Bill Scher's LiberalOasis

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Month: January 2009 (page 1 of 3)

The LiberalOasis Radio Show: The First 10 Days

Today at 10 AM ET, The LiberalOasis Radio Show was broadcast on WHMP-AM in Western MA. My special guest was Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News and the blog Attytood, who discussed his new book, “Tear Down This Myth: How the Reagan Legacy Has Distorted Our Politics and Haunts Our Future.”
The audio podcast for the show is here: (iTunes / XML feed / MP3).
Video of the opening monologue, about President Barack Obama’s first 10 days, the cratering economy and the importance of demanding immediate passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, is below in two parts.
To press your Senators to pass economic recovery NOW, call 1-866-544-7573.
Part 1
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mlLHLdqyy2Q&hl=en&fs=1]
Part 2
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DmPWDfud5fM&hl=en&fs=1]

The Week In Blog: Nonsensical Conservative Giddiness Edition

The latest edition of The Week In Blog is up at Bloggingheads.tv featuring Heritage Foundation’s Conn Carroll and myself discussing the conservative movement’s giddiness at … um … losing the vote on the economic recovery bill, Rush Limbaugh as GOP godfather, digital TV conversion and the carbon tax. Watch it below.
http://bloggingheads.tv/maulik/offsite/offsite_flvplayer.swf

Progressive Breakfast: Party of No

Progressive Breakfast is created for OurFuture.org, and is the morning roundup of what progressive movement members need to know to start the day.

House Backs Econ Recovery Plan

WSJ: “The House bill expands access to health care for the unemployed, represents perhaps the largest expansion of the federal government’s role in education financing ever and begins what Mr. Obama has promised will be a push toward renewable energy that will continue throughout his presidential tenure.â€?
MyDD’s Todd Beeton: “To Obama’s credit, notice The AP’s frame here: it’s a “swift victory” for Obama who has been making “pleas for bipartisan support.” Obama is winning this debate even though the Republicans think they can make him out to be the bad guy who is going back on his promises. Well played, Mr. President, so far.â€?
Jack and Jill raves: “‘I’m impressed so far with how Brother Barack has launched the first 100 days. He’s gotten a lot done in only about a week. Gives a body hope for the future. Things might get a bit worse economically (and therefore in folks’ everyday lives) before they get better. Yet a lot of people who really need a little help out there are finally, finally about to get some.â€?
New ads from Americans United For Change target Sens. Snowe, Collins, Murkowski, Grassley, Gregg for quick passage:
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D6Qdt8uQm68&hl=en&fs=1]
TPM’s Elana Schor says Senate prospects look good: “Brad Woodhouse, president of the Dem-allied group Americans United for Change, described the GOP’s stalwart opposition in two words: “political suicide,” the subject of his e-mailed statement on the stimulus vote. But maybe this was the Republicans’ plan all along. Now Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and his troops can start the next act in the show and ask for just a few more concessions in order to give the stimulus its bipartisan stripes. Either way, with GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe (ME) signaling her support, its passage in the Senate by next week is looking assured.â€?
Pressure for quick action remains. Stateline: Jobless rates up in every state

What Other Fights Remain?

WSJ previews:

Top House and Senate Democrats are also negotiating major changes to longstanding efforts to help workers who lose their jobs to foreign competition. The Trade Adjustment Assistance program, created in 1962, would be broadened to cover a wider range of workers, including employees in service industries, from accounting to aircraft maintenance, lawmakers and congressional aides said.
As the sweeping measure moves to the full Senate next week, tussles loom that will eventually require Mr. Obama to referee differences between the House and Senate. The Senate is looking to add more business-friendly provisions, for example. Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D., Mont.) is signaling a willingness to add amendments that would extend soon-to-expire tax breaks for U.S. timber companies, as well as strengthen a provision already in the bill that creates a tax benefit to encourage corporate debt restructuring.
An issue of keen interest to a wide coalition of businesses, including real-estate, home builders and telecommunications companies, is a proposal added in the Senate to allow companies to defer taxes in 2009 and 2010 that they would otherwise owe for restructuring or retiring debt. As currently written, the bill would require corporations to eventually pay back the taxes, and only applies when companies use cash to buy back debt.�

Reality-Based Community’s Jonathan Zasloff on transit funding: “Apparently some transit will survive in the stimulus, and that’s a good thing. But it’s not nearly enough, and remember, this thing still has to pass the Senate, which is even more tilted toward rural interests … Transit advocates need to assembly a lobby that can at least be in the same ballpark with highways. And so far, we haven’t.’”

Zero Republican Votes for Economic Recovery

TPM says GOP is the “Party of No”: “President Obama is extremely popular. The Stimulus Bill is pretty popular. Hill Democrats are reasonably popular. And Hill Republicans are deep in Bush unpopularity territory, as much as they now try to distance themselves from the man they once wrapped their party around. It grated on a lot of people — and I include myself — to see Obama going every extra length to cater to Republican nonsense. But it’s left little question who was doing what. One benefit the Republicans carry out of the 2008 election is that most of the remaining Republicans come from districts that are so red that it’s hard for Democrats to ever contest them. But not all of them. And in a lot the industrial Midwest especially, the GOP is the party of ‘no’.”
Booman Tribune sees a bargaining tactic:

CNN reported that about 30 Republican House members wanted to vote for the stimulus but were convinced to make this a unanimous rejection of ‘Pelosi’s bill’.
However, this is not the final bite of the apple for the House Republicans. The House version has to go to conference and be reconciled with the Senate version. At that point, the House will vote again on the final version of the bill which will then be signed by the president and become law.
So…those 30 Republicans will have an another opportunity to vote for the stimulus bill and two years from now, when they are up for reelection, no one is going to care that they voted against the stimulus today.
Why do Boehner and the other leaders want today’s vote to be unanimous? Because they still want to extract concessions in the conference. They want to bitch and moan about Pelosi’s bill. In the end, I suspect that a couple dozen Republicans will vote for the final stimulus bill. But they sent a message today that they have discipline.

Phil Singer has questions:

1) Will Obama use the fact that he continues to go out of his way to reach out to Republicans to paint the GOP votes against the package as intransigent and political? With Republicans refusing to heed his call to “proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics,â€? Obama is in a position to use their votes against them.
2) Will House Republicans pressure their Senate counterparts to follow their lead and oppose the upper chamber’s version of the bill? Or will they push Senate Republicans to pass a stimulus measure that they can support (i.e. one with a fix for the AMT) when the two chambers meet to reconcile the differences between their respective versions of the bill? And will Senate Republicans even care what their friends in the House have to say?

Reality-Based Community’s Mark Kleiman has advice:

1. Democrats should never let the voters forget this. Republicans chose the opportunity to give an overwhelmingly popular new President the finger over the opportunity to work together to drag the economy out of the hole their policies left it in. In particular, those running in 2010 against the remaining Republicans from Blue districts should wrap this vote around the incumbents’ next; when push came to shove, they put party first, country last.
2. When the House and Senate bills go to conference, some of the concessions made in the name of bipartisanship — in particular some of the inequitable and uneconomic tax cuts — should be taken out, and replaced by, e.g., a payroll-tax holiday for employees. And we should be sure to put the birth control funds back into the bill, Republican politicians, their corporate paymasters, and their fundamentalist voters need to be taught the lesson that obstructionism has a price.â€?

TNR’s Michael Crowley looks to 2010: “As it happened [in the first Clinton term], in the long term the Republicans looked pretty dumb for opposing a measure that immediately preceded a huge economic boom. It is true, though, that in the near term the Clinton Democrats were annhiliated in the 1994 midterms. But that had more to do with other troubles–gays in the military, the Somalia fiasco, a pork-stuffed crime bill, and various House scandals–than the budget vote per se. That said, the 2010 midterm campaign is now very much underway.â€?
Jed Report: “GOP 100% Against Economic Recoveryâ€?
Oliver Willis: “No Republicans on board, but as we know… elections have consequences. The party of no can party along as the rest of us do work.â€?
Matthew Yglesias: “The lesson I would hope the administration learns here is this: He needs to spend less time seeking political cover to mitigate the downside to possible policy failure, and more time trying to implement the best policies he can.â€?
Canadian Michael Stickings calls Republicans anti-American: “the Republicans’ true colours are bright and clear. They may wrap themselves in the flag, and they may play the patriotism card whenever and wherever possible, but they’re actually the anti-American party. At a time when the American people need help, and when the new president and the majority party are willing and eager to rise above partisanship, the House Republicans, once again, put themselves before all else.â€?

Zero New Conservative Ideas

Balloon Juice rips House conservative tax cut plan led by Rep. Eric Cantor:“Considering the Republican plan when the economy was good and the coffers were full was tax cuts, and the Republican plan when the economy was lagging was tax cuts, and the Republican plan while we were fighting two wars and the deficit was rising was more tax cuts, and the Republican plan for, well, everything is tax cuts, I am going to go out on a limb and guess that the Republican plan for economic stimulus is going to be… tax cuts …. I keep hearing him say that the Republicans are dedicated to preserving jobs. Now, correct me if I am wrong, but didn’t Cantor and the GOP spend the last few months openly rooting for the failure of the auto industry in the hopes that several million union jobs would go up in smoke? But now they are all about job preservation?â€?
OurFuture.org’s Bill Scher on how House conservatives falsely claimed their all tax cut/no public investment plan would create 6.2 million jobs, by distorting a 1994 academic paper by one of Obama’s aides.

