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New Study Reveals Massive Tax Evasion By Wealthiest Americans

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

A new study has found that the wealthiest one percent of Americans are dodging payment of taxes at a much higher rate than prior research had revealed.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the study, conducted by a team of Internal Revenue Service and academic researchers and economists for a working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, found that the richest one percent of households fail to disclose to the IRS a full 21 percent of their income.

The researchers concluded that the amount of unreported income for the top 0.1% might be as much as twice as high as earlier research had indicated.

The study also uncovered that six of the 21 percentage points were attributable to the use of elaborate techniques to avoid detection, ones that a typical IRS audit might not catch. These include pass-through businesses, through which income is siphoned directly into the business owner's personal accounts and not taxed at the corporate rate, and earnings held in offshore accounts, which an IRS audit only detects about 7% of the time.

The researchers wrote, "From a policy perspective, our results highlight that there is substantial evasion at the top which requires administrative resources to detect and deter. We estimate that 36 percent of federal income taxes unpaid are owed by the top one percent and that collecting all unpaid federal income tax from this group would increase federal revenues by about $175 billion annually."

These patterns were already detectable 20 years ago when the National Tax Journal published a report called "The Distribution of Income Tax Noncompliance." That 2010 report contained the results of analysis of data for the 2001 tax year and showed that although households in the top income bracket accounted for only 44 percent of earned income in 2001, they accounted for 61 percent of income tax evasion.

Conversely, in 2001 the bottom 50 percent of earners represented 14 percent of earned income nationally — but only 12 percent of tax evasion. Despite this discrepancy, a 2019 ProPublica report noted that low-income Americans were still being audited at the same rate as the highest earners.

And Republican tax policy has continued to prop up the wealthiest one percent of Americans, giving them tax cuts and special tax benefits. The Center for American Progress has noted that while today the top marginal tax rate is around 37 percent, that's a steep drop from rates during much of the first four decades after the introduction of the income tax in 1913, when it often rose above 70 percent, hitting 94 percent during World War II and staying at 91 percent for most of the 1950s and early 1960s.

And the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, signed into law by Donald Trump, disproportionately benefited wealthy individuals and corporations with enormous tax cuts. The act neither increased worker wages nor helped low-income communities, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Connie Razza, the Center for Popular Democracy's chief of campaigns and policy, has called the 2017 tax law a scam.

"We have to call Trump's tax plan for what it is, a scam," she said in an Economic Policy Institute press release. "He sold this as a benefit to working people, but the report shows clearly that it only caters to the super-wealthy, historically white, corporate class."

And recently, Republicans have slammed reports of a new tax policy proposed by Biden that would raise taxes on the very wealthy and corporations in order to reduce income inequity and aid post-pandemic economic recovery.

"Democrats said they wouldn't raise taxes," the official account for GOP members of the House Ways and Means Committee tweeted last week. "They didn't keep their promise. Biden is planning to slap American workers and families with the largest tax increase since 1993."

But the economists who produced the National Bureau of Economic Research working paper say rich Americans are withholding too much of their wealth from the IRS.

Daniel Reck of the London School of Economics, the lead author of the study, told the Wall Street Journal, "There is more revenue than you might have thought at the very top. What's needed is a broader strategy that involves increased scrutiny of pass-through businesses [and] investments in the comprehensive audits that the IRS does in its global high-wealth program."

Charles Rettig, the IRS commissioner, was in agreement last week when he said in testimony before the House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee that funding to implement such a strategy was needed.

"It is not just a body count of how many people we have in enforcement," he noted, adding that to investigate tax evasion by the wealthy, "We need to have specialized agents."

Congress, too, is making efforts to hold the rich accountable for tax evasion or avoidance.

Last month, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) introduced the Stop Corporations and Higher Earners from Avoiding Taxes and Enforce Rules Strictly Act, or Stop CHEATERS Act, which would $100 billion to the IRS specifically to improve auditing and collection of taxes owed by people and corporations in the top 1% of earners.

"We know our tax system is broken, and it's long past time we start fixing it," Khanna said in a statement. "Wall Street has been able to act like high rolling gamblers with almost zero consequences for far too long. Right now, the wealthiest one percent are responsible for roughly 70 percent of the 'tax gap'—the difference between taxes owed and taxes paid. It's time every American pay their fair share."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

With Trump Gone, Security Agencies Can Confront Violent Far Right

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

President Joe Biden's administration is expanding new grants from the Department of Homeland Security to target and prevent right-wing domestic terrorism after years of such efforts being effectively stymied by Donald Trump — and the department is ramping up its plans to combat what experts say is the greatest terrorist threat facing America today.

