Headlines: April 2, 2021
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The U.S. economy added 916,000 new jobs in March as per the latest employment figures from the Labor Department. The number is a healthy one, indicating that in spite of jobless claims remaining high, there are new jobs being created. A reporter asked President Joe Biden about the new figures in a press briefing on Friday morning. Meanwhile the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy released a report showing that, “At least 55 of the largest corporations in America paid no federal corporate income taxes in their most recent fiscal year despite enjoying substantial pretax profits in the United States.” These include Archer Daniels Midland, FedEx and Nike. The Guardian newspaper also released a study showing how fossil fuel companies raked in billions of dollars of tax breaks from the U.S. government even as they laid off thousands of workers during the pandemic. A whopping 58,000 people, or 16% of the fossil fuel industry’s workforce was laid off. Yet another report published by a conservative think tank found that corporations are increasingly pouring their profits into paying off wealthy shareholders instead of investing in long-term growth—a trend that is affecting the stability of the market as a whole.
President Biden is busy promoting his new American Jobs Plan as a long-term solution to stabilizing the nation’s economy while addressing inequality and climate change. At his Friday press conference, he explained how the majority of jobs would be well-paying blue collar jobs. Although Republican lawmakers have already made clear they want nothing to do with passing Democratic-led measures, Biden is appealing to Republican voters instead. The New York Times explained, “Mr. Biden and his allies on Capitol Hill are barreling ahead with unapologetically bold, expensive measures, betting that they can build bipartisanship from voters nationwide rather than from elected officials in Washington.” Still, progressives, who have been pushing the Biden administration to be exactly that—bold and unapologetic—are criticizing the size of his infrastructure plan, saying it is too small, and instead pushing the THRIVE Act, a $10 trillion, 10-year plan. Washington Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, worried that Democrats might water down even the modest American Jobs Plan to appease Republican lawmakers, tweeted, “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.” The White House is currently examining ways to pass the bill in the Senate using a Budget Reconciliation process and bypass Republicans altogether.
The Minneapolis trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd will focus on Friday on Floyd’s struggles with addiction. Traditionally police have used drug addiction as a means of justifying police killings of people of color but in the case of Floyd’s killing, the prosecution seems to be appropriating the narrative to make the case that although Mr. Floyd had significant levels of opiates in his bloodstream, he had a high tolerance for them given his long-term addiction and that he did not therefore die from a drug overdose as the defense is suggesting. Earlier in the week Floyd’s former girlfriend Courteney Ross, who is white, revealed that both she and Floyd struggled with opioid addiction for years and changing American attitudes toward drug addiction led even the defense lawyer to say to Ms. Ross, “I’m sorry to hear about your struggles with opioid addiction. Thank you for sharing that with the jury.” Meanwhile Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo is on the list of the prosecution’s witnesses, an extremely rare and perhaps unprecedented occurrence for a police chief to testify against a police officer in such a case. A retired police officer, Sgt. David Pleoger testified that Chauvin ought to have stopped restraining Floyd as soon as he was subdued.
Two other unrelated incidents of police brutality are now in the news. Seven correctional officers have been fired in connection to the in-custody death of a 26-year old Black man named Marvin Scott III in Allen, Texas, last month. Mr. Scott was arrested over marijuana possession of less than 2 ounces of a drug that is now legal in over a dozen states. Hours later he was dead in jail after being violently pepper sprayed and a hood thrown over his head. In Chicago, there are increasing calls for the release of body camera footage in an incident involving the fatal police shooting of a 13-year old boy named Edgar Toledo.
Backlash is growing against Georgia’s newly passed anti-voter bills as numerous high-profile corporations with headquarters in the state are speaking out, including Coca Cola and Delta Airlines. The For The People Act that the House of Representatives just passed would upend such bills in states across the nation where Republicans are attempting to restrict voting in order to maintain political power. Representative Jim Clyburn slammed West Virginia Senate Democrat Joe Manchin over his lack of enthusiasm to take the bill up in the Senate. Clyburn said he was “insulted” by Manchin’s decision to become the only Democrat in the Senate to not sponsor the bill. A new AP-NORC poll found that a majority of Americans support making it easier to register to vote.
The Justice Department’s inquiry into GOP Congressman and ardent Donald Trump loyalist Matt Gaetz appears to be more and more bizarre. The New York Times published new details showing that Gaetz paid cash to multiple women using digital payment apps in exchange for sex. According to the report, “Investigators believe Joel Greenberg, the former tax collector in Seminole County, Fla., who was indicted last year on a federal sex trafficking charge and other crimes, initially met the women through websites that connect people who go on dates in exchange for gifts, fine dining, travel and allowances, according to three people with knowledge of the encounters. Mr. Greenberg introduced the women to Mr. Gaetz, who also had sex with them, the people said.” CNN is now reporting that Gaetz would show nude photos and videos of women he had slept with to other lawmakers. Gaetz, facing mounting calls to step down, says he won’t resign.
And finally, even as vaccination rates against the COVID-19 virus are accelerating in the U.S., new cases of infection have climbed. There were more than 78,000 new cases in the U.S. on Thursday alone, in a very troubling sign that we are facing yet another surge. And, the CDC has just issued new guidance saying that fully vaccinated people can travel safely within the United States without needing to get tested before or after and nor do they need to self-quarantine. They should still follow basic safety precautions while traveling however, such as mask-wearing, social distancing, and handwashing.