Politics & Elections India and Brazil’s COVID Crises Show We Must End the Fiction of Borders Human Rights 125 Democrats Say Military Aid to Israel Shouldn’t Depend on Human Rights Record Prisons & Policing University of California Pushes to Militarize and Expand Its Police Force Politics & Elections Sanders Accuses McConnell of Hypocrisy and Corruption in Scathing KY Speech Immigration DHS Touts Reuniting Just 4 of More Than 1,000 Separated Migrant Families Human Rights Over 10 Million People Could Become Homeless When Eviction Moratorium Ends The Senate passed a bipartisan bill to provide $35 billion to fund water infrastructure in states and on tribal lands on Thursday. The legislation, which sets aside funding for underserved communities, now goes to the House for consideration. The Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act (DWWIA) allows for gradual increases in state funding for water infrastructure programs from 2022 to 2026. It nearly doubles funding for lead removal projects, including removing lead pipes from schools, and allows for over 40 percent of funds to go toward helping underserved and tribal communities. It also promotes investments in projects to improve water infrastructure to be more resilient to the effects of the climate crisis. The legislation passed the Senate 89-2. The two no votes were cast by Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas). Proponents of the bill say that the bill is desperately needed to improve water infrastructure in the U.S. “To truly ‘Build Back Better,’ our nation must prioritize putting Americans back to work repairing and upgrading the aging pipes we all depend on to deliver our water,” said Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois), lead author of the bill. “Years of failure to make adequate investments in our water infrastructure has led to a status quo where millions of Americans are served their drinking water through what is essentially a lead straw.” Water infrastructure in the U.S. is indeed in need of improvement. In their 2021 infrastructure report, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave drinking water infrastructure in the U.S. a C minus, saying that “the system is aging and underfunded.” Investment in water infrastructure in the U.S. has seen a dramatic decline in the last four decades. A 2020 study by the ASCE found that the investment gap for drinking water and wastewater would grow to $434 billion by 2029 if left unchecked. This is particularly an issue for poor and minority communities. Studies have shown that the problem of a lack of access to clean drinking water — like the still-ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan — is most often experienced by poor communities with large nonwhite populations. A 2019 study by the National Resources Defense Council found that water systems that continually violated the laws on clean drinking water were 40 percent more likely to be located in communities with a high proportion of residents of color. Wide support for the DWWIA in the Senate indicates that there is bipartisan support for infrastructure investments — a topic du jour, thanks to President Joe Biden’s recent infrastructure proposals. Biden’s infrastructure bill also includes a proposal to replace all lead pipes among many other infrastructure improvements, but Republicans have aligned themselves against it. The DWWIA might be a welcome step toward repairing the country’s water systems, but some environmental advocates say that it still won’t be sufficient to address issues of years of racist policies that have long disadvantaged nonwhite communities. “While this legislation is a great start, it cannot be the final investment in communities that have been in peril even before the COVID-19 pandemic further devastated them,” said Julian Gonzalez, legislative counsel for Earthjustice, in a statement. “We look forward to Congress continuing to act through a larger infrastructure package, with significantly more robust funding for removal of lead service lines, more grants to disadvantaged communities and tribal nations, and more funding for ratepayer assistance.” Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.
Politics & Elections Biden’s Speech Pointed to a Possible End to Reagan’s Rancid Legacy Prisons & Policing New Report Looks at Strategies to Cut Incarceration of Illinois Women by Half Politics & Elections GOP Rebuttal to Biden’s Speech Flopped Because Progressive Policies Are Popular Environment & Health Hawaii Poised to Become First State to Declare Climate Emergency Environment & Health Progressives Introduce Huge Climate Bill That Rivals Biden Infrastructure Plan Racial Justice Commission Finds Anti-Black Police Violence Constitutes Crimes Against Humanity Progressives on Thursday introduced a $10 trillion climate and jobs bill that would reduce emissions, rebuild infrastructure and address environmental justice over the next decade. The bill rivals President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill, which calls for a much smaller investment. While Biden’s bill calls for a $2 trillion investment in infrastructure over the next decade, the Transform, Heal, and Renew by Investing in a Vibrant Economy (THRIVE) Act calls for $1 trillion per year over 10 years for investment in infrastructure, jobs and climate initiatives. The proposal is being led by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Michigan) and it aims to cut climate emissions in half by 2030 and is centered around equitable change. Highlighting the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic and the American Rescue Plan, Dingell said in a press call organized by the Green New Deal Network, “[As the nation is] pivoting from relief to recovery, we’re working together to advance good paying union jobs, racial equity and climate action.” “The pandemic has shined a light on the cracks of our society. It’s placed a burden on vulnerable communities,” said Dingell. “That’s why we need a bold economic renewal plan, and the THRIVE Act is exactly what we need.” “The climate crisis is here. It’s here. This is not some future issue.” said Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colorado), a sponsor of the bill, highlighting wildfires in his state and public health issues due to air pollution. “The most expensive thing our nation has ever done is not be ready for this pandemic. So we have to do the right thing and make investments now to be prepared to save lives” and address the climate crisis, Crow said. One of the main focuses of the bill is job creation — a March report by the University of Massachusetts Amherst found that the THRIVE Act would create about 15.5 million jobs per year. The bill stipulates that the jobs must be high quality, with at least a $15 an hour wage and with benefits like paid family and sick leave. “Unions and the environmentalists have come together and are working together to ensure that we rebuild our country’s economy with a focus on justice and healing,” said Dingell. The bill would also ensure that historically oppressed groups are at the front line of the transition to a greener nation by creating a 20-member board of representatives from frontline communities, unions and Indigenous nations to help guide where investments should be made. Fifty percent of investments from the bill, it stipulates, must go toward frontline communities, which suffer the most from climate impacts. “Policymakers cannot