Friday, December 01, 2023

Bits n’ pieces from east, west and beyond

by Compiled by Lorraine H. Marie
| October 6, 2023 7:00 AM

East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact.

A recent sampling:

U.S. Rep. Angie Craig recently introduced a bill that could influence government shutdowns: it prevents members of Congress from being paid during a shutdown, Business Insider said.

Facing incarceration, Donald Trump has renewed calls for a government shutdown, calling it “the last chance to defund these political prosecutions against me and other Patriots,” Vanity Fair reported. They noted that the two state cases against Trump would not likely be impacted by a federal shutdown.

MarketWatch notes the difference between a government shutdown due to failure to reach a debt limit and a shutdown due to failure to pass an annual budget. The former threatens the distribution of Social Security benefits, while the latter does not.

The Hill says Senate Republicans are “increasingly alarmed” by “a small group of conservative rebels” in the House blocking spending legislation. Some House Republicans have chastised their rebel faction. One said, “We’ve got five clowns that don’t know what they want except attention.”

The Washington Post says the hardliners aim to cut non-defense discretionary funds by $58 billion beyond May’s debt ceiling agreement. Cuts sought include 80% from low-income schools and at least $2 trillion from Social Security, via closed-door planning.

Congressional Budget Office: the 2018-2019 government shutdown cost the economy $3 billion. Politico says furloughed workers are paid retroactively, for time they were forced off work but did not produce. There’s also the added expense of prep work at agencies for shutting down and then reopening.

CBS reporting on an expected shutdown: Post Offices will stay open; some federal employees will work but not be paid, including the military and federal law enforcement; IRS operations will continue; Veterans Affairs and Veterans Health Administration facilities will remain open, but related research will stop; food benefit funding is mandated, but could be impacted by a shutdown longer than 30 days; national parks may close or have limited services, and air travelers could experience delays.

When he recently joined the United Auto Workers picket line, President Joe Biden was the first president ever to do so. Various media have noted that one driver behind UAW picketers is the sharp divide between workers’ wages and CEOs: a 350 to 1 ratio as compared to 20 to 1 ratio in the 1950s.

The White House recently announced the establishment of the National Office of Gun Violence Prevention, which will be overseen by Vice President Kamala Harris.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez and his wife are facing allegations of receiving cash, guns and gold bars in exchange for favors linked to Arab and Egyptian officials, The Lever reported.

Rupert Murdoch announced he will step down from chairing his media empire, which includes Fox News. According to Forbes, Murdoch’s media empire raked in over $17 billion.

The American Climate Corp, a climate jobs training program, has been announced by President Joe Biden. According to The Lever, in its first year the program could employ up to 20,000 young people for working on projects such as habitat restoration, climate adaptation projects and installation of clean energy infrastructure.

Funding comes in part from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal and the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act. Ten states already have similar climate corps programs funded in part by Americorp. The ACC website says it will provide skills that enable good-paying “high-quality” jobs later.

The Agriculture Department is overseeing a $1.13 billion tree planting project in metropolitan areas. The trees are intended to provide relief from intense heat while also improving air quality.

Blast from the past: The American Climate Corps has a role model in the Civilian Conservation Corps, a response by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to that era’s environmental disaster, the Dust Bowl, and to the Great Depression’s high unemployment. In the early 20th century a government-driven call to bust the sod for growing wheat, from Texas to Nebraska, led to no more natural grasses holding the soil down, resulting in a loss of 1.2 billion tons of soil.

Choking soil and browned and blackened skies blew as far as New York City. Weather anomalies never before seen by scientists were witnessed. The environmental devastation killed some 7,000 people, and compounded by bank failures, left at least two million homeless. FDR’s predecessor, President Herbert Hoover, a believer in letting the markets call the shots, had refused to provide food relief for the starving multitudes, even though there had previously been a wheat surplus before drought and the winds blew the soil away.

When FDR took over Hoover said there was nothing to be done about the financial and environmental calamities that unfolded during his time in office. But FDR used his first 100 days for creating turn-it-around programs. That included the CCC (1933-1942): the “boys” planted over three billion trees, which drew water from deep down, allowing it to evaporate into the atmosphere and trigger production of clouds and rain; the trees also provided a windbreak.

CCC projects included building dams, trails and shelters in over 800 parks. At a time when unemployment was as high was 25%, the CCC provided jobs and job experience for three million.