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March 28, 2023

Heather Cox Richardson

3 hr ago

Today, House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) sent a letter to President Joe Biden accusing him of being “missing in action” on efforts to address the approaching debt ceiling crisis. McCarthy accused Biden of “putting an already fragile economy in jeopardy” and tried to portray himself as the reasonable party, trying to negotiate “what is best for the American people.”

It was a simply astonishing document, brazen in its suggestion that it is Biden who is taking an “extreme position” on the debt ceiling when in fact it is the Republicans who are threatening to destroy the world’s economy to get their way. They are insisting they will hold the debt ceiling hostage to force a wide range of spending cuts, and also to push policies like easier access to drilling permits.

Once again, the debt ceiling is not about future spending. It’s about meeting the obligations past Congresses have incurred. And a great deal of that debt was incurred during the Trump administration, in large part from the 2017 tax cuts that the Congressional Budget Office estimated would cost almost $2 trillion over 11 years. 

Congress voted to increase the debt ceiling three times during the Trump administration. Biden had been clear that he expects it to do so again; he will not negotiate over paying the nation’s bills.

But, as part of the normal budget process, he has also been clear that he is more than happy—eager, even—to debate budget proposals with the Republicans. Biden produced a budget on March 9 and has said that he will enter into negotiations just as soon as the Republicans produce a budget proposal of their own. 

But this they cannot do. McCarthy has promised dramatic cuts to the budget that he cannot deliver without cutting Social Security and Medicare, which the Republicans have agreed not to cut. At the same time, House Republicans have vowed to get rid of the provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act that fund the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), invest in addressing climate change, establish a minimum tax on the wealthy, and give the government the power to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies, provisions that the Committee for a Responsible Budget projects will save the government almost $2 trillion over 2 decades.

And so, McCarthy published a letter trying to blame Biden for the mess the House speaker is in. 

Biden responded immediately to McCarthy’s extraordinary public letter with one of his own, thanking the speaker for his communication and reiterating that Congress has always increased the debt ceiling without conditions and should “act quickly to do so now.” 

“We can agree,” he wrote, “that an unprecedented default would inflict needless economic pain on hard-working Americans and that the American people have no interest in brinksmanship. That is why House Democrats joined with House Republicans and voted to avoid default throughout the Trump Administration—without conditions, despite disagreements about budget priorities. That same standard should apply today.”

Biden noted that he had already provided the American people with his own detailed budget, one that would reduce the deficit by nearly $3 trillion over ten years by increasing taxes on the wealthy and on corporations, cutting subsidies for the oil and gas industries, and expanding the list of drugs over which Medicare can negotiate with pharmaceutical companies. “My proposals enable us to lower costs for families and invest in our economic growth, all while reducing the deficit,” Biden wrote. 

“Unfortunately,” he continued, the Republicans’ proposals would “exacerbate the debt problem I inherited by adding over $3 trillion” with more tax cuts “skewed to the same constituencies who should be paying more, like multinational corporations and the richest taxpayers.” He urged McCarthy, once again, to produce a detailed budget plan rather than vague calls for savings, “so we can understand the full, combined impact on the deficit, the economy, and American families.” 

Biden asked McCarthy to produce a Republican budget plan before Congress’s Easter recess “so that we can have an in-depth conversation when you return. As I have repeatedly said, that conversation must be separate from prompt action on the Congress’ basic obligation to pay the Nation’s bills and avoid economic catastrophe.” 

Republicans are using similar brinksmanship with regard to the military to push their extremist agenda. 

Back in July, just after the Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, Pentagon officials warned the House Armed Services Committee that the abortion restrictions promptly imposed by Republican-dominated legislatures were adding to the military’s recruiting crisis by creating new family planning problems for military families. More than 100 military installations with about 240,000 service members are located in states that have total abortion bans, and Gil Cisneros, the Pentagon’s chief of personnel and readiness, warned that the new laws would hurt recruiting and that service members would leave the military rather than continue to live in those states.

In February, the military launched a policy permitting military personnel up to three weeks’ leave and reimbursement for travel expenses to go to a state that permits abortion care and fertility treatments. Those rules went into effect this month. 

Now, Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) is refusing to permit senior military promotions—at this point 160 of them—in protest of the military’s rules covering reproductive health care. “You all have the American taxpayer on the hook to pay for travel and time off for elective abortions,” Tuberville said to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin today as he spoke before the Senate Armed Services Committee. “And you did not make this [policy] with anybody in this room or Congress taking a vote.”

Austin responded that women make up almost 20% of the military and about 80,000 are stationed in states that don’t have access to abortion (and men want to plan their families as well). Tuberville’s hold on promotions means that senior officials cannot rotate into new positions, leaving the military without leaders in places like the Navy’s 5th Fleet, which oversees military operations in the Middle East and which is due for a new leader within the next few months. Those holes will become worse over the next several months as key military leaders are set to retire or rotate out of their posts. 

Austin warned that Tuberville’s stance affects military readiness, and Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said that Tuberville’s brinksmanship with the military risks “permanently politicizing the confirmation of military personnel…. If every single one of us objected to the promotion of military personnel whenever we feel passionately or strongly about an issue, our military would simply grind to a halt,” Schumer pointed out.

Tuberville says he will not stop his objections until the abortion policy is ended.


President Biden @POTUS

My letter in response to Speaker McCarthy.

Dear Mr. Speaker,
Thank you for your letter of March 28, 2023 following up on our last meeting to discuss the obligation of Congress to keep our nation from defaulting on its debts.  As you know, this is a critical priority – for Congress, for the Administration, and for the American people who will bear the pain of a default.  This has been done by previous Congresses with no conditions attached and this Congress should act quickly to do so now.
We can agree that an unprecedented default would inflict needless economic pain on hard working Americans and that the American people have no interest in brinksmanship.  That is why House Democrats joined with House Republicans and voted to avoid default throughout the Trump Administration – without conditions, despite disagreements about budget priorities. That same standard should apply today.
Separately, as you and I discussed earlier, I look forward to talking with you about our nation’s economic and fiscal future…

My hope is that House Republicans can present the American public with your budget plan before Congress leaves for the Easter recess so that we can have in-depth conversation when you return. As I have repeatedly said, that conversation must be separate from prompt action on Congress’ basic obligation to pay the nation’s bills and avoid economic catastrophe.
I look forward to your response, to eliminating the specter of default, and to your budget.

10:23 PM ∙ Mar 28, 202325,974Likes5,929Retweets


Heather Cox Richardson

March 24, 2023

A follow-up to last night’s examination of the confusion among the Republicans about their budget plans: today when a reporter said to House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) that the chair of the House Budget Committee, Jodey Arrington (R-TX), had said that he and McCarthy were finalizing a list of proposals to give to President Biden about spending cuts, McCarthy answered: “I don’t know what he’s talking about.”

Noise also continues from former president Donald Trump, who early this morning posted on social media that his indictment could lead to “potential death & destruction”; hours later, Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg received a death threat in an envelope with white powder in it. For three days this week, Russian accounts have emailed bomb threats to the court buildings where the grand jury is meeting.  

Tomorrow, Trump will hold a rally in Waco, Texas, where a 1993 government siege to extricate the leader of a religious cult who witnesses said was stockpiling weapons led to a gun battle and a fire that left seventy-six people dead.  

Although a Republican investigation cited “overwhelming evidence” that exonerated the government of wrongdoing, right-wing talk radio hosts jumped on the events at Waco to attack the administration of Democratic president Bill Clinton. Rush Limbaugh stoked his listeners’ anger with talk of the government’s “murder” of citizens, and Alex Jones dropped out of community college to start a talk show on which he warned that the government had “murdered” the people at Waco and was about to impose martial law.

After the Waco siege the modern militia movement took off, and Trump is clearly using the anniversary to tap into domestic violence against the government to defend him in advance of possible indictments.

But will it work? His supporters turned out on January 6, 2021, when he was president and had the power—they thought—to command the army to back him. In the end, that didn’t happen. Since then, Trump’s foot soldiers have been going to prison while he dines at Mar-a-Lago and rails about how unfairly he has been treated.

Trump is also in more trouble today, as Judge Beryl Howell ruled last week that Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows, former director of national intelligence John Ratcliffe, former top Department of Homeland Security official Ken Cuccinelli, former national security advisor Robert O’Brien, former top aide Stephen Miller, former deputy chief of staff and social media director Dan Scavino, and former Trump aides Nick Luna and John McEntee all have to testify before the federal grand jury investigating Trump’s attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. 

Special counsel Jack Smith had subpoenaed these members of the Trump administration, and Trump had tried to stop their testimony by claiming it was covered by executive privilege. Howell rejected that claim. In the past, she rejected a similar claim by arguing that only the current president has the right to claim executive privilege and Biden had declined to do so. Meadows is the key witness to Trump’s involvement in the events of January 6.

Also today, Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer signed a repeal of so-called right-to-work legislation passed in 2012 by a Republican-controlled legislature, whose members pushed it through in a lame-duck session without hearings.  

That legislation had a long history. U.S. employers had opposed workers’ unions since the organization of the National Labor Union in 1866, but the rise of international communism in the early twentieth century provoked a new level of violence against organized workers. In 1935, as part of the New Deal, Democrats passed the National Labor Relations Act, popularly known as the Wagner Act, and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed it into law. 

The Wagner Act confirmed workers’ right to organize and to bargain with employers collectively (although to appease southern Democrats, it exempted domestic and agricultural workers, who in the South were mostly Black). It also defined unfair labor practices and established a new National Labor Relations Board that could issue cease and desist orders if workers testified that employers were engaging in them. 

The Wagner Act gave workers a unified voice in American politics and leveled the playing field between them and employers. But while most Americans of both parties liked the Wagner Act, right-wing Republicans hated it because it put large sums of money into the hands of labor officials, who used the money to influence politics. And organized workers had backed Democrats since the 1860s.

So, in 1947, a Republican-led Congress pushed back against the Wagner Act. The previous year, the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) had launched “Operation Dixie” to organize Black workers, which seemed a threat to segregation as well as white employers. Together, business Republicans and segregationist Democrats passed the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, better known as the Taft-Hartley Act. Ohio Senator Robert Taft (who was the son of President William Howard Taft) claimed that the Taft-Hartley Act would simply equalize power between workers and employers after the “completely one-sided” Wagner Act gave all the power to labor leaders. 

The Taft-Hartley Act limited the ways in which workers could organize; it also went after unions’ money. Although the Wagner Act had established that if a majority of a company’s workers voted to join a union, that union would represent all the workers in the company, it didn’t require all the workers to join that union. That presented a problem: if workers were going to get the benefits of union representation without joining, why should they bother to pay dues? 

So labor leaders began to require that everyone employed in a unionized company must pay into the union to cover the cost of bargaining, whether or not they joined the union.

The Taft-Hartley Act undermined this workaround by permitting states to get rid of the requirement that employees who didn’t join a union that represented them must pay fees to the union. 

Immediately, states began to pass so-called right-to-work laws. Their supporters argued that every man should have the right to bargain for his work on whatever terms he wanted, without oversight by a union. But lawmakers like Senator Barry Goldwater (R-AZ), who pushed a right-to-work law in his own state, were clear that they were intent on breaking the power of organized workers. He was determined to destroy the political power of unions because, he said, their leaders were stealing American freedom. They were, he said, “more dangerous than Soviet Russia.” 

Michigan had been known as a pro-union state, but in 2012, Republicans there pushed through two right-to-work laws over waves of protest. Repealing the laws has been a priority for Democrats, and now that they are in control of state government, they have made it happen.  

Joey Cappelletti of the Associated Press notes that twenty-six states currently have right to work laws, and although Missouri voters overwhelmingly rejected a right-to-work law in 2017, it has been 58 years since a state repealed one. Indiana voters repealed theirs in 1965; Republicans put it back into place in 2012.  

Republicans say that since the neighboring states of Indiana and Wisconsin have right-to-work laws—although there were huge protests when those laws went into place in 2012 and 2015—Michigan’s repeal of right to work will make that state less attractive to employers. 

But after signing the law today, Governor Whitmer embraced a different vision for the state, saying: “Today, we are coming together to restore workers’ rights, protect Michiganders on the job, and grow Michigan’s middle class.”


Acyn @Acyn

Reporter: Arrington said you were finalizing a list of proposals to give to Biden about spending cuts McCarthy: I don’t know what he’s talking about

3:45 PM ∙ Mar 24, 2023


Heather Cox Richardson

7 hr ago

Rumors that he is about to be indicted in New York in connection with the $130,000 hush-money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels have prompted former president Donald Trump to pepper his alternative social media site with requests for money and to double down on the idea that any attack on him is an attack on the United States.

The picture of America in his posts reflects the extreme version of the virtual reality the Republicans have created since the 1980s. The United States is “THIRD WORLD & DYING,” he wrote. “THE AMERICAN DREAM IS DEAD.” He went on to describe a country held captive by “CRIMINALS & LEFTIST THUGS,” in which immigrants are “FLOODING THROUGH OUR OPEN BOARDERS [sic], MANY FROM PRISONS & MENTAL INSTITUTIONS,” and where the president is “SURROUNDED BY EVIL & SINISTER PEOPLE.” He told his supporters to “SAVE AMERICA” by protesting the arrest he—but no one else—says is coming on Tuesday.

Trump’s false and dystopian portrait of the nation takes to its logical conclusion the narrative Republicans have pushed since the 1980s. Since the days of Reagan, Republicans have argued that people who believe that the government should regulate business, provide a basic social safety net, protect civil rights, and promote infrastructure are destroying the country by trying to redistribute wealth from hardworking white Americans to undeserving minorities and women. Now Trump has taken that argument to its logical conclusion: the country has been destroyed by women, Black Americans, Indigenous people, and people of color, who have taken it over and are persecuting people like him.

This old Republican narrative created a false image of the nation and of its politics, an image pushed to a generation of Americans by right-wing media, a vision that MAGA Republicans have now absorbed as part of their identity. It reflects a manipulation of politics that Russian political theorists called “political technology.”

Russian “political technologists” developed a series of techniques to pervert democracy by creating a virtual political reality through modern media. They blackmailed opponents, abused state power to help favored candidates, sponsored “double” candidates with names similar to those of opponents in order to split their voters and thus open the way for their own candidates, created false parties to create opposition, and, finally, created a false narrative around an election or other event that enabled them to control public debate.

Essentially, they perverted democracy, turning it from the concept of voters choosing their leaders into the concept of voters rubber-stamping the leaders they had been manipulated into backing.

This system made sense in former Soviet republics, where it enabled leaders to avoid the censorship that voters would recoil from by instead creating a firehose of news until people became overwhelmed by the task of trying to figure out what was real and simply tuned out.

But it also fit nicely into American politics, where there is a long history of manipulating voters far beyond the usual political spin. As far back as 1972, Nixon’s operatives engaged in what they called “ratf*cking,” dirty tricks that amounted to political sabotage of their opponents. The different elements of that system became a fundamental part of Republican operations in the 1990s, especially the use of a false narrative spread through talk radio and right-wing television.

More recently, we have seen blackmail (former representative Madison Cawthorn [R-NC] blamed his own party for the release of compromising photos); the use of state power to help candidates (through investigations, for example); double candidates (a Florida Republican won a seat in the state legislature in 2020 after a sham candidate with the same name as the Democratic candidate siphoned voters); and the deliberate creation of a false political reality.

Indeed, David Klepper at AP News reported just yesterday that Russian social media accounts are up to their old tricks in the U.S., pushing the idea that federal authorities have been lying about the true impact of the East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment because they want to divert U.S. money from problems at home to Ukraine. “Biden offers food, water, medicine, shelter, payouts of pension and social services to Ukraine! Ohio first! Offer and deliver to Ohio!” one of those accounts posted.

So the United States has had its own version of political technology that overlaps with the Russian version, and it has led to the grim picture Trump is portraying in his attempt to rile up his supporters to protect him.

But here’s what I wonder: What happens when people who have embraced a virtual world begin to figure out it’s fake?

Russians are having to come to grips with their failing economy, world isolation, and rising death rates as President Vladimir Putin throws Russian soldiers into the maw of battle without training or equipment. Now they have to deal with the fact that the International Criminal Court has indicted their president for war crimes. Will they rally around their leader, slide away, or turn against him?

