Tag Archives: people

The stock market vs. the hunger index: The painful display of India’s inequality during the pandemic

One of the world’s top 10 richest men is Indian, but nearly a fourth of the world’s poorest people live in India. And Covid-19 only made this paradox worse.

“The pandemic has reinforced some of the most latent inequalities in India, both socially and economically,” says Jayati Ghosh, professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. And to map this inequality, she says, one need only look at who has gained.

In 2020, the cumulative wealth of 828 Indians on the Hurun India Rich List stood at $821 billion (Rs60.15 lakh crore), up by $140 billion from a year ago. A large part of this increase was thanks to one man and one company—Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries (RIL).

Ambani’s RIL raised $26.4 billion in deals with Facebook, Google, and several other investors, during the peak of the pandemic-related lockdowns. These deals happened in a climate of economic turbulence in India, which reported a 23.9% degrowth in the quarter ending June 2020, the first GDP decline in four decades.

Mass layoffs were announced at several companies in India, and where the staff was retained, companies reduced their remuneration. Even RIL had announced pay cuts of up to 50% for its staff in April 2020, which it later rolled back. While unemployment rates recovered a little on the back of the Indian government unlocking the economy in June, it hit 10% again in December 2020, the highest in the past six months, according to Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE). The Mumbai-based think tank’s data on unemployment are collected from surveying 174,405 households over blocks of four months. Official Indian government data have not yet been released.

The layoffs and pay cuts clipped the dreams of India’s booming middle-class, though even the middle-classes suffered unequally. “We use the term middle-class broadly, but every sector was impacted differently. Most industries reduced the number of workers, but, for instance, those in the financial services sector continued to do well,” Ghosh says. Even in the finance industry, it was the highly skilled, consultant-level executive who thrived, and not employees of financial institutions or bottom-of-the-pyramid workers.

And once the middle-classes suffer, so does India’s consumer sentiment. According to the Reserve Bank of India, consumer sentiment was at an all-time low in September 2020, just before India’s festive season.

This, despite a booming stock market, which has been breaking all records and reaching new highs.

But the stock market seems to be operating in another unequal silo, given the number of Indians on the verge of extreme poverty.

The poor become poorer

When the Indian government announced a nationwide lockdown on March 24, 2020, millions of migrant workers began an arduous journey back home—on foot. What was essentially a disease brought into the country by those who could afford to travel abroad left daily wage earners scrambling for basic survival.

“The sudden lockdowns were almost criminal. The government created a humanitarian crisis in trying to deal with the healthcare crisis,” says Reetika Khera, associate professor of economics at Indian Institute of Technology Delhi. “A huge population works in the unorganised sector,” she says, and without any social security, they are bound to slip through the cracks.

The last official data for India’s poor were released in 2011-12 and estimated that 21.9% of the population (pdf) lived under the poverty line. While India has made considerable progress in bringing a sizable population out of poverty, the Covid-19 pandemic threatens to undo all of that success.

A United Nations Development Programme study, published on Dec. 2, 2020 (pdf), predicts that 40 million people across the world will be pushed into extreme poverty by 2030. In the “high impact” or worst-case scenario, UNDP expects this number to be as high as 250 million.

This scenario is likely going to impact India the worst, given that nearly half of the Indian population, including those recently brought out of poverty, are quite vulnerable. “As the share of households below the poverty line has fallen (sharply) to 22%, the majority of India is no longer poor,” the World Bank noted in its July 2020 India Development Update (pdf). “Instead, half of India is vulnerable—these are households that have recently escaped poverty with consumption levels that are precariously close to the poverty line and remain vulnerable to the risk of slipping back,” it observed.

Ghosh, the economist, says a large part of this increase in inequality is not an act of god but policy-driven. She also warns that this vulnerability is made particularly worse because of India’s social ecosystem. “Economic inequality in India is even more damaging because of its combination with social inequality. There’s a triple-whammy of religion-, caste-, and gender-based disenfranchisement, which is why we have some of the highest number of people on the verge of destitution,” she says. “Even a slight economic change can be devastating in such populations, and push them to starve to death.”

