Pandemic Diary #81
March 15, 2021
I am pretty fed up with the fact that America has always been run by a bunch of rich, old, white men. While that is slowly, and fortunately, changing, I feel the present group cares less about helping Americans than keeping themselves in office, which they have done spectacularly, with many having been in Congress for over 40 years.
Congress, in no way, mirrors 90% of their constituents but they are passing laws that affect that 90%.
The US Senate has a membership that is made up of wealthy and predominantly white men. Men make up about 30% of our population but they hold 73 seats out of 100 in the US Senate.
On the Supreme Court, six of the nine members are men. All but one of the Justices attended either Harvard or Yale. The lone hold out attended Notre Dame. This means our court is not only overwhelmingly male but that all its members obtained a law degree from an elite school.
In Alabama, 25 white male Republicans banned abortion except when it threatens the life of the mother, in other words, no abortion in Alabama. These white men made a law that told women their bodies did not belong to them, but to the state of white male dominance. On the national level, in 2017 Mitch McConnell created a 13-man working group on a health care proposal to overturn the ACA. The group included staunch conservatives and foes of the Affordable Care Act — but not one woman. Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood echoed what many of us thought: “It’s outrageous that the future of healthcare for millions of women lies in the hands of 13 men.” In the end, it hardly mattered, the only thing that came out of that 13-man group was a great slogan “repeal and replace”, they never came up with a plan.
Rich white men aside, our congress members are almost to a number in a clique of wealthy people that appear to be unaware, or uncaring of people that are not in their financial sphere.
We are presently under the 117th Congress, but according to Open Secrets, in the 116th Congress, more than half had a net worth of over one million dollars. The wealthiest member of Congress is Mark Warner with a net worth of $214 million. The 50th wealthiest person in Congress is Lisa Blunt Rochester with a net worth of $10.7 million. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has a net worth of $1.5 million. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has a net worth of $25 million. House Majority Speaker Nancy Pelosi has a net worth of $140 million. House Minority Speaker Kevin McCarthy has a net worth of $300 thousand. These compare to the average net worth of America, which is $104,000.
The 117th Congress is moving towards diversity, and yet it is still pretty much a rich white boys club. 78 percent of members identify as white, a much higher percentage than the 60 percent of white Americans. Congress has 115 (4.6%) Black representatives while Blacks are 14.7 % of the US.
143 women are serving in Congress which amounts to only 26.7% of the 535 members. Of these women, 24 are Black, 13 Latina, 9 Asian American/Pacific Islander, 2 Native American, 1 Middle Eastern/North African, and 2 multiracial.
Does this growing diversity bode well for our future? Probably not. A study by Professors Martin Gilens (Princeton University) and Benjamin I. Page (Northwestern University) looked at more than 20 years’ worth of data and 2000 public opinion surveys to answer one question — Does the government represent the people?
According to the study: “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” In other words, the opinions of 90% of Americans are irrelevant to their representative.
It does not take a genius to figure out that what does influence Congress is money. While the opinions of the bottom 90% of income earners in America have a “statistically non-significant impact,” economic elites, business interests, and people who can afford lobbyists still have a major influence.
All of this is playing out right in front of us. In a poll taken at the end of January by Data for Progress and Vox, 64% of likely voters, and 54% of likely Republican voters, supported more coronavirus relief, no matter if part of a reconciliation bill or not, and yet no Senate Republican voted for the bill.
Polls regarding immigration show that 87% of Americans support a pathway to citizenship.
Americans’ view on immigration is largely positive: According to a Quinnipiac University poll and a Gallup poll three-quarters of Americans consider immigration to be “a good thing.” As for undocumented immigrants, most Americans, from 62% to 81%, consistently support offering them legalization with a path to citizenship.
Biden has proposed immigration reform. However, the Republican party believes that a system needs to be in place to ensure that immigrants who enter this country illegally are not provided with the same benefits that legal citizens are. Their platform also calls for the elimination of existing executive protections for Dreamers, even though an overwhelming number of Americans are for the Dreamer program.
More than 90% of Americans supported expanded background checks on firearm purchases and asked Congress to support a bipartisan plan to do just that. In 2019 Republicans never even let the bill come to the floor.
A new bill titled The Background Check Expansion Act, co-sponsored by 43 Senate Democrats, would require unlicensed or private sellers to conduct a background check prior to transferring a firearm. We shall wait and see what this congress does with that bill.
Most Americans support a balanced deficit-reduction plan that includes tax increases on the wealthy.
Gallup polling data show that the public consistently thinks that “upper-income people” and corporations do not pay their fair share in federal taxes. This includes Republicans. 57% of Republican voters support a 2% tax on households worth over $50 million and a 3% tax cut on wealth over $1billion.
In Vanessa Williamson’s, Read My Lips: Why Americans are Proud to Pay Taxes, she found that Americans see taxpaying as a civic duty. She also states that Americans think that corporations and upper-income Americans don’t “pay their fair share” because they can take advantage of more, and larger, “loopholes.”
In the last congress, Republicans killed the tax increases to the ultra-wealthy and corporations, and instead, created greater tax breaks for them. Due to the controversial tax bill, the top 0.1% of US households were given a 2.5% tax cut that pushed their tax rate below that of the lower 50% of US workers.
Sixty-nine percent of registered voters in an April 2020 survey support providing health care to every American. And yet the Republicans have spent the last 8 years attempting to eliminate the ACA.
America has a serious infrastructure problem. The lack of adequate access to the internet for many was front page news throughout the pandemic, but there is far more. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the US overall infrastructure a C-. This same body estimates that there is a funding gap of more than $2 trillion between US infrastructure needs and expected spending by all levels of government over the coming decade.
Regarding broadband, likely voters prefer a public option rather than providing tax credits and hoping the private sector comes through, by a 33 point margin. This includes Republicans who prefer this option by a 16- point margin. Unfortunately the conservatives in office will not consider any infrastructure bill unless is is pared down and doesn’t include any taxes on corporations or the rich.
We have a moderately more progressive Congress in 2021 with big plans to address many of the issues America is passionate about. Unfortunately there is a conservative opposition that has spent the last two administrations ensuring that nothing the other side proposes ever gets off the ground. This adamancy to fight everything just for the sake of power has done considerable harm to the average American citizen.
This lack of caring what the constituency wants leads this writer to feel that America does not have your back. We are yanking safety nets, ignoring necessary infrastructure projects, inciting hate and bigotry against immigrants all while lowering taxes on those that have the ear of Congress.
Congress has passed a historic bill in the 2021 COVID-19 Relief package. While the passing of this bill signals that we may be heading in a new direction, I am still holding my breath. The passing of HR1, the For the People Act will be a strong signal that Congress is realizing that the 90% of America deserve more than a kick in the pants and a buck-em-up speech, but it will take far more before I feel that America is living up to its potential.
I do not care if you are Republican, Democrat, or Independent, we need to be voting for politicians who care about our country, the 90% of us without billions of dollars in the bank. Our Democracy is pretty fragile right now, we need representatives that support our Democratic process and the American citizen, not the PAC or individual that donates the most money.
San Francisco weather: 51 degrees and cloudy
NYSE DOW compared to one year ago: +11,881
COVID cases in the US: 30,083,791
Deaths from COVID in the US: 547,286
Vaccines administered in the US: 107,060,274
OED word of the day: code duello — An established set of rules or conventions followed by duellists
Days since Shelter In Place was initiated: 371
Reading: Tocqueville: A Very Short Introduction by Harvey Mansfield
My Black and White Picture of the Day
Something Silly From the Internet: