Bits ‘n’ Pieces: Oct. 7, 2021

By Lorraine H. Marie
Reader Staff

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

To temporarily avoid a government shutdown, Congress passed a spending bill that keeps federal funding going through Dec. 3, The New York Times reported. The debt ceiling issue remains unresolved: Republicans refuse to raise the ceiling for borrowing to pay past debts (they raised the ceiling three times under ex-President Donald Trump). Various media sources illustrate the issue: Democrats can only use reconciliation once (which does not require bi-partisan support), either for their BBB plan or for raising the debt ceiling. Failure to raise the ceiling could have catastrophic economic consequences. And failure to pass a widely popular bill will undermine President Joe Biden’s campaign platform.

This month the U.S. postmaster general will slow delivery of first-class mail (letters, bills, small parcels that used to be delivered in one to three days) to four to five days. According to Accountability Journalism a similar move in 2020 caused late arrival of checks, credit card penalties and missed court appearances. The change is problematic for mail-in voting. The USPS estimates the slow-down will save “less than a quarter of 1% of the total FY 2020 operating expenses.” The independent agency with USPS oversight, the Postal Regulatory Commission, said that amount may be inflated.

Pandora Papers: 11.9 million private financial records recently shared with The Washington Post revealed a vast and secretive offshore system for hiding billions of dollars from criminal investigators, creditors and tax authorities. The newspaper plans an eight-part series exploring the financial records.

Risk of death and hospitalization from COVID-19 can be cut nearly in half with the use of their newly-created molnupiravir, an anti-viral pill, according to developer Merck.

Sen. Bernie Sanders told ABC News that the $3.5 trillion figure (over 10 years) for the Build Back Better plan is likely to be reduced before it gets the president’s signature. It calls for investments that include addressing climate change and social infrastructure issues. Progressive Democrats were promised the bill would be coupled with the bipartisan $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill, and are standing firm on upholding that promise. To appeal to conservative Democrats, many of whom have connections to corporate donors, angles are being sought to reduce the price and scope. Nonetheless, Sanders said the larger issue is not so much resistant Democrats, but “taking on the entire ruling class of the country”: drug companies, health insurance companies and fossil fuel industries, who, he said, aim “to prevent us from doing what the American people want.”

Blast from the past:  An open letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933, from economist John M. Keynes, said that without a robust economic recovery, the U.S. might slide into authoritarianism, which was happening in other countries. Despite opposition, FDR acted on Keynes’ advice, investing in housing, relief payments and direct hiring as part of his program against monopolies and Big Money interests. As a result, the U.S.’s economic recovery from the Great Depression was strengthened, as was its democracy. Eighty-eight years later, Keynes biographer and financial journalist Zachary D. Carter pointed out parallels with politics today in The New York Times: Big money interests want to torpedo the Build Back Better plan. Corporate-funded Democrats are putting out false claims about BBB, such as claiming it would create “crippling” debt, when in fact Carter said BBB is budget-neutral, since it taxes high earners. BBB includes plans for Medicare to negotiate lower drug costs (which will also lower government costs), and plans to help with child and elder care expenses, thereby keeping people in the work force and helping prevent supply shortages. 

FDR gambled on a better life for average people, and Carter said BBB does the same. FDR was elected to four terms for helping average citizens.

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