Bits ‘n’ Pieces: April 15, 2021

By Lorraine H. Marie
Reader Columnist

East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact. A recent sampling:

Following recent mass shootings, President Joe Biden announced executive orders for increasing regulation of so-called “ghost guns,” which lack serial numbers and can be assembled at home, as well as devices like stabilizing arm braces; new restrictions on pistol modification; annual ATF reports on illegal firearm trafficking (after a 20-year absence); investment in community violence intervention programs; and guidance for states to implement extreme risk laws, Vox reported. 

When campaigning, Biden’s platform included assault weapons bans and a gun buy-back program. An analysis of online gun sales by nonprofit “gun violence prevention” organization Everytown for Gun Safety showed 10% of individuals who purchased guns could not pass a background check.

March measurements from Mauna Loa’s observatory showed atmospheric CO2 levels exceeding 417 parts per million. Pre-industrial levels were in the 278 ppm range, according to

According to a new study from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, 55 of the largest U.S. corporations paid nothing in federal income taxes on more than $40 billion in profits for 2020, Americans for Tax Fairness reported. If those corporations had paid the current 21% rate, they would have paid $8.5 billion into federal coffers, instead of getting $3.5 billion in rebates. Biden has proposed a tax reform plan to fix the rigging: a tax rate of 28% and a minimum tax rate of 15% to disallow tax dodging. Also of note: Today’s CEO-to-worker pay ratio is 320-to-1, a contrast to 21-to-1 in 1965, according to the Economic Policy Institute. What’s more, the corporate tax rate was 35% before the Trump administration initiated tax cuts in 2017.

From the “let them eat cake” file: After making it a criminal act to provide food and water to voters waiting in line, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said on Newsmax, “They can order a pizza. They can order Grubhub or UberEats, right?” Critics argue Georgia’s law is a form of Jim Crow-style poll tax. According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, 500,000 voters did not cast their ballots in 2016 due to long lines and polling place management errors. 

Meanwhile, large corporations are objecting to the Georgia law, and last weekend hosted an online meeting to discuss opposing more than 350 other voter suppression bills in other states.

Examination of court records of QAnon followers arrested for actions taken at the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6 showed 68% saying they’d received a mental health diagnosis, ranging from PTSD to paranoid schizophrenia. The national average of Americans with a mental health diagnosis is 19%, according to Sofia Moskalensko, research fellow in social psychology, writing in The Conversation.

Biden moved his deadline of making all adults eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations up from May 1 to April 19, reported. His initial April vaccination goal was reached in March. Biden cautions that new COVID-19 variants are spreading quickly, and cases and hospitalizations are again rising. The COVID-19 mutations are more dangerous, but “the vaccines work on all of them,” Biden stated.

Congressional Republicans are arguing that “infrastructure” is too broadly defined in Biden’s American Jobs Plan, and the plan should not include programs beyond transportation, such as for power lines, internet cable and jobs training — despite having supported advances in those arenas in the past. The New York Times reported, “the economy has changed, and so has the definition of infrastructure.” The paper noted that a third of the workforce in the 1950s was employed by manufacturers, but that has fallen to 8.5% — indicating a changing economy. Proponents of the Jobs Plan are saying that in this century whatever helps people access work and lead better lives counts as infrastructure — including fixing dangerous water systems, advancing the use of electric vehicles and expanding help for disabled and elderly Americans. Opponents say those are examples of overreach.

Blast from the past:  In 2005 the Bush administration tried to privatize Social Security, despite resistance from some Republican lawmakers. Democrats were in a minority, but promised they would save the program. The trick in the Dems’ hat was the filibuster: It would take 60 senators to break a filibuster and force a vote on privatizing Social Security. The filibuster worked: There were not enough votes to kill Social Security, and dismantling one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s signature New Deal projects did not move forward at that time.

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