Morning Must Reads -- A low summit 

Washington Post -- Obama invites Republicans to summit on health care

It’s on now.

President Obama wants a showdown with Republicans on health care at the end of this month. Having enjoyed his jousting session with House Republicans two weeks ago, the president is proposing a high-stakes debate between him, backed up by Congressional Democrats, against the Republican leadership from Congress.

Regardless of what writer Michael Shear and most of his colleagues are saying today, this is not a negotiation or a summit. This is a debate designed to showcase the president’s plan.

Obama wants Democrats to take the next fortnight to merge the House and Senate bills in secret into one final monstrosity. Republicans will then come to Blair House and try to poke holes in the plan. Obama likes the idea because he controls the setting, the topic of discussion and gets to act as the lead debater for the affirmative and the moderator.

(My column about the president’s strategy is here. )

But what the administration likes about the plan may be the exact opposite of what voters want – a lecture and more talk about an issue that 70 percent want laid aside for the time being.

“The impasse has created tensions between the House and Senate in recent days and had led White House officials to look for a fresh course. The summit idea was viewed as a way to reengage Republicans, bring the debate into public view and remind voters of the most popular provisions in the bill.”


New York Times -- Irked, Wall St. Hedges Its Bet on Democrats

Writer David Kirkpatrick suggests that the reason donations from Wall Street are starting to trend away from Democrats and toward Republicans is because fat cat plutocrats are unhappy about President Obama’s new regulatory tough talk and soi-disant populism.

And the attacks on investment and wealth creation are turning the capitalist class off, but just as Goldman Sachs was selling mortgage backed securities to customers while betting the firm’s money on a mortgage bust, what were seeing is that Wall Street knows how to hedge its bets, and not just for the sake of a headline pun.

Republicans are on the upswing, so investment houses and banks want to make sure they have friends on both sides of the aisle.

Another cause for the change – while the administration has structured its policies to help friends, like seeking to eliminate some investment banking competition for Goldman – the overall belief is that the administration can do little to reward or punish as the president adopts a stance as a leader of a marginal movement, not a governing coalition.

“‘If the president doesn’t become a little more balanced and centrist in his approach, then he will likely lose that support,’ said Kelly S. King, the chairman and chief executive of BB&T. Mr. King is a board member of the Financial Services Roundtable, which lobbies for the biggest banks, and last month he helped represent the industry at a private dinner at the Treasury Department.”


USA Today -- Rash of retirements push Social Security to brink

But isn’t Social Security already at the brink?

Yes, but it’s on the brink of stystemic implosion sometime in the next decade as Baby Boomers retire.

The brink writer Richard Wolf is talking about is the yearly surplus that has made Social Security such an attractive cash cow for spendthrift members of Congress.

The program usually collects more than enough money from working Americans to pay its claims – more than $60 billion extra in 2008. The money should go to pay down the multi-trillion obligations for future benefits, but lawmakers raid the cash for other spending programs and deposit IOUs in the Social Security fund.

But with a poor job market and lots of Americans now in the retirement window, the eventual Boomer drawdown has begun early. (Robert Samuelson tells us today that the average American over age 65 gets $25,000 in taxpayer subsidy each year)

“Social Security was saved from bankruptcy in 1983 by a bipartisan deal that increased payroll taxes, taxed some benefits and gradually raised the retirement age to 67. That was supposed to keep the system solvent at least until 2058, but the projection has slipped to 2037.

The impact of the recession shows that ‘for all these projections, unexpected things happen,’ says Maya MacGuineas of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.. ‘Money has to be found to repay those trust funds.’”


New York Times -- Iran Tells U.N. Agency of Nuclear Enrichment Plans

American and European negotiators were cheering a move by Iran to reach a sensible solution about nuclear power. But then, like Lucy Van Pelt with a beard, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has pulled the nuclear football away at the last minute.

Writers Allen Cowell and Michael Slackman explain that rater than outsourcing their uranium enrichment, Iran is going to let it rip, using the excuse that it needs the stuff for a medical reactor.

“Iran had been attempting to buy S-300 surface-to-air missiles from Russia, apparently to protect its nuclear facilities from air strikes. Despite strong Western pressure not to supply the missiles, Russia has not given a clear indication of its intentions.”


Los Angeles Times -- Exit polls show tight race in Ukraine

The Kremlin’s preferred candidate in the Ukrainian presidential elections isn’t worried about counting the second half of the ballots. He knows he’s won.

Former President Viktor Yanukovich, who was driven from office by the Orange Revolution in 2004, is ready to retake power.

While there’s plenty of reason to believe that Moscow would do whatever necessary to remove pro-Western reformer Yulia Tymoshenko as prime minister (remember when reform President Viktor Yushchenko got that weird case of Dioxin poisoning during the 2004 election that ousted Yanukovich?), writer Megan Stack sees the surprising results as part of an American-style process, not the expansionist actions of Great Russia in an era of global uncertainty.

“But with Ukrainians badly battered by an economic crisis and embittered over the corruption and political sniping that consumed the capital under the leadership of the self-declared reformers, Yanukovich surged back to popularity with strong support in Ukraine's industrialized, Russian-speaking east and south.

‘I'd like to thank God for helping us turn a new page in the history of our country,’ Yanukovich said late Sunday. He spoke in Russian, slipping out of the Ukrainian he had adopted during many of his political speeches during the campaign.”


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About The Author

Chris Stirewalt


Washington Examiner Political Editor Chris Stirewalt, who coordinates political coverage for the newspaper and in addition to writing a twice-weekly column and
regular blog posts.

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