DC Report

Who made Joe Manchin 'The Decider'? Here's why West Virginia's centrist senator has too much clout

We spent hundreds of millions, talked endlessly, suffered generally insulting campaigns to elect a president, withstood months afterward of one side denying results and endured an attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Where in all this was the decision to elect the winner to be Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.?

Forget competing personalities, ideologies, even skills. What we effectively have wrought is that the decisions about whether we extend unemployment or try to save restaurants or pay to widen federal research into coronavirus mutations don't sit in the White House or in the leading majority leaders of Congress. It is with Manchin. He is the self-described centrist, so moderate a Democrat that he is always a threat to vote for Republican policies. He hails from a state that he sees as unready to embrace climate change or big investment in recovery. And, as we found out this week, a Biden Cabinet-level nominee.

Manchin says he is opposing Neera Tanden for the Office of Management and Budget because she tweeted too harshly about political opponents.

Maybe now he opposes the nomination of Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., as secretary of Interior, who thinks drilling for oil on public lands is a bad idea. Manchin headed the committee holding this hearing.

As an aside, when compared with colleagues in the Congress who have tweeted and worked hard to ignore years of public insult tweets of Donald Trump, the argument against Tandem seems pretty limp.

Still, among Tanden's tweet targets was Manchin's daughter, Heather Bresch, former CEO of Mylan, a company that made EpiPens and raised its price substantially over 10 years. Bresch defended the higher prices as less than that of others and said she also raised financial assistance for patients.

The key vote?

It's not so much that we may find ourselves agreeing or disagreeing with Manchin. But rather, we have given the car keys to a single individual who may be voting only to support the local interests of a 93% white state. It is a state still waiting for coal mining to come back, that votes Republican, that has the nation's worst record on opiate usage and whose small business owners mostly reject raising the minimum wage.

With the U.S. Senate split down the middle, Manchin's vote has become The Vote for a Democratic agenda, followed closely by the support of sorta Democrat Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and one or two others. Indeed, one hears Manchin's vote more linked to that of Maine Republican Susan Collins than to the Democratic majority.

Would an LBJ or even a Harry Reid have allowed the Senate majority to have allowed a critical vote like Manchin to run free from issue to issue, from more liberal to more conservative, but outside the party attitudes? No, they would have found a way to pressure his votes with something that West Virginia needs, like energy jobs, or found a threat that worked. A weaker Chuck Schumer just seems to believe that repetition of arguments alone will win the day.

One friend proposes that Democrats offer a trade of Manchin to the Republicans, baseball style, for Collins or Lisa Murkowski of Alaska), though I doubt that Joe Biden or Schumer would count on that outcome as any more dependable.
Manchin is insisting that calling yourself a Democrat does not necessarily mean anything.

Most valuable target

Manchin has become the most sought-after target for lobbyists, reports The Hill, because he is seen as the swing vote in the 50-50 Senate on many bills and nominees. And he has to watch his own political back in a Republican-leaning state.

Actually, only a small group of former staffers and ex-senators-turned-lobbyists have a chance to influence Manchin, who prefers to listen to groups that have established direct interests in West Virginia. That has included more liberal groups like the Poor People's Campaign and unions, or those with ties to local businesses.

It's also true that Manchin voted with the Trump administration half the time.

Manchin, fully aware of his sudden celebrity status, talks a lot about the need for bipartisanship and listening to the other side, no matter what it is, before coming out with what he sees as his more common-sense solutions. It all must come as a bit of upbraiding for Biden, who considers himself a centrist, and floats the question of what it is that makes Manchin want to identify as Democrat in the first place.

"He's kind of the Democratic version of John McCain," Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., told Politico. "I say that partially in jest. But partially it's true: Joe's a hard guy to figure out how to lead. He dances to his own music."

Actually, Manchin favors raising the minimum wage, but more slowly and as not part of a coronavirus aid bill. He generally favors gun rights, though he backs "sensible" registration efforts, and he opposes killing the Senate's filibuster rules to make decision-making into simple majority votes. He sleeps on a houseboat, occasionally swigs moonshine from a jar, was a college football quarterback and ran a coal brokerage before running for governor.

As The Washington Post noted, Manchin is a coal-country native come to power as Biden is proposing vast climate changes. As governor, he sued the Environmental Protection Agency. He has scuttled efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, criticized the Paris climate agreement and famously shot a copy of a cap-and-trade carbon proposal full of lead. "There's nobody I know in my state that wants to drink dirty water, to breathe dirty air, I can assure you," Manchin told the Post. "I'm as environmental as anyone else. I'm pretty rational, practical about it, too."

The decider?

Based on reports from his Senate colleagues, Manchin often does succeed at changing minds, including getting Republicans Steve Daines of Montana and James Lankford of Oklahoma to stand down from their election challenges in the hours following the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Manchin is the ultimate gradualist, making Biden look as if he is speeding toward some progressive goals in immigration, race relations, environment and economic policies aiming to reset built-in inequalities. Manchin's support — and those middle positions on every sizable issue he brings with him — is the reason behind the agonizingly slow response from Congress on coronavirus and economy alike.

At least with the main body of Republicans in the Senate, we know there is straight opposition to virtually any Biden policy, and we expect the tight majority to work around whatever those limitations set. So, expect to see Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., the new head of the Budget Committee, for example, maneuvering to use the more arcane rules of reconciliation to move Democratic bills through the process.

But it is annoying to me to see a single individual, Democrat or Republican, insisting that he or she is the center of the political universe. It's more annoying when I thought I had voted for the program of a party that I favored. I didn't like it when Trump insisted that he was the sole voice to hear, even from the White House, I didn't like it with chief obstructor Mitch McConnell deciding to forgo Senate votes on more than 300 House-passed bills.

There's a sad truth behind some terrific new income statistics

We have stunningly good news today: Wages in 2020 grew at by far the fastest rate in the last 45 years.

The bad news: It's a statistical anomaly caused by Donald Trump's lethal mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic. The scourge wiped out almost eight million jobs held by lower-paid workers and only two million better-paying jobs.

The worse news: Two Republican senators who publicly profess their Christian faith to win over voters want to oppress millions of people trapped in poverty. With straight faces, they call their plan the Higher Wages for American Workers Act.

The good news starts out this way—in 2020, average wages grew a stunningly robust 7.2% over the previous year.

More than 80% of the 9.6 million jobs that disappeared in the pandemic paid in the bottom quarter of wages. Wipe out those jobs and the statistics on wages show an increase.

That's by far the greatest one-year growth in wages in the past 45 years. In fact, it's 80% more than the fastest previous year's wage growth, analysis of Census data shows.

Typical Pay

The better measurement, however, is the median wage. It indicates what the typical worker makes. The median marks the halfway point in wages with half of workers making more, half less. The median wage grew 6.9%, a new report by the Economic Policy Institute shows.

EPI is a nonprofit research organization that advocates for poorly paid workers and regularly issues The State of Working America report with lots of interactive graphics. I've checked its work and always find it rock solid.

The obvious question is how could wages skyrocket during a pandemic that created the worst joblessness since the Great Depression? How could wages rise at all since by the end of May more than 42 million Americans, a quarter of those with any paid labor, had filed for jobless benefits?

Just beneath the surface, we find a compelling and distorting fact: More than 80% of the 9.6 million jobs that disappeared in the pandemic paid in the bottom quarter of wages. Wipe out those jobs and the statistics on wages show an increase. What's surprising is that the increase is only about 7%.

America's low-paid jobs are disproportionately held by women, especially those with children and little education, and by minorities. In real terms, these groups have been losing ground for years even as the economy keeps growing.

But by killing their jobs, at least until the pandemic is over and recovery is complete, the data in wages paid were distorted by the fact that most of those who are out of work were in the bottom half of the pay ladder.

