Category: Politics

We need to keep people from losing their homes. Here’s how we do it. Cancel rent and mortgage payments in California to prevent a wave of evictions

There’s no way around it: Sheltering in place is the only way to slow the spread of COVID-19. But social distancing demands a rare suite of opportunities and resources. Right now, millions of Californians living paycheck to paycheck, without the ability to work remotely, face impossible choices: stay home and risk losing everything, or make an income and risk spreading the virus? Pay for housing, or pay for food? When we finally “return to normal” and temporary relief efforts lift, responsible Californians stand to lose the very homes in which they sheltered. Unless we take action, the oncoming tsunami of evictions and foreclosures will eclipse even the darkest days of the Great Recession.

The solution is clear: we must cancel rent and mortgage payments in California. Here’s how we get that done.

First, we must acknowledge that fewer than one in three Americans can make an income working from home, and disparities break along racial and socioeconomic lines. Just under 20% of Black people and a mere 16% of Latinos have the privilege of working from home. For those without a college degree, that number is just 4%. While Unemployment Insurance claims have spiked to a record-high, surpassing the peak of California’s unemployment during the Great Recession, millions more have lost income with little or no recourse. Many will lose their jobs permanently.

Second, we must be clear that current policy in California provides no meaningful protection in the long-term. There is a temporary forbearance on mortgage payments for some — but not all — property owners. Those who cannot pay now must pay later. For renters, Governor Gavin Newsom’s “eviction moratorium” merely delays the inevitable. Anyone who can’t make rent during the shelter-in-place order will remain liable for back-rent, or face eviction after protections are lifted. Different counties across the state provide different grace periods before tenants will be subject to eviction. Mapping the legal patchwork the Governor has left to his 18 million renting constituents is disorienting, especially considering many lack the resources to secure legal representation.

Third, the current federal stimulus package won’t meet the needs of Californians. For Bay Area residents, a one-time payment of $1,200 will barely cover rent for a single bedroom.

Here’s what Newsom and the California Legislature need to do: Immediately issue an emergency declaration cancelling rent and mortgage payments for tenants and homeowners who have been hit by COVID-19 and/or its economic impacts for as long as the state of emergency is in place. And, if mortgage relief cannot be renegotiated with lenders, allow small landlords to deduct lost rent from their mortgage payments. This can be done using a simple, equitable formula: Total suspended rent payments, divided by total payments typically owed through the suspension period, multiplied by mortgage payments through the suspension period.

Under this formula, a landlord with a $5,000/month mortgage will have $15,000 of their mortgage forgiven over a three month suspension period if their tenants can’t pay any amount of rent. A landlord with the same mortgage and rent rate will be forgiven $7,500 over the same period if their tenants can only pay 50% of the rent.

While the California State Legislature has been out of session since March 16th, New York lawmakers remain hard at work virtually debating a bill to cancel rent and the above formula for mortgages. Here in San Francisco — where the Board of Supervisors has canceled its recess to continue legislating — Supervisors Matt Haney and Hillary Ronen recently held a joint press conference with other local elected officials from major cities to call for a federal and statewide rent and mortgage moratorium.

Even a month ago, the scope of this project might have sounded impossible, but the challenges of a global pandemic have unleashed our imaginations, and inspired dramatic solutions. Millions of Californians have retreated into their homes indefinitely. All but essential businesses have shuttered. Once bustling streets sit desolate. This time last year, the enormity of our action would have been unimaginable — the stuff of science fiction — but extraordinary threats demand extraordinary solutions. Now is the time to be bold.

Bending the curve is a collective project of unprecedented scale and urgency. San Francisco and California have led the nation in our public health response by taking early, ambitious action. Now we must again emerge as national leaders in our response to the coming eviction and foreclosure crisis. After years of local factionalism over housing, this common-sense policy should unite everyone. We need to keep people in their homes today, and ensure they don’t lose them tomorrow. Cancel rent and mortgages now.

American vandal: Trump reveals our staggering incompetence before the whole world Now the country that planned D-Day can’t handle delivering medical supplies — and it’s not just about Trump

Since the day after Donald J. Trump as elected in 2016, I’ve been fretting about the effect of his obvious unfitness and incompetence for the “world order” as we have known it. I’ve made clear that I don’t believe there’s any reason why the U.S. should be the perpetual guarantor of security for half the world, nor is it forever obligated to provide some kind of Pax Americana. That was a consequence of America’s unique position after World War II, having had the good fortune to escape the destruction of our homeland, which left us in the position of the last country standing. To our credit (and for our own profit) we did handle the aftermath of that war more competently than the world handled the aftermath of World War I.

But it has been clear to me from the moment Donald Trump came down that elevator that if he won, the world order as we knew it, which was already unstable, was going to be turned upside down with no coherent plan to replace it. His one simple understanding of the world was that he, and the United States, have been treated unfairly. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. America and Donald Trump had it all.

Throughout the Cold War and the red-baiting and the military adventurism and the overweening self-regard that we assumed was our right as the Leader of the Free World, we managed to do a lot of things wrong and the price for that has been high. This is true even though, as Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir wrote in this searing account of America’s precipitous decline as revealed by the coronavirus, the American people hardly noticed:

We have an ingrained national tendency to behave as if the rest of the world simply doesn’t exist — or, on a slightly more sophisticated level, as if it were just a colorful backdrop for our vastly more important national dramas.

O’Hehir rightly observes that empires inevitably collapse, but America’s almost childlike inability to admit it even is an empire, even as it crumbles, may be unique in human history.

Still, for all its myopic arrogance, the one thing America clearly did right — and was justifiably proud of — was to create a technologically advanced society that was the envy of the world. For all our faults, Americans knew how to do things. We could get the job done.

Now the country that sent men to the moon and brought them home again, all the way back in the 1960s, is a fumbling mess, unable to manage the simple logistics of getting supplies from one place to another or coordinating a national set of guidelines in a public health crisis. The vaunted CDC, long thought of as the greatest scientific disease research facility in the world, fumbled in making a test that had already been produced in other countries.

Donald Trump is a completely incompetent leader — we know this. Literally any other president would have done a better job. He couldn’t accept that the crisis was real and that his “plan” to spend the year holding fun rallies and smearing his Democratic rival was going to be interrupted by his duties as president. So he lived in denial until the situation was completely out of hand. Other leaders would have listened to experts and pulled together a team that knew how to organize a national response. And no other president would be so witless as to waste precious time and resources with magical thinking about quick miracle cures.

But it’s not just him, is it? The U.S. government seems to have lost its capacity to act, and the private sector is so invested in short-term profit-making that it’s lost its innovative edge. The result is that the United States of America, formerly the world’s leader in science and technology, now only leads the world in gruesome statistics and body counts.

It’s still unclear exactly why the CDC felt it had to make its own test when another test, created by a German lab, was already available. According to those in the know, Americans just don’t use tests from other countries, ostensibly because our “standards” are so high. Apparently, they aren’t. In this case, the test we created was faulty, causing weeks of delay, and there was some kind of contamination in the lab. How can this be?

The government’s inefficiency and ineptitude in producing, locating and distributing needed medical supplies, combined with Trumpian corrupt patronage toward his favored states, is staggering. Stories of FEMA commandeering shipments of gear that were already paid for by states, and governors having to bid against each other for supplies because the federal government refused to use its power to take control in a global emergency, are simply astonishing. The country that planned the D-Day invasion is incapable of coordinating the delivery of medical supplies to New York City?

Apparently so. And the world is watching. The New York Times’ Michelle Goldberg wrote:

“If you look at why America rose so much after 1945, it was because America attracted the best scientists in the world,” Klaus Scharioth, Germany’s ambassador to America from 2006 to 2011, told me. “America attracted expertise. You had the feeling that all governments, be they Republicans or Democrats, they cherished expertise.” Like many Americanophiles abroad, Scharioth has watched our country’s devolution with great sadness: “I would not have imagined that in my lifetime I would see that.”

Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, a rising Republican leader, evidently wants to ensure that American never attracts any expertise again:

If Chinese students want to come here and study Shakespeare and the Federalist Papers, that’s what they need to learn from America. They don’t need to learn quantum computing. It is a scandal to me that we have trained so many of the Chinese Communist Party’s brightest minds.

The rest of the world is moving on without us. This week 20 global leaders held a conference call pledging to “accelerate cooperation on a coronavirus vaccine and to share research, treatment and medicines across the globe.” No one from the United States was among them.

Why bother? No U.S. pledge of any kind is worth the paper it’s printed on and in any case, the U.S. is clearly unwilling to work cooperatively with the rest of the world anymore, even in a global catastrophe.

I think this says it all:

This pandemic is the first real global threat of the 21st century. It won’t be the last. These are the kinds of great, unprecedented challenges we are going to face going forward. Not only is the U.S. not leading the response, it’s barely participating in it.

The election of Donald Trump was about more than just this presidency. It signaled that America was no longer capable of competently governing itself, much less leading the world. Our devastatingly disorganized, scattershot response to the COVID-19 crisis has revealed that this problem goes much deeper than our politics. We couldn’t have lost our ability to do anything right at a worse time.

SOURCE:https://www.salon.com/2020/04/27/american-vandal-trump-reveals-our-staggering-incompetence-before-the-whole-world/

F.A.Q. on Stimulus Checks, Unemployment and the Coronavirus Bill

The Senate relief bill would send money to Americans and greatly expand unemployment coverage.

The Senate unanimously passed a $2 trillion economic rescue plan on Wednesday that will offer assistance to tens of millions of American households affected by the coronavirus. Its components include stimulus payments to individuals, expanded unemployment coverage, student loan changes, different retirement account rules and more.

The House of Representatives was expected to quickly take up the bill and pass it, sending it to President Trump for his signature.

Here are the answers to common questions about what’s in the bill. We’ll update this article as we have more answers or if the plan changes as it moves through the legislative process. More information on getting assistance can be found at our Hub for Help.

How large would the payments be?

Most adults would get $1,200, although some would get less. For every qualifying child age 16 or under, the payment would be an additional $500.

How many payments would there be?

Just one. Future bills could order up additional payments, though.

How do I know if I will get the full amount?

It depends on your income. Single adults with Social Security numbers who are United States residents and have an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or less would get the full amount. Married couples with no children earning $150,000 or less would receive a total of $2,400. And taxpayers filing as head of household would get the full payment if they earned $112,500 or less.

Above those income figures, the payment decreases until it stops altogether for single people earning $99,000 or married people who have no children and earn $198,000. According to the Senate Finance Committee, a family with two children would no longer be eligible for any payments if its income surpassed $218,000.

You can’t get a payment if someone claims you as a dependent, even if you’re an adult. In any given family and in most instances, everyone must have a valid Social Security number in order to be eligible. There is an exception for members of the military.

You can find your adjusted gross income on Line 8b of the 2019 1040 federal tax return.

Do college students get anything?

Not if anyone claims them as a dependent on a tax return. Usually, students under age 24 are dependents in the eyes of the taxing authorities if a parent pays for at least half of their expenses.

What year’s income should I be looking at?

2019. If you haven’t prepared a tax return yet, you can use your 2018 return. If you haven’t filed that yet, you can use a 2019 Social Security statement showing your income to see what an employer reported to the I.R.S.

What if my recent income made me ineligible, but I anticipate being eligible because of a loss of income in 2020? Do I get a payment?

The bill does not help people in that circumstance now, but you may benefit once you file your 2020 taxes. That’s because the payment is technically an advance on a tax credit that is available for the entire year. So it will depend on how much you earn.

Meanwhile, there are many other provisions in the legislation. You may be able to file for unemployment or for one of the new loans for small-business owners or sole proprietors.

Would I have to apply to receive a payment?

No. If the Internal Revenue Service already has your bank account information, it would transfer the money to you via direct deposit based on the recent income-tax figures it already has.

When would the payment arrive?

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he expected most people to get their payments within three weeks.

If my payment doesn’t come soon, how can I be sure that it wasn’t misdirected?

According to the bill, you would get a paper notice in the mail no later than a few weeks after your payment had been disbursed. That notice would contain information about where the payment ended up and in what form it was made. If you couldn’t locate the payment at that point, it would be time to contact the I.R.S. using the information on the notice.

What if I haven’t filed tax returns recently? Would that affect my ability to receive a payment?

It could. File a return immediately, at least for 2018, according to the I.R.S. website. “Those without 2018 tax filings on record could potentially affect mailings of stimulus checks,” the site says.

If you’re worried about money that you owe that you cannot pay, the I.R.S. recommends consulting a tax professional who can help you request an alternative payment plan or some other resolution.

Would most people who are receiving Social Security retirement and disability payments each month also get a stimulus payment?

Yes.

Would eligible unemployed people get these stimulus payments? Veterans?

Yes and yes.

Do I have to pay income taxes on the amount of my payment?

No.

If my income tax refunds are currently being garnished because of a student loan default, would this payment be garnished as well?

No. In fact, the bill temporarily suspends nearly all efforts to garnish tax refunds to repay debts, including those to the I.R.S. itself. But this waiver may not apply to people who are behind on child support.

Who would be covered by the expanded program?

The new bill would wrap in far more workers than are usually eligible for unemployment benefits, including self-employed people and part-time workers. The bottom-line: Those who are unemployed, are partly unemployed or cannot work for a wide variety of coronavirus-related reasons would be more likely to receive benefits.

How much would I receive?

It depends on your state.

Benefits would be expanded in a bid to replace the average worker’s paycheck, explained Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a public policy research group. The average worker earns about $1,000 a week, and unemployment benefits often replace roughly 40 to 45 percent of that. The expansion would pay an extra amount to fill the gap.

Under the plan, eligible workers would get an extra $600 per week on top of their state benefit. But some states are more generous than others. According to the Century Foundation, the maximum weekly benefit in Alabama is $275, but it’s $450 in California and $713 in New Jersey.

So let’s say a worker was making $1,100 per week in New York; she’d be eligible for the maximum state unemployment benefit of $504 per week. Under the new program, she gets an additional $600 of federal pandemic unemployment compensation, for a total of $1,104, essentially replacing her original paycheck.

States have the option of providing the entire amount in one payment, or sending the extra portion separately. But it must all be done on the same weekly basis.

Are gig workers, freelancers and independent contractors covered in the bill?

Yes, self-employed people would be newly eligible for unemployment benefits.

Benefit amounts would be calculated based on previous income, using a formula from the Disaster Unemployment Assistance program, according to a congressional aide.

Self-employed workers would also be eligible for the additional $600 weekly benefit provided by the federal government.

What if I’m a part-time worker who lost my job because of a coronavirus reason, but my state doesn’t cover part-time workers? Would I still be eligible?

Yes. Part-time workers would be eligible for benefits, but the benefit amount and how long benefits would last depend on your state. They would also be eligible for the additional $600 weekly benefit.

What if I have Covid-19 or need to care for a family member who has it?

If you’ve received a diagnosis, are experiencing symptoms or are seeking a diagnosis — and you’re unemployed, are partly unemployed or cannot work as a result — you would be covered. The same goes if you must care for a member of your family or household who has received a diagnosis.

