As Trump and Bolsonaro Allow Thousands to Die, Democrats Fail to Challenge Republican Business-as-usual Policies

May 28th, 2020 - by Thom Hartmann / BuzzFlash & David Sirota / The Guardian UK

How Do We Stop Them From Killing More People?

Thom Hartmann / BuzzFlash

 (May 27 2020) — Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro, presidents of the United States and Brazil, are essentially refusing to do anything consequential about an epidemic that is killing massive numbers of their own countries’ citizens.

For this, they should be brought before the International Criminal Court at The Hague and charged with crimes against humanity.

To compound the situation here, Trump is now ridiculing people who wear masks, including Joe Biden.

Wearing masks is one of the most simple, low cost and effective ways to slow down the spread of this pandemic and reduce the numbers of deaths.

But Donald Trump doesn’t want to smear his makeup, and so is suggesting to his insecure white male followers that wearing a mask makes a man seem less manly. He’s also refusing to do anything about testing at the national level other than ordering some swabs.

This isn’t just an abrogation of his duties as president. It is a crime. It is intentional disinformation being put forward purely for political purposes, and it will kill people.

Even worse was his ignoring and lying about the coming pandemic when he was first informed of it back in November and December. Trump and Bolsonaro knew what was coming, both from their own intelligence agencies and from news reports of the situations in China, Italy, and Spain.

While countries from Taiwan to New Zealand to Norway have gotten the virus under control, Trump and Bolsonaro did worse than nothing by spreading lies and disinformation while the virus exploded through their populations

Many of the families of people who have died of COVID-19 here in the United States have considered suing Trump, but it is nearly impossible to sue a sitting president, and Bill Barr has made it clear that the Justice Department will not hold Trump accountable for anything, up to and including shooting somebody on Fifth Avenue.

Therefore, we here in the United States, who are the victims of his criminal malfeasance, and the rest of the world who are victims of the United States and Brazil becoming the uncontrolled epicenters of a worldwide explosion of disease, must act.

It’s time to bring Donald Trump, and his mini Trump, Jair Bolsonaro, before the international criminal court at The Hague and convict them of crimes against humanity.

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of the War on Voting and more than 30 other books in print. His most recent project is a science podcast called The Science Revolution. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute.

Democrats Are Fueling a Corporate Counter-Revolution Against Progressives

Democrats in Washington are not just passively failing to mount an opposition to Trump. They are actively helping Republicans 

David Sirota / Guardian UK

WASHINGTON (May 26, 2020) — These are bleak days for America’s progressive movement. The Democratic primary process handed the party’s nomination to the candidate with the most conservative record. Corporate-friendly politicians like the New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, are using the pandemic to brandish their images and install billionaires to run things. Progressive lawmakers in Congress are being steamrolled, even by their own party’s leadership. And a recession is battering the state and local budgets that fund progressive priorities like education and the social safety net.

Perhaps this is a temporary stall-out — a fleeting moment of retreat in a two-steps-forward-one-step-back trajectory. After all, polls continue to show that from workers’ rights to universal healthcare, a majority of Americans support a progressive policy agenda.

The problem, though, is that Democrats in Washington are not just passively failing to mount a strong opposition to Donald Trump — they are actively helping Republicans try to fortify the obstacles to long-term progressive change well after this emergency subsides.

This corporate counter-revolution is easiest to see in Democrats’ enthusiastic support for Republicans’ legislative response to the coronavirus crisis. Democrats’ entire 2018 electoral campaign told America that the opposition party needed to win back Congress in order to block Trump’s regressive agenda.

And yet, when the Republicans proposed a bill to let Trump’s appointees dole out government cash to their corporate allies with no strings attached, this same opposition party mustered not a single recorded vote against the package. Not one.

Thanks to that, Trump appointees and the Federal Reserve can now hand out $4 trillion to politically connected corporations as they lay waste to our economy and steamroll progressive reforms. Private equity firms and fossil fuel companies get new tax breaks as they buy elections and try to lock in permanent climate change.

These bailouts were part of a larger legislative package that included good things like expanded unemployment benefits — and so you could argue that Democrats simply had to swallow a bitter pill and vote yes. Except, they subsequently proposed their own standalone legislation that would further strengthen the corporate opponents of progressive reform.

For example, there is the Democrats’ push to alter the so-called paycheck protection program (PPP). Those loans were designed to help employees of mom-and-pop enterprises throughout the country. House Democrats’ new stimulus legislation would open up the small business lending program to what they call “small nonprofits”, but their language was crafted to provide the forgivable loans to industry trade associations.

