Wonkbook: 2010 hottest year on record; Obama speaks in Arizona; Fed's 'beige book' sees slow recovery
The president's speech in Arizona last night was, I thought, deeply affecting and quite beautifully written. But it will be well-covered elsewhere. And there's another story that deserves our attention: According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, 2010 is tied with 2005 as the hottest year on record. Worse: That means nine of the 10 hottest years on record were in the last decade. And it's not just the Aughts: Global temperatures have topped the 20th century's average for 34 straight years.
There is no doubt, at this point, that we are leaving a warming world for the next generation. And this is not merely like leaving health-care reform undone, or infrastructure unbuilt: Those problems might persist, but they are not much harder to solve in 2020 than in 2010, or 1990. Climate change, however, doesn't merely persist. It accelerates. As the Earth warms, it burns through the protections -- like the permafrost covering the Siberian peat bogs and the ice caps cooling the Arctic -- that moderated temperature increases during our lifetimes. And the next generation doesn't get to call for a do-over. They just get a much harder problem to solve, and one that's much further along.
2010 has tied 2005 as the Earth's warmest year on record, reports Juliet Eilperin: "Last year has tied 2005 as the warmest year on record, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies announced Wednesday. That conclusion, drawn from analyses of global surface temperatures, means that the decade that just ended included nine of the 10 hottest years on record...'Hopefully, this new data will finally convince congressional climate-science deniers that global warming is real and that action is urgent,' said Daniel J. Weiss, who directs climate strategy for the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. 'To reject this latest evidence is like ignoring strange spots on a chest X-ray and continuing to smoke.'"
The president spoke at a memorial service for the victims of the shooting in Tucson last night: "Here was a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that some day she, too, might play a part in shaping her nation’s future. She had been elected to her student council. She saw public service as something exciting and hopeful. She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model. She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted. I want to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it."
Read the whole speech: http://bit.ly/fGjdTA
Watch the whole speech: http://bit.ly/f8f049
Former presidential speechwriter James Fallows compares it to Reagan's post-Challenger speech and Clinton's post-Oklahoma speech: http://bit.ly/hW8pOY
The Fed's "beige book" says the recovery is proceeding slowly, reports Neil Irwin: "The economy 'continued to expand moderately' at the end of last year, according to a new report from the Federal Reserve that shows a recovery that, although not rapid, is on track. The beige book, a compilation of anecdotal reports from businesses across the country, offered further confirmation of trends that have emerged from a range of economic data in recent weeks: The manufacturing, retail and service industries outside of finance appear relatively strong. The job market is gradually improving. And the housing sector remains a significant drag on the economy. Add it all up, and the picture is an economy very slowly gaining momentum, with some continued pockets of distress but also definite signs of progress as 2011 gets underway."
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is pressing China on currency and intellectual property issues, reports Brady Dennis: "China's unwillingness to allow its currency to rise in value is hampering U.S. competitiveness in the global marketplace and harming the Chinese economy, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said Wednesday, ahead of next week's highly anticipated visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao. Beijing's currency policies remain the most contentious economic issue between China and Washington. By keeping the value of its currency low, China gives its exporters an advantage by making their goods cheaper on the international market...In addition to more aggressively raising the value of their currency, the Chinese should take action to curb intellectual property theft, Geithner said."
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Girl group theme song interlude: The Pipettes play "We Are the Pipettes" live.
Still to come: Mortgage investors are teaming up with borrowers to take on banks; the House GOP is planning to tone down next week's health care debate; another gun control bill has been introduced in the wake of the Tucson shooting; the auto industry wants Congress' help in blocking EPA gas mileage regulations; and a Google Android phone that can beat one of the world's top Sudoku players.
Investors are joining with mortgage borrowers to fight banks, report Ariana Eunjung Cha and Dina ElBoghdady: "The fight between big banks and investors who lost a fortune on mortgage-backed securities is shifting from private litigation to the public arena. While the investors have been angry at the banks for several years for the losses, their legal efforts have not gotten far, mostly because of the difficulty of organizing enough peers for class action lawsuits and of prying information from the lenders. But the recent uproar over the banks' foreclosure practices has given the investors a way to pressure lenders outside the courts...The investors find themselves fortuitously aligned with borrowers who are facing foreclosure and who have the sympathy of lawmakers."
