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Zorro

Profile Information

Gender: Male
Hometown: America's Finest City
Current location: District 50
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 13,363

Journal Archives

Where's your check? Ask GOP lawmakers.

ON WEDNESDAY, what would have been Tax Day, many Americans who would have been wondering how much they had to send the Internal Revenue Service instead wondered how much they would get in stimulus bill money from Washington. The Post’s Heather Long and Michelle Singletary reported Thursday that many did not get as much as they were promised. Some got $1,200 checks for themselves but not the $500 for each under-17 dependent they were supposed to receive. Others, including many who used tax preparation services, got nothing at all because the IRS did not have their electronic bank account information. New electronic tools to help people get their money worked for some but not others. It will likely take much longer to dispatch paper checks to those to whom the IRS cannot send money via direct deposit, even as the nation’s economic situation gets more desperate and the need for immediate aid gets ever-more acute.

The IRS must fix the glitches, fast. But blame should not be cast solely on a federal bureaucracy that Congress ordered to organize, in a matter of weeks, the massive logistical effort required to send tens of millions of people hundreds of billions of dollars, in a variety of ways, in partnership with other big agencies, when its banking records were incomplete, all the while protecting against identity theft and other forms of fraud. For example, according to Ashley Schapitl, spokesperson for the Senate Finance Committee,the IRS told lawmakers that the agency’s ability to send out paper checks was far more limited than it was in 2008, the last time it was asked to do something similar. Meanwhile, IRS staff face the same challenges everyone else does working in the age of social distancing.

Moreover, Congress itself deserves much blame for the undercapacity of the IRS. Years of GOP defunding led to severe underinvestment in staff, technology and customer service, the folly of which is only more obvious now.

In normal times, the big problem with the Republican campaign against the IRS was that it led to lax enforcement of tax laws, which let cheaters skip out on paying massive amounts of money to the Treasury. Small amounts of funding spent to maintain a functional IRS would have yielded large amounts of income that the federal government was owed, at the same time ensuring fairness for the vast majority of Americans who obeyed the law.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/wheres-your-check-ask-gop-lawmakers/2020/04/17/0e8ed750-8015-11ea-8013-1b6da0e4a2b7_story.html

Thanks to COVID-19, Social Security's day of reckoning may be even closer than we thought

I’ve mentioned before that Social Security is now dipping into its reserves—the so-called “trust fund”—to pay benefits. That’s because the system isn’t taking in enough cash from payroll taxes, which is how the gargantuan Social Security program—by far the single biggest source of federal spending—is financed.

Prior to the economic downturn—or collapse—that we’re now experiencing, the trust fund was projected to run out of money by 2035.

This has, practically overnight, gotten worse. Why? Because some 22 million Americans have lost their jobs in the last four weeks. This means there are a lot fewer—millions fewer—people paying those payroll taxes into the Social Security system.

And on top of a lot less money coming in, a lot more will soon be going out. That’s because people who are now out of work and eligible to draw benefits may soon do so, out of sheer economic need.

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/thanks-to-covid-19-social-securitys-day-of-reckoning-may-be-even-closer-than-we-thought-2020-04-15

A Gloomy Prediction on How Much Poverty Could Rise

The pandemic crippling the American economy portends a sharp increase in poverty, to a level that could exceed that of the Great Recession and that may even reach a high for the half-century in which there is comparable data, according to researchers at Columbia University.

The coming wave of hardship is likely to widen racial disparities, with poverty projected to rise twice as much among blacks as among whites. Poverty is also likely to rise disproportionately among children, a special concern because brain science shows that early deprivation can leave lifelong scars. Children raised in poverty on average have worse adult health, lower earnings and higher incarceration rates.

If quarterly unemployment hits 30 percent — as the president of one Federal Reserve Bank predicts — 15.4 percent of Americans will fall into poverty for the year, the Columbia researchers found, even in the unlikely event the economy instantly recovers. That level of poverty would exceed the peak of the Great Recession and add nearly 10 million people to the ranks of the poor.
High unemployment is projected to increase the poverty rate and widen racial disparities.

With jobs vanishing at a startling rate — 22 million in the last four weeks — there is great uncertainty about how high unemployment will go or how soon it will drop, but its potential to leave a wake of impoverishment has forecasters worried.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/16/upshot/coronavirus-prediction-rise-poverty.html

Trump and His Allies Are Worried About More Than November

The temporary imposition of popular relief programs in response to the coronavirus makes Republicans nervous.

In the face of mass unemployment and a rapidly contracting economy, President Trump is desperate to end the pandemic lockdown and bring the country back on line. That’s why he spent the past week asserting his “total” authority to reopen the economy (“The president of the United States calls the shots”) and promising a rapid return to normal: “Our country has to get open, and it will get open, and it’ll get open safely and hopefully quickly — some areas quicker than others,” he said on Tuesday.