Forgotten Americans Forgotten

What was it that Trump promised The Forgotten Men and Women? Oh yes, "The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer." Well, he forgot about them and in addition to a real jobless rate of about 10% plus more than a half-million Americans needlessly dead. Had Trump followed sound public health advice, as we saw South Korea do, the coronavirus butcher's bill would be only about 10,000 dead Americans.

So how to alleviate the misery of America's working poor?

Senators Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) say they are coming to the rescue. In a display of chutzpah and cluelessness that is extraordinary even for rich white men in high government positions, they call their bill the Higher Wages for American Workers Act.

Their bill's provisions are at odds with their professed devotion to a religion that imposes as a core duty alleviating the suffering of the poor. Cotton is a Methodist. Romney belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Cotton and Romney say the Biden administration plan for a $15 minimum wage in 2025 is way too much money. They propose a minimum wage of $10 an hour in 2025.

How much higher would real wages rise under the Cotton-Romney plan?

$12 A Week

Given the expected rate of inflation, that $10 an hour in 2025 would mean about 30-cents more in real pay than the current federal minimum of $7.25 an hour. That's $12 a week more for a full-time week. The current minimum wage has been in place since 2009 under legislation signed by President George W. Bush. Inflation since 2009 has shaved roughly a buck off each hour's minimum wage.

Measured back to President George W. Bush, the Cotton-Romney plan leaves workers worse off in 2025 than in 2009.

Now watch the news and see if the record rise in median and average wages is reported. Where it is, pay close attention—especially in reports by Fox News and its like—whether they say the increase is a statistical anomaly or proclaim a miracle wrought by Trump.

Having read this at least you won't be fooled.

The 1.5 million child slaves behind your chocolate bar

Next time you take a bite of a chocolate bar, consider the small hands that farmed the cocoa beans.

Industrial food heavyweights like Nestlé USA, Hershey and MARS Inc., rely on cocoa grown in Côte D'Ivoire, the Ivory Coast, to make their confections. And the West African nation relies on enslaved child laborers to farm its cocoa crops, a well-known fact in the candy world that keeps the cocoa at favorably low prices for the big companies.

A class-action civil suit brought against the big chocolate companies sheds stark light on the entire candy bar industry. It outlines the relationships between the candy makers and the cocoa farms in West Africa, which provide 70% of the world's cocoa supply. Half is grown in Ghana and Ivory Coast. Most American chocolate is made from Ivory Coast cocoa beans.

In cocoa-growing regions of Ghana and the Ivory Coast more than 43% of all children between the ages of 5 and 17 living in agricultural households are engaged in hazardous work.

The plaintiffs are eight former enslaved children who, the court papers charge, were trafficked from their home country Mali, and sold to cocoa farms in the neighboring West African country.

"This lawsuit against the cocoa and chocolate industry is about much more than the eight Malian citizens who were trafficked and exploited as child slaves to harvest cocoa," says Fernando Morales-de la Cruz, founder of Cacao for Change and Cartoons for Change. Both organizations in Strasbourg, France, seek to raise awareness of child labor in both the cocoa and coffee trades.

Low Price Business Model

"The business model of the chocolate industry is cruel, exploitative, and illegal because it exploits between 2.2 and 3 million children worldwide, besides exploiting millions of farmers and farmworkers, all to buy cocoa for less than one-third of the real price," Morales-de la Cruz said.

He noted that a number of chocolate companies run their revenues through Switzerland to avoid taxes in countries, like the United States, where they earn their profits selling chocolate confections. "With their Swissploitation business model the cartel of cocoa companies 'saves' more than $20 billion per year buying cheap cocoa," he said.

This is the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labor as declared by the United Nation's International Labor Organization. The time is ripe to press for an end to profiting off exploitive and forced child labor.

Make no mistake, chocolate is big business. The global chocolate market is a $136 billion business. It's expected to grow to $182 billion by 2025.

The plaintiffs filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Columbia just days ago, selecting the U.S. legal system for several reasons. In 2000, Congress and President Bill Clinton enacted a landmark law against human trafficking known as the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, or TVPA. It has been reauthorized five times, most recently in 2019 with Congress earmarking $250 million toward the effort. That law gives us extraterritorial jurisdiction.

Our Government Knows

Since the 1990s, the U.S. State Department and the Department of Labor have recognized the existence of child slavery in the cocoa industry in the Ivory Coast. In 2004, State estimated there were at least 15,000 child laborers working on cocoa, coffee and cotton farms there. As the photo above shows these children wield machetes to do their dangerous harvesting.

A study conducted by Tulane University in 2015 found that the number of children engaged in the 'Worst Forms of Child Labor' on cocoa plantations grew substantially between 2009 and 2014.

In October 2020, a new report by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago, which was funded by Labor, was released showing child labor had increased again in the cocoa production sector since the Tulane study.

In the 2018 to 2019 harvest season, the prevalence of children involved in hazardous child labor in the cocoa sector in the Ivory Coast and Ghana rose to almost 1.5 million children. That's also 1,000 times the official U.S. estimate in 2004. The Ivory Coast has fewer than 26 million people.

Hazardous Work

The study also found that in cocoa-growing regions of Ghana and the Ivory Coast more than 43% of all children between the ages of 5 and 17 living in agricultural households are engaged in hazardous work – not just child labor, but hazardous child labor.

Comparing a 10-year span concluding with the 2018-2019 harvest season, the NORC report found a 14% increase in child labor and a 62% increase in production over the same period.

"There is a large group of extremely poor, vulnerable boys in Mali and Burkina Faso who are on the verge of starving and will do about anything for the promise of a paying job," said Terry Collingsworth, who was arrested by the Ivory Coast police as he interviewed enslaved boys at a cocoa plantation. Collingsworth is executive director of International Rights Advocates.

Mali and Burkina Faso both border the Ivory Coast. Cacao refers to the beans harvested to make chocolate. Cocoa refers to the product after the beans are roasted.

Sweet Talk

So, what's the U.S. government doing besides bankrolling studies?

In 2001, the House passed a bill that would require U.S. importers and manufacturers to certify and label their products "slave-free." Have you seen those startling words on your recent candy wrappers? No? That's because of what's known as the Cocoa Cartel, the defendants in the lawsuit, rallied against it.

Instead, they were able to get themselves a sweet deal, the Harkin-Engel Protocol, a voluntary private inspection and enforcement system that all but guaranteed the continuance of enslaved child labor.

In fact, as part of the initial Harkin-Engel Protocol, the candy companies gave themselves an arbitrary deadline till 2005 to end their reliance on child labor for cocoa harvesting. That deadline got extended again and again.

Now the industry has a goal to stop profiting from enslaved child labor by 2025, though an industry spokesperson admitted in 2018 that the industry would fail to meet that deadline.

As the class-action suit alleges, the defendants' "voluntary initiative is a sham, and they are getting away with and profiting from an international human rights crime while claiming they are making progress."

Given the fact that enslaved children are still picking the beans, it's fair to call it the Cocoa Cartel strategy "see no enslaved children." Clearly, this willful blindless strategy worked.

The U.S. government has several agencies monitoring human trafficking, in addition to the State Department and Department of Labor, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

A Loophole Hurts Kids

There are several federal laws going back to the Tariff Act of 1930 designed to reduce the profit motive for labor trafficking by barring the import of goods made with trafficked labor.

But these laws had a loophole. All importers had to do was show that domestic production could not meet demand and the use of enslaved children was irrelevant. Since the United States is not a cocoa bean country, that was as easy as breaking off a piece of a KitKat bar.

That loophole was supposedly closed in 2015, although almost no one noticed. The Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 was intended to close a loophole in an earlier law that made it possible for goods produced using forced labor to still enter the United States.

The new law enhanced the Customs and Border Patrol's ability to block such products altogether.

Clearly, the chocolate titans found a workaround. The lawsuit brought on behalf of the enslaved children asserts that the "defendants have engaged in various deceptive practices to avoid taking responsibility for their long-term profiting from various forms of child slavery."

