News Releases

“Low-Income People Must Actually Get Stimulus Payments”

ROBERT GREENSTEIN, via Jacob Kaufman-Waldron, jkaufmanwaldron at cbpp.org, @GreensteinCBPP
Greenstein is president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. See his thread on Twitter on “glaring gaps” in current Senate proposals.

He also just wrote the piece “Low-Income People Must Be Eligible for Stimulus Payments — and Actually Receive Them,” which states: “Stimulus payments need to reach as many low-, moderate-, and middle-income households as possible to soften the COVID-19 pandemic’s financial blow to individuals and shore up the economy. That means that lawmakers must not only make low- and moderate-income people eligible for the full payments; they must also ensure that the government delivers the payments without imposing new requirements on individuals to file tax returns or fill out and submit other complex paperwork. …

“The IRS should be able to send stimulus payments quickly to most people who file tax returns. But some 30 million people don’t file returns, including those with incomes so low that they aren’t required to file returns for federal taxes and millions of seniors, people with disabilities, and veterans. …

“States can reach many of the millions of low-income people who aren’t receiving benefits (such as Social Security) from federal agencies by delivering the payments through state-administered programs such as SNAP (food stamps), Medicaid, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). …

“Former IRS Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson has urged lawmakers to avoid this mistake of 2008 and, instead, to use federal agencies such as SSA and the VA to quickly deliver stimulus payments to people who don’t file tax returns. We agree, and lawmakers should also ensure that the millions of people who neither file a tax return nor receive federally administered benefits actually receive stimulus payments through state governments, as explained above.

“This seemingly technical issue will determine whether millions of low-income people in fact receive stimulus payments. These are the very people who struggle the most to make ends meet and, thus, are the likeliest to spend every additional dollar they receive, providing the greatest potential boost to the economy. Ensuring that they get stimulus payments is not just the right thing to do from a humanitarian standpoint; it’s also the essential thing to do for the U.S. economy.”

Beyond Burr: No Dark Money with Bailouts

ProPublica reports: “Senator Dumped Up to $1.7 Million of Stock After Reassuring Public About Coronavirus Preparedness.” Bloomberg reports: “U.S. Senators Sold Stock After Coronavirus Briefings in January.”

THOMAS FERGUSON, thomas.ferguson at umb.edu
Ferguson is a leading scholar on money in politics — author of Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Party Competition and the Logic of Money-Driven Political Systems and many essays. He is professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Boston and senior fellow at Better Markets.

He warns that public money must not set up a vicious cycle of public bamboozlement and profits for politicians.

Ferguson commented: “The news that U.S. senators, including the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, were saying one thing in public and doing another after receiving confidential briefings on the coronavirus is both a vivid reminder and a warning. It’s a reminder, because the evidence that the U.S. is a money-driven political system is overwhelming.

“But it’s also a warning. Right now the U.S. government is laying plans for sweeping bailouts of individual firms and sometimes whole industries. Any such bailouts need stringent regulations about disclosure. Firstly, if we, the people, are not to finance our own bamboozlement, any company receiving bailout money must be required to file at the end of each month full reports on political contributions and lobbying expenditures to candidates and parties. So-called ‘Dark Money’ funneled through fake charities should not be exempted from those requirements nor should ‘527’ funds. Firm and top executives’ contributions to trade associations and other groups that lobby or make political expenditures of their own must also be disclosed. Donations to think tanks and ‘gifts’ from corporate foundations, which we now know are often politically motivated, also need disclosure. Not only money from the companies, but contributions of their executives and PACs need to be included in these reports.

“We cannot set up a closed loop in which voters and taxpayers subsidize companies and then those companies recycle some of the funds back into Congress and the political system and political parties. And it’s high time to put some teeth in the Stock Act, that supposedly stopped individual representatives from engaging in such disgraceful practices.”

Ferguson just co-wrote the piece “Coronavirus Means Zero Hour for the European Union” which cautions against German banks aggravating the pandemic in Italy.

He emphasizes that his views are his own and not that of any institution he is affiliated with.

Economic Plans for Addressing the Pandemic

JAMES GALBRAITH, Galbraith at operamail.com

MICHAEL LIND, mlind40 at outlook.com
Lind is a New America fellow and Galbraith teaches at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. They recently wrote the piece “Needed: A Finance Agency to Handle the Financial Meltdown from the Coronavirus” for the Boston Globe. They write: “Congress should create a time-limited government corporation, a Health Finance Corporation. It should be modeled on the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, created during the Depression and used to support the New Deal and the World War II mobilization.”