In 2020, for instance, India ranked 94th in the 107-country Global Hunger Index, a peer-reviewed annual report brought out by German private aid organisation Welthungerhilfe. Countries like Ethiopia, Pakistan, and Nepal, smaller economies with systemic inequalities, ranked higher than India.

In this scenario, the smallest loss of income could prove devastating for several Indian households.

The other problem lies with mapping levels of income, and thus poverty, itself. Because India lacks consistent and high-quality household survey data from official sources, calculating the Gini coefficient, an index to measure income inequality, is tricky. The last available calculation of India’s Gini coefficient is based on the government’s investment and debt data from 2012.

But one way to map this inequality besides looking at the lower end of the pyramid is to look at the wealth accumulated by corporate India.

“When we talk about inequality, we tend to look at those left behind, which is important. But inequality is equally related to the fact that some people are accumulating humongous wealth,” says Khera.

…and the rich become richer

Ghosh argues that not only are some people becoming worse off, there are several others who are raking it in irrespective of the pandemic. “People look at the stock market booming and say it has no relation to the real economy. But that’s not completely true, some of these are companies (like telecom and e-commerce) that have benefited from a part of the organised economy,” she says.

In September 2020, Khera and her research partner Meghna Yadav had analysed top executive salaries at 40 of India’s largest listed companies. They then compared it to the median wages in those companies and drew out a grim picture of wealth saturation at the top.

In the worst scenario, Pawan Munjal, chairman, managing director, and CEO of Hero MotoCorp, earned 752 times more than the median salary at his company during the financial year 2019-2020. The best pay-ratio stood at 1:39 for carmaker Maruti Suzuki.

This research did not include Ambani, nor his company, because the RIL’s annual report did not include these data, Quartz had reported.

Both Khera and Ghosh agree that a wealth tax, which the Indian government scrapped in 2016-17, should be reintroduced, even if as a one-off, solidarity measure. “Companies lobbied the government for tax sops and relief through the years. These same companies have been increasing remuneration at the top levels,” Khera argues. “A wealth tax will help the government generate resources that can help deal with, say, the stagnation that currently exists in the budgets for social welfare programmes,” she says.

For instance, during the budget announcement of 2020, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced a reduction of 13% in India’s rural employment guarantee programme, largely to curb the government’s spending to control the fiscal deficit.

“A solidarity tax is not meant to make everyone less rich, but to get the extremely rich so contribute to that the government can offer social security to vulnerable citizens,” Ghosh says.


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Author: Manavi Kapur

Inside Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ Very Weird Pre-inauguration Concert

It’s the 2021 hype-up conundrum: How do you get people excited to party when you’re the people who have been explicitly telling them not to party and also no one can go party because it is a pandemic? The Biden Inaugural Committee’s kick-off celebration to the week of swearing-in events was, then, about as awkward and as confusing as you might expect.

A dogged effort to stage something uplifting and fun, Sunday night’s We the People concert and fundraiser (a small donation garnered Biden/Harris supporters access to the virtual event) was kind of silly, kind of sad, incredibly random, woefully low-energy, scrappy, admirable, and in the end, maybe actually sorta nice?

The lineup wasn’t just the normal hilariously eclectic bookings that telegraph “we know that the guest of honor has no idea who most of these people are but we were determined to hire at least one act to tick off every demographic to prove we’re inclusive” that these political events are notorious for.

Maybe it’s because the big guns are being reserved for Wednesday’s primetime inauguration concert or maybe they just couldn’t justify the effort to appear on a virtual livestream event lacking any of the spirit of a live concert, but We the People featured whiplash-inducing turns from A-list performer to, not quite Z-list, but maybe P-list? Q-list?

Keegan-Michael Key and Debra Messing, of the iconic “I’m for Joe” meme, served as co-hosts, and were perfectly cheery and happy to be there, so good for them. But even as they over-enthusiastically introduced the night’s lineup, it was tempting to snicker at its diminishing returns: “Cher!” “And Fall Out Boy!” “And [pause] Kal Penn…”

The president-elect and Dr. Jill Biden spoke, as did Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff. “Even though our inauguration traditions look a little different this year,” cautioned Biden, “we’re all still together across all of America.”

And so it’s perhaps required to enjoy these things for what they are in these extreme circumstances: the best anyone can do. You have to feel for that.

Between pandemic restrictions and continued threats of insurrection, it’s the worst time to try to trumpet excitement for a new administration, and they’re doing their damnedest to do what they’re able and what’s appropriate. It’s an impossible situation, like if someone gave you a few twenties, a keg of Busch Light, the keys to the party room at the Ponderosa Steakhouse, and said, “Turn this into a presidential event.”

There are many minds to be had about it. It’s exhausting that there’s always an insistence to do this sort of thing, days of celebrations and ultimately uninteresting concerts as part of some civic pomp and circumstance, and especially now when we’re in a pandemic. Yet it’s time to start feeling good about things—or at least believe it’s possible to one day feel good about things again.

To that end, it’s inspiring and nice to have the opportunity to gather with people who are excited to champion and support not just the new president-elect, but the promise of what the country could be under his leadership.

But then at the end of the day, how invigorated can you feel, sitting on your couch watching a glitchy livestream on your computer at 8 pm on a Sunday as Grace Adler and the guy who made out with Meryl Streep in The Prom are trying to gaslight you into thinking that Fall Out Boy’s upcoming performance is akin to watching Beyoncé close out Coachella?

Was the Inaugural Committee trying to elicit wistful memories of the Obama era with that seemingly-out-of-nowhere booking? Trying to reassociate Biden with times when Trump was but a blowhard reality-TV star, the only facemasks we saw were on the cast of Grey’s Anatomy on Thursday nights, and we were all going down, down in an earlier round, sugar, we’re going down swinging?

Until the oral history is released of how this event was cast—the first celebrity presenter was Michael Bivins, a former member of New Edition and Bell Biv DeVoe…—we will have to be content with remaining politely confused about how the favorite rock band of my high school’s graduating Class of 2005 became a headliner. (Their performance of their 2014 single “Centuries” was… fine?)

There was no saving the awkwardness of everything.

A pop trio by the name of AJR, who were touted by Messing and Key for writing and producing songs from their own living room, performed “Bummerland,” as if the jokes weren’t already writing themselves.

Yes, they had booked Barbra Streisand, but for a voice-over only. She teased that she would be singing a song that she performed for three presidents, and was excited to make Biden the fourth, and then archival footage of her belting “Happy Days” at a concert years ago played. What was that about “Bummerland?”

A pop trio by the name of AJR, who were touted by Messing and Key for writing and producing songs from their own living room, performed “Bummerland,” as if the jokes weren’t already writing themselves.

Kal Penn joined to speak about the famous bagels from… New Jersey (?), and the similarities between the possibility America provides and being an actor. Will.i.am performed, which I can say with confidence that no one wanted.

Toward the end, we were blessed by the presence of Cher, who gave a delightfully rambling speech before lip-synching along to her ballad “I Hope You Find It” from different areas of her house, not too unlike a self-shot music video that 13-year-old me would make in my own living room lip-synching along to a Cher song.

The truth is, I think I was assigned this review to be snarky, which, admittedly, is easy to do, especially considering the random setlist and the dreariness of trying to pump people up over a Zoom video. Instead of applause, you have Deb and Keeg cooing and squealing about how good each performer was. There was no cheering or laughter, but there was that caustic glitch sound of video lags that we’re all so familiar with now.

But there was legitimately something pleasant, even uplifting, about it.

The first performer, for example, was Ben Harper, who sang the gorgeous song “With My Two Hands.” It has a beautiful, lilting cadence, with lyrics like: “I can make peace on Earth with my own two hands / I can clean up the earth with my own two hands / I can reach out to you with my own two hands.”

It’s a surreal message right now. It’s sorely needed, but can only be metaphorical. We can’t do anything with our own two hands—at least not without a bathtub of sanitizer and diligent COVID testing—but it’s appropriate messaging.

We’ve all received the loud-and-clear marching orders these last weeks that every single person who wants this current national nightmare to end is going to have to be active participants in digging ourselves out. That will only be possible if there is support: from the government, from the community. And it will only be possible if there’s empathy, a novel concept these days.

The ending chorus of the song changes the lyrics to “with our own two hands.” Maybe the inches of ice that have formed over my heart these last four years really is starting to thaw, because I found myself touched.

Carole King sat at a piano and performed “You’ve Got a Friend.” James Taylor strummed along as he crooned his own version of “America, the Beautiful.” There is no time in which watching either of those things isn’t the highlight of any day. They were lovely.

But just as we were being won over, the grand finale kicked in and made us exasperated all over again that we were even doing this. Just as they did following the remarkable, impressively produced Democratic National Convention—a triumph of ingenuity and democracy—this concert ended, inexplicably, with a DJ.

This time it was DJ Cassidy instead of Diplo, but it was just as strange to be staring at a person in a YouTube-sized screen blasting dance music as if we’re all together in an arena ready to party, and not sitting in the same spot on the couch where we’ve been for the last 11 months, half-paying attention while scrolling through Twitter.

I don’t know what we ever want from these celebrity-meets-politics events that come around every four years, and I definitely don’t know what we want from them in a pandemic.

Perhaps we can just say it was the ultimate opening act for Wednesday’s big show, which will enlist Lady Gaga, Tom Hanks, Jennifer Lopez, Justin Timberlake, and the ultimate headliner: rescuing the United States of America from its current fiery hell. It didn’t matter if you missed it, but watching sure got you more excited for the main event.


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Author: Kevin Fallon

Aid effort intensifies after Indonesia quake that killed 81

MAMUJU, Indonesia (AP) — Aid was reaching the thousands of people left homeless and struggling after an earthquake that killed at least 81 people on an Indonesian island where rescuers intensified their work Monday to find those buried in the rubble.

More rescuers and volunteers were deployed in the hardest-hit city of Mamuju and the neighboring district of Majene on Sulawesi island, where the magnitude 6.2 quake struck early Friday, said Raditya Jati, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency’s spokesperson.

He said a total of 70 people died in Mamuju and 11 in Majene, and about 27,850 survivors were moved to shelters. Nearly 800 people were injured, with more than half of them still receiving treatment for serious injuries.

Water, which has been in short supply, as well as food and medical supplies were being distributed from trucks. The military said it sent five planes carrying rescue personnel, food, medicine, blankets, field tents and water tankers.

Volunteers and rescue personnel erected more temporary shelters for those left homeless in Mamuju and Majene.

Most were barely protected by makeshift shelters that were lashed by heavy monsoon downpours. Only a few were lucky to be protected by tarpaulin-covered tents. They said they were running low on food, blankets and other aid, as emergency supplies were rushed to the hard-hit region.

Mahatir, a relief coordinator for volunteer rescuers, said his team was trying to reach many people in six isolated villages in Majene district after the quake damaging roads and bridges. Aid and other logistic supplies can be distributed only by foot over the severe terrain, said Mahatir who goes by one name.

Jati said at least 1,150 houses in Majene were damaged and the agency was still collecting data on damaged houses and buildings in Mamuju.

Mamuju, the provincial capital of nearly 300,000 people, was strewn with debris from collapsed buildings. The governor’s office building was almost flattened and a shopping mall was reduced to a crumpled hulk.

The disaster agency said the army corps of engineers cleared the road connecting Mamuju and Majene that had been blocked by landslides. They also rebuilt a damaged bridge.

