Wednesday, March 25, 2020

What The Pandemic Lays Bare: We Have Become, In Saagar Enjeti's Words, "A Sclerotic, Rotten Society"


After midnight. congressional negotiators and the White House reached an agreement on the $2 trillion relief/stimulus package. There will be a vote on it later today. What did the Democrats achieve by stopping the Trump-McConnell first iteration of the bill? It now includes more funding for hospitals and health care workers; expanded and enhanced unemployment benefits (by 13 weeks) covering individuals who are not currently covered by traditional unemployment assistance and with full salaries for workers; and some semblance of oversight-- I'll believe it when someone catches Trump trying to steal some of it-- over the $400 billion slush fund for corporate America. Under the terms of the deal an "independent" inspector general and a congressional oversight board would be in charge of scrutinizing the lending decisions out of that pot of money. There is also a proviso that companies accepting aid from taxpayers cannot reward shareholders and top executives through stock buybacks.

Earlier that day, the Washington Post reported that Trump has finally "agreed to allow enhanced scrutiny over a massive loan program that is a centerpiece of the Senate’s $2 trillion coronavirus economic package, taking steps to address a major Democratic concern and potentially pave the way for a vote." They had hope it would have been yesterday, but are happy enough that it will come today both in the Senate and the House.

Señor Trumpanzee had "already said where he wants some of the money to go, promising assistance to cruise ship companies, for example, that have operations in Miami. And when he was asked Monday evening who would perform oversight of the program, Trump responded, 'I’ll be the oversight.' But during closed-door negotiations on Capitol Hill, White House officials have agreed to allow an independent inspector general and an oversight board to scrutinize the lending decisions."

McConnell's package was stuffed full of Republican Party agenda items-- bailouts for corporations primarily-- and Pelosi's wasn't nearly as terrible but was still bullshit. Who can resist including their own priorities when a must-pass-package around 2 trillion dollars is on the line? An honest broker, perhaps? That leaves out McConnell, Schumer, Pelosi, Hoyer, McCarthy and, obviously Trump and Mnuchin. The Democrats accuse McConnell of putting together a corporate slush fund. The Republicans accuse Pelosi of trying to pass the Green New Deal (part of a "Democratic wish list"). If only!

McConnell's bill was 247 pages long. Pelosi's is 1,432 pages. Let's compare:

McConnell wanted to give direct payments of $1,200 to individual Americans making less than $75,000 annually, and $2,400 for eligible married couples making less than $150,000 combined, with an additional $500 for every child. The amount of money is reduced by $5 for every $100 that a person earns over $75,000, so Americans earning more than $99,000 will get nothing. Pelosi's bill is pretty much the same in that way except that it increases the figure per individual to $1,500. Her bill also waives $10,000 in federal student loan payments. McConnell addresses education by allowing Betsy DeVos to defer student loan payments and by allowing students who were forced to drop out of school due to coronavirus to keep their Pell grants.

After that the two bills go off in different directions. McConnell is unreasonably generous to corporate America, no strings attached:
$50 billion in loan guarantees for passenger air carriers.
$8 billion for cargo air carriers.
$150 billion for other large businesses.
$300 billion for small businesses. (Pelosi wants $500 billion here.)
Pelosi's plan is far more ambitious, dedicating $4 billion in grant funding to help states with upcoming elections and nationally mandates 15 days of early voting and no-excuse absentee vote-by-mail, including mailing a ballot to all registered voters in an emergency, something violently opposed by Republicans, who always oppose expanding the franchise. Things that will never stay in the final bill include canceling several of Trump's executive orders that labor complains have weakened public sector unions' ability to engage in collective bargaining; requiring companies receiving federal assistance during the pandemic to institute a $15 minimum wage; and creating new carbon offset guidelines for airlines, with a long-term goal of reducing jet fuel emissions by 50% by 2050.

Pelosi's bill also allocates $150 billion to support hospitals, local health centers and government-funded medical programs, with an additional $80 billion in low-interest loans to hospitals; provides child care assistance to health care workers and emergency personnel; temporarily provides $600 per week to unemployed workers affected by the pandemic. Self-employed workers, Americans whose contracts were canceled, and new entrants to the job market would also be eligible; expands paid sick leave and family medical leave, as well as gives more money to food-safety benefits; dedicates $20 billion to reimbursing the U.S. Postal Service for lost revenue, and forgives USPS debt; and one that McConnell is likely to approve of: creating a $200 billion stabilization fund for states and $15 billion for local governments through the Community Development Block Grant program. The legislation also authorizes the Federal Reserve to purchase state and local government bonds.

In an OpEd for Newsweek yesterday, Robert Reich wrote that Republicans are helping corporations to exploit the crisis. "Airlines," he wrote, "are big enough to get their own loans from banks at rock-bottom interest rates. Their planes and landing slots are more than adequate collateral. Why do airlines deserve to be bailed out? Over the last decade, they spent 96 percent of their free cash flow, including billions in tax savings from the Trump tax cut, to buy back shares of their own stock. This boosted executive bonuses and pleased wealthy investors but did nothing to strengthen the airlines for the long term. Meanwhile, the four biggest carriers gained so much market power they jacked up prices on popular routes and slashed services (remember legroom and free bag checks?)." He continued, echoing what many frequent fliers feel about the airline companies that McConnell is so eager to bail out at taxpayer expense:
United CEO Oscar Munoz warned that if Congress doesn't bailout the airline by the end of March, United will start firing its employees. But even if bailed out, what are the odds United would keep paying all its workers if the pandemic forced it to stop flying? The bailout would be for shareholders and executives, not employees.

