Archives for category: Economy

The office of Senator Bernie Sanders released the following statement about President-Elect Biden’s coronavirus relief plan:

BURLINGTON, January 14 — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) issued the following statement regarding President-Elect Biden’s plan to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis:

“President-Elect Biden has put forth a very strong first installment of an emergency relief plan that will begin to provide desperately needed assistance to tens of millions of working families facing economic hardship during the pandemic. The president-elect’s COVID-relief plan includes many initiatives that the American people want and need, including increasing the $600 direct payments to $2,000, and raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. As the incoming Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, I look forward to working with the president-elect and my colleagues in Congress to provide bold emergency relief to the American people as soon as possible.”

President-Elect Joe Biden released his comprehensive plan to control the pandemic and help the economy, families, students, and schools. The attached PDF has the full plan. This is the section that pertains directly to schools.


Provide schools the resources they need to reopen safely. 


A critical plank of President-elect Biden’s COVID-19 plan is to safely reopen schools as soon as possible – so kids and educators can get back in class and parents can go back to work. This will require immediate, urgent action by Congress. The COVID-19 pandemic created unprecedented challenges for K-12 schools and institutions of higher education, and the students and parents they serve. School closures have disproportionately impacted the learning of Black and Hispanic students, as well as students with disabilities and English language learners. While the December down payment for schools and higher education institutions was a start, it is not sufficient to address the crisis. President-elect Biden is calling on Congress to provide $170 billion — supplemented by additional state and local relief resources — for K-12 schools and institutions of higher education. These resources will help schools serve all students, no matter where they are learning, and help achieve President-elect Biden’s goal to open the majority of K-8 schools within the first 100 days of his Administration. 

● Provide $130 billion to help schools to safely reopen. Schools need flexible resources to safely reopen and operate and/or facilitate remote learning. The president-elect’s plan will provide $130 billion to support schools in safely reopening. These funds can be used to reduce class sizes and modify spaces so students and teachers can socially distance; improve ventilation; hire more janitors and implement mitigation measures; provide personal protective equipment; ensure every school has access to a nurse; increase transportation capacity to facilitate social distancing on the bus; hire counselors to support
students as they transition back to the classroom; close the digital divide that is exacerbating inequities during the pandemic; provide summer school or other support for students that will help make up lost learning time this year; create and expand community schools; and cover other costs needed to support safely reopening and support students. These funds will also include provisions to ensure states adequately fund education and protect students in low-income communities that have been hardest hit by COVID-19. Districts must ensure that funds are used to not only reopen schools, but also to meet students’ academic, mental health and social, and emotional needs in response to COVID-19, (e.g. through extended learning time, tutoring, and counselors), wherever they are learning. Funding can be used to prevent cuts to state pre-k programs. A portion of funding will be reserved for a COVID-19 Educational Equity Challenge Grant, which will support state, local and tribal governments in partnering with teachers, parents, and other stakeholders to advance equity- and evidence-based policies to respond to COVID-related educational challenges and give all students the support they need to succeed. In addition to this funding, schools will be able to access FEMA Disaster Relief Fund resources to get reimbursed for certain COVID-19 related expenses and will receive support to implement regular testing protocols.

 ● Expand the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. The president-elect’s plan will ensure colleges have critical resources to implement public health protocols, execute distance learning plans, and provide emergency grants to students in need. This $35 billion in funding will be directed to public institutions, including community colleges, as well as, public and private Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority Serving Institutions. This funding will provide millions of students up to an additional $1,700 in financial assistance from their college. 

● Hardest Hit Education Fund. Provide $5 billion in funds for governors to use to support educational programs and the learning needs of students significantly impacted by COVID-19, whether K-12, higher education, or early childhood education programs.

Read the full pdf here.

The American Prospect has advice for Joe Biden about how he can make dramatic changes on Day One.

Pick your topic: Corporate taxes, the War on Terror, student debt.

Everything is here except for what he can do on Day One to help American education. He can end the Reign of Error of NCLB, Race to the Top, Every Student Succeeds Act, and Common Core. On Day One, he could waive all federal testing mandates for 2021. That would be a start.

Farhad Manjoo is an opinion writer for the New York Times. In this column, he says that the wealth of American billionaires has grown dramatically during the pandemic. We know that millions of Americans are facing hunger, poverty, and evictions. Inequality is expanding.

He writes:

When I called up Chuck Collins on Tuesday afternoon, I found him glued to one of the grimmest new metrics documenting America’s economic and social unraveling.

Collins is a scholar of inequality at the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think tank, and since March he has been tracking how the collective wealth of American billionaires has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. In previous recessions, Collins said, billionaires were hit along with the rest of us; it took almost three years for Forbes’s 400 richest people to recover losses incurred in 2008’s Great Recession.

