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Senate Passes $740 Billion Tax, Climate Package — Will Go To House Next

Senate Passes $740 Billion Tax, Climate Package — Will Go To House Next

Update (1532ET): After much wrangling, the Democrats finally passed…

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Senate Passes $740 Billion Tax, Climate Package -- Will Go To House Next

Update (1532ET): After much wrangling, the Democrats finally passed their sweeping economic package through the Senate on Sunday.

The estimated $740 billion "Inflation Reduction Act" - far less ambitious than their original $3.5 trillion vision - next heads to the House, where its passage is a foregone conclusion. According to Axios, a vote could come as early as Friday before it heads to President Biden's desk.

The package includes provisions to address climate change, pharmaceutical costs, and a supercharged IRS.

"It’s been a long, tough and winding road, but at last, at last we have arrived," said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). "The Senate is making history. I am confident the Inflation Reduction Act will endure as one of the defining legislative measures of the 21st century."

As the Washington Post notes, "Senators engaged in a round-the-clock marathon of voting that began Saturday and stretched late into Sunday afternoon. Democrats swatted down some three dozen Republican amendments designed to torpedo the legislation. Confronting unanimous GOP opposition, Democratic unity in the 50-50 chamber held, keeping the party on track for a morale-boosting victory three months from elections when congressional control is at stake."

And as Axios reports,

The Senate returned to the Capitol Saturday afternoon, and began voting late Saturday night and into Sunday on a series of amendments — part of the process known as "vote-a-rama."

  • Senate Republicans offered dozens of amendments aimed at minimizing the bill, including stripping out funding for the Internal Revenue Service and eliminating COVID-19-related school mandates.
  • Democrats held firm in their unity, with the help of Harris, of preserving the core elements of the package and voting down each GOP amendment.

.  .  .

The bill includes:

  • $370 billion for climate change - the largest investment in clean energy and emissions cuts the Senate has ever passed.
  • Allows the federal health secretary to negotiate the prices of certain expensive drugs for Medicare.
  • Three-year extension on healthcare subsidies in the Affordable Care Act.
  • 15% minimum tax on corporations making $1 billion or more in income. The provision offers more than $300 billion in revenue.
  • IRS tax enforcement.
  • 1% excise tax on stock buybacks.

Drilling down on the climate portion - Axios' Andrew Freedman writes:

  • This includes tax incentives to manufacture and purchase electric vehicles, generate more wind and solar electricity and support fledgling technology such as direct air capture and hydrogen production. 
  • Independent analyses show the bill, combined with other ongoing emissions reductions, would cut as much as 40% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, short of the White House's 50% reduction target. However, if enacted into law, it would reestablish U.S. credibility in international climate talks, which had been flagging due in part to congressional gridlock. 
  • As part of Democrats' concessions to Sen. Manchin, the bill also contains provisions calling for offshore oil lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Alaska, and a commitment to take up a separate measure to ease the permitting of new energy projects. 

*  *  *

Senate Democrats late on Aug. 6 advanced a mammoth spending bill on climate and energy, health care, and taxes, after overcoming unanimous Republican opposition in the evenly divided chamber.

The procedural vote to advance the Democratic bill - which authorizes over $400 billion in new spending - was 51–50 after Vice President Kamala Harris arrived at the Capitol to cast a vote, breaking the deadlock in the Senate over the measure that Democrats say would reform the tax code, lower the cost of prescription drugs, invest in energy and climate change programs, all while lowering the federal deficit.

The vote means that senators will have 20 hours to debate on the measure, followed by a vote-a-rama, a marathon open-ended series of amendment votes that has no time limit. After that, the bill will head to a final vote. The measure is anticipated to pass the chamber as early as this weekend.

The House, where Democrats have a majority, could give the legislation final approval on Aug. 12, when lawmakers are scheduled to return to Washington.

The vote came after the Senate parliamentarian - the chamber’s nonpartisan rules arbiter - gave a thumbs-up to most of the Democrats’ revised 755-page bill.

But Democrats had to drop a significant part of their plan for lowering prescription drug prices, Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough said.

The provision would have essentially forced companies not to raise prices higher than inflation. MacDonough said Democrats violated Senate budget rules with language in the bill imposing hefty penalties on drugmakers who raise their prices beyond inflation in the private insurance market.

As Mimi Nguyen Ly details at The Epoch Times, while the bill’s final costs are still being determined, it includes about $370 billion on energy and climate programs over the next 10 years, and about $64 billion to extend subsidies for Affordable Care Act program for federal subsidies of health insurance for three years through 2025.

It also seeks generate about $700 billion in new revenue over the next 10 years, which would leave roughly $300 billion in deficit reduction over the coming decade, which would represent just a tiny proportion of the next 10 year’s projected $16 trillion in budget shortfalls.

A large portion of the $700 billion—an estimated $313 billion—is expected to be generated by increasing the corporate minimum tax to 15 percent, while the remaining amounts include $288 billion in prescription drug pricing reform and $124 billion in Internal Revenue Service tax enforcement.

According to the current version of the bill, the new 15 percent minimum tax would be imposed on some corporations that earn over $1 billion annually but pay far less than the current 21 percent corporate tax. Companies buying back their own stock would be taxed 1 percent for those transactions, swapped in after Sinema refused to support higher taxes on private equity firm executives and hedge fund managers. The IRS budget would be increased to strengthen its tax collections.

The White House said in a statement of administrative policy on Aug. 6 that it “strongly supports passage” of the bill.

“This legislation would lower health care, prescription drug, and energy costs, invest in energy security, and make our tax code fairer—all while fighting inflation and reducing the deficit,” the statement reads.

“This historic legislation would help tackle today’s most pressing economic challenges, make our economy stronger for decades to come, and position the United States to be the world’s leader in clean energy.”

Republicans say the legislation is simply an alternate, dwindled version to the Democrat’s earlier Build Back Better bill—a multitrillion-dollar social spending package that was a major agenda of President Joe Biden—that Democrats have now dubbed the “Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Democrats “are misreading the American people’s outrage as a mandate for yet another reckless taxing and spending spree.” He said Democrats “have already robbed American families once through inflation and now their solution is to rob American families yet a second time.”

“There is no working family in America whose top priorities are doubling the size of the IRS and giving rich people money to buy $80,000 electric cars,” McConnell said in a separate statement on Twitter.

“Americans want Washington to address inflation, crime, and the border—not another reckless liberal taxing and spending spree.”

Democrats have said the measure would “address record inflation by paying down our national debt, lowering energy costs, and lowering healthcare costs,” but Republicans have criticized the measure as having no potential other than to make matters worse, nicknaming the legislation “Build Back Broke,” in part because the bill would fulfill many parts of Biden’s Build Back Better agenda.

“The time is now to move forward with a big, bold package for the American people,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

“This historic bill will reduce inflation, lower costs, fight climate change. It’s time to move this nation forward.”

But not every Democrat is buying what Chuck is selling...

As John Solomon reports at JustTheNews.com, Sen. Bernie Sanders, the former presidential candidate and proud socialist, on Saturday attacked President Joe Biden‘s Inflation Reduction Act for failing to live up to its name, after the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office declared it would have a minimal impact on surging prices.

“I want to take a moment to say a few words about the so-called Inflation Reduction Act that we are debating this evening," Sanders said just after voting with Democrats to advance the bill to debate on the Senate floor.

"I say so-called because according to the CBO and other economic organizations that have studied this bill, it will in fact have a minimal impact on inflation."

CBO declared this week that the $740 billion piece of legislation would only affect inflation by 0.1% in either direction.

"I don't find myself saying this very often. But on that point, I agree with Bernie," Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., told Insider.

Overall, economic analysts are divided on the measure, with some having predicted that the bill will worsen inflation and lead to stagnation in growth.

As Will Cain explained in an excellent monologue reality check, "look at the name of the bill, whatever it is, you can be sure the legislation will do the opposite."

Finally, as Goldman details in a new notes, the net fiscal impact of these policies continues to look very modest, likely less than 0.1% of GDP for the next several years...

While the final outcome may still yet differ in details, the fiscal impact is likely to be similar.

Tyler Durden Sun, 08/07/2022 - 15:32

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We can turn to popular culture for lessons about how to live with COVID-19 as endemic

As COVID-19 transitions from a pandemic to an endemic, apocalyptic science-fiction and zombie movies contain examples of how to adjust to the new norm…

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An endemic means that COVID-19 is still around, but it no longer disrupts everyday life. (Shutterstock)

In 2021, conversations began on whether the COVID-19 pandemic will, or even can, end. As a literary and cultural theorist, I started looking for shifts in stories about pandemics and contagion. It turns out that several stories also question how and when a pandemic becomes endemic.


Read more: COVID will likely shift from pandemic to endemic — but what does that mean?


The 2020 film Peninsula, a sequel to the Korean zombie film, Train to Busan, ends with a group of survivors rescued and transported to a zombie-free Hong Kong. In it, Jooni (played by Re Lee) spent her formative years living through the zombie epidemic. When she is rescued, she responds to being informed that she’s “going to a better place” by admitting that “this place wasn’t bad either.”

