The Government Donald Trump Left Behind

by Chris Morran, propublica.org
Jan. 27, 2021

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Donald Trump was elected president in 2016 following a campaign of pledges to build a wall along the border with Mexico, repeal and replace his predecessor’s signature health care legislation, “drain the swamp” of special interests in Washington, D.C., and cut through the federal government’s bureaucracy, all to “Make America Great Again.”

Trump ultimately fell short on many of his signature promises, but his administration’s successes in cutting taxes, rolling back regulations and reshaping the judiciary will cast a long shadow, with the national debt reaching historic highs, weakened federal agencies and conservative judges who will remain in position for decades.

President Joe Biden has begun undoing some inherited policies via executive orders, yet much of what the new administration ultimately hopes to achieve cannot be accomplished by presidential fiat. Like Trump when he was reversing Obama-era regulations, Biden will need cooperation from Congress, including compromises with at least some Republicans in the Senate, to enact significant swaths of his agenda, and he faces a ticking clock to undo some of Trump’s midnight” rules.

Here are some of the most important ways Trump changed Washington and the federal government:

Renovating the Swamp

From the start of his term, Trump staffed his administration with lobbyists — hundreds of them, by our count — some of whom remain in career positions. He signed an executive order on ethics that was supposed to bar his political appointees from lobbying their former agencies for five years after they left government, though ProPublica found in 2018 that the order was not being enforced. Then, one of his final acts as president was to rescind that order, calling into question whether the swamp was drained or if Trump had built a yacht club along its murky waters.

Trump’s deregulatory successes left some federal agencies understaffed, underfunded and unable to function properly, as demonstrated by his administration’s botched response to the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. Even if Biden is able to restaff and Congress allocates the money to restore slashed budgets, it will take years to reverse rules put in place by Trump.

Biden has set about trying to reverse at least some of Trump’s actions that rolled back the rights of LGBTQ Americans, like the military’s ban on transgender service members, and a 2020 “conscience rule” that helped to shield federally funded health care providers who refused to provide services on religious or moral grounds.

The new administration will almost certainly have to employ one of the tools Trump used to halt or undo former President Barack Obama’s regulations: a little-known law called the Congressional Review Act.

The law, passed in 1996 by a GOP majority in the House, which was led by Speaker Newt Gingrich, gave Congress the ability to pass a simple resolution of disapproval and thereby reject any new major regulation implemented by a president. It also permanently prevents these voided regulations from being resurrected in any similar form without a subsequent act of Congress. In the two decades after it was enacted, the CRA was only used successfully once.

Then came Trump.

His 2016 election resulted in a flood of regulatory rollbacks — 15 in the first year of his term alone.

Now that the Congressional Review Act has been established as a political power tool, Biden and a Democratic-led House and Senate will likely use it to repeal as many of the Trump administration’s midnight regulations as they possibly can in the limited window of time available to them.

ProPublica tracked more than 75 such regulations from Trump’s final months in office, at least 50 of which were finalized before Biden’s inauguration.

Remaking the Court

Among federal institutions, the judicial branch will remain in Trump’s shadow the longest. The one-term president was responsible for installing more than 225 federal judges and three Supreme Court justices to lifetime appointments. A ProPublica analysis highlighted the relative youth of Trump’s judicial appointments. Given the age of many of these judges, they are likely to remain in their positions for 30 years or more before retiring.

The Senate’s then-majority leader, Mitch McConnell, handed Trump a gift by refusing to hold hearings in 2016 for Obama’s nominee to fill a Supreme Court vacancy. In April 2017, that seat was filled by Neil Gorsuch, who, at age 49, was the youngest justice on the court.

The subsequent appointments of Brett Kavanaugh (53 when confirmed) and Amy Coney Barrett (47 when confirmed) made clear Trump’s goal of placing young, deeply conservative justices into lifetime appointments.

According to a ProPublica analysis, all three Trump-appointed justices could remain with the court until 2050 or beyond by simply staying through or slightly beyond the average age of retirement for the court.

Trump’s relative success with Supreme Court nominations was only part of the GOP strategy to remake the federal courts. McConnell and Republican leadership deliberately held back on confirming Obama’s judge nominations in hopes of the White House changing parties after 2016. In his last two years in office, Obama only saw two of his appellate nominees confirmed to the bench. By contrast, Trump seated a cavalcade of judges during his term — 19 appeals court spots and nearly 50 U.S. district court judges in 2018 alone.

In one four-year term, Trump placed 54 judges in federal appellate courts, and seated 174 district court judges. By contrast, Obama and former President George W. Bush seated 55 and 62 appellate judges, respectively, over the course of their eight-year stays in office.

Following the death of liberal Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2020, the issue of “packing the court” by adding more justices became a talking point for both progressives who supported the idea and for Trump, who claimed Biden would use the strategy to change the court’s ideological balance. However, Biden has not publicly supported this idea, and it would be unlikely to succeed in Congress.

The Constitution prescribes no specific number of justices for the Supreme Court, which over the years has had as few as six justices and as many as 10. The current nine-justice court was established in 1869, though there have been multiple proposals to expand the court, most notably in 1937, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt made a failed plan to expand the Supreme Court to as many as 15 justices.

