Economy & Budget

Water Bill Is A Priority For Congress (Rep. James Oberstar)

Today, the House of Representatives approved H.R. 1262, the Water Quality Investment Act of 2009, by a vote of 317 to 101. The bipartisan legislation renews the Federal government’s commitment to clean water by authorizing $18.7 billion over the next five years for wastewater infrastructure and other efforts to improve water quality.

In the Manager’s Amendment, we added some provisions to the bill to make our water infrastructure activities more environmentally friendly. For example, the Manager’s Amendment to H.R. 1262 ensures that certain “green technology” activities are eligible for funding within pilot projects that control stormwater runoff. It also increases the authorization for the green technology to $100 million for each fiscal year from 2010 through 2014. Further, it requires states to set aside 20 percent of combined sewer and sanitary sewer grants to communities that implement green infrastructure or other water and energy efficient improvements. It also makes the construction of energy-efficient or renewable-energy generation technologies at publicly-owned sewerage agencies eligible for funding under the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF).

GOP Wants Stimulus, at No Cost

Sen. David Vitter(R-La.) introduces what he calls a ‘no cost stimulus’ that would offer low cost energy to Americans, as well as energy sector jobs, and free up off shore drilling while stimulating the economy.


Questionable Projects and Assumptions (Rep. John Campbell)

Last week’s witness in this committee was Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner talking about the President’s budget. He vigorously defended the budget, which I would expect from any member of the President’s cabinet. But I was disappointed that he did not acknowledge any of the highly questionable projections and assumptions that were made in order to make the deficit appear to not increase so drastically.

The budget predicts economic growth of 3.2% next year, increasing to an astounding 4.6% by 2012 with inflation levels staying at or below 2.0% during that time. If growth turns out to be that strong, we will indeed have inflation because of the monetary policies that have been pursued during this crisis. If inflation is that low then there won’t be growth. But budget numbers look better if there’s tax revenue from growth and low interest rates on the expanding national debt.

The Big Question, March 10: The Employee Free Choice Act

The Big Question is a feature where influential lawmakers, pundits and interest group leaders give their answers to a question that’s driving discussion in news circles around the country.

Some responses are gathered via e-mail, while others are gathered in person via tape recorder.

Today’s Big Question is:
The Obama administration recently backed "card check." Would passing it or defeating it be a travesty?

See responses below from the Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.), Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.), AFL-CIO, SEIU, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Club for Growth, United Steelworkers, Americans United for Change, Dean Baker, Grover Norquist, William Redpath, Celinda Lake, Herb London, and the Family Research Council.

Read the last Big Question here.

Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) said:
For anyone who values the secret ballot — a cornerstone of any Democracy — passage of Card Check would be a travesty.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said:
If you’re asking me if I’m opposed to “card check,” the answer would be yes because it would do away with the guarantee of a secret election to determine union representation... Read the full response here.

Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) said:
Well, passing it would be taking away the rights of people to have a secret ballot, which sort of runs a little against the concept of a democracy.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said:
I’m still considering my position on that.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said:
I think card check would be a colossal error for us to make. It’s unthinkable to think that we would deny union members the right to be able to vote confidentially on whether they want to be in a union.

Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) said:
It’d be the worst things to ever happen to our country, from an economic standpoint and just from a basic right for Americans to have a secret ballot. It would destroy jobs and take away a basic American right... Read the full response here.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said:
It’d be a victory for organized labor and very harmful for America’s economy.

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) said:
The passage of the Employee Free Choice Act would be a victory for workers and their families, but also for the economy. Read the full response here.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said:
It would be devastating for the country. It’d be bad if it passed.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) said:
Look, I don’t think the bill, as it presently seems to be…I don’t think it will be the concept that will be voted on. I think there’s a lot of pressure to make some changes in it, and that’s why I withhold judgment until I see what the final version is.

Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.) said:
I think it undermines those trying to create jobs. I think that the notion of preventing free and fair elections is what card check is all about. It’s just plain wrong to say we can have elections here within this institution and then deny them for union members. Read the full response here.

John Sweeney, president, AFL-CIO, said:
It would be a travesty for millions of hard working Americans if the Employee Free Choice Act is not passed.

All across America families are losing their jobs, homes, and healthcare. At the same time the CEO’s that ran companies into the ground are collecting millions of dollars in bonuses. This is happening because our economy has become fundamentally imbalanced with the wealth and power concentrated at the very top, and we’re witnessing the result. Read the full response here.

Anna Burger, secretary-treasurer, SEIU, said:
Right now, millions of working families are struggling — losing their jobs, their health care, and their retirement benefits. They’re working harder than ever before, yet they’re not able to share in the prosperity they helped create. Read the full response here.

