Julia Conley

Manchin slammed for vowing to oppose $2,000 checks just as Dems claim Senate majority: 'No one will forget'

Days after the crucial victories of new Democratic Sens.-elect Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock were credited in large part to clear messaging about the need for a Democrat-controlled Senate in order to send $2,000 checks to American households, Sen. Joe Manchin on Friday provoked scorn Friday by saying he would "absolutely not" support providing such relief.

Manchin told the Washington Post he believes vaccine distribution should be "job number one" for Democrats, despite the fact that additional funding for coronavirus vaccines is expected to be included in the package the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden is developing.

The conservative West Virginia Democrat expressed concern that people who have not lost income at this point as a result of the pandemic would potentially receive $2,000 checks, in addition to those who currently are in dire need of relief.

"How is the money that we invest now going to help us best to get jobs back and get people employed? And I can't tell you that sending another check out is gonna do that to a person that's already got a check," Manchin told the Post.

As more than 125 economists from institutions including Harvard, Princeton, and Berkeley told lawmakers in November, direct payments to a wide swath of American households "are one of the quickest, most equitable, and most effective ways to get families and the economy back on track" amid 6.7% unemployment and an economic crisis which has caused more than half of American adults to lose income, left nearly 26 million people unable to afford basic essentials like groceries, and caused an estimated 12 million renters to fall thousands of dollars behind in their rent payments.

The legislation Biden's team is currently working on would include extended unemployment benefits as well as direct payments and funding for state and local governments. Under the control of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who opposes $2,000 payments and funding for states and cities, the Senate has failed to pass legislation including more than $600 payments since last March, when the CARES Act was passed.

Gaining a Democratic majority in the upper chamber has been thought to be the key to ensuring people across the country receive meaningful aid after nearly 10 months of receiving no direct payments, and nearly half a year without the enhanced unemployment benefits included in the CARES Act, which were credited with reducing poverty but were allowed to lapse by the Republican Party last summer.

Ossoff and Warnock's victories in Georgia, following two months of tireless get-out-the-vote efforts by organizers with groups including Mijente and the New Georgia Project, give Democrats control of the senate, with a 50-50 split and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris acting as tiebreaker if the Democrats use Senate rules allowing them to pass the coronavirus relief package with a simple majority.

With the close margin, the loss of Manchin's vote could force Biden to drastically change his proposal, the Post reported—just after he called on Georgia voters to support Ossoff and Warnock to make sure "those $2,000 checks will go out the door, restoring hope and decency and honor for so many people who are struggling right now."

Saikat Chakrabarti, co-founder of Justice Democrats, denounced Manchin for coming out against the $2,000 payments—saying the senator's comment "already hurts the Democrats," even before the actual vote takes place.

"We won Georgia because we promised $2,000 checks," Chakrabarti tweeted. "Joe Manchin is threatening the Democratic majority in the Senate if he goes against it, and for no reason."


Daily Poster editor Andrew Perez noted that by threatening the party's ability to ensure Americans receive relief checks, Manchin will do measurable harm to his own constituents, 40% of whom are facing food insecurity.




"Joe Manchin should talk to the working class West Virginians he's supposed to represent and see what they think about him saying 'absolutely not' to the $2,000 relief checks that 80% of Americans support in the middle of the worst economic pain since the Great Depression," added Democracy Spring founder Kai Newkirk.

People for Bernie suggested that with 78% of Democratic voters, 60% of independents, and 54% percent of Republicans supporting $2,000 checks, according to Data for Progress, Manchin will ultimately harm his own political career should he vote against the legislation.


"No one will forget," the group tweeted.




Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez demands Sens. Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley resign  — or be removed

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Thursday vehemently rejected a call by Sen. Ted Cruz for lawmakers and Americans to put the current "anger and division behind us," 24 hours after the senator himself baselessly contested the presidential election results—an action which helped incite a mob of thousands to storm the Capitol building in what has been characterized as an insurrection.

Cruz and other lawmakers who challenged the results "must resign," the New York Democrat tweeted. "If you do not, the Senate should move for your expulsion."

In addition to President Donald Trump's repeated false claims that the election was "stolen" from him and that the results in several states were illegitimate, the two months preceding Wednesday's attack on the nation's Capitol—where lawmakers were convening to certify President-elect Joe Biden's victory—were characterized by the refusal of other Republicans in both the House and Senate to accept the results.

Cruz joined with seven other senators including Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Rick Scott of Florida to vote to overturn the election results on Wednesday night, hours after the insurrection was brought to an end. One hundred and thirty nine Republican House members also voted against certifying the election results despite dozens of federal and state court rulings which have rejected Trump's and other GOP members' challenges.

Amid the challenge, Ocasio-Cortez noted, Trump supporters who believe that Biden's victory is fraudulent—as more than three-quarters of Republican voters now do, according to a recent poll—descended on the Capitol building, forcing lawmakers and journalists to go into hiding while barricades were breached, windows broken, and offices vandalized in an assault that led to the death of four people.

"Sen. Cruz, you must accept responsibility for how your craven, self-serving actions contributed to the deaths of four people yesterday," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.

Government watchdog Public Citizen echoed Ocasio-Cortez's rejection of Cruz's statement, in which he defended his decision to repeatedly challenge the "integrity" of the election—found by the Trump-created Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to be "the most secure in American history"—while also claiming to want a "peaceful and orderly transition of power."

"No turning the page," tweeted the organization, calling for immediate "accountability" for those who stoked the flames that led to Wednesday's violence.

In addition to calling for the resignations of Cruz and Hawley, who was the first senator to announce he would challenge the election results, Ocasio-Cortez on Wednesday joined Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) in calling for the expulsion of other lawmakers who objected to certifying the election. On Thursday, Reps. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) joined the call.

"The Republican members of Congress who incited the attempted coup our Capitol should be expelled from Congress," tweeted Bowman.

The congressman urged supporters to sign a petition supporting the resolution, which has garnered more than 141,000 signatures so far.

Critics slam Trump's 'criminal extortion' after asking Georgia officials to 'find' him 11,000 votes

Days before the U.S. Congress is set to certify President-elect Joe Biden's victory in the November 3 election, political observers on Sunday demanded to know how much effort President Donald Trump has put into pressuring state officials into naming him as the winner, after the Washington Post released audio of Trump pleading with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to "find" more than 11,000 votes for him.

As the Post reported, Trump spoke with Raffensperger and Ryan Germany, general counsel to the secretary of state, warning that by certifying Georgia's election results—which showed Biden winning 49.5% of the vote to Trump's 49.3%, and taking the state's 16 electoral votes—the two are taking "a big risk" and potentially breaking the law.

Trump urged Raffensperger to simply tell the public that he "recalculated" the results and determined the president won the state, to which the secretary of state, also a Republican, told Trump, "The data you have is wrong."

The president soon thereafter took a more direct approach.

"So look," Trump said. "All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state."

Listen:


At one point the president asked Germany to substantiate baseless rumors that ballots which cast votes for Trump in Fulton County were "shredded" by poll workers and that Dominion, which supplied voting machines for the election, removed the machinery from polling places to unfairly swing the results in Biden's favor.

"No, Dominion has not moved any machinery out of Fulton County," Germany told Trump, adding, "I'm sure. I'm sure, Mr. President."

The president suggested at one point that as a Republican, Raffensperger should want to have an "accurate election"—or one that Trump won.

"We believe that we do have an accurate election," the secretary of state replied.

In a separate audio clip, Raffensperger reiterated, "We have to stand by our numbers. We believe our numbers are right."


Critics condemned the latest evidence that Trump, two months after the election, is actively attempting to undermine the will of American voters.






The phone call came several weeks after Raffensperger told the Post that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was among several Republicans both in and outside of Georgia who pressured the secretary of state to invalidate legally-cast ballots.

Should Trump's and other Republicans' attempts to swing Georgia's numbers in the president's favor succeed, Trump would gain only 16 electoral votes—far fewer than he would need to meet the 270 threshold to be declared the winner of the election.

That suggests, some said on social media, that the president and his allies have likely made or plan to make similar phone calls to other election officials in states where they've contested the results, including Pennsylvania and Michigan.




"Everyone who has a tape of Trump abusing his power should release it now," tweeted former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.






Planet's 500 richest people added $1.8 trillion to combined wealth in 2020

Bloomberg's year-end report on the wealth of the world's billionaires shows that the richest 500 people on the planet added $1.8 trillion to their combined wealth in 2020, accumulating a total net worth of $7.6 trillion.

The Bloomberg Billionaires Index recorded its largest annual gain in the list's history last year, with a 31% increase in the wealth of the richest people.

The historic hoarding of wealth came as the world confronted the coronavirus pandemic and its corresponding economic crisis, which the United Nations last month warned is a "tipping point" set to send more than 207 million additional people into extreme poverty in the next decade—bringing the number of people living in extreme poverty to one billion by 2030.

Even in the richest country in the world, the United States, the rapidly widening gap between the richest and poorest people grew especially stark in 2020.

As Dan Price, an entrepreneur and advocate for fair wages, tweeted, the 500 richest people in the world amassed as much wealth in 2020 as "the poorest 165 million Americans have earned in their entire lives."


Nine of the top 10 richest people in the world live in the United States and own more than $1.5 trillion. Meanwhile, with more than half of U.S. adults living in households that lost income due to the pandemic, nearly 26 million Americans reported having insufficient food and other groceries in November—contributing to a rise in shop-lifting of essential goods including diapers and baby formula. About 12 million renters were expected to owe nearly $6,000 in back rent after the new year.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk enjoyed an historic growth in wealth last year, becoming the second richest person in the world and knocking Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates down to third place. Musk's total net worth grew by $142 billion in 2020, to $170 billion—the fastest creation of personal wealth in history, according to Bloomberg.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is at the top of the list, with a net worth of $190 billion. Bezos added more than $75 billion to his wealth in 2020, as the public grew dependent on online shopping due to Covid-19 restrictions and concern for public health.

While Bezos and a select few others in the U.S. have amassed historic gains in personal wealth in the last year, the federal government has yet to extend much in the way of meaningful assistance to struggling Americans. The Republican-led Senate on Friday continued to stonewall a vote on legislation that would send $2,000 checks to many American households.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) denounced the proposal as "socialism for rich people" even though the plan includes a phaseout structure and individuals making only up to $115,000 per year—not those in the highest tax brackets—would receive checks.

"Surging billionaire wealth hits a painful nerve for the millions of people who have lost loved ones and experienced declines in their health, wealth, and livelihoods," Chuck Collins, director of the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies, told Bloomberg this week. "Worse, it undermines any sense that we are 'in this together'—the solidarity required to weather the difficult months ahead."

'Traitors': Critics slam GOP senators' 'pathetic' attempt to undermine Biden's election victory

Eleven Republican senators and senators-elect drew accusations of "sedition" and "treason" on Saturday and Sunday when they released a statement announcing they will join Sen. Josh Hawley in contesting the presidential election results on Wednesday, when Congress meets to certify President-elect Joe Biden's victory.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) led his colleagues in releasing the statement, in which the lawmakers said they're being driven not by the belief that they can actually overturn the election results and deny Biden the presidency, but by a desire to make sure Americans who don't believe President Donald Trump lost the election are heard.

The senators cited one poll showing that 40% of Americans believe the election was fraudulent—a belief that has persisted as Trump, supported by numerous members of his party, has refused to concede and has spread baseless misinformation about the results.

Days after Hawley announced he plans to reject the election results in some states won by Biden, Cruz was joined by Sens. Ron Johnson (Wis.), James Lankford (Okla.), Steve Daines (Mont.), John Neely Kennedy (La.), Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), and Mike Braun (Ind.), as well as Sens.-elect Cynthia M. Lummis (Wyo.), Roger Marshall (Kan.), Bill Hagerty (Tenn.), and Tommy Tuberville (Ala.) in supporting the effort.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) noted that 140 Republican House members are joining the senators and called the attempt to undermine the nation's democracy "sad and tragic."


"From the beginning of his campaign for president, Donald Trump has shown a profound disrespect for the institutions of democracy," Sanders said in a statement. "It is pathetic that 13 of my colleagues in the Senate and 140 members of the House of Representatives are now demonstrating a similar disdain for the American people by engaging in a dead-end, unconstitutional effort to overturn the will of voters."

Despite the fact that the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency declared the election "the most secure in American history"—a statement which was followed by Trump's firing of director Christopher Krebs—the senators in their Saturday statement said that "Congress should immediately appoint an Electoral Commission, with full investigatory and fact-finding authority, to conduct an emergency 10-day audit of the election returns in the disputed states."

As Sanders noted, dozens of attempts by Trump and members of the Republican Party have failed to convince state and federal courts of any wrongdoing in states including Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, and Wisconsin. The U.S. Supreme Court has also declined to take up two cases claiming election fraud.

"In the two months since the election, more than 80 judges, including some who were appointed by the president, have rejected Donald Trump and his allies' attempts to overturn the election," the senator said. "There are no cases pending that will have any impact on the results. There have been numerous recounts, audits and verifications, including in the most closely contested states."

Despite the lack of evidence to support the Republicans' claim that another audit is needed, the fact that the senators and members of the House are challenging the electoral college results in certain states will require both the House and the Senate to debate the results of each state in question, and vote on the contest. The certification of Biden's victory could be delayed by several hours, but because Democrats control the House and a number of Republicans have rejected Cruz and Hawley's efforts, the president-elect is ultimately expected to be certified as the winner this week.

On CNN Sunday morning, anchor Jake Tapper said he had invited all the senators planning to challenge the election results to appear on "State of the Union," but that all declined to be interviewed about their decision to join Hawley's effort.


"It all recalls what Ulysses Grant wrote in 1861: There are two parties now, traitors and patriots," Tapper said.

Beto O'Rourke, who challenged Cruz in the senator's re-election campaign in 2018, accused his former opponent of "sedition" and wrote that while Cruz likely knows "the current attempt will fail, it will now be much more likely that a future one will succeed."


Republicans including Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) have publicly denounced their colleagues' efforts in recent days, seeking to distance themselves from the electoral challenge.

Walter Shaub, former director of the Office of Government Ethics, questioned the integrity of those lawmakers on Sunday.

"If you're a senator who has to issue a statement condemning the large-scale and multi-front effort of your party to destroy democracy, isn't it time to rethink your support for that party?" Shaub tweeted.


Federal judge halts voter purges in Georgia ahead of Senate Runoffs

Officials in two rural counties in Georgia late Monday were ordered by a U.S. district judge to stop invalidating voter registrations due to so-called "unreliable" change of address information, a ruling that could protect more than 4,000 Georgia residents from voter suppression.

After two Georgia residents challenged the voter registrations of people in Muscogee County, which President-elect Joe Biden won by a wide margin in November's election, and Ben Hill County, which was won by President Trump, Judge Leslie Abrams Gardner ruled (pdf) that the counties are "enjoined from removing any challenged voters" ahead of two U.S. Senate runoff elections scheduled for January 5.

Earlier this month, the election boards in Muscogee and Ben Hill Counties voted 3-1 and 2-1, respectively, to remove voters from registration lists despite little concrete evidence that the voters had moved out of state.

In Muscogee County, a voter named Ralph Russell alleged that publicly accessible voter registration lists and U.S. Postal Service change-of-address records showed that about 4,000 voters had moved away and should be purged from voter rolls.

Russell did not attend the board's meeting on December 16 and presented no additional evidence of his claim, yet the board ruled that voters he had raised concerns about would have to vote via provisional ballots and provide additional evidence of residency at polling places.

Fitzgerald, Georgia City Council member Tommy Roberts presented a challenge of about 150 voters' names in Ben Hill County, also relying on the post office's change-of-address data, which he said included names on the county's voter list.

Against the advice of the county attorney, the board supported Roberts' effort.

Both boards violated the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) by initiating the voter purges, wrote Gardner, who sits on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, siding with the national group Majority Forward. The group is led by Democratic Party attorney Marc Elias.

"It does not appear that the Boards received written confirmation from the Targeted Voters that they had changed their addresses," wrote Gardner. "Section8(d)(1)(A) of the NVRA clearly states, in relevant part, that a 'State shall not remove the name of a registrant from the official list of eligible voters in elections for Federal office on the ground that the registrant has changed residence unless the registrant...confirms in writing that the registrant has changed residence to a place outside the registrar's jurisdiction in which the registrant is registered.'"

The judge also noted that the changes the boards were making to voter rolls were being made within 90 days of a federal election, another violation of the law.

Elias said after Gardner's ruling was handed down that his organization would "continue to monitor how other Georgia counties respond to the suppression scheme."

"Where necessary, we will sue and we will win," he said.

Earlier on Monday, the Muscogee board filed a motion demanding that Gardner recuse herself from the case on the grounds that she is the sister of Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia gubernatorial candidate whose organization, Fair Fight, was credited with helping to ensure that more than 800,000 new voters in the state were registered for the November elections.

The board's call suggested election officials were concerned the judge may be biased towards ensuring Georgians have the right to vote due to her relation to Abrams, some on social media noted.

"Really saying the quiet parts out loud there," wrote one observer.

Democratic Party leadership is already expressing worries about AOC challenging Sen. Schumer for his seat

With more than a year to go until Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer faces a potential primary challenge for the seat he's held for nearly two decades in New York, the state's Democratic leadership is already expressing concern that progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will run against Schumer.

In an interview with the New York Post, state Democratic Committee Chairman Jay Jacobs said Saturday that a challenge by Ocasio-Cortez would be driven more by the congresswoman's "ambition" than a need for new representation for New York in the U.S. Senate.

"She has a constituency that admires her and supports her, and they're in her community, and I think it would be a loss for them if she were to do that," Jacobs told The Post, despite the fact that Ocasio-Cortez's current constituents in The Bronx and Queens would still be represented by her in the upper chamber should she win Schumer's seat.

Ocasio-Cortez has not directly expressed a desire to challenge the four-term senator, but has been vocal since she first ran for office in 2018 about her belief that the Democratic Party must better represent working people by embracing policy proposals that Schumer and other centrists reject.

Earlier this month, the congresswoman told The Intercept that while she is "not ready" to take over the role of House Speaker from Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), she believes "we need new leadership in the Democratic Party."

She directly criticized establishment Democrats' embrace of the Affordable Care Act and their insistence that the law—which has left nearly 30 million Americans uninsured and healthcare spending on the rise—should be "strengthened" instead of replaced with Medicare for All.

"For me personally, it was when I was waitressing and I would hear Democrats talk about why the Affordable Care Act was so amazing all the time and how this is the greatest thing ever and the economy is doing wonderfully," she told The Intercept of how she decided to run for Congress in 2018. "Frankly, it is the same trick that Trump pulls, which is, you know, people touting the Dow as a measure of economic success when we're all getting killed out here."

Although Jacobs described Schumer as "a progressive force," he has not embraced Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) Medicare for All proposal. Recent polling from the Kaiser Family Foundation has shown that 87% of Democratic voters and 63% of Independents have a positive view of the term "Medicare for All," and 53% of the public favors expanding Medicare to all Americans under a national healthcare plan.

Jacobs' comments and other efforts by establishment Democrats to discourage Ocasio-Cortez's political ambitions only serve to divide the party, tweeted grassroots organization Our Revolution.

"The Establishment should embrace progressive ideas that over 85% of Democrats already support!" the group said.

In an interview with Vanity Fair in October, Ocasio-Cortez said that while she doesn't believe she is "going to be staying in the House forever," she aims to assess where "can be more effective" before running for a Senate seat or filling a cabinet position.

"I don't see myself really staying where I'm at for the rest of my life," she told the magazine. "I don't want to aspire to a quote-unquote higher position just for the sake of that title or just for the sake of having a different or higher position. I truly make an assessment to see if I can be more effective. And so, you know, I don't know if I could necessarily be more effective in an administration, but, for me that's always what the question comes down to."

Oliver Willis of the American Independent noted that the Democratic Party's underestimation of Ocasio-Cortez in 2018, when she challenged powerful nine-term congressman Joe Crowley, is now being repeated by her detractors, including Jacobs.

Others on social media wrote that considering Ocasio-Cortez's national profile and her strong support for numerous popular policies—including Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, and tuition-free public college—the congresswoman would have a strong chance of defeating Schumer.

"The AOC stan army would move en masse across state lines to knock doors before Schumer's consultants could formulate a tweet about his support of the public option," tweeted Winnie Wong, a former adviser to Sanders' presidential campaign.

'Merry Christmas': Watch Rep. Debbie Dingell drop House gavel in gisgust Over GOP's COVID relief cruelty

Rep. Debbie Dingell made no effort on Thursday to hide her contempt for House Republicans' decision to obstruct the approval of $2,000 relief checks for Americans, nine months into a pandemic that has left more than 300,000 Americans dead, hundreds of thousands of small businesses permanently shuttered, an estimated 50 million people facing food insecurity, and tens of millions facing possible eviction.

"It is Christmas Eve, but it is not a silent night. All is not calm. For too many, nothing is bright."
—Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.)

The Michigan Democrat adjourned the U.S. House after Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) requested unanimous consent for an amendment that would increase $600 direct payments in the coronavirus relief package passed on Monday, to $2,000. Though the sum was endorsed by President Donald Trump this week, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) objected to the measure.

"So we do not have unanimous consent," Dingell said in a disbelieving tone before announcing, "The House stands adjourned until 2:00 p.m. on Monday, December 28, 2020."

"Merry Christmas," the congresswoman said with an emotional pause and discernible disgust after banging the gavel.

Dingell's closing remark was "about the most disgusted, sarcastic I've heard in awhile," tweeted congressional reporter Michael McAuliff.


Another observer noted that it appeared Dingell "wanted to insert a choice expletive in the middle of that."

After adjourning the House, Dingell spoke angrily at a press conference about the suffering she has seen in her own district and across the country and condemned the Republicans for their refusal to help alleviate it.

"It is Christmas Eve, but it is not a silent night," Dingell said. "All is not calm. For too many, nothing is bright. And for too many, they are not sleeping peacefully. I gave a town hall last night that had people crying, people terrified of what is going to happen... I've been talking to people who are scared they're going to be kicked out from their homes during the Christmas holiday, and still might be if we don't sign this bill."

Watch:


JUST IN: Top Democrat SHREDS Trump for vetoing relief bill in FIERY remarks youtu.be

Mike Pence accidentally admits the real reason Republicans hate Democrats so much

The grassroots organization People for Bernie on Tuesday advised the Democratic Party to take a page from an unlikely source—right-wing Vice President Mike Pence—after Pence told a rally crowd in Florida that progressives and Democrats "want to make rich people poorer, and poor people more comfortable."

"Good message," tweeted the group, alerting the Democratic National Committee to adopt the vice president's simple, straightforward description of how the party can prioritize working people over corporations and the rich.

Suggesting that a progressive approach to the economy will harm the country—despite the fact that other wealthy nations already invest heavily in making low- and middle-income "more comfortable" by taxing corporations and very high earners—Pence touted the Republicans' aim to "cut taxes" and "roll back regulations."

The vice president didn't mention how the Trump administration's 2017 tax cuts overwhelmingly benefited wealthy households and powerful corporations, with corporate income tax rates slashed from 35% to 21%, corporate tax revenues plummeting, and a surge in stock buybacks while workers saw "no discernible wage increase" according to a report released last year by the Economic Policy Institute and the Center for Popular Democracy.

Similarly, the Republican Party's recent attempts to roll back regulations include measures that have actively harmed working families, including the administration's termination of overtime protections for workers—resulting in an estimated $1.2 billion in lost earnings—and of requirements that federal contractors meet labor and wage standards.

While the GOP during the coronavirus pandemic has allowed enhanced unemployment benefits to expire and cited concerns over the federal deficit while blocking legislation to offer Americans a second round of $1,200 stimulus checks—despite the fact that the deficit has grown by trillions of dollars under President Donald Trump—progressives including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have consistently called for robust economic relief for workers.

Along with Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Sanders introduced legislation to provide Americans with monthly payments of $2,000 in May, saying the $1,200 direct payment included in the CARES Act last March was "not nearly enough."

In August, Sanders also introduced a bill to tax the "obscene wealth gains" of U.S. billionaires during the pandemic, which would raise at least $420 billion—a sum that would allow the popular Medicare program to pay all out-of-pocket healthcare expenses for everyone in the U.S. for a year.

Pence's description of progressive goals was "exactly" correct, author and commentator Anand Giridharadas tweeted.

"Yes, and what's wrong with making poor people more comfortable?" asked Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.).

The consumer advocacy group Public Citizen denounced Pence for suggesting the government should not prioritize the wellbeing of Americans who are struggling financially during a pandemic, including an estimated 50 million people expected to face food insecurity this year.

"You have to be all sorts of twisted to think 'making poor people more comfortable' is a bad thing," tweeted the group.

How a 'science-fiction scenario of an engineered planet' has become a reality

As human consumption and pollution have led to a reduction in the Earth's biodiversity, those same activities have helped to create so many human-made objects that the weight of such materials is expected to exceed that of all people, other living animals, and plants by the end of 2020.

Scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Sciences in Rehovot, Israel, published (pdf) a study in Nature on Wednesday showing that the weight of all human-made objects, or "anthropogenic mass"—including automobiles, buildings, roads, and smaller plastics and other materials—is estimated at one teratonne, or one trillion metric tons.

"We find that Earth is exactly at the crossover point; in the year 2020, the anthropogenic mass, which has recently doubled roughly every 20 years, will surpass all global living biomass," wrote the scientists in Nature. "On average, for each person on the globe, anthropogenic mass equal to more than his or her body weight is produced every week."

While the weight of human-made objects has doubled every two decades recently, that of living animals and plants has dropped; the United Nations warned in a report last year that about one million species are now threatened with extinction as humans have encroached on natural habitats for agricultural and development purposes, exploited wild animals, and driven the climate crisis through fossil fuel extraction.

The significance of the new study regarding the weight of anthropogenic mass "is symbolic in the sense that it tells us something about the major role that humanity now plays in shaping the world and the state of the Earth around us," Dr. Ron Milo, who led the research, told BBC News.

The new research, wrote Jan Zalasiewicz and Mark Williams, professors of palaeobiology at the University of Leicester in the U.K., upends the long-held idea of "a natural world that dwarfed humanity and its creations":

Our constructions have now—indeed, spookily, just this year—attained the same mass as that of all living organisms on Earth. The human enterprise is growing fast, too, while nature keeps shrinking. The science-fiction scenario of an engineered planet is already here.
[...]
Since the mid-20th century, the Earth has been set on a new, human-driven trajectory... The weight of evidence, here, seems unarguable.

The scientists behind the study found that in 1900, human-made objects weighed roughly 35 billion tonnes, and that the weight doubled by the middle of the 20th century.

Since the Great Acceleration after World War II, "our stuff increased several-fold to a little over half a trillion tonnes by the end of the century," wrote Zalasiewicz and Williams at The Conversation. "In coming years, the living world will be far outweighed—threefold by 2040, they say, if current trends hold."

The scientists wrote in their study that their "quantification of the human enterprise" provides new evidence that the planet has entered "the human-induced epoch of the Anthropocene"—a geological age in which humanity's impacts on the living world will be visible in sediments millions of years from now.

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