For Donald Trump, treason is a lucrative endeavor

Donald Trump didn’t just conspire to overturn the election. He ripped off his own supporters while doing it.

Treason, it turns out, is a lucrative endeavor.

Attacking the establishment can line one’s pockets.

Who would you vote for in 2024, Biden or DeSantis? Vote now.

This has been a central insight of rightwing media — and not just of rightwing media. There’s a capitalist incentive to frame oneself as a brave dissenter against the existing power structure.

That’s not the only reason our public discourse is so divisive, incoherent, violent and useless. But it doesn’t help.

Paying for a coup

The J6 committee has shown how Trump was told repeatedly that there had been no fraud in the 2020 election. Nonetheless, he continued insisting in public that the election had been stolen.

His deliberate lies directly inspired rioters to storm the capital in an attempted coup. Trump didn’t just call for violence, though.

He also called for funds.

Trump claimed he needed money to mount a legal attack on election fraud — even though, again, he had been told there was no fraud. He said the money would go to an election defense fund.

But there was no fraud and no election defense fund.

Trump lied to constituents to raise $250 million. Then he dumped that money into the Save America political action committee. The PAC funneled the money to organizations run by Trump cronies.

The most egregious example, the committee alleged, was a payment to Kimberly Guilfoyle, Donald Trump, Jr.’s girlfriend.

Guilfoyle gave a two-and-a-half minute introduction to the president on J6. Trump went on to urge the crowd to march on the capital, which they did. The violent attack led to nine deaths.

For her brief contribution, Guilfoyle was paid $60,000.

Why were Trump’s appeals so successful? Partially the answer is partisanship. Trump is the head of the Republican Party. His personal appeal to fight the evil Democrats carries a lot of weight.

People trust their partisan leaders, and partisanship is strongly linked to belief in disinformation and lies about the opposition.

But the narrative Trump is selling, of himself as the brave opponent of systemic corruption, is also very powerful.

The devil and the truth

In his 1945 novel That Hideous Strength, CS Lewis’ protagonist, Mark, is tempted by evil because he wants to be part of the inner circle that knows the truth hidden from everyone else.

For here, here surely at last (so his desire whispered to him) was the true inner circle of all, the circle whose center was outside the human race — the ultimate secret, the supreme power, the last initiation.

Mark is a college professor and in the novel, Satan has taken over the college administration. Mark’s rage to be the knower is a rage to be part of the establishment.

But (as Mark confusedly recognizes) the desire to be in can work even better when you start suggesting in is out and that only anti-establishment crusaders know what’s really happening.

Ponzi schemes to fight the man

You can see this dynamic with crypto.

Cryptocurrencies sell themselves as a tech bro escape from social control. Buying crypto wasn’t just a canny investment. It was a way to fight the power, the hegemony of government fiat. Or as bitcoin’s pseudonymous creator Satoshi Nakamto wrote, crypto is “very attractive to the libertarian viewpoint if we can explain it correctly.”

In the event, crypto, like Stop the Steal, was less about fighting the power than about embracing the grift. In early June, the FTC released a report that said they had identified 46,000 people who collectively had lost over $1 billion in crypto scams since 2021.

Worse, the entire market has revealed itself as a scam. Luna, an important currency, peaked at $116 in early 2021 before erasing essentially all of its value last month in a catastrophic plunge.

As Robert Reich wrote, crypto is a Ponzi scheme — one driven, in this case, not just by greed, but by a dream of sticking it to the man.

Substack seers

The same dynamic powers the careers of Alex Jones, Joe Rogan, Glenn Greenwald, Matt Yglesias, Jimmy Dore and fleets of lesser and wannabe Substackers, not to mention Tucker Carlson.

Everyone is lying to you; I am the only one with the truth is a pitch that should provoke skepticism. But people like to think they have unique access to the truth. And once they’ve anointed you as truth teller and bought in fully, you can tell them just about anything.

You can: Sell them dietary supplements and skin care products. Promise them you’ll force an electoral recount if they funnel you money—as Jill Stein did. Get them to watch your dreadful movies.

The honest anti-establishment

Not every anti-establishment appeal is deceptive or malevolent. People buy Sex Pistols T-shirts because the Sex Pistols seemed rebellious. And they wear the shirts and feel rebellious and cool.

It’s a little silly, perhaps, but people spend money on somewhat silly things all the time. It’s not a scandal.

Bernie Sanders created a fundraising juggernaut by promising to change Washington, arguing that Republicans and Democrats were blocking reforms.

Love Sanders or hate him. Agree or disagree with his message. But he said that he’d make a serious run for president with the donations and he made a serious run (or two) for president.

Sanders put out clear policy positions intended to improve the lives of marginalized people. He stumped for votes. When he lost, he stopped campaigning — not soon enough for some, but still.

Sanders’ anti-establishment brand supercharged his campaign coffers. But when he got the money, he did what he said he’d do.

The country pays

Anti-establishment appeals aren’t always deceitful or even bad. But the fact that they can be so lucrative can create ugly incentives.

Everyone knows about the incentive for people in institutions to defend them, or for those in power to defend the status quo.

But we also need to be aware of the potential rewards for people who adopt certain kinds of anti-establishment boilerplate. Telling people that they’ve been cheated of an electoral win, or that they can get rich quick, is a good way to part them from their money.

If people think you and only you have the truth, they’ll pay for it.

As Trump understands, it’s an easy exchange of lies for cash.

Republicans are determined to shackle Biden and to immiserate working people

Pundits, economists and policymakers are talking about the possibility of a recession and rising unemployment. Whether these dour predictions come to pass, it’s clear the economy is struggling. It’s also clear GOP obstructionism is preventing policymakers from addressing economic weaknesses and helping people in difficult times.

“Recession” is a somewhat fuzzy term, but it’s generally defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth.

GDP in the first three months of 2022 was down 1.5 percent. Current estimates have second quarter growth at a meager .9 percent. If that falls a bit, we’d meet the common technical definition of a recession.

Usually, we think of recessions as a time of rising unemployment and joblessness. However, unemployment remains at historic lows.

Unemployment rates have been at 3.6 percent for three months. US businesses added 390,000 jobs in May. And employers continue to report difficulty in filling positions.

Pools, lakes and amusement parks have been unable to find lifeguards across the country. Fully one-third of public pools in the US may be shut down or have reduced hours because of staff shortages.

An economy can still slip into recession with low unemployment. But it seems contradictory to have an economic slowdown and a hiring crisis at the same time. If there are so many open jobs, why aren’t people taking them and boosting the economy?

The answer is the same one it has been.

We’re still in the middle of a pandemic.

Covid cases are rising. Hospitalizations are up 20 percent over the last two weeks. Deaths have stubbornly hovered around 300 a day.

Though government, businesses and the public have largely pushed for normalcy, covid continues to affect the economy in numerous ways.

When people get sick, they miss work and often have to quarantine. People remain cautious about travel and large public gatherings.

Congress initially responded to these economic shocks by trying to help those in need. The US passed multiple major spending bills, including a $1.9 trillion covid relief bill in March 2020.

The government sent $1,400 checks directly to citizens. It provided funds to fight covid and protect people from the disease. It extended unemployment benefits. It also expanded the Child Tax Credit, sending direct payments to families in poverty with children.

The stimulus spending was very successful. American’s real incomes increased. The economy grew faster in 2021 than in any year since 1984, adding 6.2 million jobs. Unemployment plummeted.

The Child Tax Credit expansion lifted millions of children out of poverty and cut monthly child poverty by about 30 percent.

The funds also spurred a massive vaccine rollout that saw half of the population receiving vaccines in six months. That achievement helped reduce cases and made the economic recovery possible.

Following the initial bill, however, Congress refused to pass any further relief, even amidst further pandemic spikes.

Republicans and conservative Democrat Joe Manchin killed Biden’s sweeping Build Back Better infrastructure bill. The same coalition has refused to provide further desperately needed funds to fight covid.

What this means is that the federal government is no longer providing a cushion to protect from covid shocks as a result the economy is slowing, which could lead us into a recession. Government spending has stalled out in large part because of inflation fears. In May the US annual inflation rate was 8.6 percent, the highest since 1981.

Conservatives insist that too much government spending has boosted prices. More spending would only cause more inflation, they argue.

The fact, though, is that US inflation rates are about the same as those globally. If every country is experiencing the same rising prices, it seems unlikely that relief funds in the US are the cause.

The main culprit is, again, covid. It has played havoc with supply chains, creating shortages of items like baby formula and tampons.

These shortages have been a major spur to inflation.

Another contributor is the war in Ukraine and the embargoes on Russian oil. Gas prices have risen, as of this writing, to an average of $5 a gallon. The price spike harms less affluent consumers and is a drag on the economy as a whole.

President Biden has limited control over Russia’s actions in Ukraine, and given the global nature of inflation, it’s unlikely that he can unilaterally bring down prices either.

The government could cushion the impact of these economic forces, however, as it did at the beginning of the pandemic.

Restoring the expanded Child Tax Credit would directly help families struggling with higher grocery prices. More funds for existing boosters, PPE, testing, air filtration, Paxlovid treatments and developing the next round of nasal vaccines could help the country, and the world, defeat covid and its ongoing disruptions.

If we’re concerned that we can’t afford to make these investments, there are revenue options. Senators just added $45 billion to Biden’s defense budget; we could take that off and use it to pay for programs that would help people.

Biden also has a plan to raise $1.5 trillion by taxing the richest 1 percent.

