Morning Briefing: August 11, 2011


After the bruising debt ceiling debate and subsequent downgrade of U.S. credit by Standard & Poor’s, most Americans are unhappy with leaders in Washington, according to a new poll by the Washington Post. Almost eight in 10 Americans polled said they were dissatisfied with how the political system is working, and about 70 percent said Washington was focusing on the wrong priorities.

Counter to his recent anti-tax rhetoric, presidential candidate and former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) lobbied Standard & Poor’s in 2004 to raise his state’s credit rating to AA by citing Massachusetts’ decision to raise taxes during an economic downturn to make up additional revenue. Romney still touts the presentation by his administration as one of his successes, claiming the credit-rating boost “didn’t happen by accident.”

Rep. Jan Schawkosky (D-IL) has unveiled new legislation that would create as many as 2.1 million jobs by investing in local community infrastructure, child care, and other important economic stimulus measures. Schawkosky’s legislation would be paid for by higher taxes on the wealthy represented in other legislation she has introduced.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson (CT) wants to amend the debt limit package to establish a jobs “supercommittee” alongside the one for the deficit. In a letter to House members, Larson said that, as high unemployment “poses a very real short-term fiscal crisis,” the jobs panel will have to design a plan to “provide every American with a job within a decade.”

The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda coalition said President Obama and Congress have made progress in the past two years on the needs of Hispanics, but warned that proposed deep spending cuts “could put that forward movement at risk.” Because much of the progress arose from increased spending in programs like Head Start, the coalition says that “deep cuts to programs that have kept families working in their homes cannot be sacrificed during [the supercommittee’s] negotiations.”

The New York Times reports on the private contractors the United States is paying to fight against the Al Shabab insurgency in Somalia. “We do not want an American footprint or boot on the ground,” said the State Department’s Johnnie Carson, in explaining the explosion of funding for private contractors.

Secret talks between representatives of the Taliban and the U.S. government have collapsed after details of the negotiations were leaked to the press. “The talks were described as a preliminary exercise aimed at agreeing a series of confidence-building measures to persuade the Taliban that the United States and its allies are serious about a negotiated settlement.”

Last night, President Obama — like his predecessor George W. Bush — hosted Muslims for a fast-breaking meal at the White House during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Pushing back against the strain of Islamophobia pushed by right-wingers, Obama said, “Here in the United States there is no ‘them’ or ‘us;’ it’s just us.”

And finally: In her effort to appeal to young American voters, GOP presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is losing her grip on a key demographic: babies. While in Iowa, the mother of 28 picked up 3-month-old Reese Benjamin. “The baby started crying.” Undoubtedly to Bachmann’s chagrin, President Obama can maintain the title of “baby whisperer.”

For breaking news and updates throughout the day, follow ThinkProgress on Facebook and Twitter.