'I did!': Ocasio-Cortez interjects after McCarthy states 'nobody elected Joe Biden to be FDR'

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was among those who shouted back overnight during the historic and "unhinged" marathon speech by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy when the Republican from California stated that there was no person in the country who voted for President Joe Biden last year who did so because they hoped he would act like former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who ushered through the 20th century New Deal.

Quoting a recent comment from Rep. Abigail Spannberger (D-Va.) during his speech in order to argue that Democrats are misguided to make sweeping social investments as part of their Build Back Better Act—which received a final vote in the House on Friday morning—McCarthy stated, "Nobody elected Joe Biden to be FDR."

From the gallery in response, a voice can be heard responding, "I did." Later it was confirmed that this was Ocasio-Cortez.

Watch:

After Ocasio-Cortez's exclamation, someone else in the gallery responded, "Me too."

"Effective heckling is a lost art, but AOC managed to silence McCarthy for at least a few seconds." noted The Intercept's Robert Mackey.

In total, McCarthy spoke for eight hours and 32 minutes before finally ending his roundly criticized antics just after 5:00 am Friday.

'Indefensible': US billionaires became $2.1 trillion richer in 19 months of pandemic

American billionaires grew in number and expanded their collective fortunes by $2.1 trillion since Covid-19 sparked a worldwide pandemic nineteen months ago, according to a new analysis unveiled Monday.

"Targeted tax increases on billionaires, including the proposed Billionaire Income Tax, would rebalance the tax code and reduce these glaring abuses in who pays for the services we all depend on."

An overall 70% surge of wealth among the nation's richest individuals since March of 2020 has resulted in approximately 130 new billionaires, found the new report released by Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) and the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS). In a statement, the groups noted that there are now 745 people with "10-figure bank accounts" compared to the 614 that existed when the pandemic first hit.

In total, those 745 billionaires now hold $5 trillion in collective wealth, which the groups note is "two-thirds more than the $3 trillion in wealth held by the bottom 50% of U.S. households."

While ATF and IPS have been tracking the explosive growth of the uber-wealthy throughout the pandemic, the latest figures come as Democrats in Congress continue to negotiate with themselves over the cost and scope of President Joe Biden's 'Build Back Better' agenda which aims to provide expanded Medicare, paid family leave, universal childcare and pre-K, bold climate action, and an expanded childhood tax credit to alleviate childhood poverty and provide a more robust economic foundation for millions of working American families.

According to IPS/ATF:

The great good fortune of these billionaires over the past 19 months is all the more stark when contrasted with the devastating impact of coronavirus on working people. Almost 89 million Americans have lost jobs, over 44.9 million have been sickened by the virus, and over 724,000 have died from it.
To put this extraordinary wealth growth in perspective, the $2.1 trillion gain over 19 months by U.S. billionaires is equal to:
  • 60% of the $3.5 trillion ten-year cost of President Biden's Build Back Better plan.
  • The entire $2.1 trillion in new revenues over ten years approved by the House Ways and Means Committee to help pay for President Biden's Build Back Better (BBB) investment plan.

At the heart of their latest analysis, said ATF executive director Frank Clemente, is the failure to adequately tax these outrageous and growing fortunes.

"This growth of billionaire wealth is unfathomable, immoral, and indefensible in good times let alone during a pandemic when so many have struggled with unemployment, illness, and death," said Clemente. "For practical and moral reasons, Congress must start effectively taxing the outsized gains of billionaires."

Like other advocates, IPS and ATF are calling for much higher and stricter taxation on the windfall profits of the billionaire class—especially in light of the social needs that the pandemic has made so apparent.

Currently under consideration in Congress is the Billionaires Income Tax (BIT) bill, spearheaded by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oreg.), chairman of the Finance Committee, which Clemente and Chuck Collins, director of IPS' Program on Inequality and the Common Good, say is the best piece of legislation to target the wealth of the super-rich. As the new analysis notes:

Most of these huge billionaires' gains will go untaxed under current rules and will disappear entirely for tax purposes when they're passed onto the next generation. Under Wyden's BIT, billionaires will start paying taxes on their increased wealth each year just like workers pay taxes on their paychecks each year.
The tax will apply only to taxpayers whose wealth exceeds $1 billion: about 700 households. It will be assessed annually on tradable assets, such as stocks, where the value of the asset is known at the beginning and end of the year. For non-tradable assets, such as ownership in a business or real estate holdings, taxes will be deferred until the asset is sold.