But Republicans won’t let the administration spend or raise revenue.

Instead, the Federal Reserve has been left to respond to the economic doldrums virtually by itself. It has used the one tool it has, delivering a major interest rate hike in an effort to bring down inflation.

Raising rates makes borrowing more expensive and reduces consumer demand, which is intended to slow the economy. That could lead to a recession, especially if the Fed continues to boost rates, as it is expected to do in the next months.

Getting inflation under control is important. But so is lifting children out of poverty and defeating a virus that is still killing 1,500 people a week and is disrupting every aspect of life including the economy.

We’ve seen that the government has the ability to help people in crisis. Whether we’re struggling with inflation or a recession, we’re not powerless. Or we shouldn’t be.

But Republicans are determined to shackle Biden and to immiserate working people. That keeps Biden’s approval low, which will benefit Republicans in the midterms. It also keeps average Americans from expecting too much, which pleases the GOP’s wealthy donors.

Criminalizing abortion is a key feature of dismantling the social safety net

Criminalizing women’s health care is likely to harm and impoverish women. The GOP’s opposition to reproductive health care is consistent with its class war on working class and poor people.

Pushing kids into poverty is a feature of abortion policy, not a bug.

Earlier this month, a draft Supreme Court opinion was leaked suggesting the court is ready to overturn Roe. That would make it possible for states to pass draconian laws criminalizing abortion. States with Republican governments are already gearing up.

In Senate testimony following the leak, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen argued that “eliminating the right of women to make decisions about when and whether to have children would have very damaging effects on the economy and would set women back decades.”

Yellen is in line with an amicus brief supporting abortion rights filed by nearly 155 economists. The brief summarizes a range of studies showing that abortion access has had sweeping effects on the health and economic wellbeing of women and pregnant people.

The brief cites studies showing that abortion access reduced teen motherhood by 34 percent and teen marriage by 20 percent. It also cites research finding abortion access increased the likelihood of Black teenage women graduating from high school by around 23 percentage points. For Black women attending college, it was 23 to 27 points.

Perhaps the most striking evidence in the brief is a study that followed outcomes for people who sought and obtained abortions just before the gestational limit cut off, and those who sought them but were turned away because they were just past the gestational limit.

The study found both groups had similar financial outlooks before abortions. Immediately after seeking abortions, however, the turned-away group experienced major economic struggles, including a 78 percent increase in past-due debt and an 81 percent increase in paperwork related to bankruptcies, evictions and court judgements.

Ideally, failing to receive an abortion should not result in major financial hardship. For that matter, no child should experience major financial hardship in a wealthy country like the US. Parents should have the resources they need to care for their families.

The fact is that raising children is expensive and difficult in the US, especially for the poor. The cost of raising a child through age 17 in the US is about $233,000, according to USDA estimates.

Child care, to list just one expense, is broadly unaffordable. Infant care costs on average $11,000 a year. Only one in six families eligible for child care subsidies receive them. Those subsidies generally cover a fraction of care, even for those who receive them.

If the Republicans want to reduce incentives for abortion and show they care about children, they’d be eager to provide more money for child care and more resources for families with infants.

As Roe is ready to fall, the Republicans have started to mutter half-heartedly about maybe perhaps possibly sorta kinda providing some, a little, more resources for families raising young children.

But the fact is that Republicans have in the past consistently fought viciously against programs designed to help parents and families.

Biden proposed a $1.8 trillion plan to provide for universal pre-K, a national childcare program and tuition-free community college.

Republicans like US Senator Marsha Blackburn immediately labeled Biden’s proposal a socialist plot. Senate wannabe JD Vance said funding childcare was “class war against normal people” because it was encouraging mothers to work instead of staying home with families.

So if the Republicans want mothers to stay home and not work, they must want to provide them with the money to do that, right?

Ha, no.

The Democratic Congress, at Biden’s urging, passed an expanded Child Tax Credit in 2021. It provided hundreds in cash payments for each child in low-income families. It lifted millions of kids out of poverty.

But when the expanded tax credit came up for renewal, Republicans and one conservative Senate Democrat, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, scuttled it. Manchin — channeling the arguments of Republicans — insisted the tax credit be predicated on a work requirement.

When Biden tries to provide aid for child care, so parents with young children can work, the Republicans say mothers should stay home.

When he tries to provide aid to families, so children aren’t engulfed by poverty, the Republicans say mothers have to work.

It’s almost as if the GOP’s goal is impoverishing children.

The Republicans say they are against abortion, because they value fetal life, which they insist is synonymous with the lives of children.

But if the Republicans actually cared about children, they would support programs to help children. If they cared about the well-being of families, they would support programs to help families.

Attacking abortion is apiece with shredding the safety net.

It’s not about life.

It’s about preserving a social order in which the poor have few options except humiliating themselves for the few bones thrown at them.

It’s about making sure women in particular are kept in their place as second class citizens, desperate and dependent, punished for working or for failing to work, for having children or failing to have them.

In an ideal world, pregnant people would decide whether to have abortions without worrying about crushing poverty if they make the wrong decision. No one who is pregnant, and no family, should worry about their children not having enough to eat, or a place to live.

A world in which people have the resources they need is a world in which people have the health care resources they need. And that absolutely includes the reproductive health care they need.

Deficit reduction seldom inspires people to vote

Deficit reduction sounds like one of those nonpartisan measures of governing competence. That’s why Joe Biden has been touting it.

In fact, it’s largely irrelevant to voters – for good reason.

Deficit reduction says little about whether the government is helping.

Focusing on deficit reduction, whether rhetorically or ideologically, is at best a waste of time, at worst a barrier to meaningful change.

In recent remarks, Biden pointed out that, “the deficit went up every year under my predecessor before the pandemic and during the pandemic. It has gone down both years since I’ve been here.”

Overall the deficit fell by about $350 billion during Biden’s first year. He projects it will fall another $1.5 trillion by the end of his second. If that happens, it would be the biggest annual drop on record.

Biden argues that deficit reduction is good. It will lead to a decrease in inflation. He says it shows he’s working to reduce prices. He says it shows the promise of reducing prices should counter GOP criticisms.

The problem is this.

Deficit reduction or no, inflation hasn’t fallen that much. It was 8.3 percent in April. That’s slightly down from 8.5 percent in March.

Hardly anything to cheer about.

That lower deficits haven’t lowered inflation is no surprise, because the relationship between deficits and inflation is complicated and contested. A 2020 paper asking, “Do Enlarged Fiscal Deficits Cause Inflation,” for example, concluded that yeah, maybe and sometimes.

Deficits have fallen in part because unemployment is down, which means the federal government is taking in more tax revenue. This is obviously a good thing. The president can rightfully take credit for it.

But deficits are also down because the pandemic relief from late in Trump’s term and early in Biden’s are expiring. Most of that $3.1 trillion has already been spent. Government spending is lower because the government is no longer providing large amounts of covid relief.

It’s possible that reduced spending will reduce inflation.

A little.

But the real drivers of inflation are the sanctions on Russian oil and ongoing pandemic-related supply-chain issues — issues that have most recently contributed to a dangerous shortage of baby formula.

Meanwhile, less spending means less aid for the desperate.

The Child Tax Credit sent hundreds of dollars to poor families with children. It expired in January. Child poverty has spiked by 41 percent.

The US has also run through funds for free vaccines. Because Republicans are objectively pro-virus and pro-death, they won’t vote for additional aid. The US has money for a fourth booster for people over 65 and for initial shots for children under 5 (pending approval).

But the government can’t buy additional boosters for everyone else.

That’s a potential catastrophe as covid cases and hospitalizations are rising while many people have abandoned masks even on airplanes.

More broadly, Biden’s ambitious infrastructure agenda — including funds for clean energy, clearing up immigrant backlogs, economic expansion, for lead abatement — was derailed when West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin killed the Build Back Better Act in December.

Reducing the deficit hinges on not spending money on things we desperately need. We’re still in the middle of a historic pandemic, a historic climate catastrophe and the hollowing out of the middle class. Saying the deficit has gone down is an admission of failure.

Still, if you’ve failed, you might as well put a good spin on it. If people think low deficits are good, you might as well tout them, right?

The problem is that there’s little evidence that people think low deficits are good. Politicians don’t suffer electoral reversals when they run up deficits. Reagan for instance raised the deficit from $78.9 billion at the beginning of his term to $152.6 billion at the end; it didn’t stop him from a landslide reelection victory in 1984 and a Republican successor when George H.W. Bush won in 1988.

Surveys of voters don’t show much concern for the deficit either. Indeed, people say they care, but their concern is closely related to whether they can frame the other party as irresponsible. The deficit is just an excuse for partisan point-scoring; “I don’t like the deficit” is a way for Republican partisans to say “I don’t like Democrats.”

Some Very Serious People like George Will constantly burble about fiscal responsibility and the deficit. But it’s unlikely even they actually vote on it rather than on other issues or other partisan commitments.

No Biden-hater will vote for him because the deficit is lower. No Biden-lover will change their mind because of deficit reduction. No undecided is going to be decided because the deficit is down.

The Republicans have figured this out. They barely try to pretend that they care anymore. As Bloomberg columnist Jonathan Bernstein explains, the Republicans use “deficit” to mean “stuff they don’t like.”

Boasting about deficit reduction won’t abash Republicans.

It won’t sway voters.

It might even annoy them.

Worst of all, if Biden really did take deficit reduction seriously, he’d have to back off advocating for necessary programs and spending.

