The Evening Blues - 3-24-20
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features New Orleans musician Fats Domino. Enjoy!
Fats Domino - Be My Guest
"if your government is pushing the suspension of civil liberties before coming up with a healthcare plan or providing you with financial security in an unprecedented economic crisis, then their desire to suspend civil liberties has nothing to do with fighting the pandemic."
-- Caitlin Johnstone
News and Opinion
Worth a full read, rich in details that cannot be fairly abstracted.
As a millennial, much of my adulthood has been punctuated by severe national emergencies. The first my generation experienced was the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. ... The government quickly responded by attempting to achieve two things: one, expanding executive power, and two, transferring public wealth into private corporations. ... The second national emergency my generation experienced was the 2008 housing bubble collapse and subsequent recession: the most severe economic meltdown since the Great Depression. Again the federal government, this time under Barack Obama’s administration, sought to exploit the crisis to move vast wealth from the public treasury into private bank accounts. ...
Ecological devastation, meanwhile, is the quiet crisis amplifier that has persisted through both of these national emergencies and cast a shadow over the whole of my generation. Its latest iteration is the Covid-19 pandemic, whose origins lay in habitat destruction and biodiversity loss.
Once again, the federal government appears poised to exploit this emergency to expand executive power and move wealth from the public treasury into private bank accounts. As the Nation recently reported, an internal CBP directive empowers the agency to indefinitely monitor and detain anyone suspected of carrying the virus. Meanwhile, the Trump administration has begun a bailout for the oil industry, which could exceed $2.6bn in tax dollars going to oil industry control, and is toying with the idea of an airline industry bailout, which could exceed $50bn.
In fact, both the oil and airline industries are accelerating the ecological devastation at the heart of this pandemic. As ecological collapse continues to unfold, more and more emergencies like this will occur with greater frequency and intensity. Now is the time to break out of the recurring pattern in which national responses not only fail to solve the problem, but even exacerbate the original cause, while transferring wealth from taxpayers to already-wealthy, well-connected executives. Instead, now is the time to implement a set of standards for what constitutes a response that puts the common good at the center. ...
Of course the best thing we can do is halt the twin ecological and climate crises that are now driving so many existential emergencies like the Covid-19 pandemic. But, in the meantime of attending to that herculean task, the least we can be doing is agreeing on a set of responses that reject authoritarian exercises of executive power and the further enrichment of the already wealthy at the expense of the public.
The Fed has effectively created its own limitless slush fund with no accountability to anyone and no Congressional oversight. ... The Fed’s slush fund comes on the heels of news last evening that U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin attempted to stuff his own $500 billion slush fund, with no oversight, into the fiscal stimulus bill being deliberated by Congress.
These are troubling times for the US Federal Reserve. The US central bank is trying everything it knows to pull the financial markets out of their tailspin but nothing seems to work. Before Wall Street opened the Fed announced that its new plan was to provide infinite amounts of money through its quantitative easing programme. The response of traders was to shrug and carry on selling.
In truth, though, this was little more than a massive holding operation. The Fed was buying time so that two things can happen: Donald Trump manages to get a fiscal rescue package through Congress and there are definitive signs of a slowdown in the incidence of new Covid-19 cases. It didn’t really help the prospects of a market rally on the back of the Fed’s announcement that Wall Street and the rest of New York’s financial district were locked down along with the rest of the city, but in the end the central bank had little choice.
Here’s how things looked from the Fed’s Washington DC HQ. Figures due out on Thursday could show that 2 million Americans have been laid off in a week as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The financial markets looked to be about to have another sharp fall. Congress had failed over the weekend to agree a $1.8tn (£1.6tn) rescue package. As the Fed noted in a statement, the pandemic is causing “tremendous hardship” not just in the US but around the globe. When it said the US economy would face “severe disruptions” that was a classic piece of central bank understatement. These are the sort of “severe disruptions” that John Steinbeck would have recognised.
