DISPATCHES

PRESIDENT OBAMA ON THE JOBS

President Obama started taking the fight to congressional Republicans (9/8) as he called on them to “pass this jobs bill” that would combine tax breaks designed to encourage hiring by small businesses along with spending for public works projects and unemployment aid and job training.

The White House plan includes $247 bln in tax cuts and spends $60 bln on unemployment aid and job training and $140 bln for public works projects, such as roads, bridges and public schools, and public-sector jobs, such as teachers, firefighters and police officers.

The $447 bln cost of the American Jobs Act would be paid for with limits on itemized deductions for individuals who earn more than $200,000 and families that earn more than $250,000. Eliminating those deductions would bring in $400 bln in revenues and the balance would come from closing oil and gas loopholes and changing depreciation rules for corporate airplanes.

Steve Benen noted, “Republicans will, of course, balk at all of this, and many already have. But the Obama administration’s approach to financing is heartening anyway — there’s been all kinds of scuttlebutt about the White House proposing regressive policies to pay for the jobs bill, and the rumors were wrong. The president and his team are pushing the better — and incidentally, more popular — financing option.”

But the more the GOP opposes this approach, Benen noted, the more Obama will pose the options as he did before Congress:

“Should we keep tax loopholes for oil companies? Or should we use that money to give small business owners a tax credit when they hire new workers? Because we can’t afford to do both. Should we keep tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires? Or should we put teachers back to work so our kids can graduate ready for college and good jobs? Right now, we can’t afford to do both.

“This isn’t political grandstanding. This isn’t class warfare. This is simple math. These are real choices. These are real choices that we’ve got to make. And I’m pretty sure I know what most Americans would choose. It’s not even close. And it’s time for us to do what’s right for our future.”

ISSA: NOT ANOTHER STIMULUS. At least 600,000 government workers have lost their jobs since the recession began, but Republicans continue to scapegoat public employees. Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said the government shouldn’t try to save teachers’ jobs because that would be like another stimulus package. In an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe (9/12), he said, “Whether or not the federal government borrows money from overseas sources to keep teachers in XYZ state on the payroll seems to be stimulus II. It seems to be something that the states have to decide what the right number of teachers are, and fund that, and not have us borrow money from overseas to keep $30 billion worth of money to try to aid the states. We did that once. It’s time for us to say states have to step up to the plate. That’s a good example where I don’t think that belongs in this stimulus bill. I don’t think we should be maintaining government workers with borrowed money.”

ThinkProgress.org noted that as of March 2011, 132,000 teachers have been laid off since the beginning of the recession and federal payrolls have been mostly flat for years, even as the population has been growing. It also noted that Issa is wrong in suggesting that the first stimulus package was unsuccessful. At its height, Recovery Act funds were supporting up to 3.6 mln. In June 2011, Recovery Act funding was still supporting up to 2.9 mln jobs.

According to David Leonhardt in the New York Times (7/8), if state and local governments had continued to hire at their previous pace, they would have added half a million jobs to the economy. In other words, government austerity over the past two years “has cost the economy about one million jobs.”

Prominent congressional Republicans have criticized the payroll tax cut that is part of Obama’s plan to get more money into the hands of American households so demand for goods and services doesn’t dry up. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) criticized the payroll tax cut as “sugar-high economics.” Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), the fourth-ranking member of the Republican caucus, said it is not a very effective way to stimulate the economy. And a spokesman for Majority Leader Cantor said his boss “has never believed that this type of temporary tax relief is the best way to grow the economy.”

But while stimulus is now a dirty word among Republicans, it wasn’t always so. The Center for American Progress (americanprogressaction.org) noted (8/31) that in January 2008, when the unemployment rate was only 4.8%, 165 Republicans in the House of Representatives and 33 Republican senators voted to pass the $152 bln Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 proposed by then-President George W. Bush that included a combination of tax cuts and direct spending. Among its supporters were Reps. John Boehner (R-Ohio), Cantor, Issa, Paul Ryan and Hensarling, as well as Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). In fact, of the 134 current House Republicans that were also serving in 2008, 85% voted in favor of the temporary tax cuts and additional spending as economic stimulus.

