Nel's New Day

August 6, 2022

Inflation Reduction Act Heads for a Vote

A Senate vote of 51-50 has sent the climate/healthcare/tax reduction bill for debate and a final vote by Sunday morning with all Republicans opposed. During a rare Saturday vote in the Senate, Democrats want to pass the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) before Republicans head off for over a month at home trying to explain to their constituents why they are voting against the measure. Sad to say, the chamber’s parliamentarian has nixed lower prescription prices for the reconciliation (aka budget) process, and Republicans will be able to charge their constituents much more for medications. That way, GOP politicians can get bigger donations from the pharmaceutical industry. To beat the filibuster, ten Republicans would have to agree that 180 million people deserve fairer prices, and they won’t be doing that in order to deny any win for Democrats.

The parliamentarian’s and GOP decision will mean tens of millions of dollars lost in federal savings because drug prices, some of them paid for by the government, can be increased much higher than inflation as drug companies are doing. Yet this provision of the measure was the only one to fail the “Byrd bath,” so called because of the “Bryd Act” from Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) passed in 1985. Reconciliation must be “germane to the budget” and cannot be considered an “extraneous matter,” confusing to those who see the government saving money with lowered drug prices as part of the budget. Byrd may have set the pattern for Democratic obstructionism from West Virginia.

Otherwise, the provisions in the IRA have passed the parliamentarian’s testing, including its package providing $369 for climate, much of it for tax credits to support clean energy technologies including consumer credits for “home energy efficiency improvements” and electric vehicles. The bill also retained its Medicare benefits by negotiating some prescription drug prices, capping out-of-pocket costs in Medicare drug plans at $2,000, and providing free vaccines through Medicare.

The ability to avoid the filibuster through the reconciliation process comes from the 1974 Congressional Budget Act (CBA) passed over Richard Nixon’s veto. It permits additional spending compared with additional revenue. Both parties have used the process: in 2017, Republicans used it to lose $2 trillion in revenue by cutting taxes for big business and the wealthy. With reconciliation, the CBA limits debate to 20 hours evenly divided between the two parties before the Senate holds a final simple majority vote on the bill.

Last November, the Build Better Bill was on track to pass through the reconciliation process until Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) torpedoed the bill in December. After seven months of dissension, Manchin agreed to a new bill that he renamed the Inflation Reduction Act. With the new bill on the floor, Republicans can offer challenging amendments to strip the main provisions and force Democrats into votes that can politically damage them in midterm campaigns. Even with these amendments, Democrats can erase changes with a final “substitute” known as a “wraparound” amendment if Manchin will vote for it.

Amendments must be germane to the bill and not cost the government additional money unless they strike provisions in the measure. After the 20-hour debate period, amendments can be presented but not debated. Amendments violating the Byrd Act must be approved by 60 percent of the senators. Anyone presenting an amendment must stand and read it to the Senate. The presentation of amendments after the 20-hour debate is called the “vote-a-rama.” 

When (if) the Senate passes the bill, it goes to the House which will hopefully pass it without changes that would require it to go back to the Senate. GOP senators have promised to make the process as difficult as possible, “’like hell,” according to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). He added Democrats “deserve” it. Republicans have also spread lies about the bill which conservative media outlets including Fox have told their audiences such as the lie about the proposed law raising taxes on people making under $400,000.

Republicans said their 2017 tax bill, determined through reconciliation, would lower taxes for everyone in the U.S. It didn’t. Only big business and the wealthy got lower taxes. Now they say that the Inflation Reduction Act will raise taxes for everyone. It doesn’t. This disinformation comes from Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) based on the Joint Committee on Taxation which omitted several factors in its analysis, especially the way the new law changes IRS processes. The analysis also overlooks the IRA’s financial benefit to middle-income families. Yet Crapo admits that Ira doesn’t raise taxes on most people.

Graham also claimed the law would make life “more difficult” for people in the U.S., but the opposition is true. In addition to the Medicare benefits, it will:

  • Cut carbon pollution dramatically with emissions in 2030 project at 40 percent below peak levels.
  • Lower energy costs by allowing people to shift to cheaper electricity for home heating, cooking, and driving, a savings of $500 for the average household with total spending on oil down by almost 25 percent over the decade.
  • Create millions of jobs with investment in refurbishing old factories; building new factories; requiring high wages; and mandating apprenticeship training for companies using clean energy tax credits by increasing domestic production of batteries, solar panels, wind turbines, etc.
  • Invest in communities suffering the most from environmental and health hazards that cause health problems and deaths.
  • Crack down on wealthy tax cheats by more fairly enforcing the tax code that has seen income tax audits of households annually earning $5 million or more drop to only two percent in 2019 from over 16 percent in 2010.
  • Fix loopholes allowing wealthy corporations and Wall Street fund managers to avoid paying their fair share in taxes by requiring that each corporation with at least $1 billion worth of profits pay a minimum of 15 percent of their profits in taxes instead of none.
  • Cut inflation and drive down the deficit through fairer taxes; increased supply investing in manufacturing and clean energy; and decreased costs for energy, health care, and prescription drugs.

Ten Republicans were missing for the bill’s first vote, but Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-SD) said he expects they will return for the vote, perhaps hoping the Democrats will lose some votes for the required majority. In a petty attack, Republicans claim that Democrats aren’t testing for COVID to keep their vote number up. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) debunked that claim and pointed out Republicans “wouldn’t wear masks…, wouldn’t test…, tested positive and still showed up?” Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) attended the bill’s early votes on Saturday although he tested positive for COVID this week.

Discharged from rehab after an emergency hip replacement, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), 82, is expected to be present in the Senate chamber. The Senate president pro tempore signed the CHIPS and Science Act at the Capitol on July 29.

Long-time holdout Democratic Manchin never does anything for free—that’s why he’s a multi-millionaire. In this case, his payment is legislation streamlining permits for his state’s 303-mile, two-state Mountain Valley Pipeline and removing jurisdiction from a court that keeps ruling against the project. Nearby residents have fought against the construction of the huge natural gas pipeline that may contaminate rural streams and cause erosion or landslides. It can impact water, endangered species, and public forests. The 4th Circuit Court has ruled against the pipeline for years because developers and permitting agencies skirted regulations during DDT’s control. Now the court may assign the case to a new three-judge panel. The outcome, however, is not actually a done deal.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s (D-AZ) willinness to support the IRA came from an obscure tax break called the “carried interest loophole” or “the carry” that taxes private equity and venture capital income at a lower, 15 percent rate, lower than for other taxpayers. It was included in the original IRA, but Sinema’s donors want it removed. And so it was. Instead companies have to pay a new 1 percent excise tax on the amount of stock they repurchase, still reducing the federal deficit by up to $300 billion.

Republicans are working hard to spread lies about IRA’s effects, but they aren’t completely successful. Of the voters, 73 percent, including 52 percent of Republicans, support the bill. Another 64 percent of voters say they are more likely to vote for a candidate supporting the bill.  

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates the bill will provide at least a deficit decrease of over $100 billion in the next decade, even as much as $300 billion. The deficit could be even more because the CBO didn’t factor in all the effects of the bill. The $124 billion in revenue from building enforcement of IRS laws was considered a lowball estimate. It’s a win for the vast majority of people in the U.S.

The bill’s resolution should be available by tomorrow afternoon or evening.

August 2, 2022

Veterans, Pro-choice Win; Pelosi, Biden Take Heat; ERIC Wins in Missouri

Facing tremendous backlash, Republicans in the Senate caved to vote for legislation expanding healthcare for veterans fighting diseases related to toxic exposure, including from burn pits that burned hazardous materials. After blocking the PACT Act with 42 votes last week, senators voted 86-11 for the bill with the support of 49 Democrats and 37 Republicans. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) missed the vote because of a recent hip-replacement.

Over 3.5 million veterans will benefit from easier access to health and disability benefits. An amendment by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) failed 7-90 that would have eliminated all funding except to Israel for the U.S. Agency for International Development during the next 10 years. Sen. Marsha Blackburn’s (R-TN) amendment would have privatized VA health services for these veterans through private practice, but Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) disagreed with her argument that the VA lacks the resources. Her amendment fell short of the 60-vote filibuster by 48-47.

The 11 Republicans against expanded health care for veterans also voted “no” on the bill in June: Mike Crapo (ID), James Lankford (OK), Mike Lee (UT), Cynthia Lummis (WY), Rand Paul (KY), James Risch (ID), Mitt Romney (UT), Richard Shelby (AL), Thom Tillis (NC), Pat Toomey (PA), and Tommy Tuberville (AL). Paul spoke objected to the PACT Act because too many veterans would receive care; he wanted stricter guidelines. Blackburn said she voted against the bill to retaliate against Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Democrats running for election. Her odd opposition was to “make certain that [veterans] have access to the care that they need,” which is what the bill does. In Tennessee, 7.4 percent of veterans live in poverty, and the unemployment rate is 4.7 percent. The state ranks among the top ten with the least access to healthcare; 11.4 percent of residents lack health insurance.

Kansas held the first election about reproductive rights after the Supreme Court eliminated reproductive rights in Roe v. Wade and overwhelmingly rejected legislative suppression of abortion by 58.8 to 41.2 percent with 95 percent of the votes in. This vote to protect reproductive rights came despite confusion in the text of the initiative: voting “yes” on the ballot issue meant the state legislature could take away abortion rights; voting “no” will protect women under the Kansas constitution that permits abortions through the 22nd week of pregnancy.

To make things worse, text messages sent to voters lied about the effect of voting yes, legal in Kansas that does not prevent disinformation in political messages for constitutional ballot measures. Texts were created by a PAC led by Tim Huelskamp, hard-line former GOP congressman from Kansas, and sent from phone numbers leased from Alliance Forge in Sparks (NV) by Twilo, a San Francisco-based communications company. Huelskamp’s PAC sent the message with no reference to himself or Alliance Forge.

