fresh voices from the front lines of change







Each morning, Bill Scher and Terrance Heath serve up what progressives need to effect change on the kitchen-table issues families face: jobs, health care, green energy, financial reform, affordable education and retirement security.

MORNING MESSAGE: What About The Jobs and Wages Cliff?'s Isaiah J. Poole: "One of the most maddening features of the current fiscal cliff/fiscal swindle debate is that the chattering class rarely acknowledges the people who have already fallen off the cliff: 5 million Americans who have been unemployed for more than 27 weeks. The roughly 7 million people who aren’t even counted as unemployed because even though they want a job they haven’t bothered looking for one. The high percentage of unemployed workers who had to settle for new jobs with a pay cut of 20 percent or more. The 2.7 million part-time workers who want a full-time job but can’t find one. And the millions of workers forced to sustain a family on a job that pays poverty-level wages. An economic debate worthy of a nation that prides itself on its moral values and compassion would have these people, along with the elderly and others who are financially struggling, at the very center of the national discourse. … It is time to push for an agenda that puts an end to throwing working-class people and the economically struggling off a cliff of economic inequality and injustice.

The First Social Security Cut Is The Deepest

Robert Reich calls the president's concessions on Social Security "unwise and unnecessary": "Why is the President back to making premature and unnecessary concessions to Republicans? …  These concessions aren’t necessary. If the nation goes over the so-called “fiscal cliff” and tax rates return to what they were under Bill Clinton, Democrats can then introduce a tax cut for everyone earning under $250,000 and make it retroactive to the start of the year. …Social Security should not be part of any such deal anyway. By law, it can’t contribute to the budget deficit. It’s only permitted to spend money from the Social Security trust fund. Besides, the President’s proposed reduction in annual Social Security cost-of-living adjustments would save only $122 billion over ten years. Yet it would significantly harm the elderly. … It defies logic and fairness to give more tax cuts to the wealthy while cutting benefits for the near-poor."

EPI's Algernon Austin has more bad news — a Social Security cut could increase Latino and Black elderly poverty: "Nearly one-in-five (18.7 percent) of the Hispanic elderly lives in poverty. For African Americans, the rate is one-in-six (17.1 percent) (Figure A). A cut to Social Security benefits runs the risk of significantly increasing these rates. Latinos and blacks tend to have lower lifetime earnings and this fact results in lower levels of Social Security income. But it is also the case that these groups have less wealth and therefore depend on Social Security more. Figure B shows that roughly one-in-four Latino (25.4 percent) and black (26.3 percent) Social Security beneficiaries rely on Social Security for 100 percent of their income. For these individuals, Social Security cuts will hurt the most."

John Nichols, at The Nation, breaks down why Democrats must break with Obama on Social Security Cuts: "This is what Democrats—and most Republicans—said during the recently finished campaign that they would never do. If Obama cuts the deal, he will, in the words of CREDO political director Becky Bond, be engaging in a 'massive betrayal' of his own campaign commitments, and of the voters who reelected him barely a month ago. The question is whether the president’s backers will back the betrayal. The only responsible response is to say 'No!'"

"Plan BS"

GOP Groups Don't Agree on Boehner's 'Plan B' [US News]: "Republicans who control the re-election purse strings are sending Republicans on Capitol Hill mixed signals as to how they should vote on House Speaker John Boehner's 'Plan B,' a proposal related to the fiscal cliff that would give Americans making less than $1 million per year a permanent tax cut. Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, said that the bill is not a violation of the "Taxpayer Protection Pledge," a document signed by 279 lawmakers that says they will never raise taxes. Meanwhile the Club for Growth, a conservative PAC that supports GOP candidates who champion fiscal responsibility, said it considers a vote for "Plan B" a step in the wrong direction. …And the Heritage Action, an advocacy arm of the Heritage Foundation, a GOP think tank, echoed the sentiment that Boehner's 'Plan B' is fiscally irresponsible."

Some conservatives looking for Plan C [Washington Post]: "Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) said Wednesday that some conservatives are trying to put together an alternative to a plan forwarded by House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) to avert the year-end fiscal cliff. According to Broun, some GOP rank-and-file, opposed to Boehner’s plan to allow tax rates to rise for those making more than $1 million a year, are proposing to extend tax breaks at all income levels. That idea would also be packaged with a separate Republican bill passed by the House in May that would shift automatic cuts in military spending set to take effect in May onto other domestic programs. … A number of other Republicans said they were still undecided. "

Jacob Bernstein says Boehner's "plan B" is BS: "There’s not much to say about Rep Boehner’s plan B…neither Senate D’s nor the White House would accept it so it’s just theatrics–and this is a very unfortunate time for theater. The plan would extend all the Bush tax cuts up to $1 million and that’s pretty much it … no debt ceiling agreement, nothing on sequester, no “doc fix” (cuts Medicare reimbursements by almost 30%), no extended UI. … Enough said about all that–what’s of concern here is the thing I’ve been worrying most about in recent days: as we get closer to a plausible deal (unlike this Plan B), can Rep Boehner deliver the votes from House R’s?"

