The Biden Administration is already starting to let down progressives on some of his key campaign promises, continuing deportations at a rapid rate and preparing state governors to give up on a minimum wage hike in the new stimulus bill.
Meanwhile, the U.S. approaches 500,000 deaths from COVID-19, as states try to make up the vaccine shortages and delays caused by last week’s brutal winter storms.
And lastly, after the aforementioned storms, some Texas residents have been hit by massive, unsustainable electricity bills, a result of the state’s deregulated energy market and corrupt price gouging by power companies.
THESE ARE THE STORIES YOU NEED TO KNOW:
It didn’t take long for the Biden administration to start looking underwhelming. In the past few days, the new president has dropped or gone back on several key policy positions that progressives were hoping for.
While Biden said at a CNN town hall last week that he still favors a path to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants, the New York Times reports that internally, his policies will be much narrower and more piecemeal. But while this is happening, the U.S.’s deportation machine has kept on cranking, as over 26,000 people have been forced out of the country since he took office.
As we mentioned last week, Biden’s overall immigration policies have been somewhat gentler than Trump’s. Still, the ACLU is concerned about his return to targeted immigration enforcement, which gives ICE more discretion over who it deports.
And in other sectors, the Biden administration has also been slowly retreating from progressive promises. Politico reports that Biden told a group of governors and mayors that he doesn’t expect to be able to pass a $15 minimum wage under the reconciliation process pushing forward the latest coronavirus spending package.
Bernie Sanders at least isn’t giving up hope, saying on Saturday that he still thinks it’s possible. But if Biden’s preparing for defeat, it’s unclear how much momentum the provision will have going into negotiations with Republicans.
Perhaps the biggest letdown is over student debt relief. At the same CNN town hall, Biden refused to commit to writing off $50,000 in debt per borrower, instead throwing out a $10,000
number. Activists, including a large contingent of state attorneys general, are still pressuring him on this, so here’s hoping that he’ll come around in time to make a real difference.
The United States will pass 500,000 total deaths from coronavirus in the next few days, perhaps by the end of today. As the New York Times points out, that’s more Americans than those who died in World War I, World War II and Vietnam combined.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, by now a household name, predicted that we’ll still be wearing masks in 2022, and may even need a new vaccine if the more resistant South African variant of the disease continues to spread, though existing vaccines can still prevent severe illness.
The good news is that new virus cases are down, and the vaccine is in regular distribution. Many states are currently working to clear delays or shortages of vaccine supply caused by the brutal storms last week. The Times estimates that six million doses got delayed by the weather, but Fauci said he expects states to be able to quickly make those numbers up.
Fauci also said he wants teenagers to be able to get the vaccine in large numbers at some point in the fall. Smaller children will have to wait until 2022, after more clinical trials.
One of the challenges to come is convincing hesitant people to get the vaccine, and increasing its access in underserved communities. In Florida, the Washington Post reports that some activists are going door-to-door to sign up seniors for the vaccine, relying on personal connections to convince hesitant neighbors and help the elderly navigate the state’s confusing system.
As things start to improve, it’s important to keep track of who’s getting left behind, and push the people in charge to find ways to keep serving them as well as the most fortunate among us.
Texas Storms Caused Crippling Power Bills
As the weather jolts back to seasonably warm temperatures in Texas and parts of the midwest, the lingering damage of last week’s brutal freeze is still being felt.
One of the most acute problems is the absurd power bills incurred by some residents who didn’t lose power. Thanks to Texas’s unrestricted and unregulated power grid, energy companies spiked prices to absurd levels thanks to wildly fluctuating wholesale prices. Texas’s system is set up to be a perfect free market, using supply and demand to encourage people to both use less energy and for providers to make more. But in the storm, we saw exactly how well a free market works.
The New York Times interviewed one man, Scott Willoughby, who was charged over $16,000 for power during the storm. He lives on social security payments.
What episodes like this have highlighted is how much of this crisis was created by Texas’s Republican-dominated government, which set in place many of the systems that left their constituents frozen, broke, or both during the storms. 60,000 Texans still don’t have power.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said that he would work with Democrats to make sure that people quote “do not get stuck with skyrocketing bills,” endquote. But clearly, people like Willoughby already have.
AND NOW FOR SOME QUICKER QUICKIES:
A short update from Amazon’s union-busting campaign in Bessemer, Alabama: the company is forging ahead with its annual buyout offer, where it gives cash payments to employees who voluntarily resign. Employee turnover is always good for Amazon, but they particularly want to encourage it in Alabama, whittling down the workforce as employees vote in the NLRB election.
The New York Times obtained a report that shows that Trump insider and long-time private military contractor Erik Prince violated a U.N. arms embargo in Libya, offering to supply drones and mercenaries to a warlord in an attempt to influence the country’s ongoing civil war.
CNN reports that an arrested member of the Oathkeepers militia movement claims that she met with Secret Service agents and was given a VIP pass to the Trump rally before the capitol insurrection on January 6. Her lawyers argue that she was only at the rally -- and insurrection -- in order to quote “provide security” to speakers at the rally. The Secret Service denies these claims.
A new report by BuzzFeed news shows that Mark Zuckerberg personally intervened to change his company’s rules around hate speech when it banned conspiracy theorist Alex Jones -- not to protect users from Jones’s violent rhetoric, but so that the legion of Infowars fans active on his platform wouldn’t face similar punishments for continuing to spread Jones’s work.
That’s it for the Majority Report’s AM Quickie today! Sam’s back this week, so he and Emma will be with you this afternoon.
HOSTS - Sam Seder & Lucie Steiner
WRITER - Jack Crosbie
PRODUCER - Dorsey Shaw
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER - Brendan Finn