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Monthly Archives: June 2021


June 28, 2021 Heather Cox Richardson

Jun 29This evening, President Joe Biden published an op-ed in Yahoo News about the infrastructure bill now moving forward on its way to Congress. He called the measure “a once-in-a-generation investment to modernize our infrastructure” and claimed it would “create millions of good-paying jobs and position America to compete with the world and win the 21st century.”The measure will provide money to repair roads and bridges, replace the lead pipes that still provide water to as many as 10 million households and 400,000 schools and daycares, modernize our electric grid, replace gas-powered buses with electric ones, and cap wells leaking methane that have been abandoned by their owners in the private sector to be cleaned up by the government. It will invest in railroads, airports, and other public transportation; protect coastlines and forests from extreme weather events; and deliver high-speed internet to rural communities.    “This deal is the largest long-term investment in our infrastructure in nearly a century,” Biden wrote. “It is a signal to ourselves, and to the world, that American democracy can work and deliver for the people.”Biden is making a big pitch for this infrastructure project in part because we need it, of course, and because it is popular, but also because it signals a return to the sort of government both Democrats and Republicans embraced between 1945 and 1980. In that period after World War II, most Americans believed that the government had a role to play in regulating business, providing a basic social safety net, investing in infrastructure, and promoting civil rights. This shared understanding was known as the “liberal consensus.”With the election of Ronald Reagan to the presidency in 1980, the Republican Party rejected that vision of the government, arguing that, as Reagan said, “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” But while Reagan limited that statement with the words “in this present crisis,” Republican leaders since the 1980s have worked to destroy the liberal consensus and take us back to the world of the 1920s, a world in which business leaders also ran the government. For the very reason that Biden is determined to put through this massive investment in infrastructure, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) would like to kill it. Until recently, he has presided over the Senate with the declared plan to kill Democratic bills. He opposes the liberal consensus, wanting to get rid of taxes and stop the government from intervening in the economy. But today’s Republican lawmakers are in an awkward place: by large margins, Americans like the idea of investing in infrastructure.So the Republicans have engaged in a careful dance over this new measure. Biden wants to demonstrate to the country both that democracy can deliver for its people and that the two parties in Congress do not have to be adversarial. He wanted bipartisan support for this infrastructure plan. A group of Democrats and Republicans negotiated the measure that is now being prepared to move forward. Last week, five Republican negotiators backed the outline for the measure. They, of course, would like to be able to tell their constituents that they voted for what is a very popular measure, rather than try to claim credit for it after voting no, as they did with the American Rescue Plan.Negotiators were always clear that the Democrats would plan to pass a much larger bill under what is known as a “budget reconciliation” bill in addition to the infrastructure plan. Financial measures under reconciliation cannot be killed by filibuster in the Senate, meaning that if the Democrats can stand together, they can pass whatever they wish financially under reconciliation. Democrats planned to put into a second bill the infrastructure measures Republicans disliked: funding to combat climate change, for example, and to promote clean energy, and to invest in human infrastructure: childcare and paid leave, free pre-kindergarten and community college, and tax cuts for working families with children. Crucially, that bigger measure, known as the American Families Plan, will