On Sunday, Rep. Ro Khanna urged a massive increase in funding for the Defense Production Act. “President Trump should be using the DPA to ensure we have enough ventilators and other medical equipment to deal with this crisis,” said Khanna, a Democrat from California, in a statement to The Intercept. “This will take a war time-like response. Congress should appropriate up to $75 billion for this purpose.” He added, “We need to give the President the funds to get ventilators and masks in bulk to meet the needs of our time.”
The statement from Khanna became the first concrete figure applied to the debate over the Defense Production Act, with demand for personal protective equipment and ventilators threatening to significantly exacerbate the coronavirus crisis. The legislation gives the president broad powers over supply chains, with the power to force manufacturers to address the nation’s pressing needs at prices negotiated using the powers of the federal government. But the act, as written, is modest, applying caps of $50 million to each individual contract and a fund of $750 million. (The $50 million cap can be waved by the president in an emergency.) Even so, Trump has resisted using the legislation. ...
The federal government’s own estimates indicate that we will need, at minimum, 3.5 billion N95 masks, for a cost of $7 billion. Given how little we know about how Covid-19 is spread, we could be in a position where millions of health care workers need access to their own powered air purifying respirators, the next step up in protection. At $1,800 per, the cost could run to over $50 billion. Finally, ventilators cost between $25,000 to $50,000 each. The American Hospital Association has estimated that we need 790,000 additional ventilators, which could cost over $40 billion.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and many others have demanded that Trump begin to use the act as a cornerstone of the government’s response. But as a $1.8 trillion bipartisan coronavirus stimulus bill races toward passage, it is unclear if the legislation will include any firm appropriations for the Defense Production Act. ... “Congress should compel Trump to waive the cap and compel him to get the supplies we need,” said Dean Baker, a senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. “He doesn’t want to do it because companies will make more money if they gouge prices than if the government is taking over. You’re going to produce these masks or respirators and will pay you the cost plus 10 percent — that’s less money for them. There’s no reason why Congress can’t put the orders in the legislation.”
'This Is a Trap': Progressives Sound Alarm as GOP Attempts Sneak Attack on Social Security in Coronavirus Stimulus Plan
Tucked inside Senate Republicans' gargantuan coronavirus stimulus package is a provision that progressives are warning could significantly damage Social Security's funding in the short-term and empower right-wing lawmakers to make even deeper cuts to the vital program in the future.
"Senate Republicans are using the coronavirus crisis as a cynical cover to attack our Social Security system," Nancy Altman, president of advocacy group Social Security Works, warned in a statement.
The GOP's $1.8 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act would allow businesses to delay payment of the employer payroll tax—one of the primary funding mechanisms for Social Security—for the rest of 2020.
"The Republican plan would replace Social Security's dedicated revenue [from the payroll tax] with deficit-funded general revenue, but this is a trap," explained Altman. "Once the pandemic is done, Republicans will undoubtedly use the general revenue to demand cuts to Social Security in the name of 'reining in entitlements,' something they have already expressed their strong desire to do."
The Senate GOP's legislation, which also contains a $500 billion "slush fund" for corporations, failed to clear a procedural hurdle Sunday night amid unified Democratic opposition. A second procedural motion to advance the bill also failed Monday afternoon and talks over the measure's specifics remain in flux.
While ostensibly intended as a form of relief for employers struggling to cope with the coronavirus-induced economic fallout, Social Security Works warned in a letter (pdf) to members of Congress over the weekend that Republican proposal to delay the employer payroll tax is "a Trojan Horse."
"Social Security Works strongly opposes the McConnell proposal to 'defer' the employer Social Security insurance premium (i.e. Federal Insurance Contributions Act payment)," reads the letter, signed by Altman and Social Security Works executive director Alex Lawson. "Even though the proposal is couched in terms of deferral, it is hard to imagine that in January, Congress will truly allow employers' FICA contributions to rise—or even be restored. Social Security supporters see this for what it truly is—a dangerous assault on our Social Security system."
"Since there are much better ways to deliver the same relief to employers, we see this as callously using the coronavirus pandemic as a cover for an attack on Social Security," Altman and Lawson added. "We urge you, as emphatically as we can, to oppose this proposal."
Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, has accused his political foes and the press of purposefully “tricking” citizens about the dangers of coronavirus, as Latin America braced for a spike in the number of deaths.
