Before I begin today, can I please remind you of he importance of wearing a mask. I know I'm probably preaching to the choir, but please do take a moment to share the video below.
Right, down to business. So Mitch McConnell finally conceded control of the Senate to Democrats. Chuck Schumer got his organising resolution and as a result, chance to take credit for 'getting it done'. I had to smile, the bit he wasn't shouting about, was that there was now an undertaking not to bench the filibuster. Don't get me going on this being a pivotal piece of the required changes to move forward in any meaningful way.
Josh Hawley and friends are still talking a big game, which again causes me to reach for the chuckle button. His blocking of Alejandro Mayorkas' fast track confirmation as Homeland Security Secretary, gives you an indication of obstruction to come. Once again, Hawley is prepared to put the security of the nation on the back burner, because he's a sore loser and wants to become the darling of the MAGA movement. A movement might I add, that is now fractured beyond help. Then, there's the Donald speaking of starting the 'Patriot Party'. At this point, I fall off my chair, because the chuckle button is just not enough to satisfy my mirth. This is made all the worse, at the thought of 'Impeachment 2, the Don is back' There's a lot to unpack today, so let's get started.
Let's start with the Senate. Chuck Schumer takes over the wheel and tries to drive the bus to Sanity City. The obstacles to him arriving safely are not insignificant. Bernie and the progressives are getting restless, Republican members are becoming bolder in their opposition and Trump looms over proceedings as he uses the threat of a new party to to pressure Republicans not to convict him in the impending impeachment trial. It’s just one big game of political chess. The challenge here for Dems, is how do they navigate this now complex web of obstacles. I read many saying, 'we won, so let’s just get it done'. The reality is, you BARELY WON and an 8 million popular vote win, counts for nothing in the makeup of the House and the Senate. The reality is that ground was lost in Congress, but that's a story for another day.
Republicans exploded the deficit giving away trillions of dollars to corporate America who promptly bought back stock. Shock horror, now they are all fiscal conservatives again. Ever was it so.
Trump’s threat to form a new party is in my view just that. The right may be strong, but the maniac right is simply not viable as a possible winning entity. It would simply split the Republican vote and McConnell knows this. Trump also knows it and that’s why he's putting it out there. McConnell has a dilemma. Does he get the votes to convict him and bar him from standing again? Or does he leave him to possibly make another run in 2024? It’s a tough choice. Meanwhile, Dems are stuck in a vice of non-cooperation, with Republicans publicly calling for unity, which is code for avoiding responsibility, for their hand in the events of January 6. It’s the stuff of political thrillers. Meanwhile, if real stimulus is not delivered to millions of families on the edge, a humanitarian disaster of biblical proportions beckons. The sick thing is, Republicans don’t care, because they aren’t in charge, even though they are trying to tie the hands of the man at the helm.
Here's the deal, as Joe would say. Republican fiscal ideology is built around protecting the interests of the top tier of society. Doing that in norma times, some of that benefit drips down. It doesn't trickle down as they would have you believe. Put a pandemic into the mix and even the drip stops, creating a desert of fiscal devastation at the bottom. Even families in the middle are metaphorically rationing water collected before the dripping stopped. Republican ideology is not fit for purpose, in a world where the lower paid can't be exploited, or some kind of natural disaster happens to disrupt the engine of capitalism. One moment while I place my Marxist cap on...... There we go, I look quite revolutionary now! I know it's a blunt assessment, but it's the truth. In Republican politics, empathy for the vulnerable simply does not exist, they would argue otherwise, but the facts simply don't support it.
So how do we move forward? The truth is, with such thin majorities in both houses, it really isn't easy. So long term, Democrats really do need to get ready early to fight 2022 mid-terms, in order to obtain a bigger mandate. In the meantime, the challenge is right here, right now. Joe Biden is not by nature a man built for confrontation, his natural position is one of 'working together'. His decades of experience however, inform him that real bipartisan politics is an illusive animal. At a time when division has never been so evident, Joe's natural style of leadership will be severely challenged. On the upside however, he has a great team around him and having Jen Psaki as his voice, is a huge plus. She's put together a great messaging team who are clearly looking to define a tight line. I have had to smile now on a couple of occasions at the end of Joe's encounters with the press, when he's tempted to answer a question they don't want him to. The team aggressively intervene and usher reporters out of the room, so he can't put his foot in his mouth. They have already had to walk back on the million and a half vaccines a day, that he stated yesterday. However, let's give him a pass on that, because I think ambition is a good thing and I also think it's achievable .