also start to dismantle the 2017 Republican tax cuts, which cut the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%. Biden wants to return the corporate tax rate to 28%, still lower than it was before 2017, but higher than it is now. To keep more progressive Democrats on board with the bipartisan infrastructure bill, Democrats need to move it forward in tandem with the larger, more comprehensive American Families Plan. This has been clear from the start. After announcing the bipartisan deal, Biden reiterated that he would not sign one without the other.And yet, although he himself acknowledged the Democratic tandem plan on June 15, McConnell pretended outrage over the linkage of the two bills. McConnell and some of his colleagues complained to reporters that Biden was threatening to veto the bipartisan bill unless Congress passed the American Families Plan too. It appears McConnell had hoped that the bipartisan plan would peel centrist Democrats off from the larger American Families Plan, thus stopping the Democrats’ resurrection of the larger idea of the liberal consensus and keeping corporate taxes low. Killing that larger plan might well keep progressive Democrats from voting for the bipartisan bill, too, thus destroying both of Biden’s key measures. If he can drive a wedge through the Democrats, he can make sure that none of their legislation passes.Over the weekend, Biden issued a statement saying that he was not threatening to veto a bill he had just worked for weeks to put together, but was supporting the bipartisan bill while also intending to pass the American Families Plan. McConnell then issued a statement essentially claiming victory and demanding control over the Democrats’ handling of the measures, saying “The President has appropriately delinked a potential bipartisan infrastructure bill from the massive, unrelated tax-and-spend plans that Democrats want to pursue on a partisan basis.” He went on to demand that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) agree to send the smaller, bipartisan bill forward without linking it to “trillions of dollars for unrelated tax hikes, wasteful spending, and Green New Deal socialism.” McConnell is trying to turn the tide against these measures by calling the process unfair, which might give Republicans an excuse to vote no even on a bill as popular as the bipartisan bill is. Complaining about process is, of course, how he prevented the Senate from convicting former president Trump of inciting the January 6 insurrection, and how he stopped the establishment of a bipartisan, independent committee to investigate that insurrection.  But McConnell no longer controls Congress. House Speaker Pelosi says she will not schedule the bipartisan bill until the American Families Plan passes. Pelosi also announced today that the House is preparing legislation to establish a select committee to investigate the January 6 attack on the Capitol. She had to do so, she noted, because “Senate Republicans did Mitch McConnell a ‘personal favor’ rather than their patriotic duty and voted against the bipartisan commission negotiated by Democrats and Republicans.  But Democrats are determined to find the truth.”The draft of the bill provides for the committee to have 13 members. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), himself likely to be called as a witness before the committee, will be able to “consult” with the Speaker on five of the members, but the final makeup of the committee will be up to the Speaker. This language echoes that of the select committee that investigated the Benghazi attack, and should prevent McCarthy from sabotaging the committee with far-right lawmakers eager to disrupt the proceedings rather than learn what happened. Instead, we can expect to see on the committee Republicans who voted to establish the independent, bipartisan commission that McConnell and Republican senators killed.Biden’s op-ed made it clear that he intends to rebuild the country: “I have always believed that there is nothing our nation can’t do when we decide to do it together,” he wrote. “Last week, we began to write a new chapter in that story.”
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Clay Bennett Comic Strip for June 29, 2021

