What Now?! – 5/18/21

The White House released President Joe Biden’s tax returns today, reinstating a presidential tradition that was halted by the former guy, CNN reports.

President Biden’s income fell dramatically to $607,336 in 2020 as he dropped lucrative speaking engagements to campaign, but he still earned enough to pay the higher tax rates he’s proposed for wealthy people. The Bidens paid $157,414 in federal income tax, 25.9%.

The Bidens reported holding cash and investments totaling between $1.2 million and $2.88 million, per their financial disclosure form filed Monday with the Office of Government Ethics and obtained first by Bloomberg News. That’s down from their filing last year.

In 2020, Harris and Emhoff had a federal AGI of $1,695,225, most of which came from Emhoff’s work at DLA Piper. They paid $621,893 in federal income tax, a rate of 36.7%. Their income was down from 2019, in part bc Emhoff paused law work in Aug and left the firm in November.

Meanwhile, “the expanded monthly child tax credit introduced in President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief package will begin arriving in parents’ bank accounts on July 15,” Axios reports.

“The credit, part of the administration’s plan to transform the country’s social safety net in the wake of the pandemic, would provide families with $300 monthly cash payments per child up to age 5 and $250 for children ages 6–17.”

According to Axios, acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller told associates he had three goals for the final weeks of the Trump administration: #1: No major war. #2: No military coup. #3: No troops fighting citizens on the streets.

Jonathan Last: “Please read that paragraph again: The president’s own incoming (acting) SecDef believed that his three important goals were to preventing the defeated president from starting a war; prevent the defeated president from executing a military coup; and prevent the defeated president from using troops against civilians.”

“An alarming amount of vaccine-hesitant people who list side effects as a top concern falsely believe the vaccines cause death, DNA alteration, infertility or birth defects,” Axios reports.

“Respondents also listed blood clots, which are a real side effect of some coronavirus vaccines, but extremely rare. This survey suggests that misinformation or a skewed understanding of risk may be behind a sizable portion of vaccine hesitancy.”

New York Times: “In interviews, vaccinated people who continue to wear masks said they are increasingly under pressure, especially in recent days; friends and family have urged them to relax, or even have suggested that they are paranoid.”

“But for some people, no newfound freedom will persuade them to reveal their faces just yet. After a year, they say they have grown accustomed to the masks and glad for the extra safety they provide.”

“The Supreme Court on Monday said it would hear a case from Mississippi challenging Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion. The case will give the court’s new 6-to-3 conservative majority its first opportunity to weigh in on state laws restricting abortion,” the New York Times reports.

Washington Post: “Abortion opponents for months have urged the court’s conservatives to seize the chance to reexamine the 1973 precedent. Mississippi is one among many Republican-led states that have passed restrictions that conflict with the court’s precedents protecting a woman’s right to choose before fetal viability.”

The case will be the first major abortion dispute to test all three of former President Trump’s three appointees to the top court.

“Mississippi will remain in the minority of states without a medical marijuana program after the state Supreme Court on Friday overturned an initiative that voters approved last fall — a decision that also limits other citizen-led efforts to put issues on the statewide ballot,” the Jackson Clarion Ledger reports.

“At the heart of the ruling is the fact that initiatives need signatures from five congressional districts to get on the ballot, but because of Mississippi’s stagnant population, the state only has four districts.”

“A Florida politician considered key to the investigation of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) formally pleaded guilty Monday to sex trafficking of a minor and a host of other crimes, agreeing to cooperate fully with prosecutors and testify in court in hopes of leniency for himself,” the Washington Post reports.

“Appearing in court Monday, Joel Greenberg, a former tax collector for Seminole County, Fla., repeatedly said, ‘I do’ in response to questions from the judge, affirming what he had already admitted in a written plea agreement made public last week. His plea and deal to cooperate is a potentially ominous sign for Gaetz, as it signals prosecutors have lined up a critical witness as they continue to investigate the congressman.”

“President Joe Biden wants to fund his $4.1 trillion infrastructure and family policy agenda with a huge pile of tax increases on corporations and the wealthy. The business community is dismissing the threat,” Politico reports.

“Corporate executives and lobbyists in Washington, New York and around the country say they are confident they can kill almost all of these tax hikes by pressuring moderate Democrats in the House and Senate. And they think progressive Democrats don’t really care about the costs of new programs and will be happy to push through as much spending as they can and then run on tax hikes in 2022 rather than actually pass them this year.”

Politico: “As discussions heat up about how to pay for trillions in new spending on infrastructure, Biden and his party want to hike taxes on the wealthiest Americans and on companies that have evaded federal taxes for years. Poll after poll shows those proposals are broadly popular with voters, particularly amid a deadly pandemic that’s exacerbated the nation’s already stark economic divisions.”

“While Democrats acknowledge that touting a tax hike — even if it’s just for top earners — carries risk, they see a dramatic shift in the politics of taxing the rich that they’re ready to use to their benefit.”

“In the weeks since the feds raided Rudy Giuliani’s apartment and office in late April, close allies have tried to ferry a slew of emergency requests to former President Donald Trump and his advisers,” the Daily Beast reports.

“But Trump, as well as several of his legal advisers and longtime confidants, have been hesitant about swooping in to help the embattled Giuliani, who for years worked as Trump’s personal lawyer, a political adviser, and attack dog.”

“A photo emerged of a GOP lawmaker who last week downplayed the Capitol siege and compared the rioters to tourists barricading the House doors with furniture on January 6,” Insider reports.

“Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA) said during a House oversight committee hearing on Wednesday that it was a ‘bald-faced lie’ to call the riot an insurrection.”