Deficit reduction is a poor talking point and a poor goal.

The president should focus elsewhere.

Rick Scott's 11-point nightmare is a revival of Mitt Romney's '47 percent of Americans pay no taxes' schtick

Florida Senator Rick Scott, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, has released a plan which says, honestly and clearly, exactly what Republicans want to do to the poor.

It’s this plan that Joe Biden highlighted Tuesday in setting up a contrast between the Democratic agenda and the Republicans’.

“Republicans in Congress are so deeply committed to protecting big corporations and CEOs that they would rather see taxes on working American families and try to depress their wages than take on inflation, never mind the fact that many of these companies are recording record profit margins even as ... they raise prices,” he said.

Scott’s peers have not welcomed the plan. They have distanced themselves from his proposals. In doing so, they have demonstrated the extent to which Republican economic policies rely on hypocritical populism to cover for their assault on the disadvantaged.

Scott’s Plan to Rescue America, unveiled at the end of March, included a lot of rabid Republican nativism and conspiratorial bigotry.

It demands all students in public school be forced to recite the pledge of allegiance. It promises to double down on completing Trump’s failed border wall. It says Republicans will ban a debt increase — which would trigger default and precipitate a massive recession or worse.

Republican campaigns marinate in this kind of festering nonsensically symbolic stew of word and gesture. But Scott, who is worth north of $250 million, adds policies that deliberately target the least affluent.

Scott’s plan states that, “All Americans should pay some income tax to have skin in the game even if a small amount. Currently over half of Americans pay no income tax.”

By his own account, therefore, Scott’s plan would raise taxes on more than half of Americans — most of whom pay no income tax because they don’t earn enough income on which to pay income tax. About 102 million individuals or married couples would owe under his plan.

In addition, Scott proposed that “all federal legislation sunsets in five years.” This would throw the government into chaos. More, it would eliminate Social Security and Medicare. Imagine a divided Congress passing such sweeping legislation quinquennially. You can’t.

Democrats criticized the plan quickly.

Republicans, meanwhile, disapproved or sidestepped.

Senate candidate Billy Long said he didn’t support Scott’s tax increases. Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks issued a statement denouncing tax increases. Senator Marco Rubio dodged the issue, saying he didn’t know whether he agreed with it.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was far more forthright. The Senate conference would not run on raising taxes, he said, and the party was absolutely not going to cut Social Security or Medicare.

In 2012, Republican candidate Mitt Romney suggested Americans who didn’t pay taxes were freeloading or were not invested in the system. There was a massive backlash. Since then Republicans have generally opposed all tax increases of any sort for everyone.

Trump in 2016 promised a big middle-class tax cut. He also promised to preserve entitlement programs — at least when he’s not, in typically incoherent Trump fashion, promising to cut them.

The Republicans can be trusted generally to say they are committed to reducing the burden on the working and middle class. But what they do is more in line with the goal of Rick Scott’s proposal– soak the poor.

Trump’s 2017 tax cut was a bonanza for the rich and a punch in the gut for the less affluent. The richest, earning at least $308,900, had their income tax cut, giving them a 3 percent boost in income.

The poorest saw a decrease in income of about 3 percent. That’s because it repealed the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.

Similarly, Republicans almost uniformly opposed President Joe Biden’s Child Tax Credit program which provided hundreds of dollars in cash payments to poor families with children.

Thanks to GOP obstruction, the program ended in January.

When it did, child poverty spiked by 41 percent.

The Republicans and West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin look more heartless as it becomes clear the conservative Supreme Court intends to shred abortion rights, allowing states to force women to give birth.

That should make clear that Republicans are keen to control women’s bodies, but lose interest once they’re born. Some Republicans have made vague noises about maybe providing some limited benefits for children, but these plans sound half-hearted at best.

The GOP is eager to shovel money into the wealthy’s deep pockets. They are just as eager to take money from those who need it most.

More, they love restricting, regulating and harassing the poor by denying them access to reproductive healthcare or any healthcare.

Romney accurately explained the Republican philosophy when he characterized the rich as “makers” and the poor as “takers.”

To Romney, bosses were virtuous wealth generators who deserved all the resources. Poor and working people, who actually did the labor that created the goods and services, were leeches to be brushed aside.

Open contempt for working people proved to be fairly unpopular. Republicans have instead embraced a pallid populism with which they blame the country’s economic woes on immigrants and mutter indistinctly about helping the middle class.

Scott’s plan gives the game away. It openly acknowledges the policies that Republicans don’t like to admit to their own voters.

Scott wants to take money from the poor triumphantly, rather than quietly letting their cash payments lapse. He wants to slice benefits with a flourish, rather than scuttling them in the fine print.

He says the less powerful are less worthy, rather than (or in addition to) using dog whistles and insinuations to encourage people to think that GOP hate is directed solely at immigrants, Black people, LGBT people — anyone but the GOP’s core constituency of white people.

Democrats have been talking about Scott’s plan on the campaign trail. It may help around the edges, but it’s not clear any message will avert the midterm curse that typically scars the president’s party.

Rick Scott’s plan advertises what voters can expect from Republicans. His party wants to harm working people and the less affluent.

When they’re out of office, they dream of it.

When they’re in office, they’ll deliver it.

Almost all of the richest Americans are white male 'tech moguls, hedge funders and heirs'

Who are the elite of America? If you watch Fox, or spend time in rightwing media bubbles, you’ll probably think of celebrities, musicians, actors and athletes – all those fashionable bicoastal entertainers who look down on hard-working middle

A recent ProPublica report based on IRS tax files from 2013 to 2018 shows this vision of America’s upper-crust is thoroughly misleading.

The richest are not actors or singers.

They’re tech moguls, hedge funders and heirs.

The right-wing wants you to think the US is controlled by nefarious culture workers. In fact, the 400 people who comprise the upper echelon of US wealth are virtually all white male capitalists.

Celebrities are rich, but not that rich.

The resentment directed at them is a convenient way to target groups that the right-wing doesn’t believe is entitled to wealth. Meanwhile, the people who are truly the most powerful are celebrated for their business acumen in sitting back and collecting investment income.

The average American earns about $40,000 a year. The top 5 percent earns at least $198,000. The top 1 percent earns around $485,000.

Many celebrities make much more than this. Kim Kardashian is believed to make between $50 million and $80 million a year. LeBron James’ salary is $41 million a year, but with endorsement deals and other income, ProPublica found that he made $96 million a year.

For normal people, that’s an unimaginable amount of money. But it didn’t put James in the top 400 earners, according to ProPublica.

The 400th (anonymous) person on the list made $110 million. The highest earner, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, made $2.85 billion. (In fact, Gates avoided $125 million in taxes — more than Lebron James’ entire income — because of lower taxation rates on dividend income.)

Gates and tech billionaires, who comprise 10 of the 15 top earners, generally make their money from dividends and stock sales. Similarly, hedge fund managers — a fifth of the top 400 — make their income from stock trades and other financial manipulations.

The list includes 11 heirs of the Walton (Walmart) fortune and four heirs of Amway’s Richard DeVos. They also make their money from dividends and investment income, according to ProPublica. In other words, the highest incomes come from the accumulation of capital.

These people aren’t workers.

But they acquire excess value from workers.

In contrast, celebrities earn money by providing goods and services. Business Insider reports that Taylor Swift makes most of her income from touring. Her “Reputation” show in 2018 brought in $345 million, shattering the previous tour record set by the Rolling Stones.

Similarly, athletes make their money from working on the court or the field. James earns some $40 million of his $96 million yearly haul from his salary. Tennis players make money through methods like appearance fees, prize money, endorsement deals and club tennis deals. Their income comes primarily from playing, from lending their name, from showing up — from work, not shifting money around.

Celebrities also differ in that they’re less male and less white.

The top 15 earners on the Forbes list are all white and, except for Laurene Powell Jobs, businesswoman and widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, they are all men.

The top 10 earning athletes of 2021 were also men, but more than half were Black or people of color. The three highest-paid movie roles of 2021 went to Black men (Dwayne Johnson, Will Smith and Denzel Washington). The fourth went to Angelina Jolie. Jennifer Lawrence and Emily Blunt were also in the top 10. The highest-paid musicians of 2020 included Swift, Celine Dion, Billie Eilish, Drake and Lil Baby.

The very richest are overwhelmingly white male business owners, heirs and capitalists who make money through the stock market. The (less rich) richest are often not white, often not men and make their money by working — not infrequently at actual physical labor.

Yet though celebrities are workers who frequently come from less privileged backgrounds, they are framed as entitled or as undeserving of their wealth. Blur frontman Damon Albarn this year falsely claimed Taylor Swift didn’t write her own songs, for example — a fairly common way to suggest pop stars don’t deserve their success.

Conservative commentators were quick to insist athletes protesting police violence by taking a knee were “ungrateful.” When singer Stevie Wonder expressed support for the protest, former Congressman Joe Walsh called him, “another ungrateful Black multimillionaire.”

The public often criticizes celebrities for their spending habits, or for luxury purchases, as singer and rapper Cardi B pointed out.

Fans feel justified telling celebrities to donate to charities or spend money in more generous ways. Meanwhile, Bill Gates is widely lauded for his giving. But despite his 2010 pledge to donate half his wealth to charity before he dies, Gates’ total net worth now has grown from $53 million when he made the pledge to $115 billion today.

Billionaires are notoriously stingy. Often their “donations” are to private foundations set up as tax shelters and under the donors' control.

