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Biden Offers “Make It Work” Checklist for Implementation and Oversight of the CARES Act

Joe Biden released a “Make It Work” checklist to provide the federal government with specific recommendations surrounding the implementation and oversight of the CARES Act, the recent stimulus package passed by Congress to ensure the economic relief and recovery effort works for families, workers, and small businesses. The checklist builds on Biden’s plan to combat coronavirus (COVID-19) released on March 12 and his emergency action plan for the economy released on March 26. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Absolutely none of the plans to mitigate against the twin crises posed by the coronavirus pandemic on Americans’ healthcare and the nation’s economy have come from Trump, but rather he has played catch up finally responding to the pleas and shaming from Congressional Democrats, who turned the trillion dollar slush fund for corporations into a $2.2 trillion relief bill, and from Governors and Mayors desperate for life-saving medical equipment and supplies. But his administration has proved woefully inadequate to implement. The $350 billion earmarked to rescue small businesses that is supposed to go into effect has no actual means; the billions in relief checks that are supposed to go to individuals are bogged down by a dysfunctional administration. While Trump has used the coronavirus pandemic to attack Democrats, and take advantage of the limited ability of Democratic candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders to campaign by turning briefings into rallies and extort praise and adulation from desperate government officials, Biden has sought to point to the contrast his leadership would offer.

Joe Biden released a “Make It Work” checklist to provide the federal government with specific recommendations surrounding the implementation and oversight of the CARES Act, the recent stimulus package passed by Congress to ensure the economic relief and recovery effort works for families, workers, and small businesses. (Recall Trump’s signing statement which basically obviated the oversight the Democrats put into the Act.) The checklist builds on Biden’s plan to combat coronavirus (COVID-19) released on March 12 and his emergency action plan for the economy released on March 26. This is from the Biden campaign –Karen Rubin, news-photos-features.com.

Implementation and Oversight of the CARES Act:
The Biden “Make It Work” Checklist

1. Making Americans who lose their jobs financially whole by ensuring that they get their unemployment insurance on time and in full. The CARES Act provides for the equivalent of full wage replacement for average American wage-earners. With millions of Americans making claims for lost jobs in a single week – nearly five times the previous record – getting workers their wage replacement checks fast has never been more important. Let’s be clear: even with new funds from the CARES Act, if the White House does not do everything in its power to help all of our states swiftly implement these new unemployment (UI) benefits, states will be even more overwhelmed. Our states will need help with staffing capacity, technology solutions, training for new claims processors, and best practices from other jurisdictions. This must happen immediately – before the crush of UI claims becomes even more overwhelming. Americans desperate for relief to pay the rent and keep food on the tables for their children will judge states’ performance on the number of UI claims successfully processed, the number of Americans paid as quickly as possible, and how quickly they receive relief – beginning this week. Biden would:

Establish a UI delivery team to help states solve any implementation problems they face. He would authorize that team to provide funds beyond the $1 billion appropriated to states to add staffing and server capacity.

Apply a financial version of the Defense Production Act to ensure that banks that have contracts with states deliver unemployment benefit payments to laid-off workers do so in a timely manner, and that they offer prompt electronic payment options.

Issue clear guidance about the broadest possible eligibility and communicate that guidance effectively so that all Americans understand what benefits they are entitled to.

Make clear that gig workers can get partial benefits when they are still working if their compensation and hours have been significantly reduced.

Work with Congress to extend the provisions for the duration of the crisis. Four months is not enough to provide families the aid they need throughout this economic crisis.

2. Get direct cash relief as quickly as possible to as many Americans as possible. The CARES Act provides for $1,200 per person and $500 per child in cash relief for millions of  working families. Biden would prioritize getting Americans the cash relief they are owed and making it easy to access the relief. The Trump administration is already failing at this by causing needless worry for millions of seniors and people with disabilities. Biden would do so by:

Delivering the payments electronically whenever possible and delivering pre-paid debit cards to those who don’t have bank accounts. Payments should not be delayed just so that President Trump can put his signature on a physical check.

Making payments automatic for millions who haven’t filed a tax return based on information the government already has– and streamlining filing for others. The Trump Administration has needlessly confused millions by first announcing that Social Security recipients and people with disabilities would have to file a tax return to receive their stimulus rebate, before reversing themselves. The reversal is welcome. The CARES Act clearly allows the Treasury Department to send cash relief payments automatically to millions of seniors, people with disabilities, veterans, and others without burdening them with new paperwork during a pandemic. Treasury can send these payments using information that the Social Security Administration, the Veterans Administration, and other agencies already possess to get payments to these people. From the start, Biden would have announced an automatic, clear, and simple process of getting stimulus payments to these individuals. And he would extend these same automatic payments to others, like veterans, who still would not get automatic payments under the Administration’s plan. For those who do need to file a new form, Biden would establish an immediate, streamlined cash relief application process to make sure the neediest Americans are being taken care of. There is no reason that most of these Americans cannot be paid within days of filing this paperwork with the right focus, the right process, and the right prioritization.

Expanding the CARES Act relief to dependents left out of the legislation. Democrats fought and won cash relief for most working families, but the legislation left out relief for dependents aged 17 and older, whether a high school student or an older relative living with a family. That is a huge hole in support for working families. As he pushes for relief to extend as long as is needed to pull us through this crisis, Biden would immediately ask Congress to correct this and give these families the support they deserve.

Preparing for additional payments. As the crisis continues, Biden would provide additional cash payments as necessary.

3. Keep as many people on payroll as possible by working with all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands to make maximum use of “work-sharing” and “short-time compensation” programs. The Obama-Biden administration expanded an innovative form of “employment insurance,” called “work-sharing” or “short-time compensation.” Under these programs, when a business keeps its workers on payroll – but with reduced hours – federally-backed insurance will compensate those workers to make up for their reduced hours. Expanding short-time compensation has never been more important than today, when keeping workers on payrolls is an urgent national economic priority. Before this crisis, more than 20 states didn’t have programs to allow for short-time compensation, and they were often underutilized even in the states that did. The CARES Act provides for additional federal financing to expand work-sharing. To make that financing work, Biden would:

Direct the Department of Labor to ensure these programs are offered in 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

Provide resources and guidance for states to create a simple application for small businesses, as well as larger businesses, to take advantage of work-sharing. 

Direct the Department of Labor to issue guidance applying the $600 per week emergency boost in unemployment insurance under the CARES Act to work-sharing programs.

Work with Congress to allow, on an emergency basis, work-sharing programs to pay benefits when hours are reduced dramatically, but employees are still working part-time. 

4. Take the necessary steps to ensure that all small businesses can access relief fast, not just those with the right connections. The CARES Act includes a small business program to provide loans and funds to help small businesses survive this storm and keep their workers on their payroll. It also provides the same relief to small nonprofits, many of whom are needed more than ever in a national crisis. However, there is no assurance that all eligible small businesses will receive support — and the program relies on private banks’ willingness and ability to swiftly provide these government-backed loans. An approach that simply assumes major banks will do this in a fair, efficient, and comprehensive way is likely to result in too few loans being made, too slowly, and mostly to larger and more well-resourced businesses with established relationships and connections. To get loans out quickly to the millions of qualifying Main Street small businesses that need relief — especially in rural and urban communities and those owned by women and minorities — we need a network of financial institutions committed to and capable of efficiently extending credit to every small business and nonprofit in need of support. The rules must be clear and simple to give every eligible small business the confidence that relief is coming, and that they can plan for the future with that relief in mind. There are millions of struggling businesses that do not have time to wait. Success cannot be judged by incremental progress or splashy announcements – we need an effort to direct hundreds of thousands of loans to businesses, beginning this week. For Biden, this would be designated as a vital national priority. Immediately, he would:

Apply a financial version of the Defense Production Act, to make all banks prioritize the swift processing of small business loans, putting them at the front of the line as a national priority. Banks would have to process loan applications within a few working days from all small businesses seeking relief, including the mom-and-pop shops that need help the most and are frequently pushed to the back of the line and those in low-income and traditionally underbanked geographies.

Cut red tape: immediately use the authority in the CARES Act to set simple and clear eligibility criteria; a hyper-streamlined application process; and an expedited process for the smallest of businesses who are most likely to be left out.

Explore creative solutions like working with payroll processing companies to speed up disbursement, including a one-click process for accessing funds.

Produce a weekly dashboard to show which small businesses are accessing loans – to make sure that the program isn’t leaving out communities, minority- and women-owned businesses, or the smallest businesses – and whether they are maintaining payroll.

Make sure that the small business loan program is connected with the work-sharing strategy so that these initiatives are providing the maximum support towards keeping workers on payroll.

Halt evictions and foreclosures of small businesses, and work to provide forbearance on rent and mortgages to provide a lifeline as loans are being processed

Immediately reengage Congress to allow for small business loans that can keep workers on the payroll for far longer than eight weeks.

Immediately seek bipartisan agreement that additional resources will be available as needed to cover loans to eligible small businesses and nonprofits, so that there is not a race to exhaust the $350 billion that leaves some of the most deserving family and smaller-businesses out in the cold because they were not as well-connected or served well by banks.

5. Set clear rules on any industry support – they must help workers and communities, not bail out shareholders or financial industry creditors. The CARES Act gives the Treasury Secretary authority to provide financial assistance directly to large companies. While Democrats secured important protections against stock buybacks and executive compensation, Biden would set a higher bar to make sure that any industry bailout package helps workers and communities where the company operates – not the existing shareholders or creditors of some of the largest companies in the country. He would require that, in return for any financial assistance, large companies accept further conditions along the lines outlined by Senators Brown and Warren, including that they: 

Demonstrate they are prepared to actively participate in the public health effort, including production, distribution, and logistics capacity.

Agree to maintain payrolls at reasonable levels, for both full-time employees and contractors.

Allow taxpayers to share in the upside of any recovery, as was practiced during the last downturn, while ensuring existing shareholders and creditors share in any losses.

Agree to worker representation on their Board of Directors.

Commit to not transfer jobs out of the United States.

6. Establish strong oversight and transparency to police abuse and misappropriation by the Administration and the corporations who receive funds. In addition to enforcing strict conditions, Biden would ensure there are no sweetheart deals, no special favors, and no slush fund, and that corporations follow through on their hard commitments. This is a major concern given the track record of the Trump administration. In the CARES Act, Congress established a Special Inspector General to police the $500 billion in funding for large corporations and to make sure it is going to the right places for the right reasons. But last week, Trump’s White House announced that it intends to restrict the work of the Special Inspector General, in defiance of the bipartisan legislation and the will of the American people to have strong transparency and oversight. Biden would provide full freedom to the Special Inspector General to conduct oversight, meet regularly with him or her, and ensure he or she had all the resources required for effective oversight. That is what he did with the Inspector General under the Recovery Act, and the result was less than 0.2% fraud . 