After the Tulane report came out, the defendants "renewed their false assurances to consumers and regulators that they would initiate programs to reduce child labor in their supply chains," according to the suit. As the NORC study showed, child labor increased.

The suit states, "Defendants control production and could, if they wanted to, stop profiting from child labor. Instead, they chose to delay taking action by creating ineffective programs that provide public relations cover for their obviously failed efforts."

Helping 1 in 1,000

One such example is Nestlé's remediation assistance for some 15,000 children. By remediation, they mean handing out school kits, birth certificates, tutoring and other provisions – not assistance ending their enslaved labor conditions.

Other chocolate heavyweights named as defendants are Cargill Inc., Barry Callebaut USA LLC, Mars Wrigley Confectionery, Olam Americas Inc. and Mondelēz International Inc. (Nestle's American candy division has been sold to the Ferraro Group.) In addition, the suit lists 10 unidentified 'Corporate Does' as defendants.

These candy companies have higher profits because using child laborers keeps the cost of cocoa down. If the farms paid adult workers using proper protective equipment to maintain the crops and harvest the beans, prices would rise. Chocolate makers would see profits fall unless they could raise their prices. Upping consumer prices, whether by subtly shrinking candy bars or slapping on a higher price, runs the risk that people will eat fewer chocolate treats, causing sales volume to fall, lowering the profit margins of the Cocoa Cartel companies.

Dangerous Jobs for Kids

We've already noted that the work done by children on cocoa plantations is classified as hazardous and the "worst forms of child labor," according to the Tulane and NORC studies.

So, what are these enslaved children doing exactly? Children who work on cocoa plantations burn and clear fields, fell trees to expand cocoa plantations, spray hazardous pesticides without any personal protection, wield machetes to break cocoa pods and transport heavy loads of cocoa pods and water.

Add to that claims of negligent supervision, intentional infliction of emotional distress and physical abuse. Enslaved child laborers are not usually paid. They are forced to work long hours. That's true even when sick. The lawsuit says they are underfed and locked in their housing at night to prevent them from running away.

Industry Standard

Though the defendants, the Hershey's, MARS' and Nestlés, do not own cocoa farms – a fact they like to hide behind – they maintain and protect a steady supply of cocoa by forming exclusive buyer-seller relationships with Ivorian farms, according to the lawsuit. This is similar to the practice with chicken farms in the United States where companies like Perdue and Tyson Foods require chicken ranchers to rear the birds in cages of specific sizes, to feed them exact amounts of food bought from the big meat companies or at their direction and many more details that effectively make the farmers not independent businesspeople, but 21st century American serfs.

The Cocoa Cartel manages its relationships with the cocoa farms through memorandums of understanding and written and oral agreements and contracts, according to the suit. These companies dictate the terms by which such farms produce and supply cocoa to them, including "specifying labor conditions under which the beans are produced."

The candy companies control so much of the world chocolate business that they can easily wield economic leverage over the West African farmers, effectively controlling the production of Ivorian cocoa while insisting they have not seen any enslaved children.

Willful Blindness

To cultivate and keep their exclusive relationships with the farms, candy makers offer both financial assistance and technical farming assistance designed to support cocoa agriculture. Financial assistance includes advanced payment for cocoa and spending money for the farmers' personal use, according to the lawsuit. Tech support includes equipment and training in various growing techniquesnand even appropriate labor practices. Just what do these conglomerates consider appropriate?

The defendants or agents working for them visit the cocoa plantations regularly throughout the year and therefore must see firsthand the enslaved children working the crops. They know the deal. Instead of using their position to effect change for the sake of the enslaved children, they choose profit via willful blindness and zero accountability.

"The chocolate industry owned by multibillionaires and large corporations exploits millions of children and women, paying them less than the price of a candy bar," Morales-de la Cruz says. "They also deceive consumers claiming that they are fair and ethical.

"This has to stop!"

Meanwhile, Nestlé USA Inc. and Cargill Inc., which is also named in the class-action suit, are facing a consolidated legal battle before the U.S. Supreme Court with an anonymous defendant for their responsibility in the human rights violations in the cocoa industry. A third defendant, Archer Daniels Midland, reportedly was dropped from the suit after settling with the plaintiffs.

The court heard oral arguments in January in that consolidated case, Nestlé USA, Inc. v. Doe 1 and Cargill, Inc. v. Doe 1.

That case goes back to an initial filing in 2005. It was dismissed in 2010 by Judge Stephen V. Wilson of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. He held that "corporations could not be sued under the current understanding of the Alien Tort Statute (ATS)." In 2013, that decision was reversed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The candy companies filed petitions for review by the Supreme Court after being denied an en banc hearing, a review by a panel of judges or all the judges of a court.

Corporate Accountability

At the heart of that lawsuit is whether domestic corporations can be held accountable and liable for aiding and abetting human rights crimes committed abroad. The case could redefine the limits of corporate liability under the ATS, according to the blog Just Security.

The Trump administration tried to intervene in the case. Strangely, the acting solicitor general filed briefs on an issue none of the parties raised: whether aiding and abetting liability claims are ever permissible under the Alien Tort Statute.

"Child labor is unacceptable and goes against everything we stand for. Nestlé has explicit policies against it and is unwavering in our dedication to ending it. We remain committed to combatting child labor within the cocoa supply chain and addressing its root causes as part of the Nestlé Cocoa Plan and through collaborative efforts," a Nestlé spokesperson said. "This lawsuit does not advance the shared goal of ending child labor in the cocoa industry. Child labor is a complex, global problem. Tackling this issue is a shared responsibility. All stakeholders – including governments, NGOs, the communities and the broader cocoa industry – need to continue to address its root causes to have an impact."

Some candy companies have made public efforts to at least make seem like they are trying to make changes – putting band-aids on a cancerous practice. MARS launched an endeavor in 2018 to "reshape the cocoa industry," noting the child labor and forced labor practices of the cocoa farms, for example. That effort is backed by what the company says is $1 billion.

Since the cocoa industry's use of child labor has been on the world's radar for years, it clearly will require a large-scale public reckoning and massive revenue loss to see any real change.

We would love to tell you much more about this story from the perspective of the candy companies and the federal agencies that are supposed to seize as contraband imported products made with child labor and slave labor. The problem? Calls to Hershey's, MARS and the Customs Border Patrol were not returned. Only Nestlé responded, as noted above.

If you're concerned about rising Federal debt -- read this

How will our children know they face a crushing debt burden?

The question above may seem silly.

Of course, they will know because there are a number of well-funded policy shops that will be spewing out endless papers and columns telling them that they are facing a crushing debt burden.

Because these policy shops are well-funded and well-connected we can be sure that major media outlets, like The New York Times, The Washington Post and National Public Radio, will give their complaints plenty of space.

But let's imagine a world where our children weren't constantly being told that they face a crushing debt burden. How would they know?

Even with a higher tax burden due to the debt we are now building up, workers 10 years out should enjoy substantially higher living standards than they do today.

It might be hard if the latest budget projects are close to the mark. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) just released new projections for the budget and the economy.

They show that in 2031, the last year in their budget horizon, the interest burden on our debt will be 2.4% of Gross Domestic Product. That's up from current interest costs of 1.4% of GDP. That implies an increase in the debt burden, measured by interest costs, of 1.0 percentage point of GDP.

Side note 1: The true debt burden is actually somewhat less. Last year the Federal Reserve Board refunded $88 billion, roughly 0.4% of GDP, to the Treasury. This was based on interest that it had collected on the bonds it held. That leaves the actual interest burden at around 1% of GDP.

Will an interest burden of 2.4% of GDP crush our children?

On the face of it, the deficit hawks have a hard case here. The interest burden was over 3.0% of GDP for most of the early and mid-1990s. And for those who were not around or have forgotten, the 1990s, or at least the second half, was a very prosperous decade. It's a bit hard to see how an interest burden of 2.4% of GDP can be crushing if burdens of more than 3.0% of GDP were not a big problem.

