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If Trump Wins, Don’t Blame Progressives. This Is on You, Centrists.

Biden denies he's 'hiding,' defends staying off campaign trail in ...

            The corporate conservatives who control the Democratic Party are suffering from cheaters’ remorse.

The DNC and their media allies (NPR, CNN, MSNBC, New York Times, Atlantic Monthly, Vox, etc.) subverted the will of primary voters, undermining initial frontrunner Bernie Sanders in order to install the worst candidate of the 20 centrists in the campaign.

Now the power brokers are worried that the befuddled Biden, whom they touted as the Most Electable Against Donald Trump, will lose to him. Rather than take responsibility for their idiocy and force Biden to pull out of a race for which he is obviously physically and mentally unprepared, the corporatist sellouts are preemptively blaming the progressives who warned them about this exact scenario.

Sorry, right wingers. Biden is on you. You made him the presumptive nominee. If Trump wins again, it’s your fault.

Just as it was last time.

Establishment panic over Biden is most palpable in the pages of the official party organ of the Democratic Party, the Times. “While [Biden] has held consistent leads in most national and swing-state polls, they have not been altogether comfortable ones,” the paper noted on May 15th.

If Biden is to squeak by Trump in November, he requires a comfortable lead now. “A CNN poll released on Wednesday found Mr. Biden leading the president by five percentage points nationwide, but trailing by seven points among voters in crucial battleground states…for some Democrats, the results of the CNN poll again raised the specter that Mr. Biden could win the popular vote but lose the Electoral College, as Hillary Clinton and Al Gore both did.”

            Historically, in May of a presidential election year Democrats need a lead of at least 10 points over their Republican rival in order to prevail in a general election. Republicans always close the gap during the last six months of a presidential race.

            The Times is pushing Biden’s candidacy via two lines of argument. First, lesser-evilism. As columnist Frank Bruni wrote May 17th, he’ll “take Biden’s confusion over Trump’s corruption.” (Of course Biden is corrupt too.) Second, they claim, Biden should be acceptable. He isn’t Hillary Clinton. Due to the coronavirus crisis, Bidenites say, their man is willing to pivot to the left. (Never mind that progressive programs need to be in place before a crisis, not ramping up a year after it begins.)

            The second argument is the easiest to shoot down. Biden has a decades-long track record of voting and governing to the right, including voting to invade Iraq for no good reason. Even now, as tens of millions of Americans lose their jobs and thus their health insurance, Biden refuses to join the rest of the industrialized world by endorsing single-payer healthcare. Progressives don’t trust Biden. They trust history. History proves Biden isn’t one of them.

            Bruni’s argument involves magical thinking too. “At the end of the day, Biden can be trusted to do what Trump didn’t and won’t: stock his administration with qualified professionals. He could compensate for any supposed cognitive deficit with a surplus of talent,” Bruni says. There is no evidence, none, zero, zip, that this is true. Biden could validate that argument by announcing his cabinet nominations now. But he’s not.

            Biden leaves progressive voters cold. That matters because the enthusiasm gap could decide the election. “Trump had a consistent edge over Hillary Clinton in enthusiasm [in 2016],” reported CNN’s Harry Enten. “His voters were 4 points more likely to say they were very enthusiastic in voting for him than Clinton’s were for her in the final ABC News/Washington Post poll, even as Clinton led overall. That enthusiasm advantage should have been one of the warning signals to the Clinton campaign. Trump’s current edge in enthusiasm over Biden is even larger. In a late March ABC News/Washington Post poll, 53% of Trump backers said they were very enthusiastic about voting for him. Just 24% of Biden backers said the same about their guy.”

            If anything, the enthusiasm gap might widen as billions of dollars of stimulus payment letters bearing Trump’s signature hit voters’ bank accounts and he wraps himself in the trappings of the presidency while Biden sits in his basement trying to figure out how to use his computer camera. If I were Trump, I’d be planning my second term.

            Let’s not forget how we got here.

            When Bernie Sanders announced he was running again, Democratic-aligned media outlets said he was too old. “Mr. Sanders would be 79 when he assumed office, and after an October heart attack, his health is a serious concern,” the Times said in its absurd editorial joint endorsement of Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren.

            Then, when Bernie emerged as frontrunner for the nomination, corporate media presented him as an existential threat. Head-to-head polls showed he was at least as electable as his rivals, yet “journalistic” organizations stated, without evidence, that a left-wing Democrat couldn’t beat Trump. Headlines proliferated:

Can Bernie Be Stopped?”

Bernie Sanders Can Still Be Stopped.

The Stop Sanders Movement Has Gone Public.”

CNN even compared Sanders to the coronavirus.

Remember all those “Can Obama Be Stopped?” headlines from the 2008 primaries. Me neither. When it came to Bernie, pseudo-liberal media didn’t pretend to be objective.

The DNC went after him like crazy.

Bernie Sanders won the key Iowa caucus but Democratic vote-counting chicanery cheated him out of the PR for his win. Party insiders believe that Barack Obama personally arranged for Beto O’Rourke, Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg to endorse Joe Biden the day before Super Tuesday. Speaking of which, Sanders won California, the biggest state—but the vote count mysteriously took days, denying him a big headline and an accurately optimistic delegate count in media coverage.

They’re still at it. At this writing party leaders are trying to prevent an embarrassing protest vote against Joe Biden in New York by fighting in court for the right to delete Bernie Sanders from the state’s mail-in primary ballots.

A Times headline from February 20th proved prescient: “Democratic Leaders Willing to Risk Party Damage to Stop Bernie Sanders.”

They got what they wanted.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Bernie,” updated and expanded for 2020. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

We Need a Centralized Medical System Too

Is there a central database for medical records in the U.S.? - Quora

The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare two fundamental flaws in the American healthcare system.

