Category Archives: Income Inequality

Experts Warn Trump Executive Action on Unemployment Insurance Deliberately Leaves Out Poorest Americans

“Literally every new detail about these executive orders confirms that in addition to being wildly unconstitutional, they will do absolutely nothing to help anyone who’s suffering.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-10-2020

On top of serious questions about the directive’s legality and workability, experts are warning that President Donald Trump’s executive action to extend the federal unemployment insurance boost at $400 per week—using $44 billion in funds meant for disaster relief—leaves out the poorest Americans by design.

The language of Trump’s unemployment memorandum issued over the weekend defines “eligible claimants” as those receiving “at least $100 per week” in state unemployment benefits—meaning that laid-off workers currently receiving less than $100 per week in aid will not see a dollar in federal relief unless states agree to increase their benefits. Continue reading

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Warnings of ‘Unconstitutional’ Assault on Social Security as Trump Threatens Unilateral Suspension of Payroll Tax

“Donald Trump is so desperate to defund Social Security, he may rip the Constitution to shreds to make it happen.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-5-2020

Photo: White House/flickr

President Donald Trump confirmed Tuesday that he is considering circumventing Congress to unilaterally suspend collection of the payroll tax, a move advocacy groups and lawmakers said would be an “unconstitutional” abuse of power and a destructive attack on Social Security funding.

Trump said during a Covid-19 press briefing that his administration is examining a variety of potential executive orders should Congress fail to reach an agreement on the next stimulus package by the end of the week, a deadline Democratic leaders and the White House set on Tuesday. Continue reading

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“F-35s Don’t Help Families Pay Their Bills”: GOP Under Fire for Slipping $30 Billion Pentagon Gift Into Coronavirus Plan

“Just how twisted is the Senate GOP coronavirus bill you ask? It includes $686 million for new F-35 fighter jets.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-28-2020

F-25. Photo: Forsvarsdepartementet/flickr/cc

In a floor speech late Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell described the GOP’s newly released coronavirus stimulus package as a “carefully tailored” plan to provide financial relief to desperate Americans.

But a look at the legislative text (pdf) released by Senate Republicans shows the HEALS Act is replete with massive gifts to the Pentagon and defense contractors that would do nothing to aid the unemployed, provide nutrition assistance to hungry children, prevent an avalanche of evictions, or stop the spread of coronavirus. Continue reading

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With GOP Refusing Urgent Relief for Main Street, Tens of Thousands of Shuttered US Businesses Now Closing… Permanently

Permanent closures now account for 55% of all closed businesses since March 1.

By Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-24-2020

Photo: Mike Mozart/flickr/cc

With Republicans in Congress intent on drastically reducing aid for unemployed Americans and altering the Paycheck Protection Act in the next coronavirus relief bill, workers across the country are rapidly losing hope that they will ever be able to return to their jobs, according to new polling.

A survey released Friday by AP-NORC found that while 78% of workers who were furloughed or laid off in the early days of the pandemic believed in April that they’d be able to return to work eventually, just 34% are optimistic about their prospects now. Just 18% have already returned to their jobs, and 47% say they no longer believe their old jobs will be available ever again.  Continue reading

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GOP Coronavirus Relief Package to Include Romney Bill That Would ‘Fast-Track Social Security and Medicare Cuts’

“They will use every opportunity and every crisis—including the mass death and economic carnage from Covid—as cover for their sick desire to destroy our Social Security system.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-24-2020

Photo: Tony Alter/flickr/CC

Shortly after publicly ditching one attack on Social Security—the payroll tax cut—Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell confirmed Thursday that the Republican coronavirus relief package will include legislation sponsored by Sen. Mitt Romney that one advocacy group described as an “equally menacing” threat to the New Deal program.

In a speech on the Senate floor, McConnell touted Romney’s TRUST ACT as “a bipartisan bill, co-sponsored by Senate Democrats, to help a future Congress evaluate bipartisan proposals for protecting and strengthening the programs that Americans count on.” Continue reading

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Deregulation’s Deadly Consequences: Report Details How Trump’s Assault on Government Exacerbated Pandemic

“These rollbacks have put all of us—especially low-income communities, Black people and people of color, and essential workers—at higher risk of contracting and dying from Covid-19.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-14-2020

Photo: World News/Twitter

President Donald Trump’s ongoing efforts to roll back regulations designed to protect the environment, workers, and public health likely played a significant role in the spread of Covid-19 in the United States.

That’s according to a new report released Tuesday by New York University School of Law’s Institute for Policy Integrity (IPI), a nonpartisan policy think tank. Continue reading

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Poverty is a political choice

A UN Rapporteur has just delivered a withering critique of the international system.

By Stephen McCloskey  Published 7-9-2020 by openDemocracy

Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, 22 June 2018. | Flickr/UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

The United Nations Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Philip Alston, has just released his final report, a withering critique of international efforts to eliminate poverty which he describes as the result of “longstanding neglect” by “many governments, economists, and human rights advocates.”

Central to his report are the institutional failings of the World Bank in getting to grips with the scale of global poverty, which it persistently underplays using the flawed measurement tool of an international poverty line, or IPL. The IPL, argues Alston, sets the poverty benchmark at way too low a level to support a life of dignity consistent with basic human rights. Continue reading

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Federal Court Strikes Down Trump’s ACA Rule Amounting to ‘Intentional, Targeted Attack on Abortion Access’

“It would have created a logistical nightmare for health insurers and individual enrollees and pushed abortion even further out of reach in the midst of a global pandemic that has upended our economy.”

By Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-11-2020

Photo: Charlotte Cooper/flickr/CC

A federal court late Friday struck down the Trump administration’s attempt to erect new barriers to abortion care, this time using the for-profit insurance industry.

US District Judge Catherine Blake in Maryland blocked the administration from implementing the so-called Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Exchange Program Integrity rule, after Planned Parenthood of Maryland joined several individual plaintiffs in suing the Department of Health and Human Services over the regulation. Continue reading

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Trump Friends and Family Cleared for Millions in Small Business Bailout

Beneficiaries of the PPP included a lettuce farming venture backed by Trump’s son, Kushner companies, and a dentist who golfs with the president. The figures were released after a lawsuit by several news organizations, including ProPublica.

By Jack GillumIsaac ArnsdorfJake Pearson and Mike Spies  Published 7-6-2020 by ProPublica

Businesses tied to President Donald Trump’s family and associates stand to receive as much as $21 million in government loans designed to shore up payroll expenses for companies struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to federal data released Monday.

A hydroponic lettuce farm backed by Trump’s eldest son, Donald Jr., applied for at least $150,000 in Small Business Administration funding. Albert Hazzouri, a dentist frequently spotted at Mar-a-Lago, asked for a similar amount. A hospital run by Maria Ryan, a close associate of Trump lawyer and former mayor Rudy Giuliani, requested more than $5 million. Several companies connected to the president’s son-in-law and White House adviser, Jared Kushner, could get upward of $6 million.

There’s no ban on businesses connected to Trump’s orbit receiving money. Democrats added a provision to the CARES Act excluding government officials and their family members from receiving some bailout funds, but not those from the PPP.

The firms sought funding under the Paycheck Protection Program, one of the Trump administration’s sweeping pandemic relief efforts. Created in late March by the CARES Act, it allowed small businesses — generally, those with fewer than 500 employees — to apply for loans of up to $10 million. The loans can be forgiven if used to cover payroll, rent, mortgage interest or utilities.

The program paid out $521 billion to almost 4.9 million companies in an effort to provide relief for small businesses and their workers amid the sudden economic shock brought on by the pandemic. As applications slowed after the initial rush, $132 billion remained unspent, and Congress voted to extend the program.

After resisting releasing the names, the government bowed to pressure from critics and watchdog groups. On Monday, the administration disclosed only those entities that were approved by banks for loans over $150,000. A consortium of news organizations, including ProPublica, has sued the administration under the Freedom of Information Act to release the full list of recipients and loan details.

The program has been criticized for including some loan recipients, particularly large, publicly traded companies, and for favoring wealthier businesses that had existing relationships with banks. In some cases customers could essentially skip the line. Overall, however, many economists praise the PPP for having gotten billions to companies relatively quickly.

The New York Observer, the news website that Kushner ran before entering the White House and is still owned by his brother-in-law’s investment firm, was approved for between $350,000 and $1 million, data shows. A company called Princeton Forrestal LLC that is at least 40 percent owned by Kushner family members, according to a 2018 securities filing, was approved for $1 million to $2 million. Esplanade Livingston LLC, whose address is the same as that of the Kushner Companies real estate development business, was approved for $350,000 to $1 million. The company’s Chief Operating Officer, Peter Febo, responded, “Several of our hotels have applied for federal loans, in accordance with all guidelines, with a vast majority of funds going to furloughed employees.” The loans to Kushner-related companies were first reported by The Daily Beast.

In addition, up to $2 million was approved for the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy, a nonprofit religious school in Livingston, N.J., that’s named for Jared Kushner’s grandfather and supported by the family.