The pandemic has claimed nearly 15,000 lives across the globe and looks set to exact a deadly toll on Latin America in the coming weeks, with many regional governments closing borders and shutting down major cities in a desperate bid to limit the damage.
But Bolsonaro has resisted such drastic measures, dismissing media “hysteria” over coronavirus and calling the illness “a little flu”. In a tetchy television interview on Sunday night Bolsonaro again downplayed the pandemic and attacked the governors of key states including Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo who have ordered residents to stay at home and are imposing quarantines.
“The people will soon see that they were tricked by these governors and by the large part of the media when it comes to coronavirus,” Bolsonaro said, as his own health officials announced 25 deaths and 1,546 cases of coronavirus in Brazil.
Death squads in Colombia are taking advantage of coronavirus lockdowns to murder rural activists, local NGOs have warned. When cities across the country introduced local quarantine measures last week, three social leaders were killed, and as the country prepares to impose a national lockdown on Wednesday, activists have warned that more murders will follow.
Marco Rivadeneira, a high-profile activist, was murdered in the southern Putumayo province, Alexis Vergara was shot dead in the western Cauca region, and Ivo Humberto Bracamonte was killed on the eastern border with Venezuela.
Colombia is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for activists and community leaders, who often fall foul of armed groups fighting for territory. Since a historic peace deal was implemented in early 2017 with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), a leftist rebel group, 271 activists have been killed. Now, with the government focused on the pandemic, activists say they are even more at risk. ...
Some of the armed groups are dissident Farc fighters who refused to hand in their guns; others belong to smaller rebel armies and rightwing paramilitary militias. Whatever their purported ideology, all make their money in drug trafficking, illegal mining and extortion rackets, and all view social social leaders as an obstacle to those lucrative economies.
And as the government focuses its resources on stemming the coronavirus outbreak – which has now claimed three lives in Colombia amid 277 confirmed cases – normal security protocols have been thrown into disarray.
Donald Trump has signalled a potential change in his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, amid warnings of a record plunge in economic activity and unemployment potentially hitting 30%, as a key Senate vote to move forward with a $1.8tn stimulus plan failed for a second time on Monday.
Democrats blocked the coronavirus rescue bill for the second day in a row, as partisan tensions erupted in extraordinary fashion on the Senate floor with lawmakers lashing out angrily over the body’s failure to pass legislation aimed at stanching the pandemic’s impact on the US economy. ...
Democrats say the legislation is tilted in favor of corporations and have vowed to hold it up until they secure stronger protections for workers and restrictions on how businesses will use the government money. ...
The extraordinary scene on Capitol Hill came as Trump expressed an openness to scaling back his efforts to combat contagion. Writing in capital letters in a tweet late on Sunday, the US president said: “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself. At the end of the 15-day period” – of White House guidelines to enforce physical distancing and other measures which began on 16 March – “we will make a decision as to which way we want to go.”
Vice-President Mike Pence, who heads the White House coronavirus taskforce, said earlier in the day the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would issue guidance on Monday meant to allow people already exposed to the coronavirus to return to work sooner. The shift in tone could foreshadow a clash between a White House alarmed by economic paralysis in an election year and public health experts urging caution.
If you’re waiting for the hammer justice to fall on Senators who dumped stocks right before coronavirus fears tanked the market, keep waiting. Members of Congress are exceptionally hard to bust for insider trading, despite evidence they’re somehow mysteriously able to outperform even many expert hedge fund managers with brilliantly-timed stock trades.
That’s because legislators enjoy special privileges they can use to bog down investigations and limit the fallout, former prosecutors and others with experience probing Congressional wrongdoing told VICE News.
While it’s technically illegal for members of Congress to buy or sell stocks based on private information — such as intel they might have learned in classified briefings about the coronavirus threat weeks ago — there are plenty of reasons why they’re very unlikely to go to jail for insider trading. Only one member of Congress in history ever has.