In the United States, MAGA Republicans have been faced with evidence released in the Dominion Voting Systems defamation case against the Fox News Corporation that shows Fox News Channel personalities lied to them. Now those who have cleaved to Trump have to face that he is asking them to risk their freedom to oppose his arrest for paying $130,000 to an adult film actress to keep quiet about their sexual encounter, hardly a noble cause. And the last time he asked people to defend him, more than 1,000 of them—so far—faced arrest and conviction, while he went back to playing golf and asking people for money.

Tonight, Erica Orden of Politico reported that Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg emailed his employees to say “we do not tolerate attempts to intimidate our office or threaten the rule of law in New York.” He told them: “Our law enforcement partners will ensure that any specific or credible threats against the office will be fully investigated and that the proper safeguards are in place so all 1,600 of us have a secure work environment.” He also noted, without mentioning specific cases, that his office has been coordinating with the New York Police Department and with the New York court system during certain ongoing investigations.

Some of Trump’s radical supporters have taken to social media to make a plan for surrounding Mar-a-Lago and protecting Trump with firearms, but others appear to be more eager for someone else to show up than to do so themselves.

Ali Alexander, who helped to organize “Stop the Steal” rallies to try to overturn the 2020 presidential election, wrote to his supporters today: “Previously, I had said if Trump was arrested or under the threat of a perp walk, 100,000 patriots should shut down all routes to Mar-a-Lago…. Now I’m retired. I’ll pray for him though!”


I’m not going to link to Trump’s Truth Social postings. But that’s where they are if you want to seek them out.

Adam Kinzinger #fella @AdamKinzinger

Whether this ends up violent or not, these were the type of comments i was seeing pre Jan 6

LeGate🤠 @williamlegate

Trump’s radical supporters are planning on surrounding Mar-a-Lago and using rifles to shoot law enforcement on scene to arrest Trump AM ∙ Mar 19, 20235,592Likes1,292Retweets

Minnesota Republican votes against free school meals bill because ‘I have yet to meet a person in Minnesota that is hungry’

Joshua Zitser 

Mar 15, 2023, 6:00 AM

Minnesota State Senator Steve Drazkowski speaks on the floor of the Minnesota State Capitol in St Paul on March 14, 2023. Minnesota State media Services

Sen. Steve Drazkowski made the remarks on the floor of the Minnesota State Capitol on Tuesday before voting on HF 5, which would provide free school lunch and breakfast for students in the state.

“I have yet to meet a person in Minnesota that is hungry,” said Drazkowski. “I have yet to meet a person in Minnesota that says they don’t have access to enough food to eat.”

The bill passed despite his opposition, and is now headed to the state’s governor to be signed into law.

According to Feeding America, a national hunger relief nonprofit, around 340,000 Minnesotans are facing hunger, just under a third of them children. 

More than 13% of children in Minnesota live in “food insecure” homes, per the anti-childhood-hunger campaign No Kid Hungry.

Drazkowsksi said in his floor speech that hunger is “relative,” complaining that it was not well-defined in the bill.

“I had a cereal bar for breakfast,” he said. “I guess I’m hungry now.”

Drazkowski also described the bill as “pure socialism,” arguing that state money should instead be going toward reading, writing, and arithmetic in Minnesota.

Though Drazkowski voted against the bill, it passed 38-26 in the Senate. Four Republicans joined the Democratic majority in voting for it.

A video of Drazkowski’s remarks was shared widely on social media, with the Democrat author of the bill highlighting that there is indeed hunger in Drazkowski’s district.

Drazkowski represents District 20 in the southeast of the state.

“1 in 5 students in Sen. Drazkowski’s district qualifies for free and reduced lunch,” said Sen. Heather Gustafson in a tweet.

Colleen Moriarty, the executive director of nonprofit Hunger Solutions Minnesota, told The Washington Post that Drazkowski’s “eyes may not be open” if he’s not met somebody in the state who is hungry. 

There were 5.5 million visits to Minnesotan food pantries in 2022, a record high, according to the nonprofit. Visits increased in 2022 on the year before across all age groups, with the total number of visits by under-18s increasing by more than 50%, per the nonprofit’s data.

Robert Reich

Feb 28

The awful truth about hedge funds


Bridgewater Associates is the world’s largest hedge fund, managing roughly $125 billion of other people’s money. The New York Times recently reported that its founder, Ray Dalio, agreed to relinquish control of the firm only if it gave him what could amount to billions of dollars in regular payouts over the coming years through a special class of stock.

Dalio already has an estimated net worth of $19 billion.

I first came across Dalio in 2019 when I read his 5,000-word treatise “Why and How Capitalism Needs to be Reformed.” I was intrigued. Here was a major financial figure arguing that capitalism “is not working well for the majority of Americans because it’s producing self-reinforcing spirals up for the haves and down for the have-nots.” That widening wealth gap, Dalio noted, is “bringing about damaging domestic and international conflicts and weakening America’s condition.”

Dalio foresaw one of two outcomes: Either we “re-engineer the system so that the pie is both divided and grown well” or else “we will have great conflict and some form of revolution that will hurt most everyone and will shrink the pie.”

All of that seemed right to me — even more so today. America has already started down the second path. Trump, DeSantis, and other demagogues have been exploiting working-class anger to pump up their power.

