Thursday, April 30, 2020


Trump Thinks He Can Make China Pay for the Virus Like Mexico Paid for the Wall

Photo: AP/Shutterstock
During the run-up to the Iraq war, the Bush administration pressured intelligence agencies to support its preferred conclusion that Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction. Since Iraq was a totalitarian state that had resisted international demands for transparency, its behavior provoked suspicion that both encouraged Bush administration officials to suspect the worst and made their manipulation of intelligence appear more plausible.
In keeping with its apparent commitment to repeating all the abuses and failures of the last Republican presidency, along with inventing many new ones, the Trump administration is running the same play, this time with China. The New York Times reports the administration is pressuring intelligence officials to find evidence that COVID-19 escaped from a lab in Wuhan.
The bulk of scientific evidence points to a different conclusion — that the coronavirus was transmitted from animals to humans. The lab theory remains theoretically possible but unlikely and difficult to prove. Conservatives have obsessed over the lab theory for strange reasons. It seems to fulfill an elemental impulse to recast the coronavirus as a moral struggle against communism — the kind of problem conservatives instinctively grasp and can use as a bludgeon against liberals — rather than as a matter of public-health management. Republicans have privately conceded that they need to deflect attention onto China because Trump’s record on handling the pandemic is literally indefensible.
But the campaign to blame China has always run into the problem of: What are you going to do about it? Suppose China did cause the coronavirus to escape through neglectful security protocol at a research lab. Heck, suppose the full Tom Cotton conspiracy is true and China manufactured the coronavirus as a bioweapon and then it escaped the lab. What recourse do we have?
The answer is, fortunately, much more ridiculous than it was under the Bush administration. Trump wants to “set the stage for holding China responsible” and is interested in suing China for damages. The Washington Post has a dedicated story on the administration’s plans to pursue a lawsuit or seek reparations.
The idea of suing China for damages has obvious intuitive appeal to Trump, a lifelong abuser of the legal system who is currently pursuing frivolous lawsuits against several media outlets and who just last week threatened to sue his own campaign manager for polls that show him losing the election. But in real international relations, you generally can’t just make other countries give you money.
The Post story runs through various options for getting paid by China being floated by Trump officials. The closest thing to a feasible option would be repudiating debt held by China, though the blowback to that move would be so enormous — other potential buyers of Treasury bills would be demanding higher interest rates forever — that this would be more like an act of financial self-harm than the collection of reparations. The reason you generally can’t collect money from other countries is that we don’t have a world government.
To the limited extent it is possible to force other countries to pay you back without invading and occupying them, it is through the enforcement of international bodies like the World Trade Organization. But Trump has ignored or weakened transnational authorities, and if any president is going to coax China into a global government strong enough to enforce repayments for the coronavirus, it certainly isn’t going to be Donald Trump.
The only discernible endgame here seems to be creating a predicate for Trump to publicly demand repayments from China as his solution to the crisis. If he could insist Mexico would pay for the wall, he can say China will pay for the coronavirus. The obvious fact that neither is going to happen is immaterial to their value as nationalistic campaign slogans. History is repeating itself, the first time as tragedy (the Iraq intelligence scandal) and second time as farce.


Amazon Walkouts Are Spreading

Photo: Paul Sancya/AP/Shutterstock
Hafsa Hassan lives at home with her parents and seven siblings. Out of her family, she is the only person currently able to work. But Hassan, who works at an Amazon warehouse in Shakopee, Minnesota, took a professional risk early on Sunday morning: She joined dozens of others in a spontaneous walkout to protest the firing of Faiza Osman, a co-worker. Though Amazon’s rationale for firing Osman remains unclear, local activists say she had been staying home from work to avoid sickening her two children.
The Minnesota protest is a flash point amid a growing wave of national worker unrest. Amazon associates like Hassan have real reason to fear retaliation at work. On Monday, New York attorney general Letitia James sent a letter to the e-commerce giant warning it that it may have violated whistleblower protection laws by firing Chris Smalls hours after he led a protest at his Staten Island warehouse. In the same letter, James said her office was also investigating other, unspecified “cases of potential illegal retaliation,” NPR reported. In addition to Smalls, three Amazon employees in other states lost jobs after participating in protected organizing activity at work.
Amazon denies that it has retaliated against any employees for their activism. But the company’s stringent anti-union stance threatens to undermine its defense of its actions, and so does its haphazard response to the pandemic. Osman wasn’t fired after leading a protest. She simply stayed home from work, which company policy theoretically allowed her to do. Under Amazon’s unlimited unpaid time off policy, which it instituted as a response to the pandemic, Osman had the freedom to stay home if she felt uncomfortable about working, said the Awood Center, which organizes East African workers in the Twin Cities region of Minnesota. Business Insider had previously reported that Amazon told associates in Indiana by text that “absences would not be penalized” as a result of the policy.
Osman also had good reason to worry about infection, Hassan told Intelligencer. Many, including Hassan, had worked the same shift as an associate who had left work ill on Friday evening. After several watched a manager spray down the area where the associate had worked, “we were all very suspicious,” Hassan said. Workers later received text messages informing them of three new coronavirus cases at the warehouse.
“One thing led to another, kind of like how a spark starts the whole forest fire,” she added. News of Osman’s firing pushed frustrated night-shift workers into action. “Firing someone for staying home, where we are supposed to be having unlimited unpaid time off for that specific reason, is just incredible,” said Tyler Hamilton, an associate who also participated in the protest. Hamilton, Hassan, and their co-workers punched out and filed into the parking lot, where Hassan says a member of the facility’s safety team berated them for protesting. Organizers said 50 associates participated in the protest. Amazon, in a statement to Vice News, claimed the number was half that many, but it did reinstate Osman.
That probably won’t be enough to prevent new walkouts. In fact, Amazon seems determined to push workers over the brink and into a pit. On May 1, the company will discontinue the very same unlimited unpaid time off policy Osman used to stay home. “That shows me that they value their bottom line more than our lives,” Hamilton said. “The only reason that they have to roll that back is to force attendance up.” Workers like Osman, who want to avoid risky conditions on the job, now face a higher risk of termination. In normal circumstances, Hamilton continued, associates who run out of time off get fired. “So if someone does not feel safe going to work in the middle of a pandemic, Amazon will fire them for that,” he explained. Associates will still be able to apply for a leave of absence, but on a press call organized by the Athena coalition, a campaign demanding better working conditions at Amazon, associates said that the guidelines are unclear. “I was not even able to complete the form and answer the questions that it requires to formally file for a leave of absence,” said Rachel Belz, who works at a New Jersey facility.
In a statement to Intelligencer, Amazon spokesperson Jen Crowcroft said the company is simply transitioning a universal policy into a more targeted program. “We’ve extended the increased hourly pay through May 16. We are also extending double overtime pay in the U.S. and Canada. These extensions increase our total investment in pay during COVID-19 to nearly $700 million for our hourly employees and partners,” she said. “In addition, we are providing flexibility with leave-of-absence options, including expanding the policy to cover COVID-19 circumstances, such as high-risk individuals or school closures. We continue to see heavy demand during this difficult time, and the team is doing incredible work for our customers and the community.”
Documents obtained by Recode on Wednesday also show that Amazon is cracking down on internal communications among corporate employees in what resembles a draconian, and probably doomed, attempt to prevent them from organizing. Employee moderators must now approve messages to listservs with over 500 subscribers. While Amazon told the website that the rule has always existed, sources said it had not been regularly enforced. As Recode explained, the company’s listservs have “become places for workers to critique the company’s operational handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in how it treats warehouse workers, who have asked for higher pay and more safety protections.”
As matters pertain to the associates in its warehouses, Amazon has been eager to downplay the protests, positioning them in statements to the press as the acts of a few disgruntled employees. But those arguments are losing their power. The Shakopee warehouse has long been a place where the cracks in Amazon’s anti-organizing campaign are acutely visible. Associates, many of them Somali immigrants, have repeatedly and successfully protested against unreasonable work quotas and for time to pray at work. The facility’s Sunday-morning protest is also the latest in a series that affected facilities in New York, Chicago, and Detroit. Meanwhile, other stressors burden associates. Since the start of the pandemic, they have consistently complained that, although the company now requires them to practice social distancing in sorting facilities, an influx of new employees makes it difficult to follow the guidelines. And Hamilton worries the new rules create opportunities for managers to retaliate further against troublesome employees. When Amazon fired Smalls, it cited as its justification his alleged failure to follow a quarantine order.
“Realistically, everyone violates [social distancing] constantly. All it takes is going down the wrong staircase because you’re in a rush, or passing too close to someone. And there’s cameras everywhere in the facility,” Hamilton said. “If they don’t like you, they just have to pick out those moments, and they can use those to write you up.”
Amazon disputes this. “That’s simply not true. We respect the rights of employees to protest and recognize their legal right to do so, but these rights do not provide blanket immunity against bad actions, particularly those that endanger the health, well-being, or safety of their colleagues,” Crowcroft told Intelligencer.
In these circumstances, associates may, like Hassan and Hamilton, continue to protest despite the risk to their jobs. May Day, the international labor holiday, is on Friday, and workers have planned protests to mark the occasion. The Intercept reported on Tuesday that Amazon workers will join others from FedEx, Walmart, Target, and the Amazon-owned Whole Foods in a nationwide walkout. Daniel Steinbrook, a Whole Foods employee, told the Intercept that organizers act “in conjunction with workers at Amazon, Target, Instacart, and other companies for International Workers’ Day to show solidarity with other essential workers in our struggle for better protections and benefits in the pandemic.”
“All the workers who have protested are doing so out of concern for their safety and the well-being of their loved ones,” Hassan said by text. “If we are retaliated against by Amazon then they prove that our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech are no concern of theirs. And that profit is more important than the basic human rights of U.S. citizens.”

