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Robert Reich, Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, wrote that President's Obama's December speech in Kansas is the most important economic speech of his presidency. In the speech in Osawatomie, Kansas where Teddy Roosevelt gave his "New Nationalism" speech in 1910, the President aligned himself with the Occupy Wall Street movement. Reich noted that President Obama connected the dots, laid out the reasons behind our economic and political crises, and asserted a willingness to take on the powerful and the privileged that have gamed the system to their advantage. The President's speech on the economy contains the themes and messages that are likely to be at the forefront of the coming election campaign. Read Reich's highlights and comments on the speech: For full details, view the 55 minute speech and download a transcript.
Last Updated on Monday, 29 August 2011 12:24
Last Updated on Monday, 29 August 2011 12:31
The Obama administration reached another major milestone with the passing of the Wall Street Reform Bill. The Senate had a hard time getting to the 60 votes necessary to break the fillibuster that prevented the bill from coming to the floor for a vote. The bill is a major step forward in reversing the many years of deregulation that resulted in the worldwide crash of banking systems. Senator Ted Kaufman (D, Delaware) gives a thoughtful analysis of the many accomplishments of the bill and the ways it should be strengthened in future legislation in "The Wall Street Reform Bill: How Much Did We Lose Getting to 60?"
Jim Meffert on Reinstating Glass-Steagall to Strengthen Financial Reform
The reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act, supported by CD3 Candidate for the U.S. House Jim Meffert, would strengthen the separation of investment from commercial banking that Senator Kaufman explains depends to a great deal on regulators in the current bill. See Jim Meffert's 2 minute video on the need for further financial regulation.
Last Updated on Monday, 29 August 2011 12:58
The Senate passed the Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010 Thursday May 20. Providing the most far reaching financial regulations since the Great Depression, the bill creates a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency, establishes oversight of the vast derivatives market, and gives the government authority to wind down large banks that threaten the financial system. The bill also gives a council of regulators authority to monitor risks to the financial system, imposes new restrictions on credit rating agencies, and gives shareholders a say in corporate affairs. The final vote of 59 to 39 came just a few hours after Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts switched his vote to make the 60 needed to limit debate and move to a vote on the bill. Four Republicans voted in favor of the bill, and two Democrats opposed it. Obama hailed the breakthrough during a 7 minute talk to the preess in the Rose Garden after the Senate had cleared the way for passage of the bill. The financial industry, Obama commented, had tried to stop the new regulations "with hordes of lobbyists and millions of dollars in ads . . . . Our goal is not to punish the banks but to protect the larger economy and the American people from the kind of upheavals that we've seen in the past few years."
Listen to President Obama's Talk
President Obama called for reducing the deficit by $12 trillion over 12 years by cutting domestic and defense spending, reducing health care costs through more efficient and effective models of care, ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, and revising the tax code. The plan includes $2 trillion in spending cuts, $1 trillion in taxes, and $1 trillion in reduced interest payments.
Last Updated on Monday, 29 August 2011 12:20
The President objected to the Republican deficit reduction proposal:
“This is a vision that says even though America can’t afford to invest in education or clean energy; even though we can’t afford to care for seniors and poor children, we can somehow afford more than $1 trillion in new tax breaks for the wealthy. Think about it. In the last decade, the average income of the bottom 90 percent of all working Americans actually declined. Meanwhile, the top 1 percent saw their income rise by an average of more than a quarter of a million dollars each. That’s who needs to pay less taxes?” Obama said. “They want to give people like me a $200,000 tax cut that’s paid for by asking 33 seniors to each pay $6,000 more in health costs. That’s not right, and that’s not going to happen as long as I’m president.”
View Obama's 45 minute speech on the deficit. It takes a few moments for it to download.
