WBEZ | Governing http://www.wbez.org/tags/governing Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en After 40 Years, Pentagon Papers Declassified In Full http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-06-13/after-40-years-pentagon-papers-declassified-full-87790 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr_story/photo/2011-June/2011-06-13/archives-7-.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A.J. Daverede wheels a cart loaded with document boxes into his office at the National Archives.</p><p>"This is them," he says. "Eleven boxes constitute the entirety of the report of the Vietnam Task Force. You just start here: box one."</p><p>Forty years ago, on June 13, 1971, <em>The<em> New York Times</em></em> published portions of these documents, better known as the Pentagon Papers. On Monday, for the first time, the government released all 7,000 pages of the report with no redactions.</p><p>The fact that Daverede, who works in the National Declassification Center, is able to open the boxes in the presence of someone without top-level security clearance is an accomplishment. On the blue paper cover of the report, it says "Top Secret – Sensitive," and until Monday, it was.</p><p>"This is the real Pentagon Papers," Daverede says. "This isn't a reprint. This isn't a redacted copy. This isn't what, you know, <em>The</em> <em>New York Times</em> had. This is the real deal."</p><p>Daverede, who grew up during the Vietnam War, was instrumental in making every word of the papers finally available to the public.</p><p>"I saw it in the stacks; the box labels were pretty clear of what it was," he says. "And I started cracking boxes, started looking through at what agencies were concerned about and [said], nah, that really doesn't need to be protected anymore. We should ask about these things."</p><p>It took months of negotiations with about a dozen government agencies to get the papers declassified.</p><p>A lot of the information has already been released — when defense contractor Daniel Ellsberg famously leaked it to <em>The</em> <em>New York Times</em>, and later in a heavily redacted version from the government. The papers catalog the nation's involvement in Vietnam, starting in the 1940s through 1967.</p><p>Tim Naftali, director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, says there wasn't a document that was a bombshell. "In a sense, it was the cumulative effect of seeing how the U.S. government put itself on this road to a foreign policy quagmire," Naftali says.</p><p>The impact of the release of the papers back in 1971 on the course of the Vietnam war has been debated. But Naftali says its impact on Nixon is more of a straight line.</p><p>Forty years ago Monday, Nixon woke up and looked at the front page of <em>The</em> <em>New York Times</em>. The day before, his daughter had gotten married.</p><p>"<em>The <em>New York Times</em></em> had a picture of the president with Tricia Nixon Cox. It was on the left-hand side. And on the right-hand side there was a large headline about the release of a secret Vietnam archive," Naftali says.</p><p><a href="http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB48/nixon.html">In a phone call</a> at around noon on June 13, Nixon spoke with Alexander Haig, assistant to the national security adviser.</p><p>Nixon asked about casualty numbers from Vietnam, and then inquired, "Nothing else of interest in the world today?"</p><p>"Yes, sir, very significant," Haig responded. "This g--damned <em>New York Times</em> expose of the most highly classified documents of the war."</p><p>"Oh, that? I see," Nixon said. "I didn't read the story, but you mean that was leaked out of the Pentagon?"</p><p>Nixon was clearly surprised. His relaxed tone in that conversation hardened over that day and in the days to come. The administration tried to block the <em>Times</em> and other papers from publishing, but the newspapers ultimately won in the Supreme Court.</p><p>Nixon created a special White House unit, known as the Plumbers, to investigate the leak, and Naftali says their break-in at the office of Ellsberg's psychiatrist was the beginning of the end for Nixon.</p><p>"That's where he puts himself on the road to resignation," Naftali says, because the Plumbers were a precursor to the Watergate break-in a year later.</p><p>As for what's new in the papers released Monday, historians will probably be digging for a while. The papers are physically available at three presidential libraries and the National Archives, and are also posted <a href="http://www.archives.gov/research/pentagon-papers/">on the web</a> for anyone to download. <div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1308000131?&gn=After+40+Years%2C+Pentagon+Papers+Declassified+In+Full&ev=event2&ch=1123&h1=History,Governing,Around+the+Nation,U.S.,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=137150344&c7=1123&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1123&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110613&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c21=2&v21=D%3Dc2&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></div></p></p> Mon, 13 Jun 2011 09:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-06-13/after-40-years-pentagon-papers-declassified-full-87790 A 'Radical' Plan To Cut Military Spending http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-04-30/radical-plan-cut-military-spending-85889 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/0" alt="" /><p><p>This year the U.S. is expected to spend $700 billion on defense. That's twice what was spent in 2001, and as much as is spent on the rest of the world's militaries combined.