Progressive breakfast 1/5
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. Bill Scher returns on Monday.
MORNING MESSAGE: America’s Family Un-Friendly Economy
OurFuture.org’s Terrance Heath. ”In his speech celebrating his strong finish in Iowa, [Rick] Santorum turned to another rhetorical favorite among conservatives: blaming the economic crisis on the “breakdown of the family.” … The problem is, Santorum has it backwards. It’s the economic crisis caused by a financial sector and the conservatism that allowed it. Back in 2008, CAF published “The Stress Test: A State-by-State Assessment of America’s Economic Health and a Prescription for Change,” that showed “trouble across the board” — flat wages, rising costs, unemployment, and more people living without health insurance — contributing to a general level of stress in “this historically optimistic country.” In four years, that stress has worsened…”
Bulldozing Obstruction: Obama’s Recess Appointments
With recess appointments to financial protection and labor relations agencies,Obama “kicked off the election year aggressively, picking a fight with congressional Republicans by sidestepping the Senate.” Los Angeles Times: “The appointments Wednesday, which had been stalled in the Senate, came as Obama moved to make confronting Congress a central part of his strategy for reelection. His job approval rating remains low, but Congress’ standing is even lower — “as unpopular as Ebola virus” — as one administration aide recently put it.”
Take Action: Send an email to President Obama for taking bold action to thwart Republican obstruction and will stand up for you against right-wing attacks that you somehow overstepped your authority.”
Greg Sargent writes that Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, a Republican facing a tough reelection fight against the creator of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, Elizabeth Warren, supports the recess appointment of Richard Cordray.“This seems like as clear a sign as any of just how toxic the politics of this fight could prove for moderate Republicans — not even the “Obama as tyrant” line can carry the day this time — and who is winning the argument over Wall Street accountability and the middle class.”
“This is huge,” DailyKos’ Laura Clawson writes of the National Labor Relations Board appointments. ”Without these appointments, the NLRB would have been down to two members; it cannot make decisions without a three-member quorum. Republicans were determined to block Obama’s NLRB nominations to shut down the board and prevent it from being able to pass rules like its recent moves streamlining union elections and requiring employers to put up posters informing workers of their existing legal rights.”
“Mitch McConnell Hopes You Won’t Do the Math.” James Fallows: “The only thing “unprecedented” about Obama’s use of recess appointments is how rarely he has done it.”
Fixing Our Dysfunctional Economy
Weekly jobless claims at 372,000, slightly lower than predictions, taken as a sign that the job market is continuing its slow recovery.
Americans enjoy less economic mobility than their peers in Canada and much of Western Europe, writes The New York Times. And even the right is facing the truth. “Liberal commentators have long emphasized class, but the attention on the right is largely new.”
The White House announced an initiative on Thursday to help create as many as 250,000 summer jobs and internships for low-income youth in 2012, reports USA Today. “Nearly 49% of youth between the ages of 16-24 were employed last July, the month when youth employment usually peaks. And only 34.6% of African-American youth and 42.9% of Hispanic youth had a job last summer. … The announcement of the new initiative was paired with the release of a new study by the White House Council for Community Solutions that found that in 2011 taxpayers shouldered more than $93 billion in direct costs and lost tax revenue to support young adults disconnected from school and work.”
Eight states and one city (San Francisco) raised their minimum wage this week [and] the opponents of the minimum wage are warning of serious job loss. They are likely to be proved wrong, yet again, writes Dean Baker and John Schmitt in Salon. “…[A] large body of research shows that increases in the minimum wage at the national, state and even local levels have not cost jobs. … Employers not only care about the wages they pay, they also care about workers’ productivity, and the rise in the pay by itself may cause workers to be more productive.”
Francis Fukuyama, the author of “The End of History,” is “questioning whether the global market may be the enemy of liberal democracy, rather than its handmaiden,” writes David Ignatius in The Washington Post. “In 1989, [Fukuyama] saw the technology-driven global marketplace — and its ever-spreading wealth — as a crucial reason for “the end of history” and the universal embrace of democratic values. Now, he worries that globalization is eroding the middle class that is, historically, the bulwark of a liberal political order.”