Legislators may also have tried to suppress the vote by putting it on the primary, hoping for a lack of turnout, perhaps 36 percent of voters participating. Instead about 50 percent of the people turned out with returned advance mail ballots 46 percent GOP, 39 percent Democrat, and 15 percent unaffiliated. Republicans outnumber Republicans outnumber Democrats 2-1 in the state. 

The vote was created as a special election at the same time as primaries in which only party-affiliated votes can participate. Legislators may have hoped that unaffiliated voters—29 percent of the electorate—may not have known they could vote on the issue, and lawmakers passed tighter restrictions to create difficulties for registering new voters.

Since the announcement of erasing Roe, over a dozen GOP-led states moved to ban or further restrict abortion. Kansas legislators claim that a new amendment won’t mean a total ban on abortion, but they previously said they are ready for an all-out ban in the January legislative session. Amendment 2, as the initiative is known, does not ban abortion, but it allows the highly conservative legislature to do so.

Anti-abortion activists complained that Kansas had 13 percent more abortions over the past two years, but much of the increase came from closures of clinics in Oklahoma and Texas. The past year saw a 60 percent increase of out-of-state patients in Trust Women, a Wichita abortion clinic during the past year.

In non-election news, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) went to Taiwan and met with President Tsai Ing-wen and other lawmakers despite GOP anger that she didn’t follow China’s directions to not go the country that the Chinese won’t recognize. China’s opposition comes from its Communist Party ideology, objecting to support for pro-independence groups and refusing to see Taiwan as a sovereign nation. Pelosi is the first House Speaker to go to Taiwan since Newt Gingrinch (R-GA) went there in 1997.

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) was the first U.S. president to talk to the Taiwanese president since 1979, the year that the U.S. established relations with China, when he talked with Tsai on December 2, 2016, soon after his election. At that time, Republicans were highly supportive of relations with Taiwan. Reince Priebus, DDT’s chief of staff, visited Taiwan in 2011 and 2015 with a GOP delegation, and Taiwan Foreign Minister David Lee called Priebus a friend of Taiwan. Longtime former president of the Heritage Foundation, Edward J. Feulner, had extensive ties with Taiwan. The RNC platform in July 2016 reaffirmed support for Ronald Reagan’s 1982 six key assurances to Taiwan.

During her visit, Pelosi will meet with the chair of Taiwan’s largest semiconductor manufacturer, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), to discuss the new U.S. law, CHIPS and Science Act, which provides $52 billion of subsidies for U.S. chip factories. TSMC is building a chip factory in Arizona with potential plans for additional factories at the same site.

President Joe Biden orchestrated the killing of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, and Republicans either criticize him or describe it as a nothing-burger.

Fox’s Tucker Carlson led the crowd by saying, “Feel safer? Of course you don’t.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) claimed Biden’s departure from Afghanistan caused the “possible re-emergence of Al Qaeda.” McCarthy wants a briefing about terrorist threats to America, probably foreign ones and not the serious problems of domestic terrorism.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) said, “Joe’s victory is ridiculous”—after she left the Saudi Arabian LIV golf tour at DDT’s resort in Bedminster (NJ). As with all Biden’s accomplishments, she calls it a distraction from the rising inflation rate.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) blamed Biden for making Afghanistan a “safe haven” for terrorism by withdrawing troops and lambasted him for “a proxy war with Russia that’s just killing more people.” Graham claimed no one was worried about an al Qaeda-attack because of the “Democrats big tax hike coming soon”—meaning the one on businesses making over $1 billion.

Except for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) who posted this on his website:

“This is an important accomplishment. All Americans will breathe easier today knowing Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of Al-Qaeda, has been eliminated. This strike should be a message to terrorists near and far: if you conspire to kill Americans, we will find and kill you.”

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) called Fox host Harris Faulkner a liar when she claimed that the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) will tax people making under $400,000 a year, something Biden said he wouldn’t do. After repeating telling Faulkner she was wrong with her accusation, Manchin pointed out savings of $288 billion for Medicare and from lower gas prices. Faulkner lost her cool when Manchin asked her, “Are you scared that we’re going to do something good that will help our country?” 

August 2 saw primaries in five states on August 2: Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington. Tennessee primaries are on Thursday, August 4. Most results won’t be in until tomorrow—or even several more days—because of the lag in counting votes and waiting for mail-in ballots. Tennessee primaries are on Thursday, August 4.

DDT did win one of his endorsements, ERIC, his pick for the Missouri GOP candidate for the U.S. senate. DDT gave no last name for his endorsement, hedging his bets between Eric Schmitt and Eric Greitens for U.S. Senate. In fact, a third ERIC ran for U.S. Senator, comedian Eric McElroy who had no visible campaign.

The winner, Eric Schmitt, might be slightly better than Eric Greitens who resigned from the state’s governor’s seat after accusations of his violence against a mistress and was recently charged by his ex-wife of domestic abuse against herself and their young son. Greitens said enemies recognize “our campaign is a threat to business as usual,” but Schmitt got at least twice as many votes as he did. The state’s GOP U.S. senator Josh Hawley, master of masculinity who ran away on January 6, backed the second in the race, Rep. Vicky Hartzler, who was condemned by DDT. Schmitt runs against Trudy Busch Valentine, an heir to the Anheuser-Busch fortune.

Schmitt used his position as attorney general in an attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election by filing an amicus brief to AG Ken Paxton’s (R-TX) lawsuit before the Supreme Court to eliminate legal electoral voters. Head of the only agency opposing the release of an innocent man, Schmitt twice delayed hearings to release Kevin Strickland, imprisoned for 42 years. The state gave Strickland no money for 42-year imprisonment, but donors collected $1.6 million for him.

More about the primaries tomorrow!

August 1, 2022

Biden Takes Out al-Queda Leader, DDT Continues Idiocy, More News

In a fit of desperation, Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) told his followers last Saturday that President Joe Biden’s recurrence of COVID is actually “Dementia” and that he is “thinking of moving, part time, to one of those beautiful Wisconsin Nursing Homes, where almost 100% of the residents miraculously … had the strength and energy to vote—even if those votes were cast illegally.” The post on DDT’s Truth Social is ironic on several levels, especially because his associates such as Steve Bannon and Joe Scarborough claim a decline in DDT’s mental abilities, even dementia.

Two days after DDT gave at least three false claims, including illegal votes from Wisconsin nursing homes, Biden, isolated with COVID, gave a brief speech about the U.S. killing of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan:

“Justice has been delivered. And this terrorist leader is no more. No matter how long it takes, no matter where you hide — if you are a threat to our people, the United States will find you and take you out… He carved a trail of murder and violence against American citizens, American service members, American diplomats and American interests.”

A CIA drone strike secretly killed only al-Zawahiri and didn’t hurt anyone else. In 2001, al-Zawahiri, who Rachel Maddow called Osama bin Laden’s “brains,” escaped, but U.S. intelligence located him in downtown Kabul earlier this year in a safe house. Biden has been briefed about ways to kill the al-Qaeda leader without danger to civilians or warning to the Taliban.

After September 11, 2001, al-Zawahiri built al-Qaeda leadership in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Asia, and Yemen. Second in command to bin Laden, he became leader after President Barack Obama killed bin Laden in 2011 and continued to call on attacks against the U.S. and its allies. Attacks were in Bali, Mombasa, Riyadh, Jakarta, Istanbul, Madrid, and London—one of those killing 52 people in 2005. On July 31, al-Zawahiri came out onto a balcony about sunrise, and a drone killed him at 6:18 a.m. (9:48 p.m. ET on Saturday) with two Hellfire missiles.

The administration official said Monday that the Taliban was not warned ahead of the strike against al-Zawahiri, and that the al-Qaeda leader’s presence in the country was a violation of the Doha Agreement signed by the U.S. and the Taliban in 2020.

Biden had been criticized for removing U.S. troops from Afghanstan, but in his speech he said he “made the decision that after 20 years of war, the United States no longer needed thousands of boots on the ground in Afghanistan to protect America from terrorists who seek to do us harm, and I made a promise to the American people, that we continue to conduct effective counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan and beyond. We’ve done just that.” He also gave thanks to the intelligence community for its work in the successful counterterrorism plot for several months with no leaks. This is the man who DDT accuses of having dementia.

Meanwhile, 50 miles from Ground Zero in New York City, where Saudi Arabia bankrolled the killing of thousands of people and sent 15 Saudis to attack the U.S., DDT is hosting the Saudis for the LIV golf tour at Bedminister (NJ). He thinks the tour will help the image of the country seen as having no human rights and murders journalists. DDT said the MBS’ killing of Washington Post’s reporter Jamal Khashoggi has “totally died down.”

In early 2020, NBC reported how DDT ignored intelligence reports on the senior terrorist figures who CIA was trying to find and kill, including al-Zawahiri, because he “had never heard of any of these people.” didn’t recognize the names. He finally picked ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Yemeni al-Qaeda chief Qasim al-Rimi but kept referring to Hamza bin Laden, Osama bin Laden’s youngest son because it was the only name DDT recognized, according to a Pentagon official. Hamza wasn’t planning attacks, but a U.S. airstrike killed him in 2018. Not reading or digesting detailed intelligence assessments, DDT says his “gut tells me more sometimes than anybody’s else’s brains can ever tell me.”

Former CIA official Douglas London, who led a unit targeting senior terrorists in 2018, said DDT had a “preference for a ‘celebrity’ targeted killing versus prioritizing options that could prove better for U.S. security.” London added, “It was not lost on us working the issue that the president pressed hardest for results in the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections.”