“It stinks to high heaven,” said Duncan Levin, a former prosecutor who ran the financial crimes unit of the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. “Unequivocally, without a shadow of a doubt, there’s enough here to say that they may have broken the law. But such a case is much more complicated to actually bring than you’d think by reading Twitter.” Investigators would need to prove that the private briefings included non-public, market-sensitive information that was used by officials to protect their wealth. So far, such a claim remains far from proven. ...
Figuring out what was even said in the briefing becomes even harder if the materials were classified, a problem could slow a probe or keep some pieces of information hidden. Investigators could subpoena the official who did the briefing, but even that could be tricky, and would partly depend on political will at the top of the Trump Administration.
“Top Priority Is Release”: Will Rikers Island Free More Prisoners as 60+ Test Positive for COVID-19?
On Wednesday, the first positive coronavirus test came in from a person in New York City’s custody at its Rikers Island jail complex, following weeks of warnings from doctors and advocates about the devastation the disease could wreak in the filthy, crumbling jails. The ensuing days would be marked by a stark dichotomy: the thing that did not happen, and the thing that did. What did not happen was any kind of urgent official response; the people with the power to significantly reduce the number of sick and elderly people packed into unhygienic jail dorms didn’t do it. What did happen was equally predictable: The virus began infecting jailed people at a furious rate. What had been one case on Thursday had by Sunday evening ballooned to at least 29.
We learned of the rising infections not because the city’s Department of Correction announced them; the agency is still notoriously opaque and allergic to public communication, despite the urging of watchdogs and public health officials to do better in light of the health crisis. The scale of the disease’s spread became clear Saturday only because the Board of Correction, a civilian oversight body, published the number of cases in a letter it sent Saturday reiterating the urgent need to drastically reduce the number of people trapped in the city’s jails, where fundamental sanitation remains lacking and social distancing impossible. Only a day later did the Department of Correction come forward with an updated number.
As the dire predictions of widespread transmission on Rikers lurch inexorably toward realization, the likelihood that many people could die because they were not released becomes clearer. If that comes to pass, the list of people directly responsible for those deaths — the people who knew the jails of Rikers Island were a death trap, who had the power to let people out and chose not to — will be very short.
That list includes New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo; New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio; the five district attorneys of New York City; and Chief Judge for the State of New York Janet DiFiore.
Amazon Warehouse Workers Win Fight for Paid Time Off as Company Condemned for 'Reckless' Labor Practices
Amazon warehouse workers in Chicago on Monday were credited with forcing the company to finally guarantee the paid time off policy clearly stated in Amazon's employee handbook, following a months-long campaign.
Amid condemnation over Amazon's treatment of its employees during the global coronavirus pandemic, the company released a memo to its 800,000-strong workforce stating that starting Monday, all part-time and seasonal employees will be permitted to submit paid time off (PTO) requests, just as full-time workers can.
The new policy is simply a confirmation of what's stated in the company's employee manual, wrote a group of warehouse workers in Chicago known as DCH1 Amazonians United.
"Amazon did not 'give' us PTO—we took our PTO from Amazon's greedy hands," wrote the workers in a Medium post Sunday. "We went up against the wealthiest man in the world and we won."
In the middle of a pandemic, we won PTO for ourselves and ALL Amazon workers. This is *how* we did it and how you can join us. Hopefully it serves as an example of how ya'll can get started too! https://t.co/BBIZpeazQE
— DCH1 Amazonians United (@Dch1United) March 22, 2020
After organizing last year to make sure they have access to clean drinking water at their work facility and successfully pressuring their managers to address the problem, with 150 workers signing a petition, the workers took on the company in January over its refusal to grant them PTO.
The employee manual clearly stated that all employees who work 20 hours per week or more are entitled to "paid personal time to be used in the event of illness or other personal business."
When they confronted their managers with their demand and the stated policy, the group wrote, the management "gave us all sorts of excuses saying 'this policy doesn't apply to y'all because you're part-time workers' despite the policy stating that associates who regularly work over 20 hours, like us, get PTO. Then management claimed that we don't get PTO because we're 'Class Q employees' which we had never heard of before."
DCH1 Amazonians United responded by passing out flyers to their coworkers showing them the PTO they were supposed to be entitled to and wearing "Amazonians United for PTO" pins to work. The campaign eventually garnered 251 signatures on a petition which they presented to top-level managers at three separate All-Hands meetings over the past three months.
