Millions of elderly Americans on Medicare would get dental, vision, and hearing insurance added to their health benefits under a proposal pushed Sunday by Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York and Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Americans age 65 and older have since the 1960s received subsidized health care coverage under Medicare — but Schumer said the program's lack of additional benefits leave millions with dental problems and expensive bills for vision and hearing treatments. Schumer and Sanders plan to add the additional benefits to the American Jobs and Family Plan pushed by President Joe...
Reprinted with permission from Alternet
Sen. Bernie Sanders, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said over the weekend that amid the immediate emergencies of climate change, Covid-19, mass unemployment, and homelessness, congressional Democrats cannot afford to dampen their infrastructure ambitions in the hopes of winning support from obstructionist Republicans.
"The time is now to go forward," Sanders (I-Vt.) told the Washington Post. "This country faces enormous crises that have got to be addressed right now. When you have half a million people who are homeless, I'm not going to slow down."
"When the scientists tell us we have five or six years before there will be irreparable damage done because of climate change," the Vermont senator added, "I'm not going to slow down."
Sanders' remarks came as the Democratic leadership is weighing how to proceed with the roughly $2.3 trillion infrastructure packagePresident Joe Biden unveiled last month, a proposal that will serve as a starting point for congressional negotiations. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said she hopes to pass infrastructure legislation by July.
But unified Republican opposition to the package and growing complaints from conservative deficit scolds within the Democratic caucus are threatening to impede work on the package that progressives hope to transform into a sprawling bill that deals with a wide range of priorities, from climate to affordable housing to prescription drug prices.
On Monday, the Senate parliamentarian gave Democrats a green light to use the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process for additional spending legislation this year, granting the party the option to move ahead with an infrastructure measure without Republican support.
Sanders told the Post that he is preparing to use the reconciliation tool, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has not publicly committed to that strategy as the Biden administration continues to hold out hope for a bipartisan compromise. With the legislative filibuster in place, Senate Democrats would need the support of at least 10 Republicans to pass an infrastructure bill through regular order.
"The president believes that there's a path forward to get... this American Jobs Plan passed with bipartisan support," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during a Thursday briefing. "That's why he's going to invite Democrats and Republicans here. That's why he's going to hear from them on their ideas that they've already put forward."
But progressive lawmakers have cautioned the Biden administration against weakening an infrastructure package they believe is already insufficient in a likely futile effort to win over Republican lawmakers, who unanimously voted against a broadly popular $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package last month.
"Let's not water down a bill for a party that's not actually interested in bipartisanship or wait for Republicans to have some awakening on climate change," Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said earlier this month. "Let's move with the urgency and boldness that this moment calls for."
In a report released Thursday, Adam Hersh of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Mark Paul of the New College of Florida argued that under-spending in response to the current crises risks long-term damage to the economy and the climate—a warning progressives cited as all the more reason to quickly push ahead with an ambitious recovery package.
In an appearance on MSNBC Saturday, Sanders said that Republican lawmakers are "probably not" going to accept arguments in support of big spending on climate solutions, core infrastructure, caregiving, and more.
"They live in their world, and their world will be trying to obstruct as much as possible what Biden and many of us in the Congress are trying to do," Sanders said, arguing that the GOP's top priority is "trying to divide us up by stressing xenophobia, racism, [and] making it harder for people to vote."
"Our job," Sanders said, "is to rally the American people around an agenda that works for workers and the middle class, who have been neglected for so many years. It is the right thing to do policy-wise, it is the right thing to do politically."
Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos
Democrats are having a public fight over something that really matters: how much assistance hurting people are going to get from them in survival checks. It's a stupid fight, summed up best by Sen. Bernie Sanders:
He's not alone in this with powerful support from Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, the new chair of the Finance Committee. The other side is being spearheaded by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), with back-up from Mitch McConnell's favorite "bipartisan" water carrier, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). They're trying to keep payments from what they call "high-earning" families.