"Billionaires are undertaxed and playing hide-and-seek with their substantial wealth," said Collins. "Targeted tax increases on billionaires, including the proposed Billionaire Income Tax, would rebalance the tax code and reduce these glaring abuses in who pays for the services we all depend on."

In a statement last month following the release of a White House report on the average income tax rate of U.S. billionaires, Wyden said that it's shameful for the nation's wealthiest to pay lower tax rates than most working Americans.

"Billionaires are paying a mere 8 percent tax rate, lower than millions of working Americans," said Wyden.

"It's time for a Billionaire's Income Tax that ensures billionaires pay taxes just like the nurses and firefighters," he added. "Nurses treating Covid-19 patients pay their taxes with every paycheck, and they know it's fundamentally unfair that billionaires and their heirs may never pay tax on billions in stock gains. Instituting a Billionaire's Income Tax would go a long way toward creating one fair tax code, rather than one that's mandatory for working people and another that's optional for the fortunate few."

'Downright dangerous': Trump promotion of Michigan rally decried as 'childish, petulant'

After former President Donald Trump urged supporters Friday to attend a rally on the steps of the Michigan Capitol building in Lansing next week in order to demand an audit of the 2020 election in which Trump was soundly defeated by President Joe Biden, at least one top Democrat in the state warns that the ongoing Republican obsession with what has become known as the "Big Lie" is a threat that cannot be ignored.

"This is the same inflammatory rhetoric that brought men armed with assault rifles to these very steps last year and endangered the lives of our lawmakers and staff."

In his statement on Friday, Trump declared:

Big Michigan Rally coming up on Oct. 12th, on the Capitol steps in Lansing, where Patriots will demand a Forensic Audit of the 2020 Presidential Election Scam. The Voter Fraud is beyond what anyone can believe. Anyone who cares about our Great Country should attend, because unless we look to the past and fix what happened, we won't have a future or a Country.

While Tuesday's rally is being organized by the Election Integrity Fund & Force—a non-profit in the state that claims its goal is to curb "attempts to subvert the integrity of our elections"—Trump's promotion of it and his attendance, says state House Democratic Leader Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Township), is as much about the former president's political future as it is about the GOP effort to sow continued doubt over Biden's victory in 2020.

"This is the same inflammatory rhetoric that brought men armed with assault rifles to these very steps last year and endangered the lives of our lawmakers and staff," warned Lasinski Friday night as she referenced events in April of 2020 when armed right-wing protesters stormed the State House as they objected to Covid-19 public health efforts.

"This childish, petulant behavior is not only embarrassingly unbecoming of a former president, it's downright dangerous," Lasinski added. "Efforts like this to undermine faith in our democracy are no longer just about overturning the 2020 election, they're about eroding trust and laying the groundwork to overturn the next election."

While right-wing extremists and GOP apologists for the former president "are stuck in the past reliving Trump's loss," Lasinksi said her party, both in Lansing and in the nation's capital, remain focused on the nation's future by "beating back Covid-19 and bringing billions in relief funding home from D.C. to deliver support for working families."

It was unclear how many might attend Tuesday's rally in Michigan, Trump is also in Iowa on Saturday for a similar campaign-style rally as chatter about the likelihood of his seeking to regain the presidency in 2024 intensifies.

Former aides to Trump have stated their belief that he will run again and a Pew survery out this week showed that despite his loss in 2020, 67 percent of Republicans "would like to see Trump continue to be a major political figure for many years to come" and 44 percent hope he leads the GOP ticket in 2024.

20 state AGs file suit over DeJoy plan to sabotage USPS

Twenty state Attorneys General on Friday filed a joint complaint in an effort to block changes to the U.S. Postal Service enacted last week by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and which critics warn are an overt effort to cripple the mail service from within by slowing delivery times while also increasing the cost to consumers.

The official complaint filed by the 20 AGs is directed at the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC), which is charged with providing independent oversight of the USPS, but which the suit alleges betrayed its mandate by allowing the controversial plan put forth by DeJoy to move into implementation on October 1 without proper review.

According to a statement from the office of Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson:

The complaint details DeJoy's failure to follow federal law in making harmful Postal Service changes. Ferguson asserts these major Postal Service changes, which range from eliminating working hours, slowing delivery of first-class mail and removing equipment, threaten the timely delivery of mail to millions of Americans who rely on the Postal Service for delivery of everything from medical prescriptions to ballots.

"Millions of Americans depend on the mail every day to receive their prescriptions, pay bills, receive Social Security checks, send rent payments and more," Ferguson said in the statement. "One political appointee does not get to decide the fate of the Postal Service. There is a process that demands accountability from the American public for a reason—and I will fight to ensure the public gets a say."

In addition to Washington, the complaint was backed by the Attorneys General of Pennsylvania, North Carolina, New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Virginia, and Rhode Island.

The AG's suit comes amid a relentless barage of criticism aimed at DeJoy and demands for his ouster, as well as ire aimed at the Postal Service Board of Governors, for putting forth a plan that experts on the USPS say is paving the pathway for the beloved agency's demise.

As Christoper S. Shaw, author of the the book First Class: The U.S. Postal Service, Democracy, and the Corporate Threat, wrote in an op-ed for Common Dreams last week, "While previous postmasters generals sought faster mail delivery, DeJoy stands out for his wish to make it slower."

As Shaw's piece notes:

DeJoy claims that lowering service standards offers an outstanding opportunity to cut costs because hauling mail overland on trucks will prove cheaper than using air transportation. Lost in this short-term calculus is the cost to American citizens and to the health of the Postal Service in the long run. Degrading standards of service and discarding competitive advantages is not a formula for long-term relevance.

In response to the complaint, the USPS claimed the filing "has no legal or factual merit" and said "the Postal Service intends to move to dismiss it pursuant to the rules" of the PRC process.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, however, said in a statement that the changes made by DeJoy "destroy the timely mail service that people depend on for medications, bill payments, and business operations in rural parts" of his state. According to Stein's office:

The 10-year plan would undermine the Postal Service, including changes that would enact slower service standards for first-class mail and other packages, change the location of post offices, and adjust rates. The plan would slow down USPS standard delivery for 30 percent of mail from three days to five days, increase the price of each piece of mail by six to nine percent, and put these changes in place without doing anything to effectively address the larger Postal Service budget deficit.
The Postal Regulatory Commission is an independent federal agency that has oversight over the Postal Service's operations. Federal law requires the Postal Service to go to the Commission whenever it makes a change to postal services that will affect the entire country. The attorneys general contend that DeJoy failed to do so, and without the proper review, DeJoy's plan could lead to future problems with mail delivery. The attorneys general are requesting that the Commission order the Postal Service to request a review of the full extent of the ten-year plan, affording the States and the public an opportunity to provide comment.

"The Postal Service," said Stein, "is an essential government service, and it cannot restructure without considering how those changes will affect millions of Americans."

Progressives hold the line as 'Manchema' side with oligarchy against Biden agenda

Political observers predicted three options late Thursday as it remained unclear whether Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi would still hold a vote on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework, or BIF, which has stirred a Capitol Hill fight between a small band of corporate Democrats in Congress and the rest of the party anchored by the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

As of this writing, there was no final word other than promises earlier in the day by Pelosi that a vote would come—even though fresh public comments from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) made it clear that a chasm remains between his opposition and that of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and House Democrats on the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better Act that must ultimately be passed via the bicameral reconciliation process.

According to Politico, a vote is possible, but it remains unclear where the votes would come from to see it pass. Citing sources, the outlet reported:

During a private leadership meeting Thursday morning, several members of Pelosi's team expressed reservations about bringing the bill to the floor given the lack of support within the caucus. But later, during a private meeting with moderate Democrats, Pelosi reiterated her intention to hold the vote later in the day, according to multiple people familiar with the discussions.
How it could work: Multiple Democrats said one way it could work would be to hold the vote open until Pelosi can corral enough members for passage, whether that be from the progressive wing of the caucus or from Republicans who support the infrastructure bill. One member described it as a "staredown" strategy. Bring in the troops: Pelosi has also called in reinforcements from labor groups, who are sending letters to members of Congress urging them to support the bill.

The three most likely outcomes for a Thursday night vote include: 1) Pelosi pulls the scheduled vote from the floor because she knows she doesn't have the votes; 2) the vote is held and members of the CPC and other Democrats vote it down as they have promised to do; or 3) a vote is held and enough renegade Republicans join with some number of Democrats to sabotage the progressive efforts to block the bill before an agreement on reconciliation is reached.