According to an NBC report, although the department's Office of Targeted Violence and Terrorism prevention originally directed some funding to these grants toward the end of Trump's time in office, Biden's new plan expands upon the funding available, which will include more than $500,000 allocated toward American University to study the "growing threat of violent white supremacist extremist information."

DHS, which in 2019 founded the Office for Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention to prevent violent political extremism, is expected to continue to receive more funding from Congress during the Biden administration. Grants awarded from this office go toward state and local law enforcement efforts in combating domestic terrorism.

Officials say the Trump administration effectively hamstrung the department from enacting real efforts to halt right-wing extremist violence. Trump and his administration frequently placed blame for domestic terrorist violence on "Antifa" and civil rights activist groups like Black Lives Matter, instead of on actual right-wing perpetrators.

At the first televised presidential debate last September 29, moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump if he would denounce right-wing extremist violence from the stage.

"Sure, I'm prepared to do that," Trump answered. "I would say almost everything I see is from the left-wing, not from the right-wing. I'm willing to do anything. I want to see peace."

He then told the far-right white supremacist group, the Proud Boys, to "stand back and stand by," adding, "But I'll tell you what. Somebody's got to do something about antifa and the left. Because this is not a right-wing problem — this is a left-wing problem."

But experts agree right-wing extremism is one of the greatest domestic threats the country faces today.

In the first eight months of 2020, 67 percent of attacks on American soil by political extremists were committed by right-wing domestic terrorists, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The CSIS database also notes that since 2010, almost six times as many Americans have been murdered by right-wing extremists as left-wing extremists. Since 1994, not a single murder has been linked to "Antifa" activists.

A February 2020 report by the Anti-Defamation League found that 90% of extremist-related murders in the United States in 2019 were committed by right-wing extremists.

But experts tried for years to investigate the threat posed by right-wing domestic terrorists under Trump, only to find themselves repeatedly stonewalled by Trump and his administration.

A New York Times report found that Trump's Justice Department redirected resources and funding to focus on the bogeyman of "Antifa" violence instead of very real violence fomenting on the right, shuffling prosecutors and FBI agents off of right-wing violence threat assessment to focus on baseless claims of leftist violence.

Two former Department of Justice officials told the Times they were pressured to "uncover" a left-wing violent conspiracy plot that didn't exist, and top DHS officials denied funding for more analysts to flag right-wing threats of violence on social media in the election's aftermath.

Far-right extremists felt they had "an ally in the White House," according to Mary McCord, a former DOJ employee and Georgetown University professor specializing in domestic terrorism. "That has, I think, allowed them to grow and recruit and try to mainstream their opinions, which is why I think you end up seeing what we saw [at the Capitol]."

Elizabeth Neumann, former DHS assistant secretary for counterterrorism and threat prevention, told NBC that even use of the term "domestic terrorism" in department meetings with Trump was discouraged in favor of broader terms like "violence prevention."

"We did expand domestic terrorism prevention under Trump," she said, "but when it came to questions of how we could change the domestic terrorism statute to charge people more easily, there were no adults at the White House who were willing to go there, nor was anyone willing to define the threat."

Experts have said that the Capitol insurrectionists see the January 6 attack on the Capitol as a "resounding success," and without intervention, it could result in a "golden age of domestic extremism."

But Biden's team has plans to take strong preventative measures to cut off right-wing violence at its root.

A DHS spokesperson told NBC, "Domestic violent extremism poses one of the gravest threats to our homeland, and Secretary [Alejandro] Mayorkas has made clear that combatting it is a top priority. Our primary responsibility is to protect the safety and security of the American people, which means taking actions to prevent violence before it occurs."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Republican Senators Joke About Trump’s Deadly Incitement To Rioters

Reprinted with permission American Independent

On the second day of Donald Trump's impeachment trial in the Senate, House managers presented evidence to support the charge of incitement to insurrection on which Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives on January 13.

Republican lawmakers are treating the proceedings as a joke, ignoring the evidence of the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 by Trump supporters that left five dead and deriding the entire thing as a "political stunt."

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) on Wednesday tweeted a video of herself walking toward the Senate chamber for the second day of the trial.

"Day two of the impeachment," she says with a smile. "I'm getting ready to head the floor. What we're going to hear today is the House managers are going to lay out their claims about impeachment and against the president, and we hear that they have produced a Hollywood-type movie for us to see."

Blackburn also tweeted, "The Democrats spoke of unity, but their actions have proven otherwise. This impeachment is a political stunt that will only further divide our nation."

The deadly attack by Trump supporters on January 6 killed five, including Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, and injured 140 police officers, some seriously. Two police officers have died by suicide in the wake of the attack.

During the attack, rioters chanted, "Hang Mike Pence!" and evidence has suggested that some intended to take hostages.

