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Exclusive: Democrats need an enemy on inflation. Enter “corporate greed.”

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Democrats need an enemy on inflation. Enter “corporate greed.”

#Democrats #enemy #inflation #Enter #corporate #greed

Americans don’t need the Labor Department to tell them that prices remain high. Still, Friday’s consumer price index report for May revealed that inflation reached a 40-year high, an 8.6 percent increase last month compared to a year ago. Energy and food supply shocks from the Russia-Ukraine war, pandemic-related employment and production shortages, and strong consumer demand, especially in airline travel, all contributed to higher prices.

The Biden White House knows that the economy will be the primary matter on the ballot in midterm elections this year; that’s partly why President Joe Biden has dedicated the month of June to voicing the ways the White House is trying to soften the blow of rising prices, while giving the Federal Reserve cover to raise interest rates.

But Democrats also know that they have a major messaging problem. CNN and NBC News both reported in the last month that Biden is frustrated he can’t break through the bad economic vibes to convince the American people that, objectively, the economy is doing pretty well. Faced with competing priorities by different audiences in his party, in Congress, and among the public, the White House is struggling to find an enemy to pin that fault on without admitting that, just maybe, the president’s crowning economic accomplishment was partially responsible for worsening inflation.

Still, Democrats in Congress and the White House may not be going after two perfect villains hard enough: large corporations and billionaires, which progressive think tanks, economists, and activist groups say bear some of the responsibility for rising costs of living.

Starting with local demonstrations and continuing to organize throughout this year, an array of progressive groups are trying to shift the national conversation on inflation toward corporate giants — and some think that national Democrats should do more to cast “corporate greed” and price gouging by big businesses and Republican politicians as bigger culprits for still sky-high prices. They also argue that beyond turning the tide on Biden’s approval rating, focusing on a populist economic message can win back working-class voters in competitive House districts.

What progressive groups are doing — and what they want from Biden

Price gouging is a pretty self-explanatory concept: when a seller (a large corporation or business) takes advantage of a crisis, emergency, or disaster (in this case, high inflation) as cover to raise the price of a product to an unreasonable level. Left-leaning economists and think tanks argue that this practice is happening now, with corporations taking advantage of bottlenecks in the supply chain (like not enough truckers or overwhelmed ports), the Russia-Ukraine war (which raised the price of oil and natural gas), and high demand, in order to raise prices — not just to cover higher production costs but to make bigger profits — and pin it all on inflation.

“Firms are passing along their rising costs, but then they’re going for more. And that’s leading to really historic high profit margins,” Lindsay Owens, the executive director of the Groundwork Collaborative, a progressive economic nonprofit, and a former senior economic policy adviser to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), told Vox. Owens listened in on earnings calls last year to understand how CEOs were thinking about supply chain disruptions and projected earnings, only to find positive outlooks for profits.

“The story of inflation in 2021 was really big markups, and markups that were coming in part because firms were using the cover of inflation to take big price increases to change the price level. As we moved into the first quarter of 2022, that trend has continued,” she said. Owens said the May CPI report makes more sense in the context of “corporate greed” because some oil and gas executives have scored higher profits while not increasing production to keep pace with demand — worsening the supply shortage.

By calling these practices “corporate greed,” activists hope to convince people that the current economic system may not be working for consumers who are stressed by inflation, but is delivering handsome returns to shareholders and business owners who may be making more money under the cover of inflation.

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Some progressive groups are now ramping up efforts to amplify this message. Unrig Our Economy, a progressive campaign formed by local organizers in various states and started by the merger of two other progressive groups, Health Care Voter and Tax the Rich, began a summer campaign Friday to call attention to large corporations and their profit margins with a series of rallies in Arizona, California, Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, and Texas.

The “day of action” Unrig Our Economy and its local partners organized zeroed in on specific energy, food, and pharmaceutical companies that have presences in the cities they selected for protests, like Tyson Foods in Waterloo, Iowa, Eli Lilly in Indianapolis, Indiana, and Kellogg’s in Omaha, Nebraska. Speakers trained their ire on corporations they argue have taken advantage of the pandemic and inflation to raise prices — and politicians they accuse of having stymied efforts to regulate price gouging and profiteering.

Progressives in the Unrig coalition want to prove that “economic populism is a winning strategy … and this fight over inflation is like ground zero in many ways for achieving that,” Sarah Baron, the group’s campaign director, told Vox. With the nation’s attention being pulled among inflation, gun violence, the January 6 committee’s public hearings, and a Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade expected this summer, that strategy isn’t guaranteed to work.

