Senate set for health care debate

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 30-11-2009-05-2008


There's no clear course for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to steer health care legislation through Congress.With the Senate set to begin debate Monday on health care overhaul, the all-hands-on-deck Democratic coalition that allowed the bill to advance is fracturing already.

NYT: White House intruders want to sell tale

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 30-11-2009-05-2008


Nov. 28: NBC’s Mike Viquiera reports an investigation is moving ahead. (Nightly News)NYT: As White House officials fend off new questions about how a fame-seeking couple finessed their way into a glittering state dinner, the pair begin trying to sell their story.

GOP senator says health care bill can’t be fixed (AP)

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 30-11-2009-05-2008


AP – The No. 2 Republican in the Senate is urging his Democratic colleagues to start over in crafting a bill to overhaul the health care system.

Ensign adds Reid race to reasons for staying on (AP)

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 30-11-2009-05-2008


AP – Sen. John Ensign said Monday that heeding calls for his resignation would make it harder for Republicans to unseat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid next year.

House panel sets hearing on White House breach (AP)

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 30-11-2009-05-2008


This photo released by the White House Nov. 27, 2009, shows President Barack Obama greeting  Michaele and Tareq Salahi, right, at a State Dinner hosted by Obama for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the White House in Washington Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2009.  The Secret Service is looking into its own security procedures after determining that the uninvited Virginia couple managed to slip into the dinner. (AP Photo/The White House, Samantha Appleton)AP – The Secret Service director and the couple who crashed the Obama administration’s first state dinner have been called to testify before Congress on Thursday about the incident.

Court allows retrial for Pa. man left paraplegic (AP)

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 30-11-2009-05-2008


AP – The Supreme Court on Monday cleared the way for the retrial of a central Pennsylvania man who allegedly murdered his wife and then shot himself in the head, leaving him delusional and a paraplegic.

Conventional wisdom, wrong as usual

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 30-11-2009-05-2008


From Politico’s John Harris, here’s what they are thinking inside the beltway:

A year into his presidency, however, Obama’s gift for controlling his image shows signs of faltering. As Washington returns to work from the Thanksgiving holiday, there are several anti-Obama storylines gaining momentum. … Here are seven storylines Obama needs to worry about:

In order, quoting from Harris:

  1. He thinks he’s playing with Monopoly money
  1. Too much Leonard Nimoy
  1. That’s the Chicago Way
  1. He’s a pushover
  1. He sees America as another pleasant country on the U.N. roll call, somewhere between Albania and Zimbabwe
  1. President Pelosi
  1. He’s in love with the man in the mirror

According to Harris, the same folks who sat through eight years of exploding deficits under Bush without saying a word are now freaked out by one year of spending under President Obama in the middle of the deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression. And, without pointing to a single shred of evidence, they think “spending” is a big political issue.

Well, how do they explain the fact that even a majority of Southern Republicans — the most conservative leaning voters in the entire country — want the federal government to pass a jobs bill?

According to Harris, DC-types think that the Democrats’ big problem is that independents are fleeing to the GOP, and they cite Virginia as evidence of that thesis. But that’s not the case. As kos wrote on election night, the problem is that an unmotivated left is a political death sentence for the Democratic Party.

It’s true that only 30% of independents voted for Deeds, compared with 49% who voted for Obama.

But that only tells part of the story. The other part is that while Democrats were 39% of the 2008 electorate, they were only 33% of the 2009 electorate. Meanwhile, while conservatives were 33% of the 2008 electorate, they were 40% of the 2009 electorate. Both moderates and liberals stayed home, while conservatives showed up.

That’s not a story of independents fleeing to the GOP, that’s a story of Democrats and left-leaning independents sitting on the sidelines because they weren’t motivated to vote.

It’s not that Deeds moved too far left for the independents, it’s that he didn’t give left-leaning independents and Democrats a strong reason to vote.

Although DC-types seems to be learning the wrong lessons from Virginia, the right lessons are quite important, and our newest tracking poll yields more evidence of that fact. As Steve noted on Friday, there is an enormous enthusiasm gap between Democrats and the GOP:

But a bigger indicator of peril comes from a new survey question added the DK tracking poll for the first time this week. The poll now includes a rather simple indicator of baseline voter enthusiasm for the year 2010. The question offered to respondents is a simple question about their intentions for 2010:

QUESTION: In the 2010 Congressional elections will you definitely vote, probably vote, not likely vote, or definitely will not vote?

The results were, to put it mildly, shocking:

Voter Intensity: Definitely + Probably Voting/Not Likely + Not Voting

Republican Voters: 81/14
Independent Voters: 65/23

Two in five Democratic voters either consider themselves unlikely to vote at this point in time, or have already made the firm decision to remove themselves from the 2010 electorate pool. Indeed, Democrats were three times more likely to say that they will “definitely not vote” in 2010 than are Republicans.