The Democrats’ win of both Georgia Senate seats in January means Biden should be able to fill vacancies in the judiciary, with Republicans unable to block hearings and Vice President Kamala Harris acting as the tiebreaker for any 50-50 confirmation votes. However, finding nominees that satisfy all 48 Democrats and the 2 independents who caucus with them may prove to be a challenge.

There is also the question of how many Supreme Court seats Biden will have the opportunity to fill. Stephen Breyer is the only justice currently above the typical retirement age. Justice Clarence Thomas, the longest tenured of the nine, is 72. According to the ProPublica analysis, if he stays on the bench through typical retirement age, he would remain in place through 2029.

Long-tenured district and appellate court judges who meet specific age and experience requirements can declare “senior” status, which allows for their seats to be filled by the president while they continue working. There are currently dozens of judges eligible for this designation. On Inauguration Day, District Court Judge Victoria Roberts of Michigan’s Eastern District announced her intention to transition into senior status. It remains to be seen how many others will choose this path.

A Win for the Wealthy, a Loss for the Uninsured

Even though Trump began his term with Republicans in control of both chambers, the GOP was unable to pass major bills on issues like immigration and abortion because it couldn’t get the 60 votes it needed to end debate in the Senate and get to a final vote. The two signature Trump legislative efforts — on health care and tax cuts — were expedited by using the budget reconciliation process, which limits what can be put into the legislation but means the bill is not subject to a cloture vote.

In his public remarks, Trump sold the Republicans’ 2017 tax reforms as mainly benefiting the middle class and creating jobs.

Yet the new tax law’s cap on deductions for state and local taxes, along with the elimination of some mortgage deductions, resulted in a trillion-dollar drop in overall home values nationwide — “a very big deal to families whose biggest financial asset is the equity they have in their homes,” wrote ProPublica’s Allan Sloan.

ProPublica has reported on a number of ways in which the 2017 tax cuts benefited America’s wealthiest, including some Trump appointees. Similarly, the plan’s Opportunity Zone tax breaks, which were purportedly intended to spur investment in lower-income neighborhoods, have repeatedly gone to billionaire investors and developers for projects that were not new or are of dubious value, like a Florida superyacht marina.

Critics warned the cuts would raise the national debt, which then stood at around $20 trillion. Trump insisted otherwise, telling Fox News’ Sean Hannity in 2018 that when the bill “really kicks in, we’ll start paying off that debt like it’s water.”

Despite Trump’s pledge that the revenue lost from the tax cuts would be recouped by tariffs and increased productivity, the national debt continued to rise, even before the COVID-19 pandemic. The $1.563 trillion budget deficit from 2019 was higher than it had been in all but one year under the Obama administration, which spent $1.652 trillion in 2010 in an effort to end the economic downturn that resulted from the crash of the housing market. More than a year after signing the tax law, Trump’s own White House referred to the then-$22 trillion national debt as a “grave threat to our economic and societal prosperity.”

Then the coronavirus hit, requiring trillions of additional dollars in spending to keep Americans working, fed and in their homes. As of Dec. 31, 2020, the national debt stood at $27.75 trillion, up 39% from $19.95 trillion four years earlier and at its highest level relative to our economy since the end of World War II.

During the 2020 campaign, Biden proposed income tax increases on individuals earning more than $400,000 annually, repealing the cap on state and local tax deductions, and raising the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%, splitting the difference between Trump’s level and the 35% rate that was in place before 2017.

As experts have noted, the new president may face an uphill battle trying to sell any tax hike while the economy remains troubled. While the Democratic Party now controls both chambers of Congress, Biden cannot afford even a single defector in the Senate if he hopes to succeed there. Additionally, Biden hopes to push through a $1.9 trillion stimulus package in the early part of 2021, which will further inflate the debt.

Undoing Obamacare

On the day of his inauguration in 2017, Trump signed Executive Order 13765, instructing the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the heads of other relevant federal bodies to try to “waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation” of any part of the Affordable Care Act if they deemed that it “would impose a fiscal burden on any State or a cost, fee, tax, penalty, or regulatory burden on individuals, families, healthcare providers, health insurers, patients, recipients of healthcare services, purchasers of health insurance, or makers of medical devices, products, or medications.”

The order was a clear indication of the administration’s determination to undermine Obamacare, which had helped an estimated 20 million people get health insurance during its first two years.

While the House passed its version of a health care plan, dubbed the American Health Care Act, in May 2017, what followed was a series of failed attempts to craft a Senate version of the bill. The process came to an end in July 2017 with the Health Care Freedom Act, dubbed a “skinny repeal” bill with no real replacement plan. That too failed in the Senate, when Sen. John McCain of Arizona, with a now-famous thumbs-down gesture, joined fellow Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine and all Democrats in voting “no.”

The closest Trump would come to repealing the ACA came later in 2017, when — as part of the Republican tax bill — he effectively negated the individual mandate, which required individuals to carry a minimum level of healthcare coverage or face an annual penalty of up to $695; the tax bill reduced the amount of that penalty to $0. The Trump administration also cut back on marketing for the ACA’s open enrollment periods and expanded the availability of short-term limited-duration insurance policies, which are generally less expensive than those that meet ACA requirements but offer fewer protections, particularly for preexisting conditions. Despite repeated promises from the president that a true ACA replacement was in the offing, it never materialized.

Though Obama’s legislation remains on the books, its initial surge in coverage numbers began to reverse itself after 2017. According to a 2020 Kaiser Family Foundation report, there were 28.9 million uninsured nonelderly Americans by the end of 2019, an increase of 2.2 million since the beginning of 2017, with the number expected to continue rising in 2020 due to the historic levels of unemployment resulting from pandemic-related layoffs and closings.

In addition to resulting in more uninsured Americans, the Obamacare repeal campaign set the tone of bluster, partisanship and misinformation that would come to define many aspects of the Trump years. As ProPublica reported in May 2017, backers of the repeal legislation had engaged in a campaign of inaccurate information, misleading euphemisms and a curated online discussion bubble in which members of Congress blocked critical comments from their constituents.

Biden and the new Democratic-led Congress could reinstate the individual mandate, but financial penalties for uninsured Americans will be difficult for the White House and legislators to sell to a public living through mass unemployment. Rather, as part of his $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, the new president hopes to maintain insurance rolls by increasing the value of the Premium Tax Credit — a refundable credit that helps eligible taxpayers afford insurance coverage — so that their net cost of insurance premiums is no more than 8.5% of an individual’s yearly income.

The new White House will face pressure from within its own party as progressive Democrats push to replace traditional insurance plans with a single-payer “Medicare for All” plan. Support for this concept is increasing among the general public. According to a September 2020 report from Pew Research, 63% of Americans support at least some mix of government and private insurance plans, up 4 percentage points from the previous year. Support for a single national government program was up 6 percentage points year-over-year, rising from 30% to 36%. During the campaign, Biden did not push for a Medicare for All plan, but rather for expansion of the ACA marketplace via the “public option,” meaning government-run insurance plans that would compete with private insurers.

The Wall

In early 2018, with nothing to show for his campaign promises and no indication that Mexico wanted any involvement in funding the border wall, Trump floated to then-Defense Secretary James Mattis the idea of using money earmarked for the armed forces to build it.

It would be nearly a year before Trump moved forward with this plan, setting off a slew of legal challenges, some involving the Supreme Court. Opponents said Trump did not have the authority to reallocate billions of congressionally appropriated military funds. The standoff over money for the wall resulted in the longest shutdown in U.S. government history. Congress, now with a Democratic majority in the House, eventually agreed to give Trump part of what he requested, but with some restrictions. The president was also allowed to use billions that had previously been allocated for the military’s counter-narcotics efforts.

After construction on the wall finally began in earnest, a ProPublica/Texas Tribune investigation found that costs for the structure were running significantly higher than expected. For example, the Army Corps of Engineers issued two contracts worth $788 million for construction of one 83-mile stretch of wall. In less than a year, the value of those contracts increased by more than $1 billion. Within a year, after the length of the wall segments in those contracts was extended by 63% to 135 miles, the total cost more than tripled to $3 billion. ProPublica and the Tribune found multiple instances where the value of border wall contracts was increased through the use of supplemental contracts without any competitive bidding.

While more than 400 miles of wall were constructed by the end of Trump’s term, only about 80 miles involved building a barrier where none had existed before, according to newsreports. The Washington Post reported that Biden may be obligated to build more than 200 additional miles of wall.

On his first day in office, Biden issued an executive order describing the wall as a “waste of money that diverts attention from genuine threats to our homeland security.” The order pauses construction and spending on the wall “to the extent permitted by law,” leaving open the possibility that construction could continue or that money will continue to be spent on the project. Our investigation confirmed that some wall contracts come with hefty termination fees. One agreement stipulates a cancellation fee of nearly $15 million.

The Erosion of Trust

The legacy of the Trump administration will be one of erosion, both of norms and of trust in government. Arguably the strongest example is Trump’s yearslong campaign to convince the American people that their elections are not secure.

Trump became president by winning the electoral college in 2016, but he repeatedly insisted without evidence that he’d only lost the popular vote to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton because of widespread election fraud.

“I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” Trump tweeted on Nov. 27, 2016, despite all evidence to the contrary. The next day, he added, “Serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California – so why isn’t the media reporting on this? Serious bias – big problem!” Again, his claims were not backed up by the facts.

His zeal for the voter fraud myth did not cool after taking office. A May 11, 2017, executive order created the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity to investigate, among other things, issues “that could lead to improper voter registrations and improper voting, including fraudulent voter registrations and fraudulent voting.”

In the end, the commission only met three times before Trump summarily dissolved it in January 2018, amid internecine legal squabbles and other troubles. Though the administration said the Department of Homeland Security would continue the commission’s work, the Trump White House never unearthed any actual evidence of substantial voter fraud.