Several of these demonstrations happened in or near competitive House districts held by Republicans, like Iowa’s First and Nebraska’s Second congressional districts, where activists argue large corporations have exploited communities’ reliance on jobs. The Unrig Our Economy arm that organized a demonstration in Bakersfield, California, for example, rallied outside the field office for Rep. David Valadao, one of this year’s most endangered incumbent Republicans, and linked his past roles on the Land O’ Lakes food company’s regional leadership council and the California Milk Advisory Board to his work in Congress to support the dairy industry, a major employer and industry in the fertile farmlands of California’s Central Valley.

Alice Walton, a spokesperson for Unrig Our Economy’s Central Valley arm, told Vox that though they are not coordinating with Rudy Salas, the Democratic candidate who will face Valadao in November, they see speaking about corporate greed as an easy way to rally working-class voters to support policies that progressives back.

“In a competitive race, there’s a much better opportunity for candidates to talk about what’s on the minds of voters. We’re out there talking about economic policies that we think are important to average Americans, and we are hopeful that it starts a greater conversation within the district,” she said.

Unrig members and a handful of members of Congress plan to bring that call for stricter regulation of prices in these markets to Capitol Hill in the near future, organizers told Vox. In Congress, progressive senators like Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Jeff Merkley have already trained their attention on corporate profits and antitrust regulations as key policy and political goals. As it is, the federal government is limited in what it can do: The Justice Department opened an investigation into “illicit gain” from companies through its antitrust division, and the House passed a bill to give the president the power to limit price hikes by oil companies, but most price gouging is regulated at the state level. Biden has urged the House to take up a vote on a bill to give federal agencies more power to regulate costs from ocean shipping companies, which have raised prices dramatically over the last year. Other kinds of legislation to regulate costs among big food and energy producers, however, don’t appear to have much momentum.

Will “corporate greed” stick?

There’s not a lot of unanimity among economists on just how much of a role price gouging and corporate greed plays in inflation. Progressives say it has a large role, if not necessarily the primary role, while more centrist economists, like Larry Summers and Jason Furman, two of President Barack Obama’s top economic advisers, have referred to blaming price gouging as “dangerous nonsense” and “political ranting.”

Even Biden’s own Treasury secretary is unwilling to pin the blame firmly on corporate profits. Owens argues that it can still be seen as “an accelerant, an amplifier of inflation, not as the root cause of inflation”— a part of the puzzle. But regardless of the wonkish debates over what is causing inflation, corporations are a popular punching bag: polling from Navigator and Data for Progress shows that Americans already assign some blame to big business for rising costs, and anecdotal evidence from grassroots groups backs this up.

With prices rising on everyday goods, average Americans “just see it happening, when you go to the store or fill up your gas tank. People get it, that it’s the companies who are deciding what the prices are. Our strategy here is we just need to help connect those dots a little bit, and remind people about what is actually happening,” Matt Sinovic, the executive director of the activist group Progress Iowa, which protested Tyson Foods, and Republican Rep. Ashley Hinson, in Waterloo on Friday, told Vox.

Biden and his White House team have already leaned into the message a bit. During last year’s holiday season, he pinned some of the blame on industries where a handful of corporations have consolidated the market, like meatpacking. But he’s renewed the effort this month with speeches and on social media. On Instagram, Biden is explaining the consolidation of ocean shipping. He’s calling out oil companies for not increasing production on Jimmy Kimmel’s late-night show. And he’s picked fights with CEOs. Just Friday, Biden made headlines at the Port of Los Angeles by attacking Exxon Mobil, saying: “Exxon made more money than God this year … Why aren’t they drilling? Because they make more money not producing more oil.” Bharat Ramamurti, the deputy director of the National Economic Council, similarly made that argument to CNN this week.

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An ExxonMobil spokesperson countered the president’s claims in a statement to Vox, saying they “have been in regular contact with the administration, informing them of our planned investments to increase production and expand refining capacity in the United States,” and specifying increased oil production in the southwest United States, additional investments in their infrastructure, and pandemic losses in 2020.

Progressives want more of this kind of offense — and Biden might have no other choice. A recent FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos tracking poll showed that more than half of Americans are worried first and foremost about inflation, and right now, Biden seems to be bearing the brunt of the blame in polling for rising costs, even if most of that rise is out of his control. His current economic plan is rooted in letting the Fed do its work, pushing Congress to pass new taxes on big businesses, and reducing the deficit. What he doesn’t have is a clear enemy to attack.

Even if Biden and Democrats can persuade voters to blame corporate greed for rising prices, the success might be limited if legislative and regulatory action doesn’t happen, and voters return to blaming Biden. Democrats have an immense challenge ahead to show Americans that the party in charge not only knows who is worsening the problems, but is doing something to fight it.


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Exclusive: This Innocent Woman's House Was Destroyed by a SWAT Team. A Jury Says She's Owed $60,000. – TalkOfNews.com

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This Innocent Woman's House Was Destroyed by a SWAT Team. A Jury Says She's Owed $60,000.

