Most of us have already had a case of COVID

From the Johns Hopkins daily health newsletter:

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US SEROPREVALENCE 

A study published April 26 in the US CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) estimates that 58% of the US population, including 75% of children, have been infected with SARS-CoV-2. Many of those infections occurred during the winter’s Omicron surge. The study reports on data from national commercial laboratories across all 50 states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico. Between September 2021 and February 2022, labs conducted convenience samples on blood specimens that were submitted for clinical testing in their labs, excluding samples that were testing for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies upon initial receipt. The median sample size for the group of labs was 73,869 each month, with a drop in the number of tests to 45,810 in February 2022, likely caused by disruptions from the surge in domestic infections fueled by the Omicron variant. The research team weighted samples by demographic data to produce estimates of seroprevalence. 

The team saw a slight, but steady, increase in seroprevalence between September and December 2021, increasing between 0.9-1.9% every 4 weeks. At the end of this collection period, the seroprevalence across the US sample was estimated to be 33.5%. Between December 2021 and February 2022, at the height of the Omicron surge, the team observed a spike in national seroprevalence, rising from 33.5% to 57.7%. Notably, during this period, children aged 0-11 saw an increase from 44.2% to 75.2% and those aged 12-17 saw a similar increase from 45.6% to 74.2%. Adult populations saw spikes in seroprevalence from 36.5% to 63.7% for individuals aged 18-49, 28.8% to 49.8% for those 50-64, and 19.1% to 33.2% among those aged 65 and older. The researchers noted several limitations in their study design, including restrictions of applicability tied to convenience sampling; limited race and ethnicity data; the potential for sampling bias due to the setting of sample collection; and the possibility that infection following vaccination resulted in reduced antibody titers.  

SARS-CoV-2 testing is only able to catch a fraction of cases occurring in the country, so serosurveys present an opportunity to better understand the scale of infections. Still, the study may not represent a full picture of COVID-19 in the country, nor does it indicate whether or not individuals with SARS-CoV-2 antibodies have persistent immunity to new infections. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky noted the study’s results and vaccine uptake show an increased level of community protection from SARS-CoV-2. She added that vaccination remains key in creating a more resilient population, urging those who remain unvaccinated, including those previously infected, to get vaccinated. 

What Economists Get Wrong

What Economics Gets Wrong (Almost Everything)

BY IAN WELSH 

ON APRIL 25, 2022 

Economics as a discipline is nearly worthless. What it teaches mostly isn’t true.

  • Decreasing price does not always increase demand and increasing price sometimes increases demand (aka. the law of supply and demand isn’t a law.)
  • People do not optimize utility (by any definition that is not circular).
  • People are not rational.
  • The market is not rational.
  • The market does not discount the future well at all.
  • Competitive markets are created by government, and destroyed by private actors.
  • Markets do not and never have properly priced externalities and never will do so while humans remain human. The only way to price externalities properly is thru government or custom (government in drag.)
  • Profit or loss in any enterprise in a modern economy is a social choice, entirely based on government and social decisions and mostly unrelated to fundamentals like energy in and energy out.
  • Railroads are far more efficient, energy wise than roads, but govt. subsidizes roads.
  • The vast majority of profit is based on market position and sustained profit is almost always based on having an unfair advantage that makes the market less competitive and therefore not have the virtues of competitive markets.
  • Genuine competitive markets don’t exist, and no businessman wants them to because they drive profits to almost zero.
  • The best economies the world ever saw went out of their way to keep wages and prices high, not to reduce them.
  • Any concentration of market power that is not regulated or broken up will engage in practices intended to buy/undermine government and destroy wages.
  • Higher CEO pay is correlated with lower company performance.
  • You cannot have a good economy for long without keeping the rich poor, weak and under your thumb. It is impossible.
  • Monetary efficiency between countries is bad. It should be hard to move large amounts money in and out of another currency or country.
  • Financial market efficiency is generally bad, and effectiveness and shock pads should be optimized for rather than financial efficiency.
  • Countries should, if it is possible, make or grow everything important inside their own borders and not trade for it.
  • People perform better when happy, healthy and at least moderately autonomous. The literature on this is so abundant it is silly. Bosses are authoritarian assholes because they like being authoritarian assholes who micro-manage employees. It’s what Bezos gets out of being Bezos.
  • Private money creation concentrated in a few hands is destructive to the economy, democracy and freedom (authority: Thomas Jefferson). It is also anti-competitive market, since you can’t compete with people who create money out of thin air.
  • Moderate levels of inflation are good, not bad, if they include assets, because they take away the control of people who won the past so they don’t control the present and the future.
  • Taxes should be low on ordinary people and high on anyone rich, including wealth and estate taxes. No one should be rich because their parents were.
  • People who lend money should lose that money if the person who they loaned it to can’t afford to repay it. The function of lending is “I know how to pick people who will use the money well.” If you can’t do that you deserve to lose the money, and govt shouldn’t collect it for you
  • bankruptcy should be easy, fast and leave people whole. Economically crippled people are not in the interest of society as a whole.
  • A UBI’s main function is allowing people to do what they want to do, and forcing bosses to make jobs good, not shitty.
  • Pensions should simply be handled by government or a general UBI.
  • Comparative advantage is a terrible strategy for improving your economy.
  • Free trade is garbage for most countries.
  • Raising the minimum wage is not correlated with increased unemployment
  • The unemployment rate measures supply driven wage push inflation pressure, not how many peole can’t get a job.
  • Initial capital for capitalism was primarily acquired by theft, first of European commons, then of non-European land, people and resources.

Essentially everything Economics teaches is wrong. If and when their prescriptions for action are followed, disaster ensues. With almost no exceptions every country which ever developed did so by not doing what economists say to do.

Economics also has a morally corrosive affect on those who study it.  People mostly don’t free ride or otherwise act according to the maxims of economics: but people who have studied economics do.

Because economics is wrong and harmful about almost everything, and because economists do not say “please don’t follow our advice”, Economics should probably be banned and all Economics faculties shut down.

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A Serious Question About COVID

Very serious question here.

Given that:

(a) We are all probably going to get Covid anyway (see this link)

(b) The vaccines are so effective that they make a case of Covid (especially omicron) much like just having a cold;

(c) Those who are old enough to get this free vaccine, but have decided not to, are very obstinate in not facing facts, and are unlikely to be persuaded otherwise;

(d) Very young kids (none of whom can be vaccinated yet) who get Covid (particularly Omicron) have exceedingly low rates of hospitalizations and deaths (see this link)

THEN,

Why don’t we who ARE vaccinated just remove all of our masks **NOW** and go about our business as usual?

In fact, why don’t we have Covid parties so we can get it all over with?

Colds aren’t fun, but they seldom kill.

And then the unvaccinated adult fools can simply *go to hell* when they catch it, get seriously sick, and die.

Your thoughts?

Would You Want to be a Student in Korea?

I doubt it. Or, why “Rigor” sucks.

This is from Schools Matter:

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New Year’s Resolution: Eliminate “Rigor” from Education Lexicon

Posted: 09 Jan 2022 02:27 PM PST

If there is a single word that comes close to capturing the zeitgeist of corporate education austerity policies that have metastasized since the Reagan era (among both Democrats and Republicans), it would be a five-letter signifier that has done more damage to effective and humane schooling than any one word in the English language: “rigor.” 

If you can believe the education efficiency zealots of the last two generations, the answer to most questions about schooling have the same answer: more “rigor.” Whether we’re talking about curriculum, teacher quality, teacher education, leadership, or assessment, what we need is more “rigor.”

I went to Webster’s online looking for a word that might serve as an adequate replacement.  Here’s some of what I found for the word “rigor:”

Synonyms & Antonyms of rigor

2. the quality or state of being demanding or unyielding (as in discipline or criticism)

  • after being coddled by his former coach, the swimmer was shocked by the rigor of the new training program

Synonyms for rigor

Words Related to rigor

Near Antonyms for rigor

Antonyms for rigor

And, yet, there seems to be no end to the use of this code word for segregated “no excuses” KIPP Model schools, “zero tolerance” straight jacket discipline, and racist standardized testing regimes that effectively keep marginalized populations on the margins.

Today I came across an interview with Amanda Ripley, who has become one of the pretty masks placed on the corporate education Frankenstein that continues to wreak havoc with any efforts to transform schools into substantive learning communities aimed at opening and integrating the world for children in challenging and supportive ways.

In the summary provided for her interview, Amanda praises the “rigorous learning” of Korean students.  What does Amanda know about Korean education? Well, she interviewed a student who lived in both Korea and the U. S.:

Kids rise to the level of their peer culture when it comes to how important they think rigorous learning is. Especially adolescents are extremely focused on what their peers are doing. There’s a great example of a girl I met in Korea named Jenny, who had lived half of her life in the U.S. and then moved back to Korea. And what she talked about was how different she was in each place. In Korea, everybody worked really hard and took school really seriously, so she did too. And then in [America], school was much lower on her priority list.

No, Amanda, students in Korea try to rise to the level of the monstrous system created by a steroidal version of American capitalism, which has created a dystopian regime whereby parents sacrifice the health and well-being of their children for the “rigorous” demands of a soul-crushing system of schooling based on memorization and recitation.   

This is from a former teacher in one of Korea’s hagwons, or cram schools:

Cram schools like the one I taught in — known as hagwons in Korean — are a mainstay of the South Korean education system and a symbol of parental yearning to see their children succeed at all costs. Hagwons are soulless facilities, with room after room divided by thin walls, lit by long fluorescent bulbs, and stuffed with students memorizing English vocabulary, Korean grammar rules and math formulas. Students typically stay after regular school hours until 10 p.m. or later.

Herded to various educational outlets and programs by parents, the average South Korean student works up to 13 hours a day, while the average high school student sleeps only 5.5 hours a night to ensure there is sufficient time for studying. Hagwons consume more than half of spending on private education.

Any Ripley hit job wouldn’t be complete without an attack on teacher education programs in the U. S. While she decries the continued existence of non-rigorous “mediocre teacher training colleges,” she has nothing to say about the micro-preparation provided to Teach for America beginner missionaries who are placed into schools with children who need the most experienced and best prepared teachers among us. Nor does she voice any objection to the exploitative non-higher ed alternative certification programs that leave would-be teachers less prepared than accredited university programs. 

Finally, one of Ripley’s conjectures remains truly puzzling to me, even considering her thorough lack of understanding of how schools actually work and how teachers experience their jobs:

Anyone who has seen a great teacher or been a great teacher knows that it is not different from being the CEO of a company; there is a lot that is demanded of you and it requires a lot of support.

Yes, Amanda, “rigorous” teaching is sort of like being a CEO, except for the pay, the prestige, the perks, the lifestyle, and the autonomy. Teachers in the U.S. rank 27th in teacher pay among 32 OECD countries.   I’m still looking for a substitute for “rigor.” Until I find it, I guess I’ll settle for challenging, supportive, substantive, open, and integrative.

Frederick Douglass on the Need for Violent Insurrection against Slavery

This is from Black Agenda Report.

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SPEECH: Frederick Douglass on John Brown, 1860

In an 1860 speech commemorating radical abolitionist John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry, Frederick Douglass argued that slavery would only end if the slave owner feared the violent retribution of the enslaved.

On December 3rd, 1860, Frederick Douglass was set to address an anti-slavery rally at Boston’s Tremont Temple Baptist Church, held to commemorate the death of the radical abolitionist John Brown and to mark the one-year anniversary of his ill-fated raid on the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry Virgina. Boston being Boston, the gathering was attacked by what Frederick Douglass’ Paper described as a “gentlemen’s mob.” The mob was not composed of “practiced ruffians.” Instead, as the paper wrote, its “rank and file, not less than its leaders, claim position with the upper classes of Boston society.  They were gentlemen of the ‘DOLLAR STAMP,’ well dressed, well conditioned, well looking, and doubtless, on occasions, pass very well for gentlemen.” Joined by the the city’s mayor and supported by the Boston police, they were determined “to preserve the union of Boston pockets with Southern money” by shutting down any anti-slavery activities.