After 18 months, DDT’s lawyers have decided to prepare a legal defense against criminal charges from the DOJ, worried about prosecution for DDT’s role in trying to overturn the 2020 election. Efforts exacerbated after Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony on June 12. Possible strategies include shifting blame from DDT to his advisers to find one or more fall guys, free speech, and the right to petition the government over a political grievance.

To support Russian president Vladimir Putin, DDT has also attacked “spoiled” Brittney Griner, saying she was “loaded up with drugs” and deserves to be in a Russian prison. Russian customs found under a gram of cannabis oil, worth about $5, in her luggage; she uses it for pain. Biden is trying to get her released.

Moody’s economists say that the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) will probably live up to its name by cooling inflation and providing a “material beneficial economic impact.” If passed, IRA “will nudge the economy and inflation in the right direction” with the $790 billion package completely paid for by higher taxes on corporations and wealthy households, enhanced enforcement, and lower Medicare drug costs. The bill lowers ACA healthcare premiums, funds clean energy projects, and reduces the government’s deficit. Taxes will slow growth to control price growth. The only question now is whether Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) will stick to corporations and the Republicans.

In a “Mid-year Review,” a Bank of America executive wrote that “we hope” working conditions for working people in the U.S. will get worse so that they lose leverage in the labor market and “help push up the unemployment rate.” It’s his solution for dropping inflation, the reverse of what will be successful. In 2009 during the worst of George W. Bush’s recession, the unemployment ratio was 6.5, over six unemployed workers for every open job, compared to the present ratio of 0.5, two job openings per unemployed person.

The memo ignores the negative effects of high profits while lamenting its problem of high wages. Yet corporate profits are causing a big part of inflation with after-tax corporate profits rising to 11.8 percent from 8.1 percent at the beginning of 2020, an increase of $700 billion in profits per year and creating over 50 percent of recent price increases.

Oil giants ExxonMobil and Chevron reported historic profits from the last three months. Exxon made $17.9 billion (not a typo) last quarter, up 273 percent from the same time last year, while Chevron made $11.6 billion. Exxon’s rate of income was $2,245.62 every second of every day for the past 92 days; Chevron made $1,462.11 per second. Together, BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell, and TotalEnergies announced $60 billion in profits for the past three months. They plan to spend much of the profit not on reinvesting in their businesses but on stock buybacks, which drives up the price of the stock. Gas prices on these profits make up almost half the increase in inflation during the past few months.

Rep. Joe Manchin (R-WV) issued a summary of the agreement that raises $739 billion in ten years:

  • Raising the corporate minimum tax to 15 percent ($313 billion) for businesses over $1 billion.
  • Reducing prescription drug pricing ($288 billion).
  • Increasing IRS tax enforcement ($124 billion).
  • Closing the “carried interest” loophole and taxing it as income ($14 billion).

The summary states the bill would decrease the deficit by over $300 billion, reduce inflation, lower energy costs, increase clean energy production, reduce carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030, create electric vehicle tax credits, allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, cap out-of-pocket drug costs for Medicare recipients at $2,000, and lower the ACA premiums.

Convinced that Manchin had wedded himself to the GOP, Republicans are furious about his betrayal  and “double-cross” in supporting a bill that will make Democrats look good and help the people of the U.S. As satirist Andy Borowitz wrote, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) expelled Manchin from the GOP for “collaborating with the enemy.” In humor, Borowitz concluded his humor column: 

“The party leader said that ‘what hurts the most’ is that Manchin agreed to a deal that mitigates climate change and lowers health-care costs. ‘He no longer deserves to call himself a Republican,’ he said bitterly.”

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) wants to be DDT’s vice president, and Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) claims that a ban on assault-style weapons would force people to eat dogs—as happened in Venezuela—because no one can “protect themselves against a tyrannical government.” She missed the part in her civics class that the Constitution permits guns such as muskets to block a professional army and protect the new nation against foreign countries. Boebert also ignored the ten years in the U.S. when assault-style weapons were banned: no requirement to eat dogs. People in New Zealand aren’t required to eat dogs after assault-style weapons were banned in 2019 after a massacre of 51 people in mosques. Venezuela is a popular scapegoat of the dingy far-right who claimed the 2020 presidential election was rigged by machines approved by Hugo Chavez. He died in 2013.

July 15, 2022

News – Week of July 15, 2022

More January 6: The House January 6 investigative committee plans a primetime hearing on July 21. The committee also issued a subpoena to the U.S. Secret Service requesting records that a Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) appointee said were mistakenly erased.

More Musk: Elon Musk thinks he can force Twitter to pay $1 billion when he reneges on his $44 billion deal to buy the company, but his banks have signed a deal with him to put up the acquisition money. Both Musk and the banks may have trouble breaking their commitment letters. Bank of America, Barclays, and Morgan Stanley aren’t responding to questions.

More Antiabortion: Montana state Rep. Brad Tschida (R), a former majority leader now running for state Senate, emailed over 100 legislators that a woman’s womb “serves no specific purpose to her life or well-being.” He expanded his argument to the local media stating that there is only one organ in a woman’s body “that is not there to serve a purpose for her and that is her womb.” 

The media got excited when obstructionist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) might be joining his party policies. As usual it was wrong. Manchin, a millionaire supported by fossil fuel and pharmaceutical industries, followed his pattern of appearing to negotiate before reneging on any agreements. Just like the Republicans for the past decades, he makes promises if Democrats eliminate important provisions and then fails to follow through after they appease him, this time backing down on legislation regarding climate change, tax legislation, lower prescription drug prices, and an extension of enhanced Affordable Care Act (ACA) subsides for two years. Manchin dumped an agreement that would have raised about $1 trillion in revenue by Rolling back 2017 tax cuts for the wealthy and big business could have raised about $1 trillion with half the money shrinking the deficit that DDT raised by $7.8 trillion in just four years. Savings from negotiating down prescription drug prices would fund ACA subsidies.

Immediately after Travis Herzog, a Texas meteorologist, warned his audience about power outages, the studio lights went out from a power outage. The rolling blackout was not planned, but engineers switched to generators to stay on air. State-controlled electricity returned in two hours before another power outage. Herzog was describing the extreme heat causing outages. Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott had a lot to say about the 53 immigrants who died in a tractor trailer after human traffickers abandoned them in San Antonio but about his failing electric power grid, not so much. 

Eighteen months ago, Abbott’s failures with the power source independent of the U.S. killed hundreds of people in the power outage; now the grid operator wants Texans to turn off appliances during the afternoon in the state producing more natural gas than any other in the nation. In a tight re-election race with Beto O’Rourke, Abbott had promised the grid was fixed after 702 people died in the cold but hasn’t mentioned ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas) since early February when he went on social media to praise the power organization designed to avoid federal regulations. The Texas governor appoints three of four state Public Utility Commission members which has co-oversight of ERCOT with the GOP-dominated state legislature.

In mid-May, the grid’s operator asked users to conserve energy because six power plants went offline with no explanation amid soaring temperatures. Excuses during the winter were frozen equipment; legislation was directed to making the grid more resilient in the cold. Nine months ago, an investigation by NBC News and the Texas Tribune found a vulnerable grid with new regulations permitting companies to avoid improvements. Nothing has been done to repair the problem of keeping enough natural gas for the electric plants.

ERCOT’s pricing strategy during February 2021 caused Brazos Electric, a cooperative operating four plants, to go bankrupt instead of passing along a $2 million bill for a few days of power to members and consumers. Brazos took the Texas power system to court, and former ERCOT CEO Bill Magness testified that Abbott was responsible for maximum costs days after the system was back in business, $9,000 per megawatt hour, over 150 times higher than the average price, hoping big business would cut back on usage. Stuck with same price, all consumers got the same price, and household bills were well over $15,000 for one month of power. The problem of natural gas shortages was ignored

Record temperatures in the 110s and high humidity, called “extreme” and “dangerously hot,” continue to cover Texas. The 105 degrees in Houston matched its highest July temperature recorded. Solar energy works well under the scorching sun, but stagnant winds under the heat dome limit wind generation to about 10 percent of capacity. Other states suffering from these problems could borrow energy from the rest of the U.S., but Texas’ independence makes it helpless. Led by conservatives such as Fox’s Tucker Carlson, Texans ignore the problems from climate change. 

Abbott has been using his “Operation Lone Star” for his re-election campaign, a state-run border control program, but the DOJ is now investigating it for civil rights violations. He assigned over 10,000 National Guard members to act as federal border agents although they have no authority to apprehend or incarcerate migrants crossing the border without legal documentation. Deployed National Guard members state they are being misused, forced to leave their families and jobs to stay idle. For media attention, Abbott performed actions such as busing migrants to Washington, D.C. from the southern border, much to the appreciation of the migrants. Instead of arrests for border and drug issues, the charges were largely trespassing when officials ordered migrants onto private property and then arrested. Jailed without charges for weeks, some of the migrants have filed a class-action lawsuit.

Republicans are building their fascist reputation by inviting Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to open the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Dallas (TX) from August 4-7. Headlining CPAC held in Hungary last May, he outlined the 12 ways leaders can capture and consolidate power, including the control of media’s information. He silenced Hungarian independent media and controls all the nation’s television, newspaper, and online media outlets. Orbán also took control of the judiciary and attacked the few financial institutions not under the control of his far-right Fidesz Party. In Dallas, he will share the stage with Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Fox News host Sean Hannity, and possibly DDT who admires Orbán’s authoritarian leadership style. CPAC stated that Orbán is the “leading voice” in Europe fighting for his people and “everyone who believes in national sovereignty.”