Less of the frivolity, what about the important stuff? I jest not, when I say that there is a humanitarian disaster of biblical proportions just around the corner. Evictions are already at a trickle as unscrupulous landlords find their way around the current moratorium. If real stimulus does not arrive at the frontline of the war to survive fiscal extermination soon, it will make headlines around the world for all the wrong reasons. The government will have no choice but to setup refugee camps, the surge of homeless will be so great. When we think homeless, we tend to think of the traditional groups of people sleeping in doorways and under bridges etc. That in itself is an indictment on modern society, but it will be nothing to what is coming down the pipe if action is not taken immediately to resolve the impending crisis.
It is then not surprising, that progressive Democrats are hopping mad. They simply can't understand why the wider Democratic Party is not as incandescent with rage as they are. So where do I stand? I'm still trying to wade my way through what's actually in the proposal. However, there is a fiscal imperative for the economy here. The real problem is not the package, but rather the government's inability to target the help. WAIT, no I'm not a Republican, so bear with me a moment. It is safe to say, that everyone other than top tier earners are feeling pain right now. However, there are those in the middle that whilst under stress, are not in distress. Stimulus checks to this segment, which is probably the largest segment of American society, will likely just boost savings and is unlikely to find its way back into the economy any time soon. I would be really interested to see polling from this segment of society to ask, would you forego a check to help a family that was about t be evicted from their home. Were I in that segment, I can honestly say absolutely. However, knowing human nature as I do, I suspect a large subset would say no and therein lay the problem.
If targeting could be better achieved, then there would be two wins. Those at the bottom who are really suffering, would be able to get a much larger check to dig them out of the hole they are in. What's more, I can guarantee that almost all that money would instantly flow straight back into the economy, with all the cascading benefits that would bring. The second benefit is political. The Republicans, no matter how hard they tried, could simply not oppose the relief, as it would shine a light on who they are. Now I know this is all fairytale thinking, but take a moment to consider it. It points to the fact that this is as much about the human condition as it is about politics. The suffering of those at the bottom is giving cover to those in the middle who would like to top up their savings account. The reality is, that the formula for delivering direct payments to Americans, is the stuff of third world countries and needs to be addressed.
So what do we do? You have no option but to use the existing grossly inefficient mechanism, which provides cover for Republicans to oppose it as ineffective, inefficient and too expensive. In a literal sense, they are correct. It's far more expensive than it has to be. However, it's the only option available. If you think about it, it's a double whammy for those at the bottom and the vulnerable. They are effectively being punished and sold short, because of a defect in the system, that is unable to target them. So through no fault of their own, they are pushed further and further into an ocean of despair. Back to the question of what do I think should happen? I don't have much time for Bernie Sanders to be honest, but his suggestion of using reconciliation to jam the plan through has merit, if only as a threat to help move things on.
There can be no question that this needs to happen and it needs to happen quickly. I am of the view that in light of all available evidence, I would support this move, if it was not possible to reach a bipartisan agreement.
I would point out, that there are much wider economic considerations in play. While the US is naval gazing and obsessing on its self inflicted wounds, China is on the move and Putin is directly aligning Russia with them. Whilst Russia is not a global financial player, largely because Putin and his friends have raped their economy for personal gain, it does have huge natural resources ripe for exploitation and that will be of great interest to the Chinese. I have to tell you, I can't get it out of my mind that Covid 19 was a Chinese experiment on the viability of biological weapons. I am not a conspiracy theorist and no way am I suggesting this is a viable story, so please don't take this out of context. It is purely a mental tick I can't expel from my mind. I'm sure there are many places you can go to indulge the conspiracy theorist in you, but for now, for me, it's just a nagging tick.
I mentioned yesterday in a tweet, that direct investment into the US dropped 49% in 2020 ($134 billion), whilst direct investment into China grew by 4% ($163 billion). For America to compete, it must first overcome Covid 19 and right now it's not even close. The US economy is like a car unable to travel above 20mph. Covid is throttling back growth, unemployment is still growing, job growth is shrinking, the leisure and travel sector is all but stood still, as is hospitality. The situations screams VACCINATE, VACCINATE, VACCINATE and do whatever you can to keep people in their homes until you can reach the magical herd immunity and provide them with opportunities to earn again.
As things stand, errant governors are more than prepared to sacrifice Americans at the altar of opening their economies again. Ron DeSantis, is a prime example of brutally ignoring the risks, to fire up the Florida economy. I'm sure if he could he'd be providing free flights to Disney World for overseas visitors. He is reckless and quite frankly guilty of negligent reckless homicide.
Tomorrow, we'll take a look at the economy and the way forward against a backdrop of fierce Republican opposition. We'll look at modern day economic slavery, 'gig workers' to you and me. I know it's hard to think back to the days of slavery and realise that they were the gig workers of their time.
Thanks for stopping by and stay safe out there.