Exclusive — Amazon Warehouse Whistleblower Fired by Bezos: Management ‘Told Me not to Tell the Employees’ of a Coronavirus Outbreak

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 30: Amazon employees hold a protest and walkout over conditions at the company's Staten Island distribution facility on March 30, 2020 in New York City. Workers at the facility, which has had numerous employees test positive for the coronavirus, want to call attention to …
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Amazon hid information of a coronavirus outbreak from employees at one of its distribution centers in New York City, said Chris Smalls, who was fired by Amazon after he blew the whistle on the outbreak at his warehouse and helped organize a walkout to protest the unsafe working conditions there.
Smalls spoke with SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Tonight host Rebecca Mansour about the conditions at his warehouse that led to the walkout and his termination.
“At the beginning of March, we were unprotected,” said Smalls. “We didn’t have any facial masks, we didn’t have any cleaning supplies. We didn’t have the right type of gloves that protect our skin. My associates, my employees that I supervised were falling ill in a domino effect, one by one [with] flu-like symptoms. Some of them were even vomiting at their stations. It was very alarming to me. I started to raise my concerns to my local HR department.”
Smalls added, “We didn’t have any confirmed cases at the time, but I wanted to be proactive instead of reactive [in] dealing with something that we’d never dealt before, this virus. I was concerned. They pretty much swept it under the rug because we didn’t have any safety guidelines implemented at the time. We didn’t have any cases; we were nonchalant about it.”
“So I fought behind the scenes,” Smalls continued. “I sent emails out to the CDC, to the health department, to the government of New York try to get the building closed down, quarantined for two weeks, because what I’d seen hand-in-hand and face-to-face was my employees and my colleagues around me begin to fall sick.”
“I had to go back to work,” Smalls remarked. “I took some time off to protect myself, protect my family, my kids. After a while, I was like, no, this unpaid policy that Amazon’s offering is basically you don’t get paid time [off]. You can stay home as long as you want, but you don’t get paid for it. It wasn’t really an option for me. I had to pay my bills.”
Smalls continued, “I returned back to work on March 24th. When I returned that day, my colleague — who’s a supervisor in the same department — she was sick. Her eyes were bloodshot red. She was sluggish. I said, ‘What’s going on?’ She told me she went for testing the night before. We all know you can’t get the test unless you’re showing severe symptoms. I said, ‘Yeah, you should go home immediately.'”
Smalls stated, “The policy for Amazon is you’re allowed to come to work sick as a dog, even if you have the virus, until they receive physical documentation from the doctors, which could take a number of days or weeks. Obviously, it being the epicenter [in] New York, it takes a while.”
“But she went home,” Smalls recalled. “Thank God, because she did test positive. Two hours later, we had a management meeting, and that’s where we learned about our first case. The [infected] associate was in the building on March 11, so I was expecting us to do what the Queen’s New York building did a week prior and close down, sanitize, send everybody home with pay, [and] everybody return back to work. They didn’t do that. They told me not to tell the employees. ‘We don’t want to cause a panic.’ That was my last time working for Amazon right there.”
Smalls went on, “I walked out of the building. I came back to the building every day that week off the clock of my own free will, sat in the cafeteria for eight hours a day to tell the employees the truth — what management was hiding, the fact that we were exposed to somebody, my colleague, for ten hours a day, multiple days in a row. I was only around for five minutes that day, but my employees were around her for ten hours.”
“We all should have been quarantined with pay,” said Smalls. “The building should have been shut down immediately. But that didn’t happen. By the end of the week, Saturday, March 28th, they decided to quarantine me and only me, none of the employees, not even the person I ride to work with every day. So that tells you right there, they put a target on my back to silence me, but what I did was I mobilized a walkout on March 30th that resulted in my termination.”
“We know that they targeted you because VICE media got copies of leaked notes from an internal meeting of Amazon leadership,” Mansour replied. “Jeff Bezos himself was at the meeting.”
On April 2, VICE News obtained the leaked notes from a meeting of Amazon executives, including CEO Jeff Bezos, that revealed that the company’s public relations strategy towards Smalls was to smear him as “not smart or articulate” and make him “the face of the entire union/organizing movement.” VICE News reported:
“He’s not smart, or articulate, and to the extent the press wants to focus on us versus him, we will be in a much stronger PR position than simply explaining for the umpteenth time how we’re trying to protect workers,” wrote Amazon General Counsel David Zapolsky [about Smalls] in notes from the meeting forwarded widely in the company.
“We should spend the first part of our response strongly laying out the case for why the organizer’s conduct was immoral, unacceptable, and arguably illegal, in detail, and only then follow with our usual talking points about worker safety,” Zapolsky wrote. “Make [Smalls] the most interesting part of the story, and if possible make him the face of the entire union/organizing movement.”
“They want to make me the face of the whole union organization,” said Smalls, when Mansour asked him about the leaked Amazon notes. “I wasn’t that. I was just a concerned supervisor. I’d been with the company since 2015. I was a loyal, dedicated employee — nothing more than just a father of three with a retirement date of 2053. But when they dropped the ball on our health and safety, I put my career on the line. It cost me my career, but I have no regrets.”
Smalls continued, “For them to have that meeting about me, that tells you that I’m speaking truth to power, and that I’m not lying. All I can say is it’s a shame that Jeff Bezos has these people around him. We know what type of people they are now. We know what types of conversations they have, so it’s never going to be Amazon versus Chris Smalls. It’s going to be Amazon versus the people.”
Mansour asked is if any legal action is being taken against Amazon related to its firing of Smalls.
“Yeah, absolutely,” replied Smalls. “The New York attorney general’s office, Letitia James, sent out their demand letter on my behalf, the whistleblower laws, and my only legal team. I have my own personal claims and demand letter that’s been shipped already. So yes, legal actions have been taken.”
Smalls has said that the objectives of the walkout’s organizers is to get Amazon to temporarily shut down the New York City warehouse where the outbreak is, sanitize it, and provide pay to furloughed workers who can’t work while the warehouse is being deep cleaned.
“We only want transparency and honesty from the company,” Smalls told Breitbart News Tonight. “How many [coronavirus] cases are in these buildings that we’re walking into every day? We want to make sure that [personal protective equipment] is provided at all times, cleaning supplies [provided] by the company at all times. We shouldn’t have people bringing their own cases of sanitizer to the job. This company is the richest company in the world. There’s no way that should be happening.”
Smalls continued, “All these colleagues of mine haven’t been to work in over a month because they’re terrified. They use an unpaid policy like I did in March. They all need to be retro paid, including myself. They shouldn’t be out of work right now, at home, unpaid, [with] underlying health conditions. You’ve got young adults that are living with their parents, [and] their parents are telling them not to go to work.”
“These people deserve to be retro paid,” determined Smalls. “Every building that has a [coronavirus] case in it — including JFK, my former building — needs to be shut down for a minimum of 14 days for that 14-day incubation period, because you can’t stop the spread of the virus in these types of buildings. These type of facilities are breeding grounds for the coronavirus. JFK alone has 5,000 employees that go in that building weekly from all five boroughs in New York and parts of New Jersey. This virus spreads into two and a half people.”
“You’ve got to think about your communities and your family,” Smalls said. “That’s what we’re doing this for. That’s what I orchestrated this alliance for with all these other companies, because we all have one common goal right now, and that’s just to save our communities and our families and make sure our coworkers are protected at all times.”
Union organizers are conducting a walkout of employees from various companies, including Amazon and its subsidiary Whole Foods, as part of a broader campaign on May Day, otherwise referred to as International Workers’ Day.
All of Amazon’s facilities in New York are still open, said Small. “It’s a sad situation, because when I was protesting a month ago, it was only a few cases at the time, somewhere around ten or less, but now we’re talking about 50 or 60 cases in that building within a matter of three [or] four weeks,” he remarked. “That’s pretty much every building across the entire Amazon network, across the nation, [having] multiple confirmed cases.”
Smalls went on, “We have 5,000 employees in and out of that building weekly. At least 2,000 people there daily, in and out. The sanitizer was depleted. It was scarce. Everybody in the country needed sanitizer once the coronavirus hit the [United] States. Everybody ran and they cleared those shelves, and they hoarded. The same thing was going on in the building.”
Smalls continued, “People were afraid. They didn’t know what they were dealing with, so it disappeared. There used to be an abundance of it, then you couldn’t find one bottle anywhere, and then you’ve got to think the third-party cleaning crew that they hired are human beings, as well. They’re hearing rumors about people testing positive [and] getting sick, they weren’t showing up to work. So if they don’t show up to work, Amazon can’t replace them on the spot. They expected them to be there, but if they don’t show up, they have no control over that.”
Small added, “These were just the things that we were dealing with. We were literally unprotected for an entire month.”
Mansour asked Smalls about the reported union-busting tactics Amazon and its subsidiaries use to keep workers from organizing to collectively bargain for better working conditions.
Smalls said, “They literally preach to the employees, ‘If you receive any text from any type of weird numbers, don’t respond,’ or, ‘If anybody talks to you outside the building, don’t communicate with them.’ They tell them that all the time. To my knowledge, there have been training videos that are actually out there on YouTube are other platforms that are showing them how managers are to be trained to pretty much single out and terminate or reprimand somebody who’s trying to unionize.”
Business Insider reported on a “heat map” used by Whole Foods to estimate risk of unionization among its employees:
Some of the factors that contribute to external risk scores include local union membership size; distance in miles between the store and the closest union; number of charges filed with the National Labor Relations Board alleging labor-law violations; and a “labor incident tracker,” which logs incidents related to organizing and union activity.
Other external factors include the percentage of families within the store’s zip code that fall below the poverty line and the local unemployment rate.
“This is what they do,” said Smalls of Amazon’s measures to block unionization of its employees. “They are an anti-unionized company, and they continue to retaliate against people who speak out. There have been a number of firings since I’ve been fired now. They fired [and] pretty much dismantled my whole crew, one by one.”
Smalls recalled, “There [was] another associate in my crew that protested; he’s been terminated, and then they put another one on a final [notice]. So it’s only a matter of time before they get him out of there. Those are the things — the tactics — that they use. It’s intimidation, retaliation, and discrimination. So, it’s a shame to work for them at this moment. I thought they were a good company, but it turns out that this virus exposed a lot, and it exposed who they really are.”
Breitbart News Tonight broadcasts live on SiriusXM Patriot channel 125 weeknights from 9:00 p.m. to midnight Eastern or 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Pacific.
Follow Robert Kraychik on Twitter.