After a series of intense melees that saw Douglass fighting “like a trained pugilist” to get to the rostrum, only to be torn from the podium by the police and thrown down the stairs of the Tremont Temple, it was decided to move the meeting to the Joy Street Baptist Church, even though its trustees tried to lock their doors on their pastor. If the aim of the attack was to stop Douglass and other abolitionists from speaking, the attacks had the opposite effect, adding fuel and focus to the anti-slavery efforts embodied by Brown.

Douglass’ speech that night, reproduced below, was a strident endorsement of what he called the “John Brown way.” Abolition, declared Douglass, would never occur if society appealed to the morality of the slave owner. Slavery would only end if the slave owner feared the violent retribution of the enslaved. “We must make him [the slave owner] feel that there is death in the air about him,” Douglass declared, “that there is death in the pot before him, that there is death all around him.”

Frederick Douglass was often as ambivalent about John Brown as a person as he was about his abolitionist strategy. He did not participate in Brown’s Chatham, Ontario convention to raise money and recruit personnel for the raid on Harper’s Ferry. He refused to join the raid itself.  Yet as the slavocracy became more entrenched and militant in their defense of their evil institution, Douglass also understood that radical abolitionism was the only way forward to freedom.

Speech on John Brown, at Joy Street Baptist Church, Boston, December 3, 1860

SPEECH: Frederick Douglass on John Brown, 1860

Frederick Douglass

Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen: – I occupied considerable attention this morning, and I do not feel called upon to take up much of the time this evening. There are other gentlemen here from whom I desire to hear, and to whom, I doubt not, you wish to listen.

This is a meeting to discuss the best method of abolishing slavery, and each speaker is expected to present what he regards as the best way of prosecuting the anti-slavery movement. From my heart of hearts I endorse the sentiment expressed by Mr. Phillips, of approval of all methods of proceeding against slavery, politics, religion, peace, war, Bible, Constitution, disunion, Union – (laughter) – every possible way known in opposition to slavery is my way. But the moral and social means of opposing slavery have had a greater prominence, during the last twenty-five years, than the way indicated by the celebration of this day — I mean the John Brown way. This is a recent way of opposing slavery; and I think, since it is in consequence of this peculiar mode of advocating the overthrow of slavery that we have had a mob in Boston today, it may be well for me to occupy the few moments I have in advocating John Brown’s way of accomplishing our object. (Applause.)

Sir, we have seen the number of slaves increase from half a million to four millions.  We have seen, for the last sixty years, more or less of resistance to slavery in the U.S. As early as the beginning of the U. S. Government, there were abolition societies in the land. There were abolition societies in Virginia, abolition societies in Maryland, abolition societies in South Carolina, abolition societies in Pennsylvania. These societies appealed to the sense of justice, appealed to humanity, in behalf of the slave. They appealed to the magnanimity of the slaveholders and the nation; they appealed to the Christianity of the South and of the nation, in behalf of the slave. Pictures of slavery were presented. The ten thousand enormities daily occurring in the Southern States were held up – men sold on the auction-block – women scourged with a heavy lash – men tied to the stake and deliberately burned, the blood gushing from their nose and eyes, asking rather to be shot than to be murdered by such slow torture.

The facts of these charges have been flung before the public by ten thousand eloquent lips, and by more than ten thousand eloquent pens.  The humanity, the common human nature of the country has been again and again appealed to. Four millions have bowed before this nation, and with uplifted hands to Heaven and to you, have asked, in the name of God, and in the name of humanity, to break our chains! To this hour, however, the nation is dumb and indifferent to these cries for deliverance, coming up from the South; and instead of the slaveholders becoming softened, becoming more disposed to listen to the claims of justice and humanity–instead of being more and more disposed to listen to the suggestions of reason, they have become madder and madder, and with every attempt to rescue the bondman from the clutch of his enslaver, his grip has become tighter and tighter, his conscience more and more callous. 

He has become harder and harder, with every appeal made to his sense of justice, with every appeal made to his humanity, until at length he has come even to confront the world with the pretension that to rob a man of his liberty, to pocket his wages, or to pocket the fruits of his labor without giving him compensation for his work, is not only right according to the law of nature and the laws of the land, but that it is  right and just in the sight of the living God.  Doctors of Divinity — the Stuarts and the Lords, the Springs, the Blagdens, the Adamses and ten thousand others all over the country — have come out in open defense of the slave system.  Not only is this the case, but the very submission of the slave to his chains is held as evidence of his fitness to be a slave; it is regarded as one of the strongest proofs of the divinity of slavery, that the negro tamely submits to his fetters.  His very non-resistance — what would be here regarded a Christian virtue — is quoted in proof of his cowardice, and his unwillingness to suffer and to sacrifice for his liberty.

Now what remains? What remains? Sir, it is possible for men to trample on justice and liberty so long as to become entirely oblivious of the principles of justice and liberty.  It is possible for men so far to transgress the laws of justice as to cease to have any sense of justice.  What is to be done in that case?  You meet a man on the sidewalk, in the morning, and you give him the way.  He thanks you for it.  You meet him again, and you give him the way, and he may thank you for it, but with a little less emphasis than at first.  Meet him again and give him the way, and he almost forgets to thank you for it.  Meet him again, and give the way, and he comes to think that you are conscious either of your inferiority or of his superiority; and he begins to claim the inside of the walk as his right. This is human nature; this is the nature of the slaveholders. 

Now, something must be done to make these slaveholders feel the injustice of their course. 

We must, as John Brown, Jr. — thank God that he lives and is with us to-night! (applause) — we must, as John Brown Jr., has taught us this evening, reach the slaveholder’s conscience through his fear of personal danger.  We must make him feel that there is death in the air about him, that there is death in the pot before him, that there is death all around him.  We must do this in some way.  It can be done.  When you have a good horse, a kind and gentle horse, a horse that your wife can drive, you are disposed to keep him — you wouldn’t take any money for that horse.  But when you have one that at the first pull of the reins takes the bit in his teeth, kicks up behind, and knocks off the dasher-board, you generally want to get rid of that horse. (Laughter.) The negroes of the South must do this; they must make these slaveholders feel that there is something uncomfortable about slavery — must make them feel that it is not so pleasant, after all, to go to bed with bowie-knives, and revolvers, and pistols, as they must.  This can be done, and will be done — (cheers) — yes, I say will be done.  Let not, however, these suggestions of mine be construed into the slightest disparagement of the various other efforts, political and moral.

I believe in agitation; and it was largely this belief which brought me five hundred miles from my home to attend this meeting.  I am sorry — not for the part I humbly took in the meeting this morning — but I am sorry that Mr. Phillips was not there to look that Fay in the face (‘Hear!’).  I believe that he, and a few Abolitionists like him in the city of Boston, well-known, honorable men, esteemed among their fellow-citizens- had they been there to help us take the initiatory steps in the organization of that meeting, we might, perhaps, have been broken up, but it would have been a greater struggle, certainly, than that which it cost to break up the meeting this morning. (Applause.)

I say, sir, that I want the slaveholders to be made uncomfortable.  Every slave that escapes helps to add to their discomfort.  I rejoice in every uprising at the South.  Although the men may be shot down, they may be butchered upon the spot, the blow tells, notwithstanding, and cannot but tell.  Slaveholders sleep more uneasily than they used to.  They are more careful to know that the doors are locked than they formerly were.  They are more careful to know that their bowie-knives are sharp; they are more careful to know that their pistols are loaded.  This element will play its part in the abolition of slavery.  I know that all hope of a general insurrection is vain.  We do not need a general insurrection to bring about this result.  We only need the fact to be known in the Southern States generally, that there is liberty in yonder mountains, planted by John Brown. (Cheers.)

The slaveholders have but to know, and they do now know, but will be made to know it even more certainly before long- that from the Alleghanies, from the State of Pennsylvania, there is a vast broken country extending clear down into the heart of Alabama — mountains where there are rocks, and ravines, and fastnesses, dens and caves, ten thousand Sebastopols piled up by the hand of the living God, where one man for defense will be as good as a hundred for attack.  There let them learn that there are men hid in those fastnesses, who will sally out upon them and conduct their slaves from the chains and fetters in which they are now bound, to breathe the free air of liberty upon those mountains.  Let, I say, only a thousand men be scattered in those hills, and slavery is dead.  It cannot live in the presence of such a danger.  Such a state of things would put an end to planting cotton; it would put an end not only to planting cotton, but to planting anything in that region.

Something is said about the dissolution of the Union under Mr. Lincoln or under Mr. Buchanan.  I am for dissolution of the Union – decidedly for dissolution of the Union! Under an abolition President, who would wield the army and the navy of the Government for the abolition of slavery, I should be for the union of these States.  If this Union is dissolved, I see many ways in which slavery may be attacked by force, but very few in which it could be attacked by moral means.  I see that the moment you dissolve the union between the South and the North, the slave part going by itself, and doing so peaceably — as the cry is from the Tribune and the Albany Evening Journal, and other such papers, that it shall do — establishing an independent government — that very moment the feeling of responsibility for slavery in the North is at an end.  But men will tell us to mind our own business.  We shall care no more for slavery in the Carolinas or in Georgia than we care for kingcraft or priestcraft in Canada, or slavery in the Brazils or in Cuba. 

My opinion is that if we only had an abolition President to hold these men in the Union and execute the declared provisions of the Constitution, execute that part of the Constitution which is in favor of liberty, as well as put upon those passages which have been construed in favor of slavery, a construction different from that and more in harmony with the principles of eternal justice that lie at the foundation of the government — if we could have such a government, a government that would force the South to behave herself, under those circumstances I should be for the continuance of the Union.    If, on the contrary — no if about it — we have what we have, I shall be glad of the news, come when it will, that the slave States are an independent government, and that you are no longer called upon to deliver fugitive slaves to their masters, and that you are no longer called upon to shoulder your arms and guard with your swords those States — no longer called to go into them to put down John Brown, or anybody else who may strike for liberty there. (Applause.)  In case of such a dissolution, I believe that men could be found at least as brave as Walker, and more skillful than any other fillibuster, who would venture into those States and raise the standard of liberty there, and have ten thousand and more hearts at the North beating in sympathy with them.  I believe a Garibaldi would arise who would march into those States with a thousand men, and summon to his standard sixty thousand, if necessary, to accomplish the freedom of the slave. (Cheers.)

We need not only to appeal to the moral sense of these slaveholders; we have need, and a right, to appeal to their fears.  Sir, moral means are good, but we need something else.  Moral means were very little to poor John Thomas on the banks of the Wilkesbarre river, in Pennsylvania, when the slave-catchers called upon him to provide them with a breakfast at the hotel, that while in the act of serving them with their beef-steak they might fall upon him and return him to slavery. They did fall upon him; they struck him down; but, recovering himself, he ran and plunged into the Wilkesbarre.  There he stood, up to his shoulders, and the slave-catchers gathered on the banks- and the moral suasion people of that vicinity gathered also on the banks — they looked indignantly on the slave-catchers.  But the slave-catchers did not heed the cries of indignation and shame; they fired their revolvers until the river about that man was red with his blood, and no hand was lifted to strike down those assassins.  They went off, indeed, without their victim,  but they supposed he was dead. 

Sir, what was wanted at that time was just what John Brown, Jr., has told us to night — a few resolute men, determined to be free, and to free others, resolved, when men were being shot, to shoot again.  Had a few balls there whistled, as at Christiana, about the heads of the slave-catchers, it would have been the end of this slave-catching business there.  There is no necessity of permitting it.  The only way to make the Fugitive Slave Law a dead letter, is to make a few dead slave-catchers. (Laughter and applause.)  There is no need to kill them either — shoot them in the legs, and send them to the South living epistles of the free gospel preached here at the North. (Renewed laughter.)

