No More “How Will You Pay For It?”

Stony Brook University professor of economics Stephanie Kelton wrote about the recently passed $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus for the Intercept:

Congress has ignored millions of people who have existed in a state of crisis for decades. The people of Flint, Michigan, (and elsewhere) still do not have safe drinking water. Millions of kids go hungry each day. Half a million people, before the pandemic, were homeless on any given night. And on it goes. There has been no multitrillion-dollar spending bill to combat these and other domestic emergencies. Instead, lawmakers have deprived communities of critical investments that could have attenuated their emergencies, often hiding behind the excuse that there isn’t enough money in the budget to deal with problems like these.

She would know. Kelton served as the chief economist for the DNC on the U.S. Senate Budget committee (2015/2016). This article elucidates the methods Congress uses to pass a budget that is ‘paid for’. But the stimulus is not paid for.

That is not what Congress is doing today. Instead of writing a bill that would send two sets of instructions to the Fed, Congress is pushing through a $2 trillion spending bill that will send just one set of instructions. No one is bothering to try to offset — i.e. “pay for” — that spending, because the goal is to get lots of money to people (and companies) without subtracting a lot away.

I keep thinking about republicans and liberals hyperventilating about the ‘cost’ of some of the progressive movement’s policies: Medicare for All, cancelling student debt, tuition-free college, etc. Many of these could be ‘paid for’ yes, by raising taxes on the wealthy. Or they could have been wiped away with a stimulus similar to this one. Arguably keeping money in everyday working people’s pockets during a crisis would have eased the trauma.

A Republican Plutocrat Tries To Buy The Democratic Nomination

Bloomberg does not see anything wrong with trying to purchase the presidency for a billion dollars. When asked about whether this is fair, he has become annoyed, as if it is a stupid question.

I’ll link this exposé of Michael Bloomberg by Nathan J. Robinson of Current Affairs here, but obviously it won’t do much to the people on television or in town halls across America jumping on board the Bloomberg 2020 train.

Mask off for American democracy.

The Unraveling of Legal Asylum

In October 2013, 368 mostly Eritrean migrants died after their ship sank off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa. Italy honored them with honorary citizenship and a memorial broadcast on state television. The 155 survivors were detained for illegal entry at an overcrowded holding center and excluded from the ceremony to honor the dead.

This is how Noah Lanard starts his Mother Jones interview piece with David Scott FitzGerald about his book Refuge Beyond Reach: How Rich Democracies Repel Asylum Seekers.

This interview struck a chord. A global tide of isolationism and strongman despotism is growing. The United States has an soulless authoritarian president who uses his platforms to dehumanize immigrants, people of color, and Muslims. His base, mostly white voters experiencing changing national demographics, loves it. But Europe is also dealing with far-right political parties rattling their sabers, with some in power refusing to offer safe harbor for migrant boats in the Mediterranean, or using their parliamentary seats to change agreed-upon norms.

And here I sit this morning in my flat in Cologne. A white Muslim with a strong Californian accent, I will never experience the fear my brothers and sisters feel from Honduras, Somalia, Western Sahara, or Kurdistan, at home under occupation in some circumstances or abroad in foreign countries. Though I receive many looks from Kölners, I pass. I walk around town with some general ambiguity (language and cultural norms), but I do not live with the dread of encountering PEGIDA members while grocery shopping.

The ruling class has been dismantling a system of asylum created after our moral failings to help Jewish refugees fleeing Hitler. Now, the system does everything to deter the people who need help the most. The ones fleeing violence or famine just want a normal life. It is incredible that in the 21st century we still place so much importance on imaginary borders. If we removed all of them, the world’s GDP would double.

Here are two quotes from FitzGerald, about Europe and the United States that speak volumes about our culpability.

“One of the perverse things about the system of control [in Europe] is that it’s undermined the basic principle of the law of the sea, which is that mariners are obligated to give aid to other mariners in distress. Because a lot of the ship crews that have rescued people at sea have been prosecuted by the Italian government, in particular, it has created a disincentive for mariners passing through those waters to help people who are drowning. We know that the result is that those people are being abandoned to drown.”

“[The United States] is the wealthiest country in human history. We have the technical capacity to move hundreds of thousands of troops around the world in fairly short order. The idea that we don’t have the capacity to deal with people asking for asylum, I think is simply false. Maybe on day one you don’t. But if you care about it, within a few weeks, the capacity would be developed to do that. The fact that we don’t have this system that is able to effectively process asylum seekers and determine which of them have legitimate claims is a failure of political will.”

We should also direct our rancor at Australia as well, who lock asylum seekers up in open-air prisons on Nauru, or any number of countries such as Israel, Libya, Turkey, and Mexico who help facilitate the West’s desire to keep people out.

Six Seventy Four

It has been almost two years since leaving my life in Mauritania. Since then, my wife and I attended my brother’s wedding in California, backpacked for a year from Mexico to Peru, spent the summer visiting family and friends in the United States, took a road trip with a Prius and a tent from California to Oklahoma and back, wintered outside Madrid, bought and converted a campervan, and took two three-week trips before finally reaching in Cologne yesterday. We had been planning this move for months but we wanted to wait for the winter. And the extra months in Spain gave me the opportunity to really improve my Spanish comprehension.

And now, a new chapter emerges; living in a city, navigating life in a new language, project-based work with friends, and another region to explore.