Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Indepen-Dunce Week: It's About The Kids, See

House GOP minority leader Kevin McCarthy takes to USA Today to sell the Republican priority of legal immunity to COVID-19 lawsuits for businesses by using America's schoolchildren as bargaining chips.

The economic shutdown has transformed many American households into makeshift day cares, middle school classrooms and summer camps. Parents have had to take on the roles of teachers and coaches while trying to manage full-time jobs. Now, as we look to reopen parts of the economy, those same parents are facing limited to zero options for child care.

Under COVID-19 orders, 50% of providers recently surveyed reported their center was completely closed, and most of the providers who did remain open were operating at less than 25% capacity. And 1 in 3 jobs in child day care centers went away, likely for good. Additionally, many schools will reopen this fall with staggered or part-time schedules and at least 60 private schools have permanently closed, displacing more than 8,000 students.

We now see a looming crisis for schools and child care. If it's left unaddressed, it will exacerbate the economic crisis caused by the pandemic by preventing parents across the country from returning to work, and continue to widen the socioeconomic gap.

There is an important role for Congress to play in alleviating the stress on our families. We should begin by addressing the shortage of child care options by working to keep existing providers in business and encouraging new child care providers, including home-based providers, to start up in as safe and healthy a way as possible. Any additional financial relief considered by Congress to businesses to aid in the economic recovery should prioritize child care providers and schools.

Small home-based providers should be treated like start-ups and given small business support, including access to regional networks, to help improve quality and access to group purchasing power. This will also help providers with recruitment and professional development of the workforce, for both new and returning employees. Many of these businesses are owner-operated, women and minority owned businesses. Helping them launch and setting them up for success could be a win-win in aiding the recovery.

Again, this is exactly what Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats have been proposing for over two months now, and Senate Republicans have been blocking for over two months now.  So what's the catch?

Next paragraph, please.

A part of helping schools and child care centers confidently reopen will involve providing liability protections against frivolous lawsuits. COVID-19 related lawsuits against businesses (including child care providers as well as K-12 schools), when good-faith efforts to follow best health practices and recommendations are followed, are an existential threat to companies large and small.

K-12 schools across the country have asked Congress to provide meaningful, targeted protection from frivolous claims and lawsuits resulting from possible exposure to the coronavirus on school facilities and property. A wave of such lawsuits threatens to prevent child care providers and schools from reopening, which would undermine the economic and social recovery of our country

And there it is.

Republicans are already making plans to force schools to reopen this fall regardless of safety. Florida is already forcing all schools to reopen next month and Texas is doing the same thing. Nationally, the Trump regime says it will not allow public schools to reopen on partial or staggered schedules, and that distance learning will not be accepted.

The CDC's guidance for schools recommends that students and teachers wear masks “as feasible,” spread out desks, stagger schedules, eat meals in classrooms instead of the cafeteria, and add physical barriers between bathroom sinks.

Some schools have announced plans to bring students back for only a few days a week, an option that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Tuesday said was unacceptable.

“It’s clear that our nations schools must fully reopen and fully operate this school year. Anything short of that robs students, not to mention taxpayers, of their future,” DeVos said.

During a call with governors, DeVos slammed plans by Virginia's Fairfax County Public Schools to have families decide between fully remote instruction or two days a week at school. “A choice of two days per week in the classroom is not a choice at all," DeVos said, according to audio of the call obtained by The Associated Press.

DeVos also criticized many schools' attempts at distance education after the pandemic prompted them to move classes online last spring. She said she was disappointed in schools that “didn’t figure out how to serve students or who just gave up and didn’t try.”

The same thing can’t happen again this fall, she said, urging governors to play a role in getting schools to reopen.

They gave up because of school funding cuts across the board by Republicans.  By the way, Cincinnati plans to open schools in the fall on a staggered schedule. Mayor Cranley says he disagrees with the plan and says schools have no choice but to open as normal.

Finally, Donald Trump made it clear today that he plans to cut all federal funding for any school district, college, or university that doesn't open this fall.

