ThinkFast: December 1, 2010

The president’s debt commission panel will release their report at 9:30 a.m. today, and reports indicate that it will contain a recommendation to cut Social Security, but include a payroll tax holiday. The panel’s co-chairman, Erskine Bowles, said that — if enacted — the plan would cut $3.8 trillion from the national deficit.

Senate GOP leadership is circulating a letter pledging to enact a new Republican maneuver to “block action on virtually all Democratic-backed legislation unrelated to tax cuts and government spending” in the lame duck session. If carried out, the strategy would “doom” DADT repeal and the DREAM Act, but the START treaty would remain unaffected.

After the “much-anticipated” White House meeting yesterday, President Obama and GOP leaders “expressed determination to reach an agreement” on the Bush tax cuts. Participants emerged with a loose framework that could result in the temporary extension of all the tax cuts, ratification of the START treaty, unemployment benefits extension, and a federal budget for 2011.

Peter Diamond, the Nobel laureate economist nominated for the Fed, said that he supports a temporary extension of middle-income Bush-era tax cuts and ending the cuts for the highest earners. “The amount of stimulus you get out of the tax cuts on the highest income people is very small,” Diamond said. “The impact on the long-term debt is big.”

“Nearly a quarter of the incoming class of 84 House Republicans have assets of at least $1 million,” a Politico analysis found. “Congress has long been filled with the rich and famous,” nearly half of current Congress members are worth more than $1 million, but the incoming class is unusually wealthy.

Bloomberg News reports that former Obama OMB Director Peter Orszag “is in advanced talks” with Citigroup and may take a “job in the New York-based firm’s investment-banking division.” Citigroup was the recipient of a $45 billion government bailout in 2008 and the “Treasury Department still owns 11 percent of the bank’s shares.”

Employers “in the U.S. announced plans in November to cut 48,711 jobs, the most in eight months.” The cuts come at a time when unemployment is nearing a “26-year high.”

Energy Secretary Steven Chu said yesterday that the U.S. is losing its edge in clean energy innovation to China and argued that the U.S. should increase funding for energy research and development for the sake of future economic prosperity. “China is doing this,” Chu said. “It seems to be working. We should be doing this.”

The Senate passed “the biggest overhaul of the nation’s food safety laws in seven decades” yesterday — a number of new rules and regulations that will require food manufacturers and farmers to use scientific methods to prevent contaminated food. The legislation will likely be signed into law in the coming weeks, and is in part a response to the recent wave of food scares involving spinach, peanuts and other foods that killed at least a dozen people.

And finally: At a bipartisan congressional summit yesterday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) use a fruit metaphor to argue fiscal policy. “Don’t raise the Social Security retirement age in order to give a tax cut to the rich,” she said. “Apples, oranges, and bananas don’t mate.”

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