Nel's New Day

March 26, 2020

Covid-19 Bill Passes the Senate, Goes to House Tomorrow; DDT Unhinged

People became frightened when they thought DDT would start a war with Iran—and most of the Middle East and Russia. But now he claims to be a “wartime” president but won’t declare a war on the healthcare crisis. Congress has already passed two bills to help people and companies with the stress of covid-19: an $8.3 billion emergency supplemental for the health-care system, and a $100-billion-plus bill to boost paid sick leave and unemployment insurance and provide free coronavirus testing. The last bill passed the Senate by 90-8, but one of the obstructionists, Rand Paul (R-KY), tested positive for coronavirus and cannot vote. Another no GOP vote, Mike Lee of Utah, is self-quarantining after proximity to Paul.  

Senate Bill:

After six days of sometimes explosive negotiations, the newest one for $2.2 trillion has unanimously passed the Senate with 96 members present. In addition to Paul, Mitt Romney (UT), who was self-quarantining because of Paul, and John Thune (SD), who wasn’t feeling well, were absent for the vote. The bill must now go to the House for a vote. With the House in recess, the vote must be unanimous—a difficult proposition for members from far right to far left, with beliefs from too much for corporations to too much for people. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) announced the House will convene at 9:00 am tomorrow to consider the bill. If a voice vote fails, the only alternative is for members to come back to Washington in the midst of the epidemic.

Key elements of the bill: 

  • $504 billion: large businesses including $25 billion in grants for the passenger airlines; $25 billion in loans for passenger airlines; $17 billion targeted for Boeing; and $425 billion for other businesses, cities and states with restrictions on CEO salary increases and stock buybacks for a limited time. [Boeing, which is seeking $60 billion in aid, declared it would refuse a bailout if the company has to give the government an equity stake.]
  • $260 billion: unemployment insurance for additional weekly $600 payments for four months.
  • $377 billion: help for small companies deal with payroll problems.
  • $280 billion: business tax cuts, deferrals including payroll taxes (Social Security and Medicare).
  • $180 billion: hospitals, healthcare providers, community health clinics, and public health agencies.
  • $185 billion: emergency aid for in state and local governments.
  • $290 billion: $1,200 checks for adults making under $75,000 and $500 to most children in the U.S.
  • $45 billion: FEMA disaster relief fund.
  • $31 billion: local schools and colleges
  • $25 billion: transit systems.
  • $25 billion: additional food stamp funding
  • $450 million (not billion) for voting needs in this time of crisis.

A provision also prevents top government officials and congressional members, including DDT, from getting loans or investments from Treasury programs in the stimulus. When asked earlier if he would apply for some of the stimulus funds for his business losses, DDT said he didn’t know. In 2001, he collected $150,000 in federal funds designed to help small businesses recover after 9/11 although he didn’t fit the criteria for the grant.

Democrats accepted the $500 billion lending fund because DDT no longer has oversight for a “slush fund.” An independent inspector general and an oversight board will examine the lending decisions, and terms of the loans will be made public within seven days instead of six months as Republicans wanted. The $700 billion TARP created during the 2008 recession used these two pieces as well as a congressional oversight panel. Some of the provisions in the proposed House bill were lost in the bipartisan bill.

Not clear is more money for Native American tribes that have thus far received short shrift in covid-19 supplies and assistance. Some tribes have no testing kits or supplies. Another question about the bill is whether it permits large corporations to lower wages and fire people. 

Republicans lost DDT’s ability to treat $500 billion as a “slush fund and excluding assistance for all nonprofits.

Democrats lost most of its provision of $4 billion for election money for states to mail ballots to all registered voters in an emergency and other democracy needs. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) tried to make all that money a non-starter because Republicans don’t want all eligible people to vote. Other missing Dem pieces are expanding the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid along with protections for healthcare workers or paid leave and family medical leave. Help with student loans also got left out.

Last week, 3.3 million people filed for unemployment benefits; the unemployment rate is up to 5.5 percent, two points above that in February. The unemployment rate could be much higher because it doesn’t include self-employed workers, gig workers, undocumented workers, students, and people who worked fewer than six months last year. The prior unemployment record was just 695,000 during a week in October 1982. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin believes that companies will immediately rehired people because of the stimulus bill.

DDT pushed for the stimulus bill because he’s become more and more desperate about the health crisis. Two days ago, tired of hard questions from reporters, DDT held a two-hour “town hall” on Fox to repeat his lies without being questioned about them. The session began with DDT urging people to go to church on Easter, 19 days from then, because he wants to see “packed churches all over our country. Fox anchor Bill Hemmer called DDT’s idea a “great American resurrection,” and DDT wouldn’t answer a question about what health experts thought about opening that afternoon up on Easter. It was his 75th interview with Fox since his inauguration in less than 41 months. DDT’s regular briefing was extremely short—only 41 minutes compared to earlier ones that lasted hours—with few questions allowed from the press. CNN’s Kaitlin Collins did manage to ask, “Who suggested Easter?” DDT’s answer:

“I just thought it was a beautiful time. A beautiful time. A beautiful timeline. It’s a great day.”

“The media would like to see me do poorly in an election,” DDT said at the daily White House coronavirus briefing on Wednesday and pointed at two different reporters when he said, “You do. She does.” Today, he tweeted that the media is “trying to get me to keep our Country closed as long as possible in the hope that it will be detrimental to my election success.” His open statements about the dangers of the virus impeding his reelection show he is becoming increasingly unhinged about a situation over which he has no control and that his only criterion is what benefits his reelection. Yet at yesterday’s briefing, he said, “I’m not going to do anything rash or hastily.” A comparison of the U.S. with Italy shows the direction that the U.S. is taking, especially with DDT’s plans to open the country. 

Once again a public outcry is saving money for the people of the United States. Gilead is pulling its request to have a seven-year monopoly on remdesivir, a promising drug to treat covid-19 although public health experts are still concerned about the company’s price gouging. A law also allows the government to override a patent if the company receives “reasonable compensation.” Gilead already has the rights to Sofobuvir, a lifesaving treatment for about 5 million people for hepatitis C costing $48,000 for a 24-week course—about $1,000 per pill. Gilead’s preventative HIV drug Truvada costs $6 to manufacture and sells for almost $2,000 a month in the U.S. Joseph Grogan, who served as head of federal affairs for Gilead from 2011 to 2017 while it set prices for the HIV and hep C drugs, has led DDT’s work on drug pricing and serves on DDT’s coronavirus task force.

According to medical professionals, far more people are dying in the U.S. of covid-19 than are reported, partly because people are not tested before or after they die. A doctor in California said that state and local data to be reported to the CDC aren’t being audited. New York City and Los Angeles County gave guidance to not test patients unless they think the results will significantly change treatment because of severe shortage of tests and protective equipment.  In Mississippi, where the governor ordered local governments not to shut down any businesses, medical experts have noted a serious lag in reporting cases. DDT is allocating supplies to the nation and wants to open the country on Easter without any awareness of where resources are most needed and that the true scope of the crisis is.

DDT loves to have the most of anything, and he’s accomplished his goal in the number of confirmed covid-19 cases in the worth. The U.S. has surpassed even China in this area, China with four times the population with 85,377 confirmed cases today, and surpassed Italy in the cases. That’s a 25 percent increase since yesterday. The total of 1,295 deaths in the U.S. is more than a 25-percent increase from yesterday. And those numbers are just those reported, not the ones kept quiet or people not tested. [The chart on the right is six days ago when U.S. confirmed cases were over 50,000 fewer.]

There are 531,799 confirmed cases in the world with 24,071 deaths.

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