About that inflation data
Biden’s plan for weathering his latest economic storm. Plus: How Senate Democrats will advance voting rights and the three Congress members putting some respect on creators’ names.
The creator economy has Congress’s attention • Elected officials are finally putting some respect on creators’ names.
Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell and Sen. Brian Schatz and Republican Sen. John Cornyn introduced on Wednesday the Comprehensive Resources for Entrepreneurs in the Arts to Transform the Economy (CREATE) Act of 2022.
The legislation would support artists, entrepreneurs and workers in growing their businesses, accessing federal funds and expanding their networks in local communities.
The CREATE Act would expand the microloan program to include artists and arts entrepreneurs, or small businesses, that support the creative economy. It would also direct the Small Business Administration to develop procedures for how it reviews business proposals from non-employer and small creative businesses. It would also provide support through traditional economic development tools to support art agencies, artists, and creative workers.
“Local artists, writers, performers, and the creative industry they support play a leading role in our economy and our everyday lives,” Schatz said in a statement.
You can always tell how serious the White House thinks an issue is based on who joins Press Secretary Jen Psaki as a guest to her daily briefing.
Wednesday afternoon was no different.
Brian Deese, who leads the administration’s National Economic Council, stepped to the podium to reframe the daunting inflation numbers that were released a few hours earlier.
As I reported yesterday, the White House was bracing for brutal news.
And they got it. Costs are at a 40-year high for cars, gas, food and furniture, according to the Dec. Consumer Price Index, which tracks changes in prices over time. And those wage gains President Joe Biden touted in his remarks last week after the Dec. jobs reports dropped have been wiped out by the soaring costs.
Republicans pounced on the news as proof that Biden and congressional Democrats have spent too much money too fast instead of allowing the free market to course correct. Perhaps they forgot most of this spending was to blunt the worst days of the pandemic before vaccines were widely available and unemployment was high AF.
But administration officials have been resolute in their position that prices will go down when we get a grip on the virus. However, creators I talked to yesterday seem resigned to the belief that every time we think we’re climbing to the other side of this now-three-year ordeal, another variant or unexpected curveball will push us back down.
The message from the White House and its allies is that this problem isn’t unique to America.
“Nobody was expecting today’s report to show anything other than what Americans have already seen day-to-day: that inflation has been a serious challenge over the past year and families across the country are feeling the impacts of high prices,” House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer said in a statement. “But just as COVID-19 isn't an American problem alone, inflation has surged in similar advanced economies around the globe, from Europe to the United Kingdom and Canada.”
You know the saying though: Home is where the heart is. So I’m unsure how many people are open to Hoyer’s message no matter how true it may be.
It seems as though Biden will look to weather this storm by notching a few legislative wins and focusing on his team’s pandemic response. If I’ve learned anything from covering this administration the past year is that it’ll never let you see it sweat even if it has every reason to be.
Chuck lays out his plan • Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer announced the steps Senate Democrats intend to take to pass two significant voting rights by Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a self-imposed deadline he set at the start of the new year.
First, the House will need to pass a bill that includes both the Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. They’ll do so today after passing a resolution last night to allow immediate consideration and set the conditions for the bill’s debate and amendment.
The bill will arrive in the Senate as a “message from the House.” This allows Senate Democrats to skip the first procedural vote required to advance the bill. It would still need 60 votes to break a Republican filibuster, which obviously won’t happen. Then Schumer will move to change the rules, which Sens. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia remain opposed to.
But what this does is give Schumer the chance to put the bill up for a debate. (To this point, Republicans have prevented the Senate from doing so.) After the debate, he’ll put the legislation up for a vote and senators will be on record as for or against voting rights.
“How can we in good conscience allow for a situation in which the Republican Party can debate and pass voter suppression laws at the state level with only a simple majority vote, but not allow the United States Senate to do the same?” Schumer wrote in a memo to Senate Democrats.
The White House says Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will be working the phones over the next several days to persuade Senators to support voting rights legislation and changes to Senate Rules. And this afternoon, Biden will have lunch at the Capitol with Senate Democrats to lobby for their support on the legislation.
Yet Democrats are still at odds on if they should and how they would change the rules. Here are the options, ranked by their probability of happening, based on my reporting:
One option is to require at least one senator in the minority would have to stand on the Senate floor and keep talking to keep a bill from advancing.
Another is to exempt voting rights from the 10 Republican votes it needs to pass. As I reported yesterday, the Senate did this last month to increase the amount of money the government may borrow to pay its bills.
The other is to eliminate the filibuster altogether, which progressive activists and lawmakers have advocated for the past year.
Biden and Schumer are doing their best. And it’s a major step that the Senate could finally be able to hold a public debate on these bills. That’s how Congress is supposed to work: Each side makes its case. Every member takes a vote. Then they go back to their constituents to explain why their decision.
But for the legislation to ultimately pass, it’s up to the Democratic holdouts to change their minds on how they interpret the Senate rules and if their Republican colleagues pose the threat to democracy most people — including the president himself — believe they are. And we’re just not there yet.
I know it’s frustrating but these moments call for you to be the most engaged. Because some of these politicians will come asking for your vote later this year and in elections to come. And if you’re as frustrated with or indifferent to this story as I imagine some are, then it’s important for you to know who to hold accountable when the time comes.
ICYMI: Barack Obama adds his voice to the voting rights debate • The former president penned an op-ed for USA Today calling on Americans to follow the example of the late civil rights icon and former Rep. John Lewis and “fight for our democracy.” Read the op-ed.
Build Back Better is still popular with voters • President Biden’s economic plan to invest in child care, health care, early and higher education and climate resilience is currently on ice. But new polling indicates Americans remain bullish on the provisions.
According to research from Navigator, a left-leaning organization, 63 percent of people support the legislation. This includes almost half of independents and nearly four in 10 Republicans. Overall, the bill is 11 percentage points more favorable today than a month ago. See the data.
But the White House still has some work to break through some key communities — including women under 55, independents, economically persuadable people, service industry workers and 18- to 44-year-olds — who, in varying degrees, say they are unaware of the legislation.
But the top-line data should give the Biden administration and congressional Democrats a boost as they look for a path forward on passing the bill.
👋🏾 Hi, hey, hello! Good Thursday morning. Welcome to Supercreator, your daily guide to the politicians and power brokers shaping how you work and live in the new economy. Send me tips, comments, questions — or just say hi: email@example.com.
Today in Politics
President Biden will receive his daily intelligence brief this morning before speaking on his administration’s response to the Omicron surge. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell will also attend. Then the president will travel to the US Capitol to meet with Senate Democrats on voting rights.
The House is in. Speaker Nancy Pelosi will hold her weekly press conference.
The Senate is in. In addition to voting rights legislation, it may consider Russian pipeline sanctions. The Aging Committee will hold a hearing on financial literacy, focusing on the unique just-in-time older Americans with disabilities face.
In The Know
— The White House announced on Wednesday seven federal agencies will introduce clean energy projects and plans to accelerate the administration’s work on wind, solar, transmission and other clean energy projects.
“As work continues to pass the Build Back Better Act, [the] announcements further the Administration’s ongoing commitment to powering our economy with clean American energy,” the White House said in a statement.
The legislation would which would require the Department of Health and Human Services to provide two free COVID-19 rapid tests per week to every American.
“All of us want a return to normalcy,” Beyer said in a statement. “And we need more accessible and affordable at-home testing to help get there.”
Participants point to reducing youth suicide as a top priority. Becerra invited them to recommend specific programs that HHS could engage to achieve measurable progress against this unprecedented crisis.
The department said it has already invested $190 million to support services and increase working to increase resources for Native and LGBTQ youth, combat the mental health impacts of the pandemic, and expand telehealth access for mental health services.
“Together, we can give young people the resources they need to survive and thrive—both during this pandemic and beyond,” Becerra said in his closing statement.
— The Department of Homeland Security announced a new two-year Climate Change Professionals Program for recent grads and current federal employees to support its growing focus on adapting to climate change and improving resilience.
Upon successful completion of the program, participants will receive a Climate Change Professional accreditation from the Association of Climate Change Officers and be eligible for permanent, full-time positions at DHS.
“This program will develop the next generation of climate experts, improve climate literacy throughout the Department, and help us execute our Climate Action Plan to remain mission-resilient while reducing our own impacts on the environment,” DHS Sec. Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement.
— New York City Mayor Eric Adams has scaled his brother’s role in his administration to head of mayoral security. [Dana Rubinstein and William K. Rashbaum / NYT]
Adams originally hired his younger brother Bernard to oversee governmental affairs but received criticism for potentially violating the city’s charter against nepotism.
Adams defended his decision as recently as Sunday, calling Bernard qualified for the position before he ultimately relented.
Although Bernard’s new position comes with a scaled-back salary, it’s still not too shabby: $210,000.
— The Alphabet Workers Union, a trade union of workers employed at Google’s parent company, says contract workers have to wait longer than full-time employees for COVID-19 test results. [Nico Grant and Mark Bergen / Bloomberg]
The full-time folks get instant results while contractors have to mail their tests in.
All workers, including contractors, have access to in-person testing when they are at major offices in the San Francisco Bay Area, New York and Seattle.
“We have many at-home and in-person viral testing options available free to our employees and members of our extended workforce, including temps and vendors,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement to Bloomberg.
Google offers its full-time employees working from home a supply of high-end instant Covid-19 tests. Meanwhile, the contract workers still coming into offices have to wait longer for results.
— Spotify received a letter from more than 260 doctors, nurses, scientists, health professionals and others calling on the streaming platform to strengthen its misinformation policy. [Justin Hendrix / Tech Policy Press]
The catalyst for the letter was podcaster Joe Rogan‘s ****promotion of an anti-vaccine rally with a discredited scientist in an episode published on Dec. 31.
“This is not only a scientific or medical concern,” write the signatories to the letter, “it is a sociological issue of devastating proportions and Spotify is responsible for allowing this activity to thrive on its platform.”
