Bits ‘n’ Pieces: Oct. 14, 2021

By Lorraine H. Marie
Reader Staff

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

Attorneys general from 19 states and D.C. are seeking to block U.S. Postmaster Louis DeJoy’s 10-year plan to slow some mail delivery, close some post offices and cut some retail hours. Meanwhile, a number of U.S. businesses have told customers to factor in additional time when mailing bills, according to Reuters. 

The crack in the southern California oil pipeline is not only threatening sea life, but also creating a backlog at ports that handle 40% of the nation’s imports, CBS News reported.

Molnupiravir, a drug able to cut hospitalizations and deaths of unvaccinated COVID-19 victims (one pill a day for five days), was originally developed for veterinary use. The drug was made possible by $29 million in taxpayer-funded grants to government agencies. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, the manufacturing cost is $17.74 for a five-day course. Author and historian Thom Hartmann wrote that Merck has signed a government contract to sell the drug for $712 per COVID-19 infected person. 

U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., came out in opposition to lower costs for drugs after receiving donations worth more than $750,000 from pharmaceutical and medical device industries, according to Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., has said he supports lower drug prices, but Business Insider reported that his $1.5 trillion “top line” for the Build Back Better Act would make that difficult to accomplish.

One reason pharmaceutical interests claim they object to lowering drug prices is it will not allow them to develop new drugs. But, according to Alex Lawson, executive director of Social Security Works, taxpayers already pay for research. Lawson said that with high earnings, the pharmaceutical industry prefers to sink more profits into stock buy-backs and dividends, rather than research.

The WEEK noted that trust in media is down, with just 36% of U.S. adults having confidence in their news “a great deal” of the time, according to a Gallup poll. The trust is half what it was during the Nixon era. Why? Author Robert Reich, a former U.S. labor secretary, cites incomplete reporting. Reich’s examples: There has been a noticeable lack of describing what is in the BBB Act. Most would be surprised to know that the $3.5 trillion figure is spread over 10 years (half what is paid on national defense) and includes plans to defray costs of child and elder care, support more funding for pre-K, community college, paid family leave, child tax credits and slowing climate change. 

Most articles report nothing about the costs of failing to pass the BBB Act: lost productivity when college is unaffordable, lack of child care forcing people out of the labor force and spending billions to deal with worse wildfires, floods and droughts caused by the climate crisis.

Reich said wealthy Americans pay one-sixth the tax rate their counterparts paid in 1953. 

The Economic Policy Institute, after “exhaustive analysis,” offered five reasons for passing the Build Back Better Act: it supports 763,000 green jobs and 556,000 manufacturing jobs annually to help mitigate the climate crisis; it makes child and elder care more affordable, putting more people in the labor force; BBB will reduce inequality and the 40-year erosion of workers’ rights that favor corporate and wealthy interests; BBB is budget neutral since it’s “largely funded” by the wealthiest and large corporations, forcing them to start paying their fair share of taxes; and it supports more than 3 million jobs per year for the next 10 years. 

The Act faces opposition from two corporate-friendly Democrats.

With the debt ceiling raised temporarily until Dec. 3, The New York Times took a look at Sen. Minority leader Mitch McConnell’s history. He has said he will not vote to raise the limit if it means working with Democrats (per ABC News). McConnell has told the Biden administration, “We have no list of demands,” that would encourage Republicans to vote to lift the debt ceiling. 

Treasurer Janet Yellen told Congress that failure to honor the nation’s debts could result in no Social Security payments for 50 million people, troops not knowing if and when they’d be paid, and catastrophic economic consequences here and worldwide. 

Blast from the past: “The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.” — Ida B. Wells, an investigative journalist who helped found the NAACP. Born in 1862, died in 1931.

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