Morning Must Reads -- Black and blue ribbon commission 

Washington Post -- Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles to lead panel on reducing U.S. budget deficits

Democrats are cheering the tough talk from former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson, the new co-chairman of the president’s deficit reduction panel, about obstructionism and warning his fellow GOPers not to stand on the sidelines.

The Ds had better be careful in praising Wyomingite Simpson because they have to retain future credibility for attacking Simpson when he eventually suggests reductions to Social Security benefits.

Serving with Simpson will be Erskine Bowles, former Clinton fundraiser, White House chief of staff, twice-defeated Senate candidate and president of the University of North Carolina.

Simpson is a maverick, but generally only when it comes to defending the party establishment. And like Bowles he is known for his pragmatism.

One would expect the Simpson-Bowles plan would call for some modest tax increases and some mild re-jiggering of Social Security and Medicare.

The big question now that Obama has put out the identities of his deficit czars is whether Congress will respond. Writer Lori Montgomery focuses on Republicans, but it’s an equally open question whether Democrats would back a panel so likely to find solutions that mean cutting entitlements and stopping the current spending binge.

“Obama plans to make the announcement Thursday, when he intends to sign an executive order creating the 18-member panel, which will be tasked with drafting a plan to significantly reduce soaring budget deficits by 2015.”

 

USA Today -- Stimulus funds going to slashed programs

Happy Stimulus Day! It was a year ago that the only major domestic accomplishment of the Obama presidency so far became law.

Writer Matt Kelley tells us how the $787 billion spending plan (now priced by the CBO at $862 billion) put money in some of the programs being targeted for elimination in the new Obama budget.

But what’s really of value here is the charticle Kelly prepared that shows us where all the money has gone.

Of the $146 billion spent, $136 billion has gone to either entitlement programs or shoring up school budgets. Those same recipients are in line for another $190 billion, while another $54 billion will go to actual stimulus projects.

“Obama signed the stimulus package a year ago today, an occasion that the administration is marking with events at the White House today and across the country this week.”

 

Wall Street Journal -- Budget Wielded to Cut Greenhouse Gases

The president was touting his new support for nuclear power, announcing $8.33 billion in loans and expedited permits for two new Southern Company reactors in Georgia.

Obama told Republicans to change their tune on cap and trade because he was reaching out by endorsing the limited expansion of nuclear power.

Writer Stephen Power looks at the administration’s nuclear realities (more plants but also the elimination of the only place to put the waste) but also what the Obama budget tells us about the team’s energy goals.

“Mr. Obama's budget calls for $39 billion in tax increases on fossil-fuel producers over 10 years. It also includes an estimated $1.4 billion to help developing countries address the impacts of climate change, reduce deforestation and shift to low-carbon energy sources. And it proposes tripling federal support for nuclear energy, by adding $36 billion in new loan authority for an Energy Department program aimed at speeding the construction of new reactors.”

 

New York Times -- Elders of Wall St. Favor More Regulation

A doubly fascinating story on new Wall Street regulations from writer Louis Uchitelle.

The piece talks about how many old hands are emerging to endorse the idea of re-imposing restrictions on banks using deposit-insured funds to finance speculative investments.

Tracy Corrigan did a more engaging job in the Telegraph two weeks ago, but Uchitelle gets the likes of former Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady, former Citigroup CEO John Reed and SEC Chairman William Donaldson on the record endorsing a return of some of the regulatory distinctions between banking and investing.

But it’s also fascinating that Uchitelle plops George Soros into the mix with these square and squeaky-clean elders with nary a word about his controversial business and political activities – the insider trading charges, breaking the Bank of England on pounds sterling, bankrolling MoveOn.org etc.

A “backer of controversial liberal groups and currency speculator” clause might have been helpful, especially when Soros’ suggestions are radically different from those of the geezer capitalists.

“The solution for Mr. Soros is to avoid failure in the first place. The big Wall Street firms ‘would have to be closely regulated to make sure they don’t fail,’ he said. ‘You may decide to break them up, or restrict the number of markets in which they are allowed to operate and you would need to impose capital requirements’ to curtail risk-taking.”

 

New York Times -- Paterson Aide’s Quick Rise Draws Scrutiny

After weeks of speculation about a bombshell story on a personal scandal involving New York’s governor, the Times delivers an exposé on the governor’s body man, David Johnson.

Johnson, 37, was arrested twice for drugs as a teenager and has had two domestic disputes as an adult which drew police attention, but not arrests.

It’s no wonder there were so many rumors about the story – aside from writers Danny Hakim and William Rashbaum, there were four other reporters contributing. A half-dozen Times reporters tromping around Harlem and Albany asking about the governor’s 6’ 7” aide will draw some attention.

Much of the story reads like sour grapes from the staff Paterson inherited after Eliot Spitzer’s bimbo implosion.

“[Several] current and former administration officials said that Mr. Johnson’s dressing down of the governor’s Washington office in September contributed to the departure of several seasoned people from the office.

‘I started getting messages from D. J. telling me to call certain players in my industry,’ said one former official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid antagonizing the governor.

Mr. Johnson, the official said, started to manage administration press conferences, dictating the order and seating of speakers and calling agencies to request they draft statements on particular issues.”

 

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About The Author

Chris Stirewalt

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

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