</p><p>Defense is the U.S. government's biggest discretionary expenditure, but given the level of the national debt — and the drive to reduce government spending — calls are louder than ever to find cost savings.</p><p>Ret. Army Col. Douglas Macgregor says there are ways to reap major savings when it comes to defense. He recently wrote about the subject in an article titled <a href="http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/04/26/lean_mean_fighting_machine">"Lean, Mean Fighting Machine"</a> for <em>Foreign Policy</em> magazine. He tells Guy Raz, host of weekends on <em>All Things Considered</em>, that the U.S. simply cannot afford "wars of choice."</p><p>"Emphasis on choice," Macgregor says. "If you look at all of the interventions that we have launched since 1945 — beginning with Vietnam in 1965 and moving forward — none of them have changed the international system at all, and none of them have directly benefited us strategically."</p><p>World War II was the last military event that really had a strategic global impact, he says. "Americans need to understand that these wars of choice, these interventions of choice, have been both unnecessary, counterproductive, strategically self-defeating and infinitely too expensive for what we can actually afford."</p><p><strong>A 'Somewhat Radical' Plan</strong></p><p>Macgregor recommends swift reduction of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, but that's just the beginning. In a plan he acknowledges as "somewhat radical," he proposes a 40 percent reduction of the defense budget in just three years. Forcing the Pentagon to adapt to a drastically smaller budget, he says, will streamline the organization.</p><p>If you look at the Soviets, the Royal Navy, British Army and various other military formations over the last couple centuries, Macgregor says, "what you discover is that most innovation — and the most positive change, an adaptation to reality — occurs not in a flood of money, but in its absence.</p><p>"That's when people have to sit down and come to terms with reality, and realize that they cannot go on, into the future, and do what they've done in the past," he says.</p><p>The nature of warfare has changed, too, he says. With new technology and different players, things can be done in other ways — and more cheaply.</p><p><strong>Prioritizing Spending Cuts</strong></p><p>Most of the current U.S. military effort and strategy is either self-defeating or simply unnecessary, he says. "It's spending that we don't need."</p><p>That call catches ears these days, as Congress and the Obama administration battle over spending cuts. Those cuts are often aimed at domestic programs, but Macgregor says any hope for implementing his proposal requires that the U.S. reconsider its priorities.</p><p>"We have to deliver the services that were promised under Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security," he says. "We cannot honor those obligations ... without reducing defense and reorienting our defense posture to a world that's very different today than the one in which most of these forces were created and invented."</p><p><strong>Profiting From Military Industries</strong></p><p>Military and the private defense industries in America are enormous, providing millions of jobs across a lot of states. That makes many members of Congress even more reluctant to scale back on the military budget — particularly at a time when the nation is looking to create jobs, not cut them. Macgregor says creating prosperity shouldn't depend on military profits.</p><p>"What we have right now are very powerful military bureaucracies tied to the defense industries that want to stay in business." They're larger than we need, he says, but congressional interests see military budgets as a way to sustain prosperity by redistributing the income from those industries.</p><p>"This is an enormous problem," Macgregor says, "but we've got to deal with it, because we can't afford it, and it will ultimately consume us over time."</p><p>Despite these challenges, Macgregor says his proposals do have some support on Capitol Hill. "That's very important," he says, "because I think there are Democrats and Republicans who can agree on these things."</p><p>Like Reps. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and Ron Paul (R-TX), Macgregor says — two people on opposite ends of the spectrum in domestic terms but who have come to similar conclusions on foreign and defense policy.</p><p>"And they are not alone," Macgregor adds. "There are many, many, many more. I think we will see more in the future as it becomes clear that we cannot deal with the domestic problem until we deal with the foreign and defense policy problem. That has to come first. Then we can begin talking seriously about what we have to do to restructure the debt." Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1304197925?&gn=A+%27Radical%27+Plan+To+Cut+Military+Spending&ev=event2&ch=135246600&h1=The+Federal+Budget+Crunch,Governing,Around+the+Nation,Economy,Politics,Business,U.S.,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=135872891&c7=1014&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1014&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110430&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c21=2&v21=D%3Dc2&c31=135246600&v31=D%3Dc31&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></p></p> Sat, 30 Apr 2011 15:11:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-04-30/radical-plan-cut-military-spending-85889 Taking Questions: A New Move For Fed Transparency http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-04-26/taking-questions-new-move-fed-transparency-85723 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/0" alt="" /><p><p>The Federal Reserve will take some extraordinary action Wednesday when, for the first time in the central bank's history, its chairman will hold a full-fledged press conference.