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If you read one thing today

A Virginia judge’s ruling against the Obama health care plan shows that the constitutional challenges to the law “can no longer be dismissed as frivolous,” writes the NYT’s Kevin Sack. Judge Henry E. Hudson of Federal District Court in Richmond came down strongly against the health care reform, just as two other judges in other states had upheld it.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court will have to resolve the conflict, and many court watchers already expect a characteristically close decision. But what is now clear is that the challenges from dozens of states to the law’s constitutionality can no longer be dismissed as frivolous, as they were earlier this year by some scholars and Democratic partisans.

“All the insiders thought it was a slam dunk,” said Randy E. Barnett, a professor of constitutional law at Georgetown University who supports the health care challenges. “Maybe a slam dunk like weapons of mass destruction were a slam dunk.”

“All the insiders thought it was a slam dunk,” said Randy E. Barnett, a professor of constitutional law at Georgetown University who supports the health care challenges. “Maybe a slam dunk like weapons of mass destruction were a slam dunk.”

Overheard

And this from Politico on how President Obama feels he’s perceived by the American public:

“I don’t think there’s a sense that I’ve been successful,” Obama told Colorado’s 9NEWS. “I think people still feel that over all, Washington is about a lot of politics and special interests and big money, but that ordinary people’s voices too often aren’t represented, and so my hope is that we’re going to continue rebuilding a trust in government.”

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Today’s Flickr photo

Wikileaks supporters rally in Sydney, Australia. Flickr photo by MrReebDoog.

If you read one thing today . . .

Count David Corn,  Mother Jones’ D.C. bureau chief, as one of the few progressives coming to the defense of President Obama over his acquiescence in extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. In his Politics Daily column, Corn says that after gaining insights from high-level administration sources, he’s of the mind that the president’s decision was less about giving in to GOP demands and more about salvaging something for beleaguered middle-class Americans.

But come this point, Obama had to play a lousy hand — even though it was a hand he had a hand in dealing. And here comes the sympathy.

In meeting after meeting, during which the president and his aides discussed his options, Obama repeatedly asked if anyone could guarantee that were he to put up his dukes, go to the mat, and play chicken with the GOPers, mid- and low-income Americans would end up with the breaks and benefits he believed they need. If he went nose-to-nose, mano-a-mano, and the R’s didn’t blink, they’d be nothing for nobody — and the Bush tax cuts would end for the middle class, mean that come Jan. 1, hard-working Americans would see a smaller paycheck. To make matters worse, this might have an anti-stimulative effect on the economy.

Then what would happen? He might be able to win the blame-game against the Scrooge-ish Republicans — which would be a significant victory, especially heading into the next Congress. But there would be no action until next year, and any tax-related bill would have to originate in the Republican-controlled House and pass a Senate with a larger and more tea party-ish GOP caucus. It could take weeks or months to hammer out a package. What were the odds it would contain as much assistance for the non-rich? In the meantime, working-class Americans would be contending with less money. That is, hurting more.

Overheard:

The progressive uproar over President Obama’s decision to cave to GOP demands over extending the Bush tax cuts extends beyond the president’s shaken grassroots base and outspoken liberal members of Congress — now the voices of dissent are coming from some of his big financial backers. Matea Gold in the L.A. Times writes that Obama’s lack of fight is hurting the Democratic fund-raising effort.

“I would say I’m not a happy camper,” said Paul Egerman, a software entrepreneur in Boston, who said this was the first time he felt Obama reversed himself on a significant policy issue. “That troubles me. I need to be convinced he really had no alternative.”

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Today’s Flickr photo

Flickr photo by philroeder

If you read one thing today . . .

Markos Moulitsas on the Daily Kos highlights some interesting exit polling from the midterm elections. More voters blamed Wall Street for our economic woes than either Barack Obama or George W. Bush. But among those who blamed Bush, 83 percent were Democrats and among those who blamed Obama, 91 percent were Republicans. No surprise there. What is puzzling, as Markos points out is that even though a lot of Republicans blamed Wall Street, it didn’t stop them from voting for GOP candidates who, by and large, push a pro-Wall Street agenda.

So why is that? It’s because people think there is no difference between the parties when it comes to the rich and powerful. And why should they? Obama’s finance team is essentially a branch office of Goldman Sachs and company. Treasury was more concerned with using HAMP as a way to protect the banks than help struggling homeowners stay in their homes. In a bizarre role reversal — the White House economic team tried to water down the finance reform bill that came out of Congress.

It’s not hard to see why people have gotten the sense that Democrats aren’t much better on Wall Street matters than Republicans (even if they are).

