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cross-possted from Main Street Insider

Two weeks ago, we released an episode on H.R. 2394, the Rebuilding America's Schools Act sponsored by Rep. Charles Rangel. We got a chance to sit down with Rep. Rangel, the third longest-serving member of the House from a New York City district where "Republican" is practically a dirty word, to discuss the bill and the larger context behind it.

As the interview covered a range of topics, we are releasing it in two parts. The first covers both his school modernization bill and the larger Progressive Caucus jobs plan. As you will see, Mr. Rangel chose to focus primarily on the latter, stressing that his legislation is but a small piece of a much larger puzzle.


Mon Sep 12, 2011 at 01:33 PM PDT

Toomey's Supply-Side Extravaganza

by optimo

When the Senate notoriously voted down both the President's budget (unanimously) and the House-passed Ryan plan in May, it also rejected a proposal by freshman Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) by a tally of 42-55. With Toomey recently named to the so-called "Super Congress", we chose to examine his proposal in this week's episode.

This proposal represented the Tea Party-aligned right flank of the Senate Republican Conference, a group ostensibly led by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), and it aimed to improve upon perceived structural flaws in the plan of ideological ally Paul Ryan. As a result, while this budget leaves Medicare and Social Security largely intact, it contains many close similarities to the Ryan budget. Most notably, its claims of debt reduction rely heavily on draconian budget cuts (without accounting for economic fallout) and tax cuts that spur very optimistic economic growth projections over the next decade. In other words, this budget reflects the supply-side fundamentalism of Toomey and his brethren. It will be interesting to see whether Toomey will push for tax cuts on the Super Committee in order to actually raise revenue.

Also notable in the Toomey budget is its repeal of the coverage increases in the Affordable Care Act while leaving the Medicare cuts, cuts candidate Toomey actively campaigned against, in place.

Without further ado, here's episode 20: the Toomey Budget.

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With Congress returning this week, 90 Second Summaries kicks back into gear for the fall. All eyes will be on President Obama as he delivers an address Thursday evening to a joint session of Congress. Mr. Obama is expected to propose a infrastructure-related program to get the economy moving again, and an infrastructure bank is a prime candidate for inclusion in this package.

Last season, we covered a prominent infrastructure bank bill by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT3) and released an interview with the Congresswoman alongside it. Rep. DeLauro has reintroduced her proposal for the 112th Congress, so we are updating this episode to account for recent developments, and we'll be posting highlights of the interview on Thursday.

Here's the episode:

As always, the one-pager with more details is below the fold.

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Wed Aug 03, 2011 at 02:07 PM PDT

'Depoliticizing' Home Ownership

by optimo

This morning, we were watching a Senate hearing about the housing finance system, and caught a poignant moment about the consequences of "depoliticizing" home ownership. Witness Thomas Hamilton of Barclay's Capital stated that government action is creating more homeowners than the private market would, an objectively true statement. If the housing market were "depoliticized", or absent of government intervention, only those with the ability to front significant down payments (i.e. the well-to-do) would be able to become homeowners.

Would that be a good thing? What would the implications be for our nation's commitment to democracy and freedom, given the central importance of home ownership to financial independence? We can't claim to have a definitive answer to these questions, since such answers reflect values and political beliefs about the proper role of government. But we do hope you consider them with an open mind and come to your own conclusions.

And as we are wont to do, we clipped out the video for you to see for yourself. Watch it here:

This clip is also notable because it demonstrates a textbook use of branding by Republicans and their small government allies. They dub deregulation of the housing finance system as "depoliticization", a sleight of hand that obscures the legitimate ideological debate at play. A policy change to let the market reign free in deciding who can become homeowners may or may not be justified, but it is unquestionably political in nature.


Mon Jul 18, 2011 at 06:30 AM PDT

Starving the Beast: Cut, Cap and Balance

by optimo

cross-posted from Main Street Insider

The debt limit is a largely symbolic check on excessive borrowing which in the past has been frequently raised with little to no controversy. Such periodic increases are necessary to keep the government running and paying its bills, regardless of ideology.

However, Congressional Republicans are now demanding that certain conditions must be met in order to win their approval of a debt ceiling increase. They have termed their list of demands Cut, Cap and Balance, and claim it is a necessary measure in order to keep the government debt from spiraling out of control, and thus keep the country functioning.

Yet the Cut, Cap and Balance Act scheduled to reach the House floor this week is anything but necessary to keep the country functioning. Rather, it is the crown jewel, the final step of conservatives' long-pursued "Starve the Beast" strategy to downsize government. It would radically limit the flexibility of the federal government to provide a social safety net, buttress the economy in tough times and respond to great national challenges, now and into the future.

But don't take my word for it. Check out this week's 90 Second Summary and decide for yourself:

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The Capitol Hill press corps is one of the most exclusive and insulated clubs there is. One must not only possess a substantial journalistic background but also the right kind of mentality to gain entrance. But as it happens, much of the most useful work reporting on Hill happenings can be, and increasingly is, done by citizen journalists working without that exclusive access.

For the past year or so, I’ve been covering committee hearings live, often livetweeting as @jkoul, and along the way I have met some other folks doing similar types of citizen journalism from a variety of angles. At Netroots Nation this year, I had the pleasure to organize a training session called "Covering Congress: The Art of Insider Citizen Reporting".

See below the fold for video highlights...

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by William Schoell and Jeremy Koulish, Main Street Insider

Surprise surprise, it took nearly seven hours for the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations to get next to nothing out of BP CEO Tony Hayward this past Thursday.  Although the subcommittee presented a seemingly endless stream of questions of substance to Hayward, the embattled BP executive did a marvelous job of dancing around all the information-packed questions hurled at him.

Chairman Stupak (D-MI01) said the goal of this hearing was to find out what went wrong with the Deepwater Horizon explosion, but it seemed as if the committee had a fairly good grasp of what happened and they were really just looking for some admittance from BP.

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Yesterday, the House Rules Committee met to examine Senate amendments to H.R. 4213, the "American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010", and prepare the legislation for action on the House floor later this week. Ways and Means Committee Chairman Sander Levin (D-MI12) and Ranking Member Dave Camp (R-MI4) were there to present their side’s cases. Since Chairwoman Slaughter is a longtime supporter of the netroots, I was able to nab one of the limited spots available for press, and here are my observations from the hearing.

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Note: updated to remove "Breaking" status and added some analysis

So it's now official:

The Democratic leadership of the Senate announced today that Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa will take over as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP).

Harkin will replace Sen. Edward Kennedy who died last month.  The HELP committee proposed the bill known as the Affordable Health Choices Act.


Are you happy Harkin is leaving Ag to take over HELP?

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| 102 votes | Vote | Results

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