“Fact-checking is a crucial tool to help viewers make their own informed decisions, but its’ one piece of a much larger puzzle to address the spread of misinformation,” Ivy Choi, a YouTube spokesperson, said in a statement to Supercreator. “Over the years, we’ve invested heavily in policies and products in all countries we operate to connect people to authoritative content, reduce the spread of borderline misinformation, and remove violative videos.”
The statement also included data on the progress the app has made on what it calls “borderline misinformation” and will work with the fact-checking community to strengthen its work.
— Consumers spent $170 on mobile apps in 2021. [Sarah Perez / TechCrunch]
The figure is up 19 percent year-over-year, according to App Annie’s State of Mobile 2022 report. But although people are installing more apps than ever, the growth rate itself is slowing.
— Instagram was the most-downloaded app in the final quarter of 2021. [Sarah Perez / TechCrunch]
The social app is benefiting from TikTok’s ban in India and the first Meta (formerly known as Facebook) app to take the number-one position on the top downloads chart since WhatsApp held that spot back in Q4 2019.
— LGBTQ+ individuals who are younger, Black non-Hispanic, and white non-Hispanic, gay cisgender men, individuals with lower education levels, HIV-positive, and living with more than two other individuals experienced higher rates of job loss. [Michelle Edelstein / Rutgers University]
“LGBTQ+ employment loss critically impacts the overall health and wellbeing of these individuals who commonly experience marginalization and discrimination,” Perry N. Halkitis, dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health and director of the Center for Health, Identity, Behavior, and Prevention Studies, said. “The intersection between financial stability, standard of living, and health is an integral balance. Job loss brings about additional mental and physical burdens, that can further lead to a public health crisis because these individuals do not have the housing, financial, or health stability required for proper care.”
— The New York Times introduced a fellowship for crossword constructors. [Sarah Scire / NYT]
It’s designed to increase the number of puzzles created by underrepresented groups, including women, people of color, and those in the LGBTQ community.
Read All About It
Jennifer Rubin on inflation:
To recap: Biden isn’t really claiming corporate greed is causing inflation, although he might be exaggerating the role his initiatives will have to reduce inflation. Inflation isn’t a Biden problem (recall the trillions spent under the previous administration) or even an American problem; it’s the result of an economy that screeched to a halt and then shifted into high gear.
What I will mention is how a 10-day quarantine is enough to break a person. I love my son to the end of the world, but this is not about whether I love him enough. This is about claustrophobia, and monotony, and how the little things in the world that help parents stay sane—a library, a play date, running errands and dragging him along—are off the table when you’ve been exposed. He’s old enough to need friends and playmates, to need the blessed, skilled teachers who can guide a tiny human tornado through a day of activities and circling up and songs. I am not one of those teachers. I am not everything that my son needs. He needs school, even though school right now is the scariest place for him to be.
John Ortved on cigarettes:
Across New York City, as the pandemic waxes and wanes, a social activity that had seemed diminished, or replaced (with vapes, cannabis and education), seems to have reappeared. Have cigarettes, those filthy, cancer-causing things — and still the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — lost their taboo?
Sarah Jones on why we’re having the wrong conversation about school:
It’s far easier to blame teachers and their unions than it is to ask difficult questions about the state of public education, which the pandemic turned into an emergency. In June 2020, the Government Accountability Office estimated that around one-third of the nation’s public schools “have inadequate heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems,” Chalkbeat reported. Districts are understaffed, a problem that predates the pandemic. Despite some efforts to raise wages, an Edweek Research Center survey found last October that “the most common strategy in the short term for tackling the shortage” is to ask “employees to take on additional responsibilities. Nearly two-thirds of respondents said they’ve done that this year.” Teachers are burning out, and staff shortages are often felt most keenly by low-income schools, according to one National Bureau of Economic Research working paper cited by The Guardian. Staffing shortages extend to other school workers, too: Rural schools often lack school nurses, a significant problem amidst a pandemic.
Stacey Colino on ambivalence:
Ambivalence, which essentially means having conflicting feelings about something, makes many people uncomfortable. But it is a normal part of change, experts say. “With every change, people have some ambivalence, because change means moving out of something you’re comfortable or familiar with and into something that’s not familiar. It disrupts the person’s life a bit,” said Carlo DiClemente, professor emeritus in psychology at the University of Maryland Baltimore County and author of “Addiction and Change.”
Olivia Truffant-Wong on Maya Angelou:
Angelou, a renowned poet, author, activist, is the first Black woman to appear on the quarter, sharing the coin with George Washington. The new design features the author on the “tails” side, her figure standing tall in front of a bird’s silhouette. Honestly, this Maya Angelou quarter is so pretty it almost makes me want to switch back to cash.
Derek Thompson on an abundance agenda:
In the past few months, I’ve become obsessed with a policy agenda that is focused on solving our national problem of scarcity. This agenda would try to take the best from several ideologies. It would harness the left’s emphasis on human welfare, but it would encourage the progressive movement to “take innovation as seriously as it takes affordability,” as Ezra Klein wrote. It would tap into libertarians’ obsession with regulation to identify places where bad rules are getting in the way of the common good. It would channel the right’s fixation with national greatness to grow the things that actually make a nation great—such as clean and safe spaces, excellent government services, fantastic living conditions, and broadly shared wealth.
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