Morning Briefing: October 18, 2011

President Obama mocked Republicans for not understanding his jobs plan during his bus tour in North Carolina yesterday, saying, “Maybe they just couldn’t understand the whole thing all at once. So we’re going to break it up into bite-size pieces so they can take a thoughtful approach to this legislation.” The first piece will be aid to states to help prevent layoffs of teachers, firefighters, and police officers.

Known for urging budget cuts, the International Monetary Fund warned nations yesterday that austerity policies have “become so aggressive” they could “trigger a new recession” characterized by “anemic demand” and “low growth.” The IMF urged almost all nations “to boost growth through expansive government budget and spending policies or through central bank measures.”

Republican lawmakers are not as enamored with Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 tax plan as members of the conservative base seem to be. In interviews with the Hill, several House GOP leaders on tax policy were lukewarm to the proposal, and expressed particular concern with the idea of a new 9 percent sales tax.

Occupy Wall Street protesters plan to march to the Manhattan district attorney’s office today to demand an investigation into what they say was an “unprovoked assault” on a protester when a police officer punched a man last week. A video the punch went viral, helping raise visibility.

Israeli Sergeant First Class Gilad Shalit was released by Hamas yesterday after five years in captivity, after Israeli officials agreed to eventually release more than a thousand Palestinian prisoners. Today, 477 Palestinian prisoners are expected to be released, and another 550 will be released in two months.

Members of Congress from both parties are calling for an end to the $5 billion each year in farm subsidies — with even major farm groups agreeing. But instead of entirely cutting the program, some are pushing for that money to go to the farms through a new subsidy program where most of the benefits going to large farms that grow commodity crops like soybeans cotton.

The U.S. Senate unanimously approved a new pipeline safety bill yesterday after Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) lifted his hold. The bill “authorizes federal regulators to hire more pipeline inspectors and allows fines of up to $250,000 for ‘major consequence’ violations and an maximum of $2.5 million for a series of major violations.”

The Iowa Republican Party has officially set its caucus for Jan. 3, pushing up the early primary elections to the holiday season. Nevada has already scheduled its primary for Jan. 14, and the Iowa announcement means that New Hampshire may decide to hold its first-in-the-nation primary in December.

A new Gallup poll reveals that 86 percent of U.S. workers are obese or have a chronic health issue that could cost the economy “more than $153 billion a year in lost productivity from increased sick days.” With approximately 450 million days of work missed each year because of weight and other health problems, another study puts the economic cost at around $1.1 trillion.

And finally: John Boehner goes to White Castle. The fast-food chain is adding the GOP House Speaker to it’s Cravers Hall of Fame, which recognizes “a public figure, celebrity or pop icon who has publicly shown their love of White Castle.”

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