The disaster agency’s chief, Doni Monardo, said authorities were trying to separate high- and lower-risk groups and provided tens of thousands of anti-coronavirus masks for those needing shelters. He said authorities would also set up health posts at the camps to test people for the virus.

People being housed in temporary shelters were seen standing close together, many of them without masks, saying that they difficult to observe health protocols in this emergency situation.

West Sulawesi province has recorded more than 2,500 cases of the coronavirus, including 58 deaths. Indonesia has confirmed nearly 908,000 cases and almost 26,000 fatalities.

Many on Sulawesi island are still haunted by a magnitude 7.5 earthquake that devastated Palu city in 2018, setting of a tsunami and a phenomenon called liquefaction in which soil collapses into itself. More than 4,000 people were killed, including many who were buried when whole neighborhoods were swallowed in the falling ground.

Indonesia, home to more than 260 million people, is lined with seismic faults and is frequently hit by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis. A magnitude 9.1 earthquake off Sumatra in 2004 triggered a tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries.

____

Associated Press writer Niniek Karmini in Jakarta, Indonesia, contributed to this report.


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Analysis: A nation on edge braces for this week’s transfer of power

Normally the inauguration of a president is a joyful event that brings thousands of people to Washington to celebrate. But with authorities determined to stave off the terrifying scene that unfolded during the violent insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6, Washington, DC — once the crown jewel of democracy admired around the world — now resembles a police state as authorities try to ensure a peaceful transfer of power when President-elect Joe Biden takes the oath of office on Wednesday. Some 25,000 National Guard troops have been deployed, military vehicles are blocking some of DC’s streets, the National Mall is closed, and tall fences and barricades protect this country’s sacred buildings as movement is restricted.
Terrifying scope of Capitol attack becoming clearer as Washington locks down for Biden's inauguration
Deep within the fortressed capital city, Trump remained out of public view during his last weekend in power — unrepentant for the violence he incited and unwilling to abandon the false election claims that have riled up his supporters. In that absence of leadership, Biden tried to get Americans focused on a more hopeful future as his team outlined the first steps he will take in office to try to aid struggling Americans amid the pandemic and fulfill campaign promises on issues like climate change, criminal justice and immigration.
But with fewer than four days left in the Trump presidency, the nation remains on edge.
In another unsettling sign of the potential threats posed by homemade bombs or explosives — like the ones planted outside the Republican and Democratic party headquarters earlier this month that didn’t go off — the US Postal Service has removed blue mail collection boxes from certain jurisdictions in 18 states as a security precaution.
With America forced into that security state by the actions of a careless and autocratic commander in chief, Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin, the lead impeachment manager in the House, argued Sunday morning that Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate should convict the President in the upcoming impeachment trial to make it clear that there are consequences for his actions that led to the siege at the Capitol.
“I don’t think anybody would seriously argue that we should establish a precedent, where every president on the way out the door has two weeks, or three weeks, or four weeks, to try to incite an armed insurrection against the union or organize a coup against the union — and if it succeeds, he becomes a dictator and if it fails, he’s not subject to impeachment or conviction, because we just want to let bygones be bygones,” the Maryland Democrat told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.” “This was the most serious presidential crime in the history of the United States of America. The most dangerous crime by a president ever committed against the United States, and there are Republicans who are recognizing it, as well as Democrats.”
Though Democrats have argued that the President presents a “clear and present danger” to the nation, Raskin said he did not know when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would transfer the article of impeachment to the Senate, which has been out of session.
Biden has said that impeachment will be up to Congress and he has declined to offer his opinion about the upcoming trial in the Senate. But his incoming chief of staff Ron Klain told Tapper on Sunday that it is clear that Trump “did incite this mob on January 6” and Biden officials remain concerned about the broader threats surrounding this week’s ceremonies — even though they believe that the Secret Service, with assistance from the National Guard, will “keep the inauguration itself safe.”
Klain noted that Biden decided to run for president after hearing Trump’s remarks following the demonstrations by White supremacists in Charlottesville and the murder of 32-year-old paralegal Heather Heyer, who was part of a group of counter-protesters opposing the presence of the alt-right groups that day.
“The events of the past few weeks have proven out just how damaged the soul of America has been, and how important it is to restore it. That work starts on Wednesday,” Klain said.
In these final days of the Trump presidency, the National Guard presence in Washington is a stronger military footprint than the US has in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria combined — a scenario that would have once seemed unthinkable in the nation’s seat of democracy. But Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen said Saturday the added security was “necessary and warranted.”
“This is as if we were under attack from a foreign enemy,” Van Hollen told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on “The Situation Room.” “What’s so sad about it is that it’s an attack on our democracy from within, instigated by the President of the United States.”
Trump's 'pro-law enforcement' image crumbles in his final days
Many state capitols are also ramping up security to avoid being caught flat-footed as US Capitol Police were on January 6. With the FBI warning last week that “armed protests” are being planned in all 50 states, Michigan State Police, for example, have mobilized personnel from across the state to secure the state Capitol in Lansing in coordination with the FBI and the National Guard.
Michigan, in particular, is familiar with the threats posed by armed protesters, who gathered last spring to demonstrate against restrictions related to Covid-19. With demonstrations expected Sunday, a fence has been erected around the state Capitol, and Lansing Mayor Andy Schor asked Michiganders to stay out of the downtown area and avoid engaging “with demonstrators who come to our city with ill intentions.”
The Michigan House and Senate have canceled sessions Tuesday through Thursday because of “credible threats.” And Airbnb is also reviewing reservations booked around Lansing during inauguration week, saying they will cancel reservations booked by guests associated with violent hate groups.