Number one: There’s a reason that other rich countries treat healthcare as a taxpayer-financed social program. Employer-based health insurance was stupid pre-COVID-19 because our economy was already steadily transitioning from traditional full-time W-2 jobs to self-employment, freelance and gig work. The virus has exposed the insanity of this arrangement. Millions of people have been fired over the last two months; now they find themselves uninsured during a global health emergency. The unemployed theoretically face fines for the crime of no longer being able to afford to buy private healthcare.

The second inherent flaw in the U.S. approach is that it’s for profit. Greed creates an inherent incentive against paying for preventative and emergency care. Even people who are desperately ill with chronic conditions see 24% of legitimate claims denied.

When your insurance company issues a denial, they don’t merely pocket that payment. They also add to future profits. Even if you’re insured, the hassle of knowing that you might get hit by a surprise bill for uncovered/out-of-network charges makes you more likely to stay home rather than to risk seeing a doctor or filling a prescription and going broke. “Visits to primary care providers made by adults under the age of 65…dropped by nearly 25% from 2008 to 2016” due to routine denials by insurers, reports NPR.

Denials also create a societal effect: news stories about patients with insurance receiving bills for thousands of dollars after being treated for COVID-19, even just to be tested, prompt people to stay away from hospitals and try to ride out the disease at home. Some of those people die.

There’s another, third structural problem exposed by the pandemic—but it’s not receiving attention from public policy experts or the media. I’m talking about America’s lack of a centralized healthcare system.

A centralized healthcare system has nothing to do with who pays the doctor. A centralized system can be fully socialized, government-subsidized or fully for-profit. In such a scheme all patient records are stored in a central online database accessible to physicians, pharmacists and other caregivers regardless of where you are when you need care. If you fall ill while you’re on a trip away from home, the admitting nurse at a walk-in clinic or hospital has instantaneous access to your complete medical history.

The current system is primitive. Data is not transferable between doctors or medical systems without a patient’s directive, which inexplicably is often required by the obsolete technology of sending a fax. That assumes the sick person is sharp enough to remember which of his previous doctors did what when. And that’s it’s not a weekend or national holiday or a Wednesday, when some doctors like to golf.

Unless a patient happens to be wearing a medical alert bracelet, there is currently no way to determine whether an unconscious victim is allergic to a drug, has a chronic illness or that there’s a treatment regimen proven to be more effective for them. Even if the patient is alert and conscious, a new doctor may ignore her request for a specific medication in favor of cookie-cutter one-size-fits-all treatment.

A few months ago I developed the classic symptoms of what we now know to be COVID-19. I live in New York. I succumbed while on business in LA. Trying in vain to fight off a relentless dry cough, difficulty breathing and day after day of brutal aches and fever, I visited a CVS walk-in clinic. I have a long history of respiratory illnesses: asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, swine flu. I requested a third- or fourth-generation antibiotic since I knew from experience that I would inevitably decline with anything less. “We do not treat viral infections with antibiotics,” the nurse, a charmless Pete Buttigieg type, pompously declaimed. I pointed out that viral lung infections usually have a bacterial component that should be treated with antibiotics.

This would not have been a issue back home in New York, where both my general practitioner and my pulmonologist know my medical history. Either doctor would have prescribed a strong antibiotic and a codeine-based cough syrup.

Because I happened to be in LA, I left CVS empty-handed.

I declined.

It got to the point that I couldn’t walk 100 feet without pausing to catch my breath.  I felt like I was going to die.

I called my doctor back in New York. She called in a prescription to the same CVS. It helped arrest my decline. But I wasn’t getting better.

I visited a different walk-in clinic, in West Hollywood. It was a better experience. They tested me for flu (negative), X-rayed me (diagnosis was early stage- pneumonia) and put me on a nebulizer. I began a slow recovery.

A centralized system would have been more efficient. The CVS nurse would have seen my history of non-response to treatment devoid of strong antibiotics. He also might have taken note of my pulmonologist’s effective use of a nebulizer to treat previous bouts of bronchitis and pneumonia. I might have been prescribed the proper medication and treatment as much as a week sooner.

COVID-19 almost certainly would have been detected in the United States sooner if we had a centralized medical system. “One example of a persistent challenge in the early detection of health security threats is the lack of national, web-based databases that link suspected cases of illness with laboratory confirmation. This leaves countries vulnerable, as they cannot accurately and quickly identify the presence of pathogens to minimize the spread of disease,” according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Algorithms can automatically scan massive volumes of information for signs of novel infectious diseases, help identify potential problems and focus responses where they are needed most.

How many people’s lives could have been saved if lockdown procedures had begun earlier? If public health officials had seen the coronavirus coming back in December—or November—they might have been able to protect vulnerable populations and avoid a devastating economic shutdown.

There are substantial privacy considerations. No one wants a hacker to find out that they had an STD or an employer to learn about documented evidence of substance abuse. Keeping a centralized healthcare system secure would have to be a top priority. On the other hand, there is no inherent shame in any kind of illness. In a nightmare scenario in which medical records were to somehow become public, no one would have anything to hide or any reason to look down on anyone else.

We can’t pretend to be a first world country until we join the rest of the world by abolishing corporate for-profit healthcare and decouple insurance benefits from employment. But reform without centralization would be incomplete.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Bernie,” updated and expanded for 2020. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

So Far, There Is No Reason Not to Believe Tara Reade

Tara Reade Urges Joe Biden to Release Private Senate Papers

            Did Joe Biden finger-rape Tara Reade in the Capitol in 1993? No one knows but the two of them. (Given the former vice president’s obviously fragile mental state, he might not remember.)