Could also be : “the McConnell Organization”, The “graham Organization” or perhaps “the GOP Organization”.



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Thank You Scott Adams

Loser Detector - Dilbert by Scott Adams
Dilbert Classics Comic Strip for June 27, 2021
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June 23, 2021

Heather Cox Richardson9 hr ago520227

When voters elected Democrats to take charge of the national government in 2020—despite the efforts of some Trump supporters to stop that from happening—Republican lawmakers built on the anger the former president had whipped up among his supporters to impose a Trumpian vision on their states.

They reworked election laws to solidify their hold on their state governments. According to the nonpartisan Voting Rights Lab, so far 18 states have put in place more than 30 laws restricting access to the ballot. These laws will affect around 36 million people, or about 15% of all eligible voters. In Georgia, a new law means that county election boards will no longer be bipartisan but will be appointed by Republicans; other states are similarly stripping power from Democrats to put Republicans in charge.

In some cases, state governors appear to be jockeying to run for president in 2024 as the new “Trump” of the party. In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott has defunded the legislature to punish Democrats for leaving the session and thus keeping Republicans from passing an extreme elections bill, even though Republicans themselves later said they had not intended to pass all of the provisions in the bill. Abbott has recently announced that Texas will build its own border wall, trying to elevate the issue of immigration at a time when his own handling of two crises in Texas’s electrical grid have been attracting criticism.

