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Bits 'n pieces from east, west and beyond

by LORRAINE H. MARIE
| April 16, 2021 7:00 AM

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

Following recent mass shootings, President Joe Biden issued executive orders increasing regulation of ghost guns and devices like arm braces; new restrictions on pistol modifications; annual Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms reports on illegal firearm trafficking (after a 20-year absence); investment in community violence intervention programs; and guidance for states to implement extreme risk laws, Vox reported. When campaigning, Biden’s platform included a ban on assault weapons and a gun buy-back program. An analysis by Everytown of online gun sales indicated that 10 percent of people who bought guns could not pass a background check.

March measurements from Mauna Loa’s observatory showed atmospheric carbon dioxide levels exceeding 417 parts per million. Pre-industrial levels were in the range of 278 parts per million, according to carbonbrief.org.

A new report concludes that 55 of the largest U.S. corporations paid nothing in federal income taxes for 2020 despite earning more than $40 billion in profits, Americans for Tax Fairness reported. If those corporations had paid the current 21 percent rate, they would have paid $8.5 billion into federal coffers, instead of getting $3.5 billion in rebates. Biden has proposed a reform plan to fix the discrepancy: a tax rate of 28 percent and a minimum tax rate of 15 percent to discourage tax dodging.

Also of note: today’s CEO-to-worker pay ratio is 320-to-1, a contrast to 21-to-1 in 1965, according to the Economic Policy Institute. The corporate tax rate was 35 percent before the previous administration initiated tax cuts in 2017.

From the “let them eat cake” file: After making it a criminal act to provide food and water to voters waiting in line, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said on Newsmax, “They can order a pizza. They can order Grubhub or UberEats, right?”

In 2016, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center, a half million voters did not vote because of long lines and polling place management errors. Large corporations are objecting to the new Georgia law, drawing ire from nominally pro-business Republican politicians and pundits.

Biden moved his deadline of making all adults eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations up from May 1 to April 19, USNews.com reported. His initial April vaccination goal was reached in March. Biden cautions that new variants are spreading quickly, and cases and hospitalizations are going back up. The coronavirus mutations are more dangerous, but “the vaccines work on all of them,” Biden stated.

A report from Cornell University and Food and Water Watch concluded that if there had been a nationwide moratorium on water shutoffs at the start of the pandemic, it could have prevented 500,000 coronavirus infections and saved 9,000 lives due to better sanitation opportunities.

Congressional Republicans are arguing that infrastructure is too broadly defined in Biden’s American Jobs Plan, and the proposal should not include programs beyond transportation — such as for power lines, internet cable and jobs training — despite having supported advances in those arenas in the past.

The New York Times said, “the economy has changed, and so has the definition of infrastructure.” They noted that in the 1950s manufacturers employed a third of the workforce, but that has fallen to 8.5 percent. And that’s just one example of a changing economy.

Proponents of the plan argue that whatever helps people access work and lead better lives in the modern era counts as infrastructure, including fixing dangerous water systems, advancing the use of electric vehicles and expanding help for disabled and elderly Americans. Opponents say those are examples of overreach.

Blast from the past: In 2005 the Bush Administration tried to privatize Social Security, despite resistance from some Republican lawmakers. Democrats were in a minority, but promised they would save Social Security. The trick in the Dems’ hat was the filibuster: It would take 60 Senators to break a filibuster and force a vote on privatizing the social safety net.

The filibuster worked. There were not enough votes to kill Social Security, and dismantling one of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal undertakings did not move forward at that time.