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How & Why the $2,000 Covid-19 Stimulus Checks Were Defeated

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On December 30th, U.S. Senators voted 80 to 12 not to increase the Covid-19 relief one-time payments from $600 per qualifying person, to $2,000. The same bill had already passed, December 28th, in the U.S. House, by a vote of 322 to 87.

Here is how the great investigative-reporting team of David Sirota and Andrew Perez reported this on December 31st, under the headline “Senate Democrats’ Motion To Concede On $2,000 Checks”,

Only six members of the Senate Democratic Caucus mustered the courage to vote against [Republican leader Mitch] McConnell’s maneuver — [Bernie] Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Chris Van Hollen, Jeff Merkley, Ed Markey and Ron Wyden. Democratic senators in fact provided the majority of the votes for the measure that lets the defense bill proceed without a vote on the $2,000 checks. …

Liberal Economists And Pundits Gave McConnell His Talking Points 

McConnell’s crusade to stop direct aid was abetted not only by Senate Democrats’ surrender, but also by media elites who loyally represent the party’s corporate wing and who began promoting canned talking points to undermine the direct aid. 

First came a barrage of attacks on the $2,000 checks initiative from [Lawrence] Summers, a former hedge fund executive who as President Barack Obama’s national economic director stymied the push for more stimulus after the 2008 financial crisis.

Then the New York Times’ Paul Krugman pretended the wildly popular initiative is “divisive” and said “the economics aren’t very good.” Timesman Tom Friedman, who married into a real estate empire, called the idea “crazy” and fretted that checks might go to “people who don’t need the help.” The minions of billionaire Michael Bloomberg joined in with a house editorial demanding Congress block the checks. 

Meanwhile, only weeks after the Washington Post news page told the harrowing tales of rising poverty and starvation in America, the paper’s editorial board argued against stimulus by insisting that “the economy has healed significantly.” 

The Post — which is owned by the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos — argued against the $2,000 checks by saying it is unjust that some rich people might in theory end up benefiting from the proposal. …

All of this noise was quickly weaponized by McConnell, who in a Senate floor speech directly cited Summers and the Post as justification to stop the $2,000 checks to the two thirds of households in his own state who would benefit. 

“The liberal economist Larry Summers, President Clinton’s Treasury Secretary and President Obama’s NEC director says, ‘There’s no good economic argument for universal $2,000 checks at this moment.’ McConnell said, adding: “Even the liberal Washington Post today is laughing at the political left demanding more huge giveaways with no relationship to actual need.”

Basically, what Sirota and Perez were reporting is that with the exception of only 12 members in the U.S. Senate and 87 members in the U.S. House, all members of the U.S. Congress are owned 100% by America’s billionaires.

Those billionaires also own and control America’s 100 corporations that sell the most to the U.S. Government and to its allies, firms such as Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon, which derive all or most of their sales — and especially their profits — from selling to those governments, and which therefore are obsessed to keep ‘defense’-spending high (and organization such as NATO going). Since these same people also donate the most to America’s politicians, one can now say that their corporations, and especially the ones which sell the most to the U.S. Government, effectively own the U.S. Government, and are the actual constituency that every U.S. President, and almost every member of the U.S. Congress, represents above all. Consequently, attaching the $600 Covid-19 relief payment, instead of the $2,000 amount, to the annual ‘defense’-spending bill, assured that the $1,400-per-person difference would be able to be spent on companies such as Lockheed Martin, and go into the pockets of America’s billionaires — the people who really count, to ‘democratically’ elected U.S. Government officials.  

Whereas the overt, the official, position of the Republican Party was opposing the proposal to increase the $600 to $2,000, the overt, the official, position of the Democratic Party was to support that increase. Why, then, did only 6 of the 46 Democratic Senators (including the ‘independent’ Bernie Sanders) vote in favor of that official position, and only 20 of the 233 Democratic Representatives vote in favor of it? It certainly wasn’t being done in order to please their electorate.