In his opening statement Tuesday, House impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) said that failing to hold Trump accountable for inciting the riot could lead to further violence:

President Trump has sent his lawyers here today to try to stop the Senate from hearing the facts of this case. They want to call the trial over before any evidence is even introduced. Their argument is that if you commit an impeachable offense in your last few weeks in office, you do it with constitutional impunity. You get away with it. In other words, conduct that would be a high crime and misdemeanor in your first year as president and your second year as president and your third year as president and for the vast majority of your fourth year as president, you can suddenly do in your last few weeks in office without facing any constitutional accountability at all. This would create a brand new January exception to the Constitution of the United States of America. A January exception.
And everyone can see immediately why this is so dangerous. It's an invitation to the President to take his best shot at anything he may want to do on his way out the door, including using violent means to lock that door, to hang onto the Oval Office at all costs, and to block the peaceful transfer of power. In other words, the January exception is an invitation to our founders' worst nightmare. And if we buy this radical argument that President Trump's lawyers advance, we risk allowing January 6th to become our future.

"We're one day in to the stupidest week in the Senate," tweeted Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota. He criticized President Joe Biden for somehow failing to stop the trial in another post: "Disappointing. @POTUS went from calling for unity to letting Democrats' partisan impeachment charade continue."

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas was one of several Republicans calling impeachment a waste of time that could be dedicated to other work, tweeting, "Democrats want a week of political theater raging at Donald Trump instead of focusing on reopening schools or getting millions of Americans back to work."

Florida's Sen. Marco Rubio also complained Tuesday that the trial was "a waste of our time."

During the gripping 13-minute video Democrats played on the first day of the trial, Rubio and several other Republican senators, including his fellow Floridian Rick Scott and Arkansas' Tom Cotton, would not even watch. Kentucky's Rand Paul reportedly doodled his way through the trial on a pad in his lap.

In an example of how a government can do several things at once, despite Cruz's concern, the Biden administration intends to release new guidance for reopening schools from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week, and the American Rescue Plan proposed by Biden to provide economic relief for those suffering during the coronavirus pandemic has been projected to get the economy back on track as early as the end of the year.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Cogent, Persuasive Impeachment Managers Scramble Trump Defense

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Bruce Castor, one of Donald Trump's defense attorneys for his second impeachment trial, admitted before Congress on Tuesday afternoon that Trump's legal team was thrown off by how "well done" the House impeachment managers' presentation at the top of the trial was and had improvised a response after throwing out all their preplanned remarks.

"I'll be quite frank with you," Castor, a former Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, district attorney who infamously refused to prosecute Bill Cosby, said. "We changed what we were going to do, on account that we thought that House managers' presentation was well done."

Impeachment managers had presented, among other arguments, a 13-minute video outlining the attack on the Capitol in chronological order, interspersed with Trump's remarks egging on the violence.

But, Castor assured the assembled lawmakers, Trump's legal team do have responses to the arguments raised by the House impeachment managers — they just won't be sharing them right now.

"I wanted you to know that we have responses to those things," Castor said. He explained that he thought that he was initially supposed to be discussing jurisdiction, but would provide further arguments later.

"We have counterarguments to everything that they raised, and you will hear them later on in the case from Mr. van der Veen and myself," Castor said, referring to fellow impeachment defense attorney Michael van der Veen.

Castor was brought on to Trump's team a little over a week ago, on Feb. 1.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, in a case filed against Trump in 2020 by a candidate for Congress, van der Veen, while representing the congressional candidate, accused Trump of having suppressed votes by making baseless claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election. Van der Veen has also referred to Trump as a "f—king crook," one of his former clients told the outlet.

BRUCE CASTOR: I'll be quite frank with you. We changed what we were going to do on account that we thought that the House managers' presentation was well done. And I wanted you to know that we have responses to those things.
I thought that what the first part of the case was, which was the equivalent of a motion to dismiss, was going to be about jurisdiction alone, and one of the fellows who spoke for the House managers, who was a former criminal defense attorney, seemed to suggest that there's something nefarious that we were discussing jurisdiction and trying to get the case dismissed.
But this is where it happens in the case because jurisdiction is the first thing that has to be found. We have counter arguments to everything that they raised, and you will hear them later on in the case from Mr. van der Veen and from myself.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Trump And Allies Enraged As Social Media Ban Expands

Steve Cortes, a senior adviser with Donald Trump's election campaign, took to Twitter to complain that Trump and his "movement" were being censored by "Big Tech" as a number of social media platforms suspended the accounts of the White House occupant and his supporters after Wednesday's deadly attack on the Capitol.

