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Infrastructure Bill

Infrastructure Law Won’t Fund Cleanup Of Uranium Mines On Indigenous Lands

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will dole out $3.5 billion to clean up the most hazardous contaminated sites in the country, but so far, no Arizona sites are set to receive funding. And some of the most polluted locations in the state, the hundreds of abandoned uranium mines on Indigenous lands, are likely ineligible for the money. The funding comes from the bipartisan infrastructure law, which passed last November and is considered the Biden administration’s top legislative achievement.  The first round of money will allocate $1 billion to clear the backlog of so-called orphaned sites on the National Priorities List. That list, part of the Superfund program, includes what the U.S. government considers the most contaminated sites in the country. The sites are nicknamed orphans because they haven't received any money for cleanup yet.  

Next Phase In US Economic And Political Crisis Begins

Months ago this writer predicted that Senator Manchin would never support Biden’s ‘Build Back Better’ Bill and was simply engaging in ‘bad faith bargaining’ to string the Democrats along. Manchin’s goal was to get the Democrat leadership–Biden, Pelosi, Durbin, Shumer et. al.–to reduce their proposals, which they conveniently did, on repeated occasions. But Manchin’s real objective has always been to shit can the bill, in order to prevent the necessity of raising taxes on corporations and investors in order to pay for it. To borrow a phrase: “It’s the Tax Cuts, Stupid!”. The taxes involved in the Build Back Better bill were just a small part of Trump’s $4.5 trillion 2018 tax cuts. The Build Back Better bill’s funding involved partially raising Trump’s corporate taxes.

What Would Have Worked Better Than Building Back Anything

The BBB bill, as originally conceived, was a minimal sort of social needs proposal, pathetically far behind the norm on the planet, originally costing about a third of U.S. military spending (across all departments and agencies of military spending, and treating both BBB and military spending in terms of annual cost, rather than multiplying only the former by 10 as is the custom). BBB has now been cut to (depending on how you count it) a sixth of military spending and with — wait for it — no, it’s really worth the wait — wait for it — tax cuts for the mega-wealthy thrown in during the process of paring the bill down because of — you guessed it — costs.

The Secret Speech Of Jen Psaki

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki reaffirmed Joe Biden’s stance that he was not an “old friend” of Xi Jinping before the summit between the two leaders last week.  This was big news. And the media play it received was quite disturbing to Psaki, as it turns out. Seeking to clarify matters, she wrote a statement to read to the press corps explaining her stance on China-US relations.  She planned to read it to the press during Thanksgiving week. Presidential advisors, however, put the kabosh on the statement – and reportedly tried to put the kabosh on Psaki herself after they saw her draft.  From reliable sources, who asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the situation, we have obtained portions of the statement which has come to be known among Washington insiders as the PPP, Psaki’s Psecret Pspeech. 

How Democrat Progressives Got Out-Maneuvered By Their Corporate Wing

This past week, November 1 to 6, this writer wrote a daily running commentary on the developments in Congress, as the corporate wing of the Democrat Party maneuvered US House progressives into a corner over voting on the Infrastructure and Reconciliation (Build Back Better) spending bills. Ever since the two the bills—Infrastructure and Reconciliation— were first raised together last March 2021, progressives in the Democrat Party have been steadily driven into making concession after concession, reducing their proposals in a vain attempt to get the party’s corporate wing (represented in Senate by Manchin & Sinema and in the House by Cuellar and friends) to agree to some reduced cost Reconciliation bill.

Biden And Congress Agree: Build Back Bombs Better

Last Friday, Congress passed the Biden “Infrastructure” Bill which will be signed into law post haste says the White House.  The bill, designed to upgrade roads, bridges, transport and broadband, is a bricks and mortar affair and will benefit industry and commerce. It is the first of two bills that have been the center of attention for months now. The second bill is the Build Back Better Bill.   This bill has provisions for child care and preschool, eldercare, healthcare, prescription drug pricing, immigration and curbing greenhouse gas emissions. This might be described as a bill for people, not for bricks and mortar.  It has been the darling of progressives in Congress.  The White House has now promised it will come up for a vote by November 15.

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: Grading Biden’s Build Back Better Deal

How good is the budget deal framework put forward by the Biden White House last week? It depends on your standard for comparison. Relative to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I‑Vt.) opening bid of $6 trillion, or even the previous compromise of $3.5 trillion, it’s a drastic come-down, with a current price tag around $1.85 trillion. But even before considering what is to come with the budget package, we ought to keep in mind what has already been done this year. In Fiscal Year 2021 (which ended in September), federal spending exceeded 30 percent of GDP. Presidents Trump and Biden share the credit for that outcome, since the fiscal year overlaps their times in office. Compared to past decades, such as 1975 to 1996 or 2003 to 2019, when federal spending hovered around 20 percent, that’s already a huge leap.

