Lazy Caturday ReadsPosted: February 6, 2021
It looks like some of us will be getting another stimulus check. Biden and Congressional Democrats aren’t fooling around. They are determined to inject some money into the economy, whether the Republicans like it or not. Also unhappy about it: Larry Summers, who has been wrong again and again, but still thinks he knows best and the usual “savvy” journalists.
The House gave final approval on Friday to a budget blueprint that included President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan, advancing it over unanimous Republican opposition as Democrats pressed forward with plans to begin drafting the aid package next week and speed it through the House by the end of the month.
“Our work to crush the coronavirus and deliver relief to the American people is urgent and of the highest priority,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote in a letter to Democrats shortly before the bill passed by a 219-to-209 margin.
President Biden, speaking just before the House acted, cited a weak jobs report in justifying the use of a procedural device, called reconciliation, to ram through the measure if Senate Republicans oppose his effort to speed aid to families, businesses, health care providers and local governments.
“It is very clear our economy is still in trouble,” Mr. Biden said during remarks at the White House — amping up the pressure on an upper chamber bracing for former President Donald J. Trump’s impeachment trial next week.
“I know some in Congress think we’ve already done enough to deal with the crisis in the country,” added Mr. Biden, who reiterated his commitment to fund $1,400 direct checks to low- and middle-income Americans. “That’s not what I see. I see enormous pain in this country. A lot of folks out of work. A lot of folks going hungry.” [….]
Hours earlier, as the sun rose over the Capitol dome, the Senate approved a fast-track budget measure, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting her first-ever tiebreaking vote after a grinding all-night session. The move, in theory, allows them to enact the package without any Republican votes.
Senate leaders could begin working on their own bill in hopes of delivering a final package to Mr. Biden’s desk before supplemental unemployment benefits are set to expire in mid-March.
But of course there are nay-sayers. Ryan Cooper at The Week: Savvy Washington insiders strike again.
Here’s the story. Late on Thursday, Summers published a ponderous op-ed in The Washington Post fretting that maybe the COVID relief package is too big. It might contain so much spending that it will push the economy above its potential full capacity, causing inflation and financial instability, he worried. Then the jokers at Politico’s Playbook newsletter (your best source for ill-disguised advertorials and tips on hiding political bribes) repeated his argument. Many “liberal wonks have been whispering about” Summers’ argument “for weeks,” worrying the package “could harm the economy next year, when Democrats will be defending narrow congressional majorities in the midterms,” they write. Politico claimed on Twitter that it was being circulated in the White House as well….
Let me first talk about the merits of the argument, because they shed light on the motivations here. In brief, these worries about “overshooting” the stimulus are completely ridiculous. Jobs data released Friday show the economy is basically stalled out — with unemployment at 6.3 percent, and the fraction of prime-age workers who are employed four points below where it was before the pandemic (just barely above the bottom of the Great Recession), the U.S. is something like 10 million jobs in the hole.
Moreover, as economist Paul Krugman points out, the pandemic relief package is mostly not stimulus per se — it is more aimed at keeping the economy on ice until everyone can be vaccinated. The boost to unemployment insurance and aid to state and local governments, for instance, will partly go unspent if we hit full employment rapidly. Indeed, we may need another round of real stimulus once the vaccines are out. And even if we were somehow to hit full capacity and inflation starts to spike, the Federal Reserve can easily raise interest rates to compensate — a fact Summers bizarrely skates over by limply suggesting they might not for some reason.
Head over to The Week to read the rest.
But how interested are White House insiders in what Summers thinks? Kara Voght at Mother Jones: The White House Doesn’t Want To Hear From Larry Summers.
Economist Larry Summers has been the kingpin of every economic calamity Democrats have weathered over the last three decades. But Barack Obama’s National Economic Council chair during the Great Recession finds himself as persona non grata this week after penning an op-ed undermining the $1.9 trillion COVID relief package President Joe Biden is trying to push through Congress.
Summers’ treatise spread from wonk to wonk in the White House with the contagion of a venereal disease—and was about as well-received. One aide characterized the response as “widespread disagreement.” White House economists had already been booked for media hits to discuss the January jobs report, airtime that permitted many administration voices to rebuke Summers in unison. “The president and the administration have a lot of respect for Professor Summers, but we disagree here,” Bharat Ramamurti, a deputy NEC director, told CBS Radio. Jared Bernstein, a progressive labor economist and member of Biden’s Council of Economic Advisors who served alongside Summers in the Obama administration, was less polite. “I think he’s wrong,” Bernstein told CNN on Friday morning. “I think he’s wrong in a pretty profound way.”
Summers’ piece suggested that the proposed $1.9 trillion was far more than the economy required, pointing to a recent analysis from the Congressional Budget Office that suggested the amount is three times larger than the hole it needs to fill. But he also argued against it on political grounds: Passing such a massive relief bill would test the political tolerance for the jobs and infrastructure package Biden has promised to follow, even though poll after poll has shown broad bipartisan support among voters for Biden’s first proposal. Summers called that pending plan the “nation’s highest priority” as he raised concerns about the federal deficit—a factor Democrats have mostly purged from consideration in moments of economic crisis.
