ASKIAM Senior Editor http://www.twitter.com/askiaphotojourn
WASHINGTON–Congress continued to wrestle with a way to provide financial assistance for Americans devastated by the economic shutdown related to the Covid-19 pandemic. After a historic weekend session, Senate Democrats blocked a Republican proposal, complaining that the GOP plan does too much to help prop up businesses without directing enough money to households, hospitals and health professionals.
Then, even as the Senate failed March 23 to enact emergency stimulus legislation, several of its leaders resorted to form–apparent insider trading. Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr (R-N.C.) sold $1.6 million of stock just before the stock market plunge, after reassuring the public about federal coronavirus preparedness. Two others, Sens. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) and Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) also sold stocks, seeming to profit from insider information.
Sen. “Burr has supported racist voter suppression; blocking Medicaid expansion, living wages & uplift programs for 4 mill poor & low wealth North Carolinians,” the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II complained via Twitter. “Now we see he warned his wealthy supporters about the corona virus but stayed silent as Trump misled the public.”
President Donald J. Trump was also true to form, resorting to racist, xenophobic labeling of Covid-19 as “the Chinese virus,” and attacking reporters–particularly non-Whites–for asking “nasty questions.”
“Crisis tends to reveal character with regard to both nations and individuals,” Dr. Gerald Horne, professor of history and African Studies at the University of Houston said in an interview. “And by that measure, obviously the United States and its leaders are not measuring up. Look at Cuba by way of contrast,” he said pointing to humanitarian acts by Cuban authorities, permitting a cruise ship with thousands of marooned passengers, which was denied U.S. entry, permission to dock in Cuba, as well as the example of Cuban medical teams dispatched to dangerous virus hotspots.
White House officials have acknowledged that their proposed legislation would steer unprecedented assistance to corporations, claiming the money would help protect millions of jobs.
“This is not a bipartisan proposal,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) told reporters according to The Hill. “This is a Republican proposal at this point, and it creates a slush fund for the big guys and no help for workers and no help for hospitals, and I don’t see how the Democrats can possibly support that.”
“The Senate bailout bill must protect employees,” Rep. Maxine Waters said via Twitter. “There should be no firings, no layoffs, no cut in pay, no cut hrs, or diminishing health benefits/pensions. The bailout must not increase pay for CEOs, give bonuses, or allow for stock buybacks! America’s workers MUST come first.”
“This isn’t corporate welfare,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Fox Business March 23. “This helps all American workers.”
The legislation aims to flood the economy with money, from individuals to small businesses to large industries amid a wave of layoffs and a sharp contraction in consumer spending. It would direct $1,200 to most adults and $500 to most children. It would also create a $500 billion lending program for businesses, cities and states and another $350 billion to help small businesses meet payroll costs.
“I would like to see more support for unemployment compensation, for example,” said Dr. Horne. “I would like to see more support to health care, which obviously that’s the trigger for this entire crisis.”
Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) insisted via Twitter that the country “suspend evictions, foreclosures, and utility shut-offs nationwide.”
“This is a turnabout from their opposition to various sorts of measures, (such as in) 2009 to rescue the U.S. economy from the banksters under the Obama administration. It tends to underscore how (Republicans) will switch on a dime when it’s their president, that is to say, Mr. Trump, whose legacy is at stake,” Dr. Horne said.
President Trump purposely calls Covid-19 “the Chinese virus,” at the same time Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the Chinese are the “central threat of our times,” according to the NOI Research Group via Twitter.