“After Clyde’s comments, a photographer shared a photo he had taken of Clyde using furniture to barricade the House against rioters trying to force their way in.”

Vox: “The country and the world are staring into a black box of uncertainty on the economy. It’s frustrating, but it’s also inevitable. Anyone who says they know exactly what is going on in the economy right now is lying. The same goes for anyone who says they know what’s going to happen next.”

“A year ago, as the pandemic ravaged country after country and economies shuddered, consumers were the ones panic-buying. Today, on the rebound, it’s companies furiously stocking up,” Bloomberg reports.

“Mattress producers to car manufacturers to aluminum foil makers are buying more material than they need to survive the breakneck speed at which demand for goods is recovering and assuage that primal fear of running out.”

“The corporate buying and hoarding is pushing supply chains to the brink of seizing up. Shortages, transportation bottlenecks and price spikes are nearing the highest levels in recent memory, raising concern that a super- charged global economy will stoke inflation.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said there was no clear end in sight to the violence between Israel and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, the New York Times reports.

Said Netanyahu: “We’ll do whatever it takes to restore order and quiet.”

“President Biden expressed support for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas on Monday during a call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel,” the New York Times reports.

“The statement fell short of an immediate demand for an end to Israel’s bombing campaign in Gaza, which has been met with rocket fire by Hamas from Gaza into Israel.”

“Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) signed a controversial law regarding access to gender-specific bathrooms late last week, prompting cries of discrimination from advocates for transgender individuals,” The Hill reports.

The law says a person’s gender is “a person’s immutable biological sex as determined by anatomy and genetics existing at the time of birth.”

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) “signed a bill into law officially bringing back the electric chair and introducing the firing squad to perform executions of death row inmates,” the Columbia State reports.

“Conservative lawmakers pushed the execution legislation forward this year in response to a years-long nationwide reluctance on the part of drug companies to sell their products to states looking to use them in executions. As a result, South Carolina has not been able to obtain the drugs to administer a lethal injection in years.”

“Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (R) will decide whether to prohibit state and local police officers from enforcing a host of federal firearms restrictions after lawmakers on Friday approved a ban long sought by conservative gun owners fearful of future overreach by liberal politicians in Washington,” the Kansas City Star reports.

“Gun registration requirements, firearm tracking rules and limits on certain people having guns — all of it would be “invalid” in Missouri under the sweeping Second Amendment Preservation Act.”

Bloomberg: “President Joe Biden plans to send an additional 20 million doses of U.S. coronavirus vaccines abroad by the end of June — including, for the first time, shots authorized for domestic use, where supply is beginning to outstrip demand.”

“Biden will announce Monday that he’ll export 20 million doses of vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson, on top of 60 million AstraZeneca doses he had already planned to give to other countries.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced a proposal to spend $1.5 billion to fund the clean-up and beautification of the state, the Sacramento Bee reports.

Said Newsom: “The state’s too damn dirty. You look under those Caltrans overpasses, you see mattresses and you see all kinds of things that have been dumped there illegally. We’ve seen a huge increase in the amount of illegal dumping over the course of the last year.”

The House of Representatives is looking at Wednesday vote to establish commission to investigate January 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol, CNN reports.

It’s still unclear if House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy will back it, but Republican leaders are not planning on whipping the vote, meaning it would be a vote of conscience for their members. The bill will also need 60 votes in the Senate to pass.

Politico: “Rep. John Katko (R-NY) has struck a deal with Democrats on a 9/11-type commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack, with the bipartisan legislation expected to come to the floor this week. But we are watching closely to see what the blowback will be from Donald Trump and his allies — and whether that falls on McCarthy. And if the former president does get involved, how will that impact the resolution?”

“While the GOP leader seemed to dismiss the deal on Friday, telling reporters he hadn’t seen the details and emphasizing his demand that any commission should also probe violence tied to racial unrest. But multiple sources tell our friends over at Playbook that Katko communicated back and forth about the details of the deal and Katko got most of what they wanted. Katko has also told Republicans there is some wiggle room with the language of the agreement, even if it doesn’t specifically mention violence related racial tensions. Democrats may not feel the same way.”

Wall Street Journal: “Republicans and some academics on both the left and right say that community college is already inexpensive and making it free wouldn’t sufficiently address deep-seated problems with the system: high dropout rates and entering students being unprepared for college-level work.”

“The Biden plan as introduced also relies on states contributing funds—about $1 for every $3 from the federal government—raising the question of whether states will go along. … Taking all sources into account, the U.S. spends more than any other developed country on its colleges and universities … and more per student, too. Advocates of community colleges say the sector is underfunded and underappreciated.”

Edward Isaac Dovere: “Critics of Harris see her vice presidency so far as a collection of unconnected set pieces. Harris arrives somewhere with the plane and the motorcade and the Secret Service agents, makes a few mostly bland statements, then tells whomever she’s meeting with about how she’s going to bring their stories back to Washington. Then she’s quickly out of sight again.”

“She marvels aloud to aides about how the president is the same in private as he is in public—a fact that is striking to her because she is still getting to know him, and because her public and private personas are different: She is much looser, and talks more about herself and her experiences, when the cameras are off.”

Most importantly, vice presidents can never make their own political ambitions known.

“As a manufacturer of asphalt paving equipment, Weiler is exactly the type of company poised to benefit if the federal government increases spending on roads and bridges,” the New York Times reports.

“But when Patrick Weiler talks about infrastructure, the issue he brings up first has next to nothing to do with his company’s core business. It’s broadband internet service.”

Said Weiler: “How do you get young people to want to move back into these rural areas when they feel like they’re moving back into a time frame of 20 years ago?”

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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