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Fri Mar 12, 2021, 10:19 PM

Friday Talking Points -- Biden's Independence Day Speech

Last night, the president of the United States stood before us all and uttered the following stirring words, in a call for unity: "Mankind -- that word should have new meaning for all of us today. We can't be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interests." He went on to inspire us further: "We're fighting for our right to live, to exist, and should we win the day the Fourth of July will no longer be known as an American holiday but as the day when the world declared in one voice: 'We will not go quietly into the night. We will not vanish without a fight! We're going to live on. We're going to survive!'" By the end of it, there was not a dry eye in the house.

Oh, wait, we seem to have mixed up our transcripts. That speech was actually given by "President Whitmore" in the film Independence Day. How could we ever have made such a silly error?

Heh.

It's a pretty safe bet that someone in the White House speechwriting office reviewed that clip, before writing President Joe Biden's speech last night. Not to have done so, in fact, would have been political malpractice. Here is what President Joe Biden actually said: "After this long hard year, that will make this Independence Day something truly special. Where we not only mark our independence as a nation, but we begin to mark our independence from this virus." Totally different, right? However could we have mixed them up?

Amusing movie references aside, President Biden laid down three of these markers in his speech, which will come as a relief to everyone who has been yearning for some shred of an iota of presidential leadership since this time, one year ago. Biden promised us all three things: (1) every adult will be able to at least get in line for a vaccine shot by the first of May, (2) every adult will actually receive their shot by the end of May, and (3) by Independence Day, we'll all be able to have family and friends over for a backyard cookout. Large crowds might not be possible, but smaller gatherings just for a barbeque will be the goal.

Those are all very tangible signs of hope, and are downright inspirational because they will give the American people something not very far in the future to look forward to. This is going to be critically important because it's always at the tail end when people start to get so tired of the restrictions that everyone just starts pretending that there's no crisis anymore. Biden's timeline allows people to say to themselves: "Well, it's only for a couple more months, we can do this!"

Which is exactly what is needed right now. Something to look forward to.

The stylistic differences between Biden and our previous president are pretty plain to see. We've gone from: "I alone can fix it" to:

I promise I will do everything in my power, I will not relent until we beat this virus, but I need you, the American people. I need you. I need every American to do their part. That's not hyperbole. I need you. I need you to get vaccinated when it's your turn and when you can find an opportunity, and to help your family, your friends, your neighbors get vaccinated as well.


In other words, we're all in this together, but the end is now in sight. Which, obviously, is a refreshing change for the better in presidential priorities and outlook.

Biden has set some rather ambitious goals. He may not be able to fully meet them. But hair-splitting whether he fully does or not isn't really the point -- the point is to give people something to look forward to and show everyone that there is a plan to get us all back to normal as fast as possible.

What Biden didn't do last night was take a political victory lap. Or, if you prefer football metaphors to racing, Biden didn't spike the football at all. This isn't to say that he won't be doing so soon -- he has actually already begun this sales job, holding what was initially supposed to be the signing ceremony for the American Rescue Plan Act today in the Rose Garden (with 17 Democratic members of Congress to help him celebrate). The bill was delivered yesterday, faster than expected, so Biden just went ahead and signed it to further hasten the stimulus payments to working Americans. Can anyone imagine the previous president forgoing a made-for-TV bill signing just so that average people would get their checks a day early? Biden also notably didn't insist on placing his name on the checks, which also saved time.

Biden's victory lap will have a name: the "Help Is Here" tour. Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, their respective spouses, and all kinds of surrogates will blanket the country with events designed not only to inform everyday Americans what is in the American Rescue Plan, but also how to take advantage of all the benefits.

Biden has learned his lesson from 2009, when Barack Obama famously refused to do such a sales job for his American Recovery Act. This allowed his opponents to define it for him, which the Republicans then gleefully did. But now, the American Rescue Plan is already wildly popular, so this "help" tour is likely only going to make it even more popular.

Republicans -- astonishingly -- can't quite seem to figure out how to react to it all. They have done a lousy job of demonizing Joe Biden, in general. It's just tough to try to get people to hate Biden. Even at the recent gathering of conservatives (CPAC), vendors were reporting that nobody was interested in buying all their anti-Biden shirts and hats and whatnot. Even the staunchest conservatives just can't muster enough hatred for Biden, it seems.