#Innocent #Woman039s #House #Destroyed #SWAT #Team #Jury #She039s #Owed

When Vicki Baker cleared out her home in McKinney, Texas, in 2020, she filled two 40-foot dumpsters with her belongings. It wasn’t the way she’d pictured emptying the house as she prepared to begin retirement in Montana. But there was little else to be done with her tear-gas stained items after a SWAT team careened through her fence, detonated explosives to blow her garage door off its hinges, smashed several windows, and drove a BearCat armored vehicle through her front door to apprehend a fugitive that had barricaded himself inside.

A federal jury last week decided that Baker is entitled to $59,656.59 for the trouble. It’s both a controversial and surprising decision. Normally, people like Baker get nothing.

In July 2020, Wesley Little arrived at Baker’s house with a 15-year-old girl he’d kidnapped. Little had previously worked for Baker as a handyman, though she had fired him about a year and a half earlier after her daughter, Deanna Cook, expressed that something may be awry. Cook answered Little at the door that day; having seen him on recent news reports, she left the premises and called the police.

The girl was released unharmed. But Little refused to exit the home, so a SWAT team arrived and began to tear the house down around him in a process known as “shock and awe.”

They then kindly left Baker with the bill. “I’ve lost everything,” she told me in March 2021. “I’ve lost my chance to sell my house. I’ve lost my chance to retire without fear of how I’m going to make my regular bills.” Those bills include treatment for stage 3 breast cancer.

Yet the only thing perhaps more absurd than a jury having to force the government’s hand in recompensing her is that Baker almost did not have the privilege to bring her case before one. Federal courts in similar cases have ruled that the government can usurp “police powers” to destroy your property and avoid having to pay it back under the Takings Clause of the 5th Amendment, which is supposed to provide a remedy for such circumstances.

After the ordeal, Baker sought that remedy through her home insurance, which stipulated that they are not on the hook if it is the government’s fault. And though the government didn’t deny being at fault, per se, they did deny that Baker was a victim, sending her on her way with a ravaged home, thousands of dollars in destroyed personal possessions, and a dog that went deaf and blind from the chaos that July day.

In November of last year, Baker’s luck began to turn. A federal judge denied the city of McKinney’s motion to dismiss her case. In April, that same jurist, Judge Amos L. Mazzant III of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, described the interpretation of the law barring Baker from suing as “untenable.” And last week, the jury handed down their ruling. The city may appeal, which will delay any payout.

In coming to his decision, Mazzant invoked another unfortunate case: that of the Lech family, who had their $580,000 home ruined by a SWAT team as they pursued an unrelated shoplifter who broke in. Greenwood Village, Colorado, did more for them than McKinney would do for Baker, forking over all of $5,000. A federal court ruled that the family could not sue, and the Supreme Court declined to take up the case.

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“Even though a number of federal courts have gone the wrong way on this issue, they’ve done so with very cursory analysis,” says Jeffrey Redfern, an attorney at the Institute for Justice, the public interest law firm shepherding Baker’s case. He says this new ruling is different and should “be the one that everyone is looking at” as similar situations continue to pop up.

It does not set a precedent, however. “In this case, we put the city claims agent on the stand,” notes Redfern, “and she said, ‘Yep, I denied the claim, and I deny every claim like this, and if this happened tomorrow I would deny it again.’” Unfortunately for people like Vicki Baker, this will continue to be a familiar story.

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Exclusive: 1/6 Committee Hits Spiraling Trump Again By Subpoenaing Pat Cipollone – TalkOfNews.com

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1/6 Committee Hits Spiraling Trump Again By Subpoenaing Pat Cipollone

#Committee #Hits #Spiraling #Trump #Subpoenaing #Pat #Cipollone

The 1/6 Committee has subpoenaed one of the people who knows the intimate details of Trump’s coup plot, former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone.

The AP reported:

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection issued a subpoena Wednesday to former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who has been linked to meetings in which lawyers debated strategies to overturn former President Donald Trump’s election loss.

The Committee said that it required Cipollone’s testimony after obtaining other evidence about which he was “uniquely positioned to testify.”

Pat Cipollone Can Testify To The Plot To Overturn The Election

According to Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony, Cipollone has intimate and wide-ranging details about the plot to overturn the election. Hutchinson testified that Cipollone warned that if Trump went to the Capitol, they would be charged with every crime imaginable.

Trump was already falling apart after Hutchinson’s testimony, and he could be in for a double whammy if his former White House Counsel testifies. The White House Counsel is not a personal lawyer to the president but represents the institutional interests of the Executive Branch.

If Cipollone testifies, it will be the bombshell that will level the rubble that was already smoldering after Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony.

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Exclusive: How blue cities in red states are resisting abortion bans – TalkOfNews.com

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How blue cities in red states are resisting abortion bans

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Mayors of blue cities in red states are leading a local charge to push back on laws criminalizing abortion now that the Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade. But there’s only so much they can do to shield abortion providers from prosecution and improve access to the procedure in states that have made it illegal or will soon do so.

