Twisted by loyalty to corporate whim, corporate democrats are blind to the seeds of destruction they are sowing.
By Mark L. Taylor
The Commoner Call (5/14/20)
Once again House democrats under the leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) left average working people — those losing their jobs, health care and homes in the midst of a deadly pandemic — out in the cold. In the democrats’ recently proposed “Heroes Act” corporate interests — and even corporate lobbyists for Godsake — got a full menu of bailouts, tax breaks, kickbacks and tax shelters. Meanwhile, the people at risk — those working in the grocery stores and meat packing plants and driving the trucks to keep your Walmart stocked and the police and first responders and medical staff we all depend upon for our survival — got nothing that mattered. At the same time, more and more of those workers — our friends, neighbors and family members — are falling ill and many are dying.
The democrats proposed no universal basic income at a time when many have lost their jobs or had their hours slashed. There isn’t even affordable healthcare at a time when another 43 million are losing their employer-based health coverage in the midst of a spreading deadly pandemic.
The House democrats “Heroes Act” is a big zero and a legislative “F-You” to the people in need.
Coming volcanic rage
With the continued bipartisan callous disregard of this government to its citizens and projected waves of deadly pandemic and resulting economic catastrophe, the desperation in this nation will become volcanic in coming months. Fear is spreading and we can expect to see a building — completely justifiable — volcanic rage as public health officials are ignored as politicians and corporations rush to “open” the nation to “business as usual” and death and illness race across the land.
All of this is good news to the growing fascist movement. In times of threatened survival and government malpractice, desperate people will reach for anything that might offer a scrap of help or a place to channel their justifiable rage. We saw this in the 1930s with the Great Depression as the Hoover administration turned it’s back on the needs of the people, just as we now see both Democrats and Republicans doing. The American Nazi Party and other fascist demagogues and opportunistic media personalities of the day drew on that rage. It was only the assertive rescue programs of FDR that kept the nation from following the bloody footpath of fascist regimes in German, Italy and Spain.
When democrats align with Republicans in turning a blind eye and cold heart to the life-or-death needs of citizens, desperation and rage are sure to follow. As that happens — and with no hope on the horizon – expect to see many of those betrayed people lured to the fascist militia movement. Twisted by loyalty to corporate whim, corporate democrats are blind to the seeds of destruction they are sowing.
(Commoner Call column and cartoon by Mark L. Taylor 2020. Open source and free for non-derivative use with link to www.thecommonercall.org )
- Former Sanders Adviser David Sirota: “Here’s why I’m so hard on establishment Democrats” — Editor-At-Large at Jacobin, David Sirota, gives an in-depth look at his report on Dems’ push to give corporate trade associations and dark money groups funding before the cash gets to small businesses. Link To 12-Minute Video
‘Deeply Depressing’ — House Dems Unveil 1,815-Page Bill To Bail Out Corporate Lobbyists But Leave The People High & Dry With A Few Scraps
“There is just no excuse for this.”
By Jake Johnson
Common Dreams (5/12/20)
House Democrats on Tuesday unveiled a sprawling 1,815-page, $3 trillion coronavirus relief package that spurns many of the key demands of progressive activists and lawmakers while including proposals that immediately provoked backlash, such as a tax cut for the wealthy and a provision that would allow corporate lobbying organizations to take part in federal small business loan program.
Formally titled the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, the bill (pdf) would provide $1 trillion in additional funding for state and local governments, extend beefed-up unemployment benefits through January of next year, authorize an additional round of one-time $1,200 stimulus payments for adults earning up to $75,000 per year, expand federal nutrition benefits, provide $25 billion for the U.S. Postal Service, establish a hazard pay fund for frontline workers, and increase spending on Covid-19 testing.
While there is much in the bill that progressives support, observers who combed through the nearly 2,000 pages of legislative text were quick to highlight sections and omissions that they deemed unacceptable.
“Democratic leadership has had plenty of input from progressive thinkers over the past couple of months. They just care more about the input from corporate lobbyists.”