Those lobby groups represent the planet’s biggest corporations — and their political action committees have delivered more than $191 million of campaign cash to lawmakers in the last two decades.

Democrats have pitched their legislation as a “message” bill that declares their values — and in this case, they are reassuring Washington power-players that money meant for workers at neighborhood restaurants, local shops and other mom-and-pop concerns can be raided by the front groups representing giant drug companies, health insurers and Wall Street firms.

If the legislation passes, it would not merely be an epic tale of greed — the new funding stream for corporate lobbying groups would bolster the very forces that make sure federal policy disempowers workers, maximizes private profit and generally protects the ruling class.

It’s an even worse story on healthcare. As 43 million Americans face the prospect of losing private health insurance, Democrats had a huge opportunity. After Trump himself suggested he wanted the government to pay healthcare providers directly for treating uninsured Covid-19 patients, they could have called his bluff and passed existing legislation to expand a Medicare program that provides actual medical care.

Instead, House Democrats passed a bill to support lightly regulated private insurance marketplaces and to subsidize existing private insurance plans through a Rube Goldberg machine known as Cobra — and they passed this giveaway just after receiving an infusionof campaign cash collected by insurance lobbyists.

Taken together, these initiatives would route yet more public money through a corporate insurance bureaucracy in hopes that medical care eventually trickles down to Americans who desperately need it. Such a system is totally inadequate during a pandemic: it doesn’t guarantee healthcare — it only only guarantees insurance coverage, which is so often denied or restricted when a medical claim is actually filed.

Moreover, corporate health insurance has far higher administrative costs than single-payer programs like Medicare, and even the much-vaunted Affordable Care Act allows insurers to siphon up to 20% of customers’ premiums to corporate profits rather than actual medical care.

But then, Democrats’ Cobra plan is not merely a financial bailout for insurers — it is also a political bailout when the industry needs it most. At a time when popular support for Medicare for All is surging — when even a Republican president feels the need to make rhetorical (if empty) gestures toward the concept of government-funded healthcare — the Cobra plan would use public money to firm up the private health insurance industry’s dominance over the healthcare system, just in time to short circuit a Medicare expansion.

That’s probably why insurance companies have been lobbying for it. They know that such a program would boost their short-term profits, and they know that once such a program is in place, it would be politically difficult to get it repealed and replaced by progressives’ far better Medicare for All program. In other words: Democrats’ Cobra plan may secure insurance companies’ profit-skimming position between Americans and their healthcare providers for decades to come.

If you get the sense that the fix is in and this is all deliberate, you’re not wrong. Many of the self-styled progressive advocacy groups in Washington that posture as #resistance leaders turned a blind eye to the bill’s problems and endorsed the legislation shortly after it was introduced, undercutting progressive lawmakers off the bat.

Making matters worse was the theater on the House floor. During the debate over the Democratic bill, nine progressive lawmakers made a public show of voting against the procedural measure to advance the bill, along with a tiny group of moderates.

When it came to the real vote on actually passing the bill, a larger group of moderates ended up voting against it, but only one progressive lawmaker, Representative Pramila Jayapal, voted no. Had the progressives and moderates combined forces on either of the votes, they would have forced the bill back to the drawing board. Instead, their shenanigans ultimately helped secure the legislation’s passage.

Taken together, the spectacle was more confirmation that whatever resistance exists in the nation’s capital, it is so often performance art, rather than anything real.

“Outside groups and House lawmakers need to work together to build a populist bloc — probably inclusive of moderate Democrats and perhaps even an occasional Republican — who will stand united to force votes to ensure that our economy does right by ordinary people,” said David Segal of Demand Progress, pointing to news of a potential Democratic coalition to buck the party’s leadership and support a plan to float businesses’ payrolls through the crisis.

“We must make sure that America does not go in the wrong direction and become even more inequitable because we let unemployment soar, compel cities and states to implement austerity, force small businesses to shutter and let large corporations backstopped by the Fed roll them up.”

The tragedy is that we’re already moving in that wrong direction, and chances to change the political dynamic do not come around often. As Barack Obama’s former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel (now an investment banker and TV talking head) said more than a decade ago during the financial crisis: “Never allow a good crisis to go to waste — it’s an opportunity to do the things you once thought were impossible.”

Billionaires and corporations are clearly following that advice, aiming to use the pandemic to grow their wealth and political power in previously unfathomable ways. It would be better if the opposition party put up a real fight — or at least refused to be complicit in postponing progress for yet another generation.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.