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Partisanship Colors Economic Outlook
Six months into his second term, President Obama belatedly addressed the issue most Americans rank as their top concern: the state of the economy. Even though the president campaigned on protecting the financial security of the middle class, the White House hasn't matched it with any legislative agenda, focusing more on dealing with crises abroad, health care implementation challenges at home, even spending political capital on the George Zimmerman trial.
One reason for the disconnect: The president's supporters have a much brighter view of the economy than his detractors. Nearly half of Democrats – 48 percent – think the economy is in excellent or good shape, according to a July Quinnipiac poll. Just 14 percent of Republicans and 22 percent of independents hold the same view. African-Americans and Hispanics view the economy in better shape than college-educated whites and the wealthiest, even though they've borne the brunt of the economic stagnation.
The president is refocusing attention on the economy with a series of campaign-style speeches, criticizing Republicans for obstructionism. But given that Obama needs to sell his plans to his skeptics, he'd be well-served focusing more on new ideas over partisan slogans to give confidence to the economically anxious.
OBAMA OFFERS COMMON REFRAIN IN ECONOMIC ADDRESS. Without offering new policy proposals, President Obama pledged to focus his energies on growing the economy for the remainder of his presidency, the Associated Press reports. In an unusually long speech delivered at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., where Obama gave his first major economic address as a junior U.S. senator, the president lambasted Congress for focusing on "an endless parade of distractions, political posturing and phony scandals," instead of fixing the economy. "I am here to say this needs to stop," Obama said. "This moment does not require short-term thinking. It does not require having the same old stale debates." Read more
- Obama's speech outlined reasonable goals, but a quick look at how Congress has been acting recently shows just how unlikely they are to be accomplished, National Journal's Matt Berman writes. Read more
SENATE POISED TO VOTE ON STUDENT-LOAN COMPROMISE BILL. The Senate is scheduled to vote this afternoon on a bipartisan compromise bill that would restore student-loan interest rates to their prior levels, the Associated Press reports. The measure under consideration would link loan rates to the financial markets, allowing undergraduates to borrow at a 3.9 percent interest rate in fall 2013. Graduate students could borrow at 5.4 percent, while parents could access loans at a 6.4 percent rate. The rates would be subject to increase as the economy accelerates, but would be capped at 8.25 percent for undergraduates, 9.5 percent for graduate students, and 10.5 for parents. Read more
HOUSE GOP THREATENING HUGE SPENDING CUTS TO FIGHT OBAMA PRIORITIES. House Republicans are looking to force historic spending cuts to Obama's top economic programs in an effort to hold government financing hostage unless the president's health care law is stripped of funding, The New York Times reports. Among the legislation being pushed is a bill drafted Tuesday by an Appropriations subcommittee to cut funding for the Environmental Protection Agency by 34 percent, the Fish and Wildlife Service by 27 percent, and the national endowments for arts and humanities by half. "This is as serious a challenge on fiscal matters as I've ever seen," said Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md. Read more
- Organizing for Action is hoping its monthlong grassroots campaign can persuade lawmakers on key issues like gun control and immigration reform, but whether the push can really hold any influence remains to be seen, The Washington Post reports. Read more
EGYPT'S TOP GENERAL ASKS FOR MASS PROTESTS TO SUPPORT ARMY. Reneging on promises that the military would not interfere in the nation's politics,Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi today asked Egyptians to rally together for demonstrations on Friday to show public support for his armed forces to combat violence and terrorism in the wake of President Mohamed Morsi's ouster three weeks ago, The New York Times reports. "I've never asked you for anything," Sisi said. "I'm asking you to show the world. If violence is sought, or terrorism is sought, the military and the police are authorized to confront this." Sisi's comments signal a heightened campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist supporters of the ousted Morsi. Read more
- While still not calling Morsi's removal a "coup," the Pentagon announced today that the U.S. will delay selling four F-16 fighter jets to Egypt amid the violence that has erupted across the country, National Journal's Matt Vasilogambros reports. Read more
POLL: AMERICANS BROADLY DOUBT OBAMACARE WILL HELP THEM. The share of Americans who believe that Obama's health care plan will "make things better" for the middle class, their own families, and the country overall has tumbled sharply since last September, underscoring the administration's formidable public-relations challenge as it prepares to roll out the sweeping legislation's key remaining elements, National Journal's Ronald Brownstein reports. The latest United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll also revealed a deep racial schism in expectations about the law, with whites far more skeptical than minorities that the Affordable Care Act will benefit not only their own families but the country as a whole. Read more
BIDEN, IN MUMBAI, CALLS FOR STRONGER TIES TO INDIA'S FINANCIAL CLASS. Vice President Joe Biden pushed for greater cooperation between the U.S. and India during a speech today at the Bombay Stock Exchange in India's financial capital of Mumbai, The New York Times reports. "I would ask you to consider the historic opportunity that we have here," Biden said. "Imagine what our two countries can achieve together, not only for one another but for the economic and political stability of the region." Biden focused on improving economic exchange, addressing climate change, defense collaboration, and India's role in the Asia-Pacific region during his speech. Read more
- Biden also joked about his possible Indian heritage and said he would weigh running for office in India if the genealogy stories are true, Politico reports. Read more