"I'm on Bannon's War Room soon discussing Big Tech/Big Brother suppressing the speech of the president and our movement - including Michelle Obama's shameful call for a permanent de-platforming," tweeted Cortes.

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GOP Senators See No Reason To Provide Needy Families With Virus Relief

A number of Senate Republicans are making their opposition to proposed $2,000 coronavirus relief checks clear — as well as the fact that they don't think Americans really need it.

Donald Trump himself has pushed for the larger checks, accusing Republicans of having a "death wish" for not supporting the idea and for only passing $600 direct payments in the most recent round of COVID relief legislation. In the current iteration, only individuals making under $75,000 and households making less than $150,000 are eligible for the $600 checks.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has stalled the follow-up CASH Act, which would allot $2,000 to qualifying Americans in lieu of the amount previously agreed upon in the House and Senate, regardless of that fact.

According to a Washington Post report, six GOP senators have followed Trump in voicing support for the $2,000 checks. They include Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler of Georgia, Lindsey Graham (SC), Marco Rubio (FL), and Josh Hawley (MO). Perdue and Loeffler are notably facing a tight runoff election next week against Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, respectively.

But many others have openly condemned the idea of larger payments, suggesting in some cases that Americans don't actually need the money.

On Wednesday morning, Sen. John Cornyn took to Twitter to complain that the CASH Act did not sufficiently target those who have lost wages.

"Under the CASH Act (the House's $2,000 bill), an individual making $100,000 will get a $750 check. It completely phases out for those making more than $115K," Cornyn tweeted. "There doesn't seem to be a requirement that the recipient actually lost any income due to COVID-19."

He complained that the $2,000 checks would add billions to the cost of COVID relief.

"Remind me, why would we want to borrow money from our children and grandchildren to send a check to someone who has not suffered a financial hardship related to #COVID19?" Cornyn wrote.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) also claimed that sending Americans $2,000 relief checks would be "mortgaging our children's future."

"Without targeting, 2,000/person payments will add $464 billion to the debt burden we are placing on our children. By effectively targeting relief, we can help those in need and minimize how much we are mortgaging our children's future," he tweeted.

Johnson also said he was concerned the earlier round of stimulus checks was going to people who still had jobs.

"At the worst point of the COVID recession, total employment was down 25 million, but we sent relief checks to 166 million people. If we're going to send out more checks, shouldn't we target help to those who truly need it?" he tweeted.

On Tuesday afternoon, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) appeared on CNN to slam the proposed increase, saying they were a "very bad idea".

"I'm not going to [support $2,000 checks] because I think it's a very bad idea," he said. "We're talking about sending checks, the vast majority of which will be going to people who have had no loss of income whatsoever. That's just a fact. How and why does that make any sense at all?"

He claimed that even the merits of the original round of stimulus checks in the spring were "dubious," but noted that "we're in a very different place than we were in March," when the Senate passed the CARES Act.

"The economy grew at 33 percent last quarter," Toomey said. "We've got very acute problems within certain employment groups … but we do not have a global macro economic depression underway at all. So it makes no sense to be sending this out to everybody who has a pulse."

Toomey failed to take into account that even a 33 percent increase does not put the economy back to pre-pandemic levels. Gross domestic product is still down by 3.5 percent from highs before the pandemic, according to Market Watch — a net loss of $670 billion in total economic activity.

"To put this in context, a 3.5% decline in real GDP would still be the third worst recession in the post–World War II period," PNC Financial Services chief economist Gus Faucher told Market Watch.

And despite the rosy picture painted by some Senate Republicans, millions of Americans are still suffering economically and in need of direct payments.

According to Pew Research, one-quarter of American adults across all economic brackets have struggled to pay basic bills during the pandemic. One-quarter of U.S. adults also report they or someone in their household has been laid off, and 32 percent report they or someone in their household lost wages. And 60 percent of those who lost wages are still earning less than they were at the beginning of the pandemic.

Among lower-income individuals, 46 percent have struggled to pay basic bills, 32 percent have struggled to pay rent or mortgage, and 35 percent have had to visit food banks for basic necessities.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

CNN Anchor Brutally Calls Out McEnany For Nonstop Lying

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany appeared on Fox News Monday night to peddle long-debunked election lies — a mere day after insisting on Twitter that she's not a liar.

Among other things, McEnany falsely claimed that President-elect Joe Biden outperformed former Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton's 2016 performance in only four major metro areas during the 2020 election, suggesting that this somehow proved there had been massive election fraud.

"This [voter fraud] happened in the places that needed to happen, which is why the four metros — the only four — where Joe Biden outperformed Hillary Clinton were Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Atlanta, and Detroit," McEnany said.