Next To Zero Dems On TV

ThinkProgress: “As Media Matters has documented, during the Bush administration, the media consistently allowed conservatives to dominate their shows, booking them as guests far more often than progressives. The rationale was that Republicans were ‘in power.’ It appears that old habits die hard. Even though President Obama and his team are in control of the executive branch and Democrats are in the majority in Congress, the cable networks are still turning more often to Republicans and allowing them to set the agenda on major issues, most recently on the debate over the economic recovery package.”

More Transit Added to House Bill

Streetsblog “The House just passed Jerrold Nadler’s amendment to add $3 billion for transit investment to the stimulus bill. There’s a lot more work coming up very soon — in the Senate and in conference committee — but this was a hard-fought win and everyone who helped push it through should take a minute to pat yourself on the back.â€?
Greater Greater Washington has more detail:

According to Nadler’s floor speech, 1.5 billion will go to the transit capital formula program, which goes to all states, and 1.5 billion to the new starts program. The AFL-CIO and environmental organizations will “score” this amendment, he said, meaning they’ll factor members’ votes on this issue into their scorecard ratings for each Representative. Since it was a voice vote, though, we don’t know who opposed the amendment, making that impossible.
John Mica (R-FL), ranking member of the Tranportation Committee and the House’s leading pro-transit Republican, called this “an amendment we have to support.” The Appropriations committee, he said, “took one of the most important parts out: that’s the rail and transit.” Transit infrastructure creates jobs, he said. “Support the Nadler amendment!”
Transportation Chairman James Oberstar (D-MN) added, “we heard very clearly from the major transit agencies in this country. They have options for buses. They have options for railcars that could be exercised within days.” Manufacturers can ramp up production and create jobs all across the nation.â€?

OurFuture.org’s David Sirota likes how this came about: “This week, this nascent progressive pressure system emanating from Capitol Hill and the outside progressive media/movement intensified … DeFazio’s call to action was followed up by an outside-inside campaign to add more transportation funding to the stimulus bill – outside pressure is coming from blogospheric drumbeating, inside pressure is coming from lawmakers sponsoring the amendment … Suddenly, we have a Congress pushing the executive branch to be more progressive – and that’s a big deal.”
Gristmill’s Kate Sheppard: Rep. Oberstar passed an amendment “that would mandate that funds for aviation, highway, rail, and transit come with a “use-it-or-lose-it” provisions, requiring that 50 percent of the funds be obligated within 90 days.â€?

TV Blackout?

Nicholas Beaudrot frames the House vote blocking a delay in digital TV transition: “THE 155 REPUBLICANS (AND 13 DEMOCRATS) WHO WANT TO TAKE AWAY YOUR TEEVEEâ€?
Latina Lista: “House Republicans negative vote on digital tv switchover disenfranchises millions of Latino and African American families”

TARP Take 2

NYT:

As lawmakers pressed the Obama administration for details of how it would assist financial firms that have been rapidly deteriorating, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said Wednesday the administration is working on a comprehensive plan to “repair the financial system.â€?
Mr. Geithner declined to provide any specific details or to address rising calls for the creation of a government institution to buy or guarantee the declining assets at several of the nation’s largest banks. He discouraged speculation that the plan would include the nationalization of some banks.
“We have a financial system that is run by private shareholders, managed by private institutions, and we’d like to do our best to preserve that system,â€? he said.
But bank stocks surged on hopes the government was moving toward creating a “bad bankâ€? to purge toxic assets from balance sheets that are rapidly deteriorating as the economy worsens.â€?

W. Post on congressional oversight panel report, and GOP dissent: “A congressional panel overseeing the government’s financial bailout has concluded that the economic crisis could have been prevented with better regulation and called for a raft of proposals to overhaul government oversight of the financial sector … The group urged creating a regulator with the authority to oversee financial firms whose failure poses a risk to the overall financial system. The panel also called for further regulation of the mortgage industry, hedge funds and derivatives, as well as limits on excessive borrowing by financial institutions … The Republicans plan to release a separate dissenting report … ‘Before embracing more government regulation as the only answer, such advocates should consider the many ways in which government regulation itself can be part of the problem,’ the Republican report said.”

Union Ranks Up, Mostly in Govt, While Union-Busting Persists

In These Times’ Art Levine: “A new report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that union membership rose sharply last year, adding over 400, 000 new union members. But that growth occurred in the face of a wide range of legal and illegal unionbusting tactics and intimidation: Studies of hundreds of organizing campaigns have found that a fifth of all pro-union activists are fired during a campaign, half of all employers threaten to shut down their plant and roughly 80% of employers hire unionbusting consultants. Even so, as union activists point out, when workers are allowed to join unions, they do. ”
W. Post on business lobby reaction: “‘Organized labor is running ads claiming that current labor laws prevent them from signing up new members. Too bad the facts aren’t cooperating,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce chief legal officer Steven Law blogged yesterday. Union officials instead focused attention on the fact that the gains in unionization were largely achieved by federal, state and city government workers — and not at private companies. … Indeed, the rates of unionization between the private and public sector are starkly different. According to the new federal information, 7.6 percent of private-sector employees belong to a union, while about 37 percent of government employees do.”

Gore Calls For Cap-and-Trade and Global Treaty This Year

Al Gore’s Senate testimony: “Quickly building our capacity to generate clean electricity will lay the groundwork for the next major step needed: placing a price on carbon. If Congress acts right away to pass President Obama’s Recovery package and then takes decisive action this year to institute a cap-and-trade system for CO2 emissions – as many of our states and many other countries have already done – the United States will regain its credibility and enter the Copenhagen treaty talks with a renewed authority to lead the world in shaping a fair and effective treaty. And this treaty must be negotiated this year. Not next year. This year.â€?
US News: “…there were new indications that a cap-and-trade bill on carbon dioxide could emerge later this year, as a reassuring precursor to U.S. participation in next December’s climate change conference in Copenhagen … From the Republican ranks, there was much less vocal opposition to Gore’s arguments—his data about polar ice melting, his narrative of the consequences of rising carbon dioxide levels for civilization—than there was just a few years ago. Senators of both parties seem to now mostly agree that a price on carbon dioxide, most likely through a cap-and-trade system, is inevitable, even coming soon.â€?
Gristmill’s Tom Laskawy: “…as necessary as a robust, functioning cap-and-trade system is to addressing climate change, the opinion among many environmentalists is very much that government regulation, i.e. emissions cuts by decree, holds the key to a low-carbon future. The reason? The emissions cuts are going to have to be really, really, really big and markets, while very good at the trading part, don’t do such a good job with the capping part.

SCHIP, Covering Legal Immigrants, To Pass Senate Today

W. Post: “The Senate is expected to approve a bill today that provides health insurance to about 11 million low-income children … Senate Democrats, after easily defeating Republican attempts to narrow the bill yesterday, predicted they had the votes to renew and expand [SCHIP] … In particular, Republicans objected to a provision in both the House and Senate versions that would, for the first time, lift a five-year waiting period for children of legal immigrants to enroll in the program. ‘This is not the bill we intended,’ bellowed the normally mild-mannered Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) … ‘Those kids come from low-income families with parents that work hard and pay taxes just like citizens,” countered Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.). ‘And, those kids need checkups and prescriptions just like all other CHIP kids.'”

Will Obama Get Stingy, or Bolder?

Yesterday there was news Obama would soon install PAYGO rules that could restrict more bold public investment. Today brings differing indications.
National Review’s Guy Benson reports House conservatives blowing gaskets after Obama told FDR didn’t spend enough, early enough. One member relayed to his area’s radio station: “The president offered a comment in the conference the other day. He said that the spending program that President Roosevelt used in the beginning of the depression — the real problem was that Roosevelt slowed down on public spending in the first two years. If he’d just kept on spending that money, we’d have gotten out of the depression quicker. I think [that’s] an indication of what’s coming.”
WH Press Sec Robert Gibbs also indicated more is coming: “We are not going to be out of the woods after only a certain period of time. There are obviously going to be time periods after that where we’re going to have to continue to do — we’re going to have to continue to make investments in order to continue that economic growth and that job growth. This isn’t a one-time deal. We are going to have to work actively, not just this year, not just next year, but likely the year after that. The stimulus program isn’t going to, in and of itself, solve every problem. We’ve got a lot of work to do, and it’s going to take a long time to get that done.”
Upcoming NYT Magazine offers glimpse at Obama administration thinking:

The economy will recover. It won’t recover anytime soon. It is likely to get significantly worse over the course of 2009, no matter what President Obama and Congress do. And resolving the financial crisis will require both aggressiveness and creativity. In fact, the main lesson from other crises of the past century is that governments tend to err on the side of too much caution — of taking the punch bowl away before the party has truly started up again. “The mistake the United States made during the Depression and the Japanese made during the ‘90s was too much start-stop in their policies,â€? said Timothy Geithner, Obama’s choice for Treasury secretary, when I went to visit him in his transition office a few weeks ago. Japan announced stimulus measures even as it was cutting other government spending. Franklin Roosevelt flirted with fiscal discipline midway through the New Deal, and the country slipped back into decline.
Geithner arguably made a similar miscalculation himself last year as a top Federal Reserve official who was part of a team that allowed Lehman Brothers to fail. But he insisted that the Obama administration had learned history’s lesson. “We’re just not going to make that mistake,â€? Geithner said. “We’re not going to do that. We’ll keep at it until it’s done, whatever it takes.â€?

