Jake Johnson

70-plus science journalists pen open letter condemning Barrett for enabling 'ecological crisis of our times'

More than 70 science journalists have signed an open letter warning that Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett's close ties to the fossil fuel industry and refusal to publicly acknowledge the established science behind human-caused climate change make her an enabler of "the ecological crisis of our times."

First published in Rolling Stone on Sunday, the letter slams Barrett's responses to basic climate questions during her confirmation hearings as "factually inaccurate, scientifically unsound, and dangerous." As Common Dreams reported, the right-wing judge insisted she has "no firm views" on the climate crisis and, in later written responses, called the science of climate change "controversial."

"It is frightening that a Supreme Court nominee—a position that is in essence one of the highest fact-checkers in the land—has bought into the same propaganda we have worked so hard to dispel," reads the letter, which was signed by author and environmentalist Naomi Klein, 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben, and other prominent climate writers.

"How can Judge Coney Barrett rule on pending issues of climate change liability, regulation, finance, mitigation, equity, justice, and accountability if she fails to accept even the underlying premise of global warming? The answer is that she cannot," continues the letter, which comes hours before the Republican-controlled Senate is set to clear a procedural hurdle and pave the way for a final vote on Barrett's confirmation Monday.


Below is the full letter and list of signatories:

We are science and climate journalists. We are researchers and weavers of information, creating a fabric that explains the work of scientists who themselves are working to describe our natural world and universe. We are published in the nation's leading outlets, both large and small, including Scientific American, Nature, National Geographic, MIT Technology Review, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The Washington Post, The New Yorker and many more. Over decades of reporting on the threats and now deadly and devastating harms of worsening climate change, we have succeeded in at least one respect. The vast majority of the world's people, including those in the United States, not only acknowledge the scientific certainty of climate change, but also want action taken to address it.

We have succeeded because the science is clear, despite there being a massive well-orchestrated effort of propaganda, lies, and denial by the world's largest fossil fuel corporations, including ExxonMobil and Koch Industries and fossil-fuel-backed institutes and think tanks. It is frightening that a Supreme Court nominee—a position that is in essence one of the highest fact-checkers in the land—has bought into the same propaganda we have worked so hard to dispel.

And it is facts—a word under repeated assault by the Trump administration, which nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett—that are at issue here. "I'm certainly not a scientist…I've read things about climate change. I would not say I have firm views on it," Judge Coney Barrett told Sen. John Kennedy during the Senate confirmation hearings on October 13th.

The next day, Sen. Richard Blumenthal asked Judge Coney Barrett if she believed "human beings cause global warming." She replied: "I don't think I am competent to opine on what causes global warming or not. I don't think that my views on global warming or climate change are relevant to the job I would do as a judge."

When asked that same day by Sen. Kamala Harris if she accepts that "COVID-19 is infectious," Coney Barrett said yes. When asked if "smoking causes cancer," Coney Barrett said yes. But when asked if "climate change is happening, and is threatening the air we breathe and the water we drink," Judge Coney Barrett said that while the previous topics are "completely uncontroversial," climate change is instead, "a very contentious matter of public debate." She continued: "I will not express a view on a matter of public policy, especially one that is politically controversial because that's inconsistent with the judicial role, as I have explained."

Judge Coney Barrett repeatedly refused to acknowledge the scientific certainty of climate change. This is an untenable position, particularly when the world's leading climate scholars warned in 2018 that we have just 12 years to act to bring down global average temperature rise and avert the most dire predictions of the climate crisis.
At the moment when the facts of the case were presented to her, this arbiter of justice freely chose to side with mistruths. Judge Coney Barrett's responses are factually inaccurate, scientifically unsound, and dangerous.
How can Judge Coney Barrett rule on pending issues of climate change liability, regulation, finance, mitigation, equity, justice, and accountability if she fails to accept even the underlying premise of global warming? The answer is that she cannot.

