Daily Digest - January 14: Geithner's Goodbye

Jan 14, 2013Tim Price

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The Tim Geithner Era (Slate)

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The Tim Geithner Era (Slate)

Matthew Yglesias looks back on the mixed record of Tim Geithner, the influential Treasury Secretary who seemingly only managed to convince one person that he had all the answers, but lucked out with that person being the President of the United States.

The Mortgage Mess and Jack Lew (Prospect)

Robert Kuttner argues that progressives should press hard on Jack Lew to find out whether he would have let the latest mortgage settlement happen on his watch -- once they're finished rolling their eyes at the president's praise for his budget-balancing skills.

Treasury: We won't mint a platinum coin to sidestep the debt ceiling (WaPo)

Ezra Klein reports that life has killed the dream we dreamed, as the Treasury Department says it won't mint a trillion-dollar coin and the Federal Reserve wouldn't accept it if it did. The only option on the table is for Congress to do the right thing. God help us all.

The Platinum Coin Wouldn't Have Been Goofy to FDR (Bloomberg)

Jonathan Alter notes that despite the absurdity of ideas like the platinum coin, FDR used tactics, like moving off the gold standard, that were no less gimmicky. But he wasn't worried about his critics' jokes given how often the punch line was "and it worked."

Japan Steps Out (NYT)

Paul Krugman writes that Japan, not really a hotbed of radical economic thought, is breaking with the orthodoxy under prime minister Shinzo Abe, whose push for stimulus and inflation is upsetting austerity advocates by failing to upset anyone else.

Obama's Job One: Middle-Class Employment Problems Loom Over Second Term (HuffPo)

Dave Jamieson and Arthur Delaney note that after campaigning on a promise to restore the middle class, President Obama must now figure out how to do that when immigration reform and gun control look like safer bets than getting Congress to care about jobs.

Why the Unemployment Rate Is So High (NYT)

Laura D'Andrea Tyson argues that the evidence shows the U.S. doesn't have a structural unemployment problem, but by letting the unemployed languish for months and years with no new support or opportunities in sight, we're doing our best to create one.

Ouch! No, you're not imagining it. Your paycheck just shrank. (WaPo)

Neil Irwin notes that the expiration of the payroll tax cut became evident with the arrival of the first paychecks of 2013 last week. The question is how many Americans will make cutting back on spending their retroactive New Year's resolution.

This Week in Poverty: Smiley Calls for White House Conference on US Poverty (The Nation)

Greg Kaufmann offers a sneak peek at an upcoming forum that calls for a national plan to end poverty within the next 25 years, and how it could serve as a useful reminder to the White House that a good way to start helping people is by asking what they need.

Paying the Price, but Often Deducting It (NYT)

Question: When is a settlement not a settlement? Answer: When it's also a tax break. Gretchen Morgenson notes that banks may write their payments from recent foreclosure settlements off as business expenses, because there's no budget for shame.

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Daily Digest - January 11: Coin-Operated Government

Jan 11, 2013Tim Price

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Coins Against Crazies (NYT)

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Coins Against Crazies (NYT)

Paul Krugman makes his case for minting the trillion-dollar platinum coin: it might sound like a big joke, but it's better to find a way to laugh off the debt ceiling threat than to allow Republicans to turn the full faith and credit of the United States into a punch line.

Debt Ceiling and Guns: Using Presidential Authority to the Fullest (Robert Reich)

Reich argues that the debt ceiling and mass gun violence both pose a threat to the U.S., and in times like this the president must use every obscure power at his disposal to protect the country. Even Superman had to pull out the super-ventriloquism on occasion.

The Debt Ceiling's Escape Hatch (NYT)

If coins don't cut it for you, Edward Kleinbard suggests the White House could sidestep the debt ceiling by issuing IOUs to the people and institutions to whom it owes money. Better yet, it could make them green and adorn them with the faces of dead presidents.

The debt reduction that's already happened (MSNBC)

Steve Benen notes that if we're going to treat deficit reduction as a priority, we should acknowledge that Obama has already signed $2.4 trillion worth into law, mostly in the form of spending cuts. Or does that make spending cuts socialist by the transitive property?

On Budget Cuts, the Political Gap is Informational, Not Ideological (Yahoo! Finance)

Dean Baker writes that the budget stalemate isn't caused by entitlements, because the Republican base doesn't want to cut them either. In fact, they don't want to cut most things, but they're convinced the deficit is driven by the U.S. equivalent of the Ministry of Silly Walks.

