Today is Shakespeare’s 457th birthday! And it’s Friday.
Open Thread and news in the comments below.
Today is Shakespeare’s 457th birthday! And it’s Friday.
Open Thread and news in the comments below.
Greta Thunberg: A Year to Change the World premieres in USA in a three-hour event on Earth Day, Thursday April 22nd at 8/7c on PBS. pic.twitter.com/0HhDNLPFKp
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) April 21, 2021
Fossil fuel profits are not more important than our planet.
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) April 22, 2021
News, tweets, videos etc in comments below.
I would not call today’s verdict justice because justice implies restoration. But it is accountability, which is the first step toward justice.
Now, the cause of justice is in your hands.https://t.co/2PW2RTvTHE
— Keith Ellison (@keithellison) April 21, 2021
The sound doesn’t work unfortunately until the 9 1/2 minute mark, but it’s a great speech about the courage of the witnesses. Keith deserves a lot of credit.
More news, tweets, videos in the comments section.
Arguably the most closely watched congressional player in the marijuana reform space this session is Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). With Democrats now in control of a chamber that for years has been run by GOP members with little to no interest in ending federal prohibition, the pro-legalization senator has found himself in a unique position to lead the charge.
Schumer doesn’t intend to miss that opportunity, as he explained to Marijuana Moment in a phone interview on the eve of the cannabis holiday 4/20. Nor does he want to risk undermining comprehensive reform by passing more modest changes—such as simply protecting banks that service the state-legal industry, as the House did on Monday—before tackling broader legalization.
Together with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), the majority leader is working on legislation that would federally legalize marijuana—a bill that he’s said will be introduced “shortly” and placed on the floor “soon.”
But Schumer, despite his emphasis on the need to enact cannabis policy change, isn’t giving up specifics on the proposal he’s drafting just yet. What he will say, however, is that it will address social equity. It will prioritize small businesses and people most impacted by the drug war. It will incorporate things like banking protections. And, if lawmakers do their job, it will pass this Congress.
Marijuana Moment spoke to Schumer about a wide range of cannabis issues—from legislative priorities for marijuana reform to President Joe Biden’s ongoing opposition to adult-use legalization. The following interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Marijuana Moment: Minutes ago, the House again approved the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act to give federal protections to banks that work with state-legal marijuana businesses. Should the Senate follow suit, or should comprehensive legalization be addressed first?
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer: I’ve always been of the view that while certainly we have to deal with the banking and financial issues that we should do them together with legalization because the [SAFE Banking Act] brings in some people who might not normally support legalization, and we want to get as broad a coalition as possible. Here in the Senate, it’s our goal—as you know, Senators Booker and Wyden and I are working on comprehensive legalization legislation.
We will hope to include things that deal with banking and finance, although we certainly think that we ought to make sure that the communities that have been most affected by these draconian laws get the benefits here, and we want to make sure that there are reinvestment initiatives and it doesn’t all go to the big shots, that smaller businesses and minority businesses get a chance to be involved once marijuana is legalized. We want to make sure, A) that they go together and B) that this just doesn’t let all the bankers, the big boys, in without taking into account that communities of color have paid the greatest price here and should get some recompense.
MM: To that point, have you had conversations with the Senate sponsors of the SAFE Banking Act about potentially merging their proposal into the legislation you and your colleagues are working on?
CS: Well, no. The first step is for for Booker and Wyden and I to come up with our bill, then we will start having conversations with them. As you know, as the floor leader and the majority leader, I get to determine what gets put on the floor, so if I make a suggestion that it would be good to combine these two pieces of legislation, I think people will pay some attention to that.
MM: Appropriations season will soon be upon us. For the past two years, the House has approved spending bills that include a rider to prevent the Justice Department from using its funds to interfere in any state or territory marijuana programs. The Senate has only signed off on amendments to protect medical cannabis states. Now that you’re in control of the chamber, do you think a temporary policy like that should be pursued while you work on a permanent fix?
CS: Our first goal is not to settle for just partial measures, even though that, obviously if we went to legalization, that would sort of be part of it. We’re first going to try to get as large a piece of legislation as we can.