That claim is demonstrably false. Critics were swift to note that it had even been debunked by conservative outlets.

According to the right-leaning National Review in November, Biden's margin of victory surpassed Hillary Clinton's in at least 31 urban counties.

Contrary to McEnany's claims, Philadelphia was among the metro areas where Biden's performance did not improve, according to that report.

The National Review also noted that Biden's gains in Detroit and Milwaukee were in fact "distinctly subpar" — and that even Donald Trump substantially improved upon his 2016 margin of victory in Detroit.

McEnany has a long history of pushing disinformation — serving as an unofficial campaign spokesperson while also working as press secretary, a contradictory role that's been scrutinized by experts as a possible Hatch Act violation — even beyond the 2020 election, which Trump still insists he won.

Upon taking over the role of press secretary, she had one promise for the American people.

"I will never lie to you," McEnany told reporters at her first press conference on May 1. "You have my word on that."

She then proceeded to violate that promise — not only in that same speech, but also on dozens of other occasions in the subsequent months.

After leaked tapes revealed that Trump had indeed lied to the American people about the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic at the start of the pandemic, despite having knowledge to the contrary, McEnany insisted he had done nothing wrong.

"The president has never lied to the American public on COVID," she said in September.

McEnany has also pushed false claims of voter fraud on the airwaves, falsely claiming Trump won Pennsylvania when he didn't.

In mid-December, long after Trump lost the election, she suggested there still might be a "continuation of power" involving Trump remaining in office.

"[Trump] won't get ahead of that activity actually happening, but he has taken all statutory requirements necessary to either ensure a smooth transition or a continuation of power," she said in a briefing.

McEnany has also lied about former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama blocking an orderly transfer of power — when Trump quite literally thanked them for ensuring one, in his inauguration speech.

She's made other easily debunked claims as well, falsely claiming Trump was the first president to celebrate World Aids Day and that the Trump administration has an all-female communications team.

Notoriously conservative Fox News even cut off a post-election press conference by McEnany in November, noting that she didn't have any evidence to support her claims of a stolen election.

"Unless she has more details to back that up, I can't in good countenance continue showing you this," said anchor Neil Cavuto.

McEnany's latest false claim comes just one day after she took to Twitter to blast CNN's Jake Tapper for saying Sunday that he won't interview her because she lies "like most people breathe".

"There are some people that are so mendacious, I just wouldn't put them on air. Kayleigh McEnany, I never booked her," Tapper said. "Jason Miller from the Trump campaign, I would never book him. These are just people who tell lies the way that most people breathe. There was no value in that."

McEnany fired back the next day.

"This is a therapy session for a broken network, and @jaketapper is lazy enough to participate by lobbing baseless personal attacks with ZERO evidence," McEnany tweeted Monday. "Jake's real problem: I do not leak. I do not lie. But I DO call out the lies of the media (i.e. CNN Russia collusion hoax!)."

There is zero evidence to support her claim that the media created the "Russia collusion hoax." McEnany appeared to be referring to the nearly two-year-long Russian election interference investigation, ultimately spearheaded by former special counsel Robert Mueller, who determined there were at least 10 instances of possible obstruction by Trump on the matter, and myriad ties between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election and beyond.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Trump Promised 20 Million Vaccinated By Now — And Isn’t Even Close To Target

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Top infectious disease specialist Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday that Donald Trump's administration has fallen far short of its projected goal for number of vaccines administered by the end of the year — about 18 million short, in fact.

The administration had previously promised to deliver and administer 20 million vaccines by the end of the year. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's COVID Data Tracker, only about 2.1 million Americans had received the first dose of the vaccine as of Tuesday morning.

Fauci said on CNN Tuesday that such a rate was "certainly not at the numbers that we wanted to be at the end of December."

"Even if you undercount, 2 million as an undercount, how much undercount could it be?" Fauci added. "So, we are below where we want to be."

Trump officials responsible for vaccine rollout have admitted Operation Warp Speed failed in its goal to vaccinate 20 million by year's end.

"Exactly how fast the ramp-up of immunizations, shots in arms, is slower than we thought it would be," Dr. Moncef Slaoui, the Trump official helming distribution, said in a press conference last week. "And as I told you earlier, we're here to help the states to accelerate appropriately."

Army Gen. Gustave Perna, in charge of logistics of Operation Warp Speed, blamed delays on lag time between production and shipment.

"We all made the error or mistake of assuming that vaccine that's actually produced and being released is already available for shipment, when, in fact, there is a two-days lag between the time at which we generate a lot of data that shows this vaccine vial is actually safe and right and the time we can ship it," Slaoui said to CNN.

State officials have criticized Trump for his delay in signing the latest COVID relief bill — which he ultimately signed on Sunday — which, by extension, reportedly held up billions of dollars intended for vaccine distribution.