FLA. GOP REJECTS OBAMA JOBS AID. Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, predicted that Obama’s “American Jobs Act” will likely add 1.9 mln jobs and grow the economy by 2%. Meanwhile, the liberal but nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute reported that it would boost employment by around 4.3 mln, with 2.6 mln jobs coming from new initiatives alone.

But Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) and other GOP legislators in the state are strongly indicating they will reject billions in federal aid that could be used to create jobs in Florida:

Gov. Rick Scott and top Florida Republicans are sending early signals they could reject the billions in federal aid that could flow to the state under President Barack Obama’s jobs proposal, the Associated Press reported (9/9).

Florida has a 10.7% unemployment rate that is higher than the national average. But Scott and GOP legislative leaders said the plan outlined by President Barack Obama was too similar to the nearly $800 bln stimulus package that was approved by Congress back in 2009.

“It sounds like President Obama still doesn’t get it,” Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon said (9/9). “The answer to the current economic problems is not spending more money.”

Florida could receive more than $7.5 bln for schools, roads and other projects, AP reported. The White House estimates that the funds under the plan would support more than 60,000 jobs in Florida, including those held by teachers, cops and firefighters.

GOP OPPOSES EMERGENCY DISASTER RELIEF. Republican senators filibustered emergency disaster relief as they demanded that the $7 bln relief package be offset by cuts elsewhere. In the first vote (9/12) Republicans successfully blocked the relief package, as the 53 votes fell short of the required 60-vote supermajority. On a second vote (9/13) Harry Reid got eight Republicans from disaster-afflicted states to join the 53 Democrats to pass the bill, Politico.com reported, as the bill passed 61-38.

But the bill faces an uncertian future in the House, where Majority Leader Cantor, on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, demanded cuts from first responders in exchange for approving Obama’s request for $5.1 bln to provide federal disaster relief. The request includes $500 mln in emergency funds FEMA needs to continue to operate through September. Cantor, whose home state of Virginia was hit by an earthquake and Hurricane Irene, said the money is included in a House bill that slashes grants to equip and train first responders, such as police and fire departments, by 40%, on top of a 19% cut in fiscal year 2011. The House Homeland Security appropriations bill provides $2 bln for first responders in the US. The Defense appropriations bill provides $12.8 bln to train and equip troops and police in Afghanistan, ThinkProgress.org noted (9/10).

In December, ThinkProgress.org noted, Cantor also opposed a bipartisan bill to provide health services and financial compensation for 9/11 first responders who became sick after they were exposed to dangerous toxins.

OHIO VOTERS FIGHT SUPPRESSION BILL. Ohio voters are petitioning to rescind the state’s new law that would restrict access to elections. HB 194 was passed by the Republican-dominated Legislature and signed into law in June by Gov. John Kasich (R) as part of a nationwide Republican voter suppression campaign. A dozen legislatures ruled by Republicans have passed bills to prevent students, minorities, immigrants, ex-convicts and the elderly from casting ballots in 2012. The Ohio bill limits early voting; prevents counties from mailing absentee ballot applications to residents; prohibits poll workers from assisting voters with election forms and ballots; and makes it more difficult for local election boards to promote early voting. The ACLU reported that voters are seeking to collect 231,000 signatures by 9/29 to stop HB 194 from going into effect until a November 2012 referendum. For more information on the referendum effort see fairelectionsohio.com.

Ohio voters already have gathered more than 900,000 signatures to repeal SB 5, an anti-union bill that would eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees, forcing a November 2011 referendum on the matter. Opponents of the union-bashing bill will vote no on issue 2.

TEA PARTY CROWD CHEERS PERRY’S BERNANKE BASHING. Why do right wingers love Rick Perry? When Wolf Blitzer, host of the CNN Tea Party Debate (9/12), asked Rick Perry about his controversial comments that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s emergency economic policies were “almost treasonous” because he tried to manipulate the nation’s money supply in an attempt to improve the economy, the crowd cheered and the Texas governor (who got a D in “Principles of Economics” at Texas A&M University in 1970) did not back down. “I said if you are allowing the Federal Reserve to be used for political purposes that it would be almost treasonous, and that’s a very clear statement of fact,” Perry said, which prompted applause.

