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.

Prez Pushes Exports Today In Latest Jobs Salvo

President to announce next steps in export strategy today. NYT: "President Obama, who pledged in his State of the Union address to double American exports over five years, will make the case on Wednesday that his plan is 'on track'’ and will name 18 business and labor leaders to a new export council to advise him ... [He will cite] various steps his administration has taken, including recent agreements with China to reopen the Chinese market to American pork and pork products, and with Russia to reopen the Russian market to American poultry products."

HuffPost's Leo Hindrey rips export strategy as insufficient: "First, doubling U.S. exports would create just 10 percent of the 22 million new jobs we need, and yet, combined with multiple new free trade agreements (FTAs), it seems to be the only specific jobs policy coming from the White House. Second, this strategy wrongly overshadows the more critical imperative of 'import substitution'. Third, the first three FTAs being proposed -- with South Korea, Panama and Colombia -- are very poorly negotiated and will cause even more American jobs to be lost overseas."

Recession crippling job prospects for many new graduates. NYT: "Apart from the 14 percent who are unemployed and seeking work ... 23 percent are not even seeking a job ... The total, 37 percent, is the highest in more than three decades and a rate reminiscent of the 1930s. The college-educated among these young adults are better off. But nearly 17 percent are either unemployed or not seeking work, a record level..."

W. Post's Steven Pearlstein calls on WH to cut deal with business leaders to get unemployment aid passed: " could enlist the support of the business community for extended unemployment benefits if it would pair the extension with a tax bill that would allow all businesses to deduct the full cost of investments and research in the year they were made."

Economic historian Eric Rauchway explains how many take the wrong lesson on fair trade from Smoot-Hawley: "Yes, the Smoot-Hawley tariff is widely understood to have been asinine, but not because protectionism is everywhere and always wrong–rather, because protectionism in the specific context of the late 1920s, with an awful lot of money owing internationally and a number of countries desperately needing to trade with the US, was wrong ... in fact protectionism has, in various times and places, gone hand-in-hand with fairly brisk economic growth." (via Economist's View)

Rortybomb argues that giving bankruptcy courts power to rewrite mortgages to help homeowners would be effective stimulus: "...cramdown would increase labor mobility (decreasing unemployment), the writing down of debt in a way that doesn’t reward speculators, shares the losses on both parts but limits the homeowner’s upside to be fair to the bank, and would help reduce the uncertainty of the assets on the bank’s books."

Goldman Sachs v. Deficit Hysteria

Goldman Sachs to the rescue! New report debunks deficit hysterics. Curious Capitalist: "...a meaty report from Goldman Sachs chief economist Jan Hatzius ... argues that [the stimulus] is now giving way to the deflationary drag of a depressed labor market ... What's interesting about the Hatzius report is not just the notion that we need more stimulus ... but also his thought that the two most recognized risks to a second stimulus, another inflation-related asset bubble and second, a dangerous level of debt, are not so large as to justify inaction ... What Hatzius does argue for is an extension of unemployment benefits, continued aid to state and local governments and more time for those Bush era tax cuts..."

HuffPost's Ryan Grim mocks Obama's "Mayberry Machiavellis" for misreading polls about the deficit: "White House political advisers, however, see the high numbers of respondents saying that the deficit is a major concern and think belt-tightening is needed. But [pollster Mark] Mellman said that part of the deficit concern reflected in polls is a natural bias of this type of survey ... Academics Benjamin Page and Lawrence Jacobs ... have identified an additional reason that the deficit continues to rank high ... 'The '"most important problem" question responds heavily to whatever is being emphasized in the media ... a well-organized and well-funded campaign against deficits (like the one led by Peter Peterson) can .,.. produce a temporary spike in responses...'"

Dean Baker accusses WH debt commission co-chair Erskine Bowles of "numerology" in place of economics: "He said that he thought that federal spending should be restricted to 21 percent of GDP, apparently expressing his reverence for the number '21.' Most serious policy analysts believe that government should provide services that it does more efficiently than the private sector (e.g. defense), while leaving services it does less efficiently to the private sector. However, Bowles apparently thinks that the government should instead adhere strictly to his magical 21 percent number."

FT's Martin Wolf attacks the baseless claims of the global debt hysterics: "The bottom line is clear: there exists, at present, a gigantic net flow of funds into the liabilities of the governments of advanced countries. Of course, some countries can still get into difficulties. But it is quite wrong to argue that the difficulties of a Greece or a Spain entail difficulties ahead for the US, or even the UK. The opposite is far more likely: flight from risk entails flight into something less risky. What is the least perilous asset for the investment of gigantic private financial surpluses? The only answer is the public debt of the big advanced countries."

Germany approves major budget cut anyway reports Bloomberg.

Reps. Barney Frank and Ron Paul explain why we must reduce military spending: "It is irrefutably clear to us that if we do not make substantial cuts in the projected levels of Pentagon spending, we will do substantial damage to our economy and dramatically reduce our quality of life. ... We may not agree on what to do with the estimated $1 trillion in savings, but we do agree that nothing either of us cares deeply about will be possible if we do not begin to face this issue now."

WH Bypasses Obstructionists, Installs Medicare Chief

WH speeds implementation of health reform with recess appointment of Medicare/Medicaid chief. NYT: "Although hospital executives who have worked with Dr. [Donald] Berwick describe him as a visionary, inspiring leader, he would have faced a long, difficult struggle to win Senate confirmation ... Under the new law, Medicare will be a testing ground for many innovations that reward high-quality care and penalize providers of poor care ..."

Congressional Dems embracing health care reform during recess. The Hill: "[Speaker Pelosi's] leadership team [has] seized on new polls that suggest healthcare overhaul’s popularity is rising, and they are urging members of Congress to use this week’s recess to tout the new law ... Leaders are encouraging members to demonstrate a new online tool for choosing personalized insurance plans; to highlight the arrival of Medicare prescription drug rebate checks; and to stage roundtable discussions on the so-called patients’ bill of rights, the insurance reforms designed to protect consumers from losing coverage and benefits."

U.S.. v. AZ

Feds file suit to block AZ anti-immigrant law. LAT: "The lawsuit urges a federal judge in Phoenix to block Arizona's arrest law from taking effect as scheduled July 29 ... the administration officials said Arizona's policy 'disrupts the national enforcement regime.' ... The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency said it was on track to deport about 400,000 people this year. But the agency said last week that it did not seek to deport illegal immigrants who were brought here as children or who are caring for children or close relatives."

Politico suggests suit is good for Republicans: "The suit could, of course, help boost turnout among Hispanic voters in key areas across the West. And stridently anti-immigrant rhetoric could turn off independent voters. Yet many foresee a midterm electorate featuring an energized Republican base—for whom the immigration issue has emerged as a priority—prompting moderate white Western voters who are concerned about jobs to decamp to the GOP at least in the short term..."

AP suggests Republicans are destroying their ability to attract Latino voters: "...some Democratic strategists say the GOP is playing a dangerous game. Past GOP bids to crack down on illegal immigration have driven Latino voters into Democrats' arms ... Americans who are most passionate about illegal immigration tend to be reliable Republican voters anyway..."

Mexico-US border governor conference scuttled over backlash. NYT: "...after all six Mexican border governors wrote to [AZ Gov. Jan Brewer] to say they intended to boycott the gathering to protest the new law, Ms. Brewer sent a letter of her own ... canceling the whole conference ... Now, Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico has stepped into the fray, pledging to salvage the conference by finding a site in another state."

Former Solicitor General Walter Dellinger tells TNR's Jonathan Cohn the Supreme Court will likely strike down the law: "...I don't believe that the Supreme Court Justices, whether conservative or liberal, will be at all sympathetic with the notion the federal control over immigration ought to delegated to 50 different states."