Construction work and telemarketing boast the highest unemployment rates of any jobs: http://n.pr/egKCi1
Senator Dick Durbin is taking lead on defending Dodd-Frank, reports Alexander Bolton: "Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is carving out a role as one of the chief defenders of the Wall Street reform law. Senate aides and consumer advocacy groups say Durbin’s involvement will be critical at a time when the law, a signature Democratic achievement of the last Congress, is under attack by Republicans. Proponents of Wall Street reform say Durbin will fill a void left by the retirement of the former Banking Committee chairman, Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), who helped craft what became known as the Dodd-Frank law. Durbin scored one of the biggest legislative achievements of his career when he successfully attached an amendment on so-called interchange fees to Dodd-Frank last year."
Most housing economists predict better sales this year: http://on.wsj.com/eSJut3
The FDIC is set to start regulating executive pay and resolution authority, reports Alan Zibel: "The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. plans next week to consider how to discourage executive-pay practices that spur too much risk taking, as well as regulations that start the process of giving the government power to seize and dismantle large, troubled financial firms. The agency's board is scheduled to take up the two proposals at a Jan. 18 meeting, the FDIC said Wednesday. The FDIC, led by Sheila Bair, gained the authority to dismantle large, faltering financial firms as part of the Dodd-Frank financial-overhaul law signed by President Obama over the summer. The financial-overhaul law also requires regulators to bar incentive-based payments that encourage excessive risk taking among financial firms."
The US is unlikely to recoup the GM bailout: http://on.wsj.com/dHZQ05
Bill Daley is a horrible choice for chief of staff, writes Jonathan Chait: "Having been pulled into the warm embrace of several business (or quasi-business) enterprises despite lacking any non-political qualifications, Daley developed an appreciation for the corporate world, much as one might fondly regard a generous relative. This sentiment seems to form the basis for Daley’s argument that the Obama administration must chart a more centrist course or risk 'electoral disaster.' Daley’s centrism is not that of, say, a Larry Summers. Rather, he appears to believe that the position of the business community is ipso facto sensible. If business opposes health care reform and regulation of Wall Street, then health care reform and regulation of Wall Street must be dangerously left-wing. Thus his rapturous reception by Obama’s foes."
The stimulus' investment tax credits aren't working, writes Casey Mulligan: http://nyti.ms/gp0QDX
Reaching the debt limit won't shut down the government, writes Stan Collender: "Not raising the current federal debt limit absolutely will not immediately shut down the federal government. In fact, the federal debt ceiling has virtually nothing to do with whether federal departments and agencies continue to operate. Borrowing is just one of the ways the federal government finances its activities, and not increasing the debt ceiling only eliminates one of them. The talk about the government being shut down if there’s no increase in the debt ceiling when the current level is reached in the next few months is either a gross misunderstanding of how the federal budget world works or a scare tactic. The first is merely unfortunate; the second is absolutely infuriating."
Stand-up interlude: Hannibal Burress on the Late Show with David Letterman.
The GOP plans on holding a calmer health care debate next week, report Jennifer Haberkorn and Carrie Budoff Brown: "When the House returns to the debate over repealing health care reform, the rhetoric most likely will be softer -- but the lines of division are expected to be as hard as ever. The House is expected to return to Washington next week to a more subdued debate on repealing the health care reform law than it probably would have had a few weeks ago...Repealing the health care reform law is still a top priority for House Republicans, who expect the tone of the debate to be as measured as possible, focused exclusively on policy differences and not political charges...The vote to repeal health care reform, a key campaign promise from congressional Republicans, originally was scheduled for today."
A change in rhetoric will hurt health care reform opponents, writes Jonathan Cohn: "Why do almost half of respondents in most polls say they want to repeal the measure, even though the number drops dramatically once people learn what’s actually in the bill? Part of the reason, I think, is the emotional, apocalyptic rhetoric some conservatives and Republicans have used to describe it. They’ve been arguing that the bill will do more than simply take some money out of Medicare or require people to get insurance -- features that voters, particularly the elderly, genuinely dislike. They've said it will impose socialism, bring on tyranny, and create death panels to deny care to people deemed less worthwhile. And while not all Republicans are saying these things, obviously, neither the party's leaders nor its elder statesmen have disavowed the rhetoric."
Rep. Gary Ackerman is introducing the third gun control bill prompted by the Tucson shooting, reports Shira Toeplitz: "Rep. Gary Ackerman is the third New Yorker to propose gun-control legislation in the wake of the mass shooting in Arizona. Ackerman said his bill would close the 'fire sale loophole,' which allows gun dealers with revoked licenses to legally sell weapons as their personal collections. They don't need to run an FBI background check on the buyer, which would be mandatory at a regular firearm dealership. Ackerman is one of a handful of members of Congress talking about gun control, an issue that has been largely absent from the political debate following the shooting on Saturday that killed six and wounded more than a dozen others, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords."
A history of shooting-inspired gun laws: http://wapo.st/hFybxE
New Jersey is considering abolishing teacher tenure, reports Lisa Fleischer: "Thanks to tenure, many believe that teachers' jobs are basically guaranteed, no matter how students do. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie wants to change that: He is seeking to end tenure and on Wednesday said he would support switching to a system that gives individual teachers five-year contracts, which districts could renew based on merit. He said he believes that if the worst 5% of teachers were churned, there would be a 'quantum effect' on performance. 'I don't know what the justification is for it any longer, I really don't,' Mr. Christie said of tenure during a meeting with The Wall Street Journal's editorial board. 'At the end of the five-year period we evaluate. If we want to keep you, great. If we don't, we won't, based on merit.'"
Violent Congressional rhetoric keeps sensible gun controls from being passed, writes E.J. Dionne: "Let's salute Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) for breaking with gun-lobby orthodoxy by suggesting legislation that would make it illegal to carry a weapon within 1,000 feet of elected or high-ranking federal officials at publicly announced events. But by [Rep. Paul] Broun's logic, isn't King's proposal just a way for big government's servants to protect themselves from, shall we say, accountability? And if the rest of us ask for comparable protection, this just proves to opponents of gun control that any single restriction leads down a slippery slope to eviscerating all gun rights - and, eventually, to tyranny... This is the time to acknowledge that there is something deeply wrong with the militarization of American conservative rhetoric."
Rise of Skynet interlude: A Google Android phone beats a world champion at Sudoku
The auto industry wants the GOP House to block fuel economy rules, reports Josh Mitchell: "Auto makers are asking newly empowered House Republicans to help fight a proposal under consideration by the Obama administration to boost fuel-economy standards for new cars and trucks to as high as 62 miles per gallon by 2025. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the car industry's main trade group, wrote in a letter to U.S. Reps. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) and Fred Upton (R., Mich.) that fuel-economy standards are 'by far the most expensive regulations auto makers face.' The group warned that the 62 mpg proposal--backed by the state of California--would boost the price consumers pay for a car by as much as $6,400, resulting in a possible 25% drop in car sales and the loss of 220,000 automotive jobs."
Senate math doesn't look good for the EPA: http://politi.co/e4hN75
The EPA is exempting the biomass industry from climate rules, reports Juliet Eilperin: "In another sign that the Environmental Protection Agency is moderating its climate policy, it announced Wednesday it would exempt the biomass industry from limits on greenhouse gas emissions for three years. More than two dozen lawmakers had urged EPA to hold off on applying new rules aimed at curbing greenhouse gases from large emitters to facilities that burn wood and farm waste...But Clean Air Watch's Frank O'Donnell said the decision to delay regulation 'is another concession by EPA to its critics in Congress. Still unknown: will this reduce congressional attacks on EPA, or merely be blood in the water?'"
House Dems are worried about the restarting of an Alaskan oil pipeline: http://bit.ly/hwxnox
More efficient Army vehicles would save lives, writes Steven Anderson: http://nyti.ms/h4TgPw
Counting "green jobs" raises definitional problems, writes Monica Potts: "The two-part BLS definition, which the bureau began working on in early 2010, was released last September. It focuses on the degree of environmental impact: Green jobs must either be in industries that produce goods or provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources, or must be jobs in which workers' duties involve making their establishment's production processes more environmentally friendly. That definition was rightly criticized as overly broad. While nearly everyone would include installing solar panels as a green job, what about an architect who designs a green house? (Under the proposed definition, both would count.) Moreover, the definition also largely ignores how we define environmental benefit."
Closing credits: Wonkbook is compiled and produced with help from Dylan Matthews, Mike Shepard, and Michelle Williams. Graph credit: NASA.
| January 13, 2011; 6:44 AM ET
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