Look at how Manchin explains this: "An individual of $40,000 income or $50,000 income would receive it. And a family who is making $80,000 or $100,000, not to exceed $100,000, would receive it," Manchin said. "Anything over that would not be eligible, because they are the people who really are hurting right now and need the help the most." Who's missing there? Yeah, everybody making more than $50,001. So he's not even arguing in good faith here, couching this as cutting off payments at $80,000 when that's not what he wants to do.
The gap between $50,000 and $80,000 includes a lot of people who, as Sanders says, got two checks already from the Trump administration and are expecting the third one everybody is talking about, a point also made by Wyden: "I understand the desire to ensure those most in need receive checks, but families who received the first two checks will be counting on a third check to pay the bills." That's so glaringly apparent that it's hard to understand there is any constituency for this fight, including in the White House.
It gets even worse when you drill down to find out where the impetus for the cut comes from, as David Dayen has done at The American Prospect. The debate is being driven by a paper from Harvard economics professor Raj Chetty and others that showed higher-income households not spending the last, $600 round of checks immediately. Dayen uncovers the fact that the Chetty research is not on household-level income data. Instead, data for about ten percent of U.S. credit and debit card activity sorted into ZIP codes by the address associated with the card. Those ZIP codes are then grouped "using 2014-2018 ACS (The Census Bureau's American Community Survey) estimates of ZIP Code median household income," according to the appendix in the Chetty paper. So, as Dayen says, the conclusion that low-income people spent their checks immediately while higher-income people did not, "is by saying that ZIP codes that had lower-income people in them between three and seven years ago contained a higher level of immediate spending than ZIP codes with higher-income people during this period." A period before the pandemic.
That's a damned big supposition. Claudia Sahm, a former Federal Reserve and Council of Economic Advisers economist, tells Dayen, "I think the paper is unsuitable for the policy discussion. […] It's one paper at odds with 20 years of research. […] I know the sampling error has to be in the thousands of dollars, there's no way it's that precise." What's even worse about this paper is that they didn't even disclose the out-of-date ZIP code basis for their data until late last week, more than a week after it had been highlighted in the traditional media and started taking hold. It's still out there, with The New York Times opinion page giving Chetty and colleagues space to continue their badly sourced argument.
All that's aside from the larger argument: We're in the middle of a global pandemic and the economy is in tatters—just spend the money helping as many people as possible and worry about sorting out who should have to pay any of it back later. Because the need is so great and this isn't a time to skimp. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said as much, and thankfully appears not to be so much on board with this push to reduce payments, though the White House has been vaguely supportive.
"The exact details of how it should be targeted are to be determined, but struggling middle-class families need help, too," Yellen said on CNN this weekend. Asked if she thinks the targeting should be higher than $50,000 per person but less than $75,000, Yellen responded: "Yes, I—I think the details can be worked out. And the president is certainly willing to work with Congress to find a good structure for these payments."
There's also this: They're still going to base the payments on 2019 income unless they have 2020 income filed by the time the relief bill is passed. Which means you need to file immediately if you've had a big drop in income. Which means the IRS is going to be flooded with returns at the same time it's trying to make income determinations and trying to determine who gets what. But at least there is the recognition that a lot of people did not have the same income in 2020 as 2019.
Again, the survival checks have been means-tested already, with the first rounds of checks phasing out starting at $75,000 based on out-of-date data. Compounding that is this new argument based on really bad and irrelevant information. Not that what anybody does with their survival checks really matters right now, anyway. Worry about saving the maximum number of people possible. That will make the economy come back stronger and faster and then the rest can be sorted out, if necessary, with tax reform.
Reprinted with permission from Alternet
The grassroots organization People for Bernie on Tuesday advised the Democratic Party to take a page from an unlikely source—right-wing Vice President Mike Pence—after Pence told a rally crowd in Florida that progressives and Democrats "want to make rich people poorer, and poor people more comfortable."
"Good message," tweeted the group, alerting the Democratic National Committee to adopt the vice president's simple, straightforward description of how the party can prioritize working people over corporations and the rich.
Good message @TheDemocrats https://t.co/2ViHnNYMoK— People for Bernie (@People for Bernie)1608667898.0
Suggesting that a progressive approach to the economy will harm the country—despite the fact that other wealthy nations already invest heavily in making low- and middle-income "more comfortable" by taxing corporations and very high earners—Pence touted the Republicans' aim to "cut taxes" and "roll back regulations."
The vice president didn't mention how the Trump administration's 2017 tax cuts overwhelmingly benefited wealthy households and powerful corporations, with corporate income tax rates slashed from 35% to 21%, corporate tax revenues plummeting, and a surge in stock buybacks while workers saw "no discernible wage increase" according to a report released last year by the Economic Policy Institute and the Center for Popular Democracy.
Similarly, the Republican Party's recent attempts to roll back regulations include measures that have actively harmed working families, including the administration's termination of overtime protections for workers—resulting in an estimated $1.2 billion in lost earnings—and of requirements that federal contractors meet labor and wage standards.
While the GOP during the coronavirus pandemic has allowed enhanced unemployment benefits to expire and cited concerns over the federal deficit while blocking legislation to offer Americans a second round of $1,200 stimulus checks—despite the fact that the deficit has grown by trillions of dollars under President Donald Trump—progressives including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have consistently called for robust economic relief for workers.
Along with Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Sanders introduced legislation to provide Americans with monthly payments of $2,000 in May, saying the $1,200 direct payment included in the CARES Act last March was "not nearly enough."
In August, Sanders also introduced a bill to tax the "obscene wealth gains" of U.S. billionaires during the pandemic, which would raise at least $420 billion—a sum that would allow the popular Medicare program to pay all out-of-pocket healthcare expenses for everyone in the U.S. for a year.
Pence's description of progressive goals was "exactly" correct, author and commentator Anand Giridharadas tweeted.
“They want to make rich people poorer, and poor people more comfortable,” @Mike_Pence says. Yes. Exactly! https://t.co/AWzNZiAtl5— Anand Giridharadas (@Anand Giridharadas)1608675948.0
"Yes, and what's wrong with making poor people more comfortable?" asked Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.).
Yes, and what’s wrong with making poor people more comfortable? https://t.co/bSRw9xKJZe— Ilhan Omar (@Ilhan Omar)1608681613.0
The consumer advocacy group Public Citizen denounced Pence for suggesting the government should not prioritize the wellbeing of Americans who are struggling financially during a pandemic, including an estimated 50 million people expected to face food insecurity this year.
54,000,000 Americans are going hungry right now and Mike Pence is scandalized by the very concept of "making poor p… https://t.co/8N8rQDdWN5— Public Citizen (@Public Citizen)1608678947.0
"You have to be all sorts of twisted to think 'making poor people more comfortable' is a bad thing," tweeted the group.
Several Republican senators who voted "no" on the new bipartisan COVID relief bill passed by Congress on Monday took to Twitter to complain that the bill was too expensive — despite a record of supporting 2017's monumental tax break for billionaires.
Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) tweeted Tuesday that he voted against COVID relief, calling the bill "wasteful".
"I supported and fought for many of the COVID provisions in last night's bill," he wrote on the platform. "Unfortunately, they were attached to an omnibus spending bill that was thousands of pages long and chock full of handouts to special interests and wasteful spending. I couldn't support it."
Also on Tuesday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) retweeted a story from a far-right outline with the headline, "Sen. Ted Cruz Is Right: Congress Labeled End-of-Year Spending Bill 'COVID Relief' to Cover the Pork."
In a Monday night tweet, Cruz slammed the bill as a "spending monstrosity".
"Tonight, badly-needed #COVID19 relief was tied to a $1.4T end-of-year spending monstrosity because three times Democrats rejected good faith efforts to pass targeted legislation that would have helped Americans hurting as a result of the pandemic," Cruz wrote.
"The legislation passed yesterday will support vaccine development and distribution, assist schools and universities, and provide crucial help to Tennessee small businesses," Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) tweeted Tuesday morning. "However, I cannot support nearly $2.4 trillion in spending that will make recovery even harder."
She voiced objections to the bill expanding visas, providing Pell grants for prisoners, and "sending cash to households with illegal aliens".
"Increasing the federal deficit and spending money we do not have will harm our economic recovery," she added.
Besides Scott, Cruz, and Blackburn, three other Republicans voted against the COVID relief bill: Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).
But, with the exception of Blackburn, those senators opposing $600 stimulus checks and other legislation to help the working class during the pandemic also voted yes on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which reduced the top marginal income tax rate of billionaires by 6.6 percent.
Blackburn, who was elected in 2018, after the bill's passage, has nonetheless been a vocal supporter of it.
But Republicans who support tax cuts for billionaires seemed unaware of any hypocrisy in opposing help for working-class Americans.
A floor speech Monday by Paul opposing the COVID relief legislation went viral. In it, he expressed concerns about the deficit.
"This bill is free money for everyone," he said in the speech Monday. "And yet, if free money were the answer, if money really grew on trees, why not give more free money? Why not give it out all the time? Why stop at $600 a person? Why not $1,000? Why not $2,000? If we can print up money with impunity, why not do it?"
He also blasted fellow Republicans on Twitter for supporting the bill.
"To so-called conservatives who are quick to identify the socialism of the Democrats, if you vote for this spending monstrosity you are no better," he wrote. "When you vote to pass out free money, you lose your soul and you abandon forever any semblance of moral integrity."
But at least one person was swift to call out the hypocrisy of Republicans posturing about the expense of COVID relief while supporting massive tax cuts for billionaires: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
"That's funny. I didn't hear Sen. Paul worry about the deficit when he voted to give $1 trillion in tax breaks to the top 1 percent & large corporations," tweeted Bernie on Tuesday. "Yes. We should provide the working class with $2,000 a month during the pandemic like Canada did & repeal the tax breaks for the rich."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.
Reprinted with permission from Alternet
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) made it clear that plans will be made to remove President Donald Trump from the White House if he loses the election and refuses to leave office.
Sanders spoke with HBO host Bill Maher, where he discussed the importance of the upcoming election as he urged liberal voters to cast their ballot for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
Based on Trump's recent remarks about the outcome of the election and his refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, Democrats are expecting Election Day opposition that could possibly lead to civil unrest in many states. However, Sanders is assuring voters that there will be plans to remove Trump if he refuses to accept the outcome of the election.
"The bottom line is, there are things that we have to do now to make sure that Biden wins. And if Trump attempts to stay in office after losing, there will be a number of plans out there to make sure that he is evicted from office," Sanders said on Friday, adding, "But right now, in the next five weeks, our job is to defeat him and defeat him badly."
Bernie Sanders: Listen to What Trump Is Saying | Real Time with Bill Maher (HBO) www.youtube.com
Sanders' latest remarks come just days after warning bells went off for many Democratic leaders who did not take Trump's previous comments lightly. Although Biden dismissed Trump's comments as he insisted Trump's goal is merely to distract from his own presidential shortcomings, Sanders is warning people to take Trump at his word and do not take his remarks lightly.
"Listen to what Trump is saying," he warned. "Don't brush it off."
The Vermont senator also expressed concern about the alarming circumstances Americans are faced with as Election day nears.
"Never in a million years did I ever think that I would have to give a speech about what do we do if a president refuses to leave office if he loses. I never, ever thought that I would have to give that speech, or anyone else. But that is where we are today," Sanders said Friday.
Over the last several weeks, Trump has made repeated attempts to chip away at America's democracy. The president's refusal to accept the results of the presidential election could lead to a number of issues and threaten to dismantle the American government as we know it.
A new Trump campaign ad portraying Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders as Joe Biden's puppet master is the latest in a long pattern of anti-Semitic dog whistles by the White House occupant.
Sponsored by the Trump Make America Great Again committee, the ad features a puppet sporting the Democratic presidential nominee's face being controlled by Sanders, who is Jewish.
Trump's 2020 deputy national press secretary Samantha Zager confirmed that the image is part of a Trump Facebook campaign. The Trump team is also running two similar ads featuring former President Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as Biden puppet masters.
Bend the Arc, a Jewish group, tweeted Tuesday, "There's a long, dangerous history of Jews being scapegoated as all-powerful puppet masters. Trump is using this antisemitic lie to spread fear and division."
This "puppet master" imagery was a favorite trope among Nazi propagandists. A 1941 anti-Jewish poster housed at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum features a Jewish puppeteer operating Stalin and Churchill marionettes. A 1942 cartoon in a German magazine depicts a Jewish puppet master manipulating Roosevelt and Churchill puppets.
This isn't the first time Trump and his associates have come under fire for anti-Semitism.
During the 2016 election, Trump tweeted an image, later deleted, depicting then-rival Hillary Clinton next to what appeared to be a Star of David, set against a background of cash. According to the Associated Press, the original image seems to have appeared a few days earlier on a neo-Nazi internet message board.
The Trump campaign's final ad in that election was a video in which photos of Lloyd Blankfein, Janet Yellen, and George Soros — all Jewish — appeared with a voiceover by Trump warning of "global special interest" groups. The term "globalist" is often used as an anti-Semitic slur.
In 2017, Trump appointed Sebastian Gorka as a counterterrorism adviser. Gorka sparked controversy with his decision to attend Trump's Inaugural Ball in January wearing an honorary medal of a Hungarian nationalist organization with alleged Nazi ties. Gorka has repeatedly claimed he has zero connection to the group but wears the medal to honor his late father.
The same month, the administration made one glaring oversight in its statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day: It failed to mention Jews.
In August 2017, Trump famously called attendees at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which later turned violent and resulted in the death of one counterprotester, "very fine people." Rally-goers held tiki-torchers and chanted "You will not replace us" and "Jews will not replace us."
That same year, many human rights groups expressed concern that then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would abolish the office of Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism due to budget cuts. While Tillerson ultimately left the position intact, it remained unfilled until early 2019.
When a would-be attacker planted a pipe bomb in Soros's mailbox in October 2018, the Trump administration stoked the flames by repeatedly implying a caravan of migrants from Central America was funded by the Jewish billionaire. There was zero truth to the claim.
That same month, 11 were killed in a mass shooting at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. The gunman in that attack had reportedly yelled "All Jews must die" during the shooting and was later found to have posted several antisemitic conspiracy theories about Soros online.
More recently, in 2019, Trump remarked that Jews who vote Democrat either lack knowledge or exhibit "great disloyalty," playing on centuries-old tropes of Jews as an ethno-national group whose ties to Israel make them disloyal to their own nation.
In August 2019, Trump also referred to Jews in real estate as "brutal killers" during a speech to the Israeli American Council.
Duke again endorsed Trump in 2020, tweeting in July that Trump is "the only way to stop the commie Bolsheviks."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) gave a keynote address at the Democratic National Convention Monday night, slamming Donald Trump's failure to contain the COVID-19 pandemic and connecting that failure to the ongoing economic crisis plaguing the country.
To date, more than 5.4 million people have been infected with the coronavirus in the United States, and 170,419 have died. Trump's critics and health experts alike have said that the administration's slow response to the pandemic only served to worsen its impact and the still-rising death toll.
"Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Trump golfs," Sanders said on Monday night, referencing Trump's continued visits to his various clubs and resorts amid the outbreak.
From the first night of the 2020 Democratic National Convention:
This president is not just a threat to our democracy, but by rejecting science, he has put our lives and health in jeopardy.
Trump has attacked doctors and scientists trying to protect us from the pandemic, while refusing to take strong action to produce the masks, gowns, and gloves our health care workers desperately need. Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Trump golfs.
His actions fanned this pandemic, resulting in over 170,000 deaths and a nation still unprepared to protect its people. Furthermore, Trump's negligence has exacerbated the economic crisis we are now experiencing.
Since this pandemic began, over 30 million people have lost their jobs and many have lost their health insurance. Millions of working families are wondering how they will feed their kids, and they're worried that they will be evicted from their homes.
And how has trump responded? Instead of maintaining the $600 a week unemployment supplement that workers were receiving, and the $1,200 emergency checks that many of you received, instead of helping small businesses, Trump concocted fraudulent executive orders that do virtually nothing to address the crisis while threatening the very future of Social Security and Medicare.
8-17-20 Bernie Sanders DNC from Shareblue Media on Vimeo
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