“I have this new monthly allotment to make sure that the health and well-being of my family is provided for,” Lori Ament in Gilbert, Arizona, said. “More than making sure that I can afford daycare for my kid, which is a huge factor, or putting food on the table, which is a huge factor, I also see it as a mental well-being of both the parents and the child.” She can pay for after-school care for her son Avery, who’s just going into kindergarten. Maybe even swim lessons. She didn’t think she’d ever be able to do that, but now “I’m giving that to my kid.”
Stuart Wood, in Los Angeles, is contemplating having an actual family vacation. “Six hundred bucks for us is huge,” he said, and “felt akin to a life-changing amount of money.” His and his wife’s salaries working for nonprofits keep them on edge every month in their expensive city. “Things are just normally very tight,” he explained. “It’s not going to go directly toward meeting like a basic need, but it is going to empower us to do something that we wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. And the mental-health element of that is no small thing for us.”
Gwnendolyn, a trans mother of two said even when she and her wife were both working before the pandemic “making ends meet was a real struggle.” They’ve had to declare bankruptcy. “If we get the CTC or the Biden Bucks around the same time every month, that will cover two payments for two different medical debts that we have, and that also covers the trustee payment for our bankruptcy,” she said. She can also look after her own health. “It’s actually facilitated me getting a little bit of transition-related treatment as well that really helped one of the big areas that I have trouble with.”
The payments are helping low- and middle-income families. They’re giving breathing room, they’re making budgeting and planning just a little bit easier in a time of continuing uncertainty. They need not to expire after a year. They’ll be paid out monthly for the remainder of this year, then the first half of this year’s payments will be paid as they usually are, in a tax refund next year. The most effective anti-poverty initiative enacted in decades needs to be made permanent.
Fifty mothers, from every state in the country, are asking for just that. “While we know that the CTC will help cut child poverty, we also know that the permanent expansion of the CTC will provide critical relief to mothers who are juggling needs at home—including serving as teachers and nannies—with demands at work, or trying to get back into the workforce,” they wrote in an open letter to President Biden and Vice President Harris. “As mothers, we say loud and clear: we need help. Many moms want to be at work right now, but have either been laid off or can’t return because of demands at home. It is time for our government to have our backs.”
This tax credit expansion, as a monthly instead of annual benefit, can be included in the reconciliation bill, along with all of the other groundbreaking and transformative economic proposals that are already in it. Biden wants to do just that. “The goal of this is not just to be one year. I think that people have somewhat different legislative strategies but I think that every advocate has the same goal: that we want this to be ultimately permanent,” a senior administration official told USA Today. “There’s no disagreement on that the ultimate goal is for this to go on indefinitely.”
It is going to be included, but right now it’s unclear how long the extension will last. It’s also possible that it will be spun off as a stand-alone bill if Democrats can’t get it in to the reconciliation package, which is not a particularly viable plan. Republicans will have few qualms about blocking it, figuring that by November 2022 people who won’t be getting monthly “Biden Bucks” will be less motivated to vote for Democrats. Getting it done for at least one more year—if not three!—would be political manna.
More importantly, it would go most of the way toward eliminating child poverty in this country. Finally.
Gaetz and Greene’s joint fundraising efforts are hemorrhaging money
Not well, it turns out! The Daily Beast now reports that the Put America First tour has been hemorrhaging money, with less than $60,000 in reported contributions raised for events that cost almost $290,000 to put on. Team Creepy has, in other words, lost something approaching a quarter million dollars on this tour. And that’s even though Team Creepy was, in the months immediately after the Republican attack on the Capitol building, raking in cash as two of the most prolific Republican fundraisers in the House.
This is not necessarily dire news for the Republican pervert-plus-insurrection duo. A major goal of the Gaetz-Greene appearances is probably just as proof that they can still make such appearances without being booed off the stage; while both have been distanced by House Republican colleagues who really, really do not want to appear in new photographs next to someone who might at any moment be led away in handcuffs for raping a minor or who might pipe up yet again with rhetoric comparing vaccinations to the Holocaust, they are teaming up to prove that among the nastiest element of the Republican base, they both remain welcome.
It’s a dare, of sorts, to their colleagues: cut us loose if you want, but know that among a good chunk of the Republican base, we are the heroes they want to follow, not you.
Unfortunately for Greene and Gaetz, the sort of Republicans who like Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene do not seem to be the sort of Republicans who have a lot of disposable income. The Daily Beast reports that the Put America First committee has only received four donations that topped $500 … ever.
There are other signs that members of the pro-Trump, pro-insurrection, pro-sex-crime Republican base are feeling a bit more sluggish in their support than they were earlier in the year. Ticket sales for an announced tour pairing Donald Trump with fired Fox News sex pest Bill O’Reilly have so far been slow, either indicating that support for Trump is petering out a bit, at least when “supporting Trump” requires paying Ticketmaster money, or that Everybody Hates Bill O’Reilly to such an extent that not even Trump supporters are willing to pay to see Trump if Bill O’Reilly is his scabby warmup act.
Similarly, a new “Freedom Phone” being marketed to paranoid Trump conservatives as being the ultimate answer to your super-secret communications needs is being blasted to hell and back for being a seemingly obvious scam—a cut-rate Chinese-made phone with software that may or may not be secure to begin with.
That somebody’s trying to scam conservatives for a quick buck, mind you, is not news. That it might not be working? That’s unheard of.
It’s too early to say what any of this means for the future. Events can and almost certainly will overtake whatever short-term trends Gaetz and Greene are swimming through at the moment. Matt Gaetz, for example, could be arrested for sex crimes. That might sharply reduce donations to his campaign—or, because Republicanism, might double them. Marjorie Taylor Greene might find new fame with a campaign comparing Tide Pods to the Holocaust; she might also stick a fork into an electrical outlet because she thought she saw a communist inside it. It’s anybody’s guess.
For the moment, though, we know that Greene and Gaetz have now bled something quickly approaching a quarter million dollars on a national redemption tour that nobody asked for and that will itself not likely survive whatever new scandals the pair jumps into next. So that’s something.
Republicans are discovering that they’ve done too good a job in separating their base from reality
Most “slippery slope” arguments are just another example of right-wing mushroom farming used to push back against even the most modest proposals. As in Rep. Madison Cawthorn suggesting that asking volunteers to go door-to-door offering COVID-19 vaccine is the first step into “constructing a mechanism” that will reach into every home in America to “take your Bibles.”
But what Republicans built in their anti-reason agenda wasn’t so much a slope as the pathway to the top of a cliff. All along the tattered rightward edge of what was the “alt right” just a period of months ago, people from high school drop-out bar owners to college drop-out real estate scammers have discovered that all they had to do to pocket millions from a party already tumbling through the void was to do exactly what Vladimir Putin had taught them: Get on social media and confirm every racist, xenophobic, anti-intellectual position that had been minted from the Know Nothings to date.
Why hasn’t Q spoken in months? Why should he? Who would even notice in a party where a senator is waging a daily battle to charge a doctor with a felony for trying to protect the country?
The weaponization of social media against the Republican base has been amazing, and absolutely predictable. What Russia did in 2016 was nothing more than putting a modest military budget behind a digital crowbar that could open the nation along lines of weakness. It knew where to find those lines because Republicans drew big circles around them every election cycle. Russia didn’t create a million bots to spread a ridiculous message that the system was unfair to white people and overly generous to Black people by coincidence. They just took the script Republicans had been selling for years. Once you can believe six impossible things before breakfast, there really is no limit.
Of course, none of this means that the Republican Party is doomed to fade away. Republicans have made a blatant and so far successful effort to cripple the election system in America. They’ve demonstrated that they can turn out record numbers in support of an agenda that left a million people dead. And they’ve turned mumble-mumble racism into an overt, out-and-proud bigotry that has touched the hearts of millions of America’s most downtrodden: middle class white people.
So what have they got to worry about?
Well … in the last week, Republicans have noticed that the up = down machine has put them in a position where 90% of the people dying from COVID-19 are their people. That’s because 90% of Democrats are already vaccinated and 99.5% of those dying are unvaccinated. Who are those unvaccinated? Oh, right, the Republican base that’s been taught scientists, doctors, and experts can’t be trusted.
Over the course of that week, Republicans who still think of themselves as party leaders have begun to get louder about suggesting to their followers that maybe, just maybe, taking five minutes out of their day to not die would be a good thing. And this is the kind of response they’re getting.
You know what they say: How are you going to get them back in the land of boring old reason once they’ve seen all the glittery lights and spectacular claims of Bigfoot driving UFOs land?
But it’s worse than that. For Republicans who ever actually cared about the traditional Republican agenda, eh. That’s all gone. For those who care about nothing but their own personal power, they’re out of luck as well. Just ask former Rep. Scott Tipton. Tipton was a conservative Republican who checked all the boxes. He voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He frequently angered environmental groups with a push to privatize public lands. He was solidly against reproductive rights as well as gay marriage, supported by wads of cash from the oil and gas industry, and he easily won election for 10 years. Then Tipton was knocked out of his primary by a woman who claimed to have inside knowledge about Hillary Clinton’s upcoming arrest as well as secret documents that would reveal the QAnon truth about the pizza-ordering cannibals in Congress.