NANCY ALTMAN, via Linda Benesch, lbenesch at socialsecurityworks.org, @SSWorks
Altman is president of Social Security Works and just wrote the piece “Learning From FDR: The Coronavirus Pandemic Requires Long-Term Solutions” for Forbes. The piece quotes one of Roosevelt’s closest advisers, Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins. She explained the thinking in a nationwide radio address: “We cannot be satisfied merely with makeshift arrangements which will tide us over the present emergencies. We must devise plans that will not merely alleviate the ills of today, but will prevent, as far as it is humanly possible to do so, their recurrence in the future.”

EILEEN APPELBAUM, via Dan Beeton, beeton at cepr.net
Appelbaum is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, which just released the report “Concrete Solutions to Mitigate the Health and Economic Impacts of the Pandemic.” It includes many recommendations, such as: “Inject immediate economic stimulus to develop the expansion of physical space dedicated to urgent medical care. That includes both the conversion of appropriate spaces as well as, where applicable, adding tents, trailers, and other temporary adjuncts. …

“Make paid sick leave expansion both real … and permanent. A minimum number of paid sick days should be no less than 80 hours for full-time workers, pro-rated hours for part-time, and should be a federally-mandated employment standard, similar to minimum wage.”

A section is titled: “Avoid Bailout for Highly-Concentrated Industries that Could Have Taken Out Insurance Policies,” and states: “If the current cruise ship industry couldn’t foresee health issues, given its history, its shareholders deserve to be cleaned out on their investment. Bankruptcy law exists for a reason — a bankrupt cruise industry does not mean additional unemployed cruise ship workers, it means they will be working for new owners who, in theory, have the foresight to buy insurance that includes pandemics.”

The same applies to other massive businesses. If airlines go bankrupt, the retirement benefits of tens or maybe hundreds of thousands of workers could be damaged through no fault of their own. It is not a worker’s job to make decisions on insurance! We recommend ensuring a prepackaged bankruptcy policy that protects these benefits, which are often the lowest priority under bankruptcy law, as was done with the auto industry. Some federal money as an inducement might be necessary, but that’s significantly less money than if shareholders were to be made whole for investing in imprudent management.”

Lift Economic Sanctions to Avoid More Deaths From Pandemic, Economists Say

CommonDreams reports: “‘Literally Weaponizing Coronavirus’: Despite One of World’s Worst Outbreaks of Deadly Virus, U.S. Hits Iran With ‘Brutal’ New Sanctions.” In These Times reports: “U.S. Sanctions on Iran Are Increasing Coronavirus Deaths. They Need to Be Stopped Now.”

The U.S. government should instead be lifting economic sanctions against Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, and other countries to avoid unnecessary deaths and more extensive propagation of the pandemic, said economist Jeffrey Sachs, professor and director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University.

In a statement, the Center for Economic and Policy Research said: “While sanctions already cause tens of thousands of needless deaths, the lethal toll during the novel coronavirus pandemic will be made far worse in countries where imports of medications, medical equipment, and the maintenance of water, sanitation, and health care infrastructure are restricted due to the impact of U.S. sanctions. These restrictions will also make it harder for health authorities to control the spread of the disease within their countries.”

“The Trump administration is using sanctions against Iran and Venezuela to pressure those governments by inducing widespread suffering,” Sachs said. “This policy is unconscionable and flagrantly against international law. Yet worse, it is now feeding the coronavirus epidemic. It is imperative that the U.S. lift these immoral and illegal sanctions to enable Iran and Venezuela to confront the epidemic as effectively and rapidly as possible.”

CEPR noted: “The crippling economic sanctions in place against Venezuela and Iran, and a number of the sanctions targeting North Korea, were unilaterally imposed by President Trump, thanks to the broad sanctions powers accorded to the U.S. president under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the National Emergencies Act. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D–Minn.) recently introduced legislation that would reform these two laws in order to reestablish congressional control and oversight over executive branch sanctions powers.”

See more statements from economists on this effort from CEPR.

For interviews, contact: Dan Beeton, (202) 239-1460, beeton at cepr.net, @ceprdc

Why “Flatten the Curve” Isn’t Enough

This Financial Times chart (3/16/20) indicates where countries are headed if they continue on their present pandemic path.