Those likely scenarios were laid out, among others, by Ezra Levin, co-founder of the progressive advocacy group Indivisible, during an appearance on MSNBC's "The Beat" just after 6:00 pm ET where he told host Ari Melber that CPC members were right to be holding the line against Manchin and Sinema, increasingly referred to as "Manchema" by detractors in recent days. As he tweeted just ahead of his appearance:

In a political memo on Thursday, the advocacy group Accountable.US issued a warning—with a finger pointed directly at Manchin, Sinema, and a small group of Wall Street-back Democrats in the House—that big money was again sabotaging the democratic process in Washington, D.C. and at the worst possible moment. According to the memo:

It's not often stars align in favor of everyday working families, and it may not happen again for years. It makes no sense to squander this opportunity to level the playing field for everyday Americans after years of Washington keeping their thumb on the scale for millionaires and billion dollar corporations — especially wasteful tax breaks for the rich that never manage to trickle-down to anyone else.
And yet, there are some Democrats that are choosing to adopt the 'concerns' of the corporate special interests that have managed to do well even during a pandemic and effectively want to keep the system rigged in their favor. It's a red flag that money from greedy industries have corrupted the reconciliation process.

According to the analysis based on campaign finance data, "in August 2021 alone—in the heat of Congressional negotiations on the Build Back Better agenda—the moderate Democrats holding up the reconciliation process, including Sens. Sinema, Manchin, and U.S. Reps. Cuellar, Gonzalez, Gottheimer, Schrader, and Murphy, banked over $150,000 in campaign donations from corporate interests—including those that are helping lead business groups opposing the bill."

Appearing on MSNBC's "The ReidOut" just after 7:00 pm, CPC chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) reiterated the position that there will be no support for the BIF from progressives without the reconciliation package coming first. "This isn't some crazy idea," said Jayapal, "this is the president's agenda."

Other members of the CPC, such as Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), spent the day also vowing to stand their ground and explaining why:

And Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y) lashed out at the hypocrisy and irrational arguments of Manchin who has tried to claim that sweeping investments in pre-K education, healthcare for seniors, community college, and tackling the climate crisis are unaffordable.

"We won't let massive corporations, billionaires, and a few conservative Democrats stand in the way of delivering transformational progress for millions of working people," Japayal tweeted Thursday evening. "Stick to the plan. Pass both bills, together."

America faces warnings of looming 'calamity' as millions lose unemployment aid on Labor Day

Progressives and economic experts fumed Monday as boosted unemployment aid—which has kept millions of workers, their families, and the overall economy afloat during the Covid-19 pandemic—came to an unceremonious end despite the persistence of the virus and a stalled economic recovery.

"Happy Labor Day everyone!" tweeted Matt Bruenig, founder of the left-leaning People's Policy Project, in a sarcastic declaration early on Labor Day. "Today, 9.3 million unemployed workers will have their benefits cut, depriving them and 26 million members of their household of income."

As CNN reports:

Nearly 18 months after Congress came to the rescue of jobless Americans, its historic expansion of the nation's unemployment benefits system expired nationwide this weekend. Lawmakers, who extended the three pandemic programs in December and March, are not expected to renew them again.
A key component of the relief effort was a federal weekly supplement for out-of-work Americans. Initially, the jobless received a $600-a-week boost from April through July of 2020. Congress then revived the enhancement in late December but reduced it to $300 a week.
Lawmakers also created two other measures to aid the jobless when the coronavirus struck. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program provided payments for freelancers, the self-employed, independent contractors and certain people affected by the outbreak, while the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program extended payments for those who've exhausted their regular state benefits.

In a blog post Friday published in the wake of a worrying new federal jobs report, Breunig argued it was "impossible to justify the brutal UI cuts" given the current economic situation and state of the pandemic.

"Employment," wrote Bruenig, "is still 5.3 million jobs below the pre-pandemic level and that, even in the best case scenario, it will take at least five months to fill that job gap."

Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a progressive think tank, said Sunday that the "loss of pandemic unemployment—just as the Covid-19 Delta variant surge threatens to derail the economic recovery—portends financial hardship ahead" for millions.

The loss of federal unemployment assistance at this moment, SEIU secretary-treasurer Jamie Contreras told the HuffPost on Monday, "will be a double whammy of hardship" for the unemployed and their families.

"We're not anywhere near done," warned Contreras. "People still need help. ... For millions of people, nothing has changed from a year and a half ago."

With Congress on recess and the Biden administration resigned to let the benefits lapse, ire was directed at both parties and the White House for not doing more to ensure that the boost of UI was tied more directly to economic conditions or more clear signs that the pandemic was under control.

"I don't understand how anyone in Washington cannot know normal people, their friends, families, cousins who are going through this," Kathleen Fox, a producer in New York who has struggled to find work, told the Washington Post. "The [Biden] administration has lost interest in this cause and they've moved on to other things."

Speaking with the Chicago Tribune, Stettner said the loss of benefits is "going to be a calamity for a lot of people—a very quiet calamity."

Happy Holidays!