9/11 PROBE CHAIR SEES NEED TO REOPEN INQUIRY. Former Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) called on the US government to reopen its investigation into 9/11 after a report found that links between Saudi families living in the US and the hijackers were never disclosed by the FBI to the 2002 joint congressional intelligence committee investigating the attacks.

BrowardBulldog.org, a nonprofit news site, reported (9/8) that that just two weeks before the 9/11 hijackings, a Saudi family abruptly left a luxury home in Sarasota, Fla., leaving a brand-new car in the driveway, a refrigerator full of food and an open safe in the master bedroom. Law enforcement agents not only discovered the home was visited by vehicles used by the hijackers, but phone calls linked the home and those who carried out the death flights — including leader Mohamed Atta — in discoveries never before revealed to Congress or the public.

Graham told Reuters (9/12) the Sarasota case was “eerily similar” to the FBI’s failure to tell the intelligence committee about a former Saudi civil servant, Omar al-Bayoumi, who supported two hijackers while they were living in San Diego. Graham said an investigator for his committee independently unearthed the information about al-Bayoumi.

“In the final report of the congressional inquiry, there was a chapter related primarily to the Saudi role in 9/11 that was totally censored, every word of the chapter has been withheld from the public,” Graham said on MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan Show (9/12), RawStory.com reported. Graham co-chaired the congressional inquiry.

“Some of the other questions we ought to be asking are if we know that the Saudis who lived in San Diego and now apparently in Sarasota received substantial assistance, what about the Saudis who lived in Phoenix, Arizona? Or Arlington, Virginia? … What was happening in those places? ... I believe these are questions for which there are definitive answers, but the American people and largely their elected representatives have been denied that information,” Graham said.

On the orders of then-President Bush, the commission’s report on foreign support for the hijackers was entirely blacked out Graham said. Anthony Summers, one of the authors of the BrowardBulldog report, cowrote The Eleventh Day: The Full Story of 9/11 and Osama bin Laden, published in August by Ballantine Books. He has reported on the extensive links between Saudi Arabia and al Qaeda.

INFRASTRUCTURE PRIVATIZATION BANK? Cate Long notes at Blogs.Reuters.com (9/10) that President Obama’s proposal to create an infrastructure bank leverages public and private investment in the building of roads, bridges, transit, airports and other public works. But she said “its real purpose seems to be a means of spurring a large infrastructure privatization movement in the United States.”

SR 652 by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) would create the American Infrastructure Financing Authority, which would require that funded projects generate revenues to repay the loan to the infrastructure banks, which indicates the projects would either by paid by tolls, user fees or have the government repay the loan, but Long noted there is a preference for projects that maximize private investment.

Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, reportedly is unenthusiastic about plans for an infrastructure bank, but Long noted, “it’s likely that the Senator Kerry’s legislation will be adopted since it has support from the administration, the AFL-CIO and the US Chamber of Commerce. But it’s a pity that a project dressed as job creator will really be a vehicle to create privatized public assets. Our nation was founded and grew strong on the basis of our shared public infrastructure. It’s a shame that the American Infrastructure Financing Authority will be the agency in which ownership of public assets becomes private.”

INCOME DROPS, POVERTY RISES, MIDDLE CLASS SHRINKS. Median household income declined to 49,445 in 2010, down 2.3% from 2009, the US Census reported (9/13). It was 7.1% below the median household income peak of $53,252 in 1999. The official poverty rate in 2010 was 15.1% — up from 14.3% in 2009, the third consecutive annual increase in the poverty rate. Since 2007 the poverty rate has increased by 2.6 points, from 12.5% to 15.1%. In 2010, 46.2 mln peole lived in poverty, up from 43.6 mln in 2009 — the fourth consecutive annual increase in the number of people in poverty. The census also showed 3.2 mln people are kept out of poverty by unemployment insurance and 20.3 mln are kept out of poverty by Social Security but 49.1 mln people under 65 are uninsured.

Laura Clawson noted at DailyKos.com (9/12), “There’s no real argument against the fact that these numbers point to the need for a jobs plan. President Obama has one. As Republicans line up against that plan, they’re lining up in favor of continued decline in the median income and continued increase in the poverty rate.”