But Fauci said hope was on the horizon. "I believe that as we get into January, we are going to see an increase in the momentum," he said. "I hope allows us to catch up to the projected pace that we had spoken about a month or two ago when we were talking about the planned rollout of the vaccinations."

President-elect Joe Biden has faulted Trump for the delay on vaccine rollout as well. According to his pandemic advisory team, Biden intends to invoke the Defense Production Act to exponentially increase the rate of vaccine production once he takes office in January.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

As Virus Crushes Hospitals, Republicans Still Attacking Fauci

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

This week, Republicans in Congress are slamming the COVID-19 safety guidelines recommended by top infectious diseases specialist Dr. Anthony Fauci — even as COVID positivity rates soar and hospitals nationwide face dangerous overcrowding.

On Sunday night, Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) attacked Fauci on Twitter, saying his "fantasies" have led to "the extinction of all our freedoms."

"Almost everything Fauci has said this year has been exaggerated, misleading, and/or flat-out wrong. He is not to be trusted under any circumstances," tweeted Biggs, linking to a New York Times interview with Fauci about required herd immunity rates. "Americans must reject his doctrine of destruction before his fantasies lead to the extinction of all of our freedoms."

In the interview, Fauci said that while he has previously stated that 60 percent to 70 percent of the American population required vaccination in order for the country to achieve herd immunity, he really thinks that number could be as high as 90 percent.

The Times reported that Fauci has been adjusting the figure over time based on the latest scientific findings and also his concern at how the public would react to the numbers.

"We need to have some humility here," Fauci told the Times. "We really don't know what the real number is. I think the real range is somewhere between 70 to 90 percent. But, I'm not going to say 90 percent."

But, he said, he's increased the goal vaccination rate incrementally, since he now feels the American public is ready to hear the fuller picture — that the safest route to eradicating coronavirus is for a higher number of Americans to be vaccinated.

His comments drew more ire from his frequent critics on the right.

Biggs, for one, lashed out at Fauci and the science surrounding coronavirus in general. Demonstrating a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept of herd immunity, on Monday he denied the existence of asymptomatic carriers of the virus.

"Many of the COVID-19 testing policies revolve around the notion that asymptomatic people are unknowingly spreading COVID-19 to many others," he wrote on the platform. "Or maybe most of them aren't. Maybe the asymptomatic 'doctrine' wasn't everything the 'experts' told you it was.

But recent studies have repeatedly shown that 40 to 50 percent of those testing positive for COVID-19 have no symptoms, and leading experts have noted that this has played a huge role in the pandemic's spread.

And Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio also came under fire this weekend for criticizing the science underlying COVID guidelines and vaccine protocols, as well as for claiming Fauci "lied" to Americans and was "distorting" information about vaccines.

"Dr. Fauci lied about masks in March," Rubio tweeted. "Dr. Fauci has been distorting the level of vaccination needed for herd immunity. It isn't just him. Many in elite bubbles believe the American public doesn't know 'what's good for them' so they need to be tricked into 'doing the right thing'."

Critics were swift to note that Rubio's remarks undercutting the importance of vaccines in achieving herd immunity came after the senator was among the first to receive the coronavirus vaccine.

And while Fauci did recommend against the wearing of masks in March, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines recommending mask-wearing were not implemented until April as experts came to understand more about the disease.

And Biggs and Rubio's remarks undermining the importance of vaccines and other safety protocols are ill-timed, coming as American hospitals face overcrowding of epic proportions due to the pandemic.

In parts of California, including Los Angeles County, doctors have warned that they will soon have no room for other patients because they are so inundated by COVID-19 patients.

"I'm not going to sugarcoat this. We are getting crushed," said Dr. Brad Spellberg, LAC and USC Medical Center's chief medical officer.

Earlier this month, hospitals in eastern Tennessee had only 8 of their 284 ICU hospital beds unoccupied.

A December report by The Atlantic noted that patients in Laredo, Texas, were being sent to San Antonio hospitals and other Texans sent to Oklahoma as their own hospitals filled up; and that in South Dakota, 37 hospitals reported sending patients home with oxygen tanks because they ran out of room in the hospital for the most desperate cases.

"Calamity is no longer imminent; it is here," the outlet noted.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

VIDEO: Trump’s Most Cringe-Worthy Moments Of 2020

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

This year, Donald Trump botched a federal response to a global pandemic, antagonized peaceful protesters of police brutality, rammed through a questionable Supreme Court pick, and attempted to steal an election.

But he's also fumbled his way through some unforgettable moments, making bizarre statements to the public that have left listeners scratching their heads.