MM: To what extent have you been coordinating with House leadership on broad legalization? Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) says he plans to soon refile his Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act that passed the House last year—have your offices been working together?
CS: We’re talking to the House people. Obviously, a good strong bill needs to pass both houses. The House has been ahead of the Senate here only because Democratic control of the House has been two years longer than Democratic control of the Senate. But we are in definite consultation with our House colleagues.
MM: As you’re well aware, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed legalization into law this month. What will this mean for your home state in the long term, especially as it concerns social equity for communities most impacted by the drug war?
CS: As you know, I weighed in at a crucial time to get as strong a bill that took into account the harms done to communities of color as possible. And I think that had a real effect and New York’s bill, at the end of the day, being a very strong bill, I was very glad to see what they did on expungement. I mean, for a young man or young woman to be arrested with a small amount of marijuana in his or her pocket and then have this serious criminal record because the law was so overdone in terms of penalties.
To treat marijuana the same as cocaine or heroin or anything like that made no sense. And yet so many young people—their lives were basically ruined because they had a severe criminal record because they had a small amount of marijuana in their possession. They never should have had that severe record. So expungement is only fair and only right. They’re mainly state laws so we can’t force expungement, but it’s something that I was very glad New York did and I hope other states will follow that. And we’ll do whatever we can federally as well to encourage it.
MM: Going back to the federal level, we’ve been talking about comprehensive reform. The House only narrowly approved the MORE Act last year, and that was regarded by advocates as fairly broad policy. You need 50 or 60 votes to get the legislation passed depending on how you advance it—are the votes there?
CS: Well, we’re working as hard as we can. We’re first drafting the legislation. We’re talking to people about it. I don’t want to give out what’s in it yet because we’re in the process of doing it and talking to people. But you know, 65 percent of the American people support legalization of marijuana. I was utterly amazed and pleasantly surprised when a conservative state like South Dakota had it as a referendum and it passed so overwhelmingly. Its time has come.
And you know, all the old bugaboos that if marijuana was legalized, crime would go up and marijuana was legalized, drug use would go up. But we’ve had—you know, [U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis] called the states the laboratories of experimentation, and we’ve had those laboratories and they’ve been experimenting. None of these parade of horribles that the opponents of legalization, or even decriminalization, put out came to be true.
I think the American people are realizing not only the harms that have been done to communities of color, but also this this is freedom. And if marijuana is not going to have all these adverse effects—and in fact, we’ll have some positive effects in terms of dealing with legislation, dealing with making up for what has happened to communities of color, it’s a good thing. I think as the Rolling Stones say, “Time is on our side. Yes, it is.”
MM: Senator Booker said in a recent interview that he’s essentially unconcerned about President Biden’s opposition to recreational legalization because, as long as he supports decriminalization federally, he won’t be an obstacle to your pending legislation. Would you agree with that sentiment?
CS: Well, look, I never want to contradict Cory Booker, but I’m gonna keep working on the president to go the whole way. I’ve had some success in persuading him on other things—not related to marijuana, but other issues. I’d like him to understand that the world has changed, the facts have changed and full legalization is the right way to go. Obviously, it’s helpful if he moves in our direction in a significant way. That will be helpful, of course.
MM: Outside of cannabis, I wonder what your thoughts are on more broadly ending the drug war. Oregon voters approved an initiative to decriminalize possession of all currently illicit drugs—is that a policy you support as well?
CS: Certainly, we need much more in treatment. The shortage of treatment is horrible and COVID has exacerbated it. I think we have three times the opioid use than we had pre-COVID. Now we did put about $4 billion into the American rescue plan for more for treatment, but there’s not close to enough. The story I tell is, I knew a man in western New York. His son was an Iraq war veteran, came back with PTSD, became addicted on opioids—and finally his father was trying to convince him to go to treatment and finally, you know, when you hit bottom, the kids said, “Yes, I’ll go.” They went to the local places that provide treatment, and it was 23-week waiting list and the son killed himself in week 22. We need much more focus on treatment. I can’t talk about—I don’t know the specifics of any specific state law, but the focus on rehabilitation treatment is vital.