What if my child’s school or day care shut down?

If you rely on a school, a day care or another facility to care for a child, elderly parent or another household member so that you can work — and that facility has been shut down because of coronavirus — you would be eligible.

What if I’ve been advised by a health care provider to quarantine myself because of exposure to coronavirusAnd what about broader orders to stay home?

READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/article/coronavirus-stimulus-package-questions-answers.html?referringSource=articleShare

Trump Impeachment: Making a Case Against a President, and Against Tuning Out

They played video. They brought graphics. They cited Alexander Hamilton so many times, they may owe royalties to Lin-Manuel Miranda.

The Democratic House impeachment managers, unfolding their case against President Donald J. Trump, were conducting a TV trial without many of the staples of legal drama, particularly witnesses on the stand. Instead, they relied on multimedia, impassioned speeches and repetition, repetition, repetition — all in a presentation of 24 hours over three days.

If the O.J. Simpson trial was a long-running daytime soap, this was democracy in binge mode.

The trial of Mr. Trump, as the TV pundits reminded us before, during and after, was an unusual one, in that much of the jury was assumed to already have a verdict in mind. This meant a different dynamic from the usual televised trial, in which the prosecution is speaking to the jury first and the viewing audience second, if at all.

Instead, Representative Adam B. Schiff of California and his team were effectively speaking to the court of public opinion — home viewers who might bring pressure to bear on certain swing senators, or turn against them at the ballot box — though they had to do so by at least arguing as if the outcome were not a foregone conclusion.

So there was the case, and then there was the case about the case. If the Republican majority was going to acquit the president, and if it was going to voting against calling witnesses and subpoenaing documents that might weaken his defense, the Democrats would make sure that the viewing audience knew it.

Their arguments often focused on what the audience wasn’t seeing and hearing, because the White House refused it. Wednesday night, Mr. Schiff made a refrain of referencing evidence — a diplomatic cable, a statement attributed to the former national security adviser, John R. Bolton — and turning it into a question to the Senate. Wouldn’t you like to read them? Wouldn’t you like to hear them? “They’re yours for the asking,” he said.

What the three days asked of viewers, largely, was patience. The constitutional stakes were as high as they come. But the dynamics were staid, thanks to Senate rules that limited TV coverage to two cemented-in-place camera vantages that gave the broadcast all the visual verve of a security-camera tape.

The managers’ most effective tool, both to break out of the visual monotony and substitute for live witnesses, was file video, which they used to string together the words of Mr. Trump and his staff into a kind of cinéma-vérité documentary of the often right-out-in-the-open scandal.

There was Mr. Trump at a news conference with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in Helsinki, dismissing his own intelligence agencies’ findings on Russian hacking. There was his personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani, regaling Fox News hosts about his Ukraine exploits. There was Senator John McCain, a frequent critic of Mr. Trump, summoned Friday as a posthumous witness.

Certain greatest hits went into heavy rotation. The acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, seemed to say “get over it” onscreen as often as his boss said “You’re fired” on “The Apprentice.”

The senators were a captive audience, though some ducked out, unseen by the stationary cameras. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina vanished before managers played a video of him, prosecuting the Clinton impeachment trial in 1999, in which he contradicted arguments he’s made to defend President Trump. (Mr. Graham did make himself available to cameras between sessions, as did the Democratic presidential candidates kept off the trail in Iowa by Senate duty.)

If any senators weren’t keen on their duty, a good chunk of their constituents were willing to volunteer. Eleven million viewers watched the trial’s first day — hardly Super Bowl numbers but more than watched the Clinton trial, though the numbers declined the next day. And the three major broadcast networks aired more of the trial during the daytime than in 1999, though they left the evening portion to cable news.

In a way, the Democrats programmed their presentation the way a cable news channel does. They recycled through their arguments and video clips during the daytime, for a home audience watching snippets here and there.

Then in prime time, they brought out their centerpiece programming, delivered by Mr. Schiff. (This was around where Fox News usually cut away, preferring its own prime-time hosts.) At the end of Friday’s session, he stepped back from the specifics of the abuse-and-obstruction cases to argue “moral courage” and putting country over party.

“Give America a fair trial,” he concluded. “She deserves it.”

The tone wasn’t entirely solemn. On Thursday evening, Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York told a story about a friend who’d just asked him if he’d heard about “the latest outrage.” Mr. Jeffries assumed this referred to Mr. Trump. Actually, his friend said, “Someone voted against Derek Jeter on his Hall of Fame ballot.”

Mr. Jeffries moved on to connect the American pastime of baseball with the American tradition of the Constitution. But his anecdote made another point. The House managers were not just vying with an opposition party and a truculent defender. They were pitted against every other distraction in the mediasphere, every other shiny enticement and new outrage offering a reason to tune out. READ MORE:https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/24/arts/television/trump-impeachment.html

The hidden danger lurking behind Trump’s embarrassing 4th of July spectacle

On March 12, 1938, the vaunted German army was to make its triumphant entry into Austria—the infamous Anschluss by which a compliant Austrian government surrendered to the Nazis without a shot.

