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Joe Biden Coming To Take Your Guns Away. Yes, *Again*.
You'd think he'd have gotten them all by now.
President Biden traveled to Monterey Park, California, Tuesday, where he met with family members of the victims of the Lunar New Year mass shooting in January that killed 11 people and left nine wounded. While there, he announced a new executive order to increase background checks prior to firearms sales, a measure the White House says will move the US "as close to universal background checks as possible without additional legislation." In addition, the order promotes adoption and awareness of "red flag" laws to keep guns out of the hands of people who may be a danger to themselves or others, and directs the Cabinet to "develop a proposal for how the federal government can better support communities after a mass shooting," much like the way the government coordinates emergency responses to natural disasters.
Here's video of Biden's remarks in Monterey Park;
It's worth a listen; Biden briefly names and says a little about each of the victims, doing that absolutely necessary work of public mourning for which he's had too much practice.
Biden also led a standing ovation for Brandon Tsay, the hero who disarmed the shooter at the second dance studio that night, preventing him from hurting anyone else. Tsay was also Biden's guest at the State of the Union address this year.
As he wrapped up, Biden departed from his usual "God bless you all, and may God protect our troops." Instead, he simply said, "God bless you all. I admire you so damn much."
Whew. We're not crying, you are, etc.
As for the executive order itself, if you were hoping for sweeping gun reforms, the bad news is that without Congress passing new legislation, there's a limited number of options the executive branch can take. For that reason, the order mostly involves a number of measures that may not seem terribly exciting in themselves, but which will basically tune up existing gun laws to make sure they're doing all they can to keep guns away from people who shouldn't have 'em.
For instance, while Congress would need to pass new laws to truly bring about universal background checks, the executive order aims to ensure that all background checks required by federal law actually take place, because frankly, they don't. The order directs Attorney General Merrick Garland to
do everything he can to ensure that firearms sellers who do not realize they are required to run background checks under existing law, or who are willfully violating existing law, become compliant with background check requirements ... by clarifying, as appropriate, the statutory definition of who is “engaged in the business” of dealing in firearms, as updated by the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.
That's the modest gun reform law that was able to get some Republican votes last summer, following the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. The AG will also come up with a plan to keep former licensed firearm dealers who've lost their licenses from dealing in arms anymore.
The order notes that red flag laws — now in place in 19 states and DC — can be an effective way to keep guns out of the hands of potentially dangerous people, but only if people know how they work in their states. The order calls on Cabinet members to coordinate "with law enforcement, health care providers, educators, and other community leaders" on improving community awareness of how and when such extreme risk protective orders can be better used.
Another section of the order directs the Transportation and Justice Departments to work on reducing the loss or theft of firearms that are being shipped from one federally licensed dealer to another. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) reports that the number of firearms going missing in transit has increased some 250 percent in recent years, going from about 1,700 in 2018 to 6,100 in 2022. It would be a good idea to keep all those guns out of the illegal firearms market!
To make the gun industry more accountable, the order tasks Garland with releasing information, wherever possible, on ATF inspections of gun dealers who have violated federal laws, with the goal of reducing "rogue gun dealers" who play fast and loose with the rules.
Another section asks the Federal Trade Commission to prepare a report "analyzing how gun manufacturers market firearms to minors and how such manufacturers market firearms to all civilians, including through the use of military imagery." Yeah, get ready for the NRA to cry great big tears about how Biden's coming for gun advertisers' free speech, not to mention their "man cards."
Finally, there's that call for the Cabinet to come up with a proposal that would work a bit like FEMA, but for mass shootings, because Crom knows we'll keep having them in our Republic of Guns. We'll just go with the White House Fact Sheet on this one:
When a mass shooting overwhelms a community, no coordinated U.S. government mechanism exists to meet short- and long-term needs, such as mental health care for grief and trauma, financial assistance (for example, when a family loses the sole breadwinner or when a small business is shut down due to a lengthy shooting investigation), and food (for example, when the Buffalo shooting closed down the only grocery store in the neighborhood). The President is directing members of his Cabinet to develop a proposal for how the federal government can better support communities after a mass shooting, and identify what additional resources or authorities the executive branch would need from Congress to implement this proposal.
That proposal got enthusiastic applause from the audience in Monterey Park, particularly the call for greater provision of mental health care in communities where a mass shooting takes place.
We'd like to think that the very idea of needing a "Mass Shooting FEMA" might shock at least a few Republicans into doing something about the goddamn guns, but we're more worried that they'll insist the private sector would do a better job. Maybe contract it out to the NRA.
[White House / AP]
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Joe Biden: Ron DeSantis Going To Hell For Bullying Trans Kids (OK, It's *Implied*)
President Joe Biden sat down for an interview on "The Daily Show" last night, with Kal Penn, the actor/comedy guy and former Obama White House aide, to talk about climate change, the youth vote, student loan forgiveness, and the awful GOP attempts to attack LGBTQ+ folks for political gain. And while he stopped short of endorsing anyone to replace Trevor Noah as permanent host of the "Daily Show," Biden still made some news by saying he thinks Republican efforts to restrict the rights of trans people is "close to sinful," by which I think he meant "actually sinful."