Not to be outdone, in Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis today signed a law requiring that public colleges and universities survey students, faculty, and staff about their beliefs in order to make sure the institutions support “intellectual diversity.” The law does not say what the state will do with the survey results, but sponsors—and DeSantis—suggested that the legislature might cut budgets for any schools found to be “indoctrinating” students. Without citing any evidence, Republican lawmakers have warned that there are “socialism factories” in the state universities. The law permits students to record lectures without the consent of the professor or other students to be used in legal cases against the school.

Lawmakers in these Republican-dominated states are focusing on cultural issues, apparently trying to keep Trump voters, angry because they believe (falsely) that the former president won the 2020 election, fired up enough to continue to support Republicans. They have expanded the rights of gun owners, restricted abortion to the point it is virtually outlawed, targeted transgender athletes, and refused both coronavirus guidelines and federal unemployment benefits.

But their biggest public relations angle has been the attack on Critical Race Theory, a theory conceived in the 1970s by legal scholars trying to understand why the civil rights legislation of the past twenty years had not eliminated racial inequality in America. They argued that general racial biases were baked into American law so that efforts to protect individuals from discrimination did not really get at the heart of the issue. While this theory focused on the law, it echoed the arguments historians have made—and proved—since the 1940s: our economy, education, housing, medical care, and so on, have developed with racial biases. This is not actually controversial among scholars.

While CRT explicitly focuses on systems, not individuals, and while it is largely limited to legal theory classes rather than public schools, Republicans have turned this theory into the ideas that it attacks white Americans and that history teachers are indoctrinating schoolchildren to hate America. In the past three and half months, the Fox News Channel has talked about CRT nearly 1300 times.

Republicans are open about their hopes that pushing cultural issues, especially CRT, will win them control of Congress in 2022. “This is the Tea Party to the 10th power,” Steve Bannon, Trump’s former adviser, said in an interview with Politico reporters Theodoric Meyer, Maggie Severns, and Meridith McGraw. “I look at this and say, ‘Hey, this is how we are going to win.’ I see 50 [House Republican] seats in 2022. Keep this up,” Bannon said. “I think you’re going to see a lot more emphasis from Trump on it and DeSantis and others. People who are serious in 2024 and beyond are going to focus on it.”

But the extreme stances of the Trump Republicans are not going unchallenged. A new Monmouth poll shows that the numbers of Americans who believe that Biden won the election have not moved since November. Most Americans think continued agitation is an attempt to undermine the results of the election.

In Arizona, as the so-called “audit” by the inexperienced Cyber Ninjas company hired by the Republican-dominated state senate has become embroiled in controversy—one of the theories investigated was that a Maricopa supervisor fed 165,000 chickens at his egg farm shredded ballots and then burned down the barn to kill them all—Republicans are distancing themselves from it. Arizona talk show host Mike Broomhead, who initially supported the investigation, now says it has become partisan and biased and should end.

Today, in Michigan, the Republican-led Michigan Senate Oversight Committee released a 55-page report summarizing their 8 months of research into alleged voter fraud: “This Committee found no evidence of widespread or systematic fraud in Michigan’s prosecution of the 2020 election,” it concluded. The report added, “The Committee strongly recommends citizens use a critical eye and ear toward those who have pushed demonstrably false theories for their own personal gain.”

This month, the Southern Baptist Convention veered away from its formerly hard-right stance to elect as president Ed Litton, senior pastor of Redemption Church in Saraland, Alabama, who has focused since at least 2014 on racial reconciliation.

Most dramatic, though, was today’s testimony of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, at a House Armed Services Committee hearing to discuss the 2022 Defense Department budget. When Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) suggested that Critical Race Theory was weakening the U.S. military, the general responded sharply.

“A lot of us have to get much smarter on whatever the theory is,” he began, “but I do think it’s important, actually, for those of us in uniform to be open minded and be widely read.” He got more specific: “I want to understand white rage, and I’m white, and I want to understand it. So what is it that caused thousands of people to assault this building and try to overturn the Constitution of the United States of America? What caused that? I want to find that out….” Our military, he said, comes from the American people, “so it is important that the leaders, now and in the future, do understand it. I’ve read Mao Zedong. I’ve read Karl Marx. I’ve read Lenin. That doesn’t make me a communist. So what is wrong with understanding—having some situational understanding about the country for which we are here to defend?” Milley said.

