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.

Send A Message: Don't Cut Social Security

Hands Off Social Security: Campaign for America's Future partners will several major groups to demand office holders and office seekers protect Social Security. Sign the petition at's Richard Eskow says "It's Time To Play 'Social Security Survivor'!": "Of all the ideas proposed, my personal favorite comes from AFSCME President Gerald W. McEntee: A new reality show starring the people who want to cut Social Security. He suggests having John Boehner, billionaire benefit-cut advocate Peter G. Peterson, and Deficit Commission chairs Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles live for a year on the average Social Security benefit of $14,000."

Economist James Galbraith says don't cut Social Security and Medicare, expand them to alleviate high unemployment. Daily Beast: "Encouraging early retirements would mean that young people—just out of school, with fresh skills, good health, and high energy—would get the jobs they need now. They would not be stuck waiting, or spinning their wheels in school, for years and years. Meanwhile, the retirees, supported by Social Security and Medicare, would provide a continuing stable support to total demand, creating jobs for others as they get older."

Will The States Get Their Aid?

GOP Sen. Susan Collins may be the 60th vote for state aid bill today, as Sen. Maj. Leader Harry Reid adds more offsetting cuts. Politico: "Food stamp recipients would face an $11.9 billion rollback of added benefits first approved as part of the giant recovery bill last year. That translates into a reduction of about $47 a month for a family of three beginning in April 2014 ... Reid risks the speaker’s wrath on the other side of the Capitol by rescinding $1.5 billion from an innovative technology program favored by Pelosi to promote renewable energy investments ... The [state Medicaid] aid would be phased out under a formula reflecting Collins influence ... [She] appeared open to backing at least the Medicaid funds but leery of being the only Republican vote..."

Laura Flanders argues saving teachers' jobs in the state aid bill is the least we can do for our kids: "Last week, David Leonhardt at the New York Times cited a study that showed that teachers can make a huge difference in the lives of children as early as kindergarten. The study found that a 'standout' kindergarten teacher is probably worth $320,000 a year ... If we can't find $320,000 a year for kindergarten teachers, perhaps we can at least find a way to keep them from losing their jobs entirely."

Spill Bill Joins Climate Bill On Shelf

Reid pulls oil spill bill, as GOP plus two oil-state Dems resist lifting liability cap. Politico: "Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska), both close allies of the oil industry, made clear they opposed that provision ... Oil industry representatives said they are indeed celebrating the death of the bill but are likewise gearing up for more fighting in the fall."

Reid pins blame on GOP. RTT News quotes: "It's a sad day when not even a single Republican will support a bill that would create up to 700,000 clean energy jobs, and hold BP accountable for the cost of its disaster."

Enviros argue there's now no need to severely narrow the bill. CQ: "Environmentalists wasted no time Tuesday calling for Reid to bring his oil spill overhaul back in September with a renewable-energy standard that would require utilities to generate an increasing percentage of electricity from renewable sources, such as wind and solar energy ... The delay might also provide an opening for supporters of mandatory controls on greenhouse gas emissions to press for inclusion of a cap on emissions by power plants ... A broader debate in the fall could also open the door to ... a proposal by John D. Rockefeller IV, D-W.Va., that would suspend for two years the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases emitted by power plants."

"In response to one of the greatest oil disasters in history, the U.S. Senate will do nothing." concludes Wonk Room's Brad Johnson.

After 105 days, Deepwater Horizon well is killed. McClatchy: "The well reached it's 'static condition' — meaning the drilling mud was holding the oil in the reservoir by nothing more than its weight — about eight hours after technicians began pumping the mud into the well, BP said ... BP and government officials say they still plan to complete a relief well ... to insure that the well is sealed completely."

Sens. Landrieu and Begich still working on liability cap compromise. The Hill: "Landrieu’s idea would be to have the industry-wide fund pay for spill costs of between $250 million and $10 billion, with individual companies responsible for the spill having to foot the bill themselves for costs above and below that dollar range ... [Begich's plan] would have the industry-wide fund kick in at a lower dollar amount in order to further shield smaller companies from not being able to afford insurance."