Trump’s final days

Unwilling to take responsibility for the fear that has rippled across the nation after watching the January 6 attacks, Trump remained out of sight at the White House this weekend — still stripped of the ability to communicate with his followers via major social media channels like Facebook and Twitter.
But in what appeared to be another overtly political move at the 11th hour, his administration tried install a Trump loyalist as the top lawyer at the National Security Agency — a civil servant job, not a political appointment — who would be harder to fire after Biden takes office, sources told CNN.
Trump's final full week in office ends with the nation in disarray
Eschewing the customary handoff between presidents on Inauguration Day, Trump plans to head to Palm Beach, Florida, hours before Biden takes the oath of office. But Trump remains keenly interested in how he will be celebrated when he leaves the White House for the last time, contemplating a departure ceremony that could include a red carpet, a color guard, a military band and even a 21-gun salute, an administration official told CNN’s Jim Acosta.
Trump is also preoccupied in these final days with building a legal team to defend him during his upcoming impeachment trial, as a number of high-profile advisers who defended him the last time he faced a Senate trial make it clear they are not interested in this second round.
Though the President’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani was seen Saturday at the White House, a Trump campaign spokesman Hogan Gidley tweeted that the President has not yet selected the team that will represent him “for the disgraceful attack on our Constitution and democracy, known as the ‘impeachment hoax.'” The President is leaving office with the lowest approval rating of his presidency (34%), according to a new CNN Poll conducted by SSRS, and 54% of Americans say he should be removed from office because of his role inciting violence at the Capitol on January 6.
The President has resisted calls from his aides to give a final speech recounting the accomplishments of the administration. Instead, Pence — who will be attending Biden’s inauguration — continues to be the public-facing leader of the administration, traveling to Naval Air Station Lemoore in California on Saturday to give a speech touting the administration’s national security achievements.
“The American people are grateful,” Pence told sailors as he thanked them for their service on behalf of the Trump administration. “And I want to assure you that you have our deepest respects for the selflessness and courage that you personify every day.”
The vice president argued that the military is now “more equipped than ever” and added — with no irony, even though parts of the nation are currently locked down under heavy guard — that he was “proud to say, with just a few days left in this administration, this is the first administration in decades not to get America into a new war.”