Jooni’s response points toward the shift in contagion narratives that has emerged since the spread of COVID-19. This shift marks a rejection of the push-for-survival narratives in favour of something more indicative of an endemic.

Found within

Contagion follows a general cycle: outbreak, epidemic, pandemic and endemic. The determinants of each stage rely upon the rate of spread within a specified geographic region.

Etymologically, the word “endemic” has its origins with the Greek words én and dēmos, meaning “in the people.” Thus, it refers to something that is regularly found within a population.

Infectious disease physician Stephen Parodi asserts that an endemic just means that a disease, while still prevalent within a population, no longer disrupts our daily lives.

Similarly, genomics and viral evolution researcher Aris Katzourakis argues that endemics occur when infection rates are static — neither rising nor falling. Because this stasis occurs differently with each situation, there is no set threshold at which a pandemic becomes endemic.

Not all diseases reach endemic status. And, if endemic status is reached, it does not mean the virus is gone, but rather that things have become “normal.”

Survival narratives

We’re most likely familiar with contagion narratives. After all, Steven Soderbergh’s 2011 film Contagion, was the most watched film on Canadian Netflix in March 2020. Conveniently, this was when most Canadian provinces went into lockdown during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A clip from the film Contagion showing the disease spreading throughout the world.

In survival-based contagion narratives, characters often discuss methods for survival and generally refer to themselves as survivors. Contagion chronicles the transmission of a deadly virus that is brought from Hong Kong to the United States. In response, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control is tasked with tracing its origins and finding a cure. The film follows Mitch Emhoff (Matt Damon), who is immune, as he tries to keep his daughter safe in a crumbling Minneapolis.

Ultimately, a vaccine is successfully synthesized, but only after millions have succumbed to the virus.

Like many science fiction and horror films that envision some sort of apocalyptic end, Contagion focuses on the basic requirements for survival: shelter, food, water and medicine.

However, it also deals with the breakdown of government systems and the violence that accompanies it.

A “new” normal

In contrast, contagion narratives that have turned endemic take place many years after the initial outbreak. In these stories, the infected population is regularly present, but the remaining uninfected population isn’t regularly infected.

A spin-off to the zombie series The Walking Dead takes place a decade after the initial outbreak. In the two seasons of The Walking Dead: World Beyond (2020-2021) four young protagonists — Hope (Alexa Mansour), Iris (Aliyah Royale), Silas (Hal Cumpston) and Elton (Nicolas Cantu) — represent the first generation to come of age within the zombie-infested world.

The four youth spent their formative years in an infected world — similar to Jooni in Peninsula. For these characters, zombies are part of their daily lives, and their constant presence is normalized.

The trailer for the second season of AMC’s The Walking Dead: World Beyond.

The setting in World Beyond has electricity, helicopters and modern medicine. Characters in endemic narratives have regular access to shelter, food, water and medicine, so they don’t need to resort to violence over limited resources. And notably, they also don’t often refer to themselves as survivors.

Endemic narratives acknowledge that existing within an infected space alongside a virus is not necessarily a bad thing, and that not all inhabitants within infected spaces desire to leave. It is rare in endemic narratives for a character to become infected.

Instead of going out on zombie-killing expeditions in the manner that occurs frequently in the other Walking Dead stories, the characters in World Beyond generally leave the zombies alone. They mark the zombies with different colours of spray-paint to chronicle what they call “migration patterns.”

The zombies have therefore just become another species for the characters to live alongside — something more endemic.

The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead (2015-), Z Nation (2014-18), and many other survival-based stories seem to return to the past. In contrast, endemic narratives maintain a present and sometimes even future-looking approach.

Learning from stories

According to film producer and media professor Mick Broderick, survival stories maintain a status quo. They seek a “nostalgically yearned-for less-complex existence.” It provides solace to imagine an earlier, simpler time when living through a pandemic.

However, the shift from survival to endemic in contagion narratives provides us with many important possibilities. The one I think is quite relevant right now is that it presents us with a way of living with contagion. After all, watching these characters survive a pandemic helps us imagine that we can too.

Krista Collier-Jarvis does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Xi Reemerges In 1st Public Appearance After ‘Coup’ Rumors

Xi Reemerges In 1st Public Appearance After ‘Coup’ Rumors

So much for the "coup in China" and "Xi is missing" rumor mill of the past week,…

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Xi Reemerges In 1st Public Appearance After 'Coup' Rumors

So much for the "coup in China" and "Xi is missing" rumor mill of the past week, which at one point saw Chinese President Xi Jinping's name trending high on Twitter...

"Chinese President Xi Jinping visited an exhibition in Beijing on Tuesday, according to state television, in his first public appearance since returning to China from an official trip to Central Asia in mid-September – dispelling unverified rumours that he was under house arrest."