Though it's far from the first year in office that Trump's verbal gaffes have made waves, it's certainly been among the most memorable.

Here are just a few of the more baffling statements the White House occupant made in 2020.

1. When he claimed Austrians live in forests

Discussing wildfires happening across California in early September, Trump told Fox News that Austrians were better equipped to handle such fires because they lived in forests.

"You have forests all over the world," he said. "You don't have fires like you do in California. You know, in Europe they have forest cities ... you look at countries, Austria, you look at so many countries, they live in the forest, they're considered forest cities."

Elisabeth Koestinger, Austria's agriculture secretary, felt the need to respond to Trump's bizarre remarks.

Specifically, she tried to debunk Trump's claims that "we live within 'forest cities' which never catch fire."

"...[T]he gravity of current events make Trump's words much more worrying — after all, right at this moment, thousands of people are fighting horrendous wildfires in life-or-death situations," Koestinger said. "In reality, Austria is a country situated in the heart of Europe, where people do not live in the forest, but rather with the forest and in a close, sustainable relationship with the natural environment."

2. When he wondered aloud about 'exploding' trees

Once again in September, while discussing the California wildfires, Trump wondered aloud to the press about the possibility of trees just "exploding."

"When trees fall down, after a short period of time, about 18 months, they become very dry, they become really like a matchstick and they get up — you know, there's no more water pouring through and they become very very — they just explode," he said.

Experts were quick to fact-check his claim.

Retired fire scientist Richard Rothermel noted that if Trump meant foliage could "suddenly burst into flames due to a massive amount of heat engulfing the tree," that was possible.

But, he added, "For the trunk to become super heated sufficiently to cause the moisture in the tree to suddenly become steam with resulting expansion which would shatter the tree ... In my years at the fire laboratory I never heard anyone report seeing this or finding evidence of it."

3. When he insisted he was just 'inspecting' his White House bunker

Following media reports in June that he'd hid in the underground White House bunker while police cracked down on anti-racism protesters nearby, Trump later claimed he had merely been "inspecting" it.

"They said it would be a good time to go down, take a look, because maybe sometime you're going to need it," he said at the time.

Complaining of "fake news," Trump added that he "looked" at the space for "a very, very short period of time."

"I can't tell you who went with me, but a whole group of people went with me, as an inspecting factor, I was back up, and ... it was during the day, it wasn't during the night," he said, slamming the media for reporting that the so-called "inspection" had happened at in the evening hours.

4. When he referred to Thailand as 'thigh-land'

Speaking at a Whirlpool factory in Ohio this past August, Trump mispronounced the name of Thailand as "thigh-land."

"Five years ago, this place was a disaster," he said in his remarks. "In 2017, Whirlpool won relief from the [U.S. International Trade Commission] once again, once more. Your foreign competitors moved their factories to prevent the level playing field and to avoid liability, shifting production to thigh-land and Vietnam," he said.

Trump quickly corrected himself, repeating "Thailand and Vietnam."

Those in Thailand, however, took the gaffe in stride, with English-language outlet the Thai Enquirer briefly changing its Twitter name to the "Thigh Enquirer".

5. When he suggested Americans inject bleach to cure coronavirus

In April, a White House official explained in a press conference that lights and certain disinfectants like bleach could potentially kill coronavirus living on surfaces.

Eager to put in his two cents, Trump suggested those treatments might be taken internally.

"So supposing we hit the body with a tremendous, whether it's ultraviolet or just very powerful light, and I think you said that hasn't been checked, but you're going to test it, and then I said supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do, either through the skin or in some other way, and I think you said you're going to test that, too," he said.

He added that injecting disinfectant might also be a good way to combat the virus.

"I see the disinfectant that knocks it out in a minute, one minute, and is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning?" Trump asked. "Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does at tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that. So that you're gonna have to use medical doctors with, but it sounds interesting to me."

Medical experts were swift to condemn Trump's remarks as dangerous, and Lysol and another disinfectant company issued a joint statement warning that "under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body."

6. When he wished an accused sex trafficker well

In a cringeworthy statement heard round the world, Trump sent his best wishes to Jeffrey Epstein's longtime companion, accused sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell.

"I just wish her well, frankly," he told a reporter in July. "I've met her numerous times over the years, especially since I lived in Palm Beach and I guess they lived in Palm Beach, but I wish her well, whatever it is."

The FBI had recently arrested and charged Maxwell with sex trafficking of children, enticement of minors, and perjury at that time.

7. When he wondered why he couldn't force TikTok to pay off the government

Trump seemed gobsmacked in a September press conference to discover he — or, rather, the U.S. government — couldn't collect a bounty from Microsoft's acquisition of Chinese-owned app TikTok.