“And,” he continued, “I personally find it offensive that we are accusing the United States military, our general officers, our commissioned, noncommissioned officers of being, quote, ‘woke’ or something else, because we’re studying some theories that are out there.” He went on to outline, in broad strokes, the historical power differential between Black and white Americans.

Meanwhile, the stories of Trump, embittered and still haranguing people with the Big Lie, indicate his star is falling. This morning, CNN’s Kate Bennett and Gabby Orr published a piece suggesting that Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner, once the former president’s right-hand man, are distancing themselves from him—a sure sign that they see him as toxic.

It appears that people are turning against the extremists who seized power in the states early this year on a wave of pro-Trump anger. But many of the new laws that tilt elections in their favor are now on the books, and Republicans in Congress have no intention of giving them up.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/06/22/republican-voting-hysteria-not-winning-voters/

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Both political parties and their subsets are about one thing and one thing only and that is power! No matter the good intentions and accidental good works, I would not let either of them hold my wallet! Instead of doing what they were elected to do they spend time dragging the others ideas down and appearing on TV shows often ranting and raving while many times presenting nothing of substance. The selected information that is “leaked” or presented is often just enough information to get voters to choose sides or at the least lean towards their re election runs. Many voters are intelligent enough to find the correct information on anything that is uttered by politicians and elected officials. Some of the more notable or well known voices are just barely more than talking heads that want us geeked up against the “other” side. MA.

June 22, 2021Heather Cox RichardsonJun 23There were three important takeaways from today’s Senate vote on whether to begin debate on S1, the For the People Act, the bill that would protect voting rights, end partisan gerrymandering, establish new ethics rules for federal officials, and curb big money in politics.The first is that Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) voted with the rest of the Democrats to move the measure forward. This means that he is confident that his compromise ideas will be inserted into the final bill and that the Democrats are united. Tonight, the White House nodded to Manchin when it applauded “efforts in the Senate to incorporate feedback that refines and strengthens the bill, and would make its reformers easier for the states to implement.”The same White House statement offered strong support for the For the People Act, saying, “Democracy is in peril, here, in America. The right to vote—a sacred right in this country— is under assault with an intensity and an aggressiveness we have not seen in a long time.” It pointed to the 2020 election and the January 6 insurrection to remind us that “our democracy is fragile” and that we need legislation to “repair and strengthen American democracy.”The second takeaway is that all 50 of the Republicans voted against the measure, which would have helped to combat the voter suppression laws being enacted by Republican-dominated legislatures across the country. According to the nonpartisan Voting Rights Lab, 18 states have put in place more than 30 laws restricting access to the ballot. These laws will affect around 36 million people, or about 15% of all eligible voters.Led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Republicans insist that federal protection of voting rights is federal overreach; that the states should be in charge of their own voting rules. As Susan Collins (R-ME) put it: “S. 1 would take away the rights of people in each of the 50 states to determine which election rules work best for their citizens.”And the third takeaway is that the Republicans are defending the same principle that Senator Stephen A. Douglas advanced when he debated Senate candidate Abraham Lincoln in Illinois in 1858.Four years before, Douglas had led Congress to throw out the 1820 Missouri Compromise, a federal law that kept the system of Black enslavement out of the land above the southern border of the new slave state of Missouri, in land the U.S. had acquired through the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. Eager to enable a transcontinental railroad to run west of Chicago, Douglas introduced a bill to organize a territory in that land in 1854 but, knowing that southern senators would never permit a new free territory that would eventually become a free state without balancing it with a slave state, he wrote a bill for two new territories, not one.Both were in territory covered by the Missouri Compromise and thus should have been free under federal law. But Douglas insisted that true democracy meant that the people in the territories should decide whether or not they would welcome slavery to their midst.Working as a lawyer back in Illinois, Lincoln recognized that this “popular sovereignty” would guarantee the spread of Black enslavement across the West, since under the Constitution, even a single enslaved Black American in a territory would require laws to protect that “property.” Slave states would eventually outnumber free states in Congress, and their representatives would make human enslavement national.In 1858, when Lincoln, now a member of the new Republican Party, challenged Democrat Douglas for his Senate seat, the key issue was whether Douglas’s “democracy” squared with American principles.Lincoln said it didn’t. Local voters should not be able to carry enslavement into lands that a majority of Americans wanted free. He did not defend civil rights, but he insisted that the framers had deliberately tried to advance the principles of the Declaration of Independence by using the federal government to limit the expansion of enslavement.Douglas insisted it did. In his view, democracy meant that voters in the states and territories could arrange their governments however they wished.But central to that belief was who, exactly, would be doing the arranging. “I hold that this Government was made on the white basis, by white men, for the benefit of white men and their posterity forever, and should be administered by white men and none others,” he said. Claiming that he, not Lincoln, was “in favor of preserving this Government as our fathers made it,” he told an audience in Jonesboro, Illinois, “we ought to extend to the negro every right, every privilege, every immunity which he is capable of enjoying, consistent with the good of society. When you ask me what these rights are, what their nature and extent is, I tell you that that is a question which each State of this Union must decide for itself.” His own state of Illinois, he pointed out, rejected Black enslavement, “but we have also decided that… that he shall not vote, hold office, or exercise any political rights. I maintain that Illinois, as a sovereign State, has a right thus to fix her policy….”I found it chilling to hear Douglas’s argument from 1858 echo in the Senate today, for after seeing exactly how his argument enabled white southern legislators to cut their Black neighbors out of the vote in the 1870s and then pass Jim Crow laws that lasted for more than 70 years, our lawmakers should know better. How is it possible to square states’ rights and equality without also protecting the right of all adult citizens to vote? Unless everyone has equal access to the ballot, what is there to stop Douglas’s view of “the good of society” from coming to pass yet again?Congress will recess after Thursday and won’t resume business until July 12. The big push to pass a voting rights measure will happen then.—-
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Heather Cox Richardson from Letters from an AmericanMon 6/21/202

