Bits ‘n’ Pieces: March 18, 2021

By Lorraine H. Marie
Reader Columnist

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

The data is out and confirms the hunch of the former mayor of Stockton, Calif.: a universal basic income can propel people out of poverty. Michael Tubbs launched the pilot program that gave 125 financially struggling residents debit cards worth $500 a month; it began in February 2019 and ended this January. 

Some of the findings, as reported by Business Insider: reductions in unemployment, paying off debts and improved emotional well-being that boosted goal-setting. Results showed that 37% of the UBI checks went to food, 22% went to merchandise, 11% went to utilities, 10% went to auto expenses and less than 1% went to alcohol or tobacco. By February more than half of recipients had enough money for a surprise expense, as compared to 25% at the start of the program. For some it meant the ability to take time off work if they got COVID-19. 

Tubbs formed Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, which now has some 40 members and $18 million donated by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. Several other cities have started similar programs.

Congress recently questioned the leadership of the U.S. Postal Service after news that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy planned further delays in delivery times, according to Talking Points Memo. He acknowledged that his policy of ordering mail trucks to strictly leave on time, rather than leaving with a full load, resulted in delivery delays. DeJoy alo expressed support for draft legislation that would end the Postal Service’s mandate to pre-fund worker’s retirement health care benefits, which is not required of any other federal operation, and has put the agency in debt by billions of dollars.

The $1,400 relief in the American Rescue Plan will go to 85% of households, with a family of four receiving $5,600 this month. It also includes expanding unemployment for 11 million people, providing aid for renters and homeowners, targeting child care costs with $39 billion, expanding the child tax credit, addressing the hunger crisis experienced by 29 million Americans, no taxation on the first $10,200 in jobless benefits and massively expanding COVID-19 testing to get people back to work and children into schools. 

To help accomplish these goals, Politico reports that the plan features a trio of tax hikes worth $60 billion for wealthy and big corporations. No Senate Republicans voted for the plan.

Social media can be “fixed,” according to The Wall Street Journal. The paper cautions that adjustments to Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which significantly exempts social media companies from liability for users’ content, could backfire and force heavy censorship. 

Instead, the Journal recommends elimination of fake names and handles, accomplished by users registering with a credit card or other ID. Those who post threats risk being either sued or enduring criminal investigation.

Michael Regan will be the next Environmental Protection Agency administrator, after a 66-34 Senate vote; he will be the first Black man in the agency’s history to lead the EPA. He has pledged to restore confidence in the agency, which saw veteran staffers leave when environmental protections were sharply reduced under the past administration; to address marginalized communities that are at highest risk of pollution exposure; and to cut greenhouse gas emissions, The Washington Post reported.  

In a 70-30 vote Merrick Garland was confirmed to serve as the next U.S. attorney general. Garland had been proposed for the Supreme Court, but Republicans delayed the nomination process for eight months until after the 2016 election, and instead installed their Supreme Court preference. With his background of supervising the investigation of the Oklahoma City bombing, Garland made clear to Congress that he will apply that experience to the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, according to The New York Times. 

Deb Haaland, after a 50-41 vote, will be the new secretary of the Department of the Interior, and also the first Indigenous secretary in the nation’s history. She has vowed to responsibly manage our natural resources so “we can continue to work, live, hunt, fish and pray among them.”

Blast from the past: Since the Department of the Interior was established in 1849, it has been marred by corruption. That has included misuse of funds for Native Americans that were intended to help with, food, shelter, clothing, education, health care, tools and seeds for farming, and money to replace the livelihoods they lost when forced off their lands; secret no-bid leases for oil fields; and rolling back of environmental regulations when seeking oil.

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