Is Jack Lew a Friend to Wall Street? (National Journal)

Michael Hirsh argues that sending Jack Lew to Treasury will continue what Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Rob Johnson calls the "Wall Street trading culture" of the Obama administration, which is often too busy watching out for banks to do much watching over them.

The Reason Republicans Don't Like Jack Lew (Slate)

Matthew Yglesias notes that the GOP's formerly cordial relationship with Jack Lew turned sour during the 2011 debt ceiling negotiations, when he repeatedly foiled their attempts to cut a deal by being that guy who knows things and understands how numbers add up.

Betrayed by Basel (NYT)

Simon Johnson writes that the Basel Committee's decision this week to water down its liquidity requirements for banks illustrates the danger of leaving international regulation in the hands of eurozone countries who have enough trouble regulating themselves.

The Global Domestic Workforce is Enormous -- and Very Vulnerable (The Nation)

NND Editor Bryce Covert notes that a new report shows that there were at least 52.6 million domestic workers worldwide as of 2010, but given how poor working conditions are and how slow improvement has been, its best news for them is that misery has company.

Hilda Solis steps down as Labor Secretary. So how did she do? (WaPo)

Hilda Solis announced her resignation this week, and while she might not have cut a Frances Perkins-like profile for herself, Brad Plumer writes that she acquitted herself well for someone competing with the Secretary of Commerce for most obscure Cabinet position.

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Daily Digest - January 10: OoooooO, That Lew

Jan 10, 2013Tim Price

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Obama's Pick for Treasury Is Said to Be His Chief of Staff (NYT)

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Obama's Pick for Treasury Is Said to Be His Chief of Staff (NYT)

Jackie Calmes reports that by tapping Jacob Lew to replace Tim Geithner at Treasury, President Obama continues to build his second-term team using the (white, male) members of his first-term team. Some of them have splurged on new tie clips to celebrate.

Jack Lew to Treasury: A Caterpillar Emerges from His Cocoon (New Yorker)

John Cassidy expects Lew to be an easy confirmation who will face opposition from the left as a Rubinite with Wall Street ties, but also thinks he should be given the benefit of the doubt since all we really know about him is that he has trouble writing his name.

The Obama Coalition vs. Corporate America (NYT)

Thomas Edsall notes that big business, which has been the power behind the throne in DC for decades, has a demographic problem: the young, diverse coalition of Obama voters doesn't care for it, and Republicans are tired of having it chained to their ankles.

The Banks Win Again (Prospect)

Robert Kuttner compares last February's major bank settlement, which was so weak the president had to apologize for it by appointing Eric Schneiderman to a task force that didn't really exist, to this year's model, which doesn't even come with a consolation prize.

The Latest Myth About the Government's Mishandling of the Housing Market (ProPublica)

Jesse Eisinger writes that the FHA's minor problems have been overblown by the same critics who treat GSEs and low-income borrowers as the culprits behind the financial crisis. Damn you, poor people. Always trying to pull one over on those unsuspecting banks.

U.S. Consumer Watchdog to Issue Mortgage Rules (NYT)

Edward Wyatt writes that the CFPB will announce rules for "qualified" loans (i.e., the kind that aren't designed to bleed people dry and doom their withered husks to foreclosure) that banks can offer if they'd like to stop being sued for abusing their borrowers all the time.

A White House Meeting With Low-Income Americans (The Nation)

Greg Kaufmann argues that if the president is really open to hearing good ideas from all sides, he could start by canceling his next lunch with Lloyd Blankfein and clearing time on his calendar for the people who will be most deeply affected by the budget negotiations.

A Reminder Why Protecting Social Security Is So Important (On the Economy)

Jared Bernstein writes that with private defined-benefit pension plans going the way of print journalism and cassette players, it's all the more important for the government to absorb the risks of retirement rather than handing workers a gold watch and wishing them luck.

Women Don't Like Libertarianism Because They Don't Like Libertarianism (Forbes)

Joining the debate about why there aren't more libertarian women, NND Editor Bryce Covert argues that it's not because all the cool kids prefer moochers. It's because women are best positioned to recognize that some of libertarianism's basic precepts are nonsense. 

