The Lianeon Weekly Topics | Biden's Stimulus Moves Forward

Week of March 1st

The Essential Five

Democrats to take up immigration reform next week

The two bills, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act and the American Dream and Promise Act, both passed the House with bipartisan support last Congress.

The first one would provide permanent residency for undocumented farmworkers, while the other would allow undocumented immigrants who came to the states as children to stay in the country and apply for citizenship.

The Trump administration claimed to be pro legal immigration and against illegal immigration, but in actuality, most of Trump’s policies targeted legal immigration. The Biden admin most prominent efforts thus far have been various forms of amnesty for illegal immigrants.

Both parties are sidelining the concerns and troubles of legal immigrants and immigration, which is a massive mistake.

Potholes, Grid Failures, Aging Tunnels And Bridges: Nation's Infrastructure Gets A C-

The group gives the nation's infrastructure in general a grade of C-minus on its quadrennial infrastructure report card, up from a D-plus four years ago. ASCE says the U.S. made some modest and incremental improvements in some infrastructure categories, including railroads, drinking water systems and inland waterways and ports.

But 11 of the 17 infrastructure categories evaluated are graded in the "D" range, and as last month's power and water failures due to brutal winter storms and extreme cold show, many infrastructure systems are increasingly susceptible to catastrophic failure.

Democrats reach deal on unemployment aid, allowing $1.9 trillion relief bill to go forward

Senate Democrats reached an agreement on extending unemployment benefits in the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, ending an impasse that delayed the process for hours on Friday.

The party’s legislation will put a $300 per week jobless benefit in place into September.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., had hesitated to back a previous iteration of the plan, delaying a marathon of votes on amendments to the rescue package.

Senate Democrats aim to approve the legislation by this weekend and send it back to the House.

The stimulus bill has passed the Senate despite inflation concerns. The general thinking in the Biden camp is that some inflation and over-stimulus is better than less.

During the pandemic, ‘lost’ education jobs aren’t what they seem

Throughout 2020, media accounts were filled with stories about private sector job losses, layoffs, and bankruptcies. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), private sector companies employed 7 million fewer workers at the end of 2020 than they had at the start of it, a 6% decline.

On a proportional basis, the job losses were actually larger in the public sector, especially in public education. The same BLS data show that employment fell by 8% at public K-12 schools and 11% in public higher education.

The answer mainly comes down to slower hiring. State and local governments implemented formal or informal hiring freezes last year that meant they were no longer growing their payrolls organically or replacing the employees who left. In the fall, as many colleges and most K-12 schools continued to operate remotely, they didn’t hire the same number or type of employees that they would have in normal years. Rather than formally laying off workers, schools may just never have hired or re-hired substitute teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria staff, janitors, or other employees who might only be paid when schools are physically in session.

In other words, the public sector jobs weren’t “lost” so much as not yet filled.

Nice piece. Suggests that Biden’s stimulus, which proves about $350 billion for states, would “unlock” a lower unemployment rate by unfreezing hiring freezes.

Why QAnon Has Attracted So Many White Evangelicals

QAnon revolves around the baseless belief that former President Donald Trump is fighting a secret war against a global cabal of Democratic elites who are Satan-worshipping, cannibalistic pedophiles. Much of the lore comes from online posts, called “drops,” written by an anonymous person known as “Q” who claims to have insider knowledge. As the QAnon movement has become more culturally significant — QAnon believers were among those who took part in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol building — surveys have attempted to identify just how many Americans believe in this conspiracy. While that picture is still murky, it’s become increasingly apparent that this movement has attracted a significant number of white evangelical Christians, which could have implications for the movement’s future. Evangelicals, after all, played an important role in shoring up the Tea Party’s growth and influence.

In its January 2021 American Perspectives Survey, the American Enterprise Institute’s Survey Center on American Life asked a random sample of more than 2,000 Americans to rate the accuracy of a series of statements. One of those statements was about the core tenet of QAnon: “Donald Trump has been secretly fighting a group of child sex traffickers that include prominent Democrats and Hollywood elites.” Of the respondents who rated that statement as “mostly” or “completely” accurate, 27 percent were white evangelical Christians. Depending on how you define it, evangelical Christians make up about a quarter or less of the U.S. population, so they’re at least slightly overrepresented in the QAnon contingent. Looking at the data another way, 31 percent of white evangelical Republicans rated the statement as “mostly” or “completely” accurate. Either way you slice it, there’s significant overlap between Q followers and evangelicals.

