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How the Safety Net Encourages Risk Taking and Spurs Prosperity by David Callahan, policyshop.net | January 22, 2013The standard conservative rap on the social safety net is that it turns people into slackers by providing a comfy hammock and discouraging work and initiative. Yesterday, President Obama offered a diametrically opposite analysis: Programs like Social Security and Medicare, he argued, actually enable people to reach higher: "...these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great. That may be the strongest defense of the safety net in a nation like the U.S., where the values of self-reliance and individualism run so deep, providing fertile soil for libertarian attacks on government assistance.More interestingly, this logic chain offers insights into how to spur growth and innovation. In a nutshell, if we can strengthen the safety net and de-link it from employers, we'll encourage more risking taking, entrepreneurship, and job creation. read more »
The United States Needs To See The Doctor by Harold Meyersom, The Washington Post | January 17, 2013January has turned out to be a banner month for fans of American exceptionalism. As documented in voluminous detail in a 404-page report released last week by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine, Americans lead shorter lives than Western Europeans, Australians, Japanese and Canadians. Of the 17 countries measured, the United States placed dead last in life expectancy, even though we lead the planet in the amount we spend on health care (17.6 percent of gross domestic product in 2010 vs. 11.6 percent each for France and Germany). We get radically less bang for the buck than comparable nations. If that’s not exceptionalism, I don’t know what is. read more »
Why This Round of Immigration Reform Is Different by Prisma Jayapal, colorlines.com | January 16, 2013Senior Administration officials told The New York Times this week that President Obama intends to move an “ambitious” and comprehensive push for immigration reform through Congress in the coming months. Four years ago, it was a very different situation. Progressive groups had a long list of competing priorities for the president, with the economy and health care winning out. Understanding how immigration reform “earned” its way to the top of the progressive agenda should shape the movement’s strategy in the coming months. Two major changes have taken place. First, the movement has grown in numbers and matured in sophistication, generating a new collective urgency among liberals on this issue. Second, the combination of demographic change and growing immigrant power have challenged Republicans, in particular, to get behind reform. How well the movement optimizes these trends will be key to getting the best reform possible and capitalizing on the unprecedented opportunity to win immigration reform in 2013. read more »
House GOP Sends Clear Message With Hurricane Sandy Vote: They're Ready To Cave On Debt Limit by Jed Lewison, dailykos.com | January 16, 2013Yesterday, the House of Representatives finally voted to approve long overdue relief aid for the victims of Hurricane Sandy. That's good news, and it's a story in and of itself, but there's another important story about vote—the measure passed despite overwhelming Republican opposition. Here are the raw numbers: Yeas: 241 (192 Democrats, 49 Republicans);Nays: 180 ("Democrat" Jim Cooper + 179 Republicans). This sort of thing isn't supposed to happen when Republicans control the house. Unlike Democrats, Republicans have a longstanding informal rule that no legislation will come up for a vote unless a majority of Republicans support it. That rule—dubbed the Hastert Rule after former GOP House Speaker Dennis Hastert—is supposed to prevent outcomes like the one last night, where a united Democratic Party teams up with a divided GOP to pass legislation overwhelmingly opposed by Republicans. But last night they ignored the rule—and it was the second time they ignored it this year. read more »
How Boehner Can Bypass Tea Party Republicans, and Prevent Default by Jamelle Bouie, prospect.org | January 16, 2013When push came to shove, and Congress had to approve legislation to avert the fiscal cliff, House Speaker John Boehner couldn’t rely on his conference to provide the necessary votes. The final agreement—crafted by Mitch McConnell and Joe Biden—passed the House with just 85 Republican votes. The remaining 172 came from Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats, for a final count of 257 to 167. To avert economic disaster Boehner had to seek votes from a overall majority of the House, rather than just a majority of his caucus. Which has raised an important question: Would Boehner try to build majorities with pragmatic Republicans and Democrats, or would he continue the Sisyphean task of wrangling Tea Party Republicans into a governing coalition. We’re still waiting on an answer, but if last night’s vote on Hurricane Sandy aid was any indication, we may see more of the former over the next year than the latter. read more »
Eight Things I Miss About the Cold War by Jon Weiner, tomdispatch.com | January 16, 2013During a writers' panel at a book festival in Los Angeles recently, one panelist shocked the audience by declaring, “God, I miss the Cold War.” His grandmother had come to California from Oklahoma with a grade-school education, but found a job in an aerospace factory in L.A. during World War II, joined the union, got healthcare and retirement benefits, and prospered in the Cold War years. She ended up owning a house in the suburbs and sending her kids to UCLA. Several older people in the audience leaped to their feet shouting, “What about McCarthyism?” “The bomb?” “Vietnam?” “Nixon?” It couldn’t be a sadder thing to admit, given what happened in those years, but -- given what’s happened in these years -- who can doubt that the America of the 1950s and 1960s was, in some ways, simply a better place than the one we live in now? Here are eight things (from a prospectively longer list) we had then and don’t have now. read more »