A.I.G. Says It Will Not Join Lawsuit Against Government (NYT)

Michael de la Merced and Ben Protess report that AIG's board has opted not to join former CEO Maurice Greenberg's quixotic lawsuit against the government, but if you stocked up on torches and pitchforks, you should be able to return them for at least store credit.

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Daily Digest - January 9: Don't Worry, Everyone. The Rich Are Doing Fine.

Jan 9, 2013Tim Price

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Shared sacrifice – except for CEOs (Reuters)

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Shared sacrifice – except for CEOs (Reuters)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Matt Stoller writes that the fiscal cliff deal larded with corporate subsidies is just the latest manifestation of a lopsided tax system in which many companies owe their CEOs more than the IRS and the CEOs owe roughly whatever they want.

A tax deal only the ultra-rich could love (WaPo)

Harold Meyerson notes that despite the furor over raising the top tax rate on wages and salaries, the wealthiest Americans are only dimly aware of wages as the cut their household staff takes from their investment dividends, which are still taxed at a lower rate.

Tax Increases and Bull Markets (NYT)

Bruce Bartlett points out that while the GOP takes it as given that any tax increase will cause the invisible hand of the free market to ball up into a mighty fist and smite the unbelievers, historical evidence shows that raising taxes often leads to a stock market rally.

The payroll tax hike wiped out a year's worth of wage gains (WaPo)

Brad Plumer writes that after rising 2.4 percent in 2012, average weekly earnings are back at square one -- or worse -- thanks to the expiration of the payroll tax cut. And as tends to happen, Americans are planning to spend less of that money they no longer have.

Social Issues Are Economic Issues, Exhibit 1,463: Michigan's Dual Agenda Slams Low-Income Women (The Nation)

NND Editor Bryce Covert notes that the right-to-work law and abortion restrictions recently passed in Michigan may look like bad but unrelated policies, but based on how they'll affect women's wallets, it's possible to construct a Unified Theory of Awfulness.

TARP is Over, But the Bailouts Will Continue Until the Big Banks are Broken Up (Robert Reich)

With the Treasury Department preparing to sell off its final shares of banks and General Motors, the '08 bailouts are almost behind us. But Robert Reich warns that unless Wall Street is cut down to size, the injured giant we've propped up will fall back on top of us.

Foreclosure Review in New Settlement Leaves Homeowners in Banks' Hands (HuffPo)

Eleazar David Melendez and Ben Hallman note that regulators have answered complaints that the independent review process was flawed by letting the banks review their own foreclosure decisions. Early reports suggest they couldn't agree with themselves more.

Health Care and Profits, a Poor Mix (NYT)

Eduardo Porter argues that America's rising health costs, driven by the profit-maximizing private health care industry, should encourage us to reconsider whether relying on the private sector to provide so many of our public goods is the remedy or the sickness.

Avoiding a climate-change apocalypse (WaPo)

Katrina vanden Heuvel writes that 2012 exposed us to many different end-of-world scenarios, but Hurricane Sandy should be the one that sticks with us. Sadly, it's been a challenge to get the GOP to pay for the consequences of climate change, let alone prevent it.

After the Debt-Ceiling Breach: What Day 1 in Default America Might Look Like (The Atlantic)

Derek Thompson notes that while America could default on its debts just a few weeks from now, it's so unthinkable that it's hard to imagine the consequences. But even though it's scheduled to happen around Valentine's Day, they're likely to be pretty unlovely.

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Daily Digest - January 8: Learning to Love the Platinum Coin

Jan 8, 2013Tim Price

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The Post-Crisis Crises (Project Syndicate)

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The Post-Crisis Crises (Project Syndicate)

Roosevelt Institute Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz argues that policymakers shouldn't let short-term conflicts like the fiscal cliff distract them from long-term problems like adapting to climate change. They'll regret wasting their breath when everything's underwater.

Calling McConnell's Bluff (Prospect)

Robert Kuttner writes that while Republicans are talking a good game about the upcoming debt ceiling battle and the possibility of a government shutdown, there's no reason for President Obama to fold this hand when he's got the Fourteenth Amendment card to play.

Be Ready to Mint That Coin (NYT)

Assuming that the Constitution alone can't make the GOP back down, Paul Krugman thinks the White House should exploit the loophole that allows it to mint a $1 trillion platinum coin. Or in the words of George Costanza, "You wanna get nuts? Come on, let's get nuts!"