"White House may end ban on deepwater drilling early" as it reforms drilling reg agency, reports W. Post: "Michael Bromwich, who heads the agency that has replaced the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service, will hold a series of public forums starting Wednesday in New Orleans. The meetings will explore the current system for drilling and workplace safety, oil and gas containment, and spill response ... he said [that] will determine 'whether we can develop a level of comfort on all three issues that would enable the [interior] secretary to lift the moratorium in a principled way' before Nov. 30."

NOAA says remaining oil poses little risk. NYT: "...about 26 percent of the oil released from BP’s runaway well is still in the water or onshore in a form that could, in principle, cause new problems. But most is light sheen at the ocean surface or in a dispersed form below the surface, and federal scientists believe that it is breaking down rapidly in both places ... the government remained concerned about the ecological damage that has already occurred and the potential for more, and said it would continue monitoring the gulf ... how much damage the oil has done to the eggs and larvae of organisms like fish, crabs and shrimp ... may not become clear for a year or longer..."

Conservative group tried to shakedown BP. W. Post: "...a conservative nonprofit group called the Institute for Energy Research asked BP to contribute $100,000 for a media campaign it was launching in defense of the oil industry. Although BP took a pass, the group's advocacy arm went ahead with a campaign -- only instead of defending BP, it vilified the company as a 'safety outlier' in an otherwise safe industry ... The initial proposal contained no criticism of the British oil giant or its handling of the spill."

Tax Cuts Didn't Create Jobs Before. Let's Fail Again.

HuffPo's Lauren Basset reports on a very familiar-sounding jobs plan from the GOP — more tax cuts: "After opposing, stalling, stonewalling and filibustering almost every recession-related bill for the past year, Republican lawmakers have finally proposed a jobs plan of their own: a bigger, more expensive version of George W. Bush's tax cuts for the rich. The Economic Freedom Act of 2010 -- introduced by Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) -- proposes deep tax cuts favoring the wealthiest in America, a reduction in regulatory oversight and the elimination of a federal tax on the estates of millionaires, which will allow wealthy investors to escape taxes entirely on a significant portion of their income."

"House GOP ‘Jobs Plan’ Would Give Billions In Budget Busting Tax Breaks To Huge Corporations" adds Wonk Room's Ethan Berman.

W. Post assesses House "Make It In America" agenda: "[The package] is still evolving and so far focuses primarily on raising taxes on multinational corporations that Democrats accuse of shipping jobs overseas ... Coming this fall: House hearings on Chinese currency manipulation..."

Undercut by USAID? Agency reportedly using taxpayer dollars to train Sri Lanka IT workers. Information Week: "Despite President Obama's pledge to retain more hi-tech jobs in the U.S., a federal agency run by a hand-picked Obama appointee has launched a $22 million program to train workers, including 3,000 specialists in IT and related functions, in South Asia. Following their training, the tech workers will be placed with outsourcing vendors in the region that provide offshore IT and business services to American companies looking to take advantage of the Asian subcontinent's low labor costs."

Auto parts industry thriving after government intervention. WSJ: "...U.S.-based automotive suppliers are not only doing better, but they are profitable, their stocks are surging, they are hiring and they're putting the finishing touches on restructurings."

Biz community rift over ending tax breaks for some overseas profits. WSJ: "...22 firms including Bank of America Corp., General Electric Co. and Hewlett-Packard threw their support behind a recent proposal from Sen. Max Baucus (D., Mont.) that would end certain small tax breaks on overseas income, raising $11.5 billion over 10 years to pay for tax incentives the firms are eager to maintain, including the research tax credit. The firms' embrace of the compromise represents a break from the position of such business groups as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers ... Companies are still lock-step in opposition to ... ending a practice known as 'deferral' that allows companies to avoid paying taxes on much of their foreign income until it is repatriated to the U.S."

