TheDC Morning: Boehner offers to ‘lock arms’ with Obama on entitlement cuts
1.) Entitlement cuts cometh — House Speaker John Boehner is ready to lay it on the line. On Thursday, he told the Wall Street Journal that “he’s determined to offer a budget this spring that curbs Social Security and Medicare, despite the political risks, and that Republicans will try to persuade voters that sacrifices are needed.” Boehner may be feeling bold, but like a lot of pols, he’s still lumping Medicare and Social Security together, despite the fact that one of those things is easier to fix than the other. (Hint: It ain’t Medicare, which outlays are growing faster and which will be insolvent much sooner.) Pres. Obama is apparently on board with entitlement reform, despite the fact that he countered Republicans’ request for $61 billion in budget cuts with an offer of $6.5 billion. “I offered to the president we could lock arms and walk out and begin the conversation about the size of the problem,” Boehner told the WSJ, adding that Mr. Obama responded “positively.” In the words of the philosopher Toby Keith, it’s time for “a little less talk and a lot more action.”
2.) Union boss’s salary a stark contrast to rank-and-file salaries — “The trickle-up effect of the standoff in Wisconsin and other states could irreparably damage the corporate-like compensation structures that the Top 10 labor unions have built over decades,” reports the Center for Public Integrity, which “found compensation for leaders of the 10 largest unions ranged from $173,000 at the United Auto Workers to $618,000 at the Laborers’ International Union of North America and almost $480,000 for the president of the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees.” AFSCME President Gerald McEntee–whose salary “has increased by about 4 percent a year” over the last decade–has the most to lose if Wisconsin Republicans pass a bill changing, among other things, how the union collects dues. Considering that McEntee now makes almost half a million a year, “even as many workers have faced pay freezes and unpaid furloughs,” it’s a wonder AFSCME members aren’t begging Wisconsin’s Democratic senators to come back and vote their boss a pay cut.
3.) No one wants to play bad cop with Wall Street — “Regulatory reforms passed by Congress last year created two positions, heading the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the new Office of Financial Research, but both these and existing jobs remain unfilled,” reports CNBC. Is it weird that, despite knowing a ton of people who work at colleges/banks, Obama simply can’t find anyone who wants these jobs? “Those approached have given different reasons for declining to pursue the job,” says CNBC. “Some are put off by the six-year commitment; some by Washington turf wars. One said it was a difficult job because ‘it seems to need some kind of intellectual who thinks about bubbles,’ and ‘it seemed to take a tough-guy-like attorney’ to enforce new data-gathering powers on the banks.” Other appointments are being blocked by Republicans, who don’t seem to understand that Obama loves pleasing Wall Street even more than they do. Meanwhile, the FDIC’s Financial Stability Oversight Council will remain just a bunch of empty chairs after firebrand Sheila Bair leaves, in part, says one Republican staffer, because Tim Geithner is tired of people telling him “no.”
4.) Goodbye, middle class mortgages — Americans are ready to end Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but are they ready to say goodbye to 30-year mortgages, fixed interest rates, and lenient terms? “Life without Fannie and Freddie is the rare goal shared by the Obama administration and House Republicans,” reports the New York Times. But it will likely mean “interest rates would rise for most borrowers” with “urban and rural residents seeing sharper increases than the coveted customers in the suburbs,” and that “lenders could charge fees for popular features now taken for granted, like the ability to ‘lock in’ an interest rate weeks or months before taking out a loan.” Bidding these perks adieu also means weening ourselves off a system that encourages Wall Street to settle for low returns in exchange for a “guarantee that investors will be repaid even if borrowers default — a promise ultimately backed by taxpayers.”
5.) Romney very presidential, likely won’t be president — “If there is a front-runner in the race, it’s Mitt Romney,” writes National Journal. “Yet in the same Romney-is-the-front-runner breath comes this: It’s too early to make predictions. The race is totally fluid. Anything can happen. In other words, Romney is the front-runner for a nomination that nobody assumes he’ll win.” So how, exactly, is he a frontrunner? “He’s got the money, the organization, the best-selling book, and the hair. In national polls of possible candidates for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, Romney is at or near the top. Perhaps most important, he has run before. Paid his dues. Been to the rodeo.” Yes, well, and he is a lot like an actual president, in that he is a big fan of socialized medicine!
6.) Understanding the Kochs: A primer for liberals, idiots, others — “The Kochs do not cause people to behave in a certain way or believe in a certain thing,” writes James Otteson of the Fund for American Studies. “Rather, they look for people who are already behaving and believing in ways that they agree with, and they support them.” Otteson himself receives funding from the Koch brothers, but he doesn’t “do their bidding,” a claim liberals have directed at anyone who receives support from the Koch Foundation, up to and including, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin. Writes Otteson: “I give talks, I lead discussions, and I teach classes all sponsored by TFAS, and thus in part by the Koch Foundation, but I do not ask permission from the Koch Foundation to teach what I want to teach; I do not ask them to review my talks; they give me no advice about what books or articles or historical figures to discuss; and they do not ask to vet my views on any philosophical, economic, or policy-related issue. Instead, I have made proposals to them about projects I wanted to work on for which I asked support, and in some cases they have agreed to support me.” In other cases, they haven’t/don’t. That’s simple enough for even a liberal to understand.