</p><p>Ben Bernanke's afternoon appearance before reporters marks the start of what looks to be a permanent shift. The Fed is hoping to hold a press conference once every three months as it aims to explain itself better to the American public.</p><p>For some people, Wednesday's conference is a bigger media event than the royal wedding.</p><p>Alan Blinder might be one of them. A former Fed vice chairman, Blinder pushed for more openness at the Fed. He thinks press conferences are a good idea.</p><p>"I think the Fed has a good story to tell and very little to hide," Blinder says. "It's given the impression to a lot of people that it has a lot to hide, so I think [the conference] can do some good in that domain. On the other hand is it going to get Ron Paul to stop worrying and love the Fed? I doubt it." Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) has called for <a href="http://www.npr.org/2010/12/19/132183837/would-ron-paul-really-try-to-end-the-fed">abolishing the Fed</a>.</p><p>Vincent Reinhart, a former Fed official, says the central bank's decision to hold press conferences is partially a response to criticisms spawned by the financial crisis, when the government rescued Wall Street firms that it said were "too big to fail."</p><p>"But when they say too big to fail, a lot of people hear, 'I'm just too little to be helped,' " he says. "The Fed is seen as an instrument of tilting the playing field in favor of the big guy."</p><p>While explaining that the Fed's response to the recent crisis might be part of the impetus behind the press conferences, Reinhart says the Fed has actually been on a nearly 20-year journey toward greater transparency. Before that, Fed chairmen were often intentionally opaque.</p><p>The Fed's approach to communicating a couple of decades ago was labeled "constructive ambiguity." It was thought that policy changes could be most effective if the markets were surprised by the Fed's moves. But that changed midway through Chairman Alan Greenspan's tenure. The idea now is that the Fed can do better by making its intentions clearer to the markets.</p><p>Blinder says, though, that press conferences certainly won't solve all the Fed's communication problems — and there are some risks.</p><p>"A central banker will occasionally make a slip and not put something artfully, and be misinterpreted, and so on," he says.</p><p>But central bankers in the United Kingdom, the European Union, Japan and Canada all hold regular press conferences, and Blinder says research indicates these events have a positive impact.</p><p>Reinhart says the press conferences will very likely give Bernanke more power to frame what happens at the Fed meetings, which will precede each press event.</p><p>That disclosure, Reinhart says, is likely to weaken the arguments of dissenters. This new mode of Fed communication could be particularly valuable in the coming months as the central bank ends its huge economic stimulus, known as quantitative easing, and begins the unpopular task of raising interest rates. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1303887690?&gn=Taking+Questions%3A+A+New+Move+For+Fed+Transparency&ev=event2&ch=1017&h1=Governing,Economy,Business,U.S.,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=135734799&c7=1017&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1017&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110427&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c21=3&v21=D%3Dc2&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></p></p> Tue, 26 Apr 2011 23:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-04-26/taking-questions-new-move-fed-transparency-85723 Agency's Warning Heats Up Debt Ceiling Debate http://www.wbez.org/story/business/2011-04-19/agencys-warning-heats-debt-ceiling-debate-85406 <p><p>Congress has finally passed a spending plan for the year, but now another big budget battle looms over raising the debt ceiling — the amount the U.S. is allowed to borrow to pay its bills.</p><p>For months, lawmakers have known that the nation's credit limit, currently $14.3 trillion, would top out this spring. Now, news that major bond rating agency Standard and Poor's has lowered its outlook on U.S. government borrowing puts even more pressure on the coming debate, forcing lawmakers to consider their options as they face yet another high-stakes vote.</p><p>Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor describes the upcoming vote on raising the debt ceiling as a chance for conservatives to get another shot at government spending cuts. And news of Standard and Poor's warning about federal deficits hasn't changed his mind.</p><p>"We in the House hear you loud and clear, S&P," Cantor said while visiting the telecommunications company Qualcomm in San Diego on Monday. "My hope is that wake-up<strong> </strong>call will spur Washington into acting in a serious way, not just to say we're kicking the can and doing things the way we've always done them."</p><p>Action for Republicans means using the debt-limit vote as leverage to get Democrats and the White House to sign on to more spending cuts, or even a constitutional amendment to balance the budget.</p><p>Freshman Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) foreshadowed the current pressure at a Tea Party rally in March.