While generous toward airlines and other industries, the Republican bill is absurdly stingy toward people, stipulating a one-time payment of up to $1,200 for every adult and $500 per child. Some 64 million households with incomes below $50,000 would get as little as $600. This will do almost nothing to help job-losers pay their mortgages, rents and other bills for the duration of the crisis, expected to be at least the next three months.

The Republican coronavirus bill is about as Burring as legislation can be-- exposing the underlying structure of power in America as clearly as Burr's stock trades. In this national crisis, it's just as morally repulsive.

Take a look at how big corporations are treating their hourly workers in this pandemic and you see more Burring.

Walmart, the largest employer in America, doesn't give its employees paid sick leave, and limits its 500,000 part-time workers to 48 hours paid time off per year. This Burring policy is now threatening countless lives. (On one survey, 88 percent of Walmart employees report sometimes coming to work when sick.)

None of the giants of the fast-food industry-- McDonald's, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Duncan Donuts, Wendy's, Taco Bell, Subway-- gives their workers paid sick leave, either.

Amazon, one of the richest corporations in the world, which paid almost no taxes last year, is offering unpaid time off for workers who are sick and just 2 weeks paid leave for workers who test positive for the virus. Meanwhile, it demands that its employees put in mandatory overtime.

And here's the most Burring thing of all: These corporations have made sure they and other companies with more than 500 employees are exempt from the requirement in the House coronavirus bill that employers provide paid sick leave.

At a time when almost everyone feels burdened and fearful, the use of power and privilege to exploit the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of others is morally intolerable.

We are all in this together, or should be. Whatever form it takes, Burring must be stopped.

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At 7:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We've been a horse-shit society for a very long time. The pandemic just shines a bright light on it for the world to see.

you contrasted what the Nazis wanted vs. the democrap pander package.

What is in the final bill? the worst of both?

At 8:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As always, 7:05. It was ever thus, and will ever be.

At 9:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

TWT: Thank you for your making sense out of the nonsense.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Here are some personal musings after I just heard what the President said. He said some Governors or “they” would have to treat US well to get what they need. Has blackmail now become the meme of the day?

The only thing that will make our Government do the right thing is millions of people standing in front of the White House trying to get in.

Being in the presence of real people scares Republicans. It will take the collaboration of many Republicans to remove Donald J. Trump from the White House. Remember he has already been impeached, and now it is obvious to all that he has become a clear and present danger to the American people and the world.

I have heard that the Republicans are scared of him because he is physically a big man who gets scary when he gets red in the face. I am sure they could use a tranquillizer capture gun. As with most creatures, it will temporarily impair the target's physical function to a level that allows it to be approached and handled in an unresisting and thus safe manner. At least he will be unable to speak (temporarily) which will be a blessing to society.

Putting pressure on Republicans is the only direct way to save and get this country swiftly back on its feet. Members of Congress are the representatives of the people and they were charged with working for the greater good of the people. Those who scheme to take the people’s resources for personal gain in these perilous times shall be judged and it does not matter be they Republicans or Democrats.

In his farewell Address in January 1981, Jimmy Carter said, “America did not invent human rights. In a very real sense it’s the other way around. Human rights invented America. Ours was the first nation in the history of the world to be founded explicitly on such an idea.”

We all have human rights, and I am not sure Republicans grasp that concept.

I once heard Ralph Nader quoting someone else. Ralph said, “Under the Constitution the American People can have anything they want. Only it seems they do not want much of anything.”

As of now, only one irrational person is trying to steer the ship of state on to the rocks. We must take back control. We may be isolated from one another but we still are the Captains of this ship. Speak now or our silence may forever condemn us.

At 1:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

" it is obvious to all that he has become a clear and present danger to the American people and the world."

Then why is Trump's approval rating generally up significantly into the 40% range recently? One reason is that the "Democrats" are not rising to the need.

"Members of Congress are the representatives of the people and they were charged with working for the greater good of the people."

All you have to do is await the memo from the corporate boardroom informing their Congressional property that they can pretend to be as you describe. Or have more money for bribes than corporations can raise.

"In his farewell Address in January 1981, Jimmy Carter said..."

And the very next day, Ronald Reagan began the process of reversing the creation of human rights and raising the rights of corporations to a superior position.

"We all have human rights, and I am not sure Republicans grasp that concept."

Oh, they grasp it alright! That is why they work as hard as they can to ensure that the Courts belong to the GOP. That way, when they pass their disabling legislation, the GOP courts will declare it all constitutional and that will be that.

Just to show that I see your sincerity, I agree generally with your conclusion. But be like the meticulous planners of Operation Overlord and not the improvisors of Operation Jubilee. Don't plan an invasion without knowing where you stand and what you are getting yourself into.

Corporate America will fight to their last dollar to keep We the People from doing as you propose. They will push their captive government to actually use the many laws and executive orders still active to stifle any public action which would cost them a great deal of control and profit. WTO Seattle and Occupy were barely rehearsals for what is possible. What plan do you have to deal with that kind of response?

The corporations control the Internet and the phone system. They can shut both down quickly How do you propose to convince people to join the effort when you can't reach them?

Your zeal is commendable. But don't send cavalry into cannons. It doesn't end well


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