Saturday, January 02, 2021

2020's Defining Moments and the Stimulus Package


2020 has been described as being everything from "challenging" to "historic". However, it's one that won't soon be forgotten. If we were to pick a symbol for the year, surely a dead skunk in the road would be it. So, let's briefly take look at some highlights of the past "stinker" of a year before delving into the year's main story, COVID-19 and the stimulus package.

The year kicked off with the protests and riots unlike anything we've seen since the 1960's following the deaths of Breonna Taylor in Louisville Kentucky in March and George Floyd in Minneapolis Minnesota in May; both at the hands of the police. It should of been taken as warning of what was coming.


Protests, Riots, and Calls for Racial Justice

Whether their deaths were racially motivated or simply poor decision making by all concerned,  it sparked massive waves of protests and riots nationwide along with looting, arson, random attacks on individuals, and destruction of property which had nothing to do with racial justice.

It also saw the appearance of so-called "Right Wing" militias (often wrongly labeled as "neo-Nazi" or "racist" by the media), which tended to be rather well behaved, and Leftist groups like Antifa which, despite its name, was more akin to the Nazi Brownshirts or Communist Red Front than not.

Black Lives Matter showed its true colors as a race-centric neo-Marxist group, which, along with Antifa, turned out to be surprisingly organized and well funded. It's worth nothing that both groups were labeled by the media as "peaceful" despite the chaos they caused. Race baiting seems to be back in fashion.


We Can Still Be Friends

The media continued to pound President Donald Trump at every opportunity as they have since he was first elected. Never once did they let up or give him any serious credit, even when there were historic diplomatic breakthroughs like the four Arab nations agreeing to officially recognize  Israel---Sudan (which lost the moniker of a terrorist sponsoring state), the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, and Bahrain (which was promised high tech weapons  and diplomatic favors including financial aid).  

Relations between Kosovo and Serbia were normalized, while Muslim Kosovo also agreed to recognize Israel. Meanwhile, the UK  formally said "goodbye" to the European Union as Brexit took effect. The virus shut down the pro-democracy moment in Hong Kong to China's relief as it upped the ante in challenging America and her Asian allies for dominance.


Presidential Election:  The Ole Cup and Balls Trick

In 2016, we were told that Russian meddling in the election caused Hillary Clinton to lose his bid for president; not her inability to connect with voters, and surely not her questionable behavior (like Benghazi). We were told to ignore the rigging of the Democratic Primary against Bernie Sanders even though it was admitted and the head of the DNC was fired (as was her successor). This year, despite ample evidence of ballot corruption, we're told that our electoral system is safe and there is no way fraud could have taken place, so ignore the evidence and videos. Nothing to see. Move along.

Biden's Cabinet picks (as I've recently pointed out in my previous two articles) are primarily retreads from the Clinton and Obama administrations. Throughout Biden's 47 years in office, he has repeatedly shown himself not to be a friend of the working and middle classes or small business owners. He has perpetually pushed to cut taxes for the wealthy, favored deregulation and bailouts for big business, while supporting tax hikes on everyone else. Even seniors and veterans aren't safe.

Biden has repeatedly backed cuts in Social Security and support for veterans. But, not to worry! It seems that Biden isn't quite all there. Many expect a short tenure in office before being forced to stepped down and replaced by Kamala Harris as the first female president.


The COVID Virus: The New Normal

Not since the 1919 Influenza outbreak has a virus had such a far reaching affect on society. Businesses and restaurants have been shuttered, laying off millions of workers. Ordinary people have been forced to self-quarantine.  When we do go out, we're expected to wear mask and only go where we absolutely must and return home as quickly as possible, and don't forget to wash your hands thoroughly with the sanitizer you're now expected to keep in your car, your purse, or pocket.

Of course, we can't forget "social distancing"; maintaining that invisible six foot barrier between you and the next person. Government has stepped in to ensure that we can't gather in groups of more than  ten. They don't want us attend weddings, funerals, or religious services, movies, family gatherings (and especially if it involves singing), but apparently protests, political events and shopping at big box stores are okay. Just no small local stores. 

Americans are scared, which seems to be the way the Status Quo wants it. As a result, we've seen hoarding and artificial shortages. If there's any doubt that in a crisis, self-interest will always prevail, this should have removed all doubts. As a result, we've willingly accepted so-called "temporary emergency" restrictions to many of our freedoms. Many a despot has come to power using "temporary emergency" measures. Freedoms, once lost, are hard to reclaim just as power, once obtained, is hard to surrender.