The proposal to increase the $600 to $2,000 was supported by 78% of Americans and opposed by only 17%; so, if the Congress were authentically democratic instead of aristocratic, then the proposal would have passed overwhelmingly. But it’s not. Nor is the U.S. House democratic.  And why are they not? (Furthermore, even 73% of Republicans in that nationwide poll supported the proposal to raise the $600 to $2,000; so, even their Party’s official position on this was hostile toward themselves. The only difference between Republican politicians and Democratic politicians is that Democratic ones are lots more hypocritical, claiming that they support ‘workers and regular people’ instead of only their own megadonors.)

On December 31st, The Hill bannered, “Graham calls for stand-alone vote on $2K checks” and reported that, 

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) broke with his party’s Senate leader Thursday, calling for a stand-alone vote on $2,000 stimulus checks.

“If you had a stand-alone vote on the $2,000 check, it might pass,” Graham said while appearing on “Fox & Friends.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has knocked the prospect of raising the stimulus checks that are going out to many Americans from $600 to $2,000, vowing the Senate would not pass a stand-alone bill increasing the amount. President Trump has pushed for the increase and the House passed one earlier this week, but most Senate Republicans are wary.

“The Senate is not going to be bullied into rushing out more borrowed money into the hands of Democrats’ rich friends who don’t need the help,” McConnell said.

(The $1,400 difference wouldn’t go to the American people, he was implying: it would instead go “into the hands of Democrats’ rich friends.”)

(Graham’s top donor was the “Republican Jewish Coalition” — extremely wealthy supporters of Israel, the nation that America’s taxpayers already donate $3.8 billion per year to, for it to purchase weapons from the U.S. — and second was employees of the U.S. Department of Defense, which likewise benefits from Senator Graham’s consistent neoconservatism. Fifth was Boeing, which is the second-largest ‘defense’ contractor, after only Lockheed. So: why was he ‘fighting for the little man’ here? It was only theater, to satisfy the voters back home, who need the extra $1,400 far more than Graham’s megadonors do.)

America’s billionaires despise the American public and control both of the political Parties. In fact, at the Presidential level, each contest is always between a Republican nominee and a Democratic nominee, both of whom have been approved by the given Party’s billionaires. The billionaires have an effective veto-power over the nominees of both of the Parties. If the billionaires don’t like a given candidate in the primaries, then not only will that candidate get none of their money, but all of the billionaire-owned-and-or-controlled media will be against that candidate and will spread hostile ‘news’-reports against that person. The public are fooled, because however much the billionaires need to spend in order to fool them, it will be done. Owning the Government is seen by them as being their right, just as has always been the case in every aristocracy throughout history. The difference is that, in America, the billionaires’ Government and their press call this a ‘democracy’, so as to fool the public even more. Only if the American public come to recognize that it’s definitely not a democracy (it’s even a police-state but the billionaires hide that fact from the public) will there be a revolution against the billionaires. However, the billionaires control the public’s mind; so, a second American Revolution — this time to defeat not Britain’s aristocrats but America’s — appears to be impossible. It certainly wouldn’t be supported by any successful American politician. That’s the basic difference between 1776 America and 2021 America. Overthrowing a foreign aristocracy is far easier than overthrowing a domestic one.

This is the reason why the poor, who get hardest hit by plagues and who are getting especially hard hit by Covid-19 in America, will now increasingly become homeless and die. And they’ll be getting the least help.

On December 30th, David Wallace-Wells at New York magazine bannered “America’s Vaccine Rollout Is Already a Disaster” and documented that when compared against UK and Israel — neither of which is among the world’s relatively successful countries at restraining this virus — the U.S. is doing vastly worse than those (unsuccessful) countries at distributing vaccines against it. (Since that magazine is owned by the family of a Democratic billionaire, its report actually ignored all of the countries that have performed effectively against the virus, because none of the best performers were allied with U.S. billionaires. The news-report was true, but was aimed against the Republican Party — specifically the Republican President — instead of opposing the entire American Government, which is actually to blame. It’s partisan propaganda, but truthful — as far as it goes. Even truthful propaganda like that, however, is harmful, because it’s not criticizing the source of the problem, which is all of America’s billionaires — the people who control the U.S. Government. None of them even cares about the source of America’s problem, because they are part of it, and won’t oppose it.)