Why Platinum Coin Opponents Are All Wrong (Bloomberg)

If you think the platinum coin idea seems a little... weird, like an Internet meme that escaped into the wild and went feral, Josh Barro provides four counter-arguments. After all, what sounds more insane: paying our debts with novelty coins, or defaulting for no reason?

Democrats signal intention to tackle the 'submerged state' (MSNBC)

Ned Resnikoff notes that Democrats are targeting tax credits and deductions that benefit the rich and make up part of what Suzanne Mettler calls "the submerged state" -- the kind of aid that the government disguises like it's trying to trick its dog into swallowing a pill.

The Cliff Game (NYT)

Nancy Folbre writes that Washington's budget battles have turned into a high-stakes game of chicken between the two major political parties, but the Democrats have more incentive to swerve in order to avoid leaving tire tracks on the backs of their constituents.

We don't have a spending problem, we have a military spending problem (WaPo)

Ezra Klein argues that if Republicans like Paul Ryan want to be taken seriously when they complain about excessive government spending, they need to admit America won't exactly be fighting blindfolded with Nerf bats if we trim down the $530 billion defense budget.

Women on Corporate Boards Bring More Aggressive Action (Forbes)

NND Editor Bryce Covert highlights a report that shows the presence of women doesn't cause corporate boards to spend more time crocheting and talking about Downton Abbey. They tend to focus on other things, like making sure the company is actually run well.

Inside the Radical Plan to Fight Foreclosures With Eminent Domain (MoJo)

Josh Harkinson talks to Steven Gluckstern, who advocates using cities' power of eminent domain to seize loans from lenders and help prevent foreclosures. Critics find his motives suspect, unlike the very straightforward desire of banks to throw people out on the street.

Rescued by a Bailout, A.I.G. May Sue Its Savior (NYT)

Ben Protess and Michael De La Merced report that after launching its "Thank you America" ad campaign, AIG may express the depths of its gratitude by joining a shareholder lawsuit alleging that the terms of the bailout were too harsh. Really? The building's still standing.

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Daily Digest - January 7: Lies, Damn Lies, and Entitlement Reform

Jan 7, 2013Tim Price

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The Hoax of Entitlement Reform (Robert Reich)

There's a growing consensus in Washington that we need to "reform" entitlements (in the same way that an axe reforms a tree) in order to rein in the deficit, but as Reich explains, that's because it's the easy answer, not the one that stands up to any scrutiny.

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The Hoax of Entitlement Reform (Robert Reich)

There's a growing consensus in Washington that we need to "reform" entitlements (in the same way that an axe reforms a tree) in order to rein in the deficit, but as Reich explains, that's because it's the easy answer, not the one that stands up to any scrutiny.

The Big Fail (NYT)

Paul Krugman felt deja vu at the annual meeting of the American Economic Association, which is still focused on an economic crisis prolonged by ignorance of its own solutions. Future panel suggestion: what can we learn from our failure to learn anything?

Madness in December Employment Numbers (Prospect)

David Callahan writes that the latest jobs report shows the U.S. shed 89,000 public sector workers in the last three months of 2012, many of them teachers. Because in these tough economic times, we don't have money to waste on educating our future workforce.

The next stage of the 'fiscal cliff' fight has officially begun (WaPo)

Suzy Khimm notes that both sides are already positioning themselves for the debt ceiling/sequester battle, and while Democrats want more revenue from tax reform, Republicans have had enough of taxes and want to focus on spending cuts now. And forever.

Why Corporate Subsidies in the Fiscal Cliff Bill Matter: We Can Stop Corruption If We Understand It (Naked Capitalism)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Matt Stoller writes that his exposé on tax extenders has drawn media attention and outrage from the parties involved, because: a) the Founding Fathers would have wanted us to pay for Transformers and b) you weren't supposed to know about it.

Secret and Lies of the Bailout (Rolling Stone)

Matt Taibbi argues that the Wall Street bailout was built on a series of increasingly elaborate lies and has helped create a financial system that's sustained not by producing any real value, but by manufacturing enough wool to keep taxpayers' eyes covered.

Surprise, Surpise: The Banks Win (NYT)

Gretchen Morgenson notes that regulators are close to a $10 billion settlement with 14 banks accused of foreclosure abuses, which would skip the messy business of investigating those abuses and determining how much borrowers are actually owed.