Overheard:

This whole new Wisconsin paradigm will take some getting used to. Red state? Wisconsin? Anyways, this once progressive bastion is now filled with legislators who want to tell the federal government where it can stick its socialized health care. Kevin Sack in the New York Times says the opposition to health care reform helped fuel the GOP rise in Wisconsin, as well as other states. Wisconsin’s Gov.-elect Scott Walker says that on his first day in office, he’ll tell the state’ s attorney general to join a multi-state suit challenging the constitutionality of Obama’s health care reform.

“I think the more free-market the better,” Mr. Walker, the Milwaukee County executive, said in an interview. “I think history has repeatedly shown the more the government gets involved the more it not only distorts the marketplace but the more likely it is to inflate costs.”

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Mehall

The draft recommendations issued this week by President Obama’s deficit  commission co-chairs, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, were both disappointing and highly suspect when they blatantly omitted a speculation tax on Wall Street and the financial industry.

Since this is just a discussion draft, we will not speculate as to how such a clear revenue raiser was absent from the proposal and simply ask the co-chairs and members of deficit commission to make sure that the co-chair Alan Simpson truly “harpoons every whale in the [deficit] ocean,” as he claimed to have done.

We urge the commission to include a financial speculation tax in its final report to President Barack Obama.

Craig Mehall is policy counsel for Public Citizen.

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If you read one thing today . . .

Down With Government Oversight
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Overheard:

Despite the Dow Jones Industrial Average bouncing back to where it was before the 2008 economic crisis and despite big profits being reported by many of the companies that were bailed out by the federal government, investors around the world are not too keen on the Obama administration, according to a Bloomberg article by Mike Dorning. It seems the only thing that might make them happy is complete global deregulation.

“The uncertainty around the administration’s approach to dealing with businesses and the lack of clarity on taxes has created an environment where companies are less likely to make incremental investments, which in turn is bad for future corporate profits and hence the investment climate,” says poll respondent Quinten Stevens, 46, managing partner of Stevens Asset Management LLC in Darien, Connecticut. “Hopefully, the recent election results will be a powerful wake-up call to significantly change their approach towards the private sector.”

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Today’s Flickr Photo

From the 10/10/10 rally in front of the White House. Flickr photo by 350.Org

If you read one thing today . . .

It seems the civil court system in this country is a lot like our health care system. It might seem like the best in the world until you start examining important details, such as access and affordability. Then it’s a different matter entirely. Dan Froomkin’s piece in the Huffington Post cites a new survey that ranks the U.S. “lowest among 11 developed nations when it comes to providing access to justice to its citizens — and lower than some third-world nations in some categories.” Froomkin writes:

Why haven’t more Americans successfully sued the banks that lured them into fraudulent mortgages, then foreclosed on them without the required paperwork?

It could be because the civil justice system in this country is essentially inaccessible to many Americans — and when it does get accessed, is tilted toward the wealthy and moneyed interests.

Overheard

David Corn at Mother Jones wonders why Team Obama would have opened up about their failings to New York Times Magazine writer Peter Baker so close to the election. The NYT magazine piece was posted Wednesday and includes choice tidbits, including this from trusted presidential confidant David Axelord:

“Perhaps we were naive,” White House adviser David Axelrod remarked to Baker. “First, [the president’s] always had good relations across party lines. And secondly, I think he believed that in the midst of a crisis you could find partners on the other side of the aisle to help deal with it. I don’t think anyone here expected the degree of partisanship that we confronted.”

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Slocum

As the White House finally rights a wrong and installs solar panels to heat and energize the East Wing, the Obama administration will have to determine if the installation is merely a symbolic gesture or a signal of robust leadership on climate and energy policy.

One indication of the latter would be strong leadership on a legislative response to the BP oil spill. Unfortunately, the administration might have its hands full doing damage control after the oil spill commission deemed the government’s spill response “either not fully competent” or “not fully candid with the American people about the scope of the problem.”

However, a swift, decisive course of action to reform Big Oil and hold the industry accountable might be just the solution the White House needs. Faced with the inadequacies of the spill response, America needs to see accountability for corporations and government agencies alike, stronger safety and environmental regulations for offshore drilling, and more rights for both oil rig workers and Gulf coast residents. Such legislation has already passed in the House of Representatives, but the Senate companion bill has yet to hit the floor.

America needs to see that action now. The immediate Gulf crisis is over, but the underlying causes for it must be addressed – before it happens again.

Big Oil is not wasting a moment cozying up to Congress. Just look at the Senate’s failure to approve subpoena power for the oil spill commission. By denying the commission the authority to subpoena witnesses and compel testimony, Congress is shielding companies associated with the spill from being held accountable.

Yes, the Obama administration should be applauded for its move to go solar. But as soon as the party is over, the administration must get back to work on holding BP accountable.

Tyson Slocum is director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program.

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