SNOWDEN GETS CHANGE OF CLOTHES, BUT NO ASYLUM--YET. For reasons not yet known, former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden did not receive permission today to leave the Moscow airport transit zone where he has been stuck for the past month, Reuters reports. Snowden has applied for temporary asylum in Russia, and some expected his request would be granted today. Anatoly Kucherena, a Russian lawyer working with Snowden, said he did not give the fugitive a temporary asylum pass when the two met today—only a change of clothes and some books, including Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. "This is the first time Russia is facing such a situation, and this issue of course requires time for the immigration workers," Kucherena said. Read more
- Arriving a bit late to the party, an Iranian NGO known as "Justice-Seekers Without Borders" has offered Snowden an invitation to Iran to discuss U.S. spying in the country, The Washington Post reports. Read more
DEMOCRATIC GOVERNORS LEADING PARTY'S LEFTWARD SHIFT. While Republican governors elected during the party's historic wave in 2010 have drawn criticism for their unabashedly conservative agendas to restrict abortion, rein in labor unions, and slash state spending, a number of Democratic governors are just as aggressively pushing liberal policies like gay marriage and gun control, National Journal's Beth Reinhard reports. Emboldened by Obama's reelection, a younger and more diverse electorate, and an increasing number of state governments under one-party control, these Democratic governors are crusading on issues the party steered clear of until recently. It's happening not just in solidly Democratic states like New York, Maryland, Delaware, and Connecticut, but also in more competitive battlegrounds like Colorado, where new gun laws are fueling two recall elections and threats of secession from some rural counties. Read more
U.S. PREPARING CHARGES AGAINST HEDGE-FUND GIANT. Federal prosecutors could announce criminal charges against SAC Capital Advisors as early as this week, the product of a nearly decadelong investigation into allegations of insider trading, The Wall Street Journal reports. Prosecutors are reportedly not planning to charge the firm's founder, Steven A. Cohen, personally. It is not clear if SAC's lawyers will push for a last-minute settlement, but the option appears unlikely. SAC, one of the country's largest hedge-fund firms, possessed about $15 billion in assets at the start of this year and around 1,000 employees. Read more
CHALLENGES IN STATE COURT SUSPENDED BY JUDGE IN DETROIT BANKRUPTCY FILING. U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Steven Rhodes suspended all lawsuits in opposition to Detroit's bankruptcy filing today while he reviews the city's petition for bankruptcy protection, Reuters reports. The judge heard from attorneys for the city of Detroit and groups who filed lawsuits in state courts, who argued that the original bankruptcy filing violated the state constitution and thus should continue in the state courts. Any issues regarding the Chapter 9 filing by the city will be heard in federal bankruptcy court from here onwards. Read more
- Federal aid for the city of Detroit is not an option as congressional Republicans and Democrats have rejected a bailout, Bloomberg reports. Read more
OBAMA CONTINUES ECONOMIC SPEAKING TOUR. Obama will deliver a speech on the economy at the JAXPORT Cruise Terminal in Jacksonville, Fla. According to the White House, the president "will lay out his vision for rebuilding an economy that puts the middle class and those fighting to join it front and center."
BIDEN WRAPS UP INDIA TRIP, HEADS TO SINGAPORE. Biden will conclude his visit to India, meeting with women teaching and working at the India Institute of Technology Bombay in Mumbai and touring IIT's research and education facilities. Later, Vice President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden will depart Mumbai en route to Singapore.
"…It's not something that I'm making up. This is real. We have people that are mules, that are drug mules, that are hauling drugs across the border and you can tell by their physical characteristics what they've been doing for months, going through the desert with 75 pounds of drugs on their back and if those who advocate for the Dream Act, if they choose to characterize this about valedictorians, I gave them a different image that we need to be thinking about because we just simply can't be passing legislation looking only at one component of what would be millions of people." -- Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, on his comments during last week's Newsmax interview (Radio Iowa)
PARADISE LOST? The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal examines the history of Silicon Valley, a place known for its role in the country's technological revolution. He finds not Facebook, Apple, Google, or another high-tech company, but a Super Space Self Storage facility in what was the corporate center for 1983's Silicon Valley. In 1983, it was home to Advanced Micro Devices, a rival of Intel. As part of the design of the Valley's industrial revolution, storage tanks were put underground, but a study in 1985 found that 75 of the 96 underground tanks in the south Bay had contaminated the surrounding area. Madrigal writes, "This is a landscape that industrialists, government regulators, and city planners sacrificed to create the computer industry that we know today." Read more
TODAY'S PHOTO GALLERY
NASA'S STILL GOT IT. If you're not following NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center on Instagram, you should be, National Journal's Brian Resnick reports. While it might not be front and center in the news these days—with the passing of the shuttle program and after the landing of the Mars Rover—the space agency continues in its long tradition of producing exceptional photos. Think about it: Some of the most indelible images of the 20th century were captured by the federal agency. And as imaging technology advances, so do the quality of the images. See it here
LET TEDDY IN. The Health and Human Services Department enlisted former President Teddy Roosevelt to help promote the Affordable Care Act, The Wall Street Journal reports. Teddy, one of the "racing presidents" mascots of the Washington Nationals, appeared in a video with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius ahead of last night's game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Teddy was shown enrolling in an insurance plan and calling an HHS hotline for assistance. The appearance was part of "HHS Night" at Nationals Park. An Obama administration official said that the department has no official partnership with the team. Read more