More news, tweets, etc in the comments. Happy 420! Open Bar later!
— 𝐀𝐦𝐞𝐥𝐢𝐚 💖🌥✨ (@AngelOfCannabis) April 20, 2021
Good Mornin’ birdies! Let’s get started with an interview of Charles Booker on Medhi Hassan’s show.
More news, videos, tweets, etc in the comments. Sure happy it’s Thursday!
Robert Reich knows a thing or two about federal budgets, and the economist who has served in three presidential administrations says there is something wrong with Joe Biden’s plan to increase Pentagon spending above the levels proposed by former President Trump.
“The Pentagon already spends: $740,000,000,000 every year, $2,000,000,000 every day, $1,000,000 every minute,” says the former secretary of labor. “The last thing we need is a bigger military budget.”
Unfortunately, that’s what the president is seeking. This has led Reich to announce that he is “frankly disappointed that Biden’s proposing $715 billion for the Pentagon—an increase over Trump’s $704 billion defense budget—instead of moving back toward Obama-Biden era levels of defense spending, or less.”
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“Or less” is the right direction, especially at a moment when Republican deficit hawks are circling in preparation for attacks on domestic spending that is essential for working families who have been battered by the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden’s $1.5 trillion budget plan has much to recommend it. The president is seeking significant increases in funding for education and proposing to invest in criminal justice and police reform, combating gun violence, and other worthy efforts. “However, despite the positive investments in these programs,” says Representative Barbara Lee, “I was incredibly disappointed at the significant increase in Pentagon spending to even higher levels than the Trump administration. With so many people across the country struggling to make ends meet, the last thing we need to do is increase investment in wasteful Pentagon spending.” Noting that “this budget adds twelve billion new dollars for weapons of war,” the longtime critic of endless wars asks us to “just think how that same amount could be used to invest in jobs, health care and fighting inequality—especially as we fight back a once in a century public health and economic crisis.”
Lee was once a lonely voice on behalf of cutting Pentagon spending. But the California Democrat now has allies in powerful places. “I have serious concerns,” says Senate Budget Committee chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), “about the proposed $753 billion budget request for the bloated Pentagon—a $12.3 billion increase compared to the last year of the Trump Administration. At a time when the U.S. already spends more on the military than the next 12 nations combined, it is time for us to take a serious look at the massive cost over-runs, the waste and fraud that currently exists at the Pentagon.”
Congressional Progressive Caucus chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) is blunter: “We’re in the midst of a crisis that has left millions of families unable to afford food, rent, and bills. But at the same time, we’re dumping billions of dollars into a bloated Pentagon budget. Don’t increase defense spending. Cut it—and invest that money into our communities.”
That’s not a radical response. When Data for Progress surveyed voters nationwide last year about budget priorities, 56 percent supported cutting the Pentagon budget by 10 percent to pay for fighting the coronavirus pandemic and funding education, health care, and housing. Sixty-nine percent of Democrats expressed enthusiasm for the proposed cut, which was striking. Even more striking was the 51 percent support it got from Republicans.
When the idea was raised in Congress in July of 2020, 93 members of the House of Representatives voted for a 10 percent cut, as did 23 senators. That wasn’t a win, obviously, but it was a groundbreaking show of support for reduced spending on the military-industrial complex.
Can congressional progressives build on that base of support to alter priorities in the Biden budget? It won’t be easy. Centrist Democrats will be cautious about cuts, and Republicans can be expected to demagogue the issue. But progressive caucus members have had success in pushing the new administration to abandon some of the worst Pentagon initiatives of the Trump years. For instance, a new letter signed by 70 House members commends Biden for “[his] first steps toward ending U.S. support for the war in Yemen, including announcing an end to U.S. military participation in offensive Saudi actions; a review of weapons sales to Saudi Arabia for use in its six-year air war in Yemen; and a revocation of President Trump’s terrorism designation against the Houthis, with the express purpose of averting a hunger crisis.” (The letter urges the president to go further and “use all available U.S. leverage with the Saudi regime to demand an immediate and unconditional end to its blockade, which threatens 16 million malnourished Yemenis living on the brink of famine.”)
One of the key movers in the fight to end US support for the war in Yemen, Representative Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), thinks the time is right to push the administration and Congress for a broader rethink of spending priorities.
“A proposed increase of $13 billion in defense spending is far too much given [the Pentagon budget’s] already rapid growth at a time of relative peace,” says the Wisconsin Democrat who with Lee cochairs the Defense Spending Reduction Caucus. “We cannot best build back better if the Pentagon’s budget is larger than it was under Donald Trump.”
Pocan has ideas for where to make cuts. For instance, he says “we must stop funding for former President Trump’s excessive $1.5 trillion nuclear modernization plan and complete a new nuclear posture review as each of the last three presidents have done. The United States has far more nuclear weapons than are needed for our security, so let’s stop funding the waste.” In addition to arguing for “no new spending on nuclear weapons,” Pocan points to the need to audit Pentagon waste and accountability measures to eliminate slush funds.
That’s a message that will resonate with the American people, says Representative Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who maintains that there is a growing awareness that “it is simply inexcusable to continue to shower weapons manufacturers with hundreds of billions of dollars in Pentagon waste.”
Advocacy groups share the view that this is precisely the right time for members of Congress to make the case for tightening the bloated Pentagon budget. “Following a year of deadly proof that throwing money at the Pentagon does not keep us safe from modern day threats, it is unconscionable to not only extend Trump’s spending spree, but to add to it,” says Win Without War’s Erica Fein. “Deadly pandemics, climate crisis, desperate inequality—the greatest threats to global security do not have military solutions. Yet while we’re repeatedly asked how we will afford to address these truly existential threats, the same question is never asked of adding to the Pentagon’s already-overstuffed coffers. Let’s be clear: continuing to funnel near-limitless resources into the pockets of arms manufacturers while underfunding public goods only undermines the safety of people in the United States and around the world.”
More news, tweets, videos, etc in the comments section.
Let’s get started with an interview with Stephanie Kelton on MSNBC last Night:
Speaking of, Prof Kelton is on Barron’s Top 100 Women in US Finance list.
“There is a very fundamental rethink happening in the way lawmakers are approaching the federal budget-making process,” Stephanie Kelton, 51, tells Barron’s. “They used to start from the premise that every bill should be deficit neutral. That’s changing.”
That’s a consequence, in no small part, of the persistent advocacy of Kelton, a professor of economics and public policy at Stony Brook University and the author of The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of the People’s Economy, published in 2020. Her goal is to “replace a fake financial constraint with a real inflation constraint” in the minds of policy makers.
She seems to be making progress. When Congress swiftly passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan in March, just a few months after passing a $900 billion pandemic relief package at the end of December, there was little debate about the impact on the debt. Instead, the arguments focused on whether the economy would “overheat” in response to the extra money, leading to excessive inflation.
Even so, the Biden administration’s recent proposal to pay for a temporary boost in infrastructure spending with a permanent increase in corporate profit taxes suggests that Kelton still has her work cut out for her.
More videos, tweets, news, analysis in the comments section.
Housing is a universal need, and it’s so tied up with personal wealth building, economic health (see the financial crisis), inequality, transportation, and even climate that it quickly turns into a divisive subject. In reporting Chain of Title and the plight of foreclosure victims, I saw how much personal investment we have in our homes, how we use them to mark time and measure up in society. People were scraping by to stay current on their mortgages before their medical bills or utilities; they’d rather have a house than the heat in that house.
What I’m trying to say is that the totemic value placed on housing, particularly in the United States, makes housing policy divisive. That’s not necessarily going to change with federal investment. And that’s the context for one of the more tantalizing policy strands in the American Jobs Plan, which is one of the rare throwbacks to the 2009 Obama stimulus.
