It is just a question we had.
President Joe Biden is attending the United Nations's global summit on climate change in Glasgow, Scotland, where he said that the world's leaders are in the "decisive decade" to stop emissions of greenhouse gasses warming the planet and causing climate change. Biden said that up until now, world action on climate is "still falling short. There's no more time to hang back or sit on the fence or argue amongst ourselves."
BIDEN: This is the challenge of our collective lifetimes, the existential threat to human existence as we know it and every day we delay, the cost of inaction increases. So, let this be the moment when we answer history's call here in Glasgow. Let this be the start of a decade of transformative action.
Biden affirmed the US commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions between 50 to 52 percent by 2030, in comparison to 2005 levels, and said he wants to "demonstrate to the world the United States is not only back at the table, but hopefully leading by the power of our example," acknowledging that "I know it hasn't been the case and that's why my administration is working overtime to show that our climate commitment is action, not words."
In a variation on his usual closing, line blessing the US and American troops, Biden closed with ""God bless you all, and may God save the planet."
Following that speech to the full summit audience, Biden later more explicitly referred to the previous president, albeit without naming him, apologizing during a smaller meeting for the decision by Donald Trump to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, saying, "I guess I shouldn't apologize, but I do apologize." To help indicate the bipartisan American commitment to reaching climate goals, rightwingers on Twitter complained that Biden's motorcade was too large, because the CO2 emissions from Biden's armored limousine and several other vehicles no doubt took the world past the climate tipping point. Same goes for the simplistic notion that climate change can't be real, because didn't all those world leaders fly in jets to Scotland? Reminder: Individual reductions in our carbon footprints do matter! But they have to be accompanied by national action to measurably change things.
Then rightwing Twitter went crazy insisting that Biden had fallen asleep during other opening speeches, thus proving that climate change is no big deal and Biden wasn't even really elected. So we're betting there will be a lot of very serious reporting about the challenges of reducing greenhouse emissions in time to keep global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) since the industrial revolution.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres noted that the "six years since the Paris Climate Agreement have been the six hottest years on record." He said, "Our addiction to fossil fuels is pushing humanity to the brink," and urged world leaders to stop "treating nature like a toilet, burning, and drilling and mining our way deeper."
Guterres also noted that without actual action to back them up, recent announcements of pledges to cut emissions are "an illusion," since even if stated national goals were actually met — a dubious prospect — the globe would still face a 2.7 degree C increase in average temperatures (about 4.9 degrees F).
No, the answer isn't to make more ambitious promises without actually backing them up with action. Guterres said that the Paris goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees C is still attainable, but only if industrialized nations act immediately and more effectively. He also called for wealthy nations to meet their $100 billion Paris pledge of assistance to developing nations adapt to climate change and build green power as well.
For a reminder of just how seriously that help is needed, give a listen to = this WBUR interview with Tina Stege, the climate envoy for the Marshall Islands, which is facing the literal loss of some of the islands in the chain, plus disappearing fresh water, as groundwater wells have been made useless by seawater. The nation of 60,000 people now relies solely on collection of rainwater for all its drinking water and agriculture. The World Bank has listed the Marshall Islands as among the world's first nations to face disappearing due to sea-level rise, along with the nearby atoll nations of Kiribati and Tuvalu, although when exactly that's likely to happen can't yet be pinpointed. Raise buildings and reclaim land, though, and residents would at least have the choice to stay.
Climate reporter Kendra Pierre-Louis wrote a sobering thread last night on the eve of the conference — "COP26" by the way stands for "Conference of the Parties" to the first UN climate summit in 1992 — noting that the US response to the COVID pandemic is perhaps not a great precursor to any hopes of taking serious action on climate. Rather than risk the tweets being consumed by our dumb platform, we'll copy-paste, with linkies:
Almost every climate reporter I know is a little broken cause they're looking at how the US handled covid - something with a discrete cause and effect that's in line with out preexisting understanding of the world - and realizing how ok this country is with mass death.