Imagining Even More Debt

But, the debt burden may be higher than the current projections show. After all, President Biden has proposed a $1.9 trillion pandemic rescue package. He also will have other spending initiatives. The CBO baseline includes tax increases in current law that may not actually go into effect.

CBO's latest projections put the debt (currently $22 trillion) at $35.3 trillion in 2031.

Let's assume that the rescue package and other issues raise the debt for that year by 10%, or $3.5 trillion. This brings the interest burden to 2.7% of GDP. That's still below the 1990s level.

Furthermore, insofar as the rescue package and other initiatives are successful in boosting growth, GDP, the denominator in this calculation, will be larger, which will at least partially offset the higher interest burden.

One point the deficit hawks add to this calculation is that interest rates are extraordinarily low at present.

CBO does project that interest rates will rise, But in 2031 they still project an interest rate on 10-year Treasury bonds of just 3%. This is up from 1.1% at present, but still well below the rates we saw over the 40 years before the Great Recession. It certainly is not impossible that interest rates will rise to 4% or even 5%.

Higher Interest Rates

Higher rates will mean that the debt poses a greater interest burden. But there are a couple of important qualifications that need to be made. First, much of our debt is long-term. The 30-year bond issued in 2021 at a 2% interest rate doesn't have to be refinanced until 2051. That means that even if interest rates do rise substantially they will only gradually lead to a substantially higher interest burden.

The other point is that we have to ask about the reason interest rates are rising.

It is possible that interest rates will be rising even as the inflation rate remains more or less in line with CBO's latest projection of around 2%. In that case, higher interest rates mean a greater burden over time.

However, interest rates may also rise because we see higher than projected inflation. Suppose the inflation rate rises to 3%, roughly a percentage point higher than projected. If interest rates also rise by a percentage point, so that the interest rate on a 10-year Treasury bond in 2031 is 4%, instead of 3%, we would still be looking at the same real interest rate. In that case, the value of the bond would be eroded by an extra 1 percentage point annually, due to the impact of higher inflation.

In the case where higher inflation is the reason for higher interest rates, the actual burden of the debt does not change.

With nominal GDP growing more rapidly due to the higher inflation, the ratio of debt to GDP would be lower than in the case with lower inflation. This means that we only need to worry about a higher interest burden if interest rates rise without a corresponding increase in the rate of inflation.

Side Note 2: If the economy grows at a 2% real rate over the next decade, and the inflation rate averages 2%, then nominal GDP will be 48% larger in 2031 than it is today. If it grows at a 2% real rate and the inflation rate averages 3%, nominal GDP will be 63% larger in 2031 than it is today. With nominal GDP 10% larger in 2031 in the case with higher inflation than the case with lower inflation, the same amount of interest would imply a 10% lower burden, relative to GDP. Alternatively, to have the same burden relative to GDP, interest payments would have to be 10% higher.

What would adding a 1 percentage point interest burden look like?

Paying The Bill

Suppose that the CBO projections prove to be exactly right.

At first glance, this higher interest burden implies that, if the economy is operating near its capacity, we would have to get by having the government spend roughly 1 percentage point less of GDP on various programs. This could mean, for example, cuts to spending on education and infrastructure, or the military. Alternatively, it would need to raise taxes by roughly 1 percentage point of GDP, or some combination in order to offset the additional interest payments on the debt.

In fact, the first glance story is likely to substantially overstate the impact of this debt burden. The reason we would need to cut spending and/or raise taxes is to keep the economy from overheating.

The interest burden increases this risk by increasing the income of bondholders, who then spend more money because of their higher income.

But the bondholders don't spend all of the interest income they receive, in fact, they might spend a relatively small share.

Bondholders Are Big Savers

Remember, the people who hold government bonds are disproportionately higher-income households. That's why it is possible to say there is a burden from interest payments. If the interest was paid out to all of us equally, then we would just be paying ourselves. As was the case with the pandemic checks, and there would be no burden.

With a large share of interest payments going to the wealthiest households, perhaps 70 cents on a dollar ends up being spent. This is what we have to offset with spending cuts or higher taxes. That means we need to come up with a combination of spending cuts and tax increases that will reduce demand in the economy by 0.7% of GDP.

If we did this on the spending side, we would need to cut an amount of spending roughly equal to this amount. In the current economy, 0.7% of GDP would come to around $150 billion in spending cuts, roughly a fifth of the military budget or twice the annual budget for Food Stamps.

On the tax side, we might be tempted to take it from the wealthy, but we then come back to the same issue, that the wealthy save much of their income. If we want to reduce the consumption of the wealthy by an amount equal to 0.7%, we may have to raise taxes on them by something close to twice this amount, or 1.4% of GDP.

Suppose this proves politically impossible, so we end up having to share the higher tax burden more or less evenly across households. This means a tax increase equal to roughly 0.7% of people's incomes. Is this a big deal?

Wages and Productivity Get Divorced

The figure above shows the impact of CBO's projected increase in productivity over the next decade on wages, assuming productivity growth is fully passed on in higher wages.

It also shows the 0.7 % hit from debt burden taxes. As can be seen, the projected wage gains from higher productivity growth are roughly twenty times the "crushing" burden of the debt calculated above.

This means that even with a higher tax burden due to the debt we are now building up, workers ten years out should enjoy substantially higher living standards than they do today.

There is the obvious issue that productivity growth does not automatically translate into higher wage growth.

While wage growth for the typical worker did track productivity growth from 1947 to 1973, that has not been the case since 1979. Average wage growth did not track productivity growth reasonably well in the last four decades. Most of the gains went to high-end workers, such as top-level corporate executives and Wall Street types. Typical workers saw little benefit.

This pattern of upward redistribution of before-tax income could continue for the next decade, which would mean that most workers cannot offset an increased tax burden with higher pay. That would be a very serious problem, but the problem would be the upward redistribution blocking wage growth, not the relatively minor tax increase they might see due to the debt.

Anyone generally concerned about the well-being of workers ten years out, or further in the future, should be focused on what is happening to before-tax income, not the relatively modest burden that taxes may pose due to the debt.

Monopolies Impose 'A Private Tax'

This brings up a final issue about burdens. As I have often pointed out, direct spending is only one way the government pays for services. It also grants patent and copyright monopolies to provide incentives for innovation and creative work.

By my calculations, these monopolies add more than $1 trillion a year (4.8% of GDP) to the cost of a wide range of items, such as prescription drugs, medical equipment, and computer software. The higher prices charged by the companies that own these monopolies are effectively a private tax that the government allows them to impose in exchange for their work. No honest discussion of the burden of government debt can exclude the implicit debt that the government creates with these monopolies.

At the end of the day, we hand down a whole economy and society to future generations. Anyone seriously asking about the well-being of future generations must look at the education and training we have given our children, the physical and social infrastructure, and, of course, the state of the natural environment. The government debt is such a trivial part of this story that is hard to believe that would even be raised in the context of generational equity, if not for the big money folks who want to keep it front and center.

Featured image: Visual Capitalist

Trump intelligence chiefs hid evidence of Russian election interference

Lost in the news on the day of Trump's Insurrection was a devastating new watchdog report to Congress on the politicizing and distorting of intelligence during Donald Trump's time in office.

The analytic ombudsman, career intelligence community veteran Barry A. Zulauf, determined that under Trump national intelligence reports had become highly politicized. Important findings were suppressed to appease Trump's refusal to acknowledge Russian interference in American elections.

Zulauf's unclassified report paints a frightening picture of just how much the Trump administration skewed intelligence to suppress knowledge of interference by Russia in our 2020 elections.

From March 2020, in the critical months leading up to the elections, Zulauf "identified a long story arc of—at the very least—perceived politicization of intelligence."

