Friday Talking Points -- Democrats Should Lean In To Biden's New Pandemic Mandates

[ Posted Friday, September 10th, 2021 – 17:04 UTC ]

This week, President Joe Biden picked a political fight. Or, more accurately, he got up off the sidelines and engaged in a political fight that had already begun, by strongly opposing Republican politicians fighting against basic public health safety measures under the fake guise of "freedom." Biden stood squarely for science and safety, while Republicans are left to fight for recklessness and death. That is precisely how the matter should be framed politically, and so far it looks like Biden is doing a fairly good job of presenting this dichotomy to the public. He's even taking the fight directly to all the GOP governors who are sounding increasingly unhinged about the basic concepts of public health and safety.

Biden gave a speech yesterday where he laid down some new rules (which have yet to take effect). The ones with the biggest impact are vaccine mandates for all federal employees and contractors, all workers at healthcare facilities that take Medicare and Medicaid money (most of them, in other words), and all federally-paid schoolteachers (think: Head Start). Furthermore, private businesses which have 100 employees or more must require either vaccinations or weekly testing for all workers -- or face a $14,000 fine for each individual violation.

To some of those frustrated by the intransigence of the unvaccinated among us, this didn't go nearly far enough. The new workplace-safety rule is not an actual mandate -- the weekly testing option will still be there for those who refuse to get their shots. This rule will, however, cover 80 million workers, or two-thirds of America's workforce. The one thing Biden didn't do, however, was to mandate vaccinations for passengers on airplanes, trains, and buses. Perhaps if this phase of ramping up the pressure on the unvaccinated goes down well politically, Biden might take this step later. It would be significant indeed if he did decide to do this right before both the Thanksgiving and winter holidays.

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Biden Rolls Out New Vaccine Plans

[ Posted Thursday, September 9th, 2021 – 16:16 UTC ]

President Joe Biden today gave a speech outlining the next steps the federal government will be taking to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. While some of these steps do not go as far as some had been hoping, there were several which will be significant in upping the pressure on unvaccinated people to get their shots. Although Biden didn't explicitly say so, at this point the best way to convince more people to get vaccinated is to make life harder and harder for the unvaccinated. And Biden took several large steps which will do so.

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California About To Make Universal Mail-In Voting Permanent

[ Posted Wednesday, September 8th, 2021 – 14:26 UTC ]

As I write this, there is less than a week to go before the votes in California's gubernatorial recall election will be counted. But, just as I predicted a few weeks ago, it now seems like a sure bet that Governor Gavin Newsom is going to beat the recall pretty handily. As I wrote back then, a few odd outlier polls had caused somewhat of a frenzy in the chattering classes of the inside-the-Beltway punditocracy, who all concluded that Newsom was in trouble and a Republican could win the recall. I didn't buy it. Not for a minute.

I didn't buy into this nervousness for two big reasons. The first is that it is impossible to predict "likely voters" (what the one poll that freaked everyone out was attempting to measure) in a one-time special recall election, with nothing else on the ballot, held in an odd month rather than on the normal election schedule. Nobody knew how many people were going to actually vote, so any predictive model was little better than throwing a dart at a dartboard of numbers.

But the second reason was much more convincing, at least to me:

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Reconciliation Endgame About To Begin

[ Posted Tuesday, September 7th, 2021 – 15:43 UTC ]

The next month in Congress might be the most momentous period for the institution in a very long time. We are almost down to the wire on President Joe Biden's entire economic agenda. Success seems elusive, but at the same time still achievable. If everything falls perfectly into place, Congress could pass legislation that children will learn about in history class right along with L.B.J.'s Great Society and F.D.R.'s New Deal. That's how momentous the next few weeks might be.

Might be. Being Democrats, there's always a good chance they'll find a way to screw it up. Already a few of them seem almost eager to destroy the carefully-constructed plan to get everything onto Biden's desk at the same time. So there is definitely not any sort of guarantee of success.

