Progressive Breakfast for January 17

Morning Message

U.S. Tax Policy Can Turn on a Dime. Has Ocasio-Cortez Just Turned It?

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the freshman lawmaker from New York’s outer boroughs, has the temerity to suggest that the U.S. tax code ought to subject annual income over $10 million to the 70 percent tax rate. Progressives cheered. Conservative heads, notes Michael Hiltzik in the Los Angeles Times, simply “exploded.” But for many years, this rate was considered normal. It was 92 percent under President Eisenhower and 77 percent under President Nixon. Today, no dollar of a billionaire’s income ever faces a federal income tax rate over 37 percent. Ocasio-Cortez's proposal is not radical: it's historically grounded, and mainstream common sense.

Government Shutdown Damages Economy

Shutdown will be worse for economy than first thought, White House says. NPR: “The partial government shutdown is inflicting far greater damage on the U.S. economy than the Trump administration previously estimated, the White House acknowledged. President Trump’s economists have now doubled projections of how much economic growth is being lost each week. They originally estimated the partial shutdown would subtract 0.1 percentage point from economic growth every two weeks. Now, they see that loss happening every week the shutdown lasts, according to a CNBC report citing an unnamed official. The economy grew at a 2.8 percent annual pace in the fourth quarter of 2018, according to an estimate by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. The partial shutdown — the longest in U.S. history — is in its fourth week. On Tuesday, White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett acknowledged that the partial shutdown’s economic effects are a ‘little bit worse’ than the administration first thought. During an interview on the Fox Business Network, Hassett, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, noted that White House economists had originally miscalculated the rate of damage in part because they failed to account for government contractors. About 4.1 million people work under federal contracts, but there are no official numbers on the number of contractors affected by the shutdown. ‘We’ve got a very large federal workforce with a majority of employees who are not on Uncle Sam’s direct payroll,’ New York University federal workforce expert Paul Light told NPR earlier this month. ‘They will not get paid for this unpaid vacation, and I’m not sure how they’ll recover if this shutdown continues much longer.'”

Pelosi Disinvites Trump To Give SOTU Speech

Pelosi asks Trump to reschedule SOTU because of shutdown. Politico: “Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday asked President Donald Trump to reschedule his State of the Union address — or deliver it in writing — as long as the government remains shut down. The president was set to give his annual speech to Congress on Jan. 29. But Pelosi said the partial shutdown has hamstrung both the U.S. Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security, potentially harming the security planning that precedes the primetime address. ‘Sadly, given the security concerns and unless government re-opens this week, I suggest that we work together to determine another suitable date after government has re-opened for this address or for you to consider delivering your State of the Union address in writing to the Congress on January 29th,’ Pelosi wrote in a letter to Trump. She had given the White House no notice of her plans. She later told CNN that the address requires hundreds of people to help organize and ensure security, and many of those staffers are now furloughed. She added that Trump could give the State of the Union from the Oval Office.”

Federal Workers Turn To Food Banks

Federal employees turn to food banks to feed their families. CNn: “With the shutdown in its fourth week, furloughed federal employees struggling to cope with life without a paycheck are turning to food banks and food pantries to feed their families, according to several organizations across the country.
Calls from anxious workers have poured into agencies, and some of them are bracing for what they expect will be an increased demand for food at a time when donations are typically low. Some organizations are already seeing a spike. Over the past two weeks, more than 280 federal employees have used a food bank that Catholic Community Services of Northern Utah operates, which is a 50% increase over the 566 regular clients who used services during that time, according to the organization’s director, Maresha Bosgieter. ‘We might have to make the amount of the food baskets smaller if it continues, but our doors will stay open,’ said Deborah Nielsen, the programs coordinator and case manager. Most of the federal employees who used the Joyce Hansen Hall Food Bank, which is open four days a week, work for the Internal Revenue Service, Bosgieter said. Last weekend in the Washington area, more than 2,400 people showed up at five pop-up markets for out-of-work federal employees and contractors. The attendance was more than double the amount of expected attendance at the markets organized by Capital Area Food Bank.”

AOC, Pressley, Tlaib Now On Financial Services Committee

Applause as AOC, Porter, Pressley, and Tlaib Head to House Financial Services Committee. Common Dreams: “Following outrage last week after Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) shut out progressives from some of the chamber’s most powerful committees, news that freshman Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Katie Porter (D-Calif.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) are headed to the Financial Services Committee was met with applause. Congratulating the quartet, Social Security Works called it ‘scary news for Wall Street and great news for the rest of us!’ The committee’s oversight responsibilities include U.S. banks and lenders, the economy, financial aid to industries other than transportation, insurance, international finance, public and private housing, securities and exchanges, and urban development. Confirming her appointment late Tuesday, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that she was ‘looking forward to digging into the student loan crisis, examining for-profit prisons/ICE detention, and exploring the development of public and postal banking.'”

AOC Schools Dems On How To Use Twitter

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a social media star, to school House Democrats on Twitter use. USA Today: “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez dances outside her office, solicits Instant Pot recipes and gets into fights on Twitter. Soon you may see other Democrats taking a page from her social media playbook. The House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee is hosting a session Thursday morning with Ocasio-Cortez of New York (@AOC – 2.42 million followers) and Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticut (@jahimes – 76,500 followers) ‘on the most effective ways to engage constituents on Twitter and the importance of digital storytelling.’ The lesson comes as a generational divide between members of Congress and the tech platforms they oversee has been on full display. Hearings with the heads of Facebook and Google over the past year showed that some lawmakers didn’t understand how the platforms made money – or even what they did. ‘The older generation of members and senators is pretty clueless on the social media platforms. It’s pretty clear that a lot of members have 25-year-olds in their offices,’ running their social media, Himes said. ‘For younger members, they think of social media as every bit of an established form of communication as print or television or radio,’ said Josh Hawley, who, at 39, is the youngest U.S. senator.”