Friday, June 21, 2024

Bits 'n pieces from east, west and beyond

| June 25, 2021 7:00 AM

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

Following two dry winters, low water levels are killing more than half of juvenile salmon in the Klamath River, reported. The condition allows proliferation of a native parasite. The Yurok Tribe fisheries director described it as a “climate catastrophe.” Impacts will include water allocations cuts to farmers and ranchers, as well as long-term crippling of fish runs.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a recent 7-2 ruling, rejected a third challenge to the Affordable Care Act. The justices said those bringing suit had not suffered direct unlawful injury and had no standing to sue. The Urban Institute estimated that if the ACA were struck down, there would have been a 70 percent increase in uninsured people — and the consequences would be particularly harsh for those with pre-existing conditions.

Why Social Security solvency is threatened: According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Social Security solvency was last addressed in 1983. Since then, the program’s tax base has eroded due to inequality (such as slowing of wage growth) and the rising cost of fringe benefits, such as health insurance.

The Center proposes several remedies, including increasing or eliminating the cap on taxable wages. Amongst wealthier earners, incomes have grown, but contributions to Social Security from that source have not. Eliminating the Social Security payroll tax cap entirely would result in all workers and their employers contributing 6.2 percent. Currently, the figure is lower for high earners, which comprise 6 percent of the population.

The current concern around inflation is being used by some in political and business arenas to undermine pandemic relief efforts, argued Josh Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute. Bivens noted that rising prices in some sectors are due to “lots of pent up demand for things we couldn’t do during the pandemic,” but “there’s no indication we’re facing widespread or long-term inflationary pressures.” Bivens argued that policies addressing certain types of inflation are not appropriate for all types of inflation, and that topic deserves deep exploration.

In a noticeable departure from past high-level meetings, Russian President Vladimir Putin did not leave President Joe Biden waiting for his arrival when they met last week; rather, Putin showed up early, Politico reported. The two spent several hours in private conversation. Putin said the meeting lacked hostility, and both sides strived to understand each other. Biden is a “very experienced politician,” Putin said, and their talk was “constructive.”

The meeting was a stark contrast to the 2018 Trump-Putin meeting, CNN said, when the U.S.’s top Russia advisor, Fiona Hill said things were going so poorly for former President Donald Trump that she was looking for a fire alarm to pull to end the meeting.

The U.S. House voted to award the Congressional Gold Medal to law enforcement officers who defended the Capitol against rioters on Jan. 6. It passed 406-21. Commenting on the “no” votes, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) declared, “How you can vote no to this is beyond me.” The Washington Post said some who voted “no” objected to using the words “temple” or “insurrection” in the resolution.

Officers at the Capitol insurrection are likely to suffer from post traumatic stress, The New York Times reported. Most police stand-offs last five minutes, but in this case police were involved in hand-to-hand “brute” combat for up to five hours with a mob of some 800 people.

Blast from the past: Juneteenth, now a federal holiday via a recent bipartisan vote of 415-14, commemorates the day the last U.S. slaves were freed — when news of the Emancipation Proclamation reached Texas on June 19, 1865.

And another blast: Critical Race Theory contradicts the idea that sheer will and money can create success in the U.S., historian Heather Cox Richardson pointed out. She argued that CRT emerged in the late 1970s “in legal scholarship written by people who recognized that legal protections for individuals did not, in fact, level the playing field in America.” That’s nothing new to serious historians. Today, critics of those railing against CRT see that opposition as a deliberate political distraction that whitewashes the nation’s history of abuse of minorities.