Bloomberg's Heidi Przybyla reports that AARP, which has pulled out the stops on a massive lobbying effort against President Bush's Social Security plan, "has privately discussed compromises with the White House that include more taxes, future benefit cuts and raising the retirement age." AARP says if they can drop the carve-outs, an agreement on solvency could come quickly. But don't expect a deal soon; at this point, the President isn't budging on personal accounts.
The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne argues that not eliminating the estate tax, which was paid by fewer than 1 percent of the people who died in 2004 and half of the revenue came from estates of $10 million or more, could take care of a whopping portion of the Social Security shortfall. "What we are having is not a real debate on the future of Social Security but a sham discussion in which the one issue that matters to the governing majority is how to keep cutting taxes on the wealthiest people in our country," Dionne writes. LINK
The Washington Post's Michael Dobbs pores over the fascinating sheaf of cables and memos from John Negroponte's tenure as U.S. Ambassador to Honduras released in advance of his confirmation hearing today, showing him as extremely plugged in to the Washington policy establishment and "an exceptionally energetic, action-oriented ambassador whose anti-communist convictions led him to play down human rights abuses in Honduras, the most reliable U.S. ally in the region." But a dealer of "quiet diplomacy" he was not, as he urged national security officials to stay the course against the Sandinistas. LINK
Big Casino budget politics: Medicaid:
Robert Pear obtained the list of 15 states who allegedly used accounting tricks to get more Medicaid funds. LINK
Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Virginia, and Tennessee are on there.
Robert Pear = awesome.
" . . . many economists, liberal and conservative, are perplexed by two unusual trends. Wage growth has trailed far behind productivity growth over the last four years, and the share of national income going to employee compensation is low by historic standards," writes Steven Greenhouse in the New York Times. LINK
Stem cell politics:
"Stepping gingerly into a politically charged arena for the first time, some large companies in the U.S. are pursuing plans to study stem cells drawn from early-stage human embryos," Antonio Regalado writes in the Wall Street Journal.
"Big companies so far have been notably absent from the heated public debate over the scientific and moral implications of such research. But the recent moves show how the scientific -- and commercial -- appeal of embryonic stem-cell research is luring some companies into at least exploratory work. Their involvement could spur spending and help win wider acceptance for the research, but also could draw fire from religious groups and other opponents."
Scott Greenberger of the Boston Globe writes on the morning after pill as Massachusetts Legislation pushes a bill to allow over the counter access. Gov. Mitt Romney has made no recent statements on the issue, but during his 2002 campaign he did promise not to change the abortion laws in Massachusetts.