Dominion Voting Systems issued a subpoena to former AG Bill Barr, requiring him to testify in its defamation lawsuit against Fox network. Barr had told the House January 6 investigative committee that he believed the lies about fraud claims regarding Dominion voting machines were “complete nonsense.” Dominion has also subpoenaed DDT’s allies such as attorneys Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, also being sued for defamation by Dominion. Fox has claimed that its fraud accusations are protected by the First Amendment but lost its motion to dismiss the case in December 2021. The trial is scheduled for April 2023. Dominion has filed at least eight lawsuits concerning the conspiracy theory after the 2020 election, including Fox’s parent company Fox Corporation after the company refused to give Dominion documents from Rupert Murdoch and his son Lachlan.

DDT’s former national security adviser John Bolton talked about the work needed to “plan [a] coups d’état” but excused DDT by saying he didn’t really mean to “overthrow the Constitution.” Bolton cited the unsuccessful attempt to remove Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro when DDT recognized Venezuela’s opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, as interim president. Maduro stayed, and Bolton was fired.

Between 1947 and 1989, the U.S. attempted 72 times to change another nation’s government, including 66 covert operations, not including pre-Cold War interventions in Hawaii, Costa Rica, and Cuba.  Obviously, Bolton was too young for those in Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), Syria (1949, 1956, and 1957), Cuba (1959), Congo (early to mid 1960s), Vietnam (1964), and Chile (1973) after Bolton was an aide to Spiro Agnew in 1972. In the 1980s, Reagan secretly worked to overthrow the Sandinistas in Nicaragua by supporting the Contras. During George H.W. Bush’s administration, the U.S. invaded Panama to overthrow Manuel Noriega, and in 1991, the U.S. invaded Iraq while Bolton was still in the State Department. He later advocated for Bill Clinton to send troops into Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein and succeeded with George W. Bush in 2003, pushing the myth of WMDs. Bolton would have been involved with military operations in Afghanistan in 2001 and argued after 20 years that Joe Biden should not have pulled out of the country. 

World leaders took note of Bolton’s coup offhand remarks. Evo Morales, former Bolivian president ousted from office in 2019, tweeted Bolton’s remarks showed that the U.S. was “the worst enemy of democracy and life.” Maria Zakharova, spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry, called for an international investigation into Bolton’s statements. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said, “This is no surprise. The admission simply shows that interfering in other countries’ internal affairs and overthrowing their governments have become the standard practice of the U.S. government.” Turkish media supportive of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan tied Bolton’s coup comments to the failed attempt to overthrow the Turkish government in July 2016.

Now Republicans are trying to overthrow the U.S. government.

April 11, 2022

Happenings from the Past Few Days – 4/11/22

During the past several weeks, the media had a lot to say about into Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife, Ginni Thomas, after the discovery of her texts with former chief of staff Mark Meadows for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) strategizing the overturn of Joe Biden’s legal win in the 2020 presidential election. These weren’t the only conflicts of interest from his wife’s involvement in corporate and far-right political activities—or Thomas’ personal activities. Conservatives claimed Ginni Thomas has First Amendment rights and that spouses could do anything they want, that her lobbying has nothing to do with Thomas’ decision on the court.

The latest story, however, concerns the justice himself; this photo shows him supporting Herschel Walker, DDT’s candidate for Georgia’s U.S. senator. Walker will likely use it for his campaign. Although personal ethics have kept justices out of political campaigning until now, the Supreme Court has no mandate for judicial ethics, unlike for every other judicial position in the U.S. Republicans accused Ketanji Brown Jackson, confirmed as the first Black female justice about her prejudice for affirmative action although no white person has been accused of bias.  decisions. She plans to recuse herself because of her relationship with Harvard, but Thomas will almost surely not recuse himself from any cases involving Walker’s election. [Visual – Thomas Walker]

In a harbinger of future GOP control, a woman was jailed for homocide in southeastern Texas for a “self-induced” abortion. The Texas vigilante law against abortion is civil, not criminal, and state law specifically exempts people from criminal homicide charges for having abortions. For now. The DA’s office got an indictment from a grand jury with a $500,000 bail, but the backlash against the DA’s action forced him to release her. The hospital staff reported her miscarriage after she told them she tried to induce her abortion.

Fed up with Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) rejection of democracy when he joined Republicans to block the right to vote, the “Coal Baron Blockade” gathered at the Grant Town Power plant. Police started arresting protesters where Manchin earns $500,000 a year from the use of coal waste from Enersystems, owned by Manchin’s son. Manchin also refused to vote for the Democratic Build Back Better Act because it promotes renewable sources and extends the Child Tax Credit, paid family leave, and other anti-poverty measures. West Virginia is the second poorest state in the U.S., up from the third poorest since Manchin went into leadership. In 2006, Manchin, then governor, oversaw the increase of electricity from Grant Town from $27.25 per megawatt to $34.25, giving West Virginians some of the highest electricity rate increases in the nation because of coal.  

Elon Musk, Tesla CEO, paid almost $3 billion for 9.2 percent of Twitter’s private stock shares and went on its board. He planned to stop Twitter from blocking white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and Deposed Donald Trump (DDT). The company said that his appointment was “contingent on a background check and formal acceptance”; Musk said he won’t be joining the board. Musk no longer has the board restriction of owning no more than 14.9 percent of the shares and can now publicly share all his comments about Twitter. Over the weekend, Musk tweeted removing the “w” from Twitter and questioned whether Twitter is “dying” because some of its most-followed accounts don’t often tweet. He criticized Twitter for not permitting free speech.

Six months after DDT’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, left the White House, Saudi Arabia sank $2 billion into Kushner’s new private equity firm, Affinity Partners. The screening panel for investments opposed the loan based on its risk, but Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman mandated the loan within a few days. The money could be either payback for Kushner’s past favors while he was in the White House or hope for future ones if DDT wins another presidential term. Or both. Kushner led the defense of his good friend MBS after he approved the 2018 murder and dismemberment of U.S. journalist Jamal Khashoggi and orchestrated $110 billion in weapons sales to Saudi. In addition, Kushner had access to sensitive information after DDT overrode the denial of his security clearance from concern about his foreign connections. Kushner’s few investors are foreign. 

Kushner got twice as much—with more generous terms—than former Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin for his new fund. Munchin also did favors for Saudi Arabians. He chaired a committee vetting merger deals with foreign companies and “shaped” the new fund to permit foreign government investments.

Two years ago, DDT’s inaugural committee was investigated for selling access to foreign governments, money that could be moved on to DDT. He made at least $200 million from foreign deals while he was in the White House and had 3,403 conflicts of interest during the time, according to the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). 

Saudis may be disappointed about DDT’s chance as a 2024 candidate. Although becoming president might keep him out of prison, he turns 78 several months before the election, and his health doesn’t look good. Recognizing that, at least nine leading Republicans have PACs collecting a war chest for possible presidential campaigns. Until candidates declare themselves, they don’t need to divulge any funding. Pence’s Advancing American Freedom spent $787,000 in the past year. Sen. Tim Scott’s (R-SC) group collected $650,000, far less than the $9.3 million gathered in 2020 by Nikki Haley’s Stand for America. One-third of that sum was spent on fundraising in 2021. Democrats with non-profit groups include Joe Biden, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, but they are more quiet than the GOP ones.

Texts to Meadows from DDT’s older son, Donald Trump Jr., two days after the 2020 election—before it was called for Biden—show he was a leader in trying to keep his father in the White House. Jr. asked Meadows to communicate his stragegies to “everyone that needs to see it.” His message:

 “It’s very simple … We have multiple paths[.] We control them all.”

Jr.’s texts laid out the same ones that DDT’s team pursued to spread lies about election fraud and pressure state and local officials: lawsuits in swing states (which were rejected) and “having a handful of Republican state houses put forward slates of fake ‘Trump electors.’” If those failed, Jr. wanted lawmakers to reject electoral results and vote in DDT. The texts may implicate DDT’s former trade adviser Peter Navarro as well as Meadows in corrupt obstruction of an official proceeding and conspiracy to defraud the US.

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), vice-chair of the House January 6 investigation committee, said it was “absolutely clear” that DDT and several people around him knew their actions were “unlawful” but “did it anyway.” She called it “a massive and well-organized and well-planned effort that used multiple tools to try to overturn an election.”

QAnon people have become fixated on sex-trafficking and education about racism but don’t mind kidnapping plots for elected officials—if they are Democrats. A Michigan jury acquitted two men charged with their plan to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer; the other two weren’t convicted because of a hung jury. State Rep. Laurie Pohutsky, a Democrat, said that one of the acquitted men had threatened to kill her. The defense attorney used the excuse of dirty FBI tactics and “rough talk.” Talk about killing the governor, blowing up a bridge, and other violence wasn’t shocking, according to the men’s attorney. At the time of the threats and plots, DDT had supported violence in Michigan, but the rationale for acquittal was the men’s weakness, that they were easily influenced.

Facing competition from Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) and DDT’s former VP Mike Pence for a platform, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) came out with—something. It wants continued immediate expulsion of noncitizens, even refugees, a talking point after Biden lifted the COVID excuse to not permit these people into the U.S.

As for the remainder of the platform, McConnell said it “will be focused on … crime, education, beefing up the defense of our country.” Missing from his “platform” are the economy (which is good), abortion (because anti-abortion is getting unpopular), taxes (which infuriated people after Scott’s desire for “skinning” poor people), and inflation (which McConnell can’t figure out a solutions).

In her article “Cancel Your Disney Vacation and Go to Dollywood Instead,” Joy Pullmann, managing editor of the conservative Federalist and research fellow at the Heartland Institute, gives the usual conservative damning comments about Disney because they objected to Florida’s “don’t say gay” law. Instead she advocates for Dolly Parton’s playground in Tennessee because Disney’s support for LGBTQ rights “works to undermine sexual wholeness. Pullmann also has a “fact-checking” column; she missed some of this information:

  • Dolly supports marriage equality.
  • Many in the LGBTQ community consider her a gay icon.
  • She advocated for trans people in the midst of North Carolina’s bathroom bill and called it bad legislation.
  • She frequently dedicates her hit “Jolene” to drag queens who dress like her at concerts.  
  • She contributed an Oscar-nominated hit song to Transamerica.

Thus far Pullmann doesn’t seem to have made any comments about the hilarity her article ensued.

February 7, 2022

Protest, Discrimination Dominate News

On Monday, the news from Washington keeps pouring in. Some pieces and updates from the past few days:

The worst news of the day may be that the Supreme Court overturned a three-judge panel by permitting the Alabama redistrict map to violate Section 2 of the Voter Rights Act while the case is adjudicated. Gerrymandering allows Black voters in only one of seven congressional districts to elect a candidate of their choice although the state is 27 percent Black. Chief Justice John Roberts joined the three progressive justices in dissent to the majority that determined they will consider the legitimacy of the 1965 law, partially rejected by the high court in 2013.

The fallout from the RNC censure of two of their House members, Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger (IL), received reactions on the Sunday talk shows. Like Democrats, a few Republicans condemned the resolution exonerating the insurrectionists on January 6: Alaska’s Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Don Young, Arkansas’ Gov. Asa Hutchinson, and Utah’s Sen. Mitt Romney. Others avoided the topic or put a spin on the resolution: Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) switched to saying former VP “Mike Pence did his constitutional duty” on January 6, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said people “who committed crimes … should be prosecuted” but that wasn’t the responsibility of the House committee, “a partisan scam.” Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) used the RNC line from Chair Ronna McDaniel that the resolution was only for “legitimate protesters” although it wasn’t restricted.   

An editorial from the conservative National Review called the censure “both morally repellent and politically self-destructive” as well as “an indefensible disgrace.”

On the Fox network, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) smeared House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on Fox network, saying that the Chinese government has something “strong” on her and promising an investigation into Pelosi and President Biden’s families being compromised by their interests. All Republicans except one voted against almost $300 billion to build U.S. competition against China in a bill passed by the Housem and Pelosi has repeatedly criticized human rights in China from the Tiananmen massacre of 1989 to the current maltreatment of Uyghurs.

Last week, a big story about Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) was aides taping together the documents that DDT illegally tore up while he was in the Oval Office. Some were sent to the Archives in pieces. This week, the story moved on to how the National Archives had to rescue 15 boxes of official documents from DDT’s Mar-a-Lago home, including letters from Barack Obama and Kim Jong Un and national security sensitive records. The Presidential Records Act requires all written communications from a president’s official duties such as memos, letters, notes, emails, and faxes be preserved. Records personnel called the preservation of DDT’s documents the most challenging since President Richard Nixon tried to hide official materials almost a half century ago. DDT may illegally have more records. 

Former White House staffers said that they frequently sent documents in “burn bags” to the Pentagon to be incinerated, choosing what would be destroyed. Presidential historian Lindsay Chervinsky said DDT’s behavior “reflects a conviction that he was above the law.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) abandoned his constituents without electricity during bitter cold last winter with a trip to Cancun, even leaving the family dog alone in his ice-cold house. This year, the man vehemently opposed to any “lockdowns” during the pandemic crisis wants to starve people because the Vancouver (British Columbia) mayor told truckers protesting COVID vaccination mandates that they should stay away. Truckers in the so-called “Freedom Convoy” have protested for almost two weeks in Ottawa against the requirement that they be vaccinated before permission to drive across the border into the U.S. About 90 percent of truck drivers are already vaccinated.

 Canada isn’t following Cruz’s idea to clear off grocery store shelves. Ottawa police have declared an emergency in the country’s capital and are arresting demonstrators, issuing over 500 tickets, and seizing vehicles and fuel after protesters shot off fireworks, blared horns, and blocked streets. Over 60 investigations have been opened into thefts, hate crimes, and property damage. Other violations are lack of vehicle insurance and obstruction of license plates as well as defacing national monuments and dancing on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Staff members at the soup kitchen Shepherds of Good Hope were “harassed” and verbally assaulted with racial slurs. A GoFundMe website, which had given protect leaders one million dollars shut down and returned the rest of the money, and organizers are turning to a Christian crowdfunding site.

The convoy also faces a $9.8 million class-action suit for Ottawa citizens in blasting air horns 16 hours a day while jamming streets. Protesters also harass residents and shoppers, even assaulting some of them and ripping off their masks. They are moving to Toronto, Winnipeg, Quebec City, and other provincial capitals in what Ottawa’s police chief calls a “siege.” A man was arrested in Winnipeg for a hit and run when he drove into the protesters and injured four people outside of Manitoba legislature. Another convoy supporter in Toronto threw feces at someone. Demonstrators in Vancouver threw eggs and rocks, kicked cars, and placed nails along roadways; five people were arrested. Convoy supporters block the Canada-U.S. border between Alberta and Montana with cars, trucks, and tractors.

While a winter storm blasts his Texas constituents and the energy grid hasn’t been repaired, Cruz is taking up the cause of the poor trucker protesters in Canada. (After all, he was born there!) He plans an investigation by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission into the removal of the GoFundMe site (a private and not a public entity), declaring the shutdown of funding “theft.” The site claims the money will be returned within 7 to 10 days because of COVID disinformation about vaccines. Cruz called the Canadian truckers “heroes” and “patriots.” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, in a state with 5,677,802 COVID cases and 66,007 deaths, has joined Cruz’s bandwagon, both of them aiming toward president, as has Donald Trump Jr. demanding GOP AGs to investigate. Those in Louisiana, Texas, and West Virginia agree with Jr. Other complainers include Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), currently being investigated by the House January 6 committee, and Elon Musk, head of Tesla.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance and the Ontario Trucking Association disavow the protest, and University of Ottawa associate criminology professor Michael Kempa said the movement is organized and funded by an autocratic political agenda, including U.S. interests, and to undermine Canadian rule of law and democracy. “They’re not interested in the … liberal system we have here in Canada,” Kempa said.

The trucker convoy may embolden more violence in the United States. DDT supporter Steve Lynch, a GOP candidate in Pennsylvania, talked about opposition to mask mandates in front of a crowd at the state capitol in Harrisburg:

“Forget going into these school boards with freaking data. You go into these school boards to remove them. I’m going in with 20 strong men and I’m gonna give them an option—they can leave or they can be removed.”

Other similar interventions across the nation include physical assaults and verbal racial slurs.

Two other GOP wishful presidential candidates are also in trouble with Republicans. The Texas National Guard is criticizing its governor, Greg Abbott, for their deployments with only days notice to the Mexican border last fall. According to complaints, they lost money when they had to leave college, jobs and businesses to sit around for perhaps a year. Their Guard pay is either late, incorrect, or nonexistent, and at least 20 percent of the 6,500 in the “operational force” suffer from lack of critical equipment such as cold weather gear, medical equipment, and plates for ballistic vests while they rarely see any migrants. Deployment is typically a federal call with the state doing so only in short deployments for natural disasters or civil disturbances. Abbott is also taking heat for his mismanagement of the COVID crisis and the collapse of the state’s power grid, leaving millions without electricity or heat for days in below freezing temperatures.

In South Dakota, GOP lawmakers are getting fed up with Gov. Kristi Noem because of her possessive attitude toward bills and budgets instead of giving credit to legislators. Political observers think she may even have trouble winning a re-election. A strong DDT supporter, Noem is being investigated for her extensive use of state airplanes to attend out-of-state conservative political gatherings, trips she has tied to keep secret. Another of her scandals was a push for the state to give her daughter a real estate appraiser license. According to state Sen. Reynold Nesiba, “She’s not very good at being a governor.”

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) has another reason why he wants to destroy the Build Back Better jobs bill that would help a vast majority of people in the U.S., especially those in his own state: it didn’t go through committee. Never mind that he helped write the bipartisan bill with GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski (AK). He left out the part that GOP megadonors are giving him hundreds of thousands of dollars for his campaign as long as he blocks the

“We are suffering because the Senate could find trillions in less than two years for corporations but can’t protect voting rights and invest a few trillion over 10 years in the people.”

And Congress needs to pass a budget in order to prevent a government shutdown on February 19. As usual, they are negotiating a stopgap bill for another short term, “as short as you can,” according to Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO).  

January 16, 2022

Republicans Love Manchinema for Fighting Filibuster

“We have but one democracy. We can only survive, we can only keep her, if we do so together.” That was one statement in Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s (D-AZ) speech announcing that she was “together” with the Republicans and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WY) to oppose the filibuster and destroy the possibility for passing the voting rights bill to protect democracy. She was already “together” with Republicans—and Manchin—in opposing jobs and other benefits for people in the United States through the Build Back Better bill. 

Sinema’s speech was less than 45 minutes before President Joe Biden came to ask all 50 Democratic senators to change Senate rules for only allowing the voting rights legislation. She concluded:

“I am committed to doing my part to avoid toxic political rhetoric, to build bridges, to forge common ground, and to achieve lasting results for Arizona and this country.”

Her aim is for personal bridges and common ground with Republicans but not Democrats plus authoritarianism in both “Arizona and this country.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is ecstatic about this victory with Manchin and Sinema, which he thinks could lead him back to being Senate Majority Leader in 2023. Therefore, McConnell is working harder to lie in his hypocrisy and threats to destroy Democrats if they change the filibuster. After pandering to the behavior of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) for over four years, McConnell called Biden “profoundly unpresidential” in his Georgia speech about voting rights. McConnell’s first favor for DDT was to hold up the nomination for Supreme Court justice with no hearing for 293 days so that DDT could nominate Neil Gorsuch, who justified his wiping out a vaccine mandate with ignorance about the extent of the pandemic danger. McConnell then pushed the confirmation of Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s replacement to eight days before the election that DDT lost and Biden won—after declaring four years earlier that “the people should decide.” McConnell declared, “Major changes need major buy-in.

The most prominent anti-abortion group is leading the charge to keep the filibuster, from the Dutch word for pirates. Toward that end, the Susan B. Anthony List co-founded the misnamed Election Transparency Initiative to block the federal voting rights bill. Allowing all eligible people would permit them to vote for reproductive rights. Anti-abortionists’ need for the filibuster is not a call for a legislative tradition—just rigging laws for the conservatives. And their advertising praises Manchin and Sinema. The group also opposes the addition of seats to the supreme Court because they already have six conservatives to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade, permitting abortion for the first trimester.

McConnell wields the filibuster as a political tool that he controls; after January 6, he used it to block an independent bipartisan commission. GOP senators would have voted for either one of the voting rights bills, but McConnell didn’t allow even a debate on either one. He claimed the end of the filibuster would cause a takeover, but he’s already done that with the help of two Democratic senators. 

Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner published evidence against the GOP arguments for keeping the filibuster that blocks legislation:

With the increased use of the filibuster, the Senate has become increasingly partisan.

The use of the filibuster blocks collaboration: Republicans are now evading any responsibility to shape bills on education, climate change, taxes, immigration, war, etc.  

The filibuster permits senators to hide from voting on any bills, and thus hide sharing their political positions from the voters.

The U.S. public becomes more and more angry about congressional gridlock, and the filibuster promotes it.

Like Republicans, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WY) either knows nothing about the filibuster or flat-out lies about it. Recently, he touted the “tradition” of the practice for “232 years.” The Founding Fathers, however, were opposed to supermajorities and didn’t not put the filibuster into the 232-year-old U.S. Constitution. “Father of the Constitution” James Madison wrote that the requirement for supermajority would reverse “the fundamental principle of free government,” transferring the power to the minority. Alexander Hamilton called it a “poison” and wrong “to subject the sense of the greater number to that of the lesser… [If] a pertinacious minority can control the opinion of a majority,” [the result would be] “tedious delays; continual negotiation and intrigue; contemptible compromises of the public good.”

The filibuster requires only 41 senators to block any bill from moving forward. Those 41 Republicans represent only 21 percent of the U.S. population for the voting rights bill supported by 67 percent of the population. The only issues requiring a supermajority by the Founding Fathers is impeachment, expulsion of members, overriding a presidential veto, ratification of treaties, and constitutional amendments. True textualists in the Supreme Court instead of the faux ones sitting on the bench would overturn the filibuster.

For almost a century after the Civil War, the filibuster, first used in 1841, was primarily used to block rights for Blacks such as voting and anti-lynching. In 1917, Woodrow Wilson’s Senate ended filibusters with a two-thirds vote, and the number was dropped to 60 in the 1970s. At that time, the rules also didn’t require non-stop talking to continue the filibuster: it just needed 41 votes. When the Democrats took the Senate and McConnell became Senate Minority Leader in 2007, the Republicans began using the filibuster with excessive frequency. In 2009 when Barack Obama became president, the GOP minority blocked every significant piece of legislation because of the 60-vote requirement. The 67 filibusters that year were double the two decades between 1950 and 1969. The next year added another 60 filibusters.

Sinema’s fake flowery speech came after the House passed a bill with new voting rights protections with a party line vote of 220 to 203. The bill came from a combination of the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act with a measure covering NASA. The Senate can then be brought directly to the floor for debate without a filibuster although Republicans can block it from the final vote.

One important provision of the voting bill, which Republicans find offensive, was the restoration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 provision requiring permission for new election laws by states with histories of voting rights violation. When the Supreme Court struck down that provision in 2013, Chief Justice John Roberts recommended Congress replace the provision with a law. Republicans also find no voter suppression in the 33 laws already passed by 19 states since the 2020 election, laws that highly restrict access to submitting ballots.  [visual: voting Reich voting poster]

Other provisions of the House voting rights bill:

  • Fifteen days of early voting.
  • Easier voter registration, including online registration and automatic registration at state motor vehicle agencies.
  • Same-day and automatic registration.
  • Removal of election officials without justification made more difficult.
  • Protection of election workers and records, making it a federal crime to intimidate, threaten, or coerce election officials, poll workers, and election volunteers doing their jobs.
  • Voters going to court ensuring their votes are’t eliminated made easier.
  • Ability to vote by mail for any reason.
  • National standard of forms with wide range of identifying documents and electronic copies for states requiring voter ID.
  • Election Day a national holiday
  • Keep voting lines to 30 minutes or fewer.
  • Creation of or increased penalties for intimidating and deceiving voters with disinformation about elections.
  • Restoration of federal voting rights to people with felony convictions after their release from prison.
  • Outlawing of partisan gerrymandering for congressional maps with neutral redistricting standards and transparency in the process.
  • Protection of election workers and records, making it a federal crime to intimidate, threaten, or coerce election officials, poll workers, and election volunteers doing their jobs.
  • Requirements and regulations keeping election materials from use in partisan ballot reviews.
  • Disclosure of donations by doors spending over $10,000 in one election reporting cycle.
  • New rules to separate super PAC operations from campaigns.
  • Small-donor matching program for House candidates who opt in.
  • Federal Election Commission permitted to be less dependent on a majority of members for new investigations by allowing the commission’s general council to investigate and issue subpoenas.
  • Addition of Native American Voting Right Act to make it easier for voters on tribal lands such as polling sites and voter registration on tribal lands.

Despite the rule of the filibuster, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) may have an alternative to the requirement for 60 votes to even debate the voting rights bill. A process called “messages between the houses” moves bills back and forth between the two congressional chambers. It has been used for both of them to agree on the final bill’s language. Usually done for amendments, these “messages” can be put before the Senate without debate. Attaching the voting rights bill to the NASA bill, already passed several times between the chambers, can remove the filibuster for the voting rights bill. This process may not get the 50 necessary votes to pass the Senate, but it forces naysayers to openly vote against rights for people.  [visual: voting nice sticker]

December 31, 2021

2021: A Year of Denial

The past tumultuous year has largely been marked by insurrection, inauguration, and infections—all major event which Republicans denied. Within a month after January 6, GOP congressional members were either silent about the attack by supporters of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) on the U.S. Capitol or they denied any violence by the people they called “tourists” despite five dead people and 140 wounded—many in law enforcement. Some naysayers still falsely accuse the “antifa” (literally anti-fascists) for the unprecedented desecration by domestic terrorists. Also overlooked is the attempt to overturn the election by 147 congressional members who challenged legal electoral votes after the attack and mostly continue to support the “Big Lie” of a “stolen” election. That leadership, plus DDT’s unremitting similar claims, results in 71 percent of Republicans declaring Biden is not their president. 

Denial of the inauguration matches the denial of the insurrection as DDT and his supporters continue their march to a coup by declaring DDT the “true” president. Violent militia members use denial of Joe Biden as the legally elected president in their supposed “First Amendment” rights in court cases—a defense struck down by even DDT-appointed and GOP-confirmed judges. The abject fear of losing elections has led to 19 states passing 33 new voter-suppression laws, not only turning the voting process over to Republicans but also giving legislatures the right to change legal state ballot counts if the election officials don’t fall in line with the party. These laws have accompanied a huge spate of threats to election officials, who then resigned. To illustrate the severe national polarization, at least 25 states enacted 62 laws to expand voting access.

Big judicial cases dominated much of the year. The cases of three killed Black men brought three convictions: the police officer who killed George Floyd, a police officer who “accidentally” killed Daunte Wright, and three men who killed Ahmaud Abrey. After a police officer received “immunity” for killing a schizophrenic man by kneeling on his neck for 14 minutes in 2016, the family finally has the right to take the case to civil court. Ghislaine Maxwell was convicted of federal sex trafficking after recruiting and grooming teenage girls sexually abused by her former boyfriend, Jeffrey Epstein, who died in prison.

Teenager Kyle Rittenhouse, who killed two men and wounded another while gunning for them, was acquitted and became a far-right hero.  DDT escaped conviction in his second impeachment trial, going on to control the GOP—much to the dismay of most Republicans. Now he’s bilking GOP donors to pay for his ongoing criminal cases. 

Upcoming court cases will include those for a teenage boy who shot and killed four classmates and injured another seven while his parents have been charged with abetting his actions. This horrific event was one of almost 700 mass shootings during the year in the United States.

As cases and deaths from COVID skyrocket, conservatives, especially Christian evangelists, deny both the effectiveness of vaccines and the existence of huge numbers of people suffering and dying from the coronavirus. With his desire to live in the White House, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has tried to block every public health policy to keep people safer, including his fight to permit cruise ships to land at his docks. This past week, Florida had its highest level of COVID cases, 31,758 new infections, since the pandemic started in February 2020 and its third COVID outbreak on a Florida-based cruise ship. In the past two weeks, cruise ships in U.S. waters reported 5,013 COVID cases, up from 162 cases during the previous two weeks. Overall, the U.S. has 265,000 reported cases average for a week, up 60 percent from the previous week. Only 62 percent of people in the U.S. have been vaccinated. Yesterday, the U.S. experienced 572,019 infections with 1,362 deaths.

Denial of climate change has led to more horrific disasters in 2021 with fires, the most recent one this December described as the worst one in Colorado’s history and tornadoes, the deadliest one in history and staying on the ground for a 250-mile swath, earlier in December.