            Pending the miraculous discovery of ancient surveillance footage, we may never know the truth about this alleged sexual assault. Still, the issue is worth discussing. To paraphrase Richard Nixon, the American people have the right to consider the possibility that their presidential candidate may be a rapist. Tara Reade has the right to be fully heard, Joe Biden has the right to a vigorous defense, and voters have the right to decide whether or not we believe her.

            What I find interesting, in part due to my own experience taking on The Los Angeles Times, is the pretzel logic that America’s political and media establishment deploys to fend off accusations against elites.

            Former prosecutor Michael J. Stern wrote an op-ed for USA Today that has become Democrats’ go-to list of reasons we can be “skeptical about Tara Reade’s sexual assault claim against Biden.” It is entirely devoid of fact, logical reasoning or common sense. And it is the way that many Americans, including those employed by major media outlets, think.
            It is also the reason that many victims, probably most victims, and not just of sexual crimes, don’t come forward. The system is set up, not to ask reasonable questions based on America’s constitutionally-guaranteed presumption of innocence, but to discourage legitimate victims from pursuing justice.

            “It is reasonable to consider a 27-year reporting delay when assessing the believability of any criminal allegation,” Stern writes. Did Gannett furlough its factcheckers? Reade says she filed a complaint with the appropriate U.S. Senate office at the time and that it was ignored. Even if she had waited 27 years — which she didn’t — surely it’s possible to imagine having been sexually violated by a U.S. senator, watching the guy rise to vice president and then run for president and then, when he wins the nomination for president, say to yourself: Enough is enough! I can’t stand the thought of seeing this guy as President of the United States for the next four to eight years! I’m going to break my silence.

            Christine Blasey Ford did the same thing. She spoke up when Brett Kavanaugh was elevated to the highest court in the land. Anita Hill reacted to Clarence Thomas’s nomination similarly.

            The corrupt billionaire bastard who libeled me as a favor to his allies in the LAPD is currently superintendent of LA public schools. That’s annoying. If Austin Beutner is ever up for something big with a national profile, however, that will truly be too much for me to bear. I will scream until some reporter finally pays attention to what he did to me.

            Reade says she didn’t reveal the vaginal penetration aspect of her story to a media outlet because she didn’t feel comfortable with the reporter. “It is hard to believe a reporter would discourage this kind of scoop,” Stern writes. “Regardless, it’s also hard to accept that it took Reade 12 months to find another reporter eager to break that bombshell story.” Why should that be hard to believe? She has corroborating witnesses now, yet still has difficulty getting media outlets interested in interviewing her. It isn’t easy to find a smart reporter who gets what you have to say.

Woodward and Bernstein are dead. Five years in, I’m still waiting for so-called journalists to get back to me about a shocking story of political corruption, the legal ownership of a major newspaper chain by a police department which uses its money and influence to fire, smear and bankrupt critics and whistleblowers.

Stern says Reade’s claim that “she cannot remember the date, time or exact location of the alleged assault…could easily be perceived as bulletproofing a false allegation.” When your personal space is brutally violated, whether it is sexual assault or a mugging or police brutality, you are shocked. You focus on the trauma: what happened to you, and who did it, not the where and when. Memories of trauma tend to be fragmented and incomplete. It would be preferable if Reade had had the presence of mind to recall that data. But not having it doesn’t make her a liar.

Stern says Reade lied about how she left Biden’s employ. “Leaving a job after refusing to serve drinks at a Biden fundraiser is vastly different than being fired as retaliation for filing a sexual harassment complaint with the Senate,” Stern alleges. Actually, there is hardly any difference. The law calls what happened to her “constructive termination.” Most retaliation in the workplace takes the form of being demeaned until the victim quits. It’s an illegal firing and you can be sued for it.

The silliest smears against Reade concern her politics: “Reade essentially dismissed the idea of Russian interference in the 2016 American presidential election as hype.” So do I. So do 40% of Americans. So what? Stern notes her support for Bernie Sanders. “The confluence of Reade’s support of Sanders, distaste for the traditional American democracy epitomized by Biden, and the timing of her allegation should give pause to even the most strident Biden critics,” Stern declares.

If your politics are slightly unconventional, according to this former prosecutor, you must be lying when you say you were raped. Or, just maybe, she supported Bernie Sanders in part because he never tried to rape her. Perhaps “the timing of her allegation” stemmed from her dismay that her rapist was about to become President of the United States. And the cheap psychological gambit that Joe “Captain America” Biden epitomizes “traditional American democracy” is so ridiculous that it merits no response.

The truth may come out and it may vindicate Joe Biden. Even so, the media will remain guilty and complicit of stupidity in the service of the rich and powerful.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Bernie.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

Save America, Throw the Landlords Under the Bus

The Cowshed review | MCLC Resource Center

            We can save the economy.

We have to throw the landlords under the bus to do it.

            At this writing, 26.5 million Americans have lost their jobs to the national lockdown necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Added to those who were unemployed before the coronavirus crisis, we will soon face jobless numbers equivalent to or greater than those at the height of the Great Depression. What’s going to happen to them? More specifically, where will they live?

            Drawing from the experience of the collapse of the USSR in 1991, the droll writer Dmitri Orlov mused on what would happen here in a similar scenario. Surviving the fall of the Soviet Union, he concluded, would be easier than it would be to make it through the then-future implosion of the United States of America.

“In the United States,” Orlov wrote in 2011, “very few people own their place of residence free and clear, and even they need an income to pay real estate taxes. The real owners of real estate in the U.S. are banks and corporations. People without an income face homelessness. When the economy collapses, very few people will continue to have an income, so homelessness will become rampant. Most people in the U.S., once their savings are depleted, will in due course be forced to live in their car, in some secluded stretch of woods, in a tent or under a tarp. There is currently no mechanism by which landlords can be made not to evict deadbeat tenants, or banks prevailed upon not to foreclose on non-performing loans.” Residents of apartments in the former Soviet Union faced hardships, but no one evicted them for nonpayment of rent. Private property rights were valued less than human lives.