Madoff Aside, Financial Fraud Defies Policing (NYT)

Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Susanne Craig write that even in the wake of several high-profile Ponzi schemes and efforts to ramp up oversight, it's still hard to know for sure whether giving your money to a broker is a safer bet than putting it through a shredder.

Bad Relationships Don't Stand in Poor Women's Way. Bad Policies Do. (Forbes)

NND Editor Bryce Covert responds to a recent New York Times profile of low-income women struggling with college, noting that their boyfriend troubles wouldn't be such an issue if soaring costs and inequality didn't force them to rely on a man-sized safety net.

This Week in Poverty: Responses to the 'Cliff' Deal (The Nation)

Greg Kaufmann rounds up some of the most cogent responses to his piece defending the fiscal cliff deal as a net positive for low-income Americans, including some that disagree with him. Doesn't he know those go in the "unserious hippies" bin?

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Daily Digest - January 4: It Could Always Be Worse

Jan 4, 2013Tim Price

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America Is Having the Wrong Fiscal Argument (Harper's)

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America Is Having the Wrong Fiscal Argument (Harper's)

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Jeff Madrick argues three groups have created a pointless deficit frenzy: Tea Partiers, centrists with an austerity fetish, and the CBO, whose conservative assumptions are mistaken for neutral because the law says they must be.

Battles of the Budget (NYT)

Paul Krugman writes that the fiscal cliff deal went better for progressives than it could have, but despite President Obama's assurances that he won't be blackmailed over the debt ceiling, some still worry he'll cave when he starts receiving the GOP's ransom notes.

The cliff deal is better than it looks (WaPo)

E.J. Dionne thinks liberals should quit their hand-wringing over a flawed deal that will nonetheless make the tax code more progressive, and ask barely-reelected House Speaker John Boehner if he thinks President Obama gave away too much to conservatives.

Obama's Biggest Blemish (Prospect)

Jamelle Bouie notes that while many serious, respectable people are now clucking their tongues and shaking their heads over the terrible shame of Obama's failure to address the national debt, 14 million people left unemployed is apparently a big whatever.

The Supreme Court and the Next Fiscal Cliff (NYT)

Simon Johnson writes that if House Republicans renew their threats to blow up the economy over the debt ceiling, the White House may be forced to break it and let the Supreme Court sort it out later. Somewhere in DC, John Roberts pours himself a stiff drink.

Republicans Have a Habit of Blocking Disaster Relief for Americans (MoJo)

Tim Murphy points out that although Chris Christie and Peter King might have just noticed that their party isn't big on coughing up cash for people in need, Republicans in Congress have a proven track record of being last responders in times of emergency. 

What's Inside America's Banks? (The Atlantic)

Frank Partnoy and Jesse Eisinger argue that four years after the financial crisis, big banks remain "black boxes" and efforts to police them are like riddles wrapped in enigmas wrapped in regulations. If we want straightforward banking, we need straightforward rules.

Financial reform battle continues over Dodd-Frank law (WaPo)

Danielle Douglas writes that despite continued Republican efforts to whittle away key provisions of Dodd-Frank, there's some potential for a bipartisan consensus that as long as the law's not going anywhere, policymakers should try to make sure it actually works.

Families Shoulder Heftier Burdens as College Debt Swells (ProPublica)

Marian Wang reports that with total college debt in the U.S. now surpassing $1 trillion, students and their parents face a crushing stack of bills, an anemic job market, and an abusive private loan industry. And they say college doesn't prepare people for the real world.

Good Riddance to Rottenest Congress in History (Bloomberg)

Yesterday marked the official conclusion of the 112th Congress. In his eulogy, Ezra Klein notes just how little that august body accomplished, which might be for the best considering the economic policies it did implement were like Sideshow Bob stepping on a rake.

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Daily Digest - January 3: The Unstimulating Outlook for 2013

Jan 2, 2013Tim Price

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For Obama, a Victory That Also Holds Risks (NYT)

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For Obama, a Victory That Also Holds Risks (NYT)

David Leonhardt notes that while President Obama got most of what he wanted in the fiscal cliff deal, he also gave up most of his leverage on the debt ceiling and other future showdowns. The question is, has he won in a way that leaves him nothing to do but lose?

Biggest fiscal cliff lessons (Salon)

Joan Walsh has four takeaways from the fiscal farce: the wealthy lost less than working stiffs, no one really cares about the deficit, Social Security and Medicare still aren't safe, and Nancy Pelosi runs the House (she's just letting someone else hold her gavel).