The so-called “culture wars” are leading to states passing laws against the non-existent teaching of “critical race theory,” expanding into a censorship of curriculum and library books not seen for decades. School boards are calling for the burning of books about racism and LGBTQ rights issues or being physically threatened and attacked for not following the wishes of “parents,” sometimes childless violent protesters who don’t live in the districts.

The worst denial for the year is how well Biden is administering. Immediately after his inauguration, he used the Defense Production Act to purchase more vaccines and coordinate the transportation to states. The project would have been a success except for the concerted effort of Republicans to remain unvaccinated, partly to thwart any achievement on the part of Democrats. As vaccinations waned from GOP opposition, mandates issued by Biden and government entities were sent to courts where several of them were overturned by DDT-appointed judges. When death rates for Republicans tripled those for Democrats, even before the Omicron variant, conservatives blamed Biden for not stopping the disease that the GOP made worse by rejecting vaccinations.

Throughout the year, Biden worked to improve the economy with the successes—and problems—described in yesterday’s post. The U.S. would be in even better shape if Republicans, aided by Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) had not blocked the second infrastructure bill by denying that people needed any money. With no or almost no GOP votes, Biden succeeded in moving three must-pass bills through Congress in December: the budget, the increase in the debt ceiling, and the military appropriations bills.

The biggest problem this year would be if Congress had not increased the amount permitted to cover the nation’s debts, raised $7.8 trillion by Republicans and DDT during his four-year term. Republican senators use the filibuster, a requirement of 60 percent approval to debate a bill, for all major Democratic bills, but knew the country could not default on its debt. To these senators, the filibuster is sacred—unless they want something—so they waived the filibuster this one time while not one of them voted to increase the debt ceiling. Again, a denial that the filibuster is really necessary unless Republicans say it is. The GOP-permitted debt ceiling increase of a paltry $2.5 trillion is good only until 2023 when Republicans hope to control Congress.

With no discussion of inflation or debt ceiling, the military appropriations bill passed at $25 billion higher than Biden and the Pentagon requested while protecting Saudi Arabia. Congress tacked on 12 additional F/A-18 Super Hornets, five extra Boeing F-15EX jets than the request for 17 total, and five more ships including two attack submarines and two destroyers. The president can also declare war, in opposition to the Constitution. The $768 billion, over four times the request in the Build Back Better bill, takes 65 percent of the budget’s discretionary spending. Once again, denial for domestic needs because of funding for “the military-industrial complex,” something President Dwight Eisenhower warned about 63 years ago.  

Unlike the military appropriations bill, the general budget faced a rocky road because Republicans, like Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) who was formerly Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) chief of staff, wanted to block the bill in his effort to stop Biden’s vaccine mandates. Not funding the United States would close down the nation like many other GOP shutdowns. Roy’s idea received traction from the Senate with Mike Lee (R-UT) leading the charge. Eventually, the Continuing Resolution to keep the government open until another showdown on February 18, 2022, passed the House with only one GOP vote, Illinois’ Adam Kinsinger.

QAnon Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), most recently known for her idea that people moving from blue states to red states should be fined and blocked from voting, gave her rationale for a shutdown vote—“The people in here cannot control themselves.” Eleven months before her win in a solidly red district, Greene moved there from a district electing a Democrat. 

In attempts to salvage the U.S. standing in the world, where the nation fell to a “flawed democracy” for the first time, Biden worked to revive the Iran nuclear agreement while rejoining the Paris Climate Accords and the World Health Organization. As Russian president Vladimir Putin threatens the autonomy of Ukraine, Biden is communicating to stop the giant power—and prevent a world war.

After the U.S. occupied Afghanistan for 20 years following George W. Bush’s preemptive war against the country, Biden fulfilled past promises to pull troops out of the country—much to the dismay of all the people who had demanded the administration follow through with the promises. Once again, conservatives denied that DDT had made a deal with the Taliban for doing this and left only 2,500 military members in the country.

In the corporate world, Mark Zuckerberg changed his company name to “Meta,” trying to deny the bad press he received from helping destroy people’s lives with “Facebook” as reported by whistleblowers. Thus far no one seems to have noticed the name change. AT&T was outed as the bankroller for One America News Network (OANN), which Salon called “one of the most corrosive news channels in America.” AT&T denied their actions which were backed by evidence. Caught in a Greenpeace sting, two Exxon lobbyists openly admitted the company had blocked effective climate action and bragged about using the American Petroleum Institute as Exxon’s “whipping boys.” Exxon CEO Darren Woods denied the comments.

Tonight is New Year’s Eve. You can top off the year with these holiday songs. 

December 22, 2021

Fallout of Lord Manchin’s Anti-BBB Continues

The man who controls the fate of democracy and economy in the United States deserves another column. Sen. Joe Manchin (R-WY) has arrogantly stalled for months and used his personal needs to change the Build Back Better (BBB) act. He also preened about demanding bipartisanship for federal voting act to remove some of the state’s oppression before voting with all the Republicans and only one other Democrat to remove President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for large private businesses’ employees. Now his feelings are hurt.

During all these months, his colleagues and the people in the White House treated him with courtesy while changing and changing the parameters of BBB depending on which way Manchin’s hot air blew. Democrats finally got fed up after he said “no!” to the bill to help the nation’s people and its economy on the Fox network with no heads up to Democratic leadership and only 30 minutes warning to the White House. He pompously said, “They know the real reason what happened. They won’t tell you and I’m not going to.” He further claimed that it’s the “staff [who] put some things out that were absolutely inexcusable.”

A week ago, a conversation about Manchin’s opposition to the child tax credit was supposedly leaked. When a reporter asked about his position, Manchin called the question “bullshit.” In the midst of his whining this week, Manchin said he knew from the beginning, five months ago, that the negotiations would fail but he kept all the Democrats, including Biden, dangling at the end of his line.

Manchin also said that no one would make any concessions, despite the reduction of the bill by one half to $175 billion a year for ten years. For Manchin, Democrats shrank problems such as paid leave from 12 to four weeks and eliminated such major policies as Biden’s biggest idea to cut emissions, the Clean Electricity Performance Program. Manchin still opposes any paid leave: he claims people in West Virginia use it only to go deer hunting.

Manchin complained about a child tax credit being an “entitlement” and accused his constituents of using all the money for drugs. Parents receiving this tax credit since this spring’s American Rescue Plan have mostly used the money in these ways:    

  • 43 percent – pay down debts.
  • 20 percent – saved it.
  • 37 percent – bought food, clothing, housing, and child care.

Following Manchin’s skewed rationale, people should not receive wages. He also thinks it’s okay for people to have highly inflated stock increases—like he does—but any welfare should be highly restricted. West Virginians have noted the inequality between them and their senators; he bought a yacht for his Washington, D.C. home and drives a Maserati, costing three times the state’s annual median income. Will Bunch has this description of Lord Manchin.

A flotilla of activists to demand that he support the Build Back Better Act.

Last fall, protesters from West Virginia kayaked around Manchin’s yacht to beg for jobs, lower drug prices, climate protection, and other provisions in BBB. He assured them that the rich would pay their “fair share” and that the bill would be a success.

The latest protest to Manchin’s actions came from Josh Sword, president of the West Virginia AFL-CIO, who stated that BBB also helps the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund benefits for the state’s coal miners. Other BBB provisions are protecting collective bargaining and workers’ organizing, creating home care workers jobs, expanding senior and disabled care, and investing $4 billion in coal communities “to attract manufacturing companies that will provide good-paying, union jobs.”

The United Mine Workers also want BBB because the bill calls for alternative energy manufacturing in “coal-producing areas of the country.” Fossil fuel jobs will certainly keep declining, and BBB will give displaced workers a greater chance for replacement jobs. Since 2012, 45,000 coal mining jobs have been lost, many of them under DDT. Although Manchin has supported tax credits for equipment manufacturing in alternative energy industries, he now objects to BBB’s climate provisions such as subsidies for fossil fuel companies’ transition.

Manchin said he opposes BBB because of his made-up threats, but these are the real threats without BBB:

  • Child poverty increased by 40 percent, destroying parents’ ability to provide food, shelter, sustenance, and upward mobility necessary for the future of the United States. U.S. child poverty will continue to be the highest in the developed world, resulting in lack of health for children into their adulthood.
  • Lack of universal pre-kindergarten, making young people less likely to graduate from high school and attend college as well as making them more likely to be arrested, need welfare, and be unemployed as adults. Pre-K participants pay more taxes because they make higher wages.
  • No extended healthcare subsidies decreasing life expectancy. Infant and maternal mortality rates will continue to be far behind other developed countries.
  • Lack of childcare keeping 20 million women out of the workforce.
  • Continued high drug prices producing illness for people who cannot afford inflated costs for such medications as insulin controlling diabetes. As President Joe Biden pointed out, drug companies are selling a formula costing from $.10 to $10 to make at $560 to $650 a month, perhaps even $1,000.
  • Increased climate warming with ensuing biodiversity extinction, more erratic—and lethal—weather patterns, and rising seas.
  • A delay to the future costing higher interest rates.

Manchin depicts West Virginians as independent, undeserving of “entitlements,” but 32 percent of its residents’ personal income, higher than any other state in the nation, comes from the government—retirement, disability, medical, welfare, veterans, unemployment, education, and training.

Goldman Sachs responded to Manchin’s “No!” by predicting that his killing the BBB would shrink the GDP from three to two percent because failure to pass the bill had “negative growth implications.” The bill’s vision is pre-1981—good jobs for households and a focus on children, families, and communities.