A grand parade of the Third Reich’s might was scheduled for the Austrian capital Vienna but the army’s tanks were not as invincible as the generals bragged. They quickly broke down, clogging the roads, stalling the advance, and infuriating Adolph Hitler. And so, French author and filmmaker Eric Vuillard writes in his eloquent essay, The Order of the Day, “the German troops loaded as many tanks as they could onto railroad cars… the trains hauled away the armor the way you’d transport circus equipment.” The parade went on as planned.

It was that image of massive weapons as circus gear that flashed to mind this week when photos were released of tanks on railroad cars in Washington, DC, ready to be placed on display at our National Mall on the orders of Donald Trump. They were part of his plan to hijack the Fourth of July and make our nation’s birthday all about him—a “Salute to America,” featuring the tanks, military flyovers (including the Blue Angels and Air Force One) and a speech made by the man who calls himself, “Your favorite President, me!” The White House, the Republican National Committee, and the Trump reelect distributed VIP tickets.

As per The New York Times, “Pentagon officials have long been reluctant to parade tanks, missiles, and other weapons through the nation’s capital like the authoritarian leaders of North Korea and China. They say the United States, which has the world’s most powerful military and spends more on defense than the seven next largest military spenders combined—China, Saudi Arabia, India, France, Russia, Britain, and Germany—does not need to broadcast its strength.”

Many former military weren’t crazy about the idea either. Retired Army Lt. Gen. David Barno, who commanded troops under George W. Bush, told Politico, “This looks like it’s becoming much more of a Republican Party event—a political event about the president—than a national celebration of the Fourth of July, and it’s unfortunate to have the military smack dab in the middle of that.” Retired Army Maj. Gen. William Nash added, “The president is using the armed forces in a political ploy for his reelection campaign and I think it’s absolutely obscene.”

(Mother Jones reported on Wednesday that soldiers assigned to the tanks and other armored vehicles plopped down among our national monuments had been given a card by the Pentagon about what to say to the public, including,  “I am proud of my job and my vehicle/tank. I am glad to share my experience with American People.”)

Anyone who has ever spent a Fourth of July in Washington knows that it’s a festive fun day in the capital, albeit wilting hot and sopping humid, usually above politics, featuring a parade, a folk life festival, grand music, and fireworks. But this year, the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, usually a prime vantage point for watching the skyrockets, and the surrounding parkland were cordoned off for the invited guests so that they could watch our egomaniacal president and the first lady make a grand entrance across a red-carpeted stage at the spot where Marian Anderson sang “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” when she was barred from Constitution Hall by the DAR in 1939, and Martin Luther King, Jr., told an eager crowd in 1963 of his dreams for racial harmony and freedom.

Trump’s attempt to wedge himself and his reelection into the festivities—using, in part, taxpayer millions diverted from much needed repairs of the national parks—had the grace of that clown who tries to photobomb a group portrait in the high school yearbook, making faces and wiggling fingers in his ears. The speech, which many feared would be a partisan attack similar to the rants he delivers at his campaign rallies, turned out to be standard if dull rhetoric that sounded more like the third-place winning essay in an eighth grade civics contest than a speech by our putative chief executive. It went on at such monotonous length that CNN actually cut away for a commercial break, something I have never in my life seen happen during a presidential address.

Standing behind a wall of bulletproof glass so rain streaked it appeared he was speaking from behind a car windshield during a cloudburst, Trump was at his best when quoting the eloquence of his predecessors rather than the boilerplate of his speechwriters. (Lincoln’s “government of the people, by the people, for the people ” was trundled out, but there was no mention of Abe’s “malice toward none.”) He lumbered through a rambling litany of moments in American history and named its greats, glossing over our sins, thanking all the branches of the military, and presenting notables in the audience who had been brought there, State of the Union-style, to be lauded for their achievements.

(One of them, Clarence Henderson, introduced by the president as among the first to participate in the Greensboro lunch counter sit-ins in 1960 and cited by Trump as an exemplar of the success of civil rights, has in recent years been an outspoken Trump supporter and president of the North Carolina chapter of the Frederick Douglass Foundation, a group that seeks, according to The Fayetteville Observer, “to grow the ranks of conservative Christian black Republicans.”)

Aside from the verbal slips he inevitably stumbles into when reading from a teleprompter (“ramparts/airports”) there was no groaner of an improvised joke or insult, although given his draft record, the call for young people to join the military was a little rich. That this failure to further embarrass the nation was cause for kudos from Republican leadership and some in the media gives an idea of how low we’ve let this man set the presidential performance bar.

But as conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin noted in The Washington Post, Trump misconstrues American traditions: “What should be a commemoration of human rights (‘All men … ‘) and the unwavering faith in the rule of law and in democratic governance in Trump’s hands becomes a caffeinated Armed Services Day. He manages to transform a holiday about the greatest experiment in civilian self-government into a garish military Mardi Gras.”

So why spend even a moment wringing hands over such an event when there are horrors perpetrated by this regime on an hourly basis that far eclipse some uninspiring oratory and slipshod pageantry? When Trump perpetually lies, makes policy mayhem worldwide, utters dark threats about the homeless and deportations and allows men, women, and children to cluster in overcrowded squalid cellsalong our southern border?