Zulauf works in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), a Cabinet-level position created after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to oversee all U.S. intelligence operations. Zulauf's job within the ODNI was created by Congress to assist analysts throughout the intelligence community with complaints and concerns about politicization, biased reporting or lack of objectivity in intelligence analysis.

This is the first of a two-part series. Coming in Part 2: The intelligence community under Trump was not alone in diverting focus from Russian interference.

Zulauf determined that Trump's ODNI took "willful actions that… had the effect of politicizing intelligence, hindering objective analysis or injecting bias into the intelligence process."

While Zulauf tried to avoid specifically naming individuals responsible for much of the political heavy-handed rewriting, he repeatedly calls out actions taken by two recent Trump appointees, neither of whom had any chops as intelligence experts.

One is former an acting director, Richard Grenell. He had been a Fox News commentator and Trump-appointed ambassador to Germany, and took over the ODNI in February 2020 then relinquished the post the following May.

The second was the Texas congressman Trump appointed to replace Grenell, John Ratcliffe, best known as a fervent defender of the ex-president in his first impeachment.

In one particularly egregious example, Zulauf wrote, Ratcliffe insisted on highlighting Chinese election interference while downplaying Russian efforts.

"Ratcliffe just disagreed with the established analytic line on China, insisting 'we are missing' China's influence in the US and that Chinese actions ARE intended to affect the election," Zulauf wrote. "Ultimately the DNI insisted on putting material on China in…. As a result, the final published [assessment], analysts felt, was an outrageous misrepresentation of their analysis."

The intelligence community has procedures to make sure assessments are based on sound judgment by seasoned analysts, not rogue points of view especially when they are not supported by facts.

The Senate Intelligence Committee requested the ombudsman review possible politicization of intelligence. Interestingly, Zulauf notes, he had his own review under way when the Senate Intelligence Committee request arrived. The ombudsman started his own investigation after he was approached by ombudsmen at three other agencies within the intelligence community. They acted because intelligence agency professionals and managers perceived problems and were getting internal complaints about the politicization of intelligence.

Helsinki Betrayal

The findings come 29 months after Trump declared in Helsinki, standing next to Vladimir Putin, that he trusted the Russian leader, but not the American intelligence services.

By putting his trust in Putin, a former KGB colonel, saying that he took him at his word when he denied interfering in the 2016 presidential election, Trump reiterated his denunciations of American intelligence services.

Trump refused on most days to sit for his intelligence briefing, a closely guarded summary of worldwide threats to America and its allies. The report is prepared by experienced analysts based on reports from 17 American intelligence agencies, which feed material to Central Intelligence Agency for consideration.

The Presidential Daily Brief is tailored to each sitting president's style. Trump's brief was reduced to simplistic points, often illustrated with graphics. Russian actions against the United States were often left out or described obliquely to avoid provoking Trump.

Trump would have found even simplified daily briefings difficult to grasp given his ignorance about geopolitical affairs and history. For example, he once asked aides if Finland was part of Russia. He met with the Baltic presidents and confused their countries with the Balkans.

Mueller's Warning

While Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III was barred from investigating Trump's conduct as a counterintelligence matter, his office did look into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

On July 24, 2019, Mueller told the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees that Russia would continue interfering in our elections. "It was not a single attempt, [Russia's] doing it as we sit here," he testified. "And they expect to do it during the next campaign."

Yet eight months later, on March 10, 2020, in presenting the views of the intelligence community, Bill Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC), briefing members of Congress on election interference, said the opposite. He told lawmakers in a closed-door session for which summaries were released that there was no evidence that Russia had taken steps to help any candidate in the 2020 elections.

Analysts refer to talking points in these March statements, as well as subsequent statements in July, August and October of last year, as examples of "gross misrepresentation" of established intelligence community views.

The ombudsman's report attributes the rationale for these distortions and lies to the opposition they faced "getting their views on election interference across…in a confrontational environment."

But it does not assert that Trump directly ordered them. Several House managers noted during impeachment and Trump's better biographers have long noted, Trump gives direction the way mob bosses do, not by direct order but by relying on people to interpret a wink and a nod or even just tone of voice.

Misleading Congress

The March assessment delivered to a House and Senate all-members meeting was delivered by Evanina. Zulauf called this "the most egregious example" he uncovered of distorted intelligence.

When interviewed by the ombudsman, Evanina said he received his talking points from ODNI and National Intelligence Council (NIC) officials. He said that since they were directly from the ODNI and NIC he assumed the talking points represented the coordinated views of the intelligence community.

Zulauf could not find anyone at ODNI who wrote or contributed to the talking points Evanina used. The various individuals laid the distortions off on various excuses and reasons. Zulauf did not accuse them directly of lying and denying.

However, Zulauf said "red flags" were ignored. He took note of "widespread reluctance among intelligence professionals to deliver" assessments. "This reluctance on the part of seasoned IC [intelligence community] officers should have been a red flag but did not stop the statement from being issued."

Despite leadership's efforts to downplay any threat of Russian interference, the report was unequivocal on what U.S. intelligence analysts who specialized in Russia were seeing: "Russia analysts assessed that there was clear and credible evidence of Russian election influence activities."

Analysts expressed frustration that political appointees were suppressing the actual intelligence because it was not well received at the Trump White House. The analysts told the ombudsman that their intelligence was being suppressed and politicized as the ODNI leaders cherry-picked intelligence supporting a narrative that Trump wanted rather than presenting facts.

Mulvaney's Warning

The information contained in the report further supports reporting in April 2019 by The New York Times about what Mick Mulvaney, then-White House chief of staff, told Kirstjen Nielsen during her stint as head of the Department of Homeland Security. Mulvaney warned Nielsen not to speak with Trump about Russian attempts to interfere in future U.S. elections.

That revelation by journalists, now buttressed by Zulauf's report, illustrates how Trump's disregard for and suppression of intelligence assessments about Russian interference consistently made its way from the White House to his cabinet and the highest levels of the intelligence community where it had a clear impact of how intelligence was written up and disseminated.

Zulauf wrote that in May 2020, the acting director of National Intelligence, Grenell, delayed the release of a memo for "politically motivated editing."

The changes "buried the lead," Zulauf wrote, regarding known election security threats. Analysts found intelligence community leadership consistently "watered down conclusions" and were "boosting the threat from China."

Overstating the threat from China also minimized, and distracted from, actual threats from Russia. Instead of speaking on Russia, leaders regularly pivoted instead to China.

In an interview on Oct. 6, 2020, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who heads the House Intelligence Committee, addressed similar statements by then Attorney General William P. Barr. Schiff is one of the "Gang of Eight," the bipartisan leaders in Congress who are regularly copied into the highest levels of intelligence. The attorney general had just asserted that China posed the greatest threat to U.S. elections based on intelligence he had seen.

Barr Called a Liar

"That's just a plain false statement by the attorney general, a flat-out false statement," Schiff said. "You can tell that Bill Barr is just flat-out lying to the American people, and it's tragic but it's as simple as that."

The United Statesm spends hundreds of millions of dollars each day to monitor activities around the world, including efforts by China, Iran, Russia and other countries to probe government and business computer networks. The Russians are known to have the ability to open and close floodgates on American hydroelectric dams. That prompted us to quietly take actions against the Russian electric grids to make clear that any disruption of the dams would come with consequences.

Decades-Long Seduction

For decades,, the Russians courted Trump, one of many prominent people around the globe sought by intelligence services as potential assets. A former KGB spy who had a cover working in Washington for the Russian government-controlled news agency TASS, recently told The Guardian that Trump was cultivated as a Russian asset during 40 years.

When Trump became president, the Kremlin hit the biggest intelligence jackpot imaginable. The first known payoff came in May 2017, just weeks after Trump took his oath to defend America against foreign enemies.

Trump held an unannounced meeting in the Oval Office with the Russian foreign minister and the Russian ambassador. In that meeting Trump revealed the most sensitive intelligence material, known as sources and methods.

