Tag Archives: Biden

Joe Biden And Childhood Poverty

Joe Biden has been President for barely a month, and he has already proved me wrong.

Don’t misunderstand–I have always really liked Biden. I have read enough stories and heard about enough incidents from people who know him personally to recognize that he is a genuinely decent, caring human being. A mensch. I was in agreement with his platform, and I was happy to vote for him. But his long history of bipartisanship in the Senate–not to mention the Obama Administration’s (constantly rebuffed) efforts to reach across the aisle–led me to expect more of the same.

Instead, Biden hasn’t just “hit the ground running.” He has been aggressive and arguably transformative. He has acted decisively to rid the federal government of the sleeper agents (my terminology, but I’d argue it’s accurate) inserted in various agencies; he’s appointed highly competent, experienced people to replace the corrupt lobbyists and know-nothings intent upon crippling those agencies, and I have applauded his clear commitment to the environment, to ending the pandemic and getting the economy back on track, among numerous other things.

While Biden has been civil and welcoming to Republicans who have made noises about compromise–Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post dubbed Biden’s recent meeting with ten GOP Senators an “exercise in performative bipartisanship”– he’s also made it very clear that he intends to fulfill his campaign promises with or without them. No more falling for what has aptly been called the GOP’s “Lucy and the football” ploys.

In other words, the good news has just kept coming!

And here’s more: I only recently became aware of an incredibly important element of Biden’s pandemic stimulus–a measure that experts say could reduce childhood poverty by fifty percent.

As Nicholas Kristof explained in his column in the New York Times, 

President Biden included a proposal in his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that one study says would cut child poverty by half. We in the news media have focused on direct payments to individuals, but the historic element of Biden’s plan is its effort to slash child poverty.

“The American Rescue Plan is the most ambitious proposal to reduce child poverty ever proposed by an American president,” Jason Furman, a Harvard economist, told me.

It will not surprise anyone to know that this provision was entirely absent from the Republican “compromise” proposal. (The party of “religion and Jesus and children,” as Representative Rosa DeLauro sarcastically put it…Or as Kristof writes, “Jesus says (19:14) suffer the little children to approach him; he absolutely does not recommend that the little children shall suffer.”)

Biden’s plan to address child poverty would expand the existing child tax credit, up to $3,600 a year for young children. There is an existing child tax credit, but the way it currently works, the families that are most in need of it earn too little to take advantage of it. They earn too little to pay taxes, and the credit is taken against taxes owed. So it looks progressive–even magnanimous– but in practice, it isn’t.  

Biden’s plan would change the credit into a monthly stipend–and as Kristof notes, even a sum as modest as $3,600 would be utterly transformative for many low-income families.

One reason to think that this would be so successful is that many other countries have used similar strategies to cut child poverty by large margins. Canada’s parallel approach cut child poverty by 20 to 30 percent, depending on who’s counting, and Britain under Tony Blair cut child poverty in half.

Now that Democrats are in power, Republicans can be expected to protest that the country can’t afford Biden’s plan. (That protest conveniently overlooks the $2.3 trillion dollar cost of their massive tax cut, which primarily enriched the already affluent.) A cost-benefit analysis says we certainly can afford it, because it will ultimately save money– current estimates put the costs of child poverty to the United States at about $1 trillion annually, a sum that reflects reduced adult productivity, increased crime and higher health care costs. 

During the primaries, I worried that both Biden and Bernie were too old. I was wrong. It may be that Biden expects to be a one-term president–a realization that frees him from second-term electoral calculations, and reminds him that he has a limited time to turn the country around. 

Whatever the reason, I’ve never been so happy to be wrong. Biden is on his way to being a truly transformative president.

 

The Equality Act

Those of us who follow such things remember that Joe Biden endorsed same-sex marriage before Barack Obama did. (It is highly likely that Obama held that pro-equality position well before he was ready to publicly announce it, but his public position was undoubtedly  accelerated by Biden’s pronouncement.)

Now, Biden is reassuring the LGBTQ community that he will move swiftly to protect gay equality.