Progressive Breakfast: Economists Back Economic Recovery

Progressive Breakfast is created for OurFuture.org, and is the morning roundup of what progressive movement members need to know to start the day.

House Vote Today

AP: President Barack Obama’s expansive and expensive plan to jump-start the economy is all but certain to clear its first hurdle when the Democratic-controlled House votes on a $825 billion version that melds new spending and tax cuts. Republican support, however, is in doubt when voting takes place Wednesday.”
House bill moves after Obama administration agrees to PAYGO rules following passage. The Hill reports: “House Democrats won a key procedural vote Tuesday on the stimulus after a last-minute promise from the Obama administration to return to ‘pay-as-you-go’ budget rules after the stimulus is approved. In a 224-199 vote, the House approved a resolution allowing the stimulus bill to come to the floor for debate. Twenty-seven Democrats — 24 of them members of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition — bucked their leadership and voted against the measure. But according to Democratic leadership sources, the number was almost much higher — and could have been high enough to hand the Republicans a monumental victory — had it not been for a letter from President Obama’s budget director Peter Orszag … ‘Moving forward, we need to return to the fiscal responsibility and pay-as-you-go budgeting that we had in the 1990’s for all non-emergency measures,’ Orszag continued.”
PAYGO rules would restrict additional deficit spending which by definition is stimulative, but could also produce pressure to quickly repeal Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and close corporate tax loopholes. Question: will anything else be deemed an “emergency”?
Progressive Breakfast
Obama holds firm on tax credits for the poor. W. Post: ” He staunchly defended one of [the Republicans’] least favorite provisions, a $500-per-individual tax credit that can be claimed by people who make too little to pay income taxes but currently pay payroll taxes. Republicans oppose the so-called refundable credits, arguing that they are a form of welfare. ‘Feel free to whack me over the head, because I probably will not compromise on that part,’ Obama said of the refundability portion, according to a GOP participant who took notes during the House meeting. ‘I will watch you on Fox News and feel bad about myself.'”
Senate version totals $888B after $70B provision protecting upper-middle class from Alternative Minimum Tax: “The addition of the AMT provision may increase Republican support in the Senate … but may deepen resistance among more fiscally conservative House Republicans.”

Most Economists, Most Voters Back Economic Recovery

Center for American Progress Action Fund publishes letter in support of economic recovery bill signed by prominent economists from “across the spectrum,” while libertarian CATO publishes NYT ad opposing the plan featuring right-wing economists.
McClatchy settles the score: “…most leading economists who are experienced in public policy generally favor the stimulus plan that the House is considering because through it the government will step up spending at a time when private-sector spending has fallen off sharply. Some economists are ideologically opposed to any such massive government plan. The Cato Institute, a libertarian research center, has organized a list of dozens of academic economists who oppose the plan, urging instead tax cuts and smaller government, in favor of free markets and lower taxes over big government activities … However, that isn’t where the balance of expert opinion comes down today.”
NYT’s David Leonhardt mostly praises: “…for all the criticism the stimulus package has been getting, it does pretty well by several important yardsticks. First of all, the package really is stimulus. It will quickly give money to the people who have been hardest hit by the recession and who, not coincidentally, will be most likely to spend that money soon. The spending also has a chance to do some long-term good, by paying for the computerization of medical records, the weatherization of homes and other such investments … it still is a missed opportunity in a few instances. The biggest is infrastructure … This bill should help the economy in both the near term and the long term. But the government doesn’t go out and spend about $800 billion every day. The details matter.”
Also from NYT: “…House Democrats would create a temporary new entitlement allowing workers getting unemployment checks to qualify for Medicaid, the health program for low-income people [and give] a hefty subsidy to help laid-off workers retain the same health plans they had from their former employers … Democrats said the changes took a major step toward their goal of coverage for all Americans.”
Media Matters: “CNN’s Brown, Velshi falsely claimed increased food stamps and unemployment payments are ‘not stimulus'”
Pollster’s Mark Blumenthal review the polling: “When asked whether they favor or oppose an ‘economic stimulus’ plan that would cost $800 billion or so (give or take a hundred million), Americans generally express support in the mid-50-percent range … When the questions provide more information on how the $800 billion (or so) will be spent, usually specifying a combination of tax cuts and transportation, education and energy projects, support grows to mid-60 low-70 percent range.”
TPM: Support for Obama’s Stimulus Plan, very high. Support for Boehner and McConnell, very low.
W. Post covers concern among some progressive congresspeople that the bill is not big enough: “Administration officials have said they did not push for more infrastructure spending because of concerns about how many projects are ‘shovel ready’ — a view that House members say is held most strongly by Lawrence H. Summers, Obama’s chief economic adviser. Even though most House Democrats say they will back the plan, many reject the administration’s argument, saying that infrastructure projects could easily be expedited, that the economy will need additional infusions for years to come and that the real reason for shunning infrastructure was to make room for tax cuts. Obama, with a public mandate to do something big, is missing a rare opportunity to rebuild the country, they say.”

Bipartisan Kabuki

Digby exposes the “bipartisanship” tactic: “The GOP hissy fit has worked like a charm. The villagers are all on the same page: the ‘problem,’ as always, is that Democrats are not doing everything they are precisely told to do by the Republicans. They are being partisan. The Republicans weeping and wailing like Victorian spinsters works every time.”
Speaker Pelosi explains bipartisanship to the media: “Bipartisanship means giving an opportunity to make their voices heard and maybe to persuade in the marketplace of ideas. It does not mean we will have a continuation of the last eight years of failed economic policies that have taken us where we are today.”

Obama Tries to Extinguish Conservative-Lit Brush Fires

Politico: “Obama and his often stormy Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel interceded in the House to strike a provision related to the purchase of contraceptives with Medicaid funds. A $200 million appropriation in the House bill to improve the National Mall in Washington was dropped after pressure from Blue Dog fiscal conservatives.”
Time on the GOP strategy: “Sowing the seeds of discontent between Obama and Pelosi is a no-lose proposition for the GOP: If Obama wins they get a bigger seat at the table, and if Pelosi gets her way, it’s a blow to Obama’s promises of inclusiveness and bipartisanship. ‘If he’s willing to kick [the Democratic leaders], we’re willing to applaud, we’ll take it,’ another GOP leadership aide said. ‘Am I trying to stir up trouble between him and his party? Of course I am.'”
Kos slaps Dems: “They never learn”

How Much Biz Tax Cuts?

Politico reports that the Senate Finance Committee added “more tax relief” to its version, but OurFuture.org’s Bernie Horn observes, “if the Senate version is adopted, only 3 percent of the spending is for business tax breaks. If the House version is adopted, it’s only 11â?„2 percent. Either way, this is a bill that is between 97 and 98.5 percent targeted toward good causes.”

Business Lobby Won’t Buy American

W. Post’s Harold Meyerson rips the business lobby for opposing “Buy American” provision: “The debate about the stimulus package before Congress has helped expose the huge rift between our national interest and that of our globalized business sector. Last week, the House Appropriations Committee voted almost unanimously to require the use of U.S.-made steel in the infrastructure projects included in the stimulus, unless the U.S. industry — which is running at 43 percent of capacity — was unable to supply it. You might think that American business, beyond the steel industry, would welcome such language, but, in fact, using Americans’ tax dollars to stimulate American production looks like the last thing globalized American business wants. A letter opposing “Buy American” provisions in the stimulus has been signed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable and several other such groups … The only mystery here is why the Chamber and the Roundtable aren’t compelled to register as foreign lobbyists.”

Transit Watch

Politico reports high-speed rail added in the Senate, but at a cost: “the Senate Appropriations Committee leadership stepped in to dramatically scale back an Obama-backed proposal to devote as much as $2.6 billion for the purchase of new energy-efficient vehicles for the government’s fleet … the vehicle purchases had been cut back to $600 million, with $2 billion instead devoted to high-speed rail corridors. ‘We would have been killed,’ Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) told Politico. ‘Someone didn’t think that out very well.'”
Streetsblog: “A spokesman for Jerrold Nadler confirms that the amendment to boost transit funding in the stimulus package has cleared the House Rules Committee. That means the full House will decide whether to add $3 billion in transit investment to the economic recovery bill — a vote that could take place as soon as noon [today]. The most important House member to call now is the one who represents you.”
Transportation for America posts a map, The United States of Transit Cutbacks, showing where 51 transit systems are facing cuts and need federal help.
Civil Engineers Say Infrastructure Needs $2.2T, Five-Year Investment. NYT: “More than a quarter of the nation’s bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. Leaky pipes lose an estimated seven billion gallons of clean drinking water every day. And aging sewage systems send billions of gallons of untreated wastewater cascading into the nation’s waterways each year. These are among the findings of a report to be released Wednesday by the American Society of Civil Engineers, which assigned an overall D grade to the nation’s infrastructure and estimated that it would take a $2.2 trillion investment from all levels of government over the next five years to bring it into a state of good repair.”