The commission was a failure, but it thrust members like Hans von Spakovsky into the spotlight. Von Spakovsky, a prominent purveyor of discredited voter fraud claims, would go on to become a central figure in some Republican efforts to restrict mail-in and early voting during the 2020 election.

As Trump and his surrogates stoked unfounded fears of dead people and undocumented migrants voting, Americans grew concerned about interference in elections. A Gallup poll released in early 2020 found that nearly 3 in 5 Americans no longer had confidence in the election process, an inversion from only a decade earlier when that same poll found that almost 3 in 5 Americans were confident in the integrity of their elections.

With the 2020 election drawing near, Trump preemptively claimed that if he lost on Election Day it would have to be the result of fraud.

“The Democrats are also trying to rig the election by sending tens of millions of ballots using the China virus as the excuse for allowing people not to go to the polls,” Trump said during a June 2020 campaign event in Phoenix, Arizona. He later predicted, “This will be, in my opinion, the most corrupt election in the history of our country, and we cannot let this happen.”

The volume of ominous statements from Trump soared in the weeks leading up to the November election. According to The Washington Post’s tally of Trump’s false and misleading claims, the president made more than 1,500 such statements about the election between July 1 and Nov. 2, 2020.

Even after Trump’s legal team and his unofficial legal supporters failed more than 60 times to convince courts to overturn election results in multiple states, and after the Jan. 6 Stop the Steal rally escalated into an insurrection at the Capitol that left at least five people dead, a large number of Americans still believe in the fiction of a stolen election.

According to a CNN/SSRS poll taken after the violence at the Capitol, 32% of Americans said they think Biden did not legitimately win the election. Nearly one-quarter of all respondents believe there is “solid evidence” that Biden actually lost. Three-quarters of Republican respondents said they had little or no confidence that elections reflect the will of American voters.

The 2020 election will not be the end of outrageous voter fraud myths. The longer-term effect is only just being seen, as state legislatures around the country reconvene for their new sessions, with a number of Republican-led assemblies already moving to restrict or repeal efforts to make voting easier.

In Pennsylvania, where most Republican lawmakers supported expanded mail-in voting even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the state Senate voted on its first day back to create a special committee to investigate election reforms.

“Far too many residents of Pennsylvania are questioning the validity of their votes or have doubt that the process was conducted fairly, securely and produced accurate results,” state Sen. Jake Corman, who had voted for the 2019 election reforms, said about the commission in December. His statement echoed an argument similar to that made by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz on Jan. 6, only minutes before insurrectionists breached the Capitol.

Similarly, Minnesota state Sen. Scott Newman, a Republican, recently introduced a bill to require photo identification from voters. Like Corman, he did not cite any evidence of specific fraud that would merit ID checks, just stated that “millions of American citizens believe there was widespread fraud during the last election, and their loss of faith in the integrity of our election system alone justifies incorporating photo ID into our voting system.”

SOURCE: propublica.org
MAIN IMAGE SOURCE: President Donald Trump, carrying an umbrella, exits Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on Aug. 28, 2020. Credit:Doug Mills/The New York Times/Redux

Boris Johnson promises plan next month for ‘phased’ easing of lockdown

27 January 2021
www.bbc.com

The PM has said he hopes a “gradual and phased” relaxation of Covid restrictions can begin in early March.

Boris Johnson told MPs he intended to set out a plan for how the lockdown in England could be eased and the criteria involved in the final week of February.

Factors will include death and hospitalisation numbers, progress of vaccinations and changes in the virus.

He has ruled out schools in England re-opening after the February half term, instead setting an 8 March target.

In a statement to Parliament, Mr Johnson said the scientific data was not sufficiently clear to make any decisions now but he hoped to publish a detailed roadmap in just under a month’s time as the “picture became clearer”.

He also announced plans for tighter border restrictions to combat new variants of Covid, confirming all those arriving from high-risk countries will have to quarantine in hotels and other accommodation for 10 days.

The PM, who is under pressure from Tory MPs to spell out how the current lockdown will end, said relaxing restrictions would depend on emerging data about how effectively the vaccine stops virus transmission.

He signalled any easing of restrictions would start with schools, setting a potential re-opening date of 8 March – when he said he hoped the 15 million or so people in the top four vulnerable groups earmarked for vaccinations by mid-February will have had their jabs and have full protection.

“Our aim will be to set out a gradual and phased approach to easing the restrictions in a sustainable way,” he said, adding that the “first sign of normality” should be pupils returning to school.

He added: “We hope it will be safe to begin the re-opening of schools from 8 March with other economic and social restrictions being removed thereafter as the data permits.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said reopening schools should be a national priority and urged the government to vaccinate teachers and support staff during the February half term.

Labour is also calling for the government to prioritise key workers in critical professions, seeing them added to the first phase of the vaccination programme, alongside those might likely to become seriously ill.

Analysis box by Nick Triggle, health correspondent

Cases are falling and the vaccination programme is going well. So why is the government waiting?

Firstly, there are doubts about how fast infections are falling.

While the daily figures show they have almost halved in just over a fortnight, the government’s surveillance programmes which involve random testing suggest the drop may be slower.