The bill, which the House is expected to vote on as early as Friday, does not contain recurring direct cash payments, a paycheck guarantee, cancellation of rent and mortgage payments, or expansion of Medicare to cover the rapidly growing number of unemployed and uninsured Americans.
The legislation does, however, propose an expansion of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) eligibility to include corporate lobbying organizations—which aggressively pushed for the change—and a bailout for landlords.
“Democratic leadership has had plenty of input from progressive thinkers over the past couple of months. They just care more about the input from corporate lobbyists,” tweeted HuffPost senior reporter Zach Carter. “There is just no excuse for this.”
Protecting insurance industry not people
Instead of expanding Medicare as progressives recommended, the HEROES Act “funds approximately nine months of full premium subsidies for the existing health insurance program COBRA, which allows laid-off or furloughed employees to stay on their health insurance plans,” Vox‘s Ella Nilsen and Li Zhou reported.
Progressives have vocally criticized the COBRA proposal as a mere subsidy to the private insurance industry that would not be nearly as beneficial or cost-effective as the emergency Medicare expansion proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.).
Jayapal, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, pushed hard for the inclusion of her Paycheck Guarantee Act but was rebuffed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has wielded near-unilateral authority over the negotiating process as lawmakers remain in their home districts due to Covid-19 fears.
As an alternative to Jayapal’s ambitious paycheck guarantee proposal, which would have provided companies with direct payroll grants to keep workers employed, the newly unveiled legislation proposes an expansion of the Employee Retention Tax Credit.
Giving up even more
Even as the legislation fails to meet demands that progressives characterized as basic steps toward ensuring economic security and public health, the House Democratic leadership has signaled that they’re willing to negotiate down even further as talks over the stimulus package continue.
“Democrats acknowledge that their behemoth proposal, whose summary alone is 90 pages, is more of a talking point than legislation that they expect to become law,” Politico reported.
Freelance journalist Jon Walker called the HEROES Act “deeply depressing,” particularly as an opening bid in negotiations with the Republican-controlled Senate and the Trump White House.
“It is too small even if it passed as is,” Walker tweeted. “As a starting point for negotiation it is going to be a disaster.”
Though critics described the legislation as inadequate as a whole, progressive advocacy groups applauded a number of individual provisions in the bill.
Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Action, celebrated the inclusion of a nationwide moratorium on water shut-offs amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“Grassroots efforts across the country have finally paid off today as our congressional leaders move to protect the human right to water,” Hauter said in a statement.
Stand Up America, meanwhile, praised the bill’s proposal of an additional $3.6 billion in election assistance funding to help states expand vote-by-mail capacity.
“We applaud House Democrats for fighting to protect our democracy and working to provide states the critical resources they need to expand mail-in voting and make in-person voting safer,” said Stand Up America founder and president Sean Eldridge. “This bill would help ensure that voters won’t be forced to risk their health to cast their ballot amid this pandemic.”
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“The historic crisis Americans are facing will not end on its own. To end it, these three things—getting people paychecks, ensuring access to healthcare, supporting businesses and their workers—are critical. But this legislation does not yet address them at the scale necessary.”
— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA)
‘Massive Giveaway To Health Insurance CEOs’: Democratic COBRA Plan Denounced As Costly Taxpayer Gift To For-Profit Industry
Millions left uninsured or underinsured
By Jake Johnson
Common Dreams (5/13/20)
For weeks, progressive lawmakers and advocacy groups pressed the House Democratic leadership to support an emergency expansion of Medicare coverage to the tens of millions of people who have lost their jobs and their employer-provided health insurance during the coronavirus pandemic.
But in their newly introduced 1,815-page coronavirus relief bill, House Democrats opted instead for a more expensive alternative that progressives and public health experts warn would provide inadequate care while lining the pockets of the insurance industry, which is already making a killing during the Covid-19 crisis.
The Heroes Act proposes fully subsidizing COBRA, an existing health insurance program that allows laid-off or furloughed workers to remain on their employer-provided insurance plans. Under normal circumstances, COBRA is extremely expensive for individuals—recipients have to cover both their own and their employer’s premium payments—but the Democratic plan would cover 100% of the premium costs through next January.
