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Issue #42

The Nation

SOLD OUT! Obama budget would cut Social Security, Medicare benefits

President Barack Obama
Obama: Now, now, grandma. Cat food’s not so bad

President Obama will release a budget next week that proposes significant cuts to Medicare and Social Security and fewer tax hikes than in the past, a conciliatory approach that he hopes will convince Republicans to sign onto a grand bargain that would curb government borrowing and replace deep spending cuts that took effect March 1. When he unveils the budget Wednesday, Obama will break with the tradition of providing a sweeping vision of his ideal spending priorities, untethered from political realities. Instead, the document will incorporate the compromise offer Obama made to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) last December in the discussions over the so-called “fiscal cliff” – which included $1.8 in deficit reduction through spending cuts and tax increases. (Right, because compromise with the Tea Party is a higher priority for this president than the old and the sick.) Washington Post, 4-5-13.

Brunch with Obama: That will cost you $32,400

President Obama eats a Top Pot donut with Sen. Patty Murray during Seattle visit. The fare was a lot fancier and healthier at Thursday's $32,400-a-person fundraising brunch at a hilltop mansion in Atherton, California.
President Obama eats a Top Pot donut with Sen. Patty Murray during Seattle visit. The fare was a lot fancier and healthier at Thursday’s $32,400-a-person fundraising brunch at a hilltop mansion in Atherton, California.

The price tag for a fundraising brunch with President Obama, pegged at $35,800 a couple during 2012 visits to Seattle-area mansions of Microsoft and Costco millionaires,  has gone to $32,400 a person for a Democratic National Committee event Thursday in Atherton, Calif. The brunch’s host was San Francisco investment guru Mark Heisling, a wealthy green who is on the board of the Environmental Defense Fund, and his wife, Liz Simons.  Here is how the pool report described their digs: “It’s on a hilltop with 360 degree views.  Once through the gate at the bottom of the hill, the motorcade snaked past a vineyard. Pool walked around the house past a swimming pool, assorted gardens and patios, a bocce court, and eventually into the back of a relatively modest room where the brunch was held.” (Does anyone think think cat food was on the menu?) Seattle P-I, 4-4-13.

Newark’s problems weigh on Cory Booker’s potential Senate bid

Newark NJ mayor Cory Booker

Cory Booker has become one of the most famous mayors in the nation with the help of a careful political campaign that cast him as a unique talent willing to forgo better opportunities to save this crime-ridden and poverty-plagued city. All of that has helped make the Democrat one of the most prominent members of a new generation of African American politicians who are positioned to follow President Obama’s legacy. But for Booker, this new world, and his 2014 Senate prospects, are complicated by old problems, such as Newark’s race riots, corruption, and neglect. His Senate run, in which he could face tough primary challengers, would be a referendum on his sometimes shaky stewardship of the city. Washington Post, 4-2-13.

Federal judge strikes restrictions on ‘morning-after’ pill

U.S. District Court Judge Edward Korman

A federal judge Friday ordered the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to make the “morning-after” emergency contraception pill available without a prescription to all girls of reproductive age. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Edward Korman in Brooklyn, New York, comes in a lawsuit brought by reproductive-rights groups that had sought to remove age and other restrictions on emergency contraception. In his ruling, Korman said the FDA’s rejection of requests to remove age restrictions to obtain the pill had been “arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable.” Reuters, 4-5-13.

Fear of the youth vote, now in North Carolina

North Carolina State Senator Bill Cook (R)

In November, Republicans won complete control of government in North Carolina. They have the governorship, veto-proof majorities in both legislative chambers, and control of the elected Supreme Court. Now Republicans are using their new majority to maintain their majority, proposing several ways of making it harder to vote. Republican State Senator Bill Cook wants to make voting harder for college students in particular, so he’s pushing a bill that ties students’ voter registration to their parents’ taxes. If the student registers to vote at their college address, the parents would get a tax hike. They could no longer claim the student as a dependent, so the family would pay more in taxes. The local offshoot of the Tea Party poll watch group True the Vote sounds excited about the prospects. Rachel Maddow Blog, 4-4-13.

Even Texas has had enough: House says no to private school vouchers

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus (R)

A movement to enact a private school voucher program in Texas suffered a potentially fatal blow on Thursday with an overwhelming state House vote to bar use of state money for vouchers or tax credit scholarships. House members approved an amendment to the state budget bill that says no state money can be used to support private schools, either through vouchers or tax credits used to fund scholarships. Dozens of Republicans joined Democrats in approving the amendment 103-43. Efforts to pass either a voucher bill or a tax credit scholarship bill had been bogged down in recent weeks, and neither idea had cleared committees in the Senate or House. House Speaker Joe Straus had said several weeks ago that he saw little support for vouchers in his chamber. Dallas Morning News, 4-4-13.

King County

South Lake Union’s only shot at affordable housing

Cascade Park in South Lake Union
Cascade Park in South Lake Union

The South Lake Union neighborhood is home to only a smattering of the roughly 23,000 employees who work at Amazon’s headquarters, but the Seattle City Council and local developers hope to change that. City leaders say the influx of apartments and condos made possible by the zoning changes will increase density in the neighborhood, something they’re eager to achieve to help lower the city’s carbon footprint. But a home in this new urban idyll won’t come cheap. Council members Sally Clark, Tim Burgess, and Mike O’Brien are looking to require developers to set aside less than 5 percent of every new development for affordable housing. On the other end of the spectrum, Council member Nick Licata proposed developers set aside 10 to 15 percent of every new development for affordable housing. Licata insists it’s simply a matter of perspective. When compared with other cities across the country that require much more from developers, his proposal looks modest, he said. Real Change, 4-3-13.

‘Tunnel Termination Initiative’ filed by Elizabeth Campbell

Tunnel opponent Elizabeth Campbell

Seattle resident Elizabeth Campbell has filed a proposed statewide initiative, seeking to halt the Highway 99 tunnel. But by time the measure could even reach the November 2014 ballot, tunnel boring is scheduled to be close to done. Campbell previously led anti-tunnel Initiative 101 for Seattle voters only, and gathered more than 21,000 valid signatures to qualify, but a judge voided I-101, saying the city couldn’t interfere with a state project. A separate anti-tunnel advisory measure, Referendum 1, did reach the August 2011 ballot — but a majority of voters supported going ahead with the tunnel. Campbell’s new measure needs 246,372 valid signatures statewide by Jan. 3 for the next Legislature to forward it to the November 2014 ballot, the Secretary of State’s office said Wednesday. Signature gathering might begin in a few weeks. Seattle Times, 4-3-13.

Kent City Council rejects proposals to allow more casinos, cut gambling tax

Kent City Council president Dennis Higgins

The Kent City Council decided to fold Tuesday night on a proposal to cut the Great American Casino’s gambling tax rate. The council also shut the door on the idea to open up the town to more than one casino. The council’s Operations Committee voted 2-1 last month to cut the city’s gambling tax on gross revenues of casino card rooms from 11 percent to 7 percent in order to help Great American reduce its losses of more than $1 million over the last two years at its Panther Lake facility. But Council President Dennis Higgins pulled the tax-cut ordinance from Tuesday’s agenda because so many council members were against the reduction. Great American operators had asked the city for the cut, partly because Auburn has reduced its gambling tax to 4 percent over the last couple of years while Des Moines has only a 1 percent tax in efforts to attract casinos. Kent Reporter, 4-4-13.

The State

The turncoat Dems who took Olympia (so far)

Sen. Tim Sheldon ("D"-35)

Going by the numbers, the Democrats were supposed to be in charge. Then Tim Sheldon and Rodney Tom announced that they were joining with Republicans to form a new “majority coalition” caucus that, by virtue of a 25-24 margin, was entitled to power. Twenty-three of the 25 members of the caucus were Republican, but its two Democratic members insisted that it was bipartisan and narrowly focused on three issues of common ground: jobs, education, and a budget that in their view didn’t overspend. While there was some overlap with the Democratic agenda, especially around education, the coalition’s slant would prove considerably different. Seattle Weekly’s puff piece on the two traitors, 4-2-13.

Pike’s bill would halt CRC funding

An artist's rendering of the proposed Interstate 5 bridge between Vancouver and Portland.
An artist’s rendering of the proposed Interstate 5 bridge between Vancouver and Portland.

State Rep. Liz Pike (R-18) this week introduced a bill that would halt state funding to the Columbia River Crossing and mandate a redesign of the proposed Interstate 5 Bridge replacement. Pike said HB 2025 is intended to stop a CRC design that is “totally unacceptable,” and find a different path forward. But the move comes as project supporters are making a major push to secure crucial state funding for the CRC this year. Whether Pike’s bill gains traction remains to be seen. (Remember, this is the same bright light who wanted to arm teachers.) Vancouver Columbian, 4-4-13.

House transportation budget calls for next step in study of VMT miles-driven tax

In January, a study done with $775,000 in funding from the Legislature concluded that charging drivers by the mile would be feasible in Washington. House Democrats Thursday called for spending another $400,000 on the next phase of study. The House Transportation Committee budget would have the Transportation Commission develop the “business case” for “a road usage charge” to replace the gas tax. That would likely include evaluation of the cost to operate and enforce a road usage charge, or vehicle-miles-traveled tax, as it’s better known. Tacoma News Tribune, 4-4-13.

To Think About

Obama making historic mistake on Social Security

It’s safe to say: Obama’s no FDR

While cutting Social Security makes no sense at all in terms of economics or public policy, it makes excellent sense in terms of the selfish class interests of the super-rich.  They have extracted about half the gains from economic growth in the U.S. in the last half-century, and they recycle some of their profits to fund politicians, and lobbyists, and  mercenary propagandists who pose as neutral think tank experts. Elite discourse on this subject is radically at odds with public opinion. According to a February 2013 Pew poll, only 10 percent of Americans want to cut Social Security while 41 percent want to increase Social Security benefits. It’s time to change the public conversation about retirement security in America to reflect the beliefs and interests of the struggling many, not the fortunate few. Michael Lind, Salon, 4-5-13.


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