Republicans in Congress, likewise, are urging an end to the freeze. “It should have happened yesterday,” Representative Andy Biggs of Arizona, chairman of the hard-line House Freedom Caucus, told Politico. Representative Trey Hollingsworth of Indiana acknowledged the chance of “loss of life” from an early end to social distancing but asserted, nonetheless, that it was better than the alternative. “It is policymakers’ decision to put on our big boy and big girl pants and say it is the lesser of these two evils,” he said to a local radio station. Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana was even more blunt during an interview on Fox News on Wednesday. “We gotta reopen, and when we do, the coronavirus is going to spread faster, and we got to be ready for it.”

No doubt there is real concern for the economic and health consequences of an extended shutdown. But Republicans, and Trump in particular, are also thinking about November. If the president knows anything, it’s that his fate rises and falls with the state of the economy. And if he loses his campaign for re-election, then in this polarized environment of nationalized politics, he’s likely to take congressional Republicans down with him.

But I think there’s another element underlying the push to reopen the economy despite the threat it poses to American lives, a dynamic beyond partisanship that explains why much of the conservative political ecosystem, from politicians and donors to activists and media personalities, has joined the fight to end the lockdown.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/17/opinion/coronavirus-relief-trump.html

This editorial nails it. Republicans are in a rush to reopen the economy before millions more voters come to understand and appreciate the value and benefits of sensible, progressive, government-sponsored social relief programs. That is a direct threat to current Republican political philosophy and policies.

Think This Pandemic Is Bad? We Have Another Crisis Coming.

Addressing climate change is a big-enough idea to revive the economy.

On the last Friday in March, I lost hope.

I have always believed in America: not in our inherent goodness — I am too black for that — but in our sheer animal will to survive. Crisis after crisis, our country has evolved to meet the moment, even if that meant changing the way we thought the world worked or striving to upend the imbalance of power. But on that Friday, I was on my couch working when the messages started to pour in. Friends sent me video after video of Republican senators debating stimulus measures to address the coronavirus crisis, standing in the Senate chamber, saying that the Green New Deal — a proposal that I helped create — was the reason millions of Americans would not receive the help that they need.

I was furious. Of the nearly $2 trillion in aid proposed in that first version of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, known as the CARES Act, $500 billion went toward a business-relief fund with little to no oversight. Fifty-eight billion of this was earmarked for airlines, and a lax definition of eligible businesses created a loophole for oil and gas. The bill included no climate protections, so the claim that it was being held up over Green New Deal provisions was absurd. And the changes proposed by Democrats — emissions reductions for airlines, limiting bailouts for fossil fuel industries, protections for airline workers — were modest.

The senators I saw did not mention those things. Nor did they mention that the airlines had requested $50 billion after spending $45 billion on stock buybacks over the past five years. They did not mention that emissions reductions requested would not be required until 2025 or that when they were, the reductions would be less than 3 percent per year. And no one stood up and asked why corporations should be exempt from loan terms when the rest of us are not. Why is it “opportunism” when we try to design policy that would address more than one problem at a time, but it’s “efficiency” when businesses do the same? (The final version of the CARES Act does not provide targeted funding for fossil fuels and reduced the aid for passenger airlines to $25 billion. None of the climate policies mentioned were included in the final version of the bill.)

Covid-19 and the economic collapse it has caused have laid bare how connected our problems are. Congress and the Federal Reserve are not going to lay out trillions of dollars, over and over, in perpetuity. Refusing to include measures related to climate and environmental justice in economic stimulus packages related to the coronavirus is not neutral when there is no guarantee of other opportunities to do so later. We need to design the stimulus not only to help the U.S. economy recover but to also become more resilient to the climate crisis, the next multitrillion-dollar crisis headed our way.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/15/opinion/climate-change-covid-economy.html

San Diego congressional candidates spent millions on primary; Hunter again draws FEC attention

The candidates who captured the top spots in the races for San Diego’s five congressional seats together spent more than $7.3 million in the weeks surrounding the March primary.

Much of that spending focused on the region’s two battleground contests: the races for the 49th and 50th District.

The race for the vacant seat in the 50th District — which includes East and north Inland San Diego County and a southern portion of Riverside County — saw the top two candidates spend nearly $5 million, according to Federal Election Commission data for the period between Feb. 13 and March 31.

Republican Darrell Issa, who represented San Diego County for 18 years prior to leaving his seat in 2018, spent $4.3 million, the most of any candidate.

https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/politics/story/2020-04-18/san-diego-congressional-candidates-spent-millions-month-ahead-of-primary-hunter-again-draws-attention-of-fec

'You've Served Me Well, But This Has Gone Too Far,' Says Oprah Loading Shotgun After Watching Dr. Oz

‘You’ve Served Me Well, But This Has Gone Too Far,’ Says Oprah Loading Shotgun After Watching Dr. Oz, Dr. Phil Fox News Appearances


MONTECITO, CA—Sighing in remorse at the “monsters of my own creation” after viewing recent appearances on Fox News by Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil, media tycoon and longtime talk show host Oprah Winfrey reportedly muttered “You have served me well, but this has gone too far,” Friday while loading a shotgun.