“I do anticipate that there’s more that blue cities and red states can do to fight back against this government overreach and stripping women of their fundamental rights,” Cincinnati, Ohio, Mayor Aftab Pureval told Vox.

Cities can’t make abortion legal in states that have outlawed it. They can take steps to decriminalize the procedure and potentially limit any adverse consequences that pregnant people who have abortions and abortion providers might face. But they can’t give abortion seekers what they need the most: access to the procedure.

How cities in Texas, Ohio, and Arizona are trying to fight abortion bans

In the wake of Dobbs v. Jackson, the case that overturned Roe, cities in Texas, Ohio, and Arizona have begun working within these limits by taking steps to ensure that local law enforcement resources don’t go toward targeting abortion-related crimes.

Of those states, Texas is the only one with a “trigger law” outlawing abortion immediately after the overturn of Roe. That law briefly went into effect following the Supreme Court ruling before it was temporarily blocked by a state court earlier this week. Ohio’s ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy went into effect on Friday, and the state is expected to ban all abortions later this year. And Arizona has an abortion ban on the books that predates the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe.

Austin, Texas, Mayor Steve Adler responded to Dobbs by co-sponsoring a resolution — drafted in the weeks before the Court’s decision and that could be voted on as early as this week — that would update city policy to deprioritize the investigation or enforcement of any charges related to pregnancy and abortion. It would also prevent the use of city funding for information sharing, data collection, and surveillance related to abortion services and other reproductive health decisions. There are some exceptions for when “coercion or force” is used against a pregnant person or in cases involving criminal negligence related to a pregnant person’s health.

Pureval has commissioned a report on potential opportunities to decriminalize abortion in Cincinnati and to prioritize law enforcement resources to protect the health and safety of pregnant people and medical care providers. Additionally, he’s reached out to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot for opportunities to collaborate, anticipating that Illinois will be the closest state where Ohioans can get abortions, he told Vox.

“We are looking at ways to decriminalize abortion in our city or, at the very least, make it clear that our priorities for our public safety dollars, namely our Cincinnati Police Department, are for issues like gun violence and other violent crimes in our communities, and not invading our local hospitals and investigating our doctors and women in our city,” he said.

Phoenix, Arizona, Mayor Kate Gallego told Axios that she has “no interest in criminalizing health care providers” and is working with the city’s attorneys to find the “most effective ways to protect our residents and women’s health care.” And the Tucson, Arizona, City Council voted earlier this month to order its police department not to arrest people violating state anti-abortion laws.

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Other cities are investigating similar measures. Cities in North Carolina, for example, which has a pre-Roe abortion ban on the books that has not yet been enforced, have also taken steps to protect abortion providers and pregnant people.

Durham passed a resolution in March declaring the city a “sexual and reproductive health care safe zone, ensuring the people’s right to reproductive freedom, and naming these rights as fundamental.” The city council in Raleigh is weighing similar actions, including requests from abortion rights advocates to protect abortion clinics in the city with buffer zones and noise ordinances and block the Raleigh Police Department from collecting data stored on menstrual cycle tracking apps.

It’s not yet clear, however, whether any of these measures will make a meaningful difference in preventing the prosecution of abortions.

The limits to what blue cities in red states can do to protect abortion rights

There are still ways that state law enforcement agencies can get around blue cities’ attempts to thwart the enforcement of abortion bans. The state attorney general’s office and district attorneys can still seek civil and criminal penalties against people who violate state abortion laws in blue cities. Abortion providers are also bound by the rules of state medical boards, which could revoke or suspend the licenses of providers they see as defying state regulations.

States with bans on the books are debating how strictly they intend to enforce them. Texas is going as far as encouraging surveillance of women and prosecuting doctors. Other states, like South Dakota, have announced that they won’t file criminal charges against people who get abortions.

But state resources to enforce the bans might be limited if cities won’t cooperate. In some ways, it’s similar to what’s been happening with marijuana legalization. While it might still be illegal in places like Texas to possess any amount of marijuana, cities like Austin have agreed not to bring charges against someone who possesses a misdemeanor amount of the drug, meaning that it’s unlikely they’d face legal repercussions unless state law enforcement somehow got involved.

Again, none of these cities’ efforts will increase in-state access. But there are things many mayors can do to try to make abortion more accessible. Cincinnati is trying one of these, by repealing a decades-old ordinance that prevented the city health plan from covering abortions, meaning the procedure would now be covered. Anyone taking advantage of that benefit would need to leave the state to do so, but Pureval said that the city would reimburse them for the costs of traveling.

“We also hope that this will encourage other large employers in our city, including Kroger, which already has announced that they’ll be doing something similar from a travel reimbursement perspective,” Pureval said.

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