Saturday Snippets is a regular weekend feature of Daily Kos.
President Biden on Friday signed two executive orders to help Americans struggling with the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. Noting that one in seven American households (and one in five Black and Latino households) “report they do not have enough food to eat”—30 million adults and 12 million children—Biden said this is unconscionable. The Biden-Harris team has put forth a $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan designed to provide more help, delivering additional food and emergency financial assistance to millions. “But families literally can’t wait another day,” Biden said in brief remarks before signing. Moreover, the rescue plan will require a vote in Congress whose outcome is in no way certain. Biden ordered the Department of Agriculture to take immediate steps to make it easier for the hardest hit families to enroll and claim more generous benefits in food assistance. “Nobody should have to choose between their livelihood and their own health or the health of their loved ones in the middle of a pandemic,” Biden said, adding that he expects the Department of Labor to guarantee people the right to refuse employment that would normally jeopardize their health and still remain eligible for unemployment benefits.
Specifics include boosting the amount of money a family with three children can claim for missing free or subsidized lunches because of school closures by about $100 over two months, a 15% increase. The USDA will also look into making sure that congressionally mandated emergency increases in SNAP (food stamp) benefits actually get to all the eligible low-income people, which is not now the case. That is calculated to help 12 million Americans. The Thrifty Food Plan currently provides the basis for calculating how much a healthy, adequate diet costs. But the plan is outdated and SNAP benefits need to be increased to account for this. Because some eligible Americans have still not received the direct stimulus payments Congress authorized in December, the Department of the Treasury will engage in outreach and other methods to reach those who have not yet seen these payments, estimated at more than 1 million. A survey showed that less than 40% of service workers furloughed by the pandemic received their unemployment benefits in a timely way. As a result, federal “Benefit Delivery Teams” will be established to find and get unemployment benefits to Americans who haven’t received them. In addition, a review of boosting the minimum wage of all federal workers to $15 an hour restores collective bargaining protections.
Sen. Joe Manchin thinks a massive infrastructure program would be a good idea. $4 trillion massive. A 2018 Congressional Budget Office report calculated how much federal, state, and local governments have spent on transportation and water infrastructure since 1956, inflation-adjusted into 2017 dollars. Eno Center for Transportation’s Jeff Davis told Vice that $4 trillion is a “stupendous” amount that is “equivalent to all combined federal-state-local spending on transportation and infrastructure for about nine years at current spending rates.” Certainly, the U.S. needs massive infrastructure spending. Alone, bridges in poor condition number nearly 50,000. And there’s plenty of other needs, including too many things that don’t get mentioned, like crumbling schools. But while this is a stupendous amount of money, it’s not going to be enough to get the green economy we need. Just replacing and greening the existing electrical grid will, by one estimate, cost $5 trillion. How much of that would be leveraged from the private sector by federal spending is anybody’s guess. But you can be sure it will be far more than the $4.5 billion included in the 2009 Recovery Act.
Some news outlets asserted the ban was of an official account of the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and that it was banned because of a threat of violence against Donald Trump. But although Iran bans Twitter domestically, there are several accounts associated with the supreme leader. This account, however, is a previously unknown one, that was retweeted by one of Khamenei’s known accounts. The Thursday tweet showed an image of a golfer resembling Trump beneath a shadow, along with a message referring to the U.S. airstrike that killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad last year: “Revenge is inevitable.” But a Twitter spokesperson said the account of @khamenei_site had been permanently banned not because of the inherent threat but because the account was fake. The Washington Post reported Friday that the true nature of the six-month-old @khamenei_site account was unclear. It had just a few thousand followers. It posted material from Khamenei’s official website, and Khamenei’s main English-language account had followed it and his Farsi-language account had retweeted it.
Ohio lawmaker who questioned Black PEOPLE’S hygiene chosen by his cousin to HEAD state senate health committee
Ohio state Sen. Stephen Huffman, a Republican and doctor, has stirred the ire of Black lawmakers after he was appointed to lead the state Senate Health Committee. In June, Huffman publicly asked Angela Dawson, the African American executive director of the Ohio Commission on Minority Health, whether hygiene could be the reason “the colored population” has disproportionately contracted COVID-19. He asked, “Could it just be that African Americans—or the colored population—do not wash their hands as well as other groups? Or wear masks? Or do not socially distance themselves? Could that just be the explanation of why there’s a higher incidence?” Democratic Rep. Stephanie Howse, president of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, said at the time that Huffman’s word choice and question “highlights what racism is from a systematic perspective. He’s a full legislator, but beyond that, professionally, he’s a doctor. When we talk about the health disparities that happen because Black folks aren’t believed when they’re actually hurt, they aren’t given the treatment that they need. Do you think that someone who acknowledges the ‘coloreds’ is going to give the love and care that people need when they come through those doors?”