</p><p>"We have been told that we have to act like adults," he told the crowd. "If acting like an adult is going to lead to $1.5 trillion in deficit spending; if acting like an adult is going to lead to $3.6 billion every single day that we are borrowing, I would rather be a child."</p><p>Labrador voted against the recent budget deal that prevented a government shutdown, and if enough conservatives vote against raising the debt limit, GOP leaders would have to look to Democrats for support.</p><p>But Democrats want a so-called "clean" bill on raising the debt limit — that means no attachments and no spending cuts. Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) says anything else would be hostage-taking.</p><p>"Should we allow this forum of America paying its bills to become hostage to the competing political points of view and how best to get our fiscal house in order?" Welch says.</p><p>In fact, some Democrats did just that when they voted against raising the debt limit in 2006 to protest the policies of the Bush administration. This time, more than 100 Democrats have signed on to a letter by Welch that calls for a clean bill. Welch says there are other venues for spending cuts.</p><p>"There [are] going to be 12 appropriations bills; there is going to be another election," Welch says. "So there's a time and place, but if we inject that into this question of whether<strong> </strong>we actually honor our obligation to pay our bills, we're going to do real damage to the American economy."</p><p>Meanwhile, a bipartisan bill in the Senate is taking another approach. Tennessee Republican Bob Corker and Democrat Claire McCaskill have introduced legislation that would cap government spending starting in 2013. Corker says it purposely doesn't say how to do it, just that it be done.</p><p>"Let's first agree where we're going because we tend to divide up very, very quickly when we jump first to the solution," he says. "So it's best for everyone to first agree what is an appropriate spending level."</p><p>If the Corker-McCaskill deal doesn't catch on, Corker says that unless there is some evidence from lawmakers that Washington will change its free-spending ways, he, too, will vote against raising the debt limit. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1303249030?&gn=Agency%27s+Warning+Heats+Up+Debt+Ceiling+Debate&ev=event2&ch=135246600&h1=The+Federal+Budget+Crunch,Governing,Economy,Politics,Business,U.S.,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=135546561&c7=1014&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1014&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110419&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c21=2&v21=D%3Dc2&c31=135246600&v31=D%3Dc31&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></p></p> Tue, 19 Apr 2011 16:13:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/business/2011-04-19/agencys-warning-heats-debt-ceiling-debate-85406 FAA Jarred Awake By Sleeping Air Traffic Controllers http://www.wbez.org/story/around-nation/2011-04-18/faa-jarred-awake-sleeping-air-traffic-controllers-85378 <p><p>Federal Aviation Administration chief Randy Babbitt is visiting air traffic control facilities across the country this week, meeting with controllers about an issue that has gotten the agency a lot of unwanted publicity lately: sleeping on the job.</p><p>At least a half-dozen controllers have been reported nodding off in recent weeks. Babbitt says that won't be tolerated, but controllers say it's a common problem with no easy answer.</p><p>The issue of sleeping air traffic controllers is not a new one. Retired air traffic controller Don Brown says it came up throughout his 25 years on the job. In fact, he admits that it happened to him on occasion:</p><p>"I have found myself falling asleep many a times," he says. "The big thing is you try to stay engaged with something. You can't leave the position — you can get up and walk around a little bit. But the biggest thing is to stay engaged with something — at least have a conversation with the controller you're working with."</p><p>Brown retired from the Air Route Traffic Control Center outside Atlanta and now blogs on air traffic control issues. FAA administrator Babbitt met with controllers in Atlanta yesterday, carrying the message that sleeping on the job is unacceptable. <a href="http://www.npr.org/2011/04/18/135517125/new-rules-and-no-naps-for-air-traffic-controllers">He also spoke with NPR's <em>Talk of the Nation</em>.</a></p><p>"We absolutely cannot and will not tolerate controllers sleeping on the job when they're supposed to be controlling airplanes," he told host Neal Conan. "We're working with controllers to take a good hard look at some of the scheduling practices. Some of the things we've done will provide a better sleep opportunity, rest opportunities for the controllers, so that they can in fact arrive to work rested and ready to go to work."</p><p><a href="http://www.npr.org/2011/04/17/135489313/new-rules-will-let-air-controllers-get-more-rest">Over the weekend</a>, the FAA introduced new scheduling practices aimed at reducing controller fatigue. One target of the new rules is "the rattler" — controller slang for working day and overnight shifts in rapid succession. Babbitt says they'll have to start taking at least nine hours off between shifts.