Andrew Leonard of Salon.com reviewed the same statistics and also noted a Wall Street Journal report (9/12) that American consumer product companies are beginning to split their product offerings between retail lines aimed either at the low end or the high end. For example, Procter & Gamble Co. was finding that many of its former middle-market shoppers are trading down to lower-priced goods — widening the pools of have and have-not consumers at the expense of the middle.

P&G executives were finding that the measure of income inequality in the US was beginning to approach that of the Philippines and Mexico.

“It’s not hard to understand what is happening here,” Leonard wrote. “The middle class, squeezed by globalization and advances in technology, is sinking backward, while the rich benefit disproportionately from gains in trade and excessively accommodative tax policy. Politically speaking, the obvious prescription would be to raise taxes on the rich and create jobs for the middle class. Unfortunately, the current Republican Party seems to think that the income demographics of the Philippines are something to be aspired to, instead of fixed.”

TEABAGGERS: NO MERCY FOR UNINSURED. The Republican presidential debates have shown a ghoulish side of the party that makes it hard for candidates to square their supposed Christianity. In the Republican debate sponsored by CNN and the Tea Party Express in Tampa (9/12), when Wolf Blitzer asked what should happen to an uninsured person who shows up at a hospital needing intensive care, Ron Paul replied, "That's what freedom is all about, taking your own risks," drawing applause. When Blitzer asked him, "Congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die?" members of the crowd shouted, "Yes!" Paul simply said that churches and neighbors should take care of the uninsured.

The morning after the debate, Rick Perry said the audience cheer in support of the idea of letting the uninsured die surprised him. "I was a bit taken aback by that myself, Perry told reporters from NBC News and the *Miami Herald*. "We're the party of life. We ought to be coming up with ways to save lives."

Perry distinguished from that the issue of "justice," reiterating his strong support and "respect" for the death penalty on a state-by-state basis. "But the Republican party ought to be about life and protecting, particularly, innocent life," he added.

Perry also responded to the crowd's negative reaction to his support for allowing in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, saying his campaign has "the right message" on opportunities for children who were brought to the United States illegally "by no fault of their own."

"This issue is about education, it's not about immigration," he said.

"These kids showed up in our state by no fault of their own, some 2-3 years of age. And they've been in our schools, they've done their work, they've prepared themselves good, they want to be contributing members of society. So it would be I think the wrong message to say somehow or another that you can't go to our colleges, or we've going to punish you because of the sound of your last name."

"When people really think about it, I think they'll understand what we did in Texas was the right thing for Texas," he said.

GOP PREZ GANG PUNCH PERRY. At the CNN-Tea Party Express debate (9/12), Rick Perry doubled down on his criticism of Social Security, which he had called a “monstrous lie” and “a Ponzi scheme” at the previous debate at the Reagan library (8/31).

Mitt Romney hopes to convince Republican voters that Perry’s views are outside the mainstream and would frighten general election voters, but Rush Limbaugh warned Romney and other Republican presidential candidates in his radio show before the debate that they had better lay off criticizing Perry for calling Social Security a “Ponzi scheme.”

“I’ve got a whole list of people here — media and outside — in politics who have referred to Social Security as a Ponzi scheme,” Limbaugh went on. “And I’m hearing that Michele Bachmann is preparing to lay into Rick Perry about Social Security being a Ponzi scheme. And I would like to warn everybody: Be careful here because you’re pandering to the media.”

Greg Sargent of WashingtonPost.com noted before the debate, “What does it say that one of the most influential voices among GOP primary voters is putting the candidates on notice by warning them that it’s *politically risky* to protest the claim that Social Security is a criminal enterprise?”

Romney did press Perry about whether he still thinks “Social Security should be ended as a federal program, as you did six months ago.” When Perry hedged, “I think we ought to have a conversation,” Romney fired back, “We’re having that right now, governor.” Perry had a comeback, “Governor, you’re calling it a criminal — you said if people did it in the private sector if would be called criminal. That’s in your book.”

But Dana Milbank noted at WashingtonPost.com, “The crowd cheered this rejoinder, which would have been effective if Romney had indeed written such a thing. An electronic search of Romney’s book, *No Apology*, found no use of the word “criminal” in relation to Social Security. What he wrote was quite the opposite, saying that if bankers raided trusts the way politicians raid the Social Security trust, ‘they would go to jail.’”