Disclosing sources and methods would naturally discourage friendly governments from sharing many of their own intelligence findings since their spies and ways of uncovering information could be compromised, even ruined, with the potential that the spies would be assassinated by the Russian government.

We know this because the Russians announced what Trump had done. The same government-controlled TASS news agency released photos of a smiling Trump with the two grinning Russian officials taken by a Russian photographer who was let into the Oval.

The Russian officials, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, are, like Putin, trained spies.

President Joe Biden's announcement on Feb. 5 that he will not grant Trump the courtesy of intelligence briefings was summarized by Schiff as an important move to protect America's national security.

Schiff tweeted: "Donald Trump politicized and abused intelligence while he was in office. Donald Trump cannot be trusted with America's secrets. Not then, and certainly not now. Americans can sleep better at night knowing he will not receive classified briefings as an ex-president."

Mental health expert explains why Trump must be convicted

The Trump presidency may be over, but Donald Trump's dangers continue. This is because we have yet to contain the number one emergency, which is the spread of mental pathology.

Without addressing this mental health pandemic, even the Biden administration's admirable efforts to contain the viral pandemic may meet with obstacles. Similarly, without conviction and prosecution, which is the first step to containing this mental health pandemic, hopes for "reconciliation" and "unity" may also be for naught.

Mental health professionals knew from the start that Donald Trump had the psychological makeup to become very dangerous with presidential powers. Following our 2017 assessment, I and thousands of my colleagues at the World Mental Health Coalition issued more than 300 pages of letters, petitions, and statements asserting that Donald Trump's dangers would spread and erupt. In March 2020, we issued a "Prescription for Survival," stating that the president's removal through the 25th Amendment, impeachment, or resignation—or at least removal of influence—was essential to avoiding widespread unnecessary deaths.

Trump uses words and directly incites violence. Research on violence shows that rhetoric can be more efficient than specific orders or direct assaults in causing epidemics of violence.

A failure to contain led to a most dramatic demonstration of dangers on Jan. 6, but it was long in coming. Over the summer of 2020, I wrote a new public-service book, Profile of a Nation, to warn that, "he is truly someone who would do anything,… no matter how destructive, to stay in power." Indeed, the near-massacre of lawmakers he caused at the Capitol, save for a few heroes, proves how close he came to causing the kind of chaos that may have permitted him to remain.

Donald Trump's campaign to rig an election that he lost through endless lies, abuses and verbal attacks eventually led to his fomenting deadly violence and near-loss of our democracy. As we did with the Mueller report, his recent phone call with Georgia's secretary of state, and his "Save America" rally speech, mental health professionals can explain how Donald Trump uses words and directly incites violence. Research on violence shows that rhetoric can be more efficient than specific orders or direct assaults in causing epidemics of violence.

[action]

The World Mental Health Coalition, of which Dr. Lee is president, will be holding a special online national town hall, "The Imperative to Convict Trump," on Sunday, Feb. 7, at 2 p.m. EST.

Speakers include: Laurence Tribe, constitutional scholar, Harvard Law School; Norman Eisen, former special counsel for Trump's first impeachment and trial; Richard Painter, former chief White House counsel for George W. Bush; Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), member, House Oversight Committee, and chairman, House Subcommittee on Government Operations; Claire Finkelstein, criminal lawyer, University of Pennsylvania; Ruth Ben-Ghiat, historian, New York University; Bandy Lee, moderator and president, World Mental Health Coalition

Tickets are $5 for students and low-income individuals, $25 general.

For more information, please go here, and for a video statement, see here.

[/action]

The ideal course would have been swift impeachment and conviction. Impeachment happening a week after the actual incident was already a poor precedent, prompting us to write to the speaker of the House: we would not allow a serial killer to be on the loose with bombs, ammunition, and assault rifles for days—and yet we permitted a serial mass killer, by the order of hundreds of thousands, for weeks with access to nuclear weapons capable of destroying all civilization. We urged clear and speedy actions, given that each day of delay had an adverse effect on the population's demoralization and trauma without justice, and on Trump enablers' opportunities to subvert the momentum for impeachment.

Impeachment Backfire

As we know from past experience, tepid impeachment proceedings could even backfire and boost Donald Trump's standing. As we have repeatedly emphasized, once with over 800 mental health professional signatories, even the most impeccable political calculations, without consideration of psychological factors in his case, would likely also fail politically.

Given a recalcitrant Senate, psychological influences are especially critical. Some of this might have been mobilized to advantage had impeachment occurred the day after violent insurrection and sedition, and conviction as soon as the following day, with amplification of public outcry if the Senate refused.

Since this did not happen, the next best course would be to have a complete trial with as much evidence and testimonies as possible, including those of Capitol police officers who were injured during the incident, to maximize pressure on the Senate to convict.

More High Crimes

Additional articles of impeachment would also be helpful, including his role in the soon-to-be half-million Americans who perished from the pandemic; the economic misery while he and his cronies profited; the human rights abuses as he kidnapped and placed children in concentration camps; and the aid and comfort he gave to neo-Nazi and white supremacist terrorist groups throughout his presidency, to compose an "encyclopedia of articles" more commensurate with reality that we recommended since the first impeachment.

Unless conviction promptly removes former presidential privileges and sets restrictions on future campaigns for political office, Donald Trump will likely use the acquittal to claim that he is innocent of all charges. He will claim that the second impeachment was another "hoax" intended to victimize him, using it to discredit all subsequent indictments and prosecutions.

Back on the Stump

He will resume holding rallies, continually pushing the narrative that he was the real victor in 2020, threatening further social and political divisions. He will blame the poor state of the country he created on the Biden administration, just as easily as he claimed credit for the long-term benefits that the Obama administration's policies generated, as he aims to return to power as the savior who will "make America great again." As long as positive reinforcement through a lack of accountability persists, he will not stop.

A failure to convict will, furthermore, have a devastating effect on the public's mental health. The country is already traumatized from four years of normalizing, legitimizing, and even glorifying deadly criminality, abusive behavior, and severe pathology. Members of Congress who experienced normal emotional distress as happens after a life-threatening event will not be able to have closure, as will the American people after the violation and desecration of their seat of government.

Unhealthy Bonds

A failure to convict will continue to entrap those who support him, whose unhealthy emotional bonds prevent them from seeing the damage that is being done to their personhood, livelihood, health, and even lives. It is a disservice to collude with their psychological defenses against the pain of disappointment, further entrenching them in potential future trauma upon learning the truth.

Clear boundaries need to be set that a leader should not abuse, let alone kill, the people he has sworn to serve.

The first step to healing a massive mental health pandemic is to convict, set limits, return to reality, and restore the standards of lawfulness, order, and safety. We should not continue to permit a dangerously unfit person who held high office to spread unmitigated violence, trauma, and mental pathology. Mental health professionals who routinely manage dangerous personalities have vital knowledge to contribute to society and should be consulted.

The case for expelling Marjorie Taylor Greene from Congress

Let's put in perspective the atrocious conduct of freshman lawmaker Margorie Taylor Greene. She is the pistol-toting congresswoman from Georgia who wants to put a bullet in Speaker Nancy Pelosi's head.

Any private employer would have fired Greene immediately. Failure to do so would expose a private company, a nonprofit or any other employer to ruinous damages. What if Greene reached into her purse and used her Glock, or if a fellow QAnon fan were to fulfill these homicidal impulses.

Any decent human being would get a court order to keep Greene from being on the loose with a gun in her person.

But Greene works in the people's House. Under our Constitution, she can't be fired; she can, however, be expelled.

Our Constitution requires a two-thirds majority vote to expel Greene. That will happen only if 59 of the 211 House Republicans have the basic human decency to expel a member with murder, religious bigotry and anti-Semitism in her heart, a lethal weapon in her purse and a stated desire to overthrow the government in which she serves.

Expulsion, however, almost is certainly not going to happen.

It's not what the Republican Party's de facto leader, Donald Trump, wants. Trump endorsed Greene, untroubled by her racist and anti-Semitic screeds and her spouting of QAnon craziness.