</p><p>The FAA has also moved to double-staff the towers at 27 facilities that now have only one person on the overnight shift. But Republican U.S. Rep. John Mica of Florida, the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, says that's a waste of money:</p><p>"I can't think of a bigger insult to the taxpayer in the week that people are paying their federal income tax than doubling up for federal employees that are not doing their job," Mica says. "This can be handled I think through scheduling, and also may have to deal with some of the contracts they have with the unions where they try to jam people in for a number of days and have them off for other days."</p><p>Controllers have worked such schedules in part to get longer weekends. Brown, the retired controller, says the FAA is also chronically understaffed, and that Babbitt's solutions fall short of addressing the real problem:</p><p>"The best solution to being sleepy is to let people sleep. But this being America, we are not going to pay people to sleep on their shifts," Brown says.</p><p>That's what the governments of some countries, including Japan and Germany, do: They allow controllers to sleep during their breaks. In fact, a study commissioned by the FAA and the controllers union recommended a similar policy in the U.S. But Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has flatly ruled out that approach, saying "On my watch, controllers will not be paid to take naps." Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1303215431?&gn=FAA+Jarred+Awake+By+Sleeping+Air+Traffic+Controllers&ev=event2&ch=1091&h1=Governing,Around+the+Nation,U.S.,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=135532446&c7=1091&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1091&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110419&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c21=3&v21=D%3Dc2&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></p></p> Tue, 19 Apr 2011 02:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/around-nation/2011-04-18/faa-jarred-awake-sleeping-air-traffic-controllers-85378 Automakers Try To Sell Government On Fuel Cell Cars http://www.wbez.org/story/business/2011-04-18/automakers-try-sell-government-fuel-cell-cars-85371 <p><p>Honda's fuel cell electric car, the FCX Clarity, can go about 240 miles on a tank of hydrogen fuel. Compared to gasoline, that's about 60 miles to the gallon. The only emission is water so pure you could drink it.</p><p>The company has been building a limited number of these cars since 2005, so Honda was surprised when Secretary of Energy Steven Chu claimed it would take four technological miracles to make fuel cell cars viable in the marketplace.</p><p>"Simply put, he's wrong on those points. He has bad advice," Honda's Steve Ellis said at southeast Michigan's sole hydrogen fueling station. "Automakers are not foolish. We're not going to invest in technology that we see as a dead end."</p><p>The Clarity costs $600 a month to lease, but if you add in all of Honda's research and development costs, each one is probably worth tens of millions of dollars. Ellis says the costs are coming down, though — from the hydrogen fuel, which is made from natural gas, to the cost of the fuel cells. Producing them in volume will really bring the costs down, he says.</p><p>"Ten years ago, if we were looking under this hood, it would be like duct tape and bailing wires," he says. "So it was all an engineering exercise. This car, we're handing the keys to customers, saying, 'Here's your car, see you in six months. Nothing to see here folks.'"</p><p>But the keys are being given only to people in southern California, where there's a cluster of hydrogen fueling stations, built with the help of state subsidies. Even if Chu changes his mind about the miracles, the price tag remains a problem.</p><p>Oliver Hazimeh of the management consulting firm PRTM says battery electric cars like the Volt and the Leaf are getting cheaper, faster, which is why batteries are getting the nod from the government.</p><p>"By 2015, even five years from now, you will probably get a Nissan Leaf-type vehicle on the battery side for probably $25,000," he says. "That same vehicle in the fuel cell configuration will probably still be $45,000 to $50,000."</p><p>But fuel cell proponents say that's not a fair competition. The government spent more on battery electrics in just the past two years than it did on fuel cells over the past decade. James Warner, director of policy at the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association, says cutting funding sends the wrong message to car companies developing fuel cell cars like Honda, GM, Toyota, Daimler and Hyundai.</p><p>"By all accounts, they are ready to commercialize these vehicles by 2015," he says.</p><p>Warner has a bigger worry than less federal funding. Under a continuing budget resolution, Chu has no mandate to spend anything at all on fuel cell technology.</p><p>"The secretary if he so chose could end these programs today," he says.</p><p>A statement from Chu suggests he's likely to stick with President Obama's proposed budget, which cuts research and development by about half, but eliminates funding for the commercialization of fuel cell cars. That means it could take even longer for people who don't live in southern California to get a hydrogen fuel cell car to drive. Copyright 2011 Michigan Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://michiganradio.org/">http://michiganradio.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1303198027?&gn=Automakers+Try+To+Sell+Government+On+Fuel+Cell+Cars&ev=event2&ch=1131&h1=Energy,Governing,Environment,Business,U.S.,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=135518929&c7=1131&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1131&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110419&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=665&v20=D%3Dc20&c21=3&v21=D%3Dc2&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></p></p> Mon, 18 Apr 2011 23:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/business/2011-04-18/automakers-try-sell-government-fuel-cell-cars-85371 Fight For Ohio Union Rights Turns To The Ballot Box http://www.wbez.org/story/around-nation/2011-04-18/fight-ohio-union-rights-turns-ballot-box-85351 <p><p>Over the past few months, Ohio has had its share of fighting over public sector unions' collective bargaining rights.</p><p>Earlier this year, thousands marched on the statehouse in Columbus, but those protests didn't get unions or their Democratic supporters very far. Senate Bill 5 passed the Republican-dominated Ohio Legislature on March 30 and Gov. John Kasich signed it into law the next day.</p><p>Now, Ohio unions are turning to Plan B: a good old-fashioned petition drive to get a referendum on the measure on the ballot this fall. And union members are saying the governor's action may have actually helped reinvigorate the state's labor movement.</p><p><strong>'If It Passes Here, It's A Disease That's Gonna Spread'</strong></p><p>About 100 or so locals recently crammed into an Irish pub in Portsmouth, Ohio, at the very southern tip of the state. They gathered to help repeal Senate Bill 5.</p><p>Austin Keyser, of a local electricians union, addressed the crowd.</p><p>"I don't care what they do. If they take away the right to strike and they take away arbitration, people are still going to demand to be treated with dignity," he said. "And there will still be strikes, and there will still be concerted activity to force them to pay a decent wage."</p><p>Public and private sector workers are uniting to fight Senate Bill 5. They need to get more than 230,000 signatures to put the issue of collective bargaining for public workers on the ballot this fall.</p><p>Portsmouth firefighter Nick Hamilton says the move to restrict the bargaining power of public workers has awakened Ohio's labor supporters.</p><p>"You lower the bar for the unions, you lower the bar for the whole country," he says. "Everybody realizes that Ohio is a politically empowered state and if it passes here, it's a disease that's gonna spread."</p><p><strong>Legislators 'Ignite A Fire In The Populace'</strong></p><p>Meanwhile, the state's Democrats are feeling anything <em>but</em> politically empowered. They lost the governor's seat, control of the Ohio House and seats in the Republican-controlled state Senate all in the 2010 elections. But Democratic state Senate Minority Leader Capri Cafaro says that won't keep Ohioans down.</p><p>"Anytime the government tries to take away rights that currently exist, it is going to ignite a fire in the populace, and I think that's what we've seen in the state of Ohio," she says.</p><p>According to Cafaro, Republicans have awakened a sleeping giant, and she predicts there will be consequences down the road.</p><p>"The public at large feels as if the Legislature and the executive branch are kind of abusing their power — that they are overreaching in a way that is unprecedented, even under one-party rule," she says.</p><p>Republican state Senate President Tom Niehaus says he understands the protesters' concerns.</p><p>"Change is scary," he says. "And certainly if I were told some of the things — if I were told some of the lies — that some of these union members were told, I'd be out protesting too."</p><p>According to Niehaus, Ohio's government is in trouble. The state has a two-year $8 billion deficit and he says voters need to understand that they will ultimately benefit from limited collective bargaining.</p><p>"When you give a local school district, or you give a city council or a township trustee the ability — through Senate Bill 5 — to negotiate a reasonable contract with its employees, that helps every taxpayer in the state of Ohio," he says.</p><p>Niehaus and other state Republican leaders say they're ready to continue the conversation about unions at the ballot box. But union leaders say it's not concessions they're fighting for — it's survival. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1303160230?&gn=Fight+For+Ohio+Union+Rights+Turns+To+The+Ballot+Box&ev=event2&ch=1014&h1=Governing,Around+the+Nation,Politics,U.S.,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=135514203&c7=1014&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1014&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110418&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c21=2&v21=D%3Dc2&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></p></p> Mon, 18 Apr 2011 12:17:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/around-nation/2011-04-18/fight-ohio-union-rights-turns-ballot-box-85351 S&P Warns: Fix The Deficit, Or Else http://www.wbez.org/story/business/2011-04-18/sp-warns-fix-deficit-or-else-85339 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/0" alt="" /><p><p>Standard & Poor's, a big ratings agency, is getting nervous about the United States' ability to pay its debt.</p><p></p><p>The agency lowered its outlook for the U.S. to negative this morning. That's essentially a warning.</p><p>It means that the U.S. is still a super-safe country to lend money to, in S&P's view. But if the U.S. doesn't get its act together in the next few years, that will change. (Here's a PDF of the <a href="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2011/04/18/USAAARating.pdf" target="_blank">full report</a> from S&P.)</p><p>This doesn't have anything to do with the short-term budget fight going on in Washington right now (the almost-<a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2011/04/08/135236360/the-shutdown-and-the-deficit" target="_blank">shutdown</a> from earlier this month, and the looming debate over the <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2011/04/12/135314575/the-debt-ceiling-explained" target="_blank">debt ceiling</a>).</p><p>But it has everything to do with the debate over long-term deficits, which will be driven largely by the <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2010/06/30/128219374/worried-about-the-deficit-blame-health-care" target="_blank">rising cost of Medicare</a> and other government health-care programs. In the past couple weeks, the Republicans (via Rep. Paul Ryan) and the Democrats (via President Obama) have released <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2011/04/13/135380949/fixing-medicare-obama-vs-ryan" target="_blank">plans</a> to deal with these long-term deficits.</p><p>S&P, in its note this morning, doesn't take sides. The agency basically says, you guys better work out some kind of deal in the next year or two. Because if you don't, there will be other countries that are a safer bet to lend money to.</p><p>This is a big deal.</p><p>U.S. government debt (Treasury bonds, notes and bills) is regarded as one of the safest investments on the planet. Insurance companies, foreign governments, banks and other big institutions around the world use Treasurys like ordinary people use savings accounts — a place to park money you don't want to lose.</p><p>When people talk about the "risk-free rate" for investments, they typically look at the interest paid by U.S. government debt. And when investors get scared (say, during a giant financial crisis) they buy Treasurys.</p><p>So if that changes — if S&P decides a few years down the line that other countries are a safer bet than the U.S. — it would have huge repercussions.</p><p>It would mark a shift away from the pre-eminence of the U.S. (and the dollar) in the global economy.</p><p>Big institutions would look to other countries (Germany, say) when they wanted to park their money somewhere super safe.</p><p>And the would have to pay a higher interest rate to borrow money. So the country would have to spend more money on interest payments and less on everything else. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1303144636?&gn=S%26P+Warns%3A+Fix+The+Deficit%2C+Or+Else&ev=event2&ch=93559255&h1=Government,Debt,Planet+Money,Governing,Economy,Politics,Business,U.S.,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=135508506&c7=1123&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1123&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110418&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c31=127414454,127413573,93559255&v31=D%3Dc31&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></p></p> Mon, 18 Apr 2011 10:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/business/2011-04-18/sp-warns-fix-deficit-or-else-85339 Taxes, Entitlements: Sticking Points In Deficit Debate http://www.wbez.org/story/economy/2011-04-13/taxes-entitlements-sticking-points-deficit-debate-85166 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/0" alt="" /><p><p>The budget plans put forward by President Obama and House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) both set a goal of about $4 trillion in deficit reduction, but Ryan would get his in 10 years — two years sooner than the president.</p><p>The biggest differences between the two plans are their treatment of taxes, and Medicare and Medicaid. Ryan would dramatically transform the two government health care programs: Medicaid would become a block grant controlled by the states; Medicare would become a voucher program starting in 2022. On taxes, Ryan would continue the Bush tax cuts for wealthy Americans set to expire at the end of next year. Obama would let them expire.</p><p><a href="http://www.npr.org/2011/04/13/135382432/obama-plan-aims-for-4-trillion-in-deficit-cuts">As he unveiled his plan Wednesday,</a> Obama criticized <a href="http://www.npr.org/2011/04/10/135275350/paul-ryans-2012-budget-good-bad-and-ugly">Ryan's proposal</a> for not keeping America's promise to care for its senior citizens.</p><p>"It says that 10 years from now, if you're a 65-year-old who's eligible for Medicare, you should have to pay nearly $6,400 more than you would today."</p><p>Yet, said the president, Ryan believes that at the same time, "we can somehow afford more than $1 trillion in new tax breaks for the wealthy."</p><p>Republicans quickly rejected the idea of any increase in taxes to solve the deficit problem.</p><p>Maya MacGuineas, who heads the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget at the New America Foundation, says the president's proposal shows he's finally seriously engaging in the deficit discussion. But, she says, the president's plan is short on specifics and should do more to reduce deficits.</p><p>"If you look at what Congressman Ryan did, he put out a huge, bold plan, very detailed and very courageous, because it's hard. You can see he's going to get beaten up for it," she said. "The president wasn't as courageous in what he laid out there, but what he did was put out something that's doable."</p><p>To give his plan some teeth, the president proposed a failsafe trigger: It would force across-the-board cuts if the nation's debt-to-GDP ratio isn't declining toward the end of the decade.</p><p>Robert Greenstein of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a progressive think tank, takes issue with describing Ryan's proposal as courageous.</p><p>"I don't think it's very courageous to say we're going to really eviscerate programs from the weakest people in the society who don't have political clout and have no lobbyists on K Street."</p><p>Greenstein points to deep cuts in the food stamp program in Ryan's plan. He also says the Republican's proposal for block-granting Medicaid, which provides health care for the poor, is likely to lead to deep cuts in the program by many states.</p><p>Brian Riedl of the conservative Heritage Foundation sees it differently.</p><p>"Because it gives governors flexibility to innovate and save costs by block-granting the program," he said. "And so I think you might see a Washington meddling less in the innovative ideas that governors have."</p><p>Over the long term, Ryan's plan offers a vision of a much smaller government with dramatically different health care programs, says MacGuineas. Meanwhile, the president sees the government providing most of the services it currently does, only more efficiently. That may not be visionary, she says, but "I think what he's talking about is a really helpful starting point for moving this discussion forward."</p><p>And with the nation reaching its debt limit soon, a quick deal on curbing the deficit is critical. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1302765431?&gn=Taxes%2C+Entitlements%3A+Sticking+Points+In+Deficit+Debate&ev=event2&ch=135246600&h1=The+Federal+Budget+Crunch,Governing,Economy,Politics,U.S.,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=135392773&c7=1014&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1014&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110414&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c21=3&v21=D%3Dc2&c31=135246600&v31=D%3Dc31&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></p></p> Wed, 13 Apr 2011 23:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/economy/2011-04-13/taxes-entitlements-sticking-points-deficit-debate-85166 Lawmakers Discover What's In Spending Deal http://www.wbez.org/story/governing/2011-04-13/lawmakers-discover-whats-spending-deal-85167 <p><p>The deal congressional leaders struck last Friday funding the federal government for 24 weeks and cutting $38 billion in spending is being voted on Thursday in the House and possibly the Senate.</p><p>While the measure does chop spending, a few other things in it that have little to do with spending also get chopped, as lawmakers have been discovering.</p><p>Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) says he was "stunned" to find that a provision he managed to include in the new health care law last year — an option providing employer-paid vouchers to people who can't afford their workplace insurance and who don't qualify for subsidies — is repealed in the budget deal.</p><p>Wyden says eliminating the vouchers saves no federal money, and he suspects an industry group lobbied for the repeal.</p><p>"It's clear that the Business Roundtable pulled out all the stops to kill this," he says.</p><p>The Business Roundtable is an association of top executives from some of the nation's largest corporations. Spokeswoman Johanna Schneider says she believes the group did not work to get the voucher repeal included in the spending bill.</p><p>"We do not support the [vouchers], and the primary reason is we genuinely believe that it would change the risk pools for those covered employees," she says. "But that does not equal, nor did it equal, that we lobbied to have it removed."</p><p>Wyden says he may end up voting against the budget deal because he "can't conceive of voting for this unless I'm told by the White House and congressional leadership that there's going to be corrective action."</p><p>In another part of the budget measure, gray wolves in the Rocky Mountain northwest, which were reintroduced to the Northwest in mid-1990s, are taken off the list of endangered species.</p><p>Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) calls the measure "an opportunity to fix a problem."</p><p>He acknowledges having pushed to have gray wolves removed from the protected list.</p><p>"We're dealing with a species that is fully recovered," he says. "We're dealing with a species that right now is having some very dramatic impacts on domestic livestock and wildlife. They need to be managed."</p><p>But Rodger <strong>Schlickeisen</strong>, president of Defenders of Wildlife, says managing means killing gray wolves, and he doesn't believe Congress should be making that call.</p><p>"This is the first time in all of the history of the Endangered Species Act that Congress has ever legislated to remove protection of a species," he says. "We are, of course, extremely worried that this could represent some kind of a precedent. The Endangered Species Act could face further onslaught in coming months and coming years."</p><p>So Congress will be voting Thursday on the fate of more than 1,600 gray wolves in the northwest — as well as the future of health insurance vouchers for possibly hundreds of thousands of workers — in a bill aimed at keeping the government open and cutting the deficit. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1302765431?&gn=Lawmakers+Discover+What%27s+In+Spending+Deal&ev=event2&ch=135246600&h1=The+Federal+Budget+Crunch,Governing,Your+Money,Politics,U.S.,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=135389295&c7=1014&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1014&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110414&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c21=3&v21=D%3Dc2&c31=135246600&v31=D%3Dc31&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></p></p> Wed, 13 Apr 2011 23:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/governing/2011-04-13/lawmakers-discover-whats-spending-deal-85167