On Friday, Amazon released a statement to all employees saying part-time workers would be entitled to PTO.
The DCH1 Amazonians United victory followed widespread condemnation of Whole Foods—owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos—after it suggested, in the middle of a global public health crisis, that employees "donate" their PTO to a pool that all workers could draw from.
On Tuesday, a week after declaring a state of emergency due to the spread of Covid-19, Minnesota’s Democratic Gov. Tim Walz signed an executive order pertaining to his state’s 50,000 executive branch employees. The order extended paid leave to all state employees for absences like caring for children due to school closures, and authorized agency heads to waive parts of collective bargaining agreements so as to more easily deploy workers where and when needed. Minnesota law grants the governor such powers during such emergencies.
Publicly, unions representing these workers praised Walz for his action on paid leave, and offered only muted concerns about the collective bargaining measures — stressing they will monitor the situation to ensure employers do not abuse their new authorities.
Privately, though, unions were taken off guard by the governor’s actions, and were unable to get the state to agree to establishing guardrails in the order itself around preventing employer abuse.
Workers are concerned that other states, especially less labor-friendly ones, may follow Minnesota’s lead, and use the pandemic as a pretext to weaken unions in the long term. In California, some employers have been lobbying for a similar executive order, to free themselves of public-sector bargaining restraints. While state employees have made clear they’re committed to flexibly responding to the crisis, unions understand anti-labor managers have wielded emergencies to their benefit in the past.
An excellent article from FAIR:
It might be easy to forget, given the crisis enveloping the world at the moment, that the United States is scheduled to hold a very important election in November. But with projections that the Covid-19 crisis isn’t going away any time soon, what will this mean for voters’ access to the polls, and the very legitimacy of the election? These are important questions, and journalists play a critical role in answering them.
Many have risen admirably to the task. For instance, the Center for Public Integrity, in partnership with Time (3/23/20), spoke with voting rights experts to lay out the possibilities and pitfalls of different responses. The primary action being floated is a bill, introduced by Democratic senators Ron Wyden and Amy Klobuchar, that would require no-excuse vote-by-mail options and 20 days of early in-person voting in every state, as well as offering federal funding for the implementation of those measures.
But as voting rights experts told CPI reporter Carrie Levine, the changes have to be implemented thoughtfully to avoid disenfranchisement. Mail-in ballots from communities of color, for example, have historically been rejected at higher rates, and language, ability and even poor access to reliable mail service (as on Native American reservations, for instance) can be a barrier for many.
As Politico (3/17/20) and the New York Times (3/19/20), among others, also reported, election officials warn these steps have to be jumped on immediately in order to have any chance of being ready to roll out for November 3, and to work out all the potential security and disenfranchisement risks. The media must push these concerns front and center if there’s any hope of pulling off a successful election.
Editorially, some are speaking out. The New York Times (3/21/20) and Washington Post (3/18/20) editorial boards used their platform to urge passage of Wyden and Klobuchar’s bill. The Times (3/12/20) gave column space to Dale Ho of the ACLU to make the case as well, while the Post (3/16/20) did so for Wyden and Klobuchar. Times columnist David Leonhardt (3/18/20) urged congressional Democrats to engage in “bare-knuckle politics” to ensure it happens: “Refuse to pass any big stimulus bill unless it includes provisions to ensure that the country can hold a presidential election this fall.”
But not all outlets appear equally concerned. Some simply aren’t discussing it: A FAIR search of ABC, CBS and NBC transcripts turned up no on-air discussions of the impact of the crisis on the November elections.
Others have been quick to play down worries. Take The Hill, where the headline over a column by Blake Kaufmann (3/22/20) reassured: “Have No Fear, the General Election Will Move Forward.” The column itself, while warning that “There is a lot to concern us about the ways [Donald Trump] could abuse executive power in the months ahead in order support his re-election efforts,” concludes that, considering clear constitutional protections,
Americans should have absolute confidence that regardless of Trump’s rhetorical and procedural shenanigans (and no doubt there will be plenty), the November elections will proceed as scheduled.
