Sunday, June 13, 2021

Bits 'n pieces from east, west and beyond

| March 19, 2021 7:00 AM

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

The data is out, and confirms the hunch of the former mayor of Stockton, Calif.: a universal basic income can propel people out of poverty. Michael Tubbs launched the pilot program that gave 125 financially struggling residents debit cards worth $500 a month. It began in February 2019 and ended this January. Some of the findings, as reported by Business Insider: reductions in unemployment, debt repayment and improved emotional well-being that boosted goal-setting.

Results showed that 37 percent of the basic income checks went to food, 22 percent went to merchandise, 11 percent went to utilities, 10 percent went to auto expenses and less than 1 percent went to alcohol or tobacco. By this February, more than half of recipients had enough money for a surprise expense, as compared to 25 percent at the program’s start. For some it meant the ability to take time off work if they got COVID-19.

Tubbs has formed Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, which now has some 40 members and $18 million donated by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. Several other cities have started similar programs. As Tubbs noted, the issue in his own family as a kid was not “that they could not manage money. The issue was they never had enough money to manage.”

U.S. Postal Service officials were questioned in Congress recently after news that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy planned further delays in delivery times, Talking Points Memo said. He acknowledged that his policy of ordering mail trucks to strictly leave on time, rather than leaving with a full load, resulted in delays. DeJoy did express support for draft legislation that would end the Postal Service’s mandate to pre-fund worker’s retirement health care benefits. That mandate is not required of any other federal operation and has put the agency in debt by billions of dollars.

History in the making: With the passage of the American Rescue Plan, the nation is witnessing a return to the policy of funneling aid to ordinary Americans to rebuild the economy, as opposed to aiding the rich, historian Heather Cox Richardson wrote in her column. A segment of the Plan supports agriculture, with about half of those funds going to disadvantaged farmers, the Washington Post said.

The $1,400 relief in the American Rescue Plan will go to 85 percent of households, with a family of four getting $5,600. It also includes expanding unemployment for 11 million people, providing aid for renters and homeowners, targeting child care costs with $39 billion, expanding the child tax credit, addressing the hunger crisis experienced by 29 million Americans and massively expanding COVID-19 testing to get people back to work and children into schools. To help accomplish these goals, Politico said the plan has a trio of tax hikes worth $60 billion for wealthy Americans and big corporations. No Senate Republicans voted for the plan.

Social media can be “fixed,” according to The Wall Street Journal. They caution that adjustments to Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which significantly exempts social media companies from liability for users’ content, could backfire and force heavy censorship. Instead, the Journal recommends elimination of fake names and handles, accomplished by users registering with a credit card or other form of identification. Those who post threats risk being either sued or enduring criminal investigation.

Shortly before leaving the White House, Donald and Melania Trump received COVID-19 vaccinations, The New York Post reported. There have now been 535,000 recorded COVID-19 deaths.

Confirmed: Michael Regan will be the next Environmental Protection Agency administrator. After a 66 to 34 Senate vote, he will be the first black man to lead the EPA. He has pledged to restore confidence in the agency, which saw veteran staffers leave when environmental protections were sharply reduced under the last administration; address marginalized communities that are at highest risk of pollution exposure; and cut greenhouse gas emissions, the Washington Post reported.

In a 70 to 30 vote, Merrick Garland was confirmed to serve as the next attorney general. Garland had been proposed for the U.S. Supreme Court, but Republicans delayed the nomination process for eight months until after the 2016 election. Then they installed their choice on the high court.

With his background of supervising the investigation of the Oklahoma City bombing, Garland made clear to Congress that he will apply that experience to the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, The New York Times reported.

Deb Haaland, after a 50-41 vote, will be the new secretary of the Department of the Interior, and also the first indigenous secretary in the nation’s history. She’s vowed to responsibly manage our natural resources so “we can continue to work, live, hunt, fish and pray among them.”

Blast from the past: Since the Department of the Interior was established in 1849, it has been marred by corruption. That has included misuse of funds for Native Americans that were intended to help with food, shelter, clothing, education, health care, tools and seeds for farming, and money to replace the livelihoods they lost when forced off their lands; secret no-bid leases for oil fields; and the rolling back of environmental regulations when seeking oil.