CAREENING TOWARD THE CLIFF
► In The Hill — Labor angered by Obama’s willingness to cut Social Security in debt ceiling deal — President Obama’s apparent willingness to discuss Social Security cuts in the debt-ceiling negotiations with Congress has angered labor unions and could cause them to withhold support for Democrats in the next election.
► In today’s Washington Post — Debt reduction talks in limbo as clock ticks toward Aug. 2 deadline — Talks among President Obama and congressional leaders Sunday evening failed to break a partisan stalemate over how to raise the federal borrowing limit, leaving the politically charged negotiations in limbo three weeks before the administration says the country will begin to default.
► In today’s NY Times — For Boehner, lofty budget goals checked by reality — He and the president pursued an ambitious plan that would have reduced spending by as much as $4 trillion over 10 years. It was a transformative proposal, overhauling the tax code and instituting consensus changes to shore up Medicare and even Social Security. But the speaker’s lofty ambitions quickly crashed into the political reality of a divided, highly partisan Congress. His decision on Saturday night to abandon the comprehensive package, citing the White House’s insistence on tax increases, was a sharp reversal. It highlighted the challenge he faces in persuading his party to tolerate any compromise on government spending and exposed the fissures within his own leadership team over how to proceed.
EDITOR’S NOTE — To sum up, the president and negotiators of both parties were prepared to cut Social Security and Medicare in exchange for the closure of some corporate tax loopholes and ending Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy. But the Republican speaker couldn’t get his rank-and-file to support it. It is safe to assume that all four of Washington’s Republican representatives — all of whom supported Rep. Ryan’s budget to end Medicare and all of whom have signed a pledge from Grover “Drown Government in the Bathtub” Norquist not to raise taxes under any circumstances — were among the rank-and-file who wouldn’t support the Grand Compromise (or Grand Capitulation, depending on your perspective).
So on one ironic hand, you can thank our Republicans for accidentally obstructing senseless cuts in Social Security and Medicare (that they support), at least temporarily. But you can also thank them for an impending economic disaster as they careen wildly toward the first-ever default of this nation’s obligation to pay its debts. What will happen if the House Republicans pull the trigger on the default gun they are holding to the federal government’s head? As the Seattle Times Jon Talton reports:
The effects on average Americans will be profound. A record number are on federal assistance of some kind, from Social Security and Medicare to food stamps. All would eventually come to a halt. But that’s only the start.
The stock market will tank. There goes your 401(k), again. Because every asset you own is denominated in dollars, from your house and emergency savings to what lives in your wallet, it risks a devaluation. Your money will be worth less. Demand will plummet, driven both by the general economic downturn and the paralysis of the federal government, a huge player in the economy.
Is it any wonder that even conservative stalwarts, like columnist David Brooks, are now wondering aloud whether today’s Republicans are fit to govern?
► In today’s NY Times — Economy faces a jolt as unemployment benefit checks run out — Close to $2 of every $10 that went into Americans’ wallets last year were payments like jobless benefits, food stamps, Social Security and disability, according to an analysis by Moody’s Analytics. In states hit hard by the downturn, like Arizona, Florida, Michigan and Ohio, residents derived even more of their income from the government. By the end of this year, however, many of those dollars are going to disappear, with the expiration of extended benefits intended to help people cope with the lingering effects of the recession. Moody’s Analytics estimates $37 billion will be drained from the nation’s pocketbooks this year.
► In Sunday’s NY Times — Somehow, the unemployed became invisible — The United States is in the grips of its gravest jobs crisis since Franklin D. Roosevelt was in the White House. Lose your job, and it will take roughly nine months to find a new one. That is off the charts. Many Americans have simply given up. But unless you’re one of those unhappy 14 million, you might not even notice the problem. The budget deficit, not jobs, has been dominating the conversation in Washington.
► In Sunday’s NY Times — The worst time to slow the economy (editorial) — There has never been any evidence that the federal debt is primarily responsible for the persistent joblessness that began with the 2008 recession. In fact, there is evidence that the spending cuts already imposed by Republican intransigence are responsible for a great deal of joblessness. There is still time for the president to insist that the debt talks include a substantial program to put people to work now, while reducing the deficit over a longer period. To do otherwise is to ignore the ugly reality of Friday’s jobs report.
► In today’s NY Times — No, we can’t? Or won’t? (Paul Krugman column) — Creating jobs in a depressed economy is something government could and should be doing. Yes, there are huge political obstacles to action — notably, the fact that the House is controlled by a party that benefits from the economy’s weakness. But political gridlock should not be conflated with economic reality. Our failure to create jobs is a choice, not a necessity — a choice rationalized by an ever-shifting set of excuses.