Teach Our Children Well, By Funding It

NYT looks at the very large education piece of the package: “The proposed emergency expenditures on nearly every realm of education, including school renovation, special education, Head Start and grants to needy college students, would amount to the largest increase in federal aid since Washington began to spend significantly on education after World War II.”
NYT catches one troubling provision: “One provision, which was sought by the student lending industry and went unmentioned in early Congressional summaries of the stimulus package, would temporarily increase subsidies to banks in the guaranteed student loan program by tying them to a new index, partly because recent federal intervention in the credit markets has invalidated the previous index. A spokesman for Sallie Mae, one of the largest student lenders, said the change was needed to keep student loan markets fluid. Critics said it represented a potential new windfall for lenders. ‘This just continues the well-established tradition of welfare for the student loan industry,’ said Barmak Nassirian, an expert in student lending.”
OurFuture.org’s Bill Scher on how while there is less for infrastructure than what Institute for America’s Future proposed, there is much more for education and the unemployed: “Congress is more heavily tilted to addressing the immediate crisis, though that doesn’t mean they are being outright myopic about long-term needs.”

Bailout Recipients Plot Against EFCA

HuffPost scoop with damning audio of takers of government funds seeking to deny bargaining power to workers: Three days after receiving $25 billion in federal bailout funds, Bank of America Corp. hosted a conference call with conservative activists and business officials to organize opposition to the U.S. labor community’s top legislative priority. Participants … including at least one representative from another bailout recipient, AIG — were urged to persuade their clients to send ‘large contributions’ to groups working against the Employee Free Choice Act…”
ITT List’s Art Levine: “While President Obama is said to be looking to put some strings on the second half of the bailout to the banks, his economic team ought to look into limiting their ability to spend taxpayers’ money to lobby for selfish political goals that hurt the American economy.”
AFL-CIO blog flags new Human Rights Watch report on EFCA: “The message of HRW’s report is clear: under existing U.S. law, the freedom to form unions and bargain is a hope, not a reality, for millions of workers. Passing the Employee Free Choice Act will go a long way toward making sure the United States lives up to its obligations to protect workers’ fundamental and internationally recognized right to form a union and bargain for a better life.”

Military Spending Cuts Coming?

WSJ reports: “The biggest U.S. defense companies drastically increased their spending on lobbying last year, in the face of stiffer competition for fewer major Pentagon contracts and ahead of a change in the White House … ‘We must have the courage to make hard choices,’ Mr. Gates told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee … Mr. Gates said many key defense-industry contracts have had big cost and performance problems. As the economy worsens and the president breaks with the previous administration’s national-security policies, the Pentagon’s top civilian will have to make many tough calls this year. ‘One thing we have known for many months is that the spigot of defense spending that opened on 9/11 is closing,’ Mr. Gates said.”

Climate Crisis, Delays, Dodges and Poison Pills

TNR’s Brad Plumer on the NOAA climate study: “Even if we pare emissions back to pre-industrial levels, which would mean phasing out all fossil-fuel emissions and taking carbon out of the air, then some negative effects—rising sea levels, drought—will still occur, with effects lingering for a thousand years. But, as the study notes, pushing atmospheric carbon concentrations up even further, from their current level of 385 parts per million (ppm) to something like 450 to 600 ppm, will exacerbate the situation considerably—further altering rainfall patterns and boosting the likelihood of large Dust Bowl-like conditions in places like the U.S. Southwest and southern Europe, lasting for millennia rather than a decade or two.”
Tom Laskway guesting at Ezra Klein argues this means “the ‘innovation dodge,’ endorsed by ‘reasonable’ conservatives like Andrew Sullivan, and used as a bludgeon against government regulation”
should be DOA. “Before this latest news, it surely seemed safe to base your climate strategy on silver bullets. You just figure you can pull all that nasty carbon out of the air once you’ve invented a magic carbon-eating machine some time in the indefinite future. But now we have evidence that we don’t just have to deal with more carbon if we wait, we have to deal with more and larger guaranteed effects on the climate…”
Grist’s David Roberts warns “Carbon tax is a poison pill”: “The 111th U.S. Congress is not going to pass a carbon tax. Calls for a carbon tax, to the extent they have any effect, will complicate and possibly derail passage of carbon legislation … If you want carbon pricing out of this Congress, cap-and-trade is what you’re getting. It follows that your energies are best spent ensuring that cap-and-trade legislation is as strong as possible … support for carbon taxes has been taken up by a growing cadre on the far right … Are we to believe that these folks understand the threat of climate chaos … and sincerely believe that a carbon tax is the best way to accomplish that goal?”

Progressive Breakfast: Conservatives Delay and Distort While Jobs Vanish

Progressive Breakfast is created for OurFuture.org, and is the morning roundup of what progressive movement members need to know to start the day.

Jobs Rapidly Vanishing, Action Needed Now

W. Post assessment of the economy is stark: “The nation’s employers, including some of its largest and most sturdy, announced plans yesterday to slash more than 55,000 jobs, a staggering one-day toll that highlighted how quickly layoffs are accelerating and how widely misery is spreading throughout the labor market.”
Campaign for America’s Future called on its supporters to “Call Congress NOW at 1-866-544-7573, and demand immediate passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act,” because “Conservatives are doing everything they can to delay and dilute the legislation. Yet quick, bold action on the economy is critical if we are to blunt the accelerating job losses of the year-long Bush recession.”
Conservatives are looking to do the same to derail economic recovery. TownHall.com quotes Rep. Michelle Bachmann:“Trust me, they get skittish when their phones start ringing off the hook. We need you to literally melt the phone lines and tell them ‘do not vote for the stimulus plan.'”
The Hill lays out the timing: “House Democrats hurriedly added the economic stimulus bill to a Monday evening Rules Committee meeting in a move designed to allow general debate on the legislation to begin Tuesday … House Democrats altered their strategy, and decided to opt for two separate Rules Committee meetings: One on Monday night to consider the standing bill and one on Tuesday afternoon to consider the rules governing amendments. The House is still scheduled to vote on final passage of the bill Wednesday night. Until the Tuesday Rules Committee meeting, it will be uncertain how many amendments will be allowed to be debated on the floor.”
OurFuture.org’s David Sirota urges Dems to go bold on The Rachel Maddow Show last night:

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Actual Anti-Poverty Action

CBPP gives the edge to the House over Senate in reducing poverty: “The House recovery plan contains a number of poverty-reducing provisions, three of which — a new “Making Work Payâ€? tax credit and proposals to expand the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit — would keep out of poverty about 1.1 million children who otherwise would be poor. Counting adults as well, these temporary tax provisions would keep a total of more than 2.5 million Americans out of poverty. The Senate’s similar but somewhat weaker set of provisions would keep more than 800,000 children out of poverty, about a quarter million fewer than the House bill but still a substantial number.”

Ban on Pork(-sounding) Products

ProPublica reports that the House bill includes a clause that “prohibits stimulus funding ‘for any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, or swimming pool.'”
D-Day no likey: “This is only in there to rebut conservative arguments about “wasted” stimulus money, but it’s absurd. Someone has to build that aquarium or zoo or golf course. That person gets a job, and spending money …jobs that are more long-term and that multiply solutions by leaving something tangible behind or contribute to, say, reducing greenhouse gases are more desirable. But eliminating projects that may be shovel-ready because of PR concerns is just bad sausage-making.”
AP reports on family planning funds: “House Democrats are likely to jettison family planning funds for the low-income from an $825 billion economic stimulus bill, officials said late Monday, following a personal appeal from President Barack Obama at a time the administration is courting Republican critics of the legislation.” TPM’s Elana Schor reports: “Republicans Irate Over Expansion of Republican-Approved Program.”

Transit Setback in the House

Streetsblog via Transportation from America reports that Rep. DeFazio’s $2B transit amendment “was required to be withdrawn … something to do with parliamentary issues.” But, “Now the best hope for getting more funding for transit is Rep. Jerry Nadler’s amendment, which would add $3 billion for transit to the stimulus bill. T4A suggests calling the offices of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (202-225-0100) and House Appropriations Committee Chair David Obey (202-225-3365) to say Nadler’s amendment must make it to the House floor.”

A Real CBO Report!

Time’s Jay Newton-Small: “Overall the CBO estimates that more than two-thirds, 64%, of the bill will be disbursed into the economy over the next 18 months … more in line with the 75% OMB director Peter Orszag said would be spent over then next 18 months in a letter to Congress. But in looking at discretionary spending – the three-page portion that was leaked to the press, myself included, last week — things look very similar. Only 41% — up from the 38% in last week’s version – of these funds, which involve the bulk of the infrastructure spending, will make it into the economy by the end of fiscal 2010, or $145 billion out of $356 billion. The stagnancy of these numbers shows that the CBO didn’t redefine ‘shovel ready,’ and their definition is based on a narrow historical view as Scott Lilly explains.
Beat the Press’ Dean Baker: “It will be interesting to see if the Republicans are as anxious to use these CBO numbers as they were of the numbers in the preliminary report. It will also be interesting to see if all the media outlets who highlighted the preliminary analysis give the same prominence to CBO’s actual report.”
Angry Bear’s Bruce Webb goes deep into the numbers (via Economic Populist): “…if the premise is that the bill is simply laden up with spending on condoms and that too little is targeted at spending that will provide real stimulus, well that just doesn’t survive encounter with the numbers. Near as I can see the spending is projected to be converted into infrastructure and hence jobs in about as fast as practicality allows. Where they can spend quick (schools, military bases, housing) they spend quick, where the nature of the project requires extended build out (clean energy, water projects, clean water, highways, mass transit) they project that it will be spent as fast as reasonably possible.”