Biden readies first-day executive actions

While it has been hard for Biden to capture the nation’s attention after the security breach at the Capitol, Klain penned a memo detailing the executive actions Biden would take on his first day of office to reverse some of the policies of the Trump administration, including rejoining the Paris climate accord and rescinding the ban on travel from predominantly Muslim countries.
Biden also rolled out his first signature legislative initiative this past week when he announced his $1.9 trillion relief package to mitigate the economic damage wrought by the coronavirus pandemic and expand and accelerate the delivery of the Covid-19 vaccine across the United States.
But Biden’s advisers are concerned that the Senate’s focus on impeachment could draw the Senate’s attention away from critical tasks like confirming members of the President-elect’s national security team and his Cabinet.
“It’s important for the Senate to do its constitutional duty, but also to do its constitutional duty to move forward on these appointments — on the urgent action the country needs,” Klain told Tapper Sunday, noting that the Senate was able to conduct confirmation hearings for nominees during its morning sessions while Trump’s previous impeachment trial was underway. “I hope that the Senate leaders, on a bipartisan basis, find a way to move forward on all their responsibilities.”
Klain’s memo about Biden’s upcoming executive actions said the President-elect would sign orders halting evictions and giving relief from student loan payments to those struggling financially because of the coronavirus pandemic. Biden also plans to institute a mask mandate at federal sites and for travel between states. The President-elect has challenged Americans to mask up in his first 100 days in office.
Biden also plans to introduce an immigration plan within his first 100 days that would include a pathway to citizenship for many undocumented immigrants living in the United States. In late January and early February, he also intends to ask the federal government to devise a system for reuniting children separated from their families at the US-Mexico border and will focus on moving criminal justice reform.
On Sunday, Klain highlighted Biden’s plans to streamline the nation’s slow and lurching system for administering the Covid-19 vaccines by speeding up delivery, ensuring an adequate supply of second doses for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, and by using the Defense Production Act to, for example, produce syringes that would allow health workers to extract six doses from each vial, instead of five, thereby increasing the vaccine supply by 20%.
“We’re inheriting a huge mess here,” Klain told Tapper. “But we have a plan to fix it.”
This story has been updated with additional details Sunday.

Opinion | There’s as Much to Learn From Trump’s Success as His Disgrace

The best argument for Donald Trump’s presidency was never about the man himself. It was about the people who voted for him.

It wasn’t really about what he would do for taxes, immigration or the federal judiciary. He did many needed things on those fronts for sure, but any clever Republican politician with a good pollster could have come up with that agenda. It wasn’t about his vaunted business experience and how he might inject a little necessary private-sector sense into a stultified bureaucracy. It certainly wasn’t about his penchant for conversation-dominating social-media expostulations—polls have indicated a consistent popular distaste for them.

The best argument for Donald Trump was that he led and gave voice to millions of Americans who had been leaderless and voiceless for decades. The secret people, as a British poet once described his similarly disdained countrymen—smiled at, paid, passed over. The deplorables. The men and women whom the media, entertainment and corporate human resources types never meet in their local Whole Foods but deride as bigots and brutish neanderthals.

People who had voted for Republicans and Democrats and had an increasingly hard time telling the difference. People who had voted for a “compassionate conservative,” who led the nation into a catastrophic and futile war. People who had voted for the nation’s first African-American president, a man promising hope and change but delivering hope mostly for those who had plenty of it already and change for few of those who really needed it.

These were Americans left behind by, or alarmed by, the unforgiving juggernaut of “progress” hailed by our political, business and cultural leaders as the glorious arc of history.

Richmond: Three arrested during traffic stop on suspicion of possessing firearms, police say

RICHMOND — Three people driving with stolen license plates were arrested Friday night on suspicion of possessing firearms after failing to stop for police and crashing into another vehicle, police said.