As president-elect, Biden is making sweeping promises to LGBTQ activists, proposing to carry out virtually every major proposal on their wish lists. Among them: Lifting the Trump administration’s near-total ban on military service for transgender people, barring federal contractors from anti-LGBTQ job discrimination, and creating high-level LGBTQ-rights positions at the State Department, the National Security Council and other federal agencies.

It’s impossible to disagree with Biden’s observation that Trump and Vice President Mike Pence “have given hate against LGBTQ+ individuals safe harbor and rolled back critical protections.” (Let’s be candid: the Trump/Pence administration has encouraged hatred against all people who are “other”–defined as not white Christian straight male.)

There is, of course, a limit to what can be done through executive action, and Biden has said that his top legislative priority for LGBTQ issues is the Equality Act.

The Equality Act was passed by the House of Representatives last year, but–surprise! not— stalled in the Senate. It would nationalize the comprehensive anti-bias protections already in place in 21, mostly Democratic-governed states, protecting against anti-LGBTQ discrimination in housing, public accommodations and public services.

According to the AP report at the link,

Biden says he wants the act to become law within 100 days of taking office, but its future remains uncertain. Assuming the bill passes again in the House, it would need support from several Republicans in the Senate, even if the Democrats gain control by winning two runoff races in Georgia. For now, Susan Collins of Maine is the only GOP co-sponsor in the Senate.

The Equality Act is opposed by the usual suspects, who are screaming that equal rights for gay people are “special rights” and an intrusion on their “religious liberty.”

These defenders of discrimination based upon the religious beliefs of some–certainly not all–denominations remind me of a long-ago committee hearing I attended in the Indiana legislature. That body was “considering” (note quotes) a bill that that would extend some measure of civil rights to gay Hoosiers. If my memory is correct, that bill was offered every session for several years by then-State Senator Louis Mahern, and just as routinely defeated. (Louie is a friend of ours, and once shared  a letter he’d received from a Hoosier “Christian” pastor, informing him that as a result of that advocacy, the pastor’s congregation was praying for Mahern’s painful death…)

In the hearing I attended, another Indianapolis pastor, now deceased–Greg Dixon, of the Indianapolis Baptist Temple–testified. He informed the committee that his bible commanded him to stone gay people (“sodomites”), and that any effort to prevent him from following that biblical command was an unconstitutional invasion of his religious liberty.

So there!

Every time the government proposes to eliminate discrimination against marginalized populations, we hear the same refrain from religious fundamentalists. The 1964 Civil Rights bill was opposed by people who claimed that God wanted black and white people separated and women subordinated.

The benefit of separating personal and civic behaviors–giving government and religion separate jurisdictions–is that we can allow these unpleasant people to discriminate in their personal lives, but forbid their efforts to make their hatreds the law of the land.

There should be no religious privilege to behave in ways that we collectively deem destructive to our social health.

As I like to say, if you don’t like gay people–or Black people or Muslims or Jews–then you don’t have to invite them to dinner. Thanks to separation of Church and State, however, you can’t tell landlords they need not rent to them or restaurant owners that they need not serve them.

America has just voted overwhelmingly to elect a mensch. Let’s hope he can get the Equality Act passed.

 

 

Tweets With Filing Fees

The Trump Campaign is filing a veritable blizzard of lawsuits in an effort to cling to power–or at least, convince Trump’s base that the election has been “stolen” from him. As one observer has characterized those lawsuits, 

Trump is dealing with state election officials the same way he deals with contractors he’s stiffed. Just scream BS accusations at them and sue the hell out of them and hope they relent. It’s not gonna work in this context [of state election law].

As a number of legal observers have pointed out, there is no discernible legal strategy to these suits, which range from fabricated to weird to just plain silly, as a description of one such suit illustrates:

The campaign alleged that a poll watcher saw 53 ballots separated out from a bin of other ballots and so that must have meant that they weren’t delivered on time to be counted by 7 PM Tuesday. But asked if he had any evidence—at all—that they weren’t delivered on time, he said he didn’t know. The campaign put up another poll watcher who said he had “questions” about the chain of custody of those 53 ballots. Did he have any evidence they arrived late? Nope. An elections official then testifiedthat those 53 ballots “were, in fact, received by GA’s Election Day deadline, saying they were handled separately because they didn’t show up on a manifest of absentee voters so they had to be checked.” And the case was dismissed after having wasted a lot of people’s time, including an election official in a state that right now has both a presidential and Senate race down to the wire.

ProPublica had a similar take–and also, the best comment on the “strategy.”

“A lawsuit without provable facts showing a statutory or constitutional violation is just a tweet with a filing fee,” said Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

Levitt said judges by and large have ignored the noise of the race and the bluster of President Donald Trump’s Twitter feed. “They’ve actually demanded facts and haven’t been ruling on all-caps claims of fraud or suppression,” Levitt said. “They haven’t confused public relations with the predicate for litigation, and I would expect that to continue.”

One of my Facebook friends–a former reporter (from back in the days when our local pretend-newspaper had such things)–posted a really good summary as the counting continued on Friday morning:

Trump supporters and other Republicans, this is the time to show exactly how patriotic you are.

If the vote counting trends continue, Trump is going to lose.

There has been no real evidence of fraud. In fact, the same ballots with Biden votes showed votes for other Republicans down the ballot, for the House and Senate, where the GOP made gains. Republicans have watched every count. Republicans lead many of the vote counting operations and the states with close votes.
Evidence matters. And there’s none to indicate fraud. If some turns up, the courts will sort it out.

In the end, you have to accept the results as the will of the people. It’s democracy working. You don’t have to like the outcome. You can bitch and moan and complain about Biden for the next four years. That’s what I’ve been doing the last four. That, too, is democracy.

But a peaceful transition is one of the great hallmarks of our country. If we can’t do that, we’re nothing better than a banana republic.

Patriotism isn’t just about the Pledge of Allegiance or the national anthem. Patriotism isn’t just flag waving in the sun. It’s also about accepting that, in a democracy, sometimes the other side wins.

My only quibble with this excellent comment is that we really aren’t a democracy. Hillary Clinton won the 2016 popular vote by just under 3 million votes; as I type this, Joe Biden has garnered over four million more votes than Trump. In order to be a democracy or a democratic Republic, we really, really need to get rid of the Electoral College.

 

The Crowding-Out Effect

Tomorrow is the most important Election Day in my lifetime. Among other things, the results will tell me whether my longtime faith in the common sense and goodwill of my fellow Americans has been justified or misplaced.

Hopefully, after tomorrow, this blog can return to discussions of rational, albeit debatable, policy proposals, commentary on interesting research results, and occasional forays into legal disputes and political philosophy. Hopefully too, we will have occasion to use a phrase introduced by Gerald Ford: “our long national nightmare is over.”

One aspect of that “long national nightmare,” of course, is the incredible amount of destruction it will leave in its wake–regulations that must be reinstated, laws that must once again be enforced, corrupt people who must be held accountable, and a return to public health directed by medical scientists rather than politicians, among many other things.

The opposite of “nightmare” is a good night’s sleep, and if all goes well, we can once again look forward to days when we haven’t had to think about the President of the United States, followed by nights when we can once again sleep soundly because–whether we agree with administration policies or not– a sane and honorable person is in charge.

If there is one word I have heard over and over during this political season, it is “exhaustion.” Trump’s desperate need for constant attention, his bizarre tweet-storms, insults and various insanities have sucked the oxygen out of our public life. He has been in our faces, on our television screens, Facebook feeds and comedy routines. As several columnists have recently noted, he has crowded out so many activities that we would otherwise enjoy–books of fiction, works of art and music, conversations with friends that didn’t give rise to disappointment when we discovered their willingness to look the other way so long as their 401K stayed healthy…

Last Thursday, at the New York Times, Michelle Goldberg wrote about all the things we’ve lost.

After listing the “big” things–the lives lost to COVID, the children whose parents can’t be located, the people whose livelihoods have disappeared, and after acknowledging the greater significance of those losses, she speaks for so many of us:

When I think back, from my obviously privileged position, on the texture of daily life during the past four years, all the attention sucked up by this black hole of a president has been its own sort of loss. Every moment spent thinking about Trump is a moment that could have been spent contemplating, creating or appreciating something else. Trump is a narcissistic philistine, and he bent American culture toward him.

I’ve no doubt that great work was created over the past four years, but I missed much of it, because I was too busy staring in incredulous horror at my phone….

Conservatives love to jeer Democrats for being obsessed with Trump, for letting him live, as many put it, rent-free in our heads. It’s a cruel accusation, like setting someone’s house on fire and then laughing at them for staring at the flames. The outrage Trump sparks leaves less room for many other things — joy, creativity, reflection — but every bit of it is warranted. The problem is the president, not how his victims respond to him.

If the polls are right, if Biden wins convincingly, Americans will nevertheless be on pins and needles until January 20th. We won’t be out of the woods until this blot on our nation and our history is gone–and even then, we will be left with the alt-right haters and know-nothings who have spent the campaign brandishing guns, refusing to wear masks and cheering ugly pronouncements at Trump rallies– voters motivated by fear and grievance who want only to “own the libs.”

Buckle up. We’re about to see how this horror show ends.

 

Omens…

Our ancestors looked for omens in animal entrails. My nerves–already stressed to the breaking point as we approach Tuesday’s election–sent me on a somewhat more modern search, which may or may not be more accurate.

The polls, of course, are comforting–except when they aren’t. I compulsively visit FiveThirtyEight.com. daily, where the odds, at least, strongly favor Biden. But then I remember how strongly they favored Hillary…

I look at the unprecedented number of Republican defectors: not just the Lincoln Project and Republicans for Biden, and the other groups out there doing television ads, but the 20  Republican  former U.S. Attorneys who warned last week that Trump endangers the rule of law, the 600 prominent Republicans (including numerous former office-holders) who’ve endorsed Biden, the 700+ Intelligence and national security officers who signed the letter I posted last week, warning that Trump is a threat to America’s security and place in the world…and numerous others.

Then there are those “never before” newspaper endorsements.

The conventional wisdom is that newspaper endorsements have little to no effect on voters in big national races, but Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has racked up a string of first-ever endorsements from a wide array of publications, including Nature, Scientific American, The New England Journal of Medicine, the Puerto Rican daily El Nuevo Día, and Surfer. On Tuesday, Biden got another one, from USA Today, one of the largest U.S. newspapers by circulation.

USA Today (or “McPaper” as we detractors call it) has an ideologically diverse editorial board, but the board has unanimously endorsed Biden.

“If this were a choice between two capable major party nominees who happened to have opposing ideas, we wouldn’t choose sides,” USA Today’s editorial board said. “But this is not a normal election, and these are not normal times. This year, character, competence, and credibility are on the ballot. Given Trump’s refusal to guarantee a peaceful transfer of power if he loses, so, too, is the future of America’s democracy.”

As of last week, at least 119 daily and weekly newspaper editorial boards had formally backed Biden. Probably the most surprising was The New Hampshire Union Leader, which hadn’t backed a Democrat in over a century.

Culture change is harder to quantify, but public opinion seems to favor progressive positions. Seventy percent of Americans now support same-sex marriage while only 28 percent oppose it, according to a poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute. That’s the highest level of support the institute has ever recorded for same-sex marriage. The percentage of Americans who support a woman’s right to control her own reproduction is up, too (Pew says it’s 61%), as is the percentage supporting Black Lives Matter.

The fact that nearly 80 million people have already cast a ballot is an even harder sign to decipher–yet I look at the long lines, many if not all clearly representative of American diversity, and the unprecedented number of young voters, and I have trouble believing that they demonstrate an outpouring of support for Trump. I look, too, at the  GOP’s rush to confirm a rigidly ideological judge before the election as evidence of their desperation and their own clear belief that they’re losing…..

All of this should comfort me. It doesn’t. 

For one thing, there are columns like this one.

And even if Biden wins, who knows what this lunatic and his corrupt and thuggish enablers will do if the results aren’t overwhelmingly clear on Tuesday? What additional harm can he do between the election and January 21st, even if he accepts a loss? We’ve seen the brutishness, brazen criminality and irrational behavior of his supporters, egged on and encouraged by this embodiment of their rage and grievance. Will they take to the streets?

The only thing I’m sure of is that I am too old and way too tired for this. Maybe I should look for some animal entrails…