Republicans can't quite figure out how to demonize the plan, either. They have been floundering around seeking a way, mostly to no avail. They tried to claim "stimulus checks will be going to illegal immigrants," which is just not true at all (you need a Social Security number to receive a check), and then they tried to fearmonger over the fact that some prisoners (with incomes) will get checks -- which is exactly the same as all those bipartisan bills passed last year.

This was amusingly summed up in the Washington Post thusly:

So Republicans will essentially be saying, "We know the government just gave your family $8,000, but aren't you mad that some prisoner's family might have gotten some money, too? C'mon, get mad!"


In a nutshell, they got nothin'. Earlier, they tried to claim that because the bill wasn't bipartisan, it was somehow bad. This only led Biden to completely redefine how the term is used, politically, which he continued reinforcing this week: "Without the overwhelming bipartisan support of the American people, this would not have happened. Overwhelming public support -- every public opinion poll shows overwhelming support for this plan. And for the last weeks, it's shown that. Every public opinion poll shows the people want this, they believe it's needed, and they believe it's urgent." That, according to Biden, is the only measure of bipartisanship that counts, or is necessary. And he's right.

Republicans truly hate this bill because unlike just about every other massive piece of legislation for the past 30 or 40 years, this one will go to working Americans and not the wealthiest among us. Biden can easily show this with a few easy-to-understand graphs that show which income groups will benefit from the American Rescue Plan versus which made out like bandits after the previous GOP tax cut (which cost roughly the same amount of money, around $2 trillion).

But the big problem for Republican politicians is that a huge percentage of GOP voters (by the polling, anywhere from 40 percent to 60 percent of Republicans) support the plan. Which may be why the right-wing media echo chamber is notably not filled with outrage over the bill (as it usually is, when Democrats chalk up a win), but instead they've retreated into meaningless culture war skirmishes (that Democrats, for the most part, are just flat-out ignoring, this time around).

Republicans are getting increasingly desperate in trying to fight the plan. Senator Rick Scott has actually gone on the record telling Republican governors to put partisan ideology ahead of the welfare of their own constituents. No, really:

Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., who is set to meet with Donald Trump this week at Mar-a-Lago, is beseeching states and cities across America to refuse federal aid and put politics over policy. In a missive sent to governors and mayors just after the bill was approved on Wednesday, Scott tarred the piece of legislation as "massive, wasteful and non-targeted." He encouraged state and local leaders, by way of sending back the aid, to demand that Congress "quit recklessly spending other people's money."

"By rejecting and returning any unneeded funds, as well as funds unrelated to COVID-19," his letter read, "you would be taking responsible action to avoid wasting scarce tax dollars. After all, every dollar in this package is borrowed."


Good luck with that one, Ricky. My guess is that precisely zero Republican governors are going to flat-out refuse billions of federal dollars, and that zero Republican working families are going to tear up and refuse to deposit their stimulus checks. Because it is so completely insane to expect that, obviously.

Late in the week, Republicans tried a new tactic. When the economic recovery hits, they tell us, Joe Biden and this new law will have had nothing to do with it, because all the credit should go to the previous president. Seriously, that's what they're left trying to argue.

So Democrats, from Joe Biden on down, are going to blanket the country for the next few weeks celebrating all the ways that the American Rescue Plan is going to help everyone out, and how the end to this year-long crisis is now in sight and achievable, while Republicans will be left to argue the opposite -- that all the good things are really somehow bad, and how it all somehow would have happened without this legislative achievement. They gambled that they could do to this law what they did to Obamacare -- so successfully demonize it (mostly by lying about it) that popular opinion would turn away from it. However, they miscalculated this time because: (1) the effects of the recovery plan will be felt almost immediately, and (2) it is already wildly popular. Neither of these things was true for Obamacare, which is why their demonization campaign worked so well, back then.

This time, though, Biden and the Democrats seem to have the winning hand. And this time Biden isn't going to be shy about touting the benefits of this crowning legislative achievement to the skies. Help is not just on the way, we'll be hearing (hopefully over and over again), help is actually already here.





President Joe Biden certainly had a good week, capping off his first 50 days in office with the American Rescue Plan Act and his first primetime address to the nation. And we do have one specific Honorable Mention before we get to the main award.