Trump on Wednesday morning tweeted, "In Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and many other countries, SCHOOLS ARE OPEN WITH NO PROBLEMS. The Dems think it would be bad for them politically if U.S. schools open before the November Election, but is important for the children & families. May cut off funding if not open!" 
On Tuesday night, DeVos said she is “very seriously” looking at withholding federal funds from schools that don't open their doors this fall.

“Kids have got to continue learning,” she told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson during an interview late Tuesday. “Schools have got to open up, there has got to be concerted effort to address the needs of all kids and adults who are fear mongering and making excuses simply have got to stop doing it and turn their attention on what is right for students and for their families.” 
Federal funding for K-12 schools includes billions for low-income schools and special education. But education leaders immediately questioned how the administration would propose to hold back those funds or others. 
"To be clear: there is no mechanism by which they can decide to magically withhold funding without Congressional authorization," tweeted Sasha Pudelski, advocacy director for AASA, The School Superintendents Association.

This is going to be the big fight over the next several weeks across the country, and it's going to play out against a backdrop of a massive spike in cases and very soon a massive spike in COVID-19 deaths.  Kids are going to be Republican pawns, put in the direct path of a pandemic that will kill thousands and cripple tens, maybe hundreds of thousands more. And teachers, educators, and school staff?  When they start dropping dead in classrooms?

What then?  "Find a way to open as normal or lose all funding, you have six weeks."

Keep an eye on this. The future of public education in America is now very much in doubt.

And that's exactly what Republicans want.

The end of public education.

Indepen-Dunce Week: A Pair Of Supreme Disappointments

America got a bit closer toward theocracy today with two SCOTUS decisions on your employer's religion trumping your own, with your employer now able to deny you health care coverage and oh yes, your job, based entirely on their "closely-held" religious beliefs.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday cleared the way for the Trump administration to give the nation's employers more leeway in refusing to provide free birth control for their workers under the Affordable Care Act.

The ruling is a victory for the administration's plan to greatly expand the kinds of employers who can cite religious or moral objections in declining to include contraceptives in their health care plans.

Up to 126,000 women nationwide would lose birth control coverage under President Donald Trump's plan, the government estimated. Planned Parenthood said nearly nine in 10 women seek contraceptive care of some kind during their lifetimes.

The Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, gives the government authority to create the religious and moral objections, said Justice Clarence Thomas for the court's 7-2 majority.

The Department of Health and Human Services "has virtually unbridled discretion to decide what counts as preventive care and screenings," and that same authority "leaves its discretion equally unchecked in other areas, including the ability to identify and create exemptions from its own guidelines," he said.

In dissent, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor said the court in the past has struck a balance in religious freedom cases, so that the beliefs of some do not overwhelm the rights of others.

"Today for the first time, the court casts totally aside countervailing rights and interests in its zeal to secure religious rights to the nth degree" and "leaves women workers to fend for themselves" in seeking contraceptive services, they said.

Women’s groups condemned the ruling. The National Women’s Law Center said more than 61 million women get birth control coverage through Obamacare.

It's going to be zero if the GOP gets its way, as the ACA won't exist, which is another issue, but Thomas's ruling basically states that the government should be making these moral and legal objections on behalf of employers.

Are employers going to have to opt-in to birth control coverage now because the Trump regime can now assume employers object unless they say otherwise?  Thomas's ruling certainly left that door wide open should the regime decide everyone "needs" that exception.

And as far as job discrimination goes, well, your employer's religious beliefs now mean they can fire anyone they like.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday strengthened legal protections that shield religious institutions from job discrimination lawsuits.

It was the court's second ruling this term intended to expand religious freedom. In a previous 5-4 ruling along traditional ideological lines, the justices said states cannot exclude religiously affiliated schools from state scholarship programs, a decision that further lowered the wall of separation between church and state.

"The religious education and formation of students is the very reason for the existence of most private religious schools, and therefore the selection and supervision of the teachers upon whom the schools rely to do this work lie at the core of their mission," wrote Justice Samuel Alito for the 7-2 majority. "Judicial review of the way in which religious schools discharge those responsibilities would undermine the independence of religious institutions in a way that the First Amendment does not tolerate."

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in a dissent for herself and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, said the ruling is based on a simplistic approach that "has no basis in law and strips thousands of schoolteachers of their legal protections."