The schedule is beyond aggressive, for such enormously complex legislation. Two days from now, the House will begin churning through the business of putting together all the disparate pieces of legislation into one final bill. The House and Senate are working hand-in-hand (at least, they're supposed to be) so that both houses will come up with a bill that will pass both houses without changes. If this works as designed, it will save a huge amount of time -- on the order of months, actually. This is good, because Democrats don't have months to waste.

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From The Archives -- Labor's Agenda Should Become Democrats' Top Priorities

[ Posted Monday, September 6th, 2021 – 15:55 UTC ]

Happy Labor Day, everyone!

As usual, I've decided to play hooky today, so please enjoy this Labor Day column from four years ago. This was the first year of Donald Trump being in office and the Democrats were a pretty despondent bunch. This was written to hopefully show they could improve their standing with the public (especially those who had voted for Trump) by actually standing for something.

This is worth looking back upon, because when Congress returns from their lengthy mid-summer break, they're actually going to have a chance to vote on some incredibly ambitious programs that will improve life for tens of millions of working-class American families. The list of what they are planning to do is different than the list in the article below (the $15-an-hour minimum wage having been rejected by the Senate parliamentarian for budget reconciliation bills), but it is certainly in the same spirit. Back then, of course, Bernie Sanders wasn't head of the Senate Budget Committee.

If the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill passes with at least the lion's share of President Joe Biden's economic agenda intact, it will be a historic once-in-a-generation leap forward, not only for specific Labor issues but for all kinds of beneficial programs. In any case, here were my suggestions from four years ago about what just such a historic Democratic bill should really contain. Have a happy holiday everyone, and new columns will resume tomorrow.


Originally published September 4, 2017

Since today is Labor Day, I thought it was time to point out something that seems incredibly obvious to me. If you listen to the inside-the-Beltway chatter, Democrats are currently seen as floundering around, searching for an agenda. This is less true than the cocktail-party-circuit crowd believes, but whatever. Simultaneously, Democrats are urged to try to win back the working-class vote, because Donald Trump supposedly seduced them all away with his empty promises. Again, the answer to this perceived problem is pretty obvious. The Democratic Party needs to rededicate itself to the Labor agenda -- thus giving it a solid agenda to fight for, and also a perfect way to woo back white working-class voters.

There are plenty of items on the Labor agenda to choose from, because workers' rights have atrophied so much in the past few decades. Democrats need to select a limited number of these, and then promise immediate action on all of them should they win back control of either house of Congress. Here are six quick suggestions for changes that Democrats could easily champion:

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Friday Talking Points -- Supreme Court Shows Its True Colors

[ Posted Friday, September 3rd, 2021 – 16:47 UTC ]

This week began with conservatives and liberals upset because the women of Afghanistan will now lose their freedoms under a tyrannical extremist government. It ended with liberals upset that the women of Texas have now lost freedoms under a tyrannical extremist government. Conservatives were notably silent, which is understandable since they were the ones instituting this unconstitutional denial of rights from the women of the Lone Star State.

Women everywhere in America used to have the right to terminate their pregnancies up to the point when the fetus was viable outside their bodies -- anywhere from about 22 to 26 weeks after they get pregnant. Now, only women outside Texas have this right, since by a Machiavellian scheme it is now functionally illegal for Texas women to get an abortion beyond six weeks of pregnancy -- a time when most women aren't even aware they are pregnant. Laws like this (although decidedly less Draconian and Machiavellian) have passed state legislatures before, but they have always been struck down by the federal courts. This time, however, the Supreme Court refused to issue an emergency stay which would have barred the law from taking effect. So until further legal rulings happen, if you are a woman in Texas and want to exercise your constitutional rights, you will have to leave the state to do so.

Roe v. Wade isn't completely dead yet, but as we wrote earlier in the week, it is surely on life support. Now that the Supreme Court has given their imprimatur, there will be quick movement in other Republican-controlled state legislatures to pass identical laws. Within a very short period, abortion could be effectively outlawed in over 20 states. No, Roe isn't quite dead yet -- as long as you live in a blue state, that is. But the era of universally-legal abortion in America may be at an end.

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Roe On Life Support

[ Posted Thursday, September 2nd, 2021 – 15:50 UTC ]

The anti-abortion movement finally got what it wanted all along: a pliant Supreme Court that would overturn Roe v. Wade. It took them a long time and a lot of effort to accomplish this -- this movement truly started in the Reagan years with the self-titled "Moral Majority," after all -- but they've finally reached the end of the road. Maybe this will finally get Democrats to pay a little more attention to the importance of Supreme Court picks when voting in presidential races, because the rightwingers have known this for decades now. And it has finally paid off for them.

We all kind of knew this was coming, after Mitch McConnell blatantly stole away a Supreme Court pick from Barack Obama. We knew it was imminent when Ruth Bader Ginsburg died while a Republican was president and McConnell was still Senate majority leader. And now, here we are.

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Nice Telecom You Got Here -- Be A Shame If Anything Happened To It

[ Posted Wednesday, September 1st, 2021 – 15:23 UTC ]

The lead Republican in the House of Representatives just channelled his inner mob thug. Publicly. This is what the party has sunk to, folks. Overt threats of retaliation, should Republicans take back control of the chamber.

Kevin McCarthy recently responded in an awfully threatening manner to the news that the House January 6th Select Committee has asked dozens of telecommunications companies to preserve some specific records which might pertain to the insurrection and riot at the U.S. Capitol. There is nothing unusual in such a request -- again, all the companies are being asked to do at this point is to make sure any pertinent data does not get erased. That's it. Entirely legal, and perhaps a precursor to the committee issuing subpoenas for any or all of these records. Which would also be perfectly legal, under federal law. In fact, the subpoenas would be an exercise of federal law.

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Forever And A Day

[ Posted Tuesday, August 31st, 2021 – 16:00 UTC ]

President Joe Biden announced to the American people today: "The war in Afghanistan is now over." As he put it: "I was not going to extend this Forever War." One day after the last military plane carried the last soldiers, the commanding general, and the U.S. ambassador out of the country, Biden took the occasion to not only proclaim the war over but also to defend his handling of the end of it.

Biden was far more animated and emotional than he has been over the past few weeks. This is entirely understandable, as during the airlift operation he must have been constantly updated on the status on the ground at Kabul's airport. With the military now finally completely out, Biden must have finally been able to get a decent night's sleep. He was forceful in his address, he strongly defended his position on both the war itself and the withdrawal, and he obviously hopes this speech will be a pivot point to getting back to his domestic agenda and dealing with Hurricane Ida's aftermath.

Whether he will be successful at doing so depends largely (at this point) on what the Taliban does next, and how much the American media loses interest in the story. If a wave of reprisals and atrocities begins on a wide scale in Afghanistan, neither the media nor Biden will likely be able to move on. But if things stay relatively quiet and if all the foreign policy and war reporters eventually move on to different worldwide hotspots, then today may indeed be seen as a political turning point in public opinion.

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Busy September Ahead For Congress

[ Posted Monday, August 30th, 2021 – 16:27 UTC ]

Next month could wind up being a very productive one for Congress, although since we are talking about Congress we have to include the standard disclaimer: "but of course there is no guarantee." But the fact that there are several deadlines looming may actually prod them into action. The big question is whether they can manage to walk and chew gum at the same time, since there is so much on their "to do" list and so little time to accomplish it all.

This is all in addition to all the other work Congress does, I should point out. The investigation into January 6th will likely make significant progress, as they have requested an enormous amount of records from multiple federal agencies and departments. They could also schedule hearings, both private and public. This may not even be the only congressional investigation to make news, as it is quite likely a new investigation into the end of the American military presence in Afghanistan will get underway as well.

There are also deadlines that won't explicitly force Congress to act, but may politically become imperative. The additional COVID-19 unemployment benefits will end the first week in September (they already have ended, in many Republican-controlled states), right in the midst of the fourth Delta-driven wave of the pandemic. Congress could act to extend these benefits, but at this point that outcome has to be seen as doubtful at best.

There are four big areas, however, that Congress needs to act upon next month. All have deadlines of one sort or another. So let's take a look at what will be on deck for Congress when it returns from its monthlong vacation.

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