But Perry has never let fact-checkers trouble him, and his shots depicting Romney as a defender of the New Deal and “trying to scare seniors” drew cheers from the Tea Party crowd.

Perry also came under fire from Michele Bachmann for his role in issuing an executive order in 2007 that pre-teen girls in Texas receive the HPV vaccine to prevent cervical cancer. Perry’s former chief of staff was lobbying for the vaccine maker, Merck, which also gave “thousands of dollars in political donations to the governor,” Bachmann noted. Perry answered, “It was a $5,000 contribution that I had received from them. I raise about $30 million. And if you’re saying that I can be bought for $5,000, I’m offended.”

“Well,” Bachmann retorted, “I’m offended for all the little girls and the parents that didn’t have a choice.”

Perry ended up rescinding the vaccine executive order and acknowledged that it was a mistake not to consult with the Legislature. But the Houston Chronicle noted (9/13) that Perry’s gubernatorial campaign received $22,000 from Merck’s PAC before the executive order. Also, Mike Toomey, Perry’s former chief of staff and Merck lobbyist, has contributed more than $48,000 to Texans for Rick Perry during his decade in office and is now running the main “super PAC” backing Perry’s presidential race. And Texans for Public Justice reported that Merck donated $377,500 to the Republican Governors Association since 2006 — the year Perry became heavily involved in the organization.

Nolan Hicks of the San Antonio Express-News noted that Perry’s line — “... if you’re saying that I can be bought for $5,000, I’m offended” — offers his Republican rivals the perfect five-second bit to set up attack ads that reference the HPV vaccine controversy; the Trans-Texas Corridor; the Teacher Retirement System life insurance betting scheme; a plan to make higher education “more cost-effective”; and the Emerging Technology and Enterprise funds.

Pundits seemed to name Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann as the winners of the debate for their needling of Perry, but Politico.com’s Roger Simon suggested that perhaps the biggest winner of the debate was President Obama. In an interview with NBC’s Brian Williams that aired 9/12, Obama weighed in on his idea of government compared to the Republican idea of government. “I think having Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid programs that provide a social safety net for people, that is a vital role for our government,” Obama said. “It’s not enough for us to just leave that to local charities.”

Simon concluded: “So that’s the difference between me and those Republicans, Obama was saying. Vote for me and secure your old age. Vote for the Republicans and line up for private soup kitchens. And if Obama can get the 2012 campaign to be about that, he has a real chance.”

Perry claimed that it was important to “free up” Wall Street in order to create jobs and grow the US economy. Andy Kroll noted at MotherJones.com (9/12) that this is a common talking point for Perry, who said in August that the government needs to “free” the “Wall Street investor from the over-regulation and the over-taxation.”

Kroll noted, “Talk about a case of amnesia. Let’s not forget, it was all those ‘freed,’ under-regulated banks, mortgage companies and investment firms that imploded the economy. Years of deregulatory policy under Democratic and Republican presidents — including tearing down the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999, which walled off commercial banking from more risky investments and speculation, and passing the Commodity Futures Modernization Act in 2000, which essentially transformed Wall Street into a casino — helped bring the financial markets to their knees in 2008.”

The bipartisan Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission pointed deregulation as a key reason for the meltdown and suggested that Wall Street needs more regulation — more sentries, more cops on the beat, more safeguards — not fewer, Kroll wrote, adding, “That was the aim of the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, which many of the GOP presidential candidates say they want to repeal.”

Rick Santorum for supporting in-state tuition at Texas universities for undocumented immigrants who graduate from Texas high schools — a state version of the DREAM Act, and from

CANTOR DOESN'T SUPPORT STIMULUS IN THE US. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) is opposing President Obama’s proposal to spend $30 bln to modernize 35,000 American schools as part of the administration’s bill to spur job growth, Reuters reported (9/12). Cantor said Obama should focus instead on cutting federal regulations. But ThinkProgress.org noted (9/12)that Cantor and other Republicans voted for over $120 bln to rebuild roads, bridges, schools and other infrastructure in Iraq and Afghanistan. And while the funding Obama is proposing is fully offset, Cantor voted to build schools in Iraq and Afghanistan with deficit spending.

From The Progressive Populist, October 1, 2011


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