Elizabeth Warren ... Other potential candidates include Michael Barr ... Democratic state attorneys general Martha Coakley of Massachusetts, Lisa Madigan of Illinois and Lori Swanson of Minnesota; Susan Wachter of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School ... and Nicolas Retsinas of Harvard's Joint Center for Housing studies, a former bank regulator and a low-income housing specialist."

EPA Moves While Congress Stuck On Climate

New EPA regs on power plants could prod climate bill forward. Politico's Morning Energy: "The EPA is expected this week to issue its tough new Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR), and power generators are getting ready to fight back. The rule, which would rein in power plant emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, could play right into climate bill negotiations. POLITICO’S Darren Samuelsohn explains: 'Utilities are looking for relief from CAIR's strong new air pollution regs and industry officials say they would seek preemption from the smog and soot standards in exchange for their support of a power plant-first climate bill. But leaders at NRDC and EDF have signaled opposition to this move as undercutting public health protections.'"

Dow Chemical backing carbon cap. ClimateWire: "...said Peter Molinaro, Dow's vice president for federal and state government affairs. 'We start with the premise that you can't solve the climate problems without chemistry.'"

WSJ finds Obama administration helped reverse a 2009 anti-drilling court drilling without changing much of the prior administration's plans: "To satisfy the court's demand for better 'balance,' it included a broader environmental analysis, examining the impact of spilled oil on marine life and not just on shorelines ... It also scrapped a handful of planned lease sales in Alaska. But the proposal kept much of the Bush plan intact, and even added for the first time new lease sales off the coast of Virginia. It also relied extensively on environmental impact analyses carried out in April 2007 that the court had found wanting."

TNR's Brad Plumer rebuts the conservative argument that tackling climate change isn't worth the cost: "Pollution restrictions invariably turn out to be much cheaper than expected, in part because they trigger the development of new technologies. (By contrast, nature isn't nearly so forgiving when we try to muck with it.)"

Oil-state Dems chafe at party's criticism of BP-friendly Republicans. LAT: "[TX Rep. Gene] Green has been meeting with Pelosi, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman ... and other party leaders to warn that oil-patch Democrats could be in jeopardy if administration officials and the Democratic Party push a campaign perceived as anti-oil. He pointed to a stack of letters in his Capitol Hill office from worried constituents ... urging action to end the Obama administration's moratorium on deep-water drilling in the gulf."

Before it was polluting the Gulf, BP was polluting the atmosphere. Just two weeks before, in fact: "Two weeks before the blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, the huge, trouble-plagued BP refinery in this coastal town spewed tens of thousands of pounds of toxic chemicals into the skies. The release from the BP facility here began April 6 and lasted 40 days ... The 40-day release echoes in several notable ways the runaway spill in the Gulf. BP officials initially underestimated the problem and took steps in the days leading up to the incident to reduce costs and keep the refinery online."

How Many Ways Can We Solve The Jobs Crisis?

Obama should establish a living wage for all federal contractors. LAT oped by Christopher Edley Jr.: "An executive order to encourage federal contractors to provide their workers with, among other things, a living wage, would require no legislation, no battle in Congress ... 22% of workers in the United States are employed by a company that does business with the federal government, according to the Labor Department."

Richard Florida argues that for a robust recovery, government should aim to increase wages for low-skill service jobs: "...half of 15m newly created jobs [over the next decade] will be much lower-paying, low-skill work in the routine service sector ... The key is to upgrade these jobs and turn them into adequate replacements for the higher-paying blue-collar jobs that have been destroyed ... Last fall, the City of Toronto and the Martin Prosperity Institute organised a summit with representatives from the public, private and non-profit sectors to develop new strategies for upgrading service work. President Barack Obama should now do the same thing on a national scale"

W. Post's Eugene Robinson warns both parties on jobs: "Republicans block an extension of unemployment benefits, rail about the deficit and complain that Democrats don't understand that economic renewal will come when the private sector is unleashed ... individual [Democratic] members of Congress act as if they are more concerned about their own electoral prospects than about bringing those unemployment numbers down ... they should know that whether they call themselves progressives or Blue Dogs or whatever, voters see them as one party and will hold them accountable."

Tim Duy, at Economist's View, challenges his own assumptions about unfair trade, finds it is central to destroying the "American jobs machine" "Given the extent to which manufacturing capacity has already been offshored, those questions go far beyond the recently announced tiny shift in Chinese currency policy. Simply put, accepting the importance of manufacturing capacity and the possibility that offshoring has had a much more deleterious impact on the US economy than commonly accepted would require a significant paradigm shift in the thinking of US policymakers. If you scream 'protectionist fool' in response, then you need to have a viable policy alternative that goes beyond the empty rhetoric of 'we need to teach better creative thinking skills in schools.'"

Commerce Sec. Locke discusses trade friction with China in Newsweek interview: "What the Chinese are talking about are the number of cases that are filed against Chinese firms for dumping or for receiving improper government subsidies. While the number of cases in 2010 has gone up significantly, when you look at the industries that are subject to penalties, it still represents less than 5 percent of all exports from China to the United States. Hardly evidence of a trade war. That said, we are concerned that the Chinese favor their own companies in a variety of sectors."