Marjorie Taylor Greene didn’t step into a seat that was formerly held by a Democrat. She ousted Rep. Tom Graves, who had one of the most conservative ratings in the House. Cawthorn took over Mark Meadows’ former seat in a district freshly gerrymandered to make it super Republican safe, but in doing so Cawthorn actually defeated well-funded conservative businesswoman Lynda Bennett, who was the choice of not just Republicans in the state party but also endorsed by Donald Trump. It’s easy to say that Cawthorn won in spite of posting an Instagram photo celebrating his visit to Adolf Hitler’s vacation residence while explaining that a visit to see “the Führer’s” home was on “my bucket list.” But a more truthful framing would be that Cawthorn won because of his unabashed adoption of white supremacist positions.
What most Republicans in leadership positions today are just beginning to discover is that they are the alt-right. The white nationalist agenda that was cautiously courted along the fringe a decade ago is now the mainstream. If there is still a pro-business agenda, it exists only so much as it locks in racism. If there’s still a social conservative agenda, it survives only as a means of tacking a halo onto actions of hate. And the media outlets that Republicans were counting on to keep the base in line have discovered that it’s even more lucrative to feed them to the volcano god who pays Tucker Carlson’s bills.
The new Republican Party demands that America explicitly cover up slavery, Jim Crow, and every expression of racism. Why teach kids about the Civil Rights era when obviously Black people have always had the edge over poor, struggling, mistreated whites? In the last few years, Republicans have already tried to revive the idea that Joseph McCarthy was a hero. Don’t worry—they’re also holding pedestals open for George Wallace and Strom Thurmond.
Republicans have thought they might cut the bleeding off with a Justin Amash here and a Jeff Flake there. But those who see just signing onto “yes, Donald” as a solution to their electoral ills are missing the big picture. If there was anyone who still cared about “traditional conservative values,” they can forget it. And if all they care about is their personal power, they won’t have that either.
There’s always another Boebert in the weeds.
Republicans continue dragging out infrastructure talks, while calling Democrats ‘unreasonable’
Transit. It’s only an essential, core part of what we like to call “transportation.” Portman says Democrats are “not being reasonable.” Apparently that’s because Democrats want to adhere to existing law under it that says the federal gas tax-funded Highway Trust Fund has to be split 80% for highways and 20% for transit. Republicans want to renege on that, arguing that transit systems already got COVID-19 funding (to make up for lost revenue from the pandemic) and shouldn’t get more from this bill.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, chair of the Banking Committee which has jurisdiction over transit, is frustrated. “The Republicans don’t have great interest in public transit,” he said. “Their proposals are far too inadequate.” He added that “there’s been a tradition of fairly good public transit funding, but it doesn’t seem to be on the table from them yet.” Brown continued “I just want to get to an agreement where they take seriously public transit funding, and they haven’t yet.” Sen. Jon Tester—a member of that bipartisan gang—was more succinct. “Republicans hate transit, Democrats like transit.[…] It’s that simple.”
It’s not entirely that simple, though, because what this is is another manufactured excuse from Republicans to keep on dragging this thing out. They are also arguing about “broadband, Davis-Bacon requirements, and rescinding unspent COVID funds” according to an aide. So, pretty much all of it? Even if there is a weekend miracle and the gang produces something on Monday, there’s no guarantee at all that there will be 10 Republicans interested in voting even to start talking about it next week. If they were that close, they would have agreed to starting the process on Wednesday.
The Democrats in charge of making Biden’s plan happen in the Senate are prepared for the contingency of having to fold this “hard” infrastructure piece into the larger budget reconciliation bill that can pass with just Democratic votes, the part of the Biden plan that would transform the lives of millions, in a really good way. They’ll vote for this bipartisan thing if it ever happens, though most who aren’t in the gang will do so grudgingly because the damned thing has to get done so they can have the good stuff.
That good stuff, chief economist Mark Zandi at Moody’s reports “will strengthen long-term economic growth, the benefits of which would mostly accrue to lower- and middle-income Americans.” The report also concludes that concerns about inflation that Republicans have been shouting about are “likely misplaced” and “overdone.”
“It is a unique opportunity,” Zandi told the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent. “The economic environment is ripe for game-changing policies that address long-running, pernicious problems that only government can address, because the scale of the problems is so large.” His report says that the failure to pass the bills—the entire $4.1 trillion package either as two bills or combined into one—”would certainly diminish the economy’s prospects.”
“The nation has long underinvested in both physical and human infrastructure and has been slow to respond to the threat posed by climate change, with mounting economic consequences,” the report says. “Greater investments in public infrastructure and social programs will lift productivity and labor force growth, and the attention on climate change will help forestall its increasingly corrosive economic effects.”
That’s critical analysis for the Democrats to keep front and center in this last push to get the job done, to make the bills as expansive as possible (yes, climate change policies, yes expanding health care, yes fixing the safety net, yes education).
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