Progressives Every Day: Let Us Eat Cake, Republicans Demand

And RIP John Lewis

Welcome to the Monday night edition of Progressives Everywhere, which is jammed packed with sunshine, rainbows, and all good news.

Haha just kidding. But a lot is happening! Let’s get to it!

COVID-19 and Related Drama

OK, so there is some tentatively good news to report. By some measures, the blistering coronavirus pandemic spikes are beginning to level off just a bit in Texas, Arizona, and Florida. I mean, these are really nominal victories, notable only because the numbers have been so terrible in those states over the last month.

New cases in Texas are down 19% to a rolling seven-day average 8,404 per day. Unfortunately, because spikes in emergency healthcare and mortality trail new cases by a few weeks, Texas also hit an all-time high in hospitalizations (10,572) and deaths (152) on Sunday.

In Florida, the average number of new cases was 10,544, down 8% from a week prior. Hospitalizations and deaths are up there, as well. Sadly and infuriatingly, the number of children hospitalized due to COVID-19 in the state shot up by 34% in a single week, from 23,170 to 31,150. At the same time, the state is still pushing to re-open schools very, very soon.

Meanwhile, in Georgia, the battle over the city and county mask mandates continue to rage on. In a way, it’s all superfluous — police, evidently loyal to Gov. Brian Kemp, are seemingly refusing to issue citations for not wearing masks. The Atlanta Constitution-Journal contacted 15 different police departments and did not find one instance of even a fine or slap on the wrist for refusing to wear a mask in a city or county where they are required in public.

Labor and Workers’ Rights

Senate Republicans rolled out their new “stimulus” package proposal this evening, which is literally “let us eat cake” — the bill includes a 100% tax deduction for business lunches, because that’s what working Americans need right now. Oh, it’s also may allow banks to load up on the risky debt-filled assets that triggered the 2008 financial and foreclosure crisis.

The most significant part of the proposal is how it slashes unemployment benefits by two-thirds, stealing away most of the vital lifeline that has kept tens of millions of Americans (just barely) afloat over the last five months; Democrats’ bill, the HEROES Act, would reauthorize the full $600 for the rest of the year. I wrote about the bill over at Observer, so I feel comfortable quoting myself:

Even as states continue to shut down after brief re-openings, bowing to the reality of the virus’s spread, the Republican Party has not come around to extending benefits at nearly the same level provided for in March’s CARES Act, which passed Congress with nearly a unanimous vote. The GOP’s opening proposal shrinks the expanded unemployment benefits from $600 a week to $200 a week. The federal government would provide the money to cash-strapped states until October, at which point states will be on the hook to provide up to 70 percent of a laid-off worker’s prior income, though they do not have a formula figured out just yet.

Additionally, the Treasury will issue $1200 checks to Americans who in 2019 made up to $75,000-a-year with $500 bonuses for dependents. People who made between $75,000 and $99,999 a year will get a pro-rated amount.

As stupid as it was to have stimulus checks be tied to 2019 income right after tens of millions of people lost their jobs in March, it’s beyond absurd to have that be the case more than five months into an economic collapse that still has upwards of 30 million people out of work and nearly half the country in some kind of financial distress.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, upwards of 30 million Americans are in danger of being evicted from their homes by the end of the summer. On Friday, the national moratorium on evictions that protected residents of buildings with federally backed mortgages and public housing expired, and unless it is reauthorized in whatever meek stimulus Democrats and Republicans finally pass.

This chart, from CNBC today, is terrifying:

To make matters worse, instead of working to save people’s homes, Republicans are pushing business immunity. A big priority of Mitch McConnell, it would protect employers from being held responsible for endangering the workers they force to return in unsafe conditions. Though they’ve largely gone under the radar (as do most labor actions), there have been nearly 1000 wildcat strikes across the country since March, a result of the pandemic and in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

The labor unrest that began to bubble up in 2018 could well overflow this summer and spring, especially if workers are forced back to low-wage jobs in bad conditions and kicked out of their homes. Again, no one’s really paying attention, but the actions are already beginning. Last week in Sonoma, California, a 700-member hospital nurses union went on strike for five days to protest inhumane treatment in the midst of COVID-19 and contentious contract negotiation.

Foremost among the motivating issues were cuts in health care and paid sick leave that the hospital, owned by Providence St. Joseph Health, was pushing on employees during a contentious contract bargaining campaign. The company wants to significantly increase health care premiums … and to take paid time off away from senior workers and shift it to newer workers as a recruitment tool. …

You might be a kinder person than I am and instinctively think that hey, some hospitals have really been struggling during the pandemic and maybe this one needs everyone to pitch in. If that’s the case, feast your eyes on this outrage:

In May, the New York Times reported that Providence Health, which received a bailout of more than $500 million from the federal government in the CARES Act, has a $12 billion cash pile and sizable investments in hedge funds and venture capital. “Last year, Providence’s portfolio of investments generated about $1.3 billion in profits, far exceeding the profits from its hospital operations,” the Times wrote.

And yes, Providence Health owns the hospital where these hard-working nurses are being extorted.

Elections (and Future Elections) and Voting Rights

Strangely enough, we got some good news out of Texas today. Gov. Greg Abbott, who seems like 30% more humane than his daywalker vampire GOP brethren, extended early voting by a week. Also of note, given the problems we’re seeing with absentee ballots and the postal service, is Abbott’s provision that people voting via mail can drop off their ballots at polling places throughout the early voting period.

That said, only so many people are going to be able to vote absentee in Texas because the state still won’t expand vote-by-mail to anyone under the age of 65 unless they have a verifiable illness or will be out of the county on election day. Sadly, the Supreme Court is not willing to intervene.

Over in Iowa, the Trump campaign and other Republicans are fighting a legal battle to defend a new law that will likely cause an increase in absentee ballots being tossed out due to incomplete information. As I wrote previously, the Secretary of State of Iowa will send out absentee ballot applications to everyone in the state after getting owned by Democrats there.

In North Carolina, Democrats are building a commanding lead in absentee ballot requests this year:

RIP John Lewis

Civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis’s casket is being viewed today in the Capitol building. All of the images from the event are powerful, but this one really emphasizes Lewis’s place both in history and our lives today.

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