Spare the Stimulus, Spoil the Recovery (Prospect)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal argues that the U.S. is already halfway through its very own lost decade, and the effects of phased-in austerity on the fragile but improving housing market will determine whether we get a real recovery or go for the back five.

U.S. now on pace for European levels of austerity in 2013 (WaPo)

Brad Plumer writes that even with the deal in place, Congress is set to enact $336 billion worth of spending cuts and tax increases, putting the U.S. ahead of countries like Britain and Spain in the "how far we can push people before they set stuff on fire?" sweepstakes.

FEMA Says Flood Insurance Program Will Be Broke By Next Week Without New Aid Bill (HuffPo)

John Rudolf notes that while FEMA is running out of money to help Sandy victims, House Republicans are dragging their feet on a relief package. It's even earned them a public tongue-lashing from Chris Christie, usually reserved for teachers and random passersby.

Should Social Security Cuts Be on the Table?: No Need to Cut the Little That Recipients Get (NYT)

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Jeff Madrick argues that despite the deficit hawks' sleight of hand, Social Security isn't facing any sort of crisis, and there are much better ways to fix its finances than by downgrading its current benefits from inadequate to insulting.

The Poor Still Can't Breathe Easy Post-Fiscal Cliff (The Nation)

NND Editor Bryce Covert writes that while the poor got off easier than many feared in the fiscal cliff deal, they still took some painful blows, and the looming debt ceiling battle is the part where the defeated slasher villain stands back up and grabs his machete.

'Cliff' Deal is a Decent Start for Low-Income Americans (The Nation)

At the risk of interrupting some quality despair, Greg Kaufmann argues that progressives should instead accentuate the positives of the current deal: extensions of the EITC, child tax credit, and unemployment benefits, and no cuts to food stamps or entitlements.

Let's be straight on 'investing in our middle class' (EPI)

Lawrence Mishel writes that by attempting to spin the fiscal cliff deal as an investment in the middle class while bragging about how much it has shrunk the government, the White House is trying to have its cake, eat it too, and claim it's actually a revolutionary diet.

Time to play offense for the social safety net (MSNBC)

Ned Resnikoff makes the case that instead of constantly trying to defend the safety net from cuts, progressives should push to make it bigger and better and adopt the GOP's strategy of beating their heads against the politically impossible until it becomes a reality.

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Daily Digest - January 2: It's a Deal

Jan 2, 2013Tim Price

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Retrench Warfare (Prospect)

The deal passed, the fiscal cliff has been averted for now, and Democrats... won? Kind of? Robert Kuttner explains why it's hard to muster the enthusiasm for a full-on Snoopy Dance over the results of a battle we shouldn't have been fighting in the first place.

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Retrench Warfare (Prospect)

The deal passed, the fiscal cliff has been averted for now, and Democrats... won? Kind of? Robert Kuttner explains why it's hard to muster the enthusiasm for a full-on Snoopy Dance over the results of a battle we shouldn't have been fighting in the first place.

The Ongoing War: After the Battle Over the Cliff, the Battle Over the Debt Ceiling (Robert Reich)

Now that the last big manufactured fiscal crisis has been resolved, enjoy this 24-hour respite before the next one begins. Robert Reich warns that the absence of a debt ceiling increase in the deal means the GOP's campaign against government will continue.

Fixing the economy, a new focus for Congress (WaPo)

As lawmakers gird themselves for their next debate about whether they should harm the economy a lot or just a little bit, Katrina vanden Heuvel urges them to instead make 2013 the year they actually focus on making America stronger and more equal.

Eight Corporate Subsidies in the Fiscal Cliff Bill, From Goldman Sachs to Disney to NASCAR (Naked Capitalism)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Matt Stoller writes that while fiscal cliff coverage focused on individual tax rates, corporate lobbyists took pains to ensure the deal didn't overlook the stuff that really matters, like tax breaks for building big circles for cars to drive around.

Bigger Tax Bite for Most Under Fiscal Pact (NYT)

Binyamin Appelbaum and Catherine Rampell note that the deal's income tax increases will only affect top earners, but the expiration of the payroll tax cut means people living paycheck to paycheck will have more to fear than America's embattled half-millionaires.