Fortune 500 to Agencies: Help Keep U.S. Jobs Filled with 200,000-plus Visa Workers

H1-B Visa Workers

The government will open “hundreds and thousands” of jobs to Americans if it won’t extend work permits for foreign visa workers, says a plea from advocacy groups funded by Mike Bloomberg, the Koch networks, and many Fortune 500 companies.
“For a politician, this should be a no-brainer,” responded Kevin Lynn, founder of U.S. Tech Workers. “This is no brainer … if you’re a citizen who is going hungry while foreigners are being preferred for hiring, you’re going to vote that politician out office.”
Jessica Vaughan, the director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies said the companies:
…are obviously not planning to hire the unemployed 26 million Americans. They are trying to stave off [agency] action that they fear will result in some of the visa workers that they have used to replace American [graduates] having to leave the country. They are in a panic that their business model of driving down wages and replacing Americans with visa workers will be upended.
Congress and the White House have allowed companies to keep a population of roughly 1.5 million foreign graduates in a very wide variety of U.S. jobs, both elite jobs and the starter jobs needed by new U.S. graduates. The foreign graduates include more than 270,000 Chinese graduates and roughly one million Indian graduates.
The federal government also helps companies import at least 400,000 foreign workers for seasonal work each year, including roughly 100,000 J-1 workers for summertime jobs at Disney and various beach resorts.
This government-delivered labor supply sidelines many Americans, cuts wages and salaries, subsidizes employers and investors, and also transfers wealth from the interior states to the coasts.
Recent polls show that the public wants a near-total shutdown of immigration, partly to ensure that Americans can recover their jobs lost to the coronavirus crash:
“Trump is really going to suspend immigration? Including H1B?” one technology professional asked Breitbart News. “I know people who are literally crying in joy from this news and the chance to have a job in tech again.”
Americans graduating from college in 2020 are “walking into a hurricane,” said Patrick Beharelle, CEO of TrueBlue, told the Wall Street Journal.
While facing pressure from many pro-American advocacy groups and the impending election, Trump and his deputies are showing an increased willingness to trim the many visa workers programs. But the grassroots advocacy groups are pushing for deeper reforms to help open many jobs for Americans. 
The signers of the plea include several groups that have been funded by corporations, the Koch brothers, or investor George Soros: Americans for Prosperity, the Libre Initiative,  the National Association of Evangelicals, the National Immigration Forum, and the Hispanic Leadership Fund
The signers also included many labor-brokers for the employers of blue-collar and white-collar workers: AmericanHort, the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition, the American Immigration Council, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association
Fortune 500 companies are represented by TechNet and the Information Technology Industry Council, whose members include Indian labor brokers. The two groups include nearly all of the major technology firms who use the H-1B program to sideline at least 900,000 American professionals. The ITIC group also includes at least two members of the India-based NASSCOM outsourcing coalition, Cognizant and Tata. 
Bloomberg’s advocacy group, New American Economy, signed the letter.
Mark Zuckerberg and fellow West Coast investors at did not sign the letter, but is a member of the Technet coalition and works with another signer, a university coalition titled The President’s Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration.
The April 17 plea was sent to the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State. Curiously, it was not sent to the labor department where the relevant offices are run by a former counselor for former President George W. Bush.
The plea says:
USCIS office closures and visa processing limitations mean that without action, nonimmigrant workers risk falling out of status or violating the terms of their visa through no fault of their own. American hospitals and farms will lack the critical immigrant labor force needed to get us through these trying times. We applaud recent actions taken by the State Department, USCIS and DHS to address some of the issues associated with visa processing, but more needs to be done. We ask that DHS, the Department of State, and USCIS provide relief to these important workers and their employers.
Without action, these issues will lead to hundreds and thousands of unfilled jobs and have profound negative economic effects.
We the undersigned ask that U.S. federal agencies take immediate action to support foreign- born workers and their employers during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
The phrase “hundreds and thousands” means “an indefinite but emphatically large number,” according to Wikipedia.
The companies requested:
Delay all work authorization expiration dates and extend deadlines to renew or adjust status until at least September 10 …
Forgive accrual of unlawful presence for furloughed workers and student visa holders and forgive extended absence for green card holders …
Add flexibility to continue processing essential worker visas, including for health care workers and temporary farmworkers.
The request was signed by the Niskanen Center, a pro-migration group which recently posted a document saying that “the total number of would-be legal immigrants working here who may lose status and have to depart [because of the coronavirus crash] would likely more than double to over a quarter of a million.”
In 2019, the center produced a list of priorities for immigration policy — and excluded any ideas for protecting Americans’ careers, pay, housing, or children.
The Fortune 500 plea was favorably covered two foreign-born reporters at Mike Bloomberg’s
The tech industry is crucial to supporting offices working remotely, helping doctors provide telehealth services and keeping students learning at home, said Alex Burgos, senior vice president of federal policy and government relations at TechNet. “We’ve seen the administration extend tax filing deadlines,” he said, and similar flexibility in visa programs makes sense “because no one here is at fault in any way.”
Technet did not respond to questions from Breitbart News.
The plea by Burgos at Technet for “flexibility … because no one here is at fault in any way” spotlights a key argument by business groups, that no-fault rules in visa worker laws allow the wholesale suspension of the rules to help employers.
But those no-fault rules were designed for fixing small-scale problems — not for bailing out the companies’ decades-old and economy-wide policy of replacing Americans with cheaper, compliant, and disposable foreign workers, said Lynn.
“We’ve got 26 million unemployed Americans: Why would we be concerned with foreign returning home when their visas or contracts have expired?” said Lynn.
“The companies’ [contractual] promise was kept, and now an American will have an opportunity to fill that position,” he said, adding “these are just the forces that want cheap labor, who don’t want there to be an opportunity for Americans to fill  those positions.”