► In Saturday’s (Everett) Herald — By pitting schools against poor and aging parents, we are failing both (by Brendan Williams) — Our state’s most vulnerable residents ride a roller coaster of uncertainty. This uncertainty is compounded by pitting our future — education — against the impoverished in medical need. Politicians seldom take the long view, but must do so on long-term care. Our most vulnerable deserve more than poll-tested rhetoric. Human suffering is no less significant than the consequences of education cuts just because it’s less tangible. Paying as we go can ensure the safety net is available to all those in need.
► In today’s Olympian — Unions were big spenders in 2011 legislative session — The PDC reports that the top three individual spenders were labor unions: WFSE at $626,481, SEIU 775NW at $402,676 and the WEA at $382,609. All three were heavily involved in efforts to fight for the interests of public-sector workers, including the federation’s defense of collective bargaining agreements reached with Gov. Chris Gregoire. “We spent about $500,000 on television, radio and Internet ads,” said WFSE’s Tim Welch. “It was probably 10 times as much as we’ve ever done before.”
► In Sunday’s Columbian — A new life for Larch — The past 18 months have been a roller-coaster ride for the staff and inmates at Larch Corrections Center, the minimum-security prison in the woods of east Clark County. As recently as November, Larch faced closure by February 1. Now, with its future seemingly assured, Larch is going through some changes. Of the prison’s reconstituted staff of 109, nearly half are newcomers, many from much larger prisons. With 480 inmates, it’s at capacity.
► In today’s Tri-City Herald — Kennewick road construction halted after worker fatality — The DOT temporarily has halted work on the Highway 395 road construction project in Kennewick after a worker was killed Saturday night. The construction worker who was hit by a dump truck during nighttime work has been identified as Brian Lacy, a father and husband from Terrebonne, Ore. Inland Asphalt of Richland is the contractor on the project, but Lacy worked for a subcontractor.
► In today’s Seattle Times — King County fined $10,800 for safety violations — L&I found that the 54 security officers charged with protecting people and property in county government buildings face hazards such as physical confrontations with angry trespassers. But the officers have not been adequately trained by the county in self-defense tactics.
► In Sunday’s (Everett) Herald — Everett cop’s firing shouldn’t be made into labor battle — If a worker disregards employer policy to the extent that a life is lost, is that worthy of a labor battle? That’s exactly what we’re seeing in the Everett Police Officers Association complaint over the firing of Troy Meade.
► In the Olympian — New vote may privatize liquor –The campaign for Initiative 1183 turned in more than 354,000 signatures gathered over just three weeks, likely enough to qualify it for the statewide ballot in the fastest time ever. The campaign said 150,000 of the signatures came from customers of Costco, which has carried the campaign on its back with $950,000 worth of contributions.
► In today’s Columbian — Care worker initiative resurrected — Voters may get a second chance this November to require background checks and increased training for workers who care for seniors and people with disabilities.
► In Sunday’s Seattle Times — Will Sen. Cantwell get free ride in 2012 re-election bid? — After years of defeats in top races, Washington Republicans suffer from a weak bench, with no obvious candidate of statewide prominence to call on. Meanwhile, they face an electorate dominated by the hugely Democratic tilt of Seattle.
► In today’s LA Times — Romney’s jobs record a little shaky — The leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination says he is the man to get Americans back to work. But during the years he was governor of Massachusetts, the state ranked among the last in the nation in job creation.
► In today’s LA Times — Putting “Labor” back in NLRB (editorial) — One of Congress’ responses to the Depression was the National Labor Relations Act, which officially encourages collective bargaining between employers and workers to negotiate the terms and conditions of employment. The act has been undermined in recent decades by rules from a National Labor Relations Board hostile to union organizing and too ready to accept the claims of businesses that they are beset by hard-charging labor officials. Now, at long last, the board has delivered a plan to remove some of the maneuvers that management uses to derail the wishes of employees who want to organize.
► In Sunday’s Columbus Dispatch — Aid for U.S. workers part of trade debate — As Congress takes up free-trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama, the question at the heart of the divisive debate is: Should an expansion of trade include assistance for those hurt by it?
► In Sunday’s LA Times — Labor costs may be sticking point in UAW talks with automakers — As the UAW prepares to kick off national labor talks later this month, the hourly wage and benefits costs of the Detroit Three and their rivals once again will take center stage.
► At BusinessWeek.com — How to be a patriot: Hire an illegal immigrant — What makes the political impasse over immigration particularly frustrating is that hiring an illegal alien is good for the illegal alien, good for the U.S. economy, and good for the country he or she comes from. So what’s not to like? In cases like this, there is only one moral course available for true patriots: Go find an illegal to hire. Huge numbers of people in border states are doing precisely that.
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