Small Banks v. Big Banks

"Lobbyist Urges Community Banks Not to Fight Regulatory Overhaul" reports Bloomberg: "'Do you really think Wall Street mega firms give a rat’s ass about small banks? Hell no,' wrote [Independent Community Bankers of America's Camden] Fine, who represents about 5,000 community lenders. 'They only care about the credibility small banks can wield on Capitol Hill to get them out from under this rock.' ... 'If this bill goes down by our own hand, our goodwill will be gone[.]'"

EPA Clamps Down On Coal

EPA cracks down on soot and smog from coal plants. LAT: "The proposed rule, which follows through on one of President Obama's campaign promises, renews an attempt by the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce pollution in areas around coal plants and in states downwind ... The rule requires aging coal-fired power plants ... to be upgraded with modern pollution controls."

Grist's Michael Livermore reports on the massive cost savings: "The EPA says the annual benefits of the regulation will be between $120 billion and $290 billion compared to a price tag of $2.8 billion -- a huge return for a relatively modest investment."

Clean Air Watch's Frank O'Donnell praises rule as "first step": "It is a big step towards taming the environmental monster known as the coal-fired power plant. But it is only the first step. EPA plans next year to propose rules to limit mercury and other toxic emissions including arsenic, dioxins, and hydrochloric acid."

Prospect of additional power plant regs now a bargaining chip in climate talks. The Hill: "Electric utilities are also negotiating with senators over receiving preemption from future EPA rules in return for accepting a carbon-pricing plan focused on power plants. They are facing strong resistance, though, from the American Lung Association, Environmental Defense Fund and others."

EcoCentric's Bryan Walsh on the indirect benefits for the climate: "...the EPA's tighter air pollution regulations will make it tougher and tougher for utilities to maintain—much less build—polluting coal power plants. Even without CO2 regulations or a carbon cap, tighter rules on traditional air pollutants will make life difficult for the most polluting power sources—and that generally means coal. It could turn out to be that tightening rules on smog could do more to fight climate change than anything else the EPA has done.

Big Oil fighting to protect its subsidies. Mother Jones' Kate Sheppard: "[The American Petroleum Institute] aunched television ads in ten states this week to attack what they classify as 'new taxes on the oil and natural gas industry.' Actually making oil companies pay their fair share like other industries, API claims, would have a 'devastating effect on our jobs, economic recovery and our energy security.'"

50 congresspeople urge Sec. of State Clinton to reject Canadian tar sands pipeline: "...much of Canada’s oil is extracted from oil sands in a process that releases higher levels of heat-trapping gases than conventional oil drilling in the United States. In addition, extracting oil from oil sands — also called tar sand — damages the local environment by creating toxic sludge ponds and destroying large areas of boreal forest."

The GOP is on the verge of branding itself the party of unemployment: "While it may be bad taste to accuse a major national political party of deliberately wanting to throw people out of jobs, there is no other plausible explanation for the Republicans' behaviour. They have balked at supporting nearly every bill that had any serious hope of creating or keeping jobs, most recently filibustering on bills that provided aid to state and local governments and extending unemployment benefits. The result of the Republicans' actions, unless they are reversed quickly, is that hundreds of thousands more workers will be thrown out of work by the mid-terms."

Tar balls near Lake Pontchartrain unsettle New Orleans. NYT: "...the city has constantly had to give geography refreshers to hesitant tourists, reminding them that New Orleans has no beachfront and is a two-hour drive from the state’s southern coast, where most of the oil has washed up. Those messages are now more complicated..."

Relief wells may be ahead of schedule. Reuters: "The well being drilled to halt the spill is a week ahead of schedule ... Retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen told reporters in Houston on Tuesday that crews were still aiming to finish drilling two relief wells in mid-August, and he shot down speculation that the first of the two wells could plug the leak in July."

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