Here's the full interview; the discussion of the appalling backlash against LGBTQ+ rights comes at 13:40.
We'll mostly focus on that, although we'll note that, early on, when Penn asked what made it possible for the US to finally take serious action on climate (Hello Inflation Reduction Act!), Biden didn't hesitate at all: "Young people. Young people." Because hell yes, they have been wonderfully noisy on that.
Biden's defense of the LGBTQ+ community was especially heartening, and let's also take a moment to remember that on marriage equality, Joe was actually well ahead of Barack Obama — thanks to his dad, a story he repeated during the interview with Penn.
Misty Water-Color Memories: The Time Young Handsome Joe Biden Fell In Love With Gay Marriage
Penn noted that he's been engaged to his boyfriend for five years, thanked Biden for signing into law the Respect for Marriage Act last year, and asked what Biden thinks about red state efforts to demonize trans kids — and what the federal government can do to protect LGBTQ+ rights in this dangerous environment.
Biden recalled when he was a senior in high school; one day when his dad drove him to pick up a job application, he saw two "well-dressed men in suits" kiss each other. He turned to his dad, who said, "Joey, it's simple. They love each other." And now we are definitely not crying, again, just like we didn't cry at his longer version of the story in 2015.
Biden also recalled his Meet the Press interview in 2012 when he said that of course people should be able to marry whomever they love (assuming it's not a 1971 Renault 4), when he said it's really "a simple proposition. Who do you love? Who do you love? And will you be loyal to the person you love?"
Coming back to today, Biden added, "So what is the problem?"
Then he moved on to the attempts by red states (he named Florida, but as synecdoche for the whole mess) to erase trans people and ban gender-affirming medical care for trans youth:
What’s going on in Florida is, as my mother would say, close to sinful. I mean, it’s just terrible what they’re doing. It’s not like a kid wakes up one morning and says, "You know, I decided I want to become a man or I want to become a woman or I want to change."
I mean, what are they thinking about here? They are human beings. They love. They have feelings. They have inclinations that are …it just to me, is, I don’t know is, it’s cruel.
Biden added that the best approach to protect trans kids would be to "pass legislation like we passed on same-sex marriage. You mess with that, you’re breaking the law, and you’re going to be held accountable."
Also too, Biden touched on comments Penn had made earlier when mentioning his family has been very frustrated by that five-year engagement: "Listen to your auntie and your uncle! Get married. Do it now. Don’t wait!"
Sounded like an executive order to us.
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Joe Biden's 2024 Menu: The Rich.
President Joe Biden on Thursday rolled out his proposed budget for fiscal 2024, an ambitious plan that would raise taxes on the rich and on corporations while expanding the social safety net. It would cut nearly $3 trillion from the federal deficit over the next decade by imposing a 25 percent minimum tax on the richest Americans. If you want to read the entire 185-page document, have at it!
Of course, it also won't do a single bit of that, because Republicans won't pass any of the major parts of the plan, particularly not the tax increases, but also not the social safety net parts like paid family leave, childcare, or Biden's plan to rescue the Medicare trust fund for at least 25 years.
Not a bit of it will become law except the most routine keep-things-as-they-are parts, which will no doubt end up in yet another omnibus spending bill passed barely in time to avoid a government shutdown. If then. Oh, also, the part that increases defense spending by about 3.2 percent, to over $835 billion, will probably do just fine. But whatever defense budget eventually passes in the fall won't be accompanied by the tax increases that would make the expenditures slightly less odious.
So why even offer a budget that's not going to get passed by Congress? For starters, presidents have to submit a budget request in early February (traditionally by the first Monday, but everything moves slow these days) to get the process rolling, and the budget reflects the administration's priorities, even if the opposition is able to block them. Also, let's remember that Donald Trump's budgets, which zeroed out entire federal agencies, were entirely exercises in rightwing fantasy. And yet somehow we still have the National Endowment for the Arts.
So sure, a federal budget is mostly aspirational, and this year, Biden's budget serves two practical purposes: It sets out markers for where he wants his government to go in a second term (you know, if he runs), and it's also an opening bid in the negotiations over raising the debt ceiling. Republicans say they want to cut federal spending because the deficits are too high, and Biden's budget is over here saying "Yeah? You show me how you'd reduce the deficit by $3 trillion in 10 years, ya mooks."
Former Obama administration official Kenneth Baer, who served in the Office of Management and Budget, explained to the Washington Post,
"As one of the people who has spent many a long night writing and editing a budget, I take umbrage at the people who say it’s a meaningless document. It’s not a meaningless document. [...] It sets the terms of the debate. It shows what’s important to you, your commitments and what you really want."
So let's take a look at what's in this thing and what that says about what Joe Biden wants.
The Rich Still Need To Be Eaten
Speaking at a union hall in Philadelphia yesterday, Biden emphasized that his third budget proposal is aimed at "investing in America and all of America," because "Too many people have been left behind and treated like they’re invisible. Not anymore. I promise I see you."
