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MORNING MESSAGE: Obama’s Liberal Vision … And Its Limits

OurFuture.org’s Robert Borosage: “Progressives will surely be pleased by the president’s audacity and scope. There is much worth fighting for in the speech. But its limits are most revealing … The president vowed to create manufacturing jobs here – but advocated more corporate trade accords … Breaking up the big banks and continuing the effort to shackle Wall Street got no mention. The need to empower workers to bargain collectively as central to reviving a middle class was omitted … In fealty to his Wall Street mentor, former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, and now to a public opinion that he has helped to consolidate, the president continues to champion austerity – another $1.5 trillion over 10 years to reach the arbitrary $4 trillion deficit reduction total– in a time of mass unemployment and slow growth.”

Obama Adds Higher Wages, Universal Pre-K To Agenda

“Obama Pivots Left” says Daily Beast’s Daniel Gross: “Obama has received his share of grief from the left (and increasingly from the center) for focusing too much on the deficit and not enough on promoting demand. Obama seemed to take some cues from Paul Krugman … He’s pivoting from deficit reduction to demand production, from cutting spending (and hence employment and wages) to raising them.”

President calls for $9/hr minimum wage, then indexed to inflation. NYT: “If enacted, the measure would boost the wages of about 15 million low-income workers, the White House estimated. The $9 minimum wage would be the highest in more than three decades, accounting for inflation, but still lower than the peaks reached in the 1960s and 1970s … Under the current proposal, the White House said that a family earning $20,000 to $30,000 would see an additional $3,500 of income a year.”

Obama sets goals for universal pre-K. W. Post: “High quality early childhood education is seen by educators as especially important to help close the achievement gap between poor and privileged children, which has been demonstrated to exist in children as young as 3. Nearly half (45 percent) of 4-year-olds and 20 percent of 3-year-olds were enrolled in state or federally funded preschool programs in 2011, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University
Those programs cost taxpayers about $5.5 billion, an average of about $5,000 per child in 2011. The president did not say how much it would cost to provide high-quality public preschool to every child but some estimate it would cost at least twice what taxpayers are now paying.”

GOP resists call for revenue-raising tax reform. WSJ: “House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R., Mich.) dismissed the president’s new interest. ‘The president’s call for higher taxes is anything but tax reform … I’ll work with the president to close loopholes, but only if it results in hardworking taxpayers getting a simpler, fairer tax code’ … [Obama] called for a ‘tax code that lowers incentives to move jobs overseas.’ That could actually mean increasing U.S. taxation of some overseas profits. He called for lowering tax rates, but for ‘businesses and manufacturers that create jobs right here in America.’ Mr. Obama in the past has proposed raising taxes on U.S. multinationals that operate overseas, where they often take advantage of offshore havens to avoid taxes.”

Obama Encourages Bipartisan Immigration Reform

Rep. Paul Ryan acknowledges President’s bipartisanship on immigration. Politico quotes: “I thought that was pretty productive, I think when you have, when you’re in the legislative arena and we’re trying to get a comprehensive bipartisan agreement here, the words he uses matter and he used what I thought was a measured tone that gives me a sense that he is trying to get something done.”

No specific immigration policy pushed. W. Post: “He may have calculated the dangers of tying such a proposal too closely to himself: In a new Washington Post poll seven in 10 people said they would support a path to citizenship, but when the same question was asked with Obama’s name attached to it, support dropped precipitously, especially among Republican respondents.”

Obama Intensifies Focus On Climate

Obama floats low-cost ways to further cut carbon emissions. The Hill: “One urges Congress to create a new ‘Energy Security Trust’ to steer federal revenues from oil-and-gas development toward research into technologies to wean cars and trucks off oil, such as electric and natural gas-powered vehicles. A second urges creation of an ‘Energy Efficiency Race to the Top’ for states, which would provide financial support for states that implement effective conservation policies … But while spelling out some new energy plans, the speech does not describe other executive-level climate policies that the Environmental Protection Agency and other branches might undertake.”

Unknown if Obama will take on existing power plants. Slate: “So what exactly could Obama do in the absence of congressional support? … The most potent [possibility], and perhaps the most controversial, would be using the Environmental Protection Agency to restrict emissions from existing power plants. Barring divine intervention on cap-and-trade legislation, that may be the biggest policy prize that environmentalists can hope for…”

Rubio Sticks To Plan To Gut Medicare

Rubio fails to distance party from rejected Medicare plan. The Hill: “‘Republicans have offered a detailed and credible plan that helps save Medicare without hurting today’s retirees,’ Rubio said. ‘Instead of playing politics with Medicare, when is the President going to offer his plan to save it?’ … The GOP’s Medicare plan polls poorly, and Republicans have not taken any real steps to put it into action.”

Rubio, GOP playing with political fire. W. Post: “Poll after poll shows Americans of all political stripes balk at basically any major changes to programs like Medicare and Social Security … If the GOP does make a big push, it will be incumbent upon the likes of Rubio — who noted his own family’s reliance on Medicare benefits — to revolutionize how the party messages the issue. Rubio, in particular, began that process on Tuesday. But it’s still a very tough sell.”

OurFuture.org’s Dave Johnson reminds GOP, “they lost”: “Rubio claimed that President Obama ‘created more debt in four years than President Bush created in eight.’ Huh? Look at the charts … He talked about ‘the President’s devastating cuts to our military.’ Huh? What? He proposed privatizing Medicare and replacing it with vouchers. He went on with the old cutting taxes actually raises revenues scam — saying we need to cut taxes so we can grow our economy and that is how we will pay off debt. Huh? … Anyway, we just had an election that was supposed to decide these things, and they lost.”

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