Biden Is No FDR And Build Back Better Legislation Proves It

The capitalist system attempts to divert attention away from its obvious failings in every way that it can, from mindless entertainment to the contrived drama of January 6th and missing person stories to their most valuable diversion – Donald Trump! That is why the collapse of the latest diversional politics reflected in the Build Back Better (BBB) has not generated the attention that it deserved, and when it did garner attention, it was framed as some grand battle of personalities. However, the real story of the Democrats’ inability to fashion an agreement on the BBB social infrastructure bill, is not related to the supposed disagreements between the personalities of Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema and the individuals who make up the “progressives.”

The ‘Smoke And Mirrors’ Billionaires Tax

With the introduction of these two ‘smoke and mirrors’ tax measures, negotiations enter the ‘end game’ phase of the corporate strategy to beat back the two stimulus bills—the traditional Infrastructure Bill (now $0.55T new spending reduced from $2.3T) and the Human Infrastructure/Reconciliation Bill (now $1.75T reduced from $3.5T). The strategy to slash the level of spending in both bills has been driven behind the scenes by the corporate wing of the Democrat party, with Senators Manchin and Sinema as their negotiating ‘point persons’.  The strategy has always been to cut the magnitude of spending on both bills so deeply that it would not require actual tax hikes on corporations and wealthy individuals of any significance. What was left in terms of reduced spending levels could then be funded by means of various ‘smoke & mirrors’ measures—i.e. by moving money around from other current programs or by transferring funds from other government slush funds.

Build Back Better Legislation

For more than a week the country has been caught up in the ongoing melodrama of the “Build Back Better” (BBB) legislation, the Democrat Party’s “social investment” bill now languishing in the House because of the inability of the Democrats to come to an agreement. The fight is characterized by the corporate media as an intra-party struggle between the emerging “progressive/left” pole of the Party and the “center,” represented by the recalcitrant neoliberal corporate Democrats in the persons of Senators Joe Manchin from West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona. But the media’s tendency to reduce this struggle to a battle of personalities distorts, in a fundamental way, the real interests at play in this fight.

IEN On Bipartisan Infrastructure Package And Build Back Better Act

Let us be frank. As communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis and fossil fuel extraction, our situation is dire. While we experience unparalleled disaster in the form of floods, fires, droughts, Missing & Murdered Indigenous Peoples and state-sanctioned violence against Indigenous and Black communities, the crisis at the so-called border, and other results of climate chaos, we know U.S. elected leadership is in the position to redirect course on behalf of Mother Earth and future generations. The truth is, Congress promised our communities they would work to solve the climate crisis and environmental justice once we elected them into office, but instead, we see them fighting to fund fossil fuels and false promises masquerading as climate solutions to the tune of billions of dollars.

Reconciling The Reconciliation Bill: A Preview

This past week maneuvers within the Democratic party intensified over the content and magnitude of the two pending fiscal stimulus bills–the Infrastructure Bill (with $550B of net new spending) and the Reconciliation Bill ( with initial $3.5T ‘human infrastructure & climate change’ spending). While the maneuvering appears as a deep difference of views between progressives in the US House and Senate demanding both bills pass simultaneously and Democrat Senators, Manchin and Sinema in that body blocking both bills in current form, the actual conflict is really between the corporate wing of the Democratic party (in both the Senate and House) vs. the wing that sees passage of both bills in current form as necessary to ensure a sustained economic recovery in 2022–and thus the Democrats retaining majorities in the House and Senate in the November 2022 midterm elections.

Climate Justice Must Be A Top Priority For Labor

Today’s existential crisis for humanity is the immediate need to shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy. All of us have to. Everywhere. For workers and for our communities there is no more pressing matter than this. We need to begin a discussion among co-workers, creating demands and acting on them at the workplace and bargaining table. We need to show up at local union meetings, central labor councils, and town halls supporting demands that move us toward a fossil fuel-free future. At the same time, we need to protect the incomes and benefits of workers affected by the transition off of fossil fuels and to make sure they have real training opportunities. And we need to restore and elevate those communities that have been sacrificed for fossil fuel extraction, production, and distribution.

Students March For Pathway To Citizenship At ‘Welcome Back Congress’

A steady chorus of drums and symbols filled Benjamin Banneker Park in Washington, D.C., as the sun peaked in the overcast sky above. A sea of protesters joined the beat and began chanting. “Congreso, escucha, estamos en la lucha,” the crowd roared in Spanish, each repetition growing louder. Their voices rose above the percussion and were greeted by an enthusiastic organizer speaking into a microphone. The “Welcome Back Congress” march had officially begun. Around a thousand activists and immigrants — including a humble contingent from the University of Maryland — converged in Washington, D.C., Tuesday as Congress returned from its August recess. The march, organized by CASA, a grassroots immigrant advocacy organization, demanded that a pathway to citizenship remain in the budget reconciliation package.
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