He had arrived in Samarkand, Uzbekistan on September 15 - and attended the days-long Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit - where he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, among others.

Xi is "back"...image via state media screenshot

Importantly, it had been his first foreign trip in two years. Xi had not traveled outside of the country since before the Covid-19 pandemic began.

But upon returning the Beijing, he hadn't been seen in the public eye since that mid-September trip, fueling speculation and rumors in the West and on social media. Some pundits floated the idea that he had been under "house arrest" amid political instability and a possible coup attempt.

According to a Tuesday Bloomberg description of the Chinese leader's "re-emergence" in the public eye, which has effectively ended the bizarre rumors

Xi, wearing a mask, visited an exhibition in Beijing on Tuesday about China's achievements over the past decade, state-run news outlet Xinhua reported. The Chinese leader was accompanied by the other six members of the Politburo Standing Committee, a sign of unity after rumors circulated on Twitter about a challenge to his power.

He'll likely cinch his third five-year term as leader at the major Chinese Communist party’s (CCP) meeting on October 16. The CCP meeting comes only once every half-decade.

What had added to prior rumors was the fact that the 69-year old Xi recently undertook a purge of key senior security officials. This included arrests on corruption charges of the former police chiefs of Shanghai, Chongqing and Shanxi.

More importantly, former vice minister of public security Sun Lijun and former justice minister Fu Zhenghua were also sacked and faced severe charges.

Concerning Sun Lijun, state media made this shocking announcement a week ago: "Sun Lijun, former Chinese vice minister of public security, was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve for taking more than 646 million yuan of bribes, manipulating the stock market, and illegally possessing firearms, according to the Intermediate People's Court of Changchun in Northeast China's Jilin Province on Friday." The suspended death sentence means he'll spend life in prison.

Tyler Durden Wed, 09/28/2022 - 14:05

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Did the pandemic change our personalities?

Despite a long-standing hypothesis that personality traits are relatively impervious to environmental pressures, the COVID-19 pandemic may have altered…

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Despite a long-standing hypothesis that personality traits are relatively impervious to environmental pressures, the COVID-19 pandemic may have altered the trajectory of personality across the United States, especially in younger adults, according to a new study published this week in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Angelina Sutin of Florida State University College of Medicine, and colleagues.

Credit: Brian Merrill, Pixabay, CC0 (https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/)

Despite a long-standing hypothesis that personality traits are relatively impervious to environmental pressures, the COVID-19 pandemic may have altered the trajectory of personality across the United States, especially in younger adults, according to a new study published this week in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Angelina Sutin of Florida State University College of Medicine, and colleagues.

Previous studies have generally found no associations between collective stressful events—such as earthquakes and hurricanes—and personality change. However, the coronavirus pandemic has affected the entire globe and nearly every aspect of life.

In the new study, the researchers used longitudinal assessments of personality from 7,109 people enrolled in the online Understanding America Study. They compared five-factor model personality traits—neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness—between pre-pandemic measurements (May 2014 – February 2020) and assessments early (March – December 2020) or later (2021-2022) in the pandemic. A total of 18,623 assessments, or a mean of 2.62 per participant, were analyzed. Participants were 41.2% male and ranged in age from 18 to 109.

Consistent with other studies, there were relatively few changes between pre-pandemic and 2020 personality traits, with only a small decline in neuroticism. However, there were declines in extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness when 2021-2022 data was compared to pre-pandemic personality. The changes were about one-tenth of a standard deviation, which is equivalent to about one decade of normative personality change. The changes were moderated by age, with younger adults showing disrupted maturity in the form of increased neuroticism and decreased agreeableness and conscientiousness, and the oldest group of adults showing no statistically significant changes in traits.

The authors conclude that if these changes are enduring, it suggests that population-wide stressful events can slightly bend the trajectory of personality, especially in younger adults.

The authors add: “There was limited personality change early in the pandemic but striking changes starting in 2021. Of most note, the personality of young adults changed the most, with marked increases in neuroticism and declines in agreeableness and conscientiousness. That is, younger adults became moodier and more prone to stress, less cooperative and trusting, and less restrained and responsible.”

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In your coverage please use this URL to provide access to the freely available article in PLOS ONE: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0274542

Citation: Sutin AR, Stephan Y, Luchetti M, Aschwanden D, Lee JH, Sesker AA, et al. (2022) Differential personality change earlier and later in the coronavirus pandemic in a longitudinal sample of adults in the United States. PLoS ONE 17(9): e0274542. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0274542

Author Countries: USA, France

Funding: Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R01AG053297 to ARS. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.


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