More Bad Conservative Ideas

CBPP rips Boehner-Cantor tax plan: “A House Republican proposal to cut income tax rates would provide its largest benefit to the top fifth of households and prove less effective as economic stimulus than the provision it would replace –President Obama’s ‘Making Work Pay’ tax credit.”
NYT’s Bob Herbert incredulous at the state of the GOP: “The Republican answer to this turmoil? Tax cuts. They need to go into rehab. The question that I would like answered is why anyone listens to this crowd anymore. G.O.P. policies have been an absolute backbreaker for the middle class … The G.O.P. has successfully engineered a wholesale redistribution of wealth to those already at the top of the income ladder and then, in a remarkable display of chutzpah, dared anyone to talk about class warfare … When the G.O.P. talks, nobody should listen.”
Obama will listen congressional GOPers today, though one Dem “leadership” aide tells The Hill: “The issue here is that the legislation is moving and Republicans have a choice to make: work in a bipartisan way to see this legislation become law or continue to advocate for policies of the past that have resulted in millions of jobs lost and the American economy in crisis.â€?

More Conservative Lies

Politifact rips House Republican Whip Eric Cantor for “Pants on Fire” lie: “In an interview with Fox News on Jan. 23, 2009, Rep. Eric Cantor … said that in a meeting with President Obama, Cantor asked if he ‘could use his influence on this process to try and get the pork barrel spending out of the bill. I mean, there’s $300,000 for a sculpture garden in Miami.’ But do a word search on ‘sculpture’ in the 647-page stimulus bill now before the House and you’ll come up blank. That’s because it’s not in there.”
Media Matters gets Lou Dobbs angrier than usual after treating the selective leaking from the CBO as a complete report: “On the January 26 edition of CNN’s Lou Dobbs Tonight, host Lou Dobbs falsely claimed that in a previous item criticizing White House correspondent Ed Henry’s January 23 report on President Obama’s economic recovery package, Media Matters for America ‘tr[ied] to conflate the Office of Management and Budget [OMB] numbers as somehow superior with the Congressional Budget Office [CBO],’ which he asserted ‘is an absurdity.’ Media Matters did no such thing, merely pointing out that according to OMB director Peter Orszag, the CBO conducted only a partial analysis of the bill.”
Also last night, Dobbs’ reporter Ines Ferre relies on right-wing Citizens Against Government Waste to levy unchallenged false attacks against the economic recovery. OurFuture.org FLASHBACK: Exposing the hackery behind Citizens Against Government Waste.
Wonk Room: “Conservatives Peddle Myth That Stimulus Spends $275,000 For Every Job Created”
Heritage’s Conn Carroll tries to claim the since Obama econ aide Larry Summers supported a “timely, targeted and temporary” strategy for early 2008 stimulus, his current support for a bolder plan is hollow. That ignores Summers changing his view in November because “the situation has deteriorated very substantially” and now a “speedy, substantial and sustained [plan] over a several-year interval” is necessary.

Health Care This Year?

D-Day: “So I guess Jim Clyburn, the House Majority Whip, would rather go slow with an incremental approach to health care reform … [Health Care for America Now!] is asking South Carolinians to call Clyburn and urge him to reconsider his comments. His DC office is at (202) 225-3315.”
The Hill has Speaker Pelosi with a different message: “A spokesman for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) predicted Monday that the House would “take a major stepâ€? toward comprehensive health reform this year, a comment that appears to contrast with a member of her leadership team.”

Can Dems Unify to Deal With Global Warming?

Marc Ambinder speculates on timing of global warming legislation: “The House will move the bill; Rep. Henry Waxman intends to get it out of his committee by Memorial Day … But action in the Senate will be stalled for a while. Some powerful senators aren’t sold that it’s the best thing to do quickly. And the Obama administration does not seem to be inclined to pursue cap-and-trade over comprehensive health care reform during this time of crisis.”
NYT looks at geographic divisions within the Dem caucus, ending on how the gap can/will be bridged: “‘Every single wind turbine takes 26 tons of steel to construct,’ [Rep. Ed] Markey said. ‘A lot of new jobs will be created if we craft a piece of global warming legislation correctly, and that is our intention.'”
Meanwhile, the urgency to address climate change is even clearer. Climate Progress reports: “NOAA stunner: Climate change ‘largely irreversible for 1000 years,’ with permanent Dust Bowls in Southwest and around the globe … gives the lie to the notion that it is a moral choice not to do everything humanly possible to prevent this tragedy, a lie to the notion that we can ‘adapt’ to climate change, unless by ‘adapt’ you mean ‘force the next 50 generations to endure endless misery because we were too damn greedy to give up 0.1% of our GDP each year.'”

EFCA Watch

TPM’s Matt Cooper sizes up the EFCA landscape: “Thus far, EFCA opponents have won the battle for elite opinion … I suspect few folks really know about it but in general the public is in a pro-union mood … Labor officials now believe that the bill will come up in the Spring, perhaps May or June, and that the administration and the president will indeed fight for it. While the White House has been somewhat chastened by the vigorous campaign against the bill, with some officials privately fearing that it could be their ‘gays in the military,’ the president, labor leaders believe, is committed to pushing forward with his support of EFCA and hopes to sign it into law this year.”
AFL-CIO Blog: Sen.-Designate Gillibrand Supports Employee Free Choice Act

Progressive Breakfast: Who Won In November?

Progressive Breakfast is created for OurFuture.org, and is the morning roundup of what progressive movement members need to know to start the day.

Dems Stand Firm On Econ Recovery, GOP Opposition Hardens

On NBC’s Meet The Press, Obama econ advisor Larry Summers addresses criticism that too little will be spent quickly, noting most will be spent quickly, but long-term investments are crucial too:

The president has committed, through a letter from his [budget] director, Peter Orszag, that three-quarters of this $825 billion program will be spent out within the first 18 months. … we’re not going to rush things to the point of being wasteful. But the tax measures are going to change withholding checks within weeks after they’re enacted. Cities across the country are going to see help so they don’t have to lay off teachers or cops within weeks after the program is passed.
So yes, speed is a crucial concern. But you know, David, there is something else we have to recognize, which is these problems weren’t made in a day or a week or a month or even a year, and they’re not going to get solved that fast. So even as we move to be as rapid as we can in jolting the economy and giving it the push forward it needs, we also have to be mindful of having the right kind of plan that will carry us forward over time. That’s why the productive aspects of the investments the president’s making–doubling renewable energy, for example, modernizing 10,000 schools–are so essential.

Angry Bear’s Bruce Webb reminds that many New Deal public works investments helped win WWII in the following decade, and are still with us today.
Summers on claims from the W. Post editorial board that money for police and education don’t help the economy:

…respectfully I would disagree with The Washington Post. There are cops being laid off across the country. Saving their jobs is saving jobs, it’s helping the economy, it’s protecting our neighborhoods.
I used to be a college president. There are kids across the country who are losing the chance to go to college, whose families are being forced to put their houses on the market to help those kids go to college, further putting downwards pressure on the economy.
I think spending to respond to the extra burdens on financial aid, putting money into the economy for financial aid for college students is a good investment, just like saving the jobs of cops is a good investment.

Summers on repealing the Bush tax cuts: “I don’t think there’s any question they have to be repealed. The country can’t afford them for the long run … the question of timing is one we’re going to have to reach as we see how the economy unfolds, as Congress reaches its judgments. But they’re not going to be with us for long.”
On ABC’s This Week, Speaker Nancy Pelosi dismissed House Minority Leader John Boehner’s attempt to mock funding for family planning services:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Hundreds of millions of dollars to expand family planning services. How is that stimulus?
PELOSI: Well, the family planning services reduce cost. They reduce cost. The states are in terrible fiscal budget crises now and part of what we do for children’s health, education and some of those elements are to help the states meet their financial needs. One of those – one of the initiatives you mentioned, the contraception, will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So no apologies for that?
PELOSI: No apologies.

Republican opposition hardened on the Sunday shows, fueled by what D-Day deemed a “Misinformation Brigade”
FireDogLake posts video of Paul Krugman politely slamming Sam Donaldson for carrying the false conservative talking point that Obama adviser Christina Romer previously wrote a paper undermining the rationale from the econ recovery bill.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BwjwIcOimSQ&hl=en&fs=1]

The Non-existent CBO Report

Conservatives claimed a CBO report proved the American Recovery and Reinvestment would only spend 38% of its funding in the next two years. Turns out, the report doesn’t exist.
Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim has the scoop:

Reports of a recent study by the Congressional Budget Office, showing that the vast majority of the money in the stimulus package won’t be spent until after 2010, have Democrats on the defensive and the GOP calling for a pullback in wasteful spending.
Funny thing is, there is no such report.
“We did not issue any report, any analysis or any study,” a CBO aide told the Huffington Post.
Rather, the nonpartisan CBO ran a small portion of an earlier version of the stimulus plan through a computer program that uses a standard formula to determine a score — how quickly money will be spent. The score only dealt with the part of the stimulus headed for the Appropriations Committee and left out the parts bound for the Ways and Means or Energy and Commerce Committee.
Because it dealt with just a part of the stimulus, it estimated the spending rate for only about $300 billion of the $825 billion plan. Significant changes have been made to the part of the bill the CBO looked at.
The CBO numbers were given to a small number of congressional Democrats and Republicans, but were not posted online because they’re not an official CBO product … Democratic aides say they are certain that the GOP leaked it to the Associated Press in order to undercut the spending portion of the stimulus.