It is unclear why there is this discrepancy, but understanding the true trajectory is crucial to knowing what will happen to pressures on hospitals.

What impact the vaccination programme has will also be vital.

Early results from Israel, which is leading the world on vaccination, suggest cases in older age groups start falling three weeks after significant numbers are vaccinated. But ministers want to see that pattern repeated here.

They also want to know what effect vaccination has on transmission – it is possible vaccinated people can still transmit the infection even if they are protected from illness.

This will not be completely clear by March, but scientists should at least have a better idea.

When a plan for exiting lockdown is set out, the government wants to be certain it can be kept to. But given the cost of lockdown the pressure to lift restrictions will grow if progress keeps being made.

Presentational grey line

Last week, chair of the Covid Recovery Group Conservative MP Mark Harper said if the government meets its 15 February vaccination deadline, then ministers should begin easing lockdown by 8 March.

He welcomed the announcement from the prime minster.

View original tweet on Twitter

Lockdown restrictions

Under the current lockdown, people in England must stay at home and only go out for limited reasons such as food shopping and exercise.

Similar measures are in place across much of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

England’s lockdown laws are due to end on 31 March. Mr Johnson has previously said this date is to allow for a “controlled” easing of restrictions back into local tiers.

Under the tier system, different rules are applied to different parts of the country, depending on factors such as pressure on the NHS, number of cases and rates at which case numbers fall.

Pupils in England are not expected to return to school before the February half term. Mr Johnson has said schools will be reopened “as soon as we can” but did not guarantee that would happen before Easter.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said restrictions in Scotland will continue until mid-February at the earliest.

In Wales, the lockdown will be reviewed at the end of January, but the government has previously said it does not see “much headroom for change”.

Northern Ireland’s lockdown has been extended until 5 March.

SOURCE: bbc.com
MAIN IMAGE SOURCE: PA MEDIA

We can’t gaslight students about the Capitol riot. We can use it as a teaching tool.

Darcy Richie, chalkbeat.org
Jan 7, 2021

Here’s how educators can talk with young people about Wednesday’s events.

As teachers, we are constantly in a position of having a double consciousness. When I see an event happen, I know I need to do two things: to process it myself and to help the young people process it. I spent Wednesday gripped by that knowledge.

This double consciousness is always a challenge, and particularly so when the events we’re witnessing are scary — as was Wednesday’s insurrection in the U.S. Capitol. 

I’ve spent years working with young people and teachers, and recently became the senior program and impact director at Generation Citizen — a nonprofit devoted to “action civics.” Our curriculum gives students the tools to choose an issue they care about. Then we teach them about the policies and governmental structure behind that issue so they can use their voices and actions to make change.

Darcy Richie

Through our program, students learn about who holds influence and power in government. They talk to community members. They engage with guest speakers, so that students and policy leaders can learn from one another.  

In a country where young people rarely have a seat at the table, Generation Citizen students have influenced local government decisions on critical issues. Of course, there are times when our students don’t succeed in reaching, or persuading, their local leaders. But in those instances, they walk away with a deepened awareness of the power dynamics that makes systemic change so hard. It’s a peek behind the curtain, a way to show students what government really is and how it works. 

The behavior by the mob at the U.S. Capitol Wednesday felt like an illustration of all of the opposite impulses. In its wake, teachers could use the insurrection to illustrate for young people how those strategies — violence, for one, as well as ignoring the legitimate processes of our government — ultimately didn’t work.

Congress still met. They still voted. Joe Biden is still the president-elect. This isn’t about teachers superimposing their opinions, but about empowering young people to come to fact-based conclusions using their own critical thinking skills.

This is also a moment to elevate facts and emphasize critical thinking, specifically: 

  • Teachers can encourage students to ask themselves: What is my opinion? Why do I believe that? What are the facts and details that support or dispute what I think?
  • This is also an opportunity for teachers to bring up past instances of white rage, such as the attacks on students during school desegregation or the white supremacist marches in Charlottesville, Virginia. Educators can discuss with students the unresolved and enduring legacy of systemic racism in the United States, going back centuries — long before the Civil War.
  • Relevant recent comparisons for students abound, especially given the responses to the racial justice protests following the police killing of George Floyd. Students can look at how people in power labeled those events. How did those in elected office and in the media describe those participating? Use news articles to compare that to the events at the Capitol. How many called it “a protest”? How many called it “an insurrection”? How many called it “activism”? Encourage them to ask themselves: What do I believe Wednesday represented? This isn’t about teachers superimposing their opinions, but about letting young people come to fact-based conclusions.

The trouble is that when events like this happen, we almost gaslight students. We say or imply that the response of the police is separate from their beliefs. But we can actually see the police response was incredibly different between what happened Wednesday and what happened during the Floyd protests. Young people see the difference, too. And so as a teacher, having the ability to name the differences you see, and saying, “Yes, the police response was different,” is vital.

