Progressive Breakfast for December 15

Morning Message

Why Republicans Are Rebooting the For-Profit College Industry

PROSPER, a controversial rewrite of the Higher Education Act that just passed out of committee in the House of Representatives in a strict party-line vote, will reboot floundering for-profit colleges and revive the scandals associated with this industry should it clear intact the full House and Senate. It turns back the clock to the time when predatory for-profit schools and lenders could pay off government officials and political appointees, then turn around and cripple students with debt and worthless degrees.

GOP Scrambles To Line Up Votes For Tax Bill

Rubio says he will vote no on Republican tax bill without changes, other GOP senators voice concern. ThinkProgress: “One of Congress’ most spineless senators has thrown a wrench in the Republican Party’s plan to overhaul the tax code before Christmas. The Washington Post reported Thursday that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is a no on the GOP tax bill unless the child tax credit (CTC), for which he has previously advocated, is extended to lower-income families… His disapproval intensified after Republican leaders announced Wednesday they had reached a final decision on the specifics of the GOP legislation. The full text will be released on Friday, but key details include lowering the top individual income bracket to 37 percent and cutting the corporate tax rate to 21 percent, rather than the 20 percent originally proposed by the White House.”

Lobbyists Open Checkbooks Wide In Tax Scrum

With billions at stake in tax debate, lobbyists play hardball. NYT: “As the largest tax rewrite in decades powered through Congress, lobbyists found themselves sprinting to keep up and find ways to persuade, influence or cajole the small group of lawmakers empowered to tweak language in the final version of the joint Senate and House bill. The lobbyists and their allies opened their wallets wide to fund advertisements, phone banks and field campaigns. They leaned on longstanding relationships with lawmakers and staff, dashed off letters to congressional leaders and wrote checks to secure a few minutes of precious face time at fund-raisers… The winners and losers in the $1.5 trillion bill are just beginning to emerge after a scramble that, in different times, would have taken months or weeks, instead of days, and involved scores of lawmakers, not a handful. ‘You’re dealing with 14 people instead of 535 people,’ said a lobbyist who attended a recent fund-raiser for Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, in an attempt to make a client’s case to the senator, who sits on the joint House-Senate conference committee that hammered out the compromise bill.”

No Tax Cuts For All

Tax bill author acknowledges not all benefit from plan. Alternet: “In the halls of Congress on Wednesday, 84 activists from progressive groups were arrested for seeking meetings with their representatives to protest the GOP tax plan. Among those present was Alex Lawson, executive director of Social Security Works, which seeks to protect and expand the earned benefits program. Other participating groups were the Center for Popular Democracy, the Women’s March, the Strong Economy for All Coalition, and Hedge Clipper. Lawson noticed Stephen Moore, the conservative economist and tax-cut evangelist, walking past and pinned him down on camera, forcing him to admit that not everyone in the country is in line for a tax cut as the GOP has promised.”

Black Families Still Waiting For Hurricane Aid

Hurricane Harvey hit black families hardest, but they are still waiting for aid. Newsweek: “The hurricane labeled as one of the costliest natural disasters in U.S. history — Hurricane Harvey —hit people of color the hardest but many have yet to receive help. A report released by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Episcopal Health Foundation last week assessed the hurricane’s “impact on vulnerable Texans in the Gulf Coast region” and found that three months after the hurricane ravaged the state of Texas, black residents were being left behind in getting the help they need. In applying for FEMA assistance, 34 percent of white residents had their applications approved compared to 13 percent of black residents. ‘The conventional wisdom that Texans hit by Hurricane Harvey have recovered is wrong,’ Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation, said in a statement. ‘The people in the hardest-hit areas are telling us that they still face major hurdles before their lives return to normal.'”

Lin-Manuel Miranda Makes Plea For Puerto Rico

This is what Puerto Ricans need from the government. Right now. WaPo: “Puerto Rico needs a lifeline that only Congress and the Trump administration can provide. The list of needed actions is short, straightforward and agreed upon by Puerto Ricans of all political stripes. First, drop the crippling 20 percent excise tax on Puerto Rican products. This is an easy one given that the tax doesn’t exist yet. It can simply be removed from the tax-reform bill right now being finalized in House-Senate conference negotiations. Then, let’s take care of the health of 3.4 million Americans on the island. Puerto Rico receives only a small portion of the Medicaid funding that it would qualify for as a state. The island’s hospitals and health centers are struggling in the wake of the storm. We all have watched in horror how the death toll has been undercounted — by perhaps 1,000 people, according to credible estimates. With the health of so many at risk, let’s provide Medicaid parity while streamlining enrollment to many who are not working and need health care.”