Millions of US workers blocked from applying for jobless benefits

29 April 2020
While the US government has proceeded expeditiously to hand over trillions of dollars to the Wall Street banks and corporations, millions of workers who have lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic have been blocked from applying for unemployment benefits.
A survey published Tuesday by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) shows that the widely reported figure of 26.5 million workers who applied for jobless benefits over the past five weeks significantly underestimates the actual number of people who have lost their jobs since March 15.
The EPI survey reveals that for every 10 people who have successfully applied for unemployment benefits during the pandemic, three or four more tried to apply but could not get through to make a claim. An additional two people did not try to apply at all because the process was so onerous.
EPI summarizes the survey results in the following way: “When we extrapolate our survey findings to the full five weeks of UI [unemployment insurance] claims since March 15, we estimate that an additional 8.9–13.9 million people could have filed for benefits had the process been easier.”
The EPI further states: “These findings imply the official count of unemployment insurance claims likely drastically understates the extent of employment reductions and the need for economic relief during the coronavirus crisis.”
The inability of millions of workers across the country to even apply for unemployment benefits stands in stark contrast to the trillions of dollars that have been transferred from the US Treasury and the Federal Reserve to corporations, banks and the super-rich.
At present, the amount of “emergency assistance” provided to the corporations and banks by the US government—since President Trump signed the initial $2.2 trillion CARES Act on March 27—stands at between $4.2 and $6 trillion.
The denial of resources to unemployed workers while unlimited funds are made available to the ruling elite demonstrates that the officially stated purpose of the CARES Act—voted for unanimously by both Democrats and Republicans—as “fast and direct economic assistance for American workers, families and small businesses” is an utter fraud.
The unemployment benefits program included in the CARES Act has been, to a large extent, an elaborate exercise in deliberate mass deception. When Congress and the White House presented the additional 13 weeks of state-based unemployment insurance beyond the typical 26 weeks, plus an additional $600 weekly federal supplement through July 31, 2020, as a social safety net during the COVID-19 crisis, they knew very well that millions of unemployed workers would be unable to take advantage of it.
The Democrats and Republicans knew that many workers would not be able to get through to the antiquated systems in the state capitals across the country, which would be completely overwhelmed and unprepared for the number of people seeking to apply for benefits. They were counting on these systems being so backed up with delays and confusion that workers would give up and end up receiving little or nothing of the government money.
The banks, corporations and wealthiest 

individuals, on the other hand, were to get 

vast sums of money without delay.
In an example of the ease with which government money is flowing into the accounts of the largest corporations in America, the Washington Post reported on Monday that nearly half of the “payroll support fund” allocated to the airline and cargo industries had been disbursed. The Post report said: “As of this week, $12.4 billion of the $29 billion in grants has been paid out to 93 carriers to keep front-line workers on the job, Treasury officials said. In all, airlines and air cargo carriers are eligible for more than $50 billion in grants and loans.”
Additionally, the Federal Reserve will shortly begin buying $500 billion in bonds issued by large US corporations. Although this cash is being provided officially as a “financial lifeline” that is to be paid back, there are no provisions in the Fed’s credit program requiring companies to maintain jobs or restrict the funds from being used for executive compensation, stock buybacks or shareholder dividends.
The EPI survey, starting with 24.4 million people who applied for unemployment benefits between March 15 and April 18, shows that the actual number of unemployed workers in the US is somewhere between 33.3 and 38.3 million people. This means that between one-quarter and one-third of the workers who have lost their jobs during the pandemic (8.9 to 13.9 million workers) have been blocked from applying for benefits.
EPI explained the methodology behind its study: “To gauge how well the UI [unemployment insurance] system is handling the new caseloads, we used Google Surveys to ask 25,000 people, ‘Did you apply for unemployment benefits in the last 4 weeks?’”
EPI asked those who responded to this question which one of six different scenarios corresponded to their experience, such as, “I applied successfully,” “I tried but could not get through,” “I did not apply because it was too difficult.”
When added to the number of people who were officially without a job prior to the pandemic—7.1 million workers—the EPI survey results would put the jobless rate in the US at somewhere between 24 and 27 percent, eclipsing the highest rates of unemployment during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
In addition to jobless workers who have been prevented from applying for government assistance, a number of surveys have shown that substantial numbers of those who have successfully applied have not received any benefits.
A study by the Washington Post published on April 23 says that there is a backlog of three million unpaid jobless claims across the US, although “the true backlog is probably far greater.” A Pew Research Study showed that only 29 percent of the 7.37 million who filed for jobless assistance in March, or 2.1 million people, actually received the benefits.
Many states across the country are continuing to report “glitches” and “backlogs” in processing unemployment applications that have been successfully submitted. Among the states reporting delays in processing applications are:
• California: A report on Monday in the Los Angeles Times said that for Californians applying for unemployment assistance, “the last month has been a perfect storm of failures for a state government with a long history of technology problems.” Of the 3.2 million new unemployment claims filed in the last month, 76 percent of those applying have received benefits. This means that 768,000 applicants have not yet received an unemployment check.
• Florida: The state of Florida has published an online dashboard showing a total of 1.9 million applications for “reemployment insurance” since March 15. Because of confusion created by the state instructing applicants who had applied before April 5 to apply a second time, there are multiple applications in this total. Florida then reports 824,412 “Confirmed Unique Claims Submitted,” and of these, just 392,051 (47.6 percent) that have been paid any benefits.
• Oregon: A large percentage of the 300,000 unemployed in Oregon who have filed for government assistance have not received a check and cannot find out the status of their claim. The state’s antiquated systems have been overwhelmed by the volume of applications, and, according to a report in the Oregonian, thousands of workers have been given faulty information about their applications. “The department’s phone lines are overwhelmed, preventing callers from getting through,” the newspaper reports.
Amidst the dysfunction, chaos, incompetence and bureaucratic mismanagement of state unemployment programs in the US, there is a definite policy at work. The ruling class and both of its parties are intentionally withholding financial assistance from broad sections of the working class who are being devastated by the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, while offering up unlimited funds in the trillions of dollars to the corporate-financial oligarchy.
There is a deliberate policy of using mass unemployment and the prospect of destitution, homelessness and hunger to blackmail a section of workers into going back to work under unsafe conditions. This policy is, moreover, aimed at the imposition among all workers of a permanent restructuring of economic and class relations, such that full-time jobs, wages, health care, pensions and social services such as education are gutted.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the financial collapse of 2008 was a foretaste of the social and political assault on the working class that is now unfolding. At the same time, millions of workers all over the world are seeing the true reality of capitalism—the subordination of everything, including human life itself, to the ruthless drive of the parasitic elite to increase its wealth. The conditions are being created for revolutionary upheavals. The conclusion that must be drawn is the necessity for a unified international struggle of the working class to put an end to the capitalist system and establish socialism.

Pelosi is a ghastly creature. She and her ilk – Feinstein, Boxer, Jerry Brown, Gavin Newsom – have effectively destroyed California and they did it on purposeThey strive to import as many illegal migrants as possible; they've created and fostered the homelessness and let it fester. California is now a socialist disaster and the further destruction of the economy is just what they've wanted. They see it as their chance to transform the state into Venezuela. PATRICIA McCARTHY


"Along with Obama, Pelosi and Schumer are responsible for incalculable damage done to this country over the eight years of that administration." PATRICIA McCARTHY (BIDEN IS NOT NOTED AS HE SPENT 8 YEARS DURING THE OBOMB FOR BANKSTERS REGIME SUCKING OFF BRIBES AND NO ONE REALLY SAW HIM)

San Francisco is a disaster about which Nancy Pelosi she cares nothing.  It is a city ravaged by drug abuse, homelessness, rampant crime and all the other scourges of leftism.  She lives extravagantly in her gated mansion.  She lives a life of wealth and privilege in city suffering a civilizational collapse created and orchestrated by 
her own party.  She revels in it.  She has become a near-billionairess by way of politics of the most corrupt variety.  She is indeed a cancer on the body politic. PATRICIA McCARTHY


Nancy Pelosi, a ghastly creature, quite beyond the pale

On Monday, Speaker Pelosi finally got around to endorsing Joe Biden for president.
Today, I am proud to endorse Joe Biden for president of the United States because he will be an extraordinary president. He knows how to get the job done. When our nation faced the Great Recession, it was Joe Biden who led the implementation and the accountability of the Recovery Act, helping create and save millions of jobs. Now more than ever, we need a forward-looking, battle-tested leaders who will fight for the people, a president with the values, experience and the strategic-thinking to bring our nation together and build a better, fairer world for our children. For these and other reasons, I am proud to endorse Joe Biden for president, a leader who is the personification of hope and courage, values, authenticity and integrity.