To that end, the $6.8 trillion budget plan (over 10 years) includes about $5 trillion in tax increases on the wealthiest individuals and corporations, most of which will go to cover new programs that Biden has previously put forward but that haven't yet been enacted.
Some specific tax increase proposals may sound familiar because some of them were in the original version of Build Back Better, but were removed after Sen. Kyrsten Sinema said Donald Trump's 2017 Big Fat Tax Cuts for Rich Fuckwads couldn't be reversed, not even a little.
- Raise the corporate income tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent, which would still be lower than the 35 percent rate prior to Trump's 2017 cuts. It would also raise the tax rate on foreign earnings from 10.5 percent to 21 percent, to reduce the incentive for companies to move operations out of the USA.
- Repeal Trump's tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans by returning the top marginal tax rate to 39.7 percent from the current 37 percent. This would affect taxpayers making $400,000 a year for individuals, or $450,000 married filing jointly.
- Tax capital gains the same as income for people making over $1 million, and close the carried interest loopholefor chrissakes finally.
- Increase the surtax on corporate stock buybacks from one percent to four percent
- A new minimum tax on billionaires, assessing a 25 percent minimum tax on all income of the wealthiest tenth of one percent of Americans. That's a follow-up to the minimum corporate tax that was included in last year's Inflation Reduction Act.
- Raise Medicare taxes on those making more than $400,000 a year, and make more types of income eligible for Medicare taxation. We detailed that plan right here. Medicare would also be able to negotiate prices on more prescription drugs sooner, creating additional savings that would go to the Medicare trust fund.
Nice Things We Need
The budget also includes some domestic programs that were good ideas when they were proposed in Build Back Better, and were still good ideas when Joe Manchin demanded they be removed from Build Back Better. A few have been downsized for the budget plan, which also adds some items that weren't in BBB.
- Restore the enhanced child tax credit and make it permanent. Hell yes. It markedly reduced child poverty in the US, and it's damn near criminal that it was allowed to lapse. Also way better for America's children than allowing them to work in meatpacking plants.
- College affordability. The budget calls for higher maximum awards for Pell grants and for a $500 million grant program to make two years of community college free — not quite the full free community college program Biden originally ran on.
- Universal Pre-K and affordable child care. Not quite the full programs proposed in Build Back Better, but as CNN summarizes, this would fund "a new federal-state partnership program that would provide universal, free preschool. The spending plan would also increase funding for existing federal early care and education programs."
- Paid family and medical leave — another big priority that still needs doing. 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave; for fuckssake let's get this done. Yeah, in 2025 after we retake the House and expand the Senate majority.
- More free school meals. During the pandemic, we gave every kid eat. The Biden budget would provide $15 billion to enable wider free lunches, though hey, since it's a wish list, why not just say we want universal free school lunch? Kids learn better if they're not hungry.
- Make the IRA's Obamacare subsidies permanent. The enhanced premium subsidies, which started out as part of the American Rescue Plan, have helped reduce the percentage of Americans without healthcare coverage to record lows. But they're set to expire in 2025.
- Reduce maternal mortality. It's still a crisis, with far greater rates of maternal mortality for Black women than for white women. The budget calls for $471 million in funding to expand maternal health care, particularly in rural areas. It would also require all states to provide Medicaid postpartum care for 12 months instead of the current 60 days.
- $35 per month insulin for all Americans. It was included in the IRA for folks on Social Security, so let's make that the standard for those on private insurance or who have no insurance at all. It's literally a matter of life or death.
- Lower prescription drug prices for seniors. The IRA put a $2000 cap annual on out-of-pocket costs for Medicare beneficiaries (going into effect in 2025). Biden wants to further limit copays for generic prescription drugs for chronic conditions to $2.
Yes, We Still Need Climate Spending
While the Inflation Reduction Act was the biggest American investment ever in fighting the climate emergency, Biden's budget proposal also recognizes that there's a lot more that needs doing, so it calls for still more funding to move America closer to reaching our Paris climate agreement goals. We want to wrap this sucker up, but take a look at this CNBC piece for more details on how the budget would expand our transition to clean power and cutting carbon emissions. Among the basics:
• $24 billion for climate resilience and conservation
• $16.5 billion for climate science and clean energy innovation
• $6.5 billion for energy storage and transmission projects
• $4.5 billion for jobs building clean energy infrastructure
• $3 billion for advancing adaptation finance
• $1.8 billion for environmental justice initiatives
• $1.2 billion for the Energy Department’s industrial decarbonization activities
Want even more info? I'm leaving a tab open with the White House fact sheet on the budget's climate priorities, because this is what the agenda for keeping the planet habitable should look like.
So those are some darn good priorities — and a blueprint for the 2024 campaign, too.
And now, back to two years of hearings on Twitter and Hunter's laptop. Total waste of time, but they may help make a very strong case for not letting Republicans anywhere near power again.
[2024 Budget of the US Government / WaPo / CNBC / NYT / CNBC]
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