But, Sir, I am occupying too much time.- (‘Go on!’ ‘Go on!’) I see a friend on my right, whose voice tonight I have not heard for many years.  These troublous times in which we live, and have been living for a few years past, make that voice doubly dear to me on this occasion; and I seize this occasion, as the first that has happened to me in at least six to eight years, to say that I rejoice, most heartily rejoice, in the privilege — for a privilege I esteem it — not only of hearing Mr. Phillips’s voice, but of standing on a platform with him in vindication of free speech.  (Applause.)  But I hope to speak in Boston on Friday.  I, therefore, will not prolong my remarks further.  I thank you for this hearing. (Applause.)

Originally published in Douglass’ Monthly 3 No. 8 (January 1861). Reprinted as “Speech on John Brown, delivered in Tremont Temple, December 3, 1860,” in Frederick Douglass: Selected Speeches and Writings, edited by Philip Sheldon Foner and Yuval Taylor (Chicago: Chicago Review Press , 2000)

Insights from Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader: While Americans Sleep, Our Corporate Overlords Make Progress Impossible

Posted on  by Jerri-Lynn Scofield

By Ralph Nader, a consumer advocate and the author of “The Seventeen Solutions: Bold Ideas for Our American Future” (2012). His new book is, “Wrecking America: How Trump’s Lies and Lawbreaking Betray All” (2020, co-authored with Mark Green).Originally published at Common Dreams

“Polarization” is the word most associated with the positions of the Republicans and Democrats in Congress. The mass media and the commentators never tire of this focus, in part because such clashes create the flashes conducive to daily coverage.

Politicians from both parties exploit voters who don’t do their homework on voting records and let the lawmakers use the people’s sovereign power (remember the Constitution’s “We the People”) against them on behalf of the big corporate bosses.

The quiet harmony between the two parties created by the omnipresent power of Big Business and other powerful single-issue lobbyists is often the status quo. That’s why there are so few changes in this country’s politics.

In many cases, the similarities of both major parties are tied to the fundamental concentration of power by the few over the many. In short, the two parties regularly agree on anti-democratic abuses of power. Granted, there are always a few exceptions among the rank & file. Here are some areas of Republican and Democrat concurrence:

1. The Duopoly shares the same stage on a militaristic, imperial foreign policy and massive unaudited military budgets. Just a couple of weeks ago, the Pentagon budget was voted out of a House committee by the Democrats and the GOP with $24 billion MORE than what President Biden asked for from Congress. Neither party does much of anything to curtail the huge waste, fraud, and abuse of corporate military contractors, or the Pentagon’s violation of federal law since 1992 requiring annual auditable data on DOD spending be provided to Congress, the president, and the public.

2. Both Parties allow unconstitutional wars violating federal laws and international treaties that we signed onto long ago, including restrictions on the use of force under the United Nations Charter.

3. Both Parties ignore the burgeoning corporate welfare subsidies, handouts, giveaways, and bailouts turning oceans of inefficient, mismanaged, and coddled profit-glutted companies into tenured corporate welfare Kings.

4. Both Parties decline to crack down on the nationwide corporate crime spree. They don’t even like to use the phrase “corporate crime” or “corporate crime wave.” They prefer to delicately allude to “white-collar crime.”

Trillions of dollars are at stake every year, yet neither party holds corporate crime hearings nor proposes an update of the obsolete, weak federal corporate criminal laws.

In some instances, there is no criminal penalty at all for willful and knowing violations of safety regulatory laws (e.g., the auto safety and aviation safety laws). Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) is trying to find just one Republican Senator to co-sponsor the “Hide No Harm Act” that would make it a crime for a corporate officer to knowingly conceal information about a corporate action or product that poses the danger of death or serious physical injury to consumers or workers.

5. Both Parties allow Wall Street’s inexhaustibly greedy CEOs to prey on innocents, including small investors. They also do nothing to curb hundreds of billions of dollars in computerized billing fraud, especially in the health care industry. (See, License to Steal by Malcolm K. Sparrow and a GAO Report about thirty years ago).

6. The third leading cause of death in the U.S. is fatalities from preventable problems in hospitals and clinics. According to the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine study in 2015, a conservative estimate is that 250,000 people yearly are dying from preventable conditions. Neither Congress nor the Executive Branch has an effort remotely up to the scale required to reduce this staggering level of mortality and morbidity. Nor is the American Medical Association (AMA) engaging with this avoidable epidemic.

7. Both Parties sped bailout of over $50 billion to the airline industry during Covid-19, after the companies had spent about $45 billion on unproductive stock buybacks over the last few years to raise the metrics used to boost executive pay.

8. Both Parties starve corporate law enforcement budgets in the Justice Department, the regulatory agencies, and such departments as Labor, Agriculture, Interior, Transportation, and Health and Human Services. The Duopoly’s view is that there be no additional federal cops on the corporate crime beat.

9. Both Parties prostrate themselves before the bank-funded Federal Reserve. There are no congressional audits, no congressional oversight of the Fed’s secret, murky operations, and massive printing of money to juice up Wall Street, while keeping interest rates near zero for trillions of dollars held by over one hundred million small to midsize savers in America.

10. Both Parties are wedded to constant and huge bailouts of the risky declining, uncompetitive (with solar and wind energy) nuclear power industry. This is corporate socialism at its worst. Without your taxpayer and ratepayer dollars, nuclear plants would be closing down faster than is now the case. Bipartisan proposals for more nukes come with large subsidies and guarantees by Uncle Sam.

11. Both Parties hate Third Parties and engage in the political bigotry of obstructing their ballot access (See: Richard Winger’s Ballot Access News), with hurdles, harassing lawsuits, and exclusions from public debates. The goal of both parties is to stop a competitive democracy.

12. Both Parties overwhelmingly rubber-stamp whatever the Israeli government wants in the latest U.S. military weaponry, the suppression of Palestinians and illegal occupation of the remaining Palestinian lands, and the periodic slaughter of Gazans with U.S. weapons. The Duopoly also supports the use of the U.S. veto in the UN Security Council to insulate Israel from UN sanctions.

13. Continuing Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich’s debilitating internal deforms of congressional infrastructures, the Democrats have gone along with the GOP’s shrinking of committee and staff budgets, abolition of the crucial Office of Technology Assessment’s (OTA) budget, and concentration of excessive power in the hands of the Speaker and Senate leader. This little noticed immolation reduces further the legislature’s ability to oversee the huge sprawling Executive Branch. The erosion of congressional power is furthered by the three-day work week Congress has reserved for itself.

14. Even on what might seem to be healthy partisan differences, the Democrats and the GOP agree not to replace or ease out Trump’s Director of the Internal Revenue Service, a former corporate loophole tax lawyer, or the head of the U.S. Postal Service, a former profiteer off the Post Office who will shortly curtail service even more than he did in 2020 (See: First Class: The U.S. Postal Service, Democracy, and the Corporate Threat, by Christopher W Shaw).

Right now, both Parties are readying to give over $50 billion of your tax money to the very profitable under-taxed computer chip industry companies like Intel and Nvidia, so they can make more profit-building plants in the U.S. These companies are loaded with cash. They should invest their own money and stop the stock buyback craze. Isn’t that what capitalism is all about?

Both Parties vote as if the American middle-class taxpayer is a sleeping sucker. Politicians from both parties exploit voters who don’t do their homework on voting records and let the lawmakers use the people’s sovereign power (remember the Constitution’s “We the People”) against them on behalf of the big corporate bosses.

Sleep on America, you have nothing to lose but your dreams.

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This entry was posted in Banana republicGuest PostIncome disparityLegalPoliticsRegulations and regulatorsRidiculously obvious scamsThe destruction of the middle class on  by Jerri-Lynn Scofield.

How Will We Pay For This?

This question is never really asked about all the extremely expensive surveillance spyware and high-tech munitions. It’s only asked about things that will HELP people and the planet, such as the Green New Deal.

The following essay, from Forbes, argues that ‘we’ can pay for all of the suggested GND infrastructure improvements the old fashioned way: printing money. And that no, it won’t lead to inflation – in fact, we have now had 40 years of DEflation, which is much worse.

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90,142 views|Jan 16, 2019,07:15pm EST

The Green New Deal: How We Will Pay For It Isn’t ‘A Thing’ – And Inflation Isn’t Either

Robert Hockett

Robert HockettContributor

Markets

I cover law, justice, money, finance and economics.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s announcement of an ambitious new Green New Deal Initiative in Congress has brought predictable – and predictably silly – callouts from conservative pundits and scared politicians. ‘How will we pay for it?,’ they ask with pretend-incredulity, and ‘what about debt?’ ‘Won’t we have to raise taxes, and will that not crowd-out the job creators?’

Representative Ocasio-Cortez already has given the best answer possible to such queries, most of which seem to be raised in bad faith. Why is it, she retorts, that these questions arise only in connection with useful ideas, not wasteful ideas? Where were the ‘pay-fors’ for Bush’s $5 trillion wars and tax cuts, or for last year’s $2 trillion tax giveaway to billionaires? Why wasn’t financing those massive throwaways as scary as financing the rescue of our planet and middle class now seems to be to these naysayers?

The short answer to ‘how we will pay for’ the Green New Deal is easy. We’ll pay for it just as we pay for all else: Congress will authorize necessary spending, and Treasury will spend. This is how we do it – always has been, always will be.

The money that’s spent, for its part, is never ‘raised’ first. To the contrary, federal spending is what brings that money into existence.

If years of bad or no economic education make that ring counterintuitive to you, you’re not alone: politicians and pundits who ought to know better are with you. But the problem is readily remedied: just take a look at a dollar (or five dollar, or ten dollar, or … dollar) bill. The face you see is George Washington’s – a public official’s – not yours or some other private sector person’s. The signatures you’ll find, for their part, are those of the Treasurer and the Treasury Secretary, not yours or some other private sector person’s. And the inscription you’ll read across the top is ‘Federal Reserve Note,’ not ‘Private Sector Sally’s Note.’

‘Note’ here, note carefully, means ‘promissory note.’ Money betokens a promise. Hence money’s relation to credit. We’ll come back to this later. The money that Treasury spends is, in any event, jointly Fed- and Treasury-issued, not privately issued. That is to say it’s the citizenry’s issuance, not some single citizen’s issuance. It’s like a promise we make to each other. Hence the term ‘full faith and credit’ you’ll hear about when asking what ‘backs’ our currency and our Treasury securities.

This fact of public finance bears real consequences. Chief among them for present purposes is that ‘raising the money’ is never the relevant question for federal spending, any more than ‘finding the promises’ is a question for people who make and keep promises to one another. The relevant question, rather, is what limits, if any, there are on the promises we can make and fulfill. How many promissory notes, in other words, can Fed and Treasury issue without ‘over-promising’?

This is, effectively, the question of inflation – the question of promises’ outstripping capacity to redeem promises and hence losing credibility as promises. (The ‘cred’ of ‘credibility’ is the ‘cred’ of ‘credit,’ not to mention of ‘credo’ – or ‘faith.’) This is precisely why lawyers, accountants, and economists schooled in the simple mechanics of public finance always tell you the relevant constraint upon spending is not some non-existent ‘fundraising constraint,’ but ‘the inflation constraint,’ also known as ‘the resource constraint.’

The truth of the resource constraint is that money usually can be publicly issued and spent only at a rate commensurate with new goods and services supply. If the money supply grows too rapidly for goods and services to keep up, you get the old problem of ‘too many dollars chasing too few goods’ – inflation. If the money supply grows too slowly to keep up with productive capacity, you get the opposite problem – deflation, a far more serious threat, as we’ve seen since the crash of ‘08.

Over the past four decades or so, inflation in consumer goods markets – so-called ‘Consumer Price Inflation,’ or ‘CPI’ – has been by and large nonexistent in the ‘developed’ world. Our problem has been just the opposite – deflation. That is what slow, ‘anemic,’ and even ‘negative’ growth rates across the ‘mature’ economies in recent decades have been about. What inflation we’ve had has been concentrated in financial markets, where the ever-more rich in our ever-more unequal societies gamble their winnings. Meanwhile those below the top have had to spend less and borrow more, bringing deflation and, worse still, debt-deflations after the financial crashes inevitably brought on by asset price hyperinflations in our financial markets.