Or see CNN.com (3/18/20), where Chris Cillizza argued under the headline “No, Donald Trump Can’t Cancel the 2020 General Election” that such an idea should be put
in a bin with all of the other conspiracy theories kicking around the internet regarding the reverberations and impacts from coronavirus. Facts matter. And the facts make clear this ain’t happening.
While it’s important to dispel myths around the ability of the president to simply cancel elections, it’s just as important to warn of the very real dangers to the 2020 election.
Even if such legislation is passed—still a big if—what about the legitimacy of the election? As New York‘s Ed Kilgore pointed out (3/16/20), since mail-in ballots take longer to count, a days- or even weeks-long delay in finalizing the general election results—particularly in the context of such new methods of voting—could leave the vote vulnerable to accusations of illegitimacy:
Is there any remote chance Donald J. Trump would fail to fire off tweets every 15 minutes alleging without a shred of evidence that the godless socialistic Democrat Party was stealing the election with millions of illegal votes from homicidal Mexicans? It’s a real concern.
If the results are close (and even if they’re not), what’s to stop Trump from refusing to accept the outcome? Observers mapped out ways Trump and the GOP could contest the election even well before the Covid-19 crisis struck (e.g., Washington Monthly, 4-6/19); with the uncertainty caused by imperfectly implemented new voting methods, Trump will find himself with an incredibly useful justification for challenging a loss, and the country could find itself in a constitutional crisis—or worse.
For all of these reasons, ensuring accessible and secure elections in November are of the utmost importance. No respectable reporter or pundit should be downplaying threats to the elections. And all media outlets should be covering this crucial story consistently and prominently from now until election day—from the push for federal legislation to the process of implementation in each state.
The bankrupt utility responsible for providing power to millions of Californians will plead guilty to criminal charges in the deadly 2018 fire that destroyed the town of Paradise.
Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) has agreed to plead guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of unlawfully causing a fire in relation to the blaze sparked on 8 November 2018 by PG&E equipment, according to a securities filing. The fire, which started under a PG&E transmission line in the Sierra Nevada foothills, grew to more than 150,000 acres and destroyed 18,000 buildings.
Under the agreement, PG&E will pay about $3.5m in fines, and $500,000 to reimburse the Butte county district attorney’s office for costs related to the investigation. The utility has also agreed to pay up to $15m for water access for Butte county residents affected by the loss of the Miocene Canal. Bill Johnson, the PG&E president, described the plea agreement as an “important step in taking responsibility for the past”. ...
The news out of Butte county comes days after the company struck a deal with the California governor as part of its bankruptcy exit plan, one of the final obstacles in its bankruptcy process. Per that deal, PG&E has agreed to greater regulatory oversight and to not pay shareholder dividends for three years.
It’s not the first time PG&E has faced criminal charges. In 2017, PG&E was found guilty of violations of federal pipeline safety regulations in relation to a 2010 gas pipeline explosion that killed eight people in San Bruno, California. PG&E was placed on probation for five years and has a court-imposed monitor, who oversees its safety performance.
Nuclear Industry Effort to Exploit Coronavirus Crisis for Backdoor Bailout Decried as 'Disaster Capitalism at its Worst'
Friends of the Earth on Monday accused the nuclear power industry of exhibiting "disaster capitalism at its worst" after a lobbying group representing it reportedly asked the Trump administration for a 30% percent tax credit amid the coronavirus pandemic and pressed congressional lawmakers to include handouts in stimulus legislation making its way through the House and Senate.
According to E&E News, which focuses on the energy industry, the request came in a letter sent to congressional leaders and White House officials on Friday by Nuclear Energy Institute president and CEO Maria Korsnick.
In addition to other forms of aid—including sick leave for employees and "prioritized access" to testing and masks—the letter requested taxpayer-funded grants in the form of broad tax credits and waivers for existing regulatory fees.
"Our member companies are anticipating—or are already experiencing—severe financial strain as product orders are delayed or canceled, as industrial electricity demand falls, and as workforce availability becomes increasingly constrained," Krosnick wrote to in a letter sent to lawmakers, Treasury Sectary Steven Mnuchin, and Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council.
