Bits ‘n’ Pieces: Sept. 30, 2021

By Lorraine H. Marie
Reader Columnist

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

Masks ripped off: The far-right internet company Epik, which allows anonymous messages from those associated with hate groups, suffered a huge hack last week, The Washington Post reported. Those who research extremists regard the new info as the “Panama Papers” of hate groups. Epik founder Robert Monster (not a typo) said “it’s not going to work” for people who use the hacked info for “negative intent.”

U.S. Senate candidate Lucas Kunce, a former Marine, told MSNBC, “The people who really made out [from the Afghan war] were the elites on both sides,” by which he meant defense contractors and politicians. While campaigning, he said taxpayers paid $6.4 trillion for “sending soldiers like me to a doomed mission to build up someone else’s country. Then they say we can’t ‘afford’ to nation-build right here at home.”

According to the Economic Policy Institute, while recovery from the pandemic’s economic shock is moving faster than what occurred after the Great Recession, overall employment is still 5.3 million jobs below February 2020 levels. To keep recovery momentum going, the EPI recommends passing the Build Back Better Act, specifically supporting jobs for child and elder care, manufacturing, construction and climate-related industries, which would foster an estimated 4 million jobs annually. Seventeen Nobel laureates have signed a letter of support for the BBB Act. Of those, economist and policy analyst Joseph Stiglitz said the act would transform the U.S. economy, making it more “sustainable and prosperous for the long run.”

The Cyber Ninjas have released their report about 2020 voting in Maricopa County, Ariz. Compared to the original certified tally, it showed 99 more votes for Joe Biden and 261 fewer votes for Donald Trump. Forbes said the recount effort cost $6 million. Despite the report’s findings, at his next rally Trump claimed the Ninja’s work showed Biden had lost, Newsweek reported.

From the raising the roof file: The debt ceiling pays for federal spending that’s already happened, and does not authorize any new spending. That ceiling has recently been under consideration in Congress. Failure to raise the ceiling, said former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich, will cause a government shutdown during which the government can’t pay its bills. Reich said that most modern democracies don’t have debt ceilings. 

“Failure to raise it by the time the Treasury runs out of money,” Reich stated, “would mean a cataclysmic default by the United States, which has never happened before.” 

How bad? From a variety of media sources: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said failure to raise the debt ceiling could cause a spike in interest rates, a major drop in stock prices and trigger a recession. Moody’s Analytics warns of up to 6 million jobs lost, unemployment reaching nearly 9% and a loss of $15 trillion in household wealth. Moody’s economists also said an inability to increase or suspend the debt ceiling would result in chaos for global financial markets that “will be difficult to bear,” especially since there is a “long way to go to recover” from the COVID recession. Every House Republican voted against a funding bill that would prevent a shutdown and default on U.S. debt. Politico reported that Democrats are working on a debt ceiling run-around to stop Republicans from crashing the economy. 

Blast from the past: Congress has raised the debt ceiling more than 100 times, including 18 times under Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump (Republicans added close to $6.5 billion to the debt due to tax cuts and pandemic spending). To raise the current debt ceiling, 10 Republicans need to join Democrats to avoid a Republican-led filibuster. The 14th Amendment, fourth section, created in the 19th century, states, “The validity of the public debt … including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.” The amendment was created post-Civil War when Southern interests attempted to undermine the Union.

And another blast from the (recent) past: Before election results certified Joe Biden as president, John Eastman, a member of the Federalist Society, came up with a six-step plan for overturning the election and keeping Donald Trump in power. As outlined recently in The Washington Post, the plan hinged on Vice President Mike Pence breaking with procedure outlined in the Electoral Count Act. Two issues thwarted the plan: Pence did not agree to go along and, despite a claim that there were “alternate electors,” they did not exist. The Eastman Memo is anticipated to help those investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection to determine Trump’s level of participation and motives.

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