OurFuture.org’s Isaiah Poole: “…we have the answer to the question I posed about whether the CBO is being used by House conservative obstructionists to derail the Obama stimulus package. The answer is a resounding yes, in a most dishonest way.”
OpenLeft’s Paul Rosenberg: “CBO hadn’t released a public report, but it had released some estimates to a handful of senators. Those estimates were highly questionable on their face, and good reporters should have questioned them immediately. Moreover, CBO should never have issued them as they were. …only a few scattered Democratic voices seriously questioned the core of the CBO numbers–and those numbers are highly questionable on their face.”
Beat The Press’ Dean Baker: “Washington Post Still Touts Non-Existant CBO Report on Stimulus”
Crooks and Liars: “[Rep]. Bilbray Cites Nonexistent CBO Report as Excuse to Oppose Stimulus Package”

Econ Package Invests Long-Term

HuffPost’s Robert Kuttner praises the econ recovery plan for investing long-term: “If you look at the details of the Obama recovery plan, however, it includes a lot of outlays that don’t look like one-shots: laying more than 3,000 miles of electric transmission lines; installing 40 million “smart” utility meters to help reduce energy use; weatherizing 2 million homes and most federal buildings. Among the other infrastructure investments are improving security at 90 major ports and modernizing the nation’s water system. These needs and others like them don’t end after two years … Sounds good to me, but he will face ideological qualms from the fiscal conservatives within his own party, as well as from most Republicans. So the bipartisan honeymoon is unlikely to last, and I’d say, good riddance.”
ClimateProgress praises energy-efficiency measure: “The single most important policy change needed to promote broad-based, California-style energy efficiency is to ‘decouple’ utility profits from sales, to allow utilities to profit from energy efficiency … I have been assuming that Democrats would wait until the mother of all energy bills later this year to make their big push toward decoupling. But it turns out that Dems have decided to make it one of the conditions for the multi-billion-dollar energy efficiency block grants in the stimulus”

Push For More Infrastructure, Less Biz Tax Breaks

Friday night, Rep. Peter Defazio took to The Rachel Maddow Show to press Obama and Congress from the left, demanding more infrastructure investment:

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McClatchy reports that Sen. Max Baucus’ version includes more corporate tax breaks, as well as, more clean energy tax incentives than the House version.
D-Day: “The reason you want lots of infrastructure spending in the stimulus is because it can both be spent quickly and leave something behind afterwards. That’s true of the health care and energy spending as well, but that’s not what infrastructure spending appears to be competing with. It’s competing with business tax breaks that do not provide nearly the kind of ‘bang for your buck’ that can multiply the effect of fiscal spending. These Chamber-of-Commerce-friendly provisions being put in the Senate package, for example, are appalling.”
FDL’s Stirling Newberry previews the House floor debate: “One [amendment] from DeFazio, a key member of Transportation, would restore 2 billion of the 23 billion shorn away from the bill since it was introduced. Jerry Nadler has asked for a direct meeting with Obama to increase the size and spending scale of the bill, and to green it’s provisions, arguing the bill is too small by standard measures, and that more money could be spent effectively.”
<a href="http://www.openleft.com/showDiary.do?diaryId=11124OpenLeft's Chris Bowers on the rail amendment: "This amendment is going to go through the House Rules Committee in order to make it to the floor. With a vote on the stimulus expected on Wednesday, amendments need to be clear of committee by Tuesday. I am thinking that this might be a good piece of activism for us to jump on tomorrow and Tuesday: call members of the House rules committee to help push the DeFazio amendment onto the floor."
More Small biz tax cuts? W. Post reports on Obama’s talks with House GOPers: “[Rep. Eric] Cantor presented Obama with an alternative GOP plan that included a reduction in marginal tax rates and no increased domestic spending that would result in higher deficits. Afterward, Cantor said the president rejected most of those ideas but remained open to increasing benefits for small businesses that, according to Republican calculations, would receive $41 billion in tax relief under the Democratic plan. Republicans are proposing a 20 percent rate cut in taxes on businesses with fewer than 500 employees.”
Economic Populist’s Robert Oak says scientific research funds, “should be tied to hiring/using U.S. citizens, Americans, perm residents preferred” to better impact the U.S. economy.
African American Political Pundit worries that new construction jobs won’t reach African-Americans without additional “workforce education programs, apprenticeship programs, and first source hiring policies that will benefit low-income communities of color.”

Mortgage Modification Taken Off Table?

OpenLeft’s Chris Bowers: “Senator Durbin has confirmed that President Obama opposes including the measure in the stimulus, and favors including it in later legislation instead … Further, with ten Senate Democrats opposed to the measure last year, we can also expect a big fight over the measure when the home foreclosure mitigation bill comes up later this year.”
Wonk Room: “This provision would allow bankruptcy judges to modify — or ‘cram down’ — mortgages payments “for homeowners who owe more than their home is worth.â€? Currently, bankruptcy judges are not able to modify loans on a primary residence (but can modify loans on second-home mortgages). Giving judges this power is critical to addressing the housing crisis, and should be included in the stimulus package … speeding mortgage modification has a stimulative effect, thus meriting its inclusion in the stimulus bill.”

Conservative Carping Continues

The conservative wishful-thinking counter-narrative is forming. National Review’s Yuval Levin: “It’s simply seen by the Democratic leadership as an opportunity to spend a lot of money on various causes they’ve wanted to support for years and to increase the reach of the government into the economy … At some point, and possibly soon, some significant chunk of the public will wake up to the essential recklessness of our government’s reaction to this financial crisis, and to the failure of technocratic expertise made evident by both the crisis itself and the response to it.”
NYT’s Paul Krugman takes conservatives to task: “…there’s the bogus talking point that the Obama plan will cost $275,000 per job created … write off anyone who asserts that it’s always better to cut taxes than to increase government spending because taxpayers, not bureaucrats, are the best judges of how to spend their money … ignore anyone who tries to make something of the fact that the new administration’s chief economic adviser has in the past favored monetary policy over fiscal policy as a response to recessions.”
ThinkProgress: “McCain Slams Broadband Expansion Idea After Campaigning For It”

Obama Allows States To Slash Auto Emissions

NYT: “Mr. Obama’s presidential memorandum will order the Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider the Bush administration’s past rejection of the California application. While it stops short of flatly ordering the Bush decision reversed, the agency’s regulators are now widely expected to do so after completing a formal review process. Once they act, automobile manufacturers will quickly have to retool to begin producing and selling cars and trucks that get higher mileage than the national standard, and on a faster phase-in schedule … Automotive emissions account for more than one-fifth of all such greenhouse gases.”
W. Post: “Obama will instruct the Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider whether to grant California a waiver to regulate automobile tailpipe emissions linked to global warming, sources said, and he will order the Transportation Department to issue guidelines that will ensure that the nation’s auto fleet reaches an average fuel efficiency of 35 miles per gallon by 2020, if not earlier.”
Grist’s Kate Sheppard has Sen. Boxer’s statement: “When the waiver is signed, it will be a signal to Detroit that a huge market awaits them if they do the right thing and produce the cleanest, most efficient vehicles possible.”

America Needs More Unions

Robert Reich makes the case for EFCA in the LA Times: “Although America and its economy need unions, it’s become nearly impossible for employees to form one. The Hart poll I cited tells us that 57 million workers would want to be in a union if they could have one. But those who try to form a union, according to researchers at MIT, have only about a 1 in 5 chance of successfully doing so.”