In reaction, Friends of the Earth senior policy analyst Lukas Ross called the request a bald effort to exploit the current outbreak and economic downturn to obtain the same kind of financial bailout it has repeatedly sought from the U.S. government in recent years.
"Demanding a $23 billion gift from taxpayers during an unprecedented public health crisis sets a new low bar," said Lukas Ross, senior policy analyst with Friends of the Earth. "The nuclear industry begged for a bailout last fall and is now using coronavirus to try and brazenly grab more cash."
Nuclear is the latest industry to use this public health crisis as an opportunity to lobby for billions of dollars in gov't handouts -- an ask they had before the crisis even started.
This is disaster capitalism at its worst.https://t.co/3tpU3hdOyg
— Friends of the Earth (@foe_us) March 23, 2020
Green Group Urges Nationalization of Oil and Gas Industry Amid Coronavirus Outbreak and Economic Upheaval
As the Trump administration weighs a bailout for the fossil fuel industry amid plummeting oil prices, the climate action group Food & Water Action demanded Monday that the government instead take the economic and public health crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to take ownership of the struggling, environmentally destructive industry.
The organization called on the federal government to take a controlling stake in the fossil fuel sector, a move which it said would keep federal funds from being used to benefit CEOs and wealthy fossil fuel investors.
As one in five Americans report a loss of work in recent weeks as a result of the pandemic, the Trump administration is considering low-interest loans for the industry, according to The New Republic—but such proposals will only offer short-term assistance to an industry which already has fewer jobs to offer Americans than the sustainable energy sector, Food & Water Action said.
"It's time to take bold action to rescue the American economy and set an unstable, polluting industry on the path to saving jobs," said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of the group. "Public ownership of the oil and gas industry will help secure the health, safety, and employment of people across the country, while ensuring an energy transition that prioritizes clean, safe food and water and a livable planet for all."
Under public ownership of fossil fuel companies, the group said, the government would be forced to end oil and gas drilling, fracking, and the building of fossil fuel infrastructure as the transition to the green economy ramps up.
Government control of the industry could mirror the nationalization of previously private companies during World Wars I and II, Kate Aronoff wrote in The New Republic earlier this month. At the time, the U.S. government took control of railroads in order to ensure troops and supplies were transported quickly, as well as other industries and private companies.
"Nationalization...has a long and proud tradition of navigating America through times of crisis, from World War II to 9/11," Aronoff wrote. "No sector may be facing as profound a crisis right now as the oil and gas industry. With crashing oil prices, all manner of stimulus measures on the table, and previously tight-fisted politicians now thinking more creatively, nationalizing the fossil fuel industry might just be one of the most sensible ideas on offer."
By taking fossil fuel companies under public ownership while they're cheap to buy, the U.S. could ensure the country's energy demands are met responsibly as it transitions to a net-zero-emissions economy, without the need to appease those companies' shareholders. Instead of giving up the decision-making power such a big share purchase would ordinarily entitle them to, as in a bailout, policymakers would use their new equity stake to begin a managed decline of fossil fuels and guarantee workers full pensions and wage parity.
On Sunday, President Donald Trump dismissed the notion of using the Defense Production Act to take government control of industries, saying, "We're a country not based on nationalizing our business."
Trump's statement was "completely wrong," tweeted Thomas Hanna of Democracy Collaborative, a progressive think tank.
Completely wrong. This country routinely nationalizes private companies and whole industries, especially during times of crisis. Presidents from Wilson, FDR, & Obama to Nixon, Reagan, & Bush II all did it. https://t.co/CaZHIeizMm https://t.co/6474OHACYJ
— Thomas M. Hanna (@ThomasMHanna) March 23, 2020
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Fats Domino - The Big Beat
Fats Domino - Poor Me
Fats Domino - All By Myself
Fats Domino - I Hear You Knocking
Fats Domino - I’ve Been Around
Fats Domino - The Fat Man
Fats Domino - Shu Rah
Fats Domino - Going To The River
Fats Domino - My Blue Heaven