Which takes us to the Green New Deal. Representative Ocasio-Cortez, whose educational background is in economics, understands as few leaders seem to do that our problems of late have been problems of deflation, not inflation. She also knows well that both inequality and the loss of our middle class have both caused and been worsened by these deflationary trends, along with their mirror images in the financial markets: our asset price hyperinflations – ‘bubbles’ – and busts. Her Green New Deal aims to do nothing short of reversing this slow-motion national suicide – and end our ongoing ‘planet-cide’ in the process.

Because the Green New Deal aims at reversing undeniable long-term deflationary trends in our national economy, there is reason already to deem inflation fears, sure to be stoked by conservative pundits and scared politicians, a silly canard. But we can go further than this. We can catalogue theoretical, empirical, and policy instrument reasons to laugh such fears off.

The theoretical case against inflation worries is straightforward and comes in two parts. Recall the popular ‘too much money chasing too few goods’ adage above. What this slogan captures is that inflation is always a relational matter. It’s about money supply in relation to goods and services supply.

The Green New Deal aims to stoke massive production of a vast array of new products, from solar panels to windmills to new battery and charging station technologies to green power grids and hydroelectric power generation facilities. The new production and new productivity that renewed infrastructure will bring will be virtually unprecedented in our nation’s history. This will be more than enough to absorb all new money spent into our economy. It will also distinguish the Green New Deal starkly from pseudo-stimulus plans of the recent past, none of which flowed to production or infrastructure and nearly all of which simply inflated financial markets.

The second theoretical reason not to fret about Green New Deal inflation is related to but distinct from the first. It is that our economy now is operating at far below capacity even as is, before the Green New Deal adds to capacity. Labor force participation rates still languish at historic lows, and wages and salaries have yet to catch up even to such little growth as we’ve had since our crash of ten years ago. Indeed they have stagnated for decades. These are classic indicators of slack – slack which by definition is opportunity-squandering, and which the Green New Deal now aims to ‘take up.’

The empirical case against inflation worries corroborates the theoretical case, and can also be made from a number of angles. Note first that billions of dollars in tax cuts flowed into the economy during the Reagan years, while multiple trillions more in both tax cuts and war spending flowed during the George W. Bush years. The tax cuts of December 2017 pumped yet more trillions – two of them – into the economy just a bit over a year ago. And still we have seen nothing – nothing – in the way of undesired price inflation in consumer goods and services markets. Indeed no ‘developed’ economy has seen significant CPI inflation for some forty years. Why do inflation ‘Chicken Littles’ think ‘this time [or place] is different?’

My referring to ‘undesired’ price inflation just now hints at another empirical reason to scoff at inflation scolds. Since 2012, the Fed has formally aimed at a 2% inflation target that it has informally targeted even longer. Yet in only a few quarters during all of these years has

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y, and Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-Conn., stand together on the House... [+] floor at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019, on the first day of the 116th Congress with Democrats holding the majority. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y, and Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-Conn., stand together on the House… [+]

 ASSOCIATED PRESS

it managed, just barely, to reach it. If the Fed with its massive balance sheet cannot get our inflation rate up to its very low 2% target even while trying to do so, why does Chicken Little think things will grow scary even should the Fed seek one day to tamp prices down?

The final empirical reason to dismiss the inflation Scaredy Cats comes from investors themselves. For years now the Treasury Department has issued ‘inflation-protected’ securities along with traditional ones. The ‘spread’ between prices of the former and prices of the latter is effectively a measure of investors’ inflationary expectations: if they are willing to pay substantially more for inflation-protected than for ordinary Treasurys, they have substantial inflation fears; otherwise not. So what is that spread? It is virtually nil, and has been for years.

But what if the Green New Deal works so well that inflation comes anyway, Chicken Little now asks, notwithstanding all the theoretical and empirical reasons to discount such worries? Here we find even more reasons for comfort. For the ‘toolbox’ of counter-inflationary policy instruments is filled to near overflowing. Let’s consider a few of them.

We can begin with the familiar. Targeted taxes and bond sales, long familiar to most of us, have long been employed to absorb ‘excess money’ during times of high growth. This is precisely what they are for. Because money is issued by citizenrys rather than citizens as noted above, sovereign taxes and bond sales are never about ‘raising money,’ but about ‘lowering money aggregates.’ If inflation should one day emerge, we shall use them accordingly. Once again: always have, always will.

We should note also that such tools can be targeted at specific sources of inflation. A financial transaction tax such as that favored by Representative Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Bernie Sanders, for example, would operate on financial market inflation – asset price ‘bubbles’ – of the sort that have plagued us in recent years. A ‘value added tax’ – a ‘VAT’ – on particular items that become objects of speculation would work similarly. Such are the real aims of taxation – to act on incentives and press down on price pressures – not to ‘raise money’ we already issue. We know how to use them, and can use them again should it ever prove necessary.

Similar truths hold of the other familiar anti-inflationary policy instrument just mentioned – sovereign bond sales. Treasury already offers a variety of these instruments, classified by time-to-maturity and yield. Such classification offers the option of soaking up money from different sectors of society, from those seeking short-term yield to those seeking longer-term yield. These sales are swaps of unspendable instruments for spendable instruments – dollars, a.k.a. ‘legal tender.’ The New York Fed trading desk does this daily to fine-tune the money supply – we call its activities ‘open market operations.’ It would do likewise, save in the opposite direction, were inflation ever again to become ‘a thing.’

Turning now to less familiar policy instruments, note next that much of financial regulation both can be and should be deployed in the cause of what I call money modulation – that is, inflation- and deflation-prevention. Banks ‘create’ – they generate – money by lending; any banker will tell you that. So do most other financial institutions – especially those of the so-called ‘shadow banking’ sector. This is the sense in which credit is money, or what smart economists call ‘credit-money.’

Regulations that we impose upon credit-extension are accordingly regulations on money-creation. Require banks to raise more equity capital per dollar’s worth of credit that they extend, and you effectively lessen the amount of dollar-denominated credit, hence money, that they can generate. Place greater limits on what kinds of lending or investing they can do, and you do likewise.

We call these things ‘capital’ (or ‘leverage’) and ‘portfolio’ regulation, respectively. And though we initially developed them to protect individual institutions and their depositors or investors, we now use them also to modulate credit aggregates economy-wide. It’s called ‘macroprudential regulation,’ and its rediscovery post-crash in the last decade is one of the signal achievements of the post-crisis era. But its importance for Green New Deal purposes is that it’s a powerful anti-inflationary as well as anti-deflationary tool, all thanks to money’s relation to credit.

As if these tools were not enough, there are yet others we could use but don’t use as yet, presumably because we’ve not needed to yet. I’ve proposed these in other work. One is for the New York Fed trading desk to buy or sell not only Treasury securities of varying maturities and yields, but also other financial instruments – in order to target specific prices of broad economic significance when they grow too low or too high (what I call ‘systemically important prices’).

During the Fed’s experiments with ‘quantitative easing’ (‘QE’), for example, commodity prices ended up rising in ways that harmed lower income Americans. I therefore proposed the Fed ‘short’ commodities in its open market operations to put downward pressure on their prices. Though I worked at the Fed at the time, the central bank didn’t take me up on my suggestion. But it could have done so. And it can in the future, in as narrowly targeted a manner as necessary, if ever inflation emerges. And with a balance sheet of its size, it can influence prices quite massively.

A final way we might combat inflation, should it ever emerge, is by use of a new infrastructure that I’ve proposed elsewhere. Suppose, for a moment, that the Fed offered what I call interest-bearing ‘Citizen Accounts’ for all citizens, instead of just offering ‘reserve accounts’ to privileged banks as it does now. Were it to do so, we’d not only eliminate our nation’s ‘financial inclusion’ problem in one swoop, we’d also gain a most powerful money modulation tool.

During deflations like that after 2008, for example, the Fed could drop debt-free ‘helicopter money’ directly into Citizen Accounts rather than giving it to banks in the hope that they’ll lend (which they didn’t – hence the notorious ‘pushing on a string’ problem of the post-2008 period). And were inflation ever to emerge, the Fed could likewise simply raise interest rates on Citizen Accounts, thereby inducing more saving and less spending.

I believe that the ‘fintech’ revolution renders something like what I’m proposing here all but inevitable. The point for present purposes, though, is simply that once this thing happens we’ll have yet another quite powerful anti-inflationary and anti-deflationary policy tool – and therefore yet more reason not to be timid about moving ahead energetically with the Green New Deal.

Have I succeeded, then? Have I convinced you both that there isn’t a ‘pay for’ challenge and that there isn’t, thanks to a multitude of theoretical, empirical, and policy lever reasons, an ‘inflation’ challenge either? If you are bold, know finance, and care about our future, you probably didn’t need much convincing. If instead you are frightened, financially untutored, or cavalier about our economy or our planet, please buck up, wise up, and suit up. It is time to say game on for the Green New Deal.

Robert Hockett

Robert Hockett

I teach legal, financial and some philosophical subjects at Cornell University in New York, where I am the Edward Cornell Professor of Law and a Professor of Public Policy. I also am Senior Counsel at Westwood Capital, a socially responsible investment bank in midtown Manhattan, and a Fellow of The Century Foundation, a think tank near Battery Park in lower Manhattan. My principal research, writing, and practical concerns are with the legal and institutional prerequisites to a just, prosperous, and sustainable economic order. I have worked at the International Monetary Fund and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and continue to serve in a consultative capacity for a number of U.S. federal, state, and local legislators and regulators. I grew up mainly in New Orleans, America’s most wonderful city (sorry, New York), and return to it often. I was educated at Yale, Oxford (as a Rhodes Scholar), and the University of Kansas.

 

Warnings from Erich Martel

I am reposting the entirety of a sobering and warning letter from my former DCPS colleague, Erich Martel, about the current political situation, which he posted on the Concerned4DCPS list-serve. I am positive he wants it disseminated. — GFB

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ehmartel@starpower.net [concerned4DCPS] <concerned4dcps@yahoogroups.com>UnsubscribeTo:ehmartel@starpower.netSat, Oct 31 at 7:33 PM

FYI – There are links to a number of articles.  Be sure to recommend to friends in Pennsylvania and North Carolina – and other states – to vote in person, if possible. 

Republicans have launched over 300 lawsuits to challenge mail ballots arriving after November 3rd.

The anti-democratic forces that have periodically threatened to tear this country apart. What Pres. Trump is threatening has happened before.  I don’t mean slavery.  I mean the unleashing of white nationalist terror to purge the South of biracial state governments after Reconstruction and the evisceration of the 14th and 15th Amendments by the Supreme Court. 

In 1896, 126,000 Black men were registered to vote in North Carolina; six years later, in 1902, only 6,100 remained registered: https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2020/11/19/wilmington-american-pogrom/  

I hope everyone agrees that every legitimate vote should be counted. I have linked a number of articles, all very unsettling. 

Erich

By now, I hope everyone is aware of and understands the seriousness of President Trump’s threats that, if he loses his re-election bid, he will not accept the results. 

On the other hand, if he wins, he will remove all restraints on autocratic power (think: Orban, Putin, Xi, Kim, Bolsinaro)

I assume everyone shares these concerns:

Trump’s Threats to the Election (as is his pattern, he signals his intentions, in part to test the loyalty of his base):

  1. The potential turmoil threatened by Trump bears some resemblance to the violence during the Election of 1876 and the consequences of the Compromise of 1877:  

Contested election results in 3 states (FL, LA, SC) + a replaced elector from Oregon led to The Compromise of 1877: https://www.270towin.com/1876_Election/ that gave the election to Republican Hayes (Democrat Tilden won the popular vote) in return for ending federal military supervision of those states to protect the biracial Reconstruction governments from White nationalist terror. This led to so-called “Redeemer” (White supremacists Democratic) takeovers and passage of “Jim Crow” laws disenfranchising and segregating Black citizens that lasted until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed.  The spate of voter suppression laws passed after the Supreme Court’s Shelby decision makes clear that voting rights are threatened.