JIM NAURECKAS, jnaureckas at fair.org, @JNaureckas

Editor of FAIR’s magazine Extra!, Naureckas just wrote the piece “To Defeat Coronavirus, Media Need to Look at Real-World Examples, Not Play ‘Simulitis,’” which states: “The idea that the best one could hope for is to slow, not stop, the spread of the coronavirus leads to the advice to ‘flatten the curve’ of the peak of infections, as featured in” various media. “The idea is that measures like social distancing and washing one’s hands can lower the rate of infection, spreading cases out enough to keep the healthcare system from collapsing. …

“If the disease is allowed to spread until it’s naturally halted by herd immunity — which is what the ‘flatten the curve’ model presumes — this would mean (assuming a final infection rate of 40 percent) that more than 20 million Americans would need to be hospitalized, and more than 4 million would require intensive care (Health Affairs, 3/17/20)…in a country with less than a million hospital beds and less than 70,000 adult intensive care beds. There is no feasible way to redistribute these cases enough to prevent a total swamping of our hospital capacity. ….

“It’s hard to escape the impression that ‘flattening the curve’ has been offered as a solution because any strategy that aimed at actually stopping the spread of the virus would necessarily have a ruinous economic impact. China’s economy has been ‘devastated’ by the anti-coronavirus drive (CNN, 3/16/20) — though it will no doubt turn out to be doing quite well in comparison with countries that had to impose nationwide lockdowns after acting too late. The price of not stopping the coronavirus, it turns out, is too great for any nation to pay; that’s the lesson the real world is teaching us, and one we have to heed.”

Biden’s Continuing Lies on Iraq War Crisis

The invasion of Iraq began 17 years ago from Thursday.

As the nation and the world face the coronavirus pandemic, Stephen Zunes is among several prominent analysts featured in a recently-released mini-documentary narrated by Danny Glover, “WORTH THE PRICE? Joe Biden and the Launch of the Iraq War” about the crisis of the Iraq war and Biden’s pivotal role in backing the invasion with disastrous results.

At the Sunday night CNN debate, Biden again falsified his support of the war: “I learned I can’t take the word of a president when in fact they assured me that they would not use force. Remember the context, the context was the United Nations Security Council was going to vote to insist that we allow inspectors in to determine whether or not they were in fact producing nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction. They were not.”

STEPHEN ZUNES,  zunes at usfca.edu, @SZunes
Zunes is a professor of politics and coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco.

He just wrote the piece “Would Joe Biden, Like Hillary Clinton, Lose to Donald Trump Over the Iraq War?

Zunes said today regarding Biden’s claims at the debate: “Bernie Sanders correctly observed that everyone knew at the time that this was a vote for war. The bill’s title, ‘Authorization for the Use of Force’ was just that: an authorization for President Bush to invade Iraq. There were no conditions regarding the return of inspectors or anything else. Furthermore, at the time of the vote, the Iraqi government had already agreed unconditionally to the return of the weapons inspectors and it was already clear that the UN Security Council was going to rigorously enforce their resolution regarding Iraqi compliance with the inspections regime regardless of what the Senate did. Finally, Biden at the time never said anything about finding out whether Iraq had chemical weapons, biological weapons, and a nuclear weapons program. As he had been doing even prior to the Bush administration, he was insisting categorically that they did.”

With Iran Facing Pandemic Under Sanctions, Call to “Stop Tightening the Thumb Screws”

AP is reporting today: “Iranian state TV warns ‘millions’ could die from coronavirus.”

KATHY KELLY, kathy at vcnv.org, @voiceinwild
Kelly co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence.

She just wrote the piece: “Stop Tightening the Thumb Screws, A Humanitarian Message.”

Kelly writes: “U.S. sanctions against Iran, cruelly strengthened in March of 2018, continue a collective punishment of extremely vulnerable people. Presently, the U.S. ‘maximum pressure’ policy severely undermines Iranian efforts to cope with the ravages of COVID-19, causing hardship and tragedy while contributing to the global spread of the pandemic. On March 12, 2020, Iran’s Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif urged member states of the UN to end the United States’ unconscionable and lethal economic warfare.

“Addressing UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Zarif detailed how U.S. economic sanctions prevent Iranians from importing necessary medicine and medical equipment.

“For over two years, while the U.S. bullied other countries to refrain from purchasing Iranian oil, Iranians have coped with crippling economic decline.

“The devastated economy and worsening coronavirus outbreak now drive migrants and refugees, who number in the millions, back to Afghanistan at dramatically increased rates.