7. Move much-needed funds for public health and emergency medical needs to hospitals, and local, state, and tribal governments. The CARES Act includes critical provisions to meet the needs of this public health emergency, including funding for cash-strapped hospitals. Biden would focus on getting those funds out the door, with a special focus on rural hospitals that were already financially constrained before COVID-19. He would also provide additional reimbursement plus-ups for Medicare providers who are risking their lives to treat patients. Finally, Biden would ensure that hospitals are not cutting the pay of doctors and nurses during this emergency, as some reports have indicated. The allocation of federal dollars should be conditioned on an explicit commitment to not cut back on wages or benefits of hospital-based health care workers. As funds are disbursed, Biden would work to ensure the administration is tracking what else hospitals need so that we can ensure that we incorporate that into future legislation and budgets. 

8. Ensure equitable allocation of recovery funds. There is a growing body of evidence that recovery funding after crises actually widens pre-existing racial disparities. For example, researchers at Rice University and the University of Pittsburgh found that “whites accumulate more wealth after natural disasters while residents of color accumulate less.” Federal leadership will be required to ensure that recovery from the pandemic helps everyone hurt in the crisis in a fair and equitable way, with a special focus on populations that have historically been left out or left behind. Jurisdictions that receive funding should be required to develop and report on metrics for addressing potential racial disparities, and the SBA and Treasury should similarly track lending to ensure that minority business owners – who have traditionally faced unequal access to credit and capital – are not treated unfairly.  And, the Trump Administration should suspend their public charge rule. Allowing immigration officials to make an individual’s ability to receive a visa or gain permanent residency contingent on their use of government services such as SNAP benefits or Medicaid, their household income, and other discriminatory criteria not only undermines America’s character as land of opportunity that is open and welcoming to all, but also may stop immigrants from getting help during this pandemic and pose broader issues for public health.

9. Establish a CARES Act Implementation Office with responsibility for ensuring (a) people understand and can effectively access all the relief to which they are entitled; and (b) states have all the capacities they need to get the money out as fast as possible. The CARES Act is hundreds of pages long. Big businesses have armies of lawyers to help them figure it out. But many small businesses and families won’t know what’s available to them like: who qualifies for mortgage forbearance? What do small businesses need to qualify not just for loans but for loan forgiveness? Biden would establish a team that would put together a plain-language, comprehensive guide to the benefits in the bill and who they are meant for — and a strategy to communicate to the American people. The Office would set up both online- and telephone-based customer service to answer questions. It would work with community leaders across the country who are on the front lines of this crisis. And, Biden would dedicate staff to every single state as action officers to assist states in accessing the CARES Act funds and disbursing them efficiently. 

10. Start working on the Fourth Package now. We already know that more will have to be done; potentially a massive amount more. Biden wouldn’t wait. He would bring together the leaders of Congress to design a fourth package that accomplishes three things: (a) fixes things that aren’t working in CARES Act implementation and fills in gaps that become apparent; (b) takes care of the people the CARES Act left out; and (c) does whatever it takes, spends whatever it takes, to help the American people and the American economy emerge from the other side of this stronger. He would also make sure the new package automatically extends relief as long as is needed to support families and communities through this crisis. In addition to provisions mentioned above, Biden would ask Congress to include in new legislation:

Any further resources and authority required to break down barriers to implementation, whether on small business, or unemployment insurance, or short-time compensation.

Additional provisions to meet needs not fully covered in the CARES Act, including:

Additional funds for states. As this crisis unfolds, states are going to get crushed under the weight of falling revenues combined with far higher emergency financial burdens. Cops and firefighters and teachers are going to be at risk of losing pay. Biden would make sure the federal government provides the relief that communities on the front lines need to put their full resources behind the public health response without forcing painful and damaging cuts to public services, education, and public safety, and to deal with extraordinary economic circumstances like helping with missed rent and other payments for those facing significant hardship.

Cost-free treatment for COVID-19, regardless of immigration status.

Student debt forgiveness through the duration of the crisis, with a minimum of $10,000.

Boosts to Social Security by $200 per month for seniors and persons with disabilities.

Paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave for every worker, and making these benefits permanent.

An increase in SNAP benefits by 15 percent during the deepening recession, and temporarily provide low-income families with about $100 per month in extra nutritional support.

A rent freeze for qualifying individuals for the duration of the crisis

A halt to foreclosures and evictions as people get on their feet.

Key long-term investments, stronger public health systems, and automatic stabilizers so that in future crises the social safety net is there for Americans who need it.

Cuomo Pleads with CDC to Allow Coronavirus Testing in Private Labs to Better Monitor, Contain Spread

Governor Andrew Cuomo tours Northwell Labs with Dr. Dwayne Breining, the Executive Director, Dr. Howard A. Zucker, the state’s Health Commissioner, and Northwell Health’s CEO Michael J. Dowling © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

Update: After tour of Northwell Labs, Governor Cuomo announced FDA approval for Northwell to test novel coronavirus: “After days of advocating the FDA and the federal government to expand testing capacity for the novel coronavirus in New York State and working with Northwell and Wadsworth to expedite the process, we just received word that Northwell Laboratories has been authorized to test under Wadsworth’s emergency use authorization. Manual testing of 75 to 80 samples per day will begin at Northwell immediately, but we still need automated testing approved so we can perform thousands per day.

“While this approval is a good first step, the FDA must increase the testing capacity for the State and private labs, because the more tests we run, the more positive people we will find and the better we can control and contain the virus. It’s one thing for the federal government not to have the testing capacity in place themselves – that was bad enough – but there’s no excuse for them not to be authorizing existing labs to do the work.” 

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo took the Center for Disease Control and federal government to task for failing to authorize private laboratories to test for the coronavirus, and for failing to authorize automated testing which could increase exponentially the number of people tested.

Testing is critical to finding people infected with the coronavirus in order to contain the spread of the infection, he said during a tour of Northwell Health Laboratories on Long Island, where as many as 1000 tests could be done a day using state-of-the-art automated testing devices which can analyze as many as 120 samples at one time.

Northwell’s laboratory is the most sophisticated lab in New York State and one of the most advanced in the nation. But  as yet, CDC  has not authorized private labs to do the tests, and has not authorized the automated testing systems that Northwell has, Cuomo said.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, flanked by Dr. Howard A. Zucker, the state’s Health Commissioner, and Northwell Health’s CEO Michael J. Dowling at Northwell Health Laboratories on Long Island, urged CDC to allow private labs to test for coronavirus using automated systems to better monitor and contain the spread of COVID-19 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“CDC has not authorized the use of this lab, which is just outrageous and ludicrous,” the Governor scolded. “CDC, wake up, let the state’s test. Let private labs test. Let’s increase as quickly as possible our testing capacity so we identify the positive people so we can isolate them and we’re successful in our containment.”

The state is “continuing to test people and are working with hospitals and local governments to give them the resources they need to contain the spread of this virus,” Governor Cuomo said. “We mobilized quickly but the federal government has been slow off the mark and they continue to be slow. That’s unacceptable – we need them to approve these private labs today so we can stay ahead of this evolving situation. Worse than the virus right now is the fear pandemic – and getting these additional facilities online will ensure we have more facts that will help keep people calm.”

The Northwell Lab on Long Island would be the first private lab in the state to handle coronavirus testing.

“This is an extraordinary facility,” the Governor said, flanked by his state Health Commissioner Howard A. Zucker, and Northwell Health CEO Michael J. Dowling.

“We are trying to contain spread of virus and to do that, we are testing as many as possible, to  find the positives and isolate them.” If the spread of infection is not contained, he warned, more disastrous measures, such as China and Italy have been forced to undertake – massive quarantines of millions of people – “would be very disruptive to society and the economy.”

Cuomo said that the level of fear surrounding coronavirus (the disease associated with the virus is COVID-19) is unwarranted. “There is more fear, anxiety than facts would justify. This isn’t Ebola, or SARS. This is a virus we have a lot of information on. Johns Hopkins has been tracking 100,000 cases and what happens.”

Most people who become infected will experience mild symptoms like a cold or flu and can recover at home. But for vulnerable populations – the elderly, people who have medical conditions – the disease is dangerous and can be deadly.

The best “weapon” against the disease is to reduce situations that create density.

Cuomo said he is speaking with business leaders across the state to encourage them to offer liberal sick leave so that people who are sick, who feel symptoms, stay home but are still paid; he also is encouraging businesses as well as state and local government offices,  to stagger workers in shifts if possible; and to allow work-at-home where feasible.

Individuals also have a role in keeping themselves safe, he said – wash hands frequently, don’t shake hands, just as in any flu season. He advises people who take mass transit to let a train pass if the cars are too packed, and to move to less crowded cars.  “Reduce density, proximity.”

The single best thing government can do is to test. “The more positives we identify, the more we can isolate to stop the spread.”

The Governor confirmed 16 additional cases of novel coronavirus in New York State since his last update yesterday, bringing the statewide total to 105 confirmed cases on Sunday morning. Of the new cases, 12 are in Westchester County, one in New York City in the Bronx, one in Nassau, one in Suffolk, and one in Ulster.

Of the 105 total individuals in New York State who tested positive for the virus, 82 are in Westchester; 12 are in New York City; five are in Nassau; one in Suffolk; two in Rockland; one in Ulster and two in Saratoga counties.

Cuomo criticized the CDC for being unprepared, even as the outbreak became clear in China by December (“It is delusional not to expect people to come from China”), and only recently allowing states to do their own testing. New York has the Wadsworth lab, but now is asking the CDC to authorize the state to utilize private labs, like Northwell Laboratories.

Technicians at the $60 million Northwell Laboratory on Long Island, the most sophisticated private lab in the state and one of the most advanced in the country. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Not to be using this laboratory, not to be using the other private labs around the state makes no sense whatsoever. Not to be using automated testing, which means rather than a person manually handling a test tube and a test, the machines we saw that handle 120 samples at a time place them in a machine, the machine runs the test. Of course you should be using that technology. And it’s one thing for the CDC not to have the testing capacity in place themselves, but that was bad enough. For the CDC not to be authorizing existing labs to do the work, there’s no excuse for that.” 

Cuomo also criticized the federal government for creating unnecessary confusion, which fuels fear. “The President of the United States says anyone who wants a test can have a test. Vice President of the United States says we don’t have the testing capacity. People say, how can you say both things? You can’t say both things. We don’t have the testing capacity that we need. Not everyone who wants a test can have a test.

“We have to prioritize the people who get the tests to fit our capacity, right. You can’t ask more people to come in and get tested until you know you have the capacity to test them. The number of people coming in for a test must equal the number of tests you can perform. That’s why in New York we have a standard protocol that’s in place all across the state, prioritizing who can get tested to fit our testing capacity. 

A state of the art machine like this at Northwell Labs, Long Island, automates the analysis of 120 test samples at one time, vastly increasing the capacity to test individuals suspected of carrying the coronavirus © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Once we increase our testing capacity and we can perform more tests, then we can change the prioritization of those people coming in for the tests. We have a statewide protocol because we don’t want people shopping tests. I don’t want someone from Nassau driving to Suffolk, driving to Manhattan, driving to Westchester because you have different rules on who can get a test. Everyone, everywhere in this state has the same rules, doesn’t matter where you go. Hopefully, the CDC acts responsibly and acts quickly and we raise the capacity, we bring a great facility like this online with the automated testing. We can then get testing per day to about 1000 tests. And then we can calibrate the prioritization to the capacity.”

The $60 million Northwell Laboratory on Long Island, is the most sophisticated private lab in the state and one of the most advanced in the country. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

 The Governor also addressed price gouging, which is happening across the state and the nation, “symptomatic of fear.”

“It’s unethical, exploitative of fear and illegal,” he said. “To make a few extra bucks on hand sanitizer, they would jeopardize their license to do business. There is an increased penalty for price gouging.” He said that consumers can call a hot line, that state police  are investigating and the state Attorney General has the power to prosecute.

The state’s Division of Consumer Protection has created an online consumer complaint form, where New Yorkers can report suspected price gouging or concerns about improper delivery of quantity. (Consumers who wish to file a complaint can visit https://www.dos.ny.gov/consumerprotection/.)

Also, travel insurance companies and travel agents will offer New York residents and businesses the ability to purchase coverage when making travel plans that would allow them to cancel a trip for any reason, including for reasons related to COVID-19.

The Department of Financial Services issued guidance allowing travel agents and travel insurers to offer this type of coverage after DFS received consumer complaints that such polices were not available in New York State. This new action is designed to provide reassurance to New York businesses and residents who are seeking to make plans that may involve travel to locations that are not currently under travel advisories due to COVID-19.

Six global and national insurance companies have agreed to offer “cancel for any reason” coverage to travelers, including: Allianz, Nationwide, Starr Indemnity, Berkshire, Crum & Forster, and Zurich.

DFS also directed New York State travel insurance issuers to proactively reach out to individuals and businesses who bought their policies to let them know what is covered. (Read a copy of the DFS Insurance Guidance Letter)

Yesterday, the Governor announced that he declared a state of emergency to help New York more quickly and effectively contain the spread of the virus. The state of emergency declaration allows, among other things:

Expedited procurement of cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer and other essential resources

Allowing qualified professionals other than doctors and nurses to conduct testing

Expedited procurement of testing supplies and equipment

Expedited personnel onboarding

Expedited leasing of lab space

Allowing EMS personnel to transport patients to quarantine locations other than just hospitals

Providing clear basis for price gouging and enforcement investigation   

 “We do not want to have to do massive close downs, massive quarantines, and we don’t want members of the vulnerable population getting sick. That is why we are doing what we are doing,” Cuomo said.

“So in sum, CDC let’s move, authorize the State to authorize private labs, get this most sophisticated lab in the State, one of the most sophisticated labs in the country, get this lab to work. Why you wouldn’t makes absolutely no sense.

“And to New Yorkers, we understand the facts. Keep this in perspective. We don’t want a lot of people getting this virus. We don’t want to take more drastic measures. But, if you get the virus, you will get sick, you will recover, you most likely won’t even go to the hospital. And the only the people who we really have to worry about are the vulnerable populations – senior citizens, people with compromised immune systems.

“So keep it all in perspective. I know there’s a whole frenzy about it, the facts do not justify the frenzy, period. The biggest problem we have in this situation is fear, not the virus. The virus we can handle. It’s the fear. And the fear is just unwarranted.”

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Warren Releases Plan to Prevent, Contain, and Treat Infectious Disease Outbreaks at Home and Abroad

Senator Elizabeth Warren released her plan to prevent, contain and treat infectious disease outbreaks at home and abroad. Diseases like Ebola virus, Zika virus and most recently, coronavirus demonstrate the real threat that outbreaks pose to our health and security. “The United States can be a leader in combating these problems. But to do so, we must invest at home to ensure our public health agencies, hospitals, and health care providers are ready to jump into action when outbreaks strike. And we must  invest and partner with other countries to help build strong public health systems abroad.”  © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The Democratic candidates for president offer stark contrasts to the present occupant of the Oval Office. With a potential coronavirus pandemic creating global anxiety, Senator Elizabeth Warren has just released a detailed plan how she would prevent, contain and treat infectious disease outbreaks at home and abroad.

Charlestown, MA – Senator Elizabeth Warren released her plan to prevent, contain and treat infectious disease outbreaks at home and abroad. Diseases like Ebola virus, Zika virus and most recently, coronavirus demonstrate the real threat that outbreaks pose to our health and security. The United States can be a leader in combating these problems. But to do so, we must invest at home to ensure our public health agencies, hospitals, and health care providers are ready to jump into action when outbreaks strike. And we must  invest and partner with other countries to help build strong public health systems abroad.
 
By properly preparing, we will save lives, strengthen our relationships with allies, protect our interests, and help build resilience to outbreaks and pandemics around the world.
 
Warren’s Plan to prevent, contain, and treat infectious disease outbreaks will:

Restore White House leadership on health security by designating a senior official to focus solely on this issue and fully funding domestic public health and preparedness at key HHS agencies, in contrast to President Trump’s decision to eliminate this White House role and massive proposed budget cuts to public health;  

Restore American leadership in the international community, reversing President Trump’s assault on the State Department and USAID;  

Invest in global health security and rejoin global efforts on climate change by changing how diseases emerge and spread, reverse President Trump’s proposed global health cuts and retreat from international climate efforts.  

Ensure evidence-based decisions and equity in response to outbreaks, relying on science to contain them and ensuring that all communities get the help they need to stay healthy.  

Preventing, Containing, and Treating Infectious Disease Outbreaks at Home and Abroad
 
In 2014, the world watched as Ebola spread throughout six countries in West Africa and eventually jumped oceans to reach the United StatesSpainItaly, and the U.K. As the outbreak spread, over 50 countries stepped up to help respond. The experience revealed a new global reality: to effectively beat infectious diseases, we need all hands on deck.
 
In 2015 the state of Indiana experienced an outbreak of HIV stemming from the ongoing opioid epidemic. In a county with a population of less than 25,000, over 200 people contracted the virus. Simultaneously, Zika virus was spreading throughout the U.S. and causing birth defects in children born to some infected pregnant women.
 
In 2019, the U.S. saw a rise in outbreaks of measles — a disease we had eliminated in 2000. And today, the 2018 Ebola outbreak continues in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
 
Experts believe the world is due for another bout of pandemic influenzaThe latest threat comes from coronavirus, a respiratory condition in the same family of viruses as SARS that is spreading throughout China and just last week reached the United States. With well over 2,000 people infected and a rising death toll, China has restricted the movement of 56 million peopleThe world is watching closely to determine if this will be designated as our next global Public Health Emergency.
 
Instead of building capacity to combat these problems, Donald Trump has deprioritized global health security and risked putting us on heels in a crisis.
 
Trump has repeatedly tried to nickel and dime federal programs essential to health security, proposing billions of dollars in cuts so drastic that even leading a House Republican thought they would leave Americans vulnerable. Trump eliminated the key position that coordinates global health security across the many federal agencies that work to keep us safe. And his response to natural disasters that could lead to serious outbreaks, like hurricanes in Puerto Rico, has been basically non-existent.
 
On the global stage, his decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement demonstrates reckless denial about the role of climate change in fueling epidemics. His foreign policy has damaged long-standing alliances with partners like the U.K. and France, who are critical partners in responding to global health crises.
 
Like so much else, Trump’s approach to keeping us safe from disease outbreaks is a mess. But when he’s gone, we can fix it.
 
We can invest at home to ensure our public health agencies, hospitals, and health care providers are ready to jump into action when outbreaks strike. And we can help build strong public health systems abroad.  By taking these steps, we will save lives, strengthen our relationships with allies, protect our interests, and help build resilience to outbreaks and pandemics.
 
That’s why I have a plan to prevent, contain, and treat infectious diseases — one that will help keep America safe and healthy. And as President, I will work across all levels of government here at home and with our many partners abroad to turn that plan into action.  
 
Preventing Transmission and Preparing for Outbreaks
The best way to beat a pandemic is to prevent it from starting in the first place. As President, I will work to build the foundations that help us catch infectious diseases before they spread.
 
Build strong public health systems at home and abroad. Combating infectious diseases requires building health infrastructure that enables us to handle epidemics whenever and wherever they strike. Diseases do not recognize borders — we need a global approach to a global problem. To build strong systems we must:  

Fund agencies that prevent and manage outbreaks. President Trump has repeatedly proposed billions in cuts to the agencies responsible for fighting and preventing pandemics, a devastating blow that would put lives at risk. Some of the deepest proposed cuts were to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which runs essential pandemic prevention and response programs. As President, I will fully fund this work, ensuring that key agencies like the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the State Department, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have the support they need to do their jobs.  

Prepare health departments, health care providers and hospitals, and other facilities and frontline staff. We must increase funding for the Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) cooperative agreement that supports the critical work of health departments across the country to prepare for outbreaks, natural disasters, and more. Similarly, we must continue to support the Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP), which ensures we equip facilities and train staff on the front lines.

Fully fund the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA). Designed to build capacity in nearly 50 countries, the GHSA funds work in partnership with other countries to strengthen their public health infrastructure and combat outbreaks before they start. And in a few short years, it is clear that investment has paid off. Under President Trump some of this work has ramped down, but we know that the ability to stop an outbreak requires consistent investment and support. As President, I’ll provide it.  

Reduce transmission of infectious diseases at home. By reducing the transmission of communicable diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C, we keep families healthy and safe and strengthen our health system’s ability to respond to global pandemics. That’s why I have a plan to invest $100 billion to end the opioid epidemic, and why I’ve committed to end the domestic HIV epidemic by 2025 and ensure that patients can afford drugs like PrEP and Hepatitis C treatments by acting on Day One of my presidency to lower drug prices.

Move to Medicare for All. When people can’t access basic health care, infectious diseases are more likely to spread and cause severe, lasting health effects — as we saw in the recent Indiana HIV outbreak. This is especially true in underserved communities, who can experience the effects of outbreaks more severely. Under Medicare for All, everyone will have high quality health care they can afford, removing financial barriers for patients who may be contagious and need to seek care. We all benefit when we stop the spread of infectious disease faster.

Fully fund critical existing global health work. U.S. investments in global health, including programs that combat HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria help build capacity in countries around the world that enables them to better handle epidemics when they strike. As President, I will push to expand funding for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which funds vital services for individuals living with HIV or AIDS overseas and is a pillar of U.S. global health programs. I’ll also repeal the Trump administration’s heartless Global Gag Rule, which makes organizations that conduct or refer patients for abortion ineligible for global health funds — harming patients and reducing the capacity of other nations’ health systems. 

Fight climate change. A changing climate means infectious diseases will spread to new places, and it’s already happening. In 2016, the Zika virus threatened more of the U.S. because changing climates mean the mosquitos that carry it now thrive further and further north. And Lyme disease is expected to increase by 20% in the next decade due to climate change. West Nile is projected to more than double by 2050 due to warming, costing upwards of $1 billion annually. Our health depends on fighting climate change. And I have a lot of plans for that.  

Recommit to the Paris Agreement and invest in the Green Climate Fund. On Day One of my administration, I’ll commit the United States to rejoin the Paris Agreement, including meeting Obama era commitments to the Green Climate Fund — a critical funding stream to prevent the spread of climate fueled pandemics — and backfilling the contribution that the Trump administration neglected to deliver.

Recognize interconnectedness of human, animal, and environmental health. When it comes to pandemics, we must think about how animal, human, and environmental factors interact. Last year the Trump administration shut down the Predict program to test animals for dangerous pathogens that could cross over to humans. As President, I would restore this essential work. And I will support new scientific research to help understand and predict the impact of warmer temperatures on disease emergence and transmission.  

Invest in CDC’s Climate and Health Program. This essential program invests in adaptation for the effects of climate change on our nation’s health, but it’s budget only allows for programs that cover roughly half our population. Rather than follow President Trump’s attempts to kill this program, I will expand it to cover every American so no community is left behind.  

Prioritize effective federal management. As President, I’ll take key steps to ensure that the agencies who handle outbreaks have clear leadership, responsibility, and support.  

Restore White House leadership position for health security. President Obama created this position in response to the Ebola epidemic. In 2018, the Trump administration eliminated it – and I demanded answers. As President, I will bring it back, with a formal senior lead in my White House who focuses solely on global health security and oversees this work across the entire federal government.

Rebuild the State Department and USAID. American security and health depend on robust diplomacy and development assistance, but the Trump administration has declared war on the State Department and USAID. We must reverse the trend of declining American diplomacy and development aid by creating a 21st century foreign service and corps of development specialists. My plan to rebuild the State Department ensures that we have the diplomats we need leading our engagement with the world to help effectively manage outbreaks.  

Build on CDC’s legacy as the world and domestic leader in public health. The Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) holds our nation’s largest supply of medical countermeasures and medical supplies. Historically, CDC has managed the SNS because it has the public health expertise to stock the right medical countermeasures and ensure they get to communities who need them during an emergency.  In 2018, the Trump administration removed the SNS from CDC management in an ill-advised attempt to streamline response activities that could make it easier for drug companies to lobby for their products to be included. As President, I will move it back to optimize public health while ensuring coordination with other agencies.

Strengthen the Public Health Emergency Medical Countermeasures Enterprise (PHEMCE). PHEMCE coordinates the federal government’s efforts to prepare for potential  chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats, as well as from emerging infectious diseases. We must ensure the PHEMCE fully utilizes expertise from across agencies and reinvigorate its ability to prepare for and respond to emergencies.
 

Develop vaccines for infectious diseases. The United States should join it’s peer countries and invest in the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), a public/private global alliance focused on vaccine development, and actively participate in global coalitions working toward vaccine development. I have pushed CDC to prepare for pandemic influenza, which must include the development of a universal flu vaccine — a necessity if we want to effectively fight the next strain of pandemic influenza.
 
Containing Outbreaks and Ensuring Equity
Effectively containing infectious diseases requires effective coordination, flexible resources, clear data and communication, and the ability to move fast while not leaving anyone behind.
 
Ensure surge funding to handle the outbreak. Responding to pandemics costs money. And when it’s needed, it’s needed yesterday. In 2014, Congress did not provide funding to combat Ebola when it was out of control in West Africa, and waited until nearly 3 months after the first case occurred in the U.S. to appropriate additional funding. But epidemics don’t wait for Congress. To have a shot at getting ahead of the next big outbreak, we must appropriate and replenish funding for the Public Health Emergency Fund at HHS. This fund enables HHS to quickly respond to public health crises without waiting for supplemental appropriations from Congress.
 
Establish the Global Health Security Corps. Sometimes outbreaks occur in places experiencing intense conflict. And when health experts cannot enter those regions, outbreaks can grow exponentially. A bipartisan commission recently proposed creating a global health team that can handle these challenges — doctors, scientists, and aid workers with extensive security training who can go into conflict zones to do contact tracing, build trust in communities experiencing conflict, and work effectively with foreign governments at the local, regional, and national level. As president, I’ll launch this Global Health Security Corps to ensure that we can get the right expertise to the center of an outbreak before it becomes an epidemic.

Mitigate impact on underserved populations. Underserved and disadvantaged populations are hit harder by outbreaks. Adding insult to injury, vulnerable populations are often scapegoated for spreading disease. Outbreak responses must ensure that everyone can get the help they need. This requires constant effort on the front lines – but system-level solutions can help, too.  

Practice ethical and evidence-based infection control. My administration will work with state and local governments to ensure that disease surveillance and response is based on facts and science, not fear. We will also reject ill-informed, unscientific, and often counterproductive travel bans in favor of science-based efforts at isolation and quarantine. These efforts will be undertaken only when necessary, and we will provide strict protection of civil liberties for those involved, including the rejection of any unlawful detentions.
 

Leverage federal health care programs to respond to disasters. Studies have shown the clear connection between extreme weather events and outbreaks. After Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, for example, fatalities from bacterial Leptospirosis spiked, eventually leading to 26 deaths. In addition, despite the extensive damage to the islands infrastructure, the Trump administration waited months before delivering aid or assistance. I have committed to leverage federal programs to quickly tailor health care responses to specific environmental disasters or outbreaks in affected communities when they occur.  

Build equity protections into preparedness grant funding and government seeded innovations. I will instruct my administration to incorporate equity requirements into health preparedness and response programs to ensure all communities get the resources they need to stay healthy. I have also committed to improve environmental equity mapping via “a rigorous interagency effort to identify cumulative environmental health disparities and climate vulnerabilities and cross-reference that data with other indicators of socioeconomic health.” When the government helps fund development and clinical trials of medical countermeasures, we should be sure to negotiate a fair market price so that everyone can afford it.  

Provide aggressive dissemination of reliable information.  Communication is an essential element of effectively beating an outbreak. My administration will work with the private sector to promote the distribution of important factual information, to counter misinformation, and to ensure that critical facts are appropriately translated so communities can take the steps needed to stay healthy. The Trump administration banned CDC from using “evidence-based” or “policy-based,” as well as other terms, in official documents–unacceptable for an agency whose mission must be informed by science. In a Warren administration, science will once again be in charge at the CDC.
 
Uphold principles of open science and transparency. Sharing information about what is happening during an outbreak facilitates problem-solving. We must encourage sharing of specimens and data between researchers and public health officials, urge transparency from foreign governments, and increase support for data sharing platforms. During a public health emergency, publishers should not use paywalls to hide important data or force authors to keep data embargoed until publication. My administration will conduct a full-scale reassessment of the public health informatics supported by the federal government and modernize these systems, building on recent congressional investment. And I have already committed to improve interoperability of electronic health records, which will help providers all across this country see their patients’ medical histories and ensure that more patient data can be securely shared with critical public health databases, while ensuring that patient privacy is maintained.

Effectively partner with foreign governments and multilateral organizations. The U.S. cannot beat outbreaks alone. We must use all our tools, including diplomacy and international collaboration, to work through tough issues and partner with other countries. I’ll lead the world in promoting effective multilateral action, including through Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. And I’ll bolster our work with the World Health Organization (WHO) to continue reforms started after the 2014 Ebola outbreaks and improve the world’s ability to respond collectively to these crises.

Treating Emerging Infectious Diseases
It’s essential that we continue pushing for medical advances — both to treat those who contract diseases and vaccinate against those we can prevent. 
 
Invest in basic science. I have committed to invest $100 billion in the NIH — and $60 billion of that will fund basic science research. And when drug companies break the law, I’ll create a “swear jar” where companies will pay a portion of their profits from publicly-funded research back to the NIH. This funding will expand the research we need to develop vaccines and treatments for infectious diseases we know and novel diseases that have not yet emerged.
 
Invest and incentivize development of new medical countermeasures. To ensure we are able to effectively surge development during a pandemic, we must build and maintain strong infrastructure for medical countermeasure development. As President, I will ensure that small biotechnology innovators get ongoing support from Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), and we will leverage the Food and Drug Administration (FDA’s) expertise in manufacturing and clinical trials to help larger drug manufacturers bring these countermeasures to market at scale.  

Bring new treatments to patients. The $40 billion I’ve committed to invest in the NIH will fund the creation of the National Institute for Drug Development — a new institute that will work to bring that basic research of the rest of the NIH into reality for patients. And under Medicare for All, we will be able to better incentivize the private sector development of drugs for which the market is currently broken, like vaccines and antibiotics. Vaccines prevent outbreaks from starting, while antibiotics provide critical protection against infections, and we are in desperate need of new antibiotics to combat resistant infections.  

Enable surge support during outbreaks, especially for diagnostics. BARDA and FDA must be ready to surge at times of outbreak, when the need to quickly diagnose new cases is essential to containing an outbreak and properly treating patients. My Administration will work to provide this support and, when appropriate, use Emergency Use Authorizations to get new diagnostics into the hands of health care providers as soon as possible.