This is also an opportunity for teachers to learn alongside students. I might tell them that I didn’t realize there was only one other time in history that the Capitol has been taken over, and that was in the 1800s. Let’s research that. What were the circumstances in the 1800s? Do they seem different than the circumstances now? Let’s look at the images. I’m noticing the images from that time in the past are images of pain and seriousness. Now, I’m seeing pictures of people laughing, carrying a podium, putting their feet up on desks that belong to members of Congress. Let’s craft a narrative from these images. I’m not telling you how you should think; I’m facilitating learning and learning alongside you.

This is also a moment to partner with families. I might let families know that I want to open space for young people in my class, and ask them: What are things you want them to discuss? This can be hard to do, but the moment presents an opportunity for relationship-building between families and teachers. 

It is also important for teachers to give themselves time to process what has happened. During the George Floyd protests, we at Generation Citizen jumped into action, figuring out what resources we could share with teachers. And at some point, somebody on my staff messaged me asking, “Are you OK?” As a Black person, a Black leader, a Black educator, who was absorbing these images, I wasn’t ok. I needed to take space to process that, too.

Teachers: I wish the world would recognize how much pressure is on your shoulders. Young people are asking and thinking about these critical questions while teachers are also trying to teach math. It’s a lot, but the space you open for students can be transformative. Thank you.

This is also a chance for educators to share their own truths. The author Bettina Love writes that being a person of color and being a young person of color today is a civic action. As a Black educator, I believe that. 

Darcy Richie is the Senior Director of Program and Impact at Generation Citizen.

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.

SOURCE: chalkbeat.org
MAIN IMAGE: In the wake of the mob attack on Capitol Hill, teachers are processing the events and helping young people do the same. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Japanese government considers state of emergency for Tokyo area

By Chang-Ran KimElaine Lies
JANUARY 4, 2021, reuters.com

TOKYO (Reuters) – The Japanese government said on Monday it was considering declaring a state of emergency in and around Tokyo as coronavirus cases climb, casting fresh doubt over whether it can push ahead with the summer Olympics and keep economic damage to a minimum.

Citing government sources, Kyodo News reported that preparations were being made for a state of emergency that would take effect by Friday and last about a month.

Tokyo and the three surrounding prefectures, which have requested an emergency declaration, asked residents to refrain from non-essential, non-urgent outings after 8 p.m. from Friday until at least the end of the month, and said eateries must close by that time.

Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, in charge of coronavirus countermeasures, said the government would make a decision on an emergency “as soon as possible” after listening to experts.

Japan registered a record 4,520 new cases on Dec. 31, about half in and around Tokyo, but Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has resisted demands for tougher action.

Asked to explain the potential change of heart, he told a news conference: “Even during the three days of the New Year’s holidays, cases didn’t go down in the greater Tokyo area … We felt that a stronger message was needed.”

Suga did not say when the government would decide, or what restrictions would follow. A state of emergency last spring lasted more than a month, shutting down schools and non-essential businesses.Slideshow ( 3 images )

“WHAT’S GOING ON?”

In the absence of specifics, hundreds of thousands of Twitter posts expressed dismay and confusion.

“This morning, the news said it’s 200 days till the Olympics, and in the afternoon, that there could be another state of emergency. What’s going on?” tweeted user Mii Mama.

Since the start of the pandemic, Japan has recorded more than 245,000 cases and about 3,600 deaths.

Although the figures pale in comparison to those of many parts of Europe and the Americas, Suga has the challenge of hosting the Olympics in Tokyo this summer after the pandemic caused the Games’ first-ever delay in 2020.

Still, Suga repeated a pledge to continue preparations for the Games said a vaccination programme should begin by the end of February.

Japan has until now relied mostly on voluntary closings rather than the rigid lockdowns seen elsewhere, but Suga said a bill would be submitted to parliament to give state-of-emergency restrictions more teeth, including penalties.

He said many new cases with unknown origins were likely to be linked to restaurants, and that cutting their hours should help.

Later he said on television news that the government would consider raising the maximum compensation for businesses that agree to shorter hours from the current 20,000 yen ($195) a day.

Toshihiro Nagahama, an economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute, estimated that a one-month suspension of non-urgent consumer spending in greater Tokyo would slash gross domestic product by 2.8 trillion yen ($27 billion), or an annualised 0.5%, costing around 147,000 jobs.

($1 = 102.9800 yen)

SOURCE: reuters.com
MAIN IMAGE SOURCE: pexels.com

Urbanism Without Government

Two cases which demonstrate that urban infrastructure can be provided without government

December 31, 2020
Emily Hamilton

Asking, “But who will build the roads?” is a cliched response to proposals for a more libertarian political system. However, it leads to the interesting historical question of “Who has built the roads in anarchic societies?”

Colonial America provides a few examples that answer this question. Perhaps the best known example of anarchism in American history was in Rhode Island, or “Rogue’s Island,” founded by Baptists fleeing Massachusetts. The stateless Baptists founded the cities of Portsmouth and Warwick.

Unlike the Baptists, William Penn didn’t intend to create an anarchic colony, but Pennsylvania was, in fact,without a government from 1684 to 1691 as evidenced by Penn’s failure to successfully levy any taxes during that time.

It’s difficult to know much about street building from this time period in part because of how much time has passed and in part because,as Murray Rothbard writes:

The lack of recordkeeping in stateless societies — since only government officials seem to have the time, energy, and resources to devote to such activities — produce a tendency toward a governmental bias in the working methods of historians.