“Well, we had a good run, boys, but business is business,” said Winfrey, loading shells into a pump-action Mossberg 500 before calling to be picked up by her personal stealth helicopter.

“I remember when I found them—a sleazy corporate lawyer, and a two-bit snake-oil salesman—perfect additions to my syndicate. We really had a good thing going for a while there, but you can’t be on Oprah’s Favorite Things list forever, now can you? Time for these ‘doctors’ to take their medicine.”

At press time, Winfrey was reportedly found covered in blood making new selections for her book club.

https://entertainment.theonion.com/you-ve-served-me-well-but-this-has-gone-too-far-says-1842924183

Give me liberty and give me death!

Yes, I would like things to be worse, please. I do not think things are bad enough, and I would like them to be worse. I look at the number of people who have died in this great state, and I think, frankly, it is a little low. People, if you want to be technical about it, who will never see their families again; people who were not done living; people who cannot be replaced and whose absence will bore an echoing hole through countless other lives — but what is that, weighed against my own convenience and my sense that things should be open rather than closed?

I look at the strain on our hospital system and I think: It could be greater. I see ambulances going past and I think: They are too unimpeded and will get to the hospitals too quickly. I look at the people in charge of my state who are trying to minimize the cost to human life and I say: Why, though?

I am here to make my voice heard. I am not actively in favor of the virus, but I think there might be good people on both sides of this people-virus question. So I am going to assemble in such a way that my leaders will have no choice but to listen and that through my negligence, more people will die. You might say I’m doing my part. Thankfully, at least, the president agrees.

The problem? On the grounds that there “is a pandemic” and it "is not safe,” I have been briefly deterred from going about my life in exactly the manner I would like. Can you believe this? No, I will not hold. I am here, banging on the window, like the heroes in a zombie film. Listen, I know my rights. I know that among them is life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but I don’t care about the first one.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/04/17/give-me-liberty-give-me-death/

Bill Gates, at Odds With Trump on Virus, Becomes a Right-Wing Target

The Microsoft co-founder turned philanthropist has been attacked with falsehoods that he created the coronavirus and wants to profit from it.

In a 2015 speech, Bill Gates warned that the greatest risk to humanity was not nuclear war but an infectious virus that could threaten the lives of millions of people.

That speech has resurfaced in recent weeks with 25 million new views on YouTube — but not in the way that Mr. Gates probably intended. Anti-vaccinators, members of the conspiracy group QAnon and right-wing pundits have instead seized on the video as evidence that one of the world’s richest men planned to use a pandemic to wrest control of the global health system.

Mr. Gates, 64, the Microsoft co-founder turned philanthropist, has now become the star of an explosion of conspiracy theories about the coronavirus outbreak. In posts on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, he is being falsely portrayed as the creator of Covid-19, as a profiteer from a virus vaccine, and as part of a dastardly plot to use the illness to cull or surveil the global population.

The wild claims have gained traction with conservative pundits like Laura Ingraham and anti-vaccinators such as Robert F. Kennedy Jr. as Mr. Gates has emerged as a vocal counterweight to President Trump on the coronavirus. For weeks, Mr. Gates has appeared on TV, on op-ed pages and in Reddit forums calling for stay-at-home policies, expanded testing and vaccine development. And without naming Mr. Trump, he has criticized the president’s policies, including this week’s move to cut funding to the World Health Organization.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/17/technology/bill-gates-virus-conspiracy-theories.html

Straggling in a Good Economy, and Now Struggling in a Crisis

The coronavirus pandemic has shown how close to the edge many Americans were living, with pay and benefits eroding even as corporate profits surged.

An indelible image from the Great Depression features a well-dressed family seated with their dog in a comfy car, smiling down from an oversize billboard on weary souls standing in line at a relief agency. “World’s highest standard of living,” the billboard boasts, followed by a tagline: “There’s no way like the American Way.”

The economic shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic has suddenly hurled the country back to that dislocating moment captured in 1937 by the photographer Margaret Bourke-White. In the updated 2020 version, lines of cars stretch for miles to pick up groceries from a food pantry; jobless workers spend days trying to file for unemployment benefits; renters and homeowners plead with landlords and mortgage bankers for extensions; and outside hospitals, ill patients line up overnight to wait for virus testing.

In an economy that has been hailed for its record-shattering successes, the most basic necessities — food, shelter and medical care — are all suddenly at risk.

The latest crisis has played out in sobering economic data and bleak headlines — most recently on Thursday, when the Labor Department said 5.2 million workers filed last week for unemployment benefits.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/16/business/economy/coronavirus-economy.html
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