U.S. actually has even higher percentages of its population infected with Covid-19, and higher percentages dying from it, than Brazil — an infamous basket-case. If this isn’t a pre-revolutionary situation, then nothing could be. How much longer will Americans be deceived, and tolerate this — this “socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor”?

On January 1st, the same reporting team of Sirota and Perez headlined “Schumer Begins 2021 Promising To Fight — Then Immediately Surrenders”, and described how the Democratic leader in the Senate, Senator Schumer, had been promising that “Democrats will not stop fighting” for the $2,000 figure, and within hours cooperated with Republicans to block it from being passed. The reporters concluded:

Schumer doesn’t want any of this out in the open — he wants everyone to think he and his caucus are doing all they can to actually fight for the things they insist they support. But the mask is now off — this morning, he showed what’s really going on here. 

Whether or not anyone wants to look at what he showed us remains an open question. The situation is demoralizing, and there is an entire misinformation infrastructure of cable TV news and partisan punditry designed to avert our eyes.

Almost all Democrats in Congress had merely been playing the ‘good cop’ to their Republican counterparts’ ‘bad cop’, in order to get that money to the Pentagon instead of to the public. Getting it to the public would be ‘waste, fraud, and abuse’, but getting it to the Pentagon — the most corrupt Department in an extremely corrupt Government — would be ‘essential for national security’.

Going back and forth between Democrats and Republicans will no longer work and hasn’t worked for a long time now; it has become a dead end, because neither Party is, any longer, either democratic or republican. The problem isn’t the Constitution; it is the individuals who have hired the personnel, in all branches of the U.S. Government, to transform that Constitution into just a piece of parchment and to defile its meaning by lies. That can happen even to the best of constitutions. America now is a limited democracy only on parchment, no longer in practice. It’s a dictatorship (by the billionaires) in practice. This time around, a revolution won’t require a new constitution. It requires, instead, merely new personnel. And that’s a fact. Changing the Constitution won’t get us out of this mess. The problem is more drastic, even though a new Constitution won’t be required. New Amendments (such as, perhaps, this) will be required, but a new Constitution won’t. And those Amendments will be propagandized against ferociously by America’s billionaires. So, all billionaires will need to be removed from power before it happens. Their stranglehold on the American mind must be ended first. Then, the issue of Amendments can be discussed.

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010

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A Disintegrating Trump Administration?

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If Donald J. Trump wanted a historic presidency, he certainly seems to have achieved it — he is now the only president to have been impeached twice.

According to the rules, the House impeaches followed by a trial in the Senate.  There is precedent for the trial to continue even when the office holder has left office.  Should that trial result in conviction, it prevents him from seeking any future elected office.  Conviction is unlikely, however, as it requires a vote of two-thirds of the members present.

It has been reported that Trump wanted to lead the crowd in the march to the Capitol, but was dissuaded from doing so by the Secret Service who considered it much too dangerous and could not guarantee his safety.

Various sources attest that Trump’s mind is focused on pardons including himself and his family members.  Whether it is legal for him to pardon himself appears to be an unresolved question.  But then Trump enjoys pushing the boundaries of tolerated behavior while his businesses skirt legal limits.

He appears to have been greatly upset with his longtime faithful vice-president after a conversation early on the day of the riot.  As reported by The New York Times, he wanted Mike Pence to overturn the vote instead of simply certifying it as is usual.  The certification is of course a formality after the state votes already certified by the governors have been reported.  Pence is reputed to have said he did not have the power to do so.  Since then Trump has called Vice President Pence a “pussy” and expressed great disappointment in him although there are reports now that fences have been mended.

Trump’s response to the mob attacking the Capitol has also infuriated many, including lawmakers who cowered in the House chamber fearful for their lives.  Instead of holding an immediate press conference calling on the attackers to stop, Trump responded through a recorded message eight hours later.  He called on his supporters to go home but again repeated his claims of a fraudulent election.