YouTube screen grab.
Has anyone ever heard a bigger load of sheer nonsense?
Any remotely sentient person knows by now that Joe Biden is an intellectual lightweight, a plagiarist, corrupt to his core (he has seen to it that every member of his family has become fabulously wealthy thanks to his nefarious shenanigans), and that he is suffering from rapidly advancing dementia.  His wife Jill seems to want to be first lady so badly she is willing to sacrifice her husband's well-being to her own hunger for power.  Maybe she thinks she can be Edith Wilson, Woodrow Wilson's second wife, who ostensibly ran the country after Wilson's massive stroke in 1919.  He had suffered three previous strokes: 1896, 1906, and 1913.  Wilson was an avowed racist and the first "progressive" president to attempt the transformation of America.  He was a nasty piece of work.  Obama was his direct descendent politically. 
Joe Biden suffered two aneurysms for which he underwent brain surgery.  He survived those operations and remained a senator without distinction.  As Robert Gates wrote in his book, Joe Biden has been wrong on every foreign policy issue for forty years.  He has always been a mediocre senator and everyone — the media and the DNC — knows it.
Pelosi now seems to be almost as senile as Joe.  She stumbles and mumbles when speaking, forgets names, and is often as completely nonsensical as Biden.  She is so out of touch with the American people that she can show off her fancy refrigerator and $13-a-pint ice cream as a prescription for enduring the stay-at-home edicts.  And now she is endorsing a man the whole world knows is mentally deficient.  The woman is a menace to society.  And like the rest of the left, she assumes the American people, at least her Democrats, are mind-numbed idiots, that despite Biden's obvious mental problems, he can be elected president. 
Then came COVID-19.  The left could not believe its good fortune.  All previous attempts to destroy Donald Trump had failed because they were all fabricated hoaxes; Russia collusion, the thoroughly discredited Mueller report, Ukraine quid-pro-quo, impeachment.  Pelosi was happily onboard with Adam Schiff's phony impeachment scam; Schiff is the biggest fool in the House, and thankfully, his unscrupulousness is gradually coming to light.
Pelosi dragged the impeachment process out as long as possible.  "Procrastination is also a subtle act of corruption — it corrupts valuable time" (Amit Abraham).  She was playing power politics and paying absolutely no attention to COVID-19.  As late as the end of February, she was encouraging San Franciscans to party in the streets for the Chinese New Year.  She opposed Trump's travel ban.  Now she blames him for the virus itself.  The woman is a harpy.  Nothing proves her lack of concern for the country more than her predictable and prescribed endorsement of Biden.  The left and its governors intend to drag out the destruction of the American economy for as long as possible in the mistaken belief that it will ensure the defeat of President Trump.
Biden's mental decline is so apparent that it is likely that the DNC will be forced to somehow select another candidate before November.  It had better not be Saint Andrew of Albany.  He has managed his state's virus crisis horribly.  He is an arrogant, incompetent jerk.  Ordering COVID-19 patients into nursing homes and not to the hospital ship or the field hospitals that Trump has speedily provided cost thousands of lives.
Pelosi is the presumptive leader of her party but has been part and parcel of the Russia hoax, the Kavanaugh spectacle, impeachment and her party's failure to grasp the seriousness of this virus when Trump did, when only one person in the US had died from it. The Democrat party as a whole has devolved into a Tammany Hall machine. Nancy Pelosi has long been their Boss Tweed
Pelosi is a ghastly creature. She and her ilk – Feinstein, Boxer, Jerry Brown, Gavin Newsom – have effectively destroyed California and they did it on purposeThey strive to import as many illegal migrants as possible; they've created and fostered the homelessness and let it fester. California is now a socialist disaster and the further destruction of the economy is just what they've wanted. They see it as their chance to transform the state into Venezuela.
Nothing proves their contempt for hardworking Americans more than their embrace of this lockdown. Pelosi pretends to revere democracy, but she means to foment and protect the plutocracy she believes she has successfully brought into being.
The greatest evil which fortune can inflict on men is to endow them with small talents and great ambition." (Vauvenargues)
Pelosi, Schiff, Schumer, are all small talents with great ambition who have inflicted evil upon our nation.

Amid simmering crisis over sexual assault charges Nancy Pelosi endorses Biden

28 April 2020
On Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi formally endorsed Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic Party candidate in the 2020 presidential election. In an eleven-minute video, Pelosi lavished praise on the pro-war, pro-corporate long-time senator and vice president under Barack Obama, the most right-wing of the major contestants for the nomination.
Pelosi called the 77-year-old, semi-senile political hack a “voice of reason” in the coronavirus crisis and absurdly described him as “a leader who is the personification of hope and courage, values and integrity.” In the midst of the greatest corporate bailout in world history, she specifically praised Biden for his role in the multi-trillion-dollar bailout of Wall Street during the 2008–2009 financial crisis.
Pelosi’s endorsement followed endorsements earlier this month by Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, marking the line-up of the so-called “progressive” wing of the party behind the candidate of the party apparatus, whose official imprimatur was signaled by the endorsement the same week by Barack Obama.
But the unity at the top has not resolved the party’s deep crisis. Biden is despised by broad sections of the working class and especially youth and younger workers, and there are many indications that large sections of those, especially young people, who supported the Sanders campaign may not accede to Sanders’ post-capitulation demand that they vote for Biden.
Their disquiet has been increased by the news last week that Biden’s chief economic adviser is Larry Summers, a key architect from the 1990s to the present of the policies of deregulation and economic parasitism that have enabled the financial aristocracy to monopolize ever greater portions of society’s wealth.
This has been compounded by a simmering scandal involving allegations of sexual abuse against Biden by Tara Reade, a one-time staffer in Biden’s Senate office, who filed a complaint with Washington DC police in March accusing the then-senator from Delaware of having assaulted her in 1993.
The alleged incident occurred 26 years ago, there were no other witnesses, Reade did not file a complaint with the police at the time, and the statute of limitations has long since expired. Biden himself has said nothing, but his campaign has denied the charges.
has no way of knowing whether Reade’s allegations are true. One thing is clear, however. The response of the Democratic Party and media organizations aligned with it, such as the New York Times and the Washington Post, which have spearheaded the #MeToo witch hunt and reveled in the “take down” of dozens of prominent men on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations of sexual misconduct, has exposed their rank hypocrisy.
The Times and the Post failed to report Reade’s allegations for weeks after the story was broken by Sanders supporter Katie Halper on her podcast in March. In mid-April they posted articles emphasizing inconsistencies in Reade’s story and insisting that it had to be carefully examined and Biden given the presumption of innocence before reaching any conclusion as to his guilt.
The Democratic National Committee has said nothing, nor has Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Sanders, Warren or most of the dozen or so women on Biden’s short list for his vice presidential running mate. Pelosi has spoken publicly only once on the matter, telling MSNBC on April 17 that she was “satisfied” with Biden’s denial. She appeared Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” program and was not asked by moderator Jake Tapper about the issue.
The contrast between the treatment of Biden by the Democratic Party and the pro-Democratic media and the treatment of a host of targets of #MeToo sex charges could not be more blatant. The mantra “believe women” that was proclaimed repeatedly, including by Biden himself during the September 2018 Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, has been supplanted by a sudden (dishonest) affirmation of the democratic principles of due process and the presumption of innocence.
What has been exposed is the role of the #MeToo campaign as an adjunct of the Democratic Party. Its proponents have changed their tune because the McCarthyite methods of #MeToo in this particular case cut across the interests of the Democratic Party and substantial sections of the ruling class that are backing Biden in the contest with Trump.
There are, however, forces aligned with the Democratic Party that are pushing Reade’s allegations and calling out the party apparatus for seeking to quash them. The Intercept has published a number of articles as have some pseudo-left Sanders promoters, including Jacobin magazine.
This opposition has increased since the posting Friday by Newsbusters of a video clip from an August 1993 CNN “Larry King Live” program in which a woman, identified by Reade as her mother, calls in and cites the case of her daughter, who was “working for a prominent senator and could not get through with her problems at all.” The caller does not identify the senator and does not mention sexual harassment, but the clip seems to confirm Reade’s claim that she told her mother of the incident with Biden at the time.
The video has been widely reported by Fox News and other right-wing media, but largely suppressed by the rest of the corporate media.
Fox News reported Monday that the hashtag #dropoutbiden was trending on Twitter on Sunday, until it was allegedly removed. Nick Brana, Sanders’ former national outreach coordinator, tweeted over the weekend that the Democratic National Committee should either force Biden to drop out or “admit that suppressing progressives is the true purpose of your party.”
Another former Sanders senior adviser, Winnie Wong, tweeted: “The video of Tara Reade’s late mother calling into Larry King to blow the whistle about Tara’s sexual assault is being met with relative silence from a cadre of progressives right now and I want you all to know that I see you. We all do.”
Within this context, Pelosi’s abrupt endorsement of Biden appears to be an effort to contain and silence the voices calling for him to step aside and make explicit the party’s demand that the matter be dropped. Pelosi’s video appears to be part of a circling of the wagons around Biden.
On Monday, the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Representative Pramila Jayapal (Democrat from Washington state), endorsed Biden, after having served as the Sanders campaign’s national chair for health policy. Biden was the most strident opponent of Sanders’ call for “Medicare for all” during the primary contest, repeatedly denouncing it on the grounds that it would cost several trillion dollars. Of course, both he and Sanders are now supporting a bailout of the corporate-financial elite that has already reached some $10 trillion.
“I am ready to work with him [Biden] to craft and then implement the most progressive agenda of any candidate in history,” Jayapal said in a statement.
Her endorsement followed that of two other former Sanders campaign officials. The Progressive Congressional Caucus’s other co-chair, Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, endorsed Biden last week, as did Representative Ro Khanna of California. Pocan and Khanna served as co-chairmen for Sanders.
There is nothing progressive in the efforts of disaffected Democrats and their pseudo-left allies to dislodge Biden on the basis of unsubstantiated sex allegations. Even assuming that Reade is telling the truth, in which case Biden should be held to account, the fact is that Biden and his party are guilty of far greater crimes.
The wars Biden supported in Afghanistan and Iraq alone killed hundreds of thousands of people, including women and children. The Obama administration, in which Biden served as second-in-command, made drone assassination a major instrument of US foreign policy, asserting the right to murder US citizens and carrying out the assassination of at least three Americans. In 2010, Biden himself declared persecuted journalist Julian Assange to be a “hi-tech terrorist.”
It is not a question of replacing Biden with some other servant of American imperialism and Wall Street and promoting the middle class politics of racial and gender identity. The crisis requires the mobilization of the mass of workers, who are increasingly fighting back against the return-to-work campaign of both big business parties, and behind them all genuinely progressive elements in the middle class, on the basis of a revolutionary socialist program in opposition to the entire two-party system and the ruling class it defends.

