Monday, April 27, 2020

Last Call For Primary Causes

The New York State Board of Elections voted to cancel the presidential primary scheduled for June 23 during a call with the board on Monday.

Douglas Kellner, the co-chair of the New York State Board of Elections, told CNN the two Democratic election commissioners — himself and Andrew Spano — have the power under the election law to cancel the election.

“In the budget that was passed by the legislature and signed by the governor on April 3 included a provision that any candidates who have suspended their campaign or requested to be removed from the ballot should be removed from the primary ballot,” Kellner said. “And of course Sen. Sanders had suspended his campaign. He did that five days after the law was enacted. And it basically rendered the primary moot, and at a time when the goal is to avoid unnecessary social contact, our conclusion was that there was no purpose in holding a beauty contest primary that would marginally increase the risk to both voters and poll workers.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order last month moving the primary from its originally scheduled date of April 28 to June.

He responded to the board’s vote in his news conference today, saying, “I’m not going to second guess the board of elections there are a number of, I know there are a lot of election employees, employees of boards of elections who are nervous about conducting elections. But I’ll leave it up to the board of elections.”

Jay Jacobs, chairman of the New York State Democratic Committee, told CNN in a phone interview Monday afternoon that he agreed with the decision to cancel the state's presidential primary contest.
Jacobs said it was a "necessary move" by the New York election officials to protect the health and safety of voters and poll workers.

He noted that the outcome was essentially “pre-determined” since Sen. Bernie Sanders dropped out of the Democratic race and emphasized the need to protect voters amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"We've stopped all non-essential business. This certainly is a non-essential primary if ever there was one," Jacobs said.

The Bernie people are furious, none more than Bernie Sanders himself.

Sanders’ campaign in a statement called the decision “an outrage” and a “blow to American democracy,” urging the Democratic National Committee to overturn it.

“While we understood that we did not have the votes to win the Democratic nomination our campaign was suspended, not ended, because people in every state should have the right to express their preference. What the Board of Elections is ignoring is that the primary process not only leads to a nominee but also the selection of delegates which helps determine the platform and rules of the Democratic Party,” said Bernie 2020 senior advisor Jeff Weaver.

“No one asked New York to cancel the election. The DNC didn’t request it. The Biden campaign didn’t request it. And our campaign communicated that we wanted to remain on the ballot. Given that the primary is months away, the proper response must be to make the election safe — such as going to all vote by mail — rather than to eliminating people’s right to vote completely.”

Our Revolution, a 501(c)(4) organization that was created after Sanders’ first run for president in 2016, has pushed its grassroots army to persuade voters to back the Vermont senator in states that have yet to hold their primaries. It aims to make sure Sanders wins enough delegates to push for key reforms in the Democratic platform.

After the self-described democratic socialist was removed from the ballot, Our Revolution’s leadership told CNBC they plan to reach out to delegates and state party leaders in the remaining primary states to persuade them that if they decide on a similar course, the party will split.

“I would say to state party chairs in other states” not to follow New York, Our Revolution’s chairman, Larry Cohen, said in an interview. “You are better off following the Republican governor in Ohio who extended a mail in ballot, than following a Democratic governor in New York, and that’s a disgrace, but that’s a reality,” he added, while placing the blame entirely on Gov. Andrew Cuomo and what he believes is his control of the state party apparatus.

Threatening the party with a schism is definitely the way to influence decisions made within the party.

Having said that, even Kentucky got its shit together enough for vote by mail this year.

Do better, Cuomo.

A Supreme Pronouncement

In an 8-1 decision, the US Supreme Court took a flamethrower to Republican "risk corridors" that starved insurers of money promised to them in the original ACA, meaning the Trump regime owes back payments on Obamacare.

The Supreme Court on Monday ruled the federal government owes health insurers massive payments from an Obamacare program shielding them from financial risks after the companies accused Washington of reneging on its funding promises.

The 8-1 decision could open the floodgates for federal cash to the insurance industry. Insurers who accused the government of a “bait and switch” claimed they’re owed $12 billion from the Affordable Care Act program.

The case concerned a temporary fund in the health care law intended as a buffer for health plans who had sicker customers than expected in the newly overhauled insurance marketplaces. Obamacare’s drafters hoped the program would be funded by industry, but health plans quickly racked up losses when the marketplaces opened in 2014. The next year, Republican lawmakers approved the first in a series of annual appropriations riders barring HHS from using taxpayer dollars to bankroll the program, known as risk corridors.

The high court agreed with insurers that the congressional spending restrictions didn’t release the government from its original promise to fund the Obamacare program. The court said Congress had created "a rare money-mandating obligation" that later appropriations language couldn't repeal.

"These holdings reflect a principle as old as the Nation itself: The Government should honor its obligations," wrote Justice Sonia Sotomayor in the majority opinion.

Justice Samuel Alito, in a dissenting opinion, criticized the ruling as effectively providing a massive bailout for the insurance industry.

"Under the court’s decision, billions of taxpayer dollars will be turned over to insurance companies that bet unsuccessfully on the success of the program in question," Alito wrote.

The ruling came year too late however, and may not matter at all in a year...