The LiberalOasis Radio Show: Progressive Revolution Edition

Today at 10 AM ET, The LiberalOasis Radio Show was broadcast on WHMP-AM in Western MA. My special guest was Mike Lux from Open Left and The Huffington Post, and author of the new book, The Progressive Revolution. Lux offered his perspective from working on the inside of the Obama-Biden transition team, and shared his insights on the state of the progressive movement.
He’ll also be appearing at the FireDogLake Book Salon at 5 PM ET today, and you can buy the book at TheProgressiveRevolution.com.
The audio podcast for the show is here: (iTunes / XML feed / MP3).
Video of the opening monologue, about the substantive importance of President Barack Hussein Obama’s inauguration, and how it will help enact strong economic recovery legislation, is below in two parts.
Note: you can tell Congress to pass bold economic recovery legislation immediately by clicking here.
Part 1
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-p1NizSBps&hl=en&fs=1]
Part 2
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ekve3-2pYXo&hl=en&fs=1]

Progressive Breakfast: Empty Criticisms Of Econ Recovery

Progressive Breakfast is created for OurFuture.org, and is the morning roundup of what progressive movement members need to know to start the day.
Republicans Increasingly Critical Of Economic Recovery Plan
W. Post lists Republican complaints about the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan: “Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), who gave Vice President Biden a 17-page list of spending requests, said he opposes the proposed increase in funding for Pell Grants for college students because it would do little to spur short-term economic growth. House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (Ohio) said the plan lacks enough “fast-acting tax relief,” such as a temporary halt to payroll taxes and more relief for businesses. Sen. John Thune (S.D.) said the nearly $1 trillion price tag would add too much to a federal deficit that is already predicted to top $1.2 trillion for 2009 … Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), the ranking Republican on the finance panel, said he could “buy into 90 percent” of the emerging plan but opposes the nearly $90 billion in aid to states for Medicaid because some governors would use the money to mask poor decisions in other portions of their budgets.”
Dean Baker corrects Specter on Pell grants: “The grants, which help to pay for college for people with low and moderate income families, actually would provide stimulus in roughly the same way as tax cuts to these families would. They provide them with more disposable income, which is likely to lead them to spend more.”
Former McCain econ adviser Mark Zandi previously debunked Grassley’s state government claim: ““Additional federal aid to state governments will fund existing payrolls and programs, providing a relatively quick economic boost [as they] quickly pass the money on to workers, vendors and program beneficiaries. Arguments that state governments should be forced to cut spending because they have grown bloated and irresponsible are strained, at best. State government spending and employment are no larger today as a share of total economic activity and employment than they were three decades ago.â€?
Also, Stateline today: “State leaders struggle with tough cuts”
Congressional Dems are not phased in W. Post piece: “‘Yes, we wrote the bill. Yes, we won the election,’ House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters yesterday … ‘If it’s passed with 63 votes or 73 votes, history won’t remember it,’ [Sen. Dick] Durbin said.”
TPMCafe’s Dean Baker rips selective leaking of the CBO report to undermine economic recovery plans: “First … The Congressional Budget Office projects a year-round average unemployment rate of 9.0 percent for 2010 … If the CBO baseline projection is accurate, then we should be glad that the stimulus package will sustain spending into the 2011 fiscal year. The economy will still badly need it. The second issue to keep in mind is that if these are projects that are otherwise valuable, then the portion that does take place when the economy is in a depressed state is in effect free. At the moment, the economy’s problem is too little demand. If the government spends less money right now it doesn’t mean that more resources go to investment, exports or some other use. It means that more people go unemployed.”
Meanwhile conservatives continue to try to make hay of the CBO report, including perennially silly, whiplash-inducing David Brooks, who lambastes the House proposal after praising Obama’s similar package to the skies two weeks ago.
Debate Over Shape Of Econ Package Continues
Economist’s View’s Mark Thoma responds to the conservative “tax cuts only” argument: “just as there’s a limit to the number of public sector projects that are shovel ready, there’s also a limit to the number of private sector projects that are ready to go (though the planning stage does involve some spending, just not as much as when the public or private sector investment projects are going full throttle). There’s also a question about how strong the reaction will be to a tax credit when the economic outlook is so gloomy, a question that doesn’t arise when government is making the investments.”
Conservative pollster Frank Luntz finds deep support for infrastructure investment: “This isn’t “soft” support for infrastructure either. It stretches from Maine to Montana, from California to Connecticut. Democrats (87%) and Republicans (74%) are prepared to, in Barack Obama’s words, put skin in the game, which tells you just how wide and deep the support is. And Americans understand that infrastructure is not just roads, bridges and rails. In fact, they rated fixing energy facilities as their highest priority. Roads and highways scored second, and clean-water treatment facilities third. But there’s more: Accountability. The poll found that Americans are far less interested in doing projects quickly than in doing them right.”
Health Access California’s Anthony Wright praises healthcare components in The Treatment: “The U.S. House Ways and Means Committee has put out legislative language for their version of an economic stimulus. As expected, the health components include increased Medicaid matching funds for states, subsidies to help the unemployed pick up COBRA coverage, and investment in health information technology. All of these are appropriate given the economic crisis: They will provide help and coverage to people losing insurance because of the recession and they will quickly increase government spending to stimulate the economy. But what makes the provisions particularly promising is that they represent a ‘first round’ of health reform.”
The Next Right’s Amy Menefee tries to spin, “the insanity of spending more (taxpayer) money where we’re supposed to be reducing costs in health care,” failing to understand investment in technology that cuts costs over time.
Earth2Tech notes “The Obama administration’s $825 billion economic recovery package, nicknamed the “Green New Deal,â€? is packed with references to doubling renewable energy generation, funding public transportation and energy-efficiency projects, and investing in clean water and environmental restoration.”
And Climate Progress reports: “House Ways & Means embraces refundable renewable tax credits … Refundable tax credits are not the sole answer to the problem of financing and launching capital-intensive projects in a credit crunch, but they are a big piece of the puzzle.”
But relative lack of transit funding continues to be a concern. Smart Growth America’s Will Schroeer makes the case in Reality-Based Community: “transit can often act as a faster stimulus than roads. Transit ridership around the country has continued to rise despite moderating gas prices, yet transit agencies from coast to coast are announcing doomsday budgets of service cuts and fare hikes. The most shovel-ready project in the country is simply stopping those cuts and hikes.”
If you’re looking to cut government spending somewhere, private contracts look like a good bet. W. Post reports: “federal contractors are quickly getting obese at taxpayers’ expense. Uncle Sam spent ‘an astounding $532 billion last (fiscal) year, shattering the previous year’s record of $465 billion’ on contracts, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) … said yesterday. He called federal contracting ‘a black hole for taxpayer dollars’ as he released the Government Accountability Office’s latest ‘high-risk’ report on Capitol Hill. This biennial update covers programs and policies that the agency says ‘are at high risk for waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement or those in need of significant transformation.'”
Will new White House Challenge China on Currency?

Economist’s View’s Tim Duy seeks to put in broad context Treasury nominee Timothy F. Geithner’s blunt remarks about China “manipulating” its currency.

Taken together, these bits and pieces imply the Obama Administration is attempting to thread a very tight needle: Provide enough stimulus to keep unemployment from soaring well into the double digits while taking long term concerns about the national debt seriously. This would account for what many believe to be a relatively tepid and insufficient stimulus package. Presumably, they want to avoid “long tailsâ€? for policy that extends stimulus related deficit spending into the time horizons when the US Treasury will be forced to float publicly traded debt to fund entitlement obligations. Silly as it may seem given the recent runaway demand for Treasuries, the incoming officials may be greatly concerned about the sustainability of that trend.
At the same time, they want to lessen dependence on China, which requires that Chinese policymakers stimulate domestic demand to a sufficient extent to allow for China to ease purchases of Treasuries and allow the Yuan to appreciate in a nondisruptive fashion.
Seems like a steep expectation for the export-dependent Chinese, you are now faced with faltering growth rates. If the Chinese don’t cooperate, a portion of any US stimulus is lost to higher imports – always remember that the US doesn’t have much excess productive capacity in tradable goods. The excess capacity exists in China. And Congress would be less than happy to see US tax dollars supporting Chinese jobs.
And, as if that wasn’t enough, the Fed would have to cooperate, and allow US rates to rise to encourage private investors to purchase debt as Chinese purchases ease. That, however, would raise borrowing costs to consumers (who are not in a position to acquire more debt anyway) as well as mortgage rates (which are bouncing upwards).
Would Bernanke & Co. be willing to allow rates to rise, even on the long end, given recent avowals to support consumer spending and housing markets at virtually any cost? Tough to see…especially if unemployment is well into the upper single digits, and given concerns about withdrawing stimulus too early. As it is, I imagine the Fed is already getting nervous that efforts to contain mortgage rates have been less than effective.
Moreover, China is only one player. Geithner & Co. would have to convince European policymakers that it was no in their best interest to take advantage of US and Chinese stimulus to depreciate the Euro. In other words, we need to all rise together or all sink together.

(More Than) TARP Developments
WSJ sees congressional Dem anxious for White House to release new TARP plan: “The White House’s economic team is under pressure from Congress to finalize its financial rescue plan within a week … The team is hammering out a three-pronged approach that focuses on stemming foreclosures, revamping the government’s bailout program and purchasing toxic assets weighing down bank balance sheets and pressuring stock prices. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Thursday the plan will be completed ‘shortly.’ The scale of the effort is almost certain to be larger than the $350 billion secured last week through [TARP]. Lawmakers say that means they need a proposal from the White House within days so they can appropriate more money. Congress could do that by either attaching the funds to the economic-stimulus plan already totaling $825 billion, or by approving legislation that expands TARP and includes new restrictions on banks that receive money.”
George Soros’ FT column frets and proposes:

…this approach harks back to the approach originally taken – but eventually abandoned – by Hank Paulson, the former US Treasury secretary. The proposal suffers from the same shortcomings: the toxic securities are, by definition, hard to value. The introduction of a significant buyer will result, not in price discovery, but in price distortion…
…In my view, an equity injection scheme based on realistic valuations, followed by a cut in minimum capital requirements for banks, would be much more effective in restarting the economy. The downside is that it would require significantly more than $1,000bn of new capital. It would involve a good bank/bad bank solution, where appropriate. That would heavily dilute existing shareholders and risk putting the majority of bank equity into government hands.
The hard choice facing the Obama administration is between partially nationalising the banks, or leaving them in private hands but nationalising their toxic assets. Choosing the first course would inflict great pain on a broad segment of the population – not only on bank shareholders but also on the beneficiaries of pension funds. However, it would clear the air and restart the economy.