We're 4% of the world's population and had close to 20% of the world's covid deaths. We have broad access to safe, effective vaccines and a significant minority is saying that taking them is akin to genocide.
We're a country that is looking at mass migration from Central America b/c of climate and instead of spending a small bit of money to enable people to stay home- where they want to be - we're spending a lot of money to incarcerate them in inhumane conditions.
Honestly, where the covid analogy falls flat is despite how fucked up our response was we mostly hurt ourselves. But our climate obstruction is taking the world down with us.
That said, it's also worth noting that we nonetheless managed not to keep the guy who was making things worse in office. Public opinion is in clearly favor of action, and is more solidly in favor of change than at any point in polling. As ever, our officeholders are way behind the rest of us on recognizing that, which means we need to make noise and push them in the right direction. It's also a matter of some hope that young people of color are among the most active proponents of action.
I still remember Chris Hayes saying, early on in the pandemic, that the willingness of billions of people worldwide — and even, for a couple months, in the US — to take collective action against a real threat gave him hope for possible action on climate. It's difficult to remain as hopeful now that an entire US political party has become a death cult, to be sure.
But even if some people are bragging on Twitter about how they left their diesel trucks idling all night to teach the UN a lesson, the world will get to clean power and an end to most greenhouse emissions worldwide. We still have a choice about how quickly that's going to happen, and how much harm to human civilization and other life on the planet will be done.
Stay angry and active, kids.
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Guys, would it kill you to put it on Youtube?
Joe Biden held a town hall on CNN last night in which he made the case for his Build Back Better agenda, using the live event in Baltimore to acknowledge that the reconciliation bill has had to be made less ambitious in order to pass. Specifically, Biden repeatedly made very clear the changes are almost entirely due to opposition from the two members of the Senate Obstruction Caucus, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona). When you only have a one-vote majority in the Senate in the form of VP Kamala Harris's tie-breaking vote, you have to work with what you have, and that's the Senate for you.
With any single one of the 50 Senate Democrats able to block progress, Biden said, "Everyone is a president [...] Every single one. So you gotta work something out."
CNN, as usual, hasn't put the town hall on YouTube, but perhaps this version will be up for a while since the account says it's totally for "archival" use. Or you can drop by Dok Zoom's house and watch it on his TiVo, at least if you show up before he deletes it to make room for baseball.
Biden noted that there were only about "four or five issues" that there's any substantial disagreement on, and that he's certain a deal is possible. That said, he wasn't shy about attributing the frustrating changes in the package to Manchin and Sinema.
He acknowledged that instead of the 12 weeks of paid medical and family leave he had proposed, the bill will now only provide four weeks, and that the reason was pretty simple:
"The reason it's down to four weeks is we can't get 12 weeks," he said with a shrug.
He also said that free community college had been taken out of the proposal, but stressed that he was working on increasing Pell grants to help make college more affordable.
"Mr. Manchin and one other person has indicated they will not support free community college," he said.
Gonna go out on a limb and bet the "one other person" was probably not Angus King or Tammy Duckworth, to pick two senators out of a hat.
Biden did say he intends to keep pushing for free community college, noting that Dr. Jill Biden is a community college teacher and joking that he'd really like to not have to sleep in any of the White House's many guest bedrooms.
Encouragingly, Biden said that reports of a key climate measure's death have been greatly exaggerated. Manchin has loudly complained about the Clean Electricity Performance Program, which would devote $150 billion to utilities that cut carbon emissions quickly, while penalizing those that fail to meet annual carbon reduction goals. Manchin has inaccurately claimed CEPP isn't needed, since utilities are already shifting to renewables; in reality, the rate at which utilities are retiring fossil fuel plants isn't nearly fast enough to meet Biden's goal of net-zero emissions from power plants by 2035.
Because Manchin has been so loud on the issue, many reports have said CEPP is dead, but Biden said in the town hall that isn't the case, as the Washington Post summarizes:
Biden said Manchin's concern is that he doesn't want Democrats to accelerate the elimination of coal in the country's energy usage because of his state's economy's dependency on it.