After the 2008 crisis, the Bush and Obama 

administrations orchestrated the bailout of 

Wall Street, buying up all the bad debts, 

particularly in mortgage-backed securities, 

that had been used as vehicles for an orgy of 

speculation. As a result, social inequality 

increased to record levels. Corporate cash 

hoards rose to $2 trillion. Some $4 trillion 

was funneled into stock buybacks.

Far from being forced to pay for the economic consequences

of the pandemic, the banks and corporations have simply 

been bailed out again, this time on a far larger scale. Once 

again, the crisis is being utilized as an opportunity to 

restructure class relations in the interests of the rich.



Biden repeatedly unloaded on big business and big banks, noting that “this is the second time we’ve bailed their asses out,” accusing the Trump administration of managing the stimulus for their benefit. He railed about banks like Wells Fargo that are “only alive because of the American taxpayer” giving their large corporate clients the first shot at CARES Act aid intended for small businesses.


Biden wants a new stimulus 'a hell of a lot bigger' than $2 trillion

By Michael Grunwald
Joe Biden wants a more progressive approach to economic stimulus legislation than Washington has taken so far, including much stricter oversight of the Trump Administration, much tougher conditions on business bailouts and long-term investments in infrastructure and climate that have so far been largely absent from congressional debates.
In a fiery half-hour interview with POLITICO, the presumptive Democratic nominee sounded a bit like his angrier and less moderate primary rivals, Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, though in unexpurgated Biden style. The former vice president said that the next round of coronavirus stimulus needs to be “a hell of a lot bigger” than last month’s $2 trillion CARES Act, that it needs to include massive aid to states and cities to prevent them from “laying off a hell of a lot of teachers and cops and firefighters,” and that the administration is already “wasting a hell of a lot of money.”
Biden has been running a low-profile campaign during the pandemic, tweeting, filming videos and appearing on Sunday shows from his Delaware home while President Donald Trump has briefed the nation daily from the White House. Biden has let House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speak for the Democratic Party during the debates over economic relief, offering supportive public statements that have faded into the background.
But stimulus is a subject close to his heart, and he passionately contrasted his own management of President Barack Obama’s $800 billion Recovery Act in 2009 with President Donald Trump’s approach to the trillions of dollars flowing out of Capitol Hill.
The Obama stimulus was wildly controversial, but it won bipartisan praise for its strict oversight and unusually low levels of fraud. In the interview, Biden was at his most indignant when he recounted how he recruited a gruff law enforcement veteran and government watchdog named Earl Devaney to oversee the Recovery Act in 2009, and how President Donald Trump fired the Pentagon inspector general who had been selected to oversee the CARES Act almost immediately after he signed it.
“I wanted to bring in the toughest son-of-a-b***h in the country—I really mean it, I’m not joking—because we wanted to make sure we did it by the numbers with genuine oversight,” Biden said. “Right now, there’s no oversight. [Trump] made it real clear he doesn’t have any damn interest in being checked. The last thing he wants is anyone watching that $500 billion going to corporate America, for God’s sake.”
The Trump campaign said it would not comment on the firing of Pentagon inspector general Michael Atkinson beyond the president’s public comments on April 4, when he attacked Atkinson for giving Congress the original whistleblower report about his call with the Ukrainian president that eventually led to his impeachment. “I thought he did a terrible job. Absolutely terrible,” the president said at the time. “He took a fake report and brought it to Congress, with an emergency. Okay? Not a big Trump fan—that, I can tell you.”
Biden repeatedly unloaded on big business and big banks, noting that “this is the second time we’ve bailed their asses out,” accusing the Trump administration of managing the stimulus for their benefit. He railed about banks like Wells Fargo that are “only alive because of the American taxpayer” giving their large corporate clients the first shot at CARES Act aid intended for small businesses. Over the last month, 26 million Americans have lost their jobs, and Biden said many of those jobs could be gone for good if mom-and-pop operations get left behind.
“We knew from the beginning that the big banks don’t like lending to small businesses,” Biden said. “I’m telling you, though, if Main Street businesses don’t get help, they’re gone.”
The CARES Act and three smaller coronavirus relief bills have all passed Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support, and Biden was careful to avoid criticizing Pelosi and Schumer even as he criticized the results of the compromises they negotiated. He said he’s “in constant conservation” with both Democratic leaders, letting them know his priorities without interfering with their negotiations; he credited them with securing major increases in unemployment benefits and other improvements to Republican proposals that were initially skewed even further towards big business.
He was clearly disappointed that Pelosi and Schumer failed to secure any new aid to states in this week’s $484 billion package, but he suggested that could work out politically, because in the next round they’ll be able to blame Trump and other Republicans for looming state budget cuts and layoffs of first responders.
“They got what they could get,” Biden said. “I’ve been in too many negotiations to second-guess anybody else’s.”
Still, Biden suggested that after four rounds of legislation designed primarily to stanch the economic bleeding, the next round should include more forward-looking investments that could help the economy start to recover and grow once the virus is contained. He suggested a “trillion-dollar infrastructure program that can be implemented really rapidly,” as well as “dealing with environmental things that create good-paying jobs.”
Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have suggested that “green stimulus” would be a non-starter with Republicans, but Biden said investments in light rail, clean drinking water, and half a million electric vehicle chargers on the nation’s highways could help retool the economy for the future.
Biden also argued that long-term growth initiatives are America’s only hope to rein in a budget deficit that has suddenly ballooned to an unprecedented $4 trillion, and is sure to continue to expand as Washington continues to spend. He said that repealing the bulk of Trump’s $2 trillion tax cut would help limit the red ink—“It wasn’t worth the powder it will take to blow it to hell”—but ultimately, restoring jobs and investing in the future is “the only thing that grows the economy back so the deficit doesn’t eat you alive.”
Biden has loved talking about stimulus ever since he ran the Recovery Act, and he sounded comfortable returning to the topic from his Delaware home, although there were a couple of typically hard-to-follow tangents, and one brief coughing interruption that he attributed to swallowing a peanut the wrong way.
His main theme was the contrast between his legendary harassment of the Cabinet secretaries, governors and mayors in charge of spending Recovery Act dollars—he reminded me that he spoke with every governor except Alaska’s Sarah Palin, most of them repeatedly—and “the malpractice of this administration.”
“There’s no coordination. There’s no accountability. Come on, the guy waits to hold up money because he wants to make sure his name is on the checks!” Biden said.
Biden has been firing off a steady stream of tweets attacking Trump for failing to make sure America has enough tests and protective equipment, for complaining about his media coverage, and most recently for suggesting that drinking bleach might help cure the virus. But while Biden clearly hopes to persuade some 2016 Trump voters to back him in November, he also needs to make sure that progressive Sanders and Warren supporters don’t stay home.
This week, Biden has taken flak from the left for including the corporate-friendly Democratic economist Lawrence Summers on internal calls. But on Friday night, he denounced corporate America as “greedy as hell,” echoing the structural critiques of the modern economy that fueled the Sanders and Warren campaigns.
He called for stronger assurances that small-business loans will go to small businesses, and that aid to larger corporations will come with strings prohibiting stock buybacks, executive bonuses or worker layoffs. But he also went beyond policy prescriptions, saying the pandemic might convince Americans that grocery clerks “and all the other folks out there saving our rear ends and risking their lives for eight bucks an hour” deserve a better deal. He thinks there could be a backlash against big corporations who have poured their profits into buybacks and dividends rather than worker training and research and development. He thinks the virus could deal a blow to short-term economic thinking and anti-government political thinking.

“I think there’s going to be a willingness to fix some of the institutional inequities that have existed for a long time,” Biden said. “Milton Friedman isn’t running the show anymore.”

The Great Wall Street Heist of 2020

28 April 2020
The economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have devastating consequences for the vast majority of the population in the United States. The new month begins on Friday, which means that rents and mortgages will come due for tens of millions of workers who have no income to pay for them.
More than 20 million people have filed for unemployment benefits over the past five weeks. In March, less than 30 percent of those who filed received any benefits. Millions more are ineligible for any assistance.
Millions of people have yet to receive anything, including the $1,200 federal cash stimulus, and are desperately attempting to stave off destitution. Food banks are overwhelmed by demand and are running out of staple goods. According to the Economic Policy Institute, more than nine million people who lost their jobs have also lost their health insurance through April 11, with millions more in the weeks that have followed.
There are, however, two realities, two 
Americas. While the economic destitution of 
workers is being used in an effort to drive 
them back to work over widespread 
opposition, the corporate and financial 
oligarchy has seen its fortunes increase.
Gigantic corporations, many of which have massive cash hoards, are laying off employees while continuing to pay executives. Entertainment giant Disney recently came under public scrutiny over the fact that it has furloughed more than 100,000 workers while maintaining its executive compensation program. But this is the general rule.
US billionaires, since mid-March, have 
increased their wealth by $282 billion. The 
collective fortune of these 614 individuals, 
which totals $3.2 trillion, has been buoyed by 
the continued rise of share values on Wall 
Street, which increased sharply again on 
A headline in the German newsweekly Der Spiegel yesterday captured the economic situation: “The death toll in the US is rising—so are the markets.” Noting that while businesses remain shut down and joblessness exceeds by far anything seen in American history, Der Spiegel writes: “So if the fundamental economic data actually offer so little incentive to buy, what is behind the rally? The solution to the riddle has three letters: Fed.”
The Fed—that is, the US Federal Reserve—has made clear that it will do everything in its power to support Wall Street. As a consequence, the markets keep going up. “If you wanted to bet on price losses,” Der Spiegel remarks, “you would have to bet against an institution whose funds are practically infinite.”
Beginning in March, as the Trump administration and the media were downplaying the danger posed by the coronavirus pandemic, the Federal Reserve began funneling money into the markets—first by reducing interest rates to zero, then by initiating a raft of programs to buy up assets from banks and corporations, providing them with cash to purchase stocks.
The activity of the Federal Reserve was endorsed unanimously by the US Congress in late March, when it passed the “CARES Act,” which allocated $454 billion to finance up to $4 trillion in asset purchases. Every single senator voted for the CARES Act, including the erstwhile “democratic socialist” from Vermont, Bernie Sanders.
The Fed is spending something on the order of $80 billion every day. The central bank’s balance sheet is expected to increase to as much as $11 trillion, from less than $4 trillion last year and less than $1 trillion before 2008. This would bring the overall value of assets held by the Fed to nearly half the entire annual economic output of the United States.
One should call things by their right names. Terms such as “asset purchases” and “quantitative easing” tend to obscure what is happening. This is plunder, thievery, robbery on an unprecedented scale. Since stock ownership is overwhelmingly concentrated among the rich, it is the rich who are benefiting.
The Great Wall Street Heist of 2020 has been aided and abetted at every stage by the Democratic and Republican parties. The various institutions of the state, including the mainstream media, have exposed themselves as nothing more than the paid hirelings of Wall Street, to put the matter delicately. Others might have more expressive terms.
After the 2008 crisis, the Bush and Obama administrations orchestrated the bailout of Wall Street, buying up all the bad debts, particularly in mortgage-backed securities, that had been used as vehicles for an orgy of speculation. As a result, social inequality increased to record levels. Corporate cash hoards rose to $2 trillion. Some $4 trillion was funneled into stock buybacks.
Far from being forced to pay for the economic consequences of the pandemic, the banks and corporations have simply been bailed out again, this time on a far larger scale. Once again, the crisis is being utilized as an opportunity to restructure class relations in the interests of the rich.
Everything turned over to Wall Street will be paid, in one form or another, by the working class--through austerity, the further destruction of social programs and intensified exploitation. Hence the relentless campaign to return everyone back to work, risking a new wave of the pandemic and the deaths of countless thousands of people.
Such measures, we are told, are necessary to “save the
economy.” But “the economy,” like the “American people,” is an abstraction. “The economy” that has been “saved” is the economy of the rich, capitalism. Every measure taken has 
been based on protecting the interests of  the oligarchy at the expense of society. 
Every policy has been guided by class interests.
A socialist response, that is, one based on the interests of the working class, is of an entirely different character. Trillions must be allocated, not to bail out Wall Street, but to implement an emergency program to build up health care infrastructure and provide protective equipment to all essential workers.
The loans and other mechanisms through which the income of workers is earmarked for payments to the banks must be immediately forgiven. Student debt ($1.5 trillion), car loans ($1.3 trillion) and credit card debt ($1.08 trillion) could all be wiped out with the money that has been turned over to Wall Street, with trillions still left over.
All workers must continue to receive their full income for the duration of the pandemic. The highest quality health care must be available to all, free of charge and on a completely equal basis.
There must, moreover, be real assistance to small businesses. The so-called Paycheck Protection Program passed by Congress, ostensibly to aid small businesses, has turned out to be another massive swindle for large corporations, including restaurant chains, hotel conglomerates and hedge funds.
Such actions and other emergency measures to secure the interests of the working class, in the United States and internationally, could not and cannot be secured within the framework of the existing state institutions.
The entire response to the pandemic—from the initial downplaying of the threat to the failure to organize any significant response, the massive handout to Wall Street and the present campaign to force workers back to work even as the pandemic rages—is proof of the Marxist theory of the state. The state is not a neutral body. The financial oligarchy rules. It is their state. The politicians are their politicians. The media is their media.
The logistics, food production, health care, energy, manufacturing and other basic industries must be restructured to meet social needs, under the democratic control of the working class. The massive bailouts of Wall Street must be reversed, with the social resources redirected to securing the financial well-being and health of the working class.
Such policies cannot be realized within the existing political system. They raise the necessity for the revolutionary mobilization of the working class to take political power in its own hands through the establishment of a workers’ government—that is, a government of the workers, by the workers and for the workers—that will implement the socialist policies required to save mankind from disaster.

Questions Swirl as Fed Meets Amid Deepening Economic Crisis

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve has largely calmed turbulent financial markets. Yet a far tougher task remains: Helping rescue an economy and job market that appear to be free-falling into the worst catastrophe since the Great Depression.

Fed policymakers will meet Tuesday and Wednesday against a backdrop of dismal data: More than 26 million Americans have applied for unemployment benefits since the coronavirus forced widespread business closures. Retail sales have dropped by a record pace. Home sales have plunged.
In the meantime, inflation has started to fall amid the collapse in economic activity and is sure to sink further below the Fed’s 2% target level. With beleaguered hotels, airlines and retailers slashing prices, inflation could fall to 1% or less by year’s end. That poses another problem for the Fed: Declining prices can eventually lead consumers to delay spending, thereby slowing the economy further.
In response, the Fed has slashed its benchmark interest rate to near zero in two emergency moves and launched an alphabet soup of lending programs — nine in total — to pump cash into financial markets. The central bank has also bought about $1.4 trillion in Treasury securities to ensure that banks can swap Treasurys for cash and keep rates low.


Neither McConnell nor the Democrats have any problem giving free money—in unlimited amounts—to Wall Street.

On Wednesday, Forbes published a commentary titled “Kiss Your State Pension Goodbye.” It noted: “This is hardly the first time letting states file for bankruptcy to escape trillions of dollars in promised retirement benefits has been proposed.”


Senate Majority Leader McConnell calls for states to declare bankruptcy and gut pensions