June 21, 2021Heather Cox RichardsonJun 22

Lawmakers today are jockeying before tomorrow’s test vote in the Senate on S1, the For the People Act. This is a sweeping bill that protects the right to vote, ends partisan gerrymandering, limits the influence of money in politics, and establishes new ethics rules for presidents and other federal officeholders.Passing election reform is a priority for Democrats, since Republican-dominated legislatures across the country have gerrymandered states to make it almost impossible for Democrats to win majorities and, since President Biden took office, have passed laws suppressing the vote and making it easier for Republican state officials to swing elections to their candidates no matter what voters want.But it is not just Democrats who want our elections to be cleaner and fairer. S1 is so popular across the nation—among voters of both parties—that Republican operatives agreed in January that there was no point in trying to shift public opinion on it. Instead, they said, they would just kill it in Congress. This conversation, explored in The New Yorker by Jane Mayer, happened just after it became clear that Democrats had won a Senate majority and thus Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who had previously been Senate Majority Leader, would no longer be able to stop any legislation Republicans didn’t like.Still, Republican senators can deploy the filibuster, which permits just 41 of the 50 Republican senators to stop the act from passing. It is possible for the Democrats to break a filibuster, but only if they are all willing. Until recently, it seemed they were not. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), a conservative Democrat in a Republican-dominated state, opposed some of the provisions in S1 and was adamant that he would not vote for an election reform bill on partisan lines. He wanted bipartisan support.Last week, Manchin indicated which of the measures in the For the People Act—and in the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act—he will support. In a mixture of the priorities of the leadership of each party, he called for expanding access to voting, an end to partisan gerrymandering, voter ID, automatic registration at motor vehicle offices, making Election Day a holiday, and making it easier for state officials to purge voters from the rolls.Democrats across the ideological spectrum immediately lined up behind Manchin’s compromise. Republican leadership immediately opposed it, across the board. They know that fair voting practices will wreck them. Today, McConnell used martial language when he said he would give the measure “no quarter.”Tomorrow, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will bring up for a vote not the measure itself, but whether to begin a debate on such a measure. “Tomorrow, the Senate will also take a crucial vote on whether to start debate on major voting rights legislation,” Schumer said today. “I want to say that again—tomorrow the Senate will take a vote on whether to start debate on legislation to protect Americans’ voting rights. It’s not a vote on any particular policy.”Republicans can use the filibuster to stop a debate from going forward. Getting a debate underway will require 60 votes, and there is currently no reason to think any Republicans will agree. This will put them in the untenable spot of voting against talking about voting rights, even while Republicans at the state level are passing legislation restricting voting rights. So the vote to start a debate on the bill will fail but will highlight the hypocrisy of Republican lawmakers.Perhaps more to the point in terms of passing legislation, it will test whether the work the Democrats did over the weekend incorporating Manchin’s requests to the measure have brought him on board.If so, and if he gets frustrated with Republican refusal to compromise at all while the Democrats immediately accepted his watering down of their bill, it is possible he and Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), who has also signaled support for the filibuster in its current form, will be willing to consider altering it. The Senate could, for example, turn it back into its traditional form—a talking filibuster—or carve out voting rights bills as they have carved out financial bills and judicial nominations.There are signs that the Democrats are preparing for an epic battle over this bill. Today White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki indicated that the administration hopes the vote will show that all 50 Senate Democrats are now on board and that they will find a new way forward if the Republicans do not permit a debate.More telling, perhaps, is an eye-popping op-ed published yesterday in the Wall Street Journal by Mike Solon, a former assistant to McConnell, and Bill Greene, a former outreach director for former House Speaker John Boehner; both men are now lobbyists. In order to defend the filibuster, they argue that the measure protects “political nobodies” from having to pay attention to politics. If legislation could pass by a simple majority, Americans would have to get involved. The system, they suggest, is best managed by a minority of senators.“Eliminating the Senate filibuster would end the freedom of America’s political innocents,” they write. “The lives that political nobodies spend playing, praying, fishing, tailgating, reading, hunting, gardening, studying and caring for their children would be spent rallying, canvassing, picketing, lobbying, protesting, texting, posting, parading and, above all, shouting.”The authors suggest misleadingly that the men who framed the Constitution instituted the filibuster: they did not. They set up a Senate in which a simple majority passed legislation. The filibuster, used to require 60 votes to pass any legislation, has been deployed regularly only since about 2008.But that error is minor compared to the astonishing similarity between this op-ed and a speech by South Carolina Senator James Henry Hammond in 1858, when he rose to explain to his colleagues that the American system was set up to make sure lawmakers could retain control no matter what a majority of Americans wanted. Hammond was one of the nation’s leading enslavers and was desperate to make sure his party’s policies could not be overridden by the majority.Voting only enabled people to change the party in charge, he said. “It was not for the people to exercise political power in detail… it was not for them to be annoyed with the cares of government.”Hammond explained that the world is made up of two classes: those who ”do the menial duties… perform the drudgery of life. That is, a class requiring but a low order of intellect and but little skill….. It constitutes the very mud-sill of society and of political government.” On them, he explained, rests “that other class which leads progress, civilization, and refinement.”It was imperative, he said, to retain these distinctions in politics. The South had managed such a thing, while the North, he warned, had not. “Our slaves do not vote. We give them no political power. Yours do vote, and, being the majority, they are the depositaries [sic] of all your political power. If they knew the tremendous secret, that the ballot-box is stronger than ‘an army with banners,’… where would you be? Your society would be reconstructed, your government overthrown, your property, divided, not… with arms in their hands, but by the quiet process of the ballot-box.”—-
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Dilbert Classics Comic Strip for June 22, 2021

WE had four years of U.B.R.

 

Thanks you Scott Adams

 

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The ongoing and frequently altered GOP positions on Covid, infrastructure and denials of accountability should be on the minds of voters now and during the upcoming elections. After 4 years of lies, denials, bridge burnings the GOP appears to be the party of conspiracies’ rather than addressing legislation to help the voters (who put them in office). There seems to be a trend that attacking Medical experts and pushing for solutions to made up problems is better than actually understanding the issues and finding solutions for what’s known. Jim Jordan of Ohio is a prime example of a ‘heat seeking missle searching for a target in the dessert”! Then we have Bitch McConnell “boldly going where he has gone before” in stating President Biden will get nothing done, this is who supposedly works for us as a country. The current legislature has shown us that the problems facing the country as a whole are not what interests them. They have the sole purpose of being the major party in the Whitehouse, Congress and the judiciary which would be a disaster for all of us. We the people have the right to good government but only if we pay attention to who we elect and be prepared to replace them when required. Right now the political system is not serving us at all. The obstructive members of Congress do not think we deserve good roads so perhaps they deserve to be replaced. It’s remarkable how thick the “wall of lies” is and how deceptive they are.

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Christopher Staudinger for the Louisiana Illuminator and Floodlight

Fri 18 Jun 2021 06.00 EDT

Marathon Petroleum received more tax benefits than any other US oil company while also cutting about 9% of its workforce    

One morning in September, word of layoffs began to spread quickly through Marathon Petroleum’s refinery in the small industrial community of Garyville, Louisiana.

Seven months into the pandemic, workers at the oil refining plant thought they would be spared the fate of their colleagues at other facilities, who had already been jettisoned into a daunting job market.

“Through the morning, we were seeing people get the phone call and not come back,” said one maintenance engineer, who lost his job after nearly a decade at the facility. “Everybody was on pins and needles waiting for the call.”

Last year, Marathon laid off 1,920 workers across the US despite taking $2.1bn in federal tax benefits meant to cushion the pandemic’s blow to the economy, according to a report from BailoutWatch. The worker interviewed for this story, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of difficulty finding a job, is still unemployed. He and his wife had plans to start a family, which are now on hold. And he is competing with more than 18,000 oil, gas and manufacturing workers in Louisiana who lost jobs last year.

“I’m a born and raised Louisianan. So I’m very much trying to stay in the area,” he said.

Over a year after Congress approved the Cares Act to provide emergency economic relief in response to Covid-19, the oil and gas industry has emerged as a major recipient of stimulus funds, despite heavy job cuts. Marathon Petroleum received more tax benefits under the legislation than any other US oil company, according to BailoutWatch, while also cutting about 9% of its workforce, including 45 Garyville workers.

The company spent millions lobbying in Washington, including on specific Cares Act provisions. Marathon is also defending local government tax breaks it receives as part of a controversial Louisiana subsidy program and meant to create jobs. According to SEC filings examined by BailoutWatch, Marathon came to receive roughly $1.1m in federal dollars for every job the company eliminated.

The Garyville refinery – located along the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge – is the third largest in the country. It can process 578,000 barrels of oil a day into gasoline, asphalt, propane and other substances. It has long received local tax subsidies, some of which have stirred recent controversy in a parish known for heavy industry and a high risk of air pollution.

By the time Marathon made its fall layoffs, it had already quietly announced that it would claim a $1.1bn tax refund, thanks to Cares Act provisions which gave companies tax benefits based on net operating losses.

“Understanding the benefits that Marathon received to presumably stimulate them into maintaining full employment, it’s frustrating to have still been chopped,” the laid-off worker said.

He expressed regret that the company had invested much of its cash flow in recent years in an “aggressive stock buyback program” rather than protecting workers during economic downturns.

During the pandemic, oil corporations have received billions of dollars in taxpayer money from multiple programs, “with no strings attached”, said Jesse Coleman, a senior researcher at Documented Investigations.