Mike Eastman, Executive Director for Labor Policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said:
At a time when our full focus should be on stabilizing the economy passing the cynically named “Employee Free Choice Act” would certainly be a travesty; in fact it would be an outright disaster. As Randy Johnson, from the U.S. Chamber, has stated “This legislation is a bad idea any time, but is particularly irresponsible at a time when policy makers should be focusing on creating, not destroying, jobs.” Read the full response here.

Andy Roth, government affairs director, Club For Growth, said:
Passing ‘card check’ would greatly accelerate our country’s move towards big government socialism. The secret ballot is a cornerstone of our democracy and should be cherished. Plus, getting rid of it would devastate our economy and prolong our current financial crisis. Read the full response here.

Leo W. Gerard, USW International president, said:
“Card check” — the gross and deliberate misnomer for the Employee Free Choice Act — would wrest control of elections for union representation from employers and place it back in the hands of workers where it was when the Wagner Act was passed. Read the full response here.

Caren Benjamin, Deputy Executive Director of Americans United for Change, said:
The Employee Free Choice offers workers real access to the most effective middle-class protection program in the world – union membership. Union workers earn on average 28 percent more than their counterparts who don’t have access to a union. Read the full response here.

Dean Baker, Co-Director at the Center for Economic Policy and Research, said:
First, Let’s just be clear what “card check” does. Under the current law, workers may organize a union either through an NLRB certified election or by having a majority of their workers in a bargaining unit sign a card indicated their desire to be represented by a union. At present, it is up to the employer which route the workers have to take. Read the full response here.

Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform, said:
Card Check is a nice way of saying “taking away the right of workers to vote on whether or not they would like a union.” Union membership should be voluntary. Truly voluntary. Read the full response here.

William Redpath, Chair of the Libertarian National Committee, said:
The Libertarian Party platform states, “We support the right of free persons to associate or not associate in labor unions, and an employer should have the right to recognize or refuse to recognize a union.” Read the full response here.

Celinda Lake, president, Lake Research Partners, said:
Defeating it would be an outrage and a travesty. The current system gives workers no choice at all because they are routinely harassed or fired by employers during the period before the “election”. Polls show most workers would like to join a union — especially younger workers. Read the full response here.

Herb London, President of the Hudson Institute, said:
“Card check” is a violation of an essential American principle i.e. a person has the right to vote in private so that tacit or overt intimidation can be avoided. This proposal is seemingly a concession to union bosses that emerged from support during the Obama campaign effort. Read the full response here.

Tom McClusky, Senior Vice President of FRCAction, said:
Passing card check would be a travesty. KA-CHING! What was that sound? It was the labor union bosses cashing in on the millions of dollars they have not only given to mostly liberal Democratic candidates but also to Democratic causes such as attempting to defeat various state marriage amendments and in crushing parental consent measures in the states for young girls seeking an abortion. Read the full response here.

Creep of the Week: PennyMac's Stanford L. Kurland

Ever since President Obama announced his plan to forestall foreclosures, many of those lucky enough to have burned their mortgages have angrily suggested that less frugal homeowners get the Creep of the Week award.

While acknowledging such prodigal-neighbor-resentment, I am giving the award this week to a much more malevolent, seriously more depraved subprime creep: Stanford L. Kurland. This is a guy who profited from creation of the sub-prime mortgage crisis as former president of Countrywide Financial and who is now profiting from the wreckage caused by those sub-prime mortgages – both at the expense of taxpayers.

The best description of this appeared in the New York Times in a column by op-ed writer Gail Collins: “It’s like Jeffrey Dahmer selling body parts to a clinic.” Or this, in a Times story by Eric Lipton: “It is sort of like the arsonist who sets fire to the house and then buys up the charred remains and resells it.” That’s from Margo Saunders, a lawyer with the National Consumer Law Center. The center tried to stop abusive lending by the likes of Countrywide, which during the heyday of sub-prime was the largest mortgage lender in the nation but in the past nine months has been sued by several states contending it defrauded borrowers by hawking defective mortgages that quickly went to foreclosure.

Create a Crisis Investigation Select Committee (Sen. Byron Dorgan)

The American people deserve to know how this crisis happened; they deserve to know why they are on the hook for trillions of dollars bailing out banks and Wall Street. Congressional oversight needs to happen and happen fast. We simply cannot afford to have a crisis of this magnitude ever happen again. I compliment the standing committees for working overtime just trying to keep up and stop the crisis from getting worse. But, they are overworked and overwhelmed. Only a select committee, focusing full-time on how the crisis happened, will provide the comprehensive and thorough investigation that the American people deserve.

Brown Addresses Economy, G-20

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown addressed a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, urging the U.S. to create global solutions to fight the 'economic hurricane.'


Investigating the Economic Crisis

Senators Dorgan(D-N.D) and McCain(R-Ariz.) propose legislation that would put a 7-member Senate committee at the front of investigating what went wrong with the financial markets.