The Estate Tax is a Huge Giveaway in the Fiscal Cliff Talks (The Atlantic)

Matthew O'Brien writes that holding the estate tax below Clinton levels as part of the deal costs twice as much revenue as chained CPI would save. So we almost cut benefits for average senior citizens, but we're looking out for the ones with $20 million in the bank.

Why Tom Harkin and a Handful of Other Progressives Opposed the Deal (The Nation)

John Nichols notes that most progressives in Congress voted for the deal despite reservations, but a few holdouts argued that since voters have twice embraced a promise to raise taxes on anyone making over $250K, they might reasonably expect for that to happen.

The House Republicans' Primal Scream (Slate)

Dave Weigel writes that the fracturing of the House Republicans, of whom only 85 out of 240 voted for the fiscal cliff deal, highlights the uncomfortable position of the uber-conservatives who can't get everything they want and can't support any compromise.

U.S. Internet Users Pay More for Slower Service (Bloomberg)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford argues that access to high-speed Internet is as essential to modern life as clean water and electricity, and it requires the same kind of government regulation that ensures we aren't all drinking mud by candlelight.

Sharers, Takers, Carers, Makers (NYT)

Nancy Folbre writes that the makers vs. takers rhetoric that defined our politics in 2012 represents a flawed view of a healthy economy and, unless those "makers" started early and pulled themselves up by their onesies, a flawed view of the human life cycle.

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Daily Digest - December 21: Merry Cliffmas

Dec 21, 2012Tim Price

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Either Way We're Going Over the Cliff (NYRB)

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Either Way We're Going Over the Cliff (NYRB)

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Jeff Madrick writes that even if we avoid full-fledged disaster, the compromises on the table will slow growth and prolong unemployment. But there are smarter approaches to the fiscal cliff than placing an air mattress at the bottom.

Boehner abandons plan to avoid 'fiscal cliff' (WaPo)

Looks like the Speaker dropped a big lump of coal in everyone's stocking. Lori Montgomery and Rosalind Helderman report that after failing to muster votes for his Plan B, John Boehner has closed up shop until after Christmas and told Democrats to figure it all out.

The humiliation of John Boehner (Salon)

Steve Kornacki argues that Plan B's failure casts doubt on the negotiations and Boehner's political future, as it's clear his party won't listen if he says something they don't like. Luckily, no one else wants to tell them "We have to compromise with the president," either.

Playing Taxes Hold 'Em (NYT)

Paul Krugman writes that the fiscal cliff negotiations have devolved into the world's most high-stakes celebrity poker game, and as in 2011, the only thing saving President Obama from his own poor poker skills is the Republicans' belief that they're playing Go Fish.

Let's Celebrate the Failure of the July 2011 Great Betrayal (NEP)

William K. Black offers a reminder that no matter what terminology we use, the fiscal cliff isn't a natural feature of our economy that policymakers have blindly stumbled toward. It's a hole they dug for themselves -- and for us -- with their last failed push for austerity.

The progressive Plan B for the fiscal cliff (WaPo)

Suzy Khimm notes that progressives already feel the president has given up too much ground, but if they can't pull him all the way back, they're hoping they can at least nudge him in the right direction on corporate taxes, entitlements, and discretionary spending.

Revealed: Why the Pundits Are Wrong About Big Money and the 2012 Elections (AlterNet)

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Tom Ferguson, Paul Jorgensen, and Jie Chen explain that while two presidential campaigns pointing cannons full of money at each other didn't have much visible impact, burying your opponent in cash was still effective in House races.

How the Right is Wrong About Happiness (HuffPo)

Jeffrey Sachs writes that an Arthur Brooks op-ed claiming generous social spending makes recipients unhappy doesn't jibe with the available data, and the super-wealthy CEOs floating on cloud nine didn't get up there without climbing on someone else's shoulders.

Today in Poverty: An Education Wish List (The Nation)

Greg Kaufmann and Elaine Weiss argue that while we're in the gift-giving mood, we shouldn't stop at showering our kids in the flashy toys and gadgets they've asked for this Christmas. We should invest in providing them with healthy lives and a quality education.

Everything You Need to Know About the Economy in 2012, in 34 Charts (The Atlantic)

It might be more relaxing to stare at the Yule Log, but if you want to keep your brain stimulated over the holiday break, pour a mug of hot chocolate and pore over these graphs selected by America's top econowonks, including Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal.

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