Summers also took jabs from Senate Democrats, who have almost uniformly backed the size of the White House’s proposal. During a meeting of Senate chiefs of staff on Friday morning, an aide to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) thanked everyone for maintaining the party line, acknowledging that some of their bosses believed the package was either too much or not enough, according to a source familiar with the meeting. “And then there’s Larry Summers,” the aide said, “who can’t decide if we’re doing too much or not enough—but knows that, whatever we’re doing, is wrong.”
Yesterday, Biden announced that Trump won’t be getting the top secret intelligence briefings that most former presidents receive. The New York Times: Biden Bars Trump From Receiving Intelligence Briefings, Citing ‘Erratic Behavior.’
President Biden said on Friday that he would bar his predecessor, Donald J. Trump, from receiving intelligence briefings traditionally given to former presidents, saying that Mr. Trump could not be trusted because of his “erratic behavior” even before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
The move was the first time that a former president had been cut out of the briefings, which are provided partly as a courtesy and partly for the moments when a sitting president reaches out for advice. Currently, the briefings are offered on a regular basis to Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Mr. Biden, speaking to Norah O’Donnell of CBS News, said Mr. Trump’s behavior worried him “unrelated to the insurrection” that gave rise to the second impeachment of Mr. Trump.
“I just think that there is no need for him to have the intelligence briefings,” Mr. Biden said.
“What value is giving him an intelligence briefing?” Mr. Biden added. “What impact does he have at all, other than the fact he might slip and say something?”
Trump’s second impeachment trial is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, but we still don’t know much about how it will be conducted. Here’s an explainer from the Associated Press, but as far as I can tell we still don’t know what the rules will be or whether there will be witnesses. It does seem clear that Democratic impeachment managers will introduce highly emotional descriptions of the events of January 6 and their effects on members of Congress. Also from the AP: Trump impeachment trial confronts memories of Capitol siege.
The impeachment trial of Donald Trump is more than an effort to convict the former president of inciting an insurrection. It’s a chance for a public accounting and remembrance of the worst attack on the U.S. Capitol in 200 years.
In the month since the Jan. 6 siege by a pro-Trump mob, encouraged by his call to “fight like hell” to overturn the election, defenders of the former president say it’s time to move on.
Trump is long gone, ensconced at his Mar-a-Lago club, and Democrat Joe Biden is the new president in the White House. With the trial set to begin Tuesday, and a supermajority of senators unlikely to convict him on the single charge, the question arises: Why bother?
Yet for many lawmakers who were witnesses, onlookers and survivors of that bloody day, it’s not over.
One by one, lawmakers have begun sharing personal accounts of their experiences of that harrowing afternoon. Some were in the Capitol fleeing for safety, while others watched in disbelief from adjacent offices. They tell of hiding behind doors, arming themselves with office supplies and fearing for their lives as the rioters stalked the halls, pursued political leaders and trashed the domed icon of democracy.
“I never imagined what was coming,” said Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., recounted in a speech on the House floor.
Memory is a powerful tool, and their remembrances, alongside the impeachment proceedings, will preserve a public record of the attack for the Congressional Record. Five people died and more than 100 people have been arrested in a nationwide FBI roundup of alleged ringleaders and participants, a dragnet unlike many in recent times. While that is sufficient for some, assured the perpetrators will be brought to justice, others say the trial will force Congress, and the country, to consider accountability.
One more powerful read before I wrap this up. Yesterday at The New York Times, Michelle Goldberg wrote about Q-Anon and the continued demonization of Hillary Clinton: QAnon Believers Are Obsessed With Hillary Clinton. She Has Thoughts.
A clear indication that Marjorie Taylor Greene was more than a dabbler in QAnon was her 2018 endorsement of “Frazzledrip,” one of the most grotesque tendrils of the movement’s mythology. You “have to go down a number of rabbit holes to get that far,” said Mike Rothschild, whose book about QAnon, “The Storm Is Upon Us,” comes out later this year.
The lurid fantasy of Frazzledrip refers to an imaginary video said to show Hillary Clinton and her former aide, Huma Abedin, assaulting and disfiguring a young girl, and drinking her blood. It holds that several cops saw the video, and Clinton had them killed….
Contemplating Frazzledrip, it occurred to me that QAnon is the obscene apotheosis of three decades of Clinton demonization. It’s other things as well, including a repurposed version of the old anti-Semitic blood libel, which accused Jews of using the blood of Christian children in their rituals, and a cult lusting for mass public executions. According to the F.B.I., it’s a domestic terror threat.
But QAnon is also the terminal stage of the national derangement over Clinton that began as soon as she entered public life. “It’s my belief that QAnon really took off because it was based on Hillary Clinton,” said Rothschild. “It was based specifically on something that a lot of 4chan dwellers wanted to see happen, which was Hillary Clinton arrested and sort of dragged away in chains.”
I was curious what Clinton thinks about all this, and it turns out she’s been thinking about it a lot. “For me, it does go back to my earliest days in national politics, when it became clear to me that there was a bit of a market in trafficking in the most outlandish accusations and wild stories concerning me, my family, people that we knew, people close to us,” she told me….
For Clinton, these supernatural smears are part of an old story. “This is rooted in ancient scapegoating of women, of doing everything to undermine women in the public arena, women with their own voices, women who speak up against power and the patriarchy,” she said. “This is a Salem Witch Trials line of argument against independent, outspoken, pushy women. And it began to metastasize around me.” In this sense, Frazzledrip is just a particularly disgusting version of misogynist hatred she’s always contended with.
Read the whole story at the NYT link.
That’s it for me today. What’s on your mind?