Aside from headlining the US as the laughingstock among democracies across the world, the fall-out includes a greater security risk for politicians.  Thus the rehearsal for Biden’s inauguration scheduled for Sunday has been postponed raising questions about the inauguration itself on January 20th.

Worse, the Trump White House appears to be disintegrating as coordination diminishes and people go their own way.  Secretary of State Pompeo has unilaterally removed the curbs on meeting Taiwanese officials put in place originally to mollify China.  If it angers China further, it only exacerbates Biden’s difficulties in restoring fractured relationships. 

Trump is causing havoc as he prepares to leave the White House.  He seems unable to face losing an election and departing with grace.  At the same time, we have to be grateful to him for one major policy shift.  He has tried to pull the country out of its wars and has not started a new one.  He has even attempted the complicated undertaking of peace in Afghanistan, given the numerous actors involved.  We can only hope Biden learned enough from the Obama-Biden administration’s disastrous surge to be able to follow the same path.

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Flames of Globalization in the Temple of Democracy

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Authors: Alex Viryasov and Hunter Cawood

On the eve of Orthodox Christmas, an angry mob stormed the “temple of democracy” on Capitol Hill. It’s hard to imagine that such a feat could be deemed possible. The American Parliament resembles an impregnable fortress, girdled by a litany of security checks and metal detectors at every conceivable point of entry. And yet, supporters of Donald Trump somehow found a way.

In the liberal media, there has been an effort to portray them as internal terrorists. President-elect Joe Biden called his fellow citizens who did not vote for him “a raging mob.” The current president, addressing his supporters, calls to avoid violence: “We love you. You are special. I can feel your pain. Go home.”

That said, what will we see when we look into the faces of these protesters? A blend of anger and outrage. But what is behind that indignation? Perhaps it’s pain and frustration. These are the people who elected Trump president in 2016. He promised to save their jobs, to stand up for them in the face of multinational corporations. He appealed to their patriotism, promised to make America great again. Arguably, Donald Trump has challenged the giant we call globalization.

Today, the United States is experiencing a crisis like no other. American society hasn’t been this deeply divided since the Vietnam War. The class struggle has only escalated. America’s heartland with its legions of blue-collar workers is now rebelling against the power of corporate and financial elites. While Wall Street bankers or Silicon Valley programmers fly from New York to London on private jets, an Alabama farmer is filling up his old red pickup truck with his last Abraham Lincoln.

The New York banker has no empathy for the poor residing in the southern states, nothing in common with the coal miners of West Virginia. He invests in the economies of China and India, while his savings sit quietly in Swiss banks. In spirit, he is closer not to his compatriots, but to fellow brokers and bankers from London and Brussels. This profiteer is no longer an American. He is a representative of the global elite.

In the 2020 elections, the globalists took revenge. And yet, more than 70 million Americans still voted for Trump. That represents half of the voting population and more votes than any other Republican has ever received. A staggering majority of them believe that they have been deceived and that Democrats have allegedly rigged this election.

Democrats, meanwhile, are launching another impeachment procedure against the 45th president based on a belief that it has been Donald Trump himself who has provoked this spiral of violence. Indeed, there is merit to this. The protesters proceeded from the White House to storm Congress, after Trump urged them on with his words, “We will never give up, we will never concede.”

As a result, blood was shed in the temple of American democracy. The last time the Capital was captured happened in 1814 when British troops breached it. However, this latest episode, unlike the last, cannot be called a foreign invasion. This time Washington was stormed by protestors waving American flags.

Nonetheless, it is not an exaggeration to say that the poor and downtrodden laborers of America’s Rust Belt currently feel like foreigners in their own country. The United States is not unique in this sense. The poor and downtrodden represent a significant part of the electorate in nearly every country that has been affected by globalization. As a result, a wave of populism is sweeping democratic countries. Politicians around the world are appealing to a sense of national identity. Is it possible to understand the frustrated feelings of people who have failed to integrate into the new global economic order? Absolutely. It’s not too dissimilar from the grief felt by a seamstress who was left without work upon the invention of the sewing machine.

Is it worth trying to resist globalization as did the Luddites of the 19th century, who fought tooth and nail to reverse the inevitability of the industrial revolution? The jury is still out.

The world is becoming more complex and stratified. Economic and political interdependence between countries is growing each and every day. In this sense, globalization is progress and progress is but an irreversible process.

Yet, like the inhumane capitalism of the 19th century so vividly described in Dickens’ novels, globalization carries many hidden threats. We must recognize and address these threats. The emphasis should be on the person, his dignity, needs, and requirements. Global elites in the pursuit of power and superprofits will continue to drive forward the process of globalization. Our task is not to stop or slow them down, but to correct global megatrends so that the flywheel of time does not grind ordinary people to the ground or simply throw nation-states to the sidelines of history.

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Deliberate efforts were made to give a tough time to President Joe Biden

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Image credit: Todd Jacobucci/ flickr

President Trump-Administration is over-engaged in creating mess for in-coming President Joe Biden. The recent deliberate efforts are made to give a tough time are:  naming Cuba a state sponsor of terrorism, designating Yemen’s Houthi rebels as a foreign terrorist organization, Terming Iran as a new home to al-Qaida, and lifting restrictions on contacts between American officials and representatives from Taiwan.

The consequence may turn into dire situations, like a return to cold war era tension. Efforts were made to resume Cuba-US relations to normal for decades and were expected to sustain a peaceful co-existence. Any setback to relations with Cuba may destabilize the whole region. Pompeo’s redesignation of Cuba as a sponsor of state terror will possibly have the least material impact, but it signifies a personal loss to Biden and a momentous political win for Trumpism. In doing so, Trump is hitting the final nail in the coffin of Barack Obama’s efforts to normalize relations with Cuba.

Yemen issue was a creation of Arab spring sponsored by the CIA, and after realizing the wrongdoings, the US was trying to cool down the tension between Saudi Arabia and Yemen, but with the recent move to name Yemen’s Houthi rebels as a foreign terrorist organization, may open new hostilities and bloodshed. It has been designated by UNICEF as the “largest humanitarian crisis in the world, with more than 24 million people — some 80 percent of the population — in need of humanitarian assistance, including more than 12 million children.” Such statements may halt humanitarian assistance and may result in a big disaster.

The history of rivalries with Iran goes back to 1953 when the UK and the US jointly overthrew the legitimate government of Prime Minister Mossadeq. But the real tension heightened in 2018 When President Trump withdrew from JCPOA. But the recent allegation that Iran as a new home of al-Qaida may take a new turn and give a tough time to Joe Biden–Administration. Although there is no evidence, however, Secretary of State Pompeo made such an allegation out of his personal grudge against Iran. It can complicate the situation further deteriorate and even may engulf the whole middle-east.

Lifting constraints on contacts between American officials and representatives from Taiwan, is open violation of “One-China Policy.” Since Washington established formal diplomatic relations with Beijing in 1979, it has resisted having official diplomatic associations with Taipei in order to avoid a confrontation with the PR China, which still comprehends the island — home to around 24 million people — as part of China. Chinese are very sensitive to the Taiwan issue and struggling for peaceful unification. However, China posses the capabilities to take over by force, yet, have not done so far. Secretary of State Mr. Pompeo’s statement may be aiming to instigate China and forcing toward military re-unification. It might leave a challenging concern for Joe Biden-Administration.

Raffaello Pantucci, a senior fellow at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said, “The Trump administration is locking in place a series of conflicts that change the starting point for Biden walking into the office on the world stage.”

Even Mr. Pompeo had a plan to travel to Europe to create further hurdles for in-coming administration, but fortunately, some of the European countries refused to entertain him, and desperately he has to cancel his trip at the eleventh hours.

It is just like a losing army, which destroys all ammunition, weapons, bridges, infrastructures, etc., before surrendering. Although President Trump’s days in office are numbered, his administration is over-engaged in destruction and creating hurdles for the next administration. He is deliberately creating hurdles and difficulties for President-Elect Joe Biden.

President Joe Biden has many challenges to face like Pandemic, unrest in the society, a falling economy, losing reputation, etc. Some of them might be natural, but few are specially created!

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