In April, a bank approved a loan of between $150,000 and $350,000 for the Pennsylvania dental practice of Albert Hazzouri, who golfs with Trump and frequents Mar-a-Lago, the president’s private club in Palm Beach, Florida. In 2017, Hazzouri used his access to the president to pass him a policy proposal on club stationery on behalf of the American Dental Association. He addressed the note to Trump “Dear King.”

Hazzouri also leaned on his relationship with Trump in an unsuccessful bid to obtain a dentistry license to expand his business in Florida. Hazzouri didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment Monday.

Firms tied to the president’s children also stand to benefit from the program. A small indoor lettuce farming business applied for funds between $150,000 and $350,000, SBA data show. Trump Jr. had invested in Eden Green Technology, a vertical farming company just south of Dallas, whose co-chair, Gentry Beach, was a Trump campaign fundraiser.

Trump Jr. purchased his shares as Beach sought Trump administration funding for his other global business interests, ProPublica first reported in December 2018.

The company has said Trump Jr. played no role in running Eden Green and was brought in during “U.S. friends and family fundraising efforts.” A spokesman, Trevor Moore, said that the company “followed the standard procedure” in applying for the PPP loan and that “receiving it has provided for the preservation of 18 jobs.” It’s not clear how much Trump Jr. invested or whether he’s been paid any dividends since purchasing his shares. Neither Trump Jr. nor a spokesman returned a message seeking comment.

Monday’s list included a Manhattan law firm whose marquee attorney has fiercely defended Trump for almost two decades. Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP — whose managing partner, Marc Kasowitz, was at one point the president’s top lawyer in the special counsel’s Russia investigation — was set to receive between $5 million and $10 million from Citibank, data show. (The largest loan a company could seek was $10 million.)

Once dubbed the “Donald Trump of lawyering” by The New York Times, Kasowitz represented Trump in the Trump University fraud lawsuit. and during the 2016 campaign he helped keep Trump’s 1990 divorce from being unsealed. ProPublica reported three years ago that Kasowitz bragged to friends that he made between $10 million and $30 million per year.

A law firm spokeswoman said its employees have maintained their full salary and benefits thanks to the PPP loan and “substantial cost-saving measures and greatly reduced partner distributions.” The firm has about 400 employees, data show. She said neither Kasowitz nor the firm had any conversations with anyone in the administration about the loan. Other major law firms, such as Boies Schiller Flexner and Wiley Rein, also received loans.

The loans helped a hospital executive tightly linked to another Trump attorney and confidant, Rudy Giuliani. Cottage Hospital, a 25-bed critical access facility in Woodsville, New Hampshire, received between $2 million and $5 million in PPP loans. The hospital’s CEO, Maria Ryan, is a longtime close associate of Giuliani’s.

During the last few years, Ryan has accompanied Giuliani on trips to Jerusalem, where the two visited the Hadassah Medical Organization, and to London, where they attended a two-game series between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. Last September, Giuliani brought Ryan to a state dinner at the White House.

Ryan currently co-hosts a talk radio show with Giuliani called “Uncovering the Truth.” She has referred to Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, as her “business partner.” Cottage Hospital’s annual revenues typically exceed $30 million, according to its most recent publicly available federal tax return. Ryan’s salary, the last filing shows, is nearly $300,000.

“Mr. Giuliani has nothing to do with the PPP loan,” Ryan wrote in an email to ProPublica. “We applied like any other small business through our bank.”

The loan data released Monday does not reveal the $30 billion in loans that have been canceled. Nor does it provide specific dollar amounts, but instead ranges of loan amounts. Businesses that spend the money according to key provisions of the program, which mainly involve continuing to pay workers, will have the loans forgiven.

Last week, Trump signed legislation to extend the program until early August.

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.

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‘Free Handout to Insurance Industry’: Trump Administration Tells Insurers They Don’t Have to Cover Covid-19 Tests for Workers

“According to the Trump administration, insurance company profits are more important than the lives of nursing home residents and workers.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 6-25-2020

Coronavirus Task Force press briefing – March 2, 2020. Photo: White House/flickr

The Trump administration issued policy guidance this week telling health insurance companies that they are not required by law to cover the Covid-19 tests employers may compel workers to undergo as a condition for returning to their jobs.

The announcement (pdf) Tuesday by the Departments of Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services alarmed healthcare advocates and lawmakers who warned the move gives profitable insurers a green light to push the costs of potentially expensive coronavirus screenings onto workers. Continue reading

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