Morning Must Reads -- Obama spikes the ball 

New York Times -- In Health Care Bill, Obama Attacks Wealth Inequality

 

The health bill signing at the White House was the political version of an end-zone dance. The Democrats who voted for the bill packed the East Room for 30 minutes of chanting, cheering, rhythmic clapping. LBJ may have flown out to see Harry Truman to make Medicare law, but BHO went for a pure partisan pep rally Obamacare. Joe Biden summed up the tacky tone of the event by reminding Obama that “This is a big ____ing deal” right before the president made his remarks on the historic occasion.

A nice opportunity to show magnanimity, a sense of history and reassure anxious moderates that this plan fit in the continuum of other Democratic social initiatives became a chance for partisans to congratulate themselves, taunt Republicans and celebrate having defeated public sentiment.

Very small. Very bush league.

If this were really about bestowing (and forcing) health insurance on 30 million people I doubt that’s how the event would have gone down.

But Democrats could have handled the issue of the uninsured by expanding Medicare, Medicaid and S-CHIP a year ago.

Some of the excitement in the East Room came from the rush of doing something risky and some came from the raw exhilaration of winning, but don’t forget the key word of the Obama era: “transformative.” To the administration and Democrats operating on its wavelength this was the end of the Era of Reagan and the start of the era of the Great Leveling – bringing down the rich and bringing up the poor. As Obama once said less eloquently, “spread the wealth around.”

Writer David Leonhardt explains that liberal exuberance comes from a belief that the work of pulling down the rich has finally begun.

“For most of the last three decades, tax rates for the wealthy have been falling, while their pretax pay has been rising rapidly. Real incomes at the 99.99th percentile have jumped more than 300 percent since 1980. At the 99th percentile — about $300,000 today — real pay has roughly doubled.

The laissez-faire revolution that Mr. Reagan started did not cause these trends. But its policies — tax cuts, light regulation, a patchwork safety net — have contributed to them.”

 

Washington Post -- With Senate 'fixes' bill, GOP sees last chance to change health-care reform

The best-case scenario for Republicans in Congress now would be to preserve the less-liberal Senate version of the president’s health plan and block the expansions passed by the House right after approving the original Senate bill.

It would hold off some $200 billion in first-decade spending and prevent another incursion into Social Security. But so far, it’s not looking good for Republican chances.

Writers Shailagh Murray and Lori Montgomery explain:

“Senate Democrats have scoured the bill for possible rules violations and say they see only a few minor areas of potential vulnerability. Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said Tuesday that he is "highly confident" that the measure can survive even those challenges, adding: "We have spent an extraordinary amount of time going over this."

Democrats claimed an important victory late Monday when Senate parliamentarian Alan Frumin rejected the most significant Republican challenge. Sen. Judd Gregg (N.H.) had argued that the measure should be stripped of its reconciliation status -- effectively killing the bill -- because provisions related to a new tax on high-cost health insurance policies would adversely impact the Social Security trust fund.”

 

Bloomberg News -- Health-Care Overhaul Changes to Start Taking Effect This Year

The heavy hand of Obamacare does not really come down until 2014 when most of the taxes and the insurance mandate are imposed.

But we’ve already got a 10 percent tax on tanning beds (which will disappear more rapidly) and the rule that chain restaurants have to start posting calorie counts on their menus.

Writers Shannon Pettypiece and Alex Nussbaum give the best overview of how and when the package will be implemented.

“Most of the major public policy changes embodied in the health care reform legislation will become effective only after the next presidential election in 2012,” said Maury Harris, an economist with UBS AG, said in a research report.”

 

Wall Street Journal -- U.S. Urged to Keep Role in Mortgages

Writers Nick Timiraos and Michael Crittenden break the bad news – the $127 billion that we’ve sunk into Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is a down payment, not temporary assistance.

The takeaway from Secretary Tim Geithner’s senate testimony on the housing market: There’s no plan to let the mortgage backers move toward independence but keeping a permanent, large government role in the mortgage business is deemed desirable and necessary.

“Mr. Geithner said that unlike other markets, housing could require sustained government support given its size and potential volatility during periods of economic shock. ‘There is a quite strong economic case, quite strong public-policy case, for preserving, designing some form of guarantee by the government to help facilitate a stable housing finance market,’ he said.

The hearing kicked off what is likely to be a long process toward determining what to do with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which own or guarantee half of the nation's $11 trillion mortgages.”

 

Chicago Tribune -- Daley denies role in lobbying schools

As the head of Chicago’s schools, Education Secretary Arne Duncan kept a meticulous 40-page log of favors granted and denied to the politically connected parents of children looking for spots in elite public schools as part of a secret appeals process for those looking to flee the city’s struggling regular system.

Reporters John Byrne and Azam Ahmed broke the story Tuesday, but the claim now seems to have legs, with Duncan’s team in Washington owning up and claiming that the favor log was actually designed to reduce political pressure on principals.

And today, the Mayor Richard Daly said that his administration only sought favors but did not try to influence Duncan’s awarding of spots.

“Competition to gain admission to the city's premier schools is fierce, with thousands of students applying for openings every year.

Cynthia Flowers, whose three children attend selective schools in the district, said "to find out there is a list is another big pill to swallow."

 

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