Dispute over Chinese steel company investment in US. AFP: "China called for fair treatment of its companies on Tuesday after U.S. lawmakers raised objections to a giant Chinese steelmaker's plans to invest in an American steel mill. Fifty U.S. Congress members last week sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner urging an investigation into the U.S. plans of Anshan Iron and Steel Group, one of China's biggest steelmakers."

Facts Elude Stimulus Haters

Dean Baker blasts David Brooks' attack on additional stimulus: "Mr. Brooks doesn't tell readers how he has determined that further stimulus carries this risk [of insolvency]. He doesn't explain how raising the country's debt to GDP ratio by 4-8 percentage points over the next few few years would jeopardize the creditworthiness of the U.S. government ... Financial markets also don't seem to share Mr. Brooks view that national insolvency is a serious concern. The people who are putting their money on the line are willing to buy 10-year Treasury bonds at just 3.0 percent interest rates ... It was also easy to see that the stimulus approved by Congress was inadequate. Demand siders rely on something called 'arithmetic' to reach this assessment."

Paul Krugman argues the last two years makes it very clear who was right about the economy: "...what has happened has been very much what people like me said would happen: in the face of persistent high unemployment, inflation has fallen despite all that money creation, and interest rates have stayed low despite those budget deficits. If you bet on inflation and rising rates — which, by the way, Eric Cantor, the Republican House whip, did — you lost a lot of money."

Businesses and consumers need incentives to spend more, and austerity isn't going to accomplish that. NYT oped from Yves Smith and Rob Parenteau:: "...instead of pursuing budget retrenchment, policymakers need to create incentives for corporations to reinvest their profits in business operations. One way to do this would be to impose an aggressive tax on retained earnings that are not reinvested within two years. Another approach would be a tax on the turnover of corporate financial investments that would raise the cost of speculating with profits, rather than putting them into the business. At the same time, the federal government must continue to encourage investment in the economy — ideally by creating incentives for investments in national priorities, like new energy technologies."

Attempts to constrain military spending may not touch weapons budget. Bloomberg: "U.S. spending on weapons through 2016 likely will grow faster than the overall defense budget ... according to Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale ... Hale’s remarks are good news for defense contractors, said Todd Harrison, a defense analyst ... 'It sounds like they are trying to do everything they can now to avoid major program cuts in the next few years,' Harrison said. Yet, if the Pentagon goal of cutting overhead and support costs isn’t achieved, 'they will have no choice but to cut' programs, he said."

"Leave business tax breaks alooone!" says fiscally-strapped state governments. Stateline: "[They] are finding that controlling the growth of business tax breaks is easier said than done ... “We give out tax credits like candy,” says [CO House leader Paul] Weissmann ... 'And then once they are in law we never look at them again.' Part of the problem states are encountering with business tax credits is that good data on which to base decisions is hard to come by."

Breakfast Sides

LAT foresees clash between President and Supreme Court over regulation: "The president and congressional Democrats have embarked on an ambitious drive to regulate corporations, banks, health insurers and the energy industry. But the high court, with Roberts increasingly in control, will have the final word on those regulatory laws. ... As chief justice, Roberts has steered the court on a conservative course, one that often has tilted toward business."

Conservative candidates for state insurance commissioner posts engaging in much empty posturing. Time's Kate Pickert: "[Georgia's Maria] Sheffield ... sounds practically indignant about the Affordable Care Act in a series of videos posted on her campaign website. 'I will refuse to participate in any Obamacare policies that come across my desk,' she says in one clip ... But Sheffield admits an insurance commissioner can't pick and choose which laws to enforce."

Ray Madoff defends the estate tax in LAT oped: "...why should inherited wealth receive a free pass? The most common reason given is that this money has already been subject to tax when it was earned by the decedent and to do so again would constitute 'double taxation.' But there is no general principle that says income or property gets taxed only once. To the contrary, property is often subject to multiple taxation when it is used for different purposes ... your earnings are subject to both income and payroll taxes, and that money is taxed again when you pay sales tax on your purchases and property taxes on your home."

Obama administration to sue Arizona over immigration law. W. Post: "The lawsuit, which three sources said could be filed as early as Tuesday, will invoke for its main argument the legal doctrine of 'preemption,' which is based on the Constitution's supremacy clause and says that federal law trumps state statutes."

Robert Kuttner slams Obama for timid governing that will cost in November: "Without a drastic and abrupt course correction, the missed opportunities will continue to accumulate this summer and fall. The whole country, not just the progressive movement, will pay dearly." Jonathan Cohn defends the record: "Obama has made a pair of liberal appointments to the Supreme Court ... He’s populated the National Labor Relations Board with officials who actually believe in labor law. He’s rescued the auto industry, and the region of the country that depends upon it, from economic oblivion. He’ll likely ... sign a major Wall Street reform package, just as he did an overhaul of the student lending program. And [he] won the fight for comprehensive health care reform."

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