But in the coronavirus recession of 2020, most billionaires have not lost their shirts. Instead, they’ve put on bejeweled overcoats and gloves made of spun gold — that is, they’ve gotten richer than ever before.

On Tuesday, as the stock market soared to a record, Collins was watching the billionaires cross a depressing threshold: $1 trillion.

That is the amount of new wealth American billionaires have amassed since March, at the start of the devastating lockdowns that state and local governments imposed to curb the pandemic.

On March 18, according to a report Collins and his colleagues published last week, America’s 614 billionaires were worth a combined $2.95 trillion. When the markets closed on Tuesday, there were 650 billionaires and their combined wealth was now close to $4 trillion. In the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, American billionaires’ wealth grew by a third.

It is difficult to think of a more succinctly obscene illustration of the unfairness of the American economic and political system.

“The economy is now wired ‘heads you win, tails I lose,’ to funnel wealth to the top,” Collins told me.

Billionaires amassed their new billions just as millions of other Americans plunged into dire financial straits. More than 20 million people lost their jobs at the start of the pandemic. As Congress lazily contemplates whether or not to bother to continue to provide economic assistance to America’s neediest, as many as 13 million people are at risk of losing the expanded benefits that keep them just beyond the grip of hunger and homelessness.

Food banks across the country are bracing for another surge in demand. If a federal moratorium on evictions is allowed to expire at the end of the year, millions of Americans will have to pay months of back rent — making them vulnerable to what housing advocates warn will be a wave of evictions.

Why are American billionaires doing so well while so many other Americans suffer? Part of the story is garden-variety American inequality. Stocks are overwhelmingly owned by the wealthy, and the stock market has recovered from its early-pandemic depths much more quickly than other parts of the economy.

But some billionaires are also benefiting from economic and technological trends that were accelerated by the pandemic. Among these are the owners and investors of retail giants like Amazon, Walmart, Target, Dollar Tree and Dollar Generalwhich have reported huge profits this year while many of their smaller competitors were clobbered as the coronavirus spread.

Then there are companies that have bet on the rapid digitization of everything. Eric Yuan, the chief executive of Zoom, became a billionaire in 2019. Now he is worth almost $20 billion. Apoorva Mehta, the founder of the grocery-delivery company Instacart, was not a billionaire last year; this year, after a spike in orders that led to a new round of investment that pumped up the value of his company, he’s safely in the club. Dan Gilbert, the chairman of Quicken Loans, was worth less than $7 billion in March; now he commands more than $43 billion.

But like in the rest of the economy, there is a great deal of stratification even among billionaires — richer billionaires got even richer in 2020 than the poorer ones did.

Some of the numbers are staggering. Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder, was worth about $113 billion at the start of the pandemic. Now he is worth $182 billion — an increase of about $69 billion. Jim, Alice and Rob Walton, three of the largest shareholders of Walmart, saw their combined wealth grow by $47 billion during the pandemic.

This is a good time to urge you to read The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger.

The more equal societies are, the happier they are. We are sinking into an abyss of anger, hopelessness, envy, and despair.

As always, David Dayen of the American Prospect is a good guide to the inner world of Washington, D.C., politics.

In this post, he explains what’s happening during the lame duck session of Congress. As you will learn, Mitch McConnell is calling the shots. He doesn’t care what Trump wants; he is history.

Dana Milbank is a regular writer for the Washington Post. He writes in this column about Mitch McConnell’s hypocrisy.

The Trump administration and House Democratic leaders are in striking range of a deal to send $1,200 stimulus checks to American families and to pump $2 trillion into the flagging economy.

But Rich Mitch is having none of it.

As The Post reported, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) — anti-Trump Republicans have taken to calling him “Rich Mitch” because of his $34 million net worth — told Republican colleagues Tuesday that he had warned the White House not to strike an agreement with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on a coronavirus relief package before the Nov. 3 election.

Who cares if tens of millions of Americans are in increasingly desperate straits? Even if negotiators reach agreement despite McConnell’s sabotage, he refused to commit to voting on it before the election.

Then, on Wednesday, McConnell had the chutzpah to stand on the Senate floor and claim he was looking out for the little guy. “Maybe coastal elites who can practically find a million dollars in their couch cushions are indifferent about whether we get an outcome here,” he said, alleging that “blue-state billionaires” are Democrats’ top priority — not “working families like the Kentuckians I represent.

Yet McConnell claims he’s fighting elites to “get an outcome” for working families. What outcome? Bankruptcy?

It’s a timely reminder, a dozen days before Election Day, that removing President Trump won’t repair dysfunction in Washington as long as McConnell remains in charge of the Senate.

Peter Franchot, the State Comptroller of Maryland, wrote in the Washington Post that many small businesses are failing and need government aid to survive. Main Street, he warns, is at risk of turning into a ghost town.

