Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Social Security: It's values, not math

Tuesday, November 19


Elizabeth Warren on Social Security: “It’s Values, Not Math”
The following remarks on Social Security were made on the floor of the United States Senate on Monday by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass: "I hold deep values, and I look at basic facts. Today, Social Security has a $2.7 trillion surplus. If we do nothing, Social Security will be safe for the next 20 years and even after that will continue to pay most benefits. With some modest adjustments, we can keep the system solvent for many more years – and could even increase benefits. The tools to help us build a future are available to us now. We don’t start the debate by deciding who gets kicked to the curb. We are Americans. We start the debate by figuring out how to create better efficiencies, how to make small changes that will make the system fairer, how to grow the pool of those who contribute, how to rebuild a system that every single one of us can rely on to make sure that there is a baseline in retirement that no one falls below."

Nobody Wants Grand Bargain

“Grand bargain” stalled because neither side really wants what it’s demanding, concludes NYT: “…many Republicans are no more interested in voting to reduce Medicare and Social Security benefits than Democrats are, lest they threaten their party’s big advantage among the older voters who dominate the electorate in midterm contests like those in 2014. And Democrats are no more eager than Republicans, with control of both houses of Congress up for grabs, to vote for the large revenue increases that a grand bargain would entail. They do not want to limit popular but costly deductions, as Mr. Obama and past bipartisan panels, like his Simpson-Bowles fiscal commission, have proposed. That is especially true for Democrats from states, like California and New York, where affluent voters value deductions for mortgages on first and second homes, charitable giving, and state and local taxes.”
Rep. Paul Ryan says he’ll never agree to any tax increases. W. Post: “Democrats hope Ryan will agree to targeted tax hikes and establish himself as a pragmatic leader. But Ryan has rejected that idea. Pete Wehner, a longtime informal adviser, said Ryan is unlikely to abandon a principle — no new taxes — that remains at the heart of his philosophy. ‘Paul’s not a dealmaker,’ Wehner said. ‘And the next budget deal is not going to be a central element of Paul’s legacy.’”

Obama Rallies Volunteers To Help Promote Health Care

Obama urges volunteers to promote Obamacare over the holidays. McClatchy: “President Obama used a conference call to urge volunteers with his political action arm — Organizing for Action — to help him get people signed up for health insurance, urging them to talk about the law during holiday parties … Obama said the program is going to require more than just website signups. ‘We’ve always understood we’re going to have to enroll people by mail, over the phone and in person.’ He noted people have several months to sign up: ‘This isn’t a one day sale, prices aren’t going to change…We just got to get out there and get it done.’”
“Pace of enrollments on health site accelerates” reports NYT: “As of mid-November, the number of enrollees, which the Obama administration defines as people who have selected a marketplace plan, was more than 50,000 — up from 27,000 in the entire month of October but still a fraction of the number the administration once hoped for. Despite the progress, specialists are worried about whether they can meet the administration’s goal of enabling 4 in 5 users to enroll through the online federal exchange,, by the end of the month. One person familiar with the effort said a more realistic goal was that 4 out of 5 people ‘have a positive experience,’ which could include being redirected to customer serice agents.”

Record Settlement For JPMorgan

JPMorgan reportedly settles. AP: “The Justice Department and JPMorgan Chase & Co. have settled all issues and could sign a $13 billion agreement as early as Tuesday that would be the largest settlement ever reached between the government and a corporation, a person familiar with the negotiations says … the final issue in the settlement revolved around the $4 billion to compensate consumers. Some $1.5 billion will be a write-down to reduce the principal of homeowner loans; $300 million will enable homeowners to pay less now on their mortgages; and the remainder of the $4 billion will go toward reducing mortgage interest rates, originating new loans and helping revive blighted properties in some of the hardest hit areas of the housing crisis, such as Detroit. An independent monitor will be appointed to oversee the assistance to homeowners … Still to come is a decision on whether the Justice Department will file criminal charges against JPMorgan. An investigation is under way by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Sacramento, Calif.”
Fed nominee Yellen expected to advance from Senate committee this week. Bloomberg: “Democrats hold a two-vote lead on the 22-member committee and no Democrat has opposed her nomination … Yellen faces opposition from some Republicans who disapprove of the Fed’s recent monetary policy. Republicans have opposed the bond-buying pace that has swelled the Fed’s balance sheet to almost $4 trillion … Senator Mike Johanns, a Nebraska Republican, has said he is ‘open’ to her nomination. Corker said on Nov. 14 that Yellen is ‘obviously very qualified’ and he has concerns over her positions on monetary policy. He is set to meet again with her this week.”
With NLRB back in business, general counsel fingers Wal-Mart. NYT: “Walmart illegally disciplined and fired employees over strikes and protests, the National Labor Relations Board said on Monday … The board’s general counsel was investigating accusations made against Walmart stemming from protest activities planned last year for Black Friday, among others …”

Breakfast Sides

Republicans filibuster third judicial pick in recent weeks. NYT: “By a vote of 53 to 38, the Senate failed to break a filibuster of Robert L. Wilkins, a federal judge who was nominated to fill one of three vacancies on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit … Republicans are seeking to prevent Mr. Obama from filling any of the three existing vacancies on the 11-seat court, fearing that he will alter its conservative tilt. The court has immense political importance because it often rules on questions involving White House and federal agency policy. Democrats accused Republicans of exercising a nakedly political double standard for confirming presidential nominees … Senate aides said Monday that members of the Democratic leadership had started to gauge support for a rules change inside its caucus.”
CO Gov Hickenlooper proposes tough rules on drilling and fracking. NYT: “Supporters called the limits, which would exceed existing federal rules, the most sweeping in the nation. … it would require companies to regularly search for and repair gas leaks in their drilling and production equipment and to keep records of their findings. It would also regulate aspects of production to keep escaping gases to a minimum — for instance, by requiring the use of high-efficiency burners when flaring gas at well sites, or by limiting emissions from valves that are designed to bleed gas when opening or closing.”

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