Trump had previously stated that any sale of the app to a U.S. entity should require the company to give the Treasury a "very big" payment as part of the deal.

Under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, governments are legally barred from making such payments to other governments in the private marketplace.

Asked if TikTok would indeed make payments to the U.S. Treasury in September, Trump told reporters, "We're going to see about that."

"Amazingly, I find that you're not allowed to do that, you're not allowed to accept money, so what kind of a government, what kind of thing is this, if they're willing to make big payments to the government, they're not allowed, because there's no way of doing that, there's no legal path to doing that," Trump said.

He continued, "And I'm saying wait a minute, they're willing to make a big payment to the government and we're not allowed to take their money? When does this happen? How foolish can we be, so we're gonna, we're looking into that right now."

8. When he claimed (falsely) that the biggest election threat was 'ballots'

In a September press conference, Trump ignored the raging pandemic around him to claim that the biggest threat to the November election was "ballots" — specifically mail ballots intended to keep voters safe amid the pandemic.

"The biggest problem we have right now are the ballots," he said in a press conference that month. "Millions of ballots going out, that's the biggest problem."

"Our biggest threat to this election is governors from opposing parties controlling ballots, millions of ballots," he added. "To me that's a much bigger threat than foreign countries."

He then falsely claimed allegations of foreign interference in the 2016 election had been disproven, despite intelligence community consensus, and his own party's confirmation, that Russia did in fact meddle in and affect that election.

Trump's repeated claims of widespread ballot fraud have been thoroughly debunked, and even his own outgoing Attorney General William Barr has smacked down allegations that there was mass election fraud that somehow turned the tide for President-elect Joe Biden.

9. When he decided to spell out 'COVID'

In a public statement on April 2 announcing that he would be authorizing the domestic manufacture of more ventilators under the Defense Production Act, Trump bragged that COVID-19 had become a "very famous" term.

He decided to spelled it out, however, rather than calling it by its name. By that point, the media had been reporting on the outbreak, which had been declared a pandemic weeks earlier, for several months.

"C-O-V-I-D 19," Trump said, referring to the disease caused by the coronavirus. "You know what that is, it's become a very famous term. C-O-V-I-D. COVID."

By that time, there had already been 3,900 COVID-related deaths in the United States, according to CBS.

10. When he claimed he worked as hard as factory workers

Despite his legendary Twitter habit and Fox News addiction, Trump told factory workers responsible for manufacturing personal protective equipment during the pandemic that he worked as hard as they did.

"The workers at this facility have answered the call at America's hour of need," he told them in May. "Many of you are working long before dawn, get up and you go to work, and long after midnight. I know your hours, I was talking to your people and your representatives ... but I work those hours too, we're all working hard."

In May, the Washington Post estimated that Trump had spent anywhere between 9 and 63 full days on Twitter during his time in office, if all the hours were stacked together. In that time, he has also posted more than 22,000 false or misleading tweets, many of which are easily debunked.

11. When he pronounced 'Yosemite' as 'Yo Semite'

At an August event at the White House to sign a bipartisan conservation bill, Trump infamouslymispronounced the name of Yosemite National Park — twice.

"When young people experience the breathtaking beauty of the Grand Canyon, when their eyes widen in amazement as Old Faithful bursts into the sky, when they gaze upon 'Yo Semite'... Yoseminite's towering sequoias, their love of country grows stronger and they know that every American has truly a duty to preserve this wondrous inheritance," Trump said.

Twitter was quick to call him out on his error.

12. When he said he designed Navy ships to look like 'a yacht with missiles'

In June, Trump inexplicably claimed in a visit to a Wisconsin shipbuilding facility that he designed a new fleet of warships for the U.S. Navy.

"The ships that they were building, they look terrible. I changed designs, I looked at it, I said, 'That's a terrible looking ship, let's make it beautiful, it'll cost you the same and maybe less,'" Trump said. "You know, sometimes you can make it look great for less money. And I said, 'This is not a good looking ship, let's change the design of it.'"

He said that he called in a team who then changed the ship's design.

"They gave me a beautiful — it's like a yacht with missiles on it," Trump added.

13. Any time he tried to dance to 'YMCA' at a campaign rally

Trump seems to be a fan of the Village People hit "YMCA," one of the tunes often played at his 2020 campaign rallies, as evidenced by his now-famous dance moves, which went viral this year.

Those moves even sparked a popular TikTok challenge, with users uploading side-by-side videos of themselves attempting to learn or imitate Trump's dance, which "starts with the arms, clenched fists pumping back and forth — sometimes to the beat — as though he's on an elliptical trainer," as the Associated Press described it.

"The hardest dance to learn," one user joked.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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