Naked Capitalism responds to Soros: “The experience in Sweden and countries that took similar approaches was a sharp fall in GDP that lasted roughly 2 years, but then a strong growth rebound. However, the other test cases took place against a less awful global economic backdrop.”
OurFuture.org’s David Sirota praises House for symbolic vote against second release of TARP funds and “the House’s vote yesterday to attach more strings to the bailout money, and with our work in getting the Senate – through Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) – to pass a bailout regulation bill, and we’re seeing real progress – or, dare I say, the possibility of real, actual, substantive change.”
Cap-and-trade this year?

Climate Progress analyzes Greenwire article, “Pelosi sees cap-and-trade floor debate this yearâ€?: ” I think it would be a mistake to have the House floor debate prematurely since we can almost certainly get a stronger bill next year — but only if the Administration does the necessary foundation-building this year … Pelosi does leave open the possibility of a floor vote at the end of the year … which may be the best compromise, since the House can probably pass a stronger bill than the Senate.”
NYT overhypes Pew poll claiming “Environmental Issues Slide in Poll of Public’s Concerns” which falsely pits environment versus economy. Other polling shows public sees green investment as helping the economy (including Luntz poll mentioned above.)
Can conservative GOPers hold their caucus?

Reality-Based Community’s Mark Kleiman analyzes the vote for the Lily Ledbetter equal pay legislation: “Snowe, Collins, Murkowski, Hutchinson (!) and Specter crossed over to vote for it as well … The cloture vote was even more lopsided, 72-23. If that means that some Republicans will tend to support cloture even while voting against the underlying legislation, we’re in clover.”
New anti-EFCA ad
Marc Ambinder looks at new “business-backed Workforce Fairness Institute” ad: “The ad praises Obama is glowing terms — perhaps too glowing. They contrast his ‘priorities’ with those of ‘Congressional leaders’ and ‘big labor bosses.’ … ‘Payback’ is the phrase they want to resonate … A labor strategist e-mails: ‘If this is going to be their paid media strategy I will dance a jig … these are the exact same words and images they attacked Senate candidates across the country with millions of dollars of ads during the last cycle … Every one of those candidates won.'”
Tougher antitrust enforcement?
WSJ on antitrust developments: “The Obama administration is assembling a new antitrust-enforcement team that is expected to impose stiffer merger-review standards and file more cases against companies that use market dominance to raise prices than was done under the Bush administration. The White House on Thursday nominated Christine Varney, a former Federal Trade Commission member and Internet-law expert, as Justice Department antitrust chief. Jon Leibowitz, a current FTC member, is the leading candidate to head the commission but the decision isn’t final, people briefed on these deliberations said. Both officials are known to favor aggressive enforcement and would mark a change from the Bush administration’s approach.”

A Liberal Inaugural Address

In his first Inaugural, President Barack Hussein Obama delivered one the most eloquent descriptions of liberalism in history.
Many will focus on the calls for unity, to depict the speech as non-ideological. but make no mistake. President Obama is calling for unity to move America in a liberal direction.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VjnygQ02aW4&hl=en&fs=1]
The most critical passage:

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them – that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works – whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account – to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day – because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Some will interpret the emphasis on effectiveness, as moderate or centrist. But it is not.
Size matters not to liberalism. Liberalism is premised on effective government, with an emphasis on both words, since America does not work without active government.
In stressing the importance of what government “must do,” Obama offered an implicit yet ringing denunciation of Reagan’s Inaugural screed: “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”
Beyond the importance of active government, Obama also offered the liberal vision of what he expected active government to help accomplish:

The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act – not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.
Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions – who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

Obama also reiterated his liberal belief the prosperity must be shared widely, not concentrated at the top:

The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart – not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

Regarding international matters, Obama embraced the liberal internationalist view that ultimately we must promote humanitarian ideals with multi-lateralism and our own example, not at the point of a gun:

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake.
And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.
Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.
We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort – even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet.
We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.
For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus – and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.
To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West – know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.
To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

Starting tomorrow, the rhetoric matters less than the policies.
But it is quite relevant to observe that Obama starts his presidency on the highest of notes, with stunning approval and public goodwill, on the basis of the liberal vision he continually offered the voters during the campaign, and reiterated with dazzling poetry and sturdy prose today.

The LiberalOasis Radio Show: Enviro Preview Edition

Today at 10 AM ET, The LiberalOasis Radio Show was broadcast on WHMP-AM in Western MA. My special guest was Grist’s David Roberts, who gave us a preview of the year in environmental legislation, to prepare us for the battles ahead.
The audio podcast for the show is here: (iTunes / XML feed / MP3).
Video of the opening monologue, about staying focused on economic recovery legislation, is below. After that are related thoughts posted earlier at OurFuture.org, “Beware Bright Shiny Things.”
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SxGqWij7eIk&hl=en&fs=1]
Beware Bright Shiny Things
My friend and fellow Huffington Post contributor Logan Nakyanzi Pollard recently expressed her concern that I was too forgiving of internal dissent in my recent post criticizing overblown assessments of recent Obama-Senate deliberations. She writes:

There’s a conceit on the Left that all the public disagreements and squabbles are helpful – that this is the burden of a big tent party.
And what’s made the territory even muddier is the fact that journalism, opinion and advocacy have crossed lines in our new media. I suppose too that the cocktail of what passes for news – the Ann Coulters, the Rick Warrens, the Rod Blagojeviches, the Caroline Kennedys, the Palins – make life interesting, but the net result is a narrative of special interest squabbles. The ‘air in the room’ has been taken up by these stories and scarce else can be covered…
…And this is the nub of it for me with the Lefties: they do not truly understand who they are, nor what they are motivated by. They are confederates and not a unified body. The slightest bump in the road leads to anarchy or dissent…
…In just days Mr. Obama will take the oath of office with urgent, complicated problems to solve. But in the weeks leading up to this date, the public’s been heartened not by the facts, figures and information that will equip people to understand their predicament, but rather, by a slew of tabloid-y stories. So Obama will have a double load to carry: to pry the public’s gaze away from the car crashes all around them and show the highway ahead.”

I think her characterization of “Lefties” to be too general and too harsh. And I stand by my earlier post that the traditional media chronically misreports normal democratic deliberations in Congress as sensationalized intra-party smackdowns.
But I strongly agree with Logan’s fundamental point.
If we in the progressive movement are continually distracted by the bright shiny object of the media moment — Is Caroline qualified? Why doesn’t Reid just seat Burris? What did [INSERT PALIN FAMILY MEMBER] do now? — we will not be able to maximize our influence on the democratic process, and help enact the policies that could firmly establish liberal governance for a generation.
If we can show that after a generation of failed of conservative policies, active progressive government is helping create good-paying jobs, generate clean energy, avert a climate crisis and provide health care for all, then we will have active progressive government helping solve problems for the next generation.
That is the primary task before us.
And while the President-Elect has stated he wants to achieve those goals, he cannot achieve them alone. When we are not fully engaged, conservative misinformation still has the ability to distort the discourse and unduly influence politicians.
Ask yourself: Were we in the progressive movement fully focused last month while the United Auto Workers took a fact-free PR beating from conservative apparatchiks, potentially making it harder to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, which could do so much to ease unionization, expand the middle-class and strengthen our economy?
If we were pressing harder during the past month to quickly pass legislation, like the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan — transforming our government from one of conservative neglect to one of active progressive government that invests in job creation, modern infrastructure, energy efficiency, health care and education — would Obama have felt compelled to grease the legislative wheels with ineffective business tax breaks?
Bottom line: Our level of engagement on the immediate Washington policy battles in this early phase of the Obama Era has been poor. D minus.
The damage has been limited because of Obama’s own skills, and because the conservative movement is not exactly firing on all cylinders at the moment.
But that’s no reason to be complacent. We need to get sharper and keep our eye on the ball.
I do part with Logan’s view that liberals and progressives “do not truly understand who they are, nor what they are motivated by.” I think it’s quite clear that we are bonded by a belief in responsive and responsible government to best achieve equality and broad prosperity, at home and abroad.
But our bond has proven so easily susceptible to distraction that I have to agree with Logan when she observes “the slightest bump in the road leads to anarchy or dissentâ€? among liberals and progressives.
We complain so much when conservatives in power employ propaganda tactics to distract the public from the real issues, yet we have our own bright shiny things that lead us to debilitating distraction.
Perhaps Sen. Harry Reid was inelegant in his handling of the Burris appointment, but will that have any impact on our ability to get our economy back on track?
And I like watching a unintentionally funny Joe The Plumber clip as much as the next guy, and there’s value in calling attention to things that show what unadulterated conservatism represents.
But the Bush Era is over, and with it the need to be primarily oppositional.
The Obama Era begins Tuesday. Now we need to be pro-active.
That means getting up every morning thinking, “How will I help create good-paying jobs, strengthen unions, cap carbon emissions, make health care and education accessible to all, protect civil liberties and rights, fight global poverty and forge peace?”
It’s a lot to do. So get to work!

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