Thursday, April 30, 2020

Congressional Republicans Move To Destroy State And Local Governments


Yesterday, the Washington Post's Josh Dawsey reported on another major Trumpanzee flip-out, journalism's easiest beat. To get him to stop his psychotic daily coronavirus briefings, his advisers-- Kushner-in-law, Ronna Romney, Brad Parscale and others-- presented him, over the course of 3 days, with the results of internal polling last week that show him losing to Biden.
One call on Wednesday-- with Parscale patched in from his home in Florida and McDaniel from her home in Michigan-- was designed to present grim polling data to the president to encourage him to reduce the frequency of coronavirus briefings or to stop taking questions, after seeing his numbers slip for several weeks, officials said.

Trump resisted the pleas, saying people “love” the briefings and think he is “fighting for them,” a person with knowledge of the Wednesday conversation said. Trump has long been distrustful of polling data presented to him when the numbers are not positive, aides say.

The two polls given to Trump-- one from the Republican National Committee and another from the Trump campaign-- both showed Trump trailing Biden in key swing states amid the coronavirus crisis, officials said. His political team has grown more concerned in recent weeks, as the briefings had become more combative while the economy has cratered and coronavirus deaths have continued to rise.

On Thursday, Trump set off a new uproar with his suggestion that people should inject bleach or other disinfectants-- prompting a scramble by the administration to contain the damage.

...Aides described Trump as in a particularly foul mood last week over the polling data and news coverage of his administration's response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to two of the people familiar with the discussions. In one call he berated Parscale over the polling data, the two people said.

At one point in that call, Trump said he might sue Parscale, though one of the people with knowledge of the comments said he made the remark in jest.

“I'm not losing to Joe Biden,” he said at one point, both of these people said, adding that Trump used profanities throughout the call.

After the call, Parscale described it to others as a Trump venting session, these people said.

Trump ranted to other aides for several days about a story in the New York Times that described him as spending much of his day watching television and calling people on the phone.

He was also angry about testing-- telling advisers that he was unfairly getting crushed for testing woes in the United States. Trump earlier this week announced a new set of testing guidelines that continued to leave the onus on states to develop their own plans.

“He was just in a terrible mood with everyone late last week,” a fourth official said.

CNN presented the bit about Trump threatening to sue his campaign manager slightly differently: As he huddled with advisers on Friday evening, Señor Trumpanzee "was still fuming over his sliding poll numbers and the onslaught of criticism he was facing for suggesting a day earlier that ingesting disinfectant might prove effective against coronavirus. Within moments, the President was shouting-- not at the aides in the room, but into the phone-- at his campaign manager Brad Parscale, three people familiar with the matter told CNN. Shifting the blame away from himself, Trump berated Parscale for a recent spate of damaging poll numbers, even at one point threatening to sue Parscale. It's not clear how serious the President's threat of a lawsuit was."

Republican incumbents-- as well as their sad cast of ridiculous challengers-- are worried that Trump will bring them to the bottom with him, just as he did in 2018, when dozens of GOP incumbents lost their seats. But instead of worrying about Trump, what they should be worrying about are things they can control, like the mass layoffs they're forcing on city, state and county governments by holding aid hostage to more corporate bailouts (in the form of immunity for killing workers).

Tony Romm covered the Republican-forced mass layoffs yesterday for the Washington Post. "In Michigan," he began, "some unstaffed highway rest stops are shuttered. In Santa Barbara, California, local librarians are out of a job. Dayton, Ohio, has ordered furloughs at nearly every agency, and in Arlington, Texas, police officers and firefighters may soon see painful cuts." Local governments can't overstep their budgets and McConnell and Republican members of Congress have thwarted Democrats' attempts to rush them emergency funds, forcing possible "dramatic reductions to their workforces, threatening critical public-sector employees and first responders at a time when many Americans may need their local governments’ help the most...Some local governments have already started laying off or furloughing thousands of their workers, and the numbers are likely to grow markedly in the absence of federal aid."
Among municipalities, the new budget cuts could be profound: Between 300,000 and 1 million public-sector workers could soon be out of a job or sent home without pay, according to a new estimate from the National League of Cities. The steep reductions in staffing levels could affect education, sanitation, safety and health, local leaders warn, potentially leaving critical public services in utter disarray.