25 April 2020
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday called for state governments facing mounting deficits linked to the coronavirus crisis to file for bankruptcy instead of receiving financial aid from the federal government.
Specifically targeting public sector workers’ pensions, the Kentucky Republican told right-wing radio host Hugh Hewitt: “I think this whole business of additional assistance for state and local governments needs to be thoroughly evaluated. There’s not going to be any desire on the Republican side to bail out state pensions by borrowing money from future generations.”
States currently have no legal right to declare bankruptcy, but McConnell suggested a law to permit it, saying, “I would certainly be in favor of allowing states to use the bankruptcy route.” He added, “We have governors regardless of party who would love to have free money.”
McConnell’s office on Wednesday released a statement titled “Stopping [Democratic-led] Blue State Bailouts.”
Declaring bankruptcy would allow state governments to override laws and even state constitutional provisions that guarantee the pension benefits of retired public workers. On Wednesday, Forbes published a commentary titled “Kiss Your State Pension Goodbye.” It noted: “This is hardly the first time letting states file for bankruptcy to escape trillions of dollars in promised retirement benefits has been proposed.”
The author cited a 2011 column by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in the Los Angeles Times calling for change in federal bankruptcy laws to allow states to “reorganize their finances.”
Neither McConnell nor the Democrats have any problem giving free money—in unlimited amounts—to Wall Street. The Senate majority leader’s statement came one day after the Senate voted by unanimous consent for a new $484 billion bill that will funnel money disproportionately to large businesses, in the guise of aiding small businesses and their employees. The bipartisan bill was approved by the House of Representatives on Thursday, with only one dissenting Democratic vote, and signed into law Friday by President Donald Trump.
The new legislation includes an additional $310 billion for the so-called “Paycheck Protection Program” (PPP) enacted last month as part of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act corporate bailout. The Democrats dropped their demands that the new legislation include money to aid state and local governments and additional funding for food stamps. They claimed that aid to the states and localities facing collapsing tax revenues would be forthcoming in a new bailout bill to be negotiated with the White House and congressional Republicans.
Trump reiterated at his Thursday White House briefing that he was open to discussing aid to the states as part of the next bailout bill, but he added that “a lot of people” were sympathetic to McConnell’s position, and he singled out for attack “blue” states, naming Illinois. The White House is seeking to use the fiscal crisis of state and local governments and the possibility of federal aid as leverage to force them to reopen their economies more rapidly.
The Democrats voted to top up the PPP, which exhausted its $349 billion funding in less than two weeks, even though multiple reports had emerged that the vast majority of family-owned businesses had been shut out of the loan program while scores of large publicly traded companies had received millions of dollars in forgivable loans, and the Wall Street banks assigned to handle the Small Business Administration financing had made $10 billion in fees.
In saying it would be preferable to allow states and cities to go bankrupt rather than provide them with a small fraction of the trillions doled out by the Treasury and the Federal Reserve to corporations and banks, McConnell was expressing the outlook of the corporate-financial oligarchy that runs America. Working through both of its political parties, it has responded to the deadly pandemic by opposing any diversion of resources from its private wealth to save lives and contain the virus, and instead orchestrated the unlimited transfer of taxpayer money to prop up the stock market and make itself even richer.
Now it is moving to use the crisis to lay waste to what remains of social services and benefits on which hundreds of millions of working class people depend. This too is, in all essentials, a bipartisan policy.
The Democratic-aligned Washington Post, owned by Amazon’s billionaire CEO Jeff Bezos, published an editorial Friday that chastised McConnell and called for aid to states and cities. At the same time, it lined up behind McConnell’s attack on pensions, denouncing the call by the Illinois Senate president, a Democrat, for $10 billion in federal aid to stave off the collapse of the state’s pension system. It declared that the federal government should not aid pension systems whose problems are “self-inflicted.”
The National Governors Association has requested $500 billion in federal aid, a fraction of the trillions injected into the financial markets, to avert a collapse of basic social services, from education and health care to sanitation and firefighting, and the destruction of hundreds of thousands of public-sector jobs, as well as the wages and pensions of state and municipal workers.
State and local officials of both parties fear a social explosion as the ruling class demands that workers return to work without any protection from infection, unemployment reaches Depression-era levels, millions of laid off workers are blocked from applying for benefits as a result of antiquated and overwhelmed state benefit systems, and outrage grows over the callous indifference of the political establishment to massive human suffering and death.
McConnell’s statement has intensified tensions between the states and the federal government. Trump has rejected calls by governors for federal money and coordination to ramp up coronavirus testing. Last month he suggested that New York state be quarantined, provoking Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo to call it a “civil war measure.” Earlier this month Trump declared that he had “absolute authority” to force the states to reopen their economies on his timeline.
Democratic governors, in particular, have denounced McConnell’s proposal. On Thursday, Cuomo called the bankruptcy suggestion “one of the saddest, really dumb comments of all time.” On Friday he denounced it as “un-American.”
Some Republicans have joined in. New York Congressman Peter King called McConnell’s remarks “shameful and indefensible,” and dubbed him the “Marie Antoinette of the Senate.”
However, none of them have pointed to the contrast between the senator’s attitude to providing money to maintain social services and pensions and his avid support for bailing out Wall Street. That is because the Democratic Party, no less than the Republicans, supports the multi-trillion-dollar bailout of the oligarchy.
Even as Democratic governors and mayors criticize Trump and the Republicans for withholding federal aid, they are preparing massive budget cuts. Not one has even proposed raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy to avoid the destruction of vital services and the impoverishment of working class families.
Moody’s Analytics has warned that states may face combined deficits of $158 billion to $203 billion through the 2021 fiscal year. More than 2,100 cities across the country expect budget deficits this year.
New Jersey’s Democratic governor, Phil Murphy, has frozen more than $1 billion in spending and cut property tax rebates for homeowners. Responding to McConnell’s bankruptcy proposal, Murphy said Wednesday that without federal support his state would not go bankrupt. Instead, he declared, “We will just cut, cut, cut and cut.”
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, a Democrat, is seeking to freeze $2.3 billion in new spending, scuttling a program for free tuition at community colleges and canceling an increase in the state minimum wage.
Washington state Governor Jay Inslee, also a Democrat, this month vetoed budget items projected to cost $445 million over three years, including a plan to hire 370 school guidance counselors.
New York’s Democratic mayor, Bill de Blasio, announced last week that he would slash over $2 billion in city services over the next year. He plans to close public pools, reduce sanitation pickups, suspend the summer youth employment program and impose a hiring freeze.
Michigan may have a deficit as high as $7 billion over the next 18 months. Detroit’s Democratic mayor, Mike Duggan, has threatened to throw the city back into bankruptcy and bring in an emergency financial manager to impose new cuts in social services, pensions and jobs.
Whatever their policy differences, the two parties are united in ruling out any challenge to the capitalist profit system and the entrenched wealth of a parasitic ruling elite. They all agree that the full burden of the pandemic crisis must be borne by working people.

Wall Street feasts on death

Yesterday, April 14, the total worldwide deaths caused by the COVID-19 pandemic passed 126,000. In the United States, more than 2,400 people died on Tuesday, bringing the total nationwide number of victims to 26,000. These official numbers are undoubtedly substantially lower than the actual number of people who have died as a result of being infected by the coronavirus.
Not since the 1930s has the United States experienced a crisis on its soil that has had such a devastating impact on the social well-being of the American people. Images showing mass graves being dug in New York City, body bags piling up in Detroit hospitals, and endless lines of cars with drivers waiting to collect food to feed their families will be remembered like the Depression-era photos of Dorothea Lange. Tens of millions of Americans are without an income and lack sufficient savings to cover their mortgages and rent, insurance premiums, interest on outstanding loans, and other inescapable daily, weekly and monthly expenses. More than 16 million people have filed unemployment claims. It will take weeks, if not months, before their jobless checks arrive. The promised payment of $1,200 that was supposedly part of the CARES bill passed last month by Congress has shown up in very few bank accounts.
A social disaster is unfolding, and the media’s joyful invocation of “glimmers of hope” bears no relation to reality as it is being experienced by the vast majority of the population. The references to “peaks” and “plateaus” are of a largely hypothetical character. The pandemic is raging throughout the country. For millions who are still on the job, showing up for work means running the serious risk of being exposed to the coronavirus.
And yet, in the midst of this immense crisis, there is one small segment of society that has richly prospered during this time of troubles.
Just over three weeks ago, on March 23, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 18,591. During the previous five weeks, as the seriousness of the pandemic was being gradually and reluctantly acknowledged, the Dow had fallen nearly 35 percent from its February 13 high of 29,551.
Since March 23, two numbers have risen in tandem: COVID-19 deaths and the Dow Jones Industrial Average (along with other major markets' averages such as the S&P and NASDAQ).
On March 23, the number of pandemic victims in the US had reached 556. Over the next four days, Congress hastily enacted its multi-trillion-dollar bailout of financial and corporate institutions and investors. The “CARES Act” was signed into law on March 27. On that day, the DJIA closed at 21,636. Expectation of the imminent passage of the bailout had lifted the market nearly 3,000 points in just four days. But between March 23 and March 27, the number of pandemic deaths in the United States nearly tripled, rising to 1,697.
During the week of March 30, there was a further explosive rise in pandemic victims. By Friday, April 3, the number of victims reached 7,139. Throughout the weekend, the media sought to prepare the public for a further rapid rise in the death toll. But there was also a distinct change in the tone of the media narrative. Phrases such as “hopeful signs,” “turning the corner,” and, inevitably, “glimmers of hope” became part of the media’s propaganda repertoire. This was combined with an increasingly aggressive campaign for a more or less rapid return to work.
Throughout the week, the rapid rise in the death toll revealed the expanding dimensions of the social tragedy. The rise in the stock market averages reflected the financial elite’s expectation, having been gifted trillions of dollars by the government, that it will profit from this crisis and emerge wealthier and more powerful than ever.
By Monday, April 6, the number of COVID-19 deaths reached 10,895. The Dow closed at 22,679. By April 9, the death toll had climbed to 16,712. The Dow closed at 23,319. And yesterday, as the number of dead went beyond the staggering 26,000 mark, the investors and speculators joyfully watched the Dow gain another 569 points and close at 23,935.
Let the reader pause over these numbers. Since March 23, the COVID-19 pandemic has claimed, according to official statistics, more than 25,000 lives in the United States. During the same period, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has risen more than 30 percent.
On the surface, there is nothing in the economic news that justifies the extraordinarily rapid rise in the markets. In fact, all available information indicates that the global impact of the pandemic may prove to be as serious and long-lasting as the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Yesterday morning, the International Monetary Fund issued a report titled, “The Great Lockdown: Worst Economic Depression Since the Great Depression.” Written by chief IMF economist Gita Gopinath, the report describes the prevailing situation as “a crisis like no other,” and forecasts a prolonged decline in global economic growth. “This makes the Great Lockdown the worst recession since the Great Depression, and far worse than the Global Financial Crisis [of 2008–2009].” The report continues:
The cumulative loss to global GDP over 2020 and 2021 from the pandemic crisis could be around 9 trillion dollars, greater than the economies of Japan and Germany, combined.
Clearly, it is not current economic projections that have fueled the euphoria on Wall Street; and it is highly unlikely, as the global contraction grows ever more severe, that the current rally can be sustained. But for the time being, the euphoria is being driven by the trillions of dollars of free and unsupervised money that is being provided by the Federal Reserve; and by the expectation that the crisis will provide the corporate-financial oligarchy within the United States as well as in Europe with an opportunity to restructure the capitalist economy and class relationships in a manner that facilitates the accelerated transfer of wealth into the coffers of the capitalist class.
But there is another factor that will counteract the euphoria; and that is the growing social resistance of the working class, which is developing its own ideas about how the American and global economy should be restructured and wealth redistributed.