Examples? Labeling Democratic Party leaders as pedophile cannibals was one. Another was her inane assertion that California's wildfires were caused by a Jewish space laser financed by the Rothschild banking family.

Unrepentant Trump

But why would this, or anything else Greene has done, dissuade Trump? He is so self-centered and disloyal that he tried, and failed, on Jan. 6 to overthrow our government.

That attack on our Capitol left five people dead, including two police officers, and 140 police injured. In this Trump is like Greene – he is utterly unrepentant.

We now know that the attack on our Capitol and the hunt to kill Pelosi, then Vice President Mike Pence and others was the result of premeditation by rebels. Planning began just days after a large majority of American voters decided by Nov. 3 that Joe Biden would be our next president.

We also know that Trump riled up the crowd that January morning and told them he would go with them to the Capitol. Then he ducked out, hiding out in the White House, gleefully watching on TV the attack.

Trump was so enthralled by the mob violence on his behalf that he wouldn't take his eyes off the TV to answer frantic telephone calls from members of his own political party who feared they were about to be executed.

What better evidence that with Trump, like every other mob boss and dictator, loyalty is a one-way street?

Coward Kevin McCarthy

As Trump plots revenge and hopes for a return to the White House, his ally is traitor Kevin McCarthy. The California Republican who is House Minority Leader could whip votes to oust Greene. But if he did, he might well be ousted as minority leader.

McCarthy is so weak he cannot bear the thought of that humiliation; cannot imagine being stalwart in defense of our Constitution. News reports indicate Trump uses a sexist epithet to describe McCarthy who only confirms the implication of the disgusting term by his conduct.

McCarthy shares with Trump the ability to speak out of four sides of his mouth. He muddies otherwise clear waters about where he stands, what he believes and what he will do.

Of all the scoundrels that Trumpism has inflicted in America, few will be judged more harshly by history than McCarthy. He is a coward who chose loyalty to Trump ahead of his office. He is doing Trump's bidding by helping Greene cling to the office she does not deserve.

Five Members Expelled

Only five House members have ever been expelled, three for joining the Confederacy and waging war on the United States, two for corruption.

Greene clearly fits under the rebellion category. She is no less a traitor than John B. Clark and John W. Reid of Missouri and Henry C. Burdett of Kentucky, who all stood with the slave-owning Confederacy in 1861.

Any Republican who votes to keep Greene is making clear that they are as vile and disloyal as she is. A vote to retain Greene is a vote of utter disrespect for our Constitution and a violation of each representative's oath to defend our Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Harassing a Fellow Lawmaker

Greene is utterly unrepentant. Last week, Greene and her staff harassed a co-worker of equal rank, Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.). It's significant that Greene is white and spouts racist tropes while Bush, who represents St. Louis, is Black.

Greene, in a tweet, said Bush was the agitator. So did Greene's chief of staff, promising he'd release a video to prove it. No video has appeared.

Bush told MSNBC that Greene approached her from behind while "ranting loudly into her phone" and "not wearing a mask." Bush said she called out for Greene to put on her mask, as House rules require, prompting Greene and her staff respond by berating her.

Bush is having her Congressional office moved away from Greene's. Providing Bush with armed escorts seems within the bounds of reason.

It is terrible to have to brand an entire political party this way, but it is what the facts demand. This is a tragedy not for the GOP so much as America, where our Constitution hangs as if by a thread and the Republicans are sharpening scissors.

What happened to Republican lectures about the need for those in high office to have moral standards? How about Republican themes of taking personal responsibility?

The awful truth is that those were never principled stands, just mere slogans no different in substance than the catchy phrases and jingles used to sell bubble gum and shampoo.

Featured image: Screengrab of Marjorie Taylor Greene campaign video

Schumer plays his weak Senate hand — badly

Days into the new government, it's clear that Joe Biden is running an energetic, activist White House. But the new Democratic majority leader, Chuck Schumer, is still stuck in the same stalled Senate where he served in the ever-victimized minority.

Whatever else you want to say about Schumer, he's no Lyndon Baines Johnson, who dominated as a Senate majority leader from 1957 to 1961. He's not even Harry Reid, who had the job from 2007 to 2015.

From the outside, it looks like majority-leading-by-pleading, not arm-twisting.

You don't hear that other senators fear Schumer as much as they hope that he can stand up to the ever-manipulative tactics of a crafty Mitch McConnell. The Republican has lost the majority leader title, but not his magic to set the agenda.

It could be because Schumer got the majority leader office by the barest of margins – the potential tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris.

Or perhaps it is because the real majority leader emerging is centrist Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). Manchin repeatedly seems to forget that he is a Democrat and doesn't mind thwarting Schumer and Democratic goals. It might even be because Biden, himself, a long-time senator, has personal relationships to pursue in the chamber.

Whatever.

Somehow, everyone in the House knows that Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with her narrowed Democratic majority, is still the swaying voice for everything from impeachment votes to requiring that members leave their guns at the door. It is the deference of others to her power that we are examining.

We recognize in Schumer a certain caution in trying to get the most from a split, now-stuck Senate. He got to this day in a plodding manner, using congressional rules and his ever-present microphone rather than any sense of authoritative aggressiveness.

Maybe the issue is his speaking voice, which borders on annoying rather than inspiring; or his pleading tone. Maybe he was just better at offering obstructions as a minority leader than serving at the front of the Senate.

Of course, maybe he'll settle in and be more effective. Right now, the focus for political wins in the Senate still seems to be on McConnell.

Deftness?

On ABC News recently, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, commented on the continuing Schumer-McConnell wrangles over the timing of the impeachment trial, the makeup of Senate committees and the rules governing a 50-50 Senate split. Christie said, "The one thing Chuck isn't is deft. Definitely not deft."

Politico's take: "Chuck Schumer has finally realized his dream of becoming majority leader. And given the circumstances, it's a bit of a nightmare." Without an agreement on new rules, for example, Republicans maintain most of the committee leadership, reviewing confirmations and legislation.

There is a lot to get done at once in a Biden presidency both to reverse what are seen as bad mistakes from the Donald Trump years and to be aggressive about preparing for another election that will put the Senate majority on the ballot again.

The healthy argument between Schumer and McConnell about whether to eliminate filibuster rules – rules that effectively require 60 votes for any substantial legislation rather than a simple majority — are going McConnell's way. That is partly because Schumer does not have the votes of Manchin or Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).

The impeachment trial for Trump has been delayed – just as McConnell had asked. The committees needed for confirmation hearings and to review the immediate demands for Biden-proposed legislation on COVID-19 aid, on extending jobless benefits and on immigration changes are being held hostage to the inside game.

Again, filibuster rule debates are inside baseball. They don't get jobs or food or vaccines done.

It looks as if what drives Republicans' votes in the Senate is fear: from McConnell over life his as a senator and from Trump whose continuing influence is in aiming his insults and primary threats for re-election.

By contrast, what seems to drive Democratic votes is a general plea to reason rather than the use of power.

As the opposition party, Republicans, of course, already are lining up to give Trump a pass on impeachment conviction and a permanent bar to run for office again. While open to approving Biden's cabinet, generally Republicans are vocal about a too-large investment in anti-COVID efforts based on caring about the national debt, which they forgot about in the Trump era.

Title without authority

The new heavyweight in the Senate is the center, with Manchin Democrats meeting up with Susan Collins (R-Maine) and a smallish group from Republicans. Somehow, they want to buck both parties with insistence on moderation and politeness – even as the Capitol is assaulted, the coronavirus deaths soar again and hunger is growing.

Schumer himself is up for re-election in 2022 and could face a long-shot primary challenge from the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)

CNN said: "The talks of bipartisanship are quickly getting ensnared by must-move Senate business, not the least of which is getting an agreement on how the Senate will be run over the next two years. It seems simple, but it's a big deal and it's proving far harder to secure than anyone had anticipated."