Prioritize therapies that work for all populations, especially kids. Therapies are often approved after being tested on populations that are not representative of the patient population. As a result, many therapies in the Strategic National Stockpile are not approved for kids, and some therapies do not work as effectively for racial minorities or women. As President, I will direct the FDA and BARDA to work with drug companies to develop pediatric medical countermeasures and increase the enrollment of underrepresented populations in clinical trials, ensuring that the treatments we develop work well for all of us.  

Ensure treatments can reach patients quickly. Time is critical when you’re combating infectious diseases. We must make sure that our system is ready to “turn on” at a moment’s notice. That means we must constantly evaluate our medical countermeasure stockpiles and prepare annual updated biological threat assessments. And during an outbreakwe must quickly distribute medical countermeasures, with proper protections for equitable distribution across communities.
 
Ensure safety of high security labs. My administration will not allow labs to generate novel viruses with epidemic or pandemic potential, or to perform field testing of such viruses and will closely monitor dual-use research on biological threats and update policies as needed. This knowledge is incredibly important to protect our health, but could be harmful if used as a weapon. And we must be vigilant about lab safety standards and avoid accidentally mailing anthrax or forgetting about smallpox specimens for 50 years.
 
Diseases like coronavirus remind us why we need robust international institutions, strong investments in public health, and a government that is prepared to jump into action at a moment’s notice. When we prepare and effectively collaborate to address common threats that don’t stop at borders, the international community can stop these diseases in their tracks.

Read Warren’s plan here

Vice President Joe Biden issued his own criticism of the Trump’s administration’s handling of a potential pandemic, in an op-ed in USA Today: Joe Biden: Trump is worst possible leader to deal with coronavirus outbreak citing the need for the President of the United States to cooperate with international partners to address this pandemic and prevent future ones. Biden writes that this is a moment that requires leadership — leadership that Trump is incapable of delivering — and lays out how his policies will be informed by science and reassert U.S. leadership on global health security. 

NYCLU, ACLU, BDS File Class Action Suit Challenging Trump Administration’s Indefinite Detention of Immigrants

2018 Womens March NYC: Protesting to stop raids on immigrant families, save DACA © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

NEW YORK –The New York Civil Liberties Union, American Civil Liberties Union and Brooklyn Defender Services filed a federal class action lawsuit today challenging the recent cessation of bond hearings for immigrant detainees and the Trump administration’s indefinite detention of immigrants.

The administration’s halting of bond hearings in New York follows a February Supreme Court decision in a case from California, Jennings v. Rodriguez, holding that a federal immigration statute does not entitle immigrants to bond hearings. In that case, the Supreme Court chose not to decide whether the U.S. Constitution independently requires bond hearings and instead sent the case back to the appeals court in California to address that question. In New York, however, the federal appeals court already recognized that the Constitution requires such hearings in a 2015 case, Lora v. Shanahan. Nonetheless, the federal government has stopped providing them to immigrant detainees in New York. Today’s lawsuit seeks to restore bond hearings and due process protections for jailed immigrant New Yorkers.

“In the pursuit of its anti-immigrant agenda the Trump regime seeks to do away with basic legal protections that are fundamental to any notion of justice,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “Immigrants are entitled to due process, and bond hearings are a vital safeguard against the unjustified and prolonged imprisonment that the Trump regime seeks to impose on all immigrants. The New York Civil Liberties Union and our partners will fight to ensure immigrant New Yorkers can rely on the rule of law even under the Trump regime. ”

Hundreds of thousands of people both with and without lawful status are detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) each year. Immigration detention can last months or even years, as people fight their deportation cases through a slow and backlogged immigration court system. Bond hearings are an essential opportunity to demonstrate to a judge that incarceration is not necessary to ensure that someone returns to court. Without a hearing, immigrants, including asylum seekers and green card holders, may remain locked up indefinitely while they fight their cases.

“Without the opportunity to request release, our clients, including asylum seekers and long-time green card holders, are indefinitely detained and separated from their families, their jobs, and their communities in horrific detention centers,” said Lisa Schreibersdorf, Executive Director of Brooklyn Defender Services. “Indefinite detention is contrary to our most basic constitutional principles and we are proud to continue the fight for due process and justice for our clients and their communities.”

The lead plaintiff in the class action, Augustin Sajous, is a 60-year-old Haitian man who has lived in the US for 46 years, since he became a permanent resident as a child in the 1970s. He studied engineering, bought a house, and helped raise a family, but in recent years he has struggled with mental health issues, which led to bouts of homelessness. Mr. Sajous was arrested by ICE in September 2017 and is subject to deportation because of two 2015 misdemeanor convictions for bending MetroCards in order to use them with zero balance.

“The Supreme Court’s recent ruling does nothing to undermine the fact that the Constitution ensures that all people in the U.S. are entitled to due process protections,” said Jordan Wells, staff attorney at the New York Civil Liberties Union. “We are taking action now to ensure that immigrant New Yorkers who are currently detained get a fair opportunity to secure their freedom.”

In addition to Wells, counsel on the case include NYCLU staff attorneys Robert Hodgson, Paige Austin, and Aadhithi Padmanabhan, associate legal director Christopher Dunn and paralegal Maria Rafael, ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project staff attorney Michael Tan and deputy director Judy Rabinowitz, and BDS attorneys Andrea Saenz, Brooke Menschel, Zoey Jones and Bridget Kessler.

Trump/Sessions Anti-Immigrant Policy Requires Novel Theory of Constitution: Citizens Only

US Supreme Court Building, DC. The Trump/Sessions anti-immigration policy relies on a novel theory of the Constitution: that it does not apply to noncitizens © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

by Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

The question that came to my mind as I listened to Natanya Briendel, director of the Westchester Division at the Pace Women’s Justice Center, speak at the monthly meeting of Reach Out America, a Long Island-based activist group, was how Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ roundups of undocumented immigrants rests on a concept that the Constitution – specifically due process – does not apply to non-citizens. Technically, then, any foreigner in the United States could be picked up and denied habeas corpus – the right to appear speedily in front of a judge, hear the charges and put up a defense.

She described situations where people are being rounded up based on an accusation, and if they are undocumented, immediately incarcerated and deported.  No warrant. No reasonable cause to justify a search. No right to legal counsel or even a hearing before a judge.

Even people who are claiming asylum based on escaping violence in their home country, are treated as if they were criminals.

The result has been sheer terror for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country. Why so many? Because Republicans going back to Reagan have refused to establish a workable immigration program; during Obama’s Administration, the House Republicans literally shoved a Comprehensive Immigration bill in the desk and never voted on it. Employers have benefited from having a pool of people who are abused, cheated, and treated like indentured servants.

Here in Long Island, we have an instance where just being Hispanic renders a high school student vulnerable to accusations of membership in the dreaded M-13 gang based on what colors you wear to school.

Donald Trump in his national security speech (really a rehash of his dystopian inaugural address), equates all immigrants as terrorists, regardless if they have lived, worked and paid taxes in the United States for decades, describing the need to shut off refugees, cancel DACA, end the possibility of family members obtaining legal status. Even individuals currently serving in the military, who were promised citizenship at the end of their tour, will be subject to deportation.

Our strategy advances four vital national interests.  First, we must protect the American people, the homeland, and our great American way of life.  This strategy recognizes that we cannot secure our nation if we do not secure our borders.  So for the first time ever, American strategy now includes a serious plan to defend our homeland.  It calls for the construction of a wall on our southern border; ending chain migration and the horrible visa and lottery programs; closing loopholes that undermine enforcement; and strongly supporting our Border Patrol agents, ICE officers, and Homeland Security personnel.”

The callousness, the stupidity, the sheer contradiction of American values, principles, and law.

Meanwhile, 12,762 DACA recipients – 122 a day – have lost their protected status since September 5, when President Trump rescinded the executive order that protected immigrants who arrived here as children from deportation, who were raised in the United States which is the only country they know. Trump gave a deadline of March, but the Republican Congress has shown it doesn’t actually care. Trump has reneged on the “deal” he appeared to make with Schumer and Pelosi; Democrats have threatened to use the only leverage they have – shutting down government by refusing to reauthorize a budget resolution – but that is unlikely.

Immigrants are no longer welcome. That is, unless the immigrant can buy a visa by investing $500,000 in a Trump family real estate venture,  or a migrant imported to work at Mar-a-Lago (when there are tens of thousands of Puerto Rican hotel workers who lost their jobs after Maria and have sought refuge in Florida – why is he not hiring them? Answer: because they can register to vote in Florida. After all, Puerto Ricans are American citizens.)

“Critics say that if passed, the reform [of the H-2A agricultural visa program] could lead to millions of virtually indentured workers,” writes Simon Davis-Cohen in Truthout. (“Republicans Push Bill to Strip Migrant Workers of Their Few Rights, Undercut US Workers”)

On the other hand, the way Trump and Sessions are inflicting their might, it means that undocumented individuals are no longer protected by law – they can be physically abused by a spouse, cheated by an employer of their wages, have their children taken from them without recourse to seek custody. They have no way of protecting their civil rights, their human rights, because the courthouse has become a locus for them to be snatched up by immigration officers. They are fearful to report crimes; certainly to warn officials of any terror threats.

Here on Long Island – the very place where Trump gave a speech suggesting that police officers don’t have to be “so nice” when they stuff someone into their patrol car, the New York Civil Liberties Union filed suit against the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office Monday, arguing that it lacks authority under state law to honor detainer requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Detainers ask local officers to hold immigrants after they would otherwise be released from custody. This suit seeks the release of Susai Francis, a resident of Long Island for 21 years, where he has raised two sons, who should have been released after pleading guilty to disorderly conduct but instead was being held for ICE in a Suffolk County jail.

“Not only should local law enforcement reject the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant agenda, but state law is also clear that local law enforcement can’t violate people’s rights in order to do ICE’s bidding,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “The role of local law enforcement is to protect and serve all New Yorkers, and that is incompatible with the unlawful detention of our neighbors and family members at the behest of the Trump deportation machine.”

The day before Trump gave his national security speech calling again for a border wall and shutting down immigration, and offering not a crumb of possibility of the comprehensive immigration reform that should have been in place for 30 years so that people can get some legal status and not live in the shadows where they can be exploited, was United Nations International Migrants Day. Not a peep from the White House. Instead, the United States announced it would end participation in the UN process to develop a Global Compact on Migration (GCM) based on the claim that it would undermine “sovereignty”.

With civil war, ethnic conflict, gang violence, drought, famine, floods, wildfires and climate disasters, there are the largest number of refugees and displaced people in numbers not seen since World War II: 40 8 million displaced people worldwide as a result of conflict and violence at the end of 2015; an estimated 64 million are impacted by climate.

(Trump, in his national security speech, dismissed climate change as a national security threat, suggesting instead that increasing American energy production would be the counter balance.)

Immigrants are lumped together.  “You think the countries are giving us their best people? No. What kind of a system is that?”Trump said at a press conference. “They give us their worst people, they put them in a bin, but in his hand when he’s picking them is really the worst of the worst.”

Trump’s view – big on a wall stretching along the southern border, a travel ban which shuts down access from six Muslim majority nations (none of which have been responsible for terrorism in the US), reducing the number of refugees who will be accepted to a trickle (45,000) while threatening to throw out others (Haitians, Nicaraguans) – is to pull up the drawbridge, much like the Soviet Union’s Iron Curtain or China’s Bamboo Curtain, and keep us equally isolated and ignorant, reciting the Trump mantra of America’s Greatness.

Combined with banning words and phrases at agencies, scrubbing reports and websites, spying on federal workers, Trump’s declaration is more ominous: “With this strategy, we are calling for a great reawakening of America, a resurgence of confidence, and a rebirth of patriotism, prosperity, and pride.

It is more: the disdain for civil rights for noncitizens within our borders means that the Trump Doctrine, which we now know is purely transactional, means that there is zero interest in upholding human rights.

“We want strong alliances and partnerships based on cooperation and reciprocity.  We will make new partnerships with those who share our goals, and make common interests into a common cause.  We will not allow inflexible ideology to become an obsolete and obstacle to peace.”

Trump’s view, enabled by the Republican Congress, is so warped. But there is another way: reauthorize DACA with a path to citizenship; provide legal status (not citizenship) for people who came illegally but who have worked and made homes here and have no significant criminal record, particularly the parents of DACA recipients and American children; have vetting for travelers, but accept travelers; exercise moral responsibility in accepting refugees, helping resettle refugees, and contributing funds toward refugee communities. And participate in the world to reduce the causes for refugees, migrants and immigrants: help end the conflicts and violence that sets people on their precarious journey; address climate change that is resulting in communities being uninhabitable; and advance the quality of life in these countries.

None of these generators of the desperation that motivates people to uproot their lives and take a treacherous journey to a strange place are satisfied by Trump’s “national security strategy” which puts American First and to hell with the rest of the world.

_________________________

© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

 

 

White House Messagers Sugar Coat Trump/Republican Tax Plan, Invoking ‘American Dream’

The US Treasury building is literally next door to the White House. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin claimed that over 100 people in Treasury are “working around the clock on running scenarios for us,” to prove that the Republican tax cuts would pay for themselves and benefit middle class families, but never produced the analysis, beyond a single-page of hopeful assumptions. © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

by Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

During a press call previewing Donald Trump’s “closing message to the American people” about the glories of the Republican tax plan supported by less than 25% of Americans, Trump’s leading “messagers” – the people charged with making the deal palatable – had to “research” the American Dream, as if they had never heard of the concept before:

“At the president’s direction, we did research into the concept of American Dream,” said Treasury Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Tony Sayegh. “It is interesting what we found, where the concept came from and what it meant. And part was that in the United States, you were not destined to die in the same income class you were born into, children were not destined to have same quality of life that you had, people had the ability to rise. This was unique thing in world history. Most of the world, most of history, born in a certain class and died in that class, children were born and died in same economic class. America [brought the] idea of economic opportunity for all.”

But now, he said with dubious accuracy because this same criticism has arisen since the Reagan “Revolution”, if he in fact bothered to research, “for first time in American history, parents no longer think their children will be better off. …We will bring back the American spirit, that’s what president likes to talk about it. Consumer confidence is at all time high. That kind of optimism is at the core of the message.”

He asserted, “We’re nearing a historic moment in which we will decide the economic future of the nation. We have the power to reject [the notion]  that 2% growth is the new normal and the majority of Americans for first time in history will lose faith that next generation will do better…[We want an] economy that works for all Americans, not just the wealthy and well connected….Ultimately message will be that middle class will no longer just be getting by, finally have the opportunity to get ahead, and that’s what will Make America Great Again.”

When asked about the scores of economists and experts who have challenged the theory that the tax cuts to the wealthiest and corporations will trickle down to working people, that the cumulative impact of the tax plan will hurt working class and middle class Americans, upset the very mechanisms that promote the American Dream (education, health care, home ownership), that it will result in $1.5 trillion added to the national debt which will result in cuts to Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid, and that large majority of Americans oppose the tax plan, White House message strategy director Cliff Sims went on the attack:

”I encourage you to spend a little less time reading [Senate Minority Leader] Chuck Schumer’s talking points, and more time reading the plan [which has yet to be finalized or scored]. This plan offers a lot for the middle class…. [The plan] substantially increased child tax credit, $1000 now to $1600 or $2000; nearly doubles standard deduction so a married couple can take $24,000 tax free and more if they itemize; it lowers the tax rate so more income is taxed at lower rates… Quite frankly anyone who says otherwise is purposefully disingenuous or taking a partisan line that doesn’t meet the reality.”

Sayegh  added, “Analysis and studies. The Council of Economic Advisors reported a month ago clearly demonstrates what we are doing on corporate side helps workers, because workers absorb the greatest burden when corporate taxes are high… We know that through analysis, the average worker gets anywhere $4000-$9000.. after policies implemented – because there is a more productive and investment-friendly environment when corporations can compete with significantly lower rate. It is a benefit to hardworking Americans, the American worker.”

Asked where was the analysis that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said  “over 100 people in Treasury are “working around the clock on running scenarios for us,,” Sims said that Treasury “in very rare instances will ever release analysis of a bill that has not already been voted on and passed because as anyone who has followed process understands, there are two bills – House, Senate –there are  differences between them and a final bill will be voted on.”

Sayegh also pushed back against polling which shows the vast majority of Americans believe the tax plan substantially favors the wealthy over working people, pointing to rolling back the estate tax and eliminating the AMT (Alternative Minimum Tax), by which Trump in 2005, in the only 2 pages of his tax returns revealed to the public, shows that he would have saved $30 million in tax payments but for the AMT.

“We’ve poured through this from a lot of angles, political strategy and public opinion. It is abundantly clear that almost every poll nationally cited – CBS, Quinnipiac, Marist – is deliberately trying to shake and manipulate public opinion and not accurately reflect it. Quinnipiac uses a methodology where only 20% of respondents are Republican, 33% are Democrats, 38% are independents –a  preposterous formula. Negative of 12% between Democrats and Republicans is not close to reality – so does not reflect public opinion.”

Sims added “The more people learn about specifics, the more they love it. 61% to 21% supported it after learning we are doubling the standard deduction from $12 to $24K, 54% support only 14% oppose the child tax credit, 54% support only 18% oppose after being informed of basic provisions. Does anyone on the planet not believe Americans don’t want lower taxes, a fairer corporate tax rate that will create more jobs and higher wages? When polls get into specifics…support goes through the roof. When you have polls that try to manipulate, push questions, you get numbers you can put in Chiron or story to manipulate public opinion, but not reflect what Americans feel.”

Except that polling only specific, popular provisions (who doesn’t want higher standard deduction), does not put the whole picture into view: the higher premiums likely to come when the individual mandate for the Affordable Care Act is eliminated; the personhood provision; drilling in the Arctic National Refuge; taxing graduate school fellowships as income; eliminating the deductibility of state and local taxes and significantly limiting the mortgage interest deduction, and adding more than $1 trillion to the national debt, which will trigger cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, curtail investment and infrastructure spending.

And no one has asked where the $300 billion to pay for disaster relief just from the 2017 climate catastrophes will come from, or why the Republicans have refused to reauthorize CHIP, which provides access to health care for 9 million children and pregnant mothers.

Meanwhile, Paul Ryan and others have said that the tax plan – precisely because it adds more than $1 trillion to the national debt – will be followed next year by cuts to “entitlements.”

And Trump, in his tax speech in St. Louis said:

“Then we will have done tax cuts, the biggest in history; healthcare, phenomenal healthcare. I know you don’t want this — welfare reform. Does anybody want welfare reform? (Applause.) And infrastructure. But welfare reform — I see it and I’ve talked to people. I know people, they work three jobs and they live next to somebody who doesn’t work at all. And the person who’s not working at all and has no intention of working at all is making more money and doing better than the person that’s working his and her ass off. And it’s not going to happen. Not going to happen. (Applause.) So we’re going to go into welfare reform…”

See also:

Dickens’ ‘Christmas Carol’ Is Vision of New Reality in Trump’s America Where Money is Entitlement

Republican Tax Scam: They Don’t Care 85% Oppose. Here’s Why

Republican Tax Plan is Attack on Blue States; Fight Back by Holding Money ‘in Escrow’

Ready the Revolution: GOP Tax Plan Decimates Middle-Class, Gives Rise to New American Aristocracy

Trump Selling Tax Plan in Missouri, the Show Me State: This is going to cost me a fortune, this thing — believe me.

Democrats Should Shut Down Government over Republican Tax Scam

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Trump, Republicans’ Dickens Vision of America: Where Money is Entitlement, ‘Please Sir, I’d Like Some More’

Long Islanders protesting for the 99% against foreclosures by banks too big to fail, bailed out by taxpayers. The Republican tax scam, combined with Trump deregulation and obliteration of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, sets up an even greater Recession and foreclosures. Seniors on Long Island, facing the inability to deduct state and local taxes and the likelihood of Republican cuts to Social Security and Medicare, will be forced out of their homes. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

by Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

This is supposedly the season of “giving,” of “good will to all mankind.” Not with Donald Trump in the White House.

Trump is so giddy to take credit for displacing “Happy Holidays” with “Merry Christmas.” That’s all he cares about. But just as Trump, who makes money off of hotels but has no concept of “hospitality” and is more like the craven Snidely Whiplash than Barron Hilton, he has no clue and no care what “Christmas” means.

Indeed, this Christmas, 9 million children and pregnant women are losing access to health care and the ability to live a good life or realize their full potential. 13 million Americans don’t know if they will be able to afford or access health care.  800,000 Dreamers don’t know whether they will be thrown out of jobs, housing, and the nation, exiled to a country that is completely foreign to them. Seniors and retirees don’t know if they will be able to continue to afford living in their homes and whether their Medicare and Social Security benefits will be cut.

The Tax Scam rammed through by Republicans is just the beginning: they are giddy about how adding $1.5 trillion to the national debt, the same amount (coincidentally) that it redistributes from working people to the already obscenely rich and richest corporations sitting on $2 trillion in cash they refuse to use to raise wages will “justify” slashing the social safety net, cutting Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid – you know the so-called “entitlements” that working people have paid into their entire working lives.

Trump made it clear, in his ignorant, short-hand way, what will come next, in his speech in St. Louis:

“Then we will have done tax cuts, the biggest in history…I know people, they work three jobs and they live next to somebody who doesn’t work at all. And the person who’s not working at all and has no intention of working at all is making more money and doing better than the person that’s working his and her ass off. And it’s not going to happen. Not going to happen. (Applause.) So we’re going to go into welfare reform.”

You only have to look at what is happening in every quarter of civic life which is shifting the balance to the wealthiest while cutting off upward mobility for anyone else. The Trump FCC’s plan to overturn net neutrality is exactly that: it cements the control that the internet oligopoly wields not only to keep out upstart competitors but control what information or culture gets wide viewing. What Pai wants is for money to rule both content and access (that’s what “free market” means). Don’t have money to keep an internet subscription so you can access news, information or jobs? Tough luck. But the FCC intends to couple this with more government surveillance of what goes up over the Internet – quite literally the worst of both worlds.

It is apparent also in how Trump is pawning off national monuments to commercial exploitation – Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, the Arctic Refuge and the Atlantic Marine Sanctuary – basically stealing what is our collective heritage and birthright to give to commercial interests. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who has no compunction to waste taxpayer money for his own use, is even raising admission fees to the national parks, further putting what is owned by all Americans off limits for those who can’t pay the freight.

Money is the new “entitlement.” It determines who can afford to weigh the scales of justice in their favor, and, thanks to Citizens United, who runs for election and wins, and therefore what policy gets written and enacted, and even who has access to the voting booth. Billionaire venture capitalist Tom Perkins actually said that out loud: “But what I really think is, it should be like a corporation. You pay a million dollars in taxes, you get a million votes. How’s that?” Indeed.

This mentality is actually seeping down even into the disasters that have become all too common and catastrophic because of climate change: Freakonomics did a segment that a free market rather than anti-gouging laws should come into play after a disaster. A shopkeeper should be able to sell a bottle of water for $1000 to the father with a child dying of thirst if he wants to, because at $2 a bottle, someone will hoard. (The absurdity is that purchases are rationed for the rich and the poor.)

Another segment suggested that people should be able to pay their way (a premium) to jump a line – that’s okay for a themepark, but they are suggesting the same for access to life-saving organ donation.

Trump is the first president to dare do what the Republicans have been salivating over since the New Deal but dared not do. It’s not that the Republicans haven’t had their sights set on reversing every progressive policy since the 1860s. (Alabama Senate candidate, the defrocked judge Roy Moore, said that every Amendment after the 10th, the state’s rights one, should be abolished, including the 13th amendment ending slavery, 14th amendment giving due process, the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote. Meanwhile, the Republicans are about to cancel the 10th amendment’s State’s Rights provision in order to require New York State to accept Conceal Carry Reciprocity and overturn its own gun safety laws.)

You actually have Senator Chuck Grassley defending abolishing the estate tax which affects only a tiny fraction of the wealthiest families and was intended since the founding to prevent an institutionalized aristocracy, argue that the previous tax code favors poor and working-class Americans who were “just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.”

Utah’s Orrin Hatch, justifying shifting $1.5 trillion in tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations and slashing the social safety net, declared, “I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won’t help themselves, won’t lift a finger, and expect the federal government to do everything.”

Merry Christmas? Bah humbug.

“And so how do we as Christians respond, who serve a God whose prophets call for welcoming immigrants (Deuteronomy, Leviticus), caring for the orphans and widows (Jeremiah, Ezekiel), establishing fair housing (Isaiah), seeking justice (Micah 6), and providing health care (Isaiah),” a twitter conversation between MSNBC’s Joy Reid and Susan Gilbert Zencka wrote.

“What you’re witnessing tonight in the United States Senate is the weaponization of pure, unmitigated greed,” Joy Reid wrote after the Senate’s adoption of its tax plan. “Lobbyists are writing the bill in pen at the last minute. And Republicans are no longer even pretending to care about anyone but the super rich,“ wrote Joy Reid.

The America that Trump and the Republicans envision is not one of an American Dream where anyone who has the ability and works hard enough can rise up, but one in which communities must beg billionaires for funding for a public school, a library, a hospital, and be very grateful for their charity.

Tell me how this is not a modern, nonfiction version of Dickens’ “Oliver Twist.”

“Please sir, I’d like some more.”

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Trump Insists ‘There was No Collusion’ Between Campaign & Russia

Donald Trump insists any suggestion of collusion between his campaign and Russia is “ridiculous” and he did not obstruct justice in firing FBI Director James Comey © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Donald Trump, during a joint press conference with President Santos of Colombia, May 18, in answer to a question, “Did you at any time urge former FBI Director James Comey in any way, shape, or form to close or to back down the investigation into Michael Flynn?     And also as you look back –“ dismissed it saying, “No.  No.  Next question.” 

Here’s more:

Q    Next question.  As you look back over the past six months or year, have you had any recollection where you’ve wondered if anything you have done has been something that might be worthy of criminal charges in these investigations or impeachment, as some on the left are implying?

PRESIDENT TRUMP:  I think it’s totally ridiculousEverybody thinks so.  And again, we have to get back to working our country properly so that we can take care of the problems that we have.  We have plenty of problems.  We’ve done a fantastic job.  We have a tremendous group of people.  Millions and millions of people out there that are looking at what you had just said, and said, “What are they doing?”

Director Comey was very unpopular with most people.  I actually thought when I made that decision — and I also got a very, very strong recommendation, as you know, from the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein.  But when I made that decision, I actually thought that it would be a bipartisan decision, because you look at all of the people on the Democratic side — not only the Republican side — they were saying such terrible things about Director Comey.

Then he had the very poor performance on Wednesday.  That was a poor, poor performance.  So poor, in fact, that I believe — and you’d have to ask him, because I don’t like to speak for other people — but I believe that’s why the Deputy Attorney General went out and wrote his very, very strong letter.

And then, on top of that, after the Wednesday performance by Director Comey, you had a person come and have to readjust the record, which many people have never seen before, because there were misstatements made.  And I thought that was something that was terrible.

We need a great director of the FBI.  I cherish the FBI.  It’s special.  All over the world, no matter where you go, the FBI is special.  The FBI has not had that special reputation with what happened in the campaign, what happened with respect to the Clinton campaign, and even you could say — directly or indirectly — with respect to the much more successful Trump campaign. 

We’re going to have a director who is going to be outstanding.  I’ll be announcing that director very soon, and I look forward to doing it.  I think the people in the FBI will be very, very thrilled.

And just in concluding, we look forward to getting this whole situation behind us so that when we go for the jobs, we go for the strong military, when we go for all of the things that we’ve been pushing so hard and so successfully, including healthcare — because Obamacare is collapsing.  It’s dead; it’s gone.  There’s nothing to compare anything to because we don’t have healthcare in this country.  You just look at what’s happening.  Aetna just pulled out.  Other insurance companies are pulling out.  We don’t have healthcare.  Obamacare is a fallacy.  It’s gone.  We need healthcare. 

We need to cut taxes.  We’re going to cut taxes.  Forget what I want; it will be the biggest tax cut in the history of our nation.  And that’s what I want.  It’s going to bring back companies.  It’s going to bring back jobs.  We lost so many jobs and so many companies to countries that are not so far from you, Mr. President — they’re very close to you, actually — and to many other places throughout the world.  We’re going to change that.  We’re going to have expansion.

We already do.  You look at what’s happening with Ford and with General Motors in Michigan and Ohio.  You look at the tremendous number of jobs that are being announced in so many different fields.  That’s what I’m proud of, and that’s what we want to focus our energy on.

The other is something I can only tell you:  There was no collusion.  And everybody — even my enemies have said, there is no collusion.

So we want to get back and keep on the track that we’re on.  Because the track that we’re on is record-setting, and that’s what we want to do, is we want to break very positive records.

Q    Mr. President, I’d like to get your reaction to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate the Russian interference in the campaign.  Was this the right move, or is this part of a “witch hunt”?

PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Well, I respect the move, but the entire thing has been a witch hunt.  And there is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign, but I can always speak for myself — and the Russians, zero. 

I think it divides the country.  I think we have a very divided country because of that and many other things.  So I can tell you that we want to bring this great country of ours together, Jon.  And I will also say very strongly, we’ve had tremendous success.  You look at our job numbers, you look at what’s going on at the border, as we discussed before; if you look at what will be happening — you’re going to see some incredible numbers with respect to the success of General Mattis and others with the ISIS situation.  The numbers are staggering, how successful they’ve been, the military has been.

Tomorrow, as you know, I’m going to Saudi Arabia, going to Israel.  I’m going to Rome.  And we have the G7.  We have a lot of great things going on. 

So I hate to see anything that divides.  I’m fine with whatever people want to do, but we have to get back to running this country really, really well.  We’ve made tremendous progress in the last 100-some-odd days.  Tremendous progress.  And you see job numbers, you see all of the production that’s starting.  Plants starting to open again.  Haven’t been open in years.  I’m very proud of it.  That’s what I want to be focused on.  Because, believe me, there’s no collusion.  Russia is fine.  But whether it’s Russia or anybody else, my total priority, believe me, is the United States of America.

So, thank you very much.

OMB Mulvaney: Budget Deal Averting Govt Shutdown Proves Trump’s Leadership (While Trump Heaps Praise on Dictators, Calls for End to Filibuster)

200,000 in the Peoples Climate March encircled the White House on April 29 calling for a transition from fossil fuel to clean energy. OMB Director Mike Mulvaney is proud that the budget deal denies Democrats a “win” of tax credits for renewable energy © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

It was very important to the Trump Administration to dampen any victory dance the Democrats might be doing in terms of the budget deal that forestalled a government shutdown. Demonstrating so clearly that it the aim is to insure widening partisanship and hostility, this morning, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said during a briefing call to clarify what is in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017.

The budget deal averting a government shutdown proves Trump’s leadership, Mulvaney said. Meanwhile, earlier in the day, Trump said a government shutdown in September would be a good thing to “end the mess” that is Congress, unless the Republicans end the filibuster that gives the minority party any say whatsoever.

This comes as Trump heaps praise and admiration on autocrats, dictators and plutocrats, like cheering Erdogan’s sweeping powers won in a tainted referendum in Turkey; North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, who, Trump said, he admired for consolidating his power at the young age of 26 or 27 (by assassinating his relatives), Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who is responsible for some 10,000 extrajudicial killings, and of course Vlad Putin, who he admires as a strong leader (who has assassinated opponents and journalists).

Trump’s answer?

Meanwhile, it was very important to Trump that Democrats not be shown as winning anything in the budget deal that averted a shutdown.

“Democrats are trying to take a win,” Mulvaney said in the briefing call. “The American people won and the president negotiated that victory for them. They know the truth of what’s in the bill. They know the deal the president cut. Some are scared to death knowing what’s in the bill.”

The briefing lasted but a few minutes because the Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight couldn’t manage shutting off patriotic music – starting with Stars & Stripes Forever and moving to “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy,” like the soundtrack to a July 4 fireworks show, that grew in volume and overwhelmed the call.

Mulvaney didn’t want to take many questions anyway, but during the 10 minute ramble, made sure everyone knew that the budget deal was a big win for the President, and a defeat for Democrats who wanted a government shutdown in order to show Trump couldn’t lead. The deal denied the Dems that.

Most importantly, he noted, the deal broke the parity deal that Obama had brokered when Republicans threatened to shut down government over the budget: that every dollar increase or cut in defense had to be matched with a dollar increase for domestic programs.

This deal allocates $4 to $5 for defense versus every $1 increase for domestic programs – in all, $21 billion more for defense. Mulvaney is very proud of that.

Also, $1.522 billion more for the Department of Homeland Security, for border security, on top of $18.5 billion, “the largest overall increase in DHS in last 10 years.”

As for the wall – because Democrats are hailing the fact that not a dollar in the budget is allocated to build the wall that Mexico was going to pay for.

What can/cannot be done, Mulvaney said, would be shown during a 1:30 press briefing, but suggested that the money the administration has gotten out of the budget, will go toward the border, whether a real or virtual wall, “in terms of the boundary between the US and Mexico.

“We’re looking at tremendous increases in technology along the border, maintenance, replacing gates and bridges – part of reason Obama administration had difficulty, the infrastructure not there – will move immediately.”

And what was spent on domestic programs – like preserving health care for miners – were on Trump’s list anyway.

And school choice – the budget provides for three years authorization.

“More money for defense, border security, education – the same things as we introduced in March – those were priorities of incoming administration,” he boasted.

Mulvaney is very proud of what the Democrats didn’t get, like not getting renewed tax credits for renewable energy – wind and solar. He’s very proud.

He deflected Democrats’ victory dance over saving funding for Planned Parenthood, noting that Trump “already signed an Executive Order allowing states not to fund clinics that deal with abortion, and defunded Planned Parenthood as part of the health care bill. Make no mistake, this administration is committed to pro-life – at every turn we fight the pro-life battle. This budget agreement stays true to that.”

He’s proud that there is no Obamacare bailout in the budget agreement.

“Democrats are claiming they got that. It’s not in the bill. Nothing in this bill obligates us to make any Obamacare payments. We’ve had several talks with folks on the hill [about defunding Obamacare] – there are no commitments in this bill.”

He’s also very proud that there is no new money for Puerto Rico. Democrats, he said, “wanted a bunch to bail out Puerto Rico.” The only money for Puerto Rico are the unexpended funds from the previous bill.  “There is no new money for Puerto Rico, no bailout, no additions to the deficit.

And Democrats “failed miserably to turn back Second Amendment protections,” he crowed.

“What Democrats didn’t get – what many of them, many of their base – they wanted a shutdown, to make this president look like he couldn’t govern, didn’t know what he is doing, and he beat them at the highest level,” he said with a spiteful tone. “They wanted to make him seem not reasonable. Government is functioning. He is proving he can bring this town together – lead in a sound fashion. That scares many. It’s why they are overreacting and claiming victory.

“Democrats can take credit, but they didn’t get a penny for any one of their pet projects.”

Despite what Mulvaney said about how avoiding a government shutdown demonstrated Trump’s leadership, Trump earlier that morning had opined that a government shutdown in September would be a good thing, to fix what he called a “mess” in Congress, and also called for the Senate to end the filibuster so that the Republicans could sweep their agenda through.

In two successive tweets, Trump stated, “The reason for the plan negotiated between the Republicans and Democrats is that we need 60 votes in the Senate which are not there! We…. either elect more Republican Senators in 2018 or change the rules now to 51%. Our country needs a good “shutdown” in September to fix mess!”

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Ahead of April 29 Peoples Climate March, Groups Condemn Trump’s Executive Order Stripping Protections for Public Lands

Is nothing sacred? Apparently everything is transactional in Trump World. Combined with the tax “reform” which would strip the federal government of trillions of revenue, Trump policies would bankrupt the nation, giving Trumpers an excuse to sell off federal lands for private exploitation. Trump and Republicans want to overturn the Antiquities Act, pushed by Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 to protect Yosemite © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Washington, DC — Ahead of the Peoples Climate March in Washington DC and in hundreds of cities around the country on Saturday, April 29 (Trump’s 100th day occupying the Oval Office), the Trump administration issued an executive order directing the Department of the Interior, led by Ryan Zinke, to review previous monument designations allowed under the 1906 Antiquities Act. According to White House officials, the review could bring “changes or modifications” that could open more public lands to fossil fuel extraction.

Indigenous leaders and climate activists have fought to gain monument designations for lands across the country to protect them from the fossil fuel industry. Areas like the Bears Ears National Monument, a 1.35-million acre area in Utah including sacred Native American lands, could be at risk for losing their protected status. National parks like the Grand Canyon exist because of the Antiquities Act, and any move by the Trump administration to revoke protections of designated monuments will likely face challenges in court.

The public overwhelmingly supports protecting our national parks and monuments and on Saturday, April 29, thousands of people across the country and in Washington, D.C. are expected to join the Peoples Climate March to Trump administration policies like this one and stand up for climate, jobs and justice.

Rhea Suh, President, Natural Resources Defense Council, said, “This is another unjust assault on our climate, environment and national heritage, a hallmark of the president’s first 100 days. These precious lands belong to all Americans.  Our country holds them in trust for the benefit of all Americans, now and in the future.  These monuments—and the resources and wildlife they protect—are worthy of ironclad protection because they are unique, and vulnerable to encroachment and destruction. President Trump should not try to strip away their protection. The tens of thousands gathering Saturday to march for climate action will fight his attempted sellout, and to preserve these iconic public places and the American values they represent.”

Michael Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director, said, “We should not be asking which parts of our history and heritage we can eliminate, but instead how we can make our outdoors reflect the full American story. There is no need for a review to demonstrate what families across the country already know first-hand — national monuments provide tangible health, climate, and economic benefits. Indigenous leaders and climate activists have fought to gain monument designations for lands across the country to preserve sacred sites and protect wild places from the fossil fuel industry. Areas like the Bears Ears National Monument, a 1.35-million acre area in Utah including sacred Native American lands, could be at risk for losing their protected status. National parks like the Grand Canyon exist because of the Antiquities Act, and any move by the Trump administration to revoke protections of designated monuments will likely face challenges in court.”

“Donald Trump’s executive action paves the way for the elimination of protections for America’s majestic national parks and places that tell the story of all people in this country at an unprecedented scale,” Gene Karpinski, President, League of Conservation Voters, said. “We will fight back. America’s parks and natural and cultural heritage should be protected and celebrated, not sold off to special interests. From the Statue of Liberty to the Grand Canyon, our monuments and parks honor our nation’s deep history, recognize our dedication to human and civil rights, and protect our precious lands and waters that fuel America’s thriving outdoor recreation industry. Our nation will hold Trump accountable for putting corporate polluter interests ahead of people.”

Elizabeth Yeampierre, Executive Director, UPROSE, said, “The federal administration’s move to undermine the Antiquities Act is a direct attack on everything that the environmental justice movement stands for. From the Grand Canyon to Stonewall Inn, this act preserves those monuments that symbolize our collective natural heritage and houses of culture and struggle. Justice rests at the intersection of these legacies. This move demonstrates yet again that nothing in this administration’s eyes is beyond the reach of fossil fuel interests and destructive market forces. However, this order will do nothing to undermine our commitment to defending the sacredness of our land, protecting the dignity of our people, and fighting for environmental and social justice.”

“The Antiquities Act serves a dual purpose: to preserve our beautiful land for current and future generations to enjoy, but most importantly, to protect land from pollution-creating activities–and ultimately protect vulnerable communities and their health,” stated Adrienne L. Hollis, PhD, JD, Director of Federal Policy, WE ACT for Environmental Justice. “We cannot fully measure the importance this act has on protecting the planet and its inhabitants.  To alter this powerful act is another form of desecration and a continuation of efforts to ignore the plight of frontline communities and the environments in which they live, work, play, learn, and pray.”

May Boeve, Executive Director, 350.org, said, “So much for being Teddy Roosevelt. Zinke and the Trump administration want to gut the power of the Antiquities Act to shore up the fossil fuel industry. On top of all the attacks on our climate, now we’ll have to defend our parks and monuments from Big Oil as well. On Saturday, thousands of people across the country will be joining the Peoples Climate March to push back on this and other Trump climate assaults. We won’t let this presidency stop us from building toward a renewable energy future that works for all.”

Annie Leonard, Executive Director of Greenpeace USA, said “Leave it to Trump to take aim at an American tradition and principle that is beloved across political affiliations — our public lands, waters, and monuments.  Trump wants to carve up this country into as many giveaways to the oil and gas industry as possible. But people who cannot afford the membership fee at Mar-a-Lago still want water they can drink, air they can breathe, and beautiful places to go for refuge. Trump is on the verge of jeopardizing true national treasures. We who cherish and rely on public lands and waters will ensure that he will not succeed.”

“Nothing, nothing at all is sacred for this administration except policies that destroy life and wellbeing for people and the planet in order to enrich the wealthy. This Executive Order is intended to promote desecration of some of the most unique and significant places in our country,” said Rev. Fletcher Harper, Executive Director of GreenFaith.

For more information on the April 29th Peoples Climate Mobilization, visit peoplesclimate.org
Follow on Twitter @Peoples_Climate and
Facebook http://www.facebook.com/peoplesclimate

See also:

Trump Races to Chalk Up 100-Day ‘Successes’ by Weakening Antiquities Act, Overturning Education Reform, and Unveiling Tax Plan to Benefit Wealthy, Corporations