Nevertheless, what we have entered is a "new normal" of masks, sanitizers, and self-imposed restrictions of movement. It's part of what the elites are calling "the Great Reset". It will be their attempts to reverse any changes President Trump made to the Status Quo, and to implement new ones under Biden/Harris. How far this "reset" will go depends on how much resistance they encounter. Based on the previous months, I expect very little.

The media will do its best to sell it. So will Hollywood, and naturally, so will Wall Street and  Madison Avenue since they all make up this Oligarchic Corporatocracy that is now America. Unions, once the voice of the working class, long ago sold out, leaving millions of blue collar workers high and dry, not to mention unemployed or underemployed.

But there is some good news I suppose. Earlier this year most Americans received a "stimulus" check of around $1200 (some countries gave citizens as much as $7000). It helped, but was nowhere near enough for the long term, especially as many were nearing the end of their unemployment benefits. Many more were looking at the possibility of facing repossession or foreclosure.

 More recently, Congress offered the American People $600. To call it insulting would be a gross understatement. The public was (rightfully) outraged. Social media was flooded with stories about illegal immigrants getting $1800 or Pakistan receiving billions to study "gender differences". But, how true were these stories?  What was in the 5600 page bill?


The Devil is in the Details

While Americans felt that the stimulus bill was supposed to be by and for us, it was, in fact, not. The bill did include billions in foreign aid, much of which was for education and infrastructure development in places like Tibet, Laos, Cambodia, and Egypt. There was $33 million set aside for "pro-democracy" programs in Venezuela (basically political bribery). $1.65 billion to Jordan which can use the money however it wants.

Four billion was authorized to help other countries purchase vaccines for the COVID virus. $130 million went for programs to empower women overseas and promote gender equality, while another $15 million went to help at-risk women and girls from religious extremists. $25 million went to World Bank to help with refugees. $40 million went to Syria for the purpose of providing medical assistance to those exposed to chemical weapons as well as first responders. So, what about us? Did we get anything besides the $600 lump of coal from Congress?


 Political Afterthought: The Voters and the Stimulus Package

The $900 billion dollar stimulus bill does include a few perks for Americans. Well, first some good news. At President Trump's insistence, we could get a check for $2000 rather than $600. However, the biggest roadblock is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has indicated that he will oppose the increase in order to keep the bill's cost from skyrocketing (we could cut the foreign aid pork but that would be rejected by members of both parties anxious to score brownie points with their financial backers).

Nevertheless, the bill does include funding to help extend unemployment benefits up to $300 per week, which is half of the amount provided this past spring. Schools and universities will get $82 billion. $7 billion is for expanding broadband internet access. $285 billion goes to a program called Paycheck Protection Program. It's to help guarantee employers' ability to meet payroll. $12 billion of that has been earmarked for minority owned businesses. However, the program has come under criticism in that the majority of money goes to large corporations not adversely affected by the pandemic.  Many have used the money to cover top level executive bonuses.

$10 billion will go to the childcare industry, which has been hit hard by the mandatory shutdowns. The bill also includes a ban to prevent doctors, hospitals, and others in the medical industries to send so-called "surprise" bills to patients. They define this as bills for services not previously explained to and acknowledged by the patient or their family. That one, I suspect, will need a lot more clarification.

The bill also provides a provision to prevent evictions, foreclosures, and repossessions for the next 30 days (but not interest charges or late fees). $13 billion will go for food assistance such as SNAP, food banks, and food pantries. $175 million of that is earmarked for Meals on Wheels and similar programs.

Lastly, there is nothing in the bill that provides illegal immigrants with a stimulus check. Only those here legally and possess a green card will receive a payment, which will be for $600 like the rest of us.

While the stimulus bill is far from perfect (much of the funding of foreign countries is unnecessary, at least at this time), it does provide some badly needed relief, especially to those worried about losing their homes or cars, those on SNAP or depend on food programs.

Sadly, not included in the package is assistance for senior care, help with utilities like heat or shelters. As of now, it seems likely that most of us will receive $600, not the $2000 President Trump wanted. It also appears that this is just the beginning of our "new normal", at least for the foreseeable future.


A Look at What's in the Stimulus Package Trump Signed

Long-term care industry expresses disappointment as Congresspasses stimulus bill

Foreign Aid in Congress' December Stimulus Package

Biden failed veterans as VP, he'd fail them again as President




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