News & Analysis of Economic, Racial, Gender Justice and More

A bi-partisan group of centrist Senators is attempting to break through the gridlock on a new Covid-relief bill this week with a new $908 billion financial package to stimulate the sluggish economy and provide aid to millions of struggling Americans. The proposal includes $300 a week for unemployed Americans — half the amount they were receiving earlier this year — as well as $160 billion in aid to state and local governments. It also protects corporations from worker-lawsuits over health and safety issues. The Senators, including Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) held a press conference on Tuesday. Senate Democrat Dick Durbin, who was involved in shaping the bill, did not appear on Tuesday alongside his colleagues citing that he would have excluded a corporate liability shield from the bill.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin were scheduled to speak on Tuesday afternoon about Covid-relief. There is no certainty that even if Congress were to pass a relief bill that President Donald Trump would sign it. Mr. Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chair Jeremy Powell testified in front of the U.S. Senate on Tuesday. The two disagreed with one another about the most serious risks facing the U.S. economy. This is Mnuchin attempting to explain why his department did not spend all the CARES Act funds. Mr. Powell differed. Underscoring the need for relief, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia released a study showing a 70% increase in people paying their rent on a credit card. And, several families are suing the state of California over growing gaps in how children of color are able to access remote learning during the pandemic. The lawsuit filed Monday contends that, “The change in the delivery of education left many already underserved students functionally unable to attend school.” Nationwide poor and non-white students were found to be falling behind in math instruction as per a new study.

There were 4 million new cases of infection and 37,000 deaths from the coronavirus in the U.S. in November alone. As pharmaceutical companies seek approval from the FDA for their Covid-19 vaccines, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention convened an advisory panel tasked with making recommendations about who should be vaccinated first. According to the New York Times, “it is expected to advise that healthcare workers be first in line, along with residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.” Once approved by CDC Director Robert Redfield, the recommendations will then be shared with states. California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that his state would be receiving 327,000 doses of the vaccine from Pfizer. Dr. Anthony Fauci, speaking with Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on Monday, “By the time we get to April they will have likely taken care of the high priority and then the general population of normal, healthy young men or women, 30, 40 years old, no underlying health conditions, can walk into a CVS or a Walgreens and get vaccinated.”

Meanwhile President Donald Trump’s controversial coronavirus advisor Scott Atlas has resigned from his position. Atlas came under fire from the scientific community for suggesting that masks don’t work to stop the spread of the virus and that children are unable to pass the disease. He was also a proponent of the wrongly named idea of “herd immunity,” which basically amounts to doing nothing. Meanwhile Stephen Hahn, the head of the Food and Drug Administration headed to the White House on Tuesday to meet with Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to answer for his agency’s delay in approving Pfizer’s vaccine. Mr. Meadows reportedly wants to ensure that the U.S. approves emergency authorization of the vaccine before the U.K. and is apparently concerned with avoiding international embarrassment. Pfizer and Moderna, the two U.S. based companies that have announced vaccine results, are both requesting authorization for use in Europe.

President Donald Trump, having lost all his bids to foment a coup by overturning the election results, has reportedly raised $170 million from his donors. Despite having no chance of remaining in the White House, Trump is relentlessly fundraising and there are now reports that the first 75% of all contributions to his campaign will go into a new Political Action Committee he has launched. In other words, most of the money will fund him personally. Trump plans to visit Georgia over the weekend to boost turnout for two Republican Senate candidates who face a runoff in January. But Georgia Republicans are worried he may end up suppressing the vote. In recent days Trump has slammed Republican leadership in the state for running an election fairly simply because he lost there. Meanwhile Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced an investigation into voter registration groups that he suspects are registering voters from out of state to cast ballots in the January 5th Senate runoffs. And, voters in Atlanta this Tuesday are voting for a short-term Democratic replacement for the late Congressman John Lewis. The winner will serve only until January.

President elect Joe Biden continues to face fallout from his pick of former Hillary Clinton campaign staffer Neera Tanden to lead the Office of Management and Budget. Tanden, who is reviled by supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders, has now reportedly deleted 1,000 of her own Tweets as she hopes to stay in the running for the position. Biden is also under fire for considering  Rahm Emanuel, former Chicago mayor, to lead the Department of Transportation. Mr. Emanuel penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday advising Biden on how to break a Senate gridlock by focusing on bread-and-butter issues of importance to voters from both parties. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is also being considered for a possible appointment in a Biden administration but activists from Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, who have been camped out in front of his home for days, are demanding otherwise.

The Trump administration has blocked wage raises for farmworkers for the next 3 years prompting an outcry from labor groups. The Trump Labor Department enacted the wage freeze which is now being challenged in court, and could result in the loss of $170 million of wages to low-income farmworkers who grow and harvest the food Americans rely on. Meanwhile the Supreme Court heard arguments on Tuesday in a case related to whether Americans candy manufacturers Nestle USA and Cargill can be held liable for relying on child labor in African nations like Ivory Coast where much of the cocoa is grown.

Twenty-five House Democrats wrote a letter to their colleagues this week demanding an increase in IRS funding so that the tax collection agency can go after wealthy tax cheats. The Internal Revenue Service in recent years has focused on lower income Americans to unearth tax fraud, letting wealthier Americans off the hook. The agency says its priorities are based on funding. Congresswoman Judy Chu, who was among the letter’s signatories, wrote, “Millionaire tax dodgers like Donald Trump get away with paying little to no federal income tax in part because IRS funding has dropped over 20% since 2010.”

Finally, tens of thousands of Indian farmers have laid siege to their capital city of New Delhi demanding that the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi repeal proposed changes to the nation’s agricultural sector. The farmers say they are ready to lock the city down for weeks until they get their wish. Modi’s new rules, which were passed in September, would remove price guarantees for their produce and leave farmers to directly negotiate prices with private corporations who they expect will exploit the workers. There is currently a line of protesters nearly 20 miles long around Delhi and more farmers are expected to join in coming weeks. A majority of Indian workers are part of the agricultural sector.

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