"Manchin, his argument is, 'Look, we still have coal in the state, you're going to eliminate it eventually, we know it's going away, we know it's going to be gone. But don't rush it so fast that my people don't have anything to do,' " Biden said.
"I think that's not what we should be doing," the president said. "The fact of the matter is we can take that $150 billion, [and] add it to the $320 billion in the law, now that he's prepared to support tax incentives."
Instead, Biden said, the funding in Build Back Better will help move the energy transition forward, developing clean power technologies that will drive economic growth, create "real good jobs, creates a hell of a lot more," and prevent climate catastrophe. Even in West Virginia.
Biden also offered one of his stronger endorsements yet for changing the filibuster, at least once Build Back Better and the connected bipartisan infrastructure bill are passed. He said that he didn't want to talk about it too much now, but that he does think that "we're going to have to move to the point where we fundamentally alter the filibuster," either by eliminating it outright, or more likely, by modifying the filibuster rule to pass voting rights — "and maybe more."
Oh, also, wingnuts had a cow over Biden's mockery of people who refuse to go along with vaccine mandates, because he made fun of AMERICA when he said, "Freedom? I have the freedom to kill you with my COVID? No, I mean come on." What a shame that he would mock the most important worship word in the E Plebnista, the end.
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Can that 'Dems in disarray' malarkey, will ya?
Some potentially promising news on the Build Back Better reconciliation bill from MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, who devoted her "A" block last night to the news that Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) had for the first time met yesterday with Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington), the chair of the Progressive Caucus, to talk about where they are on the climate 'n' social safety net bill that contains most of Joe Biden's domestic policy agenda. It wasn't quite white smoke coming from the Vatican, but as Maddow put it, it seems like progress that the two of them were in the same room talking to each other, for a good two hours.
Maddow also noted that Manchin sat down with Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) yesterday, and that after that meeting, a "notably chipper" Manchin smiled for photos with Sanders, a noticeable change following Manchin getting a bit snippy at Sanders over the weekend, when Bernie published an op-ed arguing that Build Back Better would be hugely helpful to West Virginians. Yes, even if the most Manchin would say yesterday was "We're talking." When the two got in their cars, Manchin told Sanders, "Never give up, Bernie," which is nice and mysterious.
Well, this just happened outside the US Capitol: https://t.co/A08M8eBsd8— Frank Thorp V (@Frank Thorp V) 1634596336.0
Still, Maddow thinks those meetings, and the news that Manchin also took a phone call from Joe Biden yesterday, seem like a positive step. We think we're going to agree with Rachel Maddow, just this once.
Here's the video of Maddow's interview with Jayapal; not surprisingly, Jayapal doesn't spill any beans on what exactly she and Manchin discussed, because negotiations. But she said she's confident Manchin wants a bill to pass, and that there will in fact be a Build Back Better bill for Biden to sign.
Jayapal mentioned, yet again, that getting legislation negotiated can be a "messy" and time-consuming process, but emphasized her belief that Build Back Better and the bipartisan infrastructure bill will ultimately be passed — so be patient, please. When Maddow noted that nothing's going to get passed without the votes of Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona), Jayapal agreed Manchin could sink Build Back Better if he wanted, but the fact that he's meeting and talking means he's not out to just kill Biden's agenda, so that's encouraging as well.
But, it may take a little bit of time. It may look opaque on the outside. And, it may be frustrating because, you know, I don`t think everybody`s going to get everything they want. And I think that is true. That is the reality.
Maddow wondered, though, about that "nobody will get everything" bit. Does Manchin seem to think that, since he has the ability to get nothing done at all, he'll get everything he wants? Jayapal wouldn't speculate on that one, but said that even if parts of the original proposal don't get passed in this reconciliation bill, Biden and progressives would continue to fight for them:
One of the things that the president`s said, he said it in Connecticut, he said it to me today, we are going to fight for everything. We might not just get everything in this particular moment. But we aren`t giving up on any of this, for the longer term.