COBRA expansion has the backing of a bizarre alliance of interests, including big business and some labor unions, but critics say the proposal is wildly inefficient and does not come close to matching the scale of the nation’s current healthcare crisis.
Subsidizing the insurers is not going to cut it
Subsidization of private COBRA plans would “leave so many uninsured, and many more burdened with the high-deductibles of these plans,” said Adam Gaffney, a critical care doctor and president of Physicians for a National Health Program, an advocacy group that supports Medicare for All.
“We’re facing the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression—subsidizing the insurers is not going to cut it,” Gaffney said. “We need emergency Medicare expansion for the uninsured, and coverage of out-of-pocket costs for the insured, now.”
As Akela Lacy and Jon Walker reported for The Intercept on Tuesday, COBRA expansion “has gained traction among private insurers as they lose customers at an alarming rate, and especially among hospitals because they often charge people with employer insurance more than twice as much as those with Medicare or Medicaid.”
“That’s why, for the federal government, fully subsidizing COBRA on a per person basis will actually be one of the most expensive ways for the federal government to keep coverage numbers up and also one of the worst ways to target it.”
“While fully subsidizing COBRA has the popular appeal of simplicity,” Lacy and Walker wrote, “it is inefficient, unfair, poorly targeted, could end up hurting some people, and does not even work toward closing the gaps in the nation’s health care system. It is inequitable because much more help will go to people who previously made higher incomes.”
“Not only would health insurance corporations make massive profits off the plan—profits that come at the cost of the American taxpayer—but it would still leave tens of millions uninsured or underinsured.”
Progressives who advocated for ambitious Medicare expansion voiced dismay after discovering that Democratic leaders who directed the crafting of the Heroes Act—pitched as a bold, even “Rooseveltian,” solution—decided to propose a policy pushed by the insurance industry and big business.
Warren Gunnels, staff director for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), tweeted Tuesday that “subsidizing COBRA is a massive giveaway to health insurance CEOs that will leave tens of millions behind.” …
Dem & GOP Response To Covid-19 Crisis Has Been To Lavish Even More Wealth Upon The Already Rich
By Miles Kampf-Lassin
In These Times (5/6/20)
The novel coronavirus has already claimed over 70,000 lives in the United States since the pandemic began to spread throughout the country earlier this year—a figure topping total U.S. casualties during the course of the Vietnam War. [In the 8 days since this article was written the official death toll has grown to over 80,000. — Ed.]
The Trump administration is predicting the death toll will soon skyrocket, with 3,000 deaths a day becoming the norm by early June—even as the president and his fellow Republicans urge a “reopening” of the economy. Due to the structural inequities baked into our economic and healthcare systems, the fatalities caused by the virus have disproportionately been borne by African Americans.
Alongside this devastating loss of life, over 30 million Americans are newly out of work due to the shutdown and lack of a robust response from the federal government. Nearly a third of all renters can’t afford to pay their monthly rent. Half of all Americans now say they or someone in their home has lost hours or a job due to the pandemic. The unemployment rate is widely predicted to surpass 30% in the coming months, which a Columbia University study estimates will plunge over 21 million more Americans into poverty.
And it’s not just individuals. Over 40% of all small businesses are on the verge of permanent closure. And states and local governments are also facing financial ruin as their costs balloon while revenues dry up. As a solution, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) recommends that states facing budget shortfalls simply declare bankruptcy—a prospect that experts say risks causing a prolonged depression in America.
Yet, as this pandemic wreaks havoc upon working people the country over, it has also had another stark impact: making the rich ever richer.
The pandemic payout
According to a recent report from the Institute for Policy Studies, America’s billionaires saw their wealth shoot up by $282 billion in just 23 days as the country was sheltering in lockdown. Overall, U.S. billionaire wealth grew by nearly 10% at the same time over 20 million people filed for unemployment, and by April 10 had passed $3.2 trillion—topping last year’s level. …