These companies decimated their workforce with layoffs while maximizing profits for executives and shareholders

Jesse Coleman

“Executives receiving this bailout did nothing to address the industry’s fundamental unsustainability. Instead, these companies decimated their workforce with layoffs while maximizing profits for executives and shareholders,” Coleman said.

Marathon in an email defended its federal pandemic tax breaks. Spokesman Jamal Kheiry said the Cares provision “helps companies hard-hit by the pandemic’s significant effects on the economy”.

Kheiry noted that the company lost $9.8bn after taxes last year and faced uncertainty over demand for gasoline and other refined products, which were needed less during the pandemic. Marathon idled its refineries in Gallup, New Mexico, and in Martinez, California, he added.

“We also made the very difficult decision to reduce our workforce, including reductions associated with the idlings,” he said. “To help affected employees transition, we provided severance, bonus payments, extended healthcare benefits at employee rates, job placement assistance, counseling and other provisions.”

The public dollars Marathon took were made possible by Congress’ changes to federal tax law, which allowed companies to deduct previous years’ financial losses from taxes that the company already paid. That means that the more Marathon lost in 2020 – as well as in losses unrelated to the pandemic in 2019 and 2018 – the more they were refunded from previous years’ tax payments.

BailoutWatch found that the fossil fuel industry was more likely than other sectors to benefit from the tax changes in the Cares Act because of their financial losses in 2019 and 2018, when refining margins were already in decline during those less profitable years. The watchdog group also found that fossil fuel companies lobbied heavily for these changes during the drafting of the legislation. Marathon spent $2.6m on lobbying in Washington in 2020, including to increase Cares Act tax deductions.

In all, the report found that 77 oil and gas companies received $8.24bn from the Cares Act tax refunds while laying off nearly 60,000 employees. Marathon’s federal tax breaks are in addition to state and local tax incentives that the company receives in Louisiana.

Jan Moller, director of the tax policy-focused Louisiana Budget Project, said Louisiana law provides major benefits for the industry. “The thing that makes Louisiana unique is we have the most generous tax exemption scheme in the country for industrial or manufacturing corporations,” he said.

The Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP) exempts businesses from paying certain parish property taxes in exchange for investments that create or maintain jobs.

“That’s where Louisiana communities end up losing an awful lot of revenue,” Moller said. “A global corporation comes in and spends, you know, $2bn to build an oil refinery or chemical plant … and they don’t have to pay 80 to 100% of property taxes on that investment for 10 years. And by the time 10 years is up, a lot of that investment has depreciated.”

Until recent changes, these exemptions were easily renewed. As late as 2017, 40 years after the Garyville refinery was built, Marathon was exempt from paying taxes on 88% of its property as a result of ITEP.

Because of 2016 rule changes to the tax exemption program signed by the Democratic governor, John Bel Edwards, in an executive order, Marathon Petroleum’s tax bill to St John the Baptist Parish increased dramatically this year.

Marathon paid $57m in 2020 property taxes, up from $16m in 2019. Their taxes represent about 59% of the parish’s property tax base. However, Marathon still has an estimated $711m worth of property exempted in St John, which saves the company about $12m in local taxes each year, according to data from Louisiana Economic Development, which oversees the tax exemption program.

These taxes would otherwise be split between St John schools, law enforcement, and parish government. The exemptions have incentivized three thousand temporary construction jobs and one permanent job, according to the data.

Together Louisiana, a statewide network of congregations and civic organizations that has fought to overhaul the exemptions, found that the state allocated $23bn in subsidies to companies which in turn cut net employment by 26,082 jobs over about two decades.

In 2020, Marathon was also accused of fraudulently applying for $43m in ITEP exemptions. After an internal investigation by the state, the company dropped its application.

Broderick Bagert, an organizer with Together Louisiana, said the governor’s 2016 changes to ITEP require companies to either maintain current levels of employment or create new jobs in order to qualify for the exemptions, but enforcement of those rules has been lax.

“The practice of awarding gigantic, you know, hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies to companies that are not only not creating jobs, but that are actively cutting jobs, is continuing,” Bagert said.

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