Ezra Klein tries to unwrap the riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a mystery that is business confidence: "Answers differ from one businessman to the next, and from one survey of businesses to the next. A lot of the answers are in tension with one another: They want to see the deficit brought down, and they also want the tax cuts extended. They need unemployment to come down, but they want to see Washington back off. They want health care to cost less, but they don't want government to touch it. ...What gets difficult in all this is separating things that are actually hurting businesses from things that Republican-leaning business owners, for reasons of ideology or personal self-interest, simply don't like."

Bankruptcies may hit 1.6M. Bloomberg: "The 137,698 bankruptcy filings in July also represent a 9 percent increase from a year earlier ... Last year, there were 1.4 million consumer bankruptcy filings in the U.S., a 32 percent increase from 2008..."

Businesses, governments increasingly turn to wage cuts. NYT: "In a 2010 survey by the National League of Cities, 51 percent of the cities that responded said they had either cut or frozen salaries of city employees ... Some businesses are also cutting workers’ pay, often to help stay afloat or to eliminate their losses, although a few have seized on the slack labor market and workers’ weak bargaining power to cut pay and thereby increase their profits and competitiveness. Economists note that wages continued to increase in 2008 after the recession began ... But those wages have been flat for the last 18 months..."

NY Fed on the verge of foreclosing several properties. WSJ: "...a result of a souring mortgage portfolio it took over when it helped bail out Bear Stearns in 2008 ... The New York Fed faces certain unique issues. It is trying to avoid selling problem assets at discounted prices, which could disrupt markets and hurt banks. And while the regulator is open to modifying existing commercial-property loans, it is less likely than some banks to restructure a loan in a joint-venture situation if it meant the New York Fed couldn't call the shots in a restructuring ... If it proceeds with numerous foreclosure proceedings ... it could trigger concern among legislators looking to protect homeowners in their districts."

Warren, Moderate Champion For Small Business

W. Post's Harold Meyerson says to help small biz, pick Elizabeth Warren: "She is among the nation's leading critics of the credit card rip-offs that big banks have long inflicted on cardholders as a matter of policy. Precisely for this reason, she stands out as a small-business hero, because in the absence of bank lending, small businesses increasingly are turning to credit cards as a source of funding or operating revenue."

Politico's Gloria Park deems Warren a "moderate": "...her colleagues and former students describe her as a surprisingly moderate scholar with a genuine belief in the efficiency of markets ... Warren’s argument that the same protection should exist for financial products as for tangible consumer products is part of a broader point that such protection would restore a well-functioning market."

EPA Gears Up To Cut Carbon

EPA moving on climate regs, even if Senate isn't. W. Post: "The Environmental Protection Agency will soon begin regulating greenhouse gases factory by factory, power plant by power plant ... Starting in January, under EPA rules new permits will require the largest factories and power plants to show they have installed the 'best available' technology to curb emissions. Smaller sources of greenhouse gases like shops, apartment buildings and bakeries are exempt ... even before it begins, the EPA effort is the subject of lawsuits ... At particular issue is the 'tailoring rule' that limits regulation to the largest emitters: Opponents say it deviates from standards written into the 40-year-old Clean Air Act."

The economy is sagging, but a new report released by Ernst & Young says investment in green technology is booming, writes Grist's Todd Woody: "Venture capital (VC) investment in renewable energy, electric cars, energy efficiency, and other green technology jumped to $1.5 billion in the United States in the second quarter of 2010, a nearly 64 percent spike over the second quarter of last year. Green tech investment now has returned to the record levels of the third quarter of 2008, before the global economic collapse shut down the VC's ATM."

Stimulus launching advanced battery industry in Michigan. NYT: "...13 battery and related plants have received federal stimulus grants in Michigan ... Before attending [a Holland, MI factory] groundbreaking, [GOP Rep. Pete] Hoekstra ... criticized the federal investments in battery manufacturing as 'the wrong strategy, the wrong plan.' Mr. Obama, near the end of his remarks, let Mr. Hoekstra know he was not pleased. 'There are some folks who want to go back — who think that we should return to the policies that helped to lead to this recession ... Now, it doesn’t stop them from being at ribbon-cuttings. But that’s O.K.'"

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