Today, Biden met with Sinema at the White House (arriving back on Capitol Hill, she told CNN's Lauren Fox simply that the meeting had been "good"). Also today, Biden, VP Kamala Harris, and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will all meet with House progressives, and later with centrists from both the House and Senate, to keep working on what the reconciliation bill will include.
The excitement continues, as does speculation about what will stay in the bill. Manchin has continued to insist he cannot abide a key provision on climate, namely the plan to move utilities toward serious reductions in carbon emissions. Manchin has repeatedly (and falsely!) claimed there's no need to spend $150 billion on rewarding utilities that meet carbon goals (and fining those that fall short), because, he claims, utilities are already transitioning to wind and solar.
As energy and climate maven David Roberts points out, that's simply not true. Biden's goal is to get all electrical generation to net zero carbon emissions by 2035. But at the current rate of renewable energy adoption, our power infrastructure will only reduce carbon emissions by 17 to 25 percent, and that's not enough. It's nice when market forces nudge industry in the right direction, but we don't have the luxury of waiting for it to happen, as we noted when Manchin was spouting that nonsense over a month ago.
Stay mad about this, call your congresspeople, especially if you live in West Virginia, and remember that just the reduction in pollution-caused illnesses will pay for the costs of getting rid of fossil fuels.
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Dok is Mad About A Thing.
One of the recurring mysteries getting in the way of progress on the Build Back Better reconciliation bill is that nobody really knows what exactly the the two Democratic holdouts, Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, are holding out for. They've both been extremely coy about not saying in public what top-line amount of spending they could vote for, other than "Not $3.5 trillion over 10 years."
Now, last night, Manchin did release that screed about the "fiscal insanity" of spending lots of money on social programs while raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans to pay for it, but even that wasn't terribly specific about changes he might want to make to the reconciliation package beyond insisting Congress should wait and see whether poor people stop being poor, and also we should means-test any new benefits to make sure the middle class won't support the bill since it's frozen out of getting any help.
As for Sinema, she's been even less clear. Asked whether the rest of the Democratic caucus knows where she is, she hilariously said "I'm clearly right in front of the elevator" because she's the second coming of goddamn John "turn left at Greenland" Lennon.
Today, however, Politico reports it has dredged up a copy of a July 28 document that it says Manchin has been handing to Senate colleagues who want to know what his own position on reconciliation might be, if he'd be so kind. It's a brief outline of some fairly radical changes he'd like to make to Biden's first-term agenda, like slashing most of it. Look at this shit, would you just LOOK AT IT:
We'll bullet point for you if you can't read that mess above:
Families and health
- Needs based with means testing guardrails/formulas on new spending
- Targeted spending caps on existing programs
- No additional handouts outs or transfer payments
- Inclusion of S. 1783 Budgeting for Opioid Addiction Treatment Act (LifeBOAT Act)
- Sole ENR jurisdiction on any clean energy standard
- Spending on innovation, not elimination. Fuel neutral
Energy and Vehicle Tax policies:
- That CCUS be included and ensure that CCUS on coal and natural gas can feasibly qualify
- If tax credits for solar and wind are included and extended, then fossil tax credits are not repealed (eg. intangible drilling costs and credits for enhanced oil recovery)
- Vehicle and fuel tax credits shall not be limited to electric vehicles — they must include hydrogen.
- Any revenue exceeding $1.5 T shall be used for deficit reduction
- Corporate tax rate: 25%
- Corporate domestic minimum tax: 15%
- Raise the top rate on ordinary income: 39.6%
- Raise cap gains rate: 28% All in
- End carried interest
- Tax Gap, Rebate Rule, Dynamic Growth
Manchin — in late July at least — wanted the bill to be no larger than $1.5 trillion, just hacking out well over half of what the proposal called for after it had already been hacked down to Biden's agenda essentials. Worse, it appears to share the same complete misunderstanding of the Build Back Better agenda that we saw in his September Wall Street Journal op-ed, in which he called for a "pause" on the reconciliation bill until the economic effects of the American Rescue Plan became clear. Manchin really seems to think Build Back Better is another emergency stimulus package, not the thorough revamping of the social safety net and climate agenda that its proponents — including the president — see it as.
For instance, he called for debate on the package to not even start until October 1 (oh look, here we are), and insisted that none of the new spending for Build Back Better be disbursed "until all funding from COV1D legislation and [the American Rescue Plan] has been spent" and until the Federal Reserve has ended "quantitative easing" — another emergency measure to prop up the economy.
We sure hope someone has at least clarified to Manchin that this is Biden's legislative agenda for his first term, not a short-term plan to boost the economy. Has anyone told him? Senator? Have you heard?
Politico notes that the document's date, July 28, was "right before the Senate passed a bipartisan infrastructure bill that Manchin helped write," and the Senate's passage of a basic framework for the reconciliation plan.
Among other demands, Manchin insisted on a top corporate tax rate of 25 percent (Build Back Better sets it at 26.6), a top capital gains tax rate of 28 percent (higher than BBB's 25 percent), and a top marginal income tax rate of 39.6 percent, which at last everyone agreed on. He also wanted any new revenue over $1.5 trillion to go to paying down the deficit, because OMG deficit.
Manchin's beloved means tests were in there, too, insisting that all benefits be "needs based," which would turn Biden's vision of educational and family benefits for working class Americans, a means of building the economy from the middle out and from the bottom up, into a set of safety-net benefits that the middle class would resent, because why are those people getting help and I'm not? Say goodbye to broad-based family and medical leave, free community college, universal pre-K, help for caregivers for the elderly, and childcare.
And on another key part of Build Back Better, Manchin appeared to completely reject the idea that the federal government should be working to transition the US to clean energy. Instead, he insisted that coal and natural gas qualify for government assistance if they adopt carbon capture technology (those CCUS's in his memo above are for "carbon capture, utilization, and storage"), and that if the government subsidizes clean energy, it may not cut any subsidies to fossil fuels. And while he was open to tax credits for electric vehicles, he insisted that similar credits be extended to hydrogen-powered vehicles, which is a problem since, as the New York Times reports, current technology for producing hydrogen is so energy intensive that it's really a misnomer to call hydrogen a "zero emissions" fuel.
The hostage note closes with the line "Senator Manchin does not guarantee that he will vote for the final reconciliation legislation if it exceeds the conditions outlined in this agreement." Politico notes that while Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer signed the document and hand-wrote "will try to dissuade Joe on some of these," a spokesman for Schumer said today that Schumer
never agreed to any of the conditions Sen. Manchin laid out; he merely acknowledged where Sen. Manchin was on the subject at the time. [...] Sen. Manchin did not rule out voting for a reconciliation bill that exceeded the ideas he outlined, and Leader Schumer made clear that he would work to convince Sen. Manchin to support a final reconciliation bill — as he has doing been for weeks.
Again, that was where Manchin was in July, and Joe Manchin can be notoriously difficult to pin down. It's not terribly encouraging that Politico reports Manchin is still handing out copies of his list to colleagues, though, and it's difficult to imagine Democrats caving to all his demands from July, particularly the remaking of much of Build Back Better into means-tested programs that wouldn't help the middle class, or the insistence on propping up fossil fuels in the face of the climate crisis.
Since the document was published this morning, Manchin has very helpfully clarified to reporters that he is not now nor has he ever been a liberal, that he believes "in my heart" that the US can't possibly afford to spend more than $1.5 trillion (despite all of it being paid for), and that America shouldn't become "an entitlement-based society." Guess we shouldn't be too surprised: Since the 1980s, the very wealthy and huge corporations have been entitled to everything they ask for, so if progressives want to change that, he explained, they should "elect more liberals."
From your lips to the Cosmic Whatever's ear, Mr. Senator. We need to expand the Democratic majority in the midterms, that's for damn sure.
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