Why bother? Because, as Eric Vuillard writes of World War II in The Order of the Day, “Great catastrophes often creep up on us in tiny steps.” Because on the same day a company donated $750,000 worth of free fireworks for Trump’s Fourth of July party, he dropped a tariff on imported Chinese fireworks that same company had been lobbying against. Because every bit of graft like that, every small indignity inflicted, each gesture and symbol of disdain, are reflective of a greater, potentially fatal insult to democracy and a degradation of the greater good that was idealized by the men who signed the Declaration.

Trump Pledged to End H.I.V. But His Policies Veer the Other Way.

WASHINGTON — In his State of the Union address, President Trump announced a bold plan to end the scourge of H.I.V. by 2030, a promise that seemed to fly in the face of two years of policies and proposals that go in the opposite direction and could undermine progress against the virus that causes AIDS.

In November, the Trump administration proposed a rule change that would make it more difficult for Medicare beneficiaries to get the medicines that treat H.I.V. infection and prevent the virus from spreading.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly urged Congress to repeal the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, even though Medicaid is the largest source of coverage for people with H.I.V. And he has promoted the sale of short-term health plans that skirt the Affordable Care Act, even though such plans usually exclude people with H.I.V.

To end the spread of the virus, federal health officials say they must reduce the stigma attached to gay men and transgender people who are at high risk so they will seek testing and treatment. But for two years the administration has tried to roll back legal protections for people in those groups.

Those opposing moves by the administration have AIDS activists baffled.

“The president’s announcement comes as a surprise, albeit a welcome surprise,” said Jennifer C. Pizer, the law and policy director at Lambda Legal, a gay rights group. “It represents an about-face on H.I.V. policy.”

The administration describes the plan to end the spread of H.I.V. as one of the most important public health initiatives in history. But the record shows a rather large gap between the administration’s words and deeds.

Since Medicare’s outpatient drug benefit began in 2006, the government has required prescription drug plans to cover “all or substantially all drugs” in six therapeutic classes, including antiretroviral medicines to treat H.I.V.

In November, the Trump administration proposed a new policy to cut costs for Medicare by reducing the number of drugs that must be made available to people with H.I.V.

The proposal would allow certain exceptions to the requirement for Medicare drug plans to cover all drugs in the six “protected classes.”

Insurers could require Medicare beneficiaries to get advance approval, or “prior authorization,” for H.I.V. drugs and could require them to try less expensive medications before using more costly ones, a practice known as step therapy.

People with H.I.V. and doctors have condemned the proposals.

Bruce Packett, the executive director of the American Academy of H.I.V. Medicine, representing doctors who care for H.I.V. patients, said the administration’s proposals “could be catastrophic” for Medicare patients with the virus, as well as for the president’s campaign to end the epidemic.

“At least 25 percent of all people living with H.I.V. who are in care in the United States rely on Medicare as their insurer,” Mr. Packett said.

Those patients are 65 or older or have disabilities and often have other chronic diseases or conditions, so doctors need access to the “full arsenal” of medicines to treat H.I.V., Mr. Packett said.

Many of the Medicare patients with H.I.V. are taking medicines for their other conditions, so doctors have to worry about drug interactions, Mr. Packett said. In addition, he said, some have drug-resistant strains of H.I.V., and different patients often respond to the same drug in different ways.

“It’s important that providers have access to all the available options” among drugs to treat H.I.V., he said.

Requirements for prior authorization and similar restrictions can delay the start of treatment. Studies show that a rapid start to therapy, within a week or even a day of diagnosis, produces better results for patients and reduces the likelihood that they will infect others while waiting for treatment.

READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/12/us/politics/trump-hiv-plan.html


State of the Union Fact Check: What Trump Got Right and Wrong

President Trump appeared in front of a joint session of Congress for the annual address. Here is how his remarks stacked up against the facts.

President Trump leaned hard on the strength of the American economy during his second State of the Union address on Tuesday, but with a blend of precise statistics and gauzy superlatives that are much more difficult to measure.

He also returned to a theme that dominated the second year of his presidency — a quest for a border wall with Mexico to cope with what he said is a crisis of crime and drugs in the United States caused by illegal immigration.

The two issues dominated his address, which in tone was more measured than his biting Twitter feed, but in substance contained numerous claims that were false or misleading.

Here is what Mr. Trump said and how it stacked up against the facts.

“The U.S. economy is growing almost twice as fast today as when I took office, and we are considered far and away the hottest economy anywhere in the world.”

The American economy expanded at an annual rate of 3.5 percent in the third quarter of 2018. Growth in Latvia and Poland was almost twice as fast. Same for China and India. Even the troubled Greek economy posted stronger growth. And a wide range of economic analysts estimate that the growth of the American economy slowed in the fourth quarter, and slowed even further in the first month of 2019.

“We recently imposed tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese goods — and now our Treasury is receiving billions and billions of dollars.”

Since Mr. Trump imposed tariffs on certain imports from China — and imported steel and aluminum from around the world — federal tariff revenues have increased. Revenues from customs duties, which include tariffs, rose by $13 billion in the third quarter of 2018 compared with a year earlier, the Commerce Department reported. Technically, that money is paid by Americans who bring the goods across the border, and it is often passed on to American consumers in the form of higher prices.