The Biden plan vows to “eliminate exclusionary zoning and harmful land use policies” though a “competitive grant program that awards flexible and attractive funding to jurisdictions that take concrete steps to eliminate such needless barriers to producing affordable housing.” The grants will reportedly be at least $5 billion.
The policy idea here is that local control of zoning has led to things like mandatory parking and height limits and single-family requirements that have depressed the supply of housing, particularly in expensive cities on the coasts, and that addressing the shortage would keep up with demand and make these areas more affordable (or at least not completely outpriced). The response from opponents is that this tears down the character of neighborhoods and leads to gentrification and congestion and doesn’t reduce the cost of housing or the displacement of lower-income residents, because the replacement housing serves luxury markets. The response to that response is that those luxury units still comply with the laws of supply and demand, and the housing vacated by those snapping up gentrified replacements is lower-cost, and you can solve congestion in other ways, like through transit-oriented development. And then it just keeps going.
The policy arguments are even more entrenched than most debates, for the sentimental reasons explained above. For this piece I want to talk about the politics of the Biden administration entering into this argument at the federal level. Because the model for this is something called Race to the Top.
About the only thing more important to people than their homes is their kids, and in the late-aughts there was a separate fierce debate on the center-left around “failing schools” and the need for education reform. One side said that bad teachers had to be fired and testing had to measure student achievement and nontraditional setups like charter schooling had to be encouraged. The other said that teaching to a test wasn’t teaching and charters cherry-picked their own students and testing didn’t correlate to teaching and poverty and other factors played into learning. And it just kept going.
The Obama administration got into the middle of that debate with Race to the Top. Part of the 2009 stimulus and also priced in the range of $5 billion, it was a competitive grant program that gave states money if they changed their K-12 rules to conform to the ed reform agenda. This included supporting charters and evaluating teachers stringently and turning around underperforming schools and developing more tests and assessments. Nineteen states were eventually awarded grants, and many standards were changed to acquire them.
At the time, states were cash-strapped from the recession, and the Obama administration was exploiting that to make the education reform changes it wanted. Today, cities are more cash-strapped than states (and really everyone’s in better shape now that the American Rescue Plan’s fiscal aid is in process), and the money dangled would come in handy, if land use were changed.
It’s what happened after Race to the Top that’s more notable. School districts opted out of the reforms, and eventually so did several states. Backlash to low pay rallied the nation to the cause of teachers, including in red states. And education reformers rather rapidly lost their advantage within the Democratic coalition. During the 2020 presidential campaign, every Democratic candidate distanced themselves from the charter school movement. Biden’s education secretary marked a real shift from the Obama years too. And when the Biden team initially added a competitive grant for pandemic resources for schools in the American Rescue Plan, the pushback of it as “Race to the Top 2.0” was so furious that it was quietly removed.
Part of this is because teachers are such a large and powerful constituency within the Democratic Party that deliberately antagonizing them wasn’t going to work. But the model of a Democratic administration taking sides in an intra-party debate and using federal dollars to boost their desires led to their side of the debate being completely walked out of the party. Is it better for Democratic education reformers that they got a handful of states to change their education policies, some temporarily, if in the exchange they gave up practically all of their influence within the party?
And could this happen with these competitive grants for land use? Not everything is the same, of course, and the exclusionary zoning/housing supply charges have arguably more support among Democrats than education reformers did. But though conservatives pay more lip service to it, the stirrings of local control are ever-present, and tensions run as high in housing as they do in education. The potential for a backlash is definitely present, and the politics of housing are volatile. Supply-side reformers might want to be careful what they wish for.
Granted, there’s eight times as much money, about $40 billion, in the Biden plan for public housing investment, though a lot of this will go to fixes of the existing dilapidated stock rather than supply. An investment in social housing, which would start by repealing the Faircloth Amendment that literally makes it illegal to build new public housing without bulldozing old units, would do much to balance the scales on this. Faircloth repeal, authored by AOC, passed the House in their infrastructure bill last year; I’d imagine it will pop up again in the Democratic version of the Biden package.
More news, analysis, tweets, videos in the comments. See you there!