Bits ‘n’ Pieces: June 24, 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 two dry winters, low water levels are killing more than half of juvenile salmon in the Klamath River, reported. The condition allows proliferation of a native parasite. The Yurok Tribe fisheries director regards it as a “climate catastrophe.” Impacts will include water allocations cuts to farmers and ranchers, as well as long-term crippling of fish runs. For the Klamath Basin community the low flow is an emergency, with an urgent need for a federal disaster relief bill that should include a foundation for building a more resilient ecology and economy in the Basin area.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a recent 7-2 vote, rejected a third challenge to the Affordable Care Act. The Court stated those bringing suit had not suffered direct unlawful injury and had no standing to sue. The Urban Institute estimated that if the ACA had been struck down there would have been a 70% increase in uninsured people — particularly harsh for those with pre-existing conditions.

Why Social Security solvency is threatened: According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, SS solvency was last addressed in 1983, but since then the program’s tax base has eroded due to inequality (such as slowing of wage growth) and the rising cost of fringe benefits, such as health insurance. The center proposed several remedies, including increasing or eliminating the cap on taxable wages. 

Incomes have grown among wealthier earners, but contributions into the program from that source have not. Eliminating the SS payroll tax cap entirely would result in all workers and their employers contributing 6.2%. Currently the figure is lower for high earners, which comprise 6% of the population.

The current “shrill” around inflation is being used by some in political and business arenas to undermine pandemic relief efforts, according to Josh Bivens, with the Economic Policy Institute. Bivens noted rising prices in some sectors are due to “lots of pent up demand for things we couldn’t do during the pandemic,” but, “there’s no indication we’re facing widespread or long-term inflationary pressures.” 

In a noticeable departure from past high-level meetings, Russian President Vladimir Putin did not leave President Joe Biden waiting for his arrival when they met last week; rather, Putin showed up early, Politico reported. The two spent several hours in private conversation. Putin said the meeting lacked hostility, and both sides strived to understand the other. Biden is a “very experienced politician,” Putin said, and their talk was “constructive.” 

The meeting was a stark contrast to the 2018 Trump-Putin meeting, CNN said, when the U.S.’s top Russia adviser, Fiona Hill said things were going so poorly for former-President Donald Trump that she was looking for a fire alarm to pull to end the meeting.

The U.S. House voted to award Congressional Gold Medals to law enforcement officers who defended the Capitol against rioters on Jan. 6; it passed 406-21. Commenting on the “no” votes, Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) declared, “How you can vote no to this is beyond me.” The Washington Post reported that some who voted “no” objected to using the words “temple” or “insurrection” in the resolution.

U.S. Senate will soon consider the For the People Act. It aims to protect the right to vote, end partisan gerrymandering, put more limits on the influence of money in politics, and more clearly define ethics rules for presidents and federal officeholders. The FPA has faced opposition from Republicans and two Democrats. One of those Dems, Sen. Joe Manchin, says he can only vote for a bipartisan FPA. Political commentators say Republicans know they can’t win with their ideas (they had no presidential platform in 2020), and are looking beyond the ballot box for ways to win and hold power.

Blast from the past: Juneteenth, now a federal holiday via a recent bipartisan vote of 415-14, commemorates the day the last U.S. slaves were freed — when news of the Emancipation Proclamation reached Texas on June 19, 1865. 

And another blast: Critical Race Theory contradicts the idea that sheer will and money can create success in the U.S., historian Heather Cox Richardson points out. She says CRT emerged in the late 1970s “in legal scholarship written by people who recognized that legal protections for individuals did not, in fact, level the playing field in America.” That’s nothing new to serious historians, and today critics of those railing against CRT see opposition as a deliberate political distraction that attempts to whitewash the nation’s history of abuse of minorities.

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