Manchin’s requirement for any benefits is limited by absolute proof that they are needed, work requirements. The result is inaccessibility for people who need them, for example, work requirements for grandparents who care for their grandchildren to receive child tax payments. The myth that anyone looking for a job can get one is particularly false in states like West Virginia. His ideas also spend much of the money from recipients by paying for wasteful administration.

His eligibility limits to a small group of “deserving” people, according to Manchin’s standards, also are politically vulnerable. Wilbur Cohen, “father” of Social Security and Medicare, stated, “A program that is only for the poor—one that has nothing in it for the middle income and the upper income—is, in the long run, a program the American public won’t support… Programs for the poor make poor programs.”

Twp of the wealthiest men in history, Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller, believed in Social Darwinism—some people are inherently worthier than others because of “better” genes. They viewed themselves the fittest and the poor unworthy, lazy people who they had to push to improve their lives. Their perspective is representative of conservative, anti-government philosophy with a paranoia that people receiving government benefits may take advantage of their “betters.” Their solution is to make life so horrible for people in poverty that they will go to work. This was the thinking that opposed Social Security in 1935, despite the “benefit” is paid back from taxes that people on Social Security have paid. Opponents called it socialism. Others call it “entitlements” and refer to “makers” and “takers.”

As Franklin D. Roosevelt said in 1938, government has always benefits the wealthy the most:

“The first to turn to Government, the first to receive protection from Government, were not the poor and the lowly—those who had no resources other than their daily earnings—but the rich and the strong. Beginning in the nineteenth century, the United States passed protective laws designed, in the main, to give security to property owners, to industrialists, to merchants and to bankers….Because it has become increasingly difficult for individuals to build their own security single-handed, Government must now step in and help them lay the foundation stones, just as Government in the past has helped lay the foundation of business and industry.”

Wealthy companies still receive the bulk of subsidies, a type of socialism and welfare, and the Republicans gave big business and the richest people most of the tax cuts in its 2017 law.

To give Manchin a tiny bit of credit, he met on a conference call with the Democratic senatorial caucus Tuesday evening after Republicans again begged him to switch parties. Even as the majority Senate party, the GOP would still need his votes—an iffy thing with Manchin’s record of refusing to vote in favor of any bills except for blocking vaccine mandates.

At the Democratic meeting, Manchin said he still has “concerns,” but he talked. And Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) left open the possibility of an agreement although he still plans to bring BBB on a motion-to-proceed vote in the new year. Conservative billionaires and companies are still giving him massive donations to scuttle BBB, but Manchin may still be looking for a different kind of attention—such as saving the country. He already has the money.  And Christmas is coming.

December 19, 2021

Lord Manchin says ‘No!’

When I was a graduate student at a university in a small Kansas town, I lived in a shabby apartment infested with cockroaches. My cat would chase down one of the insects, catching it on the carpet and taking off one of the legs. It would crawl to the carpet’s edge reaching the wooden floor. You could almost see the sigh of relief before the cat batted it back onto the carpet. Once again, it crawled away from the cat who had taken another leg. The scene occurred time and time again until, finally, the the cat put the cockroach out of its misery. I thought about that torture when, over a decade ago, the Republicans demanded to erase important provisions, time and time again, from the Affordable Care Act. Time and time again, Democrats gave and gave to the Republicans for their support, but at the end, not one Republican voted for the watered-down bill they said they wanted.

The same process happened again over the Build Better Act (BBB), a bill that to help at least two-thirds of the people in the United States with jobs, childcare, etc. while not adding to the debt. Time and time again, the BBB has been watered down and stripped of important provisions, this time not because of Republicans but because two Democratic senators insist on demonstrating their power. Today, the bill may be dead after “Lord” Sen. Joe Manchin (R-KY) announced with much fanfare on Fox network and no notification to Democrats that he refuses to vote for the bill he had helped create.

Every time, the bill was close to passing, Manchin would put it off—later in the fall, then not until Christmas, and the most recent excuse, next year. Today, he pompously announced, “I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation.” His excuse this time was the national debt which Dictator Donald Trump (a Republican in case you’re forgotten) raised by $7.8 trillion during his four years. Of course, Manchin had not problem adding to the military bill each year, including the one for next year despite no idea where the money goes and the U.S. finally getting out of its two long wars started by George W. Bush, another Republican. He also damned “my Democratic colleagues in Washington [who] are determined to dramatically reshape our society in a way that leaves our country even more vulnerable to the threats we face.” (Manchin never bothers to explain anything he says.)

Manchin knows that no Republican will vote for BBB because of their fear that Democrats will gain votes by benefiting people. Without Manchin, the bill won’t have the 50 votes necessary to pass the Senate. As Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, pointed out, Manchin reneged on his promise last week to work for a compromise agreement after Democrats made one compromise after another, removing over half the bill’s expenditure. Before today’s declaration, Manchin had provided his own concept for the BBB, also costing $1.85 trillion.

Although Manchin claims he doesn’t want to spend the money for the bill, he said this week that his new outline costs the same. In fact, he doesn’t want the provisions that might cause him to lose any money, both from his businesses and his Republican donors. Manchin’s daughter, who works for a large pharmaceutical company, opposes regulations on drug prices; during her career, she has ensured that her employers gain massive profits by huge increases in drug prices. The BBB would save $700 billion during the next decade, but the pharmaceutical industry has spent $263 million on lobbying against the bill this year with millions more going to a dark money group. Manchin’s campaign received over $1.5 million from corporations opposed to BBB.

Manchin comes from one of the poorest states in the nation, and the BBB would benefit his constituents. His refusal removes a $300 monthly payment to families with children, a payment he supported for the $1.9 trillion pandemic aid package under nine months ago. Gone will be health coverage for 3.4 million more people. Medicare drug prices can’t be regulated. Slowing down climate change disappears, despite the state’s devastating floods. Manchin sees no need for paid family and medical leave although the U.S. is the only industrialized nation without these benefits. He had already decreased the time for this benefit to four weeks.

In 2018, Manchin’s net worth was $7.6 million and is higher now. The 2021 media household income in West Virginia is $51,615, almost $30,000 under the national average. The expanded child tax credit alone would cut poverty by 40 percent in the nation. Health care in West Virginia is abysmal: one-fourth of the people don’t have their natural teeth, the highest rate in the U.S., because they can’t afford dental care. Manchin says adding dental care to Medicare costs too much.

Also in West Virginia:

  • No state in the lower 48 is more vulnerable to flood damage.
  • Forty-six of the state’s roads are at risk of inundation.  
  • Sixty-one percent of its power plants are at risk, twice the national average.
  • Slanted trade deals destroyed one-third of its manufacturing jobs, and energy innovation destroyed most of its coal jobs, thus the entire industry. Wages and income for coal miners dropped from 16 percent of the state’s total labor income in 1982 to seven percent by the mid-1990s. 
  • A disproportionate number of the poorest parents without jobs live in the state.

With his wealth, Manchin complains about an “entitlement mentality” from providing child and health care for poor people on low wages. His participation in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) contributed to their drafting and spreading model bills to block labor unions, public-school funding, welfare, voting rights and environmental regulations. Senior lobbyist for ExxonMobil Keith McCoy called him the “kingmaker” on ridding legislation of emissions reductions and fossil-fuel companies’ taxes, including his own. Manchin claimed that Franklin D. Roosevelt, who created Social Security, never sent “a damn penny to a human being.” FDR talked about his “struggle with the old enemies of peace—business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.  They had begun to consider the government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob.” Those are the real “entitlements.”

Manchin’s family business makes millions of dollars by selling waste coal from abandoned mines to a power plant emitting air pollution at a higher rate than any other plant in the state. It’s a good reason for him to fight any changes slowing climate change. He claims it’s in a blind trust, but much of his earnings comes from outside that trust. Manchin wants coal power over clean electricity, a much cheaper alternative, and his state’s electricity costs increased five times more than the national average between 2010 and 2019.

With four percent of the population, the U.S. supplies 20 percent of global CO2 emissions. Oceans absorb carbon dioxide, making them more acidic which kills marine life. When there is no more room for absorption, the rest of it stays in the atmosphere for tens of thousands of years, keeping the earth hot. China’s President Xi Jinping  just announced the world’s largest wind-and-solar farm, generating four times the number of gigawatts that the U.S. does at this time. By 2025, unsubsidized solar power with battery storage in China will be cheaper than coal. Manchin has joined the Republicans in coming in second—or farther down—to China.

Manchin says BBB will add to inflation, but no legitimate study proves that. Instead, the bill cuts out-of-pocket costs for childcare, healthcare, housing, eldercare, and energy. And it would be paid by tax increases on large corporations, slashed under DDT and the Republicans.

In an attempt to excuse his refusal to support people with the BBB, Manchin cites fake Republican numbers. The Congressional Budget Office predicted BBB would add $36.7 billion a year to the deficit—compared to the annual $2 trillion DDT added—but the Treasury said the increased IRS enforcement in the bill would decrease the deficit. To persuade Manchin, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said the cost of making all the programs in the bill permanent for ten years would cost add almost $300 billion per year for ten years. That isn’t the bill that’s being voted on. Psaki said the goal was to “pay for the $2 trillion tax cuts that Republicans didn’t pay for.”

Democrats have been careful about criticizing Manchin for his close friendship with Republicans and rejection of Democratic bills because, after all, he is important as a member of the Senate Democratic majority—for this term. The Democrats’ struggle to work with Manchin and support him, however, is likely gone. While Republicans welcome Manchin with open arms, Democratic lawmakers recommend that they ignore him and proceed to vote on the bill in January, letting him show people in West Virginia that he will deny them all benefits. Other Democrats say he is clearly not “a man of his word” no matter how much he brags about having this characteristic. Manchin may have overplayed his arrogance.

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