  1. The Barrett nomination:

If Trump loses, he and his allies will attempt to create confusion in order to find a technicality that will open a path to the Supreme Court. Barrett will be the third SC justice (in addition to CJ Roberts & Justice Kavanaugh) who was on the 2000 legal team that oppose a recount of the Florida votes in question:  https://www.cnn.com/2020/10/17/politics/bush-v-gore-barrett-kavanaugh-roberts-supreme-court/index.html .  With all the qualified judges available for SC nomination, even among those who are conservative, how is it possible to have put three veterans of the 2000 election on the SC?  Sen. Whitehouse (D-RI) explains the role of the Federalist Society.

10/13/20 (Senate Judiciary Comm.): Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse explains how Trump and his Senate allies used judicial candidate lists prepared by the Federalist Society, funded by anonymous money, to pack the Supreme Court with reliable right wing allies: https://twitter.com/i/status/1316126029522575363 and 10/14/20: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a5-Snk_thAs&feature=emb_rel_end  

https://www.startribune.com/barrett-ads-tied-to-interest-groups-funded-by-unnamed-donors/572873311/

  1. Two Trump comments:
  2. July 30th, Trump tweeted:

“With Universal mail-in voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history.  It will be a great embarrassment to the USA.  Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”

On August 1st, Brian Williams asked Yale historian Timothy Snyder, specialist on the Holocaust, authoritarianism & fascism, to analyze that tweet (https://twitter.com/TimothyDSnyder):

It is troubling to see the term “fascist” used to describe the behavior, words and actions of an American president.  It shouldn’t; fascism takes many authoritarian forms, all anti-democratic; the Holocaust was the most extreme.  In fact, German Na zi lawyers saw American race laws as a model: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/11/what-america-taught-the-nazis/540630/ and James Q. Whitman, “Hilter’s American Model” (2017).

  1. On Sept 23rd, Trump said,“We’ll want to have — get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very — we’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There’ll be a continuation.”

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2020-election/trump-peaceful-transition-if-he-loses-get-rid-ballots-there-n1240896

  1. “The Election That Could Break America” by Barton Gellman

The most thorough and dire account of the many ways that Trump and his allies could throw the election into confusion is in The Atlantic:

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/11/what-if-trump-refuses-concede/616424/

If the vote is close, Donald Trump could easily throw the election into chaos and subvert the result. Who will stop him?    Excerpt:

Let us not hedge about one thing.

Donald Trump may win or lose,

but he will never concede.

Interview with Gellman: https://www.wbur.org/onpoint/2020/10/15/the-elections-threat-of-political-violence

https://www.salon.com/2020/10/18/historian-timothy-snyder-warns-that-america-is-already-in-its-own-slow-motion-reichstag-fire/

Wash Post columnist E.J. Dionne explains the role of Roe v. Wade in judicial nominations (excerpts):

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/capitulating-to-the-right-wont-end-the-judicial-wars/2020/09/23/5402f378-fdd5-11ea-9ceb-061d646d9c67_story.html

[[Why do President Trump and the Republican majority in the Senate feel empowered to launch a right-wing judicial coup? They can do so because the mainstream media have largely accepted the false terms of the Supreme Court debate set by conservatives — and because progressives and moderates have utterly failed to overturn them.

As a result, we face a crisis moment. The Supreme Court could fall into the hands of activist reactionaries for a generation or more. Preventing a political minority from enjoying indefinite veto power over our democratically elected branches of government requires getting the facts and the history right.

This polarization is the conservatives’ doing. And it did not start with Robert Bork. The current incarnation of Supreme Court warfare began in the early 1960s when the far right launched its “Impeach Earl Warren” campaign against the chief justice who presided over the Brown v. Board of Education desegregation decision and other liberal victories. /…/

Yes, liberals were very tough on Bork when President Ronald Reagan nominated him. But … Bork got a hearing and a floor vote. In the end, 58 senators, including six Republicans, voted against him. /…/

Conservatives use Roe v. Wade as a decoy. Of course Roe will continue to matter. But conservatives have brilliantly used the abortion question to distract attention from the core of their activist agenda: dismantling regulation, gutting civil rights laws, narrowing voting rights enforcement giving moneyed interests free rein in our politics, strengthening corporate power, weakening unions, undercutting antitrust laws — and, now, tearing apart the Affordable Care Act.

Conservatives would much rather talk about abortion than any of these other questions. Why? Because they don’t want the public to hear about issues related to democracy and economic justice on which the right takes the unpopular side. What they can’t win in Congress, they want to win through the courts. That is the dirty secret of conservative judicial activism that McConnell and his friends would love to keep under wraps.]]

Erich   ehmartel@starpower.net

Further reading:

Before I took leave from Kto16, there was a discussion about the president’s comments on the teaching of American History.  In response, the American Historical Association (AHA) released a statement (46 organizations have signed on as of mid-October):  https://www.historians.org/news-and-advocacy/aha-advocacy/aha-statement-on-the-recent-white-house-conference-on-american-history-(september-2020) 

Fauci  60 minutes  He describes death threats against him.  10-18-20

THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION’S PATTERN OF POLITICAL INTERFERENCE IN THE NATION’S CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE:

“USPS documents link changes behind mail slowdowns to top executives”: 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/09/24/usps-delays-dejoy-documents/

Nancy MacLean, “Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America” (2017)

https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2018/03/08/democracy-chains-interview-author-nancy-maclean

Timothy Snyder, “Not a Normal Election: The ethical meaning of a vote for Donald Trump”:

https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/not-normal-election (Commonweal is a Catholic magazine)

Timothy Snyder, “On Tyranny:  20 Lessons from the 20th Century”:

Below are a few of the 20 chapter titles and his commentaries on Trump. Some are relevant right now:

1.       Do not obey in advance

2.       Defend institutions (notice how Trump wants to reduce the federal civil service to personal loyalists)

6.       Be wary of paramilitaries (Where was Trump’s condemnation of “militia” threats in Michigan?)

8.       Stand out

10.     Believe in truth

“To abandon facts is to abandon freedom.  If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.”

11.     Investigate – “Figure things out for yourself. … Subsidize investigative journalism …”

16.      Learn from peers in other countries

17.      Listen for dangerous words__._,_.___


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Who is crazy enough to believe such bullshit?

What this senior Trump hack is alleging is complete, bat-shit crazy nonsense. Apparently a good fraction of the American people believe it, even though Caputo apparently also says that he himself is nuts.

Read for yourself. This is from the NYT.

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Trump Health Aide Falsely Alleges Conspiracies and Warns of Armed Revolt

Michael R. Caputo told a Facebook audience without evidence that left-wing hit squads were being trained for insurrection and accused C.D.C. scientists of “sedition.”

Michael Caputo, the top communications official at the Department of Health and Human Services, complained that he was under siege by the news media and said his “mental health has definitely failed.”Credit…Sam Hodgson for The New York Times

By Sharon LaFraniere

  • Sept. 14, 2020Updated 6:35 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON — The top communications official at the powerful cabinet department in charge of combating the coronavirus made outlandish and false accusations on Sunday that career government scientists were engaging in “sedition” in their handling of the pandemic and that left-wing hit squads were preparing for armed insurrection after the election.

Michael R. Caputo, the assistant secretary of public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, accused the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of harboring a “resistance unit” determined to undermine President Trump, even if that opposition bolsters the Covid-19 death toll.

Mr. Caputo, who has faced intense criticism for leading efforts to warp C.D.C. weekly bulletins to fit Mr. Trump’s pandemic narrative, suggested that he personally could be in danger from opponents of the administration. “If you carry guns, buy ammunition, ladies and gentlemen, because it’s going to be hard to get,” he urged his followers.

To a certain extent, Mr. Caputo’s comments in a video he hosted live on his personal Facebook page were simply an amplified version of remarks that the president himself has made. Both men have singled out government scientists and health officials as disloyal, suggested that the election will not be fairly decided, and insinuated that left-wing groups are secretly plotting to incite violence across the United States.

But Mr. Caputo’s attacks were more direct, and they came from the official most responsible for shaping communications around the coronavirus.

C.D.C. scientists “haven’t gotten out of their sweatpants except for meetings at coffee shops” to plot “how they’re going to attack Donald Trump next,” Mr. Caputo said. “There are scientists who work for this government who do not want America to get well, not until after Joe Biden is president.”

A longtime Trump loyalist with no background in health care, Mr. Caputo, 58, was appointed by the White House to his post in April, at a time when the president’s aides suspected the health secretary, Alex M. Azar II, of protecting his public image instead of Mr. Trump’s. Mr. Caputo coordinates the messaging of an 80,000-employee department that is the center of the federal public health bureaucracy. The Department of Health and Human Services oversees the Food and Drug Administration, the C.D.C. and the National Institutes of Health., three agencies that are all deeply involved in the pandemic response.

“Mr. Caputo is a critical, integral part of the president’s coronavirus response, leading on public messaging as Americans need public health information to defeat the Covid-19 pandemic,” the Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement.

Mr. Caputo’s Facebook comments were another sign of the administration’s deep antipathy and suspicion for its own scientific experts across the bureaucracy and the growing political pressure on those experts to toe a political line favorable to Mr. Trump.

This weekend, first Politico, then The New York Times and other news media organizations published accounts of how Mr. Caputo and a top aide had routinely worked to revise, delay or even scuttle the core health bulletins of the C.D.C. to paint the administration’s pandemic response in a more positive light. The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports had previously been so thoroughly shielded from political interference that political appointees only saw them just before they were published.

Mr. Caputo’s 26-minute broadside on Facebook against scientists, the news media and Democrats was also another example of a senior administration official stoking conspiracy theories about the “deep state” — the label Mr. Trump often attaches to the federal Civil Service bureaucracy — and public anxiety over the election.

Mr. Caputo predicted that the president would win re-election in November, but that his Democratic opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr., would refuse to concede, leading to violence. “And when Donald Trump refuses to stand down at the inauguration, the shooting will begin,” he said. “The drills that you’ve seen are nothing.”

There were no obvious signs from administration officials on Monday that Mr. Caputo’s job was in danger. On the contrary, Mr. Trump again added his voice to the administration’s science denialism. As the president visited California to show solidarity with the fire-ravaged West, he challenged the established science of climate change, declaring, “It will start getting cooler.” He added: “Just watch. I don’t think science knows, actually.”

Mr. Caputo’s remarks also dovetailed in part with those of Roger J. Stone Jr., a longtime confidant of both Mr. Caputo and Mr. Trump. Mr. Stone, whose 40-month prison sentence for lying to Congress was commuted by the president in July, told the conspiracy website Infowars on Friday that Democrats were striving to rig the November vote, and that Mr. Trump should consider declaring martial law if he lost re-election.

Mr. Caputo noted with pleasure during his Facebook monologue that Grant Smith, a lawyer for Mr. Stone, was among the followers who had joined his talk on Sunday. Mr. Caputo has 5,000 Facebook friends, and his video was viewed more than 850 times and shared by 44 followers. He has now shut down his account.

Over all, his tone was deeply ominous: He warned, again without evidence, that “there are hit squads being trained all over this country” to mount armed opposition to a second term for Mr. Trump. “You understand that they’re going to have to kill me, and unfortunately, I think that’s where this is going,” Mr. Caputo added.

He said his physical health was in question, and his “mental health has definitely failed.”

“I don’t like being alone in Washington,” Mr. Caputo said, describing “shadows on the ceiling in my apartment, there alone, shadows are so long.” He also said the mounting number of Covid-19 deaths was taking a toll on him, telling his viewers, “You are not waking up every morning and talking about dead Americans.” The United States has lost more than 194,000 people to the virus. Mr. Caputo urged people to attend Trump rallies, but only with masks.

