This holiday weekend, the Republican Party is thankful for inflation, high gas prices, and climbing COVID-19 cases. Let’s zoom right past how psycho it is to wish misery on people to hurt your political enemies, and talk about what President Biden and Democrats are doing to make things better.
* In coordination with similar action by five other major economies, the Biden administration announced it will release 50 million barrels of oil from the U.S. strategic petroleum reserve ([link removed]) . The additional supply is meant to create a buffer to reduce volatility in overall oil supply and demand. On its own, it’s unlikely to cause gasoline prices to fall, though the move comes as oil prices have actually fallen for weeks.
* In announcing the renomination of Jerome Powell to chair the Federal Reserve for another term on Monday, Biden also noted (perhaps as a reminder to headline writers and cable news producers) that the economy is, y’know, booming. “America is the only major economy, the only one in the world, where the economy is bigger today and families have more money in their pockets today than before the pandemic hit,” he said ([link removed]) . “That’s even after accounting for inflation.”
* Biden’s plan to keep the economy humming into the future, the Build Back Better Act, also got some good news on Tuesday. Or, at least, the correcting of some bad news. In an unusual statement ([link removed]) , the Joint Committee on Taxation, which analyzes the revenue effects of legislation for Congress, acknowledged a significant error in its assessment of BBB. Where JCT originally said the bill would give millionaires a tax cut, it now says BBB will raise taxes on millionaires by an average of 3.2 percent. And since the legislation is paid for, and geared toward lowering prices and increasing productive capacity, it should put downward pressure on inflation in the medium-to-long run.
Getting prices stable or falling is important; getting COVID cases down is importanter.
* At the moment, cases are rising, and that’s before Americans hit the road for Thanksgiving. There were 93,878 confirmed new cases of coronavirus in the U.S. on Monday, more than at any point since early October, when we were on the downslope of the last wave of infections. The climbing cases come amid the rollout of vaccinations for children and boosters for adults, which should help limit the severity of the outbreak and of cases, but perhaps not enough to prevent another winter spike.
* What would prevent hundreds of thousands of cases and tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths is if more people got vaccinated! On Tuesday, the Biden administration asked a federal appeals court ([link removed]) —the right-wing-leaning sixth circuit—to lift a nationwide injunction on its workplace vaccination rules, imposed by the even-more-right-wing fifth circuit. Making sure those rules are allowed to take effect may be the only way to avoid recurring coronavirus outbreaks into next year. Naturally, Republicans want to stop them at all costs.
It’s natural that bad news makes people unhappy, and understandable that many people assume the buck stops with the president. But they should also know that Republicans are celebrating the bad news, and would never lift a finger to improve things, because they think that’s their ticket back to power.
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The U.S. has appeared on a European think tank’s list of “backsliding democracies” for the first time ([link removed]) , but look on the bright side: a backsliding democracy is still technically a democracy! U-S-A! A report released Monday by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance found that “the United States, the bastion of global democracy, fell victim to authoritarian tendencies itself, and was knocked down a significant number of steps on the democratic scale.” It called Donald Trump’s Big Lie a “historic turning point” that “undermined fundamental trust in the electoral process” and caused the January 6 insurrection, as well as harmful effects in other countries. The study found that more than a quarter of the world’s population now lives in backsliding democracies, but it wasn’t all doom and gloom: “Protest and civic action are alive and well.” Not great, but
also not hopeless.
* More than a dozen families of the Parkland, FL, shooting victims have reached a settlement with the Justice Department ([link removed]) in the lawsuit they filed over the FBI’s failure to act on tips about the shooter.
* The January 6 committee has issued subpoenas to the leaders of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers ([link removed]) , one of whom is currently in jail for burning a Black Lives Matter flag stolen from a church during a 2020 Trump rally.
* A jury found the organizers of the deadly Unite the Right rally in 2017 liable for damages ([link removed]) , awarding more than $25 million to injured counterprotesters and Charlottesville residents.
* The Federal Trade Commission has moved to crack down on subscription services ([link removed]) that force you to navigate a frustrating online maze or spend hours on hold when you want to unsubscribe. Happy Thanksgiving.
* A federal judge rejected Florida’s request to temporarily block the Biden administration’s rule mandating vaccines for health-care workers ([link removed]) , which is set to go into effect on December 6.
* Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), who allegedly helped plan the January 6 rally and later downplayed the attack on the Capitol, announced he’s running for Texas attorney general ([link removed]) .
* The jury in the trial of Ahmaud Arbery’s killers has begun deliberations ([link removed]) , after the defense wrapped up its stunningly racist closing arguments.
* Alden Global Capital, a hedge fund known for gutting local newspapers, has announced a proposal to buy Lee Enterprises ([link removed]) , which owns more than 20 local papers around the midwest.
* Prominent far-right trolls wasted no time in stating or suggesting, without evidence ([link removed]) , that the suspect in the Waukesha Christmas parade tragedy was tied to Black Lives Matter.
* The Israeli spyware firm NSO Group, which makes the cell-phone-hacking Pegasus software, is at risk of defaulting on its debt ([link removed]) after the Biden administration blacklisted the company earlier this month.
* New ice just dropped ([link removed]) .
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra has heard medical providers’ concerns that the department’s proposed rules to end surprise billing could potentially force them out of business, and has respectfully called those concerns bullshit ([link removed]) . “I don’t think when someone is overcharging, that it’s going to hurt the overcharger to now have to [accept] a fair price,” Becerra said. “It’s not fair to say that we have to let someone gouge us in order for them to be in business.” Becerra denied that the Biden administration’s plan to protect patients from outrageously high prices was likely to reduce access to health care, while pointing to evidence that “when the arbitration process is wide open, no boundaries, at the end of the day health care costs go up, not down.” The No Surprises Act is set to go into effect on January 1.
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A new study ([link removed]) has added to the growing body of evidence that microdosing psychedelics can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
New York City ([link removed]) is poised to allow more than 800,000 legal residents without U.S. citizenship to vote in local elections.
Residents of Ironton, LA, ([link removed]) successfully fought off an oil company’s plans to build an export terminal over a historic Black cemetery.
A London neighborhood’s initiative ([link removed]) to gamify the use of greener transportation methods substantially reduced car traffic during morning and evening commute hours.