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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

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Sanders, Wyden Push Back On Cruel Cuts To Pandemic Relief Checks

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.

Rep. Boebert’s Faked ‘Glock’ Video Sparks Twitter Firestorm

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Newly-elected Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) found herself at the center of controversy following the release of her latest campaign-style video ad. In the video, Boebert claimed she is going to "carry my Glock to Congress" to highlight her defense of Second Amendment rights.

In the clip, Boebert said, "Even though I now work in one of the most liberal cities in America, I refused to give up my rights, especially my Second Amendment rights. I will carry my firearm in D.C. and in Congress."

"I walk to my office each morning by myself," Boebert says. "So as a five-foot-tall, 100-pound woman I choose to protect myself legally, because I am my best security."

Twitter users quickly fired back with critical reactions to Boebert's video. One Twitter user slammed Boebert's clip tweeting, "'I'd like to thank [Lauren Boebert] for this excellent free footage that she's just provided us to slice & dice & use to show America why, since the GOP has been overtaken by radical nuts like her, it can't be trusted w governing power."


Another user also tweeted arguments suggesting Boebert is not exactly the epitome of a law-abiding citizen. That user said, "Lauren Boebert has been arrested four times and is under investigation for "unlawfully providing a handgun to a juvenile" who worked at her Colorado restaurant. She was with her husband when he was arrested for exposing his penis to a minor. Not exactly a law-abiding gun owner."






According to The Washington Post, Boebert's "own staff later admitted that the video had deceptively portrayed Boebert as carrying her handgun with her as she walked through the streets of Washington, D.C. In fact, she had not, since that would've violated D.C.'s strict laws limiting the carrying of concealed weapons."

Gallup Poll: Trump And Congressional Approval Ratings Plummet

Both President Donald Trump's and Congressional approval ratings have plummeted in the first half of December, according to a new Gallup poll.

Trump's approval rating has dipped to 39 percent, a 7 point decrease from the last Gallup survey, while Congressional satisfaction dropped 15%, the lowest rating for the 116th Congress, according to Gallup.

The president began December by ramping up political attacks while also increasing his threats to American democracy. His erratic behavior has even started to worry Trump's aides and his closest allies, leading to a "heated" Oval Office meeting with far-right conspiracists Michael Flynn and Sidney Powell. In that meeting Flynn proposed "martial law" to overturn the free and fair election that Joe Biden won by millions of votes.

Meanwhile, December was also a tumultuous month for Congress, as members bickered over a yearly defense spending bill (NDAA), a budget for FY 2021, and much needed COVID-19 relief. Late last night, right before a midnight deadline, Trump finally signed a joint bill which included COVID-19 relief and next year's budget. He also vetoed the defense bill, which Congress is expected to overturn.

Though American's moods are souring towards the current government, the Biden administration is receiving high marks for handling the transition. According to Gallup, nearly two-thirds of respondents reported they "approve" of Biden's actions during the transition.

Poll: Democratic Congress Sees Rising Support For 2020 Re-Election

Roughly six in 10 Americans say their member of Congress deserves to be reelected in November, according to a Gallup poll released Monday. That level of support is almost 10 points higher than in early 2018, when Republicans were still in control of the House of Representatives.

In the 2018 midterm elections, Democrats picked up 40 House seats and won back the House majority for the first time in almost a decade. Many of the Democratic victories came from suburban districts, including areas that were once Republican strongholds like Orange County, California.

“Democrats have a solid majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the elevated 59 percent of Americans saying their member of Congress deserves reelection augurs well for their bid to maintain their majority next year,” Gallup wrote about the poll.

A higher percentage of Americans saying their member of Congress deserves to be reelected correlates with a higher percentage of Congress members who are reelected the following November, Gallup noted. Gallup pointed to high reelection rates from 1998 through 2004, which corresponded with Americans’ relatively high support of their member of Congress.

“It’s gonna be pretty tough for Republicans to get back in the majority,” Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA), a member of the moderate New Democrat Coalition, said in a phone interview in early February, before the Gallup poll was released. Bera pointed to different data to back up his claim: polls that ask Americans if they favor voting for a generic Democrat or a generic Republican.

This type of generic polling is “usually is a good indicator of what folks are thinking,” Bera said.

According to an average of these generic polls from FiveThirtyEight, Democrats currently have a 7-point lead over Republicans, 48 percent to 41 percent. On Election Day 2018, Democrats held a 9-point lead, 51 percent to 42 percent.

If 2019 statewide elections are a precursor for what could happen in 2020, Democrats like Bera have more data points to support their optimism.

Louisiana re-elected Gov. John Bel Edward, a Democrat, in a state Trump carried by 20 points in 2016. In Kentucky, voters ousted Republican Gov. Matt Bevins in favor of Democrat Andy Beshear.

Further, voters in Virginia elected a Democratic majority to the state House and state Senate, giving Democrats control of the legislature and governorship for the first time in 26 years.

“Never say never,” Bera said, “but if I were making a wager, I would say we’re going to retain the House majority.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.