ignore the realities that are facing millions of Black, brown, Indigenous, immigrant and working families all across America. The four crises facing America are literally killing us. They are climate change, the public health pandemic, racial injustice and economic inequality,” said Markey in the press call. “We can’t defeat any of these crises alone. We must develop a roadmap for recovery that addresses them all.” The bill pays particular care to Indigenous people, and requires the government to respect Indigenous nations in the investments put forth by the bill. It attempts to ensure that Native communities would be consulted and their consent sought before things like pipelines are built on Indigenous territory. The THRIVE Agenda and corresponding THRIVE Act was originally introduced by the former Rep. Deb Haaland (D-New Mexico), who now serves as the first Indigenous Interior Secretary, and who has long been a champion of Indigenous rights and sovereignty. Polling from Data for Progress last year showed that the THRIVE Agenda pillars, including investing in green infrastructure and recognizing Native sovereignty, are popular — and the agenda has gained over 100 co-sponsors since Haaland introduced it. The THRIVE Act also has the support of Democrats like Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) and Representatives Ilhan Omar, (D-Minnesota), Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) and Ro Khanna (D-California). Though it has little hope of being passed into law, elements of the bill could end up being incorporated into Biden’s infrastructure plan, just as parts of the Green New Deal have been embraced by Biden. Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) reintroduced a $700 billion plan on Tuesday to make child care more affordable for families and establish a universal child care program over the next decade. The proposal would create a network of child care centers so that everyone, regardless of income, can have access to quality child care. It would also make child care free for those who make below two times the federal poverty line, and would ensure that no low- and middle-income families have to pay more than 7 percent of their income for public child care. Warren has previously unveiled a version of the plan in 2019, when she was campaigning for president.
Politics & Elections Trump-Disrupted Census Hurts Marginalized Communities and Hands New Power to GOP Environment & Health No, Biden’s Not Banning Burgers — But Meat Is a Real Climate Problem Environment & Health The More Biden Expands ACA, the Harder It Will Be for the Right to Cut It Politics & Elections Over 80 House Democrats Urge Biden to Lower Medicare Eligibility Age Economy & Labor Biden to Sign Executive Order Raising Federal Workers’ Wages to $15 an Hour War & Peace Biden Is Reviewing US Policy in North Korea. The Brutal Sanctions Must End. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) organized over 80 House Democrats to sign a letter calling on President Joe Biden to expand Medicare in his administration’s upcoming American Families Plan. The lawmakers are asking Biden to lower the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 60 or even 55, require Medicare to negotiate drug prices, and add benefits such as dental, vision and hearing to Medicare coverage. In the letter, the Democrats argue that this would be “a critical investment in health care to bolster the security of our country’s economy and families.” “As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic — the nation’s most acute health care crisis in the last century — now more than ever, we must ensure that families and older adults are equipped with the health coverage they need,” the lawmakers write. The lawmakers say that expanding coverage by lowering the eligibility age for Medicare is vital to the nation’s health and could provide immediate relief to many Americans. They cite a study by Stanford researchers that found that cancer diagnoses spike up at the age of 65 because many adults are suddenly diagnosed once they have health care coverage under Medicare and are able to seek out care. Lowering the eligibility age to 60 would provide an additional 23 million people access to health care, the lawmakers write. Lowering it further to 55 would expand coverage to over 40 million people. The letter writers also cite statistics on Medicare beneficiaries who still struggle with their health because basic versions of Medicare coverage don’t cover vision, hearing or dental. Statistics from 2018 from The Commonwealth Fund cited by the Democrats show that over 70 percent of Medicare beneficiaries struggle to eat or hear, likely due to this gap in coverage, and 43 percent hadn’t had an eye exam in the past year despite having trouble seeing. The House Democrats who signed the letter are also urging Biden to address prescription drug prices. The U.S. pays the highest prices of any other country for prescription drugs, as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) pointed out last month when he introduced a bill that would, similarly to the House Democrats’ request, also allow the government to negotiate drug prices. “By prioritizing the inclusion of robust drug-pricing provisions, we can produce enormous federal savings and use it to sustainably expand health coverage, equity, and access,” the lawmakers wrote. They argue that Medicare could save hundreds of billions of dollars by negotiating prices with pharmaceutical companies. The House Democrats’ letter comes just after Sanders and 16 other Democratic senators also sent a letter to Biden urging him to include similar Medicare expansions. “We have an historic opportunity to make the most significant expansion of Medicare since it was signed into law,” the senators wrote. The push by members of Congress for Medicare expansion comes as other progressive groups are launching a $6 million campaign “ahead of President Biden’s American Jobs and Families Plan address, doubling down on its commitment to passing a permanent, national paid family and medical leave policy,” according to Politico. The push is led by Paid Leave for All, a coalition of groups that are committed to getting paid medical and family leave passed in the United States. The U.S. is one of only a small handful of countries that don’t have guaranteed paid parental leave. Biden’s plan will call for paid family leave but reportedly calls for less than half of what other Democrats call for in funding for the policy. The Biden administration is set to release the $1.8 trillion American Families Plan on Wednesday, which will also contain proposals for making community college free and subsidizing child care costs using funds partially generated through a hike on capital gains taxes for the wealthy. Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.
Such programs could help bolster work on the more traditional infrastructure projects as they allow working-class Americans the opportunity to get back into the workplace or advance their own career paths. “Child care is infrastructure. Paid leave is infrastructure. Caregiving is infrastructure. Because if we don’t invest in all three, families can’t get back to work,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) recently tweeted.
The progressives’ bill calls for investing over $100 billion in public housing over the next decade.
By turning wastewater into drinking water, our existing water supplies could go further.