Forbes found that billionaires are giving away less and less. Of the top 400 billionaires, 156, including Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, gave less than 1 percent of their wealth to charity in 2021.

Gates, Musk, Bezos and people like them are seen as brilliant, generous and worthy precisely because they are white men who don’t have to work. For the rightwing (and not just for the right), certain people are supposed to be at the top and as long as they are, all is well.

When Black people, women and others move upwards, though, that’s a problem. Celebrities are viewed as undeserving elitists not because they’re rich, but because they’re the wrong rich. They have usurped power and privilege rightly belonging to (white, male) capitalists.

Obviously, Swift, James, Cardi B and their celebrity brethren are incredibly well off. They don’t necessarily need or deserve pity.

But when prejudice and presuppositions prevent us from identifying who has the most money and the most power — that’s a problem for everyone.

Why almost all of the richest Americans are white male tech moguls, hedge funders and heirs

Who are the elite of America? If you watch Fox, or spend time in rightwing media bubbles, you’ll probably think of celebrities, musicians, actors and athletes – all those fashionable bicoastal entertainers who look down on hard-working middle class Americans.

A recent ProPublica report based on IRS tax files from 2013 to 2018 shows this vision of America’s upper-crust is thoroughly misleading.

The richest are not actors or singers.

They’re tech moguls, hedge funders and heirs.

The right-wing wants you to think the US is controlled by nefarious culture workers. In fact, the 400 people who comprise the upper echelon of US wealth are virtually all white male capitalists.

Celebrities are rich, but not that rich.

The resentment directed at them is a convenient way to target groups that the right-wing doesn’t believe is entitled to wealth. Meanwhile, the people who are truly the most powerful are celebrated for their business acumen in sitting back and collecting investment income.

The average American earns about $40,000 a year. The top 5 percent earns at least $198,000. The top 1 percent earns around $485,000.

Many celebrities make much more than this. Kim Kardashian is believed to make between $50 million and $80 million a year. LeBron James’ salary is $41 million a year, but with endorsement deals and other income, ProPublica found that he made $96 million a year.

For normal people, that’s an unimaginable amount of money. But it didn’t put James in the top 400 earners, according to ProPublica.

The 400th (anonymous) person on the list made $110 million. The highest earner, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, made $2.85 billion. (In fact, Gates avoided $125 million in taxes — more than Lebron James’ entire income — because of lower taxation rates on dividend income.)

Gates and tech billionaires, who comprise 10 of the 15 top earners, generally make their money from dividends and stock sales. Similarly, hedge fund managers — a fifth of the top 400 — make their income from stock trades and other financial manipulations.

The list includes 11 heirs of the Walton (Walmart) fortune and four heirs of Amway’s Richard DeVos. They also make their money from dividends and investment income, according to ProPublica. In other words, the highest incomes come from the accumulation of capital.

These people aren’t workers.

But they acquire excess value from workers.

In contrast, celebrities earn money by providing goods and services. Business Insider reports that Taylor Swift makes most of her income from touring. Her “Reputation” show in 2018 brought in $345 million, shattering the previous tour record set by the Rolling Stones.

Similarly, athletes make their money from working on the court or the field. James earns some $40 million of his $96 million yearly haul from his salary. Tennis players make money through methods like appearance fees, prize money, endorsement deals and club tennis deals. Their income comes primarily from playing, from lending their name, from showing up — from work, not shifting money around.

Celebrities also differ in that they’re less male and less white.

The top 15 earners on the Forbes list are all white and, except for Laurene Powell Jobs, businesswoman and widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, they are all men.

The top 10 earning athletes of 2021 were also men, but more than half were Black or people of color. The three highest-paid movie roles of 2021 went to Black men (Dwayne Johnson, Will Smith and Denzel Washington). The fourth went to Angelina Jolie. Jennifer Lawrence and Emily Blunt were also in the top 10. The highest-paid musicians of 2020 included Swift, Celine Dion, Billie Eilish, Drake and Lil Baby.

The very richest are overwhelmingly white male business owners, heirs and capitalists who make money through the stock market. The (less rich) richest are often not white, often not men and make their money by working — not infrequently at actual physical labor.

Yet though celebrities are workers who frequently come from less privileged backgrounds, they are framed as entitled or as undeserving of their wealth. Blur frontman Damon Albarn this year falsely claimed Taylor Swift didn’t write her own songs, for example — a fairly common way to suggest pop stars don’t deserve their success.

Conservative commentators were quick to insist athletes protesting police violence by taking a knee were “ungrateful”. When singer Stevie Wonder expressed support for the protest, former Congressman Joe Walsh called him, “another ungrateful Black multimillionaire.”

The public often criticizes celebrities for their spending habits, or for luxury purchases, as singer and rapper Cardi B pointed out.

Fans feel justified telling celebrities to donate to charities or spend money in more generous ways. Meanwhile, Bill Gates is widely lauded for his giving. But despite his 2010 pledge to donate half his wealth to charity before he dies, Gates’ total net worth now has grown from $53 million when he made the pledge to $115 billion today.

Billionaires are notoriously stingy. Often their “donations” are to private foundations set up as tax shelters and under the donors' control.

Forbes found that billionaires are giving away less and less. Of the top 400 billionaires, 156, including Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, gave less than 1 percent of their wealth to charity in 2021.

Gates, Musk, Bezos and people like them are seen as brilliant, generous and worthy precisely because they are white men who don’t have to work. For the rightwing (and not just for the right), certain people are supposed to be at the top and as long as they are, all is well.

When Black people, women and others move upwards, though, that’s a problem. Celebrities are viewed as undeserving elitists not because they’re rich, but because they’re the wrong rich. They have usurped power and privilege rightly belonging to (white, male) capitalists.

Obviously, Swift, James, Cardi B and their celebrity brethren are incredibly well off. They don’t necessarily need or deserve pity.

But when prejudice and presuppositions prevent us from identifying who has the most money and the most power — that’s a problem for everyone.

Elon Musk wants 'his speech to trump everyone else’s'

Billionaire Tesla CEO Elon Musk has launched a $43 billion takeover bid of Twitter. Musk has said openly his motivations are not business oriented, but ideological. He wants to increase “free speech.”

“Well, I think it’s very important for there to be an inclusive arena for free speech,” Musk said. “Twitter has become kind of the de facto town square, so it’s just really important that people have … both the reality and the perception that they are able to speak freely within the bounds of the law.”

“Free speech” sounds good. But how free is speech when it’s controlled by billionaires? Musk’s takeover bid demonstrates how closely speech in the US is tied to wealth.

In an increasingly unequal society, the powerful and wealthy have more and more control over who speaks and what’s said. Those with less money have the right to silence and marginalization.

Musk’s comments are an implicit criticism of Twitter’s content moderation policies, which include restrictions on hateful content, abusive behavior and misinformation.

The most famous instance of Twitter moderation policy in action is the company’s decision to ban the former president following the violent attack on the US Capitol building on January 6.

Twitter determined that Trump was using Twitter to falsely claim that the 2020 election was stolen by Democratic candidate Joe Biden.

Trump’s lies, Twitter said, encouraged further violent attacks on democracy and on political opponents. So the company permanently banned his account.

Twitter has also suspended accounts for openly transphobic speech and for antisemitism.

Progressives and human rights organizations have criticized Twitter’s policies for being confusing, inadequate and ineffective. The Guardian reported that users banned for racist attacks on English soccer players simply created new accounts and kept posting.

Conservatives, though, have been even more enraged. Hate speech, bigotry and violent insurrection have become central to Republican political organizing and policy. When Twitter says it doesn’t want bigotry and violent insurrection on its platform, conservatives see that as an assault on their right to free speech.

Musk has himself posted transphobic memes and is currently being sued for discriminating against Black workers at his Tesla factory.

His call for more “free speech” on Twitter is being taken up with enthusiasm by conservatives like US Reps. Jim Jordan and Lauren Boebert, who see Musk as an ally in turning Twitter into a place where hateful and abusive speech are common and encouraged.

Musk’s vision of Twitter is, as he said, based on a “town square” in which everyone shouts at everyone else unfettered by regulation.

In reality, if you go out in public and start screaming slurs indiscriminately or insulting people, someone is likely to call the police. (And conservatives generally claim to want more police in public spaces.)

But putting that aside for the moment, the analogy is wrong.

Twitter isn’t a public square. It’s a private media company.

Or, to put it another way, it’s a publisher.

As a freelance writer, I’m aware publishers don’t print everything submitted to them. They accept some and reject others, based on (sometimes arbitrary, sometimes well-established) editorial standards.

Twitter has very broad editorial standards. The company mostly lets users post whatever they want, no matter how trivial. But “broad editorial standards” isn’t the same as “no editorial standards.”

Twitter as a publisher has decided it doesn’t want to publish flagrant hate speech, in part because flagrant hate speech forces some people off the platform. For the same reason, it tries to restrict spam.

For ideological reasons it doesn’t want to promote violent insurrection, just as, for ideological reasons, Fox doesn’t host progressive shows like Last Week Tonight.

Musk isn’t angry because Twitter is restricting “free speech.”

He’s angry because he disagrees with a particular editorial policy, and doesn’t like how Twitter is using its free speech as a publisher.

Musk wants Twitter to speak the way he wants it to speak.

He wants his speech to trump everyone else’s.

This isn’t surprising or unusual. People constantly lobby news outlets in an effort to get them to adjust their editorial policies. Readers yell at the Times and the Post. Television viewers criticize CNN and Fox.