Richmond Police Department Central District Officer Fuller said he attempted to stop a car with stolen license plates Friday night near the intersection of Marina Way and Barrett Avenue. The driver refused to yield and shortly after, the car crashed into another vehicle at the intersection, police said.

Three suspects then fled the vehicle and ran onto the Union Pacific train tracks, police said. Officers searched the area and located all three subjects, who were either on parole or had outstanding warrants for their arrests.

A search of the suspects’ vehicle revealed five firearms, all fully loaded. Two fo the guns were rifles and three were handguns. Two of the handguns had extended magazines of 22 and 31 rounds, and the two rifles were an AK-47 and AR-15 with high capacity magazines.

“It is a relief to have these firearms off the streets and we are extremely proud of our officers and their commitment to keeping our community safe,” Richmond police said in a statement.


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Author: Aldo Toledo

GOP nightmare of Senate Budget Chair Bernie Sanders is about to come true

The long-held Republican nightmare that a champion of working-class people and the common good—one who has dedicated his political career to curbing poverty and injustice while denouncing corporate greed, endless war, and the cruelty of a for-profit health system that leaves millions upon millions uninsured or without affordable access to care—would assume the powerful position of chairing the Senate Budget Committee is about to become reality.

“Time to face the harsh reality, socialist Bernie Sanders will become the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. He has vowed to use his position to enact his progressive agenda on healthcare, climate, infrastructure spending, and cutting defense spending,” Nikki Haley tweeted Saturday.

While it came from Trump’s former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations as a kind of ominous warning, Sanders’ wife, Jane O’Meara Sanders, was among those who shot back with a clever and simple quip. “Yes he has,” she tweeted in response.

Not that Jane Sanders was alone:

“You forgot to mention raising the minimum wage and taxing your rich friends,” the organizing group People for Bernie tweeted back at Haley.

Republican fears of Sanders taking over the committee go back to at least 2016 when Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, then Speaker of the GOP-controlled House, said ahead of that year’s election: “”If we lose the Senate, do you know who becomes chair of the Senate Budget Committee? A guy named Bernie Sanders. You ever heard of him?”

The GOP trepidation over such a reality is about to materialize now that Democrats have seized razor-thin majority control of the Senate. And, while the gavel is yet to be placed in his hand, Sanders and his staff have signaled in recent days that he will be ready and willing to wield it to push the incoming Biden administration—as well as Democratic leadership in the House and Senate—to enact the kind of bold, working-class friendly policies that fueled both of his presidential runs.

Among the chief powers that the chair of the committee will be able to utilize is fostering legislation through the Senate using the budget reconciliation process—a procedural tool that will allow, even under current rules, legislation to pass with a simple majority.

On Sunday, Sanders posted this social media:

“Yes, we can and we must use budget reconciliation to increase the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour with a simple majority vote in the Senate, just like Republicans did to pass massive tax breaks to the 1%,” declared Warren Gunnels, one of Sanders’ most senior aides who went out of the way to identify himself as the “Incoming Majority Staff Director” for the “Senate Budget Committee” in a tweet Friday morning.

Following the Democratic wins in Georgia that gave the party back the majority in the Senate, Sanders told Politico in an interview that he has no plans to be sheepish from his perch atop the committee.

“I’m going to use reconciliation in as aggressive a way as I possibly can to address the terrible health and economic crises facing working people today,” Sanders told the news outlet. “As we speak, my staff and I are working. We’re working with Biden’s people. We’re working with Democratic leadership. We’ll be working with my colleagues in the House to figure out how we can come up with the most aggressive reconciliation bill to address the suffering of the American working families today.”

Nina Turner, national co-chair of Sanders’ 2020 campaign and now running for U.S. House in her home state of Ohio, has been among those in the progressive movement championing the legislative potential of his powerful new roll in the Senate:

In a tweet on Saturday evening, Sanders himself stated: “When Republicans controlled the Senate they used the reconciliation process to provide huge tax breaks for the rich and large corporations. We’re going to use reconciliation to protect working families, the sick and the poor.”

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