Schumer is seeing pressure from his left to dump the filibuster to make it easier to pass improvements in health, infrastructure, environment and national security issues. Biden, again, thinks that bipartisanship can be made to work, but needs a strong Schumer.

So, Schumer's time is short to prove effectiveness. He did not win his title until Georgia improbably elected two Democrats on Jan. 5, and it has been a race to get the new rules in place at a time of simultaneous public tidal waves. Succeeding as majority leader has meant going toe-to-toe with McConnell over arcane rules.

McConnell simply is acting as if he gets a veto over all that passes to the Senate. He is still acting as majority leader without the title.

Schumer needs to step up to his new job.

Democrats are the new Senate majority — so why is Mitch McConnell still running the show?

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Terry H. Schwadron, DCReport @ RawStory

Days into the new government, it's clear that Joe Biden is running an energetic, activist White House while new Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is still stuck in the same stalled Senate that he served in the ever-victimized minority.

Whatever else you want to say about Schumer, he's no Lyndon Baines Johnson, who dominated as a Senate majority leader, or even Harry Reid.

From the outside, it looks like majority leading by pleading, not arm-twisting. You don't hear that other senators fear Schumer as much as hope that he can stand up to the ever-manipulative tactics of a crafty Mitch McConnell, who has lost the majority leader title, but not its magic to set the agenda.

Schumer got to this day in a plodding manner, using congressional rules and his ever-present microphone rather than any sense of authoritative aggressiveness.

It could be because Schumer's gotten the majority leader office by the barest of margins – the potential tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris when it will be needed. Or perhaps it is because the real majority leader emerging is centrist Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who seems repeatedly to forget that he is a Democrat, and who doesn't mind hanging Schumer and Democratic goals in thin air. It might even be because Biden himself, a longtime senator, has personal relationships in the chamber to pursue himself.

Whatever.

Somehow, everyone in the House knows that Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with her narrowed Democratic majority, is still the swaying voice for everything from impeachment votes to requiring that members leave their guns at the door to the chamber. It is the deference of others to her power that we are examining.

We recognize in Schumer a certain caution in trying to get the most from a split, now-stuck Senate, someone who got to this day in a plodding manner, using congressional rules and his ever-present microphone rather than any sense of authoritative aggressiveness. Maybe it is his speaking voice, which borders on annoying rather than one inspiring attention, or his pleading tone. Maybe he was just better at offering obstructions as a minority leader than serving at the front of the Senate.

Of course, maybe he'll settle in and be more effective, but right now, the focus for political wins in the Senate still seems to be on McConnell.

Deftness?

On ABC News recently, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, commenting on the continuing Schumer-McConnell wrangles over the timing of the impeachment trial, the makeup of Senate committees and the rules governing a 50-50 Senate split said, "The one thing Chuck isn't is deft. Definitely not deft."

"Chuck Schumer has finally realized his dream of becoming majority leader. And given the circumstances, it's a bit of a nightmare," noted Politico. Without an agreement on new rules, for example, Republicans maintain most of the committee chairmanships, reviewing confirmations and legislation.

What does seem apparent are that there is a lot to get done at once in a Biden presidency both to reverse what are seen as bad mistakes from the Donald Trump years and to be aggressive about taking advantage of the next two years until another election will put the Senate majority on the ballot again.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer demands hearings over whistleblower complaint — says the Republican-led Senate has 'remained silent and submissive'

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer demands hearings over whistleblower complaint — says the Republican-led Senate has 'remained silent and submissive' Royalty-free stock photo ID: 596958572 Washington, DC - February 27, 2017: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks to a press conference at the National Press Club

The healthy argument between Schumer and McConnell about whether to eliminate filibuster rules – rules that effectively require 60 votes for any substantial legislation rather than a simple majority are going McConnell's way – in part because Schumer does not have the votes of Manchin or Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.). The impeachment trial for Trump has been delayed – just as McConnell had asked, though a week earlier. The committees needed for confirmation hearings and to review the immediate demands for Biden-proposed legislation on COVID-19 aid, on extending jobless benefits and immigration changes are being held hostage to the inside game in the Senate.

Again, filibuster rule debates are inside baseball, they don't get jobs or food or vaccines done.

From the outside, it looks as if what drives Republicans' votes in the Senate is fear – from McConnell over life as a senator and from Trump, whose continuing influence is in aiming his insults and primary threats for reelection. By contrast, what seems to drive Democratic votes is a general plea to reason rather than the use of power.

As the opposition party, Republicans, of course, already are lining up to give Trump a pass on impeachment conviction and a permanent bar to run for office again, and, while open to approving Biden's cabinet, generally are vocal about a too-large investment in anti-COVID efforts based on the new-found need to care for the national debt.

Title Without Authority

The new heavyweight in the Senate is the center, with Manchin from Democrats meeting up with Susan Collins (R-Maine), and a smallish group from Republicans. Somehow, they want to buck both parties with their insistence on moderation and politeness – even as the Capitol is assaulted, even as the coronavirus deaths soar again, even as hunger is growing.

Schumer himself is up for reelection in 2022 and could face a long-shot primary challenge from the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

"The talks of bipartisanship are quickly getting ensnared by must-move Senate business, not the least of which is getting an agreement on how the Senate will be run over the next two years. It seems simple, but it's a big deal and it's proving far harder to secure than anyone had anticipated," noted CNN.

Schumer is seeing pressure from his left to dump the filibuster to make it easier to pass improvements in health, infrastructure, environment and national security issues. Biden, again, thinks that bipartisanship can be made to work, but needs a strong Schumer.

So, Schumer's time is short to prove effectiveness. He did not win his title until Georgia improbably elected two Democrats on Jan. 5, and it has been a race to get the new rules in place at a time of simultaneous public tidal waves. Succeeding as majority leader has meant going toe-to-toe with McConnell over arcane rules.

McConnell simply is acting as if he gets a veto over all that passes to the Senate. He is still acting as majority leader without the title.

Schumer needs to step up to his new job.

How Biden and the Democratic Congress can start undoing Trumpism

Our nation's new Congress could use a once-obscure law to try to roll back some of the worst Trump actions after Joe Biden is sworn in.

The Congressional Review Act, signed in 1996 by President Bill Clinton, requires a simple majority of the House and Senate and the president's approval. Rules that were published after Aug. 10 could be axed by Congress.

"It's the quickest way to get rid of policies that will cause significan harms to the health of Americans and to the quality of our environment," said Richard Revesz. He directs the Institute for Policy Integrity at the New York University School of Law.

Just since Election Day 2020, Team Trump has completed at least 44 rules. They include:

  • Keeping the 2012 standards for microscopic soot that are linked to an estimated 45,000 deaths. The rule overrides advice from EPA scientists. Higher pollution appears to increase COVID-19 deaths.
  • Relaxing environmental rules for exporting liquefied natural gas. New Fortress Energy, a publicly traded company founded by billionaire Wes Edens, wants to build a terminal in Gibbstown, N.J. to ship liquefied natural gas to the Caribbean. Edens co-founded a New York City hedge fund that was part of a deal to loan the Trump Organization $130 million to help build the Trump International Hotel and Tower Chicago in 2005.

The Trump administration executed 10 federal prisoners in 2020, the most federal executions in a single year since 1896 when Grover Cleveland was president.

The act typically is used early in a president's first term when his party also controls both houses of Congress. President Barack Obama avoided using the Congressional Review Act, preferring to use regular rulemaking.

But before Trump took office, his aides, including Andrew Bremberg, Marc Short and Rick Dearborn, put together a spreadsheet of Obama rules they could undo. The 14 rules they succeeded in erasing early in 2017 included preventing coal companies from polluting streams by dumping waste in them and a rule meant to prevent people with mental health problems from buying guns.

Radical Republicans also used the rule in late 2017 and early 2018 to repeal two rules from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the independent agency that Team Trump neutered.

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