Monday, October 5, 2015

Last Call For Taking It For Granite

Although rumored for months now as the state fought over the budget, New Hampshire Dem Gov. Maggie Hassan is going after GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte's seat in 2016.

Senate Democrats got the candidate they wanted in New Hampshire. 
Gov. Maggie Hassan announced Monday she is challenging GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte for Senate in the Granite State, rather than seek a third term as governor. It’s a move Democrats say gives the party its best shot at picking up a seat that will prove critical to Senate control.

The two-term governor had been mum on her plans as she sparred with the Republican-controlled state legislature over the budget — saying she needed to focus on the job she had rather than make plans for her political future. Republicans in the state were happy to keep Hassan’s focus on the budget for as long as possible, preventing her from publicly deciding whether to run for re-election or challenge Ayotte for Senate. 
But Hassan and the legislature came to a budget agreement, finally freeing Hassan to decide.

This is good news as Ayotte (and her "Third Amigo" to McCain/Graham shtick) is vulnerable as the GOP brand is badly damaged. If the Democrats are going to take back the Senate in 2016, this is one of the seats they'll need to pick up, and Hassan, the state's popular governor, is by far the best candidate to do so.

I've got a good feeling about this race for the Dems about getting rid of nasty corporate Republicans like Ayotte.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Sen. Shelley Moore (R-WV) introduced the Student Loan Relief Act of 2015 on Thursday, which would let borrowers refinance their federal student loans in the private market. The senators argue that if their legislation passed, students would be able to benefit from lower interest rates.

Sounds great, right?  Republicans like Ayotte are moderates who care about student loan and debt relief, see?

Although many large banks left the private student loan market after the financial crisis, plenty of politically connected organizations such as state agency lenders and nonprofits have fought to stay in the market. One example is Granite State Management, a New Hampshire nonprofit organization that does student loan servicing. GSM’s primary income is through its student loan servicing, but they would make much more through issuing loans. GSM’s status as a charitable organization was challenged by the City of Concord in 2013 but the court ultimately held up its status, saying that “servicing and administration of loans is not GSMR’s charitable purpose, but a means to achieve” the purpose of its mission to “providing low cost or alternative financial assistance to eligible students and to parents . . . and of supporting the development of higher education and educational opportunities.”

I bet you can see where this is going.

“What they’re trying to do is go back to the bad old days of a bank-based loan system. They want private banks to take over the loan and take none of the risk. So what they’re saying is, ‘Oh, it will be good for students because they will get a lower rate from the private market,'” said Ben Miller, senior director for postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress. “But really what’s going to happen is that the private market is going to get a giant windfall and pass along a tiny slice of it to the students in the form of a lower interest rate … You would hope to do a lot more by spending the exact same amount of money and just cutting their interest rates. There is no value add from the private market.”

That's right, Ayotte's student loan bill is really a way to get Wall Street back into the student loan business.  Shocking, I know.

Can't wait for Hassan to kick her ass.

The Big Trade-Off

After years of negotiations, the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal has reached its final leg and just needs approval from individual member countries, just in time to become a major issue in the 2016 presidential race in both parties.

The United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations on Monday agreed to the largest regional trade accord in history, a potentially precedent-setting model for global commerce and worker standards that would tie together 40 percent of the world’s economy, from Canada and Chile to Japan and Australia. 
The Trans-Pacific Partnership still faces months of debate in Congress and will inject a new flash point into both parties’ presidential contests. 
But the accord — a product of nearly eight years of negotiations, including five days of round-the-clock sessions here — is a potentially legacy-making achievement for President Obama, and the capstone for his foreign policy “pivot” toward closer relations with fast-growing eastern Asia, after years of American preoccupation with the Middle East and North Africa. 
Mr. Obama spent recent days contacting world leaders to seal the deal. Administration officials have repeatedly pressed their contention that the partnership would build a bulwark against China’s economic influence, and allow the United States and its allies — not Beijing — to set the standards for Pacific commerce. 
The Pacific accord would phase out thousands of import tariffs as well as other barriers to international trade. It also would establish uniform rules on corporations’ intellectual property, open the Internet even in communist Vietnam and crack down on wildlife trafficking and environmental abuses. 
Several potentially deal-breaking disputes kept the ministers talking through the weekend and forced them repeatedly to reschedule the promised Sunday announcement of the deal into the evening and beyond. Final compromises covered commercial protections for drug makers’ advanced medicines, more open markets for dairy products and sugar, and a slow phaseout — over two to three decades — of the tariffs on Japan’s autos sold in North America. 
Yet the trade agreement almost certainly will encounter stiff opposition. 
Its full 30-chapter text will not be available for perhaps a month, but labor unions, environmentalists and liberal activists are poised to argue that the agreement favors big business over workers and environmental protection. Donald Trump has repeatedly castigated the Pacific trade accord as “a bad deal,” injecting conservative populism into the debate and emboldening some congressional Republicans who fear for local interests like sugar and rice, and many conservatives who oppose Mr. Obama at every turn. 
Long before an accord was reached, it was being condemned by both Mr. Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner, and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is challenging Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democrats’ nomination. Other candidates also have been critical. Mrs. Clinton, who as secretary of state promoted the trade talks, has expressed enough wariness as she has campaigned among unions and other audiences on the left that her support is now in doubt.