Judge Coney Barrett's ties to the fossil fuel industry have already proved problematic, forcing recusal from cases involving Shell Oil entities related to her father's work as a long-time attorney for the company. She may also need to recuse herself from future cases due to her father's former position as chairman of the Subcommittee on Exploration and Production Law of the American Petroleum Institute—the nation's leading fossil fuel lobby.
Climate change is already an increasingly dominant aspect of American life, and an issue of growing import in American law. On the Supreme Court docket is BP P.L.C v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore—a case that involves Shell, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and other major oil companies, and could impact about a dozen U.S. states and localities suing Big Oil over its contribution to climate change.

Judge Coney Barrett says, "I'm certainly not a scientist," but she does not need to be a scientist, rather she needs to have faith in science. Pope Francis, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, is an ardent supporter of action on climate change, releasing in 2015 the "Encyclical on Climate Change & Inequality: On Care for Our Common Home." The Pope embraces hard science in order to keep close to his faith.

Judge Coney Barrett has displayed a profound inability to understand the ecological crisis of our times, and in so doing she enables it.

Signed,

Bill McKibben, journalist and author, the Schumann Distinguished Scholar in environmental studies at Middlebury College

Rebecca Solnit, author and journalist

Sonia Shah, science journalist and author

Jonathan Weiner, Pulitzer Prize winning author, science journalist, and professor at Columbia Journalism School

Jeff Goodell, climate journalist and author of The Water Will Come

Naomi Klein, journalist and author

Michelle Nijhuis, science journalist and author

Amy Westervelt, climate journalist

Rachel Ramirez, environmental justice reporter

Iris Crawford, climate justice journalist

Anoa Changa, movement and environmental justice journalist

Tiên Nguyễn, multimedia science journalist

Eric Holthaus, meteorologist, climate journalist at The Phoenix

Jenni Monet (Laguna Pueblo), climate affairs journalist and founder of Indigenously

Nina Lakhani, environmental justice reporter

Samir S. Patel, science journalist and editor

Clinton Parks, freelance science writer

Meehan Crist, writer in residence in biological sciences, Columbia University

Elizabeth Rush, science writer, author of Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore

Anne McClintock, climate journalist, photographer and author, professor of environmental humanities and writing at Princeton University

Ruth Hopkins (Oceti Sakowin, Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate), tribal attorney, Indigenous journalist

Wade Roush, science and technology journalist and author

Kim Stanley Robinson, New York Times bestselling author of climate science fiction, Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards

Jason Mark, editor in chief, Sierra

Kate Aronoff, climate journalist

Richard Louv, journalist and author

Heather Smith, science journalist

Judith Lewis Mernit, California climate editor, Capital & Main

Madeline Ostrander, climate journalist

Julie Dermansky, multimedia environmental and social justice journalist

Kenneth Brower, environmental journalist and author

Alexander Zaitchik, science and political journalist and author

Hillary M. Rosner, science journalist and scholar in residence, University of Colorado
Wudan Yan, science journalist

Debra Atlas, environmental journalist and author

Rucha Chitnis, climate, environmental justice and human rights documentarian

Drew Costley, environmental justice reporter

Jonathan Thompson, environmental author and journalist

Carol Clouse, environmental journalist

Brian Kahn, climate journalist

Geoff Dembicki, climate journalist and author

Peter Fairley, energy and environment journalist

Nicholas Cunningham, energy reporter

Nina Berman, documentary photographer focusing on issues of climate and the environment, professor of journalism at Columbia University

Michele C. Hollow, freelance journalist

Ben Depp, documentary photographer, focusing on issues of climate and the environment

Virginia Hanusik, climate photographer

Philip Yam, science journalist and author

Maura R. O'Connor, science journalist and author

Chad J. Reich, audio and visual journalist covering energy and environment in rural communities

Steve Ross, environmental writer/editor, former Columbia environmental reporting professor

Starre Vartan, science journalist

Michael Snyder, climate photographer

Brandon Keim, science and nature journalist

Tom Athanasiou, climate equity writer and researcher

Hope Marcus, climate writer

Jocelyn C. Zuckerman, freelance journalist

Dana Drugmand, climate journalist

Tom Molanphy, climate journalist

Roxanne Szal, associate digital editor, Ms. Magazine

Dashka Slater, author and climate reporter

Jenn Emerling, documentary photographer, focusing on issues of climate and culture in the American West

Christine Heinrichs, science writer and author

Clayton Aldern, climate and environmental journalist

Karen Savage, climate journalist

Charlotte Dennett, author, investigative journalist, attorney

Carly Berlin, environmental reporter

Ben Ehrenreich, author and journalist

Ibby Caputo, science journalist

Lawrence Weschler, former New Yorker staff writer, environmental author, most recently with David Opdyke, of This Land: An Epic Postcard Mural on the Future of a Country in Ecological Peril.

Justin Nobel, science journalist

Antonia Juhasz, climate and energy journalist and author

'We're not going to control the pandemic' Trump chief of staff admits on live TV as COVID cases surge

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said in a Sunday morning appearance on CNN that "we're not going to control the pandemic," a remark that critics took as an open admission by a top official that the Trump administration has given up trying to stop the spread of a virus that has killed more than 224,000 Americans and counting.

"So here's what we have to do: We're not going to control the pandemic," said Meadows, who previously served in Congress as a Tea Party Republican. "We are gonna control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics, and other mitigation areas."

Asked by CNN host Jake Tapper why the U.S. isn't going to bring the pandemic under control, Meadows responded: "Because it is a contagious virus, just like the flu."

"'It is what it is' wasn't a randomly tossed off phrase: it's the official policy," tweeted emergency physician Esther Choo as clips of Meadows' interview began circulating on social media.

Meadows went on to insist that "we are making efforts to contain" the virus before falsely claiming that those advocating stricter measures want to "quarantine all of America."

Watch:


"Mark Meadows admits on camera, nine days before the election, that the White House has given up trying to control the virus that has killed more than 220,000 Americans," tweeted former Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer.

Critics of the White House concluded months ago that the president and his top advisers effectively stopped attempting to contain the virus as they advocated premature reopenings, embraced dangerous strategies like "herd immunity," and publicly downplayed the severity of the pandemic even as it infected millions and ravaged the nation's economy.

Others in the federal government, like Dr. Anthony Fauci, have persisted in sounding the alarm as the U.S. sees another alarming surge in cases.

In recent weeks, with the November election approaching, Trump has recklessly held rallies in major states nationwide—campaign events that have since been connected to community outbreaks of Covid-19.

When Tapper mentioned Sunday that the president is holding crowded in-person rallies despite the public health risks, Meadows responded, "That's correct."

'Dark moment for the Senate': Republicans block consideration of COVID relief — and rushes ahead with Barrett confirmation

Republicans on Saturday blocked Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer's attempt during a rare weekend session to force consideration of a $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill as the GOP rushed ahead with its effort to confirm right-wing judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court just before the November election.

After a speech decrying the Barrett confirmation process as "a very dark moment for the Senate," Schumer requested unanimous consent for the chamber to take up a revised version of the HEROES Act that the Democrat-controlled House passed earlier this month. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has refused to allow a Senate vote on the bill despite growing suffering across the nation and warnings that failure to approve additional spending could cause lasting damage to the economy.

Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) objected to Schumer's request for unanimous consent, dismissing the effort to force debate on the revised HEROES Act as a political ploy.

If passed, the legislation would restore the $600-per-week federal unemployment boost Republicans allowed to expire in July, send another round of $1,200 stimulus checks to most Americans, and provide much-needed aid to state and local governments.

"It's an outrage that Senate Republicans are ramming through a radical Supreme Court nominee who will strip healthcare from 23 million Americans during a pandemic while doing nothing to provide economic relief to millions of working-class Americans who desperately need our help," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Saturday.

Watch the Senate session, which came 48 hours before the chamber is expected to hold a final vote on Barrett's confirmation:


WATCH LIVE: Senate continues debate on Amy Coney Barrett nomination for Supreme Court youtu.be

After Republicans blocked the HEROES Act, Senate Democrats requested unanimous consent for consideration of a slew of additional bills that McConnell has "consigned to his legislative trashcan," including measures that would expand voting rights and reform law enforcement. Republicans denied each request.

"Two hundred twenty thousand Americans have died from Covid, but the Senate GOP only seems to care about forcing Trump's nominee through an illegitimate process," Schumer tweeted Saturday.

Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, applauded Democrats' efforts, writing that the public "should remember what McConnell is ignoring as he jams through an anti-civil rights SCOTUS justice."

"Remember: McConnell has the Senate in session right now to rush through Barrett's nomination," Gupta tweeted. "Not to pass real Covid relief, or police reform, or voting rights bills. He isn't working for the people. He is working to stack the courts and entrench power. That's it."

'Grossly negligent': Critics pile on Pence decision to keep campaigning despite COVID exposure

Despite being considered a close contact with a top aide who tested positive for Covid-19 and began quarantining on Saturday, Vice President Mike Pence is still planning to maintain his travel and campaign schedule with the November election just over a week away—a decision medical experts denounced as potentially dangerous for Pence, those accompanying him, and the public.

The White House announced Saturday that Pence Chief of Staff Marc Short and at least three additional members of the vice president's staff have tested positive for Covid-19, another outbreak within the Trump administration that comes weeks after the president, one of his top aides, and his press secretary contracted the virus. Two unnamed officials briefed on the matter told the New York Times that White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows attempted to keep news of the latest outbreak from going public.

Pence spokesperson Devin O'Malley said that both the vice president and his wife tested negative for Covid-19 on Saturday and "remain in good health."

"I also find it really harmful and disrespectful to the people going to the rally. He needs to be staying home 14 days. Campaign events are not essential."
—Saskia Popescu, George Mason University

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines recommend that those who come into close contact with someone infected by the coronavirus "should stay home for 14 days... even if you test negative for Covid-19 or feel healthy."

To justify keeping up the vice president's travel plans—which are set to take him to North Carolina and Minnesota on Sunday following two stops in Florida on Saturday—Pence's communications team pointed to the CDC's guidelines for essential personnel.

"Critical infrastructure workers may be permitted to continue work following potential exposure to Covid-19," the guidelines state, "provided they remain asymptomatic and additional precautions are implemented to protect them and the community."

But public health experts rejected the notion that Pence's campaigning amounts to essential activity. Saskia Popescu, an infectious disease expert at George Mason University, called Pence's decision to maintain his aggressive travel schedule "grossly negligent."

"It's just an insult to everybody who has been working in public health and public health response," Popescu told the Associated Press. "I also find it really harmful and disrespectful to the people going to the rally... He needs to be staying home 14 days. Campaign events are not essential."

Epidemiologist Eric Feigl-Ding, a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists, also voiced alarm at Pence's decision to keep campaigning despite close exposure to a virus that has killed nearly 225,000 people in the U.S. and continues to spread nationwide.

"Pence tested negative but that doesn't immediately mean anything," Feigl-Ding noted. "Both [Stephen] Miller and [Kayleigh] McEnany tested negative for 4-5 consecutive days before testing Covid-19 positive on the final day. Early infection [is] not always detectable, but it's still maybe infectious."

Trump lawsuit to stop Nevada mail-in vote count condemned as 'obvious' and 'desperate' suppression attempt

In a move the Nevada Democratic Party denounced as a "desperate play" to suppress votes just ahead of the November 3 election, the Trump campaign on Friday filed a lawsuit seeking to stop officials from tallying mail-in votes in the Silver State's most populous county on the basis of alleged problems with ballot observation and processing procedures.

"This lawsuit from Trump and Republicans is nothing more than an obvious attempt to impede record-breaking momentum in Clark County, the most diverse county in the state," Nevada State Democratic Party Chair William McCurdy II said in a statement. "The demands articulated in the GOP's lawsuit amount to voter suppression, plain and simple... this suit is nothing but a sham."

Late Friday, a judge denied the Trump campaign's request for a temporary restraining order to stop the counting of mail-in votes. "That doesn't mean the legal battle is over, though," the local Nevada Independent reported. "Carson City District Court Judge James Wilson has scheduled an evidentiary hearing for Wednesday morning."

The lawsuit (pdf) against Nevada's Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske and Clark County Registrar of Voters Joseph Gloria—just one of many election-related suits the Trump campaign and Republicans have filed across the nation in recent months—alleges that Nevada officials are not providing adequate accommodations for ballot observers.

"Notably, observers are often located more than 25 feet away from certain processes, and cannot see the computer screens or monitors of individual workers," the complaint reads.

The suit also claims that Gloria lowered the "tolerance level" of a machine used to match signatures, allegedly opening the door to "fraudulent and improper ballots... being tabulated by Clark County."

In a statement responding to the lawsuit, the Clark County Election Department said the Trump campaign's complaint "contains many misleading or inaccurate claims."

"Perhaps most notably, the judge commented during a hearing today that the County Election Department is complying with state statute regarding observation requirements," said department spokesperson Dan Kulin.

In a pair of tweets late Friday, Nevada's Democratic Attorney General Aaron Ford rejected the lawsuit's assertion that a "proper" vote-counting procedure is not in place in Clark County and denounced the Trump campaign's "illegitimate efforts."

"We will always protect the right to vote, and we won't let it be suppressed," Ford wrote. "Keep counting, Clark."

USPS quietly awards $5 million contract to DeJoy's former company: 'Epic level of corruption'

The U.S. Postal Service last month quietly awarded a $5 million contract to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy's former company XPO Logistics, raising fresh allegations of unethical activity by the Trump megadonor as he continues to come under fire for causing nationwide mail delays that could impact next month's election.

CBS News reported Friday that the Postal Service "will pay XPO $3.3 million annually to manage its route between the two cities, which are roughly 700 miles apart."

"The USPS database shows the contract has one of the highest annual rates out of more than 1,600 contracts the Postal Service initiated with outside firms in its most recent quarter, which is the first full quarter DeJoy has served as head of the agency," according to CBS.

Under pressure from Democratic lawmakers and ethics groups, DeJoy—who was a top executive on XPO's board before leaving the company in 2018—belatedly agreed last week to divest from XPO, in which he held between $30 and $75 million worth of stock. As CBS noted, the logistics company "still pays DeJoy about $2.3 million a year in rent and expenses for 220,000 square feet of office space he controls in his home state of North Carolina. XPO's lease agreements for DeJoy's properties run through 2025."

"This epic level of corruption is hurting the seniors and disabled veterans who rely on medicines by mail," advocacy coalition Lower Drug Prices Now tweeted in response to news of the XPO contract, which was negotiated in August and disclosed by USPS earlier this month.


As Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) researcher Meredith Lerner wrote last week, "DeJoy's initial decision to retain his interest in [XPO Logistics] relied on an explanation from a USPS ethics official that divestiture was not necessary because DeJoy would not make decisions affecting the company's contracts with USPS."

"While it is undoubtedly a good thing that DeJoy has agreed to divest his stake in XPO," Lerner wrote, "his delayed divestiture will not absolve him of possible conflict of interest violations related to the company that he may have committed in the months that he worked at USPS while retaining a significant interest in the company."

'An insult': Doctors furious as Trump peddles baseless claim they are inflating COVID death count for profit

Medical professionals responded with outrage late Saturday after President Donald Trump pushed the baseless claim that doctors and hospitals are intentionally inflating coronavirus death counts because they have a financial "incentive" to do so, a narrative that has been circulating for months in right-wing media circles and among some Republican lawmakers.

During a campaign rally in Waukesha, Wisconsin Saturday night, the president said "doctors get more money and hospitals get more money" if they attribute to Covid-19 deaths that, according to Trump, should have been primarily attributed to comorbidities.

Trump's claim resembles falsehoods that have been spreading on Facebook and Twitter since the early stages of the pandemic, such as one viral post asserting that "hospitals get $750 if you die from the flu, and $17,500 if you died from Covid-19."

Deeming the claim false, PolitiFact noted: "Under the CARES Act, the largest of the three federal stimulus laws enacted in response to the coronavirus, Medicare pays hospitals a 20% 'add on' to its regular payment for Covid-19 patients. But there is no indication that hospitals are over-identifying patients as having Covid-19 for the sake of padding their revenue. If anything, evidence suggests the illness is being underdiagnosed."

"Medicare pays hospitals based on a diagnosis; whether a patient dies does not affect the amount," PolitiFact pointed out. "And even then, the same diagnosis might trigger one reimbursement amount at one hospital, and a different payment at a hospital in another location."

Experts have also rejected Trump's insistence that people with comorbidities who die after falling ill with Covid-19 should not be counted as a coronavirus fatality. Justin Lessler, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told Scientific American last week that "when we ask if Covid killed somebody, it means 'Did they die sooner than they would have if they didn't have the virus?"

While preexisting conditions make people more vulnerable to coronavirus, Lessler said, "the fact is: they're not dying from that preexisting condition."


Trump's comments—which came as the U.S. coronavirus death toll approached 225,000, the highest in the world—were met with immediate condemnation by physicians and other medical professionals.

"As a doctor, this is such an insult," said Rob Davidson, an emergency room physician and executive director of the Committee to Protect Medicare. "We report deaths how they occur. If you did your damn job we wouldn't be reporting so many Covid-19 deaths. About 130,000 fewer according to a Columbia University study."

Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, an infectious disease doctor and an associate professor at Boston University School of Medicine, tweeted that the president's claims are an affront "to the almost quarter of a million people who have died of this disease."

"In people with comorbidities, Covid, like any major insult to the system, serves to worsen the outcome," Bhadelia continued. "The virus is still absolutely the reason that person died. The comorbidities were their vulnerabilities that the virus took advantage of."

"This speech by the person who should supposedly be leading us through this crisis—it breaks me," wrote Bhadelia. "This apathy, utter willful disconnect from reality of the pain of this pandemic while the country spirals into what might be our worst surge yet—we cannot let this cruelty continue."

Trump officials weighing deep funding cuts to essential healthcare services in Dem-led cities: HHS documents

Documents obtained by Politico reveal that the Trump White House is weighing millions of dollars in federal funding cuts to Covid-19 relief, newborn screenings, and other crucial healthcare programs in Democrat-led cities, a move critics decried as politically motivated "retribution" that could have a devastating impact on poor and sick Americans amid the ongoing pandemic.

Politico reported late Tuesday that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has "identified federal grants covering... nearly 200 health programs that could be in line for cuts as part of a sweeping government-wide directive the administration is advancing during the final weeks of the presidential campaign and amid an intensifying pandemic Trump has downplayed."

"Vote these monsters out," progressive strategist Murshed Zaheed tweeted in response to the new reporting.

According to Politico:

HHS compiled the list with input from at least 12 agencies it oversees. The list includes 185 programs that touch on everything from Trump's own initiative to end HIV transmission by the end of the decade to the opioid crisis and research into lung diseases. The list also includes funding for other programs, like $423,000 for universal hearing screenings for newborns in the District of Columbia, housing for people in addiction recovery in Seattle, and services providing nutrition and mental health counseling to elderly New Yorkers.

The administration's decision to target funding for life-saving health programs stems from a September 2 memorandum in which President Donald Trump ordered federal agencies to review "funding to state and local government recipients" that the White House has condemned for not quashing racial justice protests.

Last month, as Common Dreams reported, the Department of Justice designated New York City, Seattle, and Portland, Oregon as "anarchist jurisdictions" that could lose federal grant money amid a pandemic that has taken an enormous toll on state and local budgets.


Chrissie Juliano, executive director of the Big Cities Health Coalition, an organization that represents major city health departments, warned that "there's no extra money lying around" to help local governments make up for potential federal funding cuts.

"This is not a time to be playing politics with people's health," Juliano told Politico.

Billionaire wealth has surged by nearly $1 trillion during 7 months of pandemic and economic collapse

Over just the past seven months—as millions lost their jobs and health insurance, tens of thousands of small businesses shuttered permanently, and more than 200,000 Americans were killed by the coronavirus—U.S. billionaires saw their combined net worth surge by more than $930 billion, bringing the collective wealth of just 644 people to a staggering $3.88 trillion.

That's according to an analysis released Tuesday morning by Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) and the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), progressive organizations that have been tracking the explosion of billionaire wealth since the start of coronavirus lockdowns in mid-March. (See the groups' compilation of billionaire wealth data here.)

The new analysis shows that the collective wealth of America's billionaires grew by $931 billion—or nearly 33%—between March 18 and October 13, a period that also saw unprecedented job loss, a nationwide surge in hunger, and a sharp increase in housing insecurity.

The groups noted that the jump in billionaire wealth over the past seven months exceeds the size of both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) so-called "skinny" Covid-19 relief bill and the estimated two-year budget gaps of all state and local governments, which have been forced to lay off more than a million public-sector workers due to revenue shortfalls caused by the coronavirus crisis.

"Sadly, the Gilded Age is here again," ATF executive director Frank Clemente said in a statement. "We have extraordinary gains in wealth by a small sliver of the population while millions suffer, this time from the ravages of the pandemic, much of which could have been avoided."

"In the short-term we need a robust pandemic relief package that meets the urgency of the moment, not Senator McConnell's skinny bill that offers political cover," Clemente continued. "In the long-term we need major reform that taxes the extraordinary wealth of the billionaires and millionaires and uses that wealth to create an economy that works for all of us."


The new analysis shows that a handful of billionaires "have seen a particularly astonishing increase in wealth" over the past seven months:

  • Jeff Bezos' wealth grew from $113 billion on March 18 to $203 billion on October 13, an increase of 80%. Adding in his ex-wife MacKenzie Scott's wealth of $65.7 billion on that day and the two had a combined wealth of more than a quarter of a trillion dollars thanks to their Amazon stock.
  • Mark Zuckerberg's wealth grew from $54.7 billion on March 18 to $101 billion on October 13, an increase of 85%, fueled by his Facebook stock.
  • Elon Musk's wealth grew from $24.6 billion on March 18 to $92.8 billion on October 13, an increase of 277%, boosted by his Tesla stock.
  • Dan Gilbert, chairman of Quicken Loans, saw his wealth rocket by 656%, to $49.2 billion from $6.5 billion seven months earlier.

"With Mitch McConnell's Senate paralyzed with inaction, U.S. society is kicking into inequality overdrive, with wealth surging up to U.S. billionaires," said Chuck Collins, director of IPS' Program on Inequality. "The juxtaposition between surging billionaire wealth and the imploding livelihoods of ordinary Americans is grotesque and unseemly."

Trump mocks Biden for vowing to 'listen to the scientists' as coronavirus cases surge in most states

Speaking to a largely maskless crowd of supporters on Carson City, Nevada late Sunday, President Donald Trump mocked Democratic nominee Joe Biden for vowing to "listen to the scientists" on the Covid-19 pandemic if elected in November and boasted about his own refusal to heed the advice of experts even as coronavirus cases and deaths continue to surge nationwide.

"If I listened totally to the scientists, we would right now have a country that would be in a massive depression," Trump said, neglecting to mention that the U.S. is, in fact, currently in the midst of an unprecedented economic downturn.

"We're like a rocket ship, take a look at the numbers," the president added, remarks that came just days after the Labor Department reported that another 1.3 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits during the week ending October 10. According to data from the Census Bureau, nearly 80 million U.S. adults are struggling to afford basic necessities such as food and rent.

Watch Trump's comments:



The Biden campaign and allies of the former vice president were quick to respond to Trump's attack, which was in line with the president's repeated dismissals of expert recommendations and basic public health guidelines as the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage the country.

Ronald Klain, Biden's former chief of staff who led the Obama administration's Ebola response, tweeted, "Trump admits he doesn't listen to scientists. No wonder the U.S. leads the world in Covid deaths."

Biden campaign spokesperson Andrew Bates called Trump's remarks "tellingly out of touch and the polar opposite of reality."

"Trump crashed the strong economy he inherited from the Obama-Biden administration by lying about and attacking the science, and layoffs are rising," Bates said.

The president's anti-science rhetoric, policies, and personnel moves—which have included the installation of political officials at federal public health agencies—have led nonpartisan publications and groups like Scientific American and the National Academy of Sciences to publicly criticize Trump, in some cases, call for his ouster in November.

"Policymaking must be informed by the best available evidence without it being distorted, concealed, or otherwise deliberately miscommunicated," the nonpartisan National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Medicine said in a joint statement last month. "We find ongoing reports and incidents of the politicization of science, particularly the overriding of evidence and advice from public health officials and derision of government scientists, to be alarming."

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