GOP Willing to Take Mind-Boggling Risks in Order to Push for Extreme Austerity by Joe Conason, alternet.org | January 16, 2013A prolonged confrontation over the nation's debt ceiling -- unlike the "fiscal cliff," which provoked many scary headlines -- could truly be grave for both America and the world. While press coverage often mentions the possibility of lowered credit ratings for the U.S. Treasury (again), that might only be the mildest consequence if Republicans in Congress actually refuse to authorize borrowing and avoid default. In short, the economy would contract sharply and the U.S. -- along with the rest of the world -- might well be plunged back into negative growth. If that was true in July 2011, it is equally true today, and there is no reason to dismiss that warning. But the Republican leadership on Capitol Hill insists that they are willing to take these mind-boggling risks, solely for the purpose of enforcing an extreme austerity regime that has already done permanent damage in much of Europe. read more »
Will Congress Pass Obama's Gun-Control Legislation Proposals? by Paul Waldman, prospect.org | January 16, 2013President Obama unveiled his package of proposals to reduce gun violence today, a mix of executive actions he can undertake unilaterally (23 of them) and ideas that will require new laws passed through Congress. There are a bunch of other proposals, particularly in those 23 executive actions, many of which are rather minor and involve clarifying existing policies. Immediately after he finished his statement, he signed the executive orders, but those were the easy things. The more difficult and consequential parts—the assault-weapons and high-capacity magazine bans, the universal background checks—will require Congress. It's going to be extremely hard to get such laws passed, though the background-check provision is the one most likely to succeed. read more »
Why Obama's Gamble on the Debt Ceiling Depends on the GOP Being More Sane Than It Is by Robert B. Reich, robertreich.org | January 15, 2013A week before his inaugural, President Obama says he won’t negotiate with Republicans over raising the debt limit. At an unexpected news conference on Monday he said he won’t trade cuts in government spending in exchange for raising the borrowing limit. Well and good. But what, exactly, is the President’s strategy when the debt ceiling has to be raised, if the GOP hasn’t relented? He’s ruled out an end-run around the GOP. So it must be that he’s counting on public pressure — especially from the GOP’s patrons on Wall Street and big business — to force Republicans into submission. That’s probably the reason for the unexpected news conference, coming at least a month before the nation is likely to have difficulty paying its bills. The timing may be right. But Obama’s strategy depends on there being enough sane voices left in the GOP to influence others. That’s far from clear. read more »
Madness In December Employment Numbers by David Callahan, policyshop.net | January 4, 2013The new job numbers are out and, at first glance, there is nothing surprising here. But here's a statistic that jumped out at me: 89,000 public sector workers lost their jobs in October, November, and December—with most of those losses, 66,000, occurring in October. Large-scale layoffs of government workers continue across the United States. Such layoffs undermine local economies and stymie the recovery. For every five workers who were hired in the past three months, one was laid off by government. This doesn't make sense. Government may not always do such a great job of stimulating employment growth through fiscal and monetary policy, but it sure as heck can bolster the job market by continuing to employ those people who do have jobs. Instead, thanks to austerity policies, government has been doing the exact opposite. read more »
Stiglitz Says U.S. Faces `Anemic Recovery,' Needs More Stimulus, bloomberg.com | August 6, 2010
Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz said the U.S. economy faces an “anemic recovery” and the government will need to enact another round of “better designed” stimulus measures. read more »
Employment Situation Summary, bls.gov | August 6, 2010
Small Business Bill Appears to Be Stuck in Senate, mcclatchydc.com | August 5, 2010
Pelosi Calls on House to Return Next Week to Move $26 Billion State Aid Package, thehill.com | August 5, 2010
Speaker Nancy Pelosi threw lawmakers’ summer plans into chaos Wednesday, announcing the House will interrupt its six-week recess and return to Washington next week to act on Medicaid and education funding for states. read more »
State Aid Bill to Bring House Back, Politico | August 5, 2010
Aid Package Aimed at Saving State Jobs Passes Key Hurdle in Senate, The Washington Post | August 5, 2010
Two Republicans crossed party lines to advance the $26 billion package, handing President Obama a victory in his campaign to bolster the shaky economy. With many governors struggling to close gaping budget deficits, administration officials feared a fresh round of state layoffs or tax increases could knock the nation's wobbly recovery off-course.
Senate Breaks Republican Filibuster on State Aid, Teachers’ Jobs, blog.aflcio.org | August 5, 2010
The Senate today voted 61-38, to end a Republican filibuster of aid to state and local governments that would save or create nearly a million jobs for teachers, public employees, police officers, firefighters and others. read more »
Foreclosed On—By the U.S. , The Wall Street Journal | August 4, 2010
James Currell is struggling to prevent his Minnesota home from being foreclosed. But his lender isn't a bank. It is the U.S. government.
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York is facing the prospect of foreclosing on a number of properties in the coming months, from homes to commercial buildings, a result of a souring mortgage portfolio it took over when it helped bail out Bear Stearns in 2008.
More Workers Face Pay Cuts, Not Furloughs, The New York Times | August 4, 2010
The furloughs that popped up during the recession are being replaced by a highly unusual tactic: actual cuts in pay. Local and state governments, as well as some companies, are squeezing their employees to work the same amount for less money in cost-saving measures that are often described as a last-ditch effort to avoid layoffs.
Businesses Split Over Tax Credits , The Wall Street Journal | August 4, 2010
In a letter to Senate leaders Monday, 22 firms including Bank of America Corp., General Electric Co. and Hewlett-Packard threw their support behind a recent proposal from Sen. Max Baucus (D., Mont.) that would end certain small tax breaks on overseas income, raising $11.5 billion over 10 years to pay for tax incentives the firms are eager to maintain, including the research tax credit.