But Dalio had no proposal for “re-engineering” the system. To the best of my knowledge, he hasn’t supported a wealth tax or any tax increase on people like himself. He hasn’t proposed stopping giant hedge funds and private equity funds from forcing companies to squeeze out every ounce of profits, typically by suppressing wages and abandoning workers and communities. And he certainly hasn’t proposed capping executive pay.

Worldwide, there are now some 10,000 hedge funds, which together manage about $2 trillion — and they charge their clients a bundle. On top of a 2 percent management fee, they deduct 20 percent of any investment gains. This lets hedge fund managers classify much of their income as “capital gains,” taxed at a far lower rate than regular income. Their wealth has given them so much political clout that this absurd “carried interest” tax loophole remains, despite promises from the last four presidents to close it.

So while schoolteachers and cops face a marginal tax rate of 25 percent, hedge fund managers like Dalio have for years paid only 15 percent on their enormous incomes.

Yet most of the funds Dalio manages come from schoolteachers and cops and other average working Americans. Fully a third come from public pension funds such as the Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System. Another third from corporate pension funds that are supposed to guard the retirement savings of their workers, such as those at Kodak and General Motors.

Meanwhile, CEOs and star traders now routinely demand eight-figure compensation packages to keep up with their counterparts at hedge funds.

It’s a giant zero-sum game, as Dalio himself recognizes. “In order to earn more than the market return, you have to take money from somebody else,” he says.

It’s worse than a zero-sum game because hedge funds, like private equity funds, pressure corporations to lay off workers, reduce the (inflation-adjusted) pay of average workers, bust unions, and move production abroad or to anti-labor states.  

They also use their wealth to distort and corrupt American politics, as I’ve already noted.

And they use piles of borrowed money — thereby blowing gigantic, dangerous speculative bubbles. When Wall Street firms got into trouble in 2008, Bridgewater was one of the funds that pulled money out of Lehman Brothers, leaving the American public holding the bag.

There is little justification for hedge funds. If pension funds want to balance out any risks they may take in the stock and bond markets, they can accomplish this far more cheaply through standard leveraging tactics.

Note to pension fund managers: Get the hell out of hedge funds. You’re wasting the retirement money of the workers you’re supposed to represent.

Meanwhile, there’s no justification for the giant compensation packages of hedge fund partners.

Note to pension fund managers: If you absolutely must be in hedge funds, make your voices heard on taming executive pay.

And there’s no justification whatever for maintaining the “carried interest” loophole in the tax code.

Note to President Biden and Congress: Get rid of it.

As Ray Dalio wrote, the system is not working well for the majority of Americans because it’s producing self-reinforcing spirals up for the haves and down for the have-nots. Dalio and his compatriots are part of that self-reinforcing spiral. The rest of us are all the worse for it.

Further interest-rate hikes to fight inflation will worsen inequality. And they’re unnecessary.

Mar 7

Robert Reich

Mr. Powell,

As chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, you’re making your semi-annual policy report today to Congress.

I hope you don’t think me impertinent, but I have an urgent question for you that I hope one of the senators asks: How can you justify further rate hikes in light of America’s staggering inequality?

You and your colleagues on the Fed’s Open Market Committee are considering pushing interest rates much higher in your quest to get inflation down to your target of 2 percent. You believe higher interest rates will reduce consumer spending and slow the economy.

With due respect, sir, this is unnecessary, and it would be unjust.

Over the past year, you’ve raised interest rates at the fastest pace since the 1980s, from near zero to more than 4.5 percent.

But consumer spending isn’t slowing. It fell slightly in November and December but jumped 1.8 percent in January, even faster than inflation.

As a result, you’re now saying you may need to lift rates above 5 percent. A recent paper by a group of academic and Wall Street economists suggests that you will need to raise interest rates as high as 6.5 percent to meet your 2 percent target.

This would worsen America’s already staggering inequalities.

You see, the Americans who are doing most of the spending are not the ones who will be hit hardest by the rate increases. The biggest spenders are in the top fifth of the income ladder. The biggest losers will be in the bottom fifth.

Widening inequality has given the richest fifth a lot of room to keep spending. Even before the pandemic, they were doing far better than most other Americans.

Their current spending spree is a big reason you and your colleagues at the Fed are having so much difficulty slowing the economy by raising interest rates (in addition to the market power of many big corporations to continue raising prices and profit margins).

The higher rates are flowing back into the top fifth’s savings, on which they’re collecting interest.

The top fifth’s savings are still much higher than they were before the pandemic, so they can continue their spending spree almost regardless of how high you yank up rates. Take a look at this chart:

(Sources: J.P. Morgan Private Bank, Haver Analytics. Data as of October 2022.)

But yank up rates and you’ll impose big sacrifices on lower-income Americans. The study I mentioned a moment ago concludes that “there is no post-1950 precedent for a sizable central-bank-induced disinflation that does not entail substantial economic sacrifice or recession.”

There’s also no post-1950 precedent for the degree of income inequality Americans are now experiencing.

The people who will endure the biggest sacrifices as the economy slows will be the first to lose their jobs: mostly, those in the bottom fifth. Relying on further interest-rate hikes to fight inflation will only worsen the consequence of America’s near-record inequality.

There’s no reason for further hikes, anyway. Inflation is already slowing.

I understand your concern, Mr. Powell. What looked like a steady albeit gradual slowdown is now looking even more gradual.

But so what? It’s the direction that counts.

You should abandon your 2 percent target rate of inflation. There’s nothing sacrosanct about 2 percent. Why not 4? Getting inflation down to 2 percent is going to cause too much pain for the most vulnerable.