“My administration has cut more regulations in a short period of time than any other administration during its entire tenure.”

The Trump administration has slowed the pace of adopting new rules, and it has moved to roll back some existing or proposed federal regulations, particularly in the area of environmental protection. The White House claimed that as of October, a total of $33 billion worth of future regulator costs had been eliminated. But experts say the scale of the rollbacks in the Trump era still does not exceed extensive cuts in federal rules during the Carter and Reagan administrations, when rules governing airline, truck and rail transportation were wiped off the books, among other changes.

“We have created 5.3 million new jobs and importantly added 600,000 new manufacturing jobs — something which almost everyone said was impossible to do, but the fact is, we are just getting started.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that since January 2017, when Mr. Trump took office, the economy has added 4.9 million jobs, including 454,000 jobs manufacturing jobs. Far from being “impossible,” that is closely comparable to the pace of job creation during some two-year periods during the Obama administration, and significantly slower than the pace of job creation in manufacturing in the 1990s.

Wages were “growing for blue-collar workers, who I promised to fight for. They are growing faster than anyone thought possible.”

Wages are rising faster for construction and manufacturing workers than workers in service occupations, according to the Labor Department.

“More people are working now than at any time in our history.”

While the total number of people working in the United States is higher than ever, it is not because of the president’s policies. It is because more people than ever live in the United States.

“The border city of El Paso, Tex., used to have extremely high rates of violent crime — one of the highest in the entire country, and considered one of our nation’s most dangerous cities. Now, immediately upon its building, with a powerful barrier in place, El Paso is one of the safest cities in our country.”

El Paso was never one of the most dangerous cities in the United States, and crime has been declining in cities across the country — not just El Paso — for reasons that have nothing to do with border fencing. In 2008, before border barriers had been completed in El Paso, the city had the second-lowest violent crime rate among more than 20 similarly sized cities. In 2010, after the fencing went up, it held that place.

“San Diego used to have the most illegal border crossings in our country. In response, a strong security wall was put in place. This powerful barrier almost completely ended illegal crossings.”

Border apprehensions decreased by 91 percent in the San Diego sector between the 1994 fiscal year, right after the original border fencing was completed, to the 2018 fiscal year. But, according to the Congressional Research Service, that fence alone “did not have a discernible impact” on the number of immigrants crossing the border into the United States illegally.

“As we speak, large, organized caravans are on the march to the United States.”

At the end of January, a new caravan of thousands of migrants from Central America was headed north, and some of the travelers said they intended to try to cross into the United States. But many in the caravan have said they plan to remain in Mexico, thanks in part to policies put in place by the new Mexican government. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has made it easier for Central Americans to get visas and work in Mexico. President Trump’s warnings of an imminent invasion from new caravans is overstated.

“I hope you can pass the U.S.M.C.A. into law, so we can bring back our manufacturing jobs in even greater numbers, expanding American agriculture, protecting intellectual property, and ensuring that more cars are proudly stamped with the four beautiful words: Made in the U.S.A.”

The revised trade deal with Canada and Mexico, known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, does include provisions that are intended to bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States — like minimum wage provisions for some auto manufacturing. But some economists have said those provisions could ultimately push more manufacturing — and jobs — outside North America. The deal does allow American farmers to sell more dairy products to Canada. But the trade pact has yet to be approved by Congress, and both Democrats and Republicans say that is unlikely to happen without significant changes.


“When I took office, ISIS controlled more than 20,000 square miles in Iraq and Syria. Just two years ago. Today, we have liberated virtually all of the territory from the grip of these bloodthirsty monsters.”

The Defense Department reports that the Islamic State now controls only around 20 square miles of territory in Syria, down from 34,000 in 2014. But many of the gains against the Sunni extremist caliphate began under President Barack Obama, with the Trump administration continuing Obama administration policy. And the top American military commander in the Middle East told a Senate hearing on Tuesday that the Islamic State could return if the United States and its allies abandoned the fight. In December, Mr. Trump announced he was withdrawing American troops from Syria.

“We condemn the brutality of the Maduro regime, whose socialist policies have turned that nation from being the wealthiest in South America into a state of abject poverty and despair.”

This has become a popular talking point among American conservatives. It is true that the rule of President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela has brought that country to economic ruin. Inflation is at astronomical rates, and ordinary people are struggling to get basic food and health supplies. Three million citizens have fled. Some of the collapse can be traced to Mr. Maduro’s economic policies, which do fall under the broad label of socialism. But analysts say that corruption, the lack of rule of law and the absence of democracy — all the hallmarks of a dictatorship — have played just as big or larger roles.

“If I had not been elected president of the United States, we would right now, in my opinion, be in a major war with North Korea.”

