Daily Archives: March 26, 2020

Sanders – Trump Is Ignoring Medical Experts

Bernie Sanders

Published on Mar 26, 2020

We have a president who is speaking in opposition to medical advisors in our own government. To me, this is as dangerous as he gets.

Robert Reich (The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It The…)

 

The coronavirus has starkly revealed what most of us already knew: The concentration of wealth in America has created a a health care system in which the wealthy can buy care others can’t.

It’s also created an education system in which the super-rich can buy admission to college for their children, a political system in which they can buy Congress and the presidency, and a justice system in which they can buy their way out of jail.

Almost everyone else has been hurled into a dystopia of bureaucratic arbitrariness, corporate indifference, and the legal and financial sinkholes that have become hallmarks of modern American life.

The system is rigged. But we can fix it.

Today, the great divide in American politics isn’t between right and left. The underlying contest is between a small minority who have gained power over the system, and the vast majority who have little or none.

…(read more).

Charles Koch Network Pushed $1 Billion Cut to CDC, Now Attacks Shelter-in-Place Policies for Harming Business

 

Lee Fang

March 26 2020, 3:20 p.m.

Americans for Prosperity, the pro-corporate pressure group founded and funded by billionaire industrialist Charles Koch, wants employees to return to work despite desperate pleas from public health officials that people should stay home as much as possible to help contain the spread of the coronavirus.

As states began to order nonessential businesses to shut down last week, AFP released a statement calling for all businesses to remain open.

“Rather than blanket shutdowns, the government should allow businesses to continue to adapt and innovate to produce the goods and services Americans need, while continuing to do everything they can to protect the public health,” said Emily Seidel, chief executive of AFP, in a press release.

Some of the group’s state chapters have taken a similar tone. AFP Pennsylvania’s state director, as well as a regional director with the group, have taken to Twitter to lambast shelter-in-place policies. The Michigan chapter of AFP on Monday slammed Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order, which closed down fitness centers, nail salons, amusement parks, casinos, and other businesses deemed nonessential, calling it the “wrong approach for our state.”

Whitmer’s order, variations of which are being implemented by state and local governments nationwide, contains exceptions for critical industries such as grocery stores, pharmacies, health care providers, financial services, transportation, child care, hazardous materials, and energy.

“All businesses are essential — to the people who own them, the people who work in them, and the communities they serve,” said Annie Patnaude, the Michigan state director for AFP, in a statement responding to the order.

AFP’s position, which directly contradicts the advice of medical experts who say that social isolation is essential to curbing the spread of the coronavirus, comes after the group lobbied the Trump administration in 2018 to rescind $1 billion from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Much of AFP’s recommended cuts to government programs, which included CDC money for infectious disease control and global health, became part of the official White House budget request, though most were not adopted by Congress.

The cuts, AFP argued, would “relieve the burden overspending is placing on all taxpayers.” The CDC is now one of the front-line organizations dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, which has impacted nearly 70,000 people in the United States and has claimed over 1,000 lives.

The libertarian advocacy network has spent tens of millions of dollars lobbying for corporate tax cuts, deregulation, and reductions to social welfare programs, particularly state Medicaid programs. This aggressive advocacy record has come into focus in recent days as Americans confront the coronavirus pandemic. Medicaid funding is seen as a critical tool for treating sick patients, and many are now questioning the wisdom of reductions to the CDC’s funding and staff.

Read Our Complete CoverageThe Coronavirus Crisis
Internal memos from AFP reveal the size and scope of the organization, which employed 650 staff members during the 2016 election and has successfully worked to block Medicaid expansion in at least four states. During the 2016 election, the group also aired negative advertising sharply criticizing Hillary Clinton and Senate Democrats, an electioneering push that dramatically shaped the current balance of power in Washington, D.C.

The group has since used its government influence to slash environmental rules, retreat from the Paris Climate Accord, and demand cuts to federal programs. It also helped secure $1.5 trillion in tax cuts as part of President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax overhaul.

Experts around the country have called for shelter-in-place policies for nonessential businesses, arguing that social isolation can drastically curb the spread of the coronavirus. Slowing the pandemic, they say, can save lives by lowering the demand for medical supplies and limited hospital beds. Despite their medical necessity, these policies are being rejected by conservatives around the country. Republican state leaders, including Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, have balked at shutdown requests. On Tuesday, Reeves signed an executive order superseding local bans on public gatherings.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious disease expert and a member of the White House coronavirus task force, has said he has “emphasized very emphatically” that bars, restaurants, and other nonessential businesses close and that those who may work from home do so.

The Intercept asked AFP if the group had consulted any public health officials before beginning the push against shelter-in-place policies, and whether the group continues to support steep cuts to the CDC.

The group did not respond to the inquiry regarding the CDC and did not name any public health experts.

A spokesperson for AFP noted in an email that they are “encouraging every public official dealing with these incredible challenges to consider how communities and businesses are adapting to meet critical needs as they make these difficult decisions” and that the group believes that there is “value in businesses and government working together to stop the spread of this virus and help the people who need it.” The Koch network, while pushing for businesses to stay open, is taking the opposite approach for its lobbying apparatus. AFP and its affiliates, including LIBRE Initiative and Concerned Veterans for America, are now working from home. “Out of an abundance of caution and to ensure the health and safety of our activists, staff, and voters, our staff are working from home and are utilizing digital organizing as one way to continue their grassroots engagement,” a spokesperson from AFP told CNBC.

The $500 Billion Bailout, Privilege, and Accountability | The Common Good with Robert Reich

Robert Reich

Streamed live 35 minutes ago

In this episode of The Common Good, Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich discusses the Senate coronavirus stimulus bill that passed late last night, the $500 billion slush fund for corporations, the public officials and industries exploiting this crisis for personal gain, and the dangerous prospect of sending people back to work to boost corporate executive’s stock portfolios. Reich’s latest book, The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix it, explores the unequal power dynamics of our system.

Inequality Media Civic Action with Robert Reich is a digital media organization aimed at debunking right-wing lies, educating the public about inequality and imbalance of power, and breaking down solutions to the economic and structural issues plaguing our country. We provide a platform for you to learn, share your ideas, and, hopefully, mobilize your communities to make change for the common good.

Like Previous Pandemics, COVID-19 Will Shape the Fates of Nations – Post Carbon Institute

Richard Heinberg March 24, 2020

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been delving back into one of my favorite books, “Plagues and Peoples,” by the celebrated historian William H. McNeill. Its relevance to today’s headlines is fairly obvious. What makes the book so compelling is McNeill’s ecological sensibility: He understands human beings as biological organisms embedded in living systems. For him, conquerors like Genghis Khan are macropredators, disease organisms are micropredators, and human history is the tale of how both have shaped population levels and relative degrees of social power.

In his discussion of the role of diseases in the political developments of 18th-century Europe, McNeill makes this remarkable observation:

[T]he rise of Great Britain in comparison with France in the course of the eighteenth century depended, among other things, on the remarkable population growth that set in earlier and continued longer in Britain than in France. Political institutions, the distribution of coal and iron ore, social structures, values, and individual inventiveness all played a role in defining the over-all result: but in light of what can now be said about the retreat of plague, malaria, and other infectious diseases from the English countryside, together with England’s head start in the deliberate control of smallpox, it seems clear enough that divergent disease experiences in the two countries had much to do with their divergent population histories.

McNeill goes on to cite England’s successful management of infectious disease as one of the critical developments of 18th century history, fostering the rise of the British Empire and thereby reshaping the world order, from the Americas to Asia. He also attributes the rise of “enlightened” philosophical and social world views during this period at least partly to the development of scientific methods of disease suppression.

All of which leads me to contemplate the current coronavirus pandemic in the context of history, and to propose a simple thesis: The ways that nations respond to the pandemic today will largely determine their fortunes and fates over the next couple of decades at least, and perhaps beyond. Nations that are more successful at controlling the disease and minimizing fatalities will enjoy more social cohesion, while those that delay active measures to control its spread will see greater social stress, and a crippling of public faith in leaders and institutions.

Of course, nations that already enjoy high levels of social cohesion and sound leadership are better positioned to successfully contain the pandemic. Thus, the coronavirus may end up simply being a magnifier of trends already in progress. If it is true, as some have argued, that the United States is an empire in decline, the virus may simply speed up the erosion of its global influence. And if some Asian nations seem destined for a more prominent place in international politics and commerce, the pandemic could propel them to that position even faster.

As for economic impacts, there may be no way to avoid extreme and enduring damage to markets and supply chains. Delaying containment measures in order to maintain business as usual would likely lead to overwhelmed health care systems and, in turn, higher death rates. Fear of contagion would then likely cause disruptions of trade and commerce at least as severe as those triggered by the proactive lockdown measures that have already been enacted in some of the countries furthest along in the pandemic cycle — notably China, whose economic activity seems to have shrunk remarkably in the past two months. One way or another, we seem to be in for a global depression. But, as with the pandemic, the ability of nations to weather hard economic times may depend largely on factors of leadership and social cohesion.

It’s already apparent that clear government messaging, widespread testing, and early lockdowns in countries like Taiwan have worked to curtail the outbreak and foster widespread compliance with government recommendations. Compare this with President Trump’s sometimes dismissive and often counterfactual comments about the pandemic, the U.S. government’s failure to roll out a robust testing program, and its lagging effort at containment. Of course, U.S. politics were already highly polarized, thus complicating the task of coordinating a coherent large-scale response by local, state, and federal governments. But crucial missteps early in the cycle may eventually lead to even more divisiveness, as the economic and social tensions resulting from mounting casualties and months of lockdown erode the patience of a restive public.

…(read more).

“Chaotic Situation”: India Begins Lockdown of 1.3 Billion Residents as Coronavirus Pandemic Spreads

Democracy Now!

Mar 26, 2020

As the coronavirus pandemic spreads around the world, we look at India, which is now under the largest lockdown in human history, with 1.3 billion people ordered to shelter in place. As the country’s economy and daily life come to an abrupt halt, hundreds of millions of Indians who live hand to mouth have been left without the means to support their families. We speak with Amitav Ghosh, whose books include “Gun Island” and “The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable.”

Facts Tell: Shifting the blame is Trump’s default setting

CGTN

Mar

21, 2020

President Donald Trump is calling the coronavirus the “Chinese Virus.” This label is racially offensive and inaccurately depicts the global nature of the threat, but the more Trump’s handling of the public health emergency is criticized and the more the economy falters, the more the U.S. president tries to shift the blame.