“In the past two weeks alone, more than 50,000 Afghans returned from Iran, increasing the likelihood that cases of coronavirus will surge in Afghanistan. Decades of war, including U.S. invasion and occupation, have decimated Afghanistan’s health care and food distribution systems. …

“Jonathan Whitall directs Humanitarian Analysis for Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors without Borders. His most recent analysis poses agonizing questions:

‘How are you supposed to wash your hands regularly if you have no running water or soap? How are you supposed to implement ‘social distancing’ if you live in a slum or a refugee or containment camp? How are you supposed to stay at home if your work pays by the hour and requires you to show up? How are you supposed to stop crossing borders if you are fleeing from war? How are you supposed to get tested for #COVID19 if the health system is privatized and you can’t afford it? How are those with pre-existing health conditions supposed to take extra precautions when they already can’t even access the treatment they need?’

“I expect many people worldwide, during the spread of COVID-19, are thinking hard about the glaring, deadly inequalities in our societies, wonder how best to extend proverbial hands of friendship to people in need while urged to accept isolation and social distancing. One way to help others survive is to insist the United States lift sanctions against Iran and instead support acts of practical care. Jointly confront the coronavirus while constructing a humane future for the world without wasting time or resources on the continuation of brutal wars.”

Coronavirus: Lack of Testing, Sick Leave

LISA GILBERT, via Angela Bradbery, abradbery at citizen.org, @Public_Citizen

Gilbert is vice president of legislative affairs for Public Citizen. The group is stressing that testing and treatment for the coronavirus should be free. (This approach, taken by South Korea, of containing the virus by extensive testing rather than “mitigating” its effects, has been praised by scientists.)

Public Citizen notes that while “Jeff Bezos makes $8,961,187 per hour,” Vice is reporting: “Whole Foods Suggests That Workers Share Paid Time Off During Coronavirus.”

Public Citizen produced a list of some of the U.S. companies denying workers paid sick leave:

McDonald’s – 517K workers
Walmart – 347K workers
Kroger – 189K workers
Subway – 80K workers
Burger King – 165K workers
Pizza Hut: – 156K workers
Marriott – 139K workers
Wendy’s – 133K workers

Target changed their policy, Business Insider reports: “Target is offering up to 14 days of paid time off for workers in quarantine and those confirmed with coronavirus.”

Also see from Public Citizen: “Coronavirus Vaccine Must Not Be Exclusive to U.S.

Biden’s “Budget-Cutting Dogma Is a Threat to Public Health”

BRANKO MARCETIC, branko.95.m at gmail.com, @BMarchetich

Marcetic is author of the recently released book Yesterday’s Man: the Case Against Joe Biden. He just wrote two pieces on Biden.

One piece is pegged to the pandemic: “Joe Biden’s Budget-Cutting Dogma Is a Threat to Public Health.”

Marcetic also just wrote a piece documenting Biden’s lies during Sunday’s debate: “Multiple times, Biden charged Sanders ‘still hasn’t told us how he’s going to pay for’ Medicare for All, even though he released a detailed funding plan last month. He misleadingly charged that Sanders had voted against the 2008 auto bailout. He accused Sanders of having ‘nine Super PACs’ and threatened to ‘list them,’ then backed down when challenged to do so. (For the record, one of those supposed ‘Super PACs’ took only six donations over $5,000 in 2019).

“But it was on his own record that Biden was particularly dishonest. Directly and repeatedly asked by Sanders if he had been on the Senate floor calling for cuts to Social Security, Medicare and veterans benefits, Biden repeatedly flat-out lied, saying he hadn’t — a fact easily disproved by the video of Biden doing exactly that in 1995.

“As has been amply documented, Biden has spent his career taking aim at the program: he targeted it in his 1984 spending freeze proposal; he called for raising the retirement age and reducing its cost-of-living increases in 1996; he voted three years in a row for the balanced budget constitutional amendment, which, as Sanders warned at the time, would have imperiled the program; he called again for raising the retirement age in 2007, as well as introducing means-testing to the program; and as Obama’s vice president, he repeatedly rolled over for Republicans in negotiations, offering them significant cuts to Social Security and other vital programs.

“Biden even managed to squeeze one more lie into the exchange. ‘I was not a fan of Bowles-[Simpson],’ Biden said, referring to the commission set up by Biden’s administration to recommend cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. In fact, it was Biden who persuaded former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson, known since the 1990s as an uber–deficit hawk who wanted to privatize Social Security, to co-chair the commission. Simpson later got in trouble for calling the program ‘a milk cow with 310 million tits.’

“This was only the beginning. ‘I’m talking about a ban on fracking,’ Sanders at one point said. ‘So am I,’ replied Biden. In fact, Biden has never supported a fracking ban, and his campaign helpfully clarified today that he misled viewers last night. Biden changed his position on the Hyde Amendment ‘a while ago,’ he said; in fact, he supported it until the middle of last year, when, under a torrent of criticism, he abruptly flipped, taking two contradictory positions on the measure in the same week. He ‘helped put together’ the Paris climate accord, he claimed. In fact, no Obama officials can remember him being particularly involved in the effort. He again absurdly claimed that his vote for the Iraq War was actually an attempt to stop the war.

“Perhaps Biden’s most outrageous lie was over his bankruptcy bill. Biden claimed that it ‘was passing overwhelmingly and I improved it,’ that he ‘made it clear to the industry, I didn’t like the bill,’ and that he ‘did not support the bill.’ When Sanders said Biden ‘helped write that bankruptcy bill,’ Biden replied, ‘I did not.’

“These are all lies. Biden had been backing the bill since at least 1998, when he first voted with the rest of the Senate to end a filibuster against it, then voted again to pass it.”

During Pandemic, Biden Lies About Healthcare

cnn mediaBiden claimed at last night’s debate: “With all due respect to Medicare for All, you have a single-payer system in Italy. It doesn’t work there. It has nothing to do with Medicare for All. That would not solve the problem at all.” Sanders responded: “What the experts tell us, is that one of the reasons that we are unprepared and have been unprepared is we don’t have a system. We’ve got thousands of private insurance plans. That is not a system that is prepared to provide healthcare to all people.”

Biden claimed: “The national crisis says we’re responding. It’s all free. You don’t have to pay for a thing. That has nothing to do with whether or not you have an insurance policy. This is a crisis. We’re at war with the virus. We’re at war with the virus. It has nothing to do with copays or anything.”

DAVID HIMMELSTEIN, M.D., himmelhandler at comcast.net
Himmelstein is a distinguished professor of public health at the City University of New York at Hunter College. He said today: “Biden lied about coverage, and also distorted the Italian situation. Italians will not face medical bills, or be reticent to seek care for fear of costs. The problem in Italy is a huge number of terribly sick people who are overwhelming hospitals and doctors,  That’s a problem pretty much every nation will face.”

JAMES G. KAHN, MD, MPH, JGKahn at ucsf.edu
Dr. Kahn is emeritus professor at the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and the Institute for Global Health Sciences in the School of Medicine, University of California San Francisco. He said today: “Biden, abetted by moderator questions focused on immediate action, claimed that he had short-term solutions, whereas Sanders wanted a revolution. Indeed, Sanders proposes both immediate solutions and long-overdue structural reforms to properly address serious long-term problems.

“Once again, Biden falsely equated his health care solution (a public option) and Bernie’s comprehensive reform Medicare for All. Biden’s approach would cost more — much more — and leave 100 million people seriously underinsured, facing large financial barriers, and limit doctor choice. Medicare for All would shift waste in our current system into giving everyone comprehensive first-dollar coverage, with free choice of doctor.”

In an accuracy.org released Sunday and challenging CNN to finally “get it” about Medicare for All, Himmelstein and Kahn anticipated Biden’s arguments about Italy. Said Himmelstein: “Our fragmented system leaves public health separate and disconnected from medical care, and provides no mechanism to appropriately balance funding priorities. Kahn noted that without a Medicare for All system, “we’re handicapping ourselves. In other words, Medicare for All is necessary but not sufficient.”

See Sunday accuracy.org news release “BREAKING: Coronavirus and Tonight’s Debate: ‘Now do you get it about Medicare for All?” — which announced plans for a projection onto the CNN building in Washington, D.C. as Sanders and Biden debated inside.

CORPORATE MEDIA:
NOW DO YOU GET IT ABOUT
MEDICARE FOR ALL?

The projection was not done because the multimedia artist, Robin Bell, fell ill.

See pieces on media coverage of this issue from the media watch group FAIR including: “Corporate Journalists Push Tax Attack on Medicare for All” and “As Biden Invokes Dead Family Members Against Medicare for All, Media Play Along.”

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