In a statement on Monday, Mr. Caputo told The Times: “Since joining the administration, my family and I have been continually threatened” and harassed by people who have later been prosecuted. “This weighs heavily on us, and we deeply appreciate the friendship and support of President Trump as we address these matters and keep our children safe.”

He insisted on Facebook that he would weather the controversies, saying, “I’m not going anywhere.” And he boasted of the importance of his role, stating that the president had personally put him in charge of a $250 million public service advertising campaign intended to help the United States return to normal.

The Department of Health and Human Services is trying to use that campaign to attract more minority volunteers for clinical trials of potential Covid-19 vaccines and to ask people who have recovered to donate their blood plasma to help other infected patients. Department officials have complained that Democratic members of Congress are obstructing them.

While Mr. Caputo characterized C.D.C. scientists in withering terms, he said the agency’s director, Dr. Robert R. Redfield, was “one of my closest friends in Washington,” adding, “He is such a good man.” Mr. Caputo is partly credited with helping choose Dr. Redfield’s new interim chief of staff.

Critics say Dr. Redfield has left the agency open to so much political interference that career scientists are the verge of resigning. The agency, based in Atlanta, was previously seen as mostly apolitical; its reports were internationally respected for their importance and expertise.

Mr. Caputo charged that scientists “deep in the bowels of the C.D.C. have given up science and become political animals.” He said they “walk around like they are monks” and “holy men” but engaged in “rotten science.”

He fiercely defended his scientific adviser, Dr. Paul Alexander, who was heavily involved in the effort to reshape the C.D.C.’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports. Mr. Caputo described Dr. Alexander, an assistant professor at McMaster University in Canada, as “a genius” and said that public criticism had served only to make his position “permanent” as a watchdog over politically motivated scientists.

“To allow people to die so that you can replace the president is a grievous venial sin, venial sin,” Mr. Caputo said. “And these people are all going to hell.”

A public relations specialist, Mr. Caputo has repeatedly claimed that his family and his business suffered hugely because of the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Mr. Caputo was a minor figure in that inquiry, but he was of interest partly because he had once lived in Russia, had worked for Russian politicians and was contacted in 2016 by a Russian who claimed to have damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Caputo referred that person to Mr. Stone and was never charged with any wrongdoing. Mr. Caputo later wrote a book and produced a documentary, both entitled “The Ukraine Hoax,” to undermine the case for Mr. Trump’s impeachment.

Mr. Caputo worked on Mr. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign for a time but was passed over for a job early in the administration. He remained friendly with Dan Scavino, the former campaign aide who is now the deputy chief of staff for White House communications and played a role in reconnecting Mr. Trump and Mr. Caputo.

Some of Mr. Caputo’s most disturbing comments were centered on what he described as a left-wing plot to harm the administration’s supporters. He claimed baselessly that the killing of a Trump supporter in Portland, Ore., in August by an avowed supporter of the left-wing collective known as antifa was part of that effort.

“Remember the Trump supporter who was shot and killed?” Mr. Caputo said. “That was a drill.”

The man suspected in the shooting, Michael Forest Reinoehl, was shot dead this month by officers from a federally led fugitive task force in Washington State. He “went down fighting,” Mr. Caputo said. “Why? Because he couldn’t say what he had inside him.”

Mr. Caputo continued his social media messaging after the Facebook event, retweeting a conspiratorial post that hinted with no evidence that armed camps were being established in Washington, D.C.: “Occupants don’t look like vagrants. Looks like forward basing for militant street ops,” J. Michael Waller, a conservative provocateur, posted on Twitter.

On Monday, Mr. Caputo blocked access to his personal Twitter account.

The List of Trump’s Accomplishments

Have you seen that long list of DJT’s accomplishments during his first three years in office? I did, and I began fact-checking some of them.

Here is number 3: “Trump signed a law to make cruelty to animals a federal felony so that animal abusers face tougher consequences.” It’s true that he signed this law. It’s also true that you probably never heard of this action, because it was completely bipartisan and uncontroversial: it passed both houses unanimously. (see here, here, and here) So no Presidential jaw-boning or arm-twisting or preaching from the bully pulpit was needed.

Is that something for a list of greatest hits?

Farah Stockman of the NYT did a much more complete job of fact-checking of all of the over 100 supposed Trump administration ‘accomplishments’. Here it is, but I think it understates the maliciousness of this list. So I am adding a few remarks in red. If I can get this online wordpress editor interface to stop fighting me every step of the way.

==================================

A Fact-Checked List of Trump Accomplishments

It’s been circulating on social media for months. Here’s what I [Farah Stockman – gfb] found when I looked into these claims.

By Farah Stockman

Ms. Stockman is a member of the editorial board of the NYT.

  • Sept. 11, 2020
    • This list of President Trump’s accomplishments has been circulating on social media for months and has most likely been viewed by millions of people. I examined each claim to the best of my ability, reaching out to people and institutions who had special insight to see if they considered the claims accurate.

Some takeaways: Few items are outright false, which is something to celebrate in the age of QAnon conspiracy theories. Some are misleading and some are absolutely true. About a quarter relate to Mr. Trump’s signing of bills that Congress passed, many of which he had little to do with. A large portion of items on the list credit Mr. Trump for a booming economy, which is no longer booming because of the coronavirus pandemic.

You can read my piece about what I learned from the experience of fact-checking this list here. But I decided to post the full list as written, including the original emojis, to give readers a chance to examine it for themselves and see what Mr. Trump’s supporters are touting as his biggest achievements.

1. Trump recently signed 3 bills to benefit Native people. One gives compensation to the Spokane tribe for loss of their lands in the mid-1900s, one funds Native language programs, and the third gives federal recognition to the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians in Montana.

True, but tribal leaders credit bipartisan efforts in Congress for those bills. In 2019, Mr. Trump signed the Spokane Reservation Equitable Compensation Act for the loss of land that was flooded by the Grand Coulee Dam. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke visited the reservation and pledged to support the bill. But Carol Evans, chairwoman of the Spokane Tribal Business Council, said most of the credit for the law goes to two members of Congress from Washington, Senator Maria Cantwell, a Democrat, and Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Republican. Mr. Trump also signed the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Programs Reauthorization Act, which revises an existing grant program. That bill was introduced by Senator Tom Udall, Democrat of New Mexico. Lastly, Mr. Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2019, which included a provision that gave long-overdue federal recognition to the Little Shell Tribe. Tribal Chairman Gerald Gray credits the bipartisan efforts of Senators Jon Tester, a Democrat, and Steve Daines, a Republican, both of Montana, for tucking the tribal recognition provision into the military spending bill.

See More

2. Trump finalized the creation of Space Force as our 6th Military branch.

True. But senior military leaders publicly opposed its creation, including Mr. Trump’s secretary of defense, James Mattis, because they argued it would create further complicated bureaucracy and counteract the Air Force’s work to defend the country’s space assets.


3. Trump signed a law to make cruelty to animals a federal felony so that animal abusers face tougher consequences.

True. A bipartisan group in Congress also deserves credit for the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act. “Deserves credit?” Heck, it was unanimous in both houses. Why should this be controversial at all and why does DJT deserve any credit?


4.) Violent crime has fallen every year he’s been in office after rising during the 2 years before he was elected.

The violent crime rate has dropped steadily since 1999, from 523 per 100,000 inhabitants in 1999 to 432 in 2009 to 369 in 2018. The rate rose slightly in 2015 and 2016, but the general trend has been a long downward slide that predated his election.

[Let’s see this in a single graph going back 60 years. While I am not exactly sure where the cutoff is between the various Republican and Democratic presidential terms over this time, Bush1 was president during the high point. If you see a tremendous decrease in crime during the term of The Great Prevaricator, you are sorely deluded.]

Trump Wrong on Crime Record - FactCheck.org

5. Trump signed a bill making CBD and Hemp legal.

True. Congress also deserves credit for the inclusion of this measure in the 2018 Farm Bill, which Mr. Trump signed.

“McConnell (R-KY), along with Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Ron Wyden (D-OR), introduced the bill earlier this year. It was wrapped into the broader farm bill, which mostly deals with agriculture subsidies and food assistance programs, and passed with that legislation. Trump signed the bill into law on Thursday, after Congress passed it last week. – gfb. If a President really wanted to do something great, he or she could use the ‘bully pulpit’ to advocate the complete decriminalization of all forms of this plant, to free and/or expunge the record every single person who has ever been harmed by police action for owning, using, selling, or growing it. And give back all fines and seized property WITH INTEREST AND PENALTIES. And to reimburse all those who were imprisoned at some set rate. Also – all subsequent convictions or fines… Not gonna happen, is it, Donnie?}


6. Trump’s EPA gave $100 million to fix the water infrastructure problem in Flint, Michigan.

Both President Barack Obama and Mr. Trump deserve credit for this allocation, which was set in motion before Mr. Obama left office.

7. Under Trump’s leadership, in 2018 the U.S. surpassed Russia and Saudi Arabia to become the world’s largest producer of crude oil.

True. Domestic oil production has been expanding since 2010, predating the Trump administration.


8. Trump signed a law ending the gag orders on Pharmacists that prevented them from sharing money-saving information.

True. Mr. Trump tweeted in support of this law and deserves credit for using the bully pulpit of the presidency to demand transparency in drug prices. But Congress deserves most of the credit for the unanimous 2018 passage of this transparency law, which prohibits gag orders that prevent pharmacists from sharing prescription drug prices with customers.


9. Trump signed the “Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act” (FOSTA), which includes the “Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act” (SESTA) which both give law enforcement and victims new tools to fight sex trafficking.

True. The bill was crafted and pushed through Congress by Representative Ann Wagner, a conservative Republican from Missouri, who thanked Ivanka Trump for advocating its passage.


10. Trump signed a bill to require airports to provide spaces for breastfeeding Moms.

True. Congress also deserves credit for the Friendly Airports for Mothers Act of 2017, which was championed by Senator Tammy Duckworth, Democrat of Illinois, and former Representative Stephen Knight, Republican of California.

[Actually, Stockman’s fact-checking is a little sloppy here; she got the year wrong. In that Congress (#115) of 2017, when the Republicans controlled both houses, the bill actually died, which means that some powerful Republican(s) decided to shelve it and to refuse to take action, for reasons I can’t really understand. I mean, breast feeding is by far the cheapest, most sanitary, and most nutritious way to feed an infant, and measures like these sound like an absolute no-brainer. Now, the version of the bill that passed, was re-introduced in the new 116th Congress (you have to start from “Go” all over again, at least in theory) that we are still in. Note that it was voted unanimously by the now-Democratic House, and confirmed unanimously by the Senate. How exactly does Trump take credit for this? Sheesh.]


11. The 25% lowest-paid Americans enjoyed a 4.5% income boost in November 2019, which outpaces a 2.9% gain in earnings for the country’s highest-paid workers.

Probably true. Before the pandemic struck, low-wage workers saw wage increases.


12. Low-wage workers are benefiting from higher minimum wages and from corporations that are increasing entry-level pay.

It is grossly misleading to claim this as a Trump accomplishment. Higher state and local minimum wages are results of state and local laws increasing the minimum wage, not federal law. Mr. Trump has flip-flopped on raising the federal minimum wage.


13. Trump signed the biggest wilderness protection & conservation bill in a decade and designated 375,000 acres as protected land.

This is misleading. While Mr. Trump did sign the John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act of 2019, he has stripped protections from far more land than he has preserved. Most notably, he removed some two million acres in Utah that had been part of the Bears Ears National Monument and the Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah. According to a study published in May 2019 in Science, Mr. Trump is responsible for the largest reduction in the boundaries of protected land in U.S. history.

14. Trump signed the Save our Seas Act which funds $10 million per year to clean tons of plastic & garbage from the ocean. 👀👀

True. The credit for the passage of this legislation goes to a bipartisan group in Congress, namely Senator Dan Sullivan, a Republican from Alaska, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, and Senator Cory Booker, a Democrat from New Jersey.


15. He signed a bill this year allowing some drug imports from Canada so that prescription prices would go down.

President Trump has signed a series of executive orders aimed at making it easier for states to import cheaper drugs from Canada. But it is far from clear whether these executive orders will succeed in that aim. This proposal bears no resemblance to Mr. Trump’s 2016 promise to use the buying power of the federal government to negotiate lower prices for drugs for Medicare patients, which would save hundreds of billions of dollars over a decade. Mr. Trump has not kept that promise. If he were serious about doing so, he would push Republicans in the Senate to pass the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, which Democrats passed last year. There’s no evidence that he has done so.


16. Trump signed an executive order this year that forces all health care providers to disclose the cost of their services so that Americans can comparison shop and know how much fewer providers charge insurance companies.

True. Hospitals are now required to publicize their prices, which was also required by a little-known provision of the Affordable Care Act, signed by Mr. Obama. But enforcement has been spotty, and there has been little effort to hold hospitals to uniform standards, so it is still difficult if not impossible for consumers to compare costs, according to the journalism project Clear Health Costs.


17. When signing that bill he said no American should be blindsided by bills for medical services they never agreed to in advance.

Mr. Trump did say this. Unfortunately, people are still getting blindsided by medical bills.


18. Hospitals will now be required to post their standard charges for services, which include the discounted price a hospital is willing to accept.

See No. 16.


19. In the eight years prior to President Trump’s inauguration, prescription drug prices increased by an average of 3.6% per year. Under Trump, drug prices have seen year-over-year declines in nine of the last ten months, with a 1.1% drop as of the most recent month.

The data is mixed on whether drug prices are going up or down.


20. He created a White House VA Hotline to help veterans and principally staffed it with veterans and direct family members of veterans. 👀👀

True. Mr. Trump fulfilled this campaign promise by creating a West Virginia-based call center. It has limited powers to solve the problems of the veterans who call in from around the country.

21. VA employees are being held accountable for poor performance, with more than 4,000 VA employees removed, demoted, and suspended so far.

Many Department of Veterans Affairs employees have been demoted, removed or suspended during the Trump era, although there have been allegations that some of them were being punished for their political affiliations, not poor performance.


22. Issued an executive order requiring the Secretaries of Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs to submit a joint plan to provide veterans access to access to mental health treatment as they transition to civilian life.

True.


23. Because of a bill signed and championed by Trump, In 2020, most federal employees will see their pay increase by an average of 3.1% — the largest raise in more than 10 years.

This is grossly misleading, at best. Far from being a champion of pay raises for federal workers, Mr. Trump proposed pay freezes for federal employees three years in a row; he was overridden by Congress. For 2020, Mr. Trump initially proposed a pay freeze, but then changed his proposal to a 2.6 percent increase. Congress raised that further, to 3.1 percent. Mr. Trump signed that pay raise into law when he put his signature on an omnibus budget bill, according to Jacqueline Simon, policy director of the American Federation of Government Employees.


24. Trump signed into law up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave for millions of federal workers.

True. Tucked into the National Defense Authorization Act was a provision that gave all federal workers 12 weeks of paid parental leave for the first time in history.


25. Trump administration will provide H.I.V. prevention drugs for free to 200,000 uninsured patients per year for 11 years.

True. The drugs are being donated by Gilead, a drug-development company. But the cost of patient visits and testing are not covered, and the Trump administration opposes expanding Medicare in the Southern states where H.I.V. infection rates are rising.


26. All-time record sales during the 2019 holidays.

Unclear what data this item is referring to.


27. Trump signed an order allowing small businesses to group together when buying insurance to get a better price

True, but a federal judge struck down the plan.

28. President Trump signed the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act that provides funding for states to develop maternal mortality reviews to better understand maternal complications and identify solutions & largely focuses on reducing the higher mortality rates for Black Americans.

True. Congress passed this act with broad bipartisan support, including 190 co-sponsors in the House.


29. In 2018, President Trump signed the groundbreaking First Step Act, a criminal justice bill that enacted reforms that make our justice system fairer and help former inmates successfully return to society.

True. The Trump administration championed these reforms. Credit also goes to criminal justice reform advocates from across the political spectrum who pushed these changes for years.


30. The First Step Act’s reforms addressed inequities in sentencing laws that disproportionately harmed Black Americans and reformed mandatory minimums that created unfair outcomes. 👀👀

True.


31. The First Step Act expanded judicial discretion in the sentencing of nonviolent crimes.

True.


32. Over 90% of those benefiting from the retroactive sentencing reductions in the First Step Act are Black Americans.

True.


33. The First Step Act provides rehabilitative programs to inmates, helping them successfully rejoin society and not return to crime.

It is true that the First Step Act calls for the Bureau of Prisons to significantly expand these opportunities, but because of a lack of funding, around 25 percent of people who spend more than a year in federal prison have not completed any program, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, which backed the bill.


34. Trump increased funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) by more than 14%.

Krystal L. Williams, an assistant professor at the University of Alabama College of Education who has studied federal funding of H.B.C.U.s, points to publicly available data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System on this matter. The data suggest an increase of about 6 percent in federal appropriations, grants and contracts from the 2016-2017 academic year to 2017-2018, the most recent year for which such data is available.

35. Trump signed legislation forgiving Hurricane Katrina debt that threatened HBCUs.

True.


36. New single-family home sales are up 31.6% in October 2019 compared to just one year ago.

This appears to have been true at the time.


37. Made HBCUs a priority by creating the position of executive director of the White House Initiative on HBCUs.

True. This previously existing position was moved from the Department of Education to the White House. Experts disagree about its impact.


38. Trump received the Bipartisan Justice Award at a historically black college for his criminal justice reform accomplishments.

True. Students protested.


39. The poverty rate fell to a 17-year low of 11.8% under the Trump administration as a result of a jobs-rich environment. 👀👀

This appears to have been true, according to census data, although economists disagree on the reason for the drop.


40. Poverty rates for African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans have reached their lowest levels since the U.S. began collecting such data.

This was true before the coronavirus pandemic struck.


41. President Trump signed a bill that creates five national monuments, expands several national parks, adds 1.3 million acres of wilderness, and permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water, Conservation Fund.

See No. 13.

42. Trump’s U.S.D.A. committed $124 Million to rebuild rural water infrastructure.

This is true, though in 2016 Mr. Trump pledged to spend more than $800 billion on infrastructure.


43. Consumer confidence & small business confidence is at an all-time high.

False. The all-time high for the Consumer Confidence Index is 144.7, which was reached in January and May of 2000, according to Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators and surveys at the Conference Board, which puts out the index.


44. More than 7 million jobs created since the election.

In January of 2020, there were about 152 million nonfarm jobs in the country — about seven million more than existed in January of 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But the number of jobs has been growing since 2010. In fact, the country gained more jobs — about eight million — between 2014 and 2017, the last years of the Obama administration. And since the pandemic began, between 10 million and 20 million jobs have been lost.


45. More Americans are now employed than ever recorded before in our history.

Given that there are more Americans alive now than ever in history, this would not be surprising. Regardless, it’s no longer true, because of the pandemic.


46. More than 400,000 manufacturing jobs created since his election.

It was true, but since the pandemic, the Trump administration has seen a net loss of about 200,000 manufacturing jobs, wiping out the past six years of growth, according to the Alliance for American Manufacturing. More than 900,000 manufacturing jobs were added between 2010 and 2016 during the Obama administration.


47. Trump appointed 5 openly gay ambassadors.

True.


48. Trump ordered Ric Grenell, his openly gay ambassador to Germany, to lead a global initiative to decriminalize homosexuality across the globe.

Richard Grenell is leading an effort to decriminalize homosexuality around the globe. Mr. Grenell has said that Mr. Trump supports this effort, though its existence appeared to take Mr. Trump by surprise.

49. Through Trump’s Anti-Trafficking Coordination Team (ACTeam) initiative, Federal law enforcement more than doubled convictions of human traffickers and increased the number of defendants charged by 75% in ACTeam districts.

Convictions of human traffickers have not doubled. The number of convictions rose from 439 during Mr. Obama’s last year in office to 499 during Mr. Trump’s first year. In 2018, they rose again to 526 but then dropped back down again, to 475 in 2019.


50. In 2018, the Department of Justice (DOJ) dismantled an organization that was the internet’s leading source of prostitution-related advertisements resulting in sex trafficking.

True. But the sting against Backpage was years in the making. Authorities have had the website in their cross hairs since at least 2016.


51. Trump’s OMB published new anti-trafficking guidance for government procurement officials to more effectively combat human trafficking.

This is true. But the anti-trafficking community gives the Trump administration low marks because the administration’s harsh treatment of undocumented immigrants has caused victims of human trafficking to fear turning to authorities for help. The administration has made it harder for victims to obtain the special T visas they used to get when they turned to authorities for help and provided information about their abusers.


52. Trump’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations arrested 1,588 criminals associated with Human Trafficking.

See No. 51.


53. Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services provided funding to support the National Human Trafficking Hotline to identify perpetrators and give victims the help they need.

True. The hotline, which was founded in 2002, was also supported by the George W. Bush and Obama administrations.


54. The hotline identified 16,862 potential human trafficking cases.

See No. 51.


55. Trump’s DOJ provided grants to organizations that support human trafficking victims — serving nearly 9,000 cases from July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018.

See No. 51.


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56. The Department of Homeland Security has hired more victim assistance specialists, helping victims get resources and support.

See No. 51.


57. President Trump has called on Congress to pass school choice legislation so that no child is trapped in a failing school because of his or her ZIP code.

Calling on Congress to do something is not really an accomplishment.


58. The President signed funding legislation in September 2018 that increased funding for school choice by $42 million.

Mr. Trump, who campaigned in 2016 on eliminating or drastically reducing the size of the Department of Education, tried to slash federal funding for public schools and dramatically increase funding for school choice and voucher programs. Congress overrode him. The $42 million is a small amount compared to the $400 million his administration initially proposed to expand charter schools and vouchers for private and religious schools.


59. The tax cuts signed into law by President Trump promote school choice by allowing families to use 529 college savings plans for elementary and secondary education.

True. This is a tax break for those who send their children to private schools. Only a fraction of American families have these savings plans.


60. Under his leadership, ISIS has lost most of its territory and been largely dismantled.

American-led strikes against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq began in 2014, predating the Trump administration. In 2018, Mr. Trump claimed in a tweet that ISIS had been defeated and ordered a withdrawal of U.S. troops within 30 days. He eventually gave military leaders more time after their objections. By 2019, the Islamic State had lost nearly all of its territory, but the group remains a threat.


61. ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is said to have detonated a suicide vest during a 2019 raid by United States Special Operations forces.


62. Signed the first Perkins C.T.E. reauthorization since 2006, authorizing more than $1 billion for states each year to fund vocational and career education programs.

True.

63. Executive order expanding apprenticeship opportunities for students and workers.

True. Attempts to expand and modernize apprenticeships, a goal shared by Democrats, are widely seen as a bipartisan bright spot in the Trump administration.


64. Trump issued an Executive Order prohibiting the U.S. government from discriminating against Christians or punishing expressions of faith.

Mr. Trump signed an executive order that called for the vigorous enforcement of federal laws protecting religious freedom. Christians were not singled out.


65. Signed an executive order that allows the government to withhold money from college campuses deemed to be anti-Semitic and who fail to combat anti-Semitism.

True, though the American Civil Liberties Union expressed concern that the order could be used to punish constitutionally protected criticism of Israel or the Israeli government. [Let me add that almost any criticism of the policies of the Israeli state seems to be called ‘anti-semitic’. Gfb]


66. President Trump ordered a halt to U.S. tax money going to international organizations that fund or perform abortions.

True. Every Republican president has adopted a version of this policy since Ronald Reagan.