Avoiding a mass-eviction scenario must be the top priority of American political leaders.

Aside from mass human misery, the downsides of allowing banks and municipalities and landlords to evict large numbers of people became evident after the evictions and foreclosures of millions of homes following the 2008-09 housing crisis. Every foreclosure drags down the property value of neighboring homes. Abandoned houses become meth labs.

But let’s not forget about mass human misery. Even if you’re rich and not a humanitarian, the thought of tens of millions of homeless people wandering streets and highways, desperate and hungry, can’t possibly make you sleep soundly. Property crimes and violence designed to separate people from their possessions will soar unless we keep people in their homes, safe, fed and warm. And don’t forget about the coronavirus. Even after two years from now, when there may or may not be a vaccine, many of the poor will be uninsured and won’t be able to afford medical care. Kicking them out of their homes will spread the virus.

America needs a rent and mortgage holiday, not a lame moratorium that kicks the can of mass evictions down the road for a few months. That includes commercial rent. Empty storefronts become targets for burglary and squatters. Some become drug dens. Arson fires consume them and neighboring homes. Until COVID-19 is in our rearview mirror, we need everyone and everything to stay put for health reasons. Afterward we want to give the economy a chance to recover. We don’t need blight. We want restaurants and other businesses to reopen. We want individuals to return to work, not starve in the streets. Individuals and businesses who can’t afford it should withhold rent from landlords and mortgage payments from banks, without penalty, until both the public health and the economic crises are over.

What about the banks and landlords? I’m not suggesting that they should be stuck with the whole tab for COVID-19. Municipalities should waive real estate taxes. They should receive relief to cover their utility and maintenance expenses. Lobbying organizations for property owners point out that their members often have underlying mortgages themselves; those mortgages too should be subject to the payment holiday. Banks should receive infusions of interest-free cash from the Fed. But the U.S. can no longer afford to let these entities continue to collect real estate profits as usual.

Landlords should take the biggest bath for the simple reason that they are social and economic parasites. Value is added via the production process; landlords add no value whatsoever. If a revolution were to turn renters into homeowners by transferring titles, and abolish bank liens and property taxes and so turn homeowners into full owners, no one would miss landlords. Former renters and mortgage borrowers could easily assume the cost of maintenance that they currently pay to landlords and banks for pennies on the dollar.

You probably know a nice landlord. My father-in-law was one. I used to sublet a room in my apartment so I could make the rent, which made me a sub-landlord. But part of the reason my rent was too high was that I could sublet that room. Landlords are unnecessary at best, pernicious at worst.

In part, eviction is a remedy: it allows a property owner to try again with a new tenant. In a broader sense, it is a threat to remaining renters: unless you pay me, I will throw you out. That threat is the ultimate expression of the enclosure of the commons. I own this. You do not. Therefore I can force you to leave.

A depressionary spiral during a pandemic is no time to prioritize property rights. Eviction is a national suicide pact.

In 2014 a boy broke into what he thought was an abandoned house in my hometown of Dayton, Ohio. In a closet he found the mummified body of the homeowner, who committed suicide five years earlier out of despair that his $10,000 house had been foreclosed upon. He needn’t have bothered.  The bank was so overwhelmed with newly acquired properties due to mass foreclosures that it never bothered to send anyone to investigate or take possession.

The guy died for nothing.

The last thing we need now is a million more like him.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Bernie.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

Don’t Worry, Everything Will Get Back to “Normal”

           When will things get back to normal? Everyone is asking.

            The economic lockdown prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a mass unemployment shock, forced countless businesses into bankruptcy and is driving many Americans crazy. But this shall pass.

            The good old days will be back.

The coronavirus worried city officials. Tens of thousands of New Yorkers were sleeping “head-to-toe in dormitory-style shelters” for homeless people that were “vectors for widespread COVID-19 infection.” So New York’s mayor invited some of the homeless to move out of shelters and off the streets into some of the city’s 100,000 vacant hotel rooms at city expense. New Orleans, Los Angeles and San Francisco have followed suit.

Do not worry! Tourism will resume, hotels will full up and those rooms will be needed for capitalism’s winner class. The homeless will resume their rightful place on the streets and/or crowded into squalid shelters. With an average life expectancy of 50, they will die bereft and alone, their bodies unclaimed before being dumped into mass graves. No more fear that their vulnerability to virus imperils us, no more there-but-for-the-grace-of-God sympathy, no recognition of coexistence. It will be as it was in February 2020.

COVID-19 replaced the post-9/11 pantheon of heroic workers—cops, firefighters and soldiers—with employees who earn far less while taking much bigger risks. Now we thank workers in hospitals and nursing homes, those who prepare food, deliver mail and drive trucks “for their service.” Grocers are offering hazardous duty pay.

Not for long.

After it’s deemed safe, furloughed bank analysts and efficiency experts will return to their climate-controlled corporate suites to resume their job: maximizing the short-term returns of equity investors. They will pore over Excel spreadsheets displaying payroll records, draw the capitalist conclusion and issue their usual recommendations that salaries be reduced, hours lengthened and benefits curtailed in service of company bottom lines. With the hazard of coronavirus gone, the extra $2 an hour will vanish as well. Those who care for the infirm and make our dinners will return to their previous state of diminished socioeconomic status, a role reinforced by orders to wear ugly frocks adorned by ID badges. No longer heroes, zeroes once more to be ground up by the gears of the machine—certainly no thank-yous or scheduled shouts of gratitude from open windows.