The decision will have little impact on Obamacare. The law faces a legal threat in a separate case brought by Republican-led states challenging the law’s constitutionality, which the Supreme Court has agreed to hear, likely later this year. But the ruling represents a loss for the Trump administration, which argued it wasn’t obligated to make the risk corridor payments and is supporting the red states’ lawsuit.

The three-year risk corridors program closed in 2016. Insurance experts said the program’s $12 billion shortfall contributed to turbulence in Obamacare’s early years, as health plans jacked up premiums to cover their losses or abandoned the marketplaces.

So again, it's effectively a moot point now as risk corridors are gone, and probably a moot point later as all of Obamacare could be gone in 12 months.

Thanks GOP!

Food For Thought, Con't

The looming food shortages across the country, scenes of thousands of car lining up daily for food bank distribution, crops rotting in the fields and chickens being killed because there's no workers to process them, all of this is under the Trump regime and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is just as incompetent as the rest of them.

Tens of millions of pounds of American-grown produce is rotting in fields as food banks across the country scramble to meet a massive surge in demand, a two-pronged disaster that has deprived farmers of billions of dollars in revenue while millions of newly jobless Americans struggle to feed their families. 
While other federal agencies quickly adapted their programs to the coronavirus crisis, the Agriculture Department took more than a month to make its first significant move to buy up surplus fruits and vegetables — despite repeated entreaties. 
“It’s frustrating,” said Nikki Fried, commissioner of agriculture in Florida. Fried, who is a Democrat, and much of the Florida congressional delegation asked Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue nearly a month ago to use his broad authority and funding to get more Florida farmers plugged into federal food purchasing and distribution programs as the food service market collapsed. “Unfortunately, USDA didn’t move until [last week].”

Tom Vilsack, who served as agriculture secretary during the Obama administration, put it this way: “It’s not a lack of food, it’s that the food is in one place and the demand is somewhere else and they haven’t been able to connect the dots. You’ve got to galvanize people.” 
It has been six weeks since President Donald Trump and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first urged Americans to avoid restaurants as part of national social distancing guidelines to slow the spread of Covid-19 — a move that immediately severed demand for millions of pounds of food earmarked for professional kitchens across the country.

Just 50 miles from Trump’s home in Mar-a-Lago, Florida growers, much of whose produce was destined for restaurant chains, faced an immediate crisis: Find customers for surplus crops or plow the fields under to avoid attracting pests. 
Images of farmers destroying tomatoes, piling up squash, burying onions and dumping milk shocked many Americans who remain fearful of supply shortages. At the same time, people who recently lost their jobs lined up for miles outside some food banks, raising questions about why there has been no coordinated response at the federal level to get the surplus of perishable food to more people in need, even as commodity groups, state leaders and lawmakers repeatedly urged the Agriculture Department to step in.

Demand at food banks has increased an average of 70 percent, according to Feeding America, which represents about 200 major food banks across the country. The group estimates that 40 percent of those being served are new to the system. 
In mid-April, USDA unveiled a long-awaited $19 billion aid program with $3 billion set aside to buy excess food, a pot of money that would cover a major ramp-up of fresh produce purchases, along with dairy and meats. But federal officials predicted it would take the better part of a month before that food is packed and shipped to food banks and other nonprofits in need. At that point, it will be too late for many produce growers who saw a huge drop in demand right at the peak of their season. 
“By the time that comes through, it won’t help Florida,” said Brittany Lee, a blueberry farmer and executive director of the Florida Blueberry Growers Association. Blueberry prices are about half of what they were this time last year, she said.

Sonny Perdue is the former governor of Georgia and cousin to current GOP Sen. David Purdue of Georgia.  He was brought on to the Trump regime to do two things: act as the lightning rod for Trump's Chinese tariffs on farm products, and to get as many Americans off SNAP and other food benefit programs as possible.

He was never hired to handle a national food crisis, and make no mistake, we're deep into one.  The USDA should have had a handle on this six weeks ago and it should have been a top priority.

But now, we've got tens of millions of people needing basic foodstuffs, and tens of millions of pounds of food going to waste. As poultry producer Tyson Foods warns, "The food supply chain is breaking."

The board chairman of Tyson Foods is warning that "millions of pounds of meat will disappear" from the national food supply chain as the coronavirus outbreak forces food processing plants to shutter. 
"The food supply chain is breaking," John Tyson wrote in a full-page advertisement published Sunday in The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

"There will be limited supply of our products available in grocery stores until we are able to reopen our facilities that are currently closed," he wrote in the advertisement, which was also published as a blog post on the company's website. 
In recent weeks, the major poultry producer has temporarily suspended operations at plants across the country. The company halted operations Wednesday at an Iowa plant that is crucial to the nation's pork supply. 
"In addition to meat shortages, this is a serious food waste issue. Farmers across the nation simply will not have anywhere to sell their livestock to be processed, when they could have fed the nation," John Tyson wrote. 
"Millions of animals — chickens, pigs and cattle — will be depopulated because of the closure of our processing facilities," he added. 
Four employees of Tyson's operations in rural southwest Georgia died earlier this month after becoming infected with the coronavirus, a company spokesman told The Associated Press. 
Tyson has told NBC News that it is taking steps to protect its workers, including installing dividers between workers and relaxing its attendance policy to allow sick workers to stay home.
Great job, guys.


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