A 2012 Supreme Court ruling protects churches, the schools they run, and other religious organizations from lawsuits brought by employees who perform a "ministerial" function. Allowing such suits, the court said then, would invite government interference in a religious institution's internal affairs.

Wednesday's ruling involved Roman Catholic schools in southern California that were sued after deciding not to renew contracts for two teachers. Agnes Morrissey-Berru sued Our Lady of Guadalupe School in Hermosa Beach for age discrimination when her contract was terminated, and Kristen Biel sued St. James School in Torrance when her contract wasn't renewed after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She said the school violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In both cases, the churches said they were protected from discrimination lawsuits. But the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco refused to throw the cases out, ruling that even though the teachers taught some religious subjects, their duties were not ministerial. Morrissey-Berru is not a practicing Catholic and was not required to attend any religious training for most of the time she taught at Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Got cancer?  Too bad, God says you're fired.  The Hobby Lobby decision is a Pandora's box that's going to destroy the Civil Rights era if left unchecked.  A second Trump term guarantees it.

Oh, can't help but notice here the losers in both of these rulings are almost exclusively women...

Just putting that out there.

Indepen-Dunce Week: Tales From The Trump Depression

As I've been warning for months now, COVID-19 eviction moratoriums have expired all over the country on July 1, and we're going to see hundreds of thousands, if not millions thrown out into the street over the next several months, into the jaws of an epidemic and an economic depression. And the majority of victims will be black and brown.

A backlog of eviction cases is beginning to move through the court system as millions of Americans who had counted on federal aid and eviction moratoriums to stay in their homes now fear being thrown out. 
A crisis among renters is expected to deepen this month as the enhanced unemployment benefits that have kept many afloat run out at the end of July and the $1,200-per-adult stimulus payment that had supported households earlier in the crisis becomes a distant memory. 
Meanwhile, enforcement of federal moratoriums on some types of evictions is uneven, with experts warning that judges’ efforts to limit access to courtrooms or hold hearings online because of covid-19 could increasingly leave elderly or poor renters at a disadvantage. 
Of the 110 million Americans living in rental households, 20 percent are at risk of eviction by Sept. 30, according to an analysis by the Covid-19 Eviction Defense Project, a Colorado-based community group. African American and Hispanic renters are expected to be hardest hit.

More than twenty million new homeless in the next three months.

Twenty million. 

“If you look at the covid pandemic and the health outcomes, the economic outcomes, that is hitting black and brown people very hard,” said Peter Hepburn, a research fellow at Princeton University’s Eviction Lab. “And that is likely to be seen in the housing market as well.”

In response to a survey by the U.S. Census Bureau, about 44 percent and 41 percent of adult Latino and black renters, respectively, said they had no or slight confidence they could pay their rent next month or were likely to defer payment, according to an Urban Institute analysis of the data, which was collected between May 28 and June 9. About 21 percent of white renters felt the same.

In Milwaukee, where a state eviction moratorium was lifted in late May, the number of eviction filings through June 27 was up 13 percent compared with previous years, according to data collected by the Eviction Lab research group. Nearly 1,300 cases have been filed so far in June. About two-thirds of those cases were filed in majority-black neighborhoods.

“Milwaukee is the future. A lot of these other cities are just beginning to ramp up their capacity to process cases again,” Hepburn said.

Evictions are also beginning to pick up in areas where coronavirus infections have recently spiked, said Diane Yentel, president and chief executive of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

In Texas, for example, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) recently ordered bars to close and restaurants to reduce occupancy after coronavirus cases surged in the state. But the courts remain open in Houston, the country’s fourth-largest city, where more than 2,000 eviction complaints were filed in June, according to January Advisors, a data science consulting firm.

“That wave [of evictions] has already begun. We are trying to prevent it from becoming a tsunami,” Yentel said.

Thousands of  evictions will become tens of thousands very soon.  Nobody is talking about doing anything to stop it. As bad as things are now, they will be much worse in the months ahead, in every possible aspect, suffering untold.

Rent's due.

Nowhere to go for many.

Welcome to the Trump Depression.
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