Representative Tim Ryan gave a great little speech on the House floor this week, while the chamber was debating the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (the "PRO Act" ), which will make it a lot easier for Unions to organize. Ryan was indignant about the priorities of the two parties, and he really let fly in spectacular fashion:

Mr. Speaker, one of the earlier speakers said: "This is the most dramatic change in Labor law in 80 years," and I say: "Thank God." In the late '70s, a CEO made 35 times [what] the worker [made]. Today it's three-to-four hundred times the worker. And our friends on the other side [are] running around with their hair on fire. Heaven forbid we pass something that's going to help the damn workers in the United States of America! Heaven forbid we tilt the balance that has been going in the wrong direction for 50 years! We talk about pensions, you complain. We talk about the minimum wage increase, you complain. We talk about giving them the right to organize, you complain. But if we were passing a tax cut here, you'd be getting in line to vote yes for it. Now stop talking about Dr. Seuss and start working with us on behalf of the American workers!


But this week, instead of handing out a Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award, we are instead minting a brand-new Most Impressive Democratic Legislation award (with no time reference at all, since this truly is up there in the all-time list). And we're handing this first-ever award to the American Rescue Plan Act (which we sincerely hope everyone soon starts calling "ARPA," since it would save so much typing).

Seriously, it is indeed hard to overstate the importance of this legislation. Phrases we've heard used already: "The era of trickle-down economics is over," and: "The era of 'big government is the problem' is over," and: "This will end welfare reform as we know it." These, of course, are all throwbacks to previous famous presidential lines (from Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan). We've also heard it described as: "...with no exaggeration, the single most important piece of anti-poverty legislation since Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society."

We've been trying to keep our own list of all the good things contained within this landmark new law. The notable issue which didn't get included, of course, was raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, but because that in particular (whether by chance or design) drew so much opposing fire that all the rest of it emerged completely unscathed. Here is what the American Rescue Plan does, on top of the parts everyone already knows (sending out $1,400 stimulus checks, paying for vaccine distribution, and paying money to reopen schools safely):

  • $27.4 billion in rental assistance,

  • $10 billion in homeowner assistance,

  • $5 billion in Section 8 housing vouchers,

  • $5 billion in homelessness assistance,

  • a whopping $40 billion (the most since World War II) towards childcare,

  • 12 million more people will be able to sign up for health insurance on the Obamacare exchanges,

  • a family of four making $90,000 a year will see their Obamacare premiums drop by $200 a month,

  • nobody will pay more than 8.5 percent of their household income to buy an Obamacare benchmark plan,

  • reduce the number of uninsured by 1.3 million,

  • Medicaid expansion sweetened to entice the remaining 12 states to expand,

  • Earned Income Tax Credit boosted for 17 million people,

  • $31.2 billion for tribal governments and Native American communities,

  • a one-third reduction in poverty in America,

  • a one-half reduction in child poverty,

  • $28.6 billion for the restaurant industry (one of the hardest-hit by the pandemic),

  • Money for mass transit systems (also hard-hit),

  • 185 Union pension funds will be protected,

  • student loan tax law changed to avoid tax penalty for having a loan forgiven,

  • closes loophole that for-profit diploma mills were using to rip off veterans,

  • disadvantaged farmers (many of them Black) will get money to help with loans and purchasing new land, and

  • money for hospitals to help them cope with both vaccinations and the pandemic itself.


That is a breathtaking amount of things to cover in a single bill, and it is likely not even a complete list. The biggest and most dramatic new thing the bill will do is to send out the child tax credit as a monthly payment to struggling parents, rather than just as a tax write-off at the end of the year. This will help millions of children in the most direct way imaginable, and is the biggest reason experts are predicting a drop in child poverty rates of one-half. This won't be permanent, but if the program goes well, Democrats will definitely push hard to make it permanent when it expires.

As we said, this is a stunning array of programs to convince the American people that government truly can be a force for good -- which runs counter to the Republicans' main message since Ronald Reagan's time. For once, Democrats acted like Democrats. Or, at the very least, "acted like Democrats did back when F.D.R. was around."

