Supercreator Review: When in Rome...
As President Biden spends the next week in Europe, Democrats attempt to finesse his signature economic package back home. Plus: Encouraging news on the COVID front. 🙏🏾
👋🏾 Hi, hey, hello!
It’s Friday, Oct 29. Welcome to Supercreator Review, an in-depth recap of the top stories in national politics and pop culture — and their impact on online creators and their fans. Let’s get to it:
President Joe Biden arrived in Rome yesterday with a mission to reaffirm America's preeminence on a host of international issues. He'll meet with Pope Francis today to talk about ending the pandemmy, tackling the climate crisis and caring for the poor followed by more meetings with world leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron. Over the weekend, Biden will travel to Scotland to participate in a leadership summit before traveling to a convention on climate change next week.
Here at home, Democrats were working overtime yesterday to turn a $1.75 trillion framework for Biden's Build Back Better agenda into legislative text that can pass both the House and Senate. The current framework, which was announced by the White House yesterday morning, includes:
Universal preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds
A seven-percent income cap on child care for most families
Funding to improve working conditions for home care workers
More than $550 billion for climate action
Expanded Obamacare tax credits to provide health care for an additional 3-million-plus uninsured people
A Medicare expansion to cover the cost of hearing for seniors
$150 billion in housing affordability, including public housing, plus rental and down payment assistance
$40 billion for increased Pell Grants and investments in Historically Black Colleges & Universities
$100 billion to improve America's immigration system
The president promised no new taxes for families or individuals making less than $400,000 and he plans to keep this commitment by applying separate 15 percent corporate and global minimum taxes, a one-percent additional charge on corporate stock buybacks and a new additional tax on multi-millionaires and billionaires.
Before Biden left for Europe, he met with House Democrats on Capitol Hill to rally support for the framework. "I am back here to tell you [the framework] will get 50 votes in the US Senate ... I don't think it's hyperbole to say that the House and Senate majorities and my presidency will be determined by what happens in the next week," Biden reportedly said during the meeting. "I need you to help me. I need your votes."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hoped Biden's visit would be persuaded Democrats to vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill the Senate passed in August. "When the President gets off that plane, we want him to have a vote of confidence from this Congress," she reportedly said during the meeting. But House progressives, as I've reported in previous posts, have been clear from the jump: They will only vote for infrastructure once Build Back Better passes the Senate. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the leader of the Progressive Caucus, reiterated this position on multiple occasions this week. And several prominent members, including Reps. Cori Bush and Rashida Tlaib and Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, have doubled down on the record. After it was clear a deal couldn't be reached by the time President Biden touched down in Rome, lawmakers decided to leave for the weekend and come back next week to consider infrastructure.
There's a huge trust deficit at play here. House progressives distrust Sens. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. They also blame Sinemanchin for eliminating Build Back Better's most popular provisions — universal paid leave, free community college, expanded Medicaid for vision, hearing and dental, a fairer tax code — since Sinema's opposition to raising tax rates and Manchin's opposition to many of the programs themselves left lawmakers with few revenue streams to pay for the legislation. Meanwhile, it seems like Sinema distrusts Pelosi after the Speaker pulled the infrastructure bill vote last month despite committing to a group of conservative Democrats that it (Pelosi is famous for only bringing bills to the floor for which she has the votes to pass them.)
Despite all the politics of Build Back Better, the policies within the legislation aren't too shabby. And the White House is working overtime to promote the plan as a historic and transformative legislative success, on par with FDR's New Deal and Lyndon Johnson's Great Society — to the point where White House reporters have started counting how many times Press Secretary Jen Psaki uses those words in her daily briefings. (They've got some work to do, according to new polling: 36 percent of Americans say they approve of Biden's handling of the Build Back Better negotiations while fewer than half say they know a lot or some about the proposals.) You can also expect Democrats to point to the bill as a reason for voters to preserve the party's majorities come next year's midterm elections. In fact, Rep. Swalwell has already started, calling Build Back Better a "down payment" and promising that Democrats will "come back with a bigger majority [and] finish the job."
Promising news on the COVID front: The Biden-Harris administration reported on Wednesday more than one million shots in arms, including 300,000 Americans getting their first shot. Both figures represent the single-highest day totals in the last two weeks. The administration also reported that it hit 400 million shots since the President's first day in office nine months ago.
As of Tuesday, cases were down about 16 percent from the previous week. Hospitalizations are down 54 percent from our peak the week of Aug 28 and 12 percent from the prior week. (The hospitalization rate among unvaccinated adults is 12x higher than those who are vaccinated.) Deaths remain greater than 1,000 per day and there are still 60 million eligible Americans who are unvaccinated, so there's still more work to do. "We are now headed in the right direction," Dr. Rachelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control, said in during a briefing with reporters on Wednesday. "With cases still high, we must remain vigilant heading into the colder, drier winter months."
The country's booster campaign is ramping up too. 15 million Americans have received an additional dose and in the first five days since their authorization, 1.5 million Americans got a Moderna or J&J booster. And if the FDA authorizes and CDC recommends the vaccine for children ages 5 through 11, 28 million young Americans would become eligible for the vaccine. As an FYI, the Pfizer kids trial showed a vaccine efficacy rate of nearly 91% in preventing COVID-19 infection in children who did not have COVID-19 infection previously.
Thank goodness since there have been more than 8,300 hospitalizations among kids within that age range and 745 deaths in children less than 18 since the start of the pandemic. And the CDC reports that among all children ages 5 to 11, COVID-19 was one of the top 10 causes of death in the United States over the last year. Even worse, hospitalization rates are three times higher for kids of color compared to white children. (Related: The CDC says it’s safe for kids to trick-or-treat on Halloween tomorrow.)
Jeff Zients, the White House's coronavirus response coordinator, said the administration is on track to increase the number of places Americans can access free testing to 30,000 community-based locations. The country is on track to have more than 200 million rapid at-home tests available to Americans each month starting in Dec, more than 4 times the level of supply in late summer. And the FDA authorized another over-the-counter, at-home test — the ninth test to come to market in the last 10 months — and announced at-home tests will now be able to be sold in single-test packs to make them more affordable.
Public health officials are also learning more about "long COVID," a catch-all term for symptoms — debilitating fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, neurological conditions and more — that persist beyond the initial phase of infection. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Chief Medical Advisor to President Biden, says while there's not yet an explanation for long COVID, research from the United Kingdom indicates that 10 to 35 percent of adults and just under five percent of kids experience it. (The data also show that people who are vaccinated are about half as likely as an unvaccinated person who then got infected to report long COVID symptoms.) We should know more soon: Dr. Fauci announced a new "RECOVER" (Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery) initiative to understand, prevent and treat the long-term effects of the virus.
The Treasury Department announced this week that only $10 billion of the $46 billion in federal rental aid has been distributed, a figure that represents less than 25 percent of the allocated funding. If you remember, Rep. Cori Bush of