Read the transcript of the speech.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 August 2011 23:44
Before leaving to spend Christmas and New Year's in Hawaii, President Obama held a press conference to celebrate the accomplishments of the post election Congressional session. In his opening remarks, the President lamented the fact that the DREAM Act was successfully obstructed by Republicans in the Senate, but celebrated the accomplishments of the last few weeks. New York Review of Books blogger Michael Tomasky notes that "the president can now claim a head-turning sequence of out-of-nowhere legislative victories. . . very few Democrats in Washington would have been willing to predict two weeks ago that any of these measures would pass." Following are the five important important pieces of legislation that passed passed with the expertise and hard work of the President, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi as well as promotion of the legislation by grassroots activists.
1. Got the New START Treaty Through - The most significant arms control agreement in nearly two decades will make our world safer and reduce U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals with inspectors on the ground to verify both countries are adhering to the START Treaty. The bipartisan approval of the START Treaty strengthens American leadership on non-proliferation issues, reinforces our relationship with a vital ally, helps prevent nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists, and contributes to world peace. Joe Cirincione provides further details on how Republican Senators were persuaded to support the treaty and on the Senators who voted against it: Fresh Security Consensus Trounces Cold War Politics in New START Victory.
2. Signed Extension of Tax Cuts & Unemployment Insurance - The package will spur jobs, businesses, and growth. While not everyone was happy with every part of this package, when taken as a whole, economists across the political spectrum agree that the economy will grow faster than they originally thought next year. This bill also agrees with the the progressive deficit reduction proposals summarized below which suggest waiting two years while the economy continues to recover before implementing deficit reduction.
Many Democrats disagreed with the extension of the Bush Tax Cuts for the highest income Americans. President Obama disagreed as well: "Those arguments have not gone away. I still believe that it doesn't make sense for us to provide tax cuts to people like myself who don't need ‘em when our deficit and debts are growing. That's a debate that's going to continue into 2011," Obama said.
Tax cuts for the wealthy were part of the bill because Republican Senators prevented the bill that didn't include them from coming up for a vote on the Senate floor. 42 Republican Senators also signed a letter to President Obama stating they would not allow any other legislation to come to the Senate floor for a vote until legislation on the Bush tax cuts had been passed. In effect tax cuts for the wealthy were the #1 issue for Republicans and the price Democrats had to pay to pass other aspects of the bill such as extension of unemployment benefits and renewable energy credits and to move other important legislation forward.
See the chart for the Tax Cut and Unemployment Insurance bill as well as leading progressive Senators' objections to the tax cuts for the wealthy below.
3. Overturned Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell - The Repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ends a 17-year old law and long standing injustice. President Obama stated, "this was the right thing to do for our military, and it was the right thing to do for our country's security." No longer will thousands of patriotic Americans in uniform be forced to live a lie or leave the military because of their sexual orientation. We are a nation that believes all men and women are created equal. That principle of equality is now enshrined in law. 4. A New a Bipartisan Food Safety Bill - The Food Safety Bill constitutes the biggest upgrade of America’s food safety laws since the Great Depression.
5. Finally Got the 9/11 Health Bill Through - The 9/11 Health Bill will help cover the health care costs of police officers, firefighters, rescue workers, and residents who inhaled toxic air near the World Trade Center on that terrible morning, and the days that followed. Listen to President Obama's speech. Read the transcript.
The Senate's Joint Committee on Taxation released an estimate of the costs of the various provisions in the Tax Cut/Unemployment Insurance Bill. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy organization, converted the estimate to the chart at the left that makes it easy to understand the bill.
Note that it is the last section on High Income Tax Cuts and Lowering the Estate Tax that is the controversial part of the bill. The 16% of benefits for this part of the bill goes to the wealthiest 2% of Americans. See Ezra Klein's excellent graphic comparing tax cuts under Democratic and Republican plans. Republicans have refused to pass the bill without these tax cuts for the wealthy.
Macroeconomists point out that directing money to people who will spend it has a much greater effect on the economy than giving it to high income people. Download Testimony of Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Economy.com, that estimates the effect different expenditures by the federal government have on the economy. Mark Zandi was John McCain's economic advisor during his campaign for President.
Of particular concern to Democrats in the House is the reduction to the Estate Tax which was already reduced to a historic low in 2009 due to the Bush tax cuts. Ezra Klein wrote a blog on the rationale and recent changes in the Estate Tax. See his "Estate Tax Primer."
“We can have concentrated wealth in the hands of a few or we can have democracy, but we can’t have both.” Louis Brandeis, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, 1916-1939.
Senator Franken's Statement on Reluctantly Voting for Across the Board Tax Cuts - Senator Al Franken had spoken against the tax cuts for the wealthy, but voted to end debate on the tax compromise package and voted for the bill. He released the following statement:
“I don't like extending the excessive Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, I don't like the explosion in the deficit it will create, and I don't like how the President made this deal. But I would hate even more to see Minnesota families get hurt.
“There's a lot in here to help create jobs and to help middle-class Minnesotans weather this recession: tax cuts for working families, a payroll tax holiday, energy tax credits, and the extension of Recovery Act initiatives that are already making a difference. And a lot of harm would come to working families if unemployment insurance isn’t renewed. So I’m voting for this reluctantly and will continue to fight passionately to get our economic policies on the right track.”
Progressive Senators Speak out against Tax Cuts for the Wealthy - Senators Bernie Sanders, Independent from Vermont, and Al Franken clearly explained why the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy should not be extended when the Senate discussed bills extending the tax cuts for the middle class. Unfortunately, Republican Senators and a few Democrats voted against allowing a bill extending the tax cuts only to couples with under $250,000 and another for couples under $1 million in income to come to the floor for a vote.
"There is a war going on in this country. I'm talking about a war being waged by some of the wealthiest and most powerful people in this country against the working families of the United States of America, against the disappearing and shrinking middle class of our country. The reality is that many of the nation's billionaires are on the warpath."
Listen to Senator Sanders' 13 minute speech on the escalating wealth gap in this country and how the nation's public policies contribute to it, including Republican Senators determination to continue the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy ($700 bilion to the top 2%) and abolish the estate tax ($1 trillion to the top 3/10 of 1%).
Senator Al Franken deconstructed the Republican myth that ending Bush tax cuts for the wealthy will harm small businesses in a speech on the Senate Floor.
Listen to Senator Franken's 18 minute speech expressing the stark contradiction between Republicans insistence that they are concerned about the U. S. budget deficit and, at the same time, make giving $700 billion in tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans their top priority.
Last Updated on Monday, 29 August 2011 12:51
In his June 19th speech to the nation, President Obama criticized Republicans for blocking legislation on a bill that extends unemployment benefits for American workers who have lost jobs through no fault of their own and saves the jobs of thousands of teachers, cops, and firefighters. Republicans are also refusing to allow a debate or vote on the bill that removes the liability cap of $75 million on the amount oil companies must pay to families and businesses who suffer economic losses as the result of a spill.
He noted that as he spoke, 136 highly qualified men and women he nominated for key positions in the federal government are still awaiting a vote on the floor of the Senate. Republican leaders are blocking their confirmation even though the vast majority have support from both parties.
"Gridlock as a political strategy is destructive to the country. We have an obligation that goes beyond caring about the next election. We have an obligation to care for the next generation."
Listen to the President's 4 minute speech.
Last Updated on Monday, 29 August 2011 12:36
President Obama has made nuclear weapons policy a priority of his administration and has been working hard on national and global policies that reorient U.S. nuclear forces away from massive retaliation and toward today's threats of nuclear terrorism and new nuclear states. The Obama administration successfully negotiated a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia, set new guidelines for U.S. nuclear weapons policy, and persuaded 46 other nations to put nuclear materials beyond the reach of terrorists within four years at the recent nuclear security summit.
According to the Washington Post, Kenneth Luongo, an expert on nuclear security at the Partnership for Global Security, said Obama "has put his personal prestige on the line like no other world leader has before" on the issue. The 47 nation pact which is a voluntary agreement is a first step in a longer term process. A follow-up meeting to review countries' progress is to be held in six months, and another summit will be held in two years. Find out further details in the following articles and videos:
By David Corn, Washington Bureau Chief for Mother Jones, April 7, 2010:
Article by Mary Beth Sheridan, Washington Post Staff Writer and short videos, 4/14/2010: