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Wonkbook: Jobs bill details sketched; unions target boardrooms; new oil reg rules


The Obama administration is considering including infrastructure improvements and additional tax cuts in its next piece of jobs legislation. Meanwhile, an SEC decision expanding shareholder power over corporate boards has led unions to consider installing their supporters on target companies' boards. And new regulations aim to eliminate the revolving door between oil regulators and industry.

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The administration is considering new tax cuts and a nationwide infrastructure improvement program as part of a new jobs bill, report Deborah Solomon and Jonathan Weisman: "On the list of possible actions: additional tax cuts for small businesses beyond those included in a $30 billion small-business lending bill before the Senate. It's not clear what those tax breaks would target or how much they might cost in lost revenue to the government. Also in the mix: a possible payroll tax cut for businesses and individuals, as well as other business tax breaks, according to people familiar with the discussions."

Unions may try to install members onto corporate boards following a recent SEC decision, writes Joel Schectman: "The Change to Win Investment Group, which helps mobilize union pension funds around accountability issues, told NEWSWEEK it sees Massey Energy as 'a possible candidate' for a boardroom putsch...Unions had complained for years about safety issues at the company, and the Change to Win Investment Group had launched a campaign against the reelection of some board members last March, even before the accident. But back then, the only thing groups like Change to Win could do was lobby against management’s choices. Now they can offer the threat of their own candidates."

Head oil industry regulator Michael Bromwich has released rules meant to prevent regulator conflicts of interest, reports Stephen Power: "The Obama administration on Tuesday ordered federal offshore-oil regulators to recuse themselves from official actions involving companies that employ their family members or close friends, and placed new restrictions on regulators' oversight of companies they once worked for...Rig workers and agency employees in the Gulf Coast 'have often known one another since childhood,' according to a report published earlier this year by the Interior Department's inspector general."

French pop interlude: Phoenix plays "Napoleon Says" live.

Still to come: The Fed does not fear deflation; Harry Reid is considering using the lame duck session of Congress to pass a renewable energy standard; Minnesota may become the first state to turn down health care reform funds; and Lady Gaga as played from a belltower.


Despite disagreements on what action to take, Federal Reserve policymakers agree on the state of the economy, reports Neil Irwin: "Most meeting participants, who included the five then-serving Fed governors and 12 presidents of Fed regional banks, 'saw the incoming data as indicating that the economy was operating farther below its potential than they had thought'...Fed officials did not see much risk of deflation, a dangerous cycle of falling prices. 'No member saw an appreciable risk of deflation,' the minutes said, though some saw a risk that inflation would continue to decline."

Banks posted their biggest profits in almost three years last quarter:

The SEC has opted to not pursue a fraud case against Moody's despite evidence the firm misled investors, reports Zachary Goldfarb: "Several months later, a Moody's analyst found a mistake in the computer model that Moody's used to grade the security, according to the SEC. The mistake made the security seem less risky than it was. Moody's executives subsequently held meetings to discuss whether to disclose that the ratings had been in error. They decided not to make such an announcement, according to the SEC."

The Commerce Department refused to intervene in a dispute over Chinese currency devaluation:

David Leonhardt explains why not all tax cuts are created equal: "Consumers and executives didn’t rush out to spend more money in part because they understood their tax rate would still be lower months or years later. That the Reagan and Bush tax cuts went disproportionately to high-income households, which save more of their income, did not help, either. In fact, simply sending rebate checks to most households seems to have more punch. If you look at this chart, you can see that consumer spending bounced back in both the second quarter of 2008 (temporarily) and the third quarter of 2009. Those happen to be the quarters when the Treasury Department finished sending the one-time cuts from Bush and Obama."

Robert Rubin and Julian Robertson argue for the immediate return of the estate tax:

Daniel Gross thinks corporate CEOs have little reason to complain: "To review: Corporate profits have largely recovered to pre-crisis levels. A disproportionate share of economic growth is finding its way into the coffers of corporate America. CEOs are in an extremely strong negotiating position vis-à-vis their employees. And yet America's bosses think they are members of an oppressed minority."

Home prices rose in June but are poised to fall in the future:

Campus-wide pop interlude: Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" played on a bell tower.


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says the Senate may be able to pass a renewable energy standard, reports Ben Geman: "Before the August recess, Reid said he doubted an RES -- which would require utilities to provide escalating amounts of power from sources like wind and solar energy -- could win 60 votes...But Reid told reporters on a conference call Tuesday the energy bill is still a work in progress and cited two Republicans who have expressed interest in an RES. He did not name them. One could be Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), who has called for including an RES in energy legislation. Reid said he planned to speak with the two Republicans soon."

A new poll suggests widespread public support for EPA climate regulations:

Both Congressional and EPA efforts to restrict mountaintop removal coal mining face resistance, reports Tom Zeller: "At least one piece of federal legislation has been floated that would curtail mountaintop removal, but it has languished in committee for over a year. For their part, the coal companies aren’t taking all this sitting down. The industry filed a lawsuit last month seeking to challenge the E.P.A.’s most recent attempts to limit so-called valley fills -- a tack that, if it sticks, would make most mountaintop removal difficult, if not impossible. After all, what to do with all the debris?"

Fannie and Freddie are refusing to support a program funding home efficiency improvements:

Some climate advocates are considering focusing their appeal to Republican legislators, writes Daniel Stone: "'Maybe the science and environmental community needs to appeal directly to the GOP,' says Paul Bledsoe, a strategist for the National Commission on Energy Policy, an arm of the Bipartisan Policy Center. That sounds like a nonstarter to Republicans burned by the sometimes vicious advocacy of environmental demonstrators. One frequent target was Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who was often called a 'shill for big oil.' At one point Greenpeace protesters unfurled a banner in the Hart Senate Office Building, accusing Murkowski of being in bed with oil companies."

Edward Glaeser argues for immigration as a climate adaptation strategy: "Professor Kahn emphasizes that 'migration is crucial for reducing the costs we incur from a given shock,' that moving from places that have become less unbearably hot to places that have become more pleasant -- 'the ability to ‘vote with your feet’ and migrate to other cities' -- acts as an insurance policy. If hot places become unbearable, then once unfashionably icy places will boom. That seems reasonable to me, although there will be plenty of social loss if we abandon cities where we have invested billions in infrastructure."

Fun with farm equipment interlude: A man runs himself through a hay bailer.

Domestic Policy

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty made his the first state to reject health care reform funds, report Janet Adamy and Amy Merrick: "The order isn't likely to significantly affect how the law is applied in Minnesota. It says the state can't seek further discretionary money for demonstration projects and grant funding unless the governor approves it. In some cases, Minnesota's legislature has already put in place plans to seek federal money under those programs...Minnesota won't be restricted from participating in the biggest pieces of the overhaul, including the expansion of the Medicaid program for the poor and new tax credits to offset the cost of insurance for lower earners. Those steps take effect in 2014."

The Department of Justice is seeking a stay on a federal judge's decision blocking stem cell funding:

Consumers are beginning to fight false patent labeling by corporations, reports Dionne Searcey: "Lawyers for product manufacturers now fear clients are liable for up to $500 for every tube of mascara or box of garbage bags marked with an expired patent--an error that turns out to be quite common. In recent months, would-be plaintiffs have been fanning out across retail stores and the Internet searching for expired patent numbers on everything from toothpaste to toilet plungers."

Marek Brabec and John Komlos argue the American obesity epidemic, far from appearing suddenly, is almost one hundred years in the making:

Nathan Hegedus sings the praises of the Swedish paternity leave system: "Over the past 15 years, the streets of Stockholm have filled up with men pushing strollers. In 1995, dads took only 6 percent of Sweden's allotted 480 days of parental leave per child. Then the Swedish government set aside 30 leave days for fathers only. In 2002 the state doubled the 'daddy only' days to 60 and later added an 'equality bonus' for couples that split their leave. Now more than 80 percent of fathers take some leave, adding up to almost a quarter of all leave days."

Katrina vanden Heuvel bemoans the declining power of American labor unions:

Closing credits: Wonkbook is compiled with the help of Dylan Matthews and Mike Shepard. Photo credit: Ian Waldie/Bloomberg.

By Ezra Klein  |  September 1, 2010; 8:23 AM ET
Categories:  Wonkbook  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Why health care is different
Next: I need a (non-copyrighted) drink


"Maybe the science and environmental community needs to appeal directly to the GOP"

Well, they'll have to stop calling them "deniers" and "anti-science". And that will be very hard for them. ;)

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | September 1, 2010 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Well, I'm sure calling them "deniers" and "anti-science" doesn't help, but there are an awful lot of Republican legislators that don't exactly have the best record of open-mindedness when it comes to climate change. No matter what the vague "environmental science community" is, there are enough reasons to get us off fossil fuels that we should be seeing more than two un-named Republicans willing to sign on to some kind of plan.

Posted by: MosBen | September 1, 2010 11:04 AM | Report abuse

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