However, we do know that Philadelphia’s neighborhoods near the Delaware River were growing during this time.

One of the country’s oldest continually occupied streets is Philadelphia’s Elfreth’s Alley. It was dedicated in 1702, shortly after this period of complete anarchy and served as a route to connect local merchants’ property with the already thriving Second Street. As the society dedicated to the alley’s preservation writes:

Elfreth’s Alley — popularly known as “Our nation’s oldest residential street” – dates back to the first days of the eighteenth century. Twenty years after William Penn founded Pennsylvania and established Philadelphia as its capital, the town had grown into a thriving, prosperous mercantile center on the banks of the Delaware River.

Philadelphians had abandoned Penn’s plan for a “greene countrie towne” and instead created a cityscape similar to what they remembered in England. Wharves stretched out into the river, welcoming ships from around the world. Shops, taverns, and homes crowded the area along the river. Philadelphians made and sold items essential to life in the New World and to the trade that was a part of their daily lives.

Two of these colonial craftsmen, blacksmiths John Gilbert and Arthur Wells, owned the land where Elfreth’s Alley now sits. In 1702, each man gave up a portion of his land to create an alleyway along their property line that connected their smithies near the river with Second Street, one block away. By that date, Second was a major north-south road, connecting Philadelphia with towns north and west of the city and the frontier beyond.

Gilbert and Wells donated their land both to benefit their businesses and to improve the city’s transportation network in keeping with the Quaker tradition of voluntarism. Their actions demonstrate the power of cooperation for mutual gain, but it’s also notable that streets built with donated land are likely to be narrow, as Elfreth’s Alley is.

As the article explains that William Penn envisioned Pennsylvania as a “countrie towne,” but without the ability to raise any taxes needed to enforce his vision, he couldn’t prevent Pennsylvania residents from developing the sort of dense and mixed-use development that supported their growing industries in Philadelphia.

Victorian England provides another example of rapid urban growth under very limited government. Decades after the construction of Elfreth’s Alley, urban development absent any city planning, government infrastructure, or building codes swept across London and other English cities.

Neighborhoods including the West End and Nottingham were developed during this period of hands-off government policy, relying on the private sector for providing all infrastructure, from streets to streetlights to drainage.

In both cases of laissez- faire urban development, we see very narrow streets, as landowners are making the trade between providing easements for accessibility and developing land for profit. Unlike colonial Philadelphia’s period of total anarchy, London had a system ofPrivate Acts, which required developers to seek permission from Parliament to implement any significant land use changes.

After development was in place, some neighborhoods used covenants to enforce upkeep of common goods such as lighting and even to enforce design standards for builders. In his chapter in The Voluntary City, Stephen Davies explains that landowners did not place covenants on all land and that the stringency of covenants varied widely.

Because covenants tended to increase both the quality and price of housing, this variation allowed builders to serve both low- and middle-income residents, depending on where they built:

Developers were able to tailor the extent of their providing “public goods” via covenant to the nature and scope of local demand, as well as account for other factors such as land and building costs. This is in marked contrast to the rigidity and fixity of state attempts to supply these goods through public planning, zoning laws, and the like. The flexibility also extended to the enforcement of covenants. Landlords and developers would often not enforce the building clause in a lease when demand for land was slack, as long as the rent was paid.

While colonial Philadelphia and Victorian London saw road building under different legal institutions, both cases demonstrate that urban infrastructure can be provided without government.

Perhaps the free market would never create the interstate highway system, but it’s proven itself capable of facilitating the creation of charming, functional streets that endure centuries.

This article was reprinted with permission from Market Urbanism.

Emily Hamilton
Emily Hamilton

Emily Hamilton is a Research Fellow for the State and Local Policy Project at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Her research focuses on urban economics and land-use policy.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.
Main Image: Elfreth Alley, Image Credit: Wikimedia

More Than 2,900 Health Care Workers Died This Year — And the Government Barely Kept Track

Christina Jewett and Robert Lewis and Melissa Bailey, Kaiser Health News
December 23, 2020

This story also ran on The Guardian. It can be republished for free.

More than 2,900 U.S. health care workers have died in the COVID-19 pandemic since March, a far higher number than that reported by the government, according to a new analysis by KHN and The Guardian.

Fatalities from the coronavirus have skewed young, with the majority of victims under age 60 in the cases for which there is age data. People of color have been disproportionately affected, accounting for about 65% of deaths in cases in which there is race and ethnicity data. After conducting interviews with relatives and friends of around 300 victims, KHN and The Guardian learned that one-third of the fatalities involved concerns over inadequate personal protective equipment.

Many of the deaths — about 680 — occurred in New York and New Jersey, which were hit hard early in the pandemic. Significant numbers also died in Southern and Western states in the ensuing months.

The findings are part of “Lost on the Frontline,” a nine-month data and investigative project by KHN and The Guardian to track every health care worker who dies of COVID-19.