Desperate to avoid a Soviet-style economic collapse, politicians of both parties graced the unemployed with an extra $600 a week for a national average total weekly jobless benefit of $947. That’s roughly the same as the national median income.

Here too, we will return to normal.

Once the ruling elites have determined that the danger of collapse and with it the loss of their real estate and securities assets has passed, they will order their pet Congressmen to allow expanded unemployment benefits to lapse. Those who are out of work will again try to make do with $347 a week, taxable. When they fail, which is inevitable, the jobless will be slammed with months of back rent and mortgages, plus interest and late fees, plus all the other bills that had been deferred yet unforgiven by landlords, telecoms and other owner-class types during the COVID-19 lockdown. Homelessness and poverty will skyrocket.

Like before.

Fear not. Factories will go back to cranking out Yobama action figures, mint-flavored condoms and Mercedes SUVs that retail for $220,000 while getting 12 miles a gallon. Choked highways will slow to a crawl. Skylines will plunge back under a sea of haze.

Coyotes and mountain lions will scamper back into the mountains. The birds will fly away again.

No one will check on grandma or grandpa.

There won’t be any need.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Bernie.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

5 Things the Government Must Do Now to Avoid Collapse and/or Revolution

London riots - Photos - The Big Picture - Boston.com          The COVID-19 medical and economic crisis remains mostly unaddressed by both the Republican and Democratic parties. They have only passed one piece of legislation that significantly helps workers: supplementing existing state unemployment benefits by $600 per week. Those additional payments expire in four months. Until then many people who are out of work will receive about $1000 a week. If the past is precedent, Congress is likely to renew the law.

            Aside from expanded unemployment checks, the government has been useless.

            Here are the essential basic things Congress and President Trump must do in order to avoid economic collapse, mass starvation, an epidemic of violent crime reminiscent of “A Clockwork Orange” and political unrest up to and including revolution.

            They must do it now.

            A Universal Basic Income is the smartest fastest way to stimulate the economy by keeping money flowing from consumers. Neither political party seems to care enough about the prospect of street riots to pass a UBI. But they need to do it yesterday to avoid catastrophe tomorrow. Flat UBI payments are unfair to people who live in expensive cities and states; the cost of living in my hometown of Dayton, Ohio is half of Manhattan. Weight UBIs according to living costs.

            COVID Care

            At bare minimum, medical treatment for COVID-19 and related ailments (bronchitis, pneumonia, etc.) should be free from a patient’s first test to their last breath in a ventilator. It should be free for everyone: insured, uninsured, homeless, prison inmate, undocumented worker for an obvious reason: if an illegal immigrant contracts the coronavirus, they can transmit it to you. It’s to everyone’s advantage that everyone have access to medical care.

            Theoretically, the new Families First Coronavirus Response Act does that. Not in reality. “Our health care system is a mess and the law does not explicitly prohibit charging you if you go to an out-of-network provider. It also doesn’t address other ‘surprise billing’ problems,” Time reports. Treatment for COVID-19 can easily run $35,000 or more—not only should Americans not have to pay, they can’t pay.

            Whether you go to your physician or urgent care or the ER, no one who suspects she has COVID-19 should be asked for their insurance card. Healthcare providers should bill the federal government.

No leading Republican or Democrat — Donald Trump, Joe Biden, Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi — wants to do this. Why? Because they’re stupid, crazy or both.

            Draft the Immune

            The Centers for Disease Control are rolling out a pilot program of a testing kit that can show if you have been exposed to the novel coronavirus and thus have the antibodies to resist a repeat infection. Authorities are considering issuing “immunity cards” to citizens who have had COVID-19. The idea is that people who are cleared could return to work. So far so good.

            As much as I’d like to believe that political cartoonists and columnists are essential workers, if I have had and recovered from COVID-19 I could probably be more useful delivering food to the elderly, volunteering at a hospital, or performing some other essential task currently going undone because the person who usually does the job is either sick or home trying to avoid getting sick. Waiting tables could help save my local restaurant.

            The government should retool the Selective Service System to draft recovered COVID-19 victims to perform services needed to help people and restart the economy.

            Ramp up Distance-Learning

            Parents, school children and college students in many cities are finding online instruction to be woefully inadequate at best. The most pressing issue is unequal access to the Internet. This is a huge problem. Fortunately, it’s easily fixable.

            There are about 75 million students in the U.S. 17% don’t have home Internet access. That’s 13 million kids. A Wifi hot spot costs $50 a month. A Chromebook is $300. $4 billion, roughly the cost of occupying Iraq for a week, buys a home computer for everyone who needs one; $10 billion a year covers Wifi access. That’s the worst-case scenario; the government could get a volume discount.

            Unfortunately, neither Democratic nor Republican politicians care about our kids enough to act.

            Rent and Mortgage Holidays

            31% of apartment dwellers failed to pay April rent. Expect that number to soar in May and June. Idiotically, the only relief offered by even the most progressive mainstream politicians is a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures. Moratoriums end. Courts reopen. When they do, millions of people could be thrown out onto the streets.
            Even if you don’t care about them, think about your own property values. During the 2008-09 economic meltdown, mass foreclosures left millions of homes empty. These eyesores dragged down the values of their neighbors’ homes. We really are in this together.

            People who can’t pay their rent or mortgage shouldn’t have to. And at the end of all this, they shouldn’t bear the burden of accumulated debt, interest or late fees. Congress should declare a rent and mortgage holiday until the end of the crisis.

            To mitigate the hardship on landlords and lenders, real estate and other taxes should be waived during the same period. So should utilities like gas and electricity. Congress should consider a tax credit for property owners. Banks should receive Federal Reserve funding at zero percent.