Joe Biden said several times on the campaign trail he wanted to emulate the boldness of F.D.R. This is nothing new, really -- most Democrats who run for president idolize Roosevelt. But Biden has now begun his tenure by actually passing a sweeping bill that even F.D.R. would have been proud of. Biden doesn't get all the credit, no Democrat does -- this was a group effort which included good ideas that Democrats have attempted to get passed over the past 40 or 50 years. It really is that impressive.

Which is why we had to create the special Most Impressive Democratic Legislation award to properly honor it.





We have one (Dis-)Honorable Mention award to hand out this week, for Kyrsten Sinema's rather odd performance on the Senate floor. Sinema was voting against including the minimum wage hike in the bill, and she traipsed onto the floor, struck a little attention-seeking pose, and (quite obviously) gleefully stuck her thumb down to register her vote against the minimum wage.

Now, please remember, Sinema is a senator from Arizona. Another senator from Arizona is already famous for a critical thumbs-down vote. But when John McCain did it, he was voting to save affordable health insurance for millions of people. Sinema was voting to deny the lowest-paid Americans a long-overdue raise. See the difference? One senator bucked his party to do what was right, while what Sinema did was the complete opposite. Which is why she gets a (Dis-)Honorable Mention, for displaying her own dishonorable attitude.

But, sadly, there's really only one Democrat possible for this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week, and that is (once again) New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. The accusations are mounting, and (as of this writing) six women have now accused Cuomo of various improper behavior, including unwanted kisses. The latest one was the most damning, because the accusation in this case was that Cuomo stuck his hand under her shirt and groped her breasts.

Now, politicians can survive being accused of sexual misconduct (and even sexual assault) if there is only one accuser and nobody corroborates the story. But when the number of accusations rises above five, then these scandals are usually unsurvivable. Cuomo is under investigation, and a growing number of his fellow Democrats from New York have now called on him to resign immediately. So far, Cuomo is defiant, repeating his claim that all these women are lying and nothing ever happened.

And, of course, this all comes on top of another scandal, that Cuomo manipulated COVID deaths in nursing homes to make himself look better -- which is far more serious, since it involves many deaths.

At this point, we have to add our voice to those telling Cuomo he has become far too big a distraction to effectively carry out his duties. He needs to step down and admit that he's never going to be president some day. Even refusing to run for another term as governor isn't enough any more. There are just too many accusers and too many people backing them up.

Cuomo must go. And every week he sticks around, he's going to be eligible for yet another MDDOTW award.

[Contact New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on his official contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]




Volume 609 (3/12/21)

Before we begin, we have two odds and ends to get to first.

You will have noticed that there has been no discussion anywhere in this article of the British royal family. There's a very good reason for that, one that sadly too many of our fellow Americans in the news industry seem to have forgotten. Specifically, America fought an entire war so that we never had to pay the British monarchy the slightest bit of attention ever again. It's right there in the history books, folks.

And secondly, we must express our sadness upon hearing that Norton Juster has passed away. Or, as he might have insisted upon, "died." Juster was the author of an incomparable and timeless children's book, The Phantom Tollbooth, which was published with the equally-incomparable artwork of his apartment neighbor at the time, political cartoonist Jules Feiffer. We recommend this book to all and sundry, of any age whatsoever. It is an excellent book that points out the folly of language and ingrained thinking better than any other children's book we ever personally read. Requiescat In Pace, you will be missed.

With those out of the way, let's get right to this week's talking points, which are a rather mixed bag.



Biggest in two or three generations

Democrats have already started using this theme, so expect it to become prominent soon.

"The American Rescue Plan Act is the biggest piece of poverty-fighting legislation in either two or even three generations. It will reduce poverty in America by one-third. It will reduce child poverty by one-half. Please name me another bill which has done anything close to this since the 1960s. You can't, because none exists. You have to go back to L.B.J.'s Great Society for any sort of comparison at all, and if the American Rescue Plan proves to be even bigger than that, then you'd have to go all the way back to Franklin Delano Roosevelt to find such an ambitious plan to lift people out of poverty. Democrats are getting things done in Washington and making life better for tens of millions of hardworking Americans. Republicans refuse to join in, because Democrats refuse to shower goodies on Wall Street, corporate America, or the ultra-wealthy. It is nothing short of a cruel joke when today's Republicans try to claim they are the party of working-class Americans, when they always refuse to lift a finger to help a single one of them. Democrats don't just give lip service to this idea, they get things done, period."