Ohio Democrats and the Ohio American Civil Liberties Union called for Huffman to resign. But his cousin, state Senate President Matt Huffman, appointed him to chair the committee—even though the June comment got him fired from his job as an emergency room physician. In a letter Wednesday, the Ohio Black Legislative Caucus demanded a new appointment of someone who can deal with and reduce the inequities of healthcare in Ohio “without political influence.” A spokesman for the health committee noted in a written statement that Huffman “has a long record of providing healthcare to minority neighborhoods” and he merely had made asked a “clumsy and awkwardly worded question” for which he apologized at the time. “Sincere apologies deserve sincere forgiveness, and not the perpetual politically weaponized judgement of the cancel culture,” the spokesman said.
There was obviously quite a bit going on at the time just before Christmas when the Congressional Progressive Congress released the People’s Agenda, which lays out specifics of its top seven priorities to focus on in the coming year. While it received a smidgen of coverage, it was immediately buried by other doings. Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Seattle, who will be chairing the caucus for the next two years, introduced the agenda a virtual townhall just as Congress was getting ready to vote on a $900 billion relief package, which the caucus views as simultaneously welcome and utterly insufficient. Kairos, the Institute for Policy Studies, Repairers of the Breach, and The Poor People’s Campaign performed a joint analysis of the agenda. Of this, Sarah Anderson wrote at Inequality.org:
Providing emergency relief for the duration of the crisis is priority #1 for the Congressional Progressive Caucus. But the People’s Agenda also aims to jumpstart an equitable economic recovery that creates good jobs, gives workers more power, and accelerates the transformation to a renewable energy economy.
As our joint fact sheet points out, robust public investment in renewable energy generation capacity and energy efficiency retrofits could help the country achieve a full employment economy while reducing energy insecurity, particularly for low-income and people of color communities. The 31 percent of U.S. households who are energy insecure are disproportionately Indigenous, Black, people of color, and/or low-wealth.
Under a headline citing a Republican saying “kiss my ass” in response to President Biden’s 100-day mask mandate, Politico leads its story of opposition with a quotation from one of the most extreme of the extremists in the 117th Congress, Glock-toting Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert. “The Biden administration is already headed in the wrong direction. Continued federal overreach won’t end the COVID-19 pandemic or put food on the table.” Sadly, as we know from Jan. 6, when some Republicans were so incredibly stupid and callous that they wouldn’t wear masks while they and Democratic colleagues sheltered in place against insurrectionists, Boebert, nor Texas Rep. Chip Roy of the “kiss my ass” comment, aren’t the only two Republicans with those views. That means lawsuits for certain. The target probably will not be the mandate’s requirement that federal employees require people in federal facilities or on other federal property to mask up. Exactly how this will be enforced, say in the National Parks, is being left up to the individual agencies. But the mandate includes intercity buses, trains, and other public transportation and that might rouse serious opposition. An attorney who is fighting another mask order in court thinks the order was carefully crafted with lawsuits in mind. “In the summary I reviewed,” said Seldon Childers, “I see evidence of careful thought and planning to anticipate challenges. I think they will probably prevail on having authority regulations.” But authority or not, plenty of Republicans and their cheerleaders will defy the mandate.
Edwin Rios writes:
On November 10, 1898 in Wilmington, North Carolina a mob inflamed by out-of-power white nationalists attacked a thriving majority Black coastal port. The insurrectionists embraced racist propaganda, and they doubted the legitimacy of Black political power. Led by former elected-official, Democratic Alfred Waddell, they marched to The Daily Record, a Black newspaper, demolished property, and lit the building ablaze. “Hell broke loose,” an observer wrote in a letter. In the historically Black neighborhood of Brooklyn, where workers from the waterfront yards confronted an armed white mob, cries and blood filled the streets.
Gaining steam, Waddell, armed with a Winchester rifle, shepherded the men to Wilmington City Hall. Inside the chamber, they forced the resignations of the mayor, Board of Aldermen, and police chief as gunfire ripped through the city. At least 60 were killed in the spates of violence, and thousands of Black residents fled while others were arrested.