Congress just passed a debt-ceiling-and-budget-deal that increased Pentagon spending while placing spending caps and burdensome red-tape requirements on critical services for working people.
Of the roughly $858 billion in taxpayer money the United States is spending on the Pentagon this year, about half goes to military contractors, including weapons manufacturers. Year after year, the Pentagon budget rises―Congress has just agreed on upping it to $886 billion for next year. Now, an explosive six month investigation by 60 Minutes has exposed drastic price gouging by federal military contractors―with some raking up total profits near 40%!
The price gouging of American taxpayers must come to an end. Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Mark Pocan (D-WI) reintroduced the People Over Pentagon Act, which would cut $100 billion from the Pentagon’s budget and reallocate the funds to human needs programs―to hire more teachers and nurses, enroll more children in Head Start, connect households to renewable energy, and more.
Two of the biggest price gougers are Lockheed Martin and its subcontractor, Boeing, which have also seen their tax rates plummet in recent years. Lockheed Martin has seen its effective tax rate cut nearly in half since the Trump tax scam became law in 2018―paying an effective tax rate of 27% in 2017, but just 15% in 2022. And, Boeing alone has gotten federal tax refunds the last three years totaling more than $4 billion, despite $187 billion in sales.
Throwing huge budget increases year after year to the Pentagon’s corporate contractors, which are price gouging the federal government while also paying historically low tax rates, undermines our security by preventing us from investing in the shared prosperity that comes from more housing, climate and public health protections, ending hunger, and more education. And Pentagon spending has been shown to create fewer jobs than comparable amounts spent on sectors including education, health care, renewable energy or infrastructure.
The United States spends more on defense than China, Russia, and the next seven countries combined. Reducing the Pentagon budget by $100 billion would still leave plenty to keep America safe at a level well above our country’s post-World War II average.
The XBB.1.5 edition. New COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are on the rise in many parts of the country. Hospitalizations in particular are at the highest level they’ve been in almost 11 months. Some of this increase was anticipated due to the aftermath of the holidays – a time when many family members and friends gather indoors. But the increase in caseloads is also due to the rapid emergence of XBB.1.5, which is more transmissible than any other omicron subvariant we’ve seen so far.
“The implications of XBB.1.5 are also much bigger than just this formidable variant,” writesEric Topol, a well-respected Professor of Molecular Medicine at Scripps Research. “The virus is talking to us, and it is telling us that it has many more ways to evolve. It is revealing that it not only can fake out or elude our immune response, but can also get better at penetrating our response.”
Vaccination rates are not what they should be in the U.S., particularly among the elderly, and some treatments don’t work against the new subvariants. Moreover, immune-compromised people are very much at risk.
Congress, unfortunately, is not seriously considering new funding to help boost the vaccination rate, develop new vaccines, or pursue new, effective therapeutics. “We’re doubling down on our efforts here to do more,” White House Covid Response Coordinator Ashish Jha told Politico. “But we’re doing all this with a fraction of the funding we had last year because Congress failed to do its duty of funding an effective vaccination program.”
Hospitalizations from COVID-19 were up 10% from the previous two weeks as of Thursday, January 12, while deaths increased by a whopping 61 percent. 45,842 hospitalizations were reported, along with 564 deaths. Tweet this.
XBB.1.5, the most transmissible descendant of the omicron variant, accountedfor 2% of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. in early December. By the first week of January, that figure was up to 27%. XBB.1.5 made up more than 70 percent of cases in the Northeast. Tweet this.
Just 38% of seniors have gotten the most recent booster. The remaining 62% are at heightened risk of infection, including becoming seriously ill or even dying. Tweet this.
President Biden last year proposed$88.2 billion over five years to build up biodefense and pandemic preparedness. And he proposed $9.25 billion to fund new vaccines and therapeutics. Congress largely ignored his request. Tweet this.
The amount of dollars the federal government provided to help pharmaceutical companies develop COVID-19 vaccines. Now Moderna is reportedly considering charging $110 to $130 for one dose of its vaccine. Last year, the federal government paid roughly $27 per shot. Tweet this.
Nearly 16 million
The numberof Americans who had signed up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s marketplace as of earlier this week. That’s a 13% increase over last year. The number will go up, as consumers still have until Sunday, January 15 to sign up.
Some House Republicans are favoring a plan that would cut $4 trillion from projected health care spending over the next decade – this would include cuts to Medicaid and repealing the Affordable Care Act. They also propose $2 trillion in cuts to such programs as SNAP and child nutrition, student loans, disability insurance, and more.
In the six months since it launched, the new 988 mental health helpline has received more than 2 million calls, texts, and chat messages.
According to the latest Household Pulse Survey data, 11.4% of households did not have enough to eat during the previous seven days (the data was collected December 9-19). Among Blacks, that number was 19.2%; among Hispanics, it was 15.5%. But among Whites, it was 9.0% and among Asians it was only 5.7%.
Two in every five households reported they had trouble paying for usual household expenses during the previous seven days. Among Blacks, it was 51.1%; among Hispanics, 50%; among Whites, 35.5%; and among Asians, 32%. In households with children, 46.5% had trouble meeting usual expenses, compared to 36.3 percent of households with no children.