Priorities are crystal clear

This just puts the icing on the ideological cake, really.

"While Democrats were busy passing this historic legislation, you know what Republicans were busy with? They proposed getting rid of the estate tax, so that the Paris Hiltons of this world won't have to pay a dime in taxes when they inherit billions of dollars. Folks, that is the difference between the two parties, in stark relief. Democrats want to help the little guy, Republicans can't be bothered with anyone who isn't already in the top one percent."



Already trying to steal credit

This could be a dictionary entry for the term chutzpah, really.

"What's truly hilarious is that one Republican -- Senator Roger Wicker -- is already trying to claim credit for the good ideas in the American Rescue Plan even though he voted against it. Yep, he's trying to bamboozle the voters of Mississippi into thinking he was for this new law, when -- along with every other Republican in Congress -- he refused to vote for it. Don't believe any Republican for the next two years who tries to claim any credit for any of this stuff, folks, because it was Democrats and Democrats alone who got it done. And we think the voters are smart enough to remember that when the next election rolls around."



Quality versus quantity? Really?!?

One of those classic "says the quiet part out loud" incidents happened this week. We're going to leave this one in its raw form, as an exercise for readers to create a Democratic talking point on their own, because this one truly is as easy as shooting fish in a barrel (most especially that "everybody shouldn't be voting" line):

For all of the stereotypes about elected officials being circumspect in how they speak to the public, often carefully withholding their true views, there are moments when honesty shines through. As when Arizona state Rep. John Kavanagh (R) was explaining to CNN why he supported new restrictions on voting in the state.

"There's a fundamental difference between Democrats and Republicans," he said. "Democrats value as many people as possible voting, and they're willing to risk fraud. Republicans are more concerned about fraud, so we don't mind putting security measures in that won't let everybody vote -- but everybody shouldn't be voting."

"Not everybody wants to vote," he added, "and if somebody is uninterested in voting, that probably means that they're totally uninformed on the issues. Quantity is important, but we have to look at the quality of votes, as well."




Most ex-presidents still care about the American people -- except one (of course)

We have successfully made it all the way through this column without ever typing his name out, but in this particular instance he really does need to be called out, so we'll make this one exception.

"Three of the four living ex-presidents just appeared with their wives (our ex-first ladies) to urge the public to get their vaccine shots as soon as they become eligible. That's right -- Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama all showed videos of them and their wives getting their shots, in a new public service ad. Of course, Donald Trump couldn't be bothered, after getting vaccinated in his final days in office away from public view. So what was he doing instead? Trying to stop all of America from giving Joe Biden any credit whatsoever with a petulant email to the media, which ended with the rather-pathetic: 'I hope everyone remembers!' Donald Trump is first, last, and always all about Donald Trump -- because he could care less about anyone else in this country."



If a Trump tweeted in the middle of the forest, would anyone hear it?

But there was one notable thing about this communication effort.

"Getting kicked off of Twitter has hurt Donald Trump more than anyone ever predicted, at the time. Think about it -- he had absolutely nothing to say about the American Rescue Plan, even though it is a towering legislative achievement compared to anything Trump managed -- and it happened in Biden's first 50 days in office. Now Trump is petulantly trying to remain relevant by sending out an email claiming credit for all the vaccines to what he still insists on calling 'the China Virus.' But you know what? I bet you didn't even hear about Trump's email this week, because it was so inconsequential and non-newsworthy that everyone just essentially ignored it. And that truly is the best revenge on an egomaniac -- to absolutely deny him the ego-food he desperately craves."



Scandalous!

We would give proper credit to the late-night comedian who first used this line, but we forget which one it was and are too lazy to look it up. We think it was Seth Meyers, but we could be wrong about that.

"This is what passes for a 'scandal' in the Biden White House. The story broke this week that one of Biden's dogs was involved in what was termed 'a biting incident' and both dogs were summarily dispatched back to Delaware, away from the White House excitement. With Joe Biden, even his scandals are boring -- because this is literally a story of: 'dog bites man.'"




Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Follow Chris on Twitter: ChrisWeigant
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com

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Sat Mar 13, 2021, 11:13 AM

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