In 2016, at the end of the Obama administration, there was no sign that the United States and North Korea were about to go to war, though Pyongyang had been conducting nuclear tests and Mr. Obama had continued economic sanctions. In Mr. Trump’s first year in office, he increased tensions with North Korea by attacking its leader, Kim Jong-un, in a series of Twitter posts, which prompted hostile statements from Pyongyang. Mr. Trump wrote that North Korea’s actions would be met with “fire and fury” and called Mr. Kim “Little Rocket Man.” Analysts said at the time that the chances of war between the two nations had grown because of these exchanges.


“Lawmakers in New York cheered with delight upon the passage of legislation that would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments from birth.”

On Jan. 22, the 46th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision Roe v. Wade, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Democrat of New York, signed the Reproductive Health Act. The new law ensures a woman’s right to an abortion in New York if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned. It does not broadly allow abortions until shortly before birth, as Mr. Trump suggested. Instead, it will allow for an abortion after 24 weeks to protect the mother’s health or if the fetus is not viable. Under the prior law, abortions were allowed after 24 weeks only if the woman’s life was in jeopardy.

“We had the case of the governor of Virginia where he stated he would execute a baby after birth.”

In an interview last month, Gov. Ralph Northam said that he supported a late-term abortion bill that would loosen restrictions on the procedure, and allow women to consult with a doctor on an abortion up to, but not including, the time of birth.

The governor, a pediatric neurologist, also talked about some of the dangerous medical emergencies that pregnant women could face, such as carrying a nonviable fetus. He said that in such a case, the mother would deliver the infant and then, “the infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.” While Mr. Northam was talking about an end-of-life care discussion in the case of a child that would not live, Republicans seized on his remarks as evidence that Mr. Northam supported killing babies after their birth.

Reporting was contributed by Eileen Sullivan, Michael Tackett, Linda Qiu, Edward Wong, Eric Lipton, Eric Schmitt, Adam Liptak, Binyamin Appelbaum, Caitlin Dickerson, Charlie Savage, Coral Davenport, Glenn Thrush, Helene Cooper, Jim Tankersley, Julian E. Barnes, Katie Benner, Matt Phillips, Robert Pear and Thomas Gibbons-Neff.

In Newly Divided Government, Who Will Control the Political Agenda?

WASHINGTON — America will get its first taste of divided government under President Trump this week when a Democratic House tries to wrest control of the political agenda from Mr. Trump, who appears determined to keep the focus on border security, immigration and his “big, beautiful” wall.

After the midterm elections ushered in the most diverse freshman class in history, House Democrats intend to put a spotlight on the issues that worked well for them during the campaign: diminishing the influence of the wealthy and connected, expanding voting rights, lowering prescription drug costs and passing a bipartisan infrastructure bill.

Mr. Trump, on the defensive and presiding over a federal government that remains partially closed, is trying to stomp on that message. On Tuesday, as the government shutdown was in its 11th day, Mr. Trump invited congressional leaders of both parties to a briefing on border security Wednesday afternoon. White House officials did not say whether Mr. Trump would attend.

It would be the first visit by Democratic leaders to the White House since Dec. 11, when the president told Representative Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer he would be “proud to shut down the government for border security.”

Trump Administration Moves to Restrict Food Stamp Access the Farm Bill Protected

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration announced on Thursday that it would seek to put in place more stringent work requirements for adults who rely on food stamps, even as the president signed a sweeping farm bill in which lawmakers had rejected stricter rules.

By moving to limit the ability of states to issue waivers to people who say they cannot make ends meet under the requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Agriculture Department found another route to create restrictions, bypassing Congress and drawing immediate criticism that the proposed rule was sure to harm Americans below the poverty line.

The administration, which along with conservatives had fought to include stricter work requirements in the farm bill, continued to argue that food stamps were never meant to be a way of life and that able-bodied adults should be able to find jobs in a healthy economy.

“Long-term reliance on government assistance has never been part of the American dream,” Sonny Perdue, the agriculture secretary, said in a statement. “Moving people to work is common-sense policy, particularly at a time when the unemployment rate is at a generational low.”

The $867 billion farm bill, a huge piece of legislation intended to provide relief for farmers and the poor, encountered a number of obstacles this year as it faced scrutiny from conservative lawmakers who pushed for an overhaul in how the food program’s participants would be evaluated.

In the end, Republican and Democratic negotiators decided to drop two proposals introduced by conservatives and publicly championed by President Trump: one that would have imposed further work requirements on adults using SNAP, and another that would have closed a loophole allowing states to waive the requirements in areas with high unemployment rates.

The proposed rule drew ire from Democrats, who accused the Trump administration of steamrollering a rare bipartisan compromise and ignoring Congress’s mandate to leave the program and its 40 million recipients untouched.

“After a very rough back and forth on that particular issue, basically we left the program alone without restricting people from being able to get it,” said Representative Raúl M. Grijalva, Democrat of Arizona, one of the negotiators on the bill’s bicameral committee. “Now you have Secretary Perdue doing essentially what was, in a bipartisan way, agreed not to do. He needs to know what the intent of Congress is and follow it.”

Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, accused Mr. Perdue in a bluntly worded statement of “blatantly” ignoring the bipartisan farm bill and disregarding “over 20 years of history giving states flexibility to request waivers based on local job conditions.” READ MORE:https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/20/us/politics/food-stamps-trump-administration-snap.html