He wrote:

The scene on Main Street America is bleak.

Darkened storefronts adorned with “Closed” and “For Lease” signs have become common sights in both urban and rural areas.

Maryland is no exception. From my hometown in Takoma Park to the bucolic charm of Chestertown, many businesses have shuttered or are hanging on for dear life.

But wait! Didn’t the first and only bailout include $660 billion to rescue small businesses? It was administered by the Small Business Administration. What happened to the money?

Thanks to ProPublica, there is a link to a search engine to see where the money went. You will be surprised to see that billions went to religious organizations, private schools, and charter schools.

In the search engine, type in “religious organizations.” You will see that federal aid went to churches and synagogues representing a wide variety of sects. One of the largest grants–$5-10 million–went to Joyce Meyer Ministries. I scanned the site and noticed that her educational background consists of three honorary doctorates from religious institutions of higher education. She is a “charismatic Christian” who spreads the gospel. Is her ministry worthier and needier than hardware stores, restaurants, and other Main Street businesses? I don’t object to Mrs. Meyer, but I do object to federal aid for religious groups.

What happened to separation of church and state? Why was the Trump administration dispensing millions to religious groups while small businesses were teetering on the brink of bankruptcy? When did it become the role of the federal government to bail out churches, synagogues, religious schools, and religious organizations?

Kendall Deas, a political scientist at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, has worked in the field of economic evelopment. In a recent article, he warned the leaders of the state that investing in food schools will do more for the state than corporate tax breaks.

He is responding to a recent study by @GoodJobsFirst showing that South Carolina had cut education by $423 million to subsidize corporations.

Deas begins:

When I was in graduate school I worked for an economic development group that recruited companies to the metro Atlanta area. And time and again when executives would visit, this question would be among the first they’d ask:

“How good are the schools?”

It was very clear to me then that the quality of schools matters a great deal when it comes to attracting investment and jobs.

I’m now back in my native South Carolina where I am an educator and advocate for public education. And I am concerned about the subpar, uneven quality of our state’s public schools.; U.S. News and World Report, for example, ranks South Carolina’s schools No. 43 among the 50 states.

The state’s “Corridor of Shame.” a nickname given to a string of rural, impoverished and poor-performing school districts along South Carolina’s Interstate 95 corridor, serves as a stark reminder that much work needs to be done to improve our national standing in education.

This region of the state, with flat farmland and remnants of industries that have relocated overseas, needs to attract jobs — and it also needs employers who want to invest in our future. But by disinvesting in their school systems many South Carolina counties are undermining their ability to compete.

To revitalize these economies we need to invest in traditional public schools — yet this need to improve the quality of our public education system is too often ignored by state political leadership.

We have growth in some areas. And when jobs grow, people move in — and that means more families with school-age children. But then we abate the companies’ taxes, which puts stress on the tax base we need to keep our schools modern and healthy.

A SEVERE PROBLEM

Until now we did not know how severe this disinvestment has become.

Under state law counties award massive economic subsidies and tax incentives — even though school districts lose the most revenue. Last year these corporate tax breaks cost South Carolina public schools $423 million, an astonishing increase of $99 million from FY 2017.

This fact was revealed recently by Good Jobs First — a nonprofit think tank — along with the South Carolina Education Association; they found that millions in property tax abatements have been granted to companies like Boeing, BMW, Volvo, Amazon and dozens of other businesses operating in the state.

The biggest aggregate losers were Berkeley County ($54 million) and Greenville County ($41 million); meanwhile, poorer counties such as Orangeburg, Dorchester, Calhoun, Greenwood and Barnwell lost more than $2,000 per pupil.

Good schools attract good jobs.

Donald Trump, stable genius, claims that Joe Biden is suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s, that is, when he’s not claiming that Biden is a tool of the “radical left.” Watch this conversation and make your own judgment. Ask yourself how Trump would fare without a script on a teleprompter. The film also serves to remind us of another Trump characteristic: He is utterly without empathy. He despises what he calls “losers.” It is impossible to forget the time he mocked a disabled journalist at one of his rallies. It’s easy to remember that he called John McCain a “loser” because he was a POW.

This is a most interesting unscripted discussion between Joe Biden and Ady Barkan.

Ady is a brilliant progressive activist who was a supporter of Sanders, Warren, and Medicare for all.

In 2016, he was stricken with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and is completely disabled. He is dying by the day.

He asks tough questions.

I recommend the conversation.

Jan Resseger reviews here a new book that explains the full-blown triumph of plutocracy. Trump is the culmination, not the cause. Wealth and power are now concentrated, more than ever, in the hands of a small minority, and Trump has persuaded his followers that plutocracy works for them!

