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.

Social Security Still Secure At 75 Despite Serial Scapegoating

NYT's Paul Krugman defends Social Security from attacks by WH debt commission co-chairs: "... To a large extent they rely on bad-faith accounting. In particular, they rely on an exercise in three-card monte in which the surpluses Social Security has been running for a quarter-century don’t count — because hey, the program doesn’t have any independent existence; it’s just part of the general federal budget — while future Social Security deficits are unacceptable — because hey, the program has to stand on its own ... what do Social Security’s attackers want to do? They don’t propose cutting benefits to current retirees; invariably the plan is, instead, to cut benefits many years in the future. So think about it this way: In order to avoid the possibility of future benefit cuts, we must cut future benefits."

Deficit hysterics can calm down, bond market still loves federal government. Bloomberg: "Bond investors seeking top-rated securities face fewer alternatives to Treasuries, allowing President Barack Obama to sell unprecedented sums of debt at ever lower rates to finance a $1.47 trillion deficit ... Less competition for bondholders’ funds may make it easier for Obama to finance future stimulus needed to boost the economy ... 'It would seem there’s room for the federal government to raise more debt,' said John Lonski, the chief economist at Moody’s Capital Markets Group in New York."

W. Post's Fareed Zakaria praises Defense Sec. Gates' effort against military waste, scolds conservatives from abandoning their principles: "Any thoughts of broader reforms or even budget cuts seem inconceivable, despite the tremendous pressure on the federal budget. While some Democrats have taken up this cause, most Republicans are blindly opposed. They should take the time to read two of Gates's recent speeches, one to the Navy League, the other at the Eisenhower library ... [President Dwight] Eisenhower understood, Gates reminded his audience at the presidential library in May, 'that even a superpower such as the United States ... did not have unlimited political, economic and military resources ... [He] was wary of seeing his beloved republic turn into a muscle-bound, garrison state -- militarily strong but economically stagnant and strategically insolvent.'"

GOP Sen. Bob Corker argues against letting Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire on schedule, on ABC's This Week: “Let’s leave tax policy as it is ... Let’s not fiddle anymore.”

Senate May Back Penalties For Currency Manipulation

Senate may take up China currency manipulation bill soon. The Hill: "Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) said last week both he and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) are closely eyeing how to add it to an already chock-full four-week agenda that begins in September ... The Obama administration does not want Schumer’s bill to move forward ... fearing even a Senate vote on the bill could impede U.S.-China relations. But lawmakers worried about rising unemployment ahead of November’s mid-term elections are under increasing pressure to take actions to help workers and the economy ... Schumer’s bill would allow the Commerce Department to consider currency when imposing anti-subsidy duties on imports, which could lead to much higher tariffs on Chinese products."

House and Senate not on same page regarding '10 manufacturing agenda. W. Post: "House Democratic leaders issued lawmakers three sets of talking points that included one package of new legislation, a collection of modest bills designed to revive the manufacturing sector. Senate Democrats have not exactly jumped to embrace those proposals, instead suggesting that between now and Election Day a more detailed agenda might be forthcoming."

Debit Card Fee Crackdown In Effect

Ban on shady overdraft debit card fees now in effect. HuffPost: "Unless a consumer chooses to opt-in for overdraft protection, their ATM and debit purchases will be declined if an account has insufficient funds. Prior to Sunday, banks could automatically enroll their customers in the service, which covers the point-of-sale transaction but can result in steep penalties ... Banks were prohibited from automatically adding new customers to overdraft protection programs starting on July 1. The latest Federal Reserve rule goes a step further by dropping the service for existing customers who never asked for it."

Concern that new anti-foreclosure funds will only help banks. The Hill: "[Dean] Baker suggested that if the government is going to provide up to $50,000 in loans over the course of two years to those struggling homeowners that the money should be used for any of their needs, not just to pay the mortgage. He said banks could offer a program that would allow homeowners to rent their home back from the bank at a lower monthly rate than their mortgage payment for up to five years, providing some security for those struggling to make monthly payments ... David Abromowitz, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, said the main problem with the funding is that lenders will benefit without requiring any concessions or matching of the federal aid."

Border Crackdown In Effect, Tea Party Doesn't Notice

Anti-immigrant Tea Party members hold rally on AZ border, ignore higher deportations, new funding for border agents. NYT: "The Obama administration insists that its statistics show that significant financing increases in the federal Border Patrol have helped bring down crime at the border and make the smuggling of immigrants and drugs harder than ever. But the activists who gathered Sunday had a decidedly different take. The border, in their view, is still far too easy to get across and has become so dangerous that some of them brought their sidearms for protection. Organizers urged participants to leave rifles in their cars."

