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Biden Proposes Massive $2 Trillion Pandemic Rescue Plan

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

President-elect Joe Biden believes that rescuing the faltering economy and crushing the coronavirus are the most important challenges he faces right out of the gate when taking office on Jan. 20. To address these problems, he proposed a bold and aggressive $1.9 trillion legislative package on Thursday to tackle them head on.

"The US government can borrow money for less than the rate of inflation, which means we owe it to ourselves to borrow, borrow, borrow," said writer Matt Yglesias in praise of the plan. "I'm excited to see a new administration thinking big."

A key question, of course, is whether the plan can pass Congress. It will likely have support in the House, where Democrats are in control, but Biden will be working with the thinnest possible majority in the Senate. And under current rules, a bill typically needs 60 votes to pass the Senate — which would require 10 Republicans to sign on. Biden hopes to convince members of the opposition to join him, but if he can't, his team also has plans to use a procedure known as budget reconciliation to pass the bill with just 51 votes.

Here are seven key features of the plan as it is currently conceived:

1. $600 + $1,400 = $2,000 checks

One of the most popular elements of the first two rounds of COVID rescue funds was direct government payments to individuals and families. After the first round, which sent $1,200 to individuals under a set income threshold, Congress authorized another set of $600 payments starting in December — even though Democrats and President Donald Trump were demanding $2,000. The $2,000 figure became a rallying point in the Georgia runoffs which Democrats won, so Biden plans to follow through on the promise of delivering this amount. But be careful, though — since the $600 has already gone out to many people, the amount individuals will likely receive if the Biden bill passes as proposed will be an additional $1,400, rounding out the combined payments to a total of $2,000.

Some have already begun criticizing the plan for this plank. But it's important to remember it has many other moving parts.

2. Help for unemployed people, hunger, and people at risk of eviction

The plan also increases the federal boost to weekly unemployment payments from $300 to $400 and extends the applicable period to September. Under current law, the payments would run out in March. There's another $25 billion of support for renters and an extension of the eviction moratorium from the end of January to the end of September. People who get support for buying food through programs such as SNAP will also see increased funds.

3. Ramp up a national vaccination program

If the plan passes, there will be $400 billion to fight the coronavirus. These funds will help enact a $20 billion national vaccination plan, which is the best hope the country has of putting the virus behind it quickly. Under Trump, vaccination rates have been slow as states have largely been left on their own to get shots in arms.

4. More COVID testing

There's also $50 billion allocated for expanding COVID testing, which will continue to be crucial until the population approaches herd immunity through vaccination. Biden hopes to be able to have schools open in the spring, which will require widespread and frequent testing.

5. $350 billion for state and local aid

State and local governments have been hit especially hard by the coronavirus downturn since they depend on tax revenues, which have fallen, to keep their budgets balanced. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Republicans have resisted calls to provide support for localities, denouncing it as a "blue state bailout" — even though states need help regardless of their politics. Under the Biden plan, $350 billion would be earmarked for these governments,

6. Tax credits

In addition to the direct payments of an additional $1,400, the plan gives extra support to families by expanding select tax credits, as CNBC explained:

The president-elect wants to increase the child tax credit to $3,000 for qualifying children aged 17 and under. Kids under age 6 would be eligible for a $3,600 credit.
Biden is calling to put these expansions into effect for the year on an emergency basis.
In comparison, families can currently claim up to $2,000 per child under age 17.
To further benefit low-income families, Biden also wants to make the child tax credit fully refundable. That means taxpayers get a refund check, even if the credit exceeds their tax liability.

7. $15 minimum wage

It seems unlikely that it will make it into the final version of the plan, but Biden's vision would include a hard-fought progressive goal: raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

This Holiday Season, Think About The Amazon Workers

During the hectic holiday shopping season, Jeff Bezos' Amazon may seem like a great option, especially for us procrastinators. Anything you want can be shipped directly to your doorstep. All it takes is a few clicks on the Amazon website — and, of course, some of your hard-earned money.

The media sings the praises of Bezos' concept and business. But what you may not know is that, as head of the Amazon beast, Bezos is hard on his labor force. In fact, he was awarded a less-coveted prize by the International Trade Union Confederation in 2014: "World's Worst Boss."

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Trump Discards Promises On Minimum Wage Increase

On July 1, Donald Trump said he would share good news about the minimum wage within two weeks.

Since then, 21 days have passed without a word from the White House on the subject.

"I'm going to have a statement on minimum wage," Trump told Fox Business during a White House interview. "I feel differently than a lot of people on minimum wage, some people in my own party. But I will have a statement over the next two weeks on minimum wage."

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Trump: Waitress Who Makes $2.13 An Hour Is ‘Overpaid’

Reprinted with permission from DCReport

By multiple measures, workers are faring poorly under Donald Trump compared to his predecessor. Yet Trump keeps telling workers that because of him they are doing better. Let's examine the facts.

The latest news shows that growth in the last three months of 2019 was at a modest pace of 2.1 percent. That's a third of what candidate Trump promised (a ridiculous promise that many believed). It's lower than the 3.2 percent average growth of the last 73 years. And it's lower than during the second Obama term.

Gross Domestic Product growth has been slower each year Trump has been in office, we reported earlier.

Still earlier we gave Trump a grade of C.

A big reason for slow growth is that while cash piles up for those at the top, most struggle to make ends meet.

'Our wages are too high. Everything is too high. Having a low minimum wage is not a bad thing for this country.'

The Trump administration is hostile to the idea of a minimum wage and opposes any increase. The federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 an hour since 2009. Adjusted for inflation, its shriveled to just $6.05 per hour.

For people who get tips, like waitstaff, the minimum wage has been stuck at $2.13 an hour since 1992. Its real value has been halved in the last 28 years. Tips, under federal law, make up the $5.12 an hour difference to meet the $7.25 minimum wage.

Paid Too Much

Candidate Trump asserted in 2015 that American workers are paid too much.

"Our wages are too high. Everything is too high," Trump said on MSNBC's Morning Joe. "Having a low minimum wage is not a bad thing for this country."

Trump said it again at a Republican primary debate sponsored by Fox News and the Wall Street Journal. "Wages too high."

America can't compete in global markets because workers make too much money, Trump asserted. Never mind that few low-wage Americans work in jobs making goods or providing services our country exports.

Taking Credit

In recent months Trump started crowing that pay is "rising fastest for low-income workers." He said it in the State of Union, at rallies and in White House lawn comments. And he said it is his economic and tax policies that are making pay at the bottom grow.

Pay at the bottom is indeed rising after years in the economic doldrums. But Trump deserves zero credit for that. The credit goes to lawmakers in 22 states—and many cities and counties—who voted to raise the minimum wage.

As this graphic from the Economic Policy Institute shows, wages at the bottom are up because of those states and localities that increased the minimum wage.

Income growth began sputtering after Trump took office, Census Bureau data show.

The 22 states that raised their minimum wages since the start of 2018 by either a dollar amount or inflation adjustments are politically and economically diverse: Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont and Washington.

Trump and Obama Equal

What if we look at workers as a whole, mixing together those earning a paltry $2.13 an hour to those whose salary and bonus exceed $1 million a week? A record 211 American workers were paid more than $50 million in 2018. And more than 155,000 were paid more than $1 million last year.

Now consider the average wage for private-sector workers, which mixes these extremes of paltry and fantastic pay along with everyone in between.

In Trump's first three years the inflation-adjusted average wage increased 3 percent. That's exactly the same 3 percent as for Obama's last three years, Bureau of Labor Statistics data show. In other words, Trump did nothing special.

Growth at the Top

And what if we look at a broader measure—household income. That's wages plus business profits, capital gains, dividends, farm sales, rents, pensions and more. For those at the top income, growth has been fabulous. For everyone else not so much.

So what happened to median household income—half more, half less. It gives a solid sense of the typical American income.

During Trump's first two years, median household income rose $1,400. During Obama's last two years median income rose $4,810, more than three times as much.

Cuts Federal Workers' Raises

Finally, if you harbor any remaining belief that Trump is helping workers make more, consider these two facts from consecutive days earlier this month.

On Feb. 10 Trump said that due to a "national emergency or serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare," federal workers would not get a scheduled 3 percent pay raise. He cut their increase to just 1 percent, which considering inflation is a pay cut.

The next day Trump struck the opposite note when he tweeted:

"BEST USA ECONOMY IN HISTORY!"

Trump is nothing if not consistently inconsistent except for one thing: using his powers to make sure workers don't share in economic growth.