Part of free speech is telling publishers they’re doing it wrong.

Sometimes publishers respond to critics. Mostly they just ignore them.

But Twitter can’t ignore Musk. He’s extremely rich.

Musk is currently worth more than $300 billion, according to expert estimates, making him possibly the richest person to have lived.

He has $100 billion more than Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the second richest person on the planet. His wealth is greater than the GDP of Finland. It’s greater than the GDP of Connecticut.

Musk’s enormous wealth is part of a long-term trend. The wealthiest households have brought in a larger and larger share of total income over the past 50 years. In 1968, the top 20 percent of households brought in 43 percent of income. In 2018 it was 52 percent.

Inequality has only accelerated in recent years. The wealth of the world’s 10 richest men doubled in the pandemic.

Economic elites have more and more money, which means they have more and more political power over policy outcomes.

A recent political science study found the preferences of average citizens have almost no effect on policy.

When few citizens want a policy, it has little effect.

When many citizens want a policy, it has little effect.

In contrast, when wealthy Americans want a policy, that policy tends to magically get enacted. When 20 percent of economic elites support an outcome, the outcome happens only 18 percent of the time.

If 80 percent of the rich want change, it occurs 45 percent of the time.

People can speak up for change if they want. But no one listens to them unless they’re very wealthy. Effective free speech isn’t free.

It’s only available to the rich.

Rupert Murdoch, through Fox and other outlets, has flooded US and global discourse with his reactionary views. Jeff Bezos has, in contrast, decided not to meddle in the Post’s editorial policy.

But Musk reminds us that in a country stratified by wealth, publishers and people are only as free to speak as billionaires want them to be.

If one man with the resources of a mid-sized nation decides he wants to be able to spew transphobia from the world’s major media outlets, he can simply buy those outlets. If he wants to ban critics from social media and call it free speech, he could do that. Who’s stopping him?

Democracy requires a robust public sphere. But a public sphere in which the super-wealthy dictate the terms of discourse isn’t robust or democratic. We say we want to promote free speech. But what we hear thundering through our democracy is great torrents of cash.

A great way to 'defund the police'

This month, the House passed The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE), a bill eliminating federal criminal penalties for the manufacture, distribution and possession of marijuana.

The bill is a model for criminal justice reform, which in many ways borrows productively from the ideas and framework of the “defund the police” movement.

It shifts money away from policing and toward social service and resources for communities and individuals harmed by carceral systems.

Cannabis has long been one of the major engines driving excessive policing and incarceration. Between 2001 and 2010, there were about 8.2 million cannabis arrests, according to the ACLU.

The vast majority of which — 88 percent — were for possession alone.

As with the rest of the criminal justice system, cannabis arrests are subject to huge racial bias. Black people are 3.73 times as likely to be arrested for marijuana offenses as white people are.

In recent years, many states have legalized cannabis use for medical and/or recreational use. However, there were still 663,000 cannabis arrests in 2018, accounting for fully 40 percent of all drug arrests.

Again, almost 90 percent of these were for possession.

Around 40,000 people are still in jail for cannabis offenses. Imprisonment has huge negative effects on people’s long-term prospects.

Being incarcerated makes it more difficult to get a job. It cuts wage growth by 30 percent over a person’s lifetime. Each year in prison takes two years off a person’s life expectancy.

Human suffering is inflicted at a high dollar cost. Police enforcement of cannabis amounts to around $3.6 billion yearly.

States also forego large amounts of revenue when they ban cannabis. Illinois, which just legalized cannabis, took in $387 million in marijuana taxes in 2021, more than from alcohol taxes.

California took in $817 million in taxes during the 2020-2021 fiscal year. Colorado has generated more than $2 billion in cannabis taxes and fees since it legalized marijuana in 2014.

The cannabis business has boomed despite the fact that banks have been very leery of providing services to cannabis sellers and dispensaries. Since cannabis is still illegal at the federal level, large banks will not provide services for state cannabis businesses.

Smaller banks have picked up the slack to some degree. But a change in federal law is likely to make cannabis even more lucrative than it has been up to now.

When we criminalize cannabis, we spend a huge amount of money to harm large numbers of people for basically no benefit. This is, to put it mildly, poor policy.

The House MORE Act not only changes that policy, but makes an attempt to rectify the harms it has caused.

The bill has a process for expunging convictions for those convicted of cannabis offenses in the past. It also places a federal tax on cannabis sales to start at 5 percent and increase over time to 8 percent.

The tax funds are earmarked for job-training, substance-abuse programs, literacy programs, legal aid, re-entry for those released from prison and youth recreation programs.

The bill also provides loans for small businesses owned or run by socially and economically disadvantaged groups. These are the same groups that have been targeted for arrest and harassment under cannabis drug laws. MORE is, in a small way, an effort at reparations.

Unfortunately, the chances for the MORE Act in the Senate aren’t great. The House passed a similar bill in 2020 and the Senate never voted on it.

President Joe Biden has acknowledged that our current cannabis laws don’t work well. But he’s refused to commit to legalization at the federal level. He even fired a number of staffers for cannabis use. (Vice President Kamala Harris has been more supportive of legalization.)

Biden’s reluctance is especially frustrating because cannabis legalization has strong public bipartisan support.

Fully 60 percent of the public, including 72 percent of Democrats and 47 percent of Republicans, believe cannabis should be legal for recreational use. Ninety-one percent of Americans (95 percent of Democrats, 87 percent of Republicans) think cannabis should at least be legal for medicinal use.

Every age group supports legalization for recreational use except for those 75 and over — a group that includes the 79-year-old Biden.

Cannabis legalization should also be attractive to Democrats as a way to come together around an issue that has been contentious in the caucus: defunding the police.

Progressives have argued that policing harms marginalized groups, and that public safety, health and equity would be better served by using limited funds to create stronger social safety nets.

Biden and mainstream Democrats have been reluctant to agree in general that reducing policing can be helpful. But without using the words “defund the police,” they are clearly on board with the idea in the particular case of cannabis.

The MORE Act, which has overwhelming support from Democrats in the House, calls for an end to spending on policing cannabis use. Instead, it calls to shift funds to help people and communities harmed by the former policies.

MORE could be made even more congruent with progressive goals, of course. It could, for example, cut federal funds for police budgets by the billions wasted on cannabis enforcement.

But even in this current form, the bill is a model for reform that finds common ground between progressive and moderate wings of the party.

As such, it provides a possible blueprint for further progress on other issues. Criminalization has worked poorly for cannabis. Has it worked well for sex work? For other controlled substances like LSD or narcotics?

Arresting people and putting them in prison costs a good deal of money. It also traumatizes people and communities, and ruins lives. In many cases, we could avoid the trauma and the ruin, and spend the savings to make a kinder and more equitable country.

Progress is slow, not least because once you criminalize something, like cannabis, everything associated with it is stigmatized and politicians — like Biden — don’t want to be associated with it.

But the move toward cannabis legalization in the states and the MORE Act on the federal level indicate that things are changing.

Even many in the mainstream of the Democratic Party have reached a point where they can see that investment is a better approach to societal ills than criminalization.

Hopefully, we can pass the MORE Act soon, and other legislation along the same lines will follow.

'Everyone in the territory is disenfranchised': Why DC should replace Iowa as first presidential nominating contest

The Iowa caucus has been the first presidential nomination contest for 50 years. Democrats are considering ousting it from its place.

They should.

They should replace it with Washington, DC.

Iowa’s status is in jeopardy for a number of reasons. The main one is that the state party catastrophically fumbled the 2020 caucus results.

Thanks to reliance on a new app and new technology, results weren’t finalized for weeks, leading to chaos, conspiracy theories and confusion. It was a debacle that exacerbated divisions in the party.

No one wants to repeat it.

Democratic critics have other reasons. Caucuses require people to gather at a particular time and place for long periods of time compared to primaries. (Caucuses are an open vote. Primaries are a secret vote.) That means caucuses are often difficult to access for disabled people as well as with inflexible hours and childcare needs.

If the Democratic Party cares about disabled rights and economic equity, giving a caucus pride of place is a poor way to show it.

Iowa is unrepresentative in other ways.

Its population is about 85 percent white. In comparison, the country as a whole is 72 percent white. The Democratic electorate is 54% white.

Starting the primary process with Iowa means candidates without strong support among Black people and people of color get a boost early on. That’s not a good way to judge general election strength. Nor is it a good way for the party to honor its antiracist commitments.

For all these reasons, the Democrats are considering choosing a different state to go first. Illinois is one frontrunner. Its breakdown of white college-educated voters, white non-college-educated voters, Black voters and Hispanic voters closely mirror rates in the nation.

There are other factors to consider, though.

Demographics are important. But we should also think about the fact that the state that goes first helps set a policy agenda.

Iowa’s place, for example, has privileged ethanol subsidies.

Ethanol is a biofuel made primarily of corn. It can be mixed with gasoline. The US offers a tax subsidy to ethanol blenders which comes to $5.7 billion a year.

In theory, ethanol is supposed to reduce reliance on gasoline, lower prices and help reduce climate gasses.

In practice, ethanol isn’t cost-competitive with gasoline, and does little to reduce carbon emissions in the long run.

It also diverts massive amounts of land from food production. Land devoted to corn ethanol could feed 150 million people.

Removing farm and grazing land from food production drives up the price of food. Ground beef costs twice as much because of ethanol. Flour and rice are 50 percent more than they would otherwise be.