67. Trump imposed sanctions on the socialists in Venezuela who have killed their citizens.

True. The U.S. government has imposed sanctions on Venezuela for more than a decade. Additional sanctions imposed by the Trump administration have increased economic pressure on the government of Nicolás Maduro, who remains in power.


68. Finalized new trade agreement with South Korea.

Mr. Trump signed a revised version of the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement, which had been in place since 2012. In 2017, Mr. Trump threatened to terminate the deal, which he said “should’ve never been made.” But the new version is considered similar to the old version, with a few tweaks.


69. Made a deal with the European Union to increase U.S. energy exports to Europe.

True.


70. Withdrew the U.S. from the job-killing TPP deal.

Mr. Trump withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a major change in U.S. trade policy. Experts disagree about the impact of the withdrawal on Americans jobs.


71. Secured $250 billion in new trade and investment deals in China and $12 billion in Vietnam.

This is true. China agreed to increase agricultural purchases by $12.5 billion in 2020 and $19.5 billion in 2021, compared with 2017 levels, but China is under no obligation beyond 2021.


72. O.K.’d up to $12 billion in aid for farmers affected by unfair trade retaliation.

The Trump administration announced a total of $28 billion in aid for farmers in 2018 and 2019, and another $23.5 billion through the coronavirus stimulus package passed in March.


73. Has had over a dozen U.S. hostages freed, including those Obama could not get freed.

This is true. Mr. Obama amended a longstanding U.S. policy not to negotiate with hostage-takers, making it more flexible. Mr. Trump continued to push the envelope on what could be done to release hostages, earning praise from those who view his efforts as a major foreign policy success and criticism from others who accuse Mr. Trump of authorizing the payment of de facto ransoms, incentivizing terrorists to take more American hostages.


74. Trump signed the Music Modernization Act, the biggest change to copyright law in decades.

True.


75. Trump secured Billions that will fund the building of a wall at our southern border.

Mr. Trump promised in 2016 that Mexico would pay for the wall. What happened?


76. The Trump Administration is promoting second-chance hiring to give former inmates the opportunity to live crime-free lives and find meaningful employment.

See No. 77.


77. Trump’s DOJ and the Board Of Prisons launched a new “Ready to Work Initiative” to help connect employers directly with former prisoners.

This is true, though it is unclear how many people have been able to participate in it.


78. President Trump’s historic tax cut legislation included new Opportunity Zone Incentives to promote investment in low-income communities across the country.

True. Experts disagree about whether these zones will benefit low-income communities, or just wealthy developers.


79. 8,764 communities across the country have been designated as Opportunity Zones.

True. See No. 78.


80. Opportunity Zones are expected to spur $100 billion in long-term private capital investment in economically distressed communities across the country.

See No. 78.


81. Trump directed the Education Secretary to end Common Core.

Mr. Trump promised in 2016 to end Common Core, but according to PolitiFact, 37 states still use some version of it.


82. Trump signed the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund into law.

True. Members of both political parties in Congress deserve much of the credit.


83. Trump signed measure funding prevention programs for Veteran suicide.

True. And congressional supporters of these programs say the White House has been supportive.


84. Companies have brought back over a TRILLION dollars from overseas because of the TCJA bill that Trump signed.

True. TCJA refers to the president’s 2017 overhaul of federal tax law.


85. Manufacturing jobs are growing at the fastest rate in more than 30 years.

According to the Alliance for American Manufacturing, the rate of growth of manufacturing jobs in 2018 was impressive, but similar rates were achieved in 1994, 1997, 2011 and 2014.


86. Stock Market has reached record highs.

The highest closing record of the Dow Jones industrial average, the index of 30 top U.S. companies, was reached in February, after investors appeared to be encouraged that the trade wars initiated by Mr. Trump were being resolved. Recent interest-rate cuts in 2019 also contributed. This March, the Dow fell a record 2,013.76 points to 23,851.02, after it became clear that the U.S. economy would lock down because of the pandemic. That drop was followed by two more record-setting point drops.


87. Median household income has hit the highest level ever recorded.

This is true.


88. African-American unemployment is at an all-time low.

See No. 40.


89. Hispanic-American unemployment is at an all-time low.

See No. 40.


90. Asian-American unemployment is at an all-time low.

This was true before the coronavirus struck.

91. Women’s unemployment rate is at a 65-year low.

This was true before the coronavirus struck.


92. Youth unemployment is at a 50-year low.

This appears to have been true, before the coronavirus struck. But the labor force participation rate for young Americans is not as high as it was in 1989.


93. We have the lowest unemployment rate ever recorded.

This is false. Unemployment rates were lower in the 1950s, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


94. The Pledge to America’s Workers has resulted in employers committing to train more than 4 million Americans.

In 2018, President Trump launched the Pledge to America’s Workers, aimed at boosting the private sector’s role in training American workers. Companies signed on, to much fanfare. But there is evidence that resources for training are actually going down.


95. 95 percent of U.S. manufacturers are optimistic about the future — the highest ever.

This was true in 2018, but since the pandemic that number has dropped to 34 percent.


96. As a result of the Republican tax bill, small businesses will have the lowest top marginal tax rate in more than 80 years.

Not really. According to the Tax Foundation, the lowest top marginal rate in the past 80 years was 28 percent in the 1980s, although a “claw back” provision in the 1980s increased the top marginal rate to 33 percent for taxpayers with incomes over certain thresholds. Under current law, the top marginal rate is 37 percent, but pass-through businesses can receive additional tax breaks to lower their top marginal rate to 29.6 percent.


97. Record number of regulations eliminated that hurt small businesses.

This appears to be true. Mr. Trump has made reducing regulations a signature part of his legacy. He signed an executive order directing all agencies to repeal at least two existing regulations for each new regulation issued in the 2017 fiscal year and thereafter. A list of regulations that have been removed is being compiled by the Brookings Deregulation Tracker.


98. Signed welfare reform requiring able-bodied adults who don’t have children to work or look for work if they’re on welfare. 🙌🙌

The Trump administration released guidance in January 2018 that lets states take away Medicaid coverage from people who aren’t working or engaged in work-related activities. Tens of thousands of people have been affected. For instance, in Arkansas over 18,000 Medicaid beneficiaries lost coverage in 2018, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.


99. Under Trump, the FDA approved more affordable generic drugs than ever before in history.

True. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, was praised for his efforts to streamline the process of drug approval before he left the administration.


100. Reformed Medicare program to stop hospitals from overcharging low-income seniors on their drugs — saving seniors 100’s of millions of $$$ this year alone. 👀👀

It’s true that the Trump administration changed the rules for how Medicare pays for prescription drugs through the 340B program, lowering the rate that hospitals are reimbursed for drugs, which in some cases lowers co-payments for seniors, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. It is not clear how much seniors have saved through this change.


101. Signed Right-To-Try legislation allowing terminally ill patients to try an experimental treatment that wasn’t allowed before.

TrueSome argue that a similar program that existed previously under the Food and Drug Administration was less risky.


102. Secured $6 billion in new funding to fight the opioid epidemic.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, $9 billion in new grant funding was awarded to states and local communities to help increase access to treatment and prevention services during the first three years of the Trump administration.


103. Signed VA Choice Act and VA Accountability Act, expanded V.A. telehealth services, walk-in-clinics, and same-day urgent primary and mental health care.

Mr. Trump has signed a number of bipartisan bills that call for improvements to medical care for veterans, including more access to walk-in clinics.


104. U.S. oil production recently reached an all-time high so we are less dependent on oil from the Middle East.

True. (Duplicate of No. 7.)


105. The U.S. is a net natural gas exporter for the first time since 1957.

True. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the United States began ramping up its exports of liquefied natural gas in 2016, and became a net exporter of natural gas during the Trump administration.


106. NATO allies increased their defense spending because of his pressure campaign.

True. Although NATO countries were already modestly increasing their military spending before Mr. Trump took office, there is evidence that his public complaints led to a deal that allowed the United States to decrease its own spending, while some other countries increased their share each year that he has been in office.


107. Withdrew the United States from the job-killing Paris Climate Accord in 2017 and that same year the U.S. still led the world by having the largest reduction in carbon emissions.

It is true that Mr. Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. Experts disagree on whether the accord would have created American jobs or destroyed them.


108. Has his circuit court judge nominees being confirmed faster than any other new administration.

It is not clear how to measure this across every U.S. administration, but it is an ironic thing to highlight, given that Republicans systematically blocked Mr. Obama’s judicial nominees.


109. Had his Supreme Court Justice’s Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh confirmed.

True.


110. Moved U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

True.


111. Agreed to a new trade deal with Mexico & Canada that will increase jobs here and $$$ coming in.

The Trump administration updated the North American Free Trade Agreement, fulfilling a campaign promise.


112. Reached a breakthrough agreement with the E.U. to increase U.S. exports.

True. The agreement aims to resolve a longstanding dispute about a European Union ban on hormone-fed U.S. beef. But tensions over Mr. Trump’s 25 percent tariffs on some European goods remain.


113. Imposed tariffs on China in response to China’s forced technology transfer, intellectual property theft, and their chronically abusive trade practices, has agreed to a Part One trade deal with China.

True, though China has reportedly pulled back from its commitments in that deal amid the pandemic.


114. Signed legislation to improve the National Suicide Hotline.

See No. 83.


115. Signed the most comprehensive childhood cancer legislation ever into law, which will advance childhood cancer research and improve treatments.

The Childhood Cancer Survivorship, Treatment, Access and Research Act has been called the most comprehensive childhood cancer bill taken up by Congress. It was championed by a bipartisan group of lawmakers and passed unanimously in 2018.


116. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act signed into law by Trump doubled the maximum amount of the child tax credit available to parents and lifted the income limits so more people could claim it.

True. According to the Tax Foundation, the Tax Cut and Jobs Act doubled the maximum child tax credit from $1,000 to $2,000, while the phaseout threshold was increased from $75,000 to $200,000 for single filers and $110,000 to $400,000 for married couples filing jointly.


117. It also created a new tax credit for other dependents.

True. There is now a nonrefundable $500 credit for certain dependents who do not meet the child tax credit eligibility guidelines.


118. In 2018, President Trump signed into law a $2.4 billion funding increase for the Child Care and Development Fund, providing a total of $8.1 billion to states to fund child care for low-income families.

It is true that Mr. Trump signed this bill. Congress should also get the credit for passing it.

119. The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC) signed into law by Trump provides a tax credit equal to 20-35% of child care expenses, $3,000 per child & $6,000 per family + Flexible Spending Accounts (F.S.A.s) allow you to set aside up to $5,000 in pre-tax $ to use for child care.

According to the Tax Foundation, this is an accurate description of the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, but it’s important to note that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act did not directly change the rules for the credit. Those rules existed before the Trump administration. So did the $5,000 dependent care Flexible Spending Accounts.



120. In 2019 President Donald Trump signed the Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education and Support Act (CARES) into law, which allocates $1.8 billion in funding over the next five years to help people with autism spectrum disorder and to help their families.
👀👀

It is true that Mr. Trump signed this bill into law. Congress deserves the credit for passing this legislation, which received such broad support that 173 House members and 41 senators were co-sponsors.



121. In 2019 President Trump signed into law two funding packages providing nearly $19 million in new funding for Lupus specific research and education programs, as well an additional $41.7 billion in funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the most Lupus funding EVER.

True. The measure was championed by the bipartisan Congressional Lupus Caucus.



122. Another upcoming accomplishment to add: In the next week or two Trump will be signing the first major anti-robocall law in decades called the TRACED Act (Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence.) Once it’s the law, the TRACED Act will extend the period of time the FCC has to catch & punish those who intentionally break telemarketing restrictions. The bill also requires voice service providers to develop a framework to verify calls are legitimate before they reach your phone.

True. Congress gets credit for passing this law with bipartisan support. Even under the TRACED Act, the power of the F.C.C. to punish robocallers is limited.


See No. 86.

123. US stock market continually hits all-time record highs.

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