One of those lost, Vincent DeJesus, 39, told his brother Neil that he’d be in deep trouble if he spent much time with a COVID-positive patient while wearing the surgical mask provided to him by the Las Vegas hospital where he worked. DeJesus died on Aug. 15.

Another fatality was Sue Williams-Ward, a 68-year-old home health aide who earned $13 an hour in Indianapolis, and bathed, dressed and fed clients without wearing any PPE, her husband said. She was intubated for six weeks before she died May 2.

“Lost on the Frontline” is prompting new government action to explore the root cause of health care worker deaths and take steps to track them better. Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services recently asked the National Academy of Sciences for a “rapid expert consultation” on why so many health care workers are dying in the U.S., citing the count of fallen workers by The Guardian and KHN.

“The question is, where are they becoming infected?” asked Michael Osterholm, a member of President-elect Joe Biden’s COVID-19 advisory team and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. “That is clearly a critical issue we need to answer and we don’t have that.”

The Dec. 10 report by the national academies suggests a new federal tracking system and specially trained contact tracers who would take PPE policies and availability into consideration.

Doing so would add critical knowledge that could inform generations to come and give meaning to the lives lost.

“Those [health care workers] are people who walked into places of work every day because they cared about patients, putting food on the table for families, and every single one of those lives matter,” said Sue Anne Bell, a University of Michigan assistant professor of nursing and co-author of the national academies report.

The recommendations come at a fraught moment for health care workers, as some are getting the COVID-19 vaccine while others are fighting for their lives amid the highest levels of infection the nation has seen.

The toll continues to mount. In Indianapolis, for example, 41-year-old nurse practitioner Kindra Irons died Dec. 1. She saw seven or eight home health patients per week while wearing full PPE, including an N95 mask and a face shield, according to her husband, Marcus Irons.

The virus destroyed her lungs so badly that six weeks on the most aggressive life support equipment, ECMO, couldn’t save her, he said.

Marcus Irons said he is now struggling financially to support their two youngest children, ages 12 and 15. “Nobody should have to go through what we’re going through,” he said.

In Massachusetts, 43-year-old Mike “Flynnie” Flynn oversaw transportation and laundry services at North Shore Medical Center, a hospital in Salem, Massachusetts. He and his wife were also raising young children, ages 8, 10 and 11.

Flynn, who shone at father-daughter dances, fell ill in late November and died Dec. 8. He had a heart attack at home on the couch, according to his father, Paul Flynn. A hospital spokesperson said he had full access to PPE and free testing on-site.

Since the first months of the pandemic, more than 70 reporters at The Guardian and KHN have scrutinized numerous governmental and public data sources, interviewed the bereaved and spoken with health care experts to build a count.

The total number includes fatalities identified by labor unions, obituaries and news outlets and in online postings by the bereaved, as well as by relatives of the deceased. The previous total announced by The Guardian and KHN was approximately 1,450 health care worker deaths. The new number reflects the inclusion of data reported by nursing homes and health facilities to the federal and state governments. These deaths include the facility names but not worker names. Reporters cross-checked each record to ensure fatalities did not appear in the database twice.

The tally has been widely cited by other media as well as by members of Congress.

Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.) referenced the data citing the need for a pending bill that would provide compensation to the families of health care workers who died or sustained long-term disabilities from COVID-19.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) mentioned the tally in a Senate Finance Committee hearing about the medical supply chain. “The fact is,” he said, “the shortages of PPE have put our doctors and nurses and caregivers in grave danger.”

This story is part of “Lost on the Frontline,” an ongoing project from The Guardian and Kaiser Health News that aims to document the lives of health care workers in the U.S. who die from COVID-19, and to investigate why so many are victims of the disease. If you have a colleague or loved one we should include, please share their story.

Subscribe to KHN’s free Morning Briefing.

SOURCE: khn.org
MAIN IMAGE SOURCE: KHN

Federal Employees to Get a Full Day Off on Christmas Eve

President Trump issues an executive order that breaks with recent precedent by granting vacation for all of Dec. 24, rather than a half-day.

DECEMBER 11, 2020 WHITE HOUSE
COURTNEY BUBLÉ, govexec.com

President Trump signed an executive order on Friday giving federal employees an extra day off on Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve falls on a Thursday this year and it was previously expected that the federal workforce would get a half-day off. President Obama granted the half day in 2015 and 2009, when Christmas fell on a Friday, as did President Clinton in 1998.

Trump has been relatively generous with granting federal employees vacation around Christmas. Last year the president surprised federal employees by giving them Dec. 24 off despite the fact that Christmas fell on a Wednesday. Trump also gave Christmas Eve off in 2018, to allow the federal workforce a four-day weekend. Christmas Eve is not an official federal holiday. 

“The heads of executive departments and agencies may determine that certain offices and installations of their organizations, or parts thereof, must remain open and that certain employees must report for duty on December 24, 2020, for reasons of national security, defense, or other public need,” the order notes. 

This is Trump’s last Christmas as president, with President-elect Biden preparing to take over on January 20, despite the fact that Trump is still contesting the results of the election. 

SOURCE: govexec.com
MAIN IMAGE SOURCE: BY IGORALEKS / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM