Friday, June 21, 2024

Bits 'n pieces from east, west and beyond

| April 9, 2021 7:00 AM

East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact. A recent sampling:

With warnings that domestic terrorism, such as the assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6, could continue for up to two decades, a bipartisan group of members of the House Homeland Security Committee are exploring how to address the challenge. The Washington Post said ideas under consideration include treating domestic terrorism as equal to international terrorism, holding social media companies accountable for circulating extremist propaganda and funding for mitigation strategies.

An investigation of WinRed, the digital fundraising arm of Donald Trump’s reelection campaign, shows they’ve reimbursed donors who thought they were making one-time donations, but ended up unknowingly forking over recurring contributions from their bank accounts, according to The New York Times. The online fundraiser required donors to opt-out of recurring donations or additional, and larger, contributions. None of these pre-checked boxes, being part of fine print, was easy to see.

An example: A man treated for cancer donated $500, but had $3,000 withdrawn by WinRed in one month. After donors caught on, online donations of over $122 million were returned, Forbes said. Those return funds came from money Trump raised after the election to fight what the former president called election fraud. WinRed says it’s easy to request a refund. Trump’s campaign did not respond when asked if they were aware of the scheme, the Times reported.

The Labor Department said 916,000 jobs were added in March, dropping unemployment to 6 percent. That is still 8.4 million fewer jobs than in February 2020, before the pandemic took off.

From the “will it fly?” file: Since Congress has inside information that impacts the stock market, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has proposed that members should put their stock holdings in a blind trust and be banned from trading stocks.

All U.S. adults can be vaccinated by July 4, reducing the possibility of a big surge in COVID-19 mutations. The best way to avoid a variant surge is to ensure that COVID-19 “doesn’t find new hosts to replicate in and spread through,” Vox pointed out. They said the current surge could be the last if people continue habits like social distancing, masking up, hand washing and getting vaccinated.

President Joe Biden’s proposed American Jobs Plan was introduced last week. It calls for spending $2.25 trillion over eight years for clean energy and infrastructure jobs, to be paid for by taxing the rich and big corporations. Republicans are saying the economy is too fragile for tax increases.

According to Forbes, while the U.S. has experienced the biggest rise in poverty in more than 50 years since the start of the pandemic, the nation’s billionaires’ collective net worth has grown by $1.1 trillion in that same time.

The White House says the jobs proposal will be paid for over the next 15 years if the Made in America tax plan is passed. That plan would raise the corporate tax rate to 28 percent and close loopholes that prevent corporate stashing of money in offshore banks.

Other funding components of the American Jobs Plan (from a variety of news sources): weatherizing and retrofitting millions of buildings to make them more energy efficient; construction of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations; encouraging the manufacture and purchase of EVs; funds for a Civilian Climate Corps; elimination of tax preferences for fossil fuel producers; increased investments in research and development, in roads and bridges, in public transit, broadband and water infrastructure (no more drinking from lead pipes); a plan to restock the nation’s Strategic National Stockpile to bolster preparedness for future pandemics; and a boost for domestic care workers: better wages and benefits.

A Reuters-Ipsos poll shows 79 percent of Americans support an “overhaul” of traffic routes, including ports; 71 percent favor expanding high-speed Internet to all users; 68 percent support replacing lead water pipes; 66 percent support tax credits for renewable energy; 64 percent support paying for those programs with tax hikes on corporations and large businesses, and 56 percent favor ending tax favors for the fossil fuel industry.

Support for these initiatives sloughed off slightly when they were framed as part of a Biden Administration plan.

In a statement introducing the American Jobs Plan, it was noted that the U.S. now ranks 13th in the world for its quality of infrastructure and that the public domestic investment has fallen over 40 percent since the 1960s.

Blast from the past: The nation’s highways got a big boost from Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956. Years earlier, as a military general, Eisenhower had attempted to take 72 military vehicles with officers and enlisted men on a national tour to display new military equipment. Roads were so poor that they averaged 10 mph. His $25 billion Federal-Aid Highway Act, which aimed to tie together existing roadways with 41,000 miles of road, resulted not only in increased employment for road builders, but also new markets for motels, diners, gas stations and towns along the way.

At the time the top marginal income tax rate was 91 percent for incomes over $200,000 (during which time the U.S. was also helping Europe to rebuild after World War II). By 1970, American incomes had doubled.