“The ethanol program functions as a hidden food tax — the most regressive of all taxes,” writes Mario Loyola in The Atlantic. “And the effects on poor Americans are magnified for poor countries that depend on imports of food.”

Iowa is the leading corn-producing state. Ethanol subsidies are very popular there. As a result, candidates trying to get an early Iowa bump tend to tour ethanol plants and make ethanol promises.

Even progressive Bernie Sanders, a longstanding opponent of ethanol, switched his position in 2020. In an effort to sway Iowa voters, he argued (unconvincingly) that ethanol helps fight climate change.

When looking for a replacement for Iowa, the Democrats should consider what policy they would like to push candidates to embrace rather than ethanol subsidies.

There’s no policy more important to the health of the country right now than voting rights. And no state would better highlight voting rights than Washington, DC.

DC isn’t yet a state. That’s the point. As a territory, Washington, DC, has three electoral votes it casts for president, but it has no senators and no representatives. Everyone in the territory is disenfranchised.

Black people have historically been the main target of disenfranchisement in the US. Republicans continue to push policies to make it more difficult for Black people to vote.

Washington is 50 percent Black. It would almost certainly elect Black senators and representatives. Statehood would be the single best way for the Democrats to enfranchise Black people nationwide.

Democrats have begun pushing DC statehood more vigorously. Joe Manchin effectively scuttled progress, as he often does.

That defeat was all the more bitter because DC disenfranchisement made it possible. Manchin would not have a veto on Democratic priorities in an evenly divided Congress if DC had representation and two voting senators to override him.

DC has other recommendations too.

It’s fairly small – about 693,000 people. That means that even less-known politicians would have a chance to introduce themselves to the electorate, just as they do in Iowa, even though DC’s primary would pull in a higher percentage of voters than the restrictive caucuses.

Illinois, in contrast, is much larger. Establishment candidates would have a major advantage.

The main reason to choose DC, though, is because it is a symbol of our broken electoral system, and a call to fix it.

Republicans have major structural advantages in the Senate because largely white rural states like Wyoming have disproportionate voting power compared to their population.

Removing that bias is vital for a progressive agenda and for the long-term health of democracy. Nothing would focus attention on this issue like putting DC at the beginning of the primary calendar.

Instead of candidates trooping around cornfields, talking up ethanol, you’d have would-be nominees going from DC church to DC church talking about how, if elected, they will make DC statehood a priority.

It’s time to replace a primary calendar that emphasizes narrow pork-barrel boondoggles with one putting democracy at the center.

No corruption needed: the American right's 'Putinphilia' is based on a hatred of democracy

Fox News host Tucker Carlson has said that Ukraine is “not a democracy” but is rather a “puppet regime” of the United States.

Fox News contributor and erstwhile progressive Glenn Greenwald claimed without evidence that Ukraine had US bioweapons labs.

Former President Donald Trump has over the years praised Putin repeatedly, referring to him as “very, very strong.”

All these talking points cheering on Putin and lambasting Ukraine fit in with Russian propaganda. That has led many commenters to believe that Carlson, Greenwald, Trump and their ilk are in the pay of Russia.

Typical social media replies to Carlson include comments like “Does Putin pay Tucker Carlson as a contractor or is he a salaried employee?”

Editorial Board editor John Stoehr mentioned to me, when I pitched this article, that he gave some credence to the idea that some elements of the right were actually in the direct pay of Russia.

I think John is wrong.

There’s no direct evidence of payments from Putin to the vast majority of his western boosters. Putin gets support from some elements on the right (and the left), because of the dovetailing of ideology and interest.

Direct corruption would almost be more understandable and less corrosive. But the unfortunate fact is that some elements in the US find fascism and imperialism appealing. They support Putin not because he pays them, but because they like what he stands for.

Progressives often laudably critique concentrations of wealth and power. When you are attuned to the influence of the rich, it’s natural to assume that politicians or commenters who take ugly or immoral positions do so because they are being paid off.

Progressive discussions of the NRA, for example, often focus on its cash contributions to reelection campaigns. “Fistfuls of NRA money” supposedly explain why the US can’t pass gun control legislation.

But analysts who have actually looked at NRA contributions have found that the organization just doesn’t give politicians that much money compared to overall donations. Just as importantly, the NRA tends to give money to candidates in very conservative districts that would support its agenda already.

Billionaire Michael Bloomberg's “Everytown for Gun Safety” was explicitly designed to erase the NRA’s money advantage in lobbying. It was basically successful. But gun control legislation didn’t pass.

Voters and politicians embrace gun control because guns have become central to rural white identity politics, not because they’re being paid.

Ideology is the main issue when politicians vote against gun control, even though we know politicians do receive some NRA donations. In cases in which there’s no evidence of financial gain at all, we should be even more ready to assume that individuals are taking positions out of interest and ideology, rather than because they are paid off.

So why would people like Carlson support Putin for free?

The main reason is that is currently the symbolic leader of the global far-right, as Jason Stanley and Eliyahu Stern explain in Tablet.

According to Stanley and Stern, contemporary Russian nationalism, embodied by Putin, insists that “liberals, cosmopolitans and progressives undermine defined and necessary ethnic and religious identities.”

Putin’s invasion of liberal democratic Ukraine is, for Putin, Carlson and their ilk, an assertion of nationalist virility against a decadent liberal democratic regime.

Trump and Trumpists, fresh from the failed J6 coup, imagine themselves overthrowing weak, corrupt liberal democracy just like Putin wants to. They support him because they share his goals and long to repeat what they see as his successes.

This congruence of ideology is perhaps most obvious in a congruence of homophobia. Putin has cultivated virulent hatred of LGBT people as a central part of nationalist Russian identity. Just as Hitler scapegoated Jews for all of Germany’s woes, so Putin frames LGBT people as an invasive decadent western force that must be exterminated in Russia to preserve national greatness.

The rabid homophobic right in the US eagerly co-signs Putin’s equation of national vigor with homophobia. At the outset of the invasion of Ukraine, numerous right-wing pundits (including Carlson) claimed the war could have been prevented if only the US had shown strength by banning gay and trans soldiers from the military.

The right is invested in Russia’s success because the right wants to prove LGBT people are inferior and weak, and Putin stands for homophobia. If Putin shows strength, it follows that it is right to harm LGBT people. (Of course, Putin’s military has revealed itself to be corrupt and incompetent. Don’t expect Tucker Carlson to retract.)

There are some concrete instances of Russian aid to right-wing figures. Most notably, there is extensive evidence that Russian intelligence was in contact with Trump campaign advisors in 2016. There’s also evidence of Russia being involved in the hack of Democratic computers and of Wikileaks knowing Russia was the source when it leaked the files.

Since Russia provided material aid to Trump, shouldn’t we assume that his statements supporting Putin, and his plans to pull the US out of NATO, were part of a quid pro quo?

Anything’s possible with Trump.

But it’s worth remembering that he’s fiercely unloyal to just about everyone who’s ever done him a good turn. He cheered on an attempted mob assault on his own vice president.

When Trump says how much he likes Putin, it’s probably because Putin’s authoritarian rule sincerely appeals to him.

Putin’s aid to Trump in the election was probably because he knew Trump shared ideological goals and a love of authoritarianism (though he may have hoped for access and influence as well.)

Some may wonder why these distinctions matter.

If Carlson is an authoritarian homophobe bent on the destruction of American democracy, why quibble at calling him a paid stooge?

He’s horrible, so why defend him from any charges ever?

There are two reasons. First of all, it’s important to acknowledge that there can be good-faith criticism of Russian policy.

Some analysts argue we shouldn’t provide US arms to Ukraine. Many argue we shouldn’t institute a no-fly zone. You can agree or disagree. But we shouldn’t assume people who hold them are being paid by Russia.

Accusations of corruption and false dealing should require strong evidence. Otherwise, they become little more than smears. And it becomes too easy to sling them at good faith rhetorical opponents.

The second reason to be cautious is that you don’t want to downplay the danger Carlson, Greenwald and their cohort pose.

If authoritarian fascism is a foreign imposition, you can convince yourself it’s relatively easy to handle and easy to defeat.

If Putinphilia is something that comes from outside, we just need to stop the Russian cash streams and we’re good.

The truth is less comforting.

Many Americans don’t need Putin to undermine their commitment to democracy. They hate democracy all on their own. Plenty of our fascism is homegrown. Defeating Putin won’t root it out.

Switching to renewable energy can dethrone men like Vladimir Putin

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and disruptions in and sanctions on Russian oil, have led to a major rise in oil prices.

In Chicago, I’ve seen gas selling for north of $5 a gallon. Some parts of California are reporting gas over $5.50. Last week, average gas prices nationwide hit $4.196 per gallon, which is the highest recorded price in history, breaking the previous record of $4.165 from July 2008.

Democrats have watched rising prices with some concern, and Republicans have been rubbing their hands. Conventional wisdom (channeled by Politico, as one example) is that high inflation, and especially high prices at the pump, harm the incumbent party.

The actual evidence is mixed, though.

Especially six months from the next election.

One study from 1976 to 2007 found a 10-cent increase in gas prices led to a .60 percentage point fall in approval rating.

However, 538 points out that foreign oil shocks, such as that caused by Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, often aren’t blamed on the president, and may even be associated with presidential approval boosts.

In line with that, high gas prices currently are not harming Biden.

On the contrary, the latest spike in oil coincides with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and sanctions on Russian oil. That coincides with a rise, not a fall, in Biden’s approval.