For governors, mayors and other top local officials, their economic troubles stem from the precipitous drops in revenue that have come as a result of shuttered businesses and sharp decreases in shopping and travel. The extent of the disruptions are poised to reach a level not seen since the Great Recession more than a decade ago, a reality that has prompted many city and state leaders to plead with Washington for help.

But their public quest for federal cash has been met with staunch political resistance from Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who at one point suggested states should have the option of falling into bankruptcy. Top Trump administration officials have echoed that skepticism and signaled that any aid would come with conditions: On Tuesday, for example, the president said he would only approve money if states cracked down on immigration policies in “sanctuary cities.”

The recalcitrance on Capitol Hill and at the White House has sparked a lobbying blitz on the part of local governments, which have had no choice but to make painful cuts as they await action in Washington.

In Dayton, for example, Democratic Mayor Nan Whaley said the city has already furloughed 470 of its 1,900 employees, about a 25 percent reduction in staff that has affected public services including the city’s water department. Whaley said officials may have to institute an additional 18 percent across-the-board reduction in the next fiscal year if they don’t see federal support soon-- a move she said would affect police officers and threaten residents with “slow response time.”

“It will fundamentally change how we do business long term,” Whaley said.

For many cities and states, their public push for federal aid reflects the urgency of their need: Many have argued that Washington’s intransigence threatens to exacerbate the deadly coronavirus, which has already killed more than 58,000 Americans nationwide. That’s because tax revenue typically helps fund first responders, and there’s only so much governments can do amid the downturn to shield public safety from withering cuts.

In doing so, many mayors and governors have sought to argue that they are economic engines in their own right, employing more than 19 million municipal employees in the United States, or about one-tenth of the country’s workforce, according to federal data from March. Local leaders say they are just as deserving of federal support as major businesses, which have captured the lion’s share of coronavirus aid dollars authorized by Congress in March and April.

“They understand and know this would be a disaster if they didn’t get the kind of aid from the federal government they need,” said Lee Saunders, the president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, whose union represents public-sector employees. “They need to be a priority just as the corporations and small businesses were.”

Last month, Congress extended $150 billion to cities and states as part of the $2 trillion coronavirus aid package signed by Trump. Quickly, though, local leaders discovered the funds came with significant caveats. Only large cities, for example, received direct payments under the legislation, known as the Cares Act. The money also was limited to coronavirus-related expenses that governments did not anticipate in their most recent budgets, according to the Treasury Department, narrowing its use considerably.

In practice, cities and states could not tap their federal allotments to close revenue gaps, even though some of their shortfalls are the result of the coronavirus pandemic. The limitations greatly frustrated officials in states such as New Jersey, where Gov. Phil Murphy (D) on Thursday wagered that he might have no choice but to return some of the money.

Democratic and Republican governors say they realistically need $500 billion to help close the enormous budget holes they face-- or else they risk debilitating cuts. Already, the bleak financial picture has led Pennsylvania to furlough thousands of state workers. Ohio has implemented a hiring freeze. Scores of additional states are anticipating revenue gaps that may leave them no choice but to reduce their labor forces, either temporarily or for longer.

Michigan this month laid off 2,900 municipal employees, a giant, early cut that reflects the dangers of its looming $7 billion shortfall. More than half of its Department of State, which handles driver and vehicle transactions, is out of work for at least the next two weeks, though local officials insist the staff reductions won’t affect operations.

The National League of Cities, meanwhile, has sought $250 billion on behalf of municipalities around the country, nearly all of which anticipate slashing spending and staff to deal with unexpected shortfalls. The NLC came to its dour prediction-- perhaps 1 million layoffs or furloughs in cities and towns nationwide-- in part by extrapolating data from jurisdictions that have announced major reductions in their workforces.

Los Angeles has eyed furloughing 15,000 workers, according to NLC, and Tulsa has sent home 1,000 people without pay, representing a third of the city’s labor force. Other cities including Allentown, Pa., and Boulder, Colo., are starting with cuts to temporary or seasonal employees, joining many communities that have targeted staff at parks and other public staples closed because of stay-at-home orders.