And you should suggest to Congress that it use other tools to fight inflation, such as barring corporations with more than 30 percent market share from raising their prices higher than the overall inflation rate — as recently proposed by New York’s attorney general.

May I be perfectly frank with you, sir? It would be terribly unjust to draft into the inflation fight those who are least able.

Thank you.

Robert Reich

Dara Bitler

Fri, March 3, 2023 at 8:35 AM CST

Story at a glance

  • Scammers use a variety of tactics to trick users into giving up personal information like passwords and Social Security numbers.
  • After that, they could use that information to gain access to your accounts or they could even sell your information to someone else.
  • If you think a message is real but aren’t sure, contact the specific company by using a phone number from an official website that you know is real.

DENVER (KDVR) – Scammers are getting more advanced every day. From a simple text that says, “track your package with this link,” to a message that promises to help pay off loans or give you a coupon code, there are a variety of tactics used.

But how can you tell if it’s a scam text? And is there a way to stop the fake messages?

How to recognize a scam text

It can be difficult sometimes to recognize a spam message. According to the Federal Trade Commission, scammers will send fake text messages to try and trick you into giving them personal information, like a password, account number, or Social Security number.

After that, they could use that information to gain access to your accounts or they could even sell your information to someone else.

Odometer rolled back 100,000 miles then sold to customer

These are some ways scammers might try to get your information, according to the FTC:

  • They might try to say they’ve noticed suspicious activity on your account
  • Claim there’s a problem with your payment information
  • Send you a fake invoice and tell you to contact them if you didn’t authorize the purchase
  • Send you a package delivery notification
  • Promise free prizesgift cards, or coupons
  • Offer you a low or no interest credit card
  • Promise to help you pay off your student loans

If you think a message is real but aren’t sure, contact the specific company by using a phone number from an official website that you know is real.

What should you do if you get a scam text?

Here is what you should do if you get a scam text:

Can you stop the fake texts?

The Federal Communication Commission says that rules ban text messages sent to a mobile phone using an auto-dialer, unless you previously gave consent to receive the message or the message is sent for emergency purposes.

Here is what the FCC said to do to try and stop these spam messages from happening:

  • Do not respond to unwanted texts from questionable sources. Several mobile service providers allow you to block the sender by forwarding unwanted texts to 7726 (or “SPAM”).
  • Be careful about giving out your mobile phone number or any other personal information.
  • Read through commercial web forms and check for a privacy policy when submitting your mobile phone number to any customer website. You should be able to opt out of receiving texts – but you may have to check or uncheck a preselected box to do so.
  • Find out if any company you do business with has a policy that allows it to sell or share your information.

Check with your cell service provider to see your options for block spam callers or spam texts

The FCC proposed new rules last week that would require mobile wireless providers to block messages from numbers that appear to be scam-related. Examples include mobile numbers that are invalid, unallocated, unused or have been blocked by the user.

Such rules are already in place for voice calls, according to the FCC.

“Text messaging is among our most popular forms of communication, quickly connecting people to friends and family, businesses to customers, and governments to constituents,” the FCC proposal reads. “But with that popularity comes risk. While unwanted text messages present similar problems as unwanted calls – they invade consumer privacy and are vehicles for consumer fraud and identity theft – they also present harms beyond robocalls that can exacerbate the problem of such scams.”

Along with the FCC recommendations, there are a number of apps such as NomoroboHiya, and Robokiller that purport to wipe out scam texts and calls.

What is “Smishing?”

One of the scams hitting many cell phones is a form of phishing that is called, “smishing.”

The text might say, “Jonathan, urgent notice for your USPS package 97OR442 Available for pick 8:55 a.m. Click this link.”

Even if you are expecting a package, you shouldn’t click the link.

“USPS will not send customers text messages or e-mails without a customer first requesting the service with a tracking number, and it will not contain a link. So, if you did not initiate the tracking request for a specific package directly from USPS and it contains a link: don’t click the link,” the United States Postal Inspection Service said.

If you get a package scam text, here is how you can report it:

  • Without clicking on the web link, copy the body of the suspicious text message and paste into a new email.
  • Provide your name in the email, and also attach a screenshot of the text message showing the phone number of the sender and the date sent.
  • Include any relevant details in your email, for example: if you clicked the link, if you lost money, if you provided any personal information, or if you experienced any impacts to your credit or person.
  • The Postal Inspection Service will contact you if more information is needed.

If you have not done so yet, make sure your phone is on the Do Not Call list.

CreativeA whodunit that gripped Washington and echoed across the nation has officially turned into an unsolved mystery. But while the culprit in this particular malfeasance remains at large, we have more than enough evidence to determine guilt for an even greater outrage — the brazen assault on decency, judicial temperament, and honorable jurisprudence by the current iteration of the United States Supreme Court. Simply put, the court has become a mess — less a hallowed marble edifice to constitutional probity than a dangerously petty and unrestrained mosh pit of dysfunction. Get your house in order, indeed. The black robes aren’t fooling anybody. The court’s investigation into the leak of a draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade was a stunning failure of mission. The inquiry’s stated goal was not just to identify seriously lax practices at the court around information and technology (which the report did do). We were supposed to learn the name or names behind one of the gravest breaches of court protocol in history. And there, we got nothing. When the draft opinion overRoe was leaked, it created a firestorm. It was rightly seen by those on the political left as representing a dangerous break in precedent, weak legal reasoning, and, most importantly, an attack on women’s health and basic rights. In response to the leak, there was no shortage of public handwringing on the part of court watchers and many of the justices themselves. Public speculation quickly jumped to who might have been the leaker and what might have been their motives. Perhaps not surprisingly, Republicans blamed Democrats, and Democrats blamed Republicans.As we now know, the draft document ultimately ended up presaging the final decision. Was the leak a way to lock in wavering votes, as many people speculated, or to undercut the legitimacy of the majority, as others contended? The leak investigation report only creates more questions and elevates the plausibility of theories that had seemed far-fetched. Could it be that some of the justices didn’t want to find out the truth? And might it have been one of those justices (or one of their spouses or assistants) who was responsible for the leak? What has encouraged this speculation is that the justices were not subjected to the same scrutiny in this investigation as everyone else at the court. If the justices think that’s acceptable because they are above reproach, that is only more evidence of how out of touch they are. The real conclusion is that the leak report is far from thorough. In the wake of the report’s release, many observers started floating the names of Justices Alito and Thomas (as well as Thomas’s wife, Ginny) as the most likely leakers. In this case, the conjecture is purely circumstantial — the idea being that these anti-abortion hardliners had the most to gain by locking in the draft decision. Although both justices have shown a lack of ethical restraint in other matters. In an attempt to tamp down this conjecture, the woman overseeing the investigation, United States Supreme Court Marshal Gail A. Curley, issued the following statement: “During the course of the investigation, I spoke with each of the Justices, several on multiple occasions. The Justices actively cooperated in this iterative process, asking questions and answering mine. I followed up on all credible leads, none of which implicated the Justices or their spouses. On this basis, I did not believe that it was necessary to ask the Justices to sign sworn affidavits.”Let us note that one of the court’s own, its “Marshal,” did the investigating. There was no independent investigation. And none of the justices was asked to testify under oath.Is this, the whole summation, really sufficient? If the justices are upset that many Americans think it isn’t, they have only themselves to blame. We have a court that is losing the trust of a large swath of the American people. It is a court in which the ends increasingly justify the means, settled law counts for next to nothing, societal upheaval is trivialized, and self-described “conservative” objectives that would never pass in national legislation are turned into the law of the land by judicial decree. We also have a majority of the justices on the court appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote (including three by the twice-impeached former holder of the office). We have had Supreme Court picks blocked (Merrick Garland, chosen by President Obama) and others rushed through (Amy Coney Barrett, appointed by President Trump) based solely on political expediency. As for Ginny Thomas, she is a known supporter of the Big Lie around the 2020 election. The strange and as yet unsolved case of the Supreme Court leak, plus the lame investigation around it, leaves the court with a long, hard road to restoration of its reputation and authority.And as bad as the leak was, it is a symptom of far more systemic rot. Respect must be earned. And it must be earned again once it has been squandere


    CROSS-POST   Friends, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen just announced that the federal government will hit the limit on total federal debt on January 19, just two days from now. After that, the Treasury Department will be forced to take “extraordinary measures” to avoid defaulting on the debt, which would likely trigger a global financial crisis. Congress could defuse this bomb by simply raising the debt limit, as it has dozens of times under presidents of both parties for decades. But the MAGA radicals now in control of the House of Representatives are refusing to raise the debt ceiling unless President Biden agrees to devastating cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and other key programs. I was involved in a similar fight over the debt ceiling fight twenty-eight years ago, which holds some lessons for what happens now. In November 1995, Republican refused to raise the debt ceiling unless Bill Clinton agreed to a package of sweeping spending cuts, welfare overhaul, restraints on Medicare and Medicaid growth, and a balanced budget within seven years. I and other Clinton advisers urged him not to negotiate. Even if the public didn’t understand that the debt ceiling had less to do with the nation’s future debt than with obligations the United States had made in the past, we couldn’t allow the Republicans to hold the economy hostage. The full faith and credit of the United States was at stake. It should not be negotiable. Clinton agreed. “If they send me a budget that says simply, ‘You take our cuts or we’ll let the country go into default,’ I will veto it,” he said. He called the Republican tactics “economic blackmail,” which they were. When the Republican House then passed a bill increasing the debt ceiling through December, as well as a continuing resolution that included higher Medicare premiums and other spending cuts, Clinton vetoed both bills. “America has never liked pressure tactics, and I would be wrong to permit these kind of pressure tactics to dramatically change the course of American life,” he said. “I cannot do it, and I will not do it.” What happened next? The government shut down. And as you may recall, the American public was furious — with the Republicans, who paid dearly in the subsequent midterm elections. The budget standoff was resolved in early January 1996 but the debt ceiling issue remained. When Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin wrote to Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich that Congress had only until March 1 before the Treasury defaulted on its obligations, Moody’s rating agency announced it was considering downgrading the rating on U.S. Treasury bonds. Republicans quickly folded, offering to raise the debt ceiling in return for a few modest measures. The debt ceiling fight of 2011 was different. The Obama administration did negotiate with House Republicans, resulting in the Budget Control Act of 2011. When the debt ceiling had to be raised again in 2013, Obama returned to negotiations. During this standoff, the government was partially closed down. Here again, Republicans took the brunt of the blame. In these fights, some Republicans presented a fallback position: Instead of raising the debt ceiling, the federal government should prioritize which bills to pay — starting with interest payments to lenders to the United States (holders of federal bonds). That way, they argued, there’d be no technical default. The idea never went anywhere because such prioritization would still spook credit markets. It would also cause the economy to tank and the stock market to plunge because of the sudden elimination of huge amounts of government spending. But now, so-called “debt prioritization” is back. According to Friday’s Washington Post, it was part of the secret agreement Kevin McCarthy made with his detractors to support him for Speaker. They agreed that when Republicans hold firm on not raising the debt ceiling, they’ll pass a bill instructing the Treasury to prioritize: 1) first, debt service payments, 2) next, Social Security, Medicare and veterans benefits, and 3) third, military funding. Everything else would be sacrificed — including critical federal expenditures such as Medicaid, food safety inspections, border control and air traffic control. The U.S. would be forced to halt payment for as much as 20 percent of money it already promised to spend. This could be the most economically irresponsible backroom deal in Republican history (even conservative economists are warning that the consequences could include a stock-market spiral and significant job losses). It’s also the most politically foolish. It would, in effect, put the interest of bondholders — including Chinese lenders to the United States — over the wellbeing of Americans. As George W. might say, “bring ‘em on.”