Mother Jones' Aura Bogado investigation how anti-immigrant targeting in AZ has trampled on liberties of people of color: "I heard story after story—from citizens, legal immigrants, and undocumented residents alike—about encounters with deputies and cops determined to play Border Patrol. ... Native Americans told me they were targeted because deputies mistook them for Latinos. Latinos told me of being stopped randomly on the street and shouted at—or worse—by officers demanding identification. Alex, a third-generation US citizen, was at a Circle K buying water while his parents waited outside. He ran out when he heard a group of [country sheriff Joe] Arpaio's deputies yelling at them to produce their papers. Then, Alex said, they demanded to see his ID, too, explaining, 'The law says everyone here has to be legal.' ... Then there was Celia Alejandra Álvarez, who told me deputies broke her jaw during a raid at the landscaping company she worked for. Álvarez said she was denied adequate medical care during her three-month detention—a common complaint that has been the subject of hundreds of lawsuits against Arpaio."

President Pushes Clean Energy Economy In Wisconsin Today

Obama visits renewable energy company is Wisconsin today reports The Hill.

Coal Tattoo knocks NYT coverage of WV wind power debate: "The story is a nice overview of the issue, but ... the story paints the subject of controversies over wind power with a bit of a broad brush, and I don’t think really made it clear the similarities between poor government planning and regulation of both wind and coal are at the root of these controversies."

Anti-carbon cap CA ballot initiative may broadly gut green standards, reports San Jose Mercury news: "A November ballot measure that would suspend California's landmark global-warming law could also end up rolling back some of the state's other sweeping environmental standards -- including rules that require utilities to generate a third of their electricity from renewable sources and programs requiring oil refineries to make cleaner-burning fuels. How broadly courts might interpret Proposition 23 is setting off alarm bells among Silicon Valley executives and environmental groups."

Pace of clean energy stimulus funds criticized by Energy Dept. Inspector General. The Hill: "The IG reported Wednesday that DOE has given out roughly $2.7 billion of $3.2 billion in energy and conservation block grants provided in last year’s stimulus. But only 8.4 percent of the total had been used by grant recipients after more than a year ... As of July 9, the department had obligated 90 percent of that $32.7 billion [for science, energy and environmental contracts and grants]. But less than half intended for a couple of major projects had been spent and none of the programs covered under the stimulus plan had all funding obligated."

Health Care Campaign Is Not Over

Successful implementation of the health care reform law requires a political campaign, observes The American Prospect's Paul Starr: "... HCAN will be continuing its local organizing to 'explain and defend' reform, lobbying for it in the states, and supporting members of Congress who voted for it ... Enroll America ... will try to ensure that the law's benefits reach as many people as possible ... AARP has already conducted a substantial campaign to explain the law to its 40 million members. ... conservatives may continue preaching defiance and resist putting the federal reforms into state law in the hope a new president in 2013 will abandon the program ... The Affordable Care Act will have only a marginal effect on health-care costs before then, but it is certain to be blamed for the health-care inflation that will occur and would have occurred anyway."

States looking to use funds from health care reform law to combat rate hikes. USA Today: "Fifteen states and the District of Columbia will seek new authority from legislatures to regulate rates. Some, such as Illinois, Louisiana and Montana, currently don't have explicit authority to approve or deny rates. Others will expand the types of health policies they examine or approve. [And] Arizona, California and Michigan are among those that will hire actuaries to better scrutinize rate filings."

Jonathan Cohn, at the American Prospect, urges focus on transparency from insurers: "If the [health insurance] exchanges work as planned, competition among insurers will winnow out the least efficient plans ... But for that competition to take place, the buyers of insurance need information that they can understand ... the law isn't that specific about what information to include. Just benefits and price? Medical-loss ratios? Some kind of consumer scorecard? The administration's request for information from insurers has made them nervous because it includes not just basic plan information but percentage of claims denied and other details."

Simmering debate whether Children's Health Insurance Program should continue or be merged with new law. The Hill: "But [First Focus' Bruce] Lesley argues that the costs and benefits of exchange plans under the reform law are already well known — and they don't measure up to the benefits of CHIP plans ... supporters of repealing CHIP — a group that includes a number of liberal Democrats who once championed the program — argue the advantages of having parents and kids all covered under the same plan."

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