Since late February, when Russia invaded, Biden’s numbers have gone from a low of 40.4 percent approval to close to 43 percent in mid-March, according to 538’s poll aggregator.

The popularity of support for Ukraine seems to outweigh any anger at the pump, at least for now.

Would Biden be doing better if gas prices were lower?

That’s hard to answer. In fact, it’s always difficult to separate oil spikes from other factors affecting election outcomes.

In a 2012 interview on NPR, Jim Tankersley, economic correspondent for the National Journal, explained that gas prices may harm the president if they reflect, or add to, a general economic slowdown.

“If gasoline prices spike, then that can have a real effect on economic growth and if growth slows down, that can really impede a president's path to reelection,” Tankersley said.

Tankersley pointed to the 1980 election as a complicated example.

Gas prices were up in 1980 in large part because of the Iranian hostage crisis, which most Americans believed Jimmy Carter mishandled.

The US was also experiencing a serious economic slowdown and a price spike — dubbed stagflation.

GOP candidate Ronald Reagan famously won a sweeping victory in 1980. Gas prices may have been a factor. But only because they seemed part of a wider presidential failure, diplomatically and economically.

Another example is the 2008 election.

Rising gas prices were a major issue, but not the deciding factor.

Andrew Prokop at Vox noted that gas prices spiked in the first half of 2008, hitting a peak in June 30 percent higher than the January level.

A Pew poll in June of that year found gas prices were the number one economic problem Americans were hearing about in the news.

John McCain promised a federal gas tax holiday. Barack Obama proposed a windfall profit tax on oil companies. And then in September, the 2008 financial crisis hit, the Great Recession started and gas prices cratered along with the economic slowdown.

The timing here is important.

Voters’ memories are short. Politics can be volatile—especially now, as we deal with an active international conflict and ongoing pandemic. In 2008, the situation between June and November changed radically.

Similarly, while gas prices are high now, we don’t know what they will look like in six months. Biden has pointed out that oil prices are already falling (though prices at the pump have been slow to follow.)

Gas prices may not have a strong effect on elections in November. But high prices at the pump still cause real harm. A 2012 study by the Brookings Institution found most low-to-moderate income households own cars. Rising gas prices cause them serious pain.

“Every dollar increase, holding the number of miles driven constant, would cost these moderate- to lower-income households an extra $530 per year,” the report said. “For a family with an annual income of $20,000, this is an additional 2.7 percent of their total income.”

Congress has tools to moderate the worst effects of price increases on low-income families. The most obvious is the Child Tax Credit.

As I’ve discussed here in the Editorial Board before, the Child Tax Credit, direct payments to low-income families with children, pulled millions out of poverty when it was put in place in 2021.

When it lapsed due to opposition from Republicans and Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, those millions of kids fell back into poverty.

Rising gas prices create another major barrier for families already struggling with the loss of federal assistance. If we want to reduce hardship and mitigate the effect of inflation on those most at risk, we should immediately renew the Child Tax Credit.

Russia’s invasion has also demonstrated once again how vulnerable an oil-dependent world is to instability in oil-producing regions, and to recklessness on the part of oil-producing countries.

An obvious response would be to increase investments in renewables. Europe is pushing short-term conservation efforts, like lowered thermostats, and more investment in nuclear, solar and biofuels.

The US has, unfortunately, been more tentative. Biden has called for more renewables. But the loudest Democratic messaging has called for domestic oil and gas companies to ramp up production.

Given the unpopularity of the Russian invasion and the concern with gas prices, this seems like as good an opportunity as Democrats are ever going to get to push an anti-Putin renewable energy package through Congress. At the very least, Democrats could force Republicans to acknowledge that voting against the climate is also a vote for authoritarian imperialists like Putin.

Thinking of gas prices primarily through the lens of the next election is misleading and unhelpful. We don’t know what gas prices will be like in November, or whether they will be a major issue.

But we do know high gas prices are a political reality now.

Democrats should address the harms caused by rising costs and oil dependence not to win the next vote. We should address them because low-income families need help, and because, for numerous reasons, we need to move away from carbon-based fuels.

Here’s the truth about rising inflation — and it has nothing to do with spending

Inflation numbers for December indicate rising prices continue to be a major problem. The Personal Consumption Index, which the Fed uses to gauge inflation, was up 5.8 percent for the year that ended in December, a slight increase from 5.7 percent in the year before.

That’s the fastest price increase in 40 years. Wages and salaries in the fourth quarter increased 4.5 percent, which is robust — but not enough to keep up with inflation.

Republicans have responded to rising inflation by calling for a reduction in spending. They’ve been joined by conservative Democrats like West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin. All of them argue that government efforts to fight the pandemic have flooded the economy with dollars, and that this has caused price increases.

The more likely cause of inflation is the pandemic itself. Curtailing government efforts to battle covid are just going to make inflation worse.

Prices go up when there is more demand than supply. Covid has created enormous blockages in the global supply chain. Production fell sharply in many industries during the pandemic as lockdowns and fears of contagion closed workplaces. Semiconductor production has been slow to rebound, which has boosted car prices. Oil production was also hit hard. The Bureau of Labor statistics reports that about half of total inflation is the result of increases in gas and automotive prices.

Food and grocery prices have been hit hard by inflation for many of the same reasons. It’s hard to produce a steady supply of anything during a massive pandemic when workers are falling sick or have to stay home to care for sick family members.

In one week in January, US pork production dropped 8 percent because of staffing shortages. Distributors have cut orders to some grocery stores by 20 to 40 percent. Shortages mean there is less supply, less supply means higher prices.

If inflation was caused by US policy choices, you’d expect it to be confined to the US. But supply chain issues are global. So are rising prices.

Inflation in the EU rose to a record 5.1 percent in January. Inflation in the UK hit a 30-year high. China has done better in keeping inflation under control — and, not coincidentally, it has also put in place strong lockdown policies which have (at least so far) largely prevented the out-of-control omicron spread in other areas of the world.

The Fed is likely to raise interest rates throughout the year to try to control inflation. But if the major cause of inflation is the pandemic, the solution at some point has to be ending the pandemic, or at least bringing it under control.

Many experts hope that omicron will burn itself out in the next weeks. At that point so many people will have been infected that the general level of immunity in the population will be boosted, and we can hope for a less plague-blighted 2022.

If that’s the case, supply-chain issues should resolve themselves, and inflation should come under control on its own.

The problem with the future, though, is that it’s difficult to predict.

As we’ve seen, new variants can present new, unexpected, and devastating challenges. People who have had covid do not have perfect immunity to reinfection. What immunity they have can fade over time.

Omicron may linger longer than experts anticipate. New waves could hit. The uncertainty in itself can create production shortfalls as producers and workers hedge their bets against possible crises.

If we want to defeat inflation, long term, during covid, there’s no substitute for a robust public health response.

The Biden Administration has slowly started to mail free covid tests through dedicated website orders. It plans to buy and distribute 1 billion rapid tests by mid-February.

That effort needs to continue and expand, even if covid temporarily dies down. In the middle of an ongoing pandemic, everyone should have as close-to-instant access to free testing as possible, all the time.

The same goes for masks.

Biden is distributing 400 million N95 masks, but that should be the beginning. High quality masks should be available for free in every school, grocery store and library in the country, at the very least.

Biden needs to do better in encouraging vaccine uptake as well, especially as more boosters become available and necessary. Right now only 41.8 percent of the population has received booster shots, according to the CDC. Omicron showed just how inadequate that is.

It’s true that there are hard-core partisan rightwing anti-vaxxers who will always refuse vaccines (and masks and testing for that matter.)

But they are outnumbered by people who are willing to get the vaccines, but are unsure how to navigate appointment websites, or can’t get time off work, or can’t get transportation, or aren’t aware that the vaccines are free (an understandable confusion given our generally unaffordable health care system).

Mandating paid time off for people who need to get vaccines, or even paying them directly, could help. So could more vaccines at places like libraries, where people expect to receive free services.

Ongoing, expanded vaccination, mask and testing campaigns all cost money. They all also would be greatly helped by bipartisan buy-in.

Unfortunately, Republicans and even many centrist pundits have turned against even mild pandemic abatement measures, like temporary remote learning at the height of the pandemic. Many seem to believe that if they shout “back to normal!” loud enough, normality will pour across the land.

That’s not how anything works.

If we don’t defeat covid, we can’t get back to normal. Defeating covid requires investing in public health. If the Republicans get their way, though, we will spend nothing and make no effort to mitigate covid.

That means we will continue to have major, dangerous pandemic outbreaks, workers will become sick, production will stall and inflation will remain a live and volatile problem.

The politics here are difficult, to say the least.

We need to spend more to fight the pandemic and reduce inflation, but inflation gives reactionaries an excuse to fight all spending.

Biden has no choice though. If Democrats don’t get inflation under control, they face major losses in 2022 and 2024. Defeating covid is a moral, economic and electoral imperative.

US oligarchs don't care what the majority of Americans thinks about taxing the rich -- here's why

With one political party entirely committed to expanding inequality, and the other divided on the issue, overwhelming public support and commonsense ethical commitments don’t carry much weight.

That’s how oligarchies consolidate. The wealthy horde power and wealth, then that power and wealth gives them the ability to shape institutions to further increase their power and wealth.

Janet Yellen has had some successes in restraining wealthy and corporate power. She negotiated an international agreement with 136 countries to implement a global corporate minimum tax of 15 percent.