            So far, no mainstream politician is talking about this.

            A War Holiday

            Secretary-General António Guterres of the United Nations is calling for warring parties in the world to lay down their arms for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. “The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war,” he said, emphasizing the fact that war makes it hard for humanitarian assistance to reach victims of coronavirus.

            War is a tremendous waste of lives, resources and money that could be better spent elsewhere, and that has never been more evident than today. Yet at this writing President Trump has ordered the U.S. Navy off the coast of Venezuela in a classic demonstration of gunboat diplomacy. His administration is continuing Barack Obama’s benighted proxy war in Yemen. American drones are slaughtering innocent people in Somalia.

            This is all monstrous BS and should stop forever but, at minimum, wars of choice can wait until the end of the coronavirus crisis. Yet here again neither party, Democrat or Republican, has endorsed the Secretary-General’s idea.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Bernie.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

Neither Elizabeth Warren Nor Other Congressmen Have a Plan for the COVID-19 Depression

At least 16 million Americans have lost their jobs to the shutdown ordered to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. That staggering number does not include those who were unable to file due to crashing state websites overwhelmed by new claims, or by freelancers whom the government doesn’t count as unemployed when they lose their gigs. This is only going to get worse. Much worse.

Only one entity has the financial and organizational resources to mitigate the damage and forestall a total societal collapse reminiscent of the Soviet Union in 1991: the federal government.

Unfortunately, few politicians of either party have indicated that they understand the existential scale of this threat, much less internalized the fact that what they do or do not do will determine whether the United States continues as such. One exception is Elizabeth Warren. “Government action is essential to save lives and to rescue our economy,” she wrote in an April 9th op-ed in the New York Times, and she’s right.

More unfortunately still, even relatively smart leaders like Warren aren’t willing to go far enough to save themselves in the system they lead. This is terrifying. If your best and your brightest aren’t good enough, you’re finished.

Warren’s recent presidential bid was known for the quip that she had a plan for everything. Her plan for the COVID-19 crisis goes further than most of her peers with the exception of Bernie Sanders but it’s hard to see how it could possibly get the job done.

Last week, when “only” 6 million new jobless claims had been filed, the unemployment rate had shot up to 13%. It’s higher now. Compare that to the Great Depression: people talk about 25%, but that was the peak in 1933. For most of the Depression, the unemployment rate averaged around 15%. We’re already there. We’re probably already higher than that. We are going higher still.

The unemployment rate is already worse than the Great Depression.

So here is what Warren, our best of the best, a progressive consumer advocate, suggests: that the government starts “suspending consumer debt collection, enacting a universal national moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, stopping water and utility shut-offs, providing as much broad student loan debt cancellation as possible and finding money to keep child care providers afloat.”

            “Suspending” consumer debt collection doesn’t mean forgiving consumer debt. It means ordering debt collectors to wait until later to come after you. Later, however, you won’t be more able to pay back what you owe. You’ll be less able. You will have accumulated more debt in order to survive. Interest will have accrued; at the average rate of 15% a $1,000 credit card bill turns into $3,128 after a year. There will be late fees. Finding any job will be hard and finding a job that earns enough to pay back mountains of debt will be impossible. Any solution that doesn’t include forgiving consumer debt doesn’t stand a chance of rescuing the economy. A delay in collections adds compound interest to catastrophe.

            A “national moratorium” on evictions and foreclosures is equally insane. For the time being, the sheriff doesn’t show up to throw you and your family out onto the COVID-19-infected streets. But what happens later? At some point, a moratorium expires. Lenders become impatient. Congress lifts the moratorium; then debtors come after you. Now you don’t just owe one or two months of back rent or mortgage, you owe 6 or 10 or 15. If you can’t pay one or two months, how are you going to pay ten? There will be late fees, accrued interest, and again, you’ll be making less than you did before this all happened—so you will have to pay back inflated 2020 debt with your deflated 2021 salary. Ain’t going to happen.

            Kicking the can down the road with suspended debt collection and eviction moratoriums and putting off utilities shut-offs is a guaranteed ineffective, massively counterproductive wallop of magical thinking that pretends not only that everything is about to be fine, but that everyone is going to win the lottery and be able to use their newfound winnings to pay off their coronavirus debts. It’s ridiculous and stupid and unworthy of discussion by serious people.

            Even Warren’s plea for “truly universal paid family and medical leave” is the wateriest of weak tea because it only applies to frontline “health care, transit, farm, grocery, domestic and delivery workers.” In a pandemic, grocery store clerks only stay healthy if their customers do.

            Warren once said that she was a capitalist to her bones. Her joke of a plan for the coronavirus Great Derpression reflects her unwillingness to accept a new reality in which trillions of dollars must immediately be redistributed from the wealthy to the poor and middle class, not because it’s the right thing to do–though it is—but to avoid ruin. Landlords must go without rent, banks must forego mortgage payments, people must be able to go to the doctor without paying, heat and water must continue to flow without a bill.

            There is a better way. Rather than throw tens of millions of Americans into piles of debt that they will never be able to pay, continue to pay their salaries so they can continue to pay their bills. Individuals keep their homes and their sanity; businesses remain intact.

            The United Kingdom is paying citizens 80% of their paychecks to stay home from work. Germany pays two-thirds. Spain is about to institute a universal basic income at a yet-to-be-determined amount. Bernie Sanders, who just dropped out of the race for the presidency, called for every American household to receive $2000 a month until the end of the crisis.

What have we gotten instead? A one-time payment of $1200 per adult, $500 per child.

Capitalists like Warren must decide what’s more important to them: insisting on their prerogative to hoard precious resources, or survival. As for now, she doesn’t even have the start of a thought of a real plan.

