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Bits 'n pieces from east, west and beyond

by LORRAINE H. MARIE
| January 1, 2021 7:00 AM

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

Regarding allegations of voting fraud, outgoing U.S. Attorney General William Barr recently said he sees no reason for the federal government to seize voting machines, Politico reported.

What’s in the $2.3 trillion Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, passed by Congress, that President Donald Trump initially refused to sign unless people got $2,000 instead of the Republicans’ offer of $600? (Trump did sign it over the weekend.) The document, at nearly 6,000 pages, has $900 billion for stimulus relief. That includes expansion of the Paycheck Protection Program, $15 billion for the entertainment industry, $20 billion for Economic Injury Disaster Loans, a $6.3 billion tax deduction for corporate meals (proposed by Republicans as a way to boost the restaurant industry), $25 billion for emergency rental assistance, $8 billion for COVID-19 vaccine distribution, $20 billion for COVID-19 testing, $20 billion for vaccines that would be given free to those unable to afford them, $82 billion for education, $10 billion for childcare assistance, $45 billion for transportation, $7 billion to increase broadband, $26 billion for food assistance the agriculture industry, $1.4 billion for the U.S.-Mexico border wall, and $2.5 billion for race car tracks.

The bill offers no aid for state and local governments, no funds for hazard pay for essential workers and no stimulus checks for dependent adults.

The Washington Post notes that the 50 biggest U.S. companies all showed a profit since the pandemic began.

About deficits, according to The Atlantic: 10 years ago, the annual deficit was $1.3 trillion. Today, it’s $3.1 trillion. Under President Barack Obama, the national debt was $9 trillion. Under Trump, it’s become $21 trillion. This has prompted Republicans to initiate talks about austerity. But, says The Atlantic’s economics columnist, there is a “quiet revolution” happening regarding the understanding of deficits and debts, in that they may not be as scary as some think. Not that government over-spending should be encouraged, “But,” says Mark Zandi, chief economist and Moody’s Analytics, “we’re in a period where it’s important for governments to be expansive with fiscal policy. We’re not going into a death spiral with investors jacking up interest rates because we’re spending more.” Grappling with the current economy requires investing federal spending to get “more bang for the government’s buck.” Short-term, that means proven stimulus funds for food assistance, unemployment payments, and aid to state and local governments. Long-term investments that boost the economy include addressing childhood poverty and the racial-wealth gap, boosting high-quality public education, addressing the opioid crisis and fixing infrastructure, inadequate broadband networks, high-carbon utilities and inadequate public transit.

Earlier in 2020, former White House budget director Mick Mulvaney told an Oxford audience that “[Republicans] are very interested in deficits when there’s a Democrat in the White House” But when there’s a Republican there, “we’re a lot less interested as a party.”

Testing of stored blood samples from December 2019 and January 2020 for COVID-19 antibodies, according to the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, shows that the virus was in the U.S. “earlier than previously recognized.” Critiques of the article abound and include the explanation that the antibodies were from a seasonal coronavirus infection, and not from the COVID-19 coronavirus, Forbes.com stated.

For adults ages 25 to 44 there were 12,000 more deaths than normal in 2020, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. JAMA says COVID-19 is the driving force behind those extra deaths, and they exceeded opioid deaths in the same age range.

Greta Thunberg, TIME magazine’s youngest-ever Person of the Year (2019), on lessons from 2020: “It is possible to treat a crisis like a crisis … to put people’s health above economic interests … to listen to the science.” Thunberg appreciates that climate-enhancing economic recovery is receiving considerable attention.

One of the 2020 “words of the year” is Blursday, a word that indicates the difficulty some have determining the day of the week during the pandemic.

Blast from the past: “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.” This is attributed to Vladimir Lenin, 1870-1924, a Russian revolutionary, politician and political theorist.