January 30, 2023

Heather Cox Richardson

The news today illustrates a dramatic difference between governing and garnering votes.

President Joe Biden was at the Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel in Baltimore, Maryland, today to celebrate the bipartisan infrastructure law, passed in November 2021, that is investing about $1.2 trillion in fixing our highways, bridges, internet access, and so on. In Maryland it will devote about $4 billion to fixing and expanding the 150-year-old Baltimore and Potomac railroad tunnel, which has become a bottleneck for the 9 million commuters who pass through it as they travel the vital link between Philadelphia and Washington.

The law is formally known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and Biden noted that fixing the tunnel is expected to create 20,000 jobs over the next ten years. He also announced that it, along with all the Amtrak developments on the Northeast Corridor, would be built by union labor.

Tomorrow, Biden will speak at the West Side Rail Yard in New York City to talk about how funding for the Hudson Tunnel Project from the bipartisan infrastructure law will improve reliability for the 200,000 passengers a day who travel through it on Amtrak and New Jersey Transit.

The passage of the measure in late 2021 took months of careful negotiations even as former president Trump—whose own inability to pass an infrastructure measure became a running joke—tried to scuttle the talks. Biden’s victory lap is not undeserved.

The administration today also called attention to the effects of its new border enforcement measures providing migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela a legal path to obtain a two-year visa so long as they have a U.S. sponsor and a thorough background check. The new system will admit up to 30,000 migrants a month.

New data shows that the number of migrants from those four countries has dropped 97% since the program went into effect. Overall, migrant encounters at the border have dropped by half, although migration from Ecuador and Peru, which are growing unstable, has increased. The administration has asked Congress repeatedly to fix our outdated immigration system, but Republicans derailed the effort in the previous Congress when they objected to a path to citizenship for so-called dreamers: people brought to this country as children. Now almost twenty states led by Republicans say the administration’s new program violates the law, and they are suing to stop it.

In charge of the House, Republicans plan to hold hearings on what they call Biden’s border crisis. Today the White House called out “some elected officials” for “trying to block the Administration’s effective measures because they would rather keep immigration an issue to campaign on than one to solve. If those elected officials succeed,” the press office said, “their actions will lead to more illegal immigration.”

Actually governing is a lot harder than talking about it. On December 30, House majority leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) promised that the House Republicans would “hit the ground running to do what we promised on the border, crime, energy, inflation, Life, taxpayer protection & more.” He outlined eleven bills the party would bring to the floor in the first two weeks of the new Congress. Half have indeed been voted on by now—the fifth week of Congress—but they were only for show. They will never pass the Senate, and no one is trying to negotiate to pass them. The other half aren’t on the calendar.

Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin noted today that the Republicans have turned to investigations, abortion, threatening the national debt, and trying to defund the Internal Revenue Service rather than dealing with the issues they insisted were vital in 2022: crime and inflation. She also noted that at the very time the Republicans were hyping those issues, both crime rates and inflation were actually falling.

More demonstrations for the extremist base appear to be coming. As Amy B. Wang noted today in the Washington Post, the Republican National Committee is urging lawmakers to “go on offense in the 2024 election cycle” on antiabortion measures, although since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, voters have made it clear they want abortion rights protected.

Nonetheless, as party leaders have done repeatedly when voters reject their increasingly extremist stands, the RNC suggests that the party did poorly in 2022 not because their stand was too strong but because it was too weak. Candidates were not clear enough about their opposition to abortion. The RNC wants them to demonstrate their conviction by passing strict laws that outlaw abortion at six weeks, before many people know they’re pregnant.

House speaker Kevin McCarthy has, however, backed off on Republican suggestions that they will not agree to raise the debt ceiling without cuts to Social Security and Medicare. On Face the Nation yesterday, he said the party was committed to “strengthening” the programs. In fact, the only proposal on the table right now to strengthen the programs is from the far-right House Republican Study Committee, which calls for strengthening Social Security and Medicare by, among other things, raising the age at which people become eligible for them.

I’d love to hear McCarthy explain how that plan is not a cut in the programs.

Finally, today, former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has applied for a six-month U.S. tourist visa. Bolsonaro entered the United States when he was still president, two days before his successor took office and a little more than a week before his supporters attacked the government and tried to reinstate him. That timing means he came to the U.S. on an A-1 visa restricted to heads of state, which had to be replaced as soon as he was no longer president.

Bolsonaro’s lawyer told Reuters reporter Daphne Psaledakis that Bolsonaro wants “to take some time off, clear his head, and enjoy being a tourist in the United States for a few months before deciding what his next step will be.” In fact, the right-wing leader has made it clear he is afraid of the many investigations underway in Brazil for fraud and now for inciting the attack on the government that might end up putting him behind bars.


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