That right there is a recipe for a 2010 electoral horror show for Democrats, but not for the reasons that the “conventionally wise” crowd in DC is chasing around the cocktail circuit. Those numbers right there show us a Democratic base that is apathetic and uninspired, and anyone who thinks the way to fix that problem is by moving to the right is dumber than a sack of bricks.

The bottom-line is that DC-types who are looking to understand why Democrats face political peril in 2010 oughta’ get outside of DC, because if Harris is offering an accurate portrait, the discussions they are having there are positively inane.

It’s not a question of whether Obama’s big ears make him look like Dr. Spock, it’s not a question of whether he’s “too Chicago” or “too soft,” it’s not a question of whether Nancy Pelosi is moving him too far left or if he thinks the U.S. is a nice African nation, and it certainly isn’t a question of whether he’s spending too much time looking in the mirror.

The challenge faced by Democrats is whether they can demonstrate to the nation — and particularly, to their base — that they have made substantial progress in delivering the change they promised in 2008. Among other things, that means turning this economy around, getting out of Iraq, getting us closer to leaving Afghanistan, reforming our health care system, and reinventing our energy economy.

In short, it’s the substance that matters, not the Beltway babble. Nobody said it would be easy, but to the extent Democrats want to deliver, the base will stand with them — and return them to office next November.

But if they abandon the base, the base will abandon them. It’s not really that complicated, but it’s no surprise most in DC still haven’t figured itout.

Obama facing tough selling job on Afghan policy (AP)

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 30-11-2009-05-2008


U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington October 7, 2009. Obama faces pressure from fellow Democrats, opposition Republicans and the international community even before he announces long-awaited plans on Tuesday for a big U.S. troop increase in Afghanistan. REUTERS/Jim Young/FilesAP – Barack Obama has begun one of the toughest sales jobs of his presidency, launching the much-awaited rollout of his new Afghan war strategy by informing top military and civilian advisers in Washington and Kabul and telephoning key allies around the globe.

Clinton daughter Chelsea engaged to be married (AP)

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 30-11-2009-05-2008


In this Dec. 1996 file photo, Chelsea Clinton, right, sits with Marc Mezvinsky on the beach at Hilton Head Island, S.C.  (AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain, File)AP – Chelsea Clinton, the 29-year old daughter of former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, has become engaged to her longtime boyfriend, investment banker Marc Mezvinsky.

Resurrect and Energize the Conservation Corps

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 30-11-2009-05-2008


At the Jobs Summit coming up Thursday, a cacophony of ideas will compete for inclusion on the list of what the President ultimately decides to do. That’s good. The unemployment situation needs lots of ideas because there is no silver bullet. No one approach can accomplish everything.  

Congress and two administrations have already rescued financial giants and two once-powerful manufacturing operations that has so far kept the whole shebang from toppling into the mud. Unlike its predecessor, the Obama administration has also offered hope to out-of-work and barely working people that full-time jobs will soon flow. For many, that’s happened. But for others the hope is fading as the lost jobs keep accumulating. The urgency could scarcely be more obvious.

One element of whatever else emerges to address unemployment should be a modernized Civilian Conservation Corps. Its main arm should be what Professor Smartass labels a Clean Energy Conservation Corps.

Government rescue work seems to have taken firm hold at the big banks, considering the bonuses they plan to pay at year’s end. These were earned, it is claimed, in a tone deploring how rude we were for daring to raise an eyebrow. This reaction makes total sense in the upside-down world of unfettered free enterprise to which the top bonus recipients profess loyalty while sucking so hard on the taxpayers’ teat. So, too, does their moaning about the possibility of new laws that would make it more difficult to muck things up again with what – stripped to its drawers – amounted to a giant Ponzi scheme with the whole population as marks. Read between the lines analyzing this muck-up and you’ll find the usual ruling class mantra: Devil take the hindmost.

Why more jobs legislation? Because the first stimulus wasn’t enough. That happened partly because economic forecasters underestimated just how bad jobs were going to get slammed. They can be blamed for blowing their prediction. But it wasn’t Barack Obama who allowed an trillion housing bubble to grow and claim there was no problem even as it was collapsing. The guy who did that is named Ben Bernanke.

Despite right-wing spin, the administration’s stimulus package has created and saved many jobs. Just not enough, and not quick enough. Everybody except the Party of No and their accomplices recognize something more must be done about unemployment. But the only way to get Republican backing for effective jobs action would be to give the very richest of their pals another nice upward transfer of wealth plus some vigerish in the form of new penalties on working people.

Because of the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration, Americans can go just about anywhere in this country and see FDR’s hand on the landscape. These programs weren’t flawless, but they were smart, effective, pragmatic. To hear some Party of No politicians and rightist pundits tell it, however, this particular use of the public sector was just short of a Bolshevik coup. So, obviously, anything with a whiff of New Deal scent about it is going to set off another round of patented GOP sulking and barking amplified by our ever-helpful national media.

Let them bark. The White House should press for a direct job creation program anyway.

The CCC put millions of young men to work planting trees, curbing erosion, and generally nurturing the National Park System. Nine years the program lasted. Much of the work done still lives today. A Clean Energy Conversion Corps would not only create jobs but also provide a massive public investment with an impact reaching decades into the future. CECC employees could audit home energy use, weatherize, rehab, retrofit and sign up for paid green apprenticeships. These would provide them the skills to move on to green-collar jobs in the private sector as those become more readily available.

Unlike its predecessor, the CECC would probably work best if it included a public-private partnership as a major element. The Kentucky Clean Energy Corps program has some good ideas. In my dreams, the CECC would be authorized to assist the formation of cooperatively owned enterprises since much clean energy work is perfect for small businesses.

I can hear the mutterings of my party’s no-can-do voices. Politically impossible. Not even worth trying. Not enough votes. Wouldn’t work anyway – getting project permits would take eternity. Besides, this isn’t 75 years ago and we need something newfangled. Yes, we do. But we didn’t give up our telephones just because Alexander Graham Bell died 87 years ago. We transformed them. Likewise with the social safety net. Tough? Absolutely. The foes of safety nets in the Party of No and its accomplices in our own party have been shredding them for decades. They ferociously block every attempt at repair and renewal. So what? Progressives don’t whine about obstacles. Well, okay, that’s not true. We do. But we don’t surrender. We find ways to overcome the obstacles.
An audaciously and pragmatically crafted CECC would mesh perfectly with programs already being funded by the billion green portion of the two-year stimulus package and with the still languishing American Clean Energy and Security act passed by the House five months ago. It could provide entry-level positions with good training and a job ladder for one of the most heavily unemployed demographics – men and women aged 18-25, especially those with only a high school diploma, though the program shouldn’t be for them alone. From those first government-funded green jobs, they could move on higher-skilled, better-paying ones in the private sector.

Predictions for such jobs are optimistic. The union/eco-group coalition known as the Blue Green Alliance recently predicted in the white paper, Building the Clean Energy Assembly Line, that there would be 850,000 new manufacturing jobs alone by 2525, based on an economy powered 25% by renewable energy. The  recent Booz, Allen, Hamilton Green Jobs Study for the non-profit United States Green Building Council concluded that the building industry will create 7.9 million green jobs in the next four years.

That’s a lot. But that’s also a lot of waiting. Meanwhile, there aren’t enough workers skilled in the tasks green energy will require. Lack of adequate funding has forced community colleges and other venues to turn hundreds of students away from their overflowing green job training programs.

While the preponderance of jobs created by the Conservation Corps would be basic entry-level positions, others would require previously acquired transferable skills and be compensated appropriately. Every employee should have the opportunity to upgrade their skills through CECC training and credentialing programs. These could be run by public and private entities, including community colleges, unions, those cooperatively owned businesses mentioned above, and private corporations.  

The stimulus has already spurred the creation of additional jobs in small businesses involved with the 33-year-old Weatherization Assistance Program. And those jobs must be paid prevailing local wages under the David-Bacon Act of 1931. WAP received a far larger budget for the next two years than usual, billion in ARRA funds to help low-income home-owners and renters save money, save energy and stay warmer or cooler in the process.

Other green jobs are being stimulated into existence, too. A solar manufacturing facility is being built in California. Wind power companies, both home grown and foreign, are building several turbine factories. The recovery act’s .3 billion Smart Grid Investment Grant Program, is starting to gain traction as cities and utility companies start signing up for this important transformation.  

But as co-founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research Dean Baker told Renee Cho at SolveClimate:

“Clean tech job growth is small scale relative to the economy. … ARRA has helped percentage-wise — with green sectors up by 30 to 40 percent from the stimulus — but it’s starting from a very small base. The absolute numbers are low. We’re talking tens of thousands of jobs when millions are out of work.” The national unemployment rate as of October was 10.2 percent.

As Baker knows, when you add the out-of-workers to the part-timers who can’t find a full-time job, and to the discouraged, the tally is probably double that. Even officially it’s a dreadful 17.5%.

Expanding that small base of green jobs will be a multifacted task. But with a CECC, and perhaps a Green WPA as well, millions of Americans could sustain themselves with reasonably decent jobs while they wait for the better ones to appear. The new Corps and the new WPA could be temporary, as they were in the Depression, or they could be, as L. Randal Wray has wisely argued, part of a permanent direct job-creation program that never stops providing a safety net and a boost into new jobs when old ones go away.

Of necessity, the Jobs Summit will focus most intensely on fast-acting programs. However, attendees should remember that a large portion of the jobs generated, including the green ones, will be lost if the administration fails to simultaneously develop an industrial policy, the kind of policy every other developed country on the planet has in place.

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The commentary is part of the DK GreenRoots project.