And she is the best we have.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Bernie.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

Progressives Decide: Dignity and Freedom, or Voting for Biden

Biden widens lead over Trump despite coronavirus halting campaign ...

            Bernie Sanders is out of the race and with him goes the last chance for progressivism to take over the Democratic Party for a generation.

            Now his supporters will decide what to do. Intransigent #BernieOrBusters will cast about for a third-party vote, write-in Bernie or sit out the election in November. Other left-leaning voters will hope against hope that Joe Biden will either pivot to the left himself or that Biden will appoint progressive-minded cabinet members, and maybe tap Elizabeth Warren as vice president, to run the country as he continues to fade into the dying of the light.

            There is absolutely no reason to think that Joe Biden would appoint a single progressive to his cabinet or pick one as his vice president. Theoretically, of course, anything is possible. Biden could take up hang-gliding! But Biden hasn’t made the slightest hint that he would pick a progressive for any important position.

            Biden has said that he would consider a Republican as his vice president. He has promised to choose a woman. He sends signals when he wants to. And none of those signals has ever been directed toward the left wing of the Democratic Party.

            After he consolidated his delegate lead on Super Tuesday, Biden received a lot of media coverage for “reaching out” to Sanders’ supporters. But his message was worthless pabulum: “Let me say, especially to the young voters who have been inspired by Senator Sanders: I hear you. I know what is at stake. And I know what we have to do.”

What exactly does Biden “know” he has to “do”? Nothing that progressives want. Bernie Sanders voters care about issues: Medicare For All, student loan forgiveness, free college tuition. Three days after his “olive branch,” Biden said he would veto Medicare For All if it somehow crossed his desk as president.

            In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, that’s some malarkey.

            Yet many liberal voters are praying that Biden will do something to make himself palatable enough to allow them to vote for him against Donald Trump this fall. Like the victim of an abusive alcoholic parent or spouse, they will wallow in magical thinking and project good intentions upon a candidate who has given them no reason to think he has changed. Maybe dad isn’t drunk tonight. Maybe Biden is secretly liberal.

Victims of abusive relationships “don’t stay for the pain,” psychologist Craig Malkin observed in 2013. “Their desperate, often palpable hope, if you sit in the room with them, is that the abuse will go away. And they tend to block out all evidence to the contrary.”

Given the history of the last four or five decades, it’s hard to describe the relationship between progressive voters and the corporate leadership of the Democratic Party as anything better than abusive. From Jimmy Carter to Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, progressives have been expected to donate money and cast votes for candidates who repeatedly broke their promises to fight for the poor and working class and, as time passed, felt so confident that they could get away with acting like jerks that they didn’t even have to bother to promise anything at all beyond not being Republicans—even though often they voted along with the GOP and signed their ideas into law.

2016 marked the first time that progressives stood up for themselves and demanded a place at the table, in the form of Bernie Sanders. Like any typical abuser, the DNC got angry at their victims, blaming progressives when their decision to cheat Sanders out of the nomination in favor of Hillary Clinton caused a catastrophic defeat to Donald Trump. Now it has happened again.

Though pathetic, it is not surprising to see progressives playing the role of the naïve victim who prays for his abuser to come to his senses and make nice.

With Joe Biden, there’s even more reason than usual to believe that nothing good can come out of standing by him. The man he served as vice president, Barack Obama, elevated the use and abuse of Democratic progressives to a diabolical art. He ran on Hope and Change and ending the Iraq war, only to prolong Iraq and expand Afghanistan with the backing of a cabinet that didn’t include a single progressive, not even a token like Clinton Administration labor secretary Robert Reich. Obama’s signature achievement, the Affordable Care Act, was conceived of by the right-wing Heritage foundation.

If you’re figuring out whether to stay with the Democratic Party or quit them, there’s a simple way to decide: watch Biden. If he’s serious about picking a progressive as vice president or putting some of them into his cabinet, he will be willing to name names and do so soon. His silence on this topic—which is likely—probably means Vice President Kamala Harris or Amy Klobuchar and a bunch of Goldman Sachs wankers managing the economic crisis again.

Don’t be surprised if a lot of Democrats who have been let down by “their” party vote for it again this November. Abuse survivors “suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome, one symptom of which is dissociation, which often creates such profound detachment from the reality of the abuse that sufferers scarcely remember being hurt at all,” Dr. Malkin wrote. “Dissociating victims can’t leave the abuse because they aren’t psychologically present enough to recall the pain of what happened.”

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Bernie.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

Why We Need a New Progressive Party and How We Can Create It

Progressive Party (United States, 1912) - Wikipedia

There is no room for progressives in the Democratic Party.

No matter how many votes he or she gets, no progressive will be permitted to be the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party.

Progressives who try to work inside of, contribute to and support the Democratic Party have no real chance of moving its candidates or policies to the left.

Remaining inside the Democratic Party achieves nothing; to the contrary, it is insidiously counterproductive. Working for “change from the inside” strengthens centrist politicians who oppose progressivism with every fiber of their being.

If American electoral democracy has a future, and progressives want to be part of that future, there is only one way forward: create and build a new party in which progressivism isn’t merely tolerated or partly accommodated as some fringe or necessary nuisance but is its core mission.

We need a New Progressive Party.

The reason is simple: progressivism and corporate centrism are not parts of an ideological spectrum. Centrism isn’t watered-down progressivism; centrism directly opposes progressivism. Centrists want wars and don’t care about the poor; progressives want no wars and care deeply about the poor. There is no room for compromise between the two.

A New Progressive Party will go nowhere if, like the Green Party, it is poorly funded and disorganized and unable to field a slate of candidates across the board, from city council to state representative to congress. It must begin robustly, it must grow quickly, and it must be the only viable outlet for real progressives. Go big or go home.

