Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wednesday Must Read: Republicans Push Tax Hike on Middle Class, Curtail Unemployment Benefits; Quan and Santana to Appoint Independent Police Monitors

By Robert Gammon
Wed, Dec 21, 2011 at 6:44 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. House Republicans blocked a bipartisan compromise that would have temporarily extended a tax cut for 160 million Americans, and as a result most Americans will have to start paying higher taxes on January 1. The hard-line GOP members, who have repeatedly stymied efforts to raise taxes on the wealthy, decided to vote for higher taxes on everyone else because Democrats would not go along with more budget cuts. The House Republican stance, however, has fractured the GOP because the majority of Republicans in the Senate voted for the compromise that would have avoided the January 1 tax hike. The Los Angeles Times reports that Senate Republicans apparently realize that it’s politically toxic to raise taxes on low and middle-income voters, while refusing to increase them on the wealthy.

2. As part of the vote, the House Republicans also blocked a bipartisan compromise to extend unemployment benefits, a move that could harm three million Americans. The New York Times reports that House Republicans want to limit unemployment benefits to a maximum of 59 weeks, down from the current limit of 99 weeks. Democrats say such a move makes no sense at a time of high unemployment when many people spend months looking for a job. Again, Senate Republicans voted in opposite of their House counterparts, and agreed to the compromise bill that would have extended unemployment insurance.

3. Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and City Administrator Deanna Santana plan to announce this morning the appointment of a new independent investigation panel that will examine the Oakland Police Department’s use of force against Occupy protests, the Bay Citizen reports. OPD has come under intense criticism for firing tear gas and other less-than-lethal weaponry at demonstrators, and for injuring two military veterans and a videographer.

4. Representatives from Target, Walgreens, J.C. Penney, and Crate and Barrel have told Oakland port commissioners that they will ship their products through the Port of Los Angeles unless the city can stop future blockades of the Port of Oakland by Occupy demonstrators, the Chron reports. The retail chains say the December 12 shut down of the Port of Oakland cost them hundreds of thousands in missed shipping deadlines.

5. The Oakland City Council last night voted to add a debit card function to the city’s municipal ID cards, the Chron reports. The cards provide IDs for immigrants who lack them and the debit function is intended to help people who don’t have bank accounts and are vulnerable to robbery because they carry around too much cash.

6. And PG&E and the City of San Francisco still have no clue as to what caused the power outages that twice halted the Monday night football game between the 49ers and Steelers at Candlestick Park, the Chron reports.

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