We'll see where the TPP goes, but as with so many other things that this President has accomplished, those who bet against the guy end up losing big when he gets the job done.  I think the TPP will pass and move on.  How good that will be for US workers?

That's far more debatable.

Doing Something About Gunmerica

If Bernie Sanders has a weakness on policy, it's his abysmal record regarding backing the NRA and gun manufacturers in his rural state of Vermont.  Both Hillary Clinton and Martin O'Malley are running hard to the left on Sanders on the issue of gun safety measures.  O'Malley in particular has led on this issue, calling for an outright ban on assault rifles for months now. That pressure has led to Hillary Clinton now calling for a much tougher stance against the NRA.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Monday will detail new proposals aimed at closing gun sale loopholes and holding accountable those who sell guns for violence committed with those weapons.

Seizing the moment following last week’s mass shooting in Oregon, Clinton will call for the repeal of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which gives legal protection to gun manufacturers and dealers whose guns are used for criminal activity, said a campaign official, who asked not to be named, previewing the announcement Clinton plans to make on the campaign trail in New Hampshire.

As a senator from New York, Clinton voted against the law in 2005 and, the official said, would lead an effort to repeal it if elected president. Her closest competitor in the Democratic primary, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who served in the U.S. House at the time, voted in favor of it.

Clinton appeared viscerally frustrated as she spoke after Thursday’s shooting at Umpqua Community College, in which authorities say a student killed nine people before turning one of several guns he had with him on himself. “What is wrong with us, that we cannot stand up to the NRA and the gun lobby, and the gun manufacturers they represent?” Clinton said Friday at Broward College in Davie, Florida. “We don’t just need to pray for these people. We need to act.”

In staking out a hardline position on guns, Clinton is capitalizing on an issue where she stands to the left of Sanders. He has a mixed record on gun control—he voted against the Brady Bill in 1993 and for the liability protection law, but also in favor of restrictions on the size of gun magazines—that he attributes to the gun culture of his rural state. He responded to the shootings in Charleston, South Carolina, and in Oregon with promises to implement “sensible gun-control legislation” and to improve mental health services, but has not yet offered specific proposals.

Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, who is trailing Clinton and Sanders in polls, on Sunday in New Hampshire called on his rivals to “join me in building a new consensus” on gun control by supporting his four-point plan, his campaign said.

On Monday, the details Clinton will put behind her pitch include support for closing two sets of loopholes that allow gun purchases without background checks, according to the official.

If Congress does not pass legislation that would deem those who sell significant numbers of guns at gun shows and online to be required to operate under the same laws that apply to gun stores, Clinton would take executive action to do that under her plan. She supports congressional efforts to eliminate what’s being called the “Charleston loophole” after the June shooting at a black church there, which allows gun purchases to go forward if a background check isn’t completed within three days.

Clinton will also say she supports legislation to prohibit all people with histories of domestic abuse from buying or possessing guns, since current laws don’t apply to people in dating relationships or convicted stalkers.

I'm glad to see Clinton's proposals here, and she's definitely ahead of Sanders on this issue.  The ball's in Bernie's court now on gun safety.  We'll see if hes going to bother with specific proposals or just assume he can take a pass on this.

New long overdue tag: Gunmerica.


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