Conservative Crazy: The GOP Primary Circus Continues
Mother Jones looks at Rick Santorum’s opposition to public education spending—except for a cyber charter school he favors. ”Between 2001 and 2004, that online school allowed the Santorum family to live in Virginia, while sticking Pennsylvania taxpayers with a $100,000 bill.”
Ron Paul Would Allow ‘Open Season’ on Union Organizers, writes In These Times. “Several times between 2001 and 2009, Ron Paul sponsored the Truth in Employment Act, legislation that would amend the National Labor Relations Act to allow employers to fire pro-union workers (sometimes called “salts”) who join a workplace with the intent of unionizing it.”
Mitt Romney also declaring open season on unions and the National Labor Relations Board. Huffington Post: “Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is bashing the National Labor Relations Board in a new South Carolina ad airing the day after the Obama administration announced recess appointments to the labor panel. … Romney accuses President Barack Obama of adopting policies that “affect our economy based not upon what’s right for the American worker but, instead, what’s right for their politics.” ”
Romney’s tax returns, if made public, would likely reveal “fairly sophisticated tax strategies” that would be “not available to ordinary tax payers,” writes Brian Beutler at TPM. “A technique that puts you in a position that’s “like having an unlimited 401k account” sounds very attractive. But maybe not if you’re running for office, for Pete’s sake. When Romney jokes that he’s been unemployed for years, he’s obscuring the fact that he’s still collecting millions of dollars of investment income, which is taxed at a much lower rate than it would be if he, like most taxpayers, took home a regular paycheck. He’s also obscuring the fact a great deal of that same income is only vaguely connected to his own underlying investments, and yet benefits from a key loophole in the tax code that allows him and other wealthy finance veterans to more than halve their effective tax rate.
Newt Gingrich is having a taste of buyer’s remorse over those super-PACs unleashed by the Supreme Court “Citizens United” ruling, writes Politico. “After weeks of withering attacks by a super PAC supporting his rival Mitt Romney, Gingrich won’t stop talking about the injustices of unchecked spending — specifically the $3 million spent attacking him. …Though Gingrich says he still supports the court decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, his shift in attitude illustrates the difficulty that the free-wheeling big-money election landscape can pose for politicians — even, and perhaps especially, conservatives who philosophically oppose campaign rules as restrictions on free speech.
If the Republicans want to have a genuinely searching debate about the future of their party, they’d send Santorum and Huntsman off for the long fight, writes E.J. Dionne. “[Jon] Huntsman is a forceful economic conservative, but also resolutely modern. He’s a defender of science, a hard-eyed realist on foreign affairs who rejects [Rick] Santorum’s neoconservative moralism, and he speaks the policy language of an upper-middle class that likes its politics to focus on deficits and our future competition with China. … Santorum is what Republican strategist Steve Wagner years ago called a “social renewal” Catholic. These Catholics see opposition to abortion as a foundational matter and opposition to gay marriage as essential to “protecting” the family. They view the federal government less as a guarantor of social fairness than as “inflicting harm on the nation’s moral character,” as Wagner has put it.”
Corey Robin, author of “The Reactionary Mind,” talks about the “truth about conservatism” with Philip Pilkington on Naked Capitalism. ”…Conservatism is not really about conservation at all – except in one sense: the conservation of established relations of hierarchy and privilege. But what matters there is not the conservation per se – in fact, as I show in my book, conservatives will turn the world upside down in order to turn it right side up – but the hierarchy/privilege.” Also see Part II of the interview.
A group of conservative journalists and operatives is preparing to launch their own advocacy group with a similar name and mission to the Center for American Progress but very different target, writes Politico. “Based in Washington, it will have an annual budget of “several million dollars,” according to its chairman, Michael Goldfarb, and will house a new conservative online news outlet, the Washington Free Beacon, edited by former Weekly Standard writer Matthew Continetti.”
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