At some point, corruption stops being a bug in democracy and starts becoming a feature of oligarchy.

Has the US passed that threshold?

Based on the sweeping and effective resistance to commonsense solutions to reign in wealthy tax scofflaws, the answer is not encouraging.

Since the 1970s, the United States has become steadily and inexorably more economically unequal. According to Pew, upper income families have brought in a larger and larger share of total income.

US income inequality is the highest of all G7 nations. Its Gini coefficient is .434, well above second highest UK at .392.

Based on the sweeping and effective resistance to commonsense solutions to reign in wealthy tax scofflaws, the answer is not encouraging.

Since the 1970s, the United States has become steadily and inexorably more economically unequal. According to Pew, upper income families have brought in a larger and larger share of total income.

This massive concentration of wealth is also a massive concentration of power. The wealthiest people have access to the best lawyers, the best tax attorneys and the most powerful politicians.

That means that it is very difficult for the government to restrain them, or to create a more equitable economy and society against their wishes.

That’s how oligarchies consolidate. The wealthy horde power and wealth, then that power and wealth gives them the ability to shape institutions to further increase their power and wealth.

An example of oligarchical power is billionaire tax evasion. A recent IRS study found that wealthy Americans conceal more than 20 percent of their earnings. They are able to do this because of complex accounting scams involving offshore tax shelters.

The lost tax costs the government at least $175 billion a year in revenue. The top 1 percent of earners are responsible for a third of unpaid federal taxes.

In addition to these straightforwardly illegal accounting tricks, the very wealthy also benefit from at least nominally legal loopholes.

For instance, wealthy people have many assets that increase in value over time, but they do not pay taxes on those assets until they sell them.

They can borrow against those assets without paying taxes, since again the assets aren’t considered income. Then, if they die before selling the assets, they can pass them on to their heirs using trusts and other accounting shenanigans to avoid the estate tax.

ProPublica called this strategy Buy, Borrow, Die. It’s a key method for hoarding generational wealth, and entrenching oligarchy.

The Biden administration, led by Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen, have proposed strong measures to rein in billionaire corruption. In part, they want to restrain inequality. In part, they hope to fund other priorities like climate mitigation and anti-poverty measures in the administration’s Build Back Better infrastructure plan.

To address billionaire tax evasion, BBB included $80 billion to boost capacity and staff at the IRS. That would help make up for the steady budget-cuts under Republican administrations. Those have led to a 60 percent decrease in audits of taxpayers who earn more than $1 million. Biden said the investment would allow the IRS to collect $400 billion in taxes.

Biden, Yellen and Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden have also been pushing for a billionaire tax to force the very wealthy to pay taxes on the increased value of their assets.

This would strike at the heart of the oligarchic “Buy, Borrow, Die” lifestyle. It would force the ultra-wealthy to pay their fair share, like everyone else, every year, year after year.

Policies that prevent the rich from escaping a tax burden everyone has to pay should be easy to pass in a democracy. You’d think preventing billionaires from cheating on their taxes would be a popular policy.

And you’d be correct.

A 2019 poll, for example, showed that 76 percent of Americans agreed that the wealthiest should pay more in taxes. Proposals to tax income over $10 million at 70 percent — a huge increase over current rates — obtained more than 50 percent support.

In an oligarchy, though, public support doesn’t necessarily count for all that much.

A notorious 2015 study found that politicians were much more likely to listen to and follow the political preferences of economic elites than those of the less affluent.

You can see that playing out in the politics of billionaire taxation.

Build Back Better, which included the beefed-up IRS funding, was scuttled by millionaire West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, in large part, reportedly, because he was worried that poor parents would spend money on drugs.

A wealthy politician refused to enforce the law against billionaires because he was worried that poor people are natural criminals.

That is what you call class consciousness.

Wyden’s proposal to end “Buy, Borrow, Die” also failed after opposition from Manchin. It was of course opposed by Senate Republicans, whose main goal is to shovel as much money as possible to the rich in as short a time as possible.

Yellen has had some successes in restraining wealthy and corporate power. She negotiated an international agreement with 136 countries to implement a global corporate minimum tax of 15 percent. This would make it harder for businesses to escape tax burdens by moving their corporate offices. Congress still has to pass the treaty, but Yellen said she was confident they would do so.

The corporate minimum tax is a substantial achievement. But it’s also a small dam erected against the tsunami of inequality in the US.

With one political party entirely committed to expanding inequality, and the other divided on the issue, overwhelming public support and commonsense ethical commitments don’t carry much weight.

The wealthy have been expanding their power and influence for decades in the US. The result is that the US regularly chooses to make the rich richer rather than helping the poorest feed their children.

The outlook for change is likely to be even bleaker if Republicans recapture one or both legislative chambers in November.

Yellen and Biden are to be commended for fighting an ongoing rearguard action against corruption. But if government inability to restrain corruption is a feature of oligarchy, then the US is already well down a path that it is very difficult to retrace.

Why the US has failed in the fight against the global pandemic

Covid infections are ballooning. Cases were up to 405,000 a day last week— 60 percent higher than January 2020, the previous high.

Deaths and hospitalizations have not yet kept pace, but there are worrying signs. Hospitalizations in Illinois hit their highest levels yet; covid patients occupy a quarter of all hospital beds. They are 41 percent of intensive care patients. Some counties have 90 percent or more of hospital beds occupied. Other areas are also seeing worrisome surges. Hospitalization of children hit record levels at year’s end.

The latest covid crisis is being spurred by the omicron variant, which may be the fastest spreading virus in history, according to experts. It was first detected in South Africa, thanks to its rigorous testing, but we don’t know where it originated. We do know that variants are inevitable during pandemics. Viruses mutate over time and they mutate more quickly when they are circulating unchecked.

This means everyone has an interest in reducing spread everywhere. Eradicating it within national boundaries is insufficient when variants can develop anywhere. The US should be doing whatever it takes to vaccinate not just its own population, but the world’s population. Yet politicians and much of public opinion see expenditures as zero-sum charity rather than as a necessary investment in a collective good.

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The US has spent about $1.6 billion to distribute vaccines globally as of the end of 2021. Current American vaccine distribution plans will probably require about $7 billion to implement. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, it will require about $50 billion to bring the vaccine to everyone in the world and get immunization up to levels that will control the virus globally.

Fifty billion dollars sounds like a lot of money. But it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the $4.5 trillion the US has already spent on aid during the pandemic. Direct payments to individuals alone totaled $867 billion. Small business payments totaled $968 billion.

More than 800,000 people have died in the pandemic. In strictly economic terms, in the first half of 2020, the US economy lost $1.9 trillion, the steepest GDP decline since World War II. The economy has recovered strongly, but another spike threatens those gains. New waves of covid can lead to new economic disasters. Tourism alone is seeing a massive decline because of omicron. Travel agents are seeing 30-50 percent cancellations for January right now.

Even if you put aside the massive death toll (and you shouldn’t put aside the massive death toll!), the US should be investing much, much more in global vaccination as a straightforward cost-saving measure. The more people get vaccinated globally, the lower the threat of deadly variants, the less likely we experience more trillion dollar disruptions.

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The US appropriated $768 billion in its last defense bill. In comparison, $50 billion is a tiny investment to protect us from the most serious international threat at least since World War II. No one country would need to spend even that much if all the wealthy countries kicked in.

Wealthy countries don’t seem to see the math, though. They have tended to stockpile resources. Canada has enough vaccines to vaccinate its population 9.6 times over. Meanwhile, poor countries have only vaccinated about 8 percent. African nations have a less than 5 percent vaccination rate. Biden has proposed a patent waiver allowing poor countries to begin producing vaccines cheaply, but European nations have balked. And even though omicron is busily demonstrating the dangers of leaving massive global gaps in vaccine coverage, exponentially scaling up global vaccine aid isn’t on the table.

That’s not surprising, unfortunately. The US (and not just the US) tends to frame government spending as illegitimate giveaways rather than as investments in a common future. That was Democratic West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin’s reasoning when he helped block the Build Back Better Act last month. BBB would have extended the child tax credit, which kept 3 million children out of poverty. Manchin, though, reportedly told colleagues he did not want to extend payments because he worried that parents would spend the money on drugs. He decided real benefits were less important than imaginary fears that someone, somewhere, might get money they shouldn’t.

It’s perhaps even more difficult to create a consensus for global aid when our own domestic pandemic response has been so inadequate. The initial Biden vaccination effort was stunning. But partisan Republican vaccine resistance and racist disparities in access for Black and Hispanic communities has stalled uptake well short of the 75 percent, which would be an absolute minimum for herd immunity.

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Testing is also inadequate and expensive, and we don’t have enough N95 masks. If the US can’t even meet the public health needs of its own population, wouldn’t it be irresponsible to go spending billions on the public health of people on the other side of the globe?

Thing is, though, there is no virus-proof barrier between the US and the rest of the world. Public health doesn’t, and can’t, stop at arbitrary national borders. US domestic failures are compounded by US international failures. We can’t protect the public health of US residents without protecting the public health of everyone else.

We’ve failed in fighting the global pandemic for the same reasons we’ve failed in fighting the domestic one: short-sightedness, exacerbated by racism, xenophobia and a bone-deep belief that aid is against our self-interest. Instead of helping others to help ourselves, the US and wealthy nations have chosen to hurt others even if it means burying ourselves in death and misery. If we want to end covid, we need to end it everywhere. And if we’re not willing to do what it takes to end it everywhere, it’s hard to see how our current nightmare can end.