She begins:

For ten years Jacob Hacker, the Yale political scientist, and Paul Pierson, the Berkeley political scientist, have been tracking exploding economic inequality in the United States. In this summer’s book, Let Them Eat Tweets, Hacker and Pierson explicitly identify our government as a plutocracy. And they track how politicians (with the help of right-wing media) shape a populist, racist, gun-toting, religious fundamentalist story line to distract the public from a government that exclusively serves the wealthy. In a new article published in the Columbia Journalism Review, Journalism’s Gates Keepers, Tim Schwab examines our plutocracy from a different point of view: How is the mainstream media, the institution most of us look to for objective news, shaped increasingly by philanthropists stepping in to fill the funding gaps as newspapers go broke and news organizations consolidate?

In their 2010 classic, Winner-Take-All Politics, Hacker and Pierson present “three big clues” pointing to the tilt of our economy to winner-take-all: “(1) Hyperconcentration of Income… The first clue is that the gains of the winner-take-all economy, befitting its name, have been extraordinarily concentrated. Though economic gaps have grown across the board, the big action is at the top, especially the very top… (2) Sustained Hyperconcentration… The shift of income toward the top has been sustained increasingly steadily (and, by historical standards, extremely rapidly) since 1980… (3) Limited Benefits for the Nonrich… In an era in which those at the top reaped massive gains, the economy stopped working for middle-and working-class Americans.” Winner-Take-All Politics, pp. 15-19) (emphasis in the original)

Hacker and Pierson’s second book in the recent decade, the 2016 American Amnesia explores America’s loss of faith in government, our massive forgetting about the role of government regulation and balance in a capitalist economy: “(T)he institution that bears the greatest credit often gets short shrift: that combination of government dexterity and market nimbleness known as the mixed economy. The improvement of health, standards of living, and so much else we take for granted occurred when and where government overcame market failures, invested in the advance of science, safeguarded and supported the smooth functioning of markets, and ensured that economic gains became social gains.” (American Amnesia, p. 69)

In their new Let Them Eat Tweets, Hacker and Pierson no longer avoid the label. They now call America a full blown plutocracy: “This is not a book about Donald Trump. Instead, it is about an immense shift that preceded Trump’s rise, has profoundly shaped his political party and its priorities, and poses a threat to our democracy that is certain to outlast his presidency. That shift is the rise of plutocracy—government of, by, and for the rich. Runaway inequality has remade American politics, reorienting power and policy toward corporations and the super-rich (particularly the most conservative among them)… The rise of plutocracy is the story of post-1980 American politics. Over the last forty years, the wealthiest Americans and the biggest financial and corporate interests have amassed wealth on a scale unimaginable to prior generations and without parallel in other western democracies. The richest 0.1 percent of Americans now have roughly as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent combined. They have used that wealth—and the connections and influence that come with it—to construct a set of political organizations that are also distinctive in historical and cross-national perspective. What makes them distinctive is not just the scope of their influence, especially on the right and far right. It is also the degree to which the plutocrats, the biggest winners in our winner-take-all economy, pursue aims at odds with the broader interests of American society.” (Let Them Eat Tweets, pp. 1-2)…

But there is another hidden element of the power of plutocrats. Philanthropies led by the wealthy make charitable gifts which subtly shape news reporting itself. And the subject here is not merely Fox and Breitbart and the other right-wing outlets. Tim Schwab’s important report from the Columbia Journalism Review is about one of America’s powerful plutocrats, Bill Gates. Schwab explores, “a larger trend—and ethical issue—with billionaire philanthropists’ bankrolling the news. The Broad Foundation, whose philanthropic agenda includes promoting charter schools, at one point funded part of the LA Times’ reporting on education. Charles Koch has made charitable donations to journalistic institutions such as the Poynter Institute, as well as to news outlets such as the Daily Caller, that support his conservative politics. And the Rockefeller Foundation funds Vox’s Future Perfect, a reporting project that examines the world ‘through the lens of effective altruism’—often looking at philanthropy. As philanthropists increasingly fill in the funding gaps at news organizations—a role that is almost certain to expand in the media downturn following the coronavirus pandemic—an unexamined worry is how this will affect the ways newsrooms report on their benefactors.”

Those of us who have been following public education policy over two decades know that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has invested in policy itself—funding think tanks like the Center on Reinventing Public Education—which brought us “portfolio school reform” charter school expansion—which led to Chicago’s Renaissance 2010— which led to Arne Duncan’s bringing that strategy into federal policy in Race to the Top. We know that the Gates Foundation funded what ended up as an expensive and failed small high schools initiative, and, after that failed—an experiment with evaluating teachers by their students’ standardized test scores—and later experimenting with incentive bonuses for teachers who quickly “produce” higher student scores. We remember that the Gates Foundation brought us the now fading Common Core. And we remember that Arne Duncan filled his department with staff hired directly from the Gates Foundation.

I urge you to read it all. It’s important!