Colossus Constrained

US. President Joe Biden has ambitious goals both at home and abroad. On the home front, he promises to “build back better” through enormous investments in COVID-19 pandemic recovery, health care, education, infrastructure, and green technology. Beyond U.S. shores, he is scrapping former President Donald Trump’s “America first” approach to statecraft and returning the United States to the global stage: “America” he says, “is back . . . ready to lead the world, not retreat from it.”

But Biden cannot have it all, and he would be wise not to overpromise. With the country’s economy and politics in tatters, the new administration must remain laser focused on domestic renewal, a priority that will inevitably come at the expense of the nation’s efforts abroad.

I have advocated this for a while. The US needs to sort out its domestic affairs first. This may sound like an America First position, but Trump’s America First policies sought to cast blame for Americas internal problems on other nations, which fundamentally is a scapegoating tactic that doesn’t solve anything.

Healthcare/Society

Biden says U.S. will have enough vaccines for 300 million Americans by end of May

President Biden on Tuesday said that ramped-up coronavirus vaccine production will provide enough doses for 300 million Americans by the end May.

Why it matters: That's two months sooner than Biden's previous promise of enough vaccines for all American adults by the end of July.

Having vaccine isn’t the same as getting it into arms.

Economy/Business

Trump's unfinished assault on Chinese tech like TikTok and Huawei leaves loose ends for Biden

President Trump's haphazard war on Chinese tech has left the Biden administration with a raft of unfinished business involving efforts to restrict Chinese firms and products in U.S. markets.

Why it matters: The Chinese and American tech industries are joined at the hip in many ways, and that interdependence has shaped decades of prosperity. But now security concerns and economic rivalries are wrenching them apart.

Central banks around the world want to get into digital currencies—here’s why

China has been in the lead in developing its own digital currency. It’s been working on the initiative since 2014. Chinese central bank officials have already conducted massive trials in major cities including Shenzhen, Chengdu and Hangzhou.

“China’s experiment is very large scale,” said J. Christopher Giancarlo, former chairman of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission. “When the world arrives in Beijing next winter for the Winter Olympics, they are going to be using the new digital renminbi to shop and to stay in hotels and to buy meals in restaurants. The world is going to see a functioning [central bank digital currency] very soon, within the coming year.”

I wonder how resistant digital currencies and crypto are to quantum computers?

U.S., EU to suspend tariffs in effort to resolve Boeing-Airbus subsidy dispute

The U.S. and the European union will suspend tariffs for four months tied to a long-running dispute over illegal subsidies for Boeing and Airbus, the president of the European Commission said Friday.

The agreement is a step toward resolving the 17-year dispute that has led to retaliatory tariffs on billions of dollars of goods affecting a range of exports from both sides of the Atlantic. It comes a day after the U.S. and U.K. also agreed to a four-month pause on tariffs tied to the dispute.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she spoke with U.S. President Joe Biden about the issue by phone on Friday.

The move would pause tariffs on $7.5 billion of goods imported from the European Union, including aircraft, cheese and wine, and duties on $4 billion worth of EU imports of U.S. airplanes, tractors, vodka and rum, and tobacco.

No doubt a calculated move to ease tensions with America’s allies. Note that Biden has made no moves to ease trade tension with China. This is despite the rights-wing “Beijing Biden” nickname.

FactChecking Cruz’s Partisan Spin on COVID-19 Bill

Sen. Ted Cruz says only 9% of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan “focuses on health spending” and that the remaining “91% is a partisan wish list paying off the Democratic special interests that got them elected.”

While arguably 9% of the bill is for COVID-19 health spending — depending on how one defines that term — to call the remaining 91% a “partisan wish list” ignores that Republicans offered an alternative $618 billion rescue bill that included many of the same elements of the Democratic plan, albeit in smaller amounts.

More silly soundbites that do not move America forward but enhance and deepen hyper-partisan wrangling.

CBO expects federal debt to double over next 30 years

The Congressional Budget Office estimated Thursday that persistent budget deficits will cause the federal debt to double in size over the next 30 years.

Following the 2008 financial crisis and the pandemic, the government has depended heavily on borrowing and low interest rates to help an ailing economy. But as the economy is expected to heal, the CBO has forecasted that interest rates will rise and spending on programs such as Social Security and Medicare will increase.

The estimates do not include President Joe Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, which would further add to the deficit in hopes of speeding faster growth and hiring.

Total debt is not really a concern, its the rate of debt accumulation. We need to get spending under control.

Policy/Politics

Trump promises to travel to Alaska to campaign against Murkowski

Former President Trump vowed to travel to Alaska to campaign against Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) next year as she seeks reelection.

Murkowski, who first took office in 2002, has been a longtime critic of the former president and top GOP wild card in recent votes. She bucked her party this week by announcing she’d back Rep. Deb Haaland’s (D-N.M.) nomination to serve as Interior secretary, and she was one of seven Senate Republicans to vote to convict Trump in his impeachment trial last month

Trump is mobilizing himself against GOP officials who didn’t remain loyal. This is bad for the GOP and for the United States as a whole. If Trump doesn’t form a new party, some ex-GOP members might out of sheer spite.

H.R. 1 isn't for the people, it's for the politicians

Later today, Congress will vote on H.R. 1, the so-called “For the People Act.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is touting this sweeping legislation as a win for transparency and election integrity. But that could not be farther from the truth.

In fact, the worst kept secret in Washington right now is that H.R. 1 isn’t for the people at all, it’s for the politicians. House Democrats are leveraging legitimate concerns about election integrity to rush this dangerous bill through Congress. It won’t make our elections safer, instead it will give House Democrats an advantage in future elections by eliminating nearly every institutional guardrail that preserves the sanctity of the ballot box today. Pelosi is opening the floodgates for almost anyone to submit a ballot, or even multiple ballots, regardless of eligibility.

Interesting opinion piece, but not much in the way of details. Some of the criticisms of the bill come across like positive qualities, like automatic voter registration and simpler voting for college students on campus. Most of the concerns highlighted shouldn’t be a problem with competent governance.

Our approach shouldn’t be to curtail access to voting because there might be some fraud, it should be to expand voting access and find ways to ensure it is safe and secure.

Lessons from the Impeachment Trials of President Donald J. Trump

The first is that the impeachment process is broken, as many of us have said, but it is not as broken as many of us think. True, the Constitution’s requiring a conviction by a vote of at least two-thirds of the senators present is practically impossible to meet. We’ve had four presidential impeachment trials and acquittals in every one of them with only the first of those – for President Andrew Johnson – coming anywhere close to the threshold for conviction. The impossibility of meeting that threshold becomes even more certain given the rise of rigid party fidelity – allegiance to political party is often stronger than allegiance to the institution of the Senate (and protecting its prerogatives) or to the Constitution. For many of those who held Congress in disdain before the proceedings, the outcome merely reinforces their sour opinion of the institution. And for those who think that the impeachment trial was a bust because it did not mimic civil or criminal proceedings or have a judge presiding who would guide the proceedings, Trump’s acquittal surely reinforced their views that the whole episode was a waste of time because it lacked the seriousness of purpose they equate with judicial proceedings.

Nothing can likely be said that will make people disdainful of the process more respectful of it, but there are several numbers that cannot be denied. The first is that while 57 votes for conviction fell 10 short of the number the Constitution requires for conviction, 57 votes for conviction are the largest vote for conviction in any presidential impeachment trial in American history. Perhaps more importantly, that number included seven Republicans, the most senators ever to risk the censure of their party to vote to convict someone from their own party in an impeachment trial. (Interestingly, Richard Nixon in 1974 appeared likely to have been impeached and convicted had he been tried in the Senate, which, at the time, had 57 Democrats, 1 Independent, 1 Conservative, and 41 Republicans.) But that is not all. If we broaden our view, there were more than 67 senators seriously criticizing or denouncing Trump’s misconduct. Perhaps the most searing came from Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a partisan of the first order, who condemned Trump for being “practically and morally responsible for the unprecedented mob attack on Congress.” True, Senator McConnell voted to acquit (ostensibly because he opposed using the impeachment process against someone no longer in office) and later said he would support Trump if he were again the Republican nominee for president, but his censure of Trump sticks because it came from a (former) Trump ally and powerful leader of the Senate Republicans. While Trump can relish his acquittal only if he ignores the fact of the strong bipartisan condemnation of his behavior, historians, most of the American people, and most members of Congress will not. They understand that Trump’s legacy is a mess of his own making, and no amount of lying, protesting the truth, or blaming others can change the fact that he will go down – literally go down to the bottom of any poll– as America’s most corrupt president and likely its worst. If Trump has any future in American politics, that says more about the state of the American polity than it does Trump, and hardly good news for the future of the republic.

Long and interesting read, I am sure the founding fathers now wish their impeachment language in the Constitution was more specific.

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