Some of the cuts directly threaten police officers and firefighters. Baltimore has considered about $11 million in total reductions that could affect first responders, which could result in wage freezes or furloughs. The idea has sparked concern among labor unions, which fear it would harm response times.

Oklahoma City anticipates its broader austerity measures won’t be enough to spare public safety agencies in the end, either. “We’ll do the best we can to limit the impact on services we provide as we prepare for a new economic reality,” the city’s budget director said in a statement last week.

In Arlington, Texas, one of the state’s largest metropolitan areas, Republican Mayor Jeff Williams said it is bracing for budget trouble, too. In a normal year, professional sports, local amusement parks and an influx of college students help round out the city’s finances, infusing much needed revenue derived from shopping and tourism. But such spending has ground to a halt, imperiling the city’s balance sheet-- and potentially its workforce.

Arlington’s leaders already have asked local government agencies to plan for reductions in spending between 10 to 25 percent, according to Williams, who described the potential for layoffs or furloughs as a worst-case scenario that residents would feel immediately.

“That would reduce our trash pickup to less than what it is,” he said. “We would have to reduce the maintenance and reconstruction of some of our streets.” And public safety wouldn’t be spared, either. “We couldn’t help but affect our police and firefighters because of the deep cuts,” he said.

This month, Williams joined about 100 Texas mayors from both parties to issue a public plea to Congress, urging lawmakers to adopt “direct and flexible fiscal assistance” in their next coronavirus aid bill. Some officials have found a receptive ear among Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill, who joined union leaders on a call Tuesday pledging they would work aggressively to secure such federal aid.

...In fact, the calls for federal aid have been bipartisan, And many states entered the latest economic downturn in a far better financial position than they did the 2008 recession, thanks in part to healthier cash reserves. The data has not assuaged Republicans, including McConnell, who told Politico in an interview that the Senate would not “finance mistakes they’ve made unrelated to the coronavirus.” His office declined to comment for this story.

Other Republicans led by Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) similarly have mobilized in opposition to open-ended aid to struggling city and state governments, breaking with local officials even in the states they represent. “We believe additional money sent to the states for ‘lost revenue’ or without appropriate safeguards will be used to bail out unfunded pensions, reward decades of state mismanagement, and incentivize states to become more reliant on federal taxpayers,” Scott wrote in a draft letter to the president, which he has circulated among his colleagues for signatures. His office confirmed the letter, which attacks New York and Illinois for their financial decisions.

The political gamesmanship has left some city and state leaders anticipating significant delays before federal officials pay them a dime, if it ever comes through at all, leaving many municipal workers out of a job or without pay, while harming their families and those their governments serve.

“This is not about bailing out local governments that have done something wrong, because we’ve not, we’ve stepped up,” said Clarence Anthony, the leader of the National League of Cities. He added, “Playing with the lives of people over a narrative that is not accurate is just not right.”
Eva Putzova is a progressive Democrat running to represent a working families in a vast Arizona congressional district held by a lifelong conservative Republican, Tom O'Halleran, pretending to be a Blue Dog. He was a GOP state legislator while she was fighting for a livable wage as a Flagstaff city council member. She understands the importance of local governance. This morning she told us that "Republican opposition to bailing out states and cities is a disaster in the making. States and cities provide essential services to the U.S. population. It is unconscionable that these services will be cut and more layoffs will occur if aid is not provided promptly. These reductions will adversely impact the poor, women and people of color who work for the public sector as well as those who rely on these essential services. My opponent is nowhere to be seen or heard from on this issue. If he supports the aid to cities and states no one would know it because he is not out-front demanding that it happen. We need members of Congress who are uncompromising in their demands that people matter, not corporations, banks, drug companies, insurance companies and other profit making entities who contribute to their campaigns."

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At 6:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

They use force, to make you do, what the deciders, have decided you must do.
-Eldridge Cleaver

At 6:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do McConnell and the rethuglicans really thing all of these people being furloughed and laid off are going to vote for them?

At 3:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The GOP could care less as long as more people die and decrease the surplus population.


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