Sunday News: From the Editorial pages

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JUST WEAR THE STUPID MASK: It shouldn’t be surprising, we guess, that during a public health crisis that’s become politicized, with the debate over staying at home becoming partisan, that the latest thing to become a red or blue badge is the simple act of covering your nose and mouth in public. Really? We’re fighting over face coverings? Just wear the stupid mask. It’s not caving to tyranny. It’s not a betrayal of the president. It’s not a sign that you’re sick. It’s a health measure in places where it’s difficult to socially distance. If you wear it, you protect others from your possibly asymptomatic COVID-19 self. If you wear it, you also protect yourself from others. It’s safer. That’s it. And yet, instead of being a simple collective action to slow a virus that’s killed tens of thousands of Americans, it’s become a flashpoint. Elected officials, notably including the president, say they won’t wear one. People are threatening and shoving and even wiping their nose on retail employees who tell them they need to wear one. What’s wrong with us?
https://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/editorials/article242570136.html

EPIDEMIC OF HARDSHIP AND HUNGER: COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on workers. The economy has plunged so quickly that official statistics can’t keep up, but the available data suggest that tens of millions of Americans have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, with more job losses to come and full recovery probably years away. But Republicans adamantly oppose extending enhanced unemployment benefits — such an extension, says Sen. Lindsey Graham, will take place “over our dead bodies.” (Actually, over other people’s dead bodies.) They apparently want to return to a situation in which most unemployed workers get no benefits at all, and even those collecting unemployment insurance get only a small fraction of their previous income. Finally, the devastation caused by the coronavirus has left many in the world’s wealthiest major nation unable to put sufficient food on the table. Families with children under 12 are especially hard hit: According to one recent survey, 41% of these families are already unable to afford enough to eat. Food banks are overwhelmed, with lines sometimes a mile long. But Republicans are still trying to make food stamps harder to get and fiercely oppose proposals to temporarily make food aid more generous.
https://www.wral.com/an-epidemic-of-hardship-and-hunger/19089274/

LOCKDOWN PROTESTERS DO NOT CARE ABOUT LIVES: Consider first the fact that the protesters were armed. Given the lack of threat to protesters’ safety, the only reason to conspicuously display weapons was to project strength beyond their small numbers. (Note that nearly 80% of Michiganders support continuing the stay-home order.) Let’s also acknowledge that the protesters pushing cops and toting rifles into the Capitol were white. As marketer Frederick Joseph pointed out on Twitter, had black protesters tried that, “we’d be dead.” Different Americans have different First Amendment rights. Consider too what the protesters in Michigan and elsewhere are saying. Some demonstrators do challenge the official death tolls and downplay the virus’s lethality, but that hasn’t been their biggest focus. (That Trump is president and has largely refused to challenge the death count has complicated right-wing efforts to portray the virus itself as a conspiracy.) Instead, most are arguing that it’s worth the death toll, with messages like “freedom isn’t free” and “I want my job back.” These value judgments have been echoed by Republican officials. On ABC’s “This Week” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, said he had to reverse his order mandating face masks in stores — a measure that could have saved lives — because it was a “bridge too far.” People, it turned out, “were not going to accept the government telling them what to do,” DeWine said. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican, infamously told Fox News last month that the country needed to reopen because “there are more important things than living.”
https://www.greensboro.com/opinion/columns/james-downie-lockdown-protesters-do-not-care-about-lives/...

WE ALMOST DIDN'T HEAR ABOUT AHMAUD ARBERY. THESE STORIES MUST NOT GO UNTOLD: Getting dressed for my morning run, I found myself wondering what I could wear that wouldn’t scare anyone in my neighborhood in Baltimore. Definitely not black. Let’s stay away from dark colors in general. Maybe an old T-shirt from my old Army unit, or one from my alma mater, Johns Hopkins, on it. Would that show I’m not a threat? This unnerving fear crept into my mind amid news of the February killing of Ahmaud Arbery, who was chased in a pickup truck, confronted and killed by two men who lived in his neighborhood in Brunswick, Ga., where his family says he regularly jogged. Arbery and the men now charged with killing him lived a few short miles apart, but think about the different versions of America they experienced. One lived in a version of America where his existence was perceived as criminal, and an activity as routine as jogging through a neighborhood proved fatal. The other men lived in an America where they had enough agency to make them feel empowered to grab a gun and chase after a stranger who seemed suspicious to them but whom they had not seen do anything wrong. Arbery would have turned 26 years old Friday. Instead, his name is added to a long and heart-wrenching roster of unarmed black people and black children whose existence was perceived as criminal or threatening and who were killed for it.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/05/08/we-almost-didnt-hear-about-ahmaud-arbery-these-st...