This could be done. Now is the perfect time.

Keep reading. I’ll explain how.

Anyone who believes progressives have a place inside the Democratic Party should reflect on the experience of Bernie Sanders. (Those with an interest in recent history can delve into the dispiriting experiences of others who have tried to move the party left from the inside like Ted Kennedy, Jesse Jackson and Howard Dean, only to be ignored, snubbed and cheated.)

In both 2016 and 2020 Democratic-aligned media companies marginalized, misrepresented and deprived Sanders of coverage proportionate to his level of support in the polls. In 2016 the Democratic National Committee literally sold itself to Hillary Clinton’s center-right campaign apparatus, which conspired with the DNC to short Sanders on vote counts and deprive him of access to party data. In 2020 the DNC appears to have derailed Sanders’ frontrunner status by arranging for candidates Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke, Amy Klobuchar and others to drop out and endorse the Joe Biden one day before the key Super Tuesday primaries.

This is not one of those “better luck next time” scenarios. Sanders is too old to run again. AOC and her fellow progressive Squad are too young to mount a serious challenge to the DNC moderate hierarchy any time soon. Progressivism inside the Democratic Party is unlikely to again surge to Bernie levels for at least a decade.

Progressivism in general remains vibrant. Bernie Sanders has 31% of the 2020 primary popular vote. Elizabeth Warren, who has withdrawn, has 10%. Even if we assume that other former candidates like Pete Buttigieg didn’t get a single progressive vote — which isn’t likely — at least 41% of Democratic primary voters currently support progressivism. That makes about 20% of the electorate overall. Roughly 20% of non-voters, or about 9% of the total electorate, are progressive.

A New Progressive Party should therefore be able to count on roughly one of five voters out of the gate, with short-term potential of 30%. Not bad in a three-party system.

Now consider two factors that point to growth. As even corporate media concedes, progressive ideas like socialized medicine and a guaranteed living wage have suddenly exploded in popularity due to the coronavirus crisis and resulting economic freefall. Given the grim projections for the economy during the foreseeable future, 20-to-30% looks more like a floor than a ceiling.

There is greater potential of building a party from the grassroots than from the top down. Even while the presidency remains elusive, local politics are quirkier and thus offer opportunity for growth. Sanders began as mayor of Burlington; AOC won a surprise challenge to a long-time incumbent Democratic congressman in Queens. A Progressive farm team could and would spring up quickly in left-leaning college towns like Madison and Charlottesville.

But how? The D-R duopoly has rigged the system in its favor. Ballot access is tough. They control the presidential debates and coverage by the news media.

As I wrote above, funding is crucial. The fact that Bernie Sanders raised over $100 million so far in 2020 from small donors proves that progressives can raise cash for a cause they care about. So how do you start this new party?

The first step is to convene a founding meeting in a big venue like McCormick Place Convention Center. (Chicago is easy to get to from everywhere in the U.S.) Launch a Kickstarter to cover the cost of renting the hall; unless there are enough pledges to cover the total, no one has to pay up and the attempt is over. It serves as the first test of whether enough progressives are ready to break away from the Democratic Party.

The agenda of the first convention of the New Progressive Party will be dedicated to debating and agreeing to a platform, electing party officials and setting a strategy for the next election.

The newly-elected officials of the party then fan across the nation and start building local organizations in their own communities to recruit, fund and campaign for candidates to local and state office. Like the Democrats and Republicans, every four years there will be a national primary and convention to present a candidate for the presidency.

Some will argue that the creation of a party just for progressives will split the left. That assumes that the Democratic Party represents the left. The truth is exactly the opposite: the Democratic Party is where the American left goes to die. If the left wants to live, it must fight and struggle for the things that it cares about on its own, in its own home.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Bernie.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

LA Times’ Billionaire Owner Buys a Hospital. Next Day, CA Supreme Court Tosses My Case.

Am I a victim of the COVID-19 pandemic? Legally, maybe.

Reversing direction unexpectedly, the California Supreme Court has decided NOT to hear my defamation and wrongful termination lawsuit against the Los Angeles Times,  billionaire publisher Austin Beutner, and parent company Tribune Publishing, which at the time of my firing was owned in large part by the Los Angeles Police Department pension fund.

Adding to the confusion, the Court decertified the Court of Appeals ruling against me. This means that, while I will soon be ordered to pay close to $1 million to the LA Times for their legal bills defending themselves from lying about me in two articles, I can take comfort in the fact that Rall v. LA Times will not be used to screw over other journalists under California’s anti-SLAPP statute. My case cannot be used as a precedent. It’s sort of like Bush v. Gore.

You are welcome, California journalists. You are safe.

Why did the court make the decision they made? There’s no way to tell. They issued a pair of trite phrases: “Petition for review denied; CA opinion decertified.” After five years and thousands of pages of opinions and blood and sweat and tears, that’s all she wrote.

It is possible that, as a friend of mine speculated this evening, the court didn’t want to sanction a disruptive decision against a major newspaper at a time when dozens of newspapers are going out of business every day.

What is interesting is the timing.

A few weeks ago, the California Supreme Court signaled to my attorneys that it planned to kick my case down the road for at least several months due to the COVID-19 epidemic and the closure of California courts.

Then, yesterday, the current owner of the LA Times, biotech billionaire Dr. Pat Soon-Shiong, made headlines by announcing his intention to buy a closed Los Angeles hospital for the purpose of treating coronavirus patients. $135 million dollars buys a lot of good will at a time like this.

The very next day, my case went away. Coincidence? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Who knows?

My attorneys and I are exploring next steps. I will keep you posted.