Wonkblog's Dylan Matthews say's John Boehner's "Plan B" would raise taxes on the poor: "The working poor, on average, would see taxes go up between $1,000 and $1,500 dollars. Barely anyone making over $100,000 would see a tax increase, and as a percentage of income, middle and upper middle class people making between $40,000 and $100,000 a year would see taxes go up less. But low income families earning $10,000 to $30,000 a year really take a beating under Boehner’s plan. Of course, if we do nothing, then the 2001 provisions expire as well and poor families are really in for a bruising."

Sticking To Our Gun Control

CNN Poll: Bare majority now support major gun restrictions [CNN Politics]: "[T]he CNN/ORC International poll released Wednesday also indicates that a bare majority now favor major restrictions on owning guns or an outright ban on gun ownership by ordinary citizens and more than six in ten favor a ban on semi-automatic assault rifles. …Forty-six percent of people questioned in the poll say that that government and society can take action to prevent future gun violence. That's up 13 percentage points from January 2011, following a shooting incident in Tucson, Arizona that left six dead and some, including then Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, severely injured. A 53% majority still believes that attacks will continue to happen regardless of any action taken, but that's down 13 points from January 2011."

Obama calls for US gun control proposals by January [BBC News]: "US President Barack Obama has called for "concrete proposals" on gun control by the end of January, saying 'words need to lead to action'. In remarks at the White House, Mr Obama said Vice-President Joe Biden would lead an exploration of options after a mass school shooting in Connecticut. There have been calls for gun law reform after 26 children and teachers died at Sandy Hook School in Newtown. The president said a "majority of Americans" back changes to some laws. Those include the renewal of an assault weapons ban, limits on high-capacity ammunition magazines and an end to loopholes allowing gun purchases with no background checks, Mr Obama said."

Eric Holder: Gun Violence May Be Addressed Through Executive Actions [Huffington Post]: "The Obama administration will consider executive actions and specific proposals for legislation as part of its gun policy response to the school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said on Wednesday. Holder, who has been a vocal proponent of a new ban on certain semiautomatic rifles, told reporters that a range of options need to be considered in the coming weeks. Those options will have to include a 'strong and robust' Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the chronically under-funded agency that enforces federal gun laws, he said."

Wapo's Brad Plumer breaks down President Obama' plan to address gun violence: "At a press conference on Wednesday, President Obama announced plans to address what he called 'the epidemic of gun violence that plagues this country.' …First step: An inter-agency task force, led by Joe Biden, which will issue recommendations “no later than January”… Second step: He asked Congress to vote on a few key gun-control measures that have popular support … Third step: Ask Congress to confirm a director for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, something that hasn’t happened in six years."

Breakfast Sides

 Four State Department Officials Relieved of Duties After Benghazi Report [ABC News]: "Four State Department officials have been 'relieved from their duties' after an internal investigation of the Benghazi consulate attack found “systemic failures and leadership deficiencies at senior levels in securing the compound,” prior to and during the assault, a State Department spokeswoman said. An Accountability Review Board appointed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in September found that senior officials in the Diplomatic Security and Near East Affairs bureaus displayed management deficiencies that left security for the consulate, 'inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place.'"

Poll: Obama approval highest since bin Laden killed [Salon]: "A new CBS poll finds that 57 percent of Americans say they approve of the job President Obama is doing, his highest job approval rating since Osama bin Laden was killed. According to CBS, Obama also “gets high marks for his handling of tax policy, but not for his handling of the federal deficit.” Fifty-two percent say they approve of Obama on tax policy, compared with 37 percent who say they approve of his budget deficit policy."

Senate Republicans aim to cut Sandy aid bill down to $24 billion [Reuters]: "U.S. Senate Republicans sought to slash a $60.4 billion aid bill to cover reconstruction after Superstorm Sandy, proposing on Wednesday to fund only $23.8 billion in immediate disaster relief while assessing longer-term needs.The far smaller initial amount is one of a number of Republican amendments aimed at cutting projects from a bill that they see as a 'slush fund' loaded with questionable requests for spending on unrelated programs and big infrastructure." 

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