WILLIAM BARR'S PERVERSION OF JUSTICE: Having absorbed the lessons of Watergate, mainstream Republicans once balked at the politicization of the Justice Department — even by Republican presidents. When President George W. Bush’s attorney general Alberto Gonzales fired eight United States attorneys because they were not aggressive enough in prosecuting Democrats, the outrage was bipartisan, and he was forced to resign. But today’s Republicans, who could be most effective in defending the integrity of American justice, appear either too afraid of Mr. Trump or too eager for short-term partisan advantage to confront the danger to the country. Mr. Barr’s decision to drop the charges against Mr. Flynn may be his most egregious abandonment of his role as the public’s lawyer, but it’s certainly not the first. Last year, barely a month after he was confirmed to his post, he stood before the American people and misrepresented the contents of the long-awaited report by Robert Mueller, the special counsel who investigated ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government in 2016. The report itself, at 448 pages, documented extensive evidence of those ties, as well as multiple instances of lying and obstruction of justice by Mr. Trump and other top government officials. Mr. Barr’s four-page summary claimed the opposite — that Mr. Mueller had found no collusion or obstruction of justice. Mr. Mueller protested, and yet weeks passed before Americans could see the report themselves and discover just how much Mr. Barr had twisted its findings to benefit Mr. Trump. In March, a federal judge called Mr. Barr’s characterization of the report “distorted” and “misleading,” and said his “lack of candor” called his credibility into doubt.
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/09/opinion/sunday/michael-flynn-william-barr-justice-department.html

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

JUDY LOTAS: PANDEMIC EXPOSES THE NEED FOR EQUAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT: While Congress goes about its business, our nurses go about theirs, easing pain and saving lives while caring for their own families. Roughly 90% of nurses in our country are women. On average, men who are nurses out-earn females by $6,000 a year. If we had the Equal Rights Amendment, pay inequities like this would be illegal. Right now Senate Joint Resolution 6 is gathering dust in D.C. Its sole purpose is to remove the deadline from the already ratified ERA. Congress put it there; Congress can remove it. The House already has. Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis should sign on to support this joint resolution and push to take it to the floor.
https://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/letters-to-the-editor/article242562016.html

GWENDOLYN JOHNSON-GREEN: STATE'S TEACHERS ARE RISING TO THE CHALLENGE: With an attitude of gratitude, I offer a special shout-out and salute to teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week 2020. I am eternally grateful for our teachers who work year after year with increased diligence to deliver instruction in and outside of classrooms. It is also important to thank parents and others who also have worked to help to educate our children during these unprecedented times. I encourage teachers to continue to focus on long-range goals and objectives for students. Remember: Education is a game-changer. We cannot control when school starts and ends; however, we are responsible for what we provide for students while they are under our tutelage. As a veteran educator, it has been my practice to do what I was trained to do and commit to what I was charged to do. Teachers should focus on goal achievement to reach desired results for children by designing and executing strategic objectives. I charge all teachers to strive for excellence in an effort to reach perfection!
https://www.greensboro.com/opinion/letters_to_editor/state-s-teachers-are-rising-to-the-challenge/ar...

JAMILA ALLEN: ALL WORKERS NEED SICK DAYS AND HEALTH COVERAGE: I’m a fast-food worker at Freddy’s. I take the bus to and from work — a risk I must take to keep my job. If I got the virus, I’d be out of work for weeks without pay. My job has never had paid sick days or health care benefits. COVID-19 is amplifying the crisis of poverty and structural racism that low-wage workers have been dealing with for years. Black workers like me, and Latino workers, already had barriers to health care and safe working conditions because of policies that put profits above our lives. Now, people of color are dying at higher rates from COVID-19 and many politicians and corporations are choosing to look away. We can’t look away. Congress must make sure all workers have paid sick days, all uninsured people have health care, and essential workers who interact with the public have PPE. Congress can make all of this part of the next relief bill. I call on Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis to prioritize the needs of essential workers. Stop bailing out big corporations and invest in public services that N.C. families need right now.
https://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/letters-to-the-editor/article242479171.html

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From the dark side

John Hood retakes his throne of shame this week over debt:

Set aside for the moment how quickly and to what extent North Carolina and other states should reopen our economies. Set aside partisan wrangling ahead of the 2020 elections. Set aside the sweeping ideological claims about how COVID-19 “proves” everyone’s pre-existing beliefs about the proper size and scope of government.

I'ma stop you right there, because literally nobody has made that claim, much less "sweeping" masses of people. It's a logical fallacy known as a "Strawman," an evil or unwise entity created by the writer in the absence of a true villain. And said Strawman is always followed by hyperbole:

Perhaps then we can all agree that the costs of the pandemic are staggering — and that asking the “federal government” to pay for them, so that “we” don’t have to, is meaningless babble.

Like it or not, the Federal government has virtually unlimited borrowing power, while the individual states do not. And that difference is especially important when disaster strikes. It's not "we don't have to," it's more like "we can't."

Going into the crisis, Washington was already running massive deficits, adding a trillion dollars a year to the national debt. That is, what Congress and the president wanted to spend at the moment significantly exceeded the taxes they were willing to impose at that moment to pay for them.

Unfortunately, that was only the easily recognized tip of the pre-existing debt iceberg. By the early 2030s, annual federal deficits were projected to climb to $2 trillion or more because of unfunded liabilities for Social Security, Medicare, and other entitlements.

Bolding mine, because in the $1.4 Trillion 2020 Federal budget, $738 Billion is going to defense spending. Over half of that inflated budget, yet John Hood fails to mention it. China spends 1/3 of that amount, and Russia less than 10%. Before you leave Grammaw out in the cold, get your frickin' priorities straight.

That takes the deficit for this year alone to $3.7 trillion. Brian Riedl, a fiscal analyst for the Manhattan Institute, is more pessimistic about the budgetary effect and projects a $4.2 trillion deficit for 2020.

Furthermore, all analysts agree that COVID-19 will dampen revenue and heighten spending beyond this year. Riedl’s estimate is that the effects of the Great Suppression will translate into $8 trillion in deficits over the decade. The national debt would rise to $41 trillion by 2030, or 128% of the gross domestic product projected for that year. “This would exceed the national debt at the height of World War II,” he observes.

I've got one word for you: "Boomer." The decade and a half following WWII was one of the most prosperous times in our country's history. I'm not saying that massive debt created that prosperity, but I am saying it did not stifle it.

As to the Manhattan Institute, its credibility was shot to pieces by its support for Big Tobacco:

In August 1992 The Manhattan Institute ran a conference on "The Litigation Explosion" in support of a book being produced by their Senior Fellow, Walter K Olson. [3] for the tobacco industry. [4] They have already held a workshop on product liability in Chicago. [5]

A 1997 R.J. Reynolds memo reveals RJR's intent to use the Manhattan Institute as a third party to help the company reduce the public's perception of danger from exposure to secondhand smoke:

"Devise ways to educate the public about epidemiology and put risk in perspective. For example, work with Steven J. Milloy, Michael Fumento, CEI Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Manhattan Institute and others to put together a 1/2-hour or 1-hour TV show explaining epi[demiology] and risk. Create an epi/risk website to educate the general public, maybe working with the Harvard School of Public Health. Do the same for journalists."[17]

Peter W Huber one of the key 'scholars' at the Manhattan Institute wrote "Galileo's Revenge: Junk Science in the Courtroom" which was part of Philip Morris's on-going program to attack some aspects of health and environmental science in general. This was in support of their program centered on two of APCO]'s creations, The Advancement for Sound Science Coalition (TASSC) now run by Steve Milloy and Science & Environmental Policy Project run by S. Fred Singer and his wife Candace Crandall

A Manhattan Institute Conference held in Washington DC in June 1995 brought together many of the tobacco industry lobbyists who were promoting the junk-science message. [6] [7]

The Manhattan "Institute" is nothing more than a rarified public relations entity funded by private corporations. Not even smart enough to sniff the ammonia-twang of irony by crusading against "junk science," which actually describes them to a tee.

It’s a staggering bill. And we are all going to pay a chunk of it, directly or indirectly. Forget the fanciful notion that politicians can make “the wealthy” and “big corporations” pay the bill. You can steal every penny from the mega-rich and not get anywhere close to that.

Of course that is hogwash. Remember those 1950's I mentioned, that were so prosperous? We had a 91% marginal tax rate on earnings above $200,000. That would be about $2 million now. But we don't even need to go that high, 60% would probably suffice to kill the deficit and gobble up that debt in ten years or so.

But people like John Hood will never admit that, because across-the-board prosperity is not the goal. Because with 623 Billionaires in the U.S., there's always money for "think tanks" like the John Locke Foundation.

Debt

One big cost of the pandemic